Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Love Letter to the Library

Dear Library,

I love you. Thank you for letting me borrow books, and then return them! Most books I read these days are one-time books. I live through the stories once and don't feel the need to go back. Some books are awful and I am happy to forget all about them as soon as I drop them off (or they magically disappear from my Kindle). Many books are fun, but not particularly special, so I can enjoy them once and move on to other books. Some books are spectacularly amazing - I think about them fondly, but still have no desire to experience them again. And then there are a few books that I keep coming back to, in my thoughts, over and over. These are the books that I crave to re-read. These are the books I may, at some point, purchase. Because there is limited space in my house - and I already have too many books (most of which I don't look at) - I love you, library, for letting me read hundreds of books without becoming buried in piles them.

I love books... but books crave to be read. They go sad and stale, when sitting on the shelves for years, without being touched. So thank you, library, for this chance to read so much without the guilt of untouched books on my shelves.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Gentlemens and Ladybugs!

What our younger daughter can do (at three-and-a-half):

* Announce with pomp and circumstance: "Gentlemens and Ladybugs!"
* Ride a bike with training wheels... at least half a mile without complaining.
* Scream very loudly, pinch, and kick her siblings
* Drive bumper cars
* Dislike "scary" movies with bad guys (aka "Dennis the Menace")
* Take "Tom and Jerry" way too seriously (including thumb-in-mouth and worried facial expression)
* Fold things
* Recognize letters "C" and "O" reliably.
* Confuse "A" and "B"
* Show tremendous interest in identifying first letters in everyone's name
* Show tremendous interest in identifying printed letters (especially C and O).
* Identify numbers 1 and 2 (possibly others, we haven't gotten that far).
* Count really well to 10 and with some hilarious mistakes beyond 20.
* Sing
* Improvise words to songs
* Pretend-read books to herself
* Color and hold the marker the proper way.
* Scribble, very excitedly, and look for letters in the scribbles.
* Give excellent hugs and kisses
* Be gentle with the cat when others are watching
* Bite the cat, pull on her fur and tail when no one is watching
* Eat most things with enthusiasm and gravitas.
* Make everyone laugh.
* Blow bubbles
* Swing on the swings - all by herself!
* Jump into the pool
* Swim a little
* Do crazy underwater flips.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thinking About Fall

So it is August. Time to purchase  all the back-to-school crap. Time to figure out who will be doing what this fall.

My son is super-enthusiastic about everything. Do you want to do soccer this fall? Sure! Swimming? Yes, he loves swimming. Pottery? Art? Theater? Robotics? I know that pretty much anything I mention, he'll be thrilled to try it. Which means, I have to limit the options and make him choose. Swimming or Soccer? Gymnastics or Basketball? My personal goal, for the time being, 2 activities per kids per season. One of those activities should be music (violin for my son, piano for my older daughter). The other activity should be something active (sports... dance... ). There will be occasional art clubs, chess clubs, or game clubs on top of that.

The youngest child, who is 3.5, has already asked me (numerous times) if I've signed her up for gymnastics.

Not yet. But I will.
 I am not ready to start her with any music lessons yet (she says she wants to do violin!), so I think she'll just do gymnastics for the time being.

Lucky for me, when my older daughter heard that her little sister wants to do gymnastics, she was quick to jump on that wagon. I am so glad I can have 2 kids doing the same thing (I found gymnastics classes that have different age groups at the same day/time). Just to be sure, I asked her if she would rather do swimming, but she chose gymnastics and said she would do swimming in the winter. I also asked her if she wanted to do soccer - she thought for a moment and then answered, in a very grown-up way "No, not this year."

I might have to think about other sports that she might enjoy that take advantage of the warm outdoor weather in September/October. Still,

There are a number of things I still want to do this summer:
* Take big kids to Franklin Institute (science museum) - there is an optical illusion exhibit there that looks really neat.
* Go on a family bike ride
* Go to one more outdoor concert (this is the last week!)
* Go to one more "dining under the stars" but just get desserts this time.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Of Swimming, Biking, and Catching Things

We spent a week in Ocean City, NJ with my husband's family (his parents and sister with husband and 2 kids). I worked 3 days from a library and then spent evenings with the kids going for bike rides or going to the beach. I had a mini-vacation for the remainder of the week. I love having this kind of flexibility.

