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:

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!