Sunday, December 22, 2013

A sort of merry christmas

In 1997, I did not go home for Christmas. It was the second time I had not returned home -- the first was Christmas of 1992 when I was studying abroad and went to Israel with a group of students. I couldn't go home in 1997 because I worked for amazon and I had to work. My sister called and asked me what I was going to do.. before I could answer she said, 'are you going to sit alone in your kitchen with a sad little charlie brown christmas tree, holding a cigarette over your martini and singing an off-key have yourself a merry little christmas?  The image is still so funny to me -- I imagine myself in an old robe with messed up hair .. and lots of ash hanging onto the cigarette.

This Christmas, I have been feeling low. I conjure that image and while it still makes me laugh, I feel like that image at times.  It could be the weather or it could be that Christmas is a difficult time of year when you have experienced significant loss. My dad is not going to send me a card. This is true every day but for some reason, it bugs me more now.  There is something about Christmas that reminds me of everything that is missing .. instead of what it should remind me of ... gratitude, peace, forgiveness.

I also just went to see the movie Gravity. Amazing, amazing movie about loss, isolation, and fear. Gravity is also about hope, perseverance, faith and redemption. I liked it because it's about all of it. The whole experience. If I had the power to change the Christmas theme, it would be a time of reflection and sadness as well as a time of hope and joy. There would be sad songs with all of this merriment. Balance is healthy.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

sonia's style

I've decided that my deepest fears for my kids can be categorized by their gender and are endemic to our culture. For Jack, I fear isolation. I think lonliness and isolation are real problems for men in our culture. As a result, my highest priority for Jack is teaching him good social skills. I care more about his ability to make friends than any of his academic abilities. For Sonia, I fear worthlessness. Did you see those Dove beauty ads? Or read the bio of any woman successful in the business world? Women tend to struggle with feelings of worthlessness or inferiority and it can be really crippling. It's why, when I observed an 8th grade class a while ago, all of the girls started their sentences with qualifiers (this might be wrong or this might be stupid) and I didn't hear one boy do that. I don't think I can battle the forces of our culture so I can only teach my kids how to deal with their consequences.

Recently, Sonia has been posing for people when she says hello. For example, she walks into her preschool and waits for her teacher to compliment her. They usually do. People often tell Sonia how cute she is (as we do for little girls). So after she gets dressed and asks me how she looks, I say, what do you think? I tell her it doesn't really matter what I think. Does she like the way she looks? Then that's what matters. Don't look to other people to give you approval.  I hope to cultivate a strong sense of individuality in Sonia and a strong sense of being part of a community with Jack.. I think the opposite will come naturally to them.

Sonia and Queen Kapiolani in Honolulu. Outfit by Sonia

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From paradise

I have often thought ( and I know I am not the first ) that Seattle and the NW look like Switzerland. We are in Hawaii this week and it looks like heaven... or what heaven should look like if it's paradise. Our trip was one I planned at the last minute. I found cheap tickets out of Bellingham. My mother's college roommate lives here and invited us to stay in her guest house.  I feel so lucky it all worked out so beautifully.

Nothing can spoil the beauty and peaceful vibe of this island. However, 2 children who fight constantly does threaten one's enjoyment of anything. The first two days we were here, the kids fought constantly. At one point, Ryan dropped me off at a grocery store. I told him not to worry if I didn't come out .. that I would meet him at the airport. In response, he asked if I'd left him the cyanide pill. It was not great. Luckily, they snapped out of it and great times have been had by all since.

Mostly, we've just hung out at some of the world's most beautiful beaches. Ryan has surfed. The kids play on the beach and swim in the water. We are generally out all day. We pack lunch, snacks and water. Often we stop for coffee and extra snacks. Today, we had shaved ice in Haleiwa at a place that had been open since 1951. There was a line out of the door -- it was worth the wait.

The kids seem to be stuck on Seattle time so they go to bed early and wake up early. We have dinner with our hosts in their amazing house. I am not sure if I have ever been in a nicer house ( see view below).  We are really grateful for this experience.

