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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BJ's Whale Adoption Fund

BJ has decided he wants to adopt a whale. Not just any whale, mind you -- a right whale.

He announced this two weeks ago. We discussed it and decided that S and I would donate a dollar each week (on top of his $1 allowance) towards his Whale Adoption Fund. Now, on his responsibility chart which tracks his allowance, he is keeping a tally. Having put in much of the coins in his piggy bank as well as a ten dollar bill that he had been saving, he now has $24.67. Not bad for two weeks!

Today after school, while he and BB snacked on the traditional Wednesday popsicles, BJ was telling our friend M about his whale adoption plans. M dug into his jeans pocket and presented BJ with two quarters. "Put this in your fund!" he said.

BJ was delighted, of course, and as we left school he clearly saw every adult he knew as a potential donor. Another parent at the school, S, heard that M gave BJ fifty cents. S gave him a dollar. (And then told BJ he should go back to M and say that she gave him a whole dollar -- see if he'd up the ante! S and M are friends, as you might have guessed. Yes, I did not allow BJ to put the squeeze on M for more coins.)

Uncharacteristically, we agreed to this whole Whale Adoption Fund before actually researching what would be involved. Happily, there is a reputable Right Whale Sponsorship program through the New England Aquarium. BJ and I were exploring their website today. Turns out you can sponsor (adopt) a whale for as little as $45!

BJ is aiming for the $75 level or above, and has talked about asking for Christmas money towards the project. Will be interesting to see how persistent he is about this and if he meets his goal before December. He has also decided he wants to sponsor a male whale, which would be either Starry Night, Shackleton, Snowball, or Calvin.
Starry Night the whale -- pic from the New England Aquarium Whale Sponsorship Program

Will keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Advice from BB

At the lunch table yesterday, BB declared:

"Be content with simple things. There are many strange things in the world. You should leave them alone. Be content with simple things -- that's my advice."

(Yes, verbatim!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nose Spray

So far, the most challenging part of back to school has been the power struggles on the afternoons when BB and I need to pick up BJ. It didn't seem to matter how well the morning had been going -- when it came time for pick up, BB would turn whiny and stubborn.

"It's too hot!" she'd complain. "I'm too tired!" Or, "I'll get all sweaty!"

You get the idea. Granted, it has been a little warm, but this is one of those situations that just didn't have a lot of room for negotiation. Walking to pick up brother from school simply had to happen.

After several stressful walks -- including the one that still makes me shudder, when BB ran away from me all the way down the block -- I'm happy to say that we seem to have found a solution:

Nose spray.

That's BB's name for it, anyway. It's a small plastic spray bottle filled with water. I gave it to her a while back, when I got fed up with her nasty habit of licking her index finger and rubbing spit on her nose and upper lip. (Ewwww!)

Why was she coating her nose and parafiltrum with saliva?

"My nose is hot" was her answer. (Duh, mom.)

And believe me, her nose seems to get hot a lot.

So in an effort to keep bodily fluids where they belong, I gave her the spray bottle filled with water and told her she could spray that on her face whenever she was feeling hot. She immediately labeled it her "nose spray" and while she still does the finger/spit/nose thing sometimes, she's pretty enchanted with the little plastic bottle and its contents.

It was actually her idea to bring the "nose spray" along on one of the walks to pick up BJ, and while I was tempted at first to say no (one more thing to keep track of) I figured hey, if that's what it takes to keep her happy and cooled off, then it's a pretty simple solution. So far (for the last three pick-ups, at least) it is working really well. She sprays herself the whole way there and back -- often needing a refill at the water fountain before heading back home -- and she's discovered it doesn't always have to go on her nose. Neck is good too.

Especially back of the neck. And so we end up with a damp shirt and drippy face in the process. But hey, choose your battles. I'd rather have a slightly damp child that than a fussy kid any day!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Feature -- Kezi Handmade Jewelry

This week's featured Etsy artist is another talented SF Etsian -- Christine of Kezi Handmade Jewelry. I always love browsing through other jewelry shops on Etsy, especially ones full of gracefully elegant pieces like the ones you'll find at Kezi Handmade! I particularly admire the simplicity and beauty of Christine's wire work pieces, like this lovely Amethyst and Hammered Gold Wire Wrapped Necklace.

Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

I design and make handmade jewelry. I started making jewelry as a way to both exercise some creativity and because, well, I'm a picky person. Whenever I went searching for jewelry at stores, there was always something I wanted to change about the pieces being sold - too short, too showy, too overpriced - and I felt like so much of the jewelry on the market looks... mass produced.

