Saturday, November 24, 2012

MUSTACHE-A-THON - 2012!

The holidays are on the way and that means it's that time again. That's right, Mustache-a-Thon 2012 is in full effect! This year I've decided to pay special tribute to the great highway construction men of southwest Florida. Admittedly, my skin lacks the appearance of Corinthean leather peppered with asphalt and cigarette stains, my shirt is a bit too clean, but I'm trying my best to capture the mystique. What's it all for? Aside from the fact that Elaine loves this look, I'm trying to raise some bucks to assist families with sick babies in the NICU. 


As you all know by now, Maddy and Milo stayed four months in the Alta Bates NICU. We spent anywhere from 6 to 12+ hours at the hospital every day while the kids were there. We were very fortunate to have great insurance, supportive employers, and enough savings to pay for all the expenses that come along with our daily visits. Many (most!) families are not so lucky. Please consider making a donation to help a truly great cause. Every nickel goes towards direct support for families. We've used the funds in the past to help NICU families purchase things like car seats and strollers; clothing and baby supplies; pay for parking and food at the hospital; purchase holiday gifts; and so forth.   

So how can you help? Easy, contribute whatever you can - NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL (really!). Whether your reason is to spare my poor wife heartache and embarrassment or the more noble cause of supporting NICU families, please give! I don't have any particular system for collection, and you'll have to trust my accounting. You can donate a few different ways: OPTION (1) The method that gets you a tax deduction - visit this website http://www.altabatessummit.org/nicuedu/fac.html and click the "Donate" button.  Be sure to select the "NICU Family Advisory Council Fund." (If you want, you can indicate the donation is in honor of Milo and Madeline Stiles.) OPTION (2) If you have an account with PayPal, use PayPal to transfer money by going to www.paypal.com. Login, then select the "Send Money" tab; enter email address rstiles3 at gmail dot com (obviously write it like a normal email address - that's just to protect me from spambots); then enter the amount; and select the "Personal" tab and the "gift" option. OPTION (3) Send a check to me (email me for the address if you don't have it); or OPTION (4) the easiest, hand me cash. If you prefer, you can buy the gift certificate yourself -- there is a Whole Foods right next to Alta Bates and I'm sure something like Babys-R-Us would also be welcome.

Thanks very much and happy holidays!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New England Vacation - 2012

Quick Note: I haven't really edited this post yet, so expect errors... I'll give it a little TLC in the next day or so.  Really!

It was high times for the Stiles clan this month as we all boarded a snug Southwest flight and made the journey back east for a long overdue visit.  We spent two weeks covering New England, from Southern Connecticut to Northern New Hampshire and several places in between. 


Early morning flight out of good ole' Gate 24.  For those of you who know OAK terminal 2, you'll know that means we lucked out and avoided the long walk down to the gates numbered 26+ and were located nice and close to the coffe place and breakfast burrito place. Off to a good start!


First stop: Mystic Aquarium.  M&M mug for a nice shot outside while Mom, Dad, and Grandpa get things together for the big day.


Milo was completely fascinated by the beluga whales, which were putting on quite a show for the spectators. Mating and all.  In 38 years I've never come across mating whales.  At age 4 it appears M&M can cross that off the list.  I'll spare you all that picture.


M&M make the very first trip to Chuck E Cheese's to see Nana and Tom (a/k/a Grumpy). 


Maddy's first game of air hockey with Nana. Maddy appears to be up 3 to 0.  I lost a fortune on that game...


Next stop, a visit with Aunt Jan and Uncle Bruce at the fair. Maddy demanded to go on the Pirate Ship (one of these), and I agreed figuring the ride operator would never let on a 4-year-old.  Well, you gotta love carneys - safety concious they ain't.  The nice, mostly toothless fellow was more than happy to let Maddy sprint by and grab a seat. He even gave a little tug on her lap bar to ensure she would be nice and safe. On the plus side, she loved it and we both kept our hands high in the air for the entire ride.  Thatta girl!
 
Grandpa teaches M&M to feed the eel and lion fish.  They managed to do so without the loss of any fingers.  They are obvioulsy highly advanced children.


From Connecticut, we made our way north to Jackson, NH.  We made a much needed stop in Putney, VT to grab some lunch.  Man we miss Vermont style hippies.  Altogether different than the Berkeley variety - much mellower and more into cheese.

We hooked up with our old friends Jeff and Laura and their daughter Ella for a great five day stay in the White Mountains.  Maddy was very impressed with Ella, who taught her all about dressing up as a scary ghost.
 

Apparently, if you don't take your kids to Story Land while in Jackson, you could be subject to a visit from social services -- so Jeff tells me.  So we figured we ought to check it out.  Milo, Ella, and Maddy above  - not the least bit intimidated by clowns. By the way, you may notice that Milo is wearing an eye patch in several photos.  He has to wear it for a couple hours a day for the next few months to correct a vision issue (his left eye likes to drift off, not unlike his old man).  It's nothing permanent and he likes the patch - thankfully.



Maddy takes Mom, Laura and Ella for a drive.


