About Us

There are four of Them: three girls and one boy, little stair-steps all. There are two of Us: best friends, co-parents and truly in love. The Six of us have epic adventures full of laughter and love, occasionally containing tears, but always together.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Balanced Approach

Ever heard of a slackline?  I hadn't, until our friend, MrMom, brought one over and shared with us. 

It's a four inch wide piece of heavy duty webbing, which is latched around two trees and pulled fairly tight. Then you (attempt) to balance not fall off. It has some give and tends to shake when you are on it. 

But it is fun!!

MrMom has two boys, Enviro and Fearless. Fearless is just a toddler, so sometimes MrMom has to balance Fearless with helping out a kid or two on the slackline. 

On the last day of school MrMom brought Enviro and Fearless to the park along with his slackline. And we made a giant "V" shape amongst the trees. 


PrincessE and MrMom with Fearless. 


You can also sit and bounce on the slackline if there's no adult to help you stand and balance. Here are Enviro and Lu-Lu and Noodle doing the bounce. 


Of course, the tree can help with balance too!  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Nope, not Christmas.  Or Chanukah, for that matter.  Not a holiday or a season or a special occasion.  Simply, it's the end of the school year.  Yay.

The volunteering in all four classrooms, plus keeping up with Hebrew school, plus getting involved with the PTA (towards the end of the year) has worn me out.  I don't know about the kids, but I'm whipped.  The school year here has so many fewer breaks built in that I'm totally ready for a three month vacation from School.

This end of year celebration brought PrincessE's promotion to sixth grade.  She'll be starting middle school in the fall and so they have a ceremony, where they get awards and have a special day.  We discovered at the ceremony that there were three academic levels to the awards.  Some children got just standard promotion certificates, having passed fifth grade.  Then there were silver awards.  This was for outstanding academic achievement in one area.  Lastly, they had a gold award.  This award was for outstanding academic achievement across the board.

We were so proud when PrincessE received a gold award.  Wow.  What a kid!  She was beaming when she got her certificate.



Then there was another surprise.  The principal gives out a Good Character award.  One kid per classroom, which means there were three winners for the fifth grade.  PrincessE was chosen as the award recipient for her classroom.  This one I was less surprised about.  She regularly volunteered in the kindergarten classroom, she had been selected to participate in a reading mentor program, the Special Ed support teachers all knew her and she was asked to help out a great deal around the school.  It was so nice to see her recognized for all her volunteer work and helping.  We are so proud of her.

In addition to all this great news about our rising middle-schooler, our younger three came home with stellar end of year report cards.  Everyone got fives (the highest grade you can get and it means you are performing above grade level!)  for at least two or three subjects.  Dadam and I were particularly proud of Lu-lu's fives in math, science and reading!  It was a fantastic end to our first school year here.  I think the kids have definitely settled in and gotten the hang of this brave new world.

Next year is going to be another shift in our adventure.  PrincessE will be in middle school and The Boy-child will be the big man on campus.  I'm going to be the PTA President for our Elementary school, which will be an adventure all to itself.




Monday, June 3, 2013

Skirting The Issue

At three-thirty this afternoon, I was reminded by my lovely husband that the two eldest have an Advanced Ensemble concert this evening. I asked PrincessE to go and try and find some black pants/skirt. The dress code is black bottoms with white shirt. She came back wearing her brother's trousers that are a size 8. She currently wears a size 12.

Not gonna cut it. 

So, I went to my massive fabric stash, located some black fabric, googled a fantastic tutorial for an adorable skirt AND 30 mins later had a perfect black skirt. 


Shew.  I rescued myself once again. 

The tutorial is here:  http://www.danamadeit.com/2008/07/tutorial-the-circle-skirt.html

Ya know, if you need to whip up a skirt in 30 minutes because you've not been paying attention to the schedule.




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sixth Year of Noodle

Dearest Noodle,

You continue to be incredibly precocious. Most adults who meet you are drawn in to your orbit by your adorable wide smile and open friendliness. You say hello to everyone on campus, as you run by on your way to kindergarten. Many people stop me to comment on how adorable you are. And you are. And you know it.

