Luna the Cat Joins our Family

Olivia has been lobbying for a cat for quite some time. I’m an advocate for any kind of (furry) pet, though I am partial to dogs. It took the family a while to get over the passing of Snickers, especially Grace. But, the time had apparently come, as Grace told Olivia we could get a cat on her birthday.

We’ve been going to the local SPCA periodically, “just to look,” for quite a while. However, after we got back from our holiday travels, we went every weekend. There aren’t many kittens this time of year, and Grace and Olivia really wanted one.

On January 28th, we went on our weekly pilgrimage, and found they had a couple of young new arrivals. We met the first one, a beautiful gray cat, who was friendly, but very shy. We met a second cat briefly, as Lucas had to go to a birthday party, so after a quick deliberation, we decided on the gray cat. By the time I returned, Grace and Olivia had decided to take home the 2nd cat, as she was much friendlier and less shy. Snickers was pretty skittish, so I can understand the reluctance to get another cat that would hardly be seen.

The cat was a stray and guessed to be about a year old. She was found pregnant, but too malnourished to carry the kittens to term. She had a name when she arrived, but it was changed to Pomegranate. That was too much of a mouthful for us, so we were going to come up with our own name.

When she got home, it became clear we need to call her something, so we brainstormed some names. I started throwing out Harry Potter names: “Hermione,” “Belatrix,” “Luna Lovegood,” Luna actually seemed to fit, as she had similar coloring to Luna Lovegood and she did look a little like the moon. It stuck, even though Grace wasn’t convinced.

It didn’t initially strike us how beautiful Luna is. She came home with us because in a way, she chose us with her friendly personality. The first night was interesting, as Olivia was determined to have Luna sleep with her, but she was set on sleeping on/near her face, so that didn’t last at all. Instead, she slept on Grace’s and my face that first night.

She is so friendly to everyone, including strangers. Everyone is in love with her. We’re so glad she has joined our family. Welcome home, Luna!

Olivia’s 11th Birthday Party

Grace and Kate planned Olivia’s birthday party, which was after the holidays. The theme evolved into what ended up being cupcake wars. All the the teams worked hard on their creations and each enjoyed the fruits (cupcakes) of their labor.

The options for the movie screen were “IT” and “The Incredibles.” They chose the latter. The slumber party went smoothly (I guess I wouldn’t really know because I was sleeping). Olivia is lucky to have a great group of friends to celebrate with her.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Olivia’s 11th Birthday Celebration at Benihana in Michigan

Our last dinner together in Michigan was to celebrate Olivia’s 11th birthday. We don’t traditionally celebrate birthdays there, but it was what Olivia wanted. The number one thing Olivia has been asking for is a cat. I wasn’t a proponent of making a pet a Christmas or Birthday gift, but Grace had mentally committed to getting a new cat. Olivia was overjoyed to read the news that it was finally happening.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Christmas in Michigan with Rhees and Parks

For the first time in 8 years, we spent the Christmas holiday in Michigan at my parents’ house (and childhood home). The kids know it well from our summer trips, but they haven’t really experienced snow there as kids (and ironically there was a lot more of it than in Colorado). Addy and Charles were also in Michigan to visit Amy and Arnie’s family, and thus Grace’s parents and Dave also came to Michigan.

Everyone came over for Christmas Day and dinner. The kids had some daylight to play in the snow. I tried to buy some sleds, but there was nothing open. They improvised with cardboard and plastic. Grace improvised with the recycling container top. The Rhees (no relation) also joined us for dinner, which was prepared by my mom, Jen and Grace.

We spent time in Ann Arbor with Grace’s Hur side of the family. It was nice to see all the cousins. They each took turns kissing the ring (Dad Park).

We saw Melanie, Nick and the kids, who took us downtown for lunch and bowling at Punch Bowl Social. It was a nice excursion to my old work neighborhood. Detroit is coming along!

The holidays is also the time we celebrate my Dad’s birthday. We celebrated 82 with a great meal at Eddie V’s, which is new to Detroit. Happy Birthday, Dad!

We all love visiting Michigan at any time of year. Olivia and Lucas can’t get enough of the wide open spaces and my parents’ yard. Even though it was single digits, they never really complained about the cold, which encourages me that our California kids are tougher than we might think.

