Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Art of Parenting

Fin's parent teacher conference was this week. And to say that I was nervous would be an understatement. The main purpose of this meeting was to determine kindergarten readiness and we've already decided to hold Fin back so I really had no concerns there. (FYI for all my east-coast peeps, the CA school cut-off is Dec 2 and since Fin's birthday is Dec 1 it would make him literally the youngest in his class.) Being the good husband and father that he is, Brooks assured me that I had nothing to worry about and everything would go just fine. But then it hit me that this was for me what a performance review at work would be for him.

Parenting is much like trying to paint a beautiful piece of art. Blindfolded. And often with one hand behind your back. Or holding a screaming baby. Or changing a toddlers diaper. And going to a conference like this, having your child evaluated by a professional who likely gets to see a very different version of your child, is like taking that blindfold off. A brief glimpse of your progress so far. And if you're lucky, you look at your painting and are pleased to see that shapes and colors appear on paper much like they did in your head. And for a moment, you think maybe, maybe you can do this parenting gig after all.

Man are we lucky.

Sure, I heard that Fin needs to work on his lowercase "e's" (man, lowercase e is TOUGH!). But I also heard that he is a good friend, a good student, and a joy to have in the classroom. And really, that's all any parent wants to hear. That their child is nice and lovable and a joy to have around. We can work on his e's :)

Also much like that painting, there will be surprises. Here was mine.

Fin's teacher was telling me how funny he is at snack time with his routine. It's a longstanding joke that Fin is the slowest eater on the planet and will often come home with the majority of his snack untouched. It was no surprise to hear that his routine begins with eating whatever little chocolate treat I put in his snack (a plane, a soccer ball or if I'm out of little surprise chocolates, a Hershey kiss). Then, before he moves on to whatever else he has, he pulls a picture out of his lunchbox to share. A picture? I ask, not knowing that he even HAD a picture in there. Oh, I was sure you knew, we thought you were replacing it regularly since it stayed so nice despite the handling. No, I had no idea. Yes, he gets out the picture and passes it around. Every day. And every day we expect the other children to tell him that they don't want to see it again and yet every day they get just as excited as the day before. And the photo is passed around and shared and they all laugh before moving on to finishing their snack.

What picture? This one. It went to school last year for share day. And I had no idea where it had gone. Until yesterday.

And I delight in my painting and it's surprises, happy to put the blindfold on and get back to work.

P.S. I didn't mention this to Fin. I felt like talking about it might just dampen the magic a bit. So pretend I never told you ;)

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Heart Faces * Texture Challenge

This week's challenge at I Heart Faces was texture use. I've never entered before, but I just happened to get this snap over the weekend and it's the first time I've used a texture in a loooong time. Kell was so snuggly while mama did the cleaning that he passed out. I had to look in the mirror to see why he was so quiet, then I had to grab my camera to capture it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dear Dog Owners

I know you love your dog. I get it. And I know you may think of your dog as your child. But really? Your dog is NOT a child. And there are some places that your dog should not go. In fact, there are places I don't take my children. I don't take my baby to the movies. In fact, I don't take my kids to any movie that starts after 8pm or is wildly inappropriate. And I don't take my kids to nice restaurants for dinner, even though they are extremely well behaved. I respect people without children and the fact that there are times and places where the presence of children might be seen as slightly undesirable or disruptive. Here's where it comes back to you dog owners.

There are some places that it's just plain rude to tote your pooch.

First, and largest, I don't want to see your dog in a grocery store or a restaurant. Yes you people with your dog at Whole Foods yesterday, I'm talking to you. When I buy groceries, I do NOT want to fight your dog over the potatoes. I wouldn't let my own dog near my foodstuffs (you know, if I had one). It's just unsanitary. And if you want to dine outside of a family style restaurant, then I have no beef with you. But inside? Never. And I don't care how nice or well behaved your dog is. I don't care if they stay in your purse the whole time. It's gross.

