2016 Year in Review

(Photos to be added when I have my computer, but otw just look at my Instagram where I documented all of these happenings -- @nortorious)

People keep saying 2016 was awful. I've been somewhat on that train, but, being New Year's, I thought I might go back and grade the year's performance based on its merits and drawbacks as far as my life is concerned.
I'm going to put this up front: Trump's win was a major downer for me. We operate in two worlds: our personal worlds and the larger community. I have always been very invested and involved in politics, protests, and the plight of the minority (women, children, blacks, gays, impoverished, etc.) I want equality in opportunity and pursuit of happiness. I can only be so happy when other people are scared and oppressed. It affects me deeply. It feels greatly hypocritical to me to just take whatever in stride and be over it, but I'm the type of person who wakes up at night worried about the young girls in India's sex trade and black parents having to explain to their children how to respond to racism. I know, I'm weird. But this is how my mind is occupied and it's what motivates me to do what little I can: to be a voice for equality in my home and in my classrooms, and here on my silly blog. These things matter. We need to be aware and vigilant in overcoming them.
<steps down from soapbox>

So we'll run this year at a deficit politically, but personally let's see if I'm in the black.
In calendar order:
Bowie died. -5
Philo was born the next day! +50
Name battle, really really bad experience -15
Ended up happy with his first name. +5
Britney Spears' crazy Instagram that brought me great joy. +1
Sooooo much laundry! -10
Kid learned all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody +5
Mark's 40th birthday +5
In costume, Post partum, bad wig. -5
Pam and Jim as Brit and Justin in denim. +10
Philo seriously ill with RSV. -100
My baby nearly died. Seriously. He was on life support -- if the machines didn't help him breathe he would not be alive. -50
My baby lived! +priceless
Lou also in the hospital with RSV -25
Lou separated her elbow while Philo was in the hospital -10
Ski'd with Jim +5
Pumped while skiing, breastmilk spilled all over me. -5
Bernie gained traction! Vive la revolution! +5
Mimi learned to cook +10
Silas wore the wrong shirt for his school performance. -5
Silas wore the wrong shirt for his school performance again.+5
Found a dentist who will give me laughing gas for a cleaning! +5
Root canal. -5
Boys break dance show + 5
Snugly babies, all the time + 20
Anna's famous blog post + 5
Riding roller coasters with Jude +5
Hush moving in and out and huge problems there. Overall an awful relationship 6+months. - 50
Disneyland! + 15
California Adventure is still stupid. -5
Summer camp success! + 15
Giants lost. - 10
Val and Alina baby announcement + 30
Teaching the kids poker + 4
Pokémon go! + 1
Teaching three good classes + 15
Grading 75 papers every few weeks -25
People I know voting for Trump -25
New church that has a great spirit and a nursery + 10
Leonard Cohen dying - 5
Camille's baby Lorenzo + 5
Bronwyn's wedding + 5
Ashland trip + 5
Girl and Boy Scouts -5 for hassle +5 for rewards
Niya's in my life again + 5
So is Bobb + 5
Aubrey's baby Ansel + 5
Five kids on plane + 10
Thanksgiving in Danville + 5
MJS obsessed with dancing in my highest heels + 5
Halloween outfit success! + 10
New friends + 10
Rad not new friends. So many great friends. + 25
Dx supportive + 5
Trip to Europe just me and my big kids + 100
Missing my babies - 15
Gave kids the entire collection of Disney movies on VHS for Christmas +5

Ok, not counting the priceless survival of my newborn baby, I think that adds up to +521 good things to -375 bad things. 375/521 = 72%

I give this year a C-. It's science.

That seems about right. I am so very thankful for all of the joy that outweighed the bad, without which this would have been a very dire year indeed. Not my best year but certainly not my worst (see my whole family's 2011). 2017 is going to get an A.


TRIP 4/9 Si's 7th Birthday and a Travel Day

I pulled everyone out of beds this morning at the crack of nine. It's Silas' birthday! Our bike adventure continued on Silas' birthday, December 28. We metro/trammed back to the Rijksmuseum and strolled through at the kids' pace. Once again I had a million mama feelings watching them soak everything in and be genuinely curious and appreciative of what they were seeing. They may not remember everything they saw (who can?) but they will remember that art is important. I think their perspectives shifted when they looked at the old furniture and tableware as art rather than functional pieces. I wanted to die of joy when they saw that blue and white style of china and knew that they'd seen that style before in Grandma's house and on the lamps next to my bed. They saw the baroque tables with carved legs and wooden inlay and observed that we had something similar in our front room that I'd inherited from Uncle Jay. I hope these experiences will translate into a life of culture appreciation and incorporation into their lives in the future.
The Night Watch was supposed to be the highlight of the Rijks but for us it was definitely the scale model of a warship. Jude and Silas circled that thing five times counting cannons and pointing out cool stuff.