I'm 100% self-taught, which has been a fascinating and challenging process. When I first started, I was genuinely surprised to receive compliments on my creations. I thought I didn't have the "right" technique, or that my lack of formal training would ostracize me from veteran jewelry designers, so the warm reception I've received on Etsy has been a wonderful surprise. I've come to love my unique approach and am thrilled there are others who like it as well.

My creative process varies wildly. Sometimes I'll get an idea when I'm out on a run and turn around to start working on it. As I do in life, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, so you won't find any sketches or detailed planning. I guess you could say the creative process hits me when it feels like it, and I get working as fast as possible.

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

SF Etsy (of course), EFA (Etsy for Animals), Etsy for Charity, We Love Handmade and Etsy, I Heart Rescues, Creative Handmade Artisans...

3. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

I've lived abroad many times. The name of my shop, Kezi, comes from the Hungarian word for Handmade. In addition to Hungary, I've lived in Italy, Austria and Thailand, where I was a Tsunami relief volunteer for about a year and met my current boyfriend.

When I'm not working on jewelry or enjoying the outdoors, I work in Health Economics. Suffice to say not many people are familiar with that field, so in a nutshell, I work with numbers and statistics all day. Big difference from jewelry design.

I'm also an animal lover, so I donate a portion of proceeds from my Etsy shop to The Humane Society of the United States.

4. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

I think as many people would agree, it's getting noticed amid a sea of talent. I think Etsy is a wonderful place to buy, sell and network, but it certainly can be difficult to stand out.

5. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

I think my favorite item (at least today) is my "Little Dipper" necklace. I like it because it really epitomizes my whirlwind creative process. I had no set vision when creating this; just had a feeling about making something whimsical and unique, and out this came.

6. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?

I'm sure this isn't impressive to most people, but when I first started getting international sales - especially when I think I was unknowingly charging too much for international shipping - I was pretty happy.

7. Give us some insight on how you personally, or your shop, gives back to your community.

My friends recommended I sell on Etsy, and I realized that this would not only be fun, but would also be a way to generate some revenue to donate to charity. I currently donate 10% of net proceeds to The Humane Society of the United States and hope to someday raise that amount.

8. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

I have a Facebook page for my Etsy shop, and I LOVE meeting fellow Etsians on there!

I also have a blog where I feature other Etsy artists from around the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mixed Bag

Today was an up-and-down kind of day, definitely a mixed bag. I woke up grumpy after a restless night. BJ was far from his usual cheery self this morning as well, mostly because we had to wake him up. (A Very Unusual Event.) He kept complaining that he wanted to go back to bed and get more sleep -- and given how things turned out today, maybe that would have been a good idea!

I stayed for Open Sing, hoping that would help turn my mood around. And thankfully it did help improve my frame of mind. When I got home, BB asked if we could go swimming, and even though I really didn't want to, I agreed. (Really, what I wanted to do was go back to bed....)

So we went to the campus pool. It was chilly, I didn't want to get my hair wet, and especially given the typical poolside population of bikini-clad undergraduates I felt less than attractive in my Mommy Swimsuit Attire, which these days consists of men's swim trunks worn over a women's tank suit. (This is what happens when you ask Mommy to go swimming and she hasn't had the time and/or inclination to spend an extra ten minutes in the shower getting friendly with her razor.) A practical solution -- but not the most stylish. (And my women's studies training allows me to rationalize it all in terms of A Feminist Stand Against Gendered Expectations, but that only gets ya so far sometimes. Especially since I still shave regularly below the knee.)

In spite of all that, I'm glad we went, mostly because BB is finally making significant progress in feeling more comforable in the water. We've gone swimming as a family a few times now in recent weeks, and each time she's getting more daring and more competent. Today, she was dunking her own head underwater without any hesitation, and using the kickboard she made it across the length of the pool three times without any help from me (though I was there alongside her the entire time, Just In Case). She was pretty danged proud, and it was very sweet to see.

We got home to the apartment to discover a note from S that he'd had an unexpected wrinkle in the day: a call from the school, asking him to come pick up BJ. The poor kid had done another running face-plant on the asphalt, echoes of last year's concussion. Abrasions on his elbow, a lump above his eye, and complaints that he felt like throwing up. The nurse thought he was probably OK but he should be seen by a doctor, just to be sure. Happily, Kaiser was able to get us in for an appointment, and even more happily, the pediatrician said he seems fine.


