Monday, August 29, 2011

Uma's birthday

I just can't leave things on a post like the last one. The family and I area heading out for a few days to celebrate these last lazy days of summer before our school/soccer /life schedule hits us head on. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to that but we're going to take a few lazy days at the beach to properly say good-bye to summer.

After my whiney post yesterday, my sister broke her collarbone. Always the one to one-up me she is..... (totally kidding on that - I'd way rather have a whiny kid and sick kitty cat than a broken collarbone).

And my niece turned 4. The baby of our family turned 4! There were a lot of pink things and fairy things and pony things and brownies.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Crying Uncle.

Dear Life,

I'm crying "uncle".

Love, Sarah

This past week has been rough. Nothing that is really bad in and of itself but just one thing after another. Soccer team fiascos, scheduling fiascos, a cat with an unexpected huge vet bill plus more in the future, stalled house projects, financial issues, ants on the counter, and Miss E. Wonderful, strong-willed Miss E. I'm not sure what has happened but she seems to have figured out that we have no actual power to say, stop her from yelling for an hour straight or make her go to summer camp. Complaining about EVERY SINGLE THING and nothing being right - temperature, food, activity - it's all WRONG and she has been vocally letting us know it. Of course the real problem is that when she's "on", she's awesome - helpful, kind, smart, silly and cooperative.  It makes the "off" times so much harder to take.

It's hard to describe what's been going on but it has made me go through a period of feeling woefully and wholly inadequate and unprepared for this whole parenting thing. The hard thing is that Peter and I approach this so differently. He's super concerned with how to punish her. I am more worried about what the heck is going on. This ends up with us fighting with each other. Which makes nothing better. I think it has something to do with too much unstructured time, the transition to school and the accompanying change in schedule. Who knows though. Blaming things for school kids on transitions is kind of like blaming teething for baby's fussiness. It's always there. LIFE is a transition. Things are always changing for better or worse.

As for the maritial fighting thing? Well, that's just how it goes with us. It starts with me calling him to tell how much the vet is and lamenting about this insane extra expense. Then he starts going off on me about how crazy it is that the vet is so expensive (like I set the prices...) blah blah blah... I get mad that he's pissed at me about something out of my control......etc. etc. etc. Apply same reaction to all stressful life circumstances. Let's just say that "teamwork" has never been our strong point. Maybe we'll learn it some year.  At least it keeps things fresh right? Like we still, after 9 (plus a million) years have something to work on and change?

On the plus side, Miss E is frying her own eggs every morning and reading all kinds of books to Mr. T. So there's that.

Friday, August 26, 2011


This post is a bit of an opinionated rant/letting off please take it as such. I know this is a controversial subject.

Peter has been coerced volunteered to be the head coach of Mr. T's soccer team. This is both a very good thing - Mr. T is super excited and a very bad thing - firefighting work schedule doesn't allow you to be at all the games and practices. Overall, we'll make it work. However, he came home last night with a roster for the kids on his team - all kids who will be attending kindergarten with Mr. T in a few weeks and I was dismayed to look at the birthdates and see that almost half the kids had summer birthdays and were held back a year meaning the day kindergarten starts, they will be 6 and possily turing 7 during the kindergarten school year.

This practice, for those who don't know, is called red-shirting and is kind of a trendy thing among affluent communities. Red-shirting in sports is holding a player back (usually in college) to give them an extra year of elidgibility. Red-shirting kindergartners means taking kids who (usually) have summer birthdays and holding them back a year.

I am extreamly opposed to this for a lot of reasons. First of all, the research doesn't support the supposed advantage. By about grade 3 or 4 it all evens out and kids who are red-shirted can actually fall behind academically due to the social issues of being older than everyone else in the class. As they get older, it brings on a whole host of other issues that I'm guessing kindergarten parents aren't thinking of. You have the first kid in the class to go through puberty, the first kid in the class who is driving and then you have an 18 year old supposedly living at home who has yet to even start their senior year of high school.

