Sunday, March 31, 2013

thoughts on children and parenting

I liked Frank Bruni's op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, less for its opinions on parental discipline and consistency (it's always easier to criticize others for their spinelessness than to actually exhibit it yourself on such a constant and wearying basis) than for its final paragraphs on the essential power of nature and personality. Bruni writes:
But from my vantage point, watching the kids of my three siblings and of my many peers grow up, I’m struck less by the genius or folly of diverse child-rearing techniques than by the way most of the children matured into who they seemed, from the get-go, destined to be. 
And while they were indeed coaxed toward better or worse etiquette and cleaner or sloppier rooms, they weren’t, generally speaking, transformed. At age 8 they were essentially larger, more articulate versions of who they’d been at age 4, and at age 13 they were larger and more articulate versions still, with iPhones affixed to their palms. What had always been wonderful about them remained so. What was difficult did, too. 

This suggests to me that there’s something more consequential than Kumon or Montessori, a Ritalin prescription or rugby practice, attachment parenting or minimalist parenting, Alba’s doctrine or Paltrow’s dictums. Nature gets its say. Always has and always will. 

So parents: cut yourselves some slack. Take a deep breath. No one false step or one missed call is going to consign your children to an entirely different future. Make sure that they know they’re loved. Make sure that they know their place. And make peace with the fact that you don’t hold all or even most of the cards. There may be a frustrating sense of helplessness in that realization. But there’s a mercy, too.

I feel this to be so true when watching my own children. They are so different from each other, and from me and Steve in significant ways, and they are so clearly who they are, and always have been. Before I became a parent I thought I would have more control, or more power, and increasingly I have come to realize that I have very little say - I can direct, or nudge, possibly, but no more. I like Bruni's conclusion that this should be a source of peace to anxious parents, including myself.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

the good and bad bunnies Fufu

Liesl has taken to designating one of her Bunny Fufu lovies as the good Fufu, the baby, and carrying it around everywhere, and the second one as the bad Fufu, the big sister, who is mean to the baby and thus constantly needs a timeout.  (Yes, she has two identical lovies, because we are obviously terrible at hiding the second - emergency - one.)  The naughty one was first banished to the foot of the crib, but as of last night was thrown out of the crib altogether, forced to sleep in the closet.  Since her Fufus are identical, I have no idea how she is distinguishing them, but she is extremely clear about it.*

So we have the good baby and the bad big sister. :)  Art imitating life?

*Update: Tonight, we couldn't find good baby Fufu, so I picked up bad big sister Fufu from the floor of the closet and brought it to Liesl in the semi-darkness and told her it would be fine. "Can I see it?" she said, and so I turned on the light. "No," she said, "this is the bad sister." And then she sobbed while the other three of us ran around the house, up and down the stairs, opening boxes and peering under beds and couches, in a mad search for good baby Fufu. I still have no idea how she tells them apart - something in the nose? The eyes? I can't for the life of me see it. Sigh. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Seb rode his bike around the track at the school today - no training wheels, no hand on the seat from mama, nothing. All by himself. :)  He has finally put the pieces together - balance, steering, braking - and it's totally awesome.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Trip to Sacramento

In honor of my brother's 40th birthday, my parents and I rented a minivan, packed up the kids and lots of supplies, and drove the nine hours down to Sacramento to celebrate together. Carl and I last celebrated birthdays together when he was turning 17 (and I was 14). We came down in one marathon day on Thursday and have had a fabulous long weekend together.

We took the children to Southside playground on Friday morning, biked to Old Sac and the train museum on Saturday, walked around Effie Yeaw nature preserve on Sunday, and played at Art Beast today. We also ate a ton of good food - I am totally overstuffed. We ate new American at a hip little place downtown, enjoyed the sultan's feast (and a bellydancer) at a Moroccan restaurant called Casablanca, chowed on ramen for lunch one day and Mexican food on another, and had shrimp in lobster sauce and salmon at home. Also, two chocolate cakes and chocolate ice cream. :)

Sebastian and Danica have been inseparable.  It's magical, and always has been between them. They play so happily together, for days, cooperating and taking turns leading the play. Roxy and Liesl have finally started to pay attention to each other and play together a bit, mostly in defense against the exclusionary tactics of the older children. It's been a good visit. We leave tomorrow morning and will  stop overnight in Ashland, halfway home.

As always, far too many photos were taken, and Carl even made a video.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

math games

There's a lot of multiplication going on in the kitchen right now: Steve is quizzing Seb on 2x3, and 3x2, and 5x3, and 3x5, etc etc.  He's doing pretty well. :)

We've noticed that he's started forgetting some of the things that he previously learned in pre-k and kindergarten. I asked him the days of the week, and he couldn't remember all of them. The last time he wrote his numbers he got the four and seven backwards. So we are making a mental note to spend some more time on school readiness activities.

