Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas

We had our first Christmas in our new house --our first decorated tree (my first in my adult life) and the first time our kids were excited to the point of anxiety (mostly jack). In spite of staying up late the night before, he woke up at 530am.

The kids enjoyed their gifts and played with them until the afternoon. Ryan spent the day assembling the star wars toys he had purchased for jack that seemed more for him. Ryan and I had agreed the kids would get three gifts : one from Santa, one from grandparents and one from us. Then ryan went shopping for jack and bought him 5 things ( all star wars).

We went to our neighbors for dinner. We all had a great time.

After all the revelry, I made a few decisions. The Santa myth is not working for me. Each year I have to tell more complex lies to answer more complex questions. Also this means we have to wake up Christmas morning to open gifts and sentences me to many more years of 530 am wakeup. I've decided to out Santa next year. We can open gifts on Christmas Eve and I don't have to lie anymore.

After Christmas our vacation time went a bit south. Sonia got the stomach flu, then ryan got some strange but different bug. We were supposed to go to a family friendly ski lodge Saturday. We spent the day preparing then packed up our neighbor's 4 wheel drive car. We set off then made a quick stop. When we got back into the car it wouldn't start. We tried to go the following day but that didn't work either. We ended up at snoqualmie since I had already rented skis. The kids had fun. We hope to return to the lodge when the stars are aligned in our favor

Then I got sick and now Jack is sick. We're rolling with it. For the first time in years, we actually had plans for new year's eve. We had to cancel and the kids and Ryan are watching the Phantom menace. Still, its been fun not to have a routine. We really enjoyed the lights, music and fun around the season. Its fun to experience again with the kids.

I am writing this post on my new nexus tablet ( a gift from Ryan's generous employer). I can't figure out how to embed the images within the text. The last picture is a trip the kids and I took to the cedar river watershed after Christmas. We took a lovely walk along the river. Lately they have both been really resistant to my idea of fun. I had to force them to go on the walk but they had a good time once they got over their resistance.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello World

Have I ever titled a post 'Hello World?' It's mainly because I don't know what to say right now. For the last several days every parent I know has spent a good part of their time crying, signing online petitions,  and hoping and praying this never happens to their children.  I've tried not to think about it. My thinking about it doesn't ease anyone's suffering. But there has been a persistent ache in my solar plexus. My thoughts are dark -- such as If that were my son, I'd want to be dead -- so that helped me with one part of the twisted puzzle. I've also decided I must make gun issues a litmus test in the same way I've made abortion rights a litmus test for voting. I need to send my money and energy to gun control with the same fervor.

Many parents agreed they were really lenient this weekend.. just grateful their own children are safe. We danced to no music in front of our festive Christmas decorations.

video

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!


Last week, we celebrated Jack's 6th birthday. 6 years. It seems like a lifetime and like a week. Time is an odd thing. The birth of my first child was such an enormous transition that it is hard to imagine what my life was before.. in a way, that time just feels like part of my imagination .. something that possibly never happened. My children have become so much a part of who I am today.

The first thing Jack said to us on his birthday was to ask if he had grown taller now that he was 6. We said he probably had. He is still the size of an average 4 year old but he is certainly growing. We celebrated with 5 of his buddies. We flew remote control helicopters, ate mac n cheese per Jack's request and then ate a double layer chocolate cake that I had made. It was the first cake I'd make from scratch and you could tell. It wasn't pretty but it tasted good.

Later that day, Lily, her parents and our dear friend Heather came over for pizza delivered by the pizza man then s'mores for dessert. A dream diet by Jack's standards. He had fun and so did we.


 The old days .. at 3 and 4 months:


Last week:


In some Sonia news.. the other day I put Sonia down for a nap. It often takes her a while to sleep and she knows how to entertain herself in her room before sleeping. The other day I walked in to check on her. She had a bunch of strips of construction paper in her room and she had made them into different shapes. Oh the Virgos!



jackBday




I didn't get any photos of Jack's birthday but one of the moms did. She shared the photos with me on SHutterfly but for some reason, I cannot simply download the photo. So here is a photo from Jack's party with his friends..

