Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading a Book!

Well, it finally happened, Miss E is reading a chapter book on her own. She's been able to read for about 2 years now, I think, at least a little bit,  but we haven't pushed at all since I don't think kids need to read early and she had such a good imagination and memory that I wanted those to keep going strong. We always read aloud to her and as a result, once she has started to read on her own, she has a good understanding of sentence structure (i.e., you pause after a period) and the emotion of reading (i.e, understands how to read when a character is sad, angry or excited). I am currently helping lead a reading group at her school for 2 boys who are reading long chapter books out loud (advanced for kindergarten) and I can tell they were rushed into reading. We spend most of our time figuring out how to take a breath after a period or not to start reading in the middle of a sentence or how to understand the words and what a character is feeling on a page.

In Kindergarten all the kids start reading groups and right now Miss E is below her actual level but that's OK with us because she is spending time slowing down and really learning the sounds and the language and how words are put together. At home though, she reads us pretty much anything she wants to. But before today, she had never sat down to read a chapter book on her own. So, today comes, and she wanted me to read some of this new fairy book to her and I was busy and told her "later". Well sure enough, I turn around about 2 minutes later and she is reading this book. Pretty soon she is on to chapter 3 and able to tell me what is going on with the characters and the story! Awesome. I love that she just took it upon herself to do this too. I love it when my kids solve their own problems. Not because I don't want to help them of course, but that is just a great skill for them to learn.

Here's what our family is currently reading:

Sarah - travel books on Spain and Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Peter - All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
Mr. T - fire books (of course) and we are reading him My Father's Dragon
Miss E - we are reading her Gregor the Overlander and she is reading Vidia Meets her Match of the Disney fairy series (they aren't bad -really.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Over the Wall

Dear Weekend,

Uncle. I cry uncle. I've had enough, you have won, I'm sorry I tried to be super mom and home-owner. As if the overflowing toilet (thank you 1920's pipes) and accompanying 3 extra loads of laundry and bathroom bleach down, and all the extra work this paint project is taking due to the condition of the wall wasn't enough, you have to throw in an extra cranky 6 year old and an overflowing WASHING MACHINE? What the heck? Please show a little more mercy in the future.

Love, Sarah

This morning I had to get the kids out of the house since they were so great yesterday while I was painting. We ended up going to the climbing gym where Mr. T went over the top of the wall for the very first time! He was so proud of himself. He slid down the slide (how the kiddos get down) bounced over to me and said "let's do it again!". This kid was TERRIFIED the first  few times we went bouldering but today, he did it. Miss E kept doing the harder routes and was freaking me out a bit as she would get to the top of the wall and then cling with just her fingertips to the edge to pull herself up. Nobody fell though and she is almost ready to do the route with the overhang on it. Aftward we headed to VooDoo to get a celebratory box of doughnuts. I was so freaking proud of Mr. T! He was so brave. And Miss E, the kind soul she is, encouraged him, offered to climb next to him, waited for him at the top and congratulated him when he made it to the top. This (the climbing and treats) was the very very best part of the day. And it was good, the kind of thing that makes a mother's heart beam.

Surrounding that, I woke up with a migraine this morning. I had a few errands to run and the kiddos didn't want to. This all threw me off enough that I forgot my camera at the climbing gym. That's how I knew I really wasn't feeling well - it's not like me at all to forget my camera! After we got home from the gym, it was rest time and I lay down for about an hour to see if my headache would go away. During this time Mr. T came into my room and very sweetly whispered "Mommy? I looked out of my door and saw there was a huge pile of soap on the floor in front of the washing machine". I almost had to laugh at the cuteness and absurdity of it all. What a sweet kiddo. He kept excitedly jumping around as I cleaned it and fixed the machine saying "it was good that I told you huh? This is a BIG problem".

Well, there it is. Another weekend of single parenting ends. This one of was rougher than most, simply because it has become so easy to care for the kids by myself. It used to be that every weekend Peter worked was "rough" now things are pretty much easy peasy when he is gone. This weekend just slapped me on the ass and let me know not to get too complacent.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I can't believe I am posting a "before" picture for all the world to see but here it is. This weekend I am painting our office and kitchen - finally! They were the only rooms that weren't painted when we bought the house (6 years ago!) and not only are they in bad shape, but they have had "test" paint spots on the wall for the last few months. I could not pick a color.

Some of it had to do with the color of the floor which may or may not be replaced, an ill-chosen countertop color and kitchen cabinets that I hate. I could not figure out what wall color would make all those things come together and be the kitchen that I wanted.  However, my in-laws have visited the house several times with the paint splotches on the wall and as they are coming again in March, it had to be done. The color was chosen and this weekend Peter is working and the kids and I don't have anything scheduled so it seemed like as good a time as any. Today I got the shelves down, the wall cleaned and taped, a first coat of paint on, played with the kids, fixed a huge toilet issue, did about 5 loads of laundry, helped the kids build a ton of forts and had them try sushi for the first time (they didn't like it).

It was all going well and fine until the toilet imploded. We have probably the original pipes in the house, coupled with what is probably the cheapest toilet from Home Depot (thank you previous home owners) so when, say, a child puts a TON of toilet paper in it, then flushes and runs out of the bathroom while it's  flushing not telling anyone it's clogged, the water overflows and flows and flows. The only way to stop it is to open up the tank and pull up the thing-a-ma-jig with one hand while plunging with another hand. Today, for some reason, as I found myself standing there in a toilet-water flooded bathroom, trying desperately and in vain to unclog the overflowing toilet I completely lost it. Lost it as in yelling very loudly. Yelling for the kids to help and get towels and then just yelling in frustration. The kids scattered to their rooms and in some part of my head a voice was quietly telling me "you're losing it. Sarah, you're completely losing it in front of the kids, this isn't helping, it's scaring them a bit....". Finally I listened to that voice and calmed down. Then I had to tell Miss E that "mommy shouldn't have yelled 'god dammit' really loudly and I'm sorry I did that." I apologized several times to both the kids and explained that I wasn't mad at them, just frustrated and that I shouldn't have either said those words or yelled them. Ooops. Not one of my finer parenting moments.