Now let's talk about transportation. I understand that your animals need to get places. They do in fact have car seats for dogs. Get one. Or put them in a kennel in the back. Yes, man with the dog in his lap who almost killed me last month, I'm talking to you. If cell phones are enough of a distraction to be illegal, then what the hell makes you think having a moving animal struggling to get to the window across your lap is a good idea? When traveling larger distance, I understand the need to take your small dog on board an airplane. Now if your dog has to be smashed and bent into the carrier, he's too big to be on the plane. That means if you have to open the carrier for your animal to breathe as soon as you get on the plane, he should not be in the main cabin. Now if you bought him his own seat, go for it and unload him. Also, if your dog is a nervous flyer, drug him. If it's good enough to do to people and children, it's good enough for your dog. Everyone will thank you for it.

Now let's talk clothing stores. Frequently, when perusing any cloth-like items on ebay or similar sites, the seller will specify "item comes from pet and smoke-free home". There's a reason for that. I don't smoke and I don't want my clothes to smell like smoke. And no one would dream these days of lighting up inside ANYWHERE in CA. So tell me why it's even in the realm of acceptability to take your dog in a store? And yes, you dog owners who take your pets to The Grove and allow them to prance through Anthropologie or Nordstrom, I'm talking to you. I understand it's a pretty area to walk around with your dog. But if you decide to bring him with you, then you forfeit the right to go into the shops. And please, don't tie your dog to an object outside the store either. Especially if your dog is less than friendly.

Really I love dogs, I do, but this had to be said...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Year In Review

Once upon a time I was a very good mother who wrote Finley notes every few months on what his life was like. Then Dash came along and I tried to do it a few times a year. Then Kell took up residence and, well, it's been a while. So, the harried mother is reduced to posting a whole year in review. I'd make keeping up a new years resolution, but that would be like swearing off In N Out. Not going to happen.

Dearest Finley, you've grown up so very much this year. When I look back at pictures of you at this time last year I can still see traces of the baby you were and now when I look at you, as I am right now (you're playing Little Big Planet with Daddy and doing GREAT), I see a small man-child. You are in the afternoon three-day program at school and you love it. On the rare occasion that I keep you home with me, you get very angry for having missed a day. You are also quite the surly child and generally too smart for your own good. When your father and I told you that bad boys get coal for Christmas, you asked what coal was. Daddy explained that it was dirty rocks. After careful consideration, you told us that if Santa brought you dirty rocks you would just clean them up and paint them pretty. Smart ass. This past summer you learned to swim. You were nervous about it at first, but by the end of your two week session, you were like a little frog. You swam around underwater so much that I'd have to ask you to stop being afraid that you were going to exhaust yourself. You also started playing organized sports, starting with TBall and Soccer. You were more interested in socializing than playing either, but you were also the youngest on your teams by a good amount. We're trying Football in a month so we'll see how that goes! You've learned to write your name this year and your penmanship improves daily. You signed all the Thank You notes for your birthday gifts and did a great job. You're also getting way too good at decoding the words I spell to your father. We're going to have to resort to speaking in french soon if we want to keep anything from you! One day a few months ago, you came to me and started talking about addition. Not sure how you picked it up, but once the concepts of addition and subtraction were explained you took them and RAN. Your ability to learn new things is just astounding. You continue to love anything Star Wars and have fallen deeply in love with all things Super Hero. You enjoy Hot Wheels too and have quite the car collection. You earn a dollar for doing various things to help Mom around the house and then you can either save them or use them to buy cars on our frequent trips to Target. You are your fathers son and will sit through nearly any movie and you seem to prefer live action adult movies to the animated variety. You went to see Star Trek and Twilight in the theater with Mommy this year and Daddy and Uncle Brandon took you to see Avatar in 3D - you wore the glasses and everything. You've proven yourself an excellent big brother and although you argue constantly, you are an excellent friend and playmate to Dash. You're great with Kell too, always making him laugh. You love to eat out with us and are quick to suggest Sabor or Sisley as your choice dining out spots, although I think Johnny Rockets might still be your favorite. You've learned how to get into and out of your own carseat, which makes Mommy's life MUCH easier since Kell's arrival has pushed you to the back of the car, and in a few months when we move Kell out of the bucket, you'll move up to a booster seat. Seems like yesterday it was you that I was hefting around in that bucket. How did you get so very big?

