Monday, February 27, 2012

Role model?

As we made dinner tonight, Ava used an old non-working cell phone to carry on a long conversation about her day with an imaginary person, complete with updates on her meetings, her projects, her emails, and for some reason, extensive use of un-ironic air quotes. 4 year olds can be hilarious.

I do wonder though how she comes up with this stuff. I'll cop to modeling (unintentionally) the robust conversations on meetings and projects and such, but I am not a frequent air quotes abuser. "I swear."
"Riiight... Uh huh. Yeah, my mom's taking my picture AGAIN."
I can bet that I will be able to put together a montage of her in this pose over the next 12 years, assuming we'll still be using phones and not some mind-meld device for communicating.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cool blog alert: White House Celebrating Black History Month Series

I'm enjoying reading the White House blog, which is doing a retrospective Celebrating Black History Month Series with posts that highlight the work of African Americans across the Obama Administration.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Valentine's Day lesson in living in the moment

I went home sick on Valentine's Day. Years ago this would have been devastating. Now, it's just one less occasion I have to wear pantyhose.

We actually don't celebrate the day and haven't since early in our dating days after we agreed that it's a Hallmark Holiday, meaning it's mainly a way to boost greeting card sales during a slow time of year. Instead, we opt for spontaneous celebrations of our love throughout the year. For us, it's much more meaningful.

Four year old Ava, however, has fully bought in to the hype, asking when we'd be getting her chocolates and whether Daddy would be getting me flowers and a balloon for the day. She was quite disappointed to hear we weren't going to partake in the heart-covered extravaganza.

Since she didn't have school on the day itself, her class celebrated the following Friday with traded valentines and Pajama Day. 'Cause if you're going to have chocolate at school, the only thing better is having it in your PJs!

The teacher sent a list of all the kids' names so that no one would be left out. After hunting around unsuccessfully at a grocery store and drugstores, I found a 32-card valentine multi-pack that was perfect for our needs. But once we opened the pack, Ava decided that she also wanted to do cards for all the teachers at her school. It kind of speaks to how close-knit and small the school is that she felt enough of a connection to them all to A) want to recognize them all, and B) could remember their names.

So in addition to writing out the names for eight classmates and her main teacher, she also did seven other teachers cards and signed each one.
I was so proud of her for her thinking of it and for sticking to it, even though I was rushing to finish and was much less patient than she was since it was after dinner, getting late, and there was still teeth-brushing, pajamas, next day clothes decisions and all the weekday home adminis-trivia to do.

At one point, after discarding a card that she'd written the wrong letters on, I realized that my annoyance was clearly showing (in the form of a sigh and eye roll) because she made another mistake and immediately looked stricken, saying, "I'm SO sorry! I didn't mean to! I really didn't!"

Good grief! I felt like Mommie Dearest sans wire hangers, and we were suddenly a far cry from the evident joy on her face when we'd written together in the past. Just look at the last photo on this post. Clearly I was making this feel more like a task to be perfected than a fun, thoughtful craft for her friends and teachers.

So I took a deep breath, smiled and said, "It's okay. It doesn't have to be perfect. How about if I draw a couple lines on each one to help guide you so that you can see where the letters need to go?" She smiled and eagerly shook her head yes. With that renewed spirit of teamwork, she resumed signing her name on each card and carefully wrote the remaining names as I called out the letters.

I was embarrassed that I was projecting my own sure-to-fail perfectionism on her and nearly ruining what should have been some lovely "Mommy/Ava time" as she calls it. I love doing things like this with her and Dylan, but struggle to fit them into our busy weeks, resulting in the aforementioned rushing and annoyance. It takes all of the fun out of the time we spend together.

So I'm trying to get better at setting aside sufficient time, stopping to just "be" in the moment, and also realizing that some things will just have to give. For example, if Jason's working late and hasn't started dinner, we may need to have cobbled-together leftovers or takeout instead of a more labor-intensive meal if we want to spend part of the evening doing some fun activity that takes a bit of time.

We'll muddle through, but I wonder how other busy families manage this nightly juggle of feeding everyone and spending quality time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

School daze

Last month on Facebook, I posted:
Never thought I'd be touring a potential kindergarten that costs more than my 1st year of college. Hope the fact that we sang Nicki Minaj all the way here isn't an automatic disqualifier.
The comments rolled in, including suggestions from my 1st grade teacher who said:
Provide rich experiences at home and community, put in reg/public preschool w/nice competent staff and save the $$$$ for a superior post grad school. In today's world a BA is not enough. Well, that's my unsolicited opinion. Exception: spend $$$ on a preschool that will give [your] child a second language (Spanish, Chinese). [You] do not have to speak the 2nd language [your]self.
Subsequent comments were from other parents lamenting the poor quality of our local schools and opinions on the two independent schools we were considering.

A middle and high school classmate weighed in that the thread made her feel fortunate that her local public schools back east are high quality. I responded:
You are fortunate! And that's a feeling more communities should be able to experience.
It's crazy to think I ended up at [school] with you because the schools in my neighborhood where I was bussed to 30 years ago weren't adequate for my needs. And we're still having the same conversations!