After that though, we all kind of recovered, did a little more painting and read some books. I can't wait until this project is over!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Girl Scout Dance Party

Taking pictures in a gym is now officially one of my least favorite things. How the heck is that done? With no flash you can't see anything (especially if it's night) and with a flash, unless you are standing right in front of your person, the size of the room eats it up, or the crazy orange floor glares back at you.

Tonight was a local girl scout dance party/lock-in where about 130 girls danced, ate junk food, did crafts, watched a movie and spent the night. They were all in grades K-3 and all local Daisy's or Brownie's. Miss E and I went for the dancing/crafts/junk food part but left before the movie (it started at 9:15!) to head home to bed. That's Miss E in the white nightgown grabbing toilet paper that the dj was shooting in the air. The girls thought it was awesome.

And they danced. They danced the chicken dance, the macarena, the thriller dance, the cha cha cha. They did a congo line and the limbo and they danced disco and the hokey pokey. So.... At this point I have to say that this is not my favorite thing at all. I like to dance, sure, just not all the silly choreographed dances. However, I was trying to show Miss E how FUN this all is and the dj, god bless him, kept yelling out "girls, get your moms! We're going to do the ..... (insert name of dance here)" Sigh. So I danced with Miss E for a few hours and it was pretty fun. It was even more fun to chat with our troop leader and watch Miss E get her groove on and her confidence to head into the pack of bigger girls and boogie down with them.

By the time we left at 9, she was wasted tired. Crazy wasted tired. Couldn't walk, tears at home, tired. But I think that when tomorrow comes she is going to excitedly and proudly tell Mr. T and Peter all about her "big girl dance party" and then we will watch You Tube videos of all the dances and try to teach them to Mr. T. And it will be fun.

I realized also tonight that if I had learned these dances when I was Miss E's age, maybe I wouldn't have always felt so awkward and self conscious about it. Or maybe I would have. At this point though, I have come to terms with the fact that  I will never feel comfortable and confident doing the macarena - I mean, does anyone over the age of 25?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sick or not?

Mr. T is in that weird place of sickness where I can't really tell if he's sick or not. He has a little cough, no runny nose, no fever and seems to be acting fine. Until he's really tired which happens easier than usual. With this type of thing I never know if I should keep him home from school or not. He went yesterday and will probably go on Friday, unless he gets worse. This afternoon though, he just wanted to sit and watch TV for a bit, so that's what we did.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Poem

This picture is kind of grainy, I think because I wasn't using the flash or the iso is too high. Or it could be something else entirely. : )

How cute is little Miss E in front of her poem and picture? This is the bulletin board outside her classroom. The poem the kids wrote is:

Walking Stick
I'm hiding
You can's see me
What? You see me?
Don't tell.

I love it! She is such a smarty pants. I always try and impress upon her the double whammy of being great at something - being smart and trying hard. One is not enough without the other.

Today I had an actual morning to myself. Even though the kids are in school at the same time 3 mornings a week, usually on those days I'm at work, or working in the classrooms or Peter is home and we are having a "date" morning. I love doing all those things but it was pretty sweet this morning to drop off Mr. T and then have 3 hours during which I was accountable to no one. Feeling all wild and crazy like, I bought myself a latte and went home to vacuum, do laundry, order some photos and run the dishwasher. I know - somebody stop me here!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Today I had soup delivered to my work by bicycle. That's right - SoupCycle. It's something that is so uniquely Portland that I have to laugh a bit but it's also awesome to have (mostly) organic soup and bread delivered to you once a week. A few of us in the office signed up, thinking that it would be nice during tax season to have something healthy to eat to off-set all the Chipotle, Burgerville and Red Robin we normally end up eating during this time of year. That, coupled with sitting at our desks so much does not bode well for the size of your behind. Since I am leaving May 3, a mere 2 1/2 weeks after the end of tax season to embark on a trip that involves hiking at least 120 km, letting myself go during the next few months is not an option. No siree. Therefore, it is the treadmill and organic soup for me. No french fries, no shirking on exercise. (OK, maybe a few french fries and a little shirking... but not a lot!)

Also, this soup is delicious. If you live in the Portland area, I highly recommend it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Little Perspective

Tonight was Miss E's Daisy meeting. That's her on the right with her friends R and T. They were playing with a box of Kleenex. Yes, to a 6 year old girl any single thing can be that exciting if you have friends with you. This is probably the wildest and craziest group of girls around and blows any stereotype of girls being quiet and calm out of the water. They laugh, climb on tables, climb over each other, talk loudly, do cartwheels inside, run up and down the halls. Truthfully most of the meeting was spent getting them to calm down enough to learn our petal-lesson of respect. Respect for yourself and others. This is one of the things I LOVE about Daisy's. When Miss E is mouthing off to Peter or myself we can remind her that we deserve her RESPECT just like we learned at the Daisy's meeting. Of course we teach her that ourselves, but having it reinforced in a group setting is always a good thing. Sometimes I think that's why people like church so much.

Anyway. Tonight as we are getting started I asked our leader why she had taken herself off the calendar for kindergarten volunteering (in a nice way, not nearly as nosey or snarky as that sounds) and she told me that a few days ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. CANCER. She has 3 children. She works. Her youngest is that wild, spirited, happy little girl in the middle of the picture above. She has no time for cancer, no space in her life for cancer but just like that, everything has changed for her. The worst part is, she had a clean mammogram 6 MONTHS AGO. The only reason she caught what is now Stage II cancer, is she accidently felt a lump in her armpit. Scary stuff people. Very scary stuff. The prognosis rates are very good for her but she still has to go through the treatment and the worry and the fear that this aggressive cancer will never go away.

