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Month: September 2013

my new buddy

my new buddy

Oliver is the oldest kid at home now that Simon is in school. He would be happy to tell you – or anyone – that fact if given the chance. It’s a big responsibility, being the oldest kid at home. He’s in charge of driving Mom crazy. He’s the one who needs to be sure Elsa is constantly terrorized. He leads the pack in deciding how late we are going to be getting out the door.

Thankfully, the boy takes his responsibilities seriously and does a masterful job at them.

No, but seriously, it’s been a mixed* blessing to have one-on-one time with Oliver. He is such a fun and hilarious kid. So thoughtful and deliberate and cheesy and dramatic. I’ve been getting a kick out of seeing, with fewer distractions, who he is.

The boy loves to talk and to tell me about everything that’s going through his head – whether it be that eyes see and noses smell and bums poop, or that we should call Dad “Mr. Funny” because he makes good jokes – which, as I’m sure you can tell, is always a riot.

Well. Almost always. I do get a little tired of hearing about Katara and Aang from Avatar. And the Incredibles playset on the Wii Infinity game. Just a little tired.

Still, I’ve been looking forward to having this time with Oliver for a long time. I think it is good for us to get to know each other a little better before he goes off to full-day kindergarten next year. Micah and I have been a little concerned about Oliver and his ability to focus long enough to get through the test he’s going to have to take to get into Simon’s school, but the more time I spend with this kid, the less concerned I am. He’s learning to read and is getting good at sounding words out. He asked me to read 4 chapters from “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” today and held me to it. And he’s beaten me fair and square at Memory. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine. Pretty sure.

Really, though, I’m a little bummed that Oliver and I only get one year to drive each other nuts before I have to send him off to kindergarten. I hope to make the most of it.

The photo is of Oliver with his racing car, Lilly, who has three guns. Two of the guns squirt pixie dust and the third squirts bullets.

*The only downside, aside from the fact that there is no one else to relieve me from the constant chatter, is that I no longer have much time to write during the day. I used to be able to sneak in an hour or so while the boys were playing together and Elsa was napping. Not any more, which has made this month feel a lot like I am barely scraping by. I’m hoping I’ll get a better grip on things before too long.

fire island

fire island

Everyone wants to go to Fire Island. At least they say they do. But for some reason, it seems like a place not a lot of people actually get to. Maybe it’s that you can’t take a car there. But since we don’t have a car anyway, it was pretty perfect for us. We reserved a camping spot for the weekend after Labor Day, the last weekend before school started. Because we were taking the train, we packed up a bunch of backpacks and a duffel bag and an insulated bag for food and walked the two blocks to the Long Island Rail Road station. From there we had two transfers, another two-block walk, and then a half-hour ferry ride before we were dropped on the most picturesque little island on this side of the country.

It was pretty much the perfect weekend with our little family. The kids had a lot of fun taking sand showers (throwing sand on themselves) and making sand angels. We flew a kite and made a sandcastle, took a couple of long nature walks, and saw a couple of foxes, some deer, rabbits, and a toad. Oh, and we dipped our feet in the freezing cold ocean. Just a bit.

As the last days of our summer slipped away – the last days before we became a part of the school-going crowd – we roasted marshmallows over a campstove and devoured sticky s’mores, then fell asleep in our tents to the sound of the ocean floating over the dunes.

Pretty perfect. I think we’ll do it again.

Simon’s second week

Simon’s second week

Week 2 got off to a bit of a rocky start, despite the fact that I made coffee cake for breakfast just for Simon. The boy didn’t really have much of a problem getting up and out the door, but there was definitely some fighting back of tears at drop-off, Micah tells me. But every day when I picked him up his day was “good” and he didn’t have any complaints.

Well. Except that his line partner didn’t want to hold his hand, which they are supposed to do. And she was also talking, which they are not supposed to do. And when Simon told her to “Shhhhh!” she said, “You’re not the boss,” and then he couldn’t tell her why he said, “Shhhhh!” because then he would be talking and that is against the rules. So there was that.

