Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Year, Another Kindergartner

Scrolling back through the posts I've written this summer, it's painfully obvious just how busy we were. I try not to write much when there's nothing much going on, but that was rarely the case. This is perhaps the first year both kids will really remember the summer...based on how old they are. I hope they remember it fondly and not as a mishmash of dizzying, but fun experiences.

School started so early this year. It wasn't even late August yet. But then, something had to curb my need for overscheduling, I guess. And I was so excited to see Mam off to kindergarten, with the expectations that she'd be very, very happy there and I'd be happy to have the kids in the same place.

Before the big Wednesday first day of school, Mam had a lemonade social at the kindergarten where she got together with her future classmates and got to meet her new teacher. After all that posing at Disney World, Mam was happy as a clam to pose with her latest princess. Looks familiar, doesn't it?This one, she gets to keep visiting for the rest of the year. And she'll only have to compete for attention with 19 other kids rather than a whole theme park full.

The teachers took all the kids in the classroom to read a story and left the parents out on the playground. Since we were a couple of minutes late, Mam wasn't sure what to make of that, but I got away with escorting her halfway into the classroom...just enough that she could see that she knew other kids in there...and then quickly making my way back out.

Tuesday, I took the kids to my hairdresser for haircuts. Smunch's hair had been cropped so short during the summer, that I just had her tidy it up so it would grow out nicely. Mam, on the other hand, said emphatically that she wanted her hair cropped up to HERE! (with her hand up above her ear). I refused, but she had it cut as short as I was willing to go. I really prefer the long hair, but not the long hair-combing battles, so she gets her way.

Wednesday finally came and I had the kids dressed 'just so' and ready for their first day. Cute clothes, new backpacks, new lunch bags, combed hair, brushed teeth. Mam was excited. Smunch seemed happy, but very slightly apprehensive.The whole family took the short walk to the kindergarten yard, where Mam immediately ran off to play with her friends, including her Sarah who is in her class for the first time this year. After a few minutes, the bell rang and Mam flew past me, "Bye, Mommy!" she waved as she joined the line.So very, very different from her brother. She trotted happily off into the classroom with barely a glance behind her.

We wandered over to the "big kid playground" where Smunch quickly found his line and stood in it, still looking slightly anxious.But it all went away when he met his nice, new teacher. She's quite fabulous, I hear. My interactions with her to date would certainly suggest that's true. Very, very nice with a great reputation.I'm happy about his teacher and about the kids (and parents!) in his class. It's shaping up to be a really good year and in the end, he seemed happy to be off to second grade.Second grade. That used to sound so very old!

And I went off to the Welcome Back Coffee to overvolunteer myself for yet another year. I avoided becoming anyone's room mom, but signed up to help the room mom in both classrooms. I'll be in Mam's room weekly to help out and may be taking both classes to the library from time to time. I'm looking forward to it.

What I didn't realize is that while everything is new and different for the kids, it's really kind of new and different for me too. The volunteering hasn't really kicked into gear yet, so I'm feeling a little adrift in a big sea of parents and kids. All the same friends are still there, but we're all doing different things with different routines than we had last year. I'm hoping that as soon as things firm up a little and I'm getting into the classroom again, I'll feel like I've got a "place" there. Until then, at least my blog is up to date.

It's now Monday and the fourth day of school for both kids. To my great relief, they seem to be getting happier and happier with school. They're both happy to go and happy to stay. I don't know how it could be going better. This is the first year it's actually been easy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lazy Days at the Lake

Well, it's nice to think it could have been lazy days at the lake, but with three kids under the age of 8, lazy is hard to come by.

I had promised myself that I wouldn't try to leave town more than twice this summer. In fact, I even combined our camping trip with our San Diego trip for that express purpose. In the end, of course, it served more to leave time to schedule something else entirely.

After the nostalgia I experienced during our winter trip to Lake Tahoe, I felt the urge to see if I could get my family together for an even more nostalgic summer trip. After all, we didn't spend a lot of time there in the winter when I was a kid. And look, it worked! We even had a big family breakfast at the Old Post Office Cafe.Of course, this added trip was largely squished in there right before the start of school. Aunt Karen and SPENCER! were visiting and my parents joined us too. It took a little doing to find a cabin that we could rent for just three nights, would fit all of us (sort of), had wireless internet (for Daddy) and took dogs (for my parents, who ultimately decided to leave the dog at home.) But I found this little place, in just the neighborhood we were hoping for.It's in the same neighborhood we used to stay in. If you rent the right cabin, you get access to the neighborhood pool and the private pier. This cabin had it all. Turns out it also had a broken internet connection and at least one resident mouse, but I digress.