It all puts a little bit of perspective on life, no? I mean, yes the kid's tantrums can be annoying and money is short and house cleaning can be drudgery but there are folks out there going through terrible things, real things, things which make all the other little annoyances seem like, well, the annoyances that they are. So I will go about my day with grace and perspective and revel in what a good year this is starting out to be for us. And I will know that life can change in a heartbeat, a lump or a phone call and be appreciate, and try to teach my children to be appreciative, for all the good fortune that we have.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Every Morning

Every morning, after I start breakfast for the kids, I throw on some shoes and a sweater and head outside to get the paper. These trees are pretty much the first thing I see. I could only get these few in the picture, but there are a bunch, all in a row, making the air clean for me. These trees are tall. Really tall. In the very bottom of the picture you can see the roof of the house that's across the street from us. They are also very beautiful.  It is a peaceful moment of the day for me. My first real breath of fresh air, the street is still and it is quiet. This morning there was a beautiful fog hanging over everything. It's a lovely way to start the day.

And then I ended up having one of "those" days. Honestly, most days I feel pretty good about my "togetherness". Our house is passably clean, I'm a pretty good mom, my kids are great, our schedule is managed, I don't forget which days I am to volunteer and who needs three oranges or a silly hat for school that day. Then there are days like today where I doubt it all.

I yell at my kids too much
My house has dog hair all over it
The meal plan is not done for the week
I am not an understanding wife
My mirrors need to be cleaned
My shoes need to be polished
The kids only got crackers and cheese in their snack bags
I don't play with my kids enough
My hair looks frumpy
I should eat more vegetables
My kids need to eat more vegetables
I should be scheduling more playdates
I haven't called my friends in a long time

In short, the pervasive feeling that nothing is being done properly and that I am not doing good enough at any of my responsibilities - mother, wife, home-keeper, employee, friend, sister. Everything seems hard and muddled and I doubt that I am doing any of it well.

Fortunately, these days are few and far between and getting farther all the time as I get older and both better at handling things and more kind to myself. I really think that in the end, the best we can do is the best we can do and our kids, spouses, employers and homes will have to take our best effort and appreciate it.  Days like this also remind me to be very kind to others, especially other moms, because although some of them are very good at making this look easy, I know that it is not always the case.

The beautiful thing is tomorrow morning I will step out my front door, look at those trees, take another deep breath of fresh air, have a moment of quiet and start over again. And it will be good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


We're outside! In the sun! With no coats! Can you tell how excited I am? When we picked up the kids from my parents this morning the sun was shining away so we headed home for the bikes and then to the park. Miss E and I rode our bikes to the park, Peter and Mr. T met us there in the van. Once we got there we rode our bikes around the loop, ran and walked around the loop and played on the playground. I could almost feel our skin soaking up the vitamin D. After a less than fantastic date night last night (some part of it may or may not have been spent yelling at each other about the kitchen floor - yeah, we are idiots, we know), Peter and I needed the rejuvenation as well.

We also realized that one or both of the kids is going to need a new bike before the spring really sets in. Mr. T is way too big for his and should be on Miss E's and she still fits hers OK, but could go up a size. We'll probably end up buying her a bigger one and de-girling (is that a word? You know what I mean...) her bike for Mr. T.'s always something at this point. But for today, we were all reveling in the sun shine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fire Engine #1

When I came home from work today, I found Mr. T with this - Fire Engine 1. He wrote the label himself, which I was pretty impressed with. So far he has not been into writing very much and in order to get him to do it, I have to really sit down and get him focused. It's been a bit of an adjustment for me, since Miss E would write anything from the second she possibly could but I'm chalking this up a little to the differences between girls and boys. (Please don't yell at me about that last statement unless you have one of each. Prior to having one of each I would have yelled at myself about that statement and then , well I learned.)

I also think it's adorable also that despite having at least 5 different fire engines (and trucks) to play with, Mr. T still turns any spare box into his own rescue vehicle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Secret Diary

This is a page from Miss E's secret diary. Now before you all yell at me for posting this, I did ask her first if I could do it. It was too cute to pass up. For Christmas she got her first diary complete with lock and key. The last few days she has been writing in it diligently and this is the first page. For those you can't read kindergarten-ese this is what it says:

Age 6
I love you
I love fairies
I love princesses
I love Mommy
I love Daddy
I love Theo
I love Ginger (our dog)
I love Sammy (cat #1)
I love Reenie (cat #2)
I love eggs
I love pepperoni pizza
I love candy
I love me
I love flowers

So cute! I totally remember writing lists of all the things I liked at this age. I love that she wrote "I love me" on there. Self-esteem is something I have really been mindful of with her and that makes me so happy and pleased to read that.

Speaking of love, this morning I woke up to a water-filled, fresh coffee grinds-filled, ready to go coffee maker! This is what I called a "married I love you". Peter and I have been together and lived together since we were 19. We actually lived together before we started dating even (true story). We have been married for 8 years. That makes 16 years as a couple. That is a LONG time. A lifetime in fact, sometimes more like several. At this point we are beyond all the flowers, chocolates and uber-romantic dates. Those are nice and still appreciated but they really aren't realistic or practical and neither one of us needs big shows of affection from the other to demonstrate their commitment.

I mean, at this point it doesn't really matter, right? We have 2 kids. We own a house and 2 cars. We have crafted a life together that is hopelessly and irrevocably entwined. Nobody is getting out of this anytime soon, whether they want to or not and believe me there have been days (weeks) where one or the other of us wanted out. But it's not happening, big displays of love or not. We are committed - there is no doubting that.

