Friday, January 29, 2016

Loved

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a list of questions and answers she had asked her three year old, urging others to do the same with their children and list their responses.  Alden, of course, is too young to question (his answers would be "no", "no", "no" and "NOOOOO") but I thought it'd be fun to ask Kai the questions.  I'm so glad I did, as I love her answers and have read them over and over.  Here they are:

1. What is something I always say to you? I love you

2. What makes me happy? Me and Alden

3. What makes me sad? When I don't listen and when I say mean things about dinner

4. How do I make you laugh? Telling me something funny

5. What was I like as a child? You liked to play soccer

6. How old am I? 39

7. How tall am I? Don't know

8. What is my favorite thing to do? Play with me and Alden

9. What do I do when you're not around? Work

10. What am I really good at? Cooking and taking care of us

11. What am I not very good at? Ummmm.... I don't know.... Working at a restaurant?

12. What do I do for a job? You are the policy director for Children's Rights

13. What is my favorite food? Ummm... I don't know.... Chicken from Costco?

14. What do you enjoy doing with me? Going somewhere... Like on a trip
- Kailey, age 7

I often feel like I am a mediocre mom.  I get inpatient.  I rush from thing to thing and forget to stop and really be present.  I nag... a LOT.  Kai and I get in little tiffs and, admittedly, sometimes I could just let it go.  I rush everyone around and over-schedule us. 

But, reading her answers to my questions makes me so happy to see that, at her core, the primary feeling is love.  She feels loved.  And cared for.  And she feels that she and Alden are the center of my universe (they are) and spending time with them is the best part of my days (it is... even though I forget that in oh so many moments as I rush around and try to get too many things done for too many people). 

And, I love how her answers also hint at the rush of our life -- that my favorite food is Costco chicken.  I do say I love Costco chicken frequently.  My own roasted chicken is much better, in my humble opinion, but the Costco chicken is $5.  And ALREADY COOKED.  And doesn't make a mess in my kitchen.  It's far from my favorite food, but I can see why she would think it is my favorite given my exuberance every time we get it.  Now, if I could just find a service to deliver it... well, then, it might be all we ever eat. So, probably best that in order to have it, I have to find parking and brave the lines at Costco.  

And she also notes my impatience and frustration in answering the question about what makes me sad  I feel strongly that we should sit down together as a family many times a week and eat a diverse diet, as opposed to noodles, pizza or sushi every night (which is what Kai would choose!) but it is a huge time suck to meal plan, cook and clean... and, so, I get upset at her (increasingly so) when she complains and refuses to eat.  But, she's been getting better about trying foods and eating a bit more.  So, we're making progress. 

And I love how she hesitated when I asked her what I'm not good at.  I'm sure that was partly due to her not wanting to offend me.  She could think of lots of things if she tried -- see the list above!  But, she hesitated and then responded with something I had previously told her I wasn't very good at -- which was working in a restaurant (which is what I was doing the summer I met Eric).  I was fine at running the coffee station (which was my actual job), but when the kitchen next to the coffee cart got busy, they'd pull me in to wait tables.  I was less good at that and I told Kai a story once about me dropping someone's food -- so, that's what she went with.  Too funny. 

I'll have to try to find other questions to ask her -- it's so fun to see what she's thinking in any moment and I know I don't have many more years of her being willing to answer my silly questions. 

I love you so much, Kailey!

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Big Boy Style


Alden has style.  He has particular ways of moving and funny faces that he makes when he is trying to catch our eye.  But his walk, in particular, makes me laugh.  As our friend Aaron pointed out, you don't see it often because he is almost always running.  But, when he walks, he has a very distinctive walk.  He sticks out his belly, trails his arms behind himself, and sort of kicks out each leg in this very intentional way.  Eric says it's his Archie Bunker walk.  I am not really familiar with All in the Family, but I think I know exactly how that character gets around. 

