Wednesday, February 26, 2014

fear not

I was filling out a preschool questionnaire for Liesl last week - more on that below - and one of the questions was: "What is your child afraid of?"  I thought about that for awhile, and was stumped. She's not afraid of dogs or strangers, traffic or deep water. She is delighted by fire and loves heights and speed. She isn't afraid of the dark, or imaginary creatures, or scary stories and movies.  I both love and worry that she has so little fear - I kind of wish she had a bit more fear of things that deserve it - but I grinned a little as I wrote "Nothing" on the sheet.

I spent a good bit of January researching preschools and then attending open houses and parent tours of local schools. Many seemed very nice, run by lovely people and staffed by fun and caring teachers, with well-stocked classrooms and big playgrounds, and mostly not very expensive. I am not very worried about Liesl's experience - I am nearly certain she will love it and love her friends and teachers - and it's only for two mornings a week during her Three's year. (If I return to working, we'll need to find a different child care arrangement, as the typical preschool has extremely limited hours.) My first choice turned out to be Cedar Hills cooperative preschool, which is quite close (a big mark in its favor) and has lovely classrooms and outdoor space. And I loved the teachers - listening to them talk at the parent night made me look forward to learning from them next year. We were lucky enough to get the last spot in the morning program, and promptly enrolled. Liesl is very excited to go to school next year. :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Roller skating at Oaks Park

Liesl and I went roller skating at the enormous and beautiful, old-school roller rink at Oaks Park Amusement Park. She had a wonderful time and did a great job of trying to skate, falling, getting up, trying again, and keeping happy throughout. 

We haven't been roller skating since last January - what a difference a year makes in one little girl!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Charlotte's Web

We met up with friends Mary, Patrick and Rowan and went to see the Oregon Children's Theatre production of Charlotte's Web yesterday.  The children did very well and were excited to see the play - to get dressed up, to go to the fancy theatre, to meet up with our friends, to see a show.  We read the book in the week or two preceding the show. Liesl found it difficult to sustain her attention through the story, but Sebastian was enthralled. He and I both cried in the penultimate chapter, when Charlotte dies. I love that he cared, that he was into the book and characters enough to cry over Charlotte's lonely death.

The show itself was fine - not outstanding, but perfectly decent. The best part was the actress who played Charlotte, who was an acrobat of sorts, climbing and twirling and swirling and wrapping herself in these long white strands of fabric. That was cool. I thought they could have made some different choices with the characters (I wasn't particularly keen on Wilbur), and could have retained more of E.B. White's language, but all in all I'm happy we went. As they get older, I'm looking forward to taking the children to see performances of various fine arts - dance, theatre, music - and to museums and galleries. It was also fun to join our friends, and to have a family double date. We had dinner together after the show at Red Onion, a favorite Thai restaurant, and then let the kids race around together in the waning daylight.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seb's first report card

Sebastian came home from kindergarten last week with his first report card. It was, to put it mildly, a bit of a shock. Not the contents - he's doing fine ("meeting or exceeding standards") in all of his academic and social skills - but the format. It's three pages long and incredibly detailed and ridiculously precise. I can't believe the poor teachers have to fill this out for every student. And for kindergarten students? Absurd.  I'm pretty sure that until I was in Grade 6, my report cards consisted of four general levels - Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, Good, and Excellent - in probably five basic subject areas. I know it's a sign of the new movement in this country for accountability and school improvement, but it seems to me a tremendous waste of time and resources.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

We had a festive and sweet family Valentine's Day. We made buttermilk pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast  - even going so far as to cut the pancakes into heart shapes. :)  Steve made heart cards for the kids.

Liesl and I volunteered in Seb's classroom this morning and had a great time. They made marshmallow and strawberry skewers, they used oil pastels to decorate hearts, they made paper hearts with staples, etc etc. As usual, my girl stayed close by her brother and participated in everything.
She's sitting in his lap while listening to Mrs. Huntley's instructions.

I made a new brownie recipe, which was delicious, and cut them out into little heart shapes for the children and Steve. Because I'm crazy. :) 

We are swimming in a sea of pink and red-hearted decorations. It's messy. It's crazy. It's so fun to have small children.

Monday, February 10, 2014

snow day, part three...

Sebastian's school and Liesl's activities were canceled again today, and our local roads were still icy and (in part) covered by snow and mush - possibly fine if you had a four-wheel drive SUV, and tire chains, but not great for our ill-prepared little Civic. And so we were on day four and a half of our enforced hibernation.  To be honest, I was dreading it. Yesterday ended badly (Liesl had a series of tantrums, beginning at dinner and extending through tuck-in), and the morning began badly (Sebastian displaying some very off-putting attitude). And I stayed up too late reading a novel, which is what always happens when I actually start reading something, but usually leads to next-day regrets.

But then, but then! The children disappeared into our basement playroom for nearly two hours, playing two creative role play games. One was "dog and person" (fetch, nap, eat, walks...) and the other was school (writers workshop, PE, recess, lunch, math lab). There was no fighting, and it was fascinating to eavesdrop on their conversation and play.  At 9:15 they came seeking a snack, and then we layered into our snow gear and went out to explore the world.

We spent two hours outside - walked down the back trail to the pond and then back up Miller Hollow trail - all was still white, but the layer of ice was beginning to thaw. The children did their best to make their Bompy proud, as they left the trails and tromped into the woods, gamely stepping on thorn branches and ducking under trees.

