Breaking news. Matthew lost his first tooth today at school. It was one of his lower front teeth and it has been loose for days. Whenever you looked at him recently, he would have his finger in his mouth rocking the tooth back and forth. Apparently he wasn’t the only student in his class today to lose a tooth. I guess that is the life of a kindergarten teacher though. Tomorrow Matthew will find out if the tooth fairy visited him this evening. Something tells me she will…
Since we moved, we had been a one car family. At first, we had a rental car. After a few weeks, we bought the Toyota Matrix which would end up being Cynthia’s car. But, we hadn’t gotten a vehicle for me yet. Santa had come and gone and still I didn’t have a car. So, on Boxing Day, we decided to go out and see if I could buy a car.
We went to Frontier Infiniti and I asked to see some of their used G35 sedans. They had several models, but they had a great deal on a 2005. It was the car they listed in their ads to bring in customers and its sticker price was a couple of thousand below the other vehicles they had. I asked the saleswoman if I could take it for a test drive and she seemed a bit uncomfortable. Turns out she had just finished a test drive with another customer who was looking for his wife to show her the car because he thought it was perfect for them. She decided to let me go for a drive with her. As I put the car in drive, she looks over and sees the other customer come out of the building with his wife. He didn’t look too happy. Cynthia was standing there as he apparently said “he is going to buy that car”.
I had already test drove a G35 before when we were looking at the Matrix and I have friends who have had them for a few years who are very happy so I was pretty sure this is what I wanted. The car handled great. It seemed to be in excellent shape and well maintained. It had reasonable mileage (I had to keep converting from miles to kilometers though because 40,000 miles is very different from 40,000 kilometers). There was just one mark on the paint on the passenger side.
So, I bought it. The only complication was insurance. I couldn’t arrange insurance that day so I couldn’t leave with it immediately. While at the zoo, I got an email from my insurance company that it was now covered so on the way home from the zoo, I stopped in to pick it up. We were a two car family again. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of our new cars yet but hopefully I will have something to put online soon.
Since then, I passed by driving test so I now have my California license also. Cynthia’s test is scheduled for a couple of weeks from now and I am sure she will pass. The examiner said that he has never failed a Canadian driver, so there you go. Apparently we are all good drivers.
During her visit, Serena wanted to make a trip to the city to see some friends of hers. We decided to drop her off and then spend some time in the city ourselves. We considered making the trip to see Alcatraz but apparently they were booked and we couldn’t do the tour that day. Instead, we decided to see the San Francisco Zoo.
A couple weeks before, we went to the Monterey Bay Acquarium and both Matthew and Samantha loved it. Samantha loved watching the fish swimming in the tanks and stared at them. She squealed if one swam right in front of her. Matthew was very interested in the bat rays and the penguins. Unfortunately, we forgot the camera on that trip so we don’t have any pictures. We will have to go back there at some point, perhaps with Grandma Heather and Poppa who can probably tell Matthew lots about the fish in the tanks.
Because of his recent love of penguins, that was our first stop at the zoo. Along the way, we saw a peacock wandering around. Samantha liked watching him walk along with us. We found the penguins and watched them for a while. We also saw monkeys, rhinos, lions, giraffe, camels, gorillas and a bunch more animals. Another highlight of the visit were the animal statues that Matthew and Samantha played with. Cynthia took lots of pictures of them climbing on the lion statues.
At the zoo, they took a family picture for us which turned out pretty good. Click on it to see more photos from our visit. Before long, the kids were tired and it was time to pick up Jumping Jack Grandma. And I got a phone call that my car was ready, which is another story.
Matthew woke us up just after seven o’clock on Christmas morning. Samantha was still asleep but Cynthia, Jumping Jack Grandma and I made our way down the stairs with Matthew to see what Santa had brought. As you can see from the picture on the right, Matthew was pretty excited by what he saw.
Matthew saw the Star Wars toy from Santa and the bike from Cynthia and I. The funny thing about the bike is that he helped us pick it but completely forgot about it. We went to a store to look at bikes and found the perfect one. Matthew rode it around the store several times and wanted to get it that day. After trying to explain to him several times that Christmas was coming and maybe someone would get it for him, he just wasn’t happy with that. In the end, we had to tell him he would get it for Christmas and not to worry. That made him happy and we left without the bike. I came back a day later and picked it up. Later, we were talking to him about Christmas and we said that he knew one of the gifts he was getting but he couldn’t remember at all. So, it was a surprise anyways. I guess these surprises are easier when they are younger.
