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:: Halloween

Another great thing about having a child is that you get to rediscover all of the holidays you loved as a kid. This October has been one giant Halloween festival for Benjamin that's been packed with lots of cute moments. It seems like every other day this month Benjamin's had some playgroup costume party to attend (the boy does seem to get out a lot). Thanks to some hand-me-downs, he's gone as a lion (with a cute little tail) and a purple dragon. He doesn't seem to know what to think of the whole costume thing, but he's been a good sport about it all.

Livermore is a good place to be during October. In addition to having a good Fall climate, there are a few farms in the area that have big pumpkin patches and corn mazes. Some folks drive all the way from San Francisco to see the patches. While many settle for the one just off the interstate, the best patch to go to is the one on Mines road. They have a decent-sized corn maze and a large selection of pumpkins (someone from work also told me that the owners are ex-Sandians). We went this year, picked a pumpkin, and ran the corn maze. It was pretty impressive this year- the stalks were bushy enough this year that there were times where you couldn't see the hills that surround the farm. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, Benjamin and I both came down with a really bad case of the flu just before Halloween, so we didn't get out to see the downtown festival or pretend to do any tick or treating. Perhaps the projectile vomiting Benjamin did over my shoulder was just part of an elaborate Exorcist costume that we was working on, though. Next year..

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:: Todd and Laura, Hitched!

Kodak gallery pictures for this post are here and here .

The big news in my family this year is that my brother Todd and his special-lady-friend Laura decided to get hitched (woot!). It wasn't too much of a shocker, given how couple-y they seemed last Christmas, but we're still happy for them all the same. The big question on everybody's minds has been where they'd have the ceremony. Amy and I put in a vote for "somewhere warm, preferably near a beach, that's kid friendly". Todd and Laura delivered- the wedding was on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean at an all-inclusive, family-oriented resort called Beaches. Aye, so it's back to the islands for us.

While nowhere near as complex as having to plan a wedding in a foreign country, Amy, Benjamin, and I had a whole heap of problems to work through in order to make it to the wedding. We first had to get passports for both Benjamin and myself (I stoopidly left my newly-issued passport in my pants and did laundry when we returned from Portugal). Heh. Benjamin had to sit on my shoulders in order to be tall enough to get his passport picture done. Next, we had to make sure Benjamin was up to date on his shots (never fun) since we were leaving the country. Finally, there was the whole problem of enduring a cross-country trip with a young child. While we were able to break the flight into two hops (stopping in Miami to sample the airport's pastries), the trip took more than 12 hours door-to-door. The long day was especially hard on Benjamin- when we finally reached the hotel, he cried and cried for hours out of shear exhaustion. We felt terrible for putting him through such a long trip at an early age. Thankfully, our vacation lasted a full week, so he had time to recover and adjust before it was time to return home.

I have to admit that Amy and I were a little worried about staying at a resort, mainly due to all the bad travel stories you read about on the web. Resorts often seem to have a sinister side that's orthogonal to the DIY travel philosophy we're used to. However, as it turns out, this resort was just the kind of place that we needed for this stage in our lives. It was easy to move Benjamin from place to place within the resort, and the all-inclusiveness meant we could get food and drinks whenever we needed them. There were several pools to choose from and the beach was just a short walk away from the room. The resort also had its own scuba boat and dive masters, so Amy and I were able to take a (hard) refresher course and do a dive. While our dive was too packed to see much of interest (minus some jerkwad's flipper in my face), Todd and Laura did a bunch of dives and saw a lot of great stuff (ho ho, someday I'll make them dive out in the Pacific so they can see what wetsuits are for).

To be fair, we did stumble upon the sinister side to the resort about midway through the trip, while chatting with an ice cream barista about kids. The guy told me he had a son about Benjamin's age, so we wound up swapping a few of the usual proud fatherhood stories. However, after dodging a few of my questions, the barista revealed that his wife and son were actually living back in the Philippines and that he was doing a two-year contract at the resort so he could send them money for a better life. Several of the other non-native workers were doing the same. It was pretty sobering to think about the sacrifices these people were making for their families. While it made me feel guilty for being there, it's at least partly reassuring know that some small portion of our resort fees was going towards helping these families.

