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santa spirit

Posted by lynn on 21 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani



We’ve been gearing up for Christmas all month, starting with a family photo shoot (the visuals of this post) for our annual holiday card and, well, because we hadn’t had a family photo shoot since Nalani was eight weeks old. Now, at 2 1/2, she happened to fall off a swing right before the photographer arrived, but we still managed to get some sweet (if not-so-smiley) shots.



We’ve also had performances: Kai and Melina sang in a beautifully staged and sung choral performance with their after school program; Nalani dressed as an elf for her preschool singalong; and Melina’s kindergarten class staged a re-enactment of the story of the gingerbread boy and girl. We’ve decorated gingerbread and cutout cookies with friends and classmates, made multiple batches of cookies, and decorated and re-decorated the house.



We’ve had incredibly specific Santa requests, like this exchange I recently had with Nalani:
Poppers, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?
A present.
What kind of present?
A blue present.
What’s in the blue present?
A bear…. a black bear.



And we’ve been entertained daily by the Santa musings of an uber-curious five-year-old. Some recent examples follow. (I wish I’d written down more of them!)
Melina: Does Santa Claus ever die?
Me: No, he’s magical.
What about his elves and the rest of his crew?
They’re magical too.
When he delivers presents to China is it light out?
No, he delivers them at night there, too.
But since it’s daytime here when it’s night there, maybe we’ll see him in the sky?
Hmmm, I never thought of it that way. Sure, maybe.

A few days later:
How does Santa fly so fast? Can he fly without his reindeer? (Stream-of-conscious non-sequitur:) How do babies know to start growing in their mommy’s tummy?

And just tonight:
The thing about Santa is, he knows everything, but how does he know how *everyone* has been good or bad?

Most my answers to her questions focus on the magic of Santa, which translates easily into the magic of the season and the spirit of giving (Santa) in all of us. I have a feeling by age six she’ll have made this logical connection all on her own.

Happy holidays! Enjoy the magic of the season.


Posted by lynn on 02 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: community, friends, kai, melina, nalani



What a jam-packed Halloween we had this year! On my agenda were two school parades (preschool and elementary), volunteering at the Halloween centers in Melina’s classroom, a half day of work, a parade and costume contest at the community center around the corner (also home to Melina and Kai’s after school program), and finally a potluck with trick-or-treating at the Beelers. Phew!



Melina had been looking forward to Halloween with as much enthusiasm as she counts down to her birthday and Christmas. It’s a big deal. And it didn’t disappoint: she had a full bag of treats before she even left kindergarten for the afternoon, and it only grew from there. The rec center party was especially impressive: they paraded for nearly a mile, with a few police escorts down the busier streets. And afterwards the auditorium was packed with costume contest participants.



We also got a chance to trick-or-treat down our block on the way home. Nalani took it all in stride and got the swing of this candy-asking thing by the second house. (At the first, she knocked, and when someone answered the door she turned and walked away.)

Happy start to the holiday season!


Posted by lynn on 10 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani, travel



We’ve made a yearly trip to Capitola a part of the Weiss (-Rapoza-Ham) family tradition. It all started when Melina was just three months old my parents rented one of the “Painted Ladies” that stretch right in front of the main beach – and (to harken to a longer-standing tradition) where we once stayed when I was just two or three years old.



As an aside, my two memories of that long-ago trip are playing in the lake water next to the sea (it’s now too polluted for swimming), and winding up in the emergency room with a burn to my side. I ran straight into a hot radiator when horsing around at the house, and the next thing I knew I was lying on a metal cot looking straight up at some very bright lights.



Now that we’re grown with kids of our own, sometimes Joey and I can only manage to get away for the day, but this year we made a long weekend of it and stayed for two nights. In all, we were six grown-ups and six kids. And we moved from the run-down (though super central) Painted Ladies to a house just up the river that actually fits our large headcount. As Melina pointed out, the new house is also “just around the corner and BAM you’re there!” to the ice cream shop.



