Saturday, March 3, 2018

February Recap

My brain doesn't hold onto blogs posts anymore.  I think of things to write but when I have a moment and a computer in front of me, my mind goes blank.  Today in the car, Alden said something hilarious -- as he frequently does -- but, in this moment I cannot recall what it was.  So frustrating.

I do recall him saying to me the other day, after I announced it was bedtime, that "my tummy is telling me that I am not tired."  I informed him that tummies don't know whether a person is tired or not -- they only know if you're hungry.  Alden said, "well, my tummy knows when I'm hungry AND tired.  It's my tummy.  I know."  Touché.

Alden and Kailey run really hot or cold with each other lately.  One minute, they are playing together and hugging, the next they are slamming doors and screaming in each others faces.  It can be really exhausting.  But, Alden LOVED seeing his sister in Alice in Wonderland.  He told us that he couldn't do a play because "he would be a little bit shy."  But, his sister is also a little bit shy -- and there she was, up on stage, signing and dancing and acting very lobster-ish.  I was really proud of her for doing this production. None of her close friends from school wanted to do it but that didn't deter her.  She still tried out.  She got a small part when she would have like a bigger part -- but, that also didn't dampen her spirits.  Instead, she embraced the experience and learned a lot from it.  We've watched Kai in many other productions over the years -- but, this one was the best by far.  She learned her stage cues and the songs and was in front of an audience of over 100 people twice and did wonderfully.  We've signed her up to be with the same theater company doing Shrek Jr over the summer.  I think it's a great way for Kai to get outside her comfort zone and stretch her limits and am so proud of her for rising to the challenge.  Hopefully, Alden will follow in her footsteps someday.

Of course, Alden isn't actually very shy.  While we were waiting for lunch today I said, "who wants to sing me a song."  Kai made a face at me like I had asked her to eat a slug.  Alden started belting out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which made Kailey laugh.  Her laughter prompted Alden to continue with a rendition of the A-B-Cs.  But, then when Kai asked if he would sing Monster Stomp he said, "that one makes me shy."  We both cracked up.

Alden is also quite the negotiator.  He always says things like "I have an idea" or "how about" and then he offers up his deal.  When his offer is rejected he is generally undeterred and will say, "well, then, how about we try something else" and will continue his negotiations.  It can be a little exhausting.  But, also a sign of the transition from 3 to 4.  Six months ago, he'd get frustrated and start yelling, "well then I HATE you."  Now he keeps trying and if he doesn't get his way, he eventually moves on.  But, I do mean eventually.  That kid has staying power.

Kailey earned her computer last month and now has her very own laptop for school work (and games).  She has a big project due at school this month so it was good timing for her.  She spent a good chunk of today putting the finishing touches on her project.  School work has been so extreme this year.  It's been a huge struggle but also good for Kailey in learning a bit more time management skills and discipline to stick with something even when it is mundane (or, even more importantly, when it is hard).  I think her teacher gives too much homework, but even that is good for her.  I've had a lot of bosses over the year whose approach I don't appreciate -- but, you still have to do a good job and adapt to other people's expectations.  Still, I'll be happy when this school year ends.

Although, we are struggling with what to do next year.  Kailey doesn't want to switch schools again but we're wondering if a different private school might be a better setting for her.  Alden will be starting Merryhill in the Fall.  They have a space in their incoming 5th grade class and the school continues through middle school.  So, if we switched Kai in the fall, she could be there for 4 years.  Kai has had a lot of switching of schools (much like I did as a child).  And, it was really hard for me to bump around so much when I was younger.  I moved schools in the middle of 1st grade, 3rd grade, back to public school for 4th grade, new school for 5th grade because that was middle school where I grew up, hit by a car in 6th grade, and new school again for 9th grade.  All of those disruptions made it hard to have real continuity with friends and I never really had a group because I was coming in and out of already established groups.  And, that social isolation was hard.  We don't want Kai to have to experience that, but also don't know that she has really settled into a group at Crocker and so there may be no harm in moving her now.  And, Crocker is very much a public school, focused on testing and worksheets and not a lot of innovation when it comes to lesson planning or learning styles.  These kinds of decisions are really hard -- and, of course, it's impossible to know when you've made the right decisions (as you can never actual travel both paths).  Kai is going to visit Merryhill in a couple of weeks and we'll take it from there.  Hopefully after her shadow day, the path will become more clear.

We had a freak hailstorm this last week and got inches of hail at our house.  Enough to build a small snowman and for the kids to sled around our backyard.  They were beside themselves -- although, it made for a crazy evening with a lot of mood swings. Disruptions in school nights can be tough.

Alden just walked in here and said, "I'm going to get some scissors so I can open my ocean Lego set" and then proceeded to walk in the art room, grab scissors, and head back up to the play room.   Ahhhhhh the independence of nearly 4 year olds.   It's so rewarding.  And, they're safety scissors.  It's fine.

Not much of an update -- but, something is better than nothing!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

January Recap

I feel like I say every month is busy.... which makes my constant statements a bit devoid of meaning.  But, January was insane.  I thought about my blog.  I made notes of things to write about.  But, work overtook me.  And, it wasn't even travel.  I've only been to LA once this year.  But, my day to day here in Sacramento has been crazy.  Usually the legislative year starts in January but doesn't really get going until March (once the bill introduction deadline has passed).  But, this year we have really stirred things up and it's been a whirlwind.

But, this blog is not about my work life.  It's about Kailey and Alden -- so, let me give a bit of an update on their last month.

Maybe the place to start is New Year's Eve.  We ended up throwing a big tamale/enchilada party on NYE.  I made a ridiculous amount of food: corn tamales, beef tamales, vegetable enchiladas, cheese enchilada verde and chicken enchiladas.  Plus homemade rice and beans.  It was enough food to feed like 50 people.  And we had about 12 people over.  Plus us -- that makes 16.  It was still really fun.  We rang in the east coast new year (we are afterall middle aged people with young children -- one cannot expect people to stay up until midnight).  But, then, one of the families that was over DID stay until midnight.  I, of course, fell asleep on the couch before the midnight countdown.  I've never been able to stay up late -- not even when I was young and childless.  Other families left around 10 PM.  So, for us, it was a bit of a rager (again, think middle aged.  Kids.  That kind of rager.)  As folks left we joked that everyone should return in the morning for brunch to eat the rest of the food. 

Then, one of the families that hadn't made it to the NYE party because of a flight delay texted the next morning about getting together.  I replied that we had a ton of leftovers and they should come on over.  And, since they were coming over, I decided to just invite everyone who had been at our house the night before and another family that also had to miss out on the previous evening due to illness.  To our surprise, most everyone returned and we ended up having an even bigger bash on New Year's Day.  It was wonderful weather (this is Sacramento -- it's already springtime here!)  So, we built a fire in the outdoor fire place, made tortillas out of the leftover masa, ate the leftovers, watched the kids play on the playground (man, they love that thing) and celebrated the beginning of 2018 with our favorite Sacramento families.  It was really nice.  It was great to say goodbye to 2017 -- which, for us personally, was not a terrible year... but was a complete disaster for the country at large.  And, it was nice to reflect on the community we've built in the last few years since moving to Sacramento.

We took most of the rest of the first week of January off.  Kailey didn't have school that week.  Alden only had school for a couple of days.  And, really, that's why the rest of January was so busy.  Taking 3 weeks off work means coming back to 500+ emails and a stack of work so big that it takes a month to crawl out from under it.  That, plus that number of crazy things that blew up as soon as the new legislative cycle opened -- and, my month was completely subsumed.  I went back to work on Friday, January 5th to a day of back-to-back meetings starting with a roundtable at the Capitol where I was presenting on a very controversial topic and trying to upend something the state is trying to implement.  There were about 80 people at that meeting and it was explosive.  Welcome back to work!  

Anyway, back to my non-work activities for the month.  Because it's already spring (seriously), we've spent a lot of time in the yard.  We're tilling new paths, getting ready to lay bark and gravel (under the playground), planning some additional trees to plant, and improving the playground.  Kai has really gotten into playing on the bars at school and Eric spent a Monday evening digging a hole and pouring some concrete to put in a gymnastics bar for her coming off the playground.  Now the kids can be found outside most weekend days and weekday evenings swinging and playing on the bars.  I don't remember playing on our playground as much when we were kids -- although, I know we had a really nice playground in the back.  But, Kailey and Alden LOVE being on the playground and spend hours back there making up games.  They have picnics out back, taking chairs from indoors and hauling them up into the little fort.  Actually, many things from the kitchen go missing and end up in the fort.  It's a bit annoying, from my standpoint, but amusing if I take the longview of the whole thing (something I'm not always good at doing).  

Although we've been enjoying the mild spring weather (remember, we're talking January here) -- Kailey turned to me the other day and said, "why is it so warm already? I am NOT ready for the hot summer."  And that is the downside of where we live.  The winters are oh so short and mild -- the summers sooooo long. And hot.  We've so enjoyed our fireplace this winter.  We've had fires constantly and it's so cozy hanging out in the living room, playing games, watching videos, and enjoying the warmth of the fire (as opposed to the blazing hot sun of the summertime).  I think we're all wishing we could have another month or two of a bit of a chill in the air.  

When it is cold in the morning (and, we're talking like 40 degrees cold) the kids complain so bitterly about the weather.  We call them California soft.  

This has also been a busy month for new activities.  Kailey got into a play at school -- they are putting on a production of Alice in Wonderland and she auditioned and got the part of Lobster #1.  It's a really cool program, actually.  The Sacramento Theater Company comes into the schools and works with the kids to do a full production.  There are auditions and rehearsals and costumes and sets.  Then, the actually show is held at the community theater and they get to do the show twice over the course of a weekend.  People in the general public can purchase tickets and go to the shows.  It's really very cool.  And, Kailey is absolutely loving it.  It has been a chance to meet new kids (her main friends are not in the play) and do something that she really enjoys but that also intimidates her a bit.  

In addition, we signed both Kailey and Alden up for swim lessons and gymnastics classes.  Those are back to back on Saturday mornings.  Alden has not been a fan of the swim lessons.  The first class, we had to force him into the water and he howled and cried the whole time.  It's gotten better from there -- he now goes into the water without crying -- but, he still says he doesn't like it.  Driving to swim lessons this last weekend, we called Nonnie and Papa and I asked Alden where we were going.  He said, "swim lessons... which I HATE."  Later in the week while I was driving Alden to school he said, "why do I go to swim lessons?"  I said, "well, it's important to learn how to swim... and it's fun when you learn."  Then he said, "well, they are NOT good at teaching... I still do not know how to swim."  It was hilarious.  

