Star Wars, Football and the Stock Show

My name is Renton, Anna Renton

My name is Renton, Anna Renton

I spent much of the last week in China on business. The kids went back to school after the break, although that was delayed a day due to a significant snow storm in Denver. During this time Anna bought this nerf gun from Target out of her own money and Jude followed with a nerf crossbow. They have enjoyed having epic battles in the house over the last week or so.

Jude with his drawing of Yoda

Jude with his drawing of Yoda

The Art Museum have had this Star Wars exhibit of costumes worn in the movies, we went there before Christmas and the kids loved it. They went again on the recent snow day and Jude and Anna spent quite a bit of time there in their workshop room. Anna made some of her own costumes and Jude drew this fantastic picture of Yoda.

On a horse at the stock show

On a horse at the stock show

Today, we went to the Denver Stock Show. We haven’t been for a couple of years and the kids have certainly grown up since the times we used to go. All the little kid things like the train, petting zoo and pony rides were no longer interesting. Although they did want to sit on this horse briefly. We watched an animal show, checked out all the western shops and then Anna bought a fur coat. Yes, we went to a fur store where Anna saw this beautiful black coat for $100 and desperately wanted it. After a text with Marcy we decided that Anna could pay for half and we would pay half. She was thrilled.

Anna showing off her new fur coat

Anna showing off her new fur coat

Finally, I couldn’t do this post without talking about football. It is such a big part of Jude’s life with the playoffs happening right now and Green Bay in the thick of it. Jude has been nervous all weekend about the big game with Dallas today. One of the reasons we went to the stock show was to get him out of the house and his mind off football. It was an epic game and Jude was beside himself by the end of it. The Packers move on to the NFC Championship next weekend.

Yeeesssss! Packers win!!!

Yeeesssss! Packers win!!!

The Holiday Week in Des Moines

Celebrating their belated birthdays in Des Moines

Celebrating their belated birthdays in Des Moines

The day after Christmas we packed up the car and headed to Des Moines for our annual holiday trip with the Iowa family. As she does every year Baba baked birthday cakes for the kids shaped into their age: 8 for Anna, 10 for Jude. Although with Jude there was a little hiccup where Baba baked an 11 – it was easily fixed into an “X” the Roman numeral for 10. Jude didn’t mind, he still got to celebrate his birthday one more time.

All the cousins go bowling

All the cousins go bowling

As always there was a lot of fun activities planned for the kids during our stay. They played some card games, went to a museum to do butter sculptures, Jude played Glow Golf on an all boys night (with me, Nathan and Grandpa) and of course we watched some football. It was a bit too cold to play outside much but Jude and I get did a few minutes outside throwing the football most days. We had a big cousins outing to the local bowling alley. This was the parents treat for the kids instead of getting gifts this year – everyone seemed to have a good time.

Grandpa and Jude watching some football on New Year's Eve

Grandpa and Jude watching some football on New Year’s Eve

All the kids were excited for New Year’s Eve. We had some kiddie champagne, a countdown, party hats and even a small balloon drop. We did all this around 7:45pm so everyone could get to bed.

Anna and Lily enjoying a New Year's celebration

Lily and Anna enjoying some kids champagne on New Year’s Eve

Our week was over all too soon. This morning we said our goodbyes and we drove back to Denver. I am heading to China on Tuesday and the kids have another few days off school.

On New Year's morning celebrating once again

On New Year’s morning celebrating once again

Christmas Week Finally Arrives

High Tea at the Brown Palace

High Tea at the Brown Palace

Christmas break began on Wednesday afternoon with the kids really excited about their break and, of course, about Christmas. We got into the spirit of things by going to “High Tea” at the Brown Palace Hotel downtown. This is a big deal here with the hotel booked out for months in advance. Marcy booked a table for us last Christmas and it was great. Lots of nice sandwiches, scones and desserts. We are booked in again for next year.

Taking a break during a great Christmas Eve ski day in Keystone

Taking a break during a great Christmas Eve ski day in Keystone

On Christmas Eve we decided to head up to the mountains for a day of skiing. The mountains have had a good amount of snow these past few days and so we thought Keystone would be very popular on Christmas Eve. But we ended up having no traffic and no lift lines despite 40 degrees weather and good snow. The day ended a little prematurely with Anna hurting her knee on a bump run and we had to call the ski patrol to get her down the mountain. But she was fine when she got down.

Anna walking down the stairs on Christmas morning

Anna walking down the stairs on Christmas morning

The long awaited day finally arrived. Anna was up super early, just after 5am, although we told her she couldn’t actually get up until 6am. They both love Christmas but Anna seemed a little more excited than Jude this year. Santa was very generous with many presents for both kids. Anna received her “dolls diner” that she has been eyeing at Target all year as well as an Easy Bake Oven. Jude enjoyed a good pile of presents including Arsenal gear, some Star Wars gear and a Packers book.