Dadam and I are constantly amazed/frustrated by your confidence which brims to the top and overflows. You know you can do anything, even if Mumma asks you to stop more than once. You are sure of what you know, but when you don't know out come the "why?" questions until you understand.

You are never, ever, never quiet. You talk non stop, narrating every single thing we see and do and asking questions the whole way. The other day we took a hike and you hung back with Dadam and I and just talked. Forever. About dogs and bugs and straw and cars and the sun and geocaching and what had happened at that spot when we were on our way down the hill. "Right, mom? Don't you think?" It's adorable and maddening all rolled up. Come to think of it, that's you too.

You are mind numbingly slow to eat. It's not because you are talking, there are too many voices at the table for that. No, it's because you are savoring every tiny bite and staring at the ceiling and having long involved conversations with yourself about what song you should sing next.

Sometimes your fussy-ness is nearly too much to bear.  There are certain outfits that you want to wear over and over and over again.  You lean towards dresses and froo-froo outfits and you really dislike getting dirty or wearing clothes that are stained.  It's actually a bit of a problem because you aren't the neatest eater!

You are a voracious reader. This spring you turned the corner and became a self reader. You'll now sit down and read chapter books to yourself. More than once we've had to empty the book stash under your pillow; you like to have them handy for reading when you wake up in the morning.  Of course, you still love to be read to and we are slowly making our way through The Little House on the Prairie series.  I am sure you will be thrilled to discover that we can read every night during summer vacation.

And hiding amongst all this outgoing, sure of yourselfness, is an amazingly giving and caring little girl. We saw a young lady at the Lowe's who was missing her arms and you turned to me, with tears in your eyes and said how sad you were for her. We talked about how her life was rich, even though she looks different, but I think your heart was still heavy. You often help some of the Down's syndrome students in the class with their sign language or to complete tasks. And you are so proud to help.

You are thrilled beyond belief to finally be heading to First Grade in the fall.  I recently overheard you tell PrincessE that you had been in Kindergarten for four years.  I'd bet it feels like that to you!

I can hardly believe that our "baby" is six years old.  Just yesterday you began to walk and talk, just yesterday you were a Baby.  But now you are six.  Six; two hands and more than several handfuls.  I love your laugh, I love your questions, I love your learning and your innocence and You.

Happy Birthday, Noodle.
Love,
Mommy






Friday, March 8, 2013

Gender (Un)Balance

Noodle:  "I don't understand why we can't just take off our shirts when we get hot.  It's just a part of our body that is sticking out.  There's nothing *wrong* with them."

Lu-lu:  "Yeah.  And some girls are wearing a bra anyway!  It's really soup-head. (code for stupid, which we don't say in our house)"

Girls, welcome to the mystifying ways of gender in our culture.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Guerrilla Swing

We are incredibly, absolutely, amazingly lucky to live with our backyard bordering a beautiful public park.  We are the last house that backs on to it, so it is quiet and very few people come down to our little end corner.  Our house also has a gate in the fence, so it is convenient to send the kids not only to the back yard, but to the climbing trees and grassy area in the park beyond.


(Looking out from our yard to the park.)


Around the end of the deck, to our gate out.  

For a long time now, the trees in the park have been calling out to me that they need a tree swing.  They would be perfect.  But I know that it is public property.  I know how cities have become paranoid about people putting up "dangerous" things.  

So I decided we needed a Guerrilla Swing, something the kids could easily put up and take down by themselves, something low cost.  Dadam and I got to work and we came up with a double-d-ring rope system, with a board for a seat.  Easy to put up, easy to take down.  And it works beautifully!  







Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chag Purim

This year the theme for Purim at the synagogue was "The Wizard of Oz." As usual, we waited until the last minute to get our costumes ready.  The girls came up with costume ideas very easily, as I had made a witch costume for Halloween and there are always lots of workable dress-up-dresses hanging around.  In short order they were the Wicked Witch (PrincessE), Dorothy (Lu-Lu), the Good Witch (Noodle).  This left The Boy-Child to be costumed.  There was a lot of back and forth.  And possibly a little frustration on the part of some un-named parental units.  But in the end, we decided the Cowardly Lion was doable and acceptable.


PrincessE as The Wicked Witch


Lu-Lu as Dorothy


The Boy-Child as the Cowardly Lion

(We made the "mane" and shirt.  I'm going to post a tutorial for it, as it was not too difficult and turned out *so cute*!)