Besides daily ice cream runs, other highlights this year included a trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (I got Kai to ride the Giant Dipper with me, wheeee!!), s’mores on the grill, plenty of sand-digging at the beach, and a late-evening Pinot Noir flight for Joey and me at the luxurious hidden-garden bar at Shadowbrook. Looking forward to next year, when, with Zoe’s upcoming adoption, the kids will outnumber the older-than-10 set.

damir-weiss reunion

Posted by lynn on 26 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani

reunion 2012


We pulled it off! After a casual conversation with Aunt Sharon in May about trying to get as many of us as possible together, we managed to do it: Every single family descended from Grandma Damir made it, and outside Robert – who had to work at the last minute – every person made it, too. Traveling from as far as Seattle (and as close as Novato and Berkeley), my sister and I, our three cousins, and our spouses and kids all joined Aunt Sharon and Uncle Ray at my parents San Jose home for a full Saturday of fun.



We only had one planned event (if you can call it that). Ever since Rosa then Mary’s wedding, Melina has “really really really” wanted to be a flower girl. After Mary’s ceremony a few weeks ago, we told her she could be the flower girl of the reunion – an idea admittedly only half-baked in my own mind.



She latched onto this and had the whole event planned, from the dress she would wear, to the way the chairs would be set up with an aisle down the middle, to the Easter baskets she – and whoever else wanted to join her as flower girl or boy – would carry and toss flowers from. I warned the family ahead of time, and everyone played along beautifully after Melina and Lucas set up chairs as if facing a stage in my parents backyard.



And then, Melina sat down too. After all the anticipation, the planning, and the setup, she either froze or was simply done. Ella and Nalani took her place, tossing flowers as directed (well kinda – they ended up in a pile by a single back-row chair) then doing a speedy, disinterested run down the aisle and back.



Stacie and German brought a big, blow-up water slide that entertained half the kids (mainly Emmit, Jax, Melina, and Lucas) for the entire day. Another group of kids, including Kai, played board and computer games and planned a script for a video that unfortunately never got shot. After a pizza dinner and sundae-and-cookie-bar dessert, we started up a game of Pit – a tradition that seems pretty unique to my family and one that I’ve missed!

Everyone had fun playing, chatting, and catching up, and we need to make sure to do it again!

hawaii at last!

Posted by lynn on 24 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani, travel

See all our favorite Hawaii 2012 pics (two pages).



At last I’m getting around to posting about our trip to Hawaii, which we took the first week of March. And, to give this trip some context, at last we actually made it to O’ahu! We scheduled our original trip for the first week of February, but the night before – bags packed and ready at the door – Melina started vomiting. Runny noses on a plane are one thing, but the flu? Within hours we had rescheduled our trip for the soonest date we could afford.



We happened to pick the week of the crazy rain, or the worst and most persistent set of storms any locals remember having in a really long time. (Joey and his mom kept referencing the flooded room of 1989.) There were flash flood warnings for the island half our trip, a BWA (brown water advisory) when a few sewer lines busted open from heavy rains, and at one point it hailed. Golf-ball sized pieces of ice that were almost deafening – yet oddly mesmerizing – as they fell on the tin patio roof at 6am.



The rain didn’t keep us from the main point of our trip: visiting family. The kids got loads of quality Grandma Rapoza time, and Nalani had hour upon hour to completely destroy her house, starting with stripping the bottom half of her fridge of all its magnets and pictures, then the coffee table of all its framed photos and trinkets. Most ended up in Samson’s old dog food cart, which Nalani discovered rolls around the house like a toy shopping cart.



We hung out with cousins (or are they first cousins once removed?) Maya and Zeke: in Grandma’s yard (Melina finally learned how to climb the guava tree!), at Sunday dinner with the entire family at Uncle Wayne’s, at the open market at Windward Mall, and the big kids got to join them to see the Lorax one evening. Melina re-discovered Hello Kitty stores, and has the impression they only exist in Hawaii. (We went to one at Ala Moana and one at Windward with Maya). I’m not doing much to change this, as it makes for another thing to anticipate when we visit Grandma.



