Sunday, September 25, 2016

preemptive ego checks

[guest post by Stephen]
Sometimes Liesl is a Mommy's girl and sometimes she is a Daddy's girl.  The other day she was accompanying me everywhere - she wanted to sit next to me at the table, keep me company in the bathroom ... my own guardian ... not angel but ... gnome.  She was keeping me company while I was getting changed and had given me some advice about what I should wear.  After a few moments of silence as I picked out a shirt:

Liesl:  You don't have the MOST beautiful body I've ever seen.
Steve: What? [evincing both amusement and disbelief]
Liesl:  I mean, it's not bad.  It just has bumps and freckles.
Steve:  Oh, yeah, my skin isn't the best.  But I like my freckles.
Steve:  [curious if she happened to have any reference in mind] Who does have the most beautiful body you've ever seen?
[pause... eyes move...] [she didn't already have someone in mind - good!]
Liesl:  Me and Mommy.

I don't think I'm vain, but I guess Liesl just wanted to step on any weeds that might be growing.  Family can be good that way.  Go ahead, try it on someone you love, just out of the blue (preferably while he or she is naked): "You don't have the MOST beautiful body I've ever seen."

I was tempted to try this out on Bri so that I could watch the expression on her face.  But then I realized what that expression would be.  And no amount of 'splaining was going to make her like the joke.  So I told her the story as it happened (although I changed the punch line to simply "Mommy").  She got to glow afterwards, while I was left with my wry acceptance of my bumpy, freckly body... and my delight in having these two wonderful ladies in my life.

Cuong's race/Camille's sleepover

Cuong ran his 100-mile race this weekend - the race he's been training for all year. It was called the Mountain Lakes 100, starting at Olallie Lake, heading toward Mt. Hood and Timothy Lake, and then doubling all the way back. He started running at 8 am on Saturday and finished at 2:57 am Sat. night/Sunday morning - he finished 4th out of 150, which is just amazing and awesome.

In order to let Anne serve as roving pit crew (driving from aid station to aid station, and greeting Cuong at the finish), we invited Camille to spend the weekend with us. She arrived after school on Friday and we had a great time together. Our children were on their best behaviors (mostly); Steve dreamed up fun games and contests to keep everyone amused and cooperative (donut bingo! pancake bingo!); and I made apple cake. The kids played really nicely together - they constructed forts, set up the Tut Tut toy store and the Boomin' Bookstore, played outside, and even hiked up to Pittock without complaint. Camille was delightful company.

First up: blueberry banana pancakes. I think Pancake Bingo entailed clearing dinner dishes, getting ready for bed on time, and dancing to 2 songs. Check!

This was at 6:30 am - it was chilly, and these two snuggled up on the couch together to read a book. It was really sweet and cozy.

Next up: Cupcake Bingo! Eat 2 kinds of vegetables, read a new book, and compliment each person when he or she does something. 
And finally, Doughnut Bingo! Exercise for 20 minutes, play nicely, help with a chore. Blue Star donuts, here we come! The girls split a chocolate monstrosity and got extraordinarily messy, to their great joy.
After all those sugary/buttery treats, we decided some further exercise was in order, and so we hiked from Cornell Road up to Pittock mansion. It's only about a mile, but it's straight up.
We kept checking in on Cuong's progress over the course of Saturday - he was running 10-minute miles and holding steady in 6th-8th place - and were delighted when we woke up to find that he'd finished so well - 4th place! We made a sign and texted this photo to Anne and Cuong as they made their way back home.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Jazz 101

Steve and Cuong agreed to come with Anne and me to our favorite Jazz 101 class tonight, taught by the incomparable Ching Ching Wong. Anne and I go nearly every Monday and it's a highlight of my week - the dancing, the class dynamic, Ching's teaching and energy. We had been trying to convince them to come check it out, and I'm so delighted they did. I think it was a first dance class (ever) for both of our awesome husbands. They were amazing - they did great - it was so fun to see them there. They rocked the choreography.

Friday, September 16, 2016

a tale of two games

Sebastian is on two soccer teams this fall - one is the Forest Heights Eagles rec team that he's been on since kindergarten. All of his friends are with him on the team and he loves it. They're also pretty good and tend to win the majority of their games by large margins. That team practices on Thursdays and plays Saturday games: these pictures are from last Saturday's matchup, which they won 5-0.
Sebastian asked to play goalie in the second half of the game and he was super bored. And hot, and thirsty. It was a good learning experience about the dangers of getting what you wish for.

The second team is the Lincoln Youth soccer club's competitive team, which plays against the club soccer squads that are very common in Portland. (It's a serious soccer town.) This is his first year playing at this level and he's with the 2007 birth year cohort - so mostly the boys are older than him. Many of his school friends are also on this LYS team with him, which is great. They practice on Tuesdays and play on Sundays; the first game of the season was last Sunday and they got shellacked. I don't know the final score, but it was probably 7-0. In the first half they didn't get the ball out of their own end zone, much less shoot on the other net. They rallied and played better in the second half, but it was still an eye-opening defeat. The boys, including Sebastian, all handled it well, and so it was probably a good learning experience for them - good to know that you've got room to improve!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

kinder soccer

We signed Liesl up for kindergarten soccer this fall, partly to let her try out a team sport, partly because kinder soccer at FPE is a great opportunity for the children to run around and have fun together and for their parents to socialize once a week. I got to know all the other parents in Sebastian's classes through soccer practices and games and it made me really feel more connected to the school community.There are no games, just weekly practices, and the first one was Sunday afternoon. It was the cutest thing I've ever seen - 30 girls running around, doing their best.
The coach, who is the mother of a kinder girl this year (and has two older children at FPE), divided the girls up into 5 teams, each with a parent coach, and handed out various stuffed animals to serve as team mascots. It was amazing and perfect: team unicorn; team bunny; team pony; team Elsa; team mermaid...
Every once in awhile, instead of running, she'd skip, or prance. It's adorable.

