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10 posts from May 2009

May 30, 2009

Math, shmath

We are batting 2 for 2 on the math vs. reading issue.  Well, I should give credit where credit is due: Caitlin no longer despises math.  In fact, she may never have truly despised it, she just loves reading so much more.  Apparently, we breed readers.

I was pulled aside by Kelsey's teacher today and of course, I instantly wondered if some coloring up or down issue had clouded the day.  No, she started explaining how she was testing Kelsey's reading level. Well, word recognition level, to be more accurate.  Remember the little girl who was enjoying the small, non-chapter books (Dick & Jane) at the beginning of the year, and had mastered her 100 sight words by January/February (average at best, I would guess)?

Today she blew her teacher's mind.  Mrs. B. said, "I have never, ever seen a child experience such a huge amount of growth in reading in this time span (8 months)."  (Insert happy dance here).  She started testing her with standard sight words, then moved to 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade...finally Kelsey stumbled.  I am guessing now we will experience a sudden upgrade in the reading books sent home at night (Kelsey has long bemoaned "how easy" they are).    

Don't worry, this discussion was quickly followed with a review of math or how we are going to spend our summer finally trying to understand American money.  At least it started off well.  Oh, and yes, I realized tonight that while Kelsey is reading chapter books, she probably wasn't challenged enough.  So, off to Caitlin's bookshelf to borrow a few favorites, and think we will be rethinking the sections we visit in the library.  

In other news, Nicholas had his third haircut and screamed his bloody head off.  Poor Daniella kept at it, but I practically had to put him in a head lock.  I tried to reassure her that Cait was the same way as a baby, but "look at her now!".  She smiled, did her best, and the boy has a great new do that will hopefully last until his 6th birthday when we can bribe him with "CHAPTER books".

May 28, 2009

I swear


 I didn't bribe him, as I didn't find it necessary.  He has taken a serious interest in house-cleaning lately, but usually keeps it to the activity of swatting things with a small brush.  It is really for brushing crumbs off the counter, but the little guy goes nuts and loves to smack the floor with it.  I can't say the floor is much cleaner, but the entertainment value is priceless (especially if the cat is nearby).

Yesterday, he knew I was not feeling well (serious case of blech) and took it to a new level:  the real broom and dustpan for the floor.  Oh, and yes, one should note the IMG_0813 official IMG_0815 housecleaning outfit of "skivvies".  Still cute at this age, no?

This?  Oh, yes, this is where I found him when I got out of the shower today.  Duh, I know it should not be open, but until today, zilcho interest in ladders (except the occasional interest in Cait's bunk bed ladder).  One of those things you don't think about til they decide to startle you into doing so.

May 19, 2009

At this time

in 1997, we were happily enjoying our tour of Ireland.  I had wanted to visit for years, and with the wonderful assistance from Peter's Aunt Lisa, we were able to create a whirlwind, yet relaxing tour to remember for a lifetime.  We stayed in a mix of B&Bs and two hotels for a total of 8 nights (if memory serves).  

We covered much of the southwest of Ireland, and I can still take myself back to the Cliffs of Mohr or Dublin with ease.  We could have opted for a journey involving less travel, but, at the very least, I wanted to cross an ocean on our honeymoon.  Having not traveled much as a child, and not knowing what lay ahead, I wanted this special time to be something we would remember forever, in case we ended up being homebodies.  Oh, the irony...

Fast forward 12 years, two states, two countries, and several temporary homes in between.  Even as I type, I am frantically fretting about what we will do next.  Bidding season is rapidly hurtling towards us like a bowling ball set on a strike, and I am the center pin.  The debate about what to do is hot, despite the fact (in the end) we don't always have control over the final roll. 

Since this past weekend was not only our anniversary, but also a three day weekend for the girls, weIMG_0727  decided to get out and explore.  Peter planned the entire trip, start to finish.  The girls, Nicholas, and I had to worry about nothing but what we would pack.  I am not sure I have mentioned it here, but I no longer have to worry about the girls when it comes to packing.  In fact, until I opened Kelsey's drawer to snap this photo, I was not entirely sure what they had brought along.  Yet, here it is, neatly unpacked and organized, with my only contribution being the cleaning and folding (prior to packing).

I have found that letting them pack by themselves is the surest way to teach them how.  They learn that they are responsible if they forget an item, or have to deal with the lack of a jacket because Barbie took priority.  With the travel we have done in the past, it is a lesson easily learned and committed to memory! 

IMG_0719 After Caitlin participated in the Marion Liturgy on Saturday, we ran a few errands and packed up the car. Yosemite is only 3 short hours away, and we opted for the addition of a DVD player on the trip.  It wasn't entirely necessary, but with license plate bingo a bit boring in this part of the country (CA, CA, CA, CA, CA, AZ!!, CA, CA, CA....), so the movies come in handy.

We arrived at the Evergreen Lodge in Stanislaus Forest withIMG_0726  an hour to spare before dinner.  The kids happily played in the sand pit, and made s'mores which did not even make a dent in their hunger.  We enjoyed a hearty dinner (steak for Caitlin...we were wary, but she made short work of it), and retired to the room for a bit of reading time for the kids, a movie for us (I lasted a whopping 5 minutes), and celebratory glass of Pinot Noir from Delicato in Manteca (our 'rest stop' on the way to Yosemite).

IMG_0730 Awake bright and somewhat early on Sunday morning, we fueled up and headed out to Tuolumne Grove.  We hiked just beyond the Tunnel Tree for a roundtrip of a little more than two miles.  The trail is deceptively easy at first, as it is literally all downhill.  However, even on the return trip on a very warm day, the shade of the sequoias is more refreshing than any air conditioner.  

Though our day did not begin late, it was not quite as early asIMG_0738  the trip leader had planned.  We ended up modifying the schedule slightly, but still managed quite a drive through Yosemite, and several more stops capping with a long rest at Glacier Point.  Cait managed quite a few videos of active lizards, Kelsey communed with nature, and Nicholas began what could be a life-long interest in rock climbing (no worries, this cute video will be posted soon!).

IMG_0739 As we arrived at the point, clad in shorts and t-shirts, yet surrounded by the winter's leftover snow, I thought back to last year's anniversary trip to Jokulsarlon.  Completely different environs, yet each amazing in its own right.  Awestruck, we considered it the finale for our day, and headed back for our anniversary dinner at the Lodge. 

We feasted on steak and chicken, and Kelsey and I shared dessert.  We spent the rest of the evening enjoying family time, and dozed off quite early.  One particularly enjoyable facet of the trip: no internet or TV.  We could technically get internet access in the Rec Center, but only if it was up and running.  Guess what?  Not surprisingly, none of us missed it. 

We ended the trip with a final breakfast at the Lodge, which included smoked Alaskan salmon for me. I never liked salmon before living in Iceland, and never thought anything could equal Icelandic salmon.  I learned today that smoked Alaskan salmon can satisfy in a pinch, though the lack of the sosa was a bit saddening.  However, now that I know of a salmon substitute, I am sure I could whip up the sauce and take a tasty journey down memory lane.

As we wrapped up the trip, I thought back over the past few years,  and realized many of our recent anniversaries have involved travel.  Each has brought its own special memories, and many are thanks to our lifestyle.  This weekend's journey was a short trip, but divinely relaxing and the scenery was...stunning.  Thank you, Peter, not only for 12 incredible years, and three incredible children, but for one incredible weekend including all of the above!

May 16, 2009

12 years later....

we are on the eve of our 12th anniversary.  We wanted to get away (and the girls have Monday off from school), so we opted for a quick trip to Yosemite.  I know, what am I doing on the computer?

We have no cell phone service, and limited email (and plenty of pics to upload, but no way to do it), but wanted to send out this quick update in case you thought we fell off the face of the earth.  No, we were careful when stopping at the scenic overlook and did not hop on the brick wall that separated us (just a tiny bit) from a staggering drop into Lake Touloume. 

We are at the Evergreen Lodge, chilling with the girls, and ironically, watching a wedding party dance the night away.  We almost had a little more excitement, as we just missed smacking a deer, but all worked out well (deer alive, car intact).  So, off to dinner, and to reminisce about the excitement of 12 years ago this weekend with the incredibly beautiful additions to our lives.

May 09, 2009

Mother's Day Eve

 Now, that would be a great addition to the holiday selection.  An extra day to prepare for theIMG_0672  pampering and relaxing!  Our day was  a bit more hectic, though, as we were having a grill-fest in the evening and didn't have a moment to sit down.

IMG_0674We also relaxed a bit too much Saturday morning.  The weeks have become so jam-packed, that we get those extra ZZZs whenever possible.  We all sleptt, and some dawdled a bit.  We managed to get to thefarmers' market by noon (hint: a great way to get even less expensive produce, as they generally start marking it down an hour before closing).  We had lunch at a nearby bakery and Kelsey reminded us that we still had not firmed up our summer plans with the drawing (big hint) to the right.

We spent the rest of the afternoon tidying and prepping for dinner.  Almost every veggie was courtesy of the Farmers' Market (did I mention it is open all year round?).  I have to say, I will really miss that when we leave here.  There is no excuse for not buying local produce anywhere in Northern California.

We ended the day with a fun dinner with friends, and came to the decision to have a "supper club" of sorts.  Our dinner crosses off the "Classic American Backyard Barbecue" off the list.   Grilled burgers , mixed greens, corn on the cob, and yep, apple crisp.  We chatted for hours while the kids (sans Cait, at a friend's house & Nicholas, after he nodded off early) watched a movie, and parted after the movie ended.

And now off to bed for the real day of R&R (in theory)!

Note: The picture is rather hazy, but is supposed to be a depiction of us sailing in Mark, Shannon & Sandy's boat.  We are on our way to Pirate's Cove to meet our friends Jack & Janet (HA!) for dinner.  I don't know, it's warm out, it's May, we constantly discuss heading back to visit (and sail, swim, sail), so I think Kelsey decided it was time for drastic guilt-inducing measures.  It worked!  Now, if only Peter could actually stay awake at night for us to really plan....

Friday Fun

IMG_0665 I decided to go nuts and join the PTA next year.  Nothing crazy, but I will be the co-chairperson for the Beautification Committee.  The primary duties are to organize an Arbor Day event, sometimes co-hosting with the Scout troops at the school.  Mind you, I am also hoping to possibly introduce other projects, but will have to see how things go and what can even be done with the space and time available.

The official joining occurred during today's morning meeting.  After the  meeting (Nicholas went to a babysitter for two hours) and a few errands, I picked up The Boy and we headed to Kindermusik.  He normally takes the Tuesday class, but had a make-up due to sleeping through the Tuesday slot. Thankfully, at his age, it is cute (if not a regular habit), and understandable when they do so.

 He so enjoys music, and had a great time.  He also apparently impressed some folks with his ball playing, as he threw directly to people and caught the ball when thrown to him.  I thought he was just on par with other kids his age, though I realize we don't know many his exact age. Two mothers were busy discussing his abilities and asked me how old he was.

IMG_0667 I responded and they instantly said (in unison), "Oh....".  Oh, what??  I decided not to worry about it, as I get so tired of hearing about who did what when and who should do what when.  Maybe he is supposed to be on his first soccer team already?  Though they do start classes at 18 months here (seriously, I kid not).

In return,  have thus given up guessing about the ages of other children, as anytime I think I see a child who might be remotely close, I am totally off.  Maybe cause he is such a little peanut, but I now have a terrible time guessing anyone's age. 

Not only was it KM, but Miss Lindsay (no, it's still California, apparently it's now a universal thing to add "Miss" to any adults name...personally I like the Icelandic method better), was having a photo shoot. Thankfully, I somehow sensed this  and Nicholas wore his shirt with "Irresistible" embroidered on it.  He was pretty cute, but no way of knowing if any of the pictures made it to the web-site.  Of course, if anything does appear, I will add a link immediately (with my luck it will be the moment a large gob of drool landed on the mat)!

We ended the afternoon with a trip to the park.  Kelsey had two friends over for a playdate, and a third met us at the playground with her mom in tow.  The girls devoured half a watermelon, while Nicholas entertained the ladies.  Up and down and all around the play equipment.  Oh, and yes, sticks are our new (absolutely) favorite toy.  Happy weekend, all!IMG_0669

May 08, 2009

Tickle Me Nicholas

Really a baby book entry, but in case it ever gets lost in a move, Nicholas tickled me intentionally for the first time today.  I know, not national news, but it was pretty darn cute.  We had both just woken up from a nap, and he sat up grinning like a fool (oh, wait, that is how he spends most of his time). His blond hair was slightly damp (such a little sweaty-head when he sleeps) and mussed, but his happy, blue eyes were alert.  He suddenly reached down, barely touched my belly and made clawing motions with his hands, while giggling non-stop.  I laughed in return, and he gave me a thrilled look. 

IMG_0663 One of those moments when you realize how easy it can be to make them happy.  In fact, it even works on older kids.  When tired and grouchy, nothing like the threat of a tickle war pulls Kelsey out of her funk.  