No jetway in Bellingham


Volcanic rock at Makapuu beach

Kailua Beach

No more fighting -- Kailua

Swanzy Beach Park -- Kaaawa

View from the home of our hosts. Swimming pool in foreground

We hiked up to Manoa Falls 

Banzai Pipeline, North Shore

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

post parent-teacher conference

Today I had my 4th parent-teacher conference. Since it would hard to have a worse experience than my first conference, this one was just the usual level of suck.  If you do not have a rule-follower who enjoys work sheets, you won't like them either.  Jack is unique. I'll agree to this. The struggle we (meaning me and the teacher) are having is that he is not motivated to complete his work. He doesn't seem to understand that there is a problem with not completing it. Either he doesn't get it or he doesn't care. I think it's the former. I understand his point of view. Why is it important that he finish math computations or handwriting practice?  He's not interested in my argument that pilots and astronauts are good at math. You have to build those skills. It's too abstract. He is not motivated by what those around him are doing... you can see how that might help him later in life.. even if it doesn't, I can't and won't change that about him.

Perhaps he is unlucky that he has a parent whose own parents seemed to always accept her as she was. I am still grateful for this so I am not much of a micro-managing parent. Maybe that is doing him a disservice? The tough part is that you cannot separate who you are as a person from who you are as a parent. I could never be a tiger mom. I am not that aggressive about anything in my own life. It seems to have worked out for me.. of course, I was a rule follower who enjoyed work sheets. I am sure my parents enjoyed parent-teacher conferences.

The worst part of this experience is that I have to believe the rules don't work for us and therefore, don't apply. I am terrible at that. Give me a formula and I will follow it. I told the teacher today that not all children have the same academic trajectory.  I want to support him. Honestly, where education is concerned, I just don't know the best way to do that right now.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time is going too fast

People say this about adulthood but now it's getting ridiculous. A year feels like a month. I cannot believe it is November. Jack is 7. When did this happen? We have been very busy -- which is not my preferred way to be. I finally launched the software I've been building. See it live at Spilt Milk Nannies. The nanny part of the business belongs to a young woman who has watched my kids for a few years now. Her old website was hard to use and cobbled together. Soon, I'll create a simple website to explain the business more thoroughly. For now, my job is owning and managing the software. We hope to license the software to other like-minded entrepreneurial child-care providers. 

Anyway, I've committed to not reducing the amount of child care I am doing which means my life has felt a bit squeezed. That said, we've still had fun. Jack and Sonia are both happy in school. In addition, we go to circus school and sunday school and swimming lessons. This is what happens when your mom likes school. Lessons! Learning! I have chosen activities I think are fun and I participate as well. Circus school is my favorite. For now, the kids enjoy these activities. Weekends are fairly low-key for the kids but I've been working so Ryan and I split the child care on weekends.  In a few days, we go to Hawaii. We are looking forward to the sun, the beach and the warmth. 

Sonia and I at a birthday party for a friend

Watching our newest neighbor, Mo.

Smoothy mustache!

Happy 7th Birthday Jack!

Well, it's getting real over here. Jack is 7 today. Jack has been here 7 years. I have been a parent for 7 years. The transformation is so complete I can't imagine not being a parent. While it is still challenging, its more fun now than ever.

Jack is a great kid. He is adventurous, easy-going, adaptable. He loves legos, books, and playing outside with our neighbors... They especially enjoy playing Harry Potter or Star Wars and their favorite place to play is inside our mini-van. They pretend its a ship. An unexpected thing about Jack is that he is an adventurous eater. He still has 100 calorie days which still drive me insane .. but I try to be ok with it. Mostly he eats like a normal person which I never thought possible. He is still, as he has always been, his own independent-minded person.  He does what he wants with whom he wants. He can't be talked out of his own ideas.  We went a restaurant of Jack's choosing last night - Vios (for the mac n cheese and gelato). Each of us said what we loved most about Jack. I wish I could remember what Sonia said but Jack said his favorite thing about himself is that he is brave. And this is true - he is.

We celebrated with Jack's buddies over the weekend. We also went to a birthday party of another friend. They had music and Jack danced up a storm.

We're so glad you're here Jack!

Friday, October 18, 2013


Last weekend, we visited Portland to attend Lego Fest -- which was just what you think it was -- a festival with Legos. Family adventures are always fun for me. On weekends at home, the four of us are rarely together. Ryan and I tend to take the kids alone for part of each day while the other does something else. When we travel, we are always together. The kids seem very flexible about driving long distances or staying in strange places.  Something generally goes wrong and we have to adapt. I've always enjoyed the unknown of travel but travel with kids takes that unknown to a new level.

