Monday, August 17, 2015

Harry Potter

Kai has a new obsession -- Harry Potter.  She loves all things of the wizarding world.  I thought she was a bit young for it all, but she's reading the books and asks a million questions a day about the intricacies of Hogwarts, Muggles and Wizards.  Of course, I don't know the answers to the questions. I've seen the movies, but I don't really remember the details of the plots.  And, I never read the books.

Fortunately for Kailey, our nanny is a Harry Potter aficionado and has been able to answer all variety of questions.  She has also shown Kai some rap songs that have been changed to be about Harry Potter.  Kai has spent the last week learning one of them and practicing signing and dancing with her black cape on.

She's moving away from princesses and Fozen and pink.  Her favorite color is now teal.  Her favorite movie Harry Potter.  Still deep into the world of make believe, but it's evolving.  More nuances and magic and imagination.  Less pink and frills and fluff.  I'm not sure Harry Potter would have been my first choice of things to take an interest in -- but, it's fun to see her tastes evolve and her world expand.

Personal Trainer

I've been trying to figure out a way to incorporate exercise back into my day, even though we canceled our gym membership months ago and I find it hard to leave work mid-day now that I have two employees working with me full-time.  I'm also not an evening person.  I am a morning person, but since having kids, I guess I figured I had to do child care in the morning, especially since Alden wakes up so early.  Seriously, the kid is up by 6 AM every day.  Often it's earlier.  And, he doesn't go back to sleep.  So, we take turns trying to pacify him (sometimes quite literally with a pacifier, other times by cuddling or reading or showing him our phones... you do what you gotta do).  But, really, it's just miserable until 7 AM when we finally get out of bed.  So, my thinking had been I couldn't just take off during that time to go exercise, leaving Eric to deal with Alden's wiggles and complaining.

But, then, it occurred to me that Alden could come with me on my morning workouts.  That's what I used to do with Kailey -- load her in the backpack and hike the hills of Oakland.  Here, there are no hills to hike and our neighborhood is so small.  I like having a long loop to hike, rather than walking up and down the same streets.  So, I wasn't that enthused by the idea, but decided to give it a try.  The first morning, we walked up and down all the streets in our neighborhood.  It only took about 25 minutes, but it was a start.  And, Alden loved it.  He was so excited to go outside.  I pointed out birds and planes and trees and flowers.  He tapped on my arm as we walked, bounced up and down and yelled happily.  

The next morning, I realized I could hike over to the Costco and around and come back into our neighborhood (about 2 miles into the hike) and then do the last mile walking up and down the streets.  It's a great route.  Exactly 3 miles.  It's been taking me 45 minutes.  

Alden loves it.  He loves it so that it is now like having my own personal trainer.  Saturday morning, he woke up at 5:50 AM and started patting my arm and doing his sign for "outside".  I told him " no -- not today Alden.  Mommy's tired."  He patted me again, yelped in my face, and signed "outside".  I rolled over trying to ignore him.  It didn't work.  He's very insistent.  So, after about 10 minutes of trying to ignore him, I realized I wasn't going to get to go back to sleep and that, even though I wasn't feeling like walking, I might as well go on a walk.  So, we did.  

So, because Alden insists, we've done the walk nearly every day for a week.  I took one day off because Eric was out of town and I couldn't go out and leave Kai alone in the house.  And Sunday, I managed to convince Alden to go back to sleep and skip the walk.  But, every other day, we've been walking the neighborhood at 6 AM, up with the birds and the feral cats and the other morning critters.  My body is sore, but I'm liking the new routine and like having a personal trainer built into my life! Most personal trainers are expensive -- I guess more people need an Alden.  


Alden has really taken to reading books, lately.  He says "bok" and signs the word for book, slapping his hands together and then making a little v-shape.  He has definite preferences about which book he wants to read.  If you grab the wrong book, he shakes his head vigorously and points to the stack of books (it could be any of the books in the stack) and says"bok" and signs again.  I know, I know -- you want to read.  But, which one?  I'll take another book from the pile and he'll shake his head again, this time shouting in frustration.  But, eventually, we find the one he wants (it's generally not the same one each time -- that would be too easy).

Last night we read 10 Minutes to Bedtime, and Alden was so participatory in the reading of the book.  On the first page, when the hamsters are arriving in the cars, Alden said, "vrrrooooommmmm.... vrrroooommmmm" which is what he says whenever he sees a car.  I affirmed that there were cars.  Then when the little hamsters are eating their snacks, he signed "eat" and said "yummmmmm".  I agreed that they were eating and it looked good.  Then when they brush teeth, Alden waggled his finger in front of his mouth. On the page where they read the book, he shouted "bok" and signed the word for book at the same time.  We turned the page and he saw the hamsters in the tub and signed the word for "bath".  Finally, when the hamsters and the little boy headed to bed, he signed sleep, putting his face on his cheek.

As soon as I closed the book, Alden pointed at the stack of books and signed again.  So, I grabbed the A-B-C book by Eric Carle.  When we got to the B word, I asked him what it was and he said, "brrrdd", rolling his r.  And then I asked him what sound it makes and he said, "aaaaa" (for "caw" but he doesn't do the c sound) . When we got to the dog I asked him what sound the dog makes and he said "rrrrrrraaaaaaa".  He loves identifying the animals and learning the sounds they make.  But, his favorite part is signing the A-B-Cs at the end of the book.  After finishing the song, he clapped appreciatively and then signed for me to sing it again.  So, I did. I love how he reads along with me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Theater Camp

Kai spent last week at the B Street Theater Camp.  Three of her friends from Courtyard were also at the camp, which made for an extra-fun week.  Kai has no trouble making friends and bonds with other children quickly in any situation.  So, at the other camps she's been to this summer where she hasn't known any of the other children at the start, she's had close friends by the end.  But, it's even more fun to share the camp experience with kids she knows well and be able to relive the experience in the months to come when they are back at school. 

Kai also has a bit of stage fright that she has been overcoming since her earliest schooling days as she has participated in various performances.  I think it's good she's done other drama programs, jazzerttes, soccer, and that her school also gives the kids many opportunities to get in front of an audience and speak, sing, play music or dance.  She is getting more and more comfortable with being in front of a crowd. 

The B Street camp ends with a performance -- each of the kids gets a few lines in the play and also participates in a commercial.  Kai practiced her lines all week and was very excited for the performance.  She said she was nervous, but mostly excited.  And, when she was up on stage, it looked like she was having a great time.  She remembered all of her lines, and had a huge smile on her face.  She really didn't look nervous at all.

It was also fun to see her classmates -- kids we have gotten to really know over the last year -- perform.  It's really nice to be forming such a close community with other parents and kids here -- it's something we failed to do in Oakland, and I'm really glad we've spent the time building up these relationships here. 

We weren't allowed to take videos of the performance, but I did get some photos and videos in between the performances (they got to perform the play twice -- which was nice, because we got to see it from different seats and notice things we missed the first time around).  During the break in between, we let Alden get up on the stage and he LOVED it.  He danced and ran around, squealing with excitement.  He was so excited to be up on the stage where Kai had just performed.  He can't wait for his moment in the spotlight! 


Alden loves to copy everything we do and tries to help out as much as possible -- of course, he's really no help at all, but I appreciate the effort.  The other day, he and Kailey spent an hour mopping and sweeping the floor.  She actually got quite a bit cleaned up, and he followed her happily, mop in hand, knocking over anything that got in the way of the back of the mop.  It was super cute.  Hopefully he'll still be this willing to pitch in when he's a bit older (and more capable of wielding the mop so that it actually does some cleaning!)

Car Dancing

Alden has always loved music.  Back in the days when he hated (HATED) the car, the only thing that had any hope of calming him down was playing Music Together CDs.   He sings along to his favorite songs and, when we were in DC riding in the cab, he pointed at the speaker and said, "ahhhh... laaaaaa... ahhh"... singing and pointing to let us know that he had identified the source of music in the vehicle.  It was so cute. 