My Sweetest Dash, you've grown from a toddler to a little boy this year. Hard to imagine that this time last year you were just mastering walking. Now the space between you and Finley seems so small - and I don't think you realize that there is ANY as you fully believe you are the same size. When asked your age, you will readily tell them you're three. You don't believe me when I remind you that you're only two :) You're learning in leaps and bounds and can count reliably to 10 and at times to 15. You're working hard at learning how to sing your ABC's too. I just wish you'd apply some of your desire to learn and grow to using the potty. I even made you Gabba Gabba underwear and you wanted to wear them - OVER your diaper. You're barely two though so I'm sure by the time I write a note next year, I'll be praising you for your potty-using abilities. We made many trips to Six Flags this year and my goodness are you FEARLESS. You wanted to ride everything and when I told Fin to sit with you on the little roller coasters, you wanted no part of it preferring to do it "by yourself". We also had a bevy of parties at places like Sky City and Scooters Jungle and you were all about going down the largest slides and doing it all on your own. I was exhausted after just a few runs but you just kept going up and down and up and down. I got tired just watching you! You got to see your first big snowstorm this Christmas with Mommy while Finley and Daddy were in Nashville. You LOVED watching the snow fall and when we were able to go out and play, you couldn't wait to sit in it and throw snowballs and you had no fear of getting snow everywhere. At one point you actually laid down on your stomach and put your whole face in it. Daddy took a funny video of you eating it. You're such a funny kid! Speaking of eating, you're a bottomless pit and there's nothing you won't try. You love all fruits and have recently started loving juice too - a change from Fin who still only does milk or water. You moved into a room with Finley this year, sleeping on a trundle. We talked about a bunk bed, but Fin didn't want anything to do with top bunk and you were all over it. Which would have been ok I guess if you weren't already the most accident prone kid on the planet! I think you both love having a buddy and Daddy and I love hearing you chat when you wake up in the morning. You're working on dressing yourself. You've been putting your own shoes on for a while now and you're getting better with your shirt. We're a while off of pant mastery. Like Fin, you're fantastic with Kell and delight in making him laugh. We're working on keeping you gentle, which doesn't really seem to be in your vocabulary. You are still the sweetest child I've ever met - snuggling and hugging at every chance you get. Often I find myself wishing I could just hold you at this age forever. Between my desire to do that and yours to grow up in a blink, hopefully we'll cancel each other out.

Little Kell, it's so impossible for me to grasp that you weren't even around this time last year. Well, I guess you were, but not really. You joined us fast and furiously this August and you are proving to be quite the force in our household. You are certainly not the easy baby that Dash was, but I'm not totally convinced that you're as challenging as Fin was. You are loud and extremely demanding. I think if you could talk you would tell us that you prefer to be carried. All the time. You're not rolling yet but you are DESPERATE to sit up. Indeed you spend most of your day either sitting on someones lap or propped up close by. You just want to watch all of the action! You love watching your brothers and laughing at anything they do - especially if it's dancing. You are starting to beg for whatever Mommy is eating and I can't wait to be able to give you everything. You just started sleeping in your own room and although it makes Mom and Dad sad to miss you, I know it was time and that we all sleep better. Well, at least Mommy does since it's Daddy who gets up to soothe you when you wake.

Speaking of Daddy, this Christmas he surprised me with the most amazing camera. And while I treasure all of the jewelry he's gifted me with on Christmases past, I can't tell you how much this present - and of his constant encouragement - means to me. Daddy also started a new job this year. I'd like to say more about that, but it's complicated and confidential, so we'll just leave it with how proud we all are of him! We ended the year by celebrating 8 years of marriage. Seems like it was just yesterday that we met at a bar. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful partner in life!

Well, I must off to bed so that's all for now. Hopefully I won't wait another year to do this! I love you boys all so very much and feel so privileged to be your mom!