Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hodge Podge

There hasn't been much exciting stuff happening to blog about [cue crickets chirping]. Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been in a knitting frenzy trying to finish up my most recent project in time for the baby shower at which it will be given, and I'm finally done as of this morning. Cute, yes? It has a front zipper, which was sort of a challenge for me to put in, not being skilled in the sewing arts. The collar is a court-jester style, which is sort of fun. It's for my friend and neighbor, who is having her 3rd baby - a boy. She already has 2 girls, so this will be quite a change for their family. Next (as in this afternoon) I'll be starting a crocheted baby blanket for my youngest sister who is pregnant with her first child. Very exciting indeed. HER shower is near the end of July, so I need to get busy. I've made this particular blanket before, and I LOVE the finished product, but making it can be somewhat grueling. It's not difficult to make, but it's tedious and endless. It's the same two stitches repeated for an eternity, and that repetition gets to a person. No shaping, no color changes, no excitement. But it's beautiful when it's completed, so it's worth it.

On another random note (remember, this is the Hodge Podge post), I snuck a
way this past weekend to the Oregon coast for a girls weekend with some friends. The same friend I traveled to Palm Springs with last fall and her playgroup. My friends' in-laws own not only the place in Palm Springs, but a gorgeous place at the beach to boot. They live quite well. It was a fun getaway and I got to know some nice ladies over the course of the weekend. One of whom has many similarities to me (according to the others) and it was sort of tripping them out. Apparently many of our mannerisms, speech patterns, and overall personalities are very alike. Also, we have similar hair color and complexions. Our kids are the same age, and they are currently living in another town a few hours away for a few years, much like Mr. Chick and I did for law school. They'll hopefully be back in less than a year. Turns out she only lives a few miles from me. We even wore similar outfits (unplanned!) to dinner, which sort of sealed the deal on our long-lost twin status. One whole day of the weekend was spent doing various crafts. Scrapbooking, mostly. These ladies are master scrapbookers and the sheer volume of supplies they each brought was staggering. But the pages they created were beautiful. Not being much of a scrapbooker myself, I brought my knitting (naturally). I got to sit and knit for hours, chatting away and sipping cocktails the whole time. A perfect way to spend a day if you ask me.

The last day of the weekend, Mr. Chick and the kids came to pick me up instead of me driving back
home. His aunt and uncle happened to be visiting the Oregon coast so we met up with them for lunch. Here is what it is like at the Oregon Coast in spring: Note the lovely shade of gray. The mist. The general sense of dampness. The need for coats and hoods. THAT'S the Oregon coast (Cannon Beach - see Haystack Rock?) for 10 mos out of the year. Of course, the wetness didn't stop the kids from wanting to jump the waves and splash about in the freezing water. Which, naturally, got them soaked from head to toe. And sandy. And Mr. Chick was in charge of packing for the day. Which meant he brought their swimsuits. Like the kids would be prancing about on the beach in their swimsuits in 58 degree rainy weather. Uh-huh - NO. To his credit, he did remember a change of pants for each of them - not anything that matched their shirts, but a change nonetheless. But no towel. Nothing with which to actually dry them off and de-sand their feet, etc. Lunch was a tad uncomfortable, to say the least. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

Last random note of this post: I'm still being (mostly) diligent with my diet and I'm down nearly 8 lbs. I put on a pair of jeans I hadn't worn in awhile - for no particular reason - and I could tell they fit looser than before. So all my hard work is starting to pay off. If I stick to it I just might hit my goal of being down 15lbs by Nicholas' birthday, which is a month away. THAT would be a great way to usher in summer: 15lbs lighter and celebrating my sons' 6th birthday. I might not even feel guilty about having more than one piece of birthday cake!

Bike Riding Video!

Here is a short video (no sound, sorry) of Nicholas riding his bike for the first time. We've pretty much been out riding bikes everyday since this first fateful ride. Only one minor wipeout to date.... And yesterday, Nicholas was thrilled to be able to put his name license plate on the back of his bike so everyone knows it's his. That's a big deal. Tonight, we're going to attempt to ride bikes to his school for his baseball game. Does it get much better than that? Right now, the answer would be a Big Fat NO!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Remember childhood? Remember the joy and freedom that riding your bike all day in the summers gave you? Oh, the places you'll go! Sure, sure - there was the occasional wipe-out and scabby knees occasionally - like the time you tried you jump your heavy-ass purple bike with the white banana seat and tall neon-orange flag from the ramp the kid down the street built for his skateboard, but hey! that's all just part of the game and the fun.

Well, tonight my little Nicholas has entered that world: he rode a 2-wheeler bike all by himself without training wheels and without parental support (i.e. mom holding onto the back of the seat to hold him up and simultaneously running alongside, putting a terrible kink in her back). Tonight, he mastered it. And oh! what a moment!

He's been riding his Razor scooter for months. Balancing on those 2 tiny wheels and careening down hills like he was born to (and making me gasp, hold my breath, and shut my eyes in fear for him and what I was certain would result in an spectacular crash more than once. It's never happened.) So I knew riding a bike should be no big thang. Except it was. For some reason, the bike freaked him out the way the scooter never did. He was willing to straddle the bike and gently coast down along the sidewalk in front of our house, trying to pick up his feet. Only he'd never go fast enough to really balance. Except on the scooter, of course. So tonight I took the kids and the damn dog for a walk after dinner. Nicholas rode his scooter, Lauren and I walked. I was talking up the fun of being able to ride a bike and how cool it would be to be able to ride a bike this summer, yadda yadda, and once we got home he brought out the bike and decided to try it. Again. And he did the same old thing. Again. But this time, instead of me trying to run alongside, holding him up, I told him to put his feet on the pedals and get ready to push off. I held him in place, upright, and when he gave the signal, I pushed him as he pedaled. For some unknown reason, it worked this time. It clicked. He simply started riding the bike like it was no big deal. Except it was! He was riding! By himself! Pedaling and not falling! I was, frankly, stunned.

I started applauding and cheering and making a general spectacle of myself. I was so proud of him! He was pretty proud of himself, too. And so we spent the next hour geeking out and letting him practice riding. He practiced braking and turning. He practiced pushing off all by himself. And once he got started it all came quite naturally. I let him ride in the street so he wouldn't have to worry so much about trying to stay on the more narrow sidewalk. That worked well. By the end he was able to push off by himself, ride the 1/2 block to the stop sign, turn around without falling, and ride back to our driveway and stop using the brakes. I call that a huge success.

yay! My kid has his first set of wheels. Let the freedom begin! This is going to be a great summer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Change of Pace

Yes, my Mother's Day was lovely, thankyouverymuch. Truth be told, I'm not much of a fan of Mother's and Father's day, viewing them more as a "Hallmark Holiday" than anything else. Nicholas made me a darling watercolor at school and was "interviewed" by his teacher about his mother. I was the lucky recipient of his answers to such questions as, "What is a mom?" Answer: "Someone who takes care of you." Q: "What is your favorite thing your mom does for you?" Answer: "Take me to Dairy Queen!" Q: "What is one of your mom's favorite things to do?" Answer: "knit!" It was a cute snapshot of how he views his world. Pretty accurate, I'd say.

I asked for some time to workout on Mother's Day, and was of course granted such an indulgence (have I mentioned I'm down 7 lbs so far! Whee!). For a change, I decided to do something different. Cross-train, if you will. So rather than go to the YMCA, or go for a run through my neighborhood, I unearthed my Rollerblades. I haven't rollerbladed in YEARS, but for some reason it struck me as a good idea. And oh my god, it was a blast!

I've never been a solid rollerblader. My rollerblades are somewhat crappy and I've never mastered the contortions one must be able to do in order to apply the brake on the back of the right rollerblade. My blades are so old that you have to physically lift the toe of your foot off the ground rather than just slide it forward. But in lifting your toe you are now precariously balancing on one blade while trying to exert enough force with the other to slow you down. Without crashing. It's not pretty, people. Usually I end up just bailing into grass or something and performing the awkward 2-3 quick-steps to bring myself to a stop. Ungainly, but usually effective. But despite my lack of grace and finesse, I set out. Old rollerblades, wrist guards, and Walkman. That's right, I said Walkman. With a tape deck. It's old and bulky, but I use it every time I go on a walk or run from my house. I LIKE to listen to the radio when I workout. Mr. Chick has an iPod, but I don't. I like getting my music for free and not having to worry about creating my playlists, etc. I get bored with the same old music. And iPods don't have talk radio, and I listen to that as well (I know, I know - they have podcasts, but that takes effort to download the podcasts, etc. I'm too lazy. Back when I had a cellphone I would always forget to plug it in and recharge the battery, rendering it useless. See? Techno-lazy.) So I was really cutting a fine form with my bad self. Rockin' it early 90's like. God, I suck.

But! It was so fun! And totally made my hips and butt burn with the effort! I did my usual 3 mile course but was enjoying it so much I did a few extra laps around the block. I'm sure the young guy who lives around the corner from me and is always working on his jacked up monster trucks was wondering what in the hell I was doing rollerblading past his house 2 or 3 times. (dude! I was totally not cruising by your house to check you out! You thought so, though, I could tell.) I noticed more than a few people looking at me with either confusion or amusement as they passed me in their cars. So what! I was smiling. I was having fun and it felt great. The streets in my area are wide and smooth, and are mostly flat enough not to worry too much about an unexpected downhill causing me risk of bodily injury. I highly recommend you dig out YOUR rollerblades and give it a try again. You know you still have them - somewhere.

Now? Now I can strap on my Rollerblades and do that while Nicholas rides his Razor scooter! He's always going so much faster than I can keep up with when I'm just walking, so this will be perfect. Even if I have to push Lauren in the jogging stroller. Added resistance! Oh, but I am brilliant! I might have to take this on a test run this afternoon - we're headed for 80 degrees and sunny today. Perfect blading/scooting weather.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Location Location

We've been having a week of beautiful, sunny weather. It's glorious. I've been able to open up all the windows and air the house out. I was even motivated to clean out the garage, which was a horrible, horrible dusty deathtrap you could hardly pick your way through (Mr. Chick cut all the tiles for the kitchen floor in there but had yet to clean up all the dust.)

With the pretty weather we've made a few trips to the park in the afternoons so the kids can play and burn off some energy. Not to mention get some fresh air. Each time we go to the park (a short walk away) we inevitably run into someone from Nicholas' class. He's at the age where playing with a friend is something he'd like to do, so when we get the chance we enjoy it for all it's worth.

Our most recent foray to the park revealed no fewer than 6 (SIX!) kids from his class playing there. Plus a few random little sisters. One boy came with us, we met two others there intentionally, one showed up unexpectedly, and 3 more came when the mother of the kid who was with us arrived with his twin sister and the other set of identical twins in their class. She was carpooling and had them all. It was a kindergarten bonanza and the kids all happily played in the water and sand for hours together while the moms chatted.

And through the chatting I confirmed my suspicions that we picked the wrong place to live.

Not the community - we love it here (minus the crappy commute for Mr. Chick), but we live on the wrong side of the park. We live on the older, more established side of the park. Where the older families are. The majority of the kids in Nicholas' class live on the other side of the park. The new side. And they bounce from one house to the next with freedom and play together nearly everyday. Many live on the same street or just around the corner from each other. I'm told the neighborhood is thronged with kids, most of whom are K-2nd grade, running back and forth between their homes and playing with each other. The bus to that neighborhood is jam packed. The bus to ours? Meager. Just 4 kids. One of whom goes to his babysitters house after school and is therefore unable to play. The other child lives a non-walkable distance from us, and the 4th is a long street away and is too far away for Nicholas to walk by himself.

We are essentially an island. We have several options for babysitters on all sides of us, but lack in the playmate department. We wanted a bigger yard than the postage-sized lots of new construction. We didn't want to live in a fishbowl - super close to your neighbors with no privacy. Plus, the newer developments were simply outside of our price range. We probably have more square footage and a much bigger lot, but we don't have the type of environment I would like for my kids. I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. The were all around us. We'd go outside to play and before you knew it, other kids were joining in. We'd walk somewhere and run into friends. We knew where everyone lived. Now? Now my kids play by themselves when they go outside. We have a nearby neighbor with kids close in age to Nicholas and Lauren, but their oldest is a girl and she goes to a private school - all day. She's not around much during the week to play. There are some young kids next door, but no one for Nicholas and the two 4 yr old girls - whom I hope become friends for Lauren someday - are homeschooled and have each other. They don't seem to seek out other playmates (yet??). I hope that changes because I really like the family and they live right next door. There is a 1st grader across the street, but he goes to the after-school program because his mother works and therefore isn't around much to play. And that, dear friends, is it.

It will be several more years before I'm comfortable with Nicholas cutting through the park in order to go to a friends house after school. I do my best to arrange playdates for him (one is scheduled for today, in fact) and he can ride the "zebra bus" home with that friend after school and play for awhile, but the proximity to pals and friends is missing. To see a friend requires an effort, an arrangement in advance, rather than the ease of simply walking out your front door and instantly joining scads of your friends for impromptu playtime. We are so close to this nirvana of friends, and yet so far. A big park is all that separates the neighborhood (our backyard meets up with the backyards of the houses that face the park - the wooded end through which there is a cool, short walking trail to the ball fields. The newer development neighborhood begins on the far side of the park.) And yet, when you're in Kindergarten, it may as well be a different area code.

I feel bad for Nicholas. He hears about everyone playing together and he's not part of it. And he wants to play with everyone so desperately. Thankfully, he gets to see his buddies during t-ball (and let me take just a moment to brag about the fact that Nicholas has gotten hits off pitches for the last 2 games! No T required at all! Major, major progress.) and the occasional playdate. I know it will get better when he's older and can just hop on his bike and cut through the park to see a friend. Or maybe a nice family with young kids will move into the house 2 doors down that just went on the market. But today I'm wishing we'd bought a house in a different neighborhood. For my kids sake.

Do you live in an area overrun with kids, or are you an island?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Weekend Getaway

Mr. Chick and I escaped to the beautiful Oregon coast this weekend. Yay! My parents watched the kids for us. Mr. Chick had a work event and I was able to tag-along. While he was sitting in some boring meetings, I was on my own. For a WHOLE DAY. To myself! I went to the workout room at the resort and had a leisurely, but solid, workout. Then I gave myself a mini-pedicure and took a hot shower. I had brunch. In a restaurant! Alone! Just me and my book! It was heaven. I sipped my coffee, ate a delicious meal I did not have to cook or clean up from, and read my book in peace.

Then I took a nap. In the middle of the day! For no other reason than I could! Ahhh...!! Followed by a visit to the outlet mall. Where I found two cute t-shirts for summer on deep discount. It was like the gods were smiling on me. After the nice dinner that evening with the rest of his firm, Mr. Chick and I soaked a bit in the spa and then went back to our room to celebrate our anniversary.

Which isn't until the 9th, but we celebrated this weekend anyway. Might as well piggy-back the events. 9 years married. I love him more now than I did then. I didn't think that was possible. It is.

My time was my own.

My agenda was my own.

I enjoyed my solitude and time to myself. I don't get enough of that.

I enjoyed some alone time with Mr. Chick. I slept horribly, but felt rested anyway.

I wasn't quite ready to come. And today, with my house a mess, suitcases to unpack, and whiny kids, I wish I hadn't.

Getting a change of scenery can do wonders for a person. It did for me.

Hope your weekend was wonderful as well.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Had To Happen Eventually...

I didn't expect this to happen so soon. I knew it would happen eventually, but already? This took me by surprise and I'm frankly more than a little unsettled.

My kid beat me at checkers fair and square. He won't be 6 yrs old until the end of next month. I lost to a small kid.

Sure, he's beat me at games before. Games that involve zero (adult) brain power or strategy. Games like CandyLand. Or Bingo. But checkers? Checkers involves elements of strategy. And I didn't dump to him to protect his fragile ego. I played as I would play anyone. I was looking out for #1. AND I LOST TO A 5 YEAR OLD.

I feel pretty brilliant at the moment.