At this point, showing our love is a ready to go pot of coffee in the morning, me making the meal plan for the week so when Peter has the kids he knows what's for dinner, putting gas in the car when you know the other person is going to drive it, picking up each other's holds at the library, making the bed, watching the kids while the other goes out with their friends, watching movies together in the evening. All those little thing that just make each other's lives a little bit easier. When it comes down to it, that's kind of what marriage is about, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mr. T's show

Back in September, when Miss E started Kindergarten, Mr. T was having kind of a rough time adjusting to being the youngest/only kid still in preschool. To combat some of that we signed him up for gymnastics which is something Miss E has never done. This was to be purely his thing, and the intent was to help him build confidence, and improve his coordination and motor skills. Well check and check. Today was the end of the semester and the kids put on a "show" to show us how much they have learned. My parents came and we all watched for an hour while Mr. T performed all his tricks on the bar, the balance beam and the floor routine. Most likely, this kid is not headed to the Olympics but the amount he has learned and the fears he has conquered in a few months are incredible. At the end of the show all the kids got a medal and a certificate.  Mr. T was so proud of himself!

Afterwards, we went out to pizza with my parents to celebrate Mr. T. After he has sat through several of MIss E's end of class shows/awards banquets and watched her get a few trophy's and awards, this meant a lot to him to have us all there watching him and celebrating him.

When we got home he spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out where to hang his medal in his room after getting very upset when I told him he couldn't sleep with it under his pillow (a mom has to put her foot down about strangulation, no?). Before he went to bed he had me take about 15 pictures of him wearing his medal and holding his certificate. Unfortunately his version of a "smile" right now looks like a pain-filled grimace and nothing I could say would elicit a better face.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog picture (near) FAIL and Spain

This nearly became the first day since I started this back in August (or was it July?) that neither Peter nor I took any pictures. However, after a moment of panic, we realized that this lovely piece of photographic art was on his phone. Mr. T at swim lessons!

I spent my day watching Mr. T in the morning so Peter could be the surprise mystery reader for Miss E's class. They all go to library on Tuesday and someone's parent or grandparent is sitting there waiting to surprise them and read a book to the class. Miss E had no idea it was going to be Peter today and she was pretty happy. After that I went to work and out to dinner with a friend while Peter took Mr. T (second from right on wall) to swim class and fed the kids dinner.  Pretty standard stuff.

A few people have asked for details on Spain so here's what I know:

-We fly out May 3 and after 3 flights, 2 bus rides and 22 hours of travel, my mom, sister and I will arrive in Sarria

-We will spend May 4-10 hiking the last 110 km of the pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago, or the St. James trail

-On May 10 (or 11th if we end up needing a rest day)  we will been in Santiago de Compostela where we are meeting up with my Dad and our friends.

-Honore (my sister) and I will somehow make it from there to Barcelona on May 16 to fly home. This may involve renting a car, a train and/or traveling with my parents for a few days, we don't know yet.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I love to travel and the thought of hiking through a country for 6 days is amazing. I have no doubt that our entire experience in Spain will be a once in a lifetime trip, especially being able to share it with my mom and my sister.

It's a good thing I'm so excited because there a few things that in the dark hours of the night, dampen the trip a bit.

1) I am terrified to fly. A certified xanex-taking, anxiety-attack-having flyer. This trip involves 6 airplane flights - 3 there and 3 back. I am afraid that the plane is going to crash and wouldn't that be awful? I mean dying in a plane crash would suck. So fearful am I of flying that when we flew to Colorado we paid the extra money to get seats in the front row so I could see the flight attendants thinking that I would be able to read the calm or fear in their faces. Now, before you all jump in here, I KNOW that riding in a car is more dangerous and that planes are safe. They fly all over the world all the time and don't crash. However, I will be getting a hefty prescription for xanex before I leave.

2) I'm going to be away from my kiddos for almost 2 weeks. Yes, they will be with Peter and yes, they are old enough that they will be fine. But the longest I have been away from them before is 3 or 4 nights. This is much longer and when I'm on the trail, I'm not even sure I'll be able to call them everyday. Again, before you all jump in, I KNOW they will be fine with Peter. I wouldn't be leaving them for this long if I didn't think that. I'm just going to miss them. A lot.

And as much as those 2 reasons tear a little at my heart, neither is nearly enough to pass up on this trip. It comes down to being brave or being fearful. I am choosing to be brave, shelve those fears and embark on an experience. As the kids get older,  I want to show them also that you grab opportunities as they come by you and passing up on something because you are afraid, is almost never the right answer. (Exceptions granted for para-gliding, bungee jumping, and free climbing). I am taking this opportunity and running with it, knowing that in my old age, I will remember the May I spent in Spain hiking with the women in my family.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why yes, that is a dragon

We spent MLK day with our friend Amanda and her two kiddos at Play Date Pdx. There were also about 500 other people there. It was crazy and loud and crowded and I'm not sure if my kids were tired from physical exhaustion or overstimulation but they were tired afterwards. Really tired and happy.  I didn't go into the gigantic structure (that's Mr. T and Miss E in the cliche pink and blue above) but they told me inside were rings, a dance floor, a dodge ball area, air canons to shoot balls, climbing things, slides and "other stuff". Like I said, I don't care what they were doing in there as long as they were tired at the end. Amanda and I got to sit and have coffee and feed the kids as they ran out for breaks. I think on a less busy day it would be very relaxing and today it was kind of relaxing. Does that make sense?

Anyhoo..... afterwards we got to come home and just relax and get ready for school to start again tomorrow. Peter was at work so the kids and I took down all the forts, got the house back in order and packed up Miss E's homework.

I did ask her if they had talked about Martin Luther King day at school and this is her version of it:

"He had different colored skin and some people told him he was bad because of that and he told them no I'm not and then he was shot. With a gun."

So, there you have it. Kindergarten history. We talked a little about how silly it was to judge people by their skin color and how that was kind of like judging them by eye color and a little (as always) about how great it is that everyone is different from each other. I don't like to go too in depth with my kids about hate issues because I just don't want them to be aware that it's even a possibility to be racist at this point. I think it's better they grow as long as they can understanding how great it is that we are all different before they start absorbing some of the hate around those ideas. (ok, that came out wrong - you all know what I mean).

