Saturday, August 31, 2013

sand + water + children = magic

We spent Friday morning playing in the sand and water at Crescent Beach - I offered up a number of suggestions of activities to the children, and they both asked to return to the beach, and so we did. They splashed, they dug, they ran around, and we investigated snails, clams, crabs, barnacles, and the seaweed. Such messy fun. :)

We also visited with mom and dad at their bowling club, helping take the dew off the greens and mingling with all the regular Friday bowlers (and eating their morning tea).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the PNE in Vancouver

On Wednesday we went to the Pacific National Exhibition, or PNE, an annual summer exhibition and fair in Vancouver. It's huge - tons of rides, games, musical events, and an agricultural exhibition. We had a lark. The kids loved the little rides - carousel, cars, mini-train - and Liesl loved seeing all the farm animals. They both went on pony rides. We watched a pair of pig races, which were surprisingly entertaining. And then we ate some greasy food, watched some Hawaiian dancing, and worked our way slowly back to the exit, battling demands for one more ride or one more game!

But the highlight of our PNE visit came right at the beginning. In my dad's telling:
Immediately upon entering at 11 a.m., Bri spotted a kiosk where a guy had to guess your age within three years one way or the other, or you won a stuffed animal. (Of course, you paid $5 for the guess and probably the animal cost less than that, but hey, the fair is designed to take your money.)
Anyway, Bri and I looked at each other and nodded in the direction of BigMamaSzeching. A sure bet, we agreed.
So, with mild protests from our Most Valuable Asset, we paraded BMSc to the booth. 
The man looked her over and wrote a number on a piece of paper. He obviously worried she might be offended by his guess, and he said, "Now, this is a high number....."
And he held up the number 64!!!!!
Not even close. Like taking candy from a baby.
We picked out a cute stuffed horse for Liesl. Bri and I slapped high-fives. 
Three hours later, as we went to exit thru the same gate, we looked over to see if the same man was at the kiosk. Pity. Same guy. Otherwise, we'd have snagged another animal.

Today we did some gardening - picking raspberries and beans - and then spent the rest of the morning on Crescent Beach. The kids were super happy to dig in the sand and get perfectly messy and wet. They've asked to return tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

visit to Surrey!

We have spent this week visiting Popo and Bompy in Surrey/White Rock, BC.  On Tuesday we drove up, stopping in Olympia at Tumwater Falls Park to stretch our legs. The park turned out to be a lovely stopping place - two hours from Portland, right off I5, and very pretty. There was a loop trail with old wooden pedestrian bridges, and a series of waterfalls in a rollicking little river, and a grassy area with play boats. Also: restrooms. :)  We stayed for nearly an hour before piling back in and driving through the rest of Washington State.  Sailed through Seattle and the border, thank goodness -

Saturday, August 24, 2013

a conversation, overheard today

Liesl: "Daddy, can I buy this?"
Steve: "Ask mommy."
Liesl: "Mommy said no. Can you buy this?"

Three points for honesty, and ten for recognizing the weak link.

Zoo camp and zoo visits

Sebastian spent the week at Oregon Zoo Camp; he toured the whole zoo, made animal-themed arts and crafts projects, got to meet a different animal each day, and learned about how animals move. I wouldn't say it was a raging success - he certainly didn't ask to return, as he did for Adventure Wild camp or the Sports Craze camp - but he participated in everything and didn't fuss too much about it. And from our point of view, which is that these camps are nudging him back into a more structured environment, it was a success. He was super cranky on Monday and Tuesday, but by Thursday and Friday had settled down and become sweet again. We hope the kindergarten transition is similarly smooth.

Since he was at the Zoo, Liesl and I of course had to visit it as well - we spent all morning on both Monday and Friday wandering around. A zoo visit with just Liesl is a very different experience than with both children. She's just so much slower, so much more willing to sit and watch an animal for long periods of time without getting bored. In fact, she gets upset when you try to rush her along before she's ready. So on Monday we saw elephants, lions, the baby monkey, and pygmy goats. You can pet the goats and she proved willing to stay in their corral, petting, hugging and grooming them, for at least 25 minutes. Three successive waves of children came in and moved on while we were there.  On Friday, we saw black bears, polar bears, the farm goats, and penguins. One of the penguins, with the nametag Luna, proved to be fascinated by Liesl. The two of them actually played with each other through the glass, with Luna following Liesl's tracing hand, and Liesl chasing Luna's swimming, around and around. It was magical.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Winnie the Pooh

Sebastian and I have been reading the original A.A. Milne books on Winnie the Pooh and friends. We've read edited and condensed versions of the stories previously, but they lack much of the whimsy and word play of the originals. (That being said, the originals are a bit long and complex for the toddler set, so I'm not discounting their place.) We were reading An Expotition to the North Pole the other day and Seb was laughing so hard he was lying down and nearly crying, holding his stomach and giggling. It was hysterical. I was laughing too and it was just such a wonderful moment with him. I love sharing books and storytime with my children, and to witness Seb discovering the joy of language is really special. Here are a few of the passages that he particularly loved:

The first person Pooh met was Rabbit.
"Hallo, Rabbit", he said, "is that you?"
"Let's pretend it isn't," said Rabbit, "and see what happens."