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The school thing

The school issue is very complicated. There are bullet points then bullet points to the bullet points..

The issues:

1. Jack does not like school. He has articulated only one reason.  No one plays with him except a boy who always wants to play Star Wars. When asked who he'd like to play with, he has no answer.  I have arranged play dates. This does not seem to help the playground problem and it is true. I don't know why it's true though. Jack seems to struggle with the initial engagement. Kids try to engage him but he doesn't pick up the cue or isn't interested.  So why doesn't he like school?  Maybe he doesn't feel like part of the community. His teacher is nice but her job is to keep order so maybe they don't have a great connection. He often doesn't complete the work he is supposed to do in class so maybe he just doesn't like it.

2. I am not inspired by the structure of public school. This is not a problem with our school. Our school is very "good" which I have learned means that there is a strong emphasis on academics. Almost all of the kids passed the MANY standardized tests they take throughout the year. I just don't agree about the definition of good. Every public school has lots of kids in the class. Every teacher has to teach to a test and this seems to have eliminated most of the creativity in the learning process. Jack does a LOAD of worksheets.

     2a. This structure is not bad for all students. It worked for me and Ryan. However, we always excelled. We passed all the tests. We are always among the best students. We had never considered what it might feel like to be in the middle or back of the pack. It might not be a great or interesting or inspiring experience.

    2aa. It is impossible to test at this point what type of student Jack will be. HOWEVER, due to our intense parenting culture or maybe it's just a preponderance of bright students in Jack's class, many students are way ahead of Jack. THere are lots of readers, lots of kids who can write well and even spell.

3. The only way to make the right choice about Jack's education path is to have the ability to see into the future.  If Jack doesn't excel at elementary school and identifies himself as an average student, will that affect his interest and love for school or will he not label himself as such and love school regardless? When I was in fifth grade they divided the kids in my school by intelligence. Kids knew when they were in the "dumb" class. How much does this experience matter to my overall goal for him which is to enjoy his life -- perhaps learning to cope with boredom and structure is an excellent skill? Or is it a terrible skill which can never be mastered and only sentences the person to a life filled with annui. Who in the hell knows you say? Indeed. Am I over-thinking this? Yes. No doubt.

This parenting gig is not for the weak.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fruit Snowman


Jack was proud of the fruit snowman he built. I liked it too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekend with friends

This weekend we went with the family of one of Jack's preschool friends to the Olympic Peninsula. It was lots of fun. The four kids played and my kids fought much much less than normal. Parents had fun too. We visited fort warden, the pool, and ran around outside.

The mom from the family has a background in early childhood education. It was so interesting watching her parent. Her son is very verbal and so is she.. She uses lots of incentives to motivate him but he already seems really motivated to me. She also intervenes a lot to teach good social skills. I learned a lot too.

the kids

Sonia and I at ft warden.




My little virgo

When Kim was closing her business she encouraged me to take a stack of colorful fleece squares. I told her I didn't know what I would do with them and she told me that Sonia loved them. She was right. Sonia loves these squares. Mostly, she just folds them into different shapes and lays them out neatly on the floor or on a table.





The Willows Inn


This weekend, Ryan and I went to the Willows Inn on Lummi Island to celebrate our birthdays. Ryan planned the trip after reading about the restaurant at the Inn in the new york times. Last year, it was one of ten restaurants in the world that the food critic from the times thought was worth flying to in order to eat there.

In a word, the experience was sublime. My vocabulary is not good enough to describe this place so I'll just show a few pictures of the food. They served 16 different dishes.

Terrible picture of our amazing table -- lovely view of the San Juan islands in the background
Crispy crepe with salmon roe

Crab and pickled kelp

Smoked sockeye salmon

Bread with pan drippings / homemade butter

Charred frisee with homemade capers

Huckleberries with woodruff and malt

One of the reasons this restaurant is so amazing is that they grow all of the food they serve on a farm located a half mile away. The seafood is from the water that surrounds the island. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well-worth the trip.

Monday, October 01, 2012

See you soon grandparents!