In other news, Spain. Today was the day, itineraries needed to be decided. After a ton of ideas, a flurry of phone calls, my Dad offering to fly us anywhere in EUROPE for our last five days, we narrowed our departure point to Barcelona. More to come in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Treadmill

So, before I had kids, when I was a young college student studying english and child psychology, I had this whole parenting thing figured out. I would never bribe my kids, yell at my kids, let them watch TV, and the thought of children on a treadmill? Shudders. How could you? They should be running around outside playing, getting their exercise the natural way.

Fast forward 10 (or so ahem...) years to this. My 6 year old on a treadmill. And yes, I do think she should be outside running and jumping and playing and getting her exercise the natural way. But what happens when you live in Oregon and it's been pouring for 5 days straight and everyplace outside is flooded or muddy? And your kids don't have PE except for once a week for 20 minutes because the school budget has been cut? And they have been jumping on, off and around your couch for days? And they are fighting with each other and you and building forts with every blessed piece of furniture in your house? And then there it is, an exercise machine and they are begging you to use it. Do you say no because it's against some stupid pre-parenting principle? No. You say "here's how it works, here's the safety strap and have a good time." And that's what I did today.

I love the treadmill. And pretty soon, Miss E is going to be faster than me on it. That girl is a gazelle.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lovely Weekend

Ahhh...blissful weekend. Peter is off both Saturday and Sunday, football playoffs are on, Miss E has a birthday party today and tomorrow and I am roasting a chicken for dinner.

The party today was a cooking one, meaning the girls got to bake the cake, make the frosting and cook their lunch. I was a little worried how it would go since Miss E doesn't like FOOD, but apparently it went great. She did all the cooking stuff and even ate some of the homemade yukon gold fries - which for the record folks is a potato, a vegetable. A vegetable crossed her lips that was not bribed, forced or otherwise cajoled! Amazing.

On the current food battle front, the score is something like Miss E 5,675 - Parents 2. She has literally not eaten a bite of dinner these last 2 nights. Cereal or toast with peanut butter in the morning, lunch is pear, crackers and cheese, and snack has been pear and pirate's booty. That is it. I'm starting to worry that she is going to be the only child in the state of Oregon with scurvy. Then I would have to explain to the Department of Health that they are welcome to try and get an orange, some lettuce and/or a piece of chicken to cross those lips. My parents complained that I was picky because I would only order french fries and a salad whenever we dined out. Well. At this point I would take that and feed it to her every meal of every day if I could.

In (slightly) related news, sometimes I think a sound-proof scream room would be nice in our house.

It disturbs me a bit that this post so quickly and briefly went from blissful weekend to sound-proof scream room. Hmmm...I'm thinking that's not so good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blurry Preschool

This morning was one of my parent teaching days at the preschool, and after a slight morning car seat debacle, arrived with Mr. T and my camera in hand. But something was different this time, he didn't want to hang out with me! Usually when I parent teach he hangs in the area of the room I have been assigned to work and today he was in blocks most of the day (my assigned station) but he couldn't have cared less that I was there. He was so absorbed in building this huge stage/rocket ship/dinosaur house/pirate fort structure that he almost skipped eating his snack. As a result of all this busyness? Blurry pictures. I took about 20 pictures today and in maybe 3 of them was he standing still enough to have some semblance of focus. There was no chance of him looking at me, posing or smiling. Too busy.  Now that I have seen how structured kindergarten is, I am extra glad that we are sending the kids to a play-based preschool.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Date Fell Asleep on Me

This afternoon Miss E had a friend over to play and Mr. T and I went on a date. With the size of our house and the dynamic of the kids, it's just easier to get the other one out of there when someone has a friend over.  Plus, I like spending time with them one-on-one. Mr. T was super excited, and even got "dressed up" putting on his red necklace for it.

The first part of our date was to head to the library (can I interject that this is the second date this week I have been on at the library? What does that say about me? That I'm poor and like books? Uh...yeah.) but by the time we got the library, this is what I found in the backseat. A sleeping boy. So I read my book for a little bit and then I carried him in, thinking I could sneak upstairs while he was sleeping on my shoulder to look at the travel books, but no. As soon as we hit the up stairs he popped his head up and clearly said "no mommy, the kids library is downstairs. You said it would be my turn first tonight". Ok then. Kids library it was, then dinner, then browsing at the bookstore. I love that my kids are so fun to hang out with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is the sort of book....

...that I love to buy but have had absolutely no reason to for the last 6 years and didn't think I would have reason to for another 10 years. I mentioned it briefly in a previous post but the travel gods (and our families) have smiled kindly on us this year. Completely unexpectedly, we have been offered two fantastic trips. Amazing trips. I am going to Spain in May in then this Christmas, we get to take our kids to Disneyland. And at this point I have to keep myself from going on and on and on about how excited I am and how awesome it is because at some point it crosses over to annoying bragging instead of excitement.

Anyway. Yes, I am going to Spain in 4 months. In Spain I will be hiking about 15 miles a day for 5 or 6 days, which means that I need to get into better shape for sure. After that, I have a few options and mulling them over has been very fun. Travel with friends across northern spain? Travel with my sister down to Madrid? Head down the Portuguese coast by myself? It's wide open. Today my Dad told me to let him know what city I wanted to fly out of and on what date and he would book my ticket. Wow. I'm not sure what I did to deserve this but I am happy, really really almost annoyingly happy.

I am also happy because my going is enabling my mom to fulfill something she has always wanted to do, which is backpack and hike in Europe. I know she doesn't want to do it alone so there is something very special about going along with her as she does something that has always been a desire for her. She and my sister and I are traveling together and I have high hopes that it will be fantastic.

This leaves Peter at home with the kids, which honestly is OK with both of us. He doesn't want me to pass up on the trip of a lifetime and really this is the first time they have been old enough for me to leave them for 10-14 days. I've left them for 3 or 4 nights before but that has been the longest. I do feel better knowing they are with Peter though. Once you become a parent, you start to worry about new things. When Peter and I flew to Colorado this summer, a big fear of mine was something happening to the plane or the car we were riding in leaving the kids orphans. Morbid and unlikely, I know. Really, I do. You just can't help it though. This time I will know that whatever happens they will be at home safe and sound with their Dad.

