Happy Holidays 2012

December 30, 2012 – 11:24 pm

2012 was a challenge, and we won’t be sad to welcome in a fresh new year.  Some of the challenges early in the year involved ongoing ear infections for Winston, which had cascading impacts in our lives, and eventually lead to surgically-inserted ear tubes.  Those definitely helped, but didn’t prevent him from still getting several more ear infections, which the doctors say is quite unusual!  But by far the most difficult part of 2012 was the sudden decline and loss of our good friend Simon Chan in August – we still can’t believe he won’t be here to ring in the new year with us.  Simon’s passing is a constant reminder to us that life is short, and that we somehow have to enjoy and appreciate what we have despite the constant pressures of juggling work, kids, etc…

One of our yearly holiday goals is to catch up in processing pictures for the year – this year we ran a bit late, and didn’t get our 2012 pictures uploaded until (very) late December – but we made it!  Our pictures always serve as a reminder of the good times of the previous year…  It’s hard to truly ever get away or get a real break with two small children, but we’re glad that we were at least able to take joy in small things and quick local excursions.  Often these small things come as complete surprises, like the hilarious “old west family photo shoot” initiated by Shirley in February.  Other points of joy included learning how to bake macaron cookies, several really fun orienteering trips along the American River (and a day of joyous puddle-jumping joy at the Mississippi Bar Park), Annemarie starting piano lessons (and being able to play a two-hand version of Jingle Bells in time for Christmas!), and several successful trips to Loon Lake that involved winter snow and summer boating.  And, of course, we definitely appreciate the truly little things, like every time the kids DO sleep through the night!

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped us in our 2012 journey!  Have a happy holiday season (what’s left of it!), and all the best for 2013.

November 2012

November 25, 2012 – 8:51 pm

November was a busy month, and passed very quickly…

Annemarie sipping her tea like a grown-up at the Linde Lane Tea Room in Dixon…

… and then returning to hugging Winston’s dancing froggy while riding his nemo car.  Hm… which way is better, to be a grown-up like mommy or to become a toddler again like little brother?

Ah, for now, just being “Annemarie”, and happily playing with favorite Uncle Steve and Uncle Grant.


Mark’s aunt and uncle (Tante Gudrun and Onkel Rudi) visited from Germany, and invited the whole family to a big dimsum outing in Emeryville on Veterans day. Annemarie and her cousins: Alexis and Emma, posing in front of the lion.

Three generations of Spillers.



It’s amazing to get a shot of Winston with his hood on (he is a no-hat, no-hood kind of kid) – even more amazing to get such a shot with a smile!!!

Fancy hot wheel set-up courtesy of daddy and Uncle Mien, while mommy’ was away on a business trip.

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Davis with four other families  (thank you Ann & Cort for hosting!).  Teo & Annemarie were great helpers in the kitchen — see how professionally they’re cleaning up the whipped-cream from the beaters?

Annemarie asked daddy to build her an airplane, and he did!

 Of course, Winston needed to test it out too.

Before long, he was planning for his next destination: Sydney, Australia.
“Aunty Caron, can I take Rose out on a whirlwind flying date?”


Fall Outings: Orienteering along the American River

November 18, 2012 – 10:30 pm

One of the greatest challenges of parenthood is finding fun outdoor activities that both parents and kids can enjoy!  Orienteering and geo-caching have been two activities that have been readily embraced the kids so far!  (Canoeing took a significant hit after the 2011 tipping incident)

We managed to catch three fall orienteering events along the American River held by the Gold Country Orienteers, at Riverbend park, the Sacramento bar and the Mississippi Bar.  Annemarie really enjoyed looking at the maps, ‘checking’ her compass, hunting for the next ‘treasure’ (orienteering marker), and punching her orienteering card. Winston, on the other hand, loved to chase after big sister, pick up & throw rocks, and play in the dirt.

On our second excursion (late Oct) to the Sacramento bar, we were able to convince Cort, Ann, and Teo to come along. Winston, of course, was ecstatic to spend time with his favorite Uncle Cort.

Two proud pre-schoolers on an orienteering mission.

 We found our marker!  Time for lunch and some splashing in the water.

 Teo & Annemarie acting silly together, as always.

 Winston, taking after his daddy, happily threw rocks into the river.