So, that's it, just a tickle, nothing more.  Oh,IMG_0664  except the unforgettable look of pure glee;  where was my camera?  Instead, I managed a few clicks of the iPhone at Kelsey's gymnastics class at Gymtastic.  

May 07, 2009

Park Central

seems to be our new hometown.  Everywhere we turn there is a park.  Almost every one of them has a sandpit, and many have "water features" (I guess enough was enough and parks finally just started creating kid-sized fountains?).  My poor children are deprived of this pleasure, as either we end up at the park on the cold days or we forget towels or other accoutrement that should accompany a trip to any type of park including a device that begs your children to get sopping wet.

We actually missed parks like these when we were in Iceland.  No, I should clarify, we missed the parks of Northern VA while we were in Iceland.  Tall, gargantuan play sets separated out by age groups.  We had just discovered a new one in Arlington (not too far from FSI)...Alcova, if I remember correctly.  It was rebuilt and seemed like a child's fantasy play area.

So, we adjusted to the lack of parks, or rather park equipment, in Iceland.  This is not a derogatory statement, but it seemed that there simply weren't play parks as we were used to frequenting.  Indoor play areas for a fee, yes.  Rustic looking outdoor play equipment at a few parks?  Yes.  However, playgrounds a la Northern VA (oh, heck, anywhere on the East Coast), not quite.  Oh, and the zoo, but that was a pretty penny just to get in and not all features were open year-round.  Still, a nice diversion for a family afternoon.

Now I can't say all of the parks are on the grandiose scale of some we have seen, but there are simply SO many here.  We have joined a playgroup through one of my moms groups, and they meet at a different playground each week.  The funny thing is that they all seem to be within spitting distance of one another.  It almost seems as if there is a mandate that playgrounds must overlap, so no child has to go to far to find one.

We now have so many  to choose from yet, when questioned, the kids invariably want to go to the same place:  Central Park.  It has a water feature (though we have yet to remember suits or towels), a man-made creek dotted with stones (perfect for hopping from one to the next), and two sand pits, one for each play area (determined by age group).  

This week our playgroup met at Memorial Park.  Nicholas enjoyed over an hour in the sand, goingIMG_0653 IMG_0652  down the slides (loves to do backwards, and yes, by himself).  I thought we were finished for the day, until Kelsey reminded me that I had promised we could visit Central Park that afternoon.  After showing off her new plant at school, the short walk home, snacks and homework, we loaded up the car with scooters and sand bag and headed off.  I promised 30 minutes, but the time flew and we easily spent over an hour.  With so many kids there, it was hard dragging them away. 

Luckily, the promise of "parm chicken" for dinner eventually won out, especially for Caitlin, as theIMG_0656 IMG_0655  park has many scooter-perfect paths.  The other incentive?  A promise to visit what will likely be a favorite haunt of hers for at least the next year.  Not only do they buy books, but they have a huge selection of slightly used books.  If only we had really discovered it prior to discovering her interest in the Twilight* series!  She ended up not getting a book that night (only a new copy was available), but is rapidly saving money (and books to trade-in) to complete the set.  

IMG_0657 *Yes, she has read three of the four books.  They are fairly easy reads and take an afternoon or so to digest.  Yes, I know there are folks out there who may not approve or think it not right for a 10 year old.  However, I read Stephen King (among other authors) at age 10 and frankly, the books scared me a lot less than the movies.  Oh, and intrigued the heck out of me.

I also know Caitlin and know that her interest in the books is the story behind the vampires, NOT what may be interesting other readers (romance bores and bothers her).  Last, but not least, as many of us know all too well, the best way to outright encourage an activity is to forbid and condemn it.  Instead, we have chosen to allow her to read, discuss and question the stories along with us. Just an explanation for those wondering...

May 05, 2009

Cinco De Mayo

IMG_0647 I can't/won't pretend we did anything truly exciting to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  We went to the standard Mexican place down the street because kids eat free on Tuesdays, and somehow we had the intuition that we would all receive not only free maracas, but necklaces with mini-Corona bottles that light up.  I mean, who would pass up that opportunity?  

Nicholas, given his musical inclinations, loved the maracas.  He would have been happy to play with them all night long.  In fact, they are now a permanent part of the car floor toy bin.  Never hurts to have an extra something to occupy him on those lonely during-the-school-day-trips when the Sissas* are not ready and available for instant "entertainment".

