Monday, February 28, 2011

Today for my dear one

18 years ago, I was ending my freshman year in college and in the last days of finals week was arranging with 5 other girls to rent a house for next year. At the last moment two of them backed out, so with one day left my friends and I desperately searched for two replacement roommates. One of my friends knew two guys who needed a place to live. Boys? We asked, do we really want to live with boys? Well we were desperate. One of them was a wild green haired boy with a nose ring who seldom made it to class, spent a lot of time riding his bike and seemed to always show up at the dorm when we were drinking. Sure we figured. Why not?

Well the summer came and we all went our separate ways. Come fall of the next year, we all moved back to Eugene and into our house together. We spent the first few months of the school year having a grand time, partying and studying (well, I did) and being young. That green haired boy and I spent a lot of time sitting around together. We listened to music and walked to campus. We argued over who had to clean up the dishes. He didn't know how to cook at all, so when my mom came to visit she taught him a few things - like how to make minute rice. She saw right through all his wild exterior and declared him a "nice boy".  We both dated other people. Until one of our other housemates clued me in that he loved me. And I started looking at him differently. And then, 17 years ago on this day, that green haired boy kissed me and our relationship changed forever. 

Oh, 17 years is a long time and we have had our ups and downs. We still do (as can be noted by how many times on this blog I reference his grumpiness) but I still see that young green haired boy in him and I hope he still sees the sweet 19 year old girl in me.

In honor of my love today and to provide some balance to all the grumpiness I complain of, here are a few of the many things I love about him:

He gets our kids. He is the only other person in the world who gets them like I do.

He has all kinds of special rituals that he does with the kids like a special “back-scratching” game with Miss E, or letting them get the super-carts at the grocery store.

He tries to fix everything for me (uh..this one could be good or bad, let's just say it's good)

He’s always here and never even threatened to be anywhere else, even when things were really bad.

He is strong.

He is always trying to grow and better himself.

He does not try to change me.

He is a super-involved, hands-on, super-duper daddy.

He’s a firefighter but never tries to play the hero card to make him better than anyone else.

He works hard for our family.

He never complains or says anything about how much money I spend even when he has ample grounds to do so.

He wants me to have more in my life. To not "just be a mom" and pushes me to not get too complacent in that role with the full awareness that it won't last forever. 

And so much more. 17 years is a long time and I am grateful for every one of them. Well, maybe not that one about 3 years ago but every OTHER one. : )

Side note: Why, you might ask, is your daily picture of you and Mr. T and not of you and the lovely Peter? Well my friends he is at work. And aside from seeing his dark shape get out of bed at 5:30 this morning, I have not seen him today. Kind of like on our wedding anniversary. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sometimes the littlest gets to eat cake

Today was a lovely day. A truly lovely day. Peter came home from work with Starbucks coffee's in tow (his idea - any day he comes home on a Sunday or holiday morning he brings us coffee) and then after a nice morning together, I headed out. Alone. To go shopping. With money. Cue the angel choir now, I was a happy happy girl. I know that is shallow and I have WAY toned down my shopping habits of past. Now more often than not (or all the time) money needs to be spent on bills or shoes for the kids or swim lessons for the kids or groceries or getting the oil changed or the 8 million things at school that require an extra 10 or 30 bucks. But a few times a year, or once a year, I choose to go out and buy something for myself and that makes me very happy.

Back to Mr. T.... well this morning, my mom came by to take Miss E out to ice cream for finishing her ear infection medicine and then this afternoon Peter took her to a friends house for swimming and to go out to dinner. Mr. T got to stay home all day. Isn't it awesome being the youngest?

Fortunately for him, his kind, benevolent and wonderful Mama took pity on him and told him that he could have anything he wanted for dinner. He picked chicken noodle soup so we went to the store, got all the stuff and I let him pick out salami and cantaloupe and pirate's booty and gatorade and then we walked by the dessert counter and added a slice of raspberry cheesecake and a slice of chocolate raspberry cake for us to split for dessert. Mama has PMS and is eating every carb in sight - what can I say? Anyway....Mr. T was a happy boy.

(although in true form - he didn't like the chicken noodle soup or the raspberry cheesecake but he was happy none-the-less)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What gives....

Alternately titled "This may be the most embarrasing picture I ever post in the internet. EVER." Umm...if you are my husband please avert your eyes - I promise you are not coming home to this tomorrow.

I have been asked a few times how I do the 48 thing so often and keep it all together. Well, I don't. Keep it all together I mean. This is what my living rooms looks like the 2nd afternoon of a 48 - especially if it's over a weekend. Toys, piles of laundry (folded and unfolded), coats, shoes and a few dog toys. Yep, classy. We are ready to be filmed for an episode of hoarders. It will all be cleaned up by tomorrow when Peter gets home, floor will be vacuumed, laundry will be folded, toys will be put away. But while I am the only parent here, this is what has to give. Here's what we DID do today:

We had lemon cornmeal cake and eggs for breakfast.

I took two kids through Costco on a Saturday with nary a whine, complaint, warning or beg to buy something. (Is there an award for that? Because if not there should be)

I kept my cool when Miss E threw a toy for Ginger in the house and sent a glass flying and shattering all over the floor in the process

I ran on the treadmill and watched an episode of Long Way Round while I did that.

We went out to dinner at the kid's favorite restaurant.

I played about 30 games of Zingo Bingo.

We read some books.

I took several "tours" of the forts Mr. T built in his room.