Thanks to a friend’s suggestion we discovered the Waikiki Aquarium, a great deal and size for a morning visit. Thanks to some online research I found an indoor (i.e., rainy day) Children’s Discovery Center in Honolulu, and we also managed our annual trek to the North Shore on our never-ending hunt for Big Waves (even with stormy weather, no luck!) followed by shave ice at Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa. This year we added a stop at Ted’s Bakery for coconut haupia pie. Yum!



And yes, we did hit the beach. We first attempted it on a gray, scattered showers day, since it was the best we’d had by half-way through the trip. Lathered everyone in sunblock, packed up sand toys and towels, and drove 10 minutes to Lanikai Beach. Walked five minutes down the beach path and onto the wind-blown sand, and it started to sprinkle. “Maaaamaaa! I’m cooooold!” Melina screamed, shivering. Back to the car for a drive, well, somewhere. We ended up at a little-known beach in Waimanalo for close to an hour, just playing on the sand with no sand toys, ready to run back to the car as soon as the downpour came. (It did.)

But, two days before we left, the sun came out and we got to have a real beach day (sand castles, wave jumping, and wet towels) at Lanikai. Hooray! Ironically, if you ask Kai and Melina their favorite things in Hawaii, the beach barely makes the list. Cousins and near-daily shave ice from Island Snow stand at the top. And those are fun no matter the weather.

santa spirit

Posted by lynn on 30 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani

nalani xmas dress

lynn xmas dress

We’re getting ready to ring in the new year with our second annual NYE PJ party (that’s right, pajamas!). It also seems a fitting end-cap to a fun-filled holiday season. I’ve especially appreciated the full week I took off to hang out with Joey and the girls, and I know the girls have enjoyed it, too, especially after all the Christmas excitement.

kids by tree

girls santa

Santa made several stops for our kiddos this year, and brought more than Melina had anticipated. “I only told him I wanted two things. He brought me a LOT!” Don’t you love it when life brings more than you expected? Besides the rain boots and fruit (yes, fruit) Mina had asked Santa for, he also left candy canes, glitter pens, and a Tinker Bell calendar in her stocking.

melina list

kai list

What’s more, he stopped in Berkeley to drop off a pink play kitchen next to our tree, even though we spent Christmas in Roseville. (This was on her list. She forgot. Nalani probably would have had it on her list if she’d known how to ask. And Kai still loves to cook, play and real.)

girls xmas eve


Melina’s awe of the Santa spirit continued: “And some of the things I wanted he didn’t bring but I got from other people.” That’s right! Jewelry box from Mama, Tinker Bell PJs from Daddy and the Hams, and loads of fun things that weren’t on her list at all. Turns out many of them had a Tinker Bell theme.



Nalani got a mini bee pillow pet to friend big Bug, and the big kids both got Lego sets to entertain them and their cousins Christmas morn. Joey and I got several gift cards we put to good use soon after we got back to Berkeley, when we made a day of BARTing into SF with the girls for some shopping and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory on Union Square.

pink legos


The highlight of the holiday for all of us was spending time with family. (And the traditional cooking, eating, and gabbing, of course.) On December 24, Kai was more excited about heading to Roseville than he was the big pile of presents we packed in the back of the van.

car nap


Melina and Lucas spent loads of time coloring and exploring the back yard, Kai and Noah had sword fights and built towers, and Nalani and Ella chased each other around in a battle of toddler wills for the “favorite” play stroller. There were two, but the one the other has is always best, isn’t it?

trick or treat!

Posted by lynn on 02 Nov 2011 | Tagged as: family, friends, kai, melina, nalani


nali slide

We had a jam-packed kickoff to the holidays last weekend, all leading up to trick-or-treat festivities on Monday night. The fun began with a pancake breakfast and haunted house at Melina’s preschool. It’s a huge annual event but somehow we’ve missed it every year since Kai was two. The kids all had a blast, and Nalani even got to see her daycare buddy (and Suli’s sister) Tejal. It was so out of context that both girls just stared at each other blankly.