Ahem. A note about that Dad. Sometimes I have alluded to him being grumpy and snappy. Which he can be. But. It's only fair to put out the other side as well. Today (after our lovely morning date) I headed into work which is about a half an hour away. Upon arrival, I found 5 missed calls, 2 texts and 2 voice mails from him telling me I had forgotten my wallet at home. Since I was headed out for dinner with friends after work and the car needed gas, the wallet was a key component of my evening. Instead of me having to leave work and go get it though, Peter offered to load up the kids an hour early for Mr. T's gym class and head up to give it to me. Which is super sweet and that is just the kind of guy he is. He is always taking care of things like that for me and it is so so appreciated.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the Car

One of the best thing about your kids getting bigger? Ice cream in the car. This was maybe the first time I have ever trusted them to eat their cones in the car and you know what? There was nary a sticky spot or crunched cone in the car when we got home! Amazing.

Yes, we had ice cream today on one of the coldest days of the year. Why you ask? Well Mr. T (insert long painful backstory ((no pun intended)) of potty training) finally used the big (for normal folks read: regular) toilet for his...umm...well...#2 duties, instead of the little plastic potty (that I want to throw out a window as soon as possible). Yes, we have reasons that things progressed like this for so long and I think they are good reasons but for now, he is moving on up to the big potty. WHoooo Hoooo!!!! Which means, in addition to being done with all diapers, pull ups, etc., soon I will be done with little potties! Oh the joy in the little things. He wanted ice cream for his treat today so ice cream it was. Congrats my little man, congrats to you.

So, I just realized that this day is all about Mr. T, but the picture is of Miss E. Whoops. I would make a sarcastic comment about him being the second child here but the truth is I was driving (stopped at a light) when I took the picture and he sits right behind me while she is on the other side of the car. Hence, his picture is blurry and sideways while hers looks better just because I could see her.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Watching TV Together

Tonight we headed up to my parents house to watch the Ducks in the BCS championship game since we don't have cable. While we were watching the game, the kids got to watch Toy Story 3 on the other TV in the family room. In the car on the way over there, during dinner and while we were setting up the movie they bickered. Mr. T pestered Miss E, she was rude to him, on and on. Once I got them fed and set up I went to watch a bit of the game. About 20 minutes later I checked on them and this is what I found. Both of them all cuddled up together watching the movie. I took this picture through a glass door, sure that if I opened it I would ruin the moment.

Now that I have 2 kids of my own, it's like a light switch has flipped on. I get it. I get why it bugged my mom so much when my sister and I fought, I also understand that one of the sweetest things in the world is seeing your kids love each other. Siblings are so important in our lives, they are truly the only people who will, good fortune willing, know you your ENTIRE life. Mr.T and Miss E will always have each other and my goal is to foster the best friendship between them that I can. This is not going to be easy, as I have only had a sister so I have no idea how the sister/brother relationship dynamic works, but we'll feel our way through it and, like most of parenting, just hope we don't screw it up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mr. T's Snow Fort

OK, so this isn't really a picture of his fort but I just don't have a good one from today. How about a verbal description? About 6 feet wide, with 2 1/2 foot tall walls around it. He spent an hour this morning building it again before we left. And we did leave this morning, which was actually a good thing.

As great as the weekend was, we were all out of sorts today. Peter has been out of sorts for a week, the kids were super tired from being shorted 2-3 hours of sleep for the last 2 nights, and I was tired of dealing with the grumpiness and the tiredness. Again, can I say thank goodness for the car DVD player? We stopped for coffee about 45 minutes into the drive with my sister and when she and I went in to fill our cups (the guys stayed with the kids in the cars) I asked her how the drive was going. "Oh" she said "the kids aren't sleeping, they are kicking our seats and whining for gum." Again, I was silently thankful that we were not listening to the kids whining especially with the mood Peter was in. Whew. That would have made for a VERY long car ride home.

Once home it was laundry, clean up, baths, get ready for school and watch the Packers win their way into the finals. There is something about ending a trip that both feels good and a little sad. It was a great trip but it was also great to get home and get everything back in order.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cross Country Skiing

This is my little family, skiing through the woods. Don't they look lovely?

Today was a very full day. So very very full of activities, emotions, all of it. Here's a little list

-We got up (early - 4 kids in bunk beds do not sleep in) and right after breakfast headed out to the trails. Miss E was on cross country skis for the 2nd time ever, Peter and I snowshoed and Mr. T walked and rode in a sled pulled by Peter. The day was gorgeous - clear, sunny, perfect snow, perfect trail. My mom skiied with us as did my sister and her family

-Miss E was awesome on the skis for about 45 minutes but then, oh my. Then we had the mother of all 6 year old meltdowns. 1/2 mile from the lodge. The sucky thing was, looking back, I knew it was coming. She was getting annoyed. We were all telling her repeatedly how good she was doing on the skis. She hates that. Peter was taking lots of video tape and I was taking lots of pictures. She hates both of those things too. Her hands were getting cold and she was hungry and had to pee.  And then it all fell apart. She was flinging off her clothes, wanted her shoes off, yelling, crying. I sent the family on ahead thinking things would go better if we had less of an audience and started picking up her stuff, calmly talking to her and walking back. Silently I was panicking a bit wondering what the heck I was going to do if she actually got her shoes off. She's too big for me to carry that far and we were in the SNOW, she couldn't exactly walk in her socks. All I can say is thank god for double knots. It took a bit, but she came along and after about 20 minutes of walking we were able to talk about what happened and why it wasn't OK and what was safe and unsafe and how to deal with needing help and being angry. Blah blah blah blah. She even put her gloves back on. Sigh. It felt a bit like a rookie parenting move not to head this off and Miss E is a varsity level kid. However, after a time out, warm up, and snack in my parents cabin she was feeling better, as was I.