Alden, like his sister before him at this age, has also decided that he is not a mere 22 months.  He has taken note of all the things that are different for him as compared to others -- sitting in a high chair, using plastic dishes, having people help to feed him, sitting in shorter chairs, having to wait for others to fetch things for him.  He's noticed - and he isn't having it anymore.  He insists on sitting in a regular chair at dinner (or in one of our laps).  No more high chairs for him.  He likes to eat off the real dishes with the real utensils.  He likes to drink out of real glasses.  He likes to climb on the stool and attempt to get things himself.  He opens drawers and rifles around until he finds something interesting, which he then attempts to use or - more often - lose.  Our stuff is scattered everywhere.

About 2 months ago -- when he was just 20 months (exactly as Kai was), Alden realized that cribs were essentially little jails and that his mad climbing skills meant that he no longer had to be confined.  He escaped.  So, no more cribs for him.  Alden has been in a toddler bed for the last couple of months, requiring us to spend a lot more time at night making sure all gates, doors and drawers are closed so that he cannot hurt himself in the middle of the night as he attempts to make his way from his room (he and Kailey are sharing a room at the moment) to our room.  My kids are the only ones I've met who were out of the crib before 2.  Those rock climbing genes of Eric's really could have waited a couple of more years to kick in.  It's hard not being able to really contain him for even a moment. 

Alden's insistence that he is no longer a baby is sometimes awesome. He'll clean up after himself, happily picking up the things he's thrown on the floor and trotting over to the trash can to throw them away.  He loves helping -- after, of course, he makes the mess. 

And I love watching him try out his newfound independence.  That is, I love it unless I'm feeling inpatient, tired, or hurried.  So, 10% of the time I love it.  90% of the time I am trying to convince him that the highchair, plastic utensils, baby gates, cribs, sippy cups and other baby devices are for his own good.  But, he's not having it. 

And, he'll win.  He'll grow up.  He's doing it before our very eyes. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Words and Movement

Alden has had a language explosion over the last few weeks.  He is now repeating words when we say them and busting out with new words I didn't know he knew every day.  We were counting all the words he says, and it was too many to count.  Many of them are quite difficult to decipher if you aren't a "familiar listener" (I love that term -- the doctor told us when Kai was about two-and-a-half  or so that a familiar listener should be able to understand what she's saying 75% of the time.  Which, we could... but, no one else could get even close to that percentage!  That's kind of where we are with Alden, only since he's only one-and-a-half I would say we understand him about 50% of the time).

He makes a ton of animal noises and can say meow, neigh, woof, cheep cheep, moo, shhhhh (for a snake), cluck, and quack.  I tried to get it on video, but so far, no luck.  He also knows nearly all his body parts:



And says, "Nooo" in the most definitive fashion possible.  He says "no" maybe a thousand times a day.   He's very good at it.  I didn't really capture it in this video, but, it gives a flavor of his favorite word:


He also can do a two-footed hop and really gets some air.  He loves to "ump" "ump" (as he says).



He's at such a fun (and aggravating) age.  There is so much that he understands.  But, even with his language explosion, there is so much that he cannot say.  So, we are in the land of frequent melt downs as he yells in frustration "NOOOOOO" when we continuously guess wrong at what he wants.  But then, when we guess right, his face explodes into the biggest smile.  Alden really has an amazing smile.  And he'll reward us with a pat on the back or a cuddle.  He also does a full body nod -- as you can see in the video above.  When he's really excited he does the full body nod while hopping up and down.  It's hilarious. 

At night time, he continues to get up 2 - 4 times a night.  He is such a light sleeper and his pacifier falling out of his mouth or me rolling away from him (he hates that) wakes him right up.  He likes me to sleep on my back so he can lay his head on my shoulder and rub my face.  It sounds adorable, but sometimes at 3 in the morning, all I want is to curl up by myself on my side and have some non-toddler time.  That doesn't happen much. 

He has such clear opinions of things and is so enthusiastic.  His joy and energy abound.  I know these days will be over in an instant and I'll never get these sweet cuddles, hugs, kisses, face grabs, and smiles back.  He's the sweetest boy and we love watching him learn and change!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Holiday Recap

Here I thought I was on track to beat my record in number of posts during the year this last year.  I don't really know why I thought that -- but, the end of the year did me in as I struggled to find time to write anything down.  And now I have 3 weeks of vacation to try to write about in the ten minutes I have before my next meeting starts.  So, here goes nothing!

