Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day

As with Mother's Day, there was a little celebration at Alden's school for Father's Day.  They made a collage of the quotes that each child said about their daddy.  Alden said, "I love to play horsey with my daddy."  He likes when I pick him up and take him places, notably to Will's house. And he likes roughing around and playing horsey with his daddy.  Very accurate! 

Anyway, that is really where the similarities with the two celebrations ended.  Remember how I wrote about the forced day off work so that I could spend the day with my preschooler by packing him a picnic lunch (which, as you recall, I failed to do because I had assumed that on a celebration of mother's, the mothers would not have to be the ones packing the lunches). 

For Father's day, the school sent an email inviting all daddies to drop their child off at school and stay for a donut and coffee before they had to head out to work.  The event went until 8:30 AM so that everyone could get to work in time.  And, the donuts were provided.  As was the coffee. 

Seriously.  What year is it?  And, what kind of message are we sending to our preschoolers? Daddies have to work.  They cannot spend a whole afternoon with you.  And, also, they cannot pack their own breakfasts (or, at least, we wouldn't want to impose such a duty on them).  Also, the children did not prepare any special song for the dads -- because, who could expect all the dads to show up at the same time?  I say that sarcastically, of course, as every school event has been equally attended by the moms and dads. 

I was so irritated.  I LOVE Alden's school... most of the time.  But, the persistent gender bias that has cropped up time and again is so irritating.  No one at his school would bat an eye if Eric were out of town as much as I am.  But, for some reason, it gets me a lot comments about how difficult it must be for Alden and various comments insinuating that I likely have little clue as to what's going on with him.  But, despite the fact that I clearly work -- there is also the expectation that I can take a day off whenever called upon to do so to host a field trip, pack a picnic or be otherwise on call.  There is no similar ask of the daddies. 

Eric points out that it cuts both ways and is also hurtful to have such low expectations of dads and the idea that they generally are a nice, but unnecessary, accessory in their children's lives. And, that is also true. 

We are co-parents.  Both involved at their schools and in their lives -- running them around town, going to parent conferences, helping with school work, playing together, doing projects, and being there for everything big and small.  And, we both miss things some of the time.  Because we both work.  And both of our jobs are important.  It is really time that we adapted schools and work to the expectation of joint caregiving responsibilities (whether that caregiving be for a child or another member of your family).

In our own family, we share a lot of the work.  We've always got numerous house projects going on and overwhelming numbers of tasks at work and all the general family time that we try to get in -- and, we share it.  We make it happen.  We parent together.  Maybe we shouldn't have a separate day for moms and dads.  Increasingly, in blended families and families that come in all different types, that just has the potential of alienating as much as it does celebrating.  Some children don't have a mother or a father.  They have a grandparent raising them.  Or, they're in foster care.  Or they have two mommies . Or two daddies. So, maybe we should just celebrate caregiving. 

Eric is an amazing dad and deserving of celebration.  And, I'm a pretty kick ass mom.  But, we don't need to be celebrated as a "mom" or a "dad" -- and we certainly don't need celebrations full of outdated stereotypes and expectations (or the lack thereof). 

OK -- rant over.

And, thank you, Eric, for being the amazing dad and partner that you are!

Hamming it Up

Alden loves videos.  Loves them.  He woke up this morning and before his eyes were open, he asked for a video.  I laughed and told him he wasn't even awake.  He protested and then I told him we don't have videos first thing when we wake up, to which he replied, "then, when we go downstairs?"  I laughed and then he made it into a game, asking for videos in silly voices and he kept saying, "wait! wait!... Ummm.... can I... can I .... ummmm... can I have a... VIDEO?!"  He was being hilarious.  But, I told him we couldn't watch videos.  So, he got books for us to read instead.  The book was about different animals and Alden started asking what sound they made.  But, the animals in this book were hippos, lemurs, beavers, and penguins.  I have no idea what ANY of those animals sound like.  So, I smiled and said to Alden, "well... to answer that, I guess we need a video."  He was so pleased and we watched videos of hippos, lemurs, penguins and beavers to learn their various sounds.  Clever little boy, he is.

Alden also likes to mimic videos . He'll re-enact scenes from movies and he remembers his favorite lines.  I may have already written this story in a prior post (because, who can keep track?  Particularly with my favorite stories because I repeat them to numerous people and also try to remember to write them on the blog...and, I lose track of what I've done and who I've told what to.  I'm sure it's annoying to everyone in my life who gest subjected to multiple tellings of the same story).  Anyway, he was riding his bike around our neighborhood the other day and he rides down the little hills on the sidewalk with his feet outstretched to get as much speed as possible.  The other day, as he was heading down a hill, he hollers, "I'm.... STILL.... FALLING" quoting a line from Moana.  I laughed so hard.  And then, he continued with the movie line, "Dum-dum... she's not even down here.  What mortal would jump into the...."  It's crazy how he knows lines from movies and also how to use them with comedic effect in his daily life .

Eric was showing him videos of some funny dance moves from Saturday Night Live, and he decided to imitate those, too.  This has resulted in one of my favorite videos of all time:

video

End of 3rd Grade


Wow!  Kai has finished 3rd grade.  There she is above on her first day this year.  Eager and ready to go.  And, with good reason.  She had an excellent year.  They wrote a memory book as one of their last projects, recording their thoughts from the year.  Kai's cracks me up.  The first page is "All About Me" and Kai writes: "I am small, blonde and creative.  I like to color and to read.  My favorite book is the Land of Stories.  I like to do drama but I get shy.  I also collect pencil leads."  I have no idea what pencil leads are and also had no idea she collected them.  The rest of her description of herself is pretty spot-on.  I would add that she is mighty to the first sentence.  Mighty, determined, and persistent.   She says her favorite color is teal and her favorite food is sushi. 

The next page is "All About My Class" and Kailey writes: "My class is loud and very crazy.  On the outside, it looks like we're 3rd graders.  But, on the inside, we're preschoolers."  Oh, Kai's poor teacher. But, again, a pretty apt description.  Her class is full of hyper, type A personalities.  Everyone has something to say.  She also writes that her favorite class memory is the Marin Headlands. 

The next page is "All About My School" and Kai writes, "My favorite school event is the plays.  I like to act . I just get scared."  Kai has decided she would like to be an actor.  When we talk about the fact that she hates it when people look at her or ask her to perform, she is undeterred.  She says that just because she is afraid of being on stage doesn't mean she doesn't enjoy it.  At Target today, a woman approached us excitedly and asked if Kai was over 7 yet.  I told her she was 9 and she got more excited and pleaded with us to go to an audition for being a model in the Nordstrom's advertisements, stating that it is really difficult to find the blonde-haired, blue-eyed models.  Kai made a face at her.  After she walked away, I asked her if she'd want to do it and she said, emphatically, "NO."  Then she told me she just wants to focus on school plays at the moment and go from there.  So, she's developing her skills in her own way -- is there any other?

