Sunday, September 29, 2013

Year in Review...Here We Go!

Well, let the lack of attention to this blog be the first clue of how busy we've been this year.  How sad that it's one day away from October, and the last post was from way back in January!  Without sounding like a Christmas Family Newsletter, Anthony's job has really taken off, I began working full time, and our mission to take full advantage of all that Southern California has to offer never stopped.  Recently though, due to some changes at the Preschool, I was able to step down as Director so that I could return to part time teaching there...never have I been so happy to be demoted!  Anthony is still busy, and Vinny has started Junior Kindergarten at his new school, Holy Angels.  More of that as we take a trip down memory lane.  Grab a cup of coffee, hunker down, because here we go...

Jake, Jake, and More Jake!
We traveled back to Arizona for a special buddy's birthday party.  We were asked to dress Vinny in his Halloween costume as a surprise for Evan.  Here he is hiding at the first stop on the pirate treasure map.    It was such a cute reunion...and this became the inspiration for Vinny's birthday bash later in March.


Peter Pan was released at Disney's El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  It included a Jake and the Neverland Pirates live performance before the movie.  It was lame, but Vinny didn't know any better.  He loved seeing Jake in real life.  Here he is with our neighbors, Ella and Emma.  A giant mac 'n cheese is a Kodak moment if I've ever seen one!

More picture taking opportunities inside the theater. Yo Ho Ho!

While at a Cigna event, Anthony learned that the super secret guest speaker was none other that Magic Johnson.  Anthony remarked 1: Magic is huge, and 2: He is a great speaker.  He also took away from the speech that athletes like Magic are wired differently to win...and only the truly great will then apply that drive to success in business.  Upon meeting him, Anthony also felt it completely appropriate and necessary to recount his hatred of him as a kid given the Celtics Lakers Rivalry.  Anthony also learned that Magic has a good sense of humor.

Preschool Friends
Some may judge, others will flat out tell me it's not a good idea to teach in the same school as your own child.  While we did make the decision to "cut the cord" so that Vinny could experience preschool on his own this year, I will NEVER for a second regret taking Vinny to work with me these past 2 years.  It was such a wonderful opportunity for the both of us, and I am so grateful to God, First Lutheran Preschool, and a couple of friends that helped me find this job that just sort of fell in my lap.  How lucky am I? 

Getting ready to deliver our Valentines at the Preschool.

Here's Vinny with his best buddy, Richie.  For a while they called each other "tootie."

His handwriting has really taken off, and I am super impressed that he writes his name using lower case already.  Now that he's in Jr. K, his teacher calls him Vincent and makes him write Vincent on all his papers.  Old school.  I like it.

Here we are on an impromptu day trip to see the USS Iowa in Long Beach.  Brought me back to the days when Papa would haul us all around to tour the ships back home.  I thought Vinny would be totally bored, but he had a ball climbing all the stairs and watching the cranes in the shipyard across the dock.

Just another cute shot of Vinny snuggling up for a show.  He loves to be cozy.
Back at the preschool to celebrate Dr. Seuss's Birthday and Read Across America Week.  Here we are eating Thing 1 and Thing 2 inspired cupcakes and "Green Eggs and Ham."

 Puzzle Time

Working on his jumpshot.

Investigating our caterpillar habitats as we get ready to learn about butterflies.

Time to help Mommy bake some goodies in the kitchen.  I love having a little helper.  He will help me make anything...but getting him to eat it is a different story.  

On a trip back to AZ, Boppo needed extra help making pancakes.  Can't you tell?  He'd never made them before, and unfortunately not even Vinny's expertise could save those hockey pucks.

St. Patrick's Day Shanannigans
Looks like we had a visit from our tricky Leprechaun, Lucky...

Lucky left behind all kinds of treasures!

Anthony never forgets to fill the Waterford with Bells of Ireland for me on St. Paddy's Day.  I think I may anticipate and enjoy these green bouquets more than any Valentine's Day or Anniversary flowers.  Anyone can get a bunch of roses, but I have to say...when it comes to flowers, Anthony knows I appreciate the creativity and thoughtfulness of these arrangements the most.  He's a keeper.

Vinny's 4th Birthday Bash!
Vinny is obsessed with Jake, so a Pirate adventure was in order.  And, thanks to my dear friend Kelly, I had already much of the planning and supplies ready to go from Evan's party.  Anthony will tell you I went overboard, but I say I did it right.

Welcome to the Tiki Tree Forest on Pirate Island
When other kids send home birthday invitations, hardly anyone rsvp's.  When it's the Director's kid, everybody comes!  Good thing I was prepared.  I was so happy that all of Vinny's best buddies could help him celebrate.

The table was set with Jake, Cubby, and Izzy bandanas, spyglasses, tattoos, and pixie dust (I would live to regret that one later).

Can't go on a treasure hunt without a map!

Yo Ho, Let's Go!

First challenge: Crocodile Cove...feed Tick Tock Croc pocket watches.  Be careful!