Amsterdam is a photo op in every direction.
Outside the Rijksmuseum
 We had left our bikes outside the Rijksmuseum locked overnight and I worried about them the whole time.  But there they were when we returned the next morning.

Jude counting cannons
Kicking it with the Night Watch
Back on our bikes we did some bike fighting and took slightly less populated streets back to our drop off site. By the time we got there Jude had had it. It was cold and we were hungry and tired so we sought haven at the library.
Silas' number one birthday request was a visit to the Nemo science center. This is one of Amsterdam's main attractions and it is fantastic. Imagine the Exploratorium in SF but new and fancy. And super crowded. I get overstimulated so I'm hiding out while the kids play and learn. All I need is some ear plugs and a giant coke.
Pretty cool to turn 7 in Holland!
The Nemo Museum was great but super crowded.  It's a Children's Museum like the Exploratorium or the San Jose Children's Museum.  There was one particularly interesting part: the sex part.  Yes, there was a sex exhibit in the children's museum.  Supposedly it was for age 12 and up but it was pretty graphic with models.  I snapchatted it because that is why snapchat was invented, right?
I'd go back to the Nemo but only on a less crowded day.

Science museum

It made me mad that it was so cold the whole time because Mimi had the best outfits on and I got so tired of the Cheetah jacket.
Concerning exhibit on racism that wasn't translating well.
Day Five was that one where I had to navigate us via train to a tiny house in Paris. As a funny funny joke my phone quit working. As funnier joke, the Paris Metro is one of the most complicated and we were headed for a part of town I'd never seen before. As the funniest joke of all our Airbnb was sketch central and we did not feel safe there.
Backpacking in Europe summed up in one photo.
Our backpacked crew ready to hit Paris
But everything started out ok. We took the Thalys Ams-Paris (children are like $24. Reason number one million to take your kids to Europe -- cut rate trains, free everything else). It was about 3 hours of snacking and playing games. I'd had enough forethought to screenshot instructions to our destination and info on how to get into the house, but there of course was no direct line from Gare du Nord to Pantin-Aubervilles so that was touch and go. Navigating a new subway always takes a few tries to familiarize the directions, tickets, and level of aggression for getting on crowded trains.
I knew it was a bad sign when the train to our new Airbnb was like 10 stops away.
When we got out of the metro the place was crawling with ne'er-do-wells, all of them men. We hustled sans maps with our fingers crossed down dark alleys passing wrought iron covered windows through a gate and to our shady apartment. It was decent inside but they must have taken very careful photos because the ones on Airbnb looked much friendlier. We stayed a few hours while I used the heaven sent wifi to find us a better place then complain and cancel our week in that scary joint.
Lots of time in the Paris Metro.  Trains are fast and frequent.
Why are all hotel elevators in Europe so tiny?

Smashed in the elevator with backpacks

Then back through the scary streets, in the dark this time, we hit KFC and took the metro to a happier place. Obviously the kids didn't know Paris looked anything other than that ghetto part of town so when we left the metro and were face to face with the Louvre they were thrilled.
We're sleeping three to a King size bed and one person on a fold away, but by 8pm we're warm, happy, and comfortable in this fancy joint. Success!


TRIP 3/9 Ams Day 3

Apparently we needed sleep. We all woke up at 1 in the afternoon, shocked that we'd slept so much of the day away.
Amsterdam subway is clean, easy, and fun.
We jumped on the metro and went to rent some bikes at Centraal Station. I think they were like €9/day plus 3€ insurance (yes please, stupid bikes cost €450 to replace).
Amsterdam is the city of bikes and it makes sense. It's all flat (except for over the canals) and the streets are mostly narrow. There are very few cars about but there are silent trams coming at ya and freeway type bike lanes all over.
How do people not lose their bikes all the time??
I have done a lot of brave/perhaps stupid things in my day but I daresay taking my kids on bikes through Amsterdam surprised me by requiring the most courage and vigilance. I was psychotically protective. I'm surprised I didn't bail checking on them every five feet. I needed a rear view mirror.
Having all four of us in single file was the only functional way to go which meant that I had to part the seas and navigate at the front. Mimi mostly took up the rear and that presented problems of its own because she and Silas fight and try to knock each other off their bikes. There was a lot of screaming.
Heavy bikes ready to roll