The next few pages deal with what she learned throughout the year in various subjects.  For math,  Kai writes, "I learned the perimeter, which is the outside of the shape.  I also learned my times tables through 12.  I also learned division."  For reading, she writes: "I learned how to make connections and how to summarize.  I also learned how to sit and read quietly." In science, "I learned energy and biomes.  I learned that sea turtles mistake plastic bags as jelly fish.  Then they choke and die."  For Social Studies, "I learned that my character for the Sutter's Fort project discovered gold.  I also learned that the government and George Washington made the Constitution."  Well... not quite.  But, that's OK!  For writing she says, "I wrote about sea turtles.  I also wrote about my Sutter's Fort character, Elizabeth Bays Wimer.  And, I wrote lots of other essays." 

The book ends with her goals for next year, which she put as (1) getting better at math; (2) paying better attention; (3) getting in less fights.  Then she writes, "I am going to try to not scribble in my math book so that I learn more math."  I don't want her to feel like math is a struggle -- particularly since that was something I struggled with.  We are going to sign her up for a math class/tutoring thing this summer to help her keep up her skills and build confidence. 

What really strikes me about her book is how well she knows herself, how much she learned, and how engaged she is with her schooling . They did so many great projects this year including the Sutter's Fort historical project, writing and publishing a book about the solar system, writing another book about all the biomes, writing a detailed essay on sea turtles and creating a visual aid, memorizing her times tables... there was a lot more.  She loved school this year and was quite bummed on the last day when it was all over. 

The comments on her report cards also shows her progress throughout the year . For the first trimester, her teacher writes: "Kailey is doing very well in 3rd grad.  She has made vast improvements in math, but still tends to find problem-solving word problems a challenge.  Her reading has well surpassed grade level and continues to be one of her strengths.  She had no trouble keeping up with her book club reading assignments and has been reading multiple other books as well.  She rose to the challenge during our solar system book project, doing more than her share of the work due to her partner's absence from our class.  Her excitement for the Sutter's Fort research project shows in her quality work on this project."

For the second trimester, her teacher wrote: "Kailey is doing so well in third grade.  Her enthusiasm and conscientious effort for every activity set a good role model for her classmates.  Her work is carefully and accurately completed and her comments shared in class also show her understanding of the academics.  She is making excellent progress as we move towards the end of the year."

Her final report card of the year was her best -- she got 7 E's (for Excelling) and all the rest were M;s (Meeting Expectations).  There were no Ps (Practicing Skills) or Ns (Needs Improvement).  And her teacher wrote: "Kailey has had a very successful third grade year.  Her perseverance and passion for learning are admirable.  While she easily excels in reading, Kailey occasionally struggles with certain math concepts.  However, she is always eager to sit down and put in the time until she understands.  I feel very lucky to have had her as a student.  Have a great summer!"

So, we'll practice math more this summer and also just have fun relishing another great year and preparing for the next one.  Kai has a lot of fun camps lined up.  I'm so proud of how hard she works and the words that her teacher uses to describe her (words I've been using since the moment I met her!)  Here's a picture of her from the carnival on the last day of school -- we love you Kailey:




Sunday, June 11, 2017

First Camping Trip of the Year


We capped off birthday season with a trip to the Santa Cruz mountains for Eric's birthday celebration.  This wasn't supposed to be our first camping trip this year.  I had made reservations for us to be in Yosemite over Mother's Day weekend.  However, the weather in Yosemite that weekend was supposed to have a high in the low 40s.  Having been more adventurous when Kai was a 3 year old, we have already attempted camping in cold conditions with a toddler.  And, while it had its highlights, she was mostly fairly miserable about how cold it was the whole time (and we were mostly looking for places to get warm indoors).  So, we skipped that trip.

Similarly, this weekend, I had made reservations in Lake Tahoe and then, when I checked the weather, saw that it was supposed to be in the low 40s and raining.  Where is my California weather this year?!  We've only hit 100 a couple of times this whole year.  So different from the last few years we lived in Sacramento.  It hardly feels like summer.  Neither of us wanted to go someplace cold and wet, so we looked at the map to see where the sun would be shining this weekend and realized that the beach and Santa Cruz looked great.  Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the oldest state park in California and a fairly big swath of redwood forest that is fairly easy to get to -- perfect, except that we didn't have reservations and it was the beginning of summer.  We wanted to leave at 1:00 on Friday afternoon and hoped to get there by about 5:00 PM.

The problem with trying to fit in adventures, camping and fun with the kids on the weekends and over the summer is that our jobs are insane.  This last week, I was in Eureka (a 5 hour drive north of here) Monday- Wednesday.  On Wednesday evening, we had an evening meeting at the school that went until after 8 PM (to meet the new candidate for Principal).  Thursday evening Kai had a piano recital.  I needed to prepare for two separate conferences the next week (I'm in Wisconsin the bulk of next week) and had to catch up from being away fro 3 days.  Eric had a major grant report due.  And, we were trying to cram it all in during the working hours, with even those being cut short for evening activities.  And, someone needed to pack food, camping gear and clothing if we were going to go camping.  Really, camping for two nights away is the same as packing for a week. 

To complicate it, my policy assistant sat me down as I was rushing to get out of the office on Friday and told me she's leaving. Of course.  I haven't really had a chance to process that.  I went back to packing and told myself I'd figure out a plan over the weekend. 

It was a busy week.  We didn't get on the road at 1 PM.  But, we were driving by 3:30 PM.  Not bad, considering.  And, more importantly, we were on the road.  Eric brought his computer and worked on the drive, but at least we were driving!! 

We got to camp at 7 PM.  The campsites are mostly of the variety that you have to reserve in advance.  Like, 6 months in advance.  But, they always hold a few for same day arrivals.  You cannot reserve these in advance, but they are first-come, first-serve.  7 PM is not an ideal time to arrive for these sites.  The kids were road weary but SO EXCITED to be at the campground.  I was certain we were doomed for an evening of disappointment. 

But, fortune befell us!!  The camp host told us that a family had just decided to pack up and leave that evening.  I didn't have the highest hopes for the campsite itself, given that it had prompted another family to abandon camp.  But, beggars cannot be choosers and the kids were beyond thrilled that we had arrived and got to set up our campsite.  As soon as we got to our site (which was right next to the road -- but, it's a quiet road through the woods and was totally fine) - they immediately started playing pretend.  Our site had a bit of a hill in it, and they started running up and then running down as fast as they could, pretending to be birds.  They hopped around in excitement commenting on every little thing they came upon.  Kids love the woods.  My kids love the woods.  It felt so good to be outside with them. 
 
 
We made a quick dinner of pasta and stayed up late watching the stars.  We didn't go to bed until 10 PM and they both slept like rocks.  Until 6 AM.  Seriously.  Why does the sun come up at 6 AM?!  And why do children wake up with the sun?!  But, up they were.  At 6 AM.  Ugh.  I tried to keep Alden quiet until 7 (so as not to wake up the rest of the campground... which, incidentally, was FULL of children.  But, only ours start screaming and hopping around at 6 AM.  Go figure). 