Oh, and also the fact that school seems like a lot of work but not a lot of learning. And that it’s too long with too much to do and not enough time to do it. I mean, he had to write about his summer, draw a self-portrait, and color a picture in his sunglasses. He really couldn’t finish it all. It was a tough job.

But by Thursday there were no more complaints. And no fighting tears. He even remembered stayed up a little later on Thursday night to finish his homework – a drawing of how he helps around the house – even though he doesn’t like to draw.

So, yes, we’re making progress. He is coming to grips with the fact that we’re not letting him stay home just because he says he doesn’t want to go. And he’s getting used to the schedule. And he’s learning more about the kids in his class. We’ve met some of the parents, and we are excited to get to know them better. His teacher seems great, and what we know of the curriculum seems like it will be challenging and exciting for him.

On Friday after pick-up, as we were eating our end-of-week celebratory ice cream cones, purchased from the ice cream truck that preys on NEST+M kids, we met a lady who travels from the Bronx everyday to take her 2nd grade son to NEST. He was new to the school in 1st grade, too, and had the same teacher Simon has. It’s a 2 hour commute for them, and they leave at 6:30 every morning. But, she says, it’s so worth it. She loves it, he loves it, and she felt that they couldn’t pass up on the opportunity just because they live far away.

I’m hoping that a year from now I’ll be able to say the same thing to some other family who finds themselves giving a big chunk of their lives over to the public school system. But for us, right now, it is good and getting better.

(The story below is about our camping trip to Connecticut.)

Simon’s first week

Simon’s first week

The good news is this: Simon’s teacher says she never would have known he’d never been to school before if we hadn’t told her. Also, the commute seems do-able, both for Micah in the morning and me in the afternoon. And, thank heaven, Simon has not had any traumatic experiences. Yet. Except for maybe that we forgot his backpack/lunch on Friday (yes, it took us until the 5th day to make a major mistake) and I had to make an unplanned trip to the city to deliver it.

The not so good news is this: we’ve spent much of this weekend going over with him again and again why he has to go to school. We’ve told him it will get better. He’ll get used to the schedule. He’ll still get to play on the Wii U when he gets home. We’ll sit down with him and help him with his homework. But that hasn’t stopped him from tearing up at random moments at the thought of going back to school tomorrow.

I’m sure much of it is that he is tired. It’s a long day. He’s not used to having his day so fully scheduled. On Friday morning after he got ready, he went and laid down on his bed again because he was so tired. And his homework, sweet and simple as it is (“Draw the place where you do your homework. What do you to in that place? How does that place make you feel?”), is still work.

We want this to be as pleasant as possible for him, of course. We’re sure that in a few more weeks, when he’s adjusted to the schedule and his classmates are more familiar to him, it won’t be a big deal. But until then, we’ll have a special breakfast Monday morning so that getting out of bed is a little easier. And special dinner on Friday to celebrate his survival of another week. And maybe a little something special every day in between.

Simon’s first day

Simon’s first day

I don’t have a lot of time to give you the whole run-down of the first day of school, so I’ll give the 2 minute version.

 

Simon wasn’t on the class list that went out Saturday morning, so we had to get that sorted out before school started. We’ve been told his teacher is the nicest and everybody wants their kid in her class, so we feel good about that. We liked what we saw in the 20 seconds we’ve had to observe, and she was holding Simon’s hand when we left, so that was reassuring.

The boy himself seemed to have a good day. He doesn’t remember anybody’s name, and he thought they did more kindergarten things than first grade things, but he did get a birthday invitation from one of his classmates for this Saturday!

We biked to and from today, which worked out fine. I’m a little tired from going over the bridge 4 times, but it’s totally do-able, in my opinion. Tomorrow Micah will take Simon on the train and I’ll pick him up on the bike. We’re hoping to get Micah a bike he can take Simon in on before too long, but that’s still a work in progress.

Let’s hope the rest of the week goes just as well . . . and that they get into more “first grade” things.

sustainability

sustainability

Work these days feels . . . sustainable. My new schedule is good. I’m not too stressed about getting the work done, and I feel like I’m able to let loose and relax on the weekends.

But. Just barely.

Last week I had plans to bang out my last three posts of the month on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then start putting together my posts for September. Instead, I was still scrounging for ideas Friday morning and just managed to publish before the long weekend. I spent a couple of hours Saturday assembling a post. Sigh.