It skews the spectrum of students for each grade level. By entering kids who are technically too old for the grade, you end up raising academic and social expectations up above what is reasonable for kids who fall into the age group. Schools have an age cut-off for a reason. Unless there are some extreme circumstances going on, I think parents should respect that.

And then getting back to me and my family. Mr. T turned 5 in June. He is in the 30% for size right now. So already, he is going to be one of the youngest and smaller kids in kindergarten and if the playing field were level (i.e., only kids of appropriate age were starting class with him) I wouldn't worry about it. He's ready for kindergarten. He's not wildly ahead like Miss E was but she was also 8 months older than him when she started kindergarten. He's right where he should be though. Knows his letters and numbers, just about ready to read, able to kick a ball and has appropriate social skills. But now I feel like I'm sending him into a classroom that will have quite a few kid who are already 6 - and at this age a year makes a HUGE difference. Now, I'm nervous whereas I wasn't really before. I don't want him to feel like he's behind when really he's not, it just that other kids are inappropriately ahead.

Again, I know this is a super controversial topic. I also know that there are kids who have certain issues such as medical or behavior problems that would warrant red-shirting. I don't think half the kids on Mr. T's soccer team fall into that category though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smore Face and Services

This is Mr. T's best smore face. We didn't get to do them the last night of our camping trip this weekend so I promised the kids we could with Daddy on Monday night since he missed the camping trip. 

Peter is at work today attending his third funeral for a firefighter this month. The first one was for a sudden, off-duty death of an active member of the department. Last week he went to the funeral of a retiree as part of the honor guard (for the day). Today his entire crew put on their Class A's again and headed to the service of an active (at the time of his death) member of the department who lost his battle with cancer. His death is considered line-of-duty because he had one of the several types of cancer that are believed to be caused by firefighting work. Even though this was somewhat expected, losing two members of the department has been hard. To put it in perspective, Peter has worked there for almost 10 years. In that amount of time, 3 active-duty firefighters have died. Two of those were this month. It's been a hard month.

I don't know what to say other than it sucks. It sucks thinking of the families of these two young men who are left behind. It sucks thinking of all the firefighters who are putting on their formal uniforms with heavy hearts and venturing to the funerals to pay their last respects. It sucks thinking of the wife and children one of them left behind. Especially since there is always a little voice in the back of my head whispering "that could be you....". I know that voice is 99% likely to be wrong, but still, it's there. It's just heart wrenching.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Growing Up

 This picture was taken on July 20, 2005. Miss E is in the middle with her friend Ruby on the left and Stella on the right. We spent that summer, their moms and I, taking the babies to the park, walking around with them in strollers and carriers and having playdates at each other's houses. The play dates at that point were more for the moms than the girls but I think they enjoyed having some other babies to sit on a blanket and chew toys with. It was a summer of making new and much needed mom friends for me (we met through a birthing class and new mom's group at the hospital) and over time we have grown into friends - not just because of our children but because we really like each other.

This photo was taken on our camping trip this Saturday. Miss E in the middle, with Stella next to her and then Ruby. We have also added a few little brothers along the way. The girls are all going to be in first grade in a few weeks. I cannot believe how much they have grown, and how independent they are. Somehow they survived their mom's fretting about sleep and food and potty training and have grown into the smartest, sweetest, most delightful girls I can imagine. All three of them (and the little boys too!). We are blessed indeed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Feathers

I took Miss E to get her hair cut yesterday. Actually, before the hair cut the kids went to summer camp. After camp they told me that some older boys were picking on Mr. T and that Miss E stood up for him and told them to stop. We have been making a big deal of how the kids are to be kind and supportive to each other at school this year. Since they will be at the same school, with the same recess I don't want any fighting or picking on each other at school at all and they have been informed that there will be consequences for that. But yesterday, Miss E helped Mr. T out and I made a huge deal of how nice that was and how good it feels to have some one stand up for you and how bad it feels to be teased. And then we went out for frozen yogurt to further solidify the positive reinforcement.

