Saturday, June 12, 2010

6/12/2010 Triple Play

One activity per kid today! No wonder I never felt like getting anything else done.

First, Gabriel's (resumed) skating lessons. We missed 4 straight weeks, 3 due to compressor problems at the ice rink, and 1 due to ... well, Mom needing to decompress when Dad was out of town and there were two other T-ball events the same day and the other 2 kids to deal with. I just couldn't do it last week.

I didn't even see Gabriel's lesson; I dropped him off, ran an errand, and missed the whole thing. Just as well: it was hot today, and who wants to hang around an ice rink in shorts?

Later Gabriel told me it was the worst lesson he'd had; apparently he'd had a bad fall, hurt his knee and couldn't skate for about 5 minutes. Typical Gabriel, this was little more than a passing comment.

Immediately after skating, we zoomed to closing ceremonies for Little League. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I get very choked up at these things. All the pomp and circumstance...I'm a total sucker for it. I guess it's just the great sense of belonging that gets me.

As with the opening ceremonies, after introductions and high-fives with the older teams, the T-ball teams sat in the infield. I noticed that there were more T-ball teams (8) than in any other division (Farm, Pioneer, Minor and Major). No wonder they want to encourage the T-ball so much. It's really is the future of the league.

Julian's team, together for the last time.

So proud of my boy, even though his own enthusiasm for the whole thing is fairly reserved. I get the sense he still doesn't know what to make of it.

But I really loved being a part of this, and wish so much I could have actually contributed. I suppose it's more important to contribute to the school, if I had time to give at all, but my interest and desire is far stronger for "extra" things like this. Even though I was never involved in team sports myself (high school gymnastics isn't the same thing, they're still all individual performances) -- or perhaps because of that. The whole team/community thing just didn't exist in my upbringing, and it barely exists here in upscale overworked Silicon Valley. It makes me want to move to a small town where your neighbors are also your classmates, teammates and best friends.

Back at the "ranch" in Sunnyvale, it was time for -- of all things -- yardwork! The landscapers are days away from being done, and we were disappointed they weren't done on Friday. Just a few little things left to do, then allll their equipment can go away, the port-a-potty can be removed, and we can do a final cleanup and call the place our own again.

But Mother Nature has no respect for such formalities, and the grass grows regardless. Today Dave mowed our new lawns for the first time, and the kids all helped rake.

In the end, we have some very neat and manicured's almost weird. What?! Shouldn't I be elated, after all we've been through?! Our place is like a park now! But....I'm not a neat and manicured person. I like sort of wild, scrubby and just slightly out-of-control, like this wonderful Native garden we saw in April.

No lawn or tanbark there!

It's funny, I was raised with lawn and the idea that it's the gold standard for yards is hard to uproot. But more and more I see it as out-of-place, unnatural, almost ostentatious -- even as my eye continues to be drawn to it.

At 3:30 this afternoon, I finally decided that we could try 5:00pm Saturday swim lessons for Katrina. I don't think we'll do this for long, just until August, but she keeps asking for swim lessons (without really knowing what that means). After her recent near-drownings, she needs to learn some basic water mobility, and not from me.

So she's in "novice" lessons at our same old nearby swimschool, twice a week through July. The school warned me that brand-new "novices" often cry and if so, the teacher will ask parents to leave the pool deck. They were very surprised to hear me say "sure, at the first sign of a whimper, I'm outta there!" Katrina of all kids will do far, far better in any sort of lesson when Dave or I aren't around to take a stance against and exercise her twisted sense of principle.

She was very excited about the lesson, dressed immediately in her "two-pee" (two-piece), and eagerly went through getting ready. And she did great, even when I was in sight. No crying, even though she was clearly uncomfortable and taken aback by all this, but she went along with it, cooperated, and even appeared to enjoy the playtime.

A stunning difference between her and her one classmate though: he jumped boldly and happily into the water, clearing at least 3 feet first. She doesn't even know how to jump into the water. His mother told me he's 4-1/2 and that he's had lessons before, and both of those facts show. Still, Katrina's non-athleticism also really shows -- but I must emphasize that my saying this doesn't mean it bothers me at all. That's just the way she is.

In many ways, she's just like me: I'm not a natural in many things I eventually got decent at. Most kids intuitively know how not to drown in chest-deep water; Katrina needs to learn it, and that's fine. (Ironically one of the few things that was natural to me was swimming, but I was older.)

While athletics don't come to her easily, other things do. Much of her interest in spelling and basic arithmetic is stimulated by her brothers -- she always has other kids to answer questions and to get her started -- but it's clear she's interested. Her idea of fun computer time is spelling out "7 + 1 = 8" and other problems she's memorized (it's clear from quizzing her she doesn't actually do the math yet, but the foundation is building).

I predict that Katrina's biggest obstacles will be confidence and resisting things on principle. She often won't answer a question about how to sound something out, or what time it is on a digital clock, instead insisting someone else do it for her, even though we know she can do it. And for things like swimming, she is hesitant and reserved at first. And many things she resists just for the heck of it.

Overall, boys don't face such steep emotional barriers, the world is a simpler place for them. I struggle too with confidence, selling myself short, and having to know something to a much greater depth than my male peers before claiming expertise. I sure wish I had the first idea in how to guide my daughter. Or not.

It should be another beautiful day in a beautiful place tomorrow, with so many wonderful things to do around here, but frankly, I just want to stay at home.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

6/10/2010 Last Day of School!!