Jude with his pile of presents

Jude with his pile of presents

We had our traditional Christmas lunch of Indian food but we spent most of the day at home with the kids very content to play with their toys. Tomorrow it is off to Iowa to visit Marcy’s family.

A Busy Week and the First Big Snowstorm of the Season

Anna leads her class in the Santa Lucia celebration

Anna leads her class in the Santa Lucia celebration

It was a busy week both at school and on the home front. On Tuesday, it was Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy) Day and the school has a celebration every year. The second grade go into every room in the school and sing a song as well as hand out bread. Anna was honored to be chosen as Santa Lucia and wore the elaborate candle headdress that is tradition in the celebration of this ancient Christian commemoration.

Jude playing viola at the school concert

Jude playing viola at the school concert

That night was the school concert and Jude played some Christmas songs with his class. He did really went and seemed to enjoy the three songs they did in front of the entire school as well as parents.

Marcy's birthday at Acorn

Marcy’s birthday at Acorn

Thursday was Marcy’s birthday. We went to see a Star Wars costume exhibit at the Art Museum and then went out for dinner. We tried a new restaurant called Acorn that has been getting great reviews. The food was spectacular and Marcy left very satisfied.

Anna decorating our Christmas tree

Anna decorating our Christmas tree

Friday night we went and bought a Christmas tree. We always like to wait until after Marcy’s birthday to begin our Christmas decorating. So the night after her birthday we went and bought our tree. Then on Saturday morning Anna and Marcy put up all the decorations on the tree.

Anna sledding on the hill right by our new house

Anna sledding on the hill right by our new house

A storm moved in on Friday night and it was bitterly cold. We woke up to -5 degrees (that’s fahrenheit) and 6″ of new snow. So, the kids decided it was time to get out their sleds and try the new hill right by our house. It was too cold to stay out long but both Jude and Anna enjoyed going down a few times. We had the annual Christmas Party at the Briere house on Saturday night where there were a lot of kids. It was a late night but everyone enjoyed it.

Marcy at her new job as a personal trainer

Marcy at her new job as a personal trainer

I have not mentioned this on the blog yet but Marcy has a new job as a personal trainer. She has been working out at this gym for much of this year and she liked it so much she decided to work there. She is also my personal trainer and we go in every weekend for a workout. It is a unique workout called Super Slow and it a very intense but relatively short workout. She is working there two days a week while the kids are in school and so far she loves it.

The First Week in our New House

Jude receives a cheesehead from Uncle Nathan

Jude receives a cheesehead from Uncle Nathan

We are settling in to our new house. Marcy has been a machine, spending 10 hour days unpacking and getting everything organized. So, here we sit just a week after we have moved in with the kitchen and living room all but settled. We still have to get blinds for all the windows and several other pieces like that but it is starting to feel like a home already.

We had a surprise visit this week from Uncle Nathan who was in Colorado on business. Well, it was a surprise for the kids, we had known about it for some time. Unfortunately, I was in New York so I missed hm but the kids were delighted to see their Iowa uncle. And he came bearing late birthday gifts. Jude received the Cheesehead as you can see here (he wore it today while watching the Packers game and he believes that is why they won) and Anna received a “club box” which is basically a craft box for the little club that Anna has set up with her cousins Ella and Chloe.

Anna in our new kitchen

Anna in our new kitchen

This weekend we didn’t have much on which was nice. So, Saturday we ran some errands and then Jude had a friend over to play. We watched a movie in the afternoon, A Christmas Carol, and then went over to a friend’s house for dinner.

Jude lit up by Christmas lights outside a friend's house

Jude lit up by Christmas lights outside a friend’s house

Sunday both Jude and Anna had friends over to play. Jude and his friend watched a lot of the football with me while Anna and her friend played outside and had a little tea party. It was a nice relaxing weekend after a very hectic last few weeks for all of us.

Jude and our old neighbor playing in our basement

Jude and our old neighbor playing in our basement

We Move Into a New House….Again

Anna and Jude roasting marshmallows on our last night in our old house

Anna and Jude roasting marshmallows on our last night in our old house

Our friends think we are funny. Since Marcy and I got married in 2004 we have lived in a total of seven houses. Now, one of those was in Australia where we went for six months in 2012 and then we rented for a year after we got back. Still, that is a lot of houses. And now we have moved again – back to the Wash Park neighborhood where we lived from 2004-08.

In some ways we will miss our old house. We did some great renovations to it in 2014 and we loved a lot about it. But it was too far from school and the tiny garage was an issue. Our new house has a big yard, a two car garage and most importantly, is just a few minutes from the kids school. At least with Denver’s hot real estate market we got all our money back we put into our old house and more.