Skiing in Beaver Creek and Vail before Christmas

The kids had the week off before Christmas so we decided to ski again before the holidays. We had settled on Beaver Creek, but didn’t make our plans until the last minute. I was showing the kids the World Cup, which was held in Beaver Creek at the end of November and it seemed fine. It wasn’t until after we made our arrangements and checked the weather that I found out there was hardly any snow and very little open. Uh oh.

We were locked in, so we just decided to make the best of it. Like last year, we were on our way to our holiday destination (Michigan this year), so we had 8 bags of luggage on the way there, as Elin was joining us for the week. Thankfully it all fit in the car. We have bad luck on I-70 as the road was closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel and we were forced to take the Loveland Pass, which caused a little delay.

On the way there I saw that our old friends, Betty and Andrew were already in Beaver Creek so we hoped to meet up. When we arrived at the mountain the next morning, they were the first people we saw. We met up with them again at lunch as they were leaving the next day.

The kids didn’t get to show Elin all their favorite runs because none of them were open. Despite that, there was still plenty of terrain to ride and we spent the whole week working on our turns (and hockey stop for Lucas). For months I was getting Lucas mentally ready to ski parallel this year. Up until this year, he skied a very wide stance, which made skiing parallel virtually impossible. We started with hockey stops (on both sides) and lots of sliding. I realized that both Olivia and Lucas could turn and stop pretty well when going right, but going left, not so much. From then on, they were only allowed to stop left (though there wasn’t full compliance).

We stayed at the Westin in Beaver Creek again and got a little more space for the five of us. We finally made it to Grouse Mountain Grill as a family, which I enjoyed for Nick’s birthday during the last season. On our third day, we skied a half day and headed over to Vail to watch Star Wars. Afterwards, Arthur invited us over for dinner. It was great to spend time with his mom and his sister’s family, who we see often in Vail.

We skied Vail on Thursday. The coverage was surprisingly thinner than Beaver Creek and it was a day of unsuccessfully avoiding rocks. Arthur made it out in the afternoon for a few runs together. We had more meals at some familiar places as well as tried some new restaurants in Vail during the week.

By week’s end, it snowed a few more inches and actually got quite cold. The last afternoon on Saturday were the windiest conditions in which I’ve skied (seemingly hurricane force). But, it was only my second chance during the week to let my new skis run as Grace and the kids called it a day early.

Even though the snow wasn’t the best (i.e., the worst), we still had a great time and both kids made great progress on their form and speed. I’d call it a success. Can’t wait to get back on the mountain under better conditions.

7th Annual U of M Holiday Dinner and Gift Exchange

Although we’ve been gathering for years (odd, no football this year), by my count, we’ve been celebrating the holidays together for 7 straight years. This year, the Idemas graciously hosted at their beautiful home. I caught a glimpse of the shimmering new pool, but we won’t be wreaking havoc out there until next year.

Although Krista might be writing a letter to management about the seating arrangement, we ended up in two distinct dining areas. Dinner and desert were amazing, but the true main course is our gift exchange. You would think that with wisdom and experience, our gifts would become more age-appropriate. However, they’re only becoming more outlandish and yet strangely useful (my “Pocket Kim Wisdom” book excepted).

The photos are otherwise presented without commentary as they speak for themselves. A warning to all, if you pose for the photo, it’s definitely going to end up on the internet. I think you all look amazing.

Thank you, Idemas, for hosting another memorable event! Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

Thanksgiving 2017 in Orlando with the Parks

We spent only our second destination Thanksgiving in Orlando, FL last week. Coincidentally, the first was with the Rhees in Miami Beach, FL five years ago. Our family and Elin went down a little early to spend a few days at Universal Studios. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very close to the park.

The kids were most excited about Harry Potter, even though we already enjoyed the lite version in Hollywood over Spring Break. Orlando’s Diagon Alley did not disappoint. The weather was amazing the day we went. Our family lost steam around dinner time. We had dinner at Citywalk before heading back to the hotel. Elin, however, wanted to hit every ride and got most of them in by riding until closing time.

The next day, it was raining, but we still went to the pool anyway. It would have helped a bit if it was warmer, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. After swimming, we made a game time call to see Wonder. Afterwards, we had dinner across the street at The Portofino.