Matthew got lots of great gifts. Uncle Steve and Katherine sent a Spyro the Dragon game for his DS which he loves. Jumping Jack Grandma got him a little sandbox with little trucks in it which he plays with all the time. You can see a picture of him and his grandma playing in the sand. Grandma Heather and Poppa sent a copy of Wall-E. He loves that movie and we have already watched it a couple of times. I am sure I am forgetting other gifts he got, but he really loved everything. Thanks everyone.
After opening a few gifts, Samantha woke up. I brought her downstairs and she instantly went to her new kitchen to play. She loved it so much. Now when we are preparing dinner or cleaning up afterwards, we just tell her to go to her kitchen and she plays there for a little while before she comes back to see how we are doing. The other gift that was a huge hit with her was a doll that Uncle Steve and Aunt Katherine sent. You can see her playing with it in the video.
I gave Cynthia a pair of diamond earrings. When I went shopping, that was my plan all along, so, like any man would, I went straight to the jewelry store without any wandering through the mall. I wasn’t going to spend any more time there than I needed to. I explained to the saleswoman what I was looking for and she said, “here is a pair she will love”. They did look good so I asked what they were worth. She said $15,000 and I said I needed to find something more affordable. Much more affordable actually. In the end, I found a great pair and I think Cynthia is very happy with them. But, I don’t think the saleswoman was as happy because she said a couple of times that my wife can come in after the holidays and upgrade if she wants.
My gift from Cynthia, Matthew and Samantha was a Drobo and three 1 terabyte (1000 gigabyte) hard drives. The Drobo allows me to put up to 4 drives into it, and I get 3 drives worth of protected space. So, I put the three 1TB drives in, added a fourth which I had already and I had 3TB’s of protected space. The goal was to move all of our movies and backups to the Drobo but in the course of moving the data, my Linux server died and I lost our data. Thankfully, the vast majority is just DVD’s we own and have ripped so we can play them on our computer, AppleTV and iPods. So, I am going through and re-ripping everything which is taking quite a while. But, this solution should provide us much more room to grow. The old Linux server had a RAID configuration I setup years ago with three drives that gave me 600G of total capacity and it has been 98% full for a couple of months now. So 3TB is quite an improvement. Rumour is that Cynthia may be getting a fancy DSLR camera though so perhaps we will end up with 100’s more pictures and videos to start using up some of that 3 TB’s.
That evening, I made prime rib, potatoes and carrots for Christmas dinner. Serena and I enjoyed a local red wine which was very good. Soon enough, it was time for the kids to go to bed. Matthew went to his room with a couple of his new toys, while the adults stayed up for a while to play a bit more of Rock Band 2.
It was a great first Christmas in Sunnyvale and we really appreciated having Serena there to help us celebrate.
Jumping Jack Grandma arrived a bit later than planned because of the bad weather back in Ottawa (something we don’t miss), but she was just in time to celebrate Christmas with us. On Christmas Eve, we continue some traditions from my parents. We open a game for the family to play on Christmas Eve and we don’t make a big and fancy meal. Instead, we just eat lots of finger foods, especially seafood.
So, we continued that tradition but decided not to get a board game. Instead, we picked up Rock Band 2. If you know Guitar Hero, it is a similar idea except you can sing and play drums also. If you aren’t aware of either, it takes a bit of explanation. Basically, it is a video game which comes with drums, a fake guitar and a microphone. The disc has piles of songs on it and you can buy more from their store. Depending on how many people you have to play, you can have a couple of guitars (a lead and a bass line), a drummer and a singer “performing” these songs.
For a singer, it is kind of like karaoke but the game is evaluating how you are doing and whether you are in tune. The better you sing, the more points you get. The drummer has to hit four coloured drum pads at the right time according to what is displayed on the screen and approximates a real drum line. There is even a bass pedal to hit. The guitars have coloured buttons on the neck which you have to hit in time with the music.
We started with Jumping Jack Grandma on the drum, I played guitar and Cynthia was singing. At one point, Cynthia was singing some Metallica and I had a hard time continuing because I was laughing a bit too hard. It was pretty funny hearing her try to sing these angry lyrics. Matthew also got a chance to play the drums. Samantha is too young for it but she seemed to enjoy watching us did try to help Matthew with the drums a bit.