We’re still not getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, but I feel good about the fact that it is as much because we’re able to be more involved in the community – to actually have social lives – as it is because we have a lot of work to do.

And although I am still not really doing the kind of work I really want to do, I am liking the work that I am doing. I feel that it has some value and that I am learning from the process and getting some good opportunities. Plus there have been some decent perks – like being invited to Disney events in the city – that we’ve enjoyed.

I hope, before too long, to get past the point of sustainability and somewhere into the neighborhood of thriving. I feel like I’m on the cusp, that at least my brain is coming up with some good ideas, even if I don’t have the time or energy to execute the way I’d like to.

Baby steps, Lizzie. Baby steps.

someday, maybe i’ll be a video gamer

someday, maybe i’ll be a video gamer

We recently became a Wii family. (Well, Wii U, but I’m not intelligent enough to know how much it matters.) This is because of an opportunity we had through work to test out Disney’s new Infinity game. We’d been talking about getting a Wii for years now, but the launch party made us realize that it was pretty much inevitable and that we might as well take the plunge.

Growing up, my family was not a video gaming family. Not at all. We’ve never owned a game console. Nearly every time I’ve tried to play I’ve become frustrated with the controls and my inability to use them with as much agility as I imagine I should be able to. But Micah’s family was into video games a bit more, and I’ve seen a different side to video games since we’ve been married: namely, that they can be really great ways to have fun together as a family. Everyone takes turns, everyone works together to accomplish a goal, and everyone cheers each other on.

That is the vision I have of our family’s relationship to gaming. The day-to-day reality, of course, is much different. I’ll let the boys play together while Elsa is napping and I’m getting some work done or making dinner. But because it is important to me to be a part of the family, and to not be hovering around the sidelines while everyone else has all the fun, I have insisted on taking my turn on occasion.

Part of this is because Simon keeps reminding me that I’ll never get any better if I don’t practice, and I’m taking that to heart. I’m pretty sure I’ll always be the worst in the family (although right now I have a slight edge on Oliver), but I like to know what Micah and boys are talking about, and more importantly, I like to hear them cheer me on as I attempt – for the 3rd time – to get Mr. Incredible to the top of the building so he can rescue the person stranded there.

So although this is pretty much one of the last things I expected from my life, it turns out that being a good mom is requiring me to play video games. Didn’t see that coming, but I’m not going to shy away from it if I can help it.

butterfly boy

butterfly boy

Only a week until the term “school night” becomes relevant to our family. We are excited and nervous and tired of wondering and looking forward to finding out and hoping that our new schedule – with the long commute – isn’t too brutal.

Last week I took Simon school shopping. Just me and him. He was a perfect shopping companion. He was decisive but not too picky, he was fine with my ruling on nothing with Angry Birds, he was patient waiting in line for the fitting room, and he was quick to point out that green pants with a blue and green striped shirt is too much green. (Good eye, my friend, good eye.)

When we finally finished, we stopped to get an ice cream cone from the Mr. Softee truck, which fulfilled one of the boy’s long-standing dreams.

It was well after 10:00 by the time he got to bed, and it was after 10:00 the next morning when he finally woke up (though he never acted tired while we were shopping). His late morning gave me a chance to see what it’s going to be like to have him gone all day, and to remember what it’s like to have just two kids at home. I’m realizing that Oliver is getting to the game stage and it looks like my future has a lot of Uno and Memory in it – and a lot of reading as well.

For one of our final summer activities, we went to the High Line (a park that used to be an elevated train line on the west side of Manhattan) to make butterfly wings, walk in the butterfly parade, and then release a few butterflies into the wild. The weather was nice when we left home, but it was raining when we got to the city. We stepped into the Apple Store to wait it out, met up with Micah, then decided to press on through the rain anyway. And it was a good thing we did. We had a great time decorating our butterfly wings and running around the High Line with them.

Besides being a lot of fun, it felt very appropriate: our little boy is sprouting wings. Little tiny ones, but still. He’ll be across the river from me for much of the day. I hope he is ready to fly.