And tonight, after the kids go to bed I will fold the laundry, wash the dishes and clean the floor. Tomorrow it will be good as new.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day off - and the start of another 48

Miss E had a day off from school today (report card prep). It's so rare that I have her alone in the mornings anymore. She's always in school when Mr. T is and while I have a lot of one-on-one time with him, I don't get very much with her anymore. So I asked her what she wanted to do together this morning and she said go to the coffee shop and get her some new shoes (that's my girl -coffee and shoe shopping). So that's what we did. It was freezing out so we headed to the mall and just enjoyed our time chatting and shopping. I found a few things for myself, she looked at shoes but didn't find the "perfect" pair. We got her sized though and found some on-line she liked this afternoon.

In honor of our special day, I even let her have an entire blueberry muffin from Starbucks. It hurt a little inside to watch her eat it (all those calories! all that trans-fat!) but she was so happy that I let it go. The lady at starbucks even put her name on her water cup and they called it when it was ready. She felt like such a big girl picking up her own drink. It's the little things you know.

Ahh...this girl brings me joy. She keeps me on my toes and she brings me such great happiness. More than any other person in the family she has made me a better person. That sounds strange but it is true. It is she who made me a mother, and she who mainly keeps me on my toes trying to improve my mothering every day.  I would not be who I was today if it weren't for her and my life would certainly be less colorful.

Peter called tonight and has a shift for tomorrow so we are on another 48. I'm so glad these have gotten so much easier. So much so that I'm only feeling happy he has the extra shift and not stressed about how I'm going to handle things at home.

Tonight is movie night -Marmaduke - which may be the worst movie ever made. I got it because we watched How to Train Your Dragon last week which Mr. T deemed "too scary". I figured Marmaduke wouldn't be scary but holy talking animals, lips moving, fart jokes and inappropriate things for a (my) 4 and 6 year old. Next time I will vet the movie more intensively.

I also made these chicken fingers for dinner along with the oven fries she has with them. They were all delicious but what a lot of work for chicken strips and fries. I'm not sure it was worth it but they were good.

Wow, this got really wordy. I guess that's what happens when I am home alone for too long- it's either this or way too many facebook posts. : )

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Snow" Day

Well, there wasn't much snow but school was cancelled, Peter was home, I didn't go into work and there was hot chocolate so that pretty much qualifies as a snow day. This morning we had maybe an inch of snow and Peter took the kids to the park to play in it. I stayed home to clean up, paint the final batch of trim in Miss E's room and relax. One of the things about our fire service schedule is I feel less guilty skipping stuff like that. There have been many snow days where I was the only one home to play with the kids so letting Peter take them to the park by himself doesn't feel like I'm missing out on a big family event. Plus, I knew there was only a tiny bit of snow so it wouldn't last long. For the rest of the day, I put furniture back in Miss E's room and Peter cleaned out Mr. T's room. Miss E is SO EXCITED about her room being painted and re-arranged. I love to see her so happy and I think it looks pretty good if I do say so myself. I'll have to try and get a good picture of it.

This morning I headed to the shed for a run on the treadmill while Peter played about 30 games of Zingo Bingo with the kids. Then in the afternoon, I got out my backpacking backpack to test it out for Spain and see if it will work. As soon as Peter said I needed weight in it to adjust the straps right, Miss E offered to climb in. She fit quite nicely and I carried her around the house for awhile in it. Good training. : )

I am ridiculously excited about Spain. Aside from having several dreams about being in a plane crash already (did I mention I am terrified of flying?) I am so excited to go on an adventure like this. Right now my sister and I are finalizing train reservations, finding hotels in Madrid and Barcelona and I am trying to figure out what to wear. Really, what do you wear in Madrid in May? Anyone? Most likely I'll need clothes for 2 art museums and a tapas/pub crawl.

Also, I'm getting a new camera lens and would love suggestions from other photographers about what to buy. I mostly take pictures of people - especially small people that move around a lot - and I have no idea what to get.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One big sigh....

I wake up to Mr. T coming in and telling me to get up. “How about a ‘good morning’ babe?” I reply. As I get up I notice Miss E’s face – scowl. My heart sinks a little. It’s going to be one of those mornings.

I put a smile on my face and say "Alright guys, what do you want for breakfast? Oatmeal, eggs or toast with peanut butter?"

"I want yogurt." Miss E replies

"Well sweetie we are out of yogurt, we ate the rest of it yesterday. So do you want eggs or oatmeal or toast with peanut butter?"

"I want yogurt". She says again.

"I know babe, I want you to have yogurt too, but we don’t have any. What of the other things do you want?" This is me keeping my cool and still talking in a neutral tone.

"Then I’m not having breakfast" she says. And with that, the gauntlet is thrown.

I respond with a “well, that is not a choice this morning”

And I get another “I’m not going to eat anything.”

Oh Miss E, I think, you know me so well. You know that any other meal I would just say “fine.” If you want to skip lunch or dinner, well so be it. But you know breakfast is not optional, especially on a Wednesday when you have a 6 hour school day ahead of you. I can’t send you to school with no breakfast. 

At the same time, I don’t want to offer her cereal or something else she would probably eat because those are not school morning breakfasts. The kids know they have to have some protein before school – period. No exceptions and if I make an exception this time she will know there is wiggle room here and I will never hear the end of it. 

I sigh, tell her that it is unacceptable and that she should head to her room and shut the door until she makes a different choice.

This is answered with a “I won’t go to my room. I’m not going to eat breakfast and I won’t go to my room.”

Inwardly I sigh again. Here we go. I really don’t want to do this this morning, I hate doing it at all but here we are. Line in the sand drawn. I know from experience that I need to find a side position if I am going to get out of this one. She will never eat what I have offered her (give in) and I won’t let her go to school without breakfast nor is she skipping school. I stop offering her the toast (her most likely choice) and continue offering the eggs and oatmeal knowing she will say no.