Celebrating a triumphant quest with cookies from a local bakery.

 In mid-November, after the kids had been cooped up inside the house due to multiple days of rain, we decided to brave a scheduled orienteering event at the Mississippi bar (which we had never been to before) with rain boots on. It turned out to be a surprisingly beautiful day and a stunningly beautiful area!  The kids ended up being more focused on puddle jumping than treasure hunting this time around, but there were always more puddles in the distance, so we were able to motivate them to keep moving using new puddles as incentive!


Unsurprisingly, it quickly got to the point where we had to stomp in EVERY puddle along the way, no matter how big or small!  (With Winston protesting and pointing out if we missed a single one!)







 Two happy puddle jumpers!


October 31, 2012 – 11:20 pm

This year, Annemarie dressed up as Tinker Bell, after changing her mind multiple times from Alice (from Alice in the Wonderland) and Princess Ariel. Winston settled for being a Tiger (and a sly-looking one, at that!).

Tiger chomping down some pasta before heading out to the wild (play yard)!


The fearless tiger checking out Hippo’s teeth.


Annemarie ready for trick-or-treating with her friend, Erin.



At night, we got together with neighborhood friends and families for trick-or-treating around the local neighborhood.


Mommy & daddy dressing up as ‘unusually energetic parents’.

Our timing was great – we were heading home just as the rain started in earnest.  Back at home, Leyla came and helped us hand out treats and entertain the kids.


Fun in the Fall (Oct 2012)

October 30, 2012 – 8:11 pm

Leaves are falling and the wind is getting chilly… it’s time for jackets and boots.

Dressing up for the annual school picture day.


 Posing for a sibling picture in the playground at daycare.


 Fall tradition in the bear-den: leaf diving!


 Winston’s a serious helper, transporting leaves from one pile to the other (and of course dropping some in between).


Ah…blue sky, comfy (crunchy!) leaf bed, what a life!

Indoors, Winston celebrated his new-found freedom (we finally took down the toddler barricades) by racing around the kitchen island with his mail cart!

At the end of October, Uncle Eddy and Opa visited us on their drive back from Oregon.  It was the perfect occasion for a friendly match on the hot wheels racetrack!


Pumpkin Patch Time (Oct 2012)

October 28, 2012 – 5:44 pm

With the arrival of fall, Annemarie started talking constantly about pumpkin patchs and Halloween.

In early October, Annemarie and Winston got to join the annual school trip to a pumpkin farm in Dixon.

Winston had his first try at bowling…


… while Annemarie practiced horseback riding!


Then, in late October, we took another family trip to a local pumpkin patch at the Impossible Acres with the Kleemans (Mike, Erin, Carson, and Bennett). Annemarie and Winston enjoyed a ride in the wheelbarrow.


Winston was fascinated with the baby goat (but called them “doggies!”).

The kids had fun playing hide and seek in the hay maze.



  Taking a break from the hay maze, a friendly wheelbarrow race between the Spillers and the Kleemans ensued:


Annemarie loved to pick up the small farm animals and pat them, while Winston was busy climbing up whatever he could get his hands & feet on.

 Of all the animals, Annemarie especially loved the kittens – she could have stayed there all day!



 Saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to the alpacas.

10-Year Wedding Anniversary (Oct 7, 2012)

October 7, 2012 – 8:06 pm

To celebrate Mommy & Daddy’s 10-year Wedding Anniversary, we took a special weekend trip down to Berkeley. First, we had a sleep-over at Aunt Shirley’s the night before, then on the morning of Sunday Oct 7, we went to Tilden Park and had a picnic near the Brazilian room, where mommy & daddy got married exactly 10 years ago.

Winston all bundled up in his sleep sack at Aunt Shirley’s, right before mommy and daddy snuck out for a late dinner:

Same greenery outside the Brazilian room, same couple, with two add-ons. :)


Annemarie enjoyed chasing and being chased ….


… while Winston enjoyed lying on the grass and soaking up the sun!




Some very *Annemarie* moments!












Now with Annemarie & Winston in tow, a visit to Tilden Park would be incomplete without checking out the merry-go-round and the steam trains.



 Annemarie having fun with Katya (we’re glad we got to see Uncle David, Aunt Olga, and Katya on this trip, too!)