The thing is, even after sleeping outside and being sore and tired, I was so excited to wake up in the woods with my family.  We made fancy French toast for breakfast.  It was delicious.  All food is better in the woods.  Then we hiked to the camp host station to see if we could keep our campsite for another night and, again, got lucky.  No need to move!!  The day was ours!  We played in the amphitheater for awhile -- with the kids making up performances for us.  Then we went on a hike and taught Kai had to navigate using the map.  Alden did fantastic and hiked most of the way. 

 

When we got back to camp, we made grilled cheese and then went bike riding.  It was a fairly hilly campsite and Alden rides his scoot bike (balance bike) FAST.  He is great at picking his feet up and just flying along.  But, he's not used to hills.  He did a couple of them at full speed and managed to get himself back under control.  The look on his face was one of utter concentration.  But, there were a few times (3 to be exact) that he wasn't so lucky and took a spill.  What's amazing is each time, although he cried for a bit, he brushed himself off and got right back on.  He loves riding his bike.  He did slow down eventually and learn to manage the hills a bit better.  He ended up with a bit of road rash on his side but no other owies, which is amazing.  He is a pretty controlled crasher.  And, by the second day of riding, there were no more crashes.  We were beating ourselves up a bit that we let him crash three times.  But, he learned a lot about riding his bike and balancing.  And he didn't give up.  And, by the end of it, he was yelling, "I KNOW I can DO it."  It was pretty cool to watch him perfect his skills before our very eyes. 

Kai also loved riding around the campground and conquered her fear of riding fast down the hills (helps to have a little brother egging her on!)  She also loved making up plays and getting Eric and Alden to perform with her (I was the audience).  The woods really spark their imaginations. 


Later that evening, he stood up on a chair and took another tumble, cutting his upper lip.  And, he got about 5 bug bites on his face, one of which is a bit infected on his face.  So, coming home today, he was quite a sight. A bit bruised up but SO happy!!

We cooked a feast the second night and the kids ate a ton.  There's nothing like hiking and biking all day to work up an appetite. I made mashed potatoes and a bunch of rice and they ate it all.  Plus, we had two big pork loins and they ate almost all of those as well.  Alden was obsessed with the marshmallows all weekend.  He ate most of a bag. And, Kai is an expert marshmallow roaster (Alden cannot be bothered with roasting them).


It was really good to get away for the weekend.  And reminds me that we need to force ourselves to get out even when it is not easy to get away.  It's so good to watch them play and explore outside.  It's so good to have time together away from screens and distractions so that we can all just play together.  We all had a blast. 

Happy Birthday, Eric!  47 years young and still playing in the woods.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Faking and Pretending

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we had some friends from Alden's school over for dinner.  Prior to coming to our house, they had attended several other events and, by the time they got to us, Peter (their 3 year old and one of Alden's best friends) was pretty wiped.  Still, they played on the swings and went as high and fast as they could go.  After that, Peter wasn't feeling well at all and ended up getting a bit sick (e.g. throwing up) and so they ducked out early.  He was fine after a good night's sleep -- it had just been a packed day.

Before they had left, and when Peter was starting to not feel too good, his Mom was attending to their newest family member -- Baby Joy, who is about 2 months old.  She was breastfeeding the baby and Alden was so curious.  He stood right at her side, peering at what was going on, and asking a gazillion questions, "why is Baby Joy eating your boob?"  Sarah explained she was drinking milk.  "Why is she drinking milk from your boob?"  Sarah explained that Mama's make milk for their babies and that's all that babies eat. The conversation went back and forth.  I, of course, offered to remove Alden so she could focus on feeding and not be interrogated by a questioning toddler - but, she was unfazed. 

Alden was fascinated by the whole visit.  Both by the fact that Peter had gotten sick and by Baby Joy, particularly how tiny she was, that she had been in her Mama's belly and was now out, and that she ate from her Mama's breast.  Alden continued to talk about Peter being sick and Baby Joy for the rest of the evening (he always refers to her as Baby Joy.... not just Joy. Hence, the reference here!) He wanted to play "Baby Joy" which essentially entailed him making baby noises and pretending to be a baby, insisting that we refer to him as Baby Joy.  He wanted to pretend to breastfeed, but we drew a line at that, explaining that he wasn't really a baby and breasts are not for pretending.  That evening, I put Baby Joy (not Alden) to bed.  When I told him it was time to go to sleep, he turned to me and said, "I can't go to sleep in my bed... babies don't sleep in beds.  They sleep in their Mama's arms." With that, he got extra cuddles and snuggles. 

The next morning, on the way to school, Alden announced that he wasn't feeling well.  He often doesn't feel well in the car, as he is quite prone to car sickness.  I told him we were almost at school and he continued to protest that he didn't feel well.  Once we got to school, he moped around and said, "I'm SICK.  I feel SICK."  I offered to read him a book before I left.  He grabbed a book, sat in my lap, and then got a look of panic on his face and said, "I'm going to THROW UP."  So, I ran him into the bathroom where he proceeded to stand over the toilet and gag, although, he did not throw up.  At this point, I suspected I was being played a bit but also didn't know what to do.  They certainly didn't want a kid that was feigning throwing up at school.  So, I told him he could come back home if he was sick and he nodded in earnest and pathetic agreement, looking miserable the whole time. 

Once home, I put him back in his PJs and we crawled into bed.  I told him I had calls to do and he had to be quiet.  I also told him we couldn't play any games or watch and videos because he was sick, so he needed to just lay in bed.  He smiled and asked if we could hide.  I shook my head, reiterating that I had work to do and he was sick so he just had to lay in bed.  I told him I would snuggle with him, but no games, no playing and no videos. 

He jerked his head to look at me and announced, "I'm not sick anymore!"  I rolled my eyes and turned to him and said, "Alden were you pretending?"  His eyes twinkled and he said, "YES!" Then he said, "was it funny?"  I put my sternest look on my face and said, "no.  It was not funny."  Then I asked him if he wanted to go back to school and he confirmed that he did.  So, after calling the school to make sure they'd let him return, I got him dressed again and we went back. 

At the end of the day, his child care provider laughed and said he actively avoided the topic all day.  He just played and if anyone talked about it, he would pretend not to hear.  As we were talking about it, Alden was sitting by, clearly listening, but pretending to be oblivious. 

Hopefully he's learned his lesson. He's certainly taken faking and pretending to a whole new level!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Insightful

Kailey has always had very deep insights into herself and the people around her, and that continues.  She has had some conflicts with friends at school recently.  I think this is inevitable at the end of the school year, and particularly at such a small school where your options for simply ignoring certain people and finding others to play with is quite limited.  There are only 6 girls in Kai's class, including her.  It can be tough.