Second challenge: Swab the Decks...a complete bust.  Literally.  All the balloons popped.

Third challenge: Hook the Hooks.  With the help of Vinny's agreeable cousins, James and Justin made this a fun game.

 Looks like we are ready to move along to Challenge #4 back in Crodile Cove.  Musical Chairs...find a chair or Walk the Plank!

X Marks the Spot! There's treasure at the end of the rainbow!

It was freaking chaos!  But all went home with an awesome treasure box of loot!

The cake was a potential disaster with my cake topper on backorder.  So, a little ingenuity here, a little sanitizing there, and voila!

Out to dinner to celebrate the big day with Boppo, James, Justin, and Aunt Weez.

Aunt Weez and the boys weren't here just for Vinny's birthday...they were on a whirlwind tour of colleges on James' list.  So we started the tour off with breakfast at the racetrack.
 Dinner on the Santa Monica Pier
Looking at colleges is exhausting!

Off to San Diego for a coule more colleges...and a night out on the town.
This rick shaw driver was the best.  Full tux, with Frank Sinatra blaring on his bicycle sound system...classy!

The Gaslamp District of San Diego is full of characters!
Before we left, James brought around University of San Diego, which I believe is still high on his short list of favorites...for good reason.  It was beautiful and not nearly as huge and intimidating as UCLA.

So while on the way down to San Diego, I observed some tiny red dots developing on Vinny's face and arms.  These are the pictures I texted to Staci.  

Before you new it later that night, the red dots had morphed into this!  Turns out, Vinny is allergic to penicillin.  He had been on a week's worth of amoxicillin for an ear infection, but the reaction was just now taking effect.  But thanks to Staci, a panic attack was averted and Vinny now has a huge allergy stamp on all of his medical records.

Easter Sunday
Seriously, this may have been the busiest week of our lives.  Vinny's birthday, SoCal college tour with the Mandrolas, San Diego, and right into Easter!  No wonder the Easter Bunny had to settle for a metal bucket instead of a basket.

Our neighbors and dear friends, the Braytons, took us in as their own family.  So off we went to Nana's house for another Easter Egg Hunt and dinner.

There's Nana with most of her grandchildren...and Vinny.  :)

Writing Thank You Notes


4 Year Check Up
Everything checkout A-OK.  Though the smiles went away when word of booster shots came up in the protocol.  Not to mention, due to Vinny's weight being in a slightly higher percentage than his height...are you ready for this?  I got the fat kid speech!  Are you kidding me?  Needless to say I was, um, unhappy.  Yes, unhappy is the most appropriate word I can think of.  Turns out that if next year he's in in the same "red zone," Vinny will be referred for cholesterol testing.  Um, no.  Hmmph!

Random Happenings
Since it's practically in our back yard, we renewed our annual pass to to Disneyland and go quite often.  We finally spotted one of Vinny's favorite funny guys, Donald.  Still a bit hence the crotch grab.  Oy.

Getting so brave, interacting with the characters!

Visit from the Lafkos!

Mommy and Vinny showing our Boston Strong Pride right after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Mother's Day
I got to spend the day with the two people that make me smile more than anything else in the whole world.  It started off with Breakfast in Goofy's Kitchen with a very brave boy.

WHAT???  Hugging Chip???  We've come so far!

Let's not forget, now he's riding and playing his favorite ride in his own seat, not in between us, holding on for dear life!
This might have been the best part of the day.  Vinny got to meet his favorite character of all time.  Jake loved Vinny's shirt, and Vinny became obsessed with posing for pictures like Jake.

See what I mean?

Memorial Day in Phoenix


Fridays in Old Town  
We love Monrovia!  Every Friday the street get blocked off for a street fair.

Mommy Vinny Day at the Zoo

The Pathfinder takes it's final ride.  

Zac Brown Concert in Las Vegas.  Yes, we were up this close.  Can't wait to see them again at the Holloywood Bowl at the end of October.

My Little Helper

Finally!  Thanks to water fun days at the preschool, Vinny now loves to run through the sprinkler!
The Mandrolas returned for the 4th of July Holiday.  We started with another trip to the El Capitan in Hollywood to see Monsters University with the boys.  After all the college touring Vinny tagged along on, he was convinced James should really go to Monsters U.  James thought he meant the movie, but Vinny meant the real deal.  So cute.

Loud noises have always been an issue for Vinny, but we've noticed it getting worse these days.  This is pretty much how he sits through the entire movie in a theater.

What's a vacation without a pedicure?

After a fun day at the beach, this is what I found in the bed.
4th of July
Mayflower Village Neighborhood Parade
One of my favorite traditions and reasons to live in our neighborhood.  Small town America at its finest.  So here we are heading down to Nana's house to meet up with the Braytons and get ready for the festivities.

This guy rode around the neighborhood all day checking on all of our front yard cook outs.  As the day carried on we noticed the red solo cups dwindled.

