Monday, December 26, 2011

A Bit of Christmas

This blog is something I love doing.  I haven’t been much at keeping up with it lately but I have been paying lots of attention to my smalls.  It’s what is most important to me but again….  I love to write.  I need to carve out time for this.  Today, at the prompting of my pal Rebecca….here I am.

Christmas is almost here and we’ve had a pretty good season thus far.  The first weekend of December we went to Hood River.  We have done this the past 3 years and have had such a wonderful time.  This year we skipped the Polar Express…..thank goodness.  It’s fun but it’s also quite expensive.  We always stay at the Hood River Hotel with 2 other families.  It’s right on main street and we occupy the 3 suites on the back of the hotel.  It’s so cute and a great way to start the holiday.   Everyone had a fine time.  I went to bed with the kids at 9:30.  I was so tired I couldn’t stay up.  All the other adults stayed up until about 3 in the morning.  As it turns out I ended up getting sick so that made a bit more sense.  I thought it was weird that I was that tired! 

Over the next 2 weeks we got ready for our Christmas Party, I shopped and got most everything fairly early.  Bob is our primary decorator for the holiday and spent a few evenings decking the halls.   A few years ago we got out the decorations and realized that we needed more lights.  I was sent out to get them.   Well being a mom and a woman, I couldn’t just get lights and zip right home, no no, I had to shop.  I ended up being gone for about 2 hours.  When I got home the whole house was decorated.  Bob managed to do the whole thing without my “assistance.”  Hummm, go figure.  And I didn’t have to direct him on how to do the lights properly or anything.  You know, once everything is on the tree you don’t even see the wires! I had been a total loon about wrapping the wires around the branches for YEARS.  Who knew?

So with the house all decked out, about 200 cookies and 4 gallons of stew we had our Christmas Party!  What fun.  I usually have gifts wrapped and under the tree.  I am a bit crazy about my gift wrapping.  This year I took a new approach, there was a Fed Ex Package under the tree.  My attitude was, “It’s a gift and it’s wrapped.  Why ruin it?”   We had about 80 people in and out of here.  There were kids everywhere and a great time was had by all.  I had a great time

The kids are all very excited for Christmas. Kees and Coulter still believe in Santa and are so cute about the whole thing. They talk to each other about how Santa will get here, when he will arrive and so on. Coulter's stocking is hidden behind a large poinsettia and he is quite concerned that Santa will miss it.  I assured him that it will not be missed and that we can move it just to be sure.  He seems much relieved.

Last week I went onto a web site called Portable North Pole TV. On that site you input info on your kid and add a couple pictures. Then they email you a link to a video for your child.  When the kids got home on Thursday I told them Santa had sent them an email. Kees was home first. We sat down and watched.  Kees couldn’t believe that Santa had pictures of him in his book.  Late in the video the elves insert the kid's file into the "Naughty or Nice" machine. Kees was a bit apprehensive about his potential outcome. It turned out that he has been.....NICE!  He was very relieved and said, "I thought I would be on the naughty list!"  He lucked out I guess.

When Sophia and Coulter got home Kees told them to "come quick" to see their videos.  They all watched with amazement, even Sophia. After they had seen the videos a bunch of times the boys took off. Sophia snuck over to me and asked with a big smile, "How did you do that?" Even she was taken aback by that.  There are still times when she is still my baby girl.  She was mystified.  I love that she still has a little belief and that she's still naive.

Last night Bob and I wrapped all our gifts. Actually I wrapped, Bob kept me company.   Sophia and Coulter had sleep overs, Kees was next door decorating cookies until 11:30.  We had some wine and had a fine time but stayed up too late. Oh well. The job is mostly done now and that is great!

I am preparing for my dad and Sally's arrival on Friday.  We're all looking forward to time together. We have a party on Friday Night, the Nutcracker and church on Christmas Eve and then we're having almost 20 people for Christmas Dinner.  I have cooking, cleaning and prepping to do.  It will all be fun.

The boys have been hilarious with their antics and sayings.  I'll get some up here soon because they are too funny not to share.

Merry Christmas to you all! 




Saturday, November 26, 2011

November Update

It’s been a busy month for us.  I finally feel like we’re getting in the groove of school.  When we started school our kids only went for 3 weeks and then we pulled them out to go to Disneyland.  They were out for a week.  I still think it was worth it to go to Disneyland when it wasn’t as busy but it really threw the kids off, especially Coulter.  Now they’ve been in school for almost 3 months and finally it feels like a real schedule.  The kids are settled in and that feels good. 

This past week we had the kids’ conferences because the first 1/3 of the school year has passed.  I guess it’s about time that the kids are settled in.  Along with conferences the kids have Thanksgiving Break.  It seems a bit silly to me that they get a whole week off but I am finally getting used to the idea after 6 years of having a kid in school.  They love being off, I enjoy having them home and we have fun and relax.  This year Bob took a couple days off from work so he could just hang out at home.  And…Bob’s mom came to visit.  She got here on Monday at about midnight and stayed until Friday morning.  It is always a pleasure to see his family.  We’ve actually had company for the past 2 weeks.  Uncle “Brown” Brian was here for about 8 days before Bob’s mom Ans arrived.  Ans was here for 4 days.  And in the middle of all that mom and Ed dropped in and spent the night.  It was nice to have company but it’s always a bit disruptive.  We enjoyed having them all and they couldn’t have been easier.  Seriously, they’ll just go along with whatever we want to do. 

I have been shopping for Christmas and I think I am pretty much done with the kids.  That’s nice to have out of the way.  In my quest for calm I also ordered my Thanksgiving dinner from Safeway.  I love to cook but I have been doing a lot of cooking lately with company in town and such so I took the easy way out.  It was $40 to feed 6-8 people and it came with a 12 lb Turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, rolls gravy, cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie.  Seriously, all that for $40? I don’t think you could make it for that!  It was adequate.  Actually the turkey was great but the sides were very pedestrian.  I don’t know that I will do that again but it sure was a relaxing day. 

Ans was fun to have here and she cleans up after meals so that is nice.  I wish someone would jump up after dinner every night and clean the dishes.  She just went with the flow.  Sophia and I went to Joanne’s to get fabric and Ans came along.  We had to pick up a few things at Fred Meyer, Ans came along.  She wants to incorporate into our lives and that is how it goes.  They did get to go to Cavalia on Tuesday night.  That seemed to be a big hit.  Ans worked on a 500 piece puzzle with us too.  I like doing puzzles and it’s a nice way to pass the time together. 

Friday night we pawned off all the kids and Bob and I got to have a kid free night.   We went to dinner and then to Costco to pick up  the “big” gift for the boys.  I can’t tell you what it is or they could find out but it’s pretty cool.  We then came home and watched a movie and stayed up too late.  It was fun.  Thanks to our tribe for taking our kids. 

Today was a fairly lazy day for me.  I did get our Christmas Letter together.  While I was doing that Bob cleaned up the outside of the house and put up our Christmas lights.   It looks quite festive out there.

So that is the brief on what we’ve been doing.  I have really wanted to write on my blog but man time flies. And for a stay at home mom I don’t seem to do a lot of staying at home.  There is always something to do. 

More to come….

Monday, October 31, 2011

Letting Go

I enjoy Halloween.  It’s always fun to see people decorating their homes and watching the kids get excited for Halloween night.  What could be better?  Dressing up and then getting rewarded with candy at EVERY house.  Awesome!  I am not as crazy about the candy part as the kids are. 

One of the things that could make you crazy is decorating and “getting ready” for every flipping holiday that comes along.   While I do like Halloween I do not go crazy with the “getting ready.”  I remember when getting ready meant carving your pumpkin and making sure you had a candle for it.  Now people have pumpkins hanging from trees like ornaments.  Really?  Halloween ornaments?  And ghosts….and corn stalks….and webs…and lights…..and, and, and….  I am glad there are people who get into it but it puts the pressure on the rest of us losers who just want to carve one pumpkin and hand out candy.   

As a side bar….When we were at Disneyland one of my favorite rides in the past had been the haunted house.  Not so much now.  I never understood “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and that is what the whole thing is about now.   What they may have there is a good idea though.  Why not decorate for Scary ThanksMas?  It would save me a lot of frustration and time.  The season is a full 2 months long, it would save time putting stuff up and down and I would have less to store.  Just saying…..ponder that one. 

We try to make it to the pumpkin patch each year.  We take the dog and the kids out to Sauvie Island and do all the pumpkin patch stuff; hay rides, barrel cow ride pulled behind a tractor, pet the animals, corn maze, get a few decorative gourds, and a few pumpkins to carve.  I think there is only one year where we haven’t made it out there.  I know last year we went when I had the flu.  It was a mission of love to take the kids out there.  Bob was out of town and I was dying but nooOOOooo….  We had to go to the pumpkin patch.  What was I thinking? 

This year we added in a trip up to mom and Ed’s house.  They have a very sweet neighbor, Pat, who grows pumpkins and then Ed and Pat carve each one of their grandkid’s names and all the names of their neighborhood’s kids into pumpkins.  It’s really cute.  It was a fun trip but again, this takes time. 

In past years we have procured pumpkins for each of the kids and me.  We clean them out and carve them. Of course this means I end up carving 4 pumpkins because the kids lose interest. We put decorations up outside.  Not a whole lot but we have some blinking lights with scary noises, a small smoke machine, a spider web (or two) and a few spiders.  My favorite part is decorating the front window.  I make a haunted house cut out and the kids do the rest.  They make pumpkins, Frankensteins, ghosts, witches etc.  They are all very cute.  Coulter is more into making lots of stuff while Sophia is more exacting.  Kees is more of a pumpkin man.  I cut ‘em out, he decorates ‘em.  This takes about an hour or two. 

All total we spend about 2 hours decorating, a couple hours carving and maybe 3 hours at the pumpkin patch and this year 24 hours up at mom and Ed’s.  And the coup de grâce, Spookarama at the kids school last Friday night.  This is a quintessential NE Portland school event.  There are games, a cake walk and this year there was even a haunted house. It’s not that all that is a ton of time but it’s just more stuff to do.  Life gets so busy that it’s hard to add stuff to the daily and weekly regular schedule.  We have horse, soccer, art classes and mad science.  Soon, soccer ends but basketball will take its place.  It’s a never ending list of stuff to do.  And just as soon as all the stuff is put up it’s time to take it all down again just so we can decorate for Thanksgiving.  I feel like we have done a fair amount of preparation but is it the right amount?

Yesterday we had a lazy day.  We were all up until midnight on Saturday at a party.  Then we all slept in.  Bob and I watched a lot of football and the boys played and watched movies.  Sophia was at a friend’s.  It was great fun for all and very relaxing.  In the late afternoon I said, “We haven’t carved pumpkins yet.”  And there was a collective, “oh.”  Not a single one of my kids thought that carving pumpkins was that big of a deal.  Really?  Here I was thinking, “Bad mom.”  My kids were thinking, “No biggie.” 

I am still a bit conflicted.  I can’t believe we won’t have a pumpkin carved.  After I drove the kids to school I considered going to get a pumpkin and carving it.  But then I thought, “If they don’t care why do I?”  I don’t know.  I like tradition but it makes me crazy having to do all the stuff.  I am not going to carve a pumpkin but I feel a bit guilty about it.  I know that is ridiculous but I do.  I can’t remember a Halloween where I haven’t carved a pumpkin…until now.  I will have to let it go….maybe….I don’t know….sheesh.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tough Love?

Today is Friday the 14th of October. It is an in service day so my kids are out of school.  It is also the day my housekeeper comes. 

As most people who have a housekeeper know, you must clean the house for the housekeeper. Why?  Because if you have kids and they have toys there are toys all over the floor in their rooms and in the playroom. And if those toys have pieces, think Lego, Tinker toys, blocks, Playmobil, train sets etc. the housekeeper will just throw them into the closest bin of whatever.  The next time someone goes to use said toys the pieces are all over the place and mixed up with all the other toys.  That's no fun. So.....you need to make sure the toys are picked up and put in their proper place. Ultimately, it saves time and frustration. 

Two more pieces of information.  #1 - Sophia had a friend over to spend the night. #2 - It's hard for the housekeeper to clean the house when the kids are there.  Today I needed to make sure the house was picked up, that Sophia and her pal cleaned up their sleep over mess, that I had a plan that was fun for the kids and out of the house and that we were ready to walk out the door when the housekeeper got there at 10:00.  Check, check, check and check...... I thought. 

When the housekeeper arrived I needed to show her something upstairs. We went up and when I walked by Sophia's room it was a mess. There were clothes everywhere, art supplies all over and just general chaos. I had been trying to get everything in order for almost 2 hours. Her responsibilities were cleaning her room, cleaning up the sleepover stuff, eating breakfast (that I made), and getting dressed. This seemed reasonable for a 10 year old in a 2 hour time frame.  I was more than a little annoyed. This was about the 5th time I had asked her to get on it. 

When I came downstairs I yelled and told her to clean up her room. I said I was really mad. Then I went out to the car with the boys and left. I knew this would freak her out but I did it to make a point. It gave me space to calm down and made a point without yelling.  I'm sick of yelling.  I wasn't leaving for the day, I went to Starbucks and to the bank. Sophia, of course, thought I was so mad that we left for the day.

She called 3 times but my phone was in the car and the ringer was off. I called back within 2 minutes. I knew she'd be calling so I knew to check. She was hysterical.  She was sobbing and apologizing and begged me to come home. Of course I did. It was my plan all along. 

When I got home she was standing outside crying. "Mom, I'm so sorry. I'll do anything in the World to make it up to you....ANYthiiiiing." While a part of me was feeling really sorry for her, I remember being that sobbing 10 year old, the other part of me thought, "Good, I think she understood that I am serious."  It was nice to make a point without having to yell. 

During our car ride I talked to her. I told her that she needed to calm down. She said that when she called she thought I was driving and crying and that I had crashed. That's what she got out of me not answering my phone. I told her the reality was my ringer was off. 99% of the time that I didn't answer that was why.  She continued to be overly upset. I told her I was done and that she needed to calm down. I apologized for not telling her I was leaving. I told her I knew she was safe at home and that I needed a few minutes to calm down.  She finally did calm a bit.

When we arrived at the play place I held her hands, looked her in the eye and told her that no matter what I would always love her. I said that I don't like yelling and I needed a few minutes away to calm down myself. I expect to ask her to do things once and have that be respected. We then hugged. I asked her if we could start our day together over. She perked right up and said, "Good morning mom." and had a smile on her face. 

I don't know if I did the right thing. This is my first time being a mom, having 3 kids, having a girl and having a 10 year old. I know it's her job to subvert my ideas and requests and that it is and will be very frustrating. I know that in the years to come my frustration will increase before it decreases again.  I am doing the best that I can. I want to impress upon Sophia that I am serious without causing her harm.  I pray I did not cause her harm. I love her more than I ever understood a parent could love a child. I believe most parents feel the same way.  

I am trying to figure this parenting thing out and move through it with grace. Today I didn't have much grace.  And as soon as I think I've figured out how to work with Sophia, Coulter and Kees will be making me crazy. Actually they already have their moments. And if there ever comes a time when I think I have it all figured out they'll change or be off starting their own independent lives. 

We parents are challenged to do this job with essentially no training. We have only our parents as examples. Sometimes that's good and other times it isn't as helpful. 

When my generation was growing up the rules were different. Our parents could hit us or yell at us even out in public and no one even took notice.  The schools had a policy of corporal punishment and that was fine with our parents.  We were left in the car when they went into a store. I remember because one time I burnt my finger on the cigarette lighter in the car when I was 6. I never did tell my mom. We were left at home alone at a young age. We didn't attend music classes, gymnastics, horse lessons or much of any other lessons until we were at least in Jr. High. We walked to school alone or with a buddy and we did it in rain, snow, hail or heat and it didn't even occur to us to call a parent to pick us up.  We spent our summers outside from breakfast to dinner time. Our parents didn't know where we were or what we were doing. We climbed trees and took risks that would have made our parents throw up if they saw the danger we were in. We didn't use sun screen or hand sanitizer.  We talked to strangers. We threw rocks and pine cones at each other and used garbage can lids as shields.  Yes, yes, it was a different time.

So many of these things would be illegal today. Most of it would not be tolerated by society. I get sideways looks for letting Sophia climb tall trees. Please, I was a champion tree climber. I get it. 

So all that information is just to point out that it's different now.  That the "training" we received doesn't necessarily apply to our kids. And, it was that way for our parents. When my mom was a kid she started working. There was nothing wrong with child labor. So they did the best they could while raising us as well. 

I know this has been a lot of rambling but I needed to write it all down. I want to be a loving, helpful mom and I also want respect. I don't want to yell but I do want to make my point. I need help from my kids with their things and our house. I want them to have fun but I want them to understand that their fun takes my time, money, patience and love. I am not going to a play place because it's fun for me. I am going because I love them. I do not want the process of going to the place to be excruciating. What will not be fun for me anyway becomes almost unbearable if they don't cooperate.  That is what I want them to know.  And I do believe that Sophia will be very cooperative the next time we are headed out to do something fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Disneyland!!!


My mom has wanted to go on a big trip with our family for a while. The last time we went on a big trip was 3 years ago when we went to Mexico for a week. It was great fun but any big trip like that is expensive so they’re hard to do. In January she talked to me about going to Disneyland with our family. She funded a good portion of the trip so how could I say no? I couldn’t. The kids are only little once and it does pass pretty quickly.

We planned this trip in January, bought the tickets in February, kept it from the kids until August and finally went on our trip in October. Here was my only dilemma…….

SCHOOL DAYS VS. LESS CROWDS AND LINES

When these two ideas clash, less crowds will win over school days every time. What is the point in going to the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH if you can’t have fun because you are spending all your time in line? There would not be a point, at least not for me.

The decision was made last February that we would pull the kids out of school for a good time. Done. It’s a good thing too because even with school in session Disneyland was quite busy. They say it was at 50%. If that is the case I pray that I am never there on a busy day. That would be torture.

We left Portland on Sunday the 2nd and flew into the John Wayne airport. We rented a van and went to our hotel, the Meridian Inn and Suites. It was great. We had a refrigerator and a microwave which were key in our saving money scheme. There were doors between the bedroom and the living room which was key in our sanity scheme. Breakfast was included and we were only 3 miles from Disneyland. Wahoo!!!

On Sunday night we drove over to Downtown Disney for dinner and to get a lay of the land. It was a good way to start our adventure. We had dinner at the Rain Forrest Café. The food was mediocre at best but the atmosphere was fun and the kids were thrilled. They thought it was great and that is what this was all about.

After dinner we wandered around Downtown Disney. There is so much to see and so many places that your kids want you to spend all your money! The Lego Store was a top priority for the boys so we spent quite a bit of time there. Before we left each one of the kids got $65.00 to spend on whatever they wanted. The boys each got a small Lego set. Sophia bought a glass lion. We managed to get out of there without buying anything else. That was no small feat! We then waited around until 9:30 to see the fireworks. Mom and I wanted to see them and it was the only night that would have fireworks while we were there. Bob and Kees....they weren't as excited.




Monday morning it was time to go to the one, the only….DISNEYLAND!!! Everyone was excited. We had studied the maps, downloaded the apps, packed a lunch and were ready to roll. We had a bit of a bump in the road when Kees got a kink in his neck. It seems strange to see a 6 year old kid holding his neck and crying. It was really hurting him. We plied him with meds, let him rest up for a few minutes and then we were off.

The first order of the day was to find Mickey. We hopped on the train and went to the far side of the park to Mickey’s house. It’s a strange place and I wouldn’t want to be in there on any serious kind of meds. I mean you could really trip out. At the end of the trek through Mickey’s house you get to have your picture taken with Mickey. We were shuttled into a room and there he was! We all smiled and had a great group photo shoot with Mickey. He was thrilled….and we were too. The obligatory picture with Mickey was done now it was PARTY TIME.




The next few days all blur together. I know that we spent the first bit of time in Toontown and then went on A Small World. Over the next few days we were all over the place. The kids LOVED Autotopia. Autotopia is little gas powered cars that are on a track. The adults pressed the gas pedals and the kids steered….as best they could. Sophia’s driving did not excite me about her being 16 too soon. She was banging our car left and right. I was laughing….hard. Sophia was annoyed with me.

One of the highlights for Sophia and Kees was their Jedi training. Coulter did NOT want to do it. There was training about 4 times per day. When you get over there you have to be picked. The "instructors" go through a routine and the kids learn the basics. Then, when you least expect it, Darth Vader and Darth Maul show up. It's a good thing those kids were trained. Kees took down Darth Vader and Sophia took Darth Maul.



We all went on Space Mountain. While most of us survived it without trauma, the boys were NOT interested in going on that again. Star Tours was a group favorite. I didn’t realize until our 2nd “tour” but each one of the little rooms or whatever you go in / on, are different. It’s in 3-D and really fun.

Mom and Ed’s favorite ride was the Indiana Jones Ride. While we loved it, apparently it is a problem child for Disney. It breaks down all the time. We went there first thing in the morning one day and went straight in. When we got all the way in it was announced that it was closed. Bummer….except that the guy who announced that it was closed had a little trivia contest. If you guessed one of the questions right you got a pass to go to the front of the line of ANY ride. Mom got one right and we got a pass. Yippie. The ride was open about 20 minutes later and we went on a wild ride. Very cool ride. Again, the boys were not interested in going again. We took our pass and headed straight for the Matterhorn. On the way we picked up a Fast Pass to Star Tours. The beauty of using our VIP pass on the Matterhorn is there is no Fast Pass for that ride. It’s one of the few. AND….the wait for the Matterhorn seemed to always be an hour or more. See above…I hate waiting in long lines.

Everyone seemed to like the Matterhorn especially the boys. They were thrilled and wanted to go on it again immediately. I had to explain the line thing and that we couldn’t just hop the line any ole time we wanted AND it was time to go on Star Tours again. Good times. Some other favorites were Astro Blasters, Splash Mountain, Small World and the Jungle Cruise. Splash Mountain was one of our last rides and Sophia, who was in the front of the boat / log got soaked. Ask her about it. It was hilarious.

Kees was pretty funny when we came out of It’s A Small World. He was singing the song but replacing Small with Big because……”Mom, it’s a big world. There were 13 worlds in there.” The kid counted every room we went in. I don’t know if he was accurate or not but he is definitely Bob’s kid.

We caught the raucous Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at the end of two of our days there. It was LOUD but lots of fun. All the major characters were there.



On our last day we went to California Adventure first and went straight to the TOWER OF TERROR. Again, the boys said, “No way.” Grandma took them to the Bugs Life area and Bob, Ed, Sophia and I went into the tower. There was no line so I was really happy. This ride is a total riot…..I LOVED it. It tells a story of some people who were shocked to death in a Twilight Zone type event. Then you get in the elevator, an elevator with seat belts. It shoots you up about 15 stories, the elevator doors open to the outside and then drops you the same 15 or so floors. It was hilarious. You go totally weightless for about 3 seconds. My purse was hovering in front of my face. When it was over Sophia and I got right back on. Awesome.

We also hit the Muppet 3-D show. Cute. And we went on Flying over California. It made mom sick from the motion. We all liked it though, all except for the feet hanging over our heads. It’s a pretty cool ride. Lastly we went on the Grizzly River Run where I got soaked. Not such a big deal except that I was wearing white pants….that were fairly see through when wet. Yeah, that was a pretty picture.

California Adventure was not the same as Disneyland and we weren’t feelin’ it so we went back to the land…it is much better. We spent 90% of our time at Disneyland and loved almost every minute of it.

In the last moments we bought a few souvenirs and trinkets. We spent a few last moments in Downtown Disney and then headed home to the hotel for a swim. My feet were killing me. Yikes.

We did take one day off from Disney when we were in California. It’s a good thing too because it rained REALLY HARD and that is coming from someone who lives in the rain belt. Mom, Ed, Sophia and I went to check out the Chrystal Cathedral. It was pretty cool even in the rain. The docent there was charming and we were all impressed by the GIANT pipe organ. I honestly can say I have never seen an organ that big and my church in Atlanta had 18,000 members. We also did homework, saw a movie and went out for dinner that day. It was fun and relaxing day.

Friday was pack up, check out and fly home day. It went quickly and fairly painlessly. Our kids were good travelers and our grandparents were great companions. We got along all week and had a really successful adventure. For me it went pretty quickly. It wasn’t a relaxing trip but it was definitely fun. 3 days at Disneyland was perfect for our family. I think it was a bit long in the “land” for Mom and Ed. They were there to spend time with the kids, not to go on rides and such. I was impressed that they were right there the whole time and went on every ride. Mom skipped a couple but Ed didn’t miss a thing. And that part worked out well too. When mom didn’t want to go on a ride it was generally one that the boys didn’t want to ride either so we all had someone with us or someone to watch over. Perfect! Thanks again to Mom and Ed for being a major sponsor of this event. We wouldn’t have gone if it were not for your encouragement and enthusiasm. I hope this is a trip that we all remember and hold onto for a very long time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Freedom

I have been waiting for a LONG time for a bit more freedom. I have had a kid with me most of the day for almost 11 years. While I love my babies I really needed some time without them. They need lots of attention and require me to stop whatever I am doing to help them all the time. This isn’t anything that you don’t already know. Parents everywhere know this whole heartedly. If you don’t have kids then it’s a bit harder to comprehend. During your waking hours hire someone to poke you, jump on you or call for you every 5 minutes for 10 years…..it’s like that. And for each additional kid add a poker, jumper, interrupter to the mix. Good times….

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am very proud of my kids and I think they’re terrific. They are well mannered, play nicely most of time and are very lovely. But even still they can drive me bonkers. Like right this minute, they have interrupted me 32 times since I started this posting. I am not joking.

I am only one week in and I already feel like a different person. All 3 of my kids are in school this year and I feel a whole new sense of freedom. I haven’t done much yet but I have big plans. This week I walked and climbed the stairs twice, rode my bike twice and had lunch with friends 3 times. I don’t want to accomplish too much too soon. It might set precedence and I certainly don’t want to do that! ;-) And having all that fun didn’t stop me from getting done twice as much as I usually did with the poker, jumper, interrupters at home with me.

At 2:30 I have been coming home and getting ready to pick Kees up from school at 2:45. We come home and chat for a few minutes and then Coulter and Sophia come home on their own. I am relaxed and ready to have my kids home again. I miss them and I want to hear about their day. I know this is the beginning of them flying the coop but right now is such a great time for us as a family.

Sophia said to me on Wednesday, “Mom, you’ve been in a really good mood.” Believe me, it’s because I have had a break. I feel badly that I haven’t been in as good of a mood and that it is so recognizable but I do feel so much better. This is the job that I have been waiting for. This is the kind of mothering I was made for. When I have “me” time I am much more apt to have quality “them” time. It comes much more easily. I have big plans to get things done….eventually. But for now I am REALLY enjoying a bit of freedom.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I am a Supportive Mom

I love my kids. I don’t think anyone would deny that. I think they’re awesome and better than most kids. It’s my job to think that. I tell them when they’ve done a good job and I don’t pussy foot around when they have not done a good job. I give their teachers permission to correct them and I would never say, “Oh my kid would naaaeeeaaver do that.” Because they would. What do people think? Teachers don’t know kids and their behaviors? It’s what they do. They know kids. And I believe that most of them are in it because they genuinely like kids and want to help them. I choose to believe that my kid’s teachers are acting in the best interest of my children and their class mates. Until further notice, I will believe this. I have had teachers thank me for being down to earth and working with them to come to solutions instead of taking my kid’s side and denying that my kid could possibly misbehave. I know they can and I know they have.

I am not the “get on the floor” kind of mom, I am not a “helicopter” parent, I am not overly protective and I am not one to “praise them for nothing” kind of mom. That makes me NUTS!....Oh little so and so, you kicked the ball during soccer, yay, good for you. Shut up! You are supposed to kick the ball during soccer. Terrific, they hit the lowest rung. The other day I saw a little girl (about 2) playing on her mom’s IPhone at the soccer practice for her older brother. A ball rolled off the soccer field and bumped up against her. Her mom bent down and said, “Good for you Lucy. You did such a good job stopping the ball. We’re going to call you Goalie.” And then she proceeded to pat her on the head and continue with the oohing and aaaahing. Give me a break. The kid wasn’t hurt and she wasn’t even paying attention. I would be more apt to call her Door Stop or Stump but certainly not Goalie. That kid is going to grow up thinking that she is Super Kid and then she’s going to go out in the world and wonders why everyone isn’t awed by her presence. “Well Door Stop….there are LOTS of Door Stops out there. What else do you have?” She’s not doing her kid any favors.

I expect my kids to do more, work hard, be kind and try their best. I am not going to blow smoke or give them false praise. I make these promises to my kids because I am a Supportive Mom……. I will heap on the praise when it comes to true effort being made. I will cheer for you when you have a game and I will really cheer if you are doing your best. You don’t have to be the best as a matter of fact you can even be the worst. If you are giving it (whatever it is) your best effort I will be your cheer leader. I will be your advocate. I will be fierce to protect you. I never thought I was very tough but I can be downright scary to ANYONE that might try and hurt you in any way. I will help you learn. I will protect you from the things that I can and I will comfort you when you’re hurt by the things that I can’t. I will cry with you and I will laugh with you. I will support you. I will guide you. I will love you…..always….and I will love you more than you can possibly understand until you have a child of your own. I am your Supportive Mom.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the Blog Again....I Can't Wait to Get on the Blog Again

It has been far too long since I have blogged regularly. It isn’t because I don’t want to blog. It’s because I have a busy life and family. I love blogging and at times it’s been the thing that has kept me sane…..or as sane as I am I guess.

It’s been an up and down week for me. Do you want the good news or the bad news?..................................................................................................................................................................................... Well? Alright then, you get the bad news first. I like to end on an upswing.

The bad news is that my car was prowled last night. One of my kids, I won’t say which one, left the car unlocked. My kid went in there to get something they forgot. I remember thinking, “I need to make sure the car is locked.” And then life got busy and I forgot. They took my GPS, my speaker for hands free talking in the car, a bunch of gift cards (but not all of them) and my Leatherman multi tool, a total of about $400 worth of stuff. No it’s not the end of the world but it is a huge violation. The van was in our drive way. No it wasn’t locked but damn….it was in MY DRIVE WAY. I have filed a report but I don’t expect to get any of that stuff back. It is yet again a reminder to all of us that we need to lock EVERYTHING. It is very disheartening. So that is that.

Now the good news. I am happy to report that there is much more good news than bad news. First, while we’re on the topic of stolen stuff, I got my bike back! Yep, it is the bike that was stolen in April. It was new and had all my cool stuff on it, air horn, odometer, bell, lights etc. It was in great shape other than some cob webs. I knew that it wasn’t stolen to be ridden; it was stolen to be sold for cash. It was found at a pawn shop. The only bummer part is I had to pay $40 to the pawn shop or they would have held it until they could prosecute and collected some of their money. It was worth it. I couldn’t have been happier about that. I don’t know what I am going to do with it but it’s back.

The kids are back in school. It means getting up early and I did have my kids trained to sleep in this summer. I liked that part. Actually, we had a great summer and did lots of stuff. The kids, Bob and I traveled, played and had a very successful staycation. We enjoyed going to the pool but I couldn’t get anything done when I was at the pool every day for hours on end. I enjoyed just hanging out but things were NOT getting done. I was sick of “bored” kids, making food and cleaning up the kitchen all day, doing extra laundry and the general mess that goes along with having 3+ kids in the house all the time. I was done with summer.

And this school year is better. Why you ask…………because all 3 of my kids are in school from 8:45 to 2:45. 6 years ago when I had Kees I had him in August so my son could go to school when he turned 5. He wasn’t ready. I was totally ready but he was not. I debated whether I should send him anyway but in the end I decided that he needed one more year of preschool. It was a place where he was totally happy. Shoot. But I have to say it was absolutely the best thing for him. He is a totally different kid this year. He’s confident, more adventurous, he’s independent and just more rounded out. He is definitely ready for school.

Today was day #4 of full day kindergarten and he is totally happy. I love his teacher and so does he. I have known her for 6 years and she lives near-by. I told her this summer that he can be really difficult but all she saw was this funny, smart little boy running around being friendly. Yesterday they had a fire drill. When they got outside she had to call roll. When she got to Kees’ name she called it. He didn’t respond. She called again. He didn’t respond and she started to get nervous. After about a minute she saw him and asked him if he heard her. He said, “Yes.” And when she asked him why he didn’t respond he said because he couldn’t hear the “S” on his name. She asked, “Did you know I was calling your name?” And again he said, “Yes.” And then she gave it to him. He knew she was serious and when it comes to safety he could not be doing that. She told me this story in the hall at drop off and then said that she could see what I was talking about this summer. She really understands now where I am coming from with this kid. Fabulous, an ally. Maybe she can do what I have not been able to accomplish.

Coulter has a great teacher too. He has Ms. Barry. She’s the same one that Sophia had. It’s nice to know your teacher. She is what he needs. He doesn’t give me lots of information but he comes home happy every day. “Coulter, how was your day?” He reports, “It was GREAT!” every day.

Coulter and Sophia are now in the same building so they can ride to and from school together. This is great too. It saves me about a half hour in the morning since I don’t have to drop them off. And now they’re coming home together too. Again, a half hour saved. I’m loving that. Sophia sends me a text when they get there and another one when they’re leaving the school. It has been a great way to communicate.


And Sophia…. She had a tough second half of the year. It was very important to me that Sophia have a good year academically but also socially. She had some middle school type problems with friends last year and was told by her teacher to, “Handle it. You need to figure it out.” By the end of the year I was done with that answer. THEY’RE 10 and they need help.

Sophia’s teacher this year is not afraid to step in and help them figure out these issues. I talked to her on the second day of school and she said, “I see the issues that other teachers might not and I know how to handle them.” She has been a middle school teacher for 11 years and has a background in counseling. Hooray!!!! She said if kids are having a hard time getting along and they set a boundary with someone, that someone needs to respect the boundary. I appreciated that. We agreed that everyone needs to be civil to one another and show respect but they don’t all have to be buddies. It was a relief when I met her and I am grateful that she isn’t afraid to get in the middle of the kids and their issues.

Sophia had been very concerned because she is in a mixed age class with 4th graders. I didn’t care about that so long and the teacher was awesome. She is. And Sophia hasn’t mentioned the 4th grade “problem” this week. I think it is becoming less and less of an issue even to her.

We also had a really nice visit from my mom and Ed. They were here for a short time but it was nice. Sometimes when my mom comes it can be really stressful for me. I am her daughter and at times she still feels the need to “mother me” to a degree that feels like torture. I try to make it nice for them and I think I do. But no matter how low impact a guest is, it is still a lot of work. Sometimes my mom is low impact….other times, not so much. This time was low impact and nice. It was truly lovely.

Soccer started when school started. Coulter has had 2 practices and 1 game and has been playing really well. It’s been great fun to see him grow and develop. He is a natural athlete and I would love to see at least one of my kids excel in sports or at least a sport. Just like school….when I ask him how soccer was he says, “GREAT!” I love that kids attitude.

Kees starts soccer tomorrow and is more than a little excited. He has to wear full soccer gear just to kick the ball across the street with his brother. He got Coulter’s old soccer shoes, got his own ball and borrowed Coulter’s jersey. You can see how proud he is to be doing all the stuff the big kids have been doing all along. He is part of the big kid gang now and he is feeling it.

We enjoyed the last 2 days of the pool. It closes for the season on Friday but the open swim was over on Sunday. There was the ice cream social at school and everyone had a great time. PTA (I am on the board) started last night and we have our first general membership meeting next week. Back to school night is tonight and tomorrow for the 2 campuses. Horse riding starts soon, soccer is in full swing, Coulter may be taking an art class after school, everyone seems to have friends and be getting along. We are back in to the full swing of school. So far it has been a great year.

And I have some time! I am thrilled. It’s only the first week and I haven’t done much but I did go out to lunch today and am going tomorrow and the next day too! I have done more laundry, organized a few things, gone through mail and paid bills. It has been nice to do it without having someone interrupt me every few minutes. I will do more but for now I am enjoying the bit of a break.

And I started walking the stairs again. I have partners set up for 2 times per week, Tuesday and Friday. I need to start yoga, yes Rebecca….yoga. There is a studio near my house and I am going to go. I remember when I was growing up I would laugh at my dad when he was stretching because he was so stiff. Pay back is a bitch. I’m not laughing now.

So there is the good the bad and the ugly. Here at the Leek’s it’s mostly good and I plan on keeping it that way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Long Time Commin'

As anyone in the northwest knows, our winter and spring SUCKED! There is no other way to put it. It rained for 6 months right on into JULY. No joke…..July. It was so awful and horribly depressing to many of us, me included. It was so bad that the parks department cancelled spring soccer and that has NEVER happened before. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I went to California for about 10 days in June and spent time in the sun. After about the 3rd day I started feeling better….dramatically better. It was the natural vitamin D. It had to be. After that trip we chased the sun for almost a month getting home around July 14th. It was still winter in Portland. I caught a lot of flak for being gone during what often is “the nicest time of year in Portland.” I am glad we did what we did. I don’t think I could have taken much more rain.

As a caveat, I know there were devastating tornados and floods in the south and stifling heat for most of the country. I am not saying that what we suffered was worse or even comparable; it just messes with one’s psyche. I pray that those who lost their homes will find adequate shelter and peace. And those that have been in the 100’s forever will find relief. That is awful too.

Since mid July it’s been pretty nice off and on until about 3 weeks ago. There are some strange things blooming around here. My clematis that blooms in March has flowers on it. The blackberries are still on the vine. Strawberries were more than 3 weeks late etc. It was nuts. The past couple weeks have been in the mid 70’s which I consider to be perfect. I have been happy with that.

Today it’s 94. For those of us that aren’t used to the heat it feels pretty hot. I am grateful for my AC. I am not complaining about the heat just saying it is fairly warm. It’s supposed to be hot tomorrow too. We have the pool across the street so the kids are pretty happy with that. And the ultimate summer treat around here SNO CONES! They are really quite good.

So let it be known that I am NOT complaining about the heat. I promised I wouldn’t if it ever got hot. I am fine with it. We’ll swim, have sno cones, turn on the AC and enjoy the fact that summer finally arrived. It was a long time commin’ and we deserve a bit ‘o heat.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What To Do? What To Do?

Almost everyone knows this already but.....MY KIDS ARE GONE FOR A WHOLE WEEK!!! This is a first. They went to my Dad and Sally's house on Monday morning for Cousin Camp on Anderson Island. There are 3 adults and 10 kids at their camp. They are having a blast but are a little home sick. Later this afternoon they are being dropped off at my mom's house. They'll be there until we pick them up on Sunday. I hope they can make it that long..... I may have to do an emergency pick up if they're freaking out. I don't think they will but a week away is a long time!

Now in Adult Land a week is not a long time. It is awesome! Bob and I have been having a nice time. I haven't done much really. I think two weeks would be better, one week to decompress and one week to be productive. I am just beginning to feel like taking on a project.

It's pretty weird being home without kids. It's quiet and there isn't as much that has to be done. By farming the kids out I have eliminated 9 of the meals that I have to make daily. I have only filled up the dishwasher once and we even had friends over for dinner yesterday. When I put something away, IT STAYS THERE! I don't trip on shoes when I come in the door and I don't have to yell, "Put your shoes on!" when I go out the door. As a matter of fact neither Bob nor I have lost one or both of our shoes. When we go to put on our shoes we know where they are. That cannot be said for the kids when they are home.

On Monday I just kind of sat around in a daze. Eventually I motivated and went for a stair climb with Rebecca and out to lunch. When Bob got home we went out for dinner at a local brew pub. It was so nice. After dinner we went to the liquor store to stock up the Scotch Cabinet. On our walk home we ran into some friends (with kids) and chatted it up for about an hour. We even broke out the scotch and passed around each bottle to compare them. It was hilarious. We spent the rest of our evening on the deck. It was nice that we didn't have to stop and put kids to bed. And, it was quiet.

Tuesday I got up and made lasagna, I cleaned up a bit and then I went on a bike ride! I haven't been on a bike ride in AGES! AND I had a Groupon so spend at a bike shop in NW Portland. I took a nice relaxing bath when I got home and then....wait for it.....wait for it..... I got an hour and a half massage! Hello! That was awesome. Bob and I had the lasagna out on the deck with some wine....divine! Such a treat! And then we went to Midnight in Paris. We LOVED it. And because we were downtown and we didn’t have to rush home to a sitter we went to the Brasserie Montmartre because we were feeling a little French and had a fancy drink and an appetizer. Such fun.