But, Kai is very thoughtful about the dynamics.  She told me that she and Leanna fight at least once a day.  Mostly because Leanna gets quite upset when Kai doesn't do as Leanna wishes, and it causes fights (I realize I'm hearing about the conflicts from Kai's perspective -- but, this one seems to hold true).  Kai was describing the relationship to me the other day and said that when she first met Leanna, it was like being at the beginning of a long rope. She said, "it's so exciting.  I am just so excited to have a new friend and everything is good and everything is happy." Then she said, you start walking across the rope, the way you go deeper into a friendship, and there are little snags and breaks in the rope.  It gets harder to walk.  Sometimes you fall off. But, she said, "you just want it to be good -- so you keep going.  Even though the rope has a lot of breaks in it and there's a lot that's not good anymore."

She's nine.  NINE!  I marveled at her description and how apt it was.  I can so relate to that excitement of meeting someone that you hit it off with and being so thrilled to have a new friend.  And, the inevitable disappointment and conflict that come in any relationship.  It was so interesting to listen to her think through relationships and how they change over time. 

And, she doesn't give up on her friends.  She got in a big fight with Ava on Friday and came home and wrote her an apology and made her a key chain for her backpack.  She wants to work things through.  Although, she definitely has her own stake in these disagreements and a strong point of view, she seems to care about reaching reconciliation. 

When Leanna drew on an art project that Kai was working on (Kai had invited her to help -- but then was not pleased with what Leanna ended up doing), Kai was fuming and said, "she very well knew that I didn't want her to draw on the parts that were erased.  She very well knew."  It cracked me up to listen to her fume, hands on her hips, talking like an old lady.  But, then when we talked it through, she came to the point that maybe Leanna hadn't known.  And maybe she did feel badly.  She comes around and thinks things through and is open to other viewpoints.  After that initial fuming period -- Kai definitely has a temper and when it blows, you have to wait for her to calm down before getting to that point of introspection.

But, even with that, she knows that she can blow.  She was supposed to do a reading project with Lucas at school the other day and neither of them wanted to read first.  Kai suggested they do rock, paper, scissors to determine who should have to go first.  They did and Lucas lost and, upset at the loss, still refused to read.  Kai was upset about that and they got their teacher involved.  Her teacher agreed they had figured out a good way to resolve the issue and asked Lucas if he had another idea to determine who should go first.  He didn't, and so her teacher told them to go forward with Kai's plan and walked away.  And, Lucas still refused to read.  Kai said, "I was mad, so I walked to the door and took 3 deep breaths.  I tried to calm myself down, but my anger overruled me -- I couldn't stop it -- so, I went back to Ms. Standart and she told us to just read separately." 

Her anger overruled her.  It's the same way she described her anger getting the best of her when she was 5 years old.  But, unlike that 5 year old that would lash out physically, Kai now just resorts to telling or stomping or leaving the situation.  But, she recognizes that anger in her and knows that she has to get past it.  And, once it's gone, she is so good at analyzing the situation and figuring out what to do differently in the future.

It's hard growing up.  Watching her grown up and navigate these difficult relationships can be so painful at times, and makes me think of my own struggles with friends and relationships.  But, Kai has that deep sense of justice, of fairness, and of reconciliation.  She also knows how to look within and make amends.  She's a big personality -- but, having introspection helps to temper her personality, at least in those quieter moments when the conflict has subsided. 

She reminds me of myself in many ways -- I wrote so many letters to my mom and others after a conflict.  I was always trying to sort things out and figure out what made myself and others tick.  But, I don't think I was quite as introspective as she was when I was nine.  I remember most of that coming after my car accident when I was 12.  Kai has always had this deep understanding of her emotions and the ability to articulate what she's feeling and thinking.  It's a remarkable gift. I love listening to her sort out the world and people around her. 

It might make for some rocky teen years -- but, it may also be the key to getting through those years.  She feels things so deeply, but has the analytical ability to make sense of those very deep feelings.  It's a good combination. And, I'm excited to see where it takes her.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mother's Day Picnic


Since Alden is our second, I have been through the pre-school and kindergarten Mother's Day celebrations at school a few times.  When Kai was at Lauren's house when she was 2 and 3, the kids made us a special card and sang a song.  At Spanish School, all the moms came to preschool for the morning and listened to the kids sing us a song, then we spent time at each of the pampering stations (they did our nails, brushed our hair, did a craft with us, etc) while eating scones and other treats the school had provided for us.  At Thornhill, when she was in Kindergarten, I think she just came home with a card and some sort of craft.  Then, in 1st grade, the moms went to school and got seated by our children at their desk and they scampered off to fetch us coffee and pastries.  After we had our morning treat, they sang us a song and we were on our way. 

Maybe it's because of these prior experiences that I didn't read the email about Alden's preschool Mother's Day celebration with the utmost attention.  I knew that we were going on a picnic with our children and taking a bus to the park.  I knew I needed to be to the school at 10 AM.  So, I dropped Alden off in the morning and went to a nearby coffee shop to work for a couple of hours before the designated meeting time. Alden was so excited when I returned, flying into my arms to give me a hug and declare that we were "going on a BUS to the PICNIC!"  It was very cute.  One of the teacher's asked me if I could also be Sophie's chaperone for the day, since her Mom couldn't make it and she and Alden were such close friends.  I agreed, of course.  We listened to the instructions in circle time, got our bus passes, and lined up to go the bus stop. The kids had also told their teachers what they loved about their mom, and there was a collage of their statements on the wall.  Alden said he loved when I picked him up and when I took him to Will's house -- which, of course, I took a picture of and sent to Cathy.  It was pretty cute.


We go to the parent meetings at Alden's school and all the social events they put on, so I had seen most of the moms before.  Although, that said, I didn't know anyone very well besides one or two other moms, that I've talked to more extensively a few times.  But, we chatted and rode the bus to the park.  When we got there, all the other moms started pulling out large picnic blankets.  I had a purse on me.  Nothing else.  I hadn't noticed, until that moment, that the other moms had larger bags and backpacks.  But, now it appeared there was a reason.  I looked around for someone I knew to try to sit with.  Meanwhile, the kids gathered together to sing us a song, so I stopped looking for a place to sit and went to where I could watch the performance.  It was super cute -- Alden had been singing the song to me for a couple of days, so I knew what was coming, but it is always adorable to see them all singing together. 

After the song, the kids ran to their moms, who turned and walked them back to the picnic blankets.  Ugh.  Back to this.  Only, now, everyone also started pulling out the lunches they had brought for their children.  LUNCHES!  Ack!  Seriously.  Since when is a Mother's Day celebration a day when you have to take off work, pack your child and you a lunch, bring something to sit on, and then watch your child at the park?  The school was essentially celebrating Mother's Day by giving their folks a day off while the mommies did what mommies do -- watch their kids!

So, I had no food.  And I had not one, but two kids.  Sophie looked up at me and said, "Did you bring my lunch?"  Of course not! I hadn't brought anyone lunch.  One of the teacher's intervened, claiming it was their fault they hadn't grabbed Sophie's lunch.  I didn't mention that Alden was also lunchless.  I think they assumed I had food for me and Alden. 