Cynthia and I mostly play it after the kids go to bed now for a few minutes. It is a great game and a lot of fun. This coming weekend, we have a family coming for dinner and we may break out the instruments. It is a fun game for parties.
After some time playing our new game, it was starting to get late and the kids had to get in bed before Santa came. If you look at the pictures, you can see some shots Santa must have taken after he dropped off the presents. You can see the Samantha’s play kitchen and there is a Star Wars walker toy in the picture of the tree for Matthew. The bike was actually from Cynthia and I, not Santa. Soon enough, the kids would be awake and enjoying their new toys.
Matthew’s class had two parties before the December break. They had a Christmas party and a Hanukkah party. Samantha and Cynthia walked to the school to join in on the fun and Cynthia took a bunch of pictures. Here is a selection of them. For the Christmas party, Matthew made a gingerbread house and he lit a candle on the menorah at the Hanukkah party. Also in the pictures, you can see Mr. Horn, Matthew’s new teacher.
Actually, I don’t think we have mentioned this yet. Just a day before Matthew’s birthday, he finally was accepted to the local school which is just walking distance from our new house. Up until then, he was being taken to his school in a little bus all by himself and he was really looking forward to being able to just walk to and from school. He got his wish and he is very happy at the new school.
Also, he is doing very well. He is still in kindergarten and will very likely stay there. Mr Horn says he is an excellent reader but could use more work on handwriting and numbers. A bit more time in kindergarten should ensure he continues to do well going forward.
Samantha ate her first ice cream cone and Cynthia captured the result. Check out the video to the right to see how messy she is.
We always leave Christmas preparations until after Matthew’s birthday so the two don’t compete with each other. So, that weekend after his birthday, we went to find a Christmas tree. Just a few minutes away from our house is a small nursery which had a lot of trees for sale. So, we drove there to see what we could find. You can see some pictures of us browsing through the trees.
Also, not long before, we had bought our first vehicle and returned our rental. We bought a 2007 Toyota Matrix which will primarily be Cynthia’s car. But, at that moment, we wished we still had the rental so we could make a mess of someone else’s car. I did get the tree we chose into the hatch of the car and it was surprising how little of it stuck out through the glass. Thankfully it was a short and uneventful trip home.
A few days later, I setup the tree stand and brought the tree into the house while Samantha had her afternoon nap. Cynthia, Matthew and I worked on decorating the tree. Next year, Samantha should be old enough to help out. I lifted Matthew up to put the star on the top and he and I strung the lights. Then, we all placed the ornaments, putting the breakable things up high beyond Samantha’s reach.
The other task to be ready for Christmas is to visit Santa Claus. In Ottawa, we always attended the Alcatel Christmas Party and saw Santa there. Here, we ended up waiting until the last weekend before Christmas and decided that would be a good time to head to the mall and see Santa. That was a bit of a crazy idea. Actually, the line for Santa wasn’t too bad when we got there and it moved along OK. Matthew dropped his letter to Santa into the mailbox. Then, he and Samantha sat on Santa’s lap for a picture. Samantha wasn’t too scared and we got a pretty good shot. Matthew told Santa what he wanted and what Samantha wanted and we rushed back to the car to get away from the crowds.
We were ready for Christmas. Jumping jack Grandma would be arriving for her visit soon and if we all were good, perhaps Santa would visit also.
Before we moved, we had a party in Ottawa to celebrate Matthew’s 6th birthday about two months early so he could have a party with his friends. On his actual birthday this past December, we had a quite celebration at home. We picked up some dinner at Subway which Matthew loves and brought it home to eat. After that, he blew out the candles on a cake I baked the night before.
Then, he opened his gifts. Cynthia and I gave him a Nintendo DS. Uncle Steve and Aunt Katherine sent a Lego Indiana Jones game and he and I are still playing it almost every night. Another highlight of his birthday gifts was a space shuttle toy which Zaida Steve and Granny Nanny sent for him. In a later story, you will see Matthew holding it when we go out to find a Christmas tree. It was one of his favourites. Thanks everyone for the gifts you sent to him.
Overall, it was a pretty quiet birthday for Matthew but I doubt next years will be the same. He is making friends quickly here and I am sure we will have a house full of kids again (or maybe we won’t and go somewhere for the party).