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