Thursday, April 30, 2009

experiments in doing nothing...

After driving around like a complete maniac week after week after frigging week, last quarter I made the decision to cancel all extra-curricular activities for my kids that would involve me and at least one of them to spend more than an hour carpooling a day.

Which left us piano lessons because the teacher comes to our house.

Tali gladly gave up gymnastics, even though I thought it was the perfect sport for her. But because she was always so lukewarm about going, I figured that not being allowed to go would either illicit a negative reaction or none at all. She went with the latter.

Naomi gave up gymnastics, too, but in her case it's a little unfair because she never really understood that she was giving it up. She asks about it sometimes and I just tell her that there isn't any gymnastics today. I figure that pretty soon she'll stop asking.

And Samuel had to give up baseball this year, which was probably the biggest sacrifice. Except that although every March he swears he loves baseball and is just begging to to play, but April Fool's Day he's ready to quit. And since this sport requires 2-3 practices a week, I chose this year to not have to talk him into going to practice.

So the outcome so far is that this is heaven.
The kids come home from school and play. Samuel does his homework, the girls like to pretend to do homework and bedtime is infinitely easier when we haven't rushed around all evening to get everything finished. I'm saving hundreds of dollars in extracurricular activity fees and we're getting totally relaxing evenings to spend together. The kids play together, they practice piano (when we beg and then force them to), and they go through reams of paper creating their own cartoons and paper dolls. And when the afternoons are dry, they play games outside in the yard or on the swings and then come inside sweaty and dirty and happy.

But when everyone around us is participating in about two billion activities a week, it's hard to not wonder if I'm holding my kids back from something. What if Talia could be the next Nadia? What if this is going to be the year that Sam develops his obsession with soccer? And Naomi wants nothing more than to be the next Angelina Ballerina...

And I find myself wondering if I'm holding them back just because I cannot stand the afternoons in the car shuttling across town and back again.

So today it all ended.

I signed up the girls for summer ballet lessons. I signed up the bigs for Fall soccer, and I'm signing them all up for swimming lessons in June. And this summer we'll also have the craziness of summer camps and schedules changing weekly.

But I think this semester off thing was good and I'm going to make it an annual tradition. I feel totally refreshed (well, at least as far as carpooling goes) and even though I thought the kids would complain about not participating in some of the activities their friends were doing, they actually never did.

Not even once.

Which is sad when you consider how much these activities cost (and what you could've bought instead). And it makes you wonder how much of what your kids are doing is for you or for them. And it is certainly telling when you think about how much they're missing when they lose the opportunity to choose their own activities.

Tonight Naomi put on her ballet outfit to practice for her upcoming lessons in June. And Sam and Tali are truly excited about soccer. And having had a break from it all, I can see that they're ready to dive back in. But I think by the time next Spring rolls around, they'll also be ready to take a break again, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the adventures of pickle the bulldog, volume 1...

Since despite my urging, Sam has not yet learned to type his own homework assignments and I spent some time with him over the weekend typing this out for him (while he read over my shoulder guffawing over any typo I made), I figured I may as well make this count as a blog post even though it does look like a blatant copycat move of Princess M's post. Except that Sam really did write this (hee hee!). You can tell, because mature adult writers don't write personification essays about dogs who like to eat poop. Oh wait, I edited that out before he turned it in.


The Adventures of Pickle the Bulldog
by Sam A.

Ok, so I’m crawling down the street minding my own business when a person comes up with this thing they call a net and he puts me inside it! The guy puts me in this thing they call a car. I sat in the backseat. The man strapped me up with this thing called a seat belt. Then the guy pressed a button and the car ran somewhere, but its feet were round.

I wanted to work the car, too, so I pulled a switch on the door, but instead the back door swung open. My ears fluffed back. I said, “I love this creature.”

The man said, “Well, woof woof to you, too.”

Then we went to this thing they call the pet shop. I was put in this thing called a cage. It had no bars, so I decided to run out. Instead, I smashed into this invisible wall! The door suddenly opened and a person came in. He took better care of me than the Net Man. His name was Leo.
Leo is a nice person, but his little sister is trouble. She puts bows on my head and always plays this thing they call dress-up with me.