Alden didn't really seem to care.  He wanted to go play on the playground.  And was thrilled to have me with him for the day.  He had sat on my lap on the bus and held my hand when we were walking outside . He gave me repeated hugs and kisses.  He was beyond thrilled.  And, we found another mom, that I barely knew, to sit with and she shared both her blanket and her food with us.  I made self-deprecating jokes about my inability to read emails... my go to way of handling these awkward moments. And, it was fine. Not my finest moment, but it ended up being a fine day thanks to the generosity and kindness of other moms and the sweetness and cuddles of my little boy.

video

I was recounting the day to another friend later on who, besides thinking it was hilarious, reminded me that all that really mattered was I was there.  I suppose that's true -- but, do think that Mother's Day Celebrations that expect the moms to do all the work are not really celebrations... just saying.

On the actual day, the kids made be breakfast, cards and let me stay upstairs by myself for a few hours while they cooked.  We went to pizza with some of my favorite families for dinner and had a lovely day in between riding bikes and playing at the park.  It was as Mother's Day should be!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two Night Adventure

I mentioned recently that Kai got to go on a two night trip to the Marin Headlands with her class.  She was nervous about going.  I love how she handles her nerves.  She's a planner and an organizer.  She made sure I put the packing list on the bulletin board and added her own additions to the list (stuffed animal, cards, books, and an extra blanket).  About a week before, she started reminding me every day that she needed to pack.  I was in D.C. the week leading up to her trip, and got home the Saturday before (she left on a Monday).  She was quite concerned that there was NO WAY we were going to be able to get her ready to go in one day.  But, somehow we managed.

We did end up having to go to REI to get her a daypack.  Her school backpack is pretty flimsy and wouldn't have really been a good thing to bring on long hikes.  So, we headed to REI to find a hydration pack.  Kai specifically wanted a hydration pack.  It took a bit of negotiating to get her to agree to the one that was the right size but wrong color -- but, we got there.  And, by the time we left the store, she had come around telling me, "it is more important to be able to take all my stuff.. the color is not the most important thing."  I nodded in agreement (muttering to myself that I had been saying that for the last hour). 

She left on a Monday morning -- it really is remarkable how different it is having two kids at home versus one.  So quiet -- even when the one is Alden (who can be quite loud).  We went to pizza with Will and Cathy on Tuesday night as a special outing for Alden. And, Alden relished the time alone with us.  He definitely doesn't get that much.  But, I missed Kailey and felt down the whole time she was gone.  It was so strange not having her in the house. 

When Kai got home on Wednesday, she was SO excited.  She told us all about eating a whole apple core, learning a secret handshake for the apple core club, kissing a banana slug, going on a blindfold hike, seeing a whale and a deer, the bonfire and camp songs, and so much more!  On Friday, when she got home from school, she told us a story about her day by starting off saying, "today at school... because we weren't really used to being back at school yet after our long trip.." I restrained myself from laughing.  By Friday, she had been back for as long as she had been gone -- but, I know how a big trip (especially one without her family) can feel so significant.  It clearly impacted her in a profound way.

I'm so glad she's at a school where she gets these experiences to study outside the classroom, build her independence, and see the world.  It was a great experience for her and now she cannot wait for her week away next year (when they head to Yosemite). 



Birthday Weekend

We're nearly at the end of the birthday season in our house -- just Eric's to go.  And, Eric's is a little less compressed since he's about 6 weeks after me (a reasonable amount of time between birthdays).  Alden and Kai are 3 weeks apart and Kai and I are another 3 weeks.  It's a lot of birthdays.  I think this year, we managed the birthday madness well.  Alden had a party.  For Kailey's, we took a special trip and spent time with family.  And, for mine, we went away for a weekend as a family to Monterey and hit the aquarium and the beach.  So, really, they both got an added adventure thrown in! 

We went to the aquarium with Kai when she was about 3 years old and it was fun to go there again with Alden at that age.  He loved the sea otters, the octopus and the area upstairs designed for toddlers (the splash zone).  Kai is in the middle of doing a report for school about sea turtles, so she was super excited to see the sea turtles in action.  And, we also happened upon the Stanford University Marine Center open house, where she got to meet a graduate student who specializes in the study of sea turtles.  It was a fun day (other than the car ride to get there -- Kai used to be a great car traveler.  Now, not so much.  And, Alden has always been terrible at long car trips.  He gets car sick -- which is really not fun and means that he cannot do much of anything while in the car other than listen to music.  So, the car rides are torture on everyone). 






Anytime we go to a hotel with a pool, that's a vacation unto itself.  So, after the day at the aquarium and the Marine Center, we headed to the hotel and played in the pool and hot tub.  Alden cannot swim.  But, he is convinced he can and has no fear.  He jumps off the edge before anyone is ready to catch him and scares the bejeezus out of both of us.  So, while the pool is a blast -- it's also a little scary.  Alden will definitely be taking swim lessons this summer.   He has been getting better at floating on his back and can do it by himself with just a single finger from one of us supporting him.  And, when he's in the bathtub at home, he'll flip on his back and shout with glee, "I'm FLOATING!"  He is so anxious to catch up to Kailey and to be able to do all the stuff she can do.  He watches her with awe as she dives under the water and swims independently.  Soon, Alden.  You'll be there soon. 

The next day, we swam in the pool a bit more in the morning before heading to the beach for the day.  They had a blast playing with the kite, building sandcastles, eating a picnic on the beach, and chasing each other.  It was a fun day and they fell asleep almost immediately when we got in the car.  At 4 PM. Ugh.  I think they would have slept the whole way home but that would have been a disaster at bedtime.  So, we woke them up at about 5 and they were NOT HAPPY about that development.  The last couple of hours home were miserable.  They were both completely beside themselves. 

But, other than not being able to handle the discomfort of car rides -- we had a great time and it was nice cap to the birthday madness. Happy 41st birthday to me! 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vocabulary


Alden is such a talker these day.  He is often very deliberate in his word choice and clever is describing concepts to us when we cannot understand his pronunciation of a word.  I've been doing  a lot of ordering from Amazon Prime Now these days because they deliver basic necessities (milk, cheese, popsicles, ice cream, paper towels, wine glasses... yes, wine glasses) to the house in a 2 - 4 hour time frame for FREE.  It's so much better than loading the kids into the car and going to the store.  Alden asked what I was doing the other day and I told him I was getting him milk.  He was fascinated that the phone could bring us milk -- and I told him a person would bring it and that we could look at the map and see where the person getting the milk was.  The real time map has a little dot that shows you where your house is and where the delivery person is so you can track their arrival.  Alden thought it was pretty cool and was excited when the milk arrived.