They found sticks and poked at the little streams of water running under the snow.  I heard and saw a red-headed woodpecker.

On the very steep slope at the bottom of Miller hill, they repeatedly clambered up a hill and then jumped madly down it, landing with a thud on their behinds each time, and laughing hysterically.  

On the way home Sebastian complained of thirstiness, so I dug into the snow in the forest and gave them clean snow to eat, which utterly fascinated them.

Both children ate enormous lunches - leftover braised lamb, farro, broccoli, and cheese - and then while Liesl napped, Sebastian did some school work. He read two chapters from the Oliver and Amanda books, we did a spelling test, he wrote another page of his "Snow Day" story, and he completed math problems through the online portal.

And then they went outside together, and for the next two hours they happily played in the enormous snow piles created by our neighbors' shoveling out their driveways, and the snow drift still remaining in the driveway of one house. One pile was their convertible car and the other was their house. They drove on adventures, they went home and had tea. It was very civilized.

Meanwhile, I baked. Today was an oatmeal sandwich bread - like the Russian rye bread, a yeast bread complete with kneading and multiple rises. I have had a bit of a phobia about attempting real breads, as opposed to quick breads and muffins, and am glad the storm somehow pushed me past my reluctance. The process proved easier than I expected and the results have been absolutely amazing. We are starting to run a bit low on food - a single apple left and no bananas, no fresh vegetables of any kind (not even an onion!), two eggs and little milk - but I expect we'll get out tomorrow to restock. I'm so glad today was so sweet.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

snow day, part two

The ice storm cometh...

We ventured out regardless, because that's the kind of crazy we are. We slipped and slided and crawled our way out of our development to the school field, teaching the kids to stomp with their boot heels through the top crust of ice into the softer snow beneath. And then we enjoyed sliding without sleds down the icy little hill.

Later in the afternoon, Seb and I walked back over to the field and once again borrowed a sled for a few rides down the hill. He wanted to go over the little jump this time. :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

snow days!

We have been having a tremendous snow storm in Portland - actually three separate storms following close on each other's heels, and dumping a mass of powder everywhere. The first blew in on Thursday afternoon, forcing an early dismissal from school and work. Liesl and I had been downtown enjoying hot chocolate at Cacao and a visit to Powell's Books (playgroup was canceled because of illness, and we needed a pick-me-up from the disappointment) - we drove up the hill into the beginnings of the storm and picked up Steve, and then Seb, and then pulled into our garage just as the snow was starting to accumulate and the wind to gust.

We haven't left since then, except to walk out and play in the snow. School was canceled on Friday and Steve could work from home, so we have been cozy and snug indoors together. Thankfully we went grocery shopping on Wednesday afternoon, so we are well stocked with food.  (As a side note, I have been reminded again of how much easier our family logistics are now that I'm not working - no scrambling to figure out coverage and caregivers when we have illness, or random inservice and vacation days, or snow days. Obviously there are things I miss about working - like income - but on days like Friday I am really happy to just be able to hang out with the children and not worry about anything else.)

We've had a really fun time playing in the snow, in part because it is kind of a novelty here in Portland. Sebastian in particular loves it - loves digging snow caves and climbing onto snow mountains and just being outside - regardless of conditions. On Friday we all went out in the morning (at 8 am, which was an hour later than the kids wanted!) to the school field. We made perfect snow angels, made and followed each other's tracks around the field, explored the woods. Seb made a snow nest and a snow castle. Liesl and I started to get cold, so we came home for snack/lunch, but Seb stayed out to play with his friend Anna for another hour - digging caves and benches and running around. He finally got hungry enough to come in, but after lunch we borrowed a sled and the two of us had a great time scooting down the little hill at the school (Liesl was napping). I came back in and he then spent two hours by himself playing out there, even though the second storm was by then in full gusting and snowing glory.  He seems totally immune to the cold. It must be because he's part Canadian. :)

Today was a little windier and colder, with snow falling most of the day, and Liesl was not particularly keen to be out. But Sebastian dug into the mountain of snow that was created by our neighbors shoveling out their driveways, creating a cave. He and I went for a walk down to the pond and then back up to the school, staying in the protected creek valleys out of the wind. We got in a couple more sledding trips as well.

When we've been indoors, we've had a good time too - some messy painting, playing games (including Mah favorite Mousie Mousie), doing puzzles, creating structures of Legos and Magnatiles. The kids have a huge box right now which alternates between being a pirate ship, baby's crib, family house, race car, dog's kennel, and probably some other imaginative things I've missed.  I had the idea to go through all of our bookshelves and library books and pick out every book we could find about snow and storms, including those (like Frog and Toad, Poppleton, and Oliver and Amanda) that just have specific chapters about snow play. We've read them all. :)  We've also read about half of Charlotte's Web, since we're going to see a play production of it next Saturday and I think they'll enjoy it more if they grasp the basic plot beforehand. 


Sebastian has been journaling about our snow adventures. Here's his first page (with more to come):

And finally, something about the snow has apparently triggered my nesting instincts, because I've been cooking and baking up a storm. I made blueberry buckwheat pancakes; creamy vegetable soup (leek, potato, celery root); a big pot of pinto beans and farro; a braise of lamb shanks in red wine and tomatoes; oatmeal raisin walnut bread; apple pandowdy; and Russian rye bread. I think tomorrow we might need to bake some cookies. We'll all come out of the storm fat and happy, I think.