While we were eating our yogurt I asked her how she wanted her hair cut, if she wanted to grow out her bangs, etc. She said short, yes and she wanted a new feather. A blue one.

Well as she was getting her hair cut our lovely and impossibly hip stylist (also named Sarah) suggested that in addition to the blue feather she could put in a green one. And add the pink in. And put in tinsel if we wanted. comfort zone was quickly zooming away. Then I turned into the fuddy-duddy mom who limited it to two colors, no tinsel. Although I'm not sure how fuddy-duddy I can call myself since my daughter now has teal and lime feathers in her hair.

Miss E is in love. With both the feathers and the stylist. She brushed her hair last night (no fighting) and again this morning (without being asked) and clipped her bangs back herself as I told her we would have to if we were going to grow them out. I think she looks adorable. She has such a cute face and the short bob style kind of perfectly suits her looks and personality.

On a side note - Peter has not seen this yet. I'm not sure what he's going to think but we kind of split the kids as in I take care of Miss E's hair and he handles Mr. T's, so it should be OK. Hopefully. We'll find out on Monday when we see him after our weekend of camping!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What summer looks like

At our house it means:

Open doors and windows

2 orange cats lazing on the (mostly finished) front porch

2 half-dressed kids on the back deck

The hose

Iced coffees

Buckets of water

Forts set up on the deck

My gardening gloves and green bucket

Peter and I working on house projects

The Bat Cave and Green Lantern Planet being set up all over the yard.

Eating outside - and dishes scattered all over the yard

Green and shady with tree leaves rustling in the wind

Mowed lawns and weed pulling

Ginger laying in the sun on the back deck

Berries. Lots and lots of berries.

Every kind of imaginative game you can think of.

Unstructured time.
 Miss E in her fort on the deck with "tether baby"

 Eating outside

 Reading - there has been lots and lots of reading this summer. Including reading a lot out loud to Mr. T which is all kinds of awesome.

 Playing in the water

 Sitting on the new front porch before bed time

 Miss E copying everything Ginger does.

 Super Spider. This guy really deserves a post of his own. Every day we've been catching him fresh flies and moths to eat.

When I came home from work yesterday, Miss E was in the shed playing the guitar. Peter came up to me and said "Miss E has some skills on the guitar, she's just picking up the beat by ear." to which I replied "yeah, she pretty much has skills at anything she decides she wants to do". That girl is a ball of all kinds of talent and really the only thing that will ever stop her is her. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A weekend away

We started a tradition a few years ago, well, I started a tradition, that Peter and I would leave the kids with my parents for 3 days each summer and get away by ourselves. 3 days doesn't sound like a long time but it's about as long as my parents are comfortable having the kids and enough time that Peter and I can really have a break together. I have not yet asked my mom about making this a "tradition".

This year we headed up to Seattle to stay with a friend for one night and then spent one night at home. It was lovely all around. Oddly enough, the Seattle part of our trip felt a lot like our Spain vacation. Lots of walking, very little to no food and being lost. It was fun though and I learned that I can go longer without food than my dear husband. So, there's that.

We walked. We saw Pike's market, Olympic Sculpture park, took a ferry ride and walked some more.

Here's what we didn't do: fight, anything really romantic, or become annoyed with each other. It just felt...good. Content. As always, it was good to see our friend (is there another word for friends you love like family? Framily? ) and just be without three people talking to me at the same time. And the sleeping in. And the restaurants.

It was nice.

 After our first lunch place failed, we just stopped by Pike brewing to eat.

 And try a sample tray.

At the sculpture park we saw two wedding parties getting their pictures taken. What a gorgeous place for wedding photos. I resisted the urge to laugh and point at the bride and groom and wish them luck in a sarcastic tone of voice. Did I mention that the voice in my head is INCREDIBLY sarcastic? It comes out more often when the kids aren't around.

 I am incredibly uncomfortable being in front of the camera AND Peter still cannot really figure out my new lens so there are not often pictures of me. This was on the ferry.

 The lovely Seattle skyline. Someday I want to go up in the Space Needle. I think I was a teenager the last time I did that.