My mother and step-father are returning to AZ this week so we visited this weekend. We had promised Jack a trip to the pool but sadly, when we arrived, the pool was closed. Jack was miserable. There is another club pool in the area and mom my decided to appeal to them to see if they'd let us swim even though we weren't members. They said no. Luckily, some members walked in and saw Jack's cute face and offered to sign them in as guests. What luck! Plus the club had an indoor and outdoor pool. We were all happy.




We also had a nice ferry ride from Bainbridge and got to see the new ferris wheel all lit up. Every time we see it, we relive our ferris wheel ride in Liverpool.

Here's some footage of Sonia and Elmo dancing
video

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Food miracle inspired by Roald Dahl

I am accustomed to the fact that Jack generally doesn't each much unless there is sugar in the food -- in that case he can't get enough. A while ago, I decided to stop cooking separate meals. It was inspired by my friend Kate in London who was inspired by the French parents in her children's school. Tonight, Jack ate a large bowl of potato leek soup then he asked if he could eat an apple. It was very exciting. Vegetables and fruit consumed in one meal.

We have been listening to the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We've listened to it many times. Jack loves it. He pretended the potato leek soup was the watery cabbage soup that Charlie Bucket eats for dinner. He also likes to pretend that he is Charlie Bucket and I am Grandma Josephine.  Whatever it takes to get nutritious food into that wee little guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The genius of The Simpsons

While becoming a part of Jack's school, I am constantly reminded of my favorite Simpson's episode. Lisa becomes a vegetarian. The school reaction is so funny, and it's also part of many experiences that have informed my opinion of schools in general. The independent thought alarm + the video from the Resistance is Useless series are my very favorite.

Lisa becomes a vegetarian

Sunday, September 16, 2012

the new school

I spent last weekend with high school friends in California. Ryan took the kids to my mom's. Here they are flying our b-2 bomber kite.
I returned Monday while Jack was at school. It feels like he is always at school now. He goes until 3pm. He also really wanted to take the bus home so then he didn't get home until even later. I decided the bus was too much for me. In fact, this whole long school day is too much for me.

 My back-up plan is homeschooling. I feel like I have my finger just inches away from a metaphorical eject button -- the button that activates the rocket underneath the seat of a fighter pilot to prevent him from going down in a burning airplane. A melodramatic example that captures my mood perfectly. School is the burning airplane in case you are not with me.

 I don't see how the structure of public school really educates anyone. It seems more like a prison intent on producing passive rule-followers. If you don't do well in school, you're a loser and if you do well, you're a winner. Our school does not have many of the problems most public schools have because the neighborhood is quite affluent.. still, I am not excited.

 At this point, my concerns about Jack's school don't have anything to do with Jack. I can't tell how he feels about it and I don't think he really knows yet either. He does like his independence though. He loves the bus and he is always ready for me to leave when I drop him off. We'll see.

Happy 3rd BirthdaySonia

Sonia turned 3 a few days ago. How the time flies. She stayed home from school. We threw a party at a nearby park. I packed the minivan with food, furniture, homemade bubbles and the grill. The weather was perfect. Sonia had so much fun she didn't want to leave.
Sonia started going to a new preschool this week. Every day when I pick her up she says 'That was so much fun.' At the new school, the kids can't wear diapers. Sonia had never successfully worn underwear before last Tuesday so I didn't think it was going to go well.

Surprisingly, when I picked her up, there'd been no accidents. Then she proceeded to have accidents the rest of the afternoon with me. I learned a lot when I saw that she could use the toilet, she just was not interested in doing what I had wanted her to do all summer. I was trying to be relaxed about it but she clearly picked up on my hope she'd be done with diapers.

 So, I let it go and decided we'd just go through lots of clothes. Not a big deal. Then she decided to stop wearing diapers. It is true what they say -- acceptance is the first part of change.

 I am glad I learned the lesson (again) because Sonia has recently become obsessed with princesses. I think my initial resistance to the princess thing helped fuel the obsession.. or at least it did nothing to stop it. She will only wear princess clothing. She picked out dinosaur pajamas tonight but then put them back and commented that princesses don't like dinosaurs. They do, I insisted. Princesses often have dinosaurs as friends. She accepted that and kept the PJ's. I don't think an obsession with princesses leads to being a passive female anymore than I believe that young boys who wear blue will grown up straight. But I am leery of these characters. They seem so uninteresting to me.. but then I am not the one into them.