So BJ spent the rest of the day at home, which was certainly not in the original plan for the day. Thankfully, he continued to be fine. We'd planned for an afternoon playdate with our old mommy group friends, A and her kids E and T, and BJ said he felt up for it, so I didn't cancel. Considering it had been about a year and a half since we last saw these friends, I was especially glad that we didn't have to cancel!

It was a fun playdate -- ice cream and stomp rockets, what's not to like? -- and very nice to catch up a bit with A. I hope it won't be so long again before we get the pleasure of their company.

And I hope tomorrow isn't as much of a mixed bag! BB is home from preschool, since the teachers have a staff development day, and if all goes well the girl and I will get some more fun one-on-one time. She really seems to be benefitting from it, thank goodness.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ed Emberley Therapy

I've been trying to make an extra effort to make time for one-on-one stuff with BB. It's not that the kid doesn't get enough attention -- heaven knows she gets PLENTY, both from me and from S -- but things have been busy this summer, and with the start of school for BJ I think she's felt left out of things a bit. From the frequency and intensity of some recent meltdowns, it's been made clear that she would benefit from more focused positive feedback from me.

(Meltdowns? Our sweet BB? Alas, yes. While she's still usually her lovely self, we've had increasing incidences of defiance and power struggles. To give a specific example: during the first week of BJ's school, she had taken to storming off while we were walking BJ home from school. She ran away down the sidewalk, much too far away from me for my comfort not to mention her safety, wouldn't stop when asked, and ended up with me having to chase her down the block. More than once. Not Good. And when taken to task for such behavior, she said outright that she felt left out and needed more attention. Hm! She's also had more than one post-preschool hysterical fit which culminated in her crying in her bed and wailing, "I feel like I have No Love In My Heart!!!")

(I know!!!)

I know, too, that I've not always been at my cheerful best lately (sleep issues, crazy busy with pending start of school, and mostly, I think, simply Mommy At The End Of The Summer Feeling Like She Needs Some Time To Herself, etc) and I'm sure that hasn't been helping things. (Know that saying, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy? Hm.)

Clearly BB and I both needed some Ed Emberley Therapy.

Collaborative Fingerprint Art by BB and Me

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to make fingerprint art, following my beloved copy of Ed Emberley's Thumbprint Drawing Book. I'd make everything from intricate garden scenes to elaborate fantasy football end-of-game freeze frames, customized to my father's fan preferences, with wee thumbprint Dallas Cowboys beating the dastardly thumprint Pittsburgh Steelers 1001 to zero, celebratory linebackers with their little pencil-line arms thrust into the air with the thrill of victory. (And this was before fantasty football. This was also back when my professed answers to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" included "A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader so my daddy can see me on TV!" That explains something, I'm sure. Just not sure what.)

A while back, my mom (bless her!) had sent the kids a copy of the book, and as I paged through the crisp, clean copy, it was great fun to remember all the good times I'd had with it. (And to wonder, whatever happened to my battered old copy?) I'd put aside the brand-new book to bring it out as a special thing. BB got one look at it, and she was entranced. It's interesting that in first grade, I spent many an hour with pink fingertips, engrossed in my thumbprint art, and my own first-grader BJ, so far, has shown no interest in it. But BB is having a blast!

BB's fingerprint art -- lots of cattails and flowers. Note the kitty cat towards the bottom left and the lion in the upper right, both straight out of Emberley's instructions!

We've now covered many pieces of paper with colored fingerprints and had a wonderful time doing it. The books are truly a treasure, so clear and clever and cute and creative -- his step-by-step directions are easy to follow, and it's just plain good fun. BB likes doing her own drawings, of course, and she also enjoys doing ones together, like this garden scene. (I especially like the bird at the top of the tree and the striped red honeypot that she put in at the bottom after I drew the bumblebee at the top right.)

Thumbprint Garden with Honeypot by BB and Me

I think happiness may be an ink-stained thumb. (Temporarily, at least.)

Thank you, Ed Emberley! (And thank you, Mom, for sending along the book!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

BB asked for a home day today while BJ was at school, so we spent the morning making cookies. I haven't been doing much baking ever since our household went on a low sodium diet, so it was interesting to see what I could do with the new dietary restrictions.

Chocolate chip cookies are a family favorite, so I wasn't surprised that BB requested them. Since S especially likes butterscotch chip cookies, I was happy to make them as well -- an easy task, simply dividing the dough in half before adding the chips, and putting in chocolate in one half and butterscotch in the other. Since the flavored chips are pretty low in sodium themselves (only 5 mg of sodium in a tablespoon of chocolate chips and 10 mg of sodium in a tablespoon of butterscotch chips, and each cookie has much less than a tablespoon of chips in it) I figured it would be fairly easy to end up with a lower sodium version of the classic cookie recipe.

After a little research and a browse through the low-sodium cookbooks that I've purchased, I discovered that the recipes I could find involved either egg whites only (which I tend not to like in cookies, unless we're talking meringues) or extra ingredients like corn syrup, which I didn't have. So I decided to just try the recipe I used to make, omitting the salt. The recipe called for a teaspoon of baking soda, which is also a source of sodium, so I decided to try replacing half of the baking soda with baking powder, which is a source of sodium as well but a much smaller amount.

My final recipe entirely omitted 2300 mg of salt (1 teaspoon). The original recipe had a total amount of 3500 mg of sodium in the ingredients, not including that from the chips. I reduced that to 860 mg of sodium (600 mg from 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 260 mg from 1/2 teaspoon baking powder). Since it makes about 4 dozen cookies, including a rough estimate for the added sodium from the chips, that's only about 20-25 mg of sodium per cookie in this recipe, compared to about 75-80 mg of sodium per cookie in the original recipe!

And the most important thing: they are still really yummy! I mean, eyes-closed-while-you-eat-them yummy... that's a cookie in her left hand, from which she just took a bite!

Here's the recipe for Mama's Magic Reduced Sodium (No Salt) Fill-In-The Blank Chip Cookies!

Oven 375 degrees

2 1/4 cups flour (I used unbleached white flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups flavored chips of choice (semi-sweet chocolate and/or butterscotch chips)
optional: 1 cup nuts (i didn't include nuts in the recipe or in any sodium counts, but unsalted nuts wouldn't add much if any)

Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl.

Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add egg, beating well until combined. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in chips and nuts if desired.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Cook 9-11 minutes, until golden brown.
(Watching the oven while they bake is entirely optional.)

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.
They were a wee bit flatter than the cookies from the classic, higher sodium recipe --and they are more crisp today than the cookies with salt would have been. I've read that salt interacts chemically with the fat ingredients in the cookies, so maybe that's part of what's going on. The flattening was more obvious with the larger cookies (the ones that BB measured out; getting a good consistent small cookie dough amount was challenging for her). But not really a noticeable difference.

Next time, to reduce the sodium even further, I might try replacing all the baking soda with baking powder and see what happens!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Feature -- Boutique Vintage 72

This week's featured Etsy artist is my SF Etsy teammate Boutique Vintage 72. I had such fun checking out her shop! It's full of fun whimsy, eco-friendly items, and pops of color. This Upcycled Cotton Necklace especially caught my eye -- I don't often wear these colors myself, but I've always liked the red and light blue combination. Reminds me of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz!

Enjoy the interview!

1. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

I am married to a film maker and am Mama to an almost 7 year old iCarly addict (we are seeking treatment ;) I worked as a Pastry Chef in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Manhattan and San Francisco, but my favorite gig was on a ranch in the middle of no where near Encampment, Wyoming. I now work in my daughter's school cafeteria and as an art teacher for 4-8 year olds and I have never been happier.

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

SF Etsy, CCCOE, Davis United, Etsy Success, Follow Me, Handmadeology

3. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

My creative interests are constantly evolving and so are my shop items! I started making recycled paper bead jewelry about a year ago and that process really got me thinking about creating something beautiful from the bits and pieces usually left behind. My main focus is recycled or upcycled materials, vintage fabrics, and organic elements. My goal is to create a one-stop shopping experience with plenty of Eco friendly products that have a fun, funky, bohemian vibe. I currently offer jewelry, bookmarks, key fobs, cozies, organic soaps, crochet and knit items, decoupage clothespin magnets and my latest obsession....Tooth Fairy Pillows!

4. What inspires your creations?

My Mom used to wear these wild and funky patchwork skirts when I was a little girl (yup, it was the '70's) and I just thought they were the most beautiful thing. I think my love of colors and natural materials really is a leftover from my being raised in the time of the flower child. I also really like to laugh and have fun, so I think a little bit of playfulness often sneaks its way into my creations.

5. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?

Knowing how to get my product seen. I have just recently started trying to market my shop, but it is by far my least favorite thing to do. Like all of us, I'd so much rather be creating things! I am trying to embrace the fact that self-promotion is just a part of the business and even if it makes me uncomfortable, I still need to do it. I definitely want to find that balance between promotion and pest when it comes to social media.

6. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

Honestly, each thing I make is my favorite until I make something else! Right now though, I am absolutely OBSESSED with my new "Petite Boutique Tooth Fairy Pillows". I am super attached to them, I have a whole basket of them and they just make me happy to look at them.

7. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I really want to learn glass blowing and become adept at ceramics.

8. If money were no object for just one day, what would you do?

I would lay in a hammock all day with a really great book.

9. What does buying and selling local handmade mean to you, and how has it affected your life?

Buying and selling handmade has really made me feel closer to my community. When I sell one of my items from my Etsy shop, I send it off with a few butterflies in my stomach and a sincere wish that it makes my customer happy. For me, it is a personal experience, I am not just sharing a product, I am sharing a little bit of me as well. I absolutely love buying from other Etsy sellers, knowing that I am supporting their dreams and their creativity is such a lovely added bonus to whatever my purchase may be. Etsy is the first place I check when I need to buy something.

10. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

You Tube

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Open Sing, Playdates, King Coelocanths, And Floating Hearts

It's been a busy week! BJ's first week in first grade continues to go really well. I went to open sing with him yesterday morning, and it was amazing to see How Grown Up the first graders were. Last year, whenever I went to open sing, BJ insisted that I sit right by him (often with him in my lap). This was the typical MO with most of the kindergarten kids and in spite of it resulting in many a leg full of pins and needles, I loved it.

This time, he told me, "You can sit in one of the chairs, Mom. I'm a first grader now." Bittersweet! But still fun to sing along and to watch the kids. At one point when they started to sing the goodbye song, BJ's neighbor J threw his arms around the shoulders of the kids on either side and started swaying. BJ wasn't quite sure what to do at first, but then he caught on, hooked his arm around his neighbor, and swayed back and forth. I then realized most of the kids in the upper grades were doing this -- apparently J had been paying attention!

BB and I spent the rest of Wednesday morning at the park with our friends. She was a little anxious about the playdate at first, but soon she and C were having a great time. They climbed all over and played a lot of frisbee. (Which mostly involved one kid throwing it and the other yelling, "I'll get it!" while running towards where it had landed on the ground.)

Two sweet girls! (And their hats practically match, not that we planned it that way!)

As always, I really enjoyed hanging out with C's mom, A and little O. We had a picnic lunch and basked in a gorgeous morning. And just when I was thinking the morning couldn't get much better, it turned out that we got the surprise of running into BB's "best preschool friend" M when they arrived at the park!

I'd been meaning to talk with M's mom for a while about setting up a playdate, and this gave me the perfect opportunity. We happened to run into them just as our playdate with C was coming to a close. I'd said it was time to leave, but happily the schedule had enough wiggle room for us to hang around for another 20 minutes or so to give M and BB some time to play together. While she's made a lot of progress, BB is still having some anxiety about preschool (in fact, Tuesday's drop off was pretty difficult) and I'm hoping that nurturing the friendship with M will help. I think the park play time has helped already, since she had no nervousness at all about going to school today. So that counts for something!

Other news from the week: we may be coming to the end of BJ's long-running obsessive playing of "My Ocean Sim" (a computer simulation game, in which you breed and feed various fish). He finally got the last fish in the game to mate, the King Coelocanths. And boy was he happy about that!

The kid just about burst with excitement! (Not surprising: he's been so into this that he tells almost everybody and anybody about his progress with the game, which he's been playing for months, so the build up was pretty intense.) See the red heart on the computer screen? That's where the fish are mating; the computer game always illustrates the moment with a floating red heart in which you'll find a baby fish. So much for biological accuracy.

That floating heart explains the following conversation: today when we were walking home from school, we saw two butterflies flitting about, one on top of the other. "I think they're mating," said BJ. I said he was probably right. "If we hang around long enough watching them, will there be a red heart?" Yes, there are still some details about the birds and the bees (and the butterflies and the fish) that he has yet to work out.... for now, I'm just answering the questions as he asks them!

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of First Grade!

We officially have a First Grader in the house!

BJ had a great day today. He woke in a chipper mood, excited for school, excited to put on his new backpack -- excited about everything!