Sunday we spent down in Livermore, for what looks to be turning into an annual pumpkin patching and wine tasting expedition with the Markel-Macks. This year Karen and Jennifer and families joined us. The weather was stunning, an absolute perfect high-70s with an ever-so-slight breeze. The kids had fun riding with pumpkins in wagons and running through a hay bale maze at G&M Farms. Then we all had fun picnicking (along with several bottles of wine) at Fenestra. To make it an even fuller day, we gave the Hindmarshes a call and stopped by their place for an impromptu visit. The kids played non-stop with Uncle Alan, who Melina says is “even sillier than Daddy or Miss Lisa.”

5 kiddos


Monday morning Nalani and I joined Melina on her preschool parade around the block, then caught a glimpse of a surprise pinata when we picked her up that afternoon. For the culminating event we headed to the Schultzes for a moms group potluck and trick-or-treating extravaganza. James had four (yes, four) types of home-brew on tap. All delicious, as was Tracee’s homemade pumpkin ice cream.



While we carried Nalani along for trick-or-treating last year, this was her first full experience of the big candy ask. She got a kick out of all the decorations, and even a silly haunted house set up by a bunch of teenagers. Her vocabulary started to include the word ghost (“gho”) a few weeks ago, and by Halloween night every decoration she saw was “GHO!” here and “GHO!” there, much like all holiday lights became “TREEEEEE!” for Melina when she was the same age.



Nalani also caught on, more or less, to the trick-or-treating ritual. At one of the final houses she stopped at the top of the stairs to fetch a candy out of her pumpkin then tried to give it to the woman handing out candy at the door. For her part, the woman was pretty eager to get rid of the big stash of candy in her bowl, and eventually Nalani agreed simply to take rather than to share. It was very funny, and struck an odd light on how bizarre this tradition is and what it teaches our children at the core, even if we don’t intend to teach them anything but to simply have fun.

Halloween has also evolved. In a new twist for our generation of kids, the Great Pumpkin now makes a visit a few days after Halloween to trade the vast bulk of candy for a little gift. (The kids pick their favorite 15 or so pieces to save, and the rest go to Pumpkinland.) Melina had all sorts of questions about the Great Pumpkin: How big is he? How does he get into the house? He’s part of Santa’s team, right? And without a lot of larger cultural context was a little scared after putting the bag of candy out last night. But all was well when she awoke to a brand new purple unicorn waiting for her in the candy bag’s place.


Posted by lynn on 08 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: family, friends, kai, melina, nalani, travel

Last week we took a road trip down to Southern California to visit family, and more importantly, experience Disneyland with the kids. Take a look at all our trip photos on Flickr.



A few weeks ago Melina asked me, “Are the princesses at Disneyland REAL?” Fantasy and reality walk a fine line for the preschool set. Melina is keenly aware that the line exists, and for the past six months or so has been asking plenty of questions to try to pinpoint where it stands.



Once at Disneyland, she aptly pointed out that Tinker Bell and Princess Jasmine were real (as were the many little girls walking around in Jasmine, Ariel, and Cinderella costumes), but Minnie, Mickey, and Goofy were not. They were people wearing costumes complete with headgear, which is also why they couldn’t speak. Logical, right?



Our first family trip to Disneyland held plenty of fun and discovery for all of us, and by all I mean six kids and six grown-ups. We road-tripped down to visit Cyndie and Rich in South Pasadena a few days early, then met up with my parents and my sis and her family for two full days of Disney fun, complete with a swimming pool at our down-the-block Anaheim hotel.



A run-down of some favorites:

- Kai absolutely loved Pirates of the Caribbean, which is a standing favorite of my own. All 12 of us rode together before the fireworks on night one, and our family rode again the next day. Melina was scared the first time and kept confirming with me that the pirates were all pretend. By round two she knew what to expect and gave it a hesitant thumbs-up.



- Melina most liked meeting Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow and riding the new Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure.
- Joey and Kai both loved Star Tours. Melina rode, too, but wasn’t a huge fan.
- Nalani adored It’s a Small World. She’d been super cranky in the afternoon heat, but as soon as we (again all 12 of us!) got on the boat her face lit up. Through the whole ride she kept saying “oooooo…” and pointing at the musical figures.



