Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Few Words on Packing, and a Disney Surprise

I started packing us today for an upcoming trip, and this has reminded me how much I HATE PACKING.  Ugh!  Not everyone feels that way, some people enjoy the packing experience and feel it adds to the anticipation of their trip, (which as we are all supposed to know by now, is half the fun anyway).  Um, no.  Packing is not part of the fun for me, and you people who enjoy packing are weirdos from another planet that I will never understand.

My kids are part of "those people" who get excited about packing, but that is because they have the mental flexibility to pack only a stuffed giraffe, some colored pencils, and maybe a tutu and call it a day, with no concern for having forgotten anything.  Case in point, when we went to Missouri last summer, I asked Waylon if he wanted some help packing his suitcase but he said no, he was already finished:
"Do you want some help packing for Missouri, Waylon?" "No, I already packed." #goodtry #whoneedsclothes
In my defense, just because I do not like packing does not mean I'm not good at it.  I pride myself on packing light (or as lightly as one can, anyway, for a family of five headed to the beach with babies/young children, as the case has been for us over the last several years).  Also, the key word in my packing complaint is "us"; packing for only myself is a cakewalk.  It's the responsibility of remembering every single item that 3.5 other individuals might need that makes me run and hide.  (3.5?  I came up with that because yes, Joe helps. Neither of us has stooped to the level of having me pick out his clothing.  And yet, it is mostly my brain that is tasked with remembering all the 1,000 odd items, from toiletries, to kid medicines, to rain gear, to water bottles, to allergen-free food, or headphones, or whatever else the occasion calls for.)

This afternoon, I relied on the kids' excitement about packing to spur me into action.  No, really - Georgia had to stay home from school due to pink eye, so I told her it would be her job to force me to begin packing.  Fast forward to 3:30 p.m., me curled up on the couch somewhat exhausted, the girls employing loud music, poking/sitting on me, and walkie-talkies cranked up in my face and set to static to get me moving.  It finally worked.  I'll stop complaining about packing for now, because it's hard to garner sympathy for a task that by definition means I'm getting to travel.  We are fortunate and lucky in that regard, but c'mon, I don't have to enjoy the packing part. 

All of the dragging of my feet and required cajoling yesterday got me to thinking how amazing it is (and please forgive me for patting ourselves on the back here) that Joe and I managed to pull off a pretty cool Disney World surprise for the kids back in September.  A surprise the nature of which involved me single-handedly packing everything in total secrecy, essentially under cover of darkness, since I could only work on it after putting the kids to bed each.  (Have I mentioned that we went to Disney World?  No?  Okay, see, that's the problem with taking enormous blogging breaks.  Our Disney trip was a big deal for us, something that in my head I was definitely going to immediately report on here, I just haven't found the time for it until now.)

We decided to surprise the kids for a couple reasons.  First, it would be super fun!  I mean, how often in life do you get surprised out of nowhere with wonderfully happy news?  And how often does life present opportunities to surprise someone you love like that?  So we wanted to at least try to pull off the surprise and see what happened.  Second, we selfishly wanted to avoid the incessant questions about, "When are we going?" "How many more days?" "Is it tomorrow?"  "Is it today?"  Keep in mind, at least two of three children here still have a pretty loose grasp on the passage of time.

As luck would have it, we needed to leave for the airport at the same time that we would normally have been hopping in the car to drop Joe at the train station and the kids at school.  So that's how far we pushed the charade of this being a regular old school day.  I had secretly loaded our suitcases into the back of the van the night before, packed Georgia a lunch box that she didn't actually need, gotten everyone dressed for school with backpacks ready and into their car seats, the whole bit.  Our plan was to start driving to school but then take an intentional wrong turn to head toward the airport instead.  When the kids noticed that we were driving the wrong direction, that's when we'd tell them:  WE'RE NOT GOING TO SCHOOL, WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!!

Sounds pretty rad, right?  It was, with two caveats.  First off, we were never expecting immediate screams of excitement, because our kids weren't at the time 100% aware of what Disney World really meant.  (Waylon especially - he had no clue.)  Even for someone well aware of what going to Disney World entails, it seems reasonable to expect it to take a while for the news to sink in.  The other part of the kids' reaction, which we were not so much expecting, was just how long it took them to realize that we were not driving the right direction!  Funny thing, it turns out children are very trusting of their parents to transport them from Point A to Point B with no questions or doubts.  I guess I was counting on Georgia to be the first to notice, but even she was finally tipped off not by the fact that we were aimlessly driving into the next town over, but by the fact I was holding up my phone prepared to video tape.  All of which is my roundabout way of explaining why the video you're about to see has been heavily edited for length (and it's still long - sorry, but I have no clue how to really edit videos and therefore can't waste half my day shortening this for you).  I assumed I'd have a 15 second clip that morning to easily share with my sister and the handful of friends who knew about this surprise in advance, but instead we ended up with over four minutes of boring driving video.  In the end, though, it all made for a very good story.  The kids have certainly enjoyed in the months since telling anyone who will listen about how their parents told them they were going to school but took them to Disney World instead.  That's worth it in my book.  Even with the packing.

Disney Surprise from Kate on Vimeo. (password is notrickypeopleallowed)

There you have it.  And in conclusion, school secretary Mrs. Peterson was notified of the children's absence, and we managed to have a decent time at Disney despite me having forgotten to pack Roald Dahl's "The Witches".

Just for good measure, or for anyone unwilling to spend 4+ minutes of their life on the video, here are some stills taken shortly after the news had sunk in.

Crazy in love with this plan.

Pretty pumped!

20-30 minutes later, a little freaked out and nervous.  He came around.  : )



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Self-Centered Interviews of My Kids

Hi! I have vowed not to start this by blogging about blogging, or rather, blogging about not blogging, so now that that's out of the way, let's just dive right back in.

There was a set of questions circulating on Facebook recently among a few of my FB friends. I thought it would catch on more widely, but it seems not to have. The gist of it was that you interview your child, about yourself, and see what awful or adorable truths they come up with in response. I got a kick out of seeing my friends' children's answers and thought I'd give it a whirl, but I decided to record the answers here on the good ol' blog rather than FB.

The instructions were, "Without any prompting, ask your kids these questions." To save you some scrolling back and forth, I'm going to paste the questions in 3 separate times, since I conducted three private interviews.  I've included a few of my own thoughts in brackets; couldn't help myself.     

(6 years old)
1. What is something I always say to you?  You either say, "Home sweet home!" or "Alright, here we are," when we pull into the garage.  No!  You always say, "I love you."
2. What makes me happy?  When the house is clean.
3. What makes me sad?  When I get a burn.  [Ed.: True.  June recently burned her hand on a hot skillet.]
4. How do I make you laugh?  By reading the part in the book that says, "My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt!"  [Ed.: That's a reference to "The Book With No Pictures" for those of you not in the know.]
5. What was I like as a child?  I don't know!
6. How old am I?  I don't remember.  Something like in the 80's or 70's.  [Ed.: To be clear, she was not speaking of the 1980's or 70's.]  
7. How tall am I?  Half of my stomach and one of my brother and half of my brother.    
8. What is my favorite thing to do? Go have fun.  [So then I asked the follow-up question, "How do I have fun, though?"]  By snuggling. 
9. What do I do when you're not around?  Do stuff on your phone and computer. 
10. What am I really good at?  Yelling.  [Ed.: Ouch.  The truth hurts.]
11. What am I not very good at?  Thinking of stuff to play.  [Ed.: It's good to make them think for themselves, right?]
12. What do I do for work?  Be our mom. 
13. What is my favorite food?  Vegetables.   
14. What do you like to do with me?  Go to fun places with you.  And also, make you spend money to take me on rides. (*insert June's cackling maniacal laugh here*)  [Ed.: I think she was specifically referring to a couple of Ferris wheel rides that were quite memorable to her.]

(4 years old)
1. What is something I always say to you?  I love you!
2. What makes me happy?  Cleaning up. 

3. What makes me sad?  I don't know.  That I shoot rockets on to pictures and the pictures fall down... At least I don't actually do that.  [Ed.:  Waylon has been indiscriminately adding the phrase "at least" to at least 80% of his sentences for at least 6 months now.]  
4. How do I make you laugh?  When you say, "Don't smile!"
5. What was I like as a child?  I don't know.
6. How old am I?  Give me a clue.  (It's a number, honey.  You have to pick a number.)  I don't know - 10? 11? 
7. How tall am I?  Very tall.
8. What is my favorite thing to do?  Reading Penderwicks and painting with music. 
9. What do I do when you're not around?  You miss me!
10. What am I really good at?  (HUGE PAUSE...)  (Shakes head...)  Throwing balls up in the air and catching them.  
11. What am I not very good at?  Lifting weights.  [I giggle and say, "How do you know?  How do you know if I'm good or not?]  I just know because your age.    
12. What do I do for work?    
13. What is my favorite food?  That's a hard answer. 
14. What do you like to do with me?   Have mommy days!  [Ed.: "Mommy days" are what we call me pulling preschoolers out of school whenever I want to, to do whatever else we'd rather be doing, simply because we can.  Once they hit public school, we take attendance more seriously, but until then, all bets are off.]     

(8 years old)
1. What is something I always say to you? I love you.
2. What makes me happy?   Food.
3. What makes me sad?  When we don't pick up our toys. 
4. How do I make you laugh?  By tickling me.  
5. What was I like as a child?  I don't know.  You lived right across the street from your school.  
6. How old am I?  39.  Going on 40.  
7. How tall am I?  5 feet 14 inches.  I think.  
8. What is my favorite thing to do?  Do art with me and June and Waylon.  
9. What do I do when you're not around?  Big mommy projects.  Like organizing drawers.  
10. What am I really good at?  Trumpet, cooking, and soccer.  Mostly cooking because you're a real good cook.  
11. What am I not very good at?  Starting big projects and finishing them.  [Ed.: To be clear, it's not the "starting" part that she's being critical of here...]    
12. What do I do for work?  Take care of your family.
13. What is my favorite food?  That's hard.  You eat a lot of foods when I'm not around.  Sushi maybe? 
14. What do you like to do with me?  Projects.  Like art or sewing.  And cooking.

Whew, domestic much, Kate?  That last answer of Georgia's was influenced by recency I'm afraid.  We had just finished sewing a button on a cloak that she insisted on creating for wearing to a friend's fairy-themed birthday party; however, this project was a rarity.  Most sewing in this house still consists of minor repairs that are delegated to Joe.  

So, there you go.  I'm dipping my toes back into the waters of blogging with an entry that wrote itself.  Baby steps, but I have to blow the rust off somehow.  Thanks to those of you who faintly heard this tumbleweed blowing by and clicked over to read it.  Leave me a comment if you have a moment; the dopamine sensors in my brain have been trained by years of Facebook and Instagram use to expect it.  Grrrr.... (Now there's a meaty topic for a different day.)  

I'm off now to go throw some balls in the air and catch them.  Or maybe start organizing a drawer that I will never finish.    

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2014 Puppet Show Video

So, given that I failed to blog most of 2014 (and may still throw 2014 events up here in perpetuity if I feel like it, thank you very much), I thought I'd start by throwing up a 5 minute video that perhaps only a mother could love.  This thing cracks me up.  It kind of captures the kids in 2014 pretty well I think.  This is them at their finest version of 6, 4, and 2: silly, happy, creative, and (mostly) cooperating with each other.  Like most siblings they argue, they annoy each other, they make up, and sometimes, they play together blissfully well (and a choir of angels hovers over our living room).

I love these goofballs.  (Password is notrickypeopleallowed)


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning. And Science.

[source: HitFix Entertainment News]

I saw this and it made me laugh, because I took June and Waylon to the Museum of Science and Industry last week and was just pondering with Joe whether all of our adventures teach the kids anything by osmosis so to speak.  Other than enjoying ourselves and exploring, I rarely explain anything or read the displays or plaques to the kids.  They did touch a big glass ball with electricity flowing through it, though.  BOOM!  SCIENCE.  DONE.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back to School 2014

So, back to school 2014.  Georgia's first day was in late August, and June and Waylon started after Labor Day.  It's probably a good thing that it has taken me a few weeks to get this post up, because it has also taken us that long to get in a groove with this whole school business.  (Truth be told, the kids have adjusted well, but I'm still trying to get in a good groove.  I do not like the current groove.  I miss the days of summer and doing whatever we wanted to, and not having to drive everyone around, and I have gone into a temporary funk that I am trying to work myself out of, one way or another.  Joe is being very patient but I can only assume he is quietly freaking out on the inside, since I've resurrected the tried and true, "Let's uproot our whole lives and move back to the city because that would solve all of my so-called problems!" reasoning, which tends to be my go-to solution.  I guess I don't really mean it, but my mind goes there all the time.)

But to recap:  Georgia started first grade.  June started her Montessori kindergarten year.  (We're planning on putting June in public school kindergarten next year, though, so I still think of this year as an extra year of preschool for her; we're not really sure what to call it.  You'll notice in the photos below that we haven't made her a "Class of 20__" poster yet, because technically the jury's still out on whether she'll move on to kindergarten or first grade next year.)  Waylon started 3 year-old park district preschool.

Georgia got a big case of nerves in the days leading up to her first day, but I think she got all her tears out of her system beforehand, because she has had none at the drop-offs.  (I was nothing short of stunned by this on the first day.  To be clear, I don't mind a lick when she's nervous; I love her unconditionally.  It's just that I see how hard it can be on her, and I see how earnestly she tries.  So, for each small victory and measure of progress, (of which there have been many in the last year), I am proud and happy for her.)  As expected, her first few weeks were rocky, coming home wiped out with complaints of the long day and having to figure out the lunch routine.  She's currently sitting at a peanut-free table in the cafeteria, which has presented a few extra challenges.  Also, it didn't help matters that Georgia only made it to 2.5 days of school before being sent home sick!  Then came Labor Day weekend.  So, it took us until the third week to accomplish five full days in a row.  Recently her class was issued iPads, (which I have mixed feelings about, but am slowly coming around toward), but I have to say that her excitement about wondering "Is today the day I'll get my iPad?" was just the carrot we needed to get over the hump and have her eager to return to school each day. 