Lately, he has taken to car dancing.  It's hard not to be totally fixated on him when driving because he puts on quite a show, clapping his hands, moving his arms side to side, bouncing to the beat, banging his head on the back of the car seat, kicking his feet.  I pulled over to get this video (of course) -- and he wasn't nearly as exuberant as he is when the car is moving, but still, it's a peek into what our driving time is like these days:

Kai dances with him and he copies her moves and then invents some of his own for her to copy.  They entertain each other endlessly in the car.  It's still loud, but instead of wailing loud it's happy shouts and squeals of laughter... I'll take it!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Yes and No

Alden has demonstrated even more strongly his understanding of the concepts of "yes" and "no".  A few mornings ago, he woke up from the long night (well, one wishes it were long.  There still seem to be far to many disruptions during the night.  Alden isn't great at sleeping through an entire night).  But, it was a long night in the sense that we never change him in the middle of the night and in the morning, his diaper is always quite full.

So, he woke up and was making goofy faces and tapping on my back and shouting happy sounds in my face -- his usual morning routine -- and I finally turned to him and said, "Alden, should we change your diaper?"  He shook his head "no" - quite assuredly, I might add.

I made a face at him and said, "Alden, is your diaper wet?"  This time he nodded "yes" -- again, with great assurance. 

I laughed and said, "so shouldn't we change your diaper?" and he shook his head vigorously, "no", and looked at me like I might not be as sharp as he once thought.  Yes, his diaper was wet.  No, he didn't want it changed.  Asked and answered.

I changed him anyway -- but, it's good to know he knows his own mind! 

Washington DC

I'm going to try to write this post really fast -- in the 10 minutes before I have to leave to take Kai to Theater Camp (which she is loving).

We spent 9 nights in D.C. this year -- 9 nights!!  It was a great trip and really fun to hunker down and be some place for a long time.  I also found a sweet deal on a suite at our hotel -- so we had an amazing room (huge living room, conference/dining room, big bedroom, bathroom).  It was nice to have the space to spread out -- especially with a one year old who was in his second and third week of full-on walking and wanted to do nothing more but practice his newly found skill. 

This was Kailey's third trip to D.C. -- Eric took her and Alden to meet our Congresswoman, Representative Matsui, and her staff member said to Kailey, "ohh... you're so lucky getting to come to DC when you're seven.  Is this your first time here?"  When Eric said it was her third trip, the staff member was like, "WOW!  My first time to D.C. was this summer for this job".  Kailey is a very well-traveled seven year old.  My travel schedule sometimes has felt oppressive, but has also allowed me to rack up miles to bring her on the more exciting trips (Denver, New Orleans, Washington DC, etc).  And, beyond the work trips, there are so many other places we've all gone together (NYC, Puerto Rico, St. John, Portland, Los Angeles, etc).  I think when I was seven I had been to Albuquerque (where I grew up until I turned 7), Portland (where I moved at 7), and Anaheim (for Disneyland).  But, all the traveling means Kai is a great traveler -- she rolls with the punches on the long travel days, she's up for any adventure, and she gets into all the different aspects about being some place new.  There was little whining or complaining on the trip -- we have such fun traveling together.  I hope Alden grows up to be a great traveler, too.  At this point, he is amazing and one.  Which means he also rarely whines, but he wants to move.  All. The. Time.  The long flight was hard.  He didn't cry.  But, my back (and Eric's back) paid dearly for all the effort to keep him from kicking the seat in front of us and to pass him back and forth, pick him up and down (he's almost 30 pounds!!)  The travel days were loonnnnggggggg.

Anyway, back to D.C. -- I was working most of the first week, but we made the most of the one day I had off and hit the National Archives and the National Art Gallery.  Kai was the one that asked to go to the Archives.  She asked us where the original Declaration of Independence was and we pointed at the Archives and said, "it's in there."  She asked if she could see it -- so off we went.  I remember doing the same thing with my parents when I was ten.  I was blown away by the history and importance of it all -- and I think it had the same impact on Kailey.  She asked a lot of great questions, so much so that several folks approached us (at different times during the visit) and commented on how inquisitive and smart she is.  I asked her what she thought it meant when they wrote that every person has the right to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" and she said, "it means no one is better or worse than anyone else."  Such a good answer!