Alden is full of funny statements lately.  When his hands have gone to sleep he says, "my hands are bubbling!" He also keeps talking about his "second Christmas" and "second Halloween"... as in, "when my second Christmas comes, can I have more candy?"  At first I was confused, and then I realized that he really only remembers the last Christmas and Halloween we just had.  So, to him, he's had one Christmas and one Halloween... and he's anticipating his second Christmas and second Halloween.  I tried to explain to him that he's had FOUR Christmases already, but he wasn't buying it.  

On the topic of Halloween, he turned to me just yesterday and said, "on my second Halloween, can we have Peter and Nina and Eramiste over again?"  I told him we could invite them and he said, "but NOT Nina's grandma."  I asked him why and he said, "because I had to trick or treat with Nina's grandma and I only want to trick or treat with mommy or daddy."  On Halloween, we had split up for a bit of the night and I took the bigger kids (Kailey and her friends) around while Alden stayed with the little kids (and Nina's grandmother was assigned to be Alden's buddy).  Apparently, 3 months later, Alden has reflected that he did not like that arrangement!  

What else?  Kailey has really become a big kid this year.  She's managing her schedule, homework and activities in a whole new way.  At the beginning of the year, we were really having to stay on her about all her tasks and activities.  There was a lot of fighting and a lot of tears.  Now, she has more of a routine.  She comes home in the evening and dives into her homework.  What was taking hours (and I mean, HOURS) to do is now generally done in an hour.  There are fewer tears.  And, she knows her schedule for each day.  Kailey does a lot -- she has orchestra, art class, Alice in Wonderland, swimming, gymnastics and homework.  There are lots of tests this year and 4th grade is a big year for friendships and the start of more cliquish behavior.  That, plus a big new school... it's been a big adjustment.  But, these days, she really has a handle on most of it.  It's been fun to watch her grow into an upper elementary student and navigate the additional responsibilities.  

Kailey and Alden are both very busily planning their birthdays already, too.  Kailey is going to have a campout birthday party -- we will pitch tents in the backyard and have a sleepover.  Alden changes his mind on his party on a daily basis -- he has wanted a rainbow party, a green heart party, an ocean party and a horse party.  Maybe we'll just mesh them all together and have a party without a theme (a radical idea in this day and age of parenting via pinterest). 

Hopefully I'll post again before their birthdays arrive.  

Saturday, December 30, 2017


First -- owwwwww.  I've been cooking with peppers all day and my fingers are BURNING. I read somewhere that you're supposed to wear gloves when cooking with peppers.  And, that is good advice.  Very good advice! On the plus side, I've got the sweet corn tamales made and ready to steam.  The black beans are done and just need reheated. The tomatillo sauce is ready to go for the chicken enchiladas and the veggie tamales.  And, I've got the meat simmering on the stove -- ready to be made into the beef tamales at some point.  That, and burning fingers. Ow.  Funny, I didn't realize how badly they hurt until I sat down.  I guess that's how it is sometimes.  Not sure that supports the idea that people just need to slow down -- I think it means that you have to keep moving to avoid the pain. Or, maybe it just means you should wear gloves when cooking with peppers.  Probably that.

We gave Kailey a journal for Christmas.  And, Eric got one too.  Now they are journaling together the nights that Eric has nighttime duty with Kailey.  It got Kailey asking more about my own journaling.  I kept journals from the time I was 12 until I was about 20 (I quit journaling when I met Eric)... and then I've kept this blog/journal about the kids for the last 10 years.  Nearly 20 years of writing things down!

I pulled out my first journal -- the one I got when I was in the hospital after my car accident -- and started reading entries to Kailey. Most of it is written when I was in the seventh grade... not a good year for me.  And the beginning of a string of years that were not great years.   Through the end of high school, really.  Most of the entries are about my struggles with friendships and relationships and how much I disliked certain aspects of my life.  But, it's a nice tool for talking with Kailey about her anxiety and difficulties with friendships at school.  I write like a 12 year old.  And, quite frankly, I write a lot like how Kailey talks.  So weird to hear her in my ears when I read my 12 year old self.  She hears herself in those entries and realizes that this is just a part of the phases of life -- I think she finds it comforting to hear the voice of her mother as a 12 year old and realize that I was a lot like her. It gives her a picture of the path to the other side of the worst parts of childhood.

What the entries do not tell her is how to enjoy the best parts of childhood.  I journaled mostly when I was upset.  I've captured on those pages the worst parts of childhood. And, in my memory (which I know is not actually very reliable) I recall willing my childhood to end. I wanted to be done with it all.  I wanted nothing more than to be an adult.  And, truth be told, I much prefer adulthood -- I like my autonomy, independence, competence, and being able to be directed toward work (whether it be my profession or my duties as a mother).  I'm happy to be an adult.  But, even though that is true, sometimes I wish I could capture that childhood again.  I had a lot going for me as a kid -- parents that loved me, siblings that made me laugh, carefree days with someone else doing most of the cooking, cleaning, worrying and planning.  And, of course, there's no getting that back. So, I want to help Kailey hold onto these days.  To relish them.  Such a hard thing to teach a child.