Wednesday I slept in……yes, yes I did. When I came down stairs I opened the refrigerator and the 2 gallon lemonade container had cracked and leaked into the meat and cheese drawer. Ordinarily this would have pissed me off. But here in Adult Land it was merely inconvenient. I cleaned it up, made breakfast and headed out to do my Meals on Wheels Route. I delivered my first two meals, hopped into my car, turned it on, put it into “D” and then didn’t go anywhere. Nope….the car just revved up and didn’t go anywhere. Again, ordinarily this would have pissed me off but here in Adult Land I just called AAA and then I called Rebecca. She had a bit of free time and came and helped me deliver the rest of my meals. That’s a pal! Later I went out to lunch on my own on my bike. Then I went to Fred Meyer and got a few things including a new bike seat. Honestly, those small seats were not made for my butt and I was feeling it.

So now we’re up to last night….Greg and Rebecca came over for dinner. Since I made the giant lasagna we had more of that for dinner. We all sat out on the deck drank wine and then broke into the scotch again. By 11 pm Rebecca and I were done…. It was great fun and I was feeling it this morning.

So today I slept in, really slept in. My friend Becky came over at 11:30 and picked me up for lunch. What a treat! It was great catching up and spending time with her.

And now….here I am. I talked to Sophia today and she really wants me to come pick them up on Saturday instead of Sunday. She is really feeling home sick. She said, “All I want to do is come home and have a snow cone with my mom.” I think it’s sweet that she just wants to do the ordinary summer stuff. Bob and I will have to talk about it…. I love my babies. I do miss them but I have really enjoyed not having the responsibility. I have loved the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I feel calm. Even with the 2 mishaps on Wednesday my attitude was….oh well, these things happen. It didn’t ruin my day it didn’t even make me frustrated. I want to carry this feeling forward but I am not sure how to do it with 3 kids around. I love them so much but they frustrate me too. I try very hard to be calm around them but it’s hard, really hard.

Kees pushes buttons, Coulter is very reactionary and Sophia is turning into a t’ween. They all leave their stuff all over the place, they fight, they would eat junk for every meal if I let them, they don’t like any of the stuff I cook, they can never find their shoes or their coats but I love them. More important than any of that stuff, they love each other, they play nicely together most of the time and they are friendly to other people and are very well behaved. They’re smart and funny and I do miss them.

I’m not sure when I will go pick them up but I know it won’t be the same quiet, calm place that it’s been around here. I have absolutely loved the quiet and I absolutely miss my babies. I miss their little hands on me. I miss the smell of their baby heads after they have been playing outside. I miss our morning snuggles in bed. I miss their laughs. I know it won’t be much longer and I believe a break from the kids is healthy. It definitely gives one perspective.

I will savor our last couple days of quiet and calm. I have a fun week planned for next week with my babies. When I see them this weekend I will open my arms and take them in…..all in…their feel, their smell, their sound their love but for now I will bathe in the peace and quiet of our calm home.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Onward Ho!

We wrapped up our time in Fossil on Sunday Morning and started on our next leg of the trip. The next stop was Priest Lake. 

Our long time friends, the Thompsons, had invited us the first time about 10 years ago when the house was built. Due to babies being born and then, well, being babies it was too tough. And it's about 8 hours from our house with only a couple stops. Given that I have been travel training the kids for the last couple years, I felt they were ready. 

From Fossil it was about 6.5 hours.....piece of cake. We arrived at about 7 on the 3rd and were greeted with open arms. Man, it has been too long!  To our surprise their daughter Nicole was there. The last time we saw her she was about 10, she's a Sophomore at WSU now. Time flies! We got settled a bit, had a bite to eat and went to see some fireworks. What fun. 

Over the next couple days we did all the lake stuff. We went out on the boat and pulled the kids on an float thing. Sophia and Kees spent very little time in the boat since they were dragged behind the boat almost the entire time.  Kees kept wanting to go faster and Sophia was right there with him.  Coulter was beaming as the "captain" of the ship. Wayne was great with him and let him steer all the way across the lake. So cool.  My babies were so happy and Bob and I got a real charge out of watching them. Anne talked about when Nicole was younger and had many of her summer birthdays on the lake.  Lucky girl. 

My favorite thing was sitting on the beach at the marina. It was a perfect set up. There was a building with a bar area and bathrooms on the back side. In front of that was a lawn with some lawn chairs and a little sandy beach. There was a creek feeding into the lake and then another beach beyond that. The kids were having a real adventure. They called the further beach Treasure Island. They played so nicely and the adults got to just sit and talk and lay in the sun. Ah peace, quiet and great company. We liked the beach so much that we spent part of each of our 4 days there and he kids were equally as happy each day. That makes life much easier. 

Another one of the kids favorite things was riding the 4 wheelers. We could get all 5 of us on 2 ATVs. Bob scouted out the trails and then we all went for a ride. The first time was  great. We figured out a few trails, ran through a few puddles and even got stuck in some deep mud.   Coulter got a little nervous but he didn't know that his mama has been stuck in the mud 4 wheeling before. I rocked it out and we were off and running again.  

The second day out we decided to see some things that Anne had recommended.  Wayne gave us a map, got us oriented and they set us free. We saw a cool old growth forest. Cool trees, unfortunately it was also the ULTIMATE mosquito habitat.  We read all the information markers at lightening speed while hopping around and slapping each other. It was comical.  Next we went up the mountain for a beautiful view. It doesn't get any better. Blue skies, 75 degrees and peace and quiet. Nature at it's best. 

Each evening we had cocktails out on the deck. The view was amazing with the lake below and the mountains beyond that.  Heaven.  Anne and Wayne were so gracious and generous.  We are extremely blessed to have such great friends in our lives.   

Anne and Wayne were gracious enough to let us stay at their place for a couple nights on our own.  The first night we let the kids watch a movie while we read outside. The second night there was a big storm. We raced around and brought in all the fabric stuff and watched it roll by. It was powerful and beautiful at the same time. The power went out....for 3 hours. It came back on, the kids cheered, another storm came and it went out again 5 minutes later. The kids groaned.  No sweat. We played ping pong in dimming light and then drew pictures. Bob and I read and the went to bed. So relaxing. 

Today we packed up, cleaned up and set our sights on home. The kids and I have been gone almost a month.  We tried to be good stewards and leave everything as clean as possible. I hope we did a good job. 

It's always fun to see friends that you haven't seen for a while. At times you don't know how it will go. I was pretty sure it would go well and it did. It was as if no time had passed and that's as good as one can hope for, like we'd been doing things together for all the in between years. Again I know I am blessed. 

And the kids had a great time too. They were well behaved and played outside a lot. They watched some TV in the evenings but during the day they used their imaginations. It's a thing of beauty. This is the first trip we've taken where we didn't bring any toys. They didn't need them. 

So I will call this one a complete success. We're now 20 minutes from home and there's hardly been a cross word for almost 8 hours.  Bob said he thoroughly enjoyed himself and feels relaxed. It usually takes him a week to really wind down. This time it was a couple days. Thanks again Anne and Wayne, we love you guys and your beautiful place. Let's not wait 10 years again. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Times in Fossil

We are in full swing at the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival. Day two started with an all you can eat breakfast with the whole family (Bob got here safely) benefiting a local scholarship fund. It was a good cause. 

We puttered around camp making sure all our food was out of the sun for the day. Coulter and I got in a shower which was obviously really needed. The moment the water hit Coulter it turned into mud....seriously.  It's amazing how much dirt can be held on a 7 year old boy. 

At 10 am the kids all went to the Chick's Kid's Workshop.  I had to wind around town to get around the classic car show that was going on on Main Street. This is a busy place for such a small town. I finally got them to the right place. I went back to the base camp to collect our stuff and Bob for the day and then went to the stage area. 

Bob and I had a little time so we hit a yard sale and checked out the classic cars. We couldn't be gone too long because the kids were performing at 12:30.  Sophia and Coulter were in a band with Clara and Marshall.  Kees was too "shy." They named their band Red Tiger Bazooka. They had 3 songs worked out and started out with Old McDonald's Farm. All went well until Coulter had a guitar solo. He felt the pressure, panicked and melted down on stage. My poor baby covered his face and was crying. I had to go rescue him. The show went on but they couldn't do the third piece with out Coulter. He just couldn't do it. 

Now the song writing contest was in question. Coulter was instrumental in writing their song, Butterflies in Fossil and Clara said she couldn't do it without him. After a bit of encouragement and reminding him he didn't have to play the guitar he agreed to do it.  Everyone was relieved and excited to perform. Even Kees. That's something new. 