Jude discovered a little window nook in the basement of our new house

Jude discovered a little window nook in the basement of our new house

It has been a busy week. We closed on our old house on Monday, our new house on Tuesday. I was in New York on Wednesday and Thursday and then we moved on Friday and Saturday. Needless to say Marcy has done 99% of the work with the move and she pulled everything together really well. She was a workhorse and by Sunday night most of our main floor was packed away.

Anna showing off her star shaped candle that she made at the school Holiday Fair

Anna showing off her star shaped candle that she made at the school Holiday Fair

Saturday was the annual Denver Waldorf School Holiday Fair. This a highlight of the calendar for the kids and we arrived at 8:30am even before the fair opened. I volunteered in candle making as well as the balance challenge but the kids, particularly Jude, wanted to be off with their friends a lot of the day. Anna still did all the crafts but Jude played “an epic game of tag” that lasted for several hours. He and his two friends at least stopped to get a caricature of themselves done at one point.

Jude and his two best school friends with their caricature

Jude and his two best school friends with their caricature

Sunday was spent unpacking and watching football of course. We walked up to our new local sports bar to watch the Broncos as well as the Packers game. We have a couple of neighbor boys who are Jude’s age and they played together in our basement for a while today. We have met some of the neighbors and they seem nice – and there are quite a few kids on our block which is great.

Jude Turns 10 in Sydney

Jude catching a wave at Manly Beach

Jude catching a wave at Manly Beach

We had a wonderful second week in Sydney. The weather was great, with barely a drop of rain the entire week. So, we spent a great deal of time at the beach. There was a lot of boogie board riding, Anna even tried her hand with a surfboard, she made it to her knees, but she decided to save getting on her feet until next time. We played some beach volleyball and there was lots of just playing in the water and the sand.

Anna catching a wave on a surfboard for the first time

Anna catching a wave on a surfboard for the first time

The big event of the week was, of course, Jude’s 10th birthday. He decided that he wanted to catch the ferry into the city and go to Sydney Tower, the tallest building in Sydney, where they have an open observation deck. It was pretty cool, we were up about 900 feet in the air with a glass bottom floor, but it was very safe – we all had to wear special suits and were chained to a railing. There was about 12 people in our group and everyone sang Jude Happy Birthday while we were out there.

On the outdoor observation deck at Sydney Tower 900 feet up

On the outdoor observation deck at Sydney Tower 900 feet up

After that we went to Darling Harbour to visit the Wildlife Experience which is basically a small zoo. We spent a lot of time here when we lived here in 2012 and Jude remembered it fondly. Then we caught the ferry back and met up with Uncle Ian, Aunt Leila and Sarah for dinner where we had a very nice birthday celebration for Jude. Then the next day Jude got birthday phone calls from his family in Iowa because of the time difference it was Nov 23rd there on the 24th in Sydney. Jude loved the fact that he basically had a two day birthday.

Jude getting friendly with a large Australian lizard

Jude getting friendly with a large Australian lizard

After that we had more beach time and then a final visit with my Dad at the nursing home where Anna took a turn at chess with him, and then it was back on the plane to Denver. We were all very sad to leave – both kids said several times that they were really going to miss Sydney. I think it was the best trip we have ever had to Sydney. As the kids get older they can do so many more fun things and they both love the beach. Best may be that they travel better and adjust to the time changes easier than when they were younger. They are already counting down the time until we visit again.

img_3721

Anna playing chess with her Grandpa on our last day in Sydney

Chess, Oysters and Family Time in Sydney

Visiting 90-year-old Grandpa Renton at his nursing home

Visiting 90-year-old Grandpa Renton at his nursing home

Our first full week in Sydney has been a good one. We have had nice weather with barely a drop of rain and have spent a lot of time at the beach. We started off the week with a trip to see my Dad. He had recently turned 90 but has been in better health recent weeks than he has been all year.

At one of our favorite restaurants, the Sydney Oyster Bar, where Anna tried her first oyster

At one of our favorite restaurants, the Sydney Oyster Bar, where Anna tried her first oyster

We had a great time in the city this week. We caught the Manly Ferry in and then went to the Australian Museum, one of the kids favorite places. Then on the way back we stopped at the Sydney Oyster Bar, one of our favorite restaurants that is right on the Harbour. There Anna tried her first oyster although it was not a pleasant experience for her. Jude had his third oyster ever and while he did not enjoy it he managed to eat it.

Walking around the rocks from Manly to Shelley Beach

Walking on the rocks from Manly to Shelley Beach

We have been to the beach every day since we arrived. The weather has been great and while the water is chilly (around 69 degrees) it feels good on the warm days. The kids have been spending time on the boogie board catching waves and are now both able to do this unassisted. We have also spent some time at Shelley Beach where there is a beautiful bushwalk around the headland. While there is a popular walking path from Manly to Shelley Beach the kids prefer to do it the hard way and scramble over the rocks.