A week later, I was ordering again and Alden said, "is the dot coming here soon?"  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Of course, it's obvious what he was talking about because I just told the first part of the story and in this retelling there is not a week's worth of activities in between. But, in real life, I had completely forgotten about showing him the app with the dot moving towards our house.  I looked at him and said, blankly, "what?"  And he said again, "the dot is coming?"  I still had no idea what he was talking about.  "What dot, Alden?"  Now he was the one to be exasperated. "On your phone.  The dot.  It's coming?"  Now I thought he was talking about the bubble buster game I seem to have developed a minor obsession with and so I just sort of shrugged and said something about the bubble game.  Kailey jumped in and said, "he's talking about the map where you can track the delivery" and Alden said, "YES! The dot.  It's coming with the milk?"  Siblings are the best interpreters.

Then today, while we were riding in the car to school and listening to Moana songs Alden was recounting what part of the movie the various songs went to.  He said, "this is the song where Moana's dad is MAAAADDD" using his growly voice to emphasize the word "mad".  The next song he inquired, "what happens here?"  And I told him, "this is when she finds the boats to go on her journey."  Alden scrunched up his face in confusion and said, "JOURNEY? What's THAT word?" I said, "journey is like a big trip.  Moana goes on a big trip across the ocean.  That is a journey."  Alden thought about that for a moment and then said, "did Mama go on a journey when you were gone?"  He was talking about the previous week that I had spent in D.C.  My trips really seem to impact him.  You've never seen a kid so happy as when I get home.  He was dancing around, singing, hugging me, and proclaiming his love for everyone in our family.  And he kept saying, "Mama is HERE!" like he couldn't believe I had finally gotten myself extracted from the phone to materialize before him again.  I told him, "yes, Mama was on a journey to D.C.  A trip.  And I came back."  Alden said, "Moana is on a journey and Mama went on a journey... and ALDEN goes on a journey on a plane with Mama?"  I laughed and told him we had just been on a journey to San Diego.  He nodded, seeming to feel confident in his new understanding of the word.  I expect to hear more about journeying in the days to come.

It's fun to be able to have such full conversations with Alden and see how his questioning mind is processing the world around him.  He definitely takes it all in. He is such a bright and inquisitive little boy -- although, don't call him little!!  He will quickly correct you and either remind you that he is a BIG boy or claim that he is not a boy at all -- "I'm an Alden" he'll say with certainty.  That he is.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Break in San Diego

Because of the way I label posts (some for Kailey, some for Alden, and some for both -- to help in the creation of the annual books!), I am posting the San Diego pictures separately from Kai's birthday post (because I want both kids to have the San Diego pictures in their annual books). 

We had such fun playing together over Spring Break -- a little beach, the zoo, and lots of family.  I love traveling with these two.  Alden is so enthusiastic about new activities.  He constantly exclaims about how much he LOVES what we are doing.  And, Kai has always been an amazing traveler.

Here's a summary of our trip, in pictures!













 


NINE!


She's a year away from double digits.  My little 3 pound baby is now a head-strong, chapter-reading, questioning, soccer-playing NINE year old.  Next year is a big one, I suppose -- the big 1-0.  But, somehow, the precipice of tweenhood (and then teenhood) feels big to me.  Like I need to grab onto this last year of her girlhood.  She's on a two-night trip with school right now.  She was so nervous about going, but excited too.  And, it kept feeling like it would just be a moment before she'd have those same butterflies as she heads off to a summer away or to college.  She's halfway to 18. 

It's a strange thing to be the parent.  I so distinctly remember my impatience at growing up when I was young. I was so ready to be a grown up (or, so I thought) and thought it was taking forever to get there.  And yet, with my own children, it is whizzing by.  I know they feel that impatience at being older and the triumph of every passing year.  Kai keeps telling me that she cannot believe she's almost in FIFTH grade (completely skipping over the fact that she is not yet in the fourth grade).  I recognize that desire in her.  But, despite that recognition, I just want to slow it all down for her.  And, I say that even though I actually prefer my adult self over my child self.  I like being a grown up and I know Kai will like it, too.  So, it's not for her own sake that I wish it to slow down. It's for MY sake.  We are so busy and there are so many demands on our time -- I rarely feel like I get moments to just soak up these days and enjoy their childhoods (even though I know they, themselves, are soaking up their days and moving in their own world that actually spins at a much slower pace than my own jam-packed world of meetings, traveling, and parenting...)  It's a strange juxtaposition to know that our universes swirl at different speeds -- but, still, I will it to be slower (and yet, each year goes by a bit faster than the last). 

Last year was the biggest party I may ever throw in my life.  and this year we didn't do a party for Kailey at all.  Instead, we gathered in San Diego with my parents, Kate and Becca for some much needed beach time.  It was fun to take the kids to the beach.  San Diego beaches are warm enough for body surfing and lots of wave splashing, which both kids loved doing.  Alden kept exclaiming about how much he LOVED the water and the sand and the zoo and the pool.  Kai was in her element in the water.  She is a fish.  Has been since her earliest days. 



She got a ton of books for her birthday.  She is such a reader now -- but, I think she has about 10 new books to occupy the next few months (really, it will only take her a few months to read them all!)  She says "really" all the time now as a way to start her sentences, as though we don't believe what she has just said. 

Nine year old Kailey is a scholar, an athlete, a patient sister, and full of insight.  This year has also been the beginning of a political awakening for her.  Earlier than many -- but necessitated by the politics of the day.  She is paying more attention to the news and asking so many questions.  A lot of the books she is reading right now relate to uprisings, civil rights, and some of our darker periods of history.  It's great to see her exploring these themes and paying attention to the world -- although, I wish the times were different and we could be doing all of that exploration more in the abstract. 

April is always a crazy month -- and this year her birthday was sandwiched between a LOT of work travel for me.  I feel like I hardly got to take a breath this month -- which made the trip to San Diego all the more needed.  It was fun to get a long weekend with family.  Kai spent about two hours in the pool trying to stand up and balance on a boogie board.  She has such persistence and determination.  She would not give up.  There was another little 3 or 4 year old in the pool with us a good chunk of the time that Kai was trying so hard to balance and when the little girl got ready to go, she turned to Kai and said, "you're really good... I hope you can do it soon."  Kai has that ability to never give up.  To try and try again.  It's a remarkable gift - the gift of grit and perseverance.  I love seeing her try and improve and, ultimately, succeed.  She's a wonder to watch.

I want to grab onto this year.  Both kids are at such good ages.  Kai is such a big kid now.  Full of understanding and starting to anticipate the needs of others.  She is such a big help and so tuned into what's going on with everyone around her.  The other day when I was being cranky she said to me, "you're not cranky at me... you're cranky at Alden but then you just get mad at everyone around you."  She was right, and her insight stopped me in my tracks.  And, I apologized. 

She teaches me things about myself every day and makes me a better person.  She's been making me a better person since the moment she was born.  I'm so lucky to get to be her Mama.

For now, she's still a girl who likes getting her face painted, singing at the top of her voice to the Moana songs, playing pretend with her brother (although, sometimes she gets sick of being the mom while he is the baby... his favorite game), playing games, cuddling with her parents, sleeping with the lights on around her bed, and snuggling her kitties.  For a little while longer, she's still our little girl.



I love you to the moon and back and around again, Kailey!!