- We watched football in the lodge. That's right. Football. On our vacation but hey, it's the playoffs right?  At the lodge Miss E met a girl. Not just any girl but a girl who was also in Kindergarten.  Little known fact about kindergarten girls? They are like magnets. Unescapable attracted to each other. Miss E spent the rest of the afternoon playing with her new BFF Emma. The played games in the lodge, they rode sleds, they looked in each other's cabins. It was all girls all the time.

- You know who didn't watch football? Mr. T. Mild mannered, always wants to be inside Mr. T spent all afternoon, and I'm talking about 5 hours straight, outside building a snow fort. I credit Peter with getting this started but then while they were watching the game in the lodge I stood up by the cabin with Mr. T drinking my tea and helping him move snowballs around. His cheeks were bright red, his face was a mess of hot chocolate and snot and he was so happy. Really really happy. I'll try to get a picture of the fort tomorrow.

-My mom and I went snowshoeing by ourselves for a bit. It was nice to be able to have some uninterrupted time with her.

- Tonight we put the kids to bed and Peter, Jason, and I went back to the lodge to watch the end of the Jets game then played games with Honore in the cabin. It was a lovely way to end a very long day.

-Also, I am going to Spain and Disneyland this year. Both these trips have developed completely unexpectedly in the last few weeks and it feels like an embarrassment of riches for me. I am so so so excited for both of them and will be writing more about Spain soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Arrival at Odell

Miss E came home on the but this afternoon, we all piled into the car to pick up Mr. T from school and then embarked on the 4 hour drive to Odell Lake for a weekend of playing in the snow. When we got to his school, his teacher (Teacher Kayla- he loves her) told me that he was so excited that he proudly told her he was saving some of his snack to eat in the car on the way to the snowy woods. I love that kid. He is all heart. Really, he is.

The kids were SO EXCITED about the snow and kept asking when we would see it by the side of the road. However, it was only about 10 minutes before we got there that we started seeing it so for the other 3 hours and 45 minutes, we let the kids watch DVD's in the car. And thank goodness we bought those things! I resisted the double DVD player for a long time and we, as a rule, only use them for car rides longer than 2 hours (so not when we head down to Eugene) but for those longer rides, they are a blessing. The kids have their headphones on, Peter and I can talk or listen to music. Lovely for all of us.

Tonight we all made it to the cabins around 4 and immediately the kids wanted their snow clothes. At the place we stayed you park at the lodge and they give you a sled to haul your stuff up to your cabin with. This is a bit of a pain but the reward is no cars up by the cabins so the kids are free to play and sled and run all they like without having to watch for cars. Ginger was also able to run around the place off leash, cavorting with about 4 other dogs who were up there. By the time Peter hauled our stuff up, I had the kids changed, the cousins were there and they all played outside in the snow in the dark for an hour. An hour! In the dark. I love kids.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Checking the Cookies

Tomorrow we are leaving for a weekend trip to Odell lake, which means that today I am frantically cooking and packing things up. Mr. T in this picture is checking the cookie dough to make sure it's OK before I bake it. Why he had to put an oven mitt on to do so, I have no idea.

In other news, Mr. T went to his second swim lesson today and I feel it's my duty at this point to issue a PSA to all the parents out there with younger children.  DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR CHILD IS 4 TO START SWIM LESSONS. Please, for the love of god, get them into the water on a regular basis sooner than that. Otherwise you end up with a 4 1/2 year old that you have to coax into water that is up to his waist while he shakes, cries and clings to you. It's not pretty folks, not pretty at all. The one good thing is that this class, through some stroke of luck, has 2 FANTASTIC teachers and only 5 kids. This means that one of the teachers was able to break off and spend the first 1/2 of the class getting Mr. T into the water. After that, and a hefty bribe from your truly (lunch after class if he participated), he got in the water and by the end was kicking his feet, blowing bubbles and even jumping off the wall into waist deep water. Whew. I spent most of the class with my face buried in a magazine, thinking that if he made eye contact with me it would give him an easier route out of the water, but I peeked a lot and was so proud of him at the end. He really was super brave and overcame a good deal of fear to participate. Now we'll see how does twice a week for the next 6 weeks. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Drying off Game

So, remember a few weeks back where Miss E and I were having a colossal power struggle over who was going to dry her off after bath? Well, that is over and she now dries herself off most nights. But, we now have a game that goes with it. Here's how it goes:

Miss E is in the bath, I am in the living room (or nearby) reading to Mr. T. "Miss E" I call out,  "time to get out of the tub".

It gets very quiet in the bathroom and the door mysteriously swings shut. I continue to read to Mr. T. While we are reading, Miss E streaks by to her room when she thinks I'm not looking. I pretend not to see her.

"Miss E" I call out "I really need you to get out of the bath tub now". Then I keep reading. Silence from her.

A few minutes later, I am pretending to be frustrated "Miss E, it's time to get out". She calls from her room "Mommy come into the bathroom". I respond with fake exasperation "Miss E, I just need you to get out so we can read".

Then she pleads "Please just come in for a minute?"

"OK" I say. Then I go into the bathroom and pretend to be shocked she isn't there and call out "where are you? Are you hiding?"

Giggles now from her room. "Come into my room"

So I open her door and this is what I am greeted with, a dried off, dressed girl with brushed teeth and hair.

"Miss E" I exclaim "you tricked me again! I can't believe how fast you did all that"

She madly giggles.

I don't know if she knows that I can see her getting out or not but I think it's pretty much the cutest thing ever and she is so proud of herself when I come in and she's all done with her night stuff. It makes me smile every time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Recycling Truck

Even since Miss E was a baby, our recycling truck has come at 7:30 every Tuesday morning. This is usually right in the middle of breakfast and the kids always, every week, stop eating, run to the window and watch the truck pick up our recycling. Until about a month ago, we had the same driver for years. He saw me stand there and hold a baby Miss E up to see the truck, then she could do it on her own, then I was standing next to her holding an infant, and then he could do it on his own. The driver would wave to them, toot the horn of the truck and smile. It's people like this that just make the world a sunnier place. He was always cheerful, and never forgot to look for the kids. As they got older and could stand by themselves he would gesture to me about how big they were getting, and still, every week, the kids were thrilled that he would wave and toot the horn for him.