Who could have guessed that anniversaries could be so exhausting???  Enough celebration – Now it’s time for beauty sleep!

Late Aug/Sep 2012

September 30, 2012 – 4:25 pm

On the last Sunday of August, we attended Aunt Janny’s wedding in south bay. We took the opportunity to visit Aunt Theen-Theen, Uncle Kean-Hock, and baby Yi Han.

Annemarie & Winston had fun playing with Yi-Han and his toys!



Annemarie dressing up and getting ready for the wedding.




The kids preferred the sandy ground to the beautifully adorned tables & chairs – we were initially exasperated, but then they gave us these angelical smiles, so what else could we do but leave them in the dirt?

Back in Davis, we had a late surprise birthday celebration for mommy. It was a bitter sweet moment for all of us, as this was the first gathering of the Davis gang since we said farewell to Uncle Simon.

Winston & Annemarie were introduced to daddy’s old hot wheels race track!



In mid-September, we celebrated daddy’s 40th birthday with a dimsum outing in Sacramento.

Daddy turning TWO scores!



Winston successfully transitioned to the toddler room during the summer and came to appreciate some children songs (sang during circle times at school). His favorites included: Twinkle-Twinkle Little Stars, Itsy-bitsy Spider, and Wheels-on-the-Bus.

Annemarie proudly showing off her art work from her 6-week Chinese summer school.



Last winter season, Annemarie was really into fuse beads art projects of all shapes and colors (stars, dolphins, fishes, whales, turtles, santas, gift boxes, frames, rectangles, circles, hexagons, etc.). Uncle Mien helped put together an ocean-themed background (thank you Mien!) for Annemarie to display some of her sea animals!

 In the Fall quarter, Annemarie had her last session of pre-ballet classes before returning to gymnastics. Here, Annemarie was posing for Aunt Shirley, whom Annemarie had invited for a “sleep-over” at the end of September.

 Have cars, will smile!



Annemarie & Winston enjoying apple pancake & whipped cream with Aunt Shirley in the morning.

Winston keeps trying to figure out ways to get JUST the whipped cream, and skip everything else…

Aunt Shirley was so tickled by the height difference between daddy & Winston that she took these pictures as they walked back from the mailbox.


Annemarie practicing her piano pieces with Winston providing unsolicited accompaniment.

 Winston enjoying his first blueberry-yogurt popsicle at the Davis Farmers Market.


 One his second trip to Funderland, Winston found something he liked (yeah, surprise): a big red tractor!

Annemarie started taking private piano lessons in early September. By the end of the month, she could entertain herself and us with some of her favorite pieces.

Farewell Uncle Simon (Aug 22, 2012)

August 22, 2012 – 11:44 pm

The morning after we returned from Loon Lake, we received the most terrible news – our dear friend Simon Chan, who had been in the hospital for the past three weeks, was declining rapidly, and was not likely to make it through the day. Simon passed away at the UCSF Medical Center on the evening of August 22, from complications related to autoimmune disease. It was a terrible loss for all of us, and our ongoing condolences go out to the Chans.

We are very lucky to have known Simon, and have him as a friend. Our favorite recent video of Simon was the one taken on the new year’s day 2012, and the memory of laughing, happy Uncle Simon that was captured playing with Winston in this clip will be treasured forever:

Summer Excursion to Loon Lake (Aug 19-21)

August 21, 2012 – 8:29 pm

We managed to pull off a family trip (this time with the entire family!) to Loon Lake – yay, no more ear infections for Winston, at least for now!  We had a good time hiking, playing in the water, and hanging out with two other families (Cort, Ann & Teo and Mike & Carson).

The first night, Winston was so excited that he stayed up quite late. Besides happily playing with the hot wheels track (transported from Davis and set up in the Loon Lake Chalet), Winston loved to hang out with Uncle Cort.


Outdoor story time (with head-lamps) courtesy of Uncle Mike

Aunty Ann reading bed-time stories to the kids (with sleeping mats set up in the loft).

 The big kids finally winding down for bed …

… while Winston’s still going strong downstairs in the living room/kitchen area.

 The next morning, Winston continued to race his cars down the hot wheels tracks ….

… while the rest of the gang had breakfast peacefully.

 While some of the adults cleaned up and figured out what to do next, the kids had fun biking around the chalet.