Happy NINTH birthday!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fall Into It

Kailey is an avid reader.  She has read the Harry Potter series a couple of times (and has everything about the books and movies absolutely memorized.  We were at Sarah and Doug's house recently and Penny got out Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit.  Kai and Penny knew the answer to EVERY question.  It was insane.  One of them was, "which of these is not an unforgiveable curse" and Kai knew the answer immediately and proceeded to then tell us what each unforgiveable curse did and what the curse that was NOT an unforgiveable curse did... it was insane).

Anyway, she loves to read.  My parents recently bought her a new series and she devoured the first book over the course of a weekend.  She was talking about how she loves reading but sometimes it takes a few chapters to really get into the book.  Then she said, "I like it once you fall into the books.  Once you fall in, it's like you're there.  It's like you aren't even in your own house anymore.  You can see and smell what's going on.  I love falling into books."

I don't read hardly ever anymore for fun.  If I have any free time, I feel obligated to do the laundry or catch up on this blog (ahem... clearly, it's been awhile since I've had any free time!!) or just veg out watching a show.  But, I miss falling into books.  It's a totally different way of escaping and experiencing the world around us.  I knew exactly what she meant.

Kai got her best report card yet in school this last trimester.  She got 8 Es (for Exceeds Expectations).  The rest was all M (Meets Expectations).  It was her first time not getting any Ps (Practicing Skills).  She has really developed into quite a student.  She uses her vocab words at home all the time.  I was nagging her recently and she turned to me and said, "mom, you're incessant."  I laughed so hard.  Mostly because that's a pretty common word to describe me -- but, also, it was just funny coming from her.

You can tell how much she loves school because she is constantly applying what she is learning at home.  And she's so excited to show us her work.  She was sick last week but rallied and went to school on Thursday and Friday.  I think she probably still needed to stay home, at least on Thursday, but she hates missing out on school.  She's fallen into it. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

THREE!!


Alden is THREE!!  I can't quite wrap my head around that. He was all about his birthday this year.  For the month leading up to it (pretty much from March 1 on... which is when Will turned three), Alden kept saying, "I'm NEARLY three!"  And, he would hold up his pinky, ring and middle finger to demonstrate his nearly threedom.  It was hilarious. 

As is our habit, we spent several weeks celebrating Alden's birthday.  It has been a crazy travel month for me, so was a bit of a feat to also pull off the birthday celebrating.  The week before his birthday party, I was in Seattle, Los Angeles, Sacramento (for a day), Santa Barbara, and then Los Angeles again.  My parents were with me for the last trip to LA (it was the 25th anniversary of my organization, and they came to the annual dinner).  We flew back to Sacramento together to kick off the birthday weekend. 

We decided to have a joint birthday party for Will and Alden since they are such good buddies.  Given the travel schedule the week before, it was REALLY nice to have someone else co-coordinating the party.  Honestly, I was like 1/4 coordinator.  Cathy and Aaron were very gracious about doing the lion's share of the work.  I owe them!! 

Will's favorite thing is ice hockey.  Alden loves horses.  So, we combined the two and had a Horses and Hockey birthday party.  It was really just like two separate themes, but for the gift bags I did find a google image of horses playing hockey!!  I printed them onto large stickers and put them onto brown paper bags and filled them will horses and hockey treats.  As we were setting up for the party, Will wandered over to where the gift bags were displayed and cocked his head to the side while examining the image.  Alden came up next to him and started to giggle.  Will looked a moment longer and then exclaimed, "those horses are playing hockey!!"  Alden burst into laughter, pleased that Will got the joke, and said, "it's so funny!" while covering his mouth and laughing hysterically. It was so funny. 

Maybe to prove that all my travel doesn't get in the way of mothering or maybe because I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to make Alden's birthday cake.  I found a template for a horse cake made out of cupcakes (you arrange the cupcakes in the shape of a horse and then frost them all together so it looks like a horse).  I like baking and cooking at this point.  I've done it a lot over the last nine years and have gotten good enough at it.  But, I am not crafty.  And, of course, Kai and Alden wanted to help.  Which is a good idea in  theory.  But, when I'm bringing the cake someplace where there are going to be 60 people -- I get a little OCD about it turning out right.  The first attempt at brown frosting was a nightmare. Why didn't we just make chocolate frosting for the horses mane, you ask?  Well, because I didn't.  I made cream cheese frosting to go on the carrot cake cupcakes and then had to dye some of it brown for the mane.  And it was not a successful first attempt.  There is no way I could mother without google.  At least, not in any way that makes me appear crafty.  But, after a failed first attempt (it was the color of your baby's first poop)... we looked it up and google told us the correct combination of colors to mix together. and it turned out OK.  Alden LOVED his horse cake.  So, even though I was a sweaty mess making it, I think it was worth it. 




The party was great fun.  We had it at Cathy and Aaron's house and it was a nice day so the kids played in the backyard and had a great time together.  We had a few games to play, but mostly they just played with each other.  Alden was quite the host -- greeting his friends and playing a little with each friend that came.  He didn't just stick to one person.  And he didn't have any meltdowns.  He loved his party and seemed quite in his element.  He is such a social and friendly little boy.  His daycare providers confirm that he is always first on the scene when someone gets hurt, always asking what happened and offering a hug or a Band-Aid.  He is a helper.  And he is a socialite.  He loves interacting with people.


On Alden's actual birthday, he had his birthday circle at school.  What a fantastic tradition!!  I didn't know what to expect, but was told to bring a big poster board with one picture from each of Alden's birthdays (including his original birth day).  So, we made a poster and also made birthday treats for him to hand out to his friends.  I asked him if he wanted cupcakes and he said, "No... I want Christmas tree cookies."  This was several weeks ago and when he first said he wanted Christmas Tree cookies for his birthday, I kind of ignored him. Or I forgot about it.  I figured he'd change his mind.  But, the weekend before his birthday, he affirmed again that he wanted Christmas tree cookies.  I guess he has really fond memories of making cookies at Christmas this last year (he did that at Nonnie and Papa's house and really liked it!)  So, I made up sugar cookies and the night before his birthday we spent time cutting them out (in all sorts of shapes... bears, trees, stars, leaves, and cats.... we have kind of an odd assortment of cookie cutters) and sprinkling sugar onto them.  Alden loved it. 

The next morning was his actual birthday and his birthday circle.  We were there for the circle celebration.  His teacher set up a special rug in the middle of the room with a sun in the middle of it and a candle in the middle of the sun.  Then, coming off the rug was a placard for each month of the year.  On March, there was a counting stick with three pegs in it.  Alden got to go up in front of his class and say he was three, counting the pegs on the stick.  He then recited the months of the year, with the help of his class, and talked about how the earth travels around the sun each year.  He then talked about the picture from the day he was born.  After that, he was handed a globe and he took a trip around the sun.  When he got back to March, his teacher handed him a flower that he put in a vase and everyone sang a song that ended by saying, "and now you're ONE!"  He then talked about the picture from his 1st birthday, took another trip around the sun and then put another flower in the vase.  He was two!  And, a third time.  And he turned three.

video

It literally feels like it's gone that fast.  Watching Alden excitedly wave his hands when his teacher was looking around the room to see who had a birthday smile on their face, and talking in front of his class about his first three birthdays... it definitely made me teary.  He is so poised.  So excited.  So full of joy and happiness.  So smart and funny.  I love how his smile lights up his whole face.  How he walks with an excited little bounce in his step.  When he got to the picture from his second birthday, he jumped up and down in excitement recounting his Elmo cake. 