Noodle as The Good Witch

I think they make some pretty darn adorable characters!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FlowerE Birthday Cake

PrincessE wanted a flower birthday cake.  In the shape of a flower, not just drawn on.  I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to do this and then GranEde came up with a brilliant idea.  We used some small bowls we had and made little individual cakes, so it was more like a cake sculpture 



It was so fun to have a collaborative effort.  Dadam, GranEde, GranDude and I all had a hand in the cake.  And it turned out so cute!!  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Elevenses or Preteen Already?

Dear PrincessE,

Or should that be PrincessY?  We moved back to the US and your teacher at the public school is Jewish.  On the first day she did roll call and you responded that you'd like to be called "E---" and she said "Can I call you by your given name?  It's a beautiful name."  So here you are called by your given, Hebrew name; whereas in the UK at the Jewish Day school you were known by your American-ized nickname.

What a funny situation.  And I think it sums up a transformation we've seen in you since arriving back in the US. You have come back, experienced being different, struggled a bit, found some friends of the supportive-also-different type, and come through to the other side having made a happy and secure place for yourself at your school.  Dadam and I are so proud.  Many adults struggle with creating their own happiness when times are hard and here you are, eleven years old(!), empowered and making the choice to be happy and fulfilled.  You regularly volunteer in Noodle's Kindergarten class, doing errands, filing, and helping with art projects during your recess time.  You also do volunteer work in your own class, when the teacher has things you can do around the class.  But you also take time to play and enjoy being a kid.  You have got friends in all different social "strata" and I think you talk about playing with a different group of students every day.  You are doing what is right for you and not being penned in by the "group" mentality.  I love seeing you make your own way.

Once again, you have made a challenging adjustment and come out just fine on the other side.  You've adapted to the different demands of the academics here, chosen to play the clarinet and been accepted to the advanced ensemble in your first year of playing, and made lots of friends and connections.  I know that I've said this before, but you amaze me with your adaptability and your strength.

Eleven is going to bring us lots and lots of changes.  Middle school(!!), which I am more than slightly nervous about (and I know you are too!) and all those issues are right around the corner.  Hormones have already started giving us a sneak peek with some out-of-the-blue roller-coaster-highs-and-lows and I have a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better.  Dadam and I are still working on our take-a-deep-breath-and-calm-down-before-responding parenting skills.  It's difficult not to get wrapped up when you get ramped up, but we are working on it.  And you are working on all sorts of skills too; the ability to mind your own business, to not argue, to deal with your frustration and anger constructively, we're all learning during this growing up time.  We're under no illusions that you'll learn these things over night, we're aware that adolescence is a years-long transition, but I believe that we have an amazing, strong foundation.  And I believe, with all my heart, that we'll make it through okay.

You've recently begun to be more concerned with your hair and clothes, though your style is still completely your own.  (Which I LOVE!)  You are aware some girls "like" boys and some boys "like" girls, but you are not at all interested in that game.  But you still love to play on the swings, dig in the sand and play school with Lu-Lu and Noodle.  The pendulum has begun to swing.

For your birthday this year you elected not to have a party.  You asked if GranEde and GranDude could come down and we went camping as a family.  It was fantastic.   We played on the beach and hiked and spent time with one another.  The whole weekend was so much fun.  You are so grounded in our family and our closeness is something I treasure every day.

PrincessE, I wish that I could take away whatever grey days you'll face in the next year.  I wish I could clean the way of interactions that leave you feeling low and unsure of yourself, I wish I could protect you from the "mean girls" that might be out there.  But I know that's not the way life works.  I can't make middle school an easy transition and really, I'm not sure I should want to.  It's the challenges you make it through, on your own with help from us, that will set you up for success in your life ahead.  And I see that you have found the power to make your own happiness, a power that will keep you strong your whole life through.

So my birthday wish for you this year is that you never loose sight of how powerful you are.  You are strong, you are beautiful, you are intelligent and you are amazing and all of those parts of you come together in a person who I am lucky to know and even luckier to have as my daughter.