This is June's second year at Pathway Montessori, and now she's part of the "top of the heap" - the kindergarten aged children who get to look at things a little more in depth and serve as leaders to the littler kids.  (Or so the Montessori people say.)  I can't say I'm totally in love with the place, only because June doesn't seem to be totally in love with the place, which is a sharp contrast to her continued lauding of her 3 year old co-op preschool in the city, including placing her former teacher, Ms. Linda, on a veritable pedestal.  It's hard to say what of this praise is deserved and what is revisionist history.  I'm not sure how to describe June's attitude toward school.  She frequently says she doesn't want to go, and voices several mild complaints about the place, but then hops out of the car with a smile and is smiling when I pick her up.  I hope that's a good sign and that her reluctance just stems from preferring to hang out with Waylon and me and go on adventures?  I do intend to pull her out as much as possible this year to do just that; it's all part of our plan to slow down and draw out early childhood and push off the attendance policies of public school.  What's the rush, right?  But it's also a plan that I have second-guessed so much that I'm embarrassed to admit it.  Why can't I just make a decision and move on, be grateful that we even have these choices, and not obsess?  Well, tuition is expensive, and though her birthday falls just 12 days before the cutoff, in many ways she was ready to start public school.  I think she could've hacked it.  But between wanting to keep our kids spaced grade-wise just as they are chronologically, and wanting to give her another year of half-days and as much freedom to play as possible, we've decided this path is right for our family.  That's the key, I know - there is no "right" answer.  I just wish I could shut off the pesky part of my brain that thinks about what everyone else is doing and then feels insecure about our choices.  (Shut up, brain!  Leave me alone!)   

Waylon loves his preschool and confidently marches right in each day.*  He and June are both kids that have to be reminded to say goodbye and give mom a kiss before parting.  (Sidebar:  please, please, thank your lucky stars if you have one of these children.  I often hear parents jokingly say, "I don't know what's harder, having a kid crying about leaving, or one that forgets to even say goodbye!"  I realize these are always good-natured remarks, but just in case there was any actual doubt in anyone's mind, let me answer that for you:  it is much, much harder to deal with children who are upset.  It is no picnic for parent or child.)  Funnily enough, Waylon is a better reporter than either of the girls about what goes on at school.  He comes out chatting and happy.  There's not much to his preschool in a way, but that's okay with me, because he basically just turned 3.  He may be a third child, but due to various circumstances, his is the fifth preschool we've tried!  I could write my own preschool review book at this point!  Right now, my only tiny beefs with the place are that it's not long enough (twice a week for 2 hours, which after subtracting travel time and June's drop-off gives me only 1.5 hours of freedom to actually get anything done, which lately has been consumed by billable work), and apple juice. 

[Another sidebar:  I think you all should watch the documentary movie Fed Up if you haven't already.  Pretty sure you can get it via Netflix or iTunes.  I had this whole rant about preschools serving apple juice written, and then deleted it because, well, you'll think I'm crazy, and besides, there are refugees, and wars, and poverty, and disease, so apple juice is not a big problem in the grand scheme of things.  But then I watched Fed Up last night and felt like, no, my little pet peeve actually does matter.  By the way, the movie is not about apple juice or preschool, per se.  Anyway, you should totally watch it.]

On to the pictures!  By the way, next year Joe and I are totally getting our hair done and wearing new outfits for this first day business, what with all the photos. ; )  Okay, I will at least get up and shower for BOTH first days next year.   

Untitled DSC_0004
Untitled Untitled Untitled DSC_0005 DSC_0008 DSC_0011 DSC_0012

{This picture is so dorky I can't *not* include it.  Joe leaving for the train.} : )

Goodbyes on the playground...



[The following week...First Days, Round Two!]:
DSC_0042 DSC_0035 Untitled DSC_0036 Untitled
Showing off some "ballet moves"...
Untitled Untitled Untitled DSC_0074 DSC_0075 DSC_0061 DSC_0058
DSC_0049 DSC_0047 Untitled
And they're off!

(Okay, one more for good measure, because there is little on Earth cuter than three year olds sitting in cubbies waiting for dismissal.)

*Update:  Okay, so I wrote this about two weeks ago and then ran into technical difficulties getting the pictures uploaded.  And now, Waylon's taken to crying at the drop-offs.  : (  (His teachers report that he recovers fairly quickly.)  Maybe the excitement of newness wore off?  Hopefully it's a passing phase.  Hang in there, Waylon.  You are "Special Person of the Day" tomorrow at school and everyday at home.