This afternoon, Eric and I were cooking and we looked outside and Kailey was playing by herself on the brick patio in the far corner of our yard.  She was doing an EXTENSIVE dance routine.  She had no music playing, other than the music in her own head. But, she was doing move after move.  Leaping, twisting, turning, and stomping her feet.  She was totally in her own world.  There was music in her head and she was making up the routine as she went along. It was amazing.  I remember that engrossed play activity -- but, I've completely lost it.  I get engrossed in my work the way I used to get engrossed in play. But, never in play anymore. And, I remember how delightful it was to be so completely in the moment of imagination.  To actually be seeing and feeling the scene my mind had constructed.  And those moments of pure imagination and indulgence are long gone.

So, I want Kailey to know that we get it.  We understand how hard it is to be a kid. But, it's also magical.  And, both end.  The hard parts and the magic.  Now, my magic comes in watching them and in solving a work problem that no one else can solve.  There's still magic --but, it's different.  I like the magic I have now and I miss the magic I had then.  It's hard to enjoy the moments - but, so critical.  They're all we have.  These moments.  These phases.  All so fleeting.

2017 was far from my favorite year.  And, yet, I already miss the sweetness of it all -- of a 2 year old who turned 3, an 8 year old who turned 9.  Those are transitions that will never come again.  As these burning fingers will fade, so will all these moments.  I'll miss them.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Holiday 2017

Our annual trip to the Pacific Northwest has come and gone.  But, it was a nice trip up north.  My big takeaway from this year is that both kids are finally good travelers!  Alden has been slow to take to long car trips.  When he was an infant he HATED the car.  Maybe it was all the drives between Oakland and Sacramento.  And most of our trips to Oregon to date have been full of HOURS of screaming (Alden's) and teeth gnashing (ours).  I wasn't really looking forward to the long drive... but, Alden has proven the mantra of parenthood (and childhood) which is every phase is just that... a phase! 

Our plan had been to leave Sacramento early on Friday -- after a few hours of work.  But, leaving town before a 2+ week vacation is no easy task.  We had meetings, emails to send, an appointment with a speech therapist, and all manner of other distractions.  So, we didn't actually hit the road until after 5 pm.  I expected massive crankiness from the kids (who had spent the day at school and preschool and were none too excited about spending the rest of the day/evening in the car).  But, they were great!  We stopped after a couple of hours for dinner and let the kids run around.   They were in high spirits.  When we hit the part of the drive that has lots of mountain twists and turns, Kai got scared.  It is disconcerting driving those turns at night -- and Kai was pleading with Eric to slow down (it should be said that Eric was going well below the speed limit already to try to appease her and that going slower would have been unsafe).  We told Kai that we had driven the route countless times, that we were going slow, and that we were safe.  She didn't believe us and continued to whimper from the backseat asking if we could stop until morning.  At that point, Alden stretched out his hand to her and said, "it's OK Kailey.  I've got this.  I'll protect you."  He continued to pat her hand reassuringly throughout the rest of the drive through the curves.  It was among the cutest things I've ever seen.  And, Kai was definitely comforted by it! 

Alden was full of funny thoughts on the way up -- quoting movies, changing the words to songs to be about Legalos and other favorite shows (the kid has a brain for movie quotes -- it's a bit uncanny).  At one point, Eric opened up a Red Bull and Alden hollered from the backseat, "what's that amazing smell?"  

Kai has always been an excellent traveler and continued to be a real road warrior on this trip.  She helps to calm Alden down when he gets cranky.  She'll play silly games with him and make up stories.  She sings songs and reads books.  She's always been fun to travel with.  And, now, Alden seems to be coming into his own on the traveling front, too.  We're hoping to do quite a bit of traveling in 2018 -- maybe NYC.  Possibly DC.  We may be in Hawaii for a friend's wedding.  So, it's great for Alden to be improving and learning how to sit for long stretches of time.  We didn't even use videos for the whole of the car rides.  After the puking episode last year, we have been convinced that Alden is prone to car sickness so we don't let him watch videos or read books in the car.  That makes his pleasantness in the long ride even more impressive.  2018 travels... here we come! 

We got to Grammy's house on Saturday afternoon and had fun opening presents and catching up.  Grammy bought us all tickets to go see the Nutcracker in Portland -- a real treat!  Alden has been REALLY into the Nutcracker this year because of a book he has and a movie the kids have gotten into (Leap) about a girl that becomes a dancer in the Nutcracker.  He was super excited to go see the real performance.  And, we got to the theater early so he got to meet a few of the dancers before the show started.

It was fun to spend time with Grammy -- and the night out to sushi and the Nutcracker was a huge hit!  You can see how entranced Alden was by the dancers.  We couldn't even get him to look at the camera! When we took Kailey to see the Nutcracker when she was about Alden's age, we couldn't get her to stand near the dancers for a picture -- even with a promise that we would go with her.  This time, it was the same thing.  She didn't want to be in the picture -- but, she did it for Alden.  He wanted to do the picture, but only with Kailey. I love how they support each other in these ways - I hope they stay that way as they get older.