Know how he did it? He managed to pull off a triple jump of 3 of my 4 kings. I totally didn't see it coming. But he did. And he killed me. I was obliterated. The only good thing that came of that game? I modeled what being a good loser looks like. That's the ONLY silver lining. Because losing so spectacularly to my kindergartener? Wasn't supposed to happen. Not yet. At least not fair and square. Maybe if I let him win. But I didn't. He fully beat me.

Life will never be the same. I think I can keep up the illusion of being a smart mom for a few more years, but I have to face the fact that my kid is now officially smarter than me. Now it's all going to be smoke and mirrors to keep him in line vs. blinding him with my intellect. I wonder how long that will last? I always knew Nicholas was smart, but I wasn't prepared to be put in my place so blatantly this soon.

Good for you, Nicholas. You outwit me. Bad for me. I hope you don't realize my short-comings for many more years. I'm clearly going to have to raise my game. It's ON, buddy. Bring it!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Summer Schedules

Everywhere around me lately I'm hearing about people's plans for their kids during the summer. They are all seemingly in a frenzy getting their kids signed up for various things and planning out the whole summer. One of my friends is working it so that there is something "planned" pretty much EVERYDAY. A gymnastics class. A swimming lesson. A camp. SOMETHING. She wants her kids to have something to look forward to everyday.

I overheard another parent on the T-Ball team trying to arrange a playdate or two with another family for sometime during one of the two weeks not already completely scheduled. She was trying to arrange a date for the boys to play near the end of July, and it wasn't even May yet.

Has it always been like this? Is it me? I'd like a few fun activities for the kids this summer, too, and have looked at the day-camp schedule at the YMCA (since I get a discount - yay!), but am disheartened to see that the breakouts for camps don't overlap for my two kids. So that would mean that I could put Lauren into a mini-camp for 3 & 4 yr olds for two hours a day for a week's time, but it's from 10am - noon. The 1/2 day camps for kids Nicholas' age don't start until the afternoon. Which would mean that I'd be driving out there in the morning to drop Lauren off, get 2 hours to do SOMETHING with Nicholas before going back to pick up Lauren, then we'd have an hour (for lunch?) before Nicholas would have to be there for his camp. And then I'd have 4 hours with Lauren before having to be back there to pick up Nicholas. In other words: BIG FAT HASSLE I'M NOT SIGNING UP FOR. Lauren doesn't need that "activity" so badly to make the juggling act of accommodating it worth it. I still might sign Nicholas up for a few day camps throughout the summer, but I'm going to play it by ear.

And that, my friends, constitutes the extent of my summer planning so far.

I envision a summer of going to the various parks around us and playing, free of a time schedule. I envision taking a few days here and there and going to my parents lake cabin and swimming, hiking and boating on their new boat. We'll come home when we're ready, free of a schedule. I envision waking the kids up one morning and announcing something exciting we're doing THAT DAY, and I envision days where nothing in the slightest is planned and (gasp!) the kids will be bored. I'm an advocate of letting kids get bored, actually. I think boredom breeds creativity and invention, and helps kids foster the ability to entertain themselves. They might decide to ride their bikes and scooters all afternoon, or create a silly game in the backyard, or ask me to turn on the sprinkler because they're hot and want to cool off. I don't know, but I want plenty of it. Another thing I know: I don't want to spend the summer in a hot car shuttling my kids from one activity to another. Screw that.

Like I said above, there will be a few planned activities throughout the summer: perhaps a weekend or two of camping. A possible road trip to San Francisco for a long weekend. Maybe the annual whitewater rafting trip for just Mr. Chick and I with friends - no kids. A few week-long 1/2 day camps for Nicholas. But am I planning on scheduling out the entire summer in advance? HELL NO. I don't get that. Maybe if I was a working parent and NEEDED to have a plan in place for everyday in the summer that would be different. That I understand. But if you're NOT working? I guess not everyone is a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants kind of person. I'm in the middle - I like having a few things planned in advance to look forward to and have as "givens", but mostly I like summer to be open and free and slightly devil-may-care. Some of the most fun things happen when you least expect it. Get-togethers that come together spontaneously. Neighbors pulling off dinner in the street while all the kids run around playing. Going to the park and running into friends and playing all afternoon. Happy surprises.

I guess the bottom line is my summer schedule is no schedule at all. What are your plans?

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