Grandfather and grandson playing chess

Grandfather and grandson playing chess

One day this week we went to visit my dad and we borrowed my brother’s chess set to bring with us. Jude is quite a keen chess player and my dad used to also be quite good when he was younger. Both of them were looking forward to playing as it is one of the few activities that a 90 year old and a 10 year old can enjoy together. Jude ended up being too good for my dad but they both enjoyed the game.

The kids playground at the zoo was a popular spot

The kids playground at the zoo was a popular spot with Sarah, Jude and Anna

On Saturday we spent the day at the zoo. Aunt Robyn came along as well as Ian, Leila and Sarah. Jude and Anna loved seeing their cousin again and enjoyed watching the animals with her as well as playing on the kids playground.

Jude's birthday week celebration begins with Uncle Mark and Aunt Robyn

Jude’s birthday celebration begins singing Happy Birthday with Uncle Mark and Aunt Robyn

Sunday, we spent the whole day at the beach. Then in the afternoon Uncle Mark and Aunt Robyn came over to kick off Jude’s 10th birthday celebration. We went out for dinner at the local pub and then came back to our apartment for cheesecake and an early birthday celebration.

In Sydney for Two Weeks

Anna reading her poem by Grandma Patience's gravesite

Anna reading her poem by Grandma Patience’s gravesite

This past week has been about getting ready for our trip to Sydney. We had decided earlier in the year that we would spend two weeks in Sydney around Thanksgiving for Jude’s 10th birthday. Also, my father just turned 90 so we wanted to spend some time with him as well. We left Denver on Friday night and arrived in Sydney on Sunday morning.

The tradition now when we get to Sydney is to drive straight from the airport to my mother’s grave. I know she would appreciate us honoring her in this way as she was always the one who was most excited to see us when we came to Sydney. Anna read a poem she had written and we all honored her in our own way. It was a special time for me.

Anna and Jude's first swim in the Pacific Ocean for over 18 months

Anna and Jude enjoy their first dip in the ocean at Manly

Then it was on to the beach and our apartment in Manly. We are staying in the same building as last year just a different unit. It is 50 yards to the beach and we have a patrolled area right in front. Both Jude and Anna just love the ocean. They were jumping over waves, giggling and splashing around for ages even though the ocean was cold (around 69 degrees). The unit came with a boogie board and Anna was out there catching waves again and again.

Jude playing catch with his cousin Sarah

Jude playing catch with his cousin Sarah

On Sunday afternoon, Ian and Leila came over with their daughter Sarah. Jude and Anna have been really looking forward to seeing their cousin and they loved playing with her. They played some catch and kicked the ball around our unit and then we all went down to the beach and had some dinner together. It was a great first day of our trip.

Jude and Anna with their Australian cousin, Sarah who is 20 months old

Jude and Anna with their Australian cousin, Sarah, who is 20 months old

Halloween and a First Trip to Dave & Busters

img_3337

Jude and his school friends as blue balloon boys on Halloween night

On Halloween night Anna and Jude went their separate ways with their school friends. It was the warmest Halloween night we have ever had in Denver. I wore a t-shirt while following the boys around trick or treating. The kids had a blast and of course picked up a bucketful of candy.

Anna as Harry Potter with some school friends about to got trick or treating

Anna as Harry Potter with some school friends about to go trick or treating

Both Jude and Anna stayed home the day after Halloween. It was not really candy-induced, they both had colds. Anna’s took a turn for the worse which resulted in a trip to the doctor and a revisit to the masks and inhaler. But she was back at school by Thursday.

Jude panning for "gold" on his field trip

Jude panning for “gold” on his field trip

It is somewhat embarrassing that Jude is in fourth grade and I have not yet been on a field trip with his class. They have several a year so I decided this year I would go on one field trip for both kids. Jude’s class went to Four Mile Park in Denver this week where they got to see how pioneer life was back in the 19th century.

We had a pretty quiet weekend which was nice given how busy we have been the past few weekends. Jude’s soccer season is over now but Anna had one last game on Saturday morning.

Anna and me outside Dave & Busters today

Anna and me outside Dave & Buster’s today

Anna has been excited about going to Dave & Buster’s since I first took Jude there almost two years ago. So, today we had another Anna and Daddy date and I took her there. We had promised after she turned 8 I would take her there. She had an absolute blast. Even after building it up for months she was not disappointed in the slightest. She proved a natural at the car race. We raced against each other and by the third race she beat me fair and square. We could have stayed there for hours but we stayed just over an hour for her first trip. Next time, I think I will take both kids because Jude wants to go back.