After our time at Grammy's house, we headed to Mt. Hood for our annual trek to Timberline Lodge.  This year, for the first time in many years, Amy, Dave, Leo and Soren joined us!  It was really nice to all be together at the lodge again. And, we got fireplace rooms right next to each other.  We were all hoping that Alden would want to ski so badly this year that he'd agree to a day at ski school (so that the rest of us could ski together).  But, alas, it was not to be.  Alden really wanted to ski.... with Eric.  Not in ski school.  He threw an absolute fit at the idea of ski school and we had to give up on it.  So, we didn't get a lot of skiing in this year.  It's frustrating -- probably most of all for Eric (since he is actually a very good skier and would like to spend more time on the mountain that taunts him relentlessly every year).  But, we did ski some with Alden and Eric went out with the twins one morning and also went out with Kailey a couple of times.  Kai and I did a little skiing together and we had fun enjoying the fireplace rooms and being together.  The highlight is when we all skied to a little hut in the middle of the mountain where we got to hang out by a fire and eat tacos.  It was such fun to be in the middle of the mountain together.  Alden wouldn't cooperate with the photo, unfortunately... but, still, we managed to capture the memory!

I'm looking forward to the day when everyone skis and we can all just spend time together without constantly having to have someone "on duty."  I have to admit a bit of jealously as to Amy and Dave.  They could just send the twins out in the morning to ski the mountain together.  Amy and Dave would head out later, once they were ready. They skied together, they skied apart.  It was a real vacation.   But, of course, our kids are still little -- and, Alden is still quite little.  He's only 3.  I have to remember that and not get frustrated by it.  He is sweet and cuddly... and three.  I'm sure when he and Kai are skiing together without a need for our constant supervision I'll miss these days.  It just would have been nice to get him into ski school for half a day.  Just sayin'. :)

After Mt. Hood, we spent a few days with my parents and siblings.  Kailey had fun with her cousins.  Alden had less fun, as he often feels excluded by all the big kids. And, of course, the exclusion brings out his worst attributes.  He gets mad and yells and disrupts their games.  And, then they get mad. 

But, with a few exceptions, they did OK.  Better the second day than the first -- after we had a chance to remind Kailey how important it is to try to include Alden.  And, it must be said, Eric also spent a good deal of time playing massive amounts of make believe with Alden.  He is so patient with the make believe games -- letting Alden make up the scripts and getting into character.  I can't do it.  I have no patience for it.  But, Eric plays make-believe for hours on end.  Alden ADORES it.  It's very sweet.  We discovered a new game at my parent's house -- Exploding Kittens.  This is Kailey's new favorite game.  She got several games for Christmas, including Harry Potter Clue.  But, Exploding Kittens is by far the favorite.  Such an odd little game.

We did the whole drive home on Christmas Eve.  The kids were fantastic -- except the last hour (which is more than understandable!)  We got home about 8:30.  There was no puking or burst water pipes this year.  It was a largely uneventful drive.  And we had plenty of time that evening to unpack the car and get all the presents under the tree and into the stockings.  Christmas day was a mellow affair.  We opened presents , played games and watched movies. 

And we've spent the rest of the week at home doing much of the same. We finally got the rest of Alden's stuff moved out of his old room and have his bookcase and dresser in the shared room now.  The kids are doing a great job sharing a bedroom and playroom -- and it means we can start planning the addition of a master bathroom (in the room that used to be Alden's).

We're planning a tamale party with friends on New Year's Eve.  I've got lots of cooking in store the next two days.  But, that will be fun.  I've had enough couch and movie time.  And, I certainly am looking forward to the end of this year.  It's been a tough one, full of transitions and change.  Nothing like 2014 was on the home front -- but, still tumultuous.  And, on the political and national level, it's been nothing short of devastating.  And, the fight is far from over.  I'm exhausted by the prospect of 2018 and the continuing battles that I know are ahead.  I've hardly looked at my computer since being on break... it's been good to step away from email and all the doom and gloom it brings (because of all the bad policies that the Republicans have recently passed and our threatening to pass next year).

But, there is also hope in 2018 (always that glimmer of hope... I suppose it's what keeps me motivated to continue on with work that would otherwise seem rather pointless because of how slow change occurs!) On the home front, 2018 may be the year of a new bathroom (or two).  It might be a year of travel.  It'll be the year Kailey starts FIFTH grade.  Crazy.  And Alden's last year of preschool. Politically, I hope it's a year the Democrats rise up and take control of the House and Senate and stop some of the madness that the last year has brought. We shall see.  But, for now, I wish 2017 an exhausted farewell.  Hoping 7 more days away from the office gives me the renewed energy and fortitude for the year to come.

Goodbye, 2017! 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Temper, Temper

Given the amount of stress and chaos this fall, we all have been struggling with short fuses.  Alden is as three as three gets -- he lives form emotion to emotion.  Happy one minute and grumpy the next.  Hunger manifests as anger without any initial request for food.  He'll just go from playing happily to being extremely pissed -- without realizing he needs a piece of fruit.  That's three.  Kai was the same way at three.  The difference is we were much better at modeling behavior for Kailey and also responding immediately to her needs.  She was just one child. 

Alden has an older sibling to model himself after.  That can, of course, be incredibly positive.  He is better at sharing than Kailey was at three, for example.  But, it can also be problematic.  When Kai was three, she would yell and shout "no" and get mad.  When she was five, she had a hard time not taking her anger out in a physical way (she did, after all, get sent home from Kindergarten three times for hitting and spitting at other children... fun times).  Now, she has these rages where she might tear something up or destroy something (usually some piece of art she has created), stomp her feet, slam doors, and scream at the top of her lungs.  And say how she hates school, her friends, her teachers, or whatever else she is mad at (including us, of course). 