December was a crazy month for us.  There was the rush to get ready for the holidays and out of town visitors, lots of work travel, and then I also introduced Kindness Elves (Sophie and Alex) into the house.  Kai has talked about Elf on the Shelf before, but we didn't do it in part because it seems a little creepy.  But, I read about folks having Kindness Elves, that basically help to remind children to be kind and think about others during this month of consumer-filled me-me-me!!  So, that seemed like a good idea and the elves I found were considerably cuter than the Elf on the Shelf.  So, one morning, I left them on the stairs with a note in Sophie's pocket.  When Kai saw them, she flipped.  She was SOOO excited.  She immediately did what the note said (make a gift for a friend) and set about anticipating the next day's discovery of the elves.  So, there's the rub.  The elves have to move every night and have a new note for the next day.  Given that I was out of town a ton (the month started out the month in Anaheim for work and then had a week at home followed by a day in Los Angeles (work again) and then Kailey and I took off for Baltimore, MD) and just my general forgetfulness -- there were a few mornings when the elves failed to deliver a note or to move around the house.  Kai took matters into her own hands one morning when the elves were just sitting in the same place as the night before, writing the elves a little note:



It says: "Dear Kindness Elves Sophie and Alex:  Why did you not write a note this morning? And why are you in the same spot that you were last night?  p.s.  stay away from the baby (danger) and the kittens (danger).  The kittens will tear you up and the baby will throw you everywhere!  write why here: _________________________.  WHY!!"

That note cracks me up.   Why?!?  So funny.  The elves never responded, but they did move around the next morning.

In terms of our adventures -- Kai and I started the month traveling to the east coast.  I had a meeting in Baltimore and decided to take Kailey along so that we could spend the weekend in NYC with Kate and Becca. The timing wasn't ideal because Kai had to miss her winter performance at school, where she had the lead role, and her jazzerettes performance.  The school changed the date of the performance in early December, moving it to the day we were away.  When I told Kai, she was super bummed.  At first she wanted to cancel the trip.  It was really tough because I knew how hard she'd been practicing her lines and the dance moves and how much she wanted to show us what she had accomplished.  But, I had no control over the timing of the trip or the changing of the performance date.  I felt very stuck.  Kai and I spent a long time talking about it and got to a place where she was OK about going and there would be lots of good things she'd get to do that she'd miss out on if we canceled the trip.

The first night in Baltimore was just me and Kailey, which was awesome.  I haven't had a lot of alone time with Kai in the last couple of years.  The combination of some intensive time at work, house hunting, moving, having a baby, and then having two kids has meant that Kai and I get very little quality time together.  So, I was super excited to get a weekend with Kailey alone.  We went out to a fancy restaurant that night and had fun watching a documentary about Antarctica, which Kai was so excited to discover as we flipped through the channels since that's what they'd been studying in school. 

 


Meanwhile back at home, Alden was having fun seeing Christmas lights with Eric:


The next morning, Kate met up with us in order to watch Kai while I was working, and they had a great time at the Baltimore Science Museum.  We spent that evening in Baltimore and then headed to Brooklyn the next morning.  Kai loved visiting with her aunts and we went to the NYC Ballet's production of the Nutcracker, where Kai got to meet one of the dancers afterwards.  Kai was shy, but also full of questions for the 11-year old dancer (the daughter of Kate's boss).  Her questions really showed how intently she had watched the show -- she asked if the mice had been wearing ballet shoes, noticing that their feet were the same color as the fur of the mice.  She wanted to know if the tree was real and how they made it grow.  She wanted to know if they could see when wearing the mice costumes.  We also took in another museum, saw holiday lights and the tree in Rockefeller Center, and generally just toured around. I have lots of work trips coming up this next year to other fun places and am scheming on how to bring Kai along so we can have some more one-on-one time together. 