After about 10 minutes of back and forth, she heads to her room and gets dressed. I fix breakfast for Mr. T and eat my own.

After I’m done and she comes out, I offer her the toast. Since it’s been a reserved option we haven't been battling over it so therefore it becomes an acceptable choice for her. She says yes but ONLY if it has peanut butter and honey on it. Done.

About 10 minutes into her eating this, Peter gets home from work. I don’t tell him about the breakfast battle. (Uhh.. side note here.. him getting off shift and coming home right in the middle of the morning chaos routine is not the best plan.)

Then it’s on to her ear infection medicine. She doesn’t want to take it, it tastes bad. I agree, it does taste bad but tell her she has to take it. I explain the whole thing about having to start over and how she only has three days left. I offer her m&m’s and chocolate milk to wash the taste out of her mouth. I offer a trip to the toy store or book store after she has finished the whole course of antibiotics and nothing entices her.

Peter, who has less patience for this kind of thing than I do, starts snapping at me. “We should just make her take it and not give into this” Like I am somehow making it OK for her not to take it. I want to snap back “and how EXACTLY should we force a 6 year old to take her medicine?” but I don’t. I take a deep breath and turn away.  This is our hugest parenting difference and the cause of most of the fights in our house. He has less patience for the "talk through the problem" approach and I don't see the practicality of any other way. I mean really, how are we supposed to force a 6 year old to take her medicine? Hold her down and pour it down her throat?

She left for school not having taken her medicine.  I have now argued with my daughter and my husband this morning. It’s 9:30 and I leave for the dentist to get a cavity filled.

Sigh. Sigh and one more sigh. 

On another note, Peter and Mr. T took a field trip today with his preschool class to a local Nature area. Mr. T was SO EXCITED about this trip. It was freezing out but they saw animal tracks, looked at some birds and and saw this gooey pink covered pond. Mr. T always has a smile in his heart and somedays, not always by a long shot, but some days it seems like he is the only one in the family who does. I really really love and value that about him. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Family Dinner minus One or FireLife dinner

Dinner time without Daddy. This has been one of the most unobviously difficult parts of being married to a firefighter. Every third night dinner is just me and the kids. I have struggled with this time a lot. It's important to me that we eat dinner at the table (as opposed to the bar) together as often as we can. Also that I am not fixing throw-together meals for them just because Peter isn't here. I will admit that they eat quesadillas and mac and cheese more than they should but I at least always try to make it home made mac and cheese. It's just hard to muster up the energy to cook something that neither of these guys will eat since they are both kind of picky. But Peter's gone every third night. That is a lot of nights to be sitting at the bar eating boxed mac and cheese. This year it's something I have really be working on. Fortunantly, the kids are older and we can have real conversations around the dinner table. That has been a nice improvement.

I am constantly working on "normalizing" their schedule. Since we are fire people, our week falls into "Days Daddy is home" and "Days that Daddy works". The rest of the world falls into Monday-Sunday schedule. This year I am realizing more and more that the kids are living in the Monday-Sunday world and trying to fit them into the fire schedule brings them as much a sense of chaos as it used to bring me. It's hard to not have a Monday routine or know that I am working every Tuesday or Thursday each week and god forbid if I want to take a yoga class that meets every Wednesday night. These things are just not possible and it has taken me a long long time to come to terms with that and I'm still working on it. But the kids need a regular schedule so I am making that happen. Dinner at the table every night whether or not Daddy is there. Friday night is movie night. Thursdays are homework days. A shift has happened and it's time that we work in their schedule rather than them trying to adjust to a fire schedule.

On a completely unrelated topic:

 Yesterday, during our grumpy time at an incredibly busy play place, the kids were talking about how crowded it was inside there. Miss E said to me "when I was inside there a black girl pushed me". At the time, I didn't say anything to her about her choice of phrasing. As I have mentioned before, we haven't directly talked to the kids about the politics surrounding race. They think skin color is something like hair color or eye color, we are all slightly different, no one looks the same. And I have left it at that. Kids are by nature color-blind and the longer we can keep them from the grown up issues surrounding race the better, we think. However, I also know that we live in Portland and she does have to be careful about what she says.

So, tonight at dinner we had "Question night". This is something I do about once a month while Peter is working. The kids ask me any question about anything they want to. Of course, they can do this all the time, but it seems more fun to have a special event surrounding it. I brought up what she said yesterday and tried to explain then when you are only using skin color to identify someone i.e., "a black girl" that might be offensive to some people, that is better to say something like "a girl with black hair". It came out very convoluted and I had a hard time explaining why that was offensive and finally I just reminded them of our rule that they can ask me anything about anyone we see as long as we wait until they can't hear us since we don't want to hurt feelings.

After all this, she looks at me and says "but Mommy, she was wearing black clothes. Both her pants and top were all black and she pushed me."


Moral of the story? Ask questions first.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Miss E's room - Middle

Well, 3 days later this is how far I've gotten on her room. I love how it's turning out. She is so excited because blue is her favorite color right now and she loves the "grass" on the bottom. Now I just have to paint the moulding and the closet and we're done!

We erred on the side of too much unscheduled time this weekend and that, coupled with the fact that Miss E hasn't had her own space, is not treating us well. We met some friends this morning at PlayDatePDX and Miss E was in a grumpy, bad mood. And that my friends, is never a good thing. That girl has the ability to be so difficult sometimes. She also has the capacity to be wonderful other times. I would say that 95% of the time she is very mature for 6, bright, empathetic, easy to take places and kind.