I am glad I attended Lego Fest but I will probably avoid kid-focused events for quite some time. It was crowded and some important components of the world of legos seemed to be missing from the hands-on sections of the festival. For example, the mini-figures are very important to Jack's construction projects but there weren't any. We suspected either the organizers were afraid people would steal them or that they were all stolen by the time we arrived.  Sonia and I spent several hours in the Lego Friends area.. constructing homes with lots of pale pink, blue and green legos with lots of flowers and trees. We both had fun.  It is so odd how that was the only lego section that appealed to either of us and not at all to Jack or Ryan. Everything else was Ninjago, Star Wars, Mindstorms or other (I guess) boy-themed legos. Why don't I like that stuff? Is it really the double x?

Besides Lego Fest, we hit a cute cafe Sunday morning for some delicious Portland coffee. Then onto a park behind the famous rose gardens and later to our friends' home in Camas.

Harry Potter lego sculpture

Sonia is proud of her house and does not want to dismantle it.

My dream room. There are windows along the left wall too.
Delicious coffee and hot chocolate

Why does Sonia like this instead of Ninjago? I hate Ninjago too though.

Robert's wedding

The adult highlight of the fall was going to our friends' Robert and Mario's wedding in Oakland.  Grandma and Grandpa watched Sonia and Jack as we spent 2 days solo in sunny and warm Oakland. When we arrived, we ate a lovely lunch at an amazing sushi restaurant in san francisco. We wandered around the city a bit then had gelato at our favorite North Beach gelateria. Then returned to Oakland for the first of many parties. Robert and Mario did not miss a detail. Everything was perfect. It was so fun to go to their wedding.. so full of joy.  One of the most moving toasts was one by a priest, a dear friend of the couple. He talked about the wedding as a very important event because to marry is to say yes to life. He went on in the articulate way that only Jesuits can quoting mystics and philosophers. His point was that saying yes to life is to live fully: to embrace all that unfolds from pain and tears to joy and laughter. Ryan and I have been using the emphatic YES to life especially when our kids start to get on our nerves.. Saying YES means accepting it all so you can experience it all. It helps us in those small annoying moments that seem to happen as much as the small, lovely moments.  This was likely his point.

Of course, random gondolas float by during the ceremony.

Happy Birthday Sonia!

I am posting this really late... over a month late.. 

We had lots of celebrations to celebrate Sonia's 4th birthday. First, a gathering of school friends at a nearby park with cupcakes (very casual, the playground was the entertainment). The following day, we had a bigger party for our neighborhood and family friends. We had lots of food, bubbles, a playground, balloons, and lots of fun. I had made a cake from an organic mix and it turned out to be far too small to serve the 20 people who were going to be at the party. I had to spend $50 on cupcakes. That was painful. Next year, no mix!

The next day we had lunch with grandparents. We exchanged more gifts and ate macaroons from Bakery Nouveau. Heaven!

Sonia's preschool asked we bring healthy treats for birthdays. I brought fruit with homemade whipped cream on top. No one at it except Sonia and the little guy sitting next to her. Kids want cake.

Sonia pouting at her first party -- at Madison Park. Originally planned as a swimming party but had to be changed last minute due to clouds and cold. The other kids didn't mind.

Sonia at the playground party -- happier with cupcakes and tiara.
Ryan made chocolate mousse to celebrate Sonia's 4th. Jack enjoyed it. Aunt Katie says this picture makes him look like Captain Jack Sparrow.

The $35 cupcakes

Moms sitting at a party. So unusual I had to capture it.

New School Year

We started a new school year and I was likely the most nervous among us.  Jack and Sonia both had smooth transitions from vacation to school.  Jack's teacher is lovely.. a nice, relaxed woman with 2 teen-aged girls. A few weeks into school,  as I explained to her that Jack has no enthusiasm for homework, she agreed that Jack is tough to motivate. Among many other tricks, she had been giving him smarties (little candies) to get him to finish his work.  I was relieved that she could see what I saw and didn't think it was my fault. I had intended not to do the homework again this year. However, I decided that if I am going to be in the public school system, I should just try their methods before rebelling against them.  Jack's kindergarten teacher said she and her high-school aged daughter could tutor Jack once a week. They are usually able to finish the homework with him.  When they don't, he and I discuss being "unafraid of toil" (a phrase Jack has learned from harry potter).  