When we returned, we had a day to clean the house and then Grammy, Amy, Dave, Leo and Soren all arrived for the holidays.  We did a lot of cooking together, which was fantastic because Amy, Dave, Leo and Soren are all great cooks and we had fun in the kitchen together making roasts, tamales, tacos, lasagnas, and other treats.  Kai and Alden both got things they loved for Christmas -- Kai got ice skates, a new art station (from Nonnie and Papa) and a violin (from Grammy).  Alden a little piano and a tool bench (from Nonnie and Papa), and a toddler MP3 player (From Grammy).  Alden loves using his drill and hammering things into the tool bench.  And he is so choosy about music and which song to play with -- it's nice for him to have a device where he can control what's being played!  Now I just have to figure out how to sign Kai up for violin lessons. Looks like this winter/spring she'll be doing Jazzerettes, violin, Tae Kwon Do, an indoor soccer. And we plan to sign Alden up for Music Together again because he loves music so much (I've never met a one year old that can keep a tune the way he can!)  But, all those classes and activities... Seems like a lot.










Over the next few days, we went ice skating, cooked a lot, played with the kittens, read or played games in front of the fire, and had Linda Ann baby-sit for a day so the rest of us could see the new Star Wars (really just a remake of the first one that came out -- but, still, oh so nice to enjoy a movie all the way through!!)  On New Year's Eve, Eric and Amy got the outdoor fireplace all fired up (literally) and we cooked pork and chicken over the fire and had delicious tacos.  No one made it past 10 PM, but we had fun ringing in the new year in our own way.






On New Year's day, we headed to Bend, OR and spent a couple of nights camping in yurts in below freezing weather.  The kids loved it.  They had fun hiking in the snow and throwing snow/ice balls at each other.  And, with the sleeping bags and extra blankets, it was super cozy at night. 

After Bend, we headed to Timberline for our annual ski trip.  As Kai walked into the doors of the lodge she declared, "never missed a year!" with a big grin on her face.  And, indeed, this was her EIGHT time at the lodge.  Crazy. 

Timberline had a TON of snow this year.  We haven't had great snow the last few years, so that was a treat.  Alden quickly learned how to say, "SNoooo" and "Iccceee"  and "Sk-ee"  As we drove to the mountain he kept pointing out the window and declaring, "SNoooo!!" He was entranced. 

This year was special because Kai and I spent a day skiing together.  I can scarcely believe I am typing those words.  I hadn't had skis on since Kai was 4, since I was pregnant when we were there when she was 5 and caring for an infant last year.  The time I skied when she was 4, I had started to get the hang of it -- but, just barely.  Basically, I could manage on mostly flat ground.  But, this year Kai started out on Bruno (the bunny slope) and after one run down, she was skiing better than she had the year before, retaining everything she had learned previously.   I decided to see if I had similarly retained my lessons from the three years earlier and rented skis -- and, to my surprise, found that I could get down the (bunny!) hill pretty well.  Eric watched Alden that afternoon while Kai and I raced each other down the steepest part of the bunny slope again and again.  She now says she taught me how to ski -- even though her "lessons" consisted of skiing away from me as fast as she could while yelling, "follow me and DON'T be scared!" It was a blast. 

The other two days, Eric and Kai skied together, covering the rest of the mountain.  Kai is really getting to be a very competent skier, and we are trying to figure a way for the three of us to go to Tahoe together one day this winter so we can all ski. 

Alden is still a little young for the best parts of Timberline, but he had fun running up and down the halls, playing with the water fountains, pushing buttons on the elevator, drinking hot chocolate, and jumping on the beds.  We tried to get him into skis, but that was a nightmare and a near disaster (you try riding a chair lift with a screaming toddler who is kicking and throwing himself around with skis on his feet).  Maybe next year.  And we took him out into the snow to build a snowman.  He didn't do much building, but liked watching us throw snowballs at each other. 






We endured an 11 hour drive home through ice and snow, arriving home Wednesday at 11 PM and have jumped right back into work and home life.  But, it was nice to have so many adventures together for a few weeks and we're already planning for next year.

Happy New Year!