We arrived just before dinnertime on Thursday, so we had that evening and two full days to spend by the lake, Karen and I trying to relive our childhood, the kids excited by all the possibilities for getting in trouble and my parents just trying to put up with it all. I think Daddy found it relaxing.After a relatively long walk to breakfast on Friday morning, we lazed around the cabin for a little while, then made ourselves a picnic lunch to take to Sugar Pine Point State Park. It was a lovely spot with a historic mansion, a pier, beaches, forest and picnic areas. We never quite made it on the hike we'd intended to take since the rocky beach took up an awful lot of time, but everyone had fun and it was a lovely day. The kids got pretty wet trying to keep their balance while wading in the slippery rocks. We managed to take a short hike out to the "lighthouse", which turned out to be more of a "light beacon" than a lighthouse. I should have taken a picture, just so you could appreciate how unimpressive it was! Still, there were some beautiful views of the lake along the way.The kids and grandpa all jumped in the hot tub out on the deck when we got back to the cabin. All in all, the hot tub was probably one of the most recommendable parts about the cabin, which had sleeping space for 10 people, but not nearly enough living space. And Aunt Karen should probably be recommended for sainthood for being willing to sleep in the loft with the three kids.

On Saturday, we tried to fit in everything we hadn't managed to do on Friday. That meant that, after a brief, but exciting, bear sighting in the street, we had a quick breakfast and zoomed out to the pier to teach the kids how to catch crayfish. Another beautiful day, but it was breezy and kind of cold. Even though we had no intention of going in the water, we wore our swim suits because our next planned stop was a beach north of there.The kids were thrilled by the idea they could catch crayfish just by lowering bacon on a string into the water. They spent a lot of time doing that, with Cassie probably being the most enthralled, as our resident animal lover.The three kids caught 25 crayfish in all. Not a bad catch for a first time. Not being big fans of steamed crayfish, we threw them all back at the end. But before that, see this?This is my family (including me) fishing off the pier. See anything wrong with this? Well, no, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with this. Now, a friend of mine recently wrote a blog post espousing the lameness of swim lessons. I was inclined to agree. It seems like neither of my kids have made much progress. But this little incident changed my mind.

You'll notice that everyone's leaning over the side. It's not because anyone's down there. No one is. We're all just scouring the bottom, looking for crayfish. But if you lean too far over, it turns out you fall off. And the water's cold. One particular Smunch discovered that for himself...falling from that height where we're standing, right into the water. And he could swim well enough to get to a pillar and hold on until Daddy jumped in and got him. I, being ever so concerned and helpful, just yelled "Don't forget to get his shoes!" (His Crocs were floating away). According to Daddy, that suggestion was met with "I don't care about my shoes. I care about my life!"

Smunch was rather proud of himself for getting to go swimming in the lake, but said he wouldn't be getting in again at the beach. You can see how well that worked out.We actually missed the beach we'd intended to stop at and ended up at a beach we'd wanted to go to but had decided it was too far away. Oh well. It was lovely and sandy. And how often do you find yourself sitting on a sandy beach with forest and a giant granite mountain behind you?It turned out to be pretty hot sitting on the beach, but too cold for many of us in the water. Daddy went for a little swim, but I wasn't so tempted. The kids waded and dug in the sand. We had a picnic and headed back. We went to the community pool...which was also cold...and got the kids ice cream, while they shivered. Getting ice cream at the snack bar was another childhood favorite of mine and Aunt Karen's. I doubt we were ever quite so cold while we ate it though. All the more reason to jump in the hot tub when we got back!

And that was it. The trip was short and sweet. It was really much too short. It would have been great to have a whole week up there to unwind and let the kids run around the cabin while we all drank margaritas on the deck. Instead, we battled traffic to get back on Sunday...the Sunday before the Wednesday when school started. Aunt Karen and SPENCER! stayed until Tuesday...and then it was another bittersweet goodbye. Good thing we'll be seeing them again at Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Baseball Why?

I know. You were probably thinking you'd seen the last of my baseball posts for the year, what with Smunch's baseball camp and a visit to the Tampa Bay Rays. But much like a baseball game, Smunch's love of the sport is kinda endless and his enthusiasm is evidenced in this video.I got interested in baseball back in high school. If you give a little thought to why a teenage girl would suddenly develop an interest in baseball, the answer will come to you...quickly, probably. It starts with, there was this guy who liked baseball... And then there were a couple of other guys who liked baseball later in high school and in college. Although I'd largely stopped paying attention to The Game by the time I went to grad school, I still managed to impress one of my Boston University classmates on a school-sponsored trip to Fenway with my general baseball knowledge. But after grad school, I met and married a man who was decidedly NOT a sports fan. No problem. I'd mostly forgotten about baseball anyhow.