After seeing the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights (Alden slept through most of that part), we went to the gift store and Kai got her very own copies of the two documents.  She spent the next several days playing pretend in the hotel room, unfurling the documents and pretending to be drafting the words.  She had Eric read her the Declaration of Independence as her bedtime story one night.  I realize I'm a total political nerd... but, really, makes a mama proud!

After the Archives, we went to the National Art Gallery and showed Kai some of the most famous paintings and my favorite places to come and study when I was in college.  She took pictures of many of her favorite pictures.  And, Alden found a favorite too -- it wasn't a painting, it was a sculpture of a horse and the first African American unit that fought in the Civil War.  Alden really liked that horse.  He would tap on whoever was nearby and then point at the horse and then point at them and grunt and smile... he really wanted others to admire the horse, too!

(right after this picture was taken, Kai let go of Alden and he fell off the step onto his forehead.  Ouch.  Poor, Alden!  He has gotten so many bumps on his forehead in the last few months)
 After the Art Gallery, we were all tired, so we headed back to the hotel and later went out to dinner at the Mexican restaurant that Eric and I used to frequent when we lived in D.C. (corn tamales are a perfect kid food).  It was a nice day before digging into 4 days of crazy work activities (for me).
The next day, I spent the day doing Hill visits (meeting with Congressional staff) and Eric took the kids to the Museum of Natural History and a couple of other museums.  They had a great time -- I love how all the museums in D.C. are free and, also, the exhibits are amazing.  D.C. truly is an amazing spot for a family vacation.
The next day, I was speaking at a conference and busy from 8 AM - 6 PM.  So, Eric scheduled time to introduce the kids to our Congresswoman and then took them to the hearings going on regarding the nuclear deal with Iran (when the kids ran into my friend Brian and Eric told him what they were off to do, Brian joked that it sounded like he might need to call CPS... ha ha!).  They couldn't get into the hearing itself -- it was packed.  But, they did find the press gallery outside the hearing and Kai posed -- she's ready for her interview!

They also stopped by the Supreme Court -- she's ready for her oral argument (even typing those words makes me feel butterflies in my stomach... arguing in front of the Supreme Court would be such an amazing experience...says the nerdy lawyer).

The next day, they just hung out at the hotel and the pool all day.  The Omni has a great pool and extensive grounds -- so, it's a pretty fun place to chill. Alden especially loved having a day to just explore the hotel!


Saturday, I finished up in the early afternoon and was able to run over to the zoo and meet up with everyone (by this time, Katie was also with us -- she came down from NYC to spend a few days with us, which was awesome).  The zoo has really improved since the last time we went -- we especially liked the exhibit on the Amazon.  Alden LOVES birds, and the flamingos were so close, we could almost touch them.  They also had fun riding the carousel, of course!

Sunday, we headed to the monuments and saw the World War II memorial and the MLK memorial -- I love the MLK memorial.  They did a really good job with that.  Kai and I read all the quotes together and talked about what they meant.  She's at such a fun age for exploring D.C. because she's thinking about history, civil rights, and our place in the world. 

When Eric was working on Monday, Katie and I took the kids to the Museum of Native American History.  Kai is very interested in Native Americans, and it was a great museum.  Lots of room for Alden to run around and great exhibits and information for Kai.  We also took them to the Air and Space Museum, which was less fun (although, Alden and I both took a much needed nap while Kai and Kate watched two Imax shows -- a win win!)

Overall, our trip to DC was a great success and we all had a ton of fun.  This conference that I was at happens every other year -- so, there's a good chance we'll get to do it all again when Alden's 3 and Kai is 9.  The idea of Kai being 9 kind of blows my mind (and yet, I can totally wrap my head around Alden being 3... why is that?)

Kai is now in the midst of Theater Camp (a big hit!) and getting to spend the afternoons with Alden and Will.  She loves playing with the babies -- and treats them both like her brothers.  The three of them are such an adorable trio.

Summer is winding down, but there are still a few more weeks of fun ahead.  I'll try to keep posting!!