Before I talk about bad stuff, let’s talk about good stuff. My favorite thing they have in the house is this thing called a toilet. It has a switch and if you pull it, it makes a sound like FLLUUUSSSHH! And if you haven’t noticed, I love switches. It’s also the best water bowl because it’s bigger than the one they keep in the kitchen for me.

They also have this thing called a bathtub that is nice to sleep in. Once Leo’s sister turned on the water while I was in it and it sprayed me in the face!

Leo’s sister is rude. She does not let me eat my food and says it’s not good to eat too much cereal, Doggy. That’s what they call me—Doggy. Once she played a trick on me. She put a pickle in her pocket and I tried to eat the pickle because I really like pickles. But instead I bit her and now they call me Pickle.

Today a new family came to the house next to ours. Their last name is Morrison. And now, for the best part, they have a cat.

The next day I went to their house while Leo and his sister were at school. I went to the cat door and went in halfway. There was the cat eating tuna. But my waist was too big so I was stuck.
The cat saw me, and I said, “Howdy!”

The cat said, “The name’s Tuna Breath.”I couldn’t help it. I went bursting into laughter. “Ya wanna piece of me?” said the cat.

“I’ll have a piece of that tuna,” I said.

“Get lost!” said Tuna Breath. He yelled so loud I got noticed by a neighbor, who called Animal Control.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in a fright. I must have been hit by a tranquilizer. But I realized something: this was the same petshop I had been brought to before I met Leo. I remembered someone, a parrot named CooCoo. I looked at CooCoo and said, “Hey, CooCoo! Can you break th e glass?”

“I’ll try,” said CooCoo. He came up, pecked the glass and boom! I let out all of the pets from their cages and ran out the door.

It was noon. Leo and his sister were on their way home from school. I had been looking for home for three days. I finally had an answer for Tuna Breath. I was lost. I walked four miles until I saw someone familiar. It was Tuna Breath, the cat who started all this trouble and he was in my yard, digging in my hole. I walked up to him to say “Woof-Woof”, but Tuna Breath fell straight into the hole. I walked past the hole to my doggy door and entered my home. He wouldn’t be getting out for awhile.

Monday, April 27, 2009

seattle votes to change school start times to 9:40...

Seattle recently voted to change the start times for some of its public elementary schools to 9:40 am in order to save on transportation costs by staggering bus schedules in order to reduce their fleet by 49 buses.

While this move will save approximately $2.2 million per year, which would be a significant help to Seattle Public Schools' $25 million budget gap for the 2009-2010 school year, I can't help but wonder who this change is really working for.

Considering the economic climate these days, I'm thinking that many two income families will find it difficult to ask their employers to accomodate a 10am start time in order to be able to get their kids to school. And many families will find it financially taxing to add on a before-school daycare cost.

Plus, numerous studies have shown that children at the elementary school age level perform better earlier in the mornings. And if we're truly working to create the most favorable learning environments for our kids, why is this not being taken into consideration?

I know that my kids don't attend the Seattle Public School system for elementary school yet (though they will for middle school), but I have to say that the learning conditions are not looking optimal. And while I'm lucky enough to have a choice as to where I send my kids to school, it seems criminal to not give our public schools the best possible foundation for learning.

If you'd like to sign a petition against this late start time, let me know by end of day Tuesday and I'll send your name on to my friend Sara who is organizing this petition. You'll need to add your school affiliation so you must be a Seattle parent. If your child doesn't attend Seattle Public Schools now, but you're considering sending them in the future, you can add your school affiliation as "Future Parent."


Oh, and as a side note, all the sand we used instead of salt on the snow and ice during this past winter's failed storm strategy has clogged up one of Seattle's larger sewer plants. But um, I guess this wasn't totally unexpected.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

on being an actual person... escape from seattle!

It's amazing what three days on your own will do for a person...