I know schools are not businesses, but if a company wasn't satisfying a huge portion of its customers year after year, it would be out of business. It would also presumably be learning from customers and improving the product every year.

It's frustrating that that's not happening in a sytematic way across all of the Seattle Public Schools instead of just in certain ones.
I told Jason about the thread and he said, "Kids around here might as well be in 'Waiting for Superman' too" - referring to the movie that came out in 2010 about the failures of the public school system in America and how some families' and kids' only chance at escape is through the random chance of school entrance lotteries.

Because of Ava's September birthday and the now-firm cut-off for kindergarten entrance, we have decide to wait another year on sending her to kindergarten. When Jason and I were kids, we both started early or were skipped ahead because teachers and our parents agreed we could keep up.  Ava will be five in the fall but will have to wait until the following fall when she's just turned six.

I am really bummed for her because I sense that she's more than ready in all the areas of development that they consider for kindergarten acceptance: social, emotional and academic. Her teachers, who are strong proponents of kids waiting that extra year, agreed, saying, "Ava is an exception to our usual preference. We think she's ready." And I don't think they're saying it because they want to get her out of their class sooner. :-)

But the schools we've considered are not flexible in allowing her to start, which seems arbitrary and not in her best interests. But it's out of our hands. So we will keep her at her preschool another year, maybe look at starting a language as my former teacher suggested, and work on academic and arts topics that pique her interest at home until a year and a half from now. Sigh.

I just hope we're doing right by our bright girl. I don't want her development to suffer because of an inflexible and arbitrary administrative rule. We shall see.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interloper

After putting the kids to bed this week, I returned from brushing my teeth to find Dylan happily ensconced under the covers on my side.
The only surprise was that he did this while we were still up, instead of his usual 3:35am foray into our room and bed, when he groggily opens the door and hoists himself up and over my sleep-deprived form to nestle between us.

This week, with him and Jason still recovering from a cold (and mine just getting started) and the related late night coughing and snoring, Jason had had enough. "We only need one guy snoring all night long in this bed," he proclaimed, carrying Dylan back to his room.

He was back within minutes, but the clock is definitely ticking down on his unfettered wee-hours access to our bed.

I can't blame him though: Ava's even said, "Make Dylan move over so I can get in too: your bed is SO nice and warm and cozy."

I know! That's why we want it all to ourselves! It fits the four of us perfectly for our family movie nights, but for actual sleeping, four is a crowd, even in a king size bed.

At least we're not alone in grappling with the perils of the flailing being(s) in our midst. Anyone who has shared a bed with a toddler or two - or even a dog - will recognize the images in this series of Baby Sleep Positions cards from the How To Be A Dad blog.

 "Jazz hands" shown above is definitely popular at our place. Enjoy!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Grow, baby, grow

With all of my angst over Dylan's speech delay, I've been remiss in highlighting all the other awesome ways he's developing. He may not say much yet, but he is very physically capable and fearless when it comes to climbing, jumping and crawling at home or on the playground. Left to his own devices, he doesn't hesitate to head for the big kids' equipment and climb the ladders, bars and zip lines.

There's also his amazingly easy going personality. Not much ruffles this kid, other than having his beloved Thomas or other toys stripped from his grasp. This makes car trips with him a treat because once he's buckled in, you're ready to roll for at least two hours or more with hardly a peep from the back seat as he contents himself with watching the scenery fly by, listening to music, or in Dad's car, watching a DVD. Contrast that with Ava, who at times as a toddler punctuated even the short two and a half hour trip to Vancouver, BC with on-going screams of protest for being stuck in her seat, requiring multiple stops to give us all a break and rinse the blood from our ears. Kidding. But it was an ordeal.

Dylan does take after his sister in the music enjoyment area. Check out this little shimmy I caught as he played with a new microphone with built in beats Ava received for Christmas with some doll whose back story is that she's in a band. And since when did dolls need a back story or cover story? What are they, undercover operatives?
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As we've started following the therapist's recommendation to repeat and enunciate more with Dylan, he's added a few more words: butterfly, thank you, juice and yes. Oh, and Ava. Or Ah-VA, as he puts it.


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His vocab is growing right along with his body: we're in dire need of pants since he keeps growing out of his! He's currently in 3T as he's been since the fall, and is wearing the same size shoe as his 4 year old sister. A few people have asked if he and Ava are twins. The last time, as Dylan silently sized up the guy asking, Ava threw a protective arm around his shoulders and explained, "No, he's just my brother and he's still getting used to people."

See? Who needs words when you have a sister who's got your back?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Watching #superbowl, baking cookies, cooking dinner. One kid sleeping. Amazing how much less energy required for just one kid underfoot.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Presidents Lincoln and Obama and the future

President Obama Holds Arianna Holmes | The White House

Great pic of lucky girl with two great presidents who beat long odds and opposition.
Leaving a funeral. Always a tough reminder to hug your family & tell them you love them, because tomorrow is not promised to any of us.