Only one time, in over 5 years, have I ever spoken to him. About 3 years ago,  I happened to be out getting the paper as he drove up and we chatted for a few minutes. He was sweet, kind, obviously loved kids and told me how happy he was that they were there to see him every Tuesday morning. I thanked him for taking the time to wave to them, wished him a good day and headed back inside. As the kids have gotten older, I have stopped running to the window with them since they don't need help anymore. A few months ago I noticed that we now have a new driver. He doesn't honk and wave as much. I feel kind of bad that I never even learned the last guys name. He watched my kids grow from babies to kids and did a kindness for them every week, but I never learned his name or really thanked him other than that one time. As bad as I feel about that, it reminds me to be kind whenever possible because you never know how much a kindness is appreciated.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shelving Books

One of my volunteer jobs at Miss E's school is to shelve books at the library. I only go once a month and spend an hour or so shelving books that the kids turned in the day before. I love this job for many reasons - it's quiet is the main one. I also love looking at all the amazing children's books and making the shelves tidy again for the kids. This morning I had to go to work so I brought Miss E to school early to help me shelve before school. She is quite a helper.

One other thing fantastic is that the library is directly across the hall from Miss E's classroom, so I get to keep an eye and ear on what is going on in there (this also could be called spying if you are picky like that), and one of the kindergarten reading groups (not Miss E's) meets in the library so I get to hear how they approach reading groups. More spying I guess,  but after being so much a part of her preschool it feels weird to not be in touch with her day to day school routines. I'll take what I can get so spying it is.

Speaking of reading groups, Miss E FINALLY got moved to a higher group. She bombed her placement test at the beginning of school and was put in a low reading group. Since all 4 kindergarten classes are shuffled into reading groups, they didn't move her until they moved everyone after Christmas break, and we are all so happy that she is in a more challenging group. On a side note, I am also very glad she is not in the reading group I listen in on in the library. The way that lady talks to the kids makes me cringe. Like they are 2. It was seriously painful for me to listen to and I can only imagine how Miss E, who didn't like being talked to like a 2 year old WHEN she was 2, would react to that. Yikes. Not a good match to say the least.

*Our family is currently reading:
Sarah - Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
Miss E - Gregor the Overlander (I read to her) and she is reading to us the Elephant and Piggy books by Mo Willems. I think these are the absolute best beginning reading books out there.
Mr. T - Book 2 of the Dragon Slayers Academy series (chapter); various fire truck non-fiction books.
Peter - between books.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Haircut

Miss E's hair. Well, remember about a week ago she wanted to cut her hair short? Since then, I have been asking her lots of questions trying to figure out exactly what she has in mind. And not getting much information. That girl is a tough read. She does not volunteer information readily, in fact, she makes you work for every single bit of it. It's like she already works for the CIA or something.

Today, being Sunday of Christmas break, I took her to get her hair cut so it could be fresh and new for school. At this point all she had told me is that she wants it above her ears. With straight hair, that's a tough cut to pull off without going to a boyish style, so I suggested that she go to right below her ears, explaining that it will keep her ears warmer. She agreed, we got her hair cut, and I could tell she wasn't really happy with it. We left the place with me assuring her that if she tried it for a few weeks and still didn't like it we'd get it re-cut.

So. We get home and I think about it some more while I'm cooking dinner and then all of the sudden, everything clicks. We're obsessed with Annie, she asked for short hair last week, she mused over Christmas that she wished she had curly hair... AHA! The light bulb goes on over my head. "Miss E" I ask "were you thinking you wanted your hair to look like Annie's?" She looked at me and said "Not red, but short and curly". Umm.. OK, do you think you could have said something about that during one of the 200 times I tried to figure out what you wanted your hair to look like? I didn't really say that of course but I did explain that her hair was straight and we could not in fact make it curly. And that was it. She was fine, and loves her new pixie look, as do I. Plus it's so easy to brush! No more tears, whining or crying over hair fixing or brushing!

Although this all ended up OK, I am seeing the next 12 years ahead of me filled with 4 haircuts a year. That's about 48 haircuts before she leaves for college. Can some of them be easier than this? Please?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day

We rung in the New Year with pumpkin pancakes as a family, and making resolutions - which somehow turned into us making resolutions for each other. I think I may not have explained the whole thing very well to the kids. Anyway, the kids resolutions for me are to get up at 7 (no more coaxing me out of bed at 7:15) and to get better at doing taxes (that one is courtesy of Mr. T). I agreed to both those, suggested the kids resolve to use words more when they are angry - as all mothers probably have suggested since the beginning of siblings, well, actually, cave kids were probably allowed to just whack each other with sticks but I try to discourage it. They both resolved to try and keep their rooms cleaner (hooray!!!!!). That being said, we'll see how it goes.

Later in the day I took Mr. T to the bouldering gym that Miss E went to yesterday. We met some friends there and he climbed a little bit. He wouldn't go all the way to the top but he tried it a few times. I have to say though, that place looked FUN. Next time I am paying the money and climbing myself with the kids, except the adult areas look hard. I hope they will let me climb in the kids area for a bit. Miss E is almost ready to move out into the adult area (which has higher walls than the kids area so I'm not sure how I feel about that. Even the kids area has walls that are high enough that is would be a big fall from the top. The top of the adult climbing area is about 2 stories high). I'll take Mr. T back again soon and see if he'll go to the top of the kids climb.

For dinner, I met some friends for Sushi and then came home to watch a movie with Peter. All in all, it as a lovely way to start the new year. Family, kids, friends.