But a few years later, a new guy came into my life. And now that he's seven, every one of my blog readers knows that this boy lives and breathes baseball. (Oddly, he's currently out in the backyard spraying plants with water instead of in here watching video replays, but I digress.) And I admit that his unbridled enthusiasm has reignited my own. Funny thing is, Daddy? He's become something of a baseball fan too. Maybe it's just a defensive mechanism. A version of "If you can't beat them..."

We've gradually become a "baseball family". That's something I never thought I'd say in a million years. It never even crossed my mind.But no sooner had we returned from Florida than we were buying tickets to see the Giants play the Reds at AT&T park on Sunday afternoon.

It was Mam's first experience of AT&T Park...which I can say with a little authority, is a beautiful place, as ballparks go...although I have it on good authority that PETCO park, home of the Padres, is also very nice.

We thought it would be nice to have Smunch present her with a little inaugural Giants ballpark gift. And so he did. And it was adorable.On the whole, it's been a bear to have Smunch home this summer. He and Mam fought constantly when they were together. There were enough interesting things to keep them otherwise engaged while we were traveling, but being at home with no camp during the week was really painful. So, it was great to see Smunch being nice to his sister and to see his sister being appreciative and excited about her gift. Yes. It's pink. Of course it is.These days, I look at the sports page first when I pick up the paper in the morning...that is if Smunch hasn't beaten me to it. I'm obsessed with statistics and standings and game scores. I realize, of course, that I have a problem. I don't care. It's not interfering with my duties as a mother. (Yeah, I dropped a note in Smunch's lunchbox today when I picked Mam up at school and yeah, it contained the score of a game being played this morning. What's your point?)

My point is this. If you ever find something that consistently makes your child look like this:Something that makes them want to be nice to their sibling(s), something that not only makes bad behavior evaporate instantly, but can successfully be used as a bribe, or a threat, depending on the situation.

Then run. Run with that as fast and far as you can. Because there is nothing in the world like watching my son watch baseball. He's thrilled, he's riveted,he's cooperative and he doesn't even want to go to the bathroom (oh, wait, that's a minus). But this kid is never happier than when he's at a ballpark. If this enthusiasm for The Game doesn't last, I sure hope it's replaced by something just as awesome.Yeah. Gotta go check some box scores now. Catch you later!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dregs of Summer, Dregs of Camp

I don't mean to imply that this week's camps weren't as good as other weeks...only that it was the last week of camps for the summer. Having spent much of the weekend doing laundry from the Florida trip and with the cold I contracted from Smunch coming on strong, I was more than happy to truck the kids off to camp for another week, even though I've vowed not to sign them up for so much next year.

This week, Mam was a Princess Camp. Yes. Princess Camp. What she needed that for after a trip to Disney World, I really don't know. And you might rightly wonder, just what does one do in Princess Camp anyway? Well, I wasn't there, but this much I know. You get your fingernails painted. You get to have someone paint a butterfly on your face.You get to make crowns and hats and color pictures. You meet Jasmine ("But she was just a person dressed up.") You get to listen to princessy music and learn a sashaying, curtsying kind of dance.
You get to do that for just two hours a day. Oh, and I forgot the part about making a castle out of marshmallows. Making it in such a way that you really, really want to eat it, but it's covered in glitter glue and your mom keeps telling you not to.

You might glean that I wasn't a big fan of princess camp. Since it was billed as camp for 3-5-year-olds, it was awfully, awfully cute, but I wasn't particularly impressed with anything they did and not at all impressed with how little time Mam got to spend away from me. Fortunately, she knew four other girls in the class. She had a grand time and it was just on the other side of a Starbucks from where I was dropping Smunch off, so that made it a little more worthwhile.

Smunch, in keeping with his sports camp theme, went to soccer camp this week.Much like baseball camp, it was really hard to tell how much he liked it. He looked good out there and I thought he coach was a nice, really personable guy. And I know that Smunch improved because, check this out:He's going after the ball. He's actually fighting for it instead of letting the other players do that while he runs back to defend the goal. Don't me wrong, he's still a very defensive little Smunch and his aim could use some improvement,but I liked what I saw him doing at the end of the day each day.

Like baseball camp, this one also had a sort of "camper of the day" award, but they called it the MVP award. Smunch was awarded the MVP for his work on Wednesday. I'm way more proud of those little awards than I am of his athletic performance. He's engaged, he's listening and people like him. I love that.