We visited a number of pre-school programs in January, all of which had different pros and cons but seemed perfectly fine. I thought hard about enrolling him in at least a three-morning-a-week program. I thought it would be good for him to meet children his own age and to continue working on school-related activities. But he is not enthusiastic about going and doesn't seem to care all that much about making friends. And I worried about transitioning him to a preschool that would only run through May, and then worrying about summer programs, and then starting fresh in September's kindergarten classroom. And besides, he's been in daycare his whole life - including kindergarten for three months - and so we decided that he was ready enough, in the social and behavioral ways that schoolteachers emphasize, without further schooling.  But I think I do need to be slightly more cognizant of keeping up his skills in writing and reading and math.

Monday, March 18, 2013

mommy's girl

Steve to Liesl: "Where should we live?  Up on the hill, near the forest and trails, or down here in the city, near the restaurants and shops?"
Liesl: "I want to live with mommy."

Sometimes she drives me crazy (like around mealtimes and bedtimes), but otherwise our girl is just so sweet and funny, and still very much her mama's girl.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

For St. Patrick's Day, the children made mixed-media collages featuring shamrocks and rainbows, I baked Irish soda bread, we watched Irish step dancing at a local cultural society, and we ate a lovely lamb, potato, carrot, and cabbage stew.  Oh, and we hiked in Forest Park, where clovers (alas, not four-leaf ones) were very much in evidence.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Spring has arrived in Portland, earlier than I had even hoped, and it is gorgeous. Crocuses and daffodils are popping up, the cherry trees are blooming, and green leaves are forming on all of the trees.  It's warm out - Seb and Liesl are eschewing even their fleece hoodies - and we love the extra sunlight in the evenings.

We explored two new trails in Forest Park this week, both starting at the same entry point, and very much enjoyed both hikes.  We spent about two hours walking, running, hiding, finding sticks to whack ferns and trees, and investigating the forest.  Today we discovered trillium flowers and clovers coming up in the woods, which made me so happy.

Seb fishing in the stream with a long stick. One of these days, one of them will fall in. I hope it's in the summertime.
Sitting on an old moss-covered log, which I called a fairy bench. Seb asked me if fairies were real, and I said of course! and then named the various kinds of present fairies (Santa, tooth, Easter bunny), woodland fairies, and water fairies. :)
dappled sunlight this morning, and my enthusiastic and intrepid explorers.
trilliums behind the children (who always bring along their faithful friends)

spot the girl!!
new clovers!
blue diamond for the Wildwood trail

the DMV

I managed to get an Oregon driver's license yesterday*, which doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, except that I had to go to the DMV with both children, wait in various lines for a couple of hours, and (AND!) take the knowledge portion of the driver's exam again. Oregon doesn't grant reciprocity to other states' licensing, and so everyone has to take it. So, for the first time since I was 15, I sat down with the driver's manual and studied up. You have to get 80% right to pass, and when I took the practice exams (after reading the manual twice) I was scoring right at 80%.  Ugh.  The children weren't allowed into the computer area where I needed to take the exam, so I set them up with my laptop and a movie, promised them bagels if they didn't move or fuss or bother me while I was taking the test, and clicked through as fast as I could. Passed! Phew! Thank goodness I don't have to go back and make the kids wait again, and take it again - that would have been embarrassing. And I'm not sure the kids could have been as good again for another two hours, confined to a waiting area. I have the biggest grin in my new license photo. :)

*I had to take it soon, because my NY State license was expiring on my birthday in ten days...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

funny girl

Grandma to Liesl: "Have you ever sung and danced the Hokey Pokey?"
Liesl: "Hmmmm.  Only in New York."

Grandma sings a song to Liesl, and then starts on a repeat of the same song.
Liesl: "That's enough, Grandma."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

goodbye Grandma and Grandpa

We had an amazing and wonderful visit with the Raab grandparents - it was beautiful to watch the children's excitement about the visit and their constant desire to be with grandma and grandpa, and to see the corresponding enthusiasm and coddling on the part of mom and dad.  The four of them read countless stories together, cuddled up on the couch and the bed.  Grandpa helped Sebastian expand his train tracks and then played trains and cars with him, getting into the action with sound effects and all. Grandma and Liesl played games, and with L's baby, and with the dollhouse.

And we went out on so many adventures.  On Thursday we went to the Japanese Garden and Rose Garden, on Friday we had a scrumptious breakfast at Besaw's and then attempted to walk it off by hiking up the Balch Creek trail in Forest Park.  Both Thursday and Friday were beautifully clear days and we were able to see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen's from the Japanese Garden and from Pittock mansion.  Saturday we went to the fantastic playground at Mt. Tabor and walked around the park, and had lunch at a quintessential Portland place: a food truck pod on Belmont. (It's a collection of food trucks parked in a single spot on a longterm basis.)  Mom and dad treated us to an truly delicious meal at Meriwether's restaurant on Saturday night - amazing food, cocktails, wine, dessert. And Sunday, our last day together, we had breakfast at Zell's, visited OMSI, and then had dinner at home, with birthday cake for me and dad.  They fly out in the morning.

Truly a lovely visit. The children are already sad that they are leaving. But it's so nice and heartwarming and reassuring to see that they have not forgotten Grandma and Grandpa at all, and that the special relationship they've shared is still strong and vibrant.