It's hard to call the last day of school "school" when all the 2nd grade does is have a big water-balloon fight. Kindergarten had a "poetry reading" though, which I just couldn't miss. I still haven't gotten over the guilt of being late to Gabriel's last-day-of-kindergarten open house, so I sure as heck wasn't going to miss Julian's poetry reading.

And the cuteness was all you'd expect from 5- and 6-year olds reciting nursery rhymes, though of course this is strictly parent and grandparent grade video.

Then kindergarten "graduation" certificates were handed out.

As of today, my first-grader!!

There was no pomp and circumstance at all for 2nd grade ending. Parents huddled behind the famous "blue line" waiting for class dismissal as usual, but I did stop by Gabriel's classroom to apologetically thank Gabriel's teachers again. We've had an ongoing and intensifying dialogue with them about Gabriel's behavior, concluding with a conference just a few weeks ago asking if we really were looking at a problem for 3rd grade. The teacher felt long-term he'll be fine, but he needs a very very structured teacher to deal with his famously discipline-resistant personality.

The teacher we've not dealt with as much, who's had the most trouble, seemed relieved it was over and thanked us again for our support. No gushing about what a delight he was to have in class, like from Julian's teacher!

Later I took the boys to get some new playground balls. They're so into "2-square" that the one ball they've had has become a major point of contention, and the outside soccer part completely disintegrated and fell off. Gabriel's hands and wrists are constantly black with dirt, and bloody and scraped up from knocking the rapidly deteriorating ball. These will be much kinder to his skin.

We have a longstanding theme around here of Gabriel green, Julian blue.

Katrina got a red one too.

I feel like a major page has turned in my life, even though really, it hasn't. They're the ones who finished school after all. Still, summer can truly begin for us all now, yay!


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

6/8/2010 Election Day

We don't have a polling place for primary elections this year, but we can walk half a block to a church to drop off our mail-in ballots.

Gabriel had a lot of questions about what an election is and what we were voting about, so I tried to demonstrate the concept of voting with ice cream.

"Who votes for chocolate?" (Gabriel and Katrina raise their hands)
"Who votes for vanilla?" (no hands)
"Who votes for strawberry?" (Julian raises his hand)

Chocolate 2, vanilla 0, strawberry 1. "Chocolate wins!"

Of course, propositions about public funding of elections is much harder to describe in kid-speak, but they did like the idea of being able to vote down vanilla. With Gabriel, I explained it a little better: "You know how you pay sales tax when you buy a toy? One thing you might vote for is if you'd pay more of that tax in order to build more train tracks."

It was a fun short walk, but someday I hope they put it together that Mom and Dad always (well, usually always) voted.

Gabriel carried my ballot and put it in the ballot box too. Our discussion about it was pretty trivial this time, but we're laying the groundwork.


Monday, June 07, 2010

6/7/2009 Landscape languishing

It's tough wrapping up the last bits of this project; the landscaper has new jobs and nothing we have left to do is any fun anymore.

Still, we have to let the kids out there -- it is our yard still! One way or another, they'll find a place to dig. I think the way Katrina stakes her space and surrounds herself and digs in is absolutely adorable. She'll also play like this on her own for hours, with no intervention at all (except for me to remove a pestering brother or two).

We don't exactly have an area designated for digging, but it's sort of pointless too. Anything diggable will be dug anyway.

Dave and I are going to have to be on the landscapers every day this week -- finish UP! You might not be done, but we are!


Sunday, June 06, 2010

6/6/2010 The book

This doesn't happen often, but a friend had sent email to a small group suggesting a last-minute informal playdate this weekend. I wasn't sure we'd pull it off, but I called her today and we alllll went over there. She's a single mom with one son, so it was very gracious of her to let us descend!

The kids all needed the change of scenery, though I was frustrated the boys were mostly interested in their host's great selection of electronic and battery-powered toys. Katrina had a great time with sidewalk chalk though.

On the drive home, the kids asked about our sidewalk chalk. "Where is it?" Not wanting to reveal the location of one of my few trump cards, nor have them rummaging around, I said, "In a closet." "Where's the closet?" they asked. I put them off: "In a room."

This led to a conversation much like this, with each successive question making the boys laugh harder and harder.

"Where's the room?"
"In the house."
"Where's the house?"
"On the street."
"Where's the street?"
"In the neighborhood."
"Where's the neighborhood?"
"In the city."
"Where's the city?"
"In the county."
"Where's the county?"
"In the state."
"Where's the state?"
(by now they were nearly incoherent with laughter)
"In the country."
"Where's the country?"
"On the continent."
"Where's the continent?"
"In the hemisphere."
"Where's the hemisphere?"
"On the planet!"
"Where's the planet?"
"In the solar system."
"Where's the solar system?"
(at this point my astronomy fails me)
"In the galaxy."
"Where's the galaxy?"
"In the universe!"
"Where's the universe?"
", space!"
"Where's space?"

As this conversation was progressing it occurred to me that this could be a very cute children's book, properly illustrated. Maybe the initial object being sought is a ball, and in the end, the universe is inside the ball or something.

I can picture the illustrations so well in my head, with a child peering from one location into the vastness of the next. But pictures in my head are forever held prisoner, isolated on a mental island with no bridge to my hand. There simply is no way for the clear, elaborate, distinct images in my head to find their way to paper, my brain just doesn't work that way. (My brain can have wild ideas like collaborating with an illustrator though.)

This sort of story has been written many times, if not this exact one though. I can't imagine how children's book writers can write without kids around though -- this was a natural organic conversation that sprung up out of nowhere, and was spurred on by their laughter.

Well, perhaps I best leave my first children's book to remain in this blog post.