"This is the first verse," he said to Piglet, when he was ready with it.
"First verse of what?"
"My song."
"What song?"
"This one."
"Which one?"
"Well, if you listen, Piglet, you'll hear it."
"How do you know I'm not listening?"
Pooh couldn't answer that one.

"It's just the place," Christopher Robin explained, "for an Ambush."
"What sort of bush?" whispered Pooh to Piglet. "A gorse-bush?"
"An Ambush," said Owl, "is a sort of Surprise."
"So is a gorse-bush sometimes," said Pooh.
"If people jump out at you suddenly, that's an Ambush," said Owl.
Pooh, who now knew what an Ambush was, said that a gorse-bush had sprung at him suddenly one day when he fell off a tree, and he had taken six days to get all the prickles out of himself.
"We are not talking about gorse-bushes," said Owl a little crossly.
"I am," said Pooh.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the wisdom of children

Sebastian: "What's the speed limit here?"
Me: "50 miles an hour"
Seb: "Then you should slow down."

Liesl: "Where are we going on this hike?"
me: "I'm not sure. I'm looking for the turnoff so that we can loop back to the parking lot, but we've been walking awhile and I expected it before now, so..."
Liesl: "We could just turn around and go back."

My children, at ages 2 and 5, are apparently already smarter than their mom. :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

life and death

We have had a number of conversations about life and death this past week.  Steve's paternal grandmother Camilla Raab died on Sunday afternoon - of natural causes, at the age of 97. We are sad, of course, although it is tempered by the knowledge that she was ready - she had repeatedly expressed her willingness to go and join her husband and daughter Jane in heaven. And thankfully, Seb got to visit with her one last time during the boys' recent trip to New York. I sat down with both children on Monday afternoon and told them that Great-Grandma Raab had died. Liesl asked if that meant we would never see her again, and when I said yes, she said "Oh, that's so sad." Sebastian asked if she would go into a box in the ground, like Great-Grandma Ford, and I said yes, and then he asked if there was room in the cemetery ground. We also talked about how it was Grandpa's mama, so he would be particularly sad, and decided we would call grandma and grandpa to say hello and tell them we were sad too. Liesl was very enthusiastic about calling, but Seb became all shy and said he didn't know what to say. So we sat there for another minute, being sad and giving hugs, until they heard the UPS truck roll up and park outside and they both ran off to watch it, forgetting all about death and sadness.

On the other end of the spectrum, on Saturday morning we were standing on the sidewalk outside Clearing Cafe, munching bagels, when out of nowhere Seb asked: "Soooo, how does the baby get in the belly?" I had been expecting him to ask for years, as we've had conversations about babies and he's seen pregnant women, but he never did ask and I didn't want to push the topic. Anyway, it finally occurred to him to wonder, and so I explained about eggs and seeds and mommies and daddies, and Steve jumped in with some basic information about cell division, and we left it at that. He seemed satisfied for now. But I can guess what's coming next. :)

And then yesterday, over lunch, Sebastian declared that there are three things you need: food, water, air. He said, "you will die within a few minutes with no air, a week with no water, and a month without food." (How does he know these things?)

Both Steve and I believe strongly in being upfront about things, and not using euphemisms to name and describe things and events. So for instance our children use the proper words for their private parts, and we'll tell them how babies are made when they ask, and death is just death. Since we are not religious, all we can tell them is that death is real, permanent, and comes to us all. But we also think it's good to introduce basic scientific concepts as young as possible, so that they start to understand how the world works and appreciate their (miniscule) place in it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Portland Bridge Pedal

We had a fantastic morning adventure today. We met up with Katie and Ben and their children and together rode our bikes 12 miles over six bridges as part of the Providence Portland Bridge Pedal. Many roads were closed to traffic, including parts of I-5 and I-405, so that you could go over the Marquam and Fremont highway bridges. Sebastian was so excited to go over the Fremont Bridge in particular, which he calls the big grey bridge, because it's his favorite - it arcs up high in the sky and from the top deck you have a great view of the city, Mt. Hood, and the train yards below.

A map of our route is posted online: Hawthorne, Ross Island, Marquam, Burnside, Broadway, and Fremont Bridges.

There are longer loops in which you can do 8 bridges (24 miles) or 10 bridges (33 miles) - maybe next year! Apparently close to 18,000 people participated, and it was incredible to see the diversity of bikes and bodies and setups (with children and animals).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

bon mot

Seb: "Look at my new shoes, Liesl!"
Liesl: "Awesome."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

nature collages

I was inspired by one of the projects Sebastian brought home from his recent day camp, Adventure Wild - on one of their hikes, they collected seeds and then made a collage of it. What a great idea! So on Sunday when we went hiking on the Wildwood and Wild Cherry trails in Forest Park, we took along two ziploc bags for collecting. The kids loved having something to focus on and do, and happily collected seeds, berries, leaves, pine cones in their bags. Later that afternoon we made collages, which turned out really well. We'll definitely do it again.

the Donovan-Kazemis visit

Our friends Leila and Alan, along with their two young daughters, came to visit us in Portland. On Tuesday afternoon we met up at Mt. Tabor for some playground fun and then went out to dinner at the food cart pod on Belmont. Today we went hiking in the Columbia River gorge and then invited them to our house for supper. The children have been having a fabulous time together and I've relished the opportunity to catch up with Leila, one of my oldest friends.