We went to the beach every single day. I have to spell this out here - I am not a big fan of beach vacations. I am not a big fan of the beach. Before kids, I was never lying on the beach with a book (I tried... it just never worked for me). I would go into the water, suck in a ridiculous amount of ocean, then go for a walk, then leave. With kids - it's been constant vigilance. This was the first time I felt I could sit back and just watch the 2 older kids play in the water and sand (and they did play in the shallow water and sand for extended periods of time). The youngest, who is 3.5 still required constant parental vigilance (and hand-holding).

Digging for sand crabs was awesome. Unexpectedly awesome. I never thought I would enjoy it this much. Watching kids catch sand crabs was cute, sure, but there was this strange, grim satisfaction ("gotch ya!") when I would put my fingers into the sand and feel around for something hard, then drag it out and the thing would be trying to escape (futile!) by burrowing into my hand. It was so relaxing (not for the poor creature, sure) and addictive!

Then we stumbled across a tide pool with a ton of hermit crabs. I didn't like catching them as much, but it sure was entertaining watching them marching on the bottom of the sea, or fighting with each other inside a bucket full of sand and water that the kids used as a temporary holding cell for them.

Oh, and the tiny clams, moving around in my hand - mini massage! Felt so good.

We have released all the critters we caught.

Every day, there was something new at the beach...  the kids couldn't get enough. It has gotten easier, compared to the previous years... big kids can rinse off all by themselves in the shower. They can even rinse off their little sister (if she lets them). There are no diapers involved. They are bigger and stronger, so there is less wining.

Oh, oh, before I forget - this was the first year the big kids went on the "big" rides - the roller coaster. My daughter loved it. My son said it was terrifying.

Over and out.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Parents are Coming!

My parents are buying a house that's a 15 minute drive from where we live. It has been a long journey and it's not over yet. They plan to put their house on the market in a few days. They are stressed out, scared, and perhaps a little excited. They will be here at the end of August for settlement. The house they are getting will need some work: they are going to add a walk-in shower and install the washer/dryer on the main level. The walls need paint and the floors - refinishing. So they will need to hire a contractor to do the work. They also need to figure out the moving stuff - the costs, the companies, loading/unloading the grand piano.

This is going to be an adjustment for everyone. Adjustment of expectations and relationships. It's been a long time since I've lived near my mother. I predict some friction and hurt feelings on all sides.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Old Friends, New Times

We went to visit my old best friend from college. She is in foreign service and most of the time they live in some far-off country (she's done Taiwan, China, and Kazakhstan). She is now in the US for a couple of years and although I haven't seen her as much as I would like (considering she lives only two hours away), this is the second Memorial Day Weekend we spent together. Last year, they came to stay with us. This year we went to see them and stayed with them overnight.

She is truly an amazing person, a brilliant mind, and my college years were very much shaped by our friendship. I don't feel the same closeness to her as I did back when we were 18. Back then, she was like a sister I never had. Now... things have shifted. Our lives are very different. Some of our attitudes are very different - those differences were invisible during college years, but they are glaringly obvious now. Some of the differences are forced - her life abroad has shaped her, my life in the US has shaped me differently. She doesn't have the nurturing and extremely supportive if a bit too-intense parents that I have. Her father passed away just a few weeks before we started college. Her mom has always seemed a bit on the immature side and has required my friend to grow up and take care of her, instead of the other way around. Her younger child has autism. She is the main bread winner in her family.

Other differences go even deeper. My friend is a lot more ambitious than I am, she is more competitive, more hard-working... also smarter. She is more anxious about children. I see my kids as being pretty tough and assume that most bruises and scratches they acquire are minor and don't require medical attention, whereas my friend really worries about kids hurting themselves. When my daughter dropped a kid chair on her foot, my friend got extremely worried and asked if I thought C's toe was broken.  That possibility hasn't even occurred to me (and after crying for a couple of minutes my daughter ran off to play with the other kids). When showing us around her house, she mentioned she didn't let her kids take a bath in a big bathtub (a beautiful fancy tub in front of a floor-to-ceiling window) - because it's too cold this time of year. At first, I misunderstood, thinking that the water in the tub would be too cold (maybe they run short of hot water). No, it was the air temperature she was worried about and kids getting sick. I mean, I can see her point - there might be a draft from the window, but  I find this hard to understand, especially because they keep their house super-warm and all their windows closed (we perceive it as stifling because we are used to our indoor temperature being at least 15 degrees cooler). I think the extra-warm house comes from her husband who seems to really like hot climates, and he is the one who insists kids wear extra sweaters. But... someone with her education and her brilliant mind - you do not get a cold from being in a somewhat cool room (which would be around 70 degrees instead of 75, in this case). I can understand protecting your kids from being too cold... but I also believe that everything should be in moderation. Including over-dressing kids and raising them in a greenhouse-like environment.

My friend and her husband do an amazing job with their kids. Their son has achieved tremendous progress in just a year - he knows a ton of words and even though he doesn't speak in sentences, he can communicate his needs. He can read/recognize words. He is an excellent climber. He is a happy, cute little kid. He sings songs. The older girl is polite, imaginative, and kind. She is in Kindergarten and is doing great, both socially and with her schoolwork. That said - there are such significant differences in how we approach parenting, including (from our perspective) overdressing kids and having non-stop screen time. I think that's just how they deal with their situation - their daughter watching movies and YouTube videos, so they can get stuff done around the house and work with their son. I believe they make the best of things and make their life work, and keep their sanity, and one also has to consider the intensity of my friend's job (12-hour days are not at all unusual).

So... my point is... different ways of parenting, different ways of doing things - staying with my friend for a couple of days really underlined our differences. What makes me so, so happy - they have a wonderful family, and we have a wonderful family even though our methods are diametrically opposite. And if I will ever again wonder "are we doing this parenting thing right?" the answer is "there is no wrong and right here... figure out what works at this particular phase and go with it. It will be OK." Also, there will always be someone who will think that your way of doing things is ridiculous. Just ignore them.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Of Stress, Mess, and Not Much Else

This week has been absolutely mad. I was working on a job-related paper every single night. The girls have not been sleeping well. I've been doing the absolute minimum with the family. Forget quality time and relaxed conversations. It's been a rush of getting ready, fixing suppers, packing lunches, cleaning dishes, hurrying out the door, working until midnight, reading until midnight.

I have a tendency to procrastinate that escalates horribly when I have a project that is uninteresting. This paper I was writing - 100% uninteresting. It got done, eventually - but the price is sleep deprivation, neglected kids, 3 fun books that I read instead of working (because anything, anything is more fun than that), messy house, and grumpy husband. Because when I get stressed out (due to procrastination and that awful paper over my head), I tend to withdraw from life, people, and have a strong aversion to any conversations or cuddles. Especially cuddles - I'd much rather have a fight. Now it's turned in and I am working on a project that's even worse. A nightmare project. If I didn't just get a raise (and a nice salary increase! so exciting to be making more money!) I would be tempted to think about quitting.

The school  year is wrapping up... kids are counting days until  the summer break. My mother is coming to stay with us for 2 weeks, and then it will be summer camp for the rest of summer.

My parents are still looking for a house... last week's offer didn't work out. Someone outbid them. They made an offer on a different house this week, but that's not working out, either. The seller is not willing to come down in price and my parents aren't willing to pay more than what they think is house worth (I agree with my parents, that house is overpriced).

Our strawberries are coming in. The wilds ones would be delicious if the kids were patient and would actually let them ripen. Instead, they taste almost bitter... but the kids have a blast picking them. Ah well, they'll figure it out. The Mulberry tree is forgotten for now - and I hope that those berries will have a chance to turn black and sweet before our kids descend on them (actually, I should say, raise their heads, take notice, and pick the tree clean). Peas have flowers. Blackberries have flowers. Backyard is awesome. House - not so much... needs to be organized (go-through-stuff-and-throw-everything-out).

Out for now.