Off we go.  You just kind of hop in the parade whenever there's a lull.  Everyone loved Vinny's EZ roller.

Let the Front Yard Red Neck Party begin.  Seriously.  That's how everyone in this neighbor hood rolls on the 4th.  People are out and about walking, riding, rolling.  Even the neighborhood parish priest, Father Eugene, stopped by to chit chat!

Face Timing with Aunt Missy.  She may not have been happy about that.  We might have been deep into our stack of Solo cups, too.
 Matt rolled his smoker over and we grilled right there in the street.

And then back to the beach!
Sometimes I look at that kid, James that is, and shake my head at the thought that it really wasn't that long ago he was walking down the aisle with his head buried in his elbow as our ring bearer, same age as Vinny just about.  Now look at him.  I can't imagine how the years have flown by for Tom and Weez.  Next year he'll be off at college!  I wonder if they still see him a small and silly as I see Vinny in this picture?

Off to Connecticut!

A seasoned traveler.  

One of our first stops, the Firemen's Carnival!  We haven't been to one of these since we moved out west. Here's Vinny feeling slightly brave on the roller coaster.  By his 3rd time around, he had his hands up in the air!

Bath time with cousin Blaise.  After a long day of playing, these are the kinds of faces we get.  Cracks me up.

Happy 40th Birthday Anthony!
Clambake Cookout with the Captains

This was a treat!

It was so hot and humid...and then the rains came down.

Danny was in heaven, but Gram was disgusted.  Picking meat out of a shell with eyes and antennae is not her cup of tea.

Jetlag finally caught up with Vinny and he ended up missing a huge chunk of the party, including his favorite part...the cake.
 The largest cake I'd ever seen in my life.  But it was delicious.  Anthony's favorite, ricotta "canoli cake" from Russo's Bakery.  His mom got all of her cakes there.  YUM!

Blaise was the life of the party!

New favorite game, Kan Jam.  It was everywhere!

Looking back through these pictures, I am reminded of how blessed we are to have such a tight knit group of friends and loving family.  No matter how many miles spread between us, we can still count on them to support us and celebrate with us.  There was a lot of love here.  Fills my heart with a smile.

 Back to Babci and Dzaidui's for a visit.

Anthony had to go back to California early for work, so he missed out on another week of fun.  Sitting on Missy's deck reminded me once again how special these friends are to me.  25 years and counting!

Field Trip Time!
Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
Mastering the fine art of "selfies" with Vinny and Auntie Gail.

Gillette Castle

 Goodspeed Opera House

This is how Connecticut down reform school.  Geesh!

New England Aquarium, Boston

Pictures with these two are always a trip, and usually adorable...until you take one too many.  And then this is what you get:

On our way out with their new "guys" watching the seals...or sea otters.  I get them mixed up.  Vinny sleeps with his lobster, Jake, every night on his chest, claws set perfectly on either side of his neck.

These two will make friends with anyone who'll listen.  This British guy obliged quite easily.  I think he appreciated their humor.

Papa arranged a super fun trip to the firehouse with Mr. Staiger.

This might have been the best thing ever!  A real live ride in a firetruck!  He was bit nervous at first, no shock there.  But quickly warmed up to the experience an is still talking about it!

Thank you Papa and Mr. Staiger!

Daddy might have been just as excited as Vinny!

And how about this treat?  Vinny's favorite snack served in a fire hat!!!

Happy Boy on our way home  :)

My mom sent me this picture after we left, but I just can't help but include it here.  It's a picture of my dad with his friends, Mr. Staiger, Mr. Wilson, Mr. True, and Mr. Kulas.  Mr. Staiger gets them shirts to kick off racing season in Saratoga every summer.  These guys have been friends forever!

Time to head back home to California.  Gramma made sure we bought the neck pillow Vinny kept talking about for the plane ride.  So we stopped to take a picture in front of Vinny's favorite part of the airport, the fly away umbrellas.

Back in California to celebrate Daddy's actual 40th Birthday!

Vinny decorated the cake all by himself!

And the Braytons came over to help us celebrate.  Vinny has this thing about not wanting to play with the girls at preschool.  He hasn't yet figured out that his best buddy, Ella, is a girl.  These two are such good pals, and play so well with each other.  Janeen and I are convinced they are going to be prom dates.

Getting Ready for Junior K!  Trying on uniforms in Coach Kelly's office.

Whenever I Facetime with my mom, Boomer insists on saying hello, too.  He is such a pain in the neck, but equally lovable.

Finally made it to a Red Sox Dodger Stadium.  It's no Fenway, but we did have awesome seats behind home plate with all the beautiful people.  It was the quickest game I've ever experienced and the Sox lost, but it was still a good time.

Fun With Friends
We often join our friends, the Vaughns, in Disneyland.  Justin is one of Vinny's best buddies from preschool.  They are so silly together, and never miss an opportunity to pose with each other.

The Lafkos came out for a fun filled birthday and Planes!  Once again, Vinny plugged his ears through the whole movie, but insisted he loved it.

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