Monday, September 03, 2012

School

On Wednesday Jack will go to kindergarten. I have a great deal of apprehension about public schools in general. In addition, Jack doesn't seem to be big into following orders. These two things together have made my sleep less-than-optimal this past week. I am doing my best to let events unfold without listening to the commentary in my head. I read a lovely book by Harriet Lerner called Marriage Rules. She also had a few suggestions for parents and one was, 'Don't make predictions about your kids.' The most common experience of the public schools (and Catholic schools) was boredom. I never critiqued my education experience until high school. I did well in school because I was very into approval. Once I got to high school I remember lots of boredom. I enjoyed classes that had good teachers (not many) and math. Today, if you have money, your kids don't have to have this experience. Seattle abounds in private schools. Some of these schools are probably structured and boring but in different ways than the public schools. The dominant parenting culture here seems to be one intently focused on traditional measures of success -- good grades and athletic ability. Where is the school for the parent that wants their child to know how to cope with life's challenges? I want my kids to love to learn, to work hard and have fun without undue amounts of anxiety. I don't know if there's an institution that can help me instill those values. I've also been reading a great book about homeschooling.. more on that later.

End of summer

We had a few more adventures in order to end our summer with a bang. We went to Hood River to go to a wedding of an old friend of Ryan's. I have friends from my college years who live in this amazingly beautiful town (3 out of 4 of the people work in health care which is probably the only reason they could live there since there aren't many jobs). We stayed with friends who have two kids and their home is outdoor heaven. They have a pond and a kid-sized kayak so Jack paddled around on his own with much glee. They keep bees so we got to see a hive and their honey combs. We visited the beach (a bay created from the Columbia River) and Ryan and Jack paddled around on a surf board. We swam. We built sand castles.
I got to spend time talking to my friend of 20 years about what our priorities are as parents based on our own life experiences. My number 1 wish is good mental health in order to have good coping skills. We went to the wedding in a small town called Dufur, not to be confused with Dufus which is what I thought the name after reading it once. It's a very small farming town east of The Dalles. Lots of rolling, golden hills and sun, it was a perfect wedding location. The kids did ok.. they mostly ran around and drank lemonade. These pictures turned out terribly - proof that Ryan needs a new phone since his lens is scratched..
On the way home we met Ryan's sister and niece in Portland. Portland has some great outdoor restaurants. We ate at a sandwich place called Lardo.. delicious.
Since I've had the kids around the clock, I've had to take them with me on errands. Sonia continues to have strong opinions about her outfits and I continue not to.
We met the family of a preschool friend at a great new water park in north seattle. thank you parks levy. We spent hours playing in the water and at the new play structures.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Turning 40

I have had a great time turning 40. I've celebrated as much as possible. I went to Portland with two dear friends. We visited the Rose Garden, had lovely meals, hiked near the Columbia Gorge. I had a housewarming/ birthday party with the neighbors who endured our endless construction project. My mom threw a lovely party for me at her house with my sister and brother in attendance. I went to Spokane with two other college friends and we rode the Lake Coeur D'Alene trail and swam in the lake. I dined with my local friends. I went to yoga. All fun. It's great to be 40.

Alki

I've been to Alki Beach a few times this year and each time it was wet and cold. I passed the little store that rents Surreys and dreamed of cruising down the beach with the kids in the sun. A few weeks ago, my dreams came true. We were in West Seattle trying to renew my driver's license (unsuccessfully). We then visited a park near Alki that has a boat and a whale tail in the sand. Jack rode his bike and watched an older boy fly his model airplane. He loved that. We played in the sun then headed to Slices for some delicious pizza. Afterwards, I noticed the Surrey's so we rented one and tootled around.. stopping to play in the water. Jack then decided he wanted to rent a kayak so we did that too. You never know when you'll get another warm, sunny day in Seattle.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blueberries and swimming