And then there's the other 5% of the time and whoa baby. When that time comes around, be prepared for rude, scowling, slightly mean with an inability to recover from the slightest thing. The more you get mad about it though, the worse it gets. So then we end up having a long cooling off period and then we talk about manners and expectations and getting over things and not being grumpy while playing with our friends and tone of's a long and exhausting process. The one thing I've realized through the years of dealing with this though, is that Miss E is who she is and she is lovely. We all have negative sides to our personalities and as one of my dear friends says "we all come in our own packages". I can't control her or how she acts. I can control the environment, my reactions and try and anticipate but other than that, I can't force her to act a certain way. Remember how I've said a few times that this is my year of letting go with Miss E? Well, this is one of those things. I am letting go of my responsibility for her behavior. She is six. She knows how people react to certain things and she is perfectly capable of making choices. Sometimes I don't like those choices and have to issue consequences, but I accept her for who she is. I'm no longer trying to change her. Sometimes she can be difficult. Most of the time she is wonderful and I have faith that someday she will make choices about behavior and mood that will make it easier.

And Peter came home today!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Harriet the Spy +1

Mr. T was allowed to play Harriet the Spy with Miss E this morning. Actually, it was this afternoon and they were still both in their pajamas. Because it's Sunday around here.

Will you look at how icky the backyard is? This is one the things that has always kind of killed me about our house. In the summer, the backyard is a haven - the biggest selling point we have. It's huge, the lawn is lovely, the forest paths are lovely and there is shade during the hot part of the afternoon. In the winter? None of us really wants to go out there. It's muddy, there is tree debris everywhere and it kind of becomes a place to pile things (say...extra brewing equipment on the front steps of the shed just for example...). It's one of the things I always intend to work on - making the yard more year-around but my green thumb hasn't grown in yet. Maybe this year.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Special chair

With Miss E's room being painted, we had to move a bunch of her furniture out. I put her desk behind the dining room table, thinking it would be out of the way and we wouldn't need that chair since Peter is out of town this weekend. Well. I came out of Miss E's room this morning after putting the second coat of blue on to find this scene.  Apparently her desk is now the hottest seat in the house.

Miss E is working on a Mother's day book for me. She is a bit distressed that I will be in Spain for Mother's Day so she made me an early present. The finished book is maybe the cutest thing I have ever seen. The title page, in kindergarten spelling, has a picture of the globe and says that I am the "best mother in the whole wide world." Most of the pages say I love you. One has a picture of me with a mean face and a word bubble of me saying "Go to your room" and then a picture of Miss E yelling "no" back to me. The caption on that page is "you love us even when you are mad". Oh my heart. I am definitely taking the book to Spain with me.

Since it was gorgeous out today, I suggested to the kids that we walk (about a mile) to the grocery store to return a movie and then to Starbucks to have hot chocolate. Mr. T was very nervous, he has been hesitant to walk long distances, I think because he's the youngest and is worried we will just all run on ahead of him. I told him I would walk slow and hold his hand and he finally agreed. And then we had the nicest walk through our neighborhood, nobody complained about walking, I didn't have to carry anyone and we just chatted about the houses we passed and what we thought Daddy was doing and everything in between. Once we got home it was still so nice out that the kids wanted to play out in our front garden and I spent about an hour our there with them picking up pinecones (a never never never ending task) and other tree debris from our driveway and front yard. It felt a little like spring.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Miss E's Room - Beginning

Peter left today and I started painting Miss E's room. The last time this was done was before she was born and we painted it a beutiful, calm yellowy-gold color. Now she is 6 and we are doing a little girl room for her. We aren't changing bedding or furniture or anything else major- just paint. I let her pick the color but, mindful that I didn't want anything too awful (no bright cotton candy pink please!), we went to a local paint store and looked at the kids collection of Devine Paint (it's the Banana's and Beans one). These colors are all designed not to be too offensive but still fun. She picked out blue for the top, green for the bottom and we are going to get flower decals to put on the walls. Her closet, which is completely open, is going to be a dark raspberry color. I'm really excited, I think it's going to be really pretty and girly but not so much so that when she is 9 she's going to hate it.

I haven't ever painted a 2-tone wall before so I'm a little nervous about getting the ling between the "grass" and "sky" right. Tonight though, I just put on the first coat of the blue. It looks really good. The picture comes through more grey than it actually is. Miss E says it looks like an ocean in her room. I love that she is so excited about this. I also love that she is a super girly-girl these days but had no hesitations about picking blue for her room. It will look feminine and pretty but the fact that she didn't immediately feel like it had to be pink made me happy. Now I just can't wait to see it done! Oh wait... I'm the one that has to do it. Dang.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Snack Choice

(I ate them both)

I'm afraid as we head further into tax season, I am going to end up with more daily pictures that involve my desk. Things are shaping up to get really busy, really soon.

In the meantime, Peter is leaving for  a four day trip to Seattle tomorrow and I am gearing up to paint Miss E's room so things will be busy in a very non-work way for a few days.

Since this is short, I am going to put up a quote I have been thinking about a lot lately. Yes, I know this is by some sort of Christian evangelical but nobody get excited. OK?

"Are you prosperous in the world? Have death, sickness, disappointment, poverty and family troubles passed over your door up to this time and not come in? Are you secretly saying to yourself 'Nothing can hurt me much. I shall die quietly in my bed and see no sorrow.' Take care.

"You are not yet in harbor. A sudden storm of unexpected trouble may make you change your note. Set not your affections on things below. Hold them with a very loose hand and be ready to surrender them at a moment's notice. Use your prosperity well while you have it; but lean not all your weight on it, lest it break suddenly and pierce your hand."