On Sunday at 4:30 am, I left my dark house, 40 degree weather, and climbed into a taxi for Palm Springs to meet up with some girlfriends and enjoy some sun and relaxation. Under normal circumstances, there are very few activities that would warrant a 4am wake-up call. However, with two nights and three days of pure freedom, I wanted to make the most of my vacation and booked the first flight out. I'm not sure I've ever been so alert that early in my life.

At airport security, where I was sent back and forth through the screening multiple times until my very thorough security officer finally dug through my suitcase and while commenting on how many cosmetics I'd brought on my carry-on luggage, he looks at me and says sarcastically, "Have you even been on an airplane since 9/11?"

But even though he asks another security guard to keep an eye on me while he tests my 3+oz. bottle of saline solution (I know those dark bags under my eyes and maybe my very large stature makes me seem like a serious threat at 5:30 in the morning), I knew that heat and sun were just ahead.

And seriously, when I got off that plane and was hit with a burst of fresh heat and sun, I unwittingly let out a huge sigh of relief and before I could even be embarrassed, the two guys behind me did the very same thing. Yes, folks... This was some serious Vitamin D.

The house was right on the PGA West golf course and I met my four friends there where we pretty much spent the next three days slathered with sunscreen while laying out in the sun, talking, swimming, reading totally trashy magazines (Wow, Valerie Bertinelli is really looking great these days!), and drinking cocktails. Oh, and there was also way too much ABBA, Beyonce, and Black Eyed Peas going on, as well. And some dancing. And did I mention the cocktails? Oh, and did I also mention that it was 60 degrees warmer there? Though I think every single one of those degrees was necessary to dry up my cold and moldy Seattle insides.

We went shopping at 5pm and ate dinner at 10pm and our only concern was finding a place that was open (which was actually surprisingly difficult).

But besides drying out in the heat and hanging out with good friends, it was amazing to just get away from my life and to look at it from the outside for a few days. On the way down I started reading Mary Gaitskill's new book of short stories, Don't Cry. She's a writer I truly loved in graduate school, mostly for her raw honesty. And I don't think I've read her short stories since.

Before I left Samuel said to me, "How come you have to go so far away to be with your friends? Why can't you just have lunch or dinner with them and then come home?" And so I spent a few hours of guilt over this thinking, why am I so anxious to get so far away?

But there was something about being alone on a plane and reading her new stories that made me realize once again how easy it is to get so sucked into your own life that you forget what your core is really made of. And I was able to go back to my old self--pre family and job and mortgage--and get lost in thinking about stories I might write or concepts that were only just interesting to think about but had no purpose in my life other than just being what they were.

And then I realized, once I had a few hours to myself, that I needed pretty much at least twelve hours completely free of scheduling and planning and worrying about kids, family and responsibilities to actually feel relaxed and myself again. It's good to miss your life a little and to be able to come home refreshed and happy and excited about taking on new projects.

Congratulations to Ellen, winner of the BabyLegs raffle! And I used a very um, random, random number generator from the appropriately URLed, so it's all kosher and honest pickings and stuff.

Friday, April 17, 2009

interview #2 with samuel

Me: You're on Spring Break. What are your goals for this vacation?

Sam: To find those lost Wii games and waste time until I go to Max's house.

Me: Weren't you going to learn how to type so that you can type your own papers?

Sam: I'll learn how to type later.

Me: Before your next paper?

Sam: Maybe not...

Me: What is your favorite thing to do outside?

Sam: Swordfights

Me: What do you think is the perfect age?

Sam: Eighteen or twenty.

Me: Why those ages?

Sam: Because I get to make my own choices then.

Me: Will they be so different than the choice your parents make for you? What will decide to do?
Sam: Heck, yeah! I'll get a cell phone and get to text people and I'll get to take longer showers and I'll get to drink coffee...

Me: Hmmm, anything else?

Sam: I'd have parties.

Me: What kind of parties?

Sam: Just parties.

Me: What would you do at the parties?

Sam: I'd order ten pizzas and have some fast food and that's pretty much all.

Me: Would you invite friends?

Sam: Yeah, you can't have a party without your friends.

Me: What are you going to do right now?

Sam: Going back to watch tv. Though, hey, can I have my own email account?

Me: Seriously? Who would you email?

Sam: I don't know... My friends. And Ben. And Jacob has one.

Me: Maybe you should learn how to type first. I don't think you have time for TV--you need to learn how to type.

Sam: Maybe you're right... Can I use your computer?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

no BlogHer09 in real life for me...

Okay, so Princess M and I were fully intending to go to BlogHer09 in Real Life in July. I'd already cleared it with B and pretty much told everyone I knew that I'd be going and I was seriously psyched about it (yeah, I still say "psyched..." so what?). And then a few days ago I went to register and get my act together about buying my pass, reserving a room, and booking a flight because it was now only three months away, only to find that the conference has sold out. Yup. I'm too late so I guess what they say about good intentions is pretty much true.

BlogHer has some contests to try to win a pass and I may try, but really, I don't have too many good money saving tips (but I'm happy to accept any you might have) and the recipe contests are not really up my alley, either, considering some of my previous attempts at dinner creativity have not really gone down all that well.

So unless I get really lucky and I'm the only one entering the recipe contest, I may have to put off attending my first BlogHer conference for another year. But you can bet I'll be one of the first in line once they start selling tix!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BabyLegs for your baby...

I just got Naomi a pair of of BabyLegs leg warmers to wear with her dresses this spring. I'd noticed them before and thought they were really cute and it turns out that they're not only really cute, but very useful, too. She wore them out to play today and they were cool enough for the warmer weather and warm enough to keep her leggies warm and since they're not full pants, they were perfect for her to take herself to the potty on her own! (gotta love that...)

They have super cute and funky designs and I especially love the pink and silver star patterns.

And the good news for you is that they sent me a pair from their spring line to send out to you to try!

Just comment and let me know you're interested and I'll randomly choose one of the comments. And, because I don't usually get that many comments (really, you guys should comment more!), you all have a very good chance!

yummy naomi giggles...

wordless wednesday...

Monday, April 13, 2009

we're. crumbling... banish the maccaroons!

Pesach, Day 5:
We're on to our seventh box of matzah and things are sort of crumbling in our household. To say the least...

Nobody should eat so much matzah. And the butter... Oh lord, the butter. Enough already!

And the matzah roca... Who the hell thought that cruel one up? I love it, I hate it, I love it, I hate it... Help. Me.

Eggs were our saving grace, but this morning, the girls passed on their scrambles and went back to their old standby: matzah and butter. Even Samuel stopped at three eggs and that's saying a lot.

There is nothing anybody wants for dinner except for bread. And lots of it. Bring on the carbs!!! Fluffy french bread and some pasta and maybe some tortilla chips and salsa...

To get our minds off things, I took the kids to a movie this afternoon and stuffed baggies of kosher for pesach marshmallows and maccaroons in my purse. They each had their own water bottles and tried not to look at the snackbar as we walked in, but when the theatre darkened and the curtains opened, and I pulled out the maccaroons, the kids shook their heads dejectedly, but Naomi took one look at them and screamed "NOOOOOOO!!! POPCORN!!!"

Five minutes later, she was happily munching on marshmallows and I made a mental note to never ever bring out the maccaroons again.

So what's for dinner tonight? Meatloaf again unless someone can quick send me a good Pesach recipe. HELP!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

spring has officially sprung seattle style...

Three different people randomly, and in situations completely unrelated to each other, mentioned to me over the last week how lucky they felt lately when they looked at their lives and by the third mention, while I was glad people were feeling good, I also started to wonder what was up.

Things have been hectic lately, as really they always are. Getting ready for Pesach was a pain the way it always is, the kids were home from school on the longest spring break ever as we were getting ready for Pesach, and somehow I am STILL getting over this cold and am still coughing (is there such a thing as Walking TB?).

Our first two seders were really nice, though, and it was wonderful, as always to get together with family and friends. The kids were engaged in ways that they've never been before. Samuel led his siblings, cousins, and friends in a skit he wrote about the story of Passover and the kids worked for days on masks they created for Chad Gadya. And Naomi even managed to hang in there through her mortal fear that someone actually would come through the door when we opened it for Elijah. Granted, we had to um, lie to her and tell her that nobody actually opened the door, but she did stop screaming.

And somehow Spring got it together to show up and it was sunny and warm and even... hot. Just for a second, though, and then we were back to warm. But that was okay.

But the holiday was also exhausting and I've been finding myself crawling into bed soon after the kids are tucked into theirs.

And then on Friday night, after the girls got to sleep and Boaz, Samuel, and I got in our bed with our books (our usual Friday night routine), I found myself thinking, "How did I get so lucky?"

We'd had the nicest Shabbat dinner with just the five of us. We all sat and ate and talked through dinner and nobody fought or kicked each other under the table, or melted down. And even though my vegetarian daughters are practically starving during this Pesach because they refuse to eat anything besides matzah and butter, they managed to munch happily and not complain about their dinners.

Afterwards, we all helped clean up, we read a couple chapters of Little House in the Big Woods from the very same book my sister gave me for my eight birthday (Tali has to read the inscription each time we open it) and exhausted, they girls went to bed without getting up two billion times to pee, get another drink of water, or make sure we're not doing anything too fun without them.

But lying there in bed, reading with my family, I realized how lucky I was to be doing something I love to do with people I love, celebrating meaningful holidays together and really, it wasn't much of an accident that those other people in my life were commenting on how lucky they felt themselves. There's something to be said about a season of life reemerging after the winter and appreciating your lot. There's a lot to be said about stopping to appreciate your family and friends and the perspective between big and little things that fill our lives. And really, there's a lot to be said for simply stopping the everyday grind and taking on a new routine for a holiday break.

Of course, the next day it started rained and it hasn't stopped since and now we're all totally waterlogged, half asleep from lack of sun, and back to wearing our coats and boots again. But I have to say that the spirit of the holiday is still hanging on strong (could be that matzah...). Everyone just seems to be in a bit of a lighter mood.

And even Naomi said that next year she'd be ready for Elijah. Or maybe the next year after that. Or after that...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

interview with tali...

Me: What's your name?

Tali: Tali

Me: How come you like being called Tali and not Talia?

Tali: Because it's better than Talia. It's spunkier.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tali: A cool girl.

Me: It's hard to earn a living being a cool girl. What do you want your job to be?

Tali: A vet. I want to help animals. And I want a puppy.

Me: What is your favorite thing to do?

Tali: Play with my brother.

Me: What do you like to do together?

Tali: He'll play Barbies sometimes to be nice, but he doesn't like it. And stuffies.

Me: Is Samuel nice to you?

Tali: Yeah... Mostly.

Me: How old are you?

Tali: 6

Me: Do you feel 6?

Tali: No, I feel 5.

Me: Why don't you feel 6?

Tali: Because I just don't feel 6 yet. I'll feel 6 later on in the year.

Me: What are you most proud of about yourself?

Tali: That I have a mommy and daddy and best friends. That's it... I gotta go.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

top 10 ways you know you're not a kid anymore...

10. You repeatedly hear your parents' voices coming out of your mouth (HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!)

9. You watch HSM 3 with your kids and you find yourself obsessing over that fact that Troy seriously needs a haircut. Really, isn't it sort of a Trump-esque combover?

8. You watch HSM 3 with your kids and think that Troy's dad is actually the cute guy in the movie.

7. You watch HSM3 with your kids and when you try to dance with them, your two year old laughs and says, "No, Mama! Not like that!"

6. You're even watching HSM3 at all...

5. The words "wild" and "Spring break" still go together, but now mean something completely different.

4. "True Religion" reminds you of the band, not the jeans.

3. You can't wear the current retro styles because you already wore them in junior high school.

2. When you send your friends text messages, their phones either cannot accept them or they politely tell you that each message you send costs them 50 cents.

1. You make lists about getting old...

unca dan likes sily nis...

wordless wednesday