The third day we just had breakfast and packed up to move over to Disney. We went over to the Hilton next door to use their pool, which had a lazy river and a slide. Addy, Charles, the kids, and Dave all arrived and met us there. We tried to have dinner at Disney Springs with no reservation, but ended up just eating back at the hotel lobby.

On Thanksgiving, my plans to eat nothing until dinner was thwarted by a nice lunch at Eddie V’s. We hit the pool at our hotel in the afternoon, which had less amenities but was at least heated. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is not our style, but still a lot easier for those who usually cook and or clean. Our main motivation for visiting Orlando was to see Grace’s mom’s brother, Ben, who lives there. We were happy that he joined us for our family dinner. This was Elin’s first American Thanksgiving, which she hopefully enjoyed.

Black Friday was spent at Disney World. It was my first visit there since 1980, which was before Epcot was even built. We planned this part of the trip terribly, as we just bought our tickets and had virtually no fast passes reserved among our big group. Our plan to mitigate this was to catch the first shuttle to the Disney, which meant a pre-dawn wakeup.

The main attraction Charles wanted to ride was the new Avatar-themed Pandora attraction. We didn’t exactly elbow our way into the park or run to the ride. By the time we were in line, it was already a 3-hour wait. Oof. Thankfully, everyone was patient (including the Grandparents). I don’t do well on these 4D rides. It was pretty amazing, but I’m still queasy. The kids and Elin loved it. We took it a little easier in the Animal Kingdom and did some Safari ride. Because the damage was done, even the Dinosaur ride was painful to me. We did actually have 3pm fast passes for Pandora, so Elin, Addy, Olivia, Lucas and Cameron rode it again.

We all headed over to Epcot for dinner. It was my first visit there. We then rode the monorail back to the transit center. Olivia, Lucas and Grace’s parents were done at this point, so I took them back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check it out and watch the grand finale. Everyone was impressed.

On our last full day together, we finally made it into Morimoto Asia for lunch. Afterwards, half the group went back to Disney World for another day and night at the park. Elin had a Fast Pass at 11:30pm at Space Mountain and didn’t make it home until late. The kids, Grace, Dave, Grace’s Dad and I went to the pool for a bit. We were back at Disney Springs for a healthy meal of fried everything at Art Smith’s.

Sunday, we packed up, and headed out of Disney for the last time. What we didn’t know was that our flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours, which made for a long rest at the Orlando airport. The one good thing about it was running into my long lost b-school buddy, Ted, who was on his way back to Austin.

As always, we have so much for which to be thankful and now this amazing trip  with family is also on the list.

Work Hiatus Golf in San Francisco and Las Vegas

For the first time ever, I took off a little time between jobs. By first time, I mean the first time when I voluntarily changed jobs vs. being laid off or unemployed. Somehow, I found myself quite busy during this time, as Grace gave me a big punch list of things to do around the house and for the family. Honestly, I didn’t knock it all out, but I did my best and made some progress. It also helped that I didn’t have a car to fix.

First, big shout out to my buddy Albert who took off several stealth days from work, including the first and last days of official time off to golf with me. We got in a round at Half Moon Bay on day 1 (Erich also joined that day) as well as a couple rounds at Harding Park in San Francisco. I also got in one solo round of contemplation during week one.

For the last hurrah, Eddie met me in Las Vegas for 5 days. I can’t tell you how relaxing it was relative to our normal itinerary, which usually involves break-of-dawn golf, pool with the kids, dinners, etc. (i.e., too tired to gamble). Aside from our morning tee times, we had no agenda. We got in four rounds of golf at Bear’s Best, Royal Links, Paiute Wolf and Coyote Springs. The weather was perfect for golf in the desert.

Each day we had lunch when we were done and dinner whenever we were hungry. We had great meals in the Encore/Wynn where we stayed and also ventured off the property to Carnevino (best lamb chops ever) and a romantic dinner outdoors at Mon Ami Gabi. We had some fun in between, but truthfully, we were in bed by 10pm on day one and got crushed on day three, also resulting in an early night. Although we see each other once and sometimes twice a year, we gathered that we haven’t traveled alone together in over two decades when he was single and still in medical school. It was QT with my ride or die.

Although I technically rolled right into a family vacation for Thanksgiving, my hiatus is all but over. I’m already having dreams about work. I’m very thankful for this time off, for the big pass Grace gave me, and for the time friends made for me.

I may never play golf again… (until ski season is over, that is).