I love you, PrincessE.  Happy Birthday!
Mommy


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kitchen Safety

Knives are dangerous.  Kids in the kitchen are scary.  These two things together make parenting a nervous adventure!  We've been expanding kitchen skills as the kids seem a) responsible enough to handle and b) as they desire.  The Boy-child and PrincessE have been using knives for a couple years now, to chop small vegetables and cut cheese and bread.  We've mostly avoided injury.

Until now.

Sunday afternoon The Boy-child was trying to get the plastic cover off a large brick of cheese, by using the knife he was planning on using to cut the cheese.  This is something we've reviewed before, but he was hungry and in a hurry.  Holding the plastic with his left hand, he sliced the packaging and also managed to cut open his middle finger.

I had my back to him and I heard him say, "Mom, I've cut myself."  Oh he was calm.  But when I turned around and saw him, bloody finger being held by the other hand, I knew it was bad.  We put the cut under some cold water and wrapped it with a clean towel.  When I had a chance to look at it, my suspicions were confirmed.  He had a cut that was halfway around his finger, nail to pad.  It was really unpleasant.  At this point, I was struggling to keep myself under control.  I really just wanted to cry with Noodle who was standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, clutching her face, saying "I'm scared."

Me too, kiddo.  Me too.

I swallowed hard and held it together.  The Boy-child and I sat down, me holding his finger and keeping pressure on it, while Dadam tried to figure out where we should go for help.  We didn't even know where to take him!  I felt like urgent care might be quicker than the ER, so Dadam made appropriate insurance phone calls to be sure we were covered for urgent care.

Our conversation about who was taking him went like this:

Me - (out loud)You should take him.  (mentally:  I nearly threw up when I was rinsing his finger and I know that they are going to stitch this puppy and I don't know if I can hold it together.)

Him - You should take him.

Me - You should take him. (mentally:  Dude, I don't think you understand.  We have an audience, so I can't tell you that I'm afraid I'm going to loose my shit when they stitch him up.  I'm afraid I can't do this.)

Him - I think you should take him.  But I can take him.  Do you want me to take him?  I'll take him.

Me - Uh.  Never mind.  I'll take him.   (mentally:  You can do this.  You're The Mom.)

(When we got home and had the post-game analysis, I discovered that Dadam had no clue I was feeling so upset.  He felt like I would do a better job advocating with the medical staff, which is probably true and I do appreciate his vote of confidence.  But at the time I wanted to just run away and hide.)

Off to Urgent Care, we waited for an hour, they looked at it and put in three stitches.  That child sure doesn't mess around.  That was one large slice.  The most painful part was when they washed it with the iodine stuff.  The numbing injection wasn't great either, but once that part was over we chatted about Harry Potter while the Doc did the stitching.

The Boy-child's doing fine now.  He's a bit hampered by not being allowed to be his usual wild and crazy physical self, but it's just for a couple weeks and then he'll be right back to normal.  It will be a wild scar though.

And I did it.  Shew.




Saturday, January 19, 2013

Couched in Destruction

When I was a kid we had some MARVELOUS living room furniture.  They were molded foam chairs, that could fold out into beds.  They had no wood, no screws and no hard bits, other than the zippers on the bottoms that held the covers on.  They would easily fit two adults on them, so they were no small peanuts.  And we loved them.  We would turn them on their sides and fold out the bed part, they would become a cave.  We scooted them close and climbed to the top.  We mangled them and scooted them and carried them around.  They were the best living room furniture ever.  The other bonus was that we lived in a house with a massive living room and so there was tons and tons of rooms for all these shenanigans.

We, unfortunately, have traditional living room furniture.  I look at it and compare it to the creative heaven that was my childhood and I am sad that my children do not know the wonder that is molded foam furniture.  (Just based on the ability for creative play, not based on aesthetics.)

I shouldn't have been so sad.

This is what my living room looked like this morning:


These are the signs I found posted on some bedroom doors:




And this is what I found inside the bedroom:


Creativity will overcome the adversity of traditional furniture every time!  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesdy: Rag Rug Factory

(TheBoyChild had a rag rug going too, but his has gotten misplaced. I'll help
him start another one tomorrow. He wasn't without something to work on tonight, though. He was practicing his trumpet!)