Speaking of Harry Potter and motivation, we have adopted a new point system ala The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Every time Jack does something that helps me (take a plate to the sink, brush teeth, get dressed .. anything without me having to ask him more than once) he gets points. He doesn't get points for doing homework or being kind to others because (as I explained to him) he needs to do those things because he wants to. I know Alfie Kohn would not approve. Unfortunately, I have used his methods for years with almost no success. Jack doesn't care that it's important to brush his teeth so they won't rot out and he won't have bad breath. He does care that he can get 2 points which go towards his goal of 40 so he can have some screen time.  

Sonia participates a little bit but isn't really motivated by the point system. However, she is easier to motivate.

Sonia is pretty happy at school as well. If only pre-school lasted until 4th grade.
First day of 1st grade

Jack figures out if he puts a pull-up on his head he looks like a ninja -- I did not disavow him of this idea

Sonia wants to be a ninja too

Random beautiful early fall morning on greenlake - no kids

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old friends

We went to the zoo yesterday with a family we've been friends with since Jack's birth. I met Jo when we were both pregnant. A mutual friend introduced us and we agreed to call each other after our babies were born. We had our first date when the wee ones were 6 weeks old.

In a blink, here they are at 6 years

First family camping trip

Last weekend, we camped at Lakedale resort on San Juan Island. We were invited by friends who had reserved the campsite months ago. We'd been camping once for a night when Jack was 2 but this time, we camped for 3 nights. There was no internet access, we cooked our food over a fire or on a camp stove, and the kids ran around freely as there were few cars. The "resort" had three lakes and our site was on one of them. We played in the water. The kids did lots of running while the adults even got to do a little sitting. Pretty exciting. The hit of the weekend was our hammock. I loved being outside and the kids had fun too. Ryan, however, was not thrilled. He reported that he didn't like being dirty.  Since the kids are older now, it's easier for me to take them on trips like this.. so next year, I'll likely be solo.

We went on a beach walk on the south side of san juan island. A great fishing spot due to currents around the island ..  the beach also has a lot of driftwood

My friend Dana and her youngest who is Sonia's age. We have been friends for almost 20 years

The beloved hammock

Fun on the lake

We visited Roche Harbor. Lovely and fancy but seemed out of place on this rural island

The whole group

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Big step

This summer, we have gone through a big transition. Sonia and Jack now play outside without vigilant supervision. They often play with our neighbors and they run and play around our block. It's really cool to hear all the imaginative play that takes place. They can play for hours and protest when it's dinner time. We go out occasionally to check on them but since the windows are open, we can generally hear them. They also cycle between our house and the neighbor's house. It's good old-fashioned summer fun.

This picture doesn't match the story however, it's a rare shot of Sonia and Jack helping each other. They know the dock is a play to be careful, and they work together to stay safe.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer continued

The summer seems to be flying by .. we have no problem filling our time. We've gone to birthday parties, visited grandparents, made many trips to the pool, and spent lots of time with our next door neighbors who are also schedule-free. The weather has been amazing. Last week, we visited Portland for the second time this summer. Ryan did the STP. He had a great time and so did we. We went with a family from our preschool whose dad was also doing the ride. We visited the Portland Children's museum, spent a few hours at a park where we had a picnic, and visited the local uwajimaya -- always fascinating for kids (American kids that is)

Something has changed recently though. Two weeks ago, we spent the week with the children of a friend. I watched 4 kids for 4 days (long story about how this happened). My friend has lovely kids who are the same age as mine but the combination wasn't great for my kids. Jack was really unhappy with the arrangement but instead of articulating that he became aggressive and channeled that anger toward Sonia. I spent a great deal of time managing their unhappiness and mine. It seems that week wore me down as I felt really cranky this week.  Jack, especially, seems to pick up my moods. So now my unhappiness is his. I didn't figure it all out until yesterday when I commented to Ryan that I couldn't understand why the kids were so grumpy. His look said it all. Grumpy mom = grumpy children.

Next week, the kids will attend camp. We all need some space.

Portland Children's Museum entrance

We visited friends who moved to Portland. They have 3 kids in their family and this amazing cargo bike. I want one.

Ryan at STP finish

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island

Bloedel Reserve. This is how they feel about posing for pictures

Visit to Oxbow farm to pick raspberries


I've wanted to ride the Great Wheel since it was installed. It's worth the ride. I took at least 10 pictures during the ride and chose this one because of Sonia's face. My kids will regret their attitude about pictures once they see this blog.