Unlike baseball camp, this camp had a bunch of little extracurricular things the kids could do to earn their team points. There were four teams and on the last day, I learned that Smunch was a member of the Astros. He didn't manage to communicate much about the activities he was supposed to do to earn least not until it came to crazy hair day. And as luck would have it, Daddy and I were out the night before crazy hair day, so I picked up a few things to make it more fun.It was a lot of fun and the Astros won the competition of points...earning them a gold bracelet (really nothing more special than the other kids got, but they made it sound like it was, so it was).

And here was another great success: This is Smunch, having raised his hand and been called on. And he's not hesitating in the least to give an answer. Too bad he seemed to hesitate so much about asking to go to the bathroom. Nothing quite like loading your kid in the car, just to be overpowered by the smell of pee!

Mam took our extra time at the soccer field in stride. She proved to be a power monkey bar maneuverer and was thrilled with any opportunity to play on the playground at the school where the camp was held. Kindergarten can't come too soon.Lastly, I think Smunch has a real future in the film industry. I know I'm his mom and all, but wouldn't this kid be perfect for some Twilight sequel down the road?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Florida Epilogue

So, we're back. Now the cold Smunch picked up in Florida has arrived home with us. With all of us. It's August and we're all sniffly and coughing. Then again, it's August and it's been rainy all day. Perhaps it's all sort of fitting. Better to be a little under the weather at a time like this than in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity.

Our trip from St. Petersburg to Tampa International was eventless. Well...I shouldn't say that. There was a small event in there.First one we'd stopped at since we'd been in Florida..and ostensibly, we only stopped to pick up a paper with a story about the game from the night before. But Daddy thought the coffee at the hotel was vile, so...

And here's the beautiful town of St. Pete on our way out. It really is quite lovely. See all the busy people milling around? Yeah. Me neither. Lovely, but terminally strange as cities go.We made it to the airport with time to spare and although we were told that we'd be late arriving in Dallas, we were early and had to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes while another plane left from our intended gate. Then we found out our connecting flight was also delayed. We had plenty of time for a decent airport lunch. Turns out, we nearly had time for dinner too. Our flight was delayed two and a half hours and we'd gotten in two hours before it was supposed to leave, so we spent almost 5 hours at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. Did you know they have Starbucks there? (I digress).

The kids were bored, but all things considered, the waiting wasn't all that bad. Daddy declared DFW a "very nice shopping mall".

We arrived home mid-evening, to all of our relief. Our luggage made it and we called my parents, who were sitting in the cell phone lot, to say we were ready for pickup. They'd driven the mommymobile to be sure everything fit. Only one problem. The battery of said mommymobile had died while they were sitting there. We sat on the curb with our mountain of luggage while they got it jump started.

Smunch had turned into a pint-sized smoking crater by that point, incapable of speaking in a normal voice or putting two words together. Hungry. Tired. Grouchy. Just like me, but hopefully, I hid it better.Mam, in her regular Mammish way, was fine. Cute. Friendly. Happy to be home.We'd planned to go out to dinner, but it's Saturday night in Silicon Valley and Chili's has a half hour wait, another nearby favorite closed at's now 8:05 (or 11:05 in Tampa). We opted to call ahead for pizza at our favorite place. I love them. When I placed the order, they already knew who it was for. Good to be home.

Our cats had missed us so much that they wouldn't leave us alone. And they needed to let us know what they thought about how well our housesitter had cleaned out their litter box. Litter box. Open suitcase full of clothes. Hmmm... Those slightly damp, disgusting clothes clearly don't smell nearly bad enough. They fixed that.

Welcome back to our real life.

Florida Grand Finale

I don't know how much it dawned on Smunch that this "family" vacation was designed largely around him. Disney World was about both kids, but we would never have gone there if it wasn't for the Friends convention. I certainly don't think Smunch appreciated our taking time to focus on him and his needs, not until the very last day of our vacation, at least.

On our last day, we said our fond farewells to the folks at Longboat Key and headed north to St. Petersburg. Why? Well because we had a not-so-fancy room booked at the Hampton Inn & Suites there. Why? It's not because St. Pete is a hip and happenin' kind of town. In fact, it was one of the most bizarre cities I think I've ever been to.

There were so few people out and about that Daddy joked it would be a great city in which to film a zombie flick. The people who were out on Friday night in St. Pete's, however, all seemed to have one thing in common. They were all there for the same reason we were...only they advertised it more boldly than we did. They were obviously natives who'd had time to buy the appropriate apparel.

I thought a series of photos would probably describe our night in St. Petersburg better than I could ever do. Starting with our drive in...

And at that moment, I imagine he knew. It was all about him.