At 1:45 the song writing contest began and our group, The Baked Leeks, was on first. The group consisted of all our kids and both the Baker kids. They performed very well. It was awesome watching them all. I was beaming. There were 9 songs performed and then the voting began.  Votes were cast by giving a dollar to the collector for the group. Voting went on for about 15 minutes.  When the tally was done OUR KIDS WON!  56 "votes" and they got to split it 4 ways. Clara figured Marshall was being paid for other stuff so he was just back up.  The kids were ecstatic. They won, THEY WON. It was also good, especially for the boys, as they had spent most of their money at the little museum across from the stage. 

Coulter had gone from utter sadness and the feeling of failure to complete jubilation and felt full of success.  What a lesson. When you fail, get up and try again. 

Since then the kids have been back to the museum to spend their winnings. They've been playing with the other festival kids and having a blast. The adults have been just hanging out,  watching bands and relaxing. It's awesome. I can definitely see us doing this again. 

Fossil

Fossil
I like Bluegrass, always have but I've never been involved. Our friends the Bauer-Baker Family has been pickin' and a grinnin' for many years. They introduced us to Chick Rose who Sophia took a few lessons from before he passed away in March.  All this information is leading up to the fact that we're in Fossil Oregon at The Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival. 

We've been planning this for a log time. The kids, dog and I, along with Joleen (their dog), Rebecca and Clara packed up and headed to Fossil on Thursday afternoon. I have a big habit of trying to get a good spot wherever I go.  Part of getting a good spot is getting there ahead of the crowd. 

We homesteaded a great spot up on a bluff above the county fair grounds. It was at the end of the road so we were sure to have very little traffic. This is great for kids and dogs. And to Sophia's delight there were horses in our back yard and cows in the front yard. The boys thought that was cool but weren't as enamored. They all were running around......free if you will.  The 3 adults (Clara is now included in this mix) set up camp. When I could hold Fia's attention long enough she helped too but really, there were horses that required her attention.    

After a few hours of set up with a brief pause to acquire ice and, ahem, cold beer we were set up.  A few more people joined us, we had a little "dinner" and a bit of music. While the weather was perfect at 75 and clear during the day, by 10 pm it felt like 10 below. We were freezing.  It was bed time.

Everyone brushed their teeth and then froze for a few hours in their sleeping bags. Sophia, who insisted on having her own tent, lasted about an hour. The next thing I know she's coming in the tent with her sleeping bag and the dog.  "Mom, I'm freezing."  I laid her down with me, covered her with my sleeping bag and her's and snuggled with her. She was out in a matter of minutes. What seemed like 10 minutes later Coulter came over. "Climb in."  It was crowded. 

We survived the night and got up at about 8:00.  We had a bit to eat, hung out around camp and even got a shower in.  Luxury. Again the temperatures soared and we hung out under the shade tent. The kids ran around free. Sophia met the county princess who was riding her horse in the parade preceding the festival opening. Oh bliss, a horse friend. 

Clara was on her game and was teaching all my kids to play guitar. Coulter says he's hooked. Coulter and Clara eventually wrote a song about Fossil. It was such fun watching them in the tent being creative. Clara would play and they'd make up lyrics and Coulter would write them down. Man that makes my heart smile.  Eventually Kees and Sophia helped write too.  Later it was Sophia's turn to learn a little guitar. They were on the lawn waiting for festivities to begin. Sophia learned a few things and was beaming.  

As I sit here writing I am planted in front of the main (only) stage. The first band is playing, we're in the shade with a little breeze and again the kids are exploring downtown Fossil and the Wheeler County Museum.....I think.  They're around someplace.  This is a happy place, a great experience and we're all having a fine time. And best of all we have 2 days left AND Bob joins us tonight. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

There and Back

I posted about our drive down to the Bay Area and how fabulous that was. Then we got there and I was too busy to blog. I’ll try to catch up here.

We arrived in Martinez around 1 pm on Friday. Sarah got to meet Nancy and Dave which was nice. They’re all such good friends of mine. The kids played a bit and then I had to take the Klines to the BART. They still had a couple hours to go to meet with their family. I was sad to see them go. We had so much fun together.

When I got back to the house the kids were in the pool….of course. Nancy and I plotted out some food for the week and we hung out. We hung out for almost 2 days. Saturday was a total sloth fest. I put on my swim suit and hung out all day in it. What I did not know is that the back was wearing out and you could see my posterior. Sorry for that Dave. We played Words with Friends a lot! It was great, I never get to do that.

By Sunday afternoon I figured they could use a break. Their kids are grown and they lead a pretty quiet life when we’re not there. I Yelped….love that….and found a Jump Sky High and a movie that we could go to. We did both. Happy Father’s Day Dave. We were gone for about 5 hours.

On Monday we went into The City. Anyone who has lived in San Francisco knows it is THE CITY. We drove in since we were going to be where parking was free or cheap. Our first stop was The California Academy of Science. We spent all day there. There was a lizard and snake exhibit going on. One of the coolest things we saw there was the animatronic snake from the movie Anaconda. It was amazing. We did the snakes and lizards, lunch, Rainforest, aquariums, living roof, penguins, Africa and finally the planetarium. That was a very cool show about the creation of the earth. What a great way to start our city adventures.

That evening we went to Chinatown. It’s the kid’s favorite place in the city. We did a little shopping, had dinner at the place we always have dinner (great location, bad food) and then played in the little park. Such fun and great people watching. And to top it off the parking was free. Go figure. We stayed out until 10:30.

The next day we went to the Exploratorium. It, as always, was GREAT! We love that place and spent the better part of the day there. The one improvement we made to our day was packing food. We spent over $100 on two mediocre meals the day before.

When we all couldn’t stand to be hungry any more we left and went to the Golden Gate Park for a picnic. We dined in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. It was a perfect day. We went to purchase tickets to the conservatory but….THEY CLOSED. Damn, the first thing to go south. We decided to go on a little hike / adventure. Each one of the kids took a turn leading the way. They really thought we were on an adventure. We did come across 2 “camps” and one group of people smoking pot in the woods. Gotta love it.

For dinner we went to Yet Wah, a favorite place from when I was a kid. And it was just as great as I remember. The kids agreed. The food was good, abundant and half the price of the place in Chinatown. Again we were out until about 10.

On Wednesday, day 3 in The City, we went to Alcatraz. We rode the BART in because parking down at the waterfront is about $10 per hour. We packed a lunch and headed out. They’ve changed things a lot since the last time I was there in the 70’s. The kids loved it and learned a lot. It’s been cleaned up a lot so it’s not quite as creepy as I remembered it. The self guided tour is quite good. It was strange to pause the recording because it was so quiet. Everyone was listening and moving slowly. We made the last boat out. This was unfortunate because we were going to try and be home for dinner….ah, that wasn’t going to happen. The web site says allow an hour and a half, we took a total of 3 and a half hours and that was pushing it.

We made it home by about 8:30. Dang it. It was frustrating for all of us. We had dinner and the kids went to bed. Nancy and I talked a bit. She was missing us. If we were going to be visiting, we should visit. I was trying to keep the kids out of their hair but apparently they didn’t mind the kids. As a matter of fact, Nancy was missing us. Fair enough, we would plant ourselves for the next couple days.

Thursday was spent in the pool. Nancy and I hung out. Again, it was really relaxing. We planned for the next day. Sarah and her daughter would be joining us for a little cocktail party and the night. Nancy has a neighbor that I love. His name is Tim and he’s been married for 40 years, has 3 grown daughters and is gay. Apparently he doesn’t know that. If he’s not gay then he needs to take a serious look at the way he projects himself. He is so funny and has lots of great stories. He and his wife, who I would not want to meet in a dark ally, came over for drinks and snacks. We swam and laughed a lot. Sarah immediately picked up on the fact that Tim is gay. The next day she kept singing, “I just gotta be ME!!!” on our ride home. The evening was a success. We stayed up late talking. It was nice for Nancy and Sarah to get to know each other a bit. They’re both such good friends of mine and they both grew up in Connecticut. Hummm.

Saturday morning we all got up got packed and said our good byes by 9:30. I could have stayed another week! The weather was perfect the whole time. I needed sun so badly. I didn’t realize how badly until about day 4 when I started to feel like myself again. And we were off. About an hour into our drive Nancy called. She told me that the kids had packed Dave’s computer bag….CRAP! We stopped in Redding and shipped it back FedEx. There’s $72 I’ll never get back but what are you gunna do? I needed to make sure it got there fast.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. It took 12 hours with one FedEx stop, 8 potty breaks and an hour to run around at lunch. The kids were fabulous again. They did a few hours of books on tape and finally movies.