We've had a great time this summer. It's been fun to be able to hang around outside and have nowhere to go. We've had a few adventures. We picked blueberries in Carnation. The kids enjoyed this for about 15 minutes and because I had driven 45 minutes to get there, I had to continue picking berries. I picked about 9 pounds and the kids probably ate a pound.
We've taken swimming lessons for the last 2 weeks at our little pool. Jack's swimming has improved a great deal. He now swims under water for 10 feet or so -- can lift his head up to get a breath and keep going. He loves, loves swimming. I have to pull them out of the pool after 2-3 hours because I have turned into a prune. We also played T-ball with Jack's preschool class. Jack is less excited about T-ball. At least he doesn't lay down on the field anymore. He's not a big runner.. never has been. It's been fun to socialize with the parents. Jack loves seeing his friend Hayden. Hayden introduced Jack to star wars and when they're not playing t-ball, they are on the field have pretend star wars battles. They like to be the bad guys and kill Luke Skywalker. We've also had lots of fun playing with our neighbors. Jack and Sonia are endlessly entertained by pretend games and just running around with them.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Death

Jack has been asking me about death lately. Will I die? he asks. For a while, I didn't answer the question directly. I said, when you are really, really, really old.. waaaaay in the future ... far away. Then finally, yesterday I said, yes, one day, you will die. He said, oh no. And sounded very sad. I have since introduced the idea of heaven. Earlier today, he asked me where he was when Ryan and I did our cross-country cycling ride. I told him he was in heaven. I said it was outside of space. You live there before are born and after you die. Mainly, I do not want Jack to have existential anxiety when he is 5. I remember when my mom explained what heaven was. I was also 5. I was raised Catholic so it seemed to fit with my idea of reality. I asked her what you wore in heaven and she said nothing. This caused me a lot of concern but I did not worry about dying. I don't think I challenged this idea until high school. Ryan is an atheist but has promised to go along with my story. We really don't know what happens when we die anyway so I am not exactly lying. It helps me introduce my idea of God to Jack which has been difficult to do since we don't go to church. We are talking more about other peoples' religions. His questions are always so big.

Don't call me stupid

Yesterday, Jack was upset because I had said movie time was over. He really cannot regulate his emotions around screen time. Every Friday, we allow him a movie or video game -- usually for no more than 1 hour. Every Friday, when it's over, he freaks out. He screams. He cries. It doesn't matter that I remind him not to do this before movie time starts. So yesterday, in addition to the usual drama, he called me stupid. He has said this before and I have told him not to do it. We were supposed to have ice cream last night and after he told me I was stupid, I told him that was not ok to do. It is mean and disrespectful. I told him I would never call him stupid for those reasons (and for others obviously). We are introducing the idea of consequences. The consequence for calling me stupid was that we cancelled ice cream. He was upset about this but after a while, he understood. We'll see if he does it again. I said 'don't call me stupid' several times. Each time I thought of Kevin Kline's character in A Fish Called Wanda. It made me feel silly. Being a stern parent does not come naturally. That said, don't call me stupid!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lazy days

We are moving slowly this summer. On Friday, we didn't get out of the house until noon. Then we just hung around the neighborhood. We love to walk around and pick raspberries. Jack spent some time on his pedal bike (it has training wheels). We wandered down the street to watch construction of a new house. We took the bike trailer to the video store and rented The Return of the Jedi for movie night. Jack then changed his mind and wanted to watch Mary Poppins. I think Star Wars in movie form is thrilling and terrifying to Jack so when given the chance to watch, he often opts out. On our slow mornings we read. The kids play (usually not with each other). Sonia is always very busy and entertains herself very easily. She has been into dress-ups as they call the dress up clothes. Jack gets antsy but often finds something else to do as long as he knows we have some plan to get out of the house later. Yesterday, our morning was similar. We played with the neighbors a bit then went to the downtown Seattle Public Library via the light rail. We haven't been to the central branch in a while. The kids loved the play area and they have a great selection of books. For dinner, we hit a family fave 'U Need a Burger.' Our weather has been less than awesome. However, we really don't mind. It's generally not cold or rainy. I loved seeing the sun today but have given up complaining about the weather. Sonia in her "dress-up"
Jack climbed up a Japanese Maple