- We all (except maybe Nali and Ella) enjoyed the fireworks show from New Orleans square on night one. Far better than our view of bayside fireworks on July 4th from the Berkeley Rose Garden!
- Despite the insane crowds and wait, my parents and I found the World of Color water/light/fire show in California Adventure spectacular.



- Somehow Stacie and I got Lucas (5) and Melina (4) to ride Space Mountain. Melina is barely 40 inches tall but by squeaking by a whole world of rides opened up to her. Since it’s pitch black on the ride I couldn’t see her reaction, but as soon as the coaster came to a halt she said, “Mommy, I don’t want to ride that again.” She didn’t mind the roller coaster per se, but didn’t like the dark. Fair enough.



The only real downer was the heat. We Berkeleyites just aren’t used to temps in the mid- to high-80s, especially spending a full day in that full sun. Next visit (which will probably be when Nalani starts asking to visit Mickey, Minnie, and Tinker Bell) will definitely not be mid-summer. Maybe by then Melina will have worked up the courage to brave Space Mountain with me again.

(mini) staycation!

Posted by lynn on 08 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: family, friends, kai, melina, nalani

acad sci bench

ac sci lesson

Grandma Rapoza arrived for a month-long visit from Hawaii last week, and we’ve kept her on her toes with all sorts of fun. We started the weekend with a trip to Roseville to visit the Hams. Grandma got to meet Ella and see the twins, who she last saw at our wedding when they were just nine weeks old. We “enjoyed” 100 degree weather by the kiddie pool (beers in hand) and some water fun with cousins, then made it back to Berkeley in time for Jupiter and ice cream with Lily and her family.


hold hands

We started our Independence Day celebrating early, with a play group BBQ at Lily’s pad. Luckily our Berkeley weather was also warm enough for the kids to dip in the wading pool – even Nalani had fun playing with the big girls and eating pulled pork. Joey and I enjoyed plenty of beer (thanks, James!) and stayed long enough to make it home safely.

balloon toss

lily pool

We spent the holiday on a picnic at Memorial Park, which has become our serendipidous annual tradition. No pony ride this year (and Melina wasn’t brave enough to try the mechanical bull), but we did enjoy a water balloon toss, plenty of music and sunshine, and a kiddie bounce house. Nalani had a great time walking up to other people’s picnics and trying to walk off with their food. She actually made it a few feet with someone’s bag of watermelon before I caught her.


fairy bride

Later that afternoon the kids, Grandma, and I took a bike ride to the park around the corner, and that evening Melina got to see her first fireworks from the Rose Garden. The view was a stretch (Kai was bummed we weren’t right under the show), and the kids had to perch on grown-ups’ shoulders. But we had far better luck than when I took Kai up there a few years ago and the low fog was so thick we couldn’t see a thing.

ice cream


Joey and I both took several days off work to hang out with the kids and his mom, so we decided to round out our staycation with a trip to the Academy of Sciences in SF. It re-opened at least three years ago, and the first time we tried to visit last summer we made it as far as the parking garage and Melina threw up. This week’s trip was a greater success, and by heading there on a weekday we got to breeze through the line to the butterfly rainforest, and get front row seats to watch the penguin feeding. The girls and their friends had a blast, though the hot dog lunch was as big a hit as the fish behind glass.

kai celebrates 8

Posted by lynn on 28 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: family, kai

kai sibs


My trailblazing stepson turned eight last week. I say trailblazing because as the oldest child in our house he truly is blazing the trail for his younger sisters. Kai being the high-energy, highly-interactive, and dare I say high-maintenance kid that he is, so far he’s cleared a wide path for his siblings to follow. He keeps us on our toes, and also keeps giving us new occasion to look for fun activities that entertain us all.



For his party celebration Kai chose to take his friends to one of my own favorite kid-friendly East Bay spots: Fenton’s Ice Creamery. His party reminded me a little of one of my own childhood birthdays at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. It was Kai’s first drop-off party, so his four parents had watch our own four kids plus seven of Kai’s friends.

Kai, Mr. Social, did a fantastic job hosting and helping us keep the party moving, not to mention making sure all his guests had as great a time as he did. Hooray for Kai, and here’s to a great year!

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