Maddy and Milo were both pretty fearless on the rides, though Milo wasn't so into getting wet on the log flume.  Maddy loved it and did it a couple times in a row.  The photo above is from our second trip.  The video below is from the first.
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Milo and Maddy also went for their first pony rides. Above, Milo climbs onto the mighty Tinkerbell.  He repeatedly told me he wanted to ride a giraffe, but he was happy enough with the horse.



Maddy really took to the pony ride and of course would like to take it up as a hobby.  I'm sure dressage lessons are very cheap and I hear the sport is the latest rage.  Maddy is featured in the video below aboard Tinkerbell.

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Milo, Maddy, and Ella enjoy one of many healthy, well-balanced dinners (note the carrots).


We also visited The AMC Highland Center and Crawford Notch - home of one of the collest playgrounds around.  Above, Maddy happily juants across the bridge while Milo considers his options.


M&M building with the massive blocks at the Highland Center. Maddy preferred large scale projects, while Milo was going for mixed media.






Laura, Ella, M&M and Mom enjoying some ice cream in Barlett, NH.
Laura, Ella, and Milo - Jackson Falls on the Ellis River.

Maddy, Milo, Ella - Jackson, NH.
Milo and Dad explore the Ellis River Basin below Pinkham Notch. It needed a little more water and slightly less wood - otherwise I think it goes.  Keep in mind there's a 64 foot unrunnable waterfall just below this pool.  Milo agreed that we shouldn't run it just yet - at least not without setting safety.

Milo and Dad scouting the trails.  He'll be ready to hike his first peaks next year we figure.

From Jackson, we headed south to visit Aunt Heather, Uncle John, and cousins Jacob and Joshua. Above, Milo and Joshua going big on the trampoline.


Joshua, Milo, and Jacob hanging out.

Aunt Pam, Maddy, and Unlce John (above) also came by Aunt Heather's for a little family reunion.

Above: (Left to right) Maddy, Elaine, Joshua, Emily, Jacob, Alex (who's actually only 14, really!), Rob, and Milo.

M&M get their first boat ride (not including a ferry ride to Angel Island) with Aunt Heather and Uncle John out on Lake Winnipesaukee.  Maddy and Mom above and Maddy and Jacob below. 



Above: Jacob, Aunt Heather, and Jacob.

M&M and Dad.

Maddy takes a turn at the wheel with Uncle John.


After a sweet boat ride, it was time to pack the car for another multi-hour drive (which the kids seasoned pretty well, all things considered) and head off to Boston for a stay with our friends Kevin and Toni and their daighters Leni and Zoe.  For those of you in the Boston area, I highly recommend crashing at Kevin and Toni's place. It's very comfortable; comes with gourmet cooking at every meal; and their sweet; well-behaved daughters will be glad to entertain any children you may have.  Needless to say, we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Milo (seen above with Leni) contunes to try and impress the older ladies.
Newton, MA - August 2012.

Maddy builds essential dog walking skill with seasoned professional, Toni.

Maddy poses with Susan and baby Alex.

It was also great to get together with our old friends, Stephan, Helen and their children Ottie and Monty. This was the first chance the kids had to meet and play together.  Monty is a little younger than Milo and Ottie is a couple years older than Maddy -- which pretty much means Maddy immediately idolized her.  The kids had great fun with minimal tantrums, which was a nice change of pace. It was pretty clear by this point in the vacation (day 10 or so) that all the travel (driving), new food, complete change of schedules, etc. was starting to wear on M&M. It's fair to say there were some pretty ugly moments.
And some sweet ones too...

Above: Maddy and Milo give Leni and Zoe a big hug good-bye and prepare for a quick visit with Uncle Nathan enroute back to Grandpa's house in Connecticut.


Elaine, M&M, and Uncle Nathan hanging out in Arlington (pronounced Ahhlington), MA.
 

After arriving back in Connecticut, we hopped in the car again for a ride out to East Haddam for a visit to Grandma's house.  Above: Grandma Brown, Milo, Elaine & Maddy at Lake Hayward.

And from there, it was off to West Haven for a get together with the Farino Clan at the site of the old Savin Rock. Above: Maddy stands along at the shore of the Long Island Sound.

Grandpa Stiles, Elaine, M&M - West Haven, CT - August 7, 2012.

Farino family get together.  Everyone was well entertained by Milo and Maddy, by this point, were completely wired on lack of sleep and sugary treats. West Haven, CT.

The following day it was time to head to the airport for the long flight home. This time, we had learned a few lessons.  First, no point in bothering with car seats on the plane. The kids will be just as comforable without them, and they are a complete pain to carry. Just try sprinting for a connecting flight carrying kids, carry-on-luggage, and a couple car seats.  Second, make sure (double sure!), that the kids pee (or, God help us all, poo) prior to getting on the plane. Third, don't let Maddy sit right next to anyone unless you're sure the person wants to spend the next several hours having a 4-year-old talk at them.

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M&M home at last.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Big 4!

Pictures for now...  The words will follow.



























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