Our first stop was mama protested Ripley's Stupid Believe it or Not. Eye roll by me. But kids were free and it was Mimi's number one thing to do so in we went. To my surprise it was rad! Here's the thing with Ripley's: is anything real there or not? Should I believe this crap or is it all circus sideshow stuff? Museums need to be all factual or all made up, combos just don't work in that capacity or everything becomes suspect.
Right before Si lost that rad green hat

Si's last day as a 6 year old
After Ripley's in Dam Square it was everything we could do to make it to Museumplein (1.8 km, no idea in miles) without being nailed either by trams, cars, motorbikes, regular bikes, pedestrians, or, most likely, by each other. And the sun was setting. We made it down there, locked up our bikes and left them overnight on the curb in the middle of everything. The museum was closing so we planned to come back in the morning, provided we were awake.

Badges had their hotel address and 10 Euros just in case

Silas' favorite tram spot
We grabbed pasta in Leidseplein then took a tram then a metro to right outside the front door of our hotel. We are public transportation wizards.
Because I am a genius I hired a babysitter from a service in advance for yesterday evening so I could get some child-free time. The sweet sitter was named Noortje and she came right to our hotel and played games with the kids and took them in the hot tubs while I shopped and had dinner. I needed that break.


TRIP 2/9 Amsterdam Day 2

Today we took a relaxed pace day. Mimi and I went to the grocery store down the street where she experienced the challenge of finding what you want when everything is labeled in Dutch.
Grocery Loot

Silas living the dream

Navigating on the trams in Ams
Then we took off in an uber for Centraal Station where I picked up my IAmsterdam card. It was $70 for a three day pass for all of the museums and a bunch of other activities, including all transportation. The kids are free almost everywhere so I just bought them each transit passes for $2.50/day. So basically everything is paid for from here on out (except for food).
We hopped on the tram and took a wild ride to the Van Gogh museum. Trams are my favorite way to get around Amsterdam because they're fast, scary, you can see the whole city as you travel, and they go where you need to go.
Silas explaining the Potato Eaters

My favorite Van Gogh, of course
We jumped the line at the museum and the workers told us about a treasure hunt for kids. We loved it!  The best part of the museum was when a familiar face showed up. Nathan! He had a layover on his way to Pisa where he's establishing an exchange program for the UofU. Nathan and his buddy teamed up with my kids and we did the whole game and saw all of the paintings. I love doing kid activities at museums because they make them come alive.

It's not the real one.

The IAmsterdam sign was nearby so we hit that and then crossed the street when we saw a diamond center.
Photo Op with Nathan

Amsterdam is famous for diamond polishing. The smooth Italian guy showed us how they're cut and then tried to sell us some $6000 diamonds. The kids were delighted and said it was their favorite activity so far. I love when fun happens upon me.
Picking out diamonds.  They didn't have any black ones.
Next we had gigantic pancakes at a place Dax and I used to frequent when we visited Amsterdam.
By 5 we were exhausted. We went home to unwind and then played foozeball at the hotel. To finish the day we went in the Japanese hot tubs and sauna on the roof.
Pancake lover's dream come true.

This hotel was something else.  This is the Johnny Cash machine.

Badplaats apparently means hot tub. 

Rooftop hot tubs 
Jude's favorite Van Gogh.

These kids are such fun travelers. The world excites them and they love pointing out all the little different things they see. Their favorite observations are the tears of joy on my face when I see them learning to love traveling as much as I do.


TRIP 1/9 Amsterdam Day 1: Wooden Shoes and Modern Hotel

A few weeks ago I sent MY Christmas list to Santa.  I wanted a solution for the holidays (two dads' schedules to contend with) and something I could look forward to.
So Santa brought me my life dream!  He went on whichairlines.com and found us tickets to Europe for $360 RT. He couldn't resist. He knew it'd be just the thing.  So he sent us this letter down the chimney two weeks before Christmas.