                          -J.C. Ryle

Now, we are by no means rich but we are fortunate in many other ways and we are having a good year. Which is a bit ironic because one of the things I have been working on the most is holding on with a loose hand so to speak. Being aware anytime I feel feelings of greed or selfishness or want/need of possessions.  It's hard to explain, I have typed about 5 different paragraphs trying to explain it but I can't seem to get it down right. Let's do a few quick (hypothetical) examples:

1) I'm out to dinner with a friend, she orders a slightly more expensive thing than I do. Instead of simply offering to cut the bill in half, I haggle away to save $4.

2) I hold onto a piece of furniture that was expensive to start with but I don't like it and it doesn't fit in our house at all.

Letting go. It makes me feel better. I've also been trying to be more generous and kind with my family and with strangers. And trying to help out with those I love more and hopefully someday that will turn into helping out those I don't know as well.

This is all super hard to explain and I don't feel like it's coming out right but I want to teach my kids that life is a flow. Don't get too carried away by good fortune or bad. I see that we are having a (mostly) fortunate year but that many people we know or care about are not. In the last few months, people we know were diagnosed with cancer, a woman I work with died very suddenly, and families we know are affected by grave illnesses and deaths. It could be us, it could be anyone. I just hope if it is us, that we handle it with the same grace that we handle a year of fortune.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Here is how every school morning begins:

7:05 (Miss E) Mommy, it's time to get up.
(me) Just 5 more minutes.....

It was actually one of my new years resolutions to get up at 7 without the kids dragging me out of bed but it's been a bit harder than I thought. Really, it's been a bit harder than it should be. 7 is not that early, there is no reason I shouldn't be hopping out of bed by then. But, usually the kids end up getting me up.

7:10 (me) Alright guys, what do you want for breakfast? Oatmeal, yogurt, toast with peanut butter or eggs?

By 7:15 I am starting their requested food and usually by 7:30 I am looking at those two faces you see above eating their breakfast.

After that Miss E does her morning chart (a check off list of before school tasks) and I start reminding Mr. T of all his duties. I used to have charts for both of them before I realized that Mr. T wasn't ready for it and got to confused looking at a big list of stuff to do. He works better if I tell him each step. Miss E does NOT like being told what to do and much prefers her chart and no reminders. Sometimes it's so amazing to me what different little people they are. They are each such individuals despite being from the same parents, close in age and raised in the same home and school environment.

By 8:15 if they are done getting ready, shoes and coats are by the door they get to watch TV. I started this as an incentive to them to get ready early. This way they end their morning at home sitting together watching Dinosaur Train instead of me cajoling them about every little thing they need to do. We started out not watching TV, but I quickly realized that the 15-20 minutes of free time they had before it was time to go was causing up problems. That is just long enough to get started in a game or activity but then they would get abruptly interrupted when it's time to go. We were having lots of tears and arguments about getting out the door on time so I just gave into the TV. 15 minutes of TV is better than leaving for school in tears.

A picture note: Please don't mind the bare walls behind. We still haven't put up art or curtains from my last painting project. The way we do chores around here it may be a few more months before they go back up. Also, apparently in the winter you will be seeing a ton of pictures of my kids sitting at the bar. Truthfully, that is where they eat (other than dinner), do art projects, draw, or do homework during the winter months. Oh, I can't wait for warm spring. Make that dry warm spring.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Harriet the Spy

Remember Harriet the Spy? Well Miss E has been listening to that book on CD during rest time for the last few weeks and this week we got the movie for her to watch. She now carries a notebook everywhere and writes down whatever is going on. It's all written in her own version of phonetic spelling but I can decipher most of it. So far she's filled over half the notebook, writing every line, front and back of each page. Most of it goes something like this (written in my own english since I can't quite recreate hers):

"Ginger is rolling on Mr. T's legos. Mr. T is trying to get her to stop."

"I wore my blue dress today."

(this is my favorite - she was in ((rightful)) trouble and in her room for something or other) "Daddy is mad at me. No one invited me to dinner. I told them I wasn't hungry but I'm starving. Well, Mommy came in and invited me to dinner. "

Oh Miss E. How I love your imagination. Today, even though it was cold and yucky and our back yard is an unbelievable mud pit right now, she wanted to put on her boots and go tromp around out there alone with her notebook.

I have no idea why this picture is so blurry, I think the camera battery was in the process of dying when I took this. ALso, do you see our lawn? That is what lawn under evergreen trees looks like all winter long. Muddy muddy with a bit of moss thrown in. We have redone the lawn 4 times in the 6 years we have owned this house - 3 times with seed and once with sod. I am now officially giving up and hoping it will come back in the spring.

Editor's Note: I found out later that she was spying on the neighbors outside. She was going to look over fences and write down what she saw - JUST LIKE HARRIET. We may need to have a talk about privacy and boundaries : )

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine's day. Sigh. I can't figure out how to write this post without coming off as a) snarky; b) needy; or c) super whiney. I'm betting it's going to come off as whiney but let's just agree that I know that from the beginning. OK?

Suffice it to say, the kids had a great time today and Peter and I celebrated Valentine's Day in the same manner that we will when we are 80.  I like Valentine's Day (like -not love, I don't expect huge things -it's still a minor holiday) almost as much as any other holiday and Peter couldn't care less - just like any other holiday. It's not necessarily a good mix.

Side note: The year Mr. T was born 3 days after Peter's birthday and Father's day fell on the same day, it worked out very well for me that Peter doesn't care about holidays. No way at 9 months pregnant was I able to muster a birthday and Father's Day celebration. And then I had his baby so I guess that counts as a late gift right?