A Note to EveryMommyPast

Dear PriorSelf,

I see you back there, in the hindsight that time and growth gives us all, harried, stressed, exhausted. There's barely time to sit down and nurse the baby before you need to jump back up and kiss someone's boo-boo or help with homework, while listening to another child practice reading aloud while you are making dinner. It's insanity. And let me tell you: It gets Different.

Is it better? EveryParent while Dadam is away bringing home the TurkeyBacon is never easy. But in my reality, there are no more diapers and no more nursing time outs. Now there are games of catch to play and fraction problems to check. There are discussions about what "peace" means and which President should be added to Mount Rushmore. There are rag rugs to work on and instruments to practice. There is orthodontic work to clean and chapter books to be read.

Don't despair though! Our children are amazing and the time and energy and Love you are giving them in PriorReality is paying it forward. They love to laugh and do so easily. They are open and honest and talkative. There is always much to share and learn. They all four help set the table and they clean it up afterwards. They empty the dishwasher and load it again. They can even clear the table and put away the leftovers. And right now they are all in the special Years of Little Attitude. And it is lovely.

My goodness the beautiful and amazing children we have helped to grow. How I love them, how I know you love them. I know there is still work and I hope one day SubsequentMother will search for you and I and thank us.

Until then let us endeavor to savor every moment, try to relax and laugh, to Love them in total and completely. And to Love ourselves for who we are and what we do.

Thank you so much for all your hard work. With my utmost love and respect,
ExtantMommy

Friday, January 11, 2013

Self Publishing

We've always made a practice of making pencils, coloring supplies, and paper available so the kids could write and create as much as they wanted. This has resulted in some pretty adorable stuff.


PrincessE announces a "secret meeting".  This note was in the upstairs hallway.  Clearly her OpSec (Operation Security) needs some work.  


This little booklet was written by LuLu.  Inside is a list of things, presumably that she has seen.  


PrincessE also started publishing a weekly newsletter.  She scores massive points for the fact that it has a title, date and is actually a layout you might find in a newspaper.  One of my favorite aspects is that the article about the power going out is called "Electric Shock".  What a punny kid!


Noodle's note is for GranEde and GranDude.  
"Der Graneedee and Granddood wut did yoo doo on thrsda"



There is one person that is absent from this litany of creative and adorable writing samples. Yes, TheBoyChild is the one who usually isn't writing and doesn't really favor coloring.  That's fine, we understand that everyone has different interests.  But sometimes, he does come up with, well, interesting examples of using his drawing creatively.  

Exhibit A:   

This lovely picture was on the back of a "holiday card" TheBoyChild was asked to make at school.  The inside is a snowflake and it says "Happy Holidays".  Apparently, he was tired of the holidays......



(I had mixed feelings about sharing TheBoyChild's work.  For one, it's a bit violent.  Second, what the he*& was he thinking?!?!  Third, it's really sort of funny in an uncomfortable way.  And I think he may very well have been tired of all the fuss about Christmas; it's a bit of a culture shock to come from an entirely Jewish school to a school where you are in a tiny minority.  Lastly, and I hesitate to use this to explain away too much but it's appropriate here - he is a Boy, after all.) 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Just an overview of the last few weeks while I get back to blogging.











Aaaand we're back!

Hiatus all done, time to get back to writing, sharing, telling our story.  I don't know why it's taken me so long to get back to blogging.  I could say how crazy busy it's been, which would be true, but it would be a bit of a fallacy.  It's not so hard to pick up the smartphone that's constantly within arms reach and just bang out a blog post or two.  And yet, I haven't managed it until now, six months later.  Excuses, reasons and rationale aside, what's done is done.  Or more appropriately what's not done is still not done.

We're mostly settled here in California.  We had an Epic Adventure across the country, during which the kids went to Camp Awesome Experiences and enjoyed some amazing things as we made our way to our new home.  We got here and got settled and have been trying to adapt to the abundance of sunshine, tiny amounts of rain, strange school schedule and insanity of living in a major metropolitan area.  Some things have needed less adaptation than others; we're thoroughly enjoying the extremely close proximity to the beach and we have seen dolphins and whales in the water!

So, we're back. I'll be making a concerted effort to update lots more, catch up on some of what I missed and do a little everyday!