Wednesday, July 9, 2014


18 months ago plans were made for a Bernauer family trip to the Galapagos
We were excited to dust off the passports & head out for more international adventure

What we discovered…..

Ecuador is on the ball
The biggest city (& gateway to the Galapagos) was far more refined than I expected

Nicer roads, more big box retailers & multi-national brands than expected

Recycling abound

And re-using too….bottle trash can
2L Bottle planters

Adventure travel is FAB
Aboard a National Geographic boat, there was loads of action

Zodiac rides
The kids got to learn how to drive one


Beach time


Riding bikes
And mules
(Q demonstrating old school sugar cane juice making)

And exhausting
With 6 am wake up calls & action all day, by 9:00pm the boat was like this….

And nap time became a necessary norm
(Zoe loved sharing a room with Nana & Gramps)

Gorgeous Galapagos
The scenery was amazing

Xavier is an animal whisperer
Has no problem with iguana proximity...

Attracted the sea lions….
Befriended the Blue Footed Boobies

Tormented Talked to the Tortoise

Animals show all
3 sets of giant tortoises were 'getting busy' during our visit.   
Lots of grunting & one male full on drooling on his mate's head

Giant turtles = giant poop… big as Logan's foot!
Zoe demonstrating

The week absolutely flew by - we were sad to say goodbye

Thanks N&G for the foresight that Galapagos would be so fab

Here's to family adventures!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Colorful Seven

Last week our baby turned 7!

The day started as birthdays now all do in our house…..with presents & breakfast in bed 
(Nana's hand-carried 7 cookies made a fine birthday breakfast!)

Only thanks to her day coinciding with the last day of school, were we allowed to continue our tradition of treats to school too (cupcakes in the box)
(on regular days, birthday celebrations & treats were NOT allowed in Zoe's class)

With Nana in town, Zoe didn't want to give up any Nana time to have a big party - opted for a girl's day for 3 instead.

Having clearly embraced the notion of shopping local, the 3-stop party plan:

1) "One Stop Party Store"  Taking full advantage of the party / wig store 2 blocks away, Zoe decided first we needed to accessorize.   
She tried on MANY options….

The end product…
(While we did get smiles and honks walking to the other party stops, it still surprises and impresses me how many people don't even look twice at this kind of get up here)

2) "The Ark" toy store, around the corner from us - where Zoe picked out a present 
(For the past 2+ months, everytime we passed this store, Zoe announced what she wanted for her birthday.   Given it was rarely the same thing, we agreed to let her pick out her own gift on the big day)

3) "Lovejoy's Tea Room" A cute, totally random little place - 2 blocks the other way - was the final stop.   Imagine your grandma, your great aunt and all their friends got together their china & lace collections & served up tea...

We ended the day with building & cupcakes for all back home

The next day, Zoe woke up bright eyed & ready to make a tie-dye cake to continue the festivities

Here's to you Zoe - for keeping it colorful & fun.  
You & San Francisco will get along just fine!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Short on school, hopefully not on education

School's out for summer!

Given our kids' move from a European school (longer year, but more breaks), to a Californian  (fewer breaks, ends almost a month earlier), they've had the world's shortest school year.

While they may be a bit short on school work, they've been long on life experiences.   I am proud of the resilience and bravery they've demonstrated along the way

The back drop we started the year in….

Zoe entered first grade with a teacher she adored - Miss Kailyn

She had a slew of friends that were more vivid to her than her home country
(When we explained it was time to return to our home country, Zoe asked what it would take to become Ukrainiain citizens.  Having moved there at 4, Kyiv was the home she knew)

In San Francisco, Zoe was assigned to Sherman Elementary - a highly ranked public school many rave about

She reported the work was "WAY harder" - reflected in the sea of red that came home 
(Poor Zoe - in her defense, her previous school didn't work on spelling)

That plus a report that
 "there's no time for coloring at my new school", I was pleased that Zoe only deemed her teacher "really strict"

And thankfully, 1st grade girls are still friendly.   Zoe made fast friends at school & despite feeing behind, seemed quite happy at school

The boys also endured more than their share - cleaning out desks well before typical time

Most difficult - of course - saying goodbye to good friends

Xavier adjusted to being at his own school - assigned to Redding Elementary - a super diverse school that tends to get a lot of families new to the USA

He reported having no friends, but was often eagerly greeted upon arrival

And he lucked out with a fab teacher - Miss Slevin - who skillfully welcomed him into the class

Quincy, meanwhile, made a herculean effort to integrate into the last 2 months of a K-5 ride 
(most kids in his class had been together all 6 years since Kinder)

Sports helped…

A 5th grade graduation field trip to 6 Flags amusement park helped too...

And ultimately, he made it!  Even got a diploma to prove it
(With his teacher Mr. Harris at the fairly elaborate 5th grade graduation)

Friday marked the end of what was a wild ride of a school year

Here's to Quincy, Xavier & Zoe - for being resilient & bold AND to banking on life experiences making up for missed assignments

Happy Summer!