Anyhoo...... I have been trying to tone down holidays around here (I know - opposite of what I first said right?), especially in terms of gift giving. So this year, we didn't get the kids any candy figuring (correctly) that they would come home from school with a bunch of it and instead of presents we surprised them with a trip to the book store and told them they could each pick out a book. They could not have been happier and although we did buy them something, it felt less difficult than us getting the presents ahead of time. Does that make sense?

Side note 2: The sweetest Valentine's presents of all were the kiddos. Mr. T came into my room at 6 this morning and whispered "I just want to say Happy Valentine's and give you a kiss" then he gave me a kiss and tip-toed back to his room. Heart melt right there. Then this morning, Miss E gave me a note she had written that said "Love is....mommy and daddy and theo and gegr (ginger) and samey (sammy) and reney (reenie)" I love her. And those two things right there made my day more than anything else could have. So please excuse the whining about not getting any chocolates.

Side note 3: Valentine's Day is the first holiday when I knew Peter was interested in me as more than a friend. We lived together (long story.....) but weren't dating yet and he bought me a box of candy hearts and put it in my bedroom. I cut out the little heart on the back where he wrote our names on the "to" and "from" lines and then under it wrote "have a nice afternoon". I still have that little heart. It was the sweetest thing ever and was part of what made me start looking at him as more than a friend.

Side note 4: On a different Valentine's Day, he bought about 20 boxes of the candy hearts, took all the white ones out, since those are the only ones I like, and made a new box of just white ones.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Some Days are Lazy

Sunday after a trip + Peter is working + no plans = kids and I stay in pajama's until noon.

We made raspberry chocolate chip pancakes (well, I made them, the kids ate them) and then I drank coffee and paid bills while the kids played various games. In the one pictured above, Mr. T is pretending to "fall out of bed" and Miss E is catching him. They would do something like this for about 20-30 minutes, until Mr. T fell too roughly or Miss E wouldn't quite catch him right, then the offended person would loudly declare that they weren't playing the game any more and then stomp off. Five minutes later, they would be playing a different game and the cycle would start over again. I think we averaged a 5 minute argument for every 30 minutes of playing.  I'll take it.

In the meantime, I got the bills paid, desk cleaned off, laundry washed and everything prepped for the kids to finish their school Valentine's and make chocolate covered cherries for Valentine's Day tomorrow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mobbed - kid style

Have I mentioned how much I love my niece and nephew? The kids all had so much fun visiting. This morning Honore (my sister) and I had a chance to get out of the house for some coffee and shopping. Since neither of us likes to talk on the phone too much, we haven't really planned the second part of our upcoming trip to Spain yet, so this was our chance. Also, a bit of peace and quiet. We had a lovely morning sipping tea and lattes and eating blueberry and chocolate chip scones. Along the way, we came up with a bold travel plan to see both Madrid and Barcelona in 4 days, and then wandered off to purchase some plants.

Speaking of plants, I realized that I am ready for a house plant again! Whoo hoo! This is a big deal. Kind of. Before I had kids, I had a ton of houseplants and was quite the gardener (if I do say so myself...). Then we had Miss E, and the house plants dwindled to a few. Then Mr. T came along. At that point, I had a baby and a not-quite 2 year old and a husband who was regularly gone for 24 hours, sometimes 48. And that was the end of the house plants. We're actually lucky the pets survived those years. It was pretty rough at times. But then, here I am, 4 years later and lo and behold, I think I'm ready to care for a houseplant. Just one, and an easy one at that, but I purchased it today. A lovely little Jade plant that I picked out while Honore and I were shopping.

Randomly, I will add that I love love love my sister. I could write a whole post on her and our relationship and it's travels through the years but I will just say that I am lucky to have her for my sister for about a million reasons.

So, back to the picture above. Peter (who previous to his night of drinking had worked a 48 which involved one night of not sleeping) got up this morning with Jason to watch the kiddos while Honore and I were gone. Right before we left, while he was resting his tired and slightly hungover self on the couch, the kids, all 4 of them, decided that he needed to be pounced on. I forget what the premise of this was, but this was how I left him - laying on the couch with 4 children (that orange blur in the back is Mr. T) attacking him.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cousin Sweetness

This is Mr. T and his darling cousin playing this afternoon. We are in Eugene today so that Peter and my sister and her husband can go to a brew festival and I am happily watching the kids. I love seeing my niece and nephew so often, they are both bright, funny and sweet kids and I'm so happy to have them. It was shockingly easy to fix them dinner, watch a movie and put all 4 of them to bed - and that is with Mr. T and my niece sleeping in the same bed. Miss E and my nephew had a hard time settling down but by about 9:30 they were all asleep.

I then enjoyed a very quiet evening of reading and resting. I've started Jane Eyre again, I don't know why but I just love that book. It was nice to get some extra sleep, despite the party that started down stairs around midnight and getting up with the kids at 7.  : )

Peter had such a good time as well. My brother in law, Jason, owns a home-brew store and is in the process of opening a brewery so he knows all the Eugene brew people and through the years, Peter has met some as well so they have this nice little community of folks to hang out with. I think if I could drink beer it would be kind of fun.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Making Valentines

We made Valentine's today and can you tell that one of the kiddos was a whole lot more serious than the other about it?

A few notes on the day:

1) I ripped my last contact lens this morning, got new ones, hated them and complained mightily. The eye Dr. told me I had to wait more than 15 minutes before deciding I hated them. After an hour, they were fine.

2) Our house looks like it was hit by a glitter tornado.

3) I was pulled over AGAIN today for driving while talking on my phone. It was a brief call from Peter and the AGAIN is in reference to being pulled over in front of the school for expired tags a few months ago. Apparently if you live in the burbs cops pull you over for crap like this. I avoided getting a ticket this time by artfully dropping that hubs is a firefighter (thank you fire service job perks) and playing a bit of the helpless housewife routine. Mr. T thought it was awesome.

