Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Perfect Snow Day

Today was our first real snow day of the season. We woke up to blizzard conditions, and the snow kept swirling and falling until mid-afternoon.

Luckily, we had no plans and no obligations today. We enjoyed a very lazy morning of building vehicles out of K'nex, snuggling, giggling, and watching Spongebob. We had a very late breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Eventually, we headed out to shovel the driveway and walkways (our wonderful neighbor took care of our sidewalks with his snowblower). R was a huge help, in between jumping into snowdrifts, eating snow, and making tunnels. We spotted one of R's classmates outside shoveling with his dad up the street, so we walked over to say hello. R brought his shovel so he could help them. The boys played while A helped R's friend's dad clear out his driveway and clean off his cars. We were invited in for cocoa and hot cider. The mom and I have been chatting a lot at the playground after school, and our boys get along very well. We've had a couple of playdates, too. So it was nice to hang out for a little while today. The mom sent me home with fresh, homemade brownies. Love that!

After a very late lunch at home, A took R out for sledding while I stayed home to wrap presents for my employees. I looked out the window at one point to look for my boys and saw the most amazing pink and magenta sunset. When the boys came home, I stripped R out of his snowy clothes, we lit a fire in the fireplace, popped "White Christmas" into the VCR, and piled onto the couch together. It was a bit of an experiment because even though watching it is a holiday tradition for me, this was the first time that A or R had seen the movie. I figured they'd get bored and find something else to do after a little while. But they watched the whole thing with me and pretty much enjoyed it. That made me so happy. I had figured that that was one Christmas tradition I'd have to continue all by myself without a daughter to keep me company. It actually made me cry a little that it worked out today. When R saw I was getting sniffly, he cradled my face in his hands and gave me a sweet kiss. Life and love are all about unexpected surprises.

It was a good day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let me introduce myself

Hi, I'm Kristen. I used to write this blog. Nice to meet you!

I don't know what the heck has happened. I've started to write posts at least five times over the last few weeks, and just couldn't finish them. So much is going on with me, yet I've found it impossible to write about it. And, life has been a whirlwind recently. Our time has been filled with work, school, and fun, but it's all going by so quickly that I think I've been avoiding the computer at night just to try to have some slow time.

But here we are, it's December, and the year is nearly over. This week, we have our parent-teacher conference with R's teacher, our company's holiday party and awards ceremony (during which I'll get my tenure award for being there for 10 years, which I find a little depressing), cards to mail out (I finally got motivated this year to get them done!), decorations to put up, a tree to buy, a birthday party to attend. The week hasn't begun yet, and I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

In the midst of all the craziness, though, life has been pretty nice. Thanksgiving with my sister, brother-in-law, and my dad was mellow and comfy and delicious. A, R, and I went to our favorite seaside Massachusetts town last weekend to climb rocks, explore the beach, and look for shells and seaglass. We ate lunch while we watched some men build a huge Christmas tree made out of lobster traps in the center of town. I love New England.





 

Yesterday, we met up early (9 am!) with a classmate of R's and his family, and we all headed to the Harvard Museum of Natural History - in particular, its gems and minerals collection because R has apparently started a new fad among his classmates after he brought in his favorite gems for show-and-tell. After the kids practically ran through the exhibits, we all walked into Harvard Square for hot chocolate, a stop at the outdoor sports store, and lunch at a Harvard Square landmark. The kids got along famously, and A and I had a nice time getting to know the other parents better. It was a cold day and there was fresh snow on the ground, so we spent most of the time watching the kids run through the snow, pick up ice, eat snow, and throw snow and ice at each other while we desperately coaxed the kids to move along so we could get inside and get warm. But it was really fun.

I've been a little depressed about Christmas. Partly because, without much family in the area, I feel like I have to work really hard to make Christmas traditions and special memories for R. I've tried keeping alive the Advent traditions that I grew up with, but A and R aren't that into it. The two of them also aren't that into helping me decorate for Christmas (and, man, do I hate decorating the tree by myself). But I realized last night that days like yesterday - full of fun with friends, cold noses and fingers, snow, and hot cocoa - are precious Christmas memories, too. Soon we'll go with other friends to the local zoo for their holiday lights display (our fourth year), and on Christmas Eve or right around there, we'll go to Edaville Railroad with lots of friends for lights, rides, fireworks, hot cider, and music (our third year). Those events have become our traditions, and I'm sure we'll add a few more as the years go on. I'm already thinking about having a special family dinner at the Melting Pot. Mmmmmm, fondue.....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I love my life

In spite of my midlife crisis, I've had a lot of moments recently when I've thought to myself, "I love my life!" This is one of those moments:

I'm stretched out on the couch under a warm blanket with a cat on my lap and a fire in the fireplace. I'm listening to A read bedtime stories to R upstairs. And, I can hear the stove making noises as it heats up my mulled cider mixed with blueberry port. I have a book to read (Jane Austen, of course!). The laundry is folded, the house is reasonably clean. It was a beautiful fall day, and I got to spend a few hours of it outside with my boys, raking leaves.

Life is good. :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

So THIS is a midlife crisis... and Jane Austen is bad for me

It dawned on me last week that I'm having my midlife crisis. And that it's been going on for a few months. My version of a midlife crisis has included (so far):
  • Buying a new wardrobe (not so bad and actually was a long time coming; could be considered a necessity)
  • Going out more often with girlfriends (a good thing!)
  • Freaking out about R getting older (understandable) 
Those aren't anything to worry about. But here's the more recent set of crisis behaviors:
  • Reading Jane Austen novels over and over again, especially Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion
  • Watching movies of Jane Austen novels over and over again, especially Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion
  • Getting frustrated with real life because people and relationships aren't like they are in Jane Austen novels
  • Losing sleep from re-hashing in my mind stupid things I did in the past
  • Playing the "What if?" game (i.e., playing out scenarios in my head in which I chose different paths in my past)
I suppose I could be doing far worse things - heaven knows I've been witness to some disastrous midlife crises among my friends. (Although A's has been pretty tame. He's just buying guitars and amplifiers and taking guitar lessons online.)

The Jane Austen stuff is just funny. I love her novels, nearly all of them anyway. And, every few years, I pull them out and read them until the wee hours of the night because I can't put them down. And, I get lost in the romance and that time period and wish I lived back then. But eventually I realize that women's lives were pretty darn crappy then. Also, that I probably wouldn't have been a member of the gentry. I think with my family background, I would have been some kind of scullery maid. So the longing wears off. :-) Plus, my gut tells me that even in Jane Austen's times, men did not actually write letters like Mark Darcy's and Frederick Wentworth's.

Re-hashing mistakes from my past - well, a little remorse can be a good thing. But I try not to dwell on it too much because there isn't much I can do to change things or make amends now. I was young once and stupid sometimes.

The "What if?" game could be dangerous. What if I had dated this person or that person instead of just being friends? But as I've thought about these things, I've actually re-realized that A and I were truly meant to be together. It reminded me that A is the right person for me and always has been (even if he has never written me a letter about how I pierce his soul - darn it, Jane Austen!). Although the path I took to find him may have had some crazy turns and detours, I ended up in the right place.

Maybe it's not my midlife crisis. Maybe I should call it my midlife renewal.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Somebody please slap me

I don't know why I don't learn. But every single time I've mentioned to someone that R doesn't get sick very often (which is true!), the NEXT DAY he comes down with a bug. (Luckily, I've only said this about three times. But still!)

So I did it again on Thursday when talking to another mom at the playground, and by Friday night, R was not himself. Yesterday he was coughing a lot. Last night, I was up with him several times to give him Tylenol, popsicles, take his temp, etc. Today he felt better except for a sore throat. But then the fever came back this evening, and as he fell asleep, he looked so sad and sick. Kind of like this:



That's one of the pumpkin faces he designed today. Because earlier today, he was feeling better. Enough that he was bouncing around the house and jumping on A and making up a song called "Daddy Is a Trampoline." So we took him outside because it was absolutely amazingly beautiful and we had some yard work to do.



We raked and mowed and washed out our rain barrel and cut plants down for the winter. And, R was a huge help. Then he started getting more listless and was complaining about his throat. So, we went inside and fed him a gazillion popsicles and read him stories and snuggled with him on the couch. (We still stuck to the no TV thing - amazing! And, it really wasn't that hard!) Then, I roasted a chicken and A roasted a bunch of vegetables (leeks, carrots, fingerling potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and shallots - drizzled with olive oil and herbs), and we had the most delicious dinner. R ate quite a bit in spite of his yuckiness.

After dinner we listened to music, got PJs on, then tucked R in his bed for storytime and bedtime. Poor little man.

I feel so bad for him because it definitely looks like he'll be staying home tomorrow, and he is sad about missing school. Plus, he's probably going to have to go to the doctor's and get his first-ever throat culture. But, worst of all, our work is having a Hallowen party with trick-or-treating and a sundae party for all the employees' kids tomorrow afternoon, and he's probably going to have to miss it. I'm not looking forward to breaking that news to him. :-(

So, please, if you ever hear me start to say something about R's general good health, just give me a good ol' slap in the head. Apparently it's the only way I'll ever learn.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Unexpected time

I don't know quite what to do right now. R came down with a bad cold or a mild virus (not sure which), and he fell asleep more than an hour early tonight. A is off at his ancient coin club meeting. So I have an unexpected few hours to myself.

I could...
  • wash the dishes
  • fold laundry
  • work out
  • clean the bathroom
  • read
  • Facebook
  • write letters to my Compassion kids
  • search for a pumpkin cranberry bread recipe online
  • do a combination of some or all of the above.
I'm so much more productive without TV! The no-TV thing has actually been really easy so far. R has only asked to watch it once, but only because he forgot about Turn Off the TV Week. When we reminded him, he was fine. And, I've been getting to bed by 10 or 10:30, which is AMAZING for me.

The best part so far was Friday night. R laid down on the couch, snuggled up under a blanket. We had a lovely fire going in the fireplace. A was reading Alice in Wonderland aloud. R fell asleep. The cat came out of hiding and decided to lay down on R (first time ever! we took a picture). Eventually, A scooped up R, carried him upstairs, and we tucked him into bed. The house was quiet except for the crackle of the fire. Absolute heaven.

Well, I don't want to waste this time to myself. Have a great night!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homework

Tomorrow is the beginning of "Turn off the TV" week at R's school. A and I decided that if we're going to support R, we need to participate, too. For each day that R doesn't watch any TV or use the computer or play video games, we fill out a coupon and send it to school. If the whole school earns 1,000 coupons, then the school gets a big surprise prize. Fun!

I'm excited to see what things I do instead of watching TV. I'm guessing I'll do a lot of reading and that I'll get to bed much earlier. But I'm hoping to play the piano and do some painting, too. We'll see!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looking back

I've been thinking a lot lately about people from my past. Mostly about how strange it is to be so close to someone for so long and to spend so much time with someone and then not to. Not suddenly (usually), but over time as life changed.

Facebook has brought up a lot of this for me. As I've reconnected on the weird, mostly superficial level that Facebook creates (I haven't talked to you since high school, but now I know what you had for breakfast), I've mourned silently the loss of some of these people from my daily life. That mourning never took place when the separations happened. It's all getting dredged up now. And, it seems like I'm not alone. I've received more than a few emails from people apologizing for things in the past and genuinely wondering why we stopped talking long ago.

Over the weekend, I found and played an old mix tape that I made a few months before I met A. I called it, "A Mix for the Worst Week of 1996 So Far." Man, there is some great music on there! But it took me quite awhile to remember why that week was so bad. Finally, I remembered that it involved an all-out war between me and another woman, who was actually the childhood best friend of my best friend and roommate. She was also dating my best friend H from high school - a guy who had had a crush on me for years. A bunch of us used to hang out all the time, but there was a lot of tension between the two of us (she is also named Kristen), and finally we held an intervention of sorts to get the bitterness out in the open because our mutual friends couldn't take it anymore. And, I had been dating this clown, I mean guy who after almost two months decided to tell me that he was moving to LA and had been planning to all along. So that's what constituted my worst week that year. LOL.

These memories make me laugh and wistful at the same time. I think it's so funny that my life had so much drama in those days. But not really important drama, just silliness and pettiness. It didn't feel that way at the time, of course, but looking back on it now, I laugh at my angst. No one was sick or dying, divorcing, trying to conceive and couldn't, no one lost their job or couldn't pay their bills. On the one hand, life now seems much more important and serious. But at the same time, my life now seems pretty boring in comparison. I don't have that 20-something angst anymore. I don't have the whole, awful dating thing to deal with. Life is good and comfortable and peaceful.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Except that it's weird how it all turned out in the end. In those days, I spent nearly every waking hour it seemed with those friends, especially my friend H from high school and then later his best friend and roommate, R. I loved that time and those people, even with all the turmoil and hurt feelings and messiness. I caused a lot of that hurt and messiness myself.

Last week, my friend R sent me a link to his wedding photos. I haven't seen him in years and we've only emailed each other here and there. It was the strangest thing looking at his wedding pictures and seeing him in his life that I don't know and that I'm not even minutely a part of. I've never met his wife. He's never met my son. And, that made me really sad. My once best friend, someone I thought I'd be around forever, is now a stranger.

The other Kristen and I keep in touch today. A and I met her for lunch when she was in town visiting two weeks ago. She watched R while A and I sang during our friends' wedding. My former rival is now my friend.

Part of me thinks that this is just the way life is - people come and go, their importance changes, and you move on with some sadness but not really noticing either. But then I look at A - he is still friends with almost everyone he knew from high school and beyond. He makes friends and keeps them. He doesn't see them all the time, but the friendships are still there. There doesn't seem to be many endings in his relationships. And, I wonder why there are in mine.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thankful Thursday

The whining is over. I was just having one of those days where I felt like I was some sort of rule-spewing robot ("stop that," "sit down," "hurry up," "stop jumping on me"). I remember when my sister's oldest son was little, she told me that she felt like all she did was say "No" all day long. That gets tiresome.

But today is a new day, and I'm thankful for:
  1. Fall in New England. This truly is my favorite time of year - with apple picking, pumpkin patches, bright blue skies, leaves that make me gasp at the amazing colors, toasty warm fires, snuggly blankets, hot cider, cider donuts, and hay rides. I suddenly get the urge to cook stew and pot roast and soup and to bake cranberry bread and pumpkin bread. I even get excited about raking leaves!

  2. Heat. I'm so thankful that we can afford to heat our home and to have warm clothes to wear. I know that is not true for many people.

  3. My husband. Yesterday, I grumbled about him, but he really is an amazing husband, father, friend, and person. He's patient, kind, SO interesting, funny, handsome, and a great listener. He works very hard. And, he puts up with me! That's not an easy job. (Especially because we also work together.) And, to top it all off, he still loves me. Sometimes I can't figure out why, but he does. And I'm so thankful for that every day.

  4. Halloween. I know there is a lot of bad stuff associated with it, but I just love helping R figure out his costume and seeing him get so excited about trick-or-treating. And, I really enjoy handing out candy to the neighborhood kids. (Except for the tweens who come late and without costumes.)

  5. The Office. Yes, it's pretty lame to be thankful for a TV show, but it just makes me so happy! It's really the only show A and I get excited for each week, and we never tire of watching the old ones over and over again on DVD. I love it because it's funny and sweet and awful and stressful and appalling. It makes you laugh out loud and cringe at the same time. The writing is really, really good.
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Whiney Wednesday

I know that a few of you all have started doing Thankful Thursdays, and I'm going to join you tomorrow, but first I need to take a Whiney Wednesday.

I love being a mom. There is no doubt about that. But sometimes my little man is a giant pain in the butt!

During dinner tonight, I had to tell R at least 20 times to STAY IN HIS SEAT while he was eating. Yes, honey, I'm excited that you learned the Chicken Dance and the Bunny Hop during gym class today, too, but sit down already - you're getting food everywhere!

Then, it was shower time. For some reason, I've always been the one to give R his baths and to help him in the shower. A week ago, I told A he had to do it from now on because I HATE IT SO MUCH! I hate losing my temper and getting that frustrated. R has no problem swimming underwater or jumping in the deep end of the pool at his swimming lessons. But Lord help us if he gets any water on his face when I'm washing his hair. And, he won't do it himself. He will wash his body, which I am very thankful for, but the hair. Oh, the hair. I am so tired of having wrestling and yelling matches with him every other night. (And, A hasn't stepped in to help. Grumble, grumble.) I've tried everything - I let R wear his swim goggles, I hold a washcloth over his eyes, I've made up games. Sometimes, he's fine about it. But tonight. Argh.

Brushing teeth was the last straw. Why do I have to tell him over and over again every night that he can't just suck on the toothbrush, that he has to move it around and actually BRUSH? And, he dawdled so much at brushing that we only had 15 minutes to read stories instead of our usual half hour.

[Okay, breathe.]

Of course, as with my entire parenting experience -- the challenges are always tempered with inexpressible joy, and the night ended very sweetly. R has been making little books at school - they help him practice writing and reading his sight words. Tonight, he read one of them to me. It was called "I Watch My Garden Grow," and on the "Dedicated to" page, R had written "MOM" all by himself.

Man alive, I love that boy. Even when he makes me absolutely nutty.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A bit of a blur

Life has been busy and fun. We've become used to the routine of school for the most part, although I'm still adjusting to my new work schedule. I really miss working from home all day on Mondays.

R likes the after-school program better now. He sometimes doesn't want to leave when we pick him up because he's busy playing with Legos with other kids or listening to a story read by the program director. He seems to be making lots of friends all around, and he's giving us more details about school and what he's learning. Last week, I went to Curriculum Night, and I was so impressed with his school, the principal, and his teacher. I signed up to volunteer in his classroom to help with writing and reading and to do cutting projects and fix broken books. It was fun to see his drawings and writing on the classroom walls, especially how he tried to write out "I went to California" (for his summer vacation paper) and his depiction and interpretation of one of the classroom rules ("No kicking" - illustrated with a stick figure kicking another stick figure that had Xs for eyes).

R's teacher did talk to us about R's habit of looking for "treasure" on the ground and floor. Unfortunately, it's something we've encouraged because he finds really interesting things a lot of the time, including money, interesting rocks, beads, and jewelry. Other times he finds bits of rusty metal, asphalt, and trash. :-) But, apparently, he was scouring the classroom floor during circle time instead of focusing on his teacher. She told us that he would get excited about "staples and small rocks that come off of the children's shoes." LOL. But, she was so wonderful about it and just asked us if R had ever used some techniques for staying focused that she had tried before. I did talk to R about limiting his treasure hunting to when he's outside, and I think that's helped a lot.

Our weekends have been very busy between soccer, swimming lessons, errands, and fun stuff. This past weekend, we went to a co-worker's wedding. R wore a tie, vest, dress pants, and shirt! He's never been that dressed up before, and it was all his idea and he was very excited to wear his "suit." We all had a blast at the wedding. There were lots of activities and entertainment for the kids, so A and I actually got to dance and mingle and eat - woohoo!

After the wedding, we drove to my friend's mom's house to stay for the night. We hung out with my friend, her husband, and twins (we had all been at the wedding together). We had a lovely breakfast in the morning, then we met up with my friend's sister and her twins and husband and went to a local farm for apples, cider, bouncy houses, pony rides, and the unexpected surprise of .... GEM MINING! R was in absolute heaven. We bought three giant bags of dusty pebbles for him to sift and wash through - and he came home with an incredible amount of geodes, amethyst, quartz, pyrite, hematite, and many more. He had so much fun. He could have stayed there all day. The mining kit came with a little chart to identify the gems. R went over to other "miners" to find out what gems they found and to help them identify them. He's been very interested in rocks and gems and minerals recently, between his treasure hunting and visiting our local bead store, which also has many gems for sale. The woman who works at the bead store took a liking to R and told him he could have anything he found on the floor. So, R thinks it's his job now to clean the bead store floor. A week ago, he filled a ziploc baggie with his floor findings. Now he wants the tools to drill holes in rocks, polish stones and gems, etc.

We've been trying to balance all of these events with downtime at home. I'm excited because R has only a half-day of school one day this week, and I took the afternoon off to hang with him. And, we don't really have any concrete plans yet for the long weekend, which is so nice. Although I am hoping to have some time to make a raised garden bed in my front yard and to plant my spring bulbs. We'll see what happens.

Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hummina, hummina, hummina

We're all a bit tired here at the Fieryboots ranch. Last week was one of the craziest ever in my life. Not only did R start kindergarten and afterschool and soccer and swimming (all of that with new work schedules for A and me), but my company also moved to a new location. And, since I'm in charge of IT, it meant that I worked really late on Friday (as in, almost until Saturday), all day Saturday, and then I had to go back to our old office on Sunday to pick up some furniture that we we throwing away (and I'm keeping at my house). And, then we were back at the new office at 8am on Monday. And, it wasn't just the hours - during that time, we packed boxes, lifted things, walked the office floors with the movers over and over and over and over again. I am beyond exhausted - even days later.

But things are settling now. R is doing well with kindergarten. He absolutely LOVED it the first two days, but then he wasn't as thrilled with the afterschool program that he goes to three days a week. That clouded his view of school in general, although overall he really likes his teacher, he's making friends, and he told me that he's learning more than he ever learned at his preschool/pre-K class. The details about what he's learning aren't very forthcoming, however. His favorite parts of school are recess (what a surprise) and gym class. :-) This week he's more at peace with the afterschool program. At first he said that some of the older kids were mean, then he said he didn't like the inside/classroom part of the program, then he said that he didn't like it because he didn't know all the kids. But I think he's making more friends there now, and this morning he told A and me that afterschool was his favorite part of school. So I'm very pleased.

R's teacher is wonderful. She sends home notes every day, keeps us all informed with TONS of flyers and letters about what's going on at the school, the classroom, the PTO, etc. Apparently, the other two kindergarten teachers don't really do this. I'm so happy that R has the communicative teacher! Last night, R and I worked on a sheet of "Things to Write About" so that his teacher can use the sheet to suggest topics that R might like to write about at school. She had different categories - family, favorite vacation, pets, things to do, etc. It was fun hearing R's suggestions. (For one of his favorite things to do, he said, "Jump on Daddy!")

I'm already noticing that R is reading more. He notices words and tells me the ones he recognizes. Cool!

And, he's been exhausted. We're making bedtime a little earlier these days (lights out at 8:30), and he's asleep within minutes, if not instantly. I heard about this phenomenon beforehand, but I was skeptical because R had already been going to preschool/pre-K from 8ish to 6 three days a week, so I didn't see what the big difference would be. But I think the exhaustion is more mental than physical, although he does get outside for two recesses during school, has gym class twice a week, and then his afterschool program lets the kids outside for at least an hour each day. Thank goodness because my boy needs to run, climb, etc. (He was so proud when he came home from school the second day because he figured out during recess how to do the monkey bars hand over hand. And, he climbed up on top of them and got himself down without help. He's been trying to do both of those for a long time.)

I'm beginning to see how, if I'm not super organized and careful, I might forget things or miss stuff. For example, tonight is the kindergarten potluck dinner, then R has to go for his flu shot, then tomorrow night is our town's Town Night (complete with rides and fireworks), then Saturday morning is soccer, then Town Day (booths and food and rides and library book sale), then swimming lessons. Plus, I think I have a few more things to fill out for school - book sale form, gift wrap fundraiser, RSVP for Curriculum Night next week, etc., etc. It's a good thing I have only one kiddo! I'm not sure how I could keep it all straight otherwise between all of this and my job.

So that's the scoop for now. Life is still good, just crazy. And I'm fantasizing about taking a really long nap.

Friday, September 11, 2009

He's growing up

In my mind, the last couple of weeks have been about all these little moments of noticing how life is changing and how R is growing up.

On the way to and from the mall on Wednesday, R and I were listening to a radio station that was playing Beatles songs all day long (to celebrate the release of the remastered albums, plus Beatles Rock Band coming out). When Yellow Submarine came on, we sang the whole song together with the music cranked up and the car windows open. But I had to choke back tears because I kept remembering how A and I used to sing Yellow Submarine for R when he was a tiny baby. It was one of the ways we would keep R from crying in the car.

Yesterday, we went to the Brimfield Antiques Fair, where we met up with a friend and spent a great afternoon in the sunny, taste-of-fall weather browsing the wares and chatting with the vendors. At one tent, we found an old tin toy of a tiny wind-up train that goes around and around a little platform. The seller called out that he could "let it go" for $125. We just smiled and poked around at his other offerings. Meanwhile, R hung back at the tin train with the seller. I overheard this conversation and tried to stifle my laughter:

R: How much is it again?
Seller: I could do $90.
R: $90?!?!?! [long pause] Do you have any that are in a box?
Seller: No, but I have this horse toy in a box.
R: Well, I really like the train.
Seller: I could do $75.

My little boy was haggling!

Yesterday was also R's visiting "day" at kindergarten. It was half an hour for him to drop off his school supplies, meet his teacher, and tour the classroom while A and I toured the school. Even though R has seemed excited about starting school, I was pretty nervous because he's had a hard time separating from me recently. So, I explained to him ahead of time that he'd be with his teacher while A and I did something else for a little while. I showed him his teacher's picture that she sent and read him her letter. When we got to the school, he grabbed my hand and starting literally dragging his feet. But his teacher was fantastic - she remembered him from June (when we had a more general school visit), held out her hand to him, and got him quickly involved with an activity. R never looked back, and when we collected him after our tour, he was bouncing up and down with excitement. He told me all about his classroom (with way more detail than he ever gave me about his old school), what he did (decorated his name tag), and how nice his teacher is. Yay! What a relief. God definitely heard my prayers. (Which I had offered up at 5 am when I couldn't sleep from jitters and a racing heart.) It was also really nice to see some familiar faces - parents and kids - from the playdates I arranged over the summer. I think that helped all of us.

Today was our last pre-kindergarten "Mommy-R Day." We had a wonderful time just hanging out, watching Spongebob, going to the Museum of Science, baking cookies, drinking cocoa, and building a fort in the living room. But my favorite part of the day was early on when we we were snuggling on the couch, tickling each other, and giggling. R was giving me kisses and telling me how much he loves me. That will never get old! He's been super affectionate recently, but sometimes in a slightly more grown-up way - like when he throws him arm around me. This picture is from my sister's wedding last weekend:


R's independent spirit has been flourishing, and he's becoming quite outgoing. He's not afraid to ask questions or assert his opinion with other adults. Not in a rude way, but in a way that shows he wants to learn. I can't describe how happy that makes me, especially as someone who has issues with confidence and shyness herself! When we were in Pittsburgh for my sister's wedding, we took a river cruise that was sponsored by the science museum there. During the cruise, you could look at water samples under a microscope and use binoculars to look for ducks and other birds. R spent a long time talking to the museum staff about plankton, and then he spotted a girl about his age and plopped himself down next to her for the last part of the cruise. They chatted away happily while A and I watched from the other side of the boat. (I felt like I was fast-forwarding to the summer when R is 13.)

That's what I've been working on recently, though: forcing myself to watch from the sidelines. Letting R venture out a bit on his own, entertain himself a little more. He doesn't need me to be constantly an arm's length away anymore to catch him when he falls, to correct his behavior, or to speak for him. He's his own person, and a pretty nice one at that. Not to mention funny, silly, and smart. And sometimes a real pain in the butt and incredibly annoying. Oh yeah, and still in love with his mommy. :-)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Transitions and paradoxes

You know how the longer you go without doing something, the harder it is to get back into it? Well, that's been my experience with blogging lately. Whenever I find a few minutes to write a post, I can't seem to focus on a good topic or there doesn't seem to be enough time to do a post justice. But, tonight, I figured I'd just write something quickly to get back into the swing of it.

My life lately has been wonderful and fun. A and R and I have been doing something new or special every weekend this summer (amusement parks, mini-golf, beaches), which has been great. And, with R riding a two-wheel bike, we've started taking little biking trips as a family. I love that! We've had a lot of visitors this summer, too - most recently my youngest sister - yay!

But at the same time, I'm going through a bit of an identity crisis. I think with R entering kindergarten in one month, I'm trying to figure out who I am since I'm not the mom of a needy preschooler anymore. And, I'm realizing that I haven't felt very good about myself in a long time. I feel frumpy and blah. So, I've been desperately watching What Not to Wear and reading fashion magazines, and I came to the conclusion that I needed a whole new wardrobe. :-) I never, never buy clothes for myself, so I think I'm due. But I also feel like part of it's just a way to grasp at something to occupy my thoughts and time. It's not going to fix everything that's going on inside me. But I am having fun shopping and learning a lot (apparently I've never worn the right size before - I didn't know what it was to wear clothes that fit me!). After five years of life that was basically about motherhood and work, I need to do some things for me. And, that's hard for me to accept because it seems selfish. I need to get past that.

So, that's the scoop. I'm having fun and freaking out at the same time.

Now, I have to go. What Not to Wear is on again. ;-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A funny thing happened

Some of you know how much I've been pining for another baby the last few years. To say that it's been on my mind a lot is a huge understatement. I could go into a whole series of posts about this issue, but I won't. Basically, I wanted another baby and A didn't. Well, he liked the idea of it, but the logistics didn't work out for him (i.e., he feels too old, our house is too small, it would be too much money, etc.). And, I prayed and prayed about it, and cried and cried and cried. For three years.

And, then something happened a few weeks ago. I realized that I love my life the way it is, that we've reached a point in R's life where we can do so much more as a family, and we're having so much fun. Life seems SO much easier.

When I prayed about another baby many, many times, I always asked God to either make it possible for us (i.e., change A's mind) or to take away the longing from me. Of course, I wanted the former. But I got the latter.

That makes me a little sad and a little mad at God, I admit. But at the same time, I know that He knows best. And, I'm secretly wondering if R is going to be a complete handful in a few years, where A and I will need to devote all our energy and selves to parenting him. Who knows? Maybe we couldn't have handled two kiddos. Maybe there's some reason we need to do a really good job raising this one child.

I'm sure the longing that's left me for now will come back from time to time. Over the past week, I've been sorting and washing and folding and bagging up all of R's baby and toddler clothes. They're taking up space in his closet for no reason. And, he wants to use his closet to make a fort. So, I'm giving away almost everything that I've been saving. It has been hard. I thought for sure I would be using all of these things again. But I saved a few of my favorite baby clothes and stashed them away in my hope chest. Maybe for a grandbaby one day?

But, yesterday, when I threw in the first load of baby clothes into the dryer, I had my first moment where I thought, "Wow, I'm glad I don't have to do this anymore." I started the dryer and walked away, only to stop at the bottom of the basement stairs because I heard a horrible noise. It sounded like a bag of rocks was flying around inside the dryer. I went back to check. Nope. Everything looked okay. I started the dryer up again and heard the same noise. Then I realized it was the sound of all those zillions of snaps on all the baby clothes hitting against the drum of the dryer.

I do not miss that awful sound, and I do not miss snapping those snaps.

I think I'm moving on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Changes

We've been so busy this summer, which is pretty unusual for us. But we're having a blast, seeing lots of friends, making little day trips, etc.

In the midst of all the activity, I've noticed a big change in R - one that had been promised to us for years, but we're finally just seeing it now.

Until this point, R has always been very mommy-centered. I was the only one who could comfort him when he was hurt or sad, the only one who could soothe his middle-of-the-night wakings and freak-outs. He only wanted me to read bedtime stories - if it was Daddy's turn, R would cry and beg that we switch. We went through a few phases where R actually told A to "Go away!" when I was around so he could have me to himself. If I was at work, R was fine, but if I was around, poor A was chopped liver.

This situation was really hard on both A and me. A tried not to be hurt by it, but he was, especially because he spends a lot of time with R - he's been the one who was home with R on days when R didn't go to school/daycare. A is a wonderful father, and the rejection hurt.

And, having all that neediness on me alone was no fun either. I love the close relationship that R and I have always had, but it can be exhausting, too.

People kept telling us it was going to switch, that R would start favoring A. Of course, we were told that would happen around age 2. Ha ha.

Well, it finally has started (at age 5). Not so much that R favors A, but that he prefers him for some activities AND he treasures his time alone with A now. I think it started when R's fascination with fishing began. But R and A also have their model rocket interest, plus wrestling and tree-climbing and doing traditional boy stuff. Not that I don't also do these things with them - and enjoy a lot of them - but I think R has figured out that these are primarily Daddy things. And, I think that's wonderful.

A few weeks ago, when we were on our way to visit my dad and take R fishing, we stopped at a convenience store. A was going to run in by himself really quick, but then R decided he wanted to go, too, so we all hopped out of the car. That's when I was informed by R that he wanted some private time with Daddy. That was the first time R ever said that, and I was floored. And relieved! So, I got to sit in the car and check my email and think about how much R is changing while my boys shopped.

When A and R came out of the store, R came to my door, opened it, and silently handed me a package of Reese's peanut butter cups (my favorite), while smiling sweetly. Then he climbed into his seat. After we were settled, A informed me that the peanut butter cups were completely R's idea. I nearly cried. Here, my little guy is spending more time with his dad and appreciating him more (yay!), but he's still thinking of me while he's doing it.

I couldn't ask for more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer!

From reading some of my favorite blogs, it seems like a lot of people are having a great summer - and so are we!

We've been really busy. For the last week, A's sister and her fiance have been visiting from CA. We get along great with them and have been having a lot of fun. Tonight, on our way to drop them at the airport, we took a few minutes to check out some of the Tall Ships that are in Boston for the next few days. We watched tug boats maneuvering one ship from Chad in, and another one from Russia. As we stood on the pier, one of the tugs came right up to us, and the captain yelled out and asked us if we were from one of the fishing towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts (which was weird because we had just visited one of the towns over the weekend). Then, a big, burly sailor came out on deck and said to R, "Someone told me that you like popsicles" and tossed up two popsicles to us. It was so nice! Then the captain came out and said that if security wasn't so strict because of the Tall Ships, he would let R come on board.





The skies opened up at that point, along with a lot of scary lightning, so we high-tailed it back to our car. We found out that A's sister's flight was delayed significantly, so we decided to have dinner at the nice restaurant right on the pier so we could keep watching the ships come in.

Over the weekend, we went to our friends' house for a huge 4th of July BBQ that was also the birthday party for their one-year-old twins. It was a gorgeous day - after weeks of rain and gloom. We saw so many friends that we haven't seen in ages. It was really nice. Then we headed into Cambridge to meet up with A's sister and her fiance. They were staying in a hotel very close to the Charles River, so we grabbed them and walked down to the river to listen to the Boston Pops concert and to watch the Boston fireworks. It was AMAZING. This was R's first Boston fireworks experience, and he was blown away. It was a little rough because the fireworks didn't start until 10:30, so he was up WAY past his bedtime, but he held out for the whole thing and didn't fall asleep until 12:30 am in the car on the way home.

It was so incredible being there with hundreds of thousands of people, singing patriotic songs (and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" - a tradition at Red Sox games), dancing, and then clapping and screaming and sighing over the fireworks. A and I had been to the "show" before, but we had always watched from the Boston side of the river. We discovered that the Cambridge side is the place to be -- not only did we get a perfect, clear view of the fireworks, but they were against the beautiful Boston skyline. I don't think I can ever watch them on TV again. It's just not the same.

On Sunday, we had no plans, so we headed up to Gloucester and spent the afternoon exploring the beach. R and I were in heaven - we found tons of little, tiny crabs and snails in all the tidepools. We looked for shells and sea glass. When we finally pried R away from the beach, we found a seaside shack that sold ice cream. We each got a cone and sat on the beach wall and watched the waves while the ice cream dripped all over us (well, mostly all over R). I've decided to add Gloucester to the list of towns we'd like to live in someday when we win the lottery. :-)

So far, despite the long stretches of wet, chilly weather, we've had a wonderful summer. I know it's going to go by fast, but at least we'll have made the best of it!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekend o' fun

I am EXHAUSTED. Happy, but exhausted. Now, it's probably mostly because I stayed up all night on Thursday night to finish reading "Pride and Prejudice." Because I got to Darcy's declaration of love for Elizabeth, and how could I put it down then?!? :-) But, we also just had lots of big fun this weekend, which wiped me out.

On Friday night, we went to see one of our favorite ska bands. After work, we picked up subs at our local deli, met up with our friends and their babies, and had a picnic at the outdoor show. We danced a little, bounced the babies in time to the music, and watched R climb on railings and stairs and rocks.

Yesterday was our first truly nice day in a long time, so A mowed the forest that was our lawn while R and I cleaned out the car and went to the park so R could ride his bike. Our town turned on the water at our neighborhood spray park this week, and R enjoyed riding his bike through the puddles. Later, we ran errands. And then, R and I had mommy-son time while A met up with his ancient coin club buddies. Then I stayed up way too late hanging out with A and watching silly TV.

Today, we went to visit my dad. We took R around the corner from my dad's place to the Blackstone River, where we did a little fishing and had a lovely BBQ, courtesy of my dad. R was in his element - finding sticks, throwing rocks in the river, looking at bugs. He tired quickly of the actual fishing part, but that was okay.





After my dad's, we headed to our friend's house for another BBQ because some of our California friends were in town visiting. We had such a good time! The three five-year-old boys played great together, there was lots of good food and wine, and it was just so relaxing to sit around and catch up with everyone. We were really sad to go. But work and school awaits tomorrow.

Hope you all had a great weekend, too!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rockets!

I took the day off yesterday because our friend B was back from the Vineyard and he and my boys and a bunch of other friends planned a rocket outing. I didn't want to miss it!

We got up early, met up with some friends for breakfast, then crossed our fingers that the clouds would clear and headed off to our rocketing place. When we got there, the sun came out, and it was perfect. Low wind, not too hot, dry. Just lovely.


Unfortunately, my camera battery drained about an hour into our outing. So I missed some pretty good footage of some very interesting rocket launches. But, without having the camera in hand, I was able to help with rocket recovery - I made three catches! That was really fun. R made his first catch, too. He was so proud.





R has this two-stage paper rocket that he made himself, adorned with our club's logo (that A designed, too). A has launched that rocket many times. Yesterday, though, the pieces separated, and the nose cone ended up embedded in the field. It was funny watching A and R trying to pull it out of the ground. When they finally got it out, it looked like a rumpled blue carrot.

A's rocket on the launch pad




Pulling on the elastic to try to get the nose cone out of the ground

Surveying the damage

We had launches with a rocket that had an on-board video camera (but the footage didn't come out), one launch of an egg rocket (we didn't bring a real egg this time, so we used a plastic Easter egg with a rock in it), several launches of rockets with gliders attached, and launches of a mini Saturn V, a Mercury Redstone, and space shuttles. Two rockets were lost in the trees, and one landed on our car and made a dent in the roof. It's pretty small, so A and I didn't mind.

Everyone had a great time. R and his friend Z ran all over the place and played nicely. They even caught one of the rockets together - without arguing! Afterwards, we headed to this incredible pizza place nearby. I thought it was going to be the usual pizza slices, subs, etc., but the pizza and pasta choices were amazing, they use all natural/organic/free range meats and have a wood-fired oven, and I had a gorgeous and delicious spinach salad with warm, grilled chicken, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and cranberries.

I'm glad I took the day off. Although it made it that much harder to go to work today!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Calling

My devotional this morning was about knowing your calling. I had to laugh because, here I am nearly 37 years old, and I still have absolutely no clue what my calling is - in life, in my career, anything.

The devotional said that you'll know your calling by what makes you excited more than anything else, what interests you more.

I wish I knew what that was for me. There isn't really anything I can think of that makes me leap out of bed in the morning, that gets me all breathless and big-eyed from pure excitement when I talk about it. And, that makes me kind of sad. Because I used to be that way about some things. Now, I feel like a big blah about everything - except R, of course.

Recently, A suggested - and I agreed - that I should find a hobby. But I had the same dilemma. I cannot think of anything that I want to do enough that I'll keep at it. I love gardening, but I don't have enough time to devote to it to do a good job AND I get so discouraged by my yard because whenever I do get a burst of motivation, our soil is so saturated with roots from the trees and shrubs that I can barely get a shovel in more than an inch or two. Or, my plants get decimated by bugs.

I love baking, but I'm the one who ends up eating the results most of the time (A isn't big on sweets and we really try to limit R's sugar intake), and that doesn't quite fit into my recent drive to eat healthier.

I enjoy other things like canoeing and hiking, and we do those sometimes, but renting a canoe gets expensive and R gets restless and/or tired quickly.

Anyway, I didn't want to whine in this post. I'm just honestly stumped!

How did you discover your calling?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Magical weekend

We spent last weekend with our friend B at B's family's house on Martha's Vineyard. B gets a couple of weeks each year at the house, and for years, A and I used to go. But then R came along, and it just didn't seem like he was old enough to go until this year. B's family's house is not one of those giant compound/mansions that the Vineyard is known for. It's very rustic. It's really more like luxurious camping. It's wonderful - a couple of cabins sitting on top of a marsh and overlooking the ocean. I've always loved it there, but I forgot just how much until this past weekend.


R fell in love with it, too. He had the most amazing time. It was the quintessential boy's summer experience: he rode a ferry, he hiked, he canoed, he fished, he climbed trees, he carried firewood, he used a hammock as a spaceship, he peed in a brook (the men have to do that so the septic system doesn't get overloaded - luckily for me, the women get to use the bathroom!), he collected shells, he slept in the top bunk, he showered outside. Most of all, though, he had freedom, and he was surrounded by nature.



The epitome of the weekend was when we let R stay up late and told him we had a surprise. B grabbed flashlights, we tiptoed in the dark through the wooded path down to the nearby dock (where Jaws was filmed!), and we shone the lights into the water to see giant fish, crabs, horseshoe crabs, and other sea life. I think B is R's new hero. :-) We watched the fishermen board their boats and head out for their nightly catch.

Of course, we also headed into town during the day and took rides on the old-fashioned Flying Horses carousel to try to grab the coveted brass ring and win a free ride. We ate lunch at a little seafood joint with the most incredible coconut shrimp, made to order. We had old-fashioned ice cream at Mad Martha's.

It was very hard to leave the island.

Being on the Vineyard made me realize that life there is the life I've always dreamed of for myself. I even love the stereotypical house style - with the weathered gray shingles, white trim, etc. - and accompanying flowering gardens. It's the look I've always wanted for my own house. The quiet, easy-going feeling, the friendliness of everyone you meet, the nearness of the ocean, and the constant humidity in the air (despite its effect on my hair) - all of that is part of the experience, and I would love to be able to live there year-round someday.

But R's reaction to the island and to the back-to-basics life at B's house made me want all of this for him, too. I would love for him to spend his summers in a place like this, where he could explore the woods and the ocean and have this sense of freedom that is lacking when growing up in a major metropolitan area.

I don't think R will ever forget this weekend. Hopefully, we'll be able to take him to B's family's house a few more times before B's dad finds a buyer for the house. :-(

I'm going to start saving money wherever I can so that maybe when I'm 85 I can afford a little cottage on the island that I can pass down to R and his children. In the meantime, I'm going to look for ways to give R that freedom and experience with nature closer to home. (We've already promised him a fishing rod and tackle box as a present for his graduation from preschool.)


If you're ever up New England way, definitely spend a weekend on Martha's Vineyard! It's amazing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fears

With kindergarten looming on the horizon for R, I've been having a lot of fears and worries and struggles about his school experience and about how to be the best mother I can be to a boy. Our vacation with A's parents poked at some of these fears a little bit because of the way that A's dad was with R. He kept yelling at him and expecting R to sit still, not climb on anything, not touch anything, not explore. I got really frustrated because A and I try to be very open about letting R explore, climb, exert energy - within reason, of course.

Growing up with three sisters didn't really prepare me for raising a son. Luckily, having two nephews come along before I had R helped a little. I've learned as R has grown that he needs to run, to climb, to jump, to test his physical limits on a regular basis. We try to make sure he has time at the playground or riding his bike every day when it's nice out, and when it isn't we take him somewhere where he can run or climb - like a playspace or the Museum of Science. We even encourage him to run laps in our house, which he loves.

When we were getting together regularly a couple years ago with another couple who has a girl the same age as R, we noticed how their daughter could sit and do craft projects or art for two hours at a time. R loves crafts and painting and drawing, but his spurts of those things last more around 20 minutes. For a long time at preschool, he would only bring home crazy scribbles, and I could tell that he took a crayon and made a quick mark on the paper so that he could get up to do something else. I was so excited when he started doing big Lego kits because it was the only time I saw him sit and do something intently for more than an hour.

The kindergarten teachers told us that they have recess twice a day to help with the energy levels of the kids, but that it is still a hard transition for some children to be sitting for the school day, which is full day in our town (8 am - 2 pm). And that, even physically, kids don't have the gross motor and muscle development to sit that long. That worries me. R often tells me that he doesn't like school (his preschool) because it's boring and that his favorite time of the day is playground time. (Luckily, his preschool has three outside times for his age group.) Of course, he tells me this in the mornings when we're trying to get ready. Once he's there, he barely acknowledges A and me to say goodbye, and usually we can't pry him out in the afternoons without a major struggle.

I've been reading Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, and it talks a lot about how the basic way that schools and classrooms operate doesn't work so well for many boys. I don't want R to have a bad school experience. I'm afraid that if he doesn't like kindergarten that that will basically blow it for him for the rest of his education. I don't want his beautiful, inquisitive nature to be crushed by the school environment. He's so interested in so many things - especially science-related, and I want that to be encouraged and to blossom through school.

I know these are fears that probably all parents face. I guess part of me is freaking out because here I've just been blessed with this one child, and I've only got this one opportunity to do it right. Not that if I had other children and things went badly with one of them, I'd just give up and focus on the others, but (hopefully) you know what I mean.

I'm comforted partially by the fact that I didn't have a particularly good school experience either, yet I ended up at the top of my class, went to a great college, and have had a decent career. I definitely had traumatic moments throughout my school years, beginning in kindergarten when my teachers got mad at me for being able to read. They sat me down in front of the entire first grade and handed me a book to read to them. I was too shy and scared to read with 54 kids looking on, so the teachers grabbed the book away and said, "See?! You can't read!" and then took me back to my classroom. So, I had many bad moments like that, and I don't remember particularly liking school at any point in time, but I made it through okay, I guess. (Of course, that moment is burned in my brain and I do think that many of my bad school experiences are what turned me into a very shy person.) Huh. Now that I've written that, maybe my fears about R entering school are more about my own bad experiences?

Anyway, I will say that yesterday we had to go for the new parent orientation for R's after-school program, and it made me feel a lot better. The program has a lot of kids in it, and it's definitely a bit chaotic at times, but they give the kids LOTS of time outside or in the gymnasium when it's cold/wet. And, there are many young men who work as group leaders in the program. We've been so lucky that R has had some male teachers at his preschool. I know that has been wonderful for him. The director of the after-school program is a guy, and there were at least two other 18+ guys there yesterday playing games and taking care of the kids. All of the group leaders and the director also work at the Boys & Girls Club as lifeguards and swimming instructors, and that's where R goes for swimming. (One of his swimming teachers - a woman - will actually be one of his group leaders at the after-school program, so that will help him feel more at home. Plus, he already knows one of the boys who will be attending the program with him.) So, even though the kindergarten teachers are all women, at least he'll have some other male role models around in the afternoons.

I think my greatest fear is that he will have a terrible time in school and that we won't be able to provide him with an alternative, like a private boys' school or homeschooling. We just can't afford financially to do either of those things, especially the private boys' schools in the Boston area. I do think that A and I do a good job of exposing R to learning and to new things, and R has been like a giant sponge in absorbing all of it, so I'm hoping that that will carry him through even if school isn't so great for him. He is very well prepared for kindergarten academically, I think. He is reading when he wants to, he can write his letters well and he's started to write words without asking for us to spell them out for him, and he's recently improved his math skills a lot. Numbers used to frustrate him, but he seems to have gotten over the mental hurdle there. So I'm not worried that he's going to lag behind in that sense. It's more that I'm worried that the basic classroom environment won't work for him and that he'll end up getting in trouble for it, and then he'll lose his motivation and interest in learning.

So, I'm praying about it and learning as much as I can about how to raise R in a positive way that encourages his boyhood without letting him run completely wild. And, I'm hoping that R's teachers will be kind and encouraging and creative about how to teach both girls and boys. And, I'm going to enjoy this last summer with R before I send him off into the unknown.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

As seen on TV

Does anyone else find this ad disturbing? It gives me the creeps. Especially the purple box that says "You're Better Off" inside!

Apparently, my exes were cheap weenies because I do not have a cache of expensive jewelry to hock in their honor.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where was I? Oh yeah, part 2... the less interesting part

Our second day in the desert was Memorial Day. A's dad works at the Palm Springs Air Museum, and they were having a big event for the holiday, so we headed there (after breakfast at IHOP, because I was dying for some Swedish crepes with lingonberry butter). The last time we visited A's parents, we went to the air museum, but R was way too young for it then. A's dad didn't understand that R couldn't stay still and listen to lectures about the planes and World War II for 20 minutes at a time. Even A and I had trouble staying focused!

This time was much better. R was very interested in the fighter jets, and he got to climb aboard and get a tour of one of the big bombers (a B-29?) and see all the guns and turrets. He was excited, but also very concerned about the guns and instructed me sternly that I was not to touch anything. :-)

The Memorial Day festivities were nice, but not very well organized and it was really, really hot inside and outside the hangars. The main event was a bomber flying over the museum and air strip and dropping thousands of carnations over the crowd. R and A were out in the middle of it and got "rained" on. They enjoyed that. It was a beautiful sight. But the flower drop was supposed to be at noon, then 12:30, then we found out that that was just the beginning of speeches, bands playing, etc. and that the plane still needed to be driven out of the hangar (after clearing out the hundreds of people in front of it) before it did its passes over the museum. They had some food vendors there, but there was one snow cone vendor with one person working at it, and we stood in the hot sun for probably half an hour to get ours. (The line was longer for water; luckily, we had brought our own.) The sun made me cranky, but overall, it was a good experience.

That night, we went to A's sister's house for a bbq. Her house is nestled at the base of some incredibly beautiful mountains, and we were in awe of the view while we swam in her pool. With the sunset and then the moon and stars - and bats flying overhead - it was breathtaking. R swam for hours, and after goading from A's sister and her fiance, he summoned up the courage to jump off the diving board. Over and over again. (He had arm floaties on - otherwise, I never would have let him do it!) We had great food, nice wine, and a lovely evening.


The next day, we had a lazy morning and then took the tram ride in Palm Springs up the mountain (I'm not sure what the mountain's name is). The tram scared me because I couldn't see the machinery, and I just didn't trust the whole thing. And, not only were we climbing upwards quickly, but the floor of the tram also rotated. Plus, whenever the tram went by one of the towers that hold up the cables, it bumped and swayed and gave us that weightless vertical drop feeling, in addition to the spinning and heights. Ugh. My only "comfort" was that I knew if something happened, we'd ALL be smashed to smithereens. That is, I wouldn't be leaving my baby behind to live without me. (Yes, I am paranoid and sick!) Here is some video I took from the tram:

video

At the top of the mountain, it was beautiful. The air was cool and smelled amazing and clean. It was surreal to be in a cool, shady forest in the middle of the desert. We took a little hike with A's sister and her fiance (A's parents stayed behind at the lodge/gift shop/restaurant). The boys climbed a huge boulder to get the ultimate view. R scrambled right up without any trouble. On the way back, he got cranky and tired, so A's sister's fiance (L) carried him back to the lodge, Lord bless him. A and I were out of breath just from the hike. I have no idea how L carried R all that way on his back!




The rest of the day wasn't so great. A and I started to lose patience with his parents, and we had an uncomfortable lunch with all of us at California Pizza Kitchen. At least the food was good! That night, though, A and I escaped for a little while to go to the store to get supplies for s'mores. A built a fire in his parents' fire pit. It was 85 degrees out, and the fire got really hot and smoky, but we didn't care. R was thrilled to have s'mores, and I finally tried a s'more with an added layer of peanut butter slathered on the graham cracker. (I've been imagining this creation for years.) Oh boy, I found my new vice. Next, I want to try making a s'more with a peanut butter cup instead of plain chocolate squares. Drool...

Our last day in the desert, we headed out early to visit the Living Desert, which is basically a zoo. We've been there twice before, but we thought R would enjoy it more this time. They have a huge model train layout, but it was so stinking hot outside that R was only interested for a few minutes. He liked the live animal show, which was fun. Animals pop in and out of different parts of the stage and show off their skills. We saw a servil (desert cat) demonstrate how it scoops mice out of narrow holes in the ground. We also saw two desert tortoises, a porcupine, a parrot that used to be native to the U.S. but now is only found in Mexico (if I remember correctly), and a desert fox. In the rest of the zoo, we saw giraffes and camels and zebras and warthogs and hyenas and antelopes and ostriches and a cheetah. It was nice, but the heat just wiped us out. And, we were already at the end of our tolerance for A's parents, so the combination wasn't great.


That afternoon, we drove back to LA. Despite all the warnings about the traffic, we had smooth sailing even though it was rush hour. Yay! We stayed at a hotel near the airport, which had an amazing pool and hot tub. And, we had a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina Del Rey, right on the water. Breakfast at the hotel in the morning was wonderful! Made to order omelets, pancakes, French toast, plus fresh fruit, cereals, bagels, and and oatmeal bar. It was the perfect end to our vacation, and we really liked having some time to ourselves to unwind before hopping on the plane to come home.

The plane ride was uneventful. Oh my goodness, it is SO much easier traveling with a five-year-old than with a two-year-old. We all had a rough time adjusting to the time change once we were home, but we took an extra day off to help with that.

So, that's it. All in all, a good vacation. And, R got to spend some quality time with his other grandparents and his aunt and uncles. It had been so long since he had seen them, he didn't really know them at all. But now he does, and A and I are happy about that.

So, what vacations do you all have planned for this summer?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Trip (part 1)

Well, we had a great vacation. It was SO much better than we expected, even with the stress of being with A's parents.

We flew non-stop to LA and stayed there for a couple of days to visit with friends. We rented a beautiful 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment (VRBO.com is the best!) that was basically brand-new, gave us enough space, and that was half the price of most of the LA hotels we were looking at. We stayed near Museum Row, which was about halfway between two of A's close friends' places. It was a pretty neighborhood, and there was a Trader Joe's within walking distance, so we took advantage of having a kitchen to make breakfast in the mornings.

The first night in LA, we had dinner with A's brother at the Grove, which I wish we had had more time to explore. All the little shops and eateries looked so interesting! It was a beautiful night, and we enjoyed chasing R through the marketplace. (After being stuck on the plane and in the car for about 7 hours, he needed to MOVE.) Back at the apartment, we tried to use the rooftop pool, but it was a bit too chilly.

On Saturday, we met up with our good friend Ben at his place in Santa Monica. He took us to the Santa Monica pier and the beach. I think that was the favorite part of our trip for all of us! The weather was gorgeous, R got to splash in the Pacific Ocean, and we all went on the roller coaster and ferris wheel. This was R's first roller coaster experience, and he LOVED IT. He and A went for a second ride on the coaster, but Ben and I had had enough. (I think Ben lost his hearing from having to sit next to me and my screaming on the ride.) After the pier, we walked to find some lunch nearby.






Santa Monica made me finally understand why people choose to live in Southern California. Los Angeles doesn't interest me and involves too much driving for my taste. And, the desert where my in-laws live makes me crazy because everything is so perfectly manicured, with gated communities, and every house looks exactly the same. Plus, the shameless wasting of water out there makes me want to throw up. Santa Monica was beautiful but not in a Disneyesque perfect way. It was walkable and funky, and the people were friendly and laidback. We definitely want to go back there and explore more someday!

Later that day, we went to another friend's house for a bbq with a bunch of A's friends who have moved to LA from Boston. R got a little bored, so we didn't stay long, but it was really nice to catch up with everyone.

On Sunday morning, we fixed breakfast, packed up, almost headed to Edwards Air Force Base to catch the Space Shuttle's landing (but decided against it), and then went to the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum. I was surprised by how beautiful the park around the pits was and how much we learned at the museum. (Did you know that there used to be lions in America?) The tar pits definitely smelled like tar, and we saw many places where the tar was actively bubbling up through the ground and grass. The full woolly mammoth skeleton was amazing. And, in the center of the museum was a little habitat with fish, birds, and lots of turtles.





After lunch, we drove out to the desert to A's parents' house. After stretching our legs a bit and catching up, we changed into swimsuits and drove over to one of the pools (the only one that allows children) in their community. It was about 100 degrees every day we were in the desert, so the pool was quite refreshing - and the cast of characters was fun to observe. Plus, A and I had some good laughs over the level of security trying to get in and out of the pool area and at the ridiculous rules. (After being buzzed out of the pool area, we saw an ice machine with a huge sign on it indicating that the ice was for RESIDENTS ONLY. Even though if you're not a resident or guest, you can't get anywhere near the silly ice machine, so I don't know who the sign was for...)

R's swimming lessons have really paid off - he had a blast and kept heading to the deeper end of the pool to challenge himself. That night, we had a family dinner at A's parent's house with A's sister and her fiance. A's sister and fiance are wonderful, and they brought over a very cool Hot Wheels motorcycle set for R, which was a godsend since there weren't really any age-appropriate toys for R at A's parents' house. (They seem to think he's a quiet, sedentary, 2-year-old girl instead of a very active, physical, 5-year-old boy.)

One thing that was so interesting to A and me on this trip was R's completely lack of shyness. Usually, he's pretty shy at first with people he doesn't know and in situations he hasn't experienced before. But, he was completely at ease the entire time. He happily said hello to everyone and conversed at a very mature level. I stood back and just proudly watched him because it was such a change. I was a little worried because the entire trip was basically a huge ego trip for him - being surrounded by adults who were overly praising him, constantly saying how cute and how smart he is. I don't think he had any contact with other kids the whole time, except for A's sister's fiance's teenage son, who was great with R, too. He started getting a bit sassy with us towards the end of the trip, and his listening skills definitely deteriorated. But he's been a gem since we got home, and the experience seems to have boosted his self-confidence and social skills. Tonight, at our local park, he comfortably talked to all the other kids and encouraged them to join him in play. So, in that way, this trip had an unexpected benefit!

[To be continued - that's all I can type for tonight!]