And then on Wednesday, she once again climbed to the top of the rope in gymnastics class (the only girl to do so) and was the fastest runner in their sprint race. That's my girl.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

school update

We're into our third week of school and it seems that everyone is getting into the swing of things. Mostly!

Sebastian is settling into his usual rhythm with school and friends - the soccer game at lunch recess is the highlight of his day, and everything else is just meh. He has a lot of friends in his class this year and that's great. But some days his stomach hurts and he is unenthusiastic about going at all; some days he goes to the school nurse's office for an extended break. (This is a compromise - he used to just ask to come home whenever he felt anxious or had an unhappy feeling in his belly. Now he sits there for 15 minutes and then goes back to his class. I think he just gets overwhelmed by the noise and clatter sometimes and needs a break.) He plays on the school field every day after school with whoever is there to play with - a rotating cast of characters and friends. He plays soccer, football, basketball, baseball, four-square, dodgeball... he makes forts in the forest and collects lost lacrosse balls. We are so fortunate to live in such a safe community, across from the school, so that he can freely roam for hours each afternoon. I love his independence and confidence. (I am not feeling particularly excited by his teacher this year, or by the prospect of 3rd-grade standardized exams, or by the fact that he has apparently done half the curriculum already. He was in a 2/3 blended class last year and they covered a lot of 3rd grade work - I don't understand the school's plan for his education this year.) 

I am once again remembering how to get ourselves ready and out the door each morning: make breakfasts, pack lunches for kids and myself, get everyone dressed, brush teeth, pack backpacks, find library books... am I ready for work? Ack! Two-minute shower, chug coffee, run out the door! I've been remembering how much I dislike the whole lunch and snack-packing ritual. Every morning is more of a sprint than it should be and adding Liesl to the mix just ramps up my sense of frazzlement. (Is that a word?) She can be really slow and she gets distracted easily by conversation, books, her toys, choosing clothes, etc. She comes by it naturally, I know - a Ford family characteristic shining through! - and she tries really hard to be good. But Sebastian can't bear to wait for her - he leaves at 7:43, the earliest he can, and after much reminding and nagging she heads out at 7:53, two minutes before the first bell rings.

Liesl is doing really well so far in kindergarten. The first week or so was hard - she was anxious and exhausted and extremely emotional at home. And she was lonely and unsure of herself, despite knowing quite a few children in kindergarten at FPE - all of her particular friends are in different classes. She also seems to have a particular conception of friendship, where it's just her and another little girl playing together - she doesn't want it to be a group, or even three children. She's looking for a best friend, someone to call her own. At recess, for example, if a friend she knows is playing with another friend, she refuses to go over and join the play. So there were a couple of unhappy days where she said she stood around and played with nobody, and my heart hurt for her.

But then! Last Thursday she came home and reported that she had made a friend named Nora. Upon questioning, it turned out that Nora loved the monkey bars (check!), playing family (aka house... check!), and pretending to be an animal (check!). A triple score! As it turns out, Nora is also a little shy and slow to warm up to large groups, and doesn't yet have many little friends. Liesl and Nora have played together every day since then and I'm delighted. There was a school picnic last Friday night and we made a point of meeting Nora and her parents there. They seem like lovely people and so I promptly invited Nora to come over for a playdate. It's tomorrow. Liesl is super excited.

Unlike her brother, Liesl loves to come home and tell me all about the day - the in-school field trips to read signs and look for text; searching for Pete the Cat and his school shoes all over the school; drawing pictures; the songs they sing in music; the lesson they learned in technology; the lunches (and treats!) that other children eat; the petty misbehavior of other children; various things that Mrs. LaTocha has said that are now gospel. It's sweet. I took some pictures of Liesl's projects and drawings from the first two weeks.

Friday, September 2, 2016

first day of school

Liesl's first day of kindergarten was Thursday. She's been a little nervous and anxious all week, which has meant a lot of emotional storms and sudden tears and clinginess and some baby talk. But she picked out her clothes the day before - set them out on the floor of her bedroom in perfect order - and on Thursday morning hopped out of bed, got dressed, ate breakfast, and was ready to go by 7:30.
Lining up outside Mrs. LaTocha's classroom. Unfortunately, none of her local friends are in her class, so she was feeling a little sad and lonely, but she walked in with a smile, hung up her coat and backpack, found her seat, and started coloring.
At this point, she looked around the room at all the hovering parents and picture-taking and talking and hubbub, and said, "This is kind of overwhelming." So grownup! We agreed, and decided to say goodbye and let them get started. 

She came home reporting that the first day was okay, but that she missed her preschool best friend and felt a little lonely without her family. Her class read a book about Pete the Cat and then had a fun scavenger hunt around the school looking for him - they went to the lunchroom, music room, library - she liked having a tour.

She requested steak for dinner, so that's what I made - as well as chocolate cupcakes, which always soothe my soul. :)

Sebastian's first day of 3rd grade was on Monday, and our boy walked himself over at 7:30 - 15 minutes early - in order to play a little soccer before the school day began.  He's in a class with many of his soccer-playing friends and is mostly happy about it - although he did report feeling like he had "too many friends" in his class, and it made it hard to focus and figure out who to talk to. His chief complaint so far is that Mrs. Scottel won't let him bring his soccer ball to school for lunch recess play.