4) My work is hiring and I have looked at over 150 applications in the last few days and have about 150 more to go.

5) I am appalled at the quality of some of these applications.

6) Tomorrow we are headed to Eugene for a brew festival. Since I don't drink beer, I have opted to spend the evening taking care of the kiddos.

7) I think I would maybe like a sister-wife, but only if she can cook and plays trucks.

8) My kids are awesome. Peter has been working a 48, I am a little sick and we have had nothing but a great and easy time.

9) Miss E had a police officer come to class to talk about stranger danger and what he told her and what  I have told her, don't match up (Remember the whole "letting go"thing from yesterday?). This led to an interesting discussion.

10) For the first year ever, I have become the parent who buys candy for the kids to put on their Valentine's. In years past I have hated those parents because who is really happy when their kid comes home from preschool with a bunch of lollypops on Valentine's Day? No one. Now I will be the hated parent. It felt a little like crossing over to the dark side. I really didn't want to do it but Miss E really didn't want to be the only kid who didn't. Family values vs. the importance of fitting in? Anyone? I didn't have the energy to muster a debate on that one today.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Drop Off

Because our elementary school's parking lot is small, they encourage car-line drop off in the mornings. We have not done it thus far since Miss E has preferred to have us walk her to her classroom and at the beginning of the year I definitely felt more comfortable taking her to directly to her classroom. But as the year has gone on, and we all get more comfortable with things, I have been ready for her to try. Last week, she was ready as well. One day, out of the blue, she asked to do drop off. I said OK, and made sure we got there at the right time. The kids aren't allowed into the school until 10 or 15 minutes before first bell so the result is a huge crowd of kids including sometimes pushy 5th and 6th graders. She has no interest in being part of that, so we got there just after they let all the kids in.

I just pulled up and she hopped out. Just like that. It was the strangest thing to see her head into school by herself. Mr. T and I watched her go in the front door and the kindergarten classroom is about 3 doors down the hall as soon as you go in. But there she was, heading in all alone for the first time ever. I feel like this kindergarten year has been a HUGE year of letting go for me. More so than any other year of her life. Preschool didn't even feel like this much letting go. I won't lie, it hasn't always been easy but this, feels a little good. She is growing bigger and more confident and more independent, and that's what is supposed to happen, right?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Dress

Remember yesterday? When I said I let Miss E skip after-care and we went shopping? When I rewarded her for avoiding something she didn't want to do? Yeah, me too.

Anyhoo......this is a dress she picked out. Super cute, no? I think it will make a great Easter dress, not that it's ever a) warm enough to wear a sleeveless spring dress on Easter or b)we have someplace dressy to go on Easter. But if we did and if it's unseasonably warm this year, she is set. Until then, it's a school dress with a long sleeve shirt under it. Really I'll be lucky if it makes it to Easter without getting paint on it.

In other news, Mr. T slept in an extra hour and then spent 30 minutes under the covers GROWLING at us. The kid is crabby when he wakes up late. Or sick. I can't tell which one because of all the growling. Which then dissolved into tears. At this point, Peter and I had no idea what was going on but we fixed his breakfast and told him he could come up when he wanted. When he came up we did our best to avoid direct eye contact. Kind of like if you were very quietly sitting next to a wild animal you didn't want to spook. Or have attack you. Once he had downed 3 eggs with cheese, an apple and toast (it's called dinner kid! You should try it sometime), and Miss E and I left for school and work respectively, he calmed down. Or at least when I called to check in an hour later he and Peter were playing trucks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In which a Kindergarten teacher tells me to toughen up.....

Miss E in the car stretching and shrinking words. No joke. 

Miss E is in half-day Kindergarten 5 days a week. We have the option of sending her to after-care any day we want to as well. This is an awesome kindergarten-only after-care where they each lunch, have recess and work on kindergarten curriculum. So far, we have sent her about 2 days a week in order for her to get used to the longer school day and to have some more social time. This also gives us a bigger break with no kiddos on the days Mr. T is in school. However, over the last few weeks Miss E has been saying she doesn't want to go to after-care, or to school for that matter but mostly to after-care. When I ask her why, all I get is that she is either too tired or she just doesn't want to - neither of which are great excuses in my book. But, I love my girl and she doesn't really HAVE to go to after-care so I have been hemming and hawing and doing things like picking her up early or letting her switch days.

This morning, I was at home while the kids were both at school ( the quiet house) trying to dig out from a mountain of laundry and catch up on all the e-mails and mail that came while I was gone this weekend. When it was almost time for kindergarten to get out I thought about running down to the school and getting Miss E as a special thing so she didn't have to go to aftercare adn she and I could hang out a bit before we had to pick up Mr. T. I got my keys, hopped in the van and drove 3/4 of the way to school before I had the following conversation in my head:

You can't pick her up early, she'll just learn that if she complains she doesn't really have to go (turn van toward home)

But she really doesn't have to go and if I pick her up that would make her happy and she and I could have some time together (turn van back toward school)

You said she had to go this morning - that should mean something (turn van back toward home)

But it would save a little money and I like hanging out with her (turn van back toward school)

You see the ridiculousness of this? I was literally DRIVING AROUND THE BLOCK IN CIRCLES. Finally, annoyed with myself, I went to pick her up. She was thrilled and we went buy some new pajama's which we have been talking about doing for awhile. And it was a lot of fun. When we got home, I e-mailed her teachers, explained the situation and asked if they had noticed anything going on that would clue us in as to WHY she didn't want to go.  Her main teacher e-mailed back right away, says she hasn't noticed anything but that she would check in with Miss E tomorrow.