He has gotten to open gifts over several days and every time he gets a gift he exclaims, "I LOVE presents"  And, then he opens it and says, "I LOVE this!"  And, it isn't just that he is super charming (which he is) -- he LOVES presents. He loves opening them and he loves whatever he finds inside. 

And he is so smart.  He knows how to count to about 15.  He knows his ABCs.  He is getting close to being able to spell his name.  He's also a critical thinker.  The other night, he was squirming around and goofing off while I was trying to put him to bed.  He was trying to stay awake.  I wanted to leave the room and get to some alone time.  I told Alden, "you need to close your eyes" and he replied, "No... because I cannot see when they are closed so I need them open."  So true. 

I cannot believe my sweet, cuddly little boy is already THREE.  But, we couldn't be happier to be his mom and dad and get to see what a tremendous little boy he is becoming.  Happy Birthday, Alden!!  I'll end it with our new favorite routine:

Me:  I love you
Alden:  I love you two
Me:  I love you three
Alden:  I love you four
Me:  I love you five
Alden: I love you six
Me: I love you seven
Alden: I love you eight
Me: I love you nine
Alden:  I love you a MANY (his word for a million)

I love you a MANY, Alden!



Sunday, February 26, 2017

All better

Alden is zooming towards three and leaving toddlerhood far behind him.  It's remarkable how much changes between two and three.  He now expresses he thoughts and desires in a way that is much easier to understand.  And, while still prone to tantrums and bouts of completely illogical reasoning, he can also be reasoned with now.

A year ago, he had to have an x-ray to check out what was going on in his chest -- and it sucked.  He screamed.  He couldn't be reasoned with.  He was terrified out of his mind.  This week, Alden and I spent a night at the ER together again -- another respiratory infection -- and the x-ray this time was so much easier.  I told him it was a big camera that was going to take his picture.  He seemed suspicious and looked nervous, but stuck out his chest and smiled for the camera.  So nice to be able to talk to him and explain what is going on!

I would like not to have to spend another night at the hospital with Alden -- it's not a fun place to be for an evening.  But, it did get me reflecting on how much he has changed.  He told me, "I don't like the hospital.  I want to go home."  He cuddled and observed everything going on around us.  He asked about the various noises and bleeps and beeps from the machines.  Towards the end, he was fed up with being there and having to have sensors on his fingers.  He told the nurse he was all better and could go home, realizing that saying, "I'm sick.  I don't feel good" was not going to get him home any faster.  He had a 102.5 fever, lowish oxygen levels, and a high heart rate.  We all knew he wasn't feeling well.  But, he looked the nurse in the eye and said, "I'm better.  I feel good.  I can go home."  And, that, is the difference between two and three.

Luckily, today Alden is feeling much better.  He is still coughing and still has a runny nose, but the fever is gone and he is bouncing off the walls.  I hate when they are sick, but I appreciate the ability to talk to him about how he is feeling.

We also took Alden to get a haircut recently, and he climbed up right on the chair, ready to go.  When the hair dresser told him to stay still, he froze in place.  He looked down as instructed.  Just between visits to the hair salon, he changed so much.  He is now so much better at following directions and understanding what is going on.  After his hair cut was over, he turned to me and said, "it's still long!  It didn't get cut!"  Eric and I love his shaggy hair, and so had only asked for it to be trimmed.  Alden noticed!

In just a few weeks, he'll be THREE!

Valentine's Day

 
As usual, I'm behind in posting and keeping up on life in general.  Maybe it's good, given the current political climate, that time passes quickly.  But, sometimes I wish I could slow down our day to day even as we zoom towards the next election and, hopefully, a change of administration. Politics has been dominating my thinking and work these days.  But, having children is a nice buffer from the fear and horror I feel every time I turn on the news.  Kids keep it real -- needing their needs met, making jokes, playing together (and fighting), and focusing on the micro of their individual lives rather than the macro of the greater world around them.  It's a needed change of pace when the world around us has turned so ominous.

Valentine's Day this year was a good example.  This is not a holiday high on my list of holidays worth celebrating.  In fact, I don't think it's on the list at all.  But, the kids - and Kailey especially -- were so excited about Valentine's Day.  In past years, I've remembered (at the last minute) to rush to the store and buy the obligatory pack of cards to hand out at school. That, followed by realizing I have no idea who is in the class, how to spell names correctly, or how many cards we really need.  There are ways around these oversights -- cards do not have to be individually addressed (everyone is getting the same card anyway) and buying an extra pack of cards guarantees that we won't be short.  My point is, I haven't spent a lot of time on Valentine's Day. 

This year, Kai knew it was coming up.  And, being the crafty person she is, started making cards weeks before the holiday arrived.  She had a plan for what she wanted to do for each of her classmates, and no interest in buying pre-made cards at the store.  She told me she needed red construction paper, stickers, and little boxes of candy hearts.  She fretted when, two weeks out, I still hadn't bought her supplies.  She wanted to get going! 

She made a card for each person in her class, her teacher, and her cats.  She made Alden, Eric and me multiple cards.  My favorite had a picture of two pieces of dancing bacon and it said, "I love you more than bacon, and I really love bacon!"  I'm pretty sure she cribbed it from somewhere, but it was cute.

Kai spent HOURS making cards, turning what I consider to be a commercialized and somewhat ridiculous holiday into her own expression of friendship and love for the people she spends her days with. 

Alden, of course, is too young to really understand or anticipate the holiday.  But, when he got his pack of cards at school, he was very excited.  He spent the next several days dumping all the cards on the floor and picking them up, one by one, exclaiming, "I LOVE this one!"  Then he would dance around in excitement among the cards.

Other than buying them each a card and a chocolate covered marshmallow made to look like a farm animal, we didn't do anything out of the ordinary for Valentine's Day.  And, they didn't seem to notice or care.  This was Kai's opportunity to express herself -- she relished the chance to make something for each of her classmates.  She had a great time celebrating the holiday because she loves to create and she wants her friends to know she cares.  And, in that way, she made the holiday what it should be -- a day of saying, "I care about you".

When I told her I wasn't a big fan of Valentine's Day, she turned to me and said, "How can you not like a holiday that is about love?"  I hadn't really ever considered Valentine's Day to really be about love . But, that's what it meant for her.  And, that's what she expressed leading up to the day and on the holiday itself. 

I love how they live in the moment and draw out the essence of each day.  I love being a mom to these two!

Here is a sampling of the cards Kai made: