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?