 Peter on the ferry.

This is an awesome and crazy huge sculpture in front of the Art Museum. Next trip I want to go in, maybe with Miss E. We are definitely going to take the kids up there soon, there is so much they would both love! I guess we did miss them a little bit.

This last part of August has felt like a blessing of summer. The weekend without kids, drinks and movie with a friend, a camping trip, visiting family, a vacation surprise that I have planned for our family, my nieces birthday, plans for my mom's birthday. It's going to be full going into the start of school and I am so excited.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A conversation

Me: Mr. T it's time for you to pack for Nana and Grandpa's. (This is my second request)

Mr. T: I'm already packed!

Me: Awesome. Do you have pajamas?

Mr. T: No

Me: Do you have underwear?

Mr. T: No

Me: Do you have any extra clothes?

Mr. T: No. There's no clothes in there! I packed all my stuff, my books, my Green Lantern Jet...  I guess I'll try and fit some clothes in.

Me: Yeah, why don't you do that.

Back to School Shopping

I'm finding myself pre-occupied with thoughts of fall and planning and schedules so I figured I'd just get it all done in order to enjoy these last glorious weeks of summer.

Today the kids and I went out to get school supplies for both of them. BOTH OF THEM. For the first time ever, I have two kiddos in elementary school. 3 entire days of the weeks they will both be in school all day. 2 days, Mr. T will go half-day and be home at noon. He is so excited for kindergarten. Bursting with excitement. There is none of the nervousness that Miss E and I felt last year at the beginning of the year. I attibute that to us knowing who his teacher will be (same one Miss E had last year) and pretty much the whole kindergarten routine. This is one of the great things about being the youngest kid - we've pretty much got it figured out. Miss E and I are both curious about what 1st grade will be like, who her teacher will be, how they structure the full day and how they handle the 1/2 split classroom. We'll find out soon enough!

This weekend Peter and I are heading up to Seattle without the kids. We are going to see some friends, ride on boats, go out to dinner, see movies, stay up late and enjoy every last minute of it.

When we get back, it will be back to enjoying this lazy summer with the kids and finishing up the projects we started on the house.

And then it will be fall, with schedules and school and soccer and a photography class and football and birthdays and perhaps a beach trip thrown in there. I am so looking forward to it, but I can wait a few more weeks.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taking a break

and breaking the rules! Since I'm not doing the 365 right now here's a post with more than one picture! This weekend we watched my sister's kids and I mean "we"in the loosest sense of the word because Peter worked Saturday and took an OT shift on Sunday leaving me with 4 kids for a 48. Yikes. 

Overall though, it went OK. I took them hiking and to the park and to my parents for dinner. I think a good time was had by all and I felt confident handling all four of them. The only thing that surprised me was how much STUFF you need for 4 kids. For our hike, by the time I packed 5 water bottles, 4 jackets, 4 sunhats, lunch and snacks for all of us, sunscreen, the camera and the Ergo carrier (in case my niece couldn't walk the entire way) I was loaded down like a pack mule! And that's with the bigger kids carrying their and their younger siblings water bottles and coats. 

By the end of Saturday I was feeling good enough and desperate enough to take all of them into Starbucks just to get myself a lattee. Mr. T was a little appalled that I was only getting something for myself but man, did I need that coffee and it was the best freakin iced latte I have EVER had. 

My little hiking troupe. You get some strange looks when you venture out with 4 kids.

The gorgeous falls we hiked to.

My weary little hikers. Coincedentally, they all went to bed easier tonight than they did last night.

Miss E playing in the water, which she promptly fell in. Fortunately we were able to cobble together another outfit from random things we had brought.

Miss E and her cousin. 4 months apart - together these two are sweet and trouble and loving and trouble again.

Another firefighter died from Peter's department this week, bringing the the total for the month up to two. Before this, during his 9 year career, they have only lost one other firefighter. The one that died this week is considered a line of duty death because he died of one of the cancers that is known to be caused by firefighting.  It was known that his death would be soon but it doesn't make it any easier. As Peter said "there's something wrong about getting out your Class A and not putting it away for awhile".