Then the after-care teacher called. We chatted for a bit about what was going on, why we sent her to aftercare and such. Then in the sweetest, nicest, most supportive way possible, she told me to suck it up. That I needed to toughen up and send her to after-care 2 days a week and make her stay until 3. And despite the fact that I had to bite back my tongue to keep from crying out 'but she's my baby!', she is right. Absolutely right. I do need to toughen up. After-care is the best thing for Miss E. She needs to work on some things and yes, it's probably a bit uncomfortable for her but she has to do it.

It's so strange how parenting shifts at this point. Before about 5, you do your best to make sure your kids aren't uncomfortable, that they always have someone to rely on and to support them and to coach them through situations. Now it's more about pushing them out there to figure things out on their own. That sounds super harsh and OF COURSE we are always there to help her. But I'm not at school all day with her. She has to rely on her teachers and herself to make school a comfortable and rewarding experience for her. There are some things she needs to learn and practice that are really only available at after-care and me letting her push her way out of it by tugging at my heart is not helping her in the long run. It actually shows how much she needs to be there because it IS somewhat uncomfortable.

So, from now on, Monday and Wednesday's are aftercare days- no excuses. (And I did check to make sure she wasn't being picked on or teased which she is not. She seems to like all of them and they all seem to like her so that's not the problem.)

Yes, a kindergarten teacher told me to toughen up today and I was really glad.  (And I only whimpered about making my baby do something she didn't want to a little bit. Promise. Just a tiny bit. )

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Home again, home again

  This is the view from the front window of the beach house I've been at. Today I bid this lovely rock adieu and headed home to my little family. After three days I really start to miss them. I think this trip was a big wake-up call for both Peter and I. The 2 weeks I am in Spain are going to be hard for both of us, and for the kids. When I got home this afternoon (just in time for kick-off I might add...) Mr. T could not get enough of climbing on me, cuddling with me and just generally clinging. Miss E was getting a bit miffed because he was taking all the "mommy-time" so I sat down and ate dinner with just her for a bit. It was so sweet to come home and just sit and watch the superbowl with the kids and Peter. I love watching football because you don't have to really WATCH every second of it uninterrupted. Especially not the superbowl with all the commercials and extraneous crap. It just ended up being the most lovely evening. Peter made pizzas, the kids and I cuddled and made Valentines while the game was on. I have no idea how I am going to be gone for 2 weeks. Or how Peter is going to manage it. We will figure it out though, one way or another.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

While Mom is Away.....

...the kids go rock climbing! This is Miss E on the hardest route in the kids area. She's been working on doing this one but because it starts with an under-hang it's been tough for her to get up. Today while I was sitting on my lazy butt at the beach, Peter took the kids so that Mr. T could show him how he can get over the wall and Miss E could climb climb and climb some more.

I have to say, this picture freaks me out a bit just because she looks so HIGH UP, but having been to this place before, I will assure you that she is not as high as she looks and the ground is a very thick foamy pad. Plus, no kids ever fall here. It's crazy and every time I wonder how that is possible but in all my times of going there no kid has ever fallen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beach House

Yay for the Oregon coast! This is our 3rd (4th?) ladies beach weekend in a row and it truly is the only 2 or 3 days of the year that I do nothing. The house we rent is gorgeous - this picture is the view from the door. The front of the house is on the beach. Right on the beach, with the more beautiful view you could imagine, I'll try and get a pic of it tomorrow. 

The most I did today was attempt to run on the beach. I say "attempt" because it was pretty windy and rainy and the sand was soft so it was more of a slow-motion run but I ran. Other than that, I barely cooked anything, cleaned nothing, and attended to no one's needs but my own. There is no computer and we didn't watch TV. The trip is truly 3 days of quiet. Here's what we DID do - chat, craft (or put pictures in albums in my case), chat some more, listen to music, drink, chat, and stay up late. That's it! Most relaxing weekend of the year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gym Class for Miss E

We finally signed Miss E up for gym class. I was reluctant at first for a few reasons - mainly because THIS gym is Mr. T's place and we put him there with the express idea that he would have something of his own when Miss E started Kindergarten. However, time has progressed and she wanted to start gymnastics on her own. I debated putting her at a different gym but eventually the convenience and cost savings (sibling discount) were enough for me to let her do it. That plus Mr. T really didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seems kind of excited to show Miss E "his" gym.  Let's just say that 2 weeks in, so far so good.

Today I am leaving for the beach - 4 days, 3 nights. It's our mom's group annual trip. This is a good trial run for Peter to get prepared for what it's going to be like while I'm in Spain. Although he is around a lot, he does not regularly take care of the kids for 2 days straight like I do. It's a whole different ball game than stepping in from 9 to 4 while I work. I know it will go well, he is great at planning activities and taking care of stuff while I'm gone and I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend away from it all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mail Police

Today was Mr. T's Chinese New Year celebration at school and my parent teaching day. Right now the Dramatic Play area is this awesome mail station where he loves to play. The tube in the upper left leads from the loft down and the kids can slide letters in toilet paper rolls down it to other kids at the bottom. In the back right, is a conveyor belt that they can run the mail on. All around the room are mail boxes for them to deliver mail to. There are also stamps with real ink that they can stamp on anything and everything. I'm pretty sure Mr. T only left this area to do his 2 required jobs and for the party. Other than that he was Mr. Mail Police (not sure how the police thing got in there but the kids don't seem to notice...)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Still Life by Miss E

Give Miss E the camera, and you get about 50 pictures of fruit, her brother and herself. I love this one mainly because she got down to table level to shoot it and the fruit looks nice. My little budding photographer.