We freaked out.  It was happening: my life goal and one of the main reasons I had children was going to materialize. I was taking my kids to Europe to show them the world.
Well, most of them. Mimi is 9, Jude is 8 and Silas is nearly 7 so they are all functioning independent human beings who can mostly be trusted to not run or crawl into a train well.  But I got the two babies tickets as well because I thought I could either get one of the dads to come too OR I'd hire a nanny for when we arrived.  But that plan was vetoed. There are reasons to be sad that they didn't come but there are also reasons to be very grateful they aren't here. Instead Danny took them to exotic eastern Arizona on a 17 hour road trip.  Hard pass on that one.

The planning began.  I managed their passports with the help of the dads.  There was one glitch that ended up in Si's and Jude's being held up until Weds Dec 22.  Close call. 
We hit the library and got some children's books on Amsterdam and Paris.  We went on line and found a killer hotel and a reasonably priced AirBnB in Paris. We found a podcast and learned some French.  Mimi brought home some Anne Frank books. I did little lessons about famous art we would see when we got there.

My friend (and champion) Joanna leant us some backpacks and plenty of pointers. I created a Google doc itinerary with activities and food. We have a plan.

Packing was easy. 6 outfits per person, two pairs of shoes: one for walking, the other for snow walking. Toiletries. Snacks. Two small disposable books each. Walkie talkies. iPads and headphones. Jackets, gloves, hats.  Done.
No diapers! No portable cribs? No bottle supplies? Who's life is this?! Do I even know how to walk without pushing a stroller? Where will I put my drink?

We scheduled Christmas for the night before the babies had to leave/were handed over tearfully. My little family has done our own Christmas at home for a few years. We have specific traditions: Mexican food, Jesus' birthday cake, we act out sing the Twelve Days of Christmas, we do a fairly rambunctious nativity, we get our jammies on and put out cookies, we read 'Twas the Night before Christmas, and we hustle to bed.  This time Santa was not coming and I had bought one sweet present for each kid and they bought a bunch of little things for each other. Grandma and Grandpa also sent some humdinger presents that required me calling in my friends to help put them together. Many thanks Dev and Bobb!
Christmas done, babies gone, stuff packed, it was time to go. 

My world traveler friend Megan picked us up bright and early and whisked us to the airport on Christmas Eve morning.  No lines, hoped on our flight, checked no bags. Flew to Houston. Waited a bit, climbed onboard an international plane (they're always more legit) and plugged ourselves in for a 9 hour screen binge.  We had a whole row to ourselves with two empty seats that we put to good use.
Landed at Schipol, waltzed through customs lugging our packs, grabbed some train tickets and rode the rails to Amsterdam Centraal.

We were here.

We took a good look around and then hightailed it to our hotel for food and sleep.
All hail the six hour nap!

When we woke we uber'd to the central part of town, ate crepes for dinner and then joined all of the people strolling around the streets and alley ways in the most beautiful weather. It's about 50 here which is warm enough to be outside comfortably without hats and gloves.
The streets of Amsterdam leave nothing to the imagination so I was left to explain the cannabis culture and all the sexy stuff in the windows. This is what I told them, "There are two kinds of smoking. One is tobacco and one is marijuana.  People smoke them because it makes them feel good even though it's not healthy.  In Amsterdam marijuana (which is a drug) is legal and people feel generally ok about smoking it or eating it in food. We are taught by our religion not to smoke it and it's especially important not to use it before your brain fully develops at 25, but other people have different ways of living and even if they drink or smoke they are good people just like us."  To which Silas replied, "It smells."

As for all the sexy stuff I explained thusly, "Another thing that is legal in Amsterdam is renting a girlfriend.  You can pay to hang out with ladies in bikinis in little red rooms."  To which Mimi responded, "Oh, so people who can't get a girlfriend do that because they're losers or ugly or something?"  I replied,"Yes. Only losers buy women."

Next stop was a nighttime canal cruise showcasing a special event that's going on here called the Amsterdam Light Festival.  While we were queued up a DJ started a dance party and, as you know, we are joiners.  It was an impromptu party.  Then on the boat (which I can barely talk about because it makes me renauseated) we were packed in and floated around the canals looking at these giant lit up installations.  Unfortunately it was hot and crowded and long and I nearly barfed. At the end we found the outdoor section and could enjoy it a little bit more.

Christmas 2016 Pics:

Then home to our cozy cool hotel call the Volkshotel that you should check out on their website.  I gave them some benedryl so they could try to adjust to the time change and it seems to have worked fine. I'm Celia: dinking around on my phone until everyone wakes up and we can go on some adventures.