It's been a long week. A wonderful and trying week all wrapped up into one. It has been nice to take a break from blogging and photographing and just concentrate on other stuff and start to put together a book of my last 365. I know for sure I'll do another one soon though, it's been too nice looking through our year and having such a great record of it.

Friday, August 5, 2011


This week has flown by and no, we do not have a new front porch yet. It actually looks very much like the last picture. Yeah. Here's what we have been up to:

1) Work and work.

2) Mr. T and Miss E finished up their summer camps last week and Miss E is in a bugs summer camp this week. It's through the Tualatin River Keepers and it's out at a nature preserve. Every day they have been doing a different type of bug. Of all the camps the kids  have done, this is my favorite. The instructors are excellent, the location is excellent and they have a lot of wonderful activities for the kids to do. Mr. T will definitely be signed up for it next year and Miss E will be old enough to do the canoing camp there next summer.

3) Mr. T, all of a sudden, wants to WRITE and READ and COUNT things! It's so exciting. I have tried with him before but he hasn't been interested and then all of a sudden he is. It reminds me again that if you surround kids with the tools they need to learn and follow their lead, they will learn on their own schedule. (And good job Mr. T timing this just about perfectly for the start of kindergarten in the fall!)

4) Each day we have picked up Miss E,  Mr. T and I get to the camp early and look through their spotting scope at the visitors center. So far we have seen a great blue heron, a nutria, an egret and some ducks. They have a chalkboard to write what you saw that day on and he has been writing the names of each thing we see.

5) Mr. T went berry picking with my mom, sister and I one morning. The Boysenberries were fat and juicy.

6) I am currently getting ready to have my niece and nephew stay with us from Friday afternoon to Sunday night. And Peter's working a 48 Saturday and Sunday. Which means me+4 kids all by myself for two whole days. I think I can handle it.

7) My husband temporarily lost his mind and took Miss E to a movie in the park last night until 10. Which means she will be up late 3 nights in a row. That is the kiss of death for a 6 year old. They can do one night until 10 but by Sunday, well, let's just say I wasn't happy about his decision.

8) Overall, things have been chugging along pretty nicely. I always have a hard time this time of year enjoying the last month of summer because of all the back to school stuff. The school supplies and the e-mails and the soccer schedule and gymnastics sign up and my life all starts to feel really busy and I have to really remind myself that it's the start of August and we have an entire lazy, gorgeous month of summer left that will be wasted if I spend it stressing about the fall.

9) I have no idea what to cook in hot weather. I am much much more of a fall/winter cook. The salad thing is killing me, partially because my kids don't eat a lot of vegetables and the husband doesn't like seafood.

10) Last but not least, we took Mr. T to his doctor's appointment. I have been a bit worried about his size, he is just now fitting into size 4 pants and he just turned 5. When he was born he was huge for his age but each year he is shrinking on the growth chart. Last year at his doctor's appointment he was in the 36th percentile, down from the 50th the year before, this year he was in the 25th percentile. His height and weight are the same so that's not a concern but the doctor mentioned she's hoping to see a growth spurt soon. Me too. Sometimes I worry that with his chronic constipation something is not right in his digestive track or he's choosing not to eat because of it. We'll keep an eye on it.

11) OK, one more. Things with the kids have been great. I know I write about Miss E when she is being difficult but this week things have been great. Over the last few months of watching her I have learned a few things including behavior triggers, ways to talk to her and ways to get her to understand what's happening and it's working! The other day she was hungry and tired at the store and started stomping around whining and throwing a tantrum and with a few reminders from me - no bribes or threats - she pulled herself out of it. Before, a behavior turn-around like that was kind of unheard of.

Wow, that got really long. Maybe I should do this more often so it's not as wordy....

I also feel like I need to put a little apology here to the person who found my blog by google searching "topless girls Oregon Country Fair". Sorry dude. I'm guessing this was pretty disappointing for you.