Anyways, back to our vacation. Another great thing about this trip was that a lot of our family decided to make the trek, as did our buddy Pete (aka the Red-Goggled Fish Boxer ). Having all of these folks around for the week meant that we could talk with people we hadn't seen in a while, as well as give them a chance to get to know Benjamin. It was a lot of fun hanging out with my relatives- it reminded me of the summer beach vacations my family used to take when we were kids. Pete fit right in with my family- it was almost as if he was that distant cousin from Kentucky that was always a lot of fun to visit, but we were never allowed to see because of some unspoken incident that happened long ago. Of course, having my parents around was great for us because they volunteered to take a few shifts watching Benjamin for us during his naps. Although Amy and I could never quite shake the feeling of "this is fun, but we should get back in case Benjamin wakes up early", it was great to be able to get out of the room and do things on our own.

Having the wedding in October in the Caribbean was a little dicey. Everyone kept reminding us that October was hurricane season down there. They forgot to point out that it's also very, very humid in the Caribbean in October. Amy and I really had a tough time with the humidity (guess we're adjusted to California now), but the sun was especially dangerous for Benjamin. We covered him with sunscreen and towels as much as we could and made periodic trips to the swimming pools and ocean. Benjamin really loved the pools. He was old enough to be scared of the water, but still he loved it when we'd put him on a float and skim him across the top of the pool while making motor boat noises. He also liked sitting at the swim-up bar with daddy and sneaking sips of cold (non-alcoholic) beverages.

Todd and Laura's wedding was a casual, outdoor ceremony not too far from the beach. The blazing Caribbean heat kept the speeches short and we all squeezed in for pictures on the beach afterwards. It was a good little gig, especially since Todd and Laura look so happy together. Following the wedding, there was a small reception with drinks and food. Heh.. My cousin Dean made sure to point out that they were serving Miller beer- which was funny because Dean's dad (my uncle) works for Coors. Following the reception, everyone went to the pool and played volleyball (well, everyone but Benjamin and I- we went back to the room and sat on the air conditioner).

We had a lot of fun, and really enjoyed seeing everyone again. The trip back was horrendous, but hey, if it was easy getting to the fun places, they wouldn't be so fun. In any case, congratulations to Todd and Laura. Here's to a lifetime of happiness- woot!

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:: Royal Visit

Heh. We had a visitor stop by the other night- this (Monarch ?) butterfly dropped in so he could go for a walk on my head. I guess there are a lot of these guys making the journey to the beach around this time of year. I'll have to stay inside more so as to not distract them from their route.

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:: Pacifica

Pacifica. It's a small town on the coast just south of San Francisco. We read that there was a Best Western hotel there that had a campy lighthouse attached to it, and figured that was about as good of an excuse as any to get us out of the house for a few days. We packed the Golf to the gills and joined the stream of cars. Perhaps we should have checked the weather forecast first. It was overcast, windy, and cold when we arrived in Pacifica, and it felt like winter the entire time we were there. That's the true NorCal coast for you.

The next day we met up with Tom, Betsy, and Johnny so we could check out the neighboring beach. While the water was too cold for us, there were surfers in wet suits all over the place. We walked up the beach for a while and then warmed ourselves up with a lunch at a place with a view. Later that day, while monitoring Benjamin's nap in the hotel room, a small mariachi band played for a little while in the hotel's courtyard, probably for someone's wedding reception. Kind of strange, but also interesting, if only because they didn't wake Benjamin up.

The last day we were there was as gray as the first. Amy tolerated my need to go for a short walk on a bike path that worked its way up the hill. Benjamin seemed ok with it all, once he was properly wrapped up in his stroller with warm blankets. Summer. Yeah, when you're visiting the coast you have to remind yourself sometimes that it's still summer and that you should be happy that you're not baking.

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:: Massively Behind Schedule

El Noodle from the future writes:

Ok, so I'm really really really far behind on the updates. The site is now over a year and a half behind and it's been a long time since I've written anything at all. I do like having a record of things, it's just that I only get an hour or two of downtime a day. I'd like to keep the site going, so I need to find a way to get caught up. The simplest thing to do would probably just fast forward and let the last year and a half just disappear. That's not very satisfying, given all the things that happened since the writing tapered off. However, trying to write up all the details now is a lost cause given the amount of time that's gone by and how fuzzy some of the details have become.

The compromise is that in the next month I will try to get caught up by writing short versions of the big events that have happened up until now. The writing is going to suck (more than usual) and the details will be sketchy. My apologies to the people that we're skimping on, but I've got to get this thing back on schedule.

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