All in all is was a very successful trip. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

California Dreamin'

Schooooollll zzzzout for the summah.... schoooollll zzzzout for evah. School got out on Tuesday, June 14th. We had a pretty good year but I can tell you this. We're going to have a fun summer.

First on the docket is SAN FRANCISCO. The past two years the kids and I have been in San Francisco in late August. This year my pal Sarah asked if we would want to drive down together in June. That sounded like fun. We planned this starting in like....February. We moved it a little forward, a little back and settled on June 16th. That gave us a full day to enjoy summer at home. Yep, that was enough. The weather sucked and it didn't in California.

We packed up on Wednesday night and told the Klines we'd pick them up at 9. I packed as if we were going to the Amazon. Because as anyone knows there are no clothing stores in the Bay Area or places to get snacks between Portland and San Francisco. This on top of the fact that I KNOW Sarah will pack tons of snacks too. But still I pack, pack, pack.

The kids and I are in the car by 8:45 and have everything ready to go with the Kline’s luggage loaded by 9:15. That’s pretty good in my book. With everything and everyone loaded we looked like the Clampetts. We were a total of 7 people, about 14 bags, coolers and back packs. Sarah said, “We may look like the Clampetts but we have better snacks!” Lord knows that’s right.

Our goal was to have the kids listen to books on tape instead of watching movies. They turn into total loons when they have watched TV all day. That, and with 5 kids it would be hard to satisfy all their wants as far as video entertainment.

The kids listened to Geronimo Stilton for a total of almost 7 hours. Seriously…. We fed them snacks, stopped when someone had to go to the bathroom and stopped at a play land place for a snack but other than that those kids were packed into the car for more than 8 hours. I miss calculated how far one of the play places was and we had to go forever!!!! And there wasn’t ONE complaint. Not one. After we hadn’t had a real meal in 5+ hours someone asked, “Are we gunna eat soon?” but that was it.

When we arrived in Redding California we needed a place to stay. We Yelped and figured Motel 6 would be good enough. When we pulled into the parking lot I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Red Lion Parking lot. While I was there I figured I could take a look. The rate was very reasonable and it included a full breakfast. SOLD!!!! The kids were really excited. A real hotel!

Everyone helped to unload and then it was into bathing suits. We were off to the pool and Sarah had a little surprise….SCOTCH!!!. Yippie! The kids all played in the pool, we chatted, made a plan for dinner and talked about the trip so far. Sarah said that she didn’t think that the kids would last with the books but that she was sold on the idea. She was pretty happy about how they were all behaving. After almost 2 hours in the pool it was dinner time.

We ordered take out from the Applebee’s across the street. When we brought it back the kids were finally plunked down in front of a movie with their dinner. After 10 minutes they finished their food and were bored with the movie so they came out on the lawn behind our room and ran around with flashlights. Lord knows what they were looking for but they sure had a great time doing it. Sarah and I sat out having another scotch and were so proud of our smalls. They were all being so fabulous, friendly with each other and just generally great. It was amazing.

We finally put them in bed around 11:30. Breakfast was then next time we got together. It was pretty good and everyone was happy with their food. We packed up and hit the road again by about 9:30. Again, more books on tape and happy smalls. Ahh, I love these little travelers.

We only had one potty break and everyone got out and ran around. So great. We arrived at my friend Nancy’s house around lunch time. All the kids got out, helped unload and then ran around for about a half hour. Sarah and Nancy got to talk a bit and get to know each other a little. Then I had to take Sarah and her kids to the BART for the next leg of their trip. They were off to the South of the city.

That was our trip down…. So far so good and we have amazing little travelers. I couldn’t be prouder of all 5 of our kids.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

End of Preschool, End of an Era….YIPPIE!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE ChildsWork. As a matter of fact I’ve loved ChildsWork since 2004 and sometimes with 2 kids at the school at once. Our family has spent a total of 8 years with CW.

I was a mom with a 3 year old and a baby back in the spring of 2004. We were in a play group. As with any play group there are always the moms who know everything. They have investigated the BEST schools and day cares and always have a babysitter that is just a little bit better than yours. Dang it. One day the conversation turns…..”Where’s little so-n-so going to preschool next year?” WHAT? Am I supposed to be on that already? It’s only February. “Oh yes, if you’re not on the list by now well you have no chance to get into the very best one……the one we’re in.” Dang it again.

I started my frantic search. I had been given lots of names by the mom who started my panic. “I am a good mom, I am a good mom……. How could I have let it go this far?” I went to lots of little schools in basements of houses. “At Butterfly Farts Preschool we think that the children already know everything. That we merely need to let them show us the loving beings they are meant to be.” REALLY? They haven’t met half the kids I know. Next I went to Co-Ops (not really knowing what that was all about). First of all we didn’t get in as most had one slot and 500 applicants. And secondly, ahhh, when my kid is at school I want to be out to coffee with friends, working out or at work. I get plenty of kid time when they’re not at school. And so it went…. School after touchy feely school. “Is this what preschool is meant to be?”

And then I checked out ChildsWork. Now this is what I was talkin’ ‘bout. Kids playing, being involved, teachers that were in it up to their elbows and parents that were at the school (but only when they wanted to be….in other words, not required to be there weekly). I was blessed to tour the school and spend time in Debbie’s Class on my first visit. The thing that I loved the most was that Debbie talked to the kids like they were people. She gave them choices within reason and expected them to act like people. In other schools that I saw the kids were treated like they couldn’t possibly understand what the sing-songy teacher was saying. It struck a chord with me. I remember when I was little and people would talk to me in that sing-songy tone. I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m short, not stupid.” Debbie talked to the kids like they were just shorter than her. I believe that in most cases, when you treat a small person like they have a brain, they will use it. What I saw reflected that. I was IN!!!

Or so I thought…because I was so late, I was wait listed. But a month or so later I WAS IN!!!! Or I should say my daughter was. I felt like I had won the lottery. And as it turns out I really did.

Since our first year starting in 2004 we have been a happy ChildsWork Family. I have been to 8 Family Nights and many more performances. In the early days there was separation anxiety at drop off. By the third kid he was pushing us out the door. “Aw, my baby….. look at….OK, I get it, I’m gone.” Really, he pushed me. He had watched his sister and then his brother go off to school since he was born. He was at ChildsWork when he was 4 days old and has been ever since.

We’ve spent a total of 8 school years with ChildsWork, 8 amazing years of growth and development. My children have been given the basis of knowledge and more importantly the desire to learn. When a kid at ChildsWork has a question they aren’t always given the answer. Often times their question turns into an investigation. Don’t we all learn better by investigating rather than by being fed information?

Letters have been a game….What’s in the “L” Letter Box today? What happens when I shine a light through a color? Two colors? Why does it become a different color? What makes a volcano? Where does rain come from? What is my community? And so much more….. And all these questions lead to amazing answers. When my 4 year old started talking about how the earth moves to make a volcano I was thrilled. He wasn’t told that, he investigated with his class and they discovered the answer together. They were very excited to figure it out. Then they played “Volcanologist” in the lab that they created. It is a natural progression of curiosity that leads to learning. Kids want to learn and ChildsWork gives them the base. They lead the discussion and discovery process. They are gently being guided and are learning how to learn. That is the best gift that a school or a teacher can give a child, the yearn to learn.

So as I sat in the audience of 50 parents, 30 sibs, 20 grandparents and about 1000 recording devices I was happy, thrilled really. I have been to my share of Family Nights. They have all been wonderful in one way or another. My kids have participated fully and also fallen off of stages. I thought “I won’t have to go to another one of these.” But how blessed are we that we had this privilege? We ended up at the right school because Butterfly Farts and all the like schools were full but we came away with so much more.

ChildsWork accepts all kinds of kids from all kinds of families and my kids learned to not question who a parent or a kid should be, that a family just requires love. They learned that learning is FUN. Teachers are there to help you learn and to help when you don’t quite know what to do. Success is in their hands and can be attained by working at it. All these lessons are their basis for success in school and life. As we finish our last few days at ChildsWork I am a little sad that this part of raising kids is over. But I am more glad that we had the experience. I couldn’t be more pleased to call myself a ChildsWork parent. It’s been a privilege and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.