Alden is a master imitator and his favorite person to imitate is Kailey.  And, Kailey has had a really tough fall full of major meltdowns and temper tantrums of the variety described above.  Which means Alden, who is prone to emotional outbursts on at least an hourly basis, is modeling a new level of tantrum for a three year old. He spits at us and yells and tells us he hates us.  He slams doors.  And, because his emotions run hot and cold throughout the day, we are dealing with this behavior on a daily -- or, more accurately, an hourly -- basis. 

So, it's another aspect of what has been a tough fall.  Kailey has tantrums nearly daily.  Alden hourly.  And, Eric and I are not perfect parents (I hear you gasping in shock... or maybe that's the sound of your eyes rolling at the most obvious of statements).  We have had our own degree of stress this fall at work (I've been run through the ringer this fall... it's been incredibly trying) and Eric's work has been no picnic, either.  And, we're both stressed about the national political climate -- which I think plays out in our daily anxiety.  Combine that with general exhaustion and dealing with children that have constant needs and numerous outbursts... suffice it to say, it's a rare moment when someone isn't in a bad mood. 

I know I need to do better about this -- and need to figure out a way to be positive even when I'm feeling frustration, exhaustion, anxiety or anger.  I know how to model behavior back to the kids and how to talk through their feelings to get them to calm down.  But, it's easier said than done.  Sometimes, I am just at my wits end. Which, of course, only makes everything worse.  Nothing escalates their behavior faster than being yelled at -- and yet, here we sit. 

Right now, Alden is playing that he is a lion.  He succeeded in getting me out of bed at 7 AM and making him french toast.  And, with his belly full, he is excited about the day. He's playing pretend, smiling, laughing and directing his own play. 

Kai is in a less good mood.  She is not feeling well today.  Alden had a high fever for five straight days last week and it appears Kai may have gotten his virus.  The idea of missing more work to stay home with sick kids has me irritable and being woken up six times last night (three by Kailey, three by Alden) is not helping.  But, I'm trying to remind myself that my mood impacts their moods. 

Hopefully my pot of coffee and a bit of morning reflection through blogging can help me get off on the right foot. 

UPDATED:  After writing this on Sunday, we got through the day with relatively little conflict.  It helped to have reflected this morning and been more mindful of my responses to their tempers throughout the day.  Then, this morning, Alden totally lost it over the notion of going to school  He was kicking the back seat of the chair in front of him in the car and yelling how he hated school.  When we pulled into the driveway, he burst into tears. 

Alden had nearly two weeks at home with us because of the Thanksgiving break and then his week of illness.  And, he knew Kai was at home watching movies (because she was sick). I understood how frustrated he was at being shipped off to school.  When we got to school, I told him I'd stay and tell him stories for a bit.  He wiped his tears and we went in, with him clinging onto me.  I told him stories and we cuddled at school for a bit.  He calmed down, but got really clingy when I stood up to go.  He said he hated me and I said, "I think you're sad.  I think you're sad that I'm leaving.  It's not hate.  It's sadness.  You want us to be together today.  And I love you so much -- and I want to keep playing too.  It's OK to be sad a little.  But, you'll also have fun.  And then mommy will be back."  He nodded.  He felt heard.  His emotions were validated.  I left and he was OK.

I know I need to work on my own patience and temper -- and the rewards when I do are usually immediate. 

Here's to diffusing tempers for the coming few weeks that promise to continue to deliver the stress!

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Kailey's teacher at her new school is sort of a traditional teacher -- very focused on behavior, fairly rigid in her style, and often calling kids out for their transgressions.  I think this comes, in part, by managing a classroom of over 30 children.  I really cannot imagine.  I lose my patience with two children on a near hourly basis -- with 30, I'd be rocking in the corner in inconsolably or yelling incoherently. However, Kailey has been used to having a teacher in a much smaller environment and does not have the breadth of experience in life to be able to put herself in her teacher's shoes and understand why she is cranky sometimes . She just takes it personally.  

Kailey came home from school recently quite upset.  It took awhile to get the story out of her -- because she was too mad to tell it in a linear fashion.  But, basically, what happened is they had a math test at school.  If the kids hadn't finished their test by the bell, they were allowed to stay in at recess and keep working on it.  Kai was among those kids and ended up spending her whole recess stewing over a particular problem that really had her tripped up.  After recess, the rest of the class came back in and she continued on her test while others worked on their grammar (in groups).  Kailey was trying to calculate the answer in her head and staring off into space and her teacher looked over at her, assumed she was not really doing the test anymore, and said (loud enough for everyone to hear), "Kailey, if you are just spacing out then just turn the test in."  Kai was pissed because she wasn't spacing out.  She was trying to figure out the problem and was both embarrassed that the rest of the class knew she was still working on the test and mad that she had been accused of doing something that she wasn't doing (spacing out).

So, she and I talked it through.  I talked about how her teacher had a big class to manage and might not be able to tell what Kai was doing by looking at her.  Kai had little empathy for her teacher and said, "I don't like her.  She's a terrible teacher.  She's so mean."  I told her it sounded like something she should talk to her teacher about -- to explain that she had been struggling with the test and that it embarrassed her when she got called out in front of everyone.  Kai said, "she won't talk to me... every time I try to get up to talk to her she tells me to sit down."  We then talked about how you have to be respectful of class time and that trying to talk to a teacher in the middle of class is probably not great timing.  I advised her to ask her teacher before or after school when a good time would be to talk.  We talked about how to approach someone in a non-defensive way.  How to be respectful and calm when telling someone something they had done to upset you. 

I didn't really think our talk would go anywhere.  But, the next day, Kai climbed into the car and said, "Mama!  I did it!  I talked to Mrs. Goodwin."  I was shocked and said, "really? What did you say?"  She said, "I did like we talked about -- I asked her before school when would be a good time to talk.  She said we could talk now.  So, I went into the classroom and I told her that I had really been trying on the test and that I was upset she called me out.  She didn't remember what I was talking about -- so, I told her the whole story about what had happened and then said that it made me feel embarrassed that she had called e out and that I had been trying.  She said that she couldn't read people's minds and so she wasn't sure what I was doing, but that she was glad I told her and that she was glad to know that I had been trying.  Then she explained the problem to me so that I understood what to do."  Kailey had a huge smile on her face while she told the story.  She was so pleased with the fact that she had addressed the problem herself and made a bit of a connection with her teacher. 

The day before, when we had been talking about it, she had said to me, "why can't YOU just talk to Mrs. Goodwin?"  And I had told her, "because it's really good to learn how to deal with issues yourself.  You're nine.  You have a voice.  You have feelings.  You can use that voice and tell others how you are feeling.  I can't solve everything for you." 

Seeing her shining eyes and sensing her feeling of empowerment at having used that voice to solve her own problem -- it made me so proud. 

Later in the week, she told me about a conflict she was having doing a group project.  She told me that there were frequent disagreements among her group and that she hated group projects. We talked again about how much group work there is in life and in jobs -- and that it is really important to learn how to deal with a group of people on a project.  I gave her some advice about how to navigate tricky issues with a group and told her sometimes it's best to just table to more difficult issues and do the things where everyone agrees -- because it helps to build trust among the group and it can be easier to come back later, once people are feeling like they've been making progress and working together well, and then tackle the bigger issues.  I told her about how I frequently have to take a big breath and just not say the things I'm thinking so that I diffuse instead of escalate a conflict. 

The next day, Kai came home from school and said, "Mama -- our group started arguing today... well, I was arguing, and they said they didn't want me in the group.  I took a big breath and counted to five.  Then I said, if I don't argue and we all just work quietly, can we keep working together?  they didn't say anything --  but, we all quieted down and kept working.  And, then when we started talking again, everything was OK.  We got through it."

I know she won't always try out my advice -- and I know I won't always have the answers -- but, it's remarkable to see her trying to work through these problems and taking to heart advice she is receiving on navigating difficult circumstances.  Kailey often has a very quick temper and can be really intense. But, her ability to self-reflect, to try new tactics, and to be open to advice and dialogue is a good counter-balance to a temper and intensity that otherwise could get her in hot water. I'm really proud to be her Mama. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

October Recap

Our new normal seems to be insanity -- hence the lack of posting on my blog.   October was another insanely busy month.  Part of the issue is that because Kailey transferred to a new school part way into the school year, she was not able to get into the after school program.  She did get into a couple of after school clubs, but they are not every day and mostly only last for an hour or so -- which means we are picking her up at 3:15 or 4:15 every day.  Incidentally, that is not the hour at which work ends.  So, we've been picking her up and taking her back to our office (or, on soccer days, rushing to soccer practice) and then trying to finish out our work day while helping her with homework, addressing her snack needs, and answering questions ("Mama, do you sometime feel like your in a tunnel and you cannot get out?"  "Mama, do you get pain in your chest and feel like you're having trouble breathing sometimes?"  "Mama, do you feel like you are angry for no reason and don't know how to get unangry?")  The questions, as you can see, suggest that Kailey is still struggling with the transition and so it's not easy to just brush her off so I can finish my work -- because I want to be mindful of her anxiety and help her navigate her way through.  But, it leaves far fewer hours to get my ever increasing workload addressed.  I've taken to setting my alarm at 4:30 am to try to get a few tasks done in the morning.  However, that rarely works as Alden senses my departure from the bed and is usually close on my heels, reminding me that it is "still nighttime" and that "you are supposed to be snuggling with me in bed right now, Mama."  Very sweet and also very irritating when one is trying to snatch an additional couple of hours out of the day. 

It's funny, I was looking at pictures with Alden this morning taken over the last year -- and pictures and videos are so misleading.  Although, they are also very telling and honest.  What I mean is that the pictures capture a lot of incredibly fun things that we did and capture the essence of those moments, freed of whatever stress, arguing, or irritation might have accompanied the moment in that moment.  I was watching a video of Alden skiing last year at Timberline, and it was a video full of joy of the moment of watching him take his first tentative solo slide on the skis with the biggest grin on his face.  For the 45 minutes before that video was taken, we were sweating it out in the ski shop trying to rent our gear, force boots on people's feet, deal with crying and bickering between Kai and Alden, convince them it would be worth the sweat and tears once we were finally out on the slopes, and wrangle all of our stuff outside.  We were arguing and bickering and questioning our sanity in taking a 2 year old skiing.  And then we got out there and captured that video and watching it brings a smile to my face every time.  It feels like these months are increasingly like that -- the memories and moments are beautiful and I feel deep nostalgia when I look at them despite that the actual moment was actually stressful and compromised as it was occurring, making it much more difficult to enjoy in the actual moment.  I feel exhausted and frustrated at the end of most of our long days when only a fraction of what I need to do is getting done, and then look back and marvel at speed that time is flying by and how quickly they are growing up and changing.

It's helpful to keep those competing viewpoints in mind looking back at months like the one we just got through.  There was a lot of stress in each moment.  But, we threw an incredibly Halloween party, complete with a large paper mache rock to complement Kailey's costume (that took several weekends to make), we got the grass planted out back (finally!), we took a weekend away in Tahoe without the kids, we played a lot of soccer, and got Kailey further settled into her new school. 

About  mid-way through the month, we went to a Farm Sanctuary with our friends Brian and Linnea.  They, like Kailey, are vegans and very supportive of her move to a vegan lifestyle.  They thought Kai (and Alden) might like visiting the animals on the farm -- which they did!  It definitely reinforces the notion of plant-based diets. Kai has become ever more strong in her belief that we should not eat things that required animals to be used or abused in order for us to get our food.  She does make the occasional exception for cupcakes or other desserts.  But, on the whole, she's adopted vegan eating whole heartedly.  I cannot say the same thing for myself.  I've mostly given up meat -- with the rare exception here or there.  But, I eat dairy and cheese while out in the world (mostly at lunch time).  I've found you really have to bring your own food if you want to be a full time vegan -- and, I am too lazy for that.  Anyway, our farm day was a ton of fun and we got some fantastic pictures of the kids.

Halloween was an event, as it always is at this house.  We handed out 650 pieces of candy!  Kailey went as a character from Ms. Perrigran's home for Peculiar Children (the thing that brought the costume together was the enormous rock we made, because the character, Brownyn, is an incredibly strong but tiny looking girl.  Of course, toting the rock around was not practical -- so most people thought she was a sailor!).  Alden went as a grasshopper.  He asked to be a grasshopper in August and, remarkably, never changed his mind.  We watched Alice in Wonderland a day or two before Halloween, and the kids decided that Eric and I should go as the Mad Hatter and the White Queen. Eric managed to pull our costumes together the day of, with the help of the costume shop down the street.   It took a good 30 minutes for me to get in that dress -- but, the kids were so excited that we went all out with our costumes.  While trick or treating, I had both a request for a photo with a fellow trick or treater and a small child run up to me and say, "I LOVE YOUR DRESS."  So, the costume was a hit.  Kailey had a friend over from school and Alden had several school friends over, as well as his favorite teacher from his class (who also had a 5 year old, and so came over to take advantage of our jam-packed Halloween extravaganza).  Alden was beside himself that Eramis was coming to our house.  He asked about it every day for the month leading up the big event.  She arrived after we were already out trick or treating, and when she walked up to us to say hello, Alden froze in place and then burst into a sprint and dove into her arms.  He asked her if she would please come to his house and was so excited when she came inside.  He say by her on the couch, snuggled up to her, so happy to have her visiting him outside of school.  It was a fun night -- but a really rough morning the next day trying to get out of the house for school.  Let's just say that Kai did  not make it to her 7:50 AM orchestra class.

What other updates do I have from my month-long sabbatical from writing?  Alden got a regular sized twin bed and is now sharing a room with Kailey.  Of course, this doesn't really mean much.  He is SUPER excited about the bed because it is much more fun to jump on a twin bed than a toddler bed, but he still wants to spend his nights in our bed with us. But, we're hoping that we are moving towards a time when he stays in his own bed through the night. 

It feels like the house is full of a lot more bickering as Alden gets older.  Right now, Kailey and Alden are playing happily together, dressed in costumes and working together on a play.  But, they are both so incredibly strong willed.  Kailey definitely has firm ideas on how every game should unfold.  Alden used to be fairly willing to go along.  But, these days, Alden also has his own ideas of how games should be played.  Alden is a master of pretending and is serious about his role playing.  Most of the time when I call out to him, he reminds that, "I'm not Alden." He has, invariably, told me who he is at the moment.  But, his character changes frequently throughout the day and it can be really hard to keep up.  He wants us to be in character, too.  And, Kailey often resists playing the character he wants her to play.  Fights and yelling ensue.  It's not pleasant.  We're trying to work through the issues and teach them how to be better communicators and compromisers. I suppose it was unrealistic to think we'd avoid serious sibling fighting -- but, I wish there wasn't quite so much of it these days. 

That said, when they are getting along, they really look after one another.  And, after a big fight recently, Alden turned to me and said, "I just feel so bad."  He then found Kailey, of his own accord, and apologized to him and she accepted his apology. And, Kailey was not at all opposed to Alden sharing her room. She was excited and said, "I won't be alone anymore!"  So, it's not all doom and gloom.  They're just siblings... siblings bicker.  But, they love each other, too.  So much.

We're already racing through November.  The months just whizz by.  I wish I had more time to write these days.  But, alas, I'm doing my best.  We're looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving again this year after taking last year off.  Kate is coming from NY, which is fabulous.  It will be like old times and the first time we've had her at this house for our favorite holiday.  We are also hosting several other families as well, so it will be a full house.  And, then, it's just a few more weeks before we head to Oregon for our annual trek to Timberline.