After some discussion, we decided to start the day with an easy hike. With some encouragement, Annemarie and her two friends (Carson & Teo) hiked up to the top of a nearby hill, much to our surprise & delight. We were all rewarded with a great view of the lake.


Three proud kids who just hiked down this steep rocky slope!

The next stop, of course, was the lake! We suited all the kids up in life jackets, including Winston.

“Do I really have to wear all these???”

Carson taking a short break for snacks.

Mark taking Annemarie and Carson out on the family raft, the very same one Mark rode in when he was a kid (after some patch work and multiple rounds of testing for leaks in our garage)!

Ah….. what a relief to take off all that gear and have a drink!

 Winston so wanted to prove “he’s also a big kid” that he worked on walking on the log for quite a while, from when there was still light out …

.. until we had to bring out the head-lamps.

Smiley Winston with the proud head coach, Uncle Cort, and assistant coaches, Carson, Teo, and Annemarie.

The kids had a blast playing in the water.


The big kids (parents included) got lots of chances to take dips in the icy-cold lake …

 … while Winston kept busy transferring water from one pail to the other.


While the adults were packing up and cleaning the chalet, the kids transformed the stack of mattresses into slides.

Two happy campers.

 One last visit to the lake before we headed home. Unfortunately, the water had not gotten any warmer, and the wind didn’t help. Thank goodness we had plenty of towels and graham crackers!

July/Aug 2012

August 20, 2012 – 8:27 pm

Winston (and hence the whole family!) suffered through five rounds of ear infections over the winter/spring timeframe, leading to the decision to have ear tubes surgically inserted at the end of June.  Winston was a good sport and recovered well, but in that meantime, Annemarie had several rounds of strep throat!  By the time summer arrived we were exhausted, but we enjoyed being able to take it easy and hang out locally with local friends and family.

Winston loved the wind-up toys that Opa had previously given Annemarie… until he discovered hot wheels cars, and all else was forgotten.

We spent July 4 in Petaluma with Opa (grandpa) and the Spiller clan. Winston tried on Opa’s big-rim hat from Mexico.


 A trip to Petaluma would be incomplete without a trip up into the tree house…

… and a few rounds on the swing.

Winston (born in the year of rabbit according to the Chinese lunar calendar) posing with the wise elder bunny, Tante Helga.


 After seeing Uncle Ed’s tractor stranded out in the field in Petaluma, Winston was inspired to build garages for his many vehicles back in Davis.

In mid-July, Mark’s cousin, Iris, her husband, Jupp, and her son, Matthias, visited us in Davis.


Annemarie and Winston got a real treat: double ‘Hoppa hoppa reiter’ (or ‘Bumpety bump, rider’) from Uncle Jupp and Aunt Shirley.

Annemarie also got to go on a special excursion to see the Wiggles live in Sacramento.

While Winston tends to just wiggle anywhere! (including Opa’s lap!)

After watching the movie ‘Cars’ together, Annemarie got the inspiration to ‘arrange’ her own race car track with Winston’s toys.

Meanwhile, Winston continued to have fun terrorizing the infant room at his daycare:






Mark recovered some of his old hot wheels tracks from the basement in Kensington, and introduced Winston to the fun of racing hot wheels cars. Winston really got into it, and started separating the new hot wheels cars (which run better on the tracks) from his other toy cars  in his stash.


 In early August, we got to hang out with Uncle Simon’s sister, Caron, who was visiting from Sydney.


One of the kids’ favorite activities is ‘geo-caching’ (or as Annemarie calls it, “treasure-hunting”) on bikes with their little friends (and their parents). Here are Teo and his dad, Cort, getting ready for a treasure-hunting excursion.

Winston pointing out the direction to the first cache (or maybe just to his favorite car!).

 Looking for treasures is hard work; Winston refueling with a banana.

Another one of Annemarie’s favorite summer activities is swimming! She took swim lessons all summer and (boldly!) enjoyed the occasional treat of jumping into the pool from the diving board:

When it got blazing hot outside in the summer, Winston turned to some of his favorite indoor activities, like reading …

playing games like ‘Hungry hungry hippo’ …

… (VERY!) serious art work…

… and following Annemarie around, including orbiting around her:

Finally, one of Annemarie’s big achievements over the summer was learning how to ride her bike (without training wheels)!!!