Actually, we did have a somewhat exciting event that night, though if anyone looked at me, sadly, they would have seen me nodding off occasionally due to sitting down and no one begging me to move or do anything else for an entire hour.  I swear, the minute I sit down anywhere and am not necessarily required to be actively involved in something...mightIMG_0648  as well tell me it's nap time.  

Not to belittle the activity, as it was interesting:  I attended the "Intro to Middle School" night at Cait's new school.  There was no tour, no refreshments, and (thank God) no powerpoint presentations (might as well give me blinders and a pillow).  Just a simple overview (one hour) of middle school with short presentations from the principal and a sampling of teachers.

Now, someday I will write a book on my elementary and junior high school experiences so I can, what, bore/frighten you?  The nitty-gritty details are not important, but suffice it to say, I did not look forward to, nor particularly enjoy, what is now known as Middle School.  For me, it was junior high, and it was a bizarre (at best) experience.  Then again, it was the 80s, who knows, maybe that had something to do with it?  

Given my own experiences, I was shuddering in my Asics Tuesday night.  I was worried, stressed, and swore I felt the acne coming on.  Then the principal started talking.  Guess what?

IMG_0649 She was FRIENDLY.  She was, well, NICE.  She could be (for lack of a better description and probably is) someone's mom.  She actually seemed approachable versus my middle school principal who had a sickly smile permanently frozen on her face and spent most of her time concerned with, well, who knows? For goodness sake, she (new principal) is going to bake cookies for a rising 6th grader as a 'surprise, welcome to middle school gift'.  It is a treat for the lucky person whose parent attended the orientation (and then had their agenda drawn out of a hat).

She spoke enthusiastically (but did not overwhelm), and did not drone on.  She put forth a schedule, and kept to it.  The other teachers spoke, and also kept their thoughts short and sweet.  Despite my exhaustion, I felt a sudden wave of relief flow over me.  Not only was I no longer worried about Caitlin beginning middle school, I was almost excited.

Now, Cait has not visited the school, and is still somewhat wary of this moving on and up grade-wise notion. However, I have done a 180.  I have seen the light of middle school, and frankly, it isn't that bad.  In fact, if we play our cards right and keep our attitudes regarding it on the positive side, I think it may turn out to be a pretty good experience after all.

*Well-known for their hits, "No, NO, that's MINE!",  "Don't give him THAT, he'll CHOKE to death" (best performed on a highway with absolutely no place to stop and verify the veracity of the statement), and my personal favorite, "Caitlin, will you stop singing to him, I am NOT awake yet" (usually shouted in the late afternoon).  

Because I am just so

far behind on previous posts, I will just write something simple today.  I think it must have been the longest day.  I was so tired tonight, and so worried about missing things tomorrow, that I began to think tonight was Tuesday.  In fact, not only did I do it to myself, I think I also almost convinced a friend of the same thing...sad, but true.

I don't think anything special happened today, other than the usual good times with Nicholas D. andIMG_0623  crew.  We still cannot get over his chubby-cheeked cuteness.  The eyes are as blue as ever, and the hair is its ever-present blond.  He dances (chant "Dance, dance" while he is in the tub, and he shakes his bum and follows it up with a game of peek-a-boo).  He claps, waves hello, and  closes his hand in a good-bye gesture  on command (though that sounds so...well, we aren't ordering, just asking and he happily complies).  

He is sweet, happy, and funny, and walking everywhere.  He technically started walking before his first birthday, but hasn't wanted to do it on a regular basis until recently.  He is now at 70% walking, 20% crawling, and 10% this weird half-walk, half-crawl which we have on video somewhere.

Peter was out of town tonight, and amazingly, I was able toIMG_0629-1  plan dinner one entire night in advance. We managed to whip up a mean home-made pesto pasta that was accompanied by beans (pinto beans, Kelsey's new fave veggie) and corn.  Oh, and bread that completely flopped because someone forgot the yeast, but we won't name names....

In other exciting news, I finally got my (very little) garden going.  It is a combination of seedlings from a friend, recently purchased plants, and newly planted seeds. It's not quite completed, as it needs a little more soil, but thus far, is composed primarily of compost.  While I am not entirely sure the compost is finished (still new to this whole thing), it seems pretty well cooked.  And, if not completely ready, those disintegrating coffee grounds will do nothing but good for the soil, right?  Pictures coming, I promise!  Maybe I will even get a few of Nicholas helping with the gardening. He really digs the dirt.  Gotta start em young, right?

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention who helped me get the Little Guy to sleep tonight....IMG_0646