A new backpack! With planets on it! Talk about perfect for this kid!?!

He was definitely rarin' to go.

And in spite of his being Such A Big Kid Now, he held my hand for most of the walk to school. (I remain deeply touched by the fact that he still wants to hold my hand.) But A Big Kid he definitely is. As he informed me, quite seriously, "Mom, I am in a grade now!"

Our walk to school was full of excited chatter and he arrived at school to greet many friends from last year (including his best friend H). We'd been talking about how different it would be this year, about how he was no longer a new kid, and also talking about how there would be one new student in his class -- a boy, A, who had transferred in. (I met his mom S at the work day on Friday.) While we were waiting to go into the classroom, BJ (on his own initiative) figured out who A was and went up to him to say hello and welcome him to the school. Talk about making mama proud! My heart just swelled.

BJ showed no hint of nerves or anxiety at the prospect of the new classroom. His teacher, M, welcomed him by name, which I'm sure helped. She'd mailed a handwritten note to BJ (and I'm sure to every other kid in her class) a week or so ago, saying how much she was looking forward to having him in her class -- and I know that helped too. He was thrilled to get a letter just for him!

So I couldn't have asked for a better beginning to the school year. He gave me a hug and kiss goodbye and walked in to his first grade classroom without a qualm. And it was funny -- all of us parents are so used to tagging along behind the kindergarten kids, so we weren't sure what to do when M started ushering all the first graders into the classroom. The parents had said goodbyes and were hanging around outside the classroom, unsure what to do as the kids went inside, and about 30 seconds after most of the kids had gone in, M stuck her head around the classroom door and said with a big grin, "What? You're going to leave me alone with All These Kids?"

"I think we were just invited inside," I laughed to a fellow mom. So we parents trooped inside, and M informed us that we were welcome to hang out for "a little while," and we did. M had put out several stations for the kids to explore for the first 15 minutes or so, and BJ sat right down to drawing, simply delighted.

Soon his best friend had joined him. As you can see, they take their art Very Seriously.
BJ finished his ocean scene (except for the water, which I was told he would add in later) and then went to talk to his new teacher. He wanted to ask if it was OK to go up into "the bunk" -- the loft play area that you can see behind him at the art table. He is so intrigued and excited about this part of the classroom -- he's mentioned it almost every time he talks about What It Will Be Like In First Grade.

"Not yet," he was told, that part of the classroom was off limits at the moment. But M did agree to let me snap a pic of the two of them.

So he picked a book to read instead. Easy kid to please (this morning at least!)
About 15 minutes into the morning, M gave the parents their cue to leave and called the kids to the rug to get the day started. BJ seemed thoroughly comfortable, completely at his ease. Hooray!

While BJ was doing his First Grade Thing, BB and I had an nice morning out, running errands and then having lunch together at Sweet Tomatoes (her favorite restaurant). It was very sweet to spend some time with my girl. Really treasuring these moments (though I left the camera at home and missed the Kodak moment of her face covered with chocolate ice cream!) and feeling very blessed today.

We picked up BJ from school, and he was just as cheerful and excited as he had been in the morning. By all accounts, he had a fabulous day.

May it continue!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monterey Bay Aquarium

As promised, since BJ finally made it all the way across the monkey bars, we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday. I've lost track of how many times we've visited the aquarium as a family, but we still love going there!

This time, the touch pools and seahorses were especially popular, as was the open ocean area. BB loved seeing the sharks, and BJ was thrilled to see in-person examples of so many of the fish he's been encountering in My Ocean Sim (his current favorite computer game).

We all had a lot of fun exploring the aquarium and enjoyed our window seats at lunch. Here's BJ showing off his missing front teeth after lunch:

And of course BB wanted in the pic, too.We were particularly delighted to have a completely unexpected meet-up with S's brother and family! I was heading into the elevator and there they were! (I shrieked my hello to them with such vigor, and they didn't recognize me for a moment, so at first I think they thought "Oh my goodness, close the elevator doors on that crazy lady before she comes in!") A very happy synchronicity indeed.

Both families were getting close to the end of their visits, but we had a very nice ending to the day in our time hanging out with them. Here's BJ and BB with cousin M in the wave room. Of course BJ is waving underneath the wave.

What a great way to spend the last Saturday of summer vacation!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ready for First Grade!

So hard to believe that on Monday BJ will start first grade. Parents spent the morning in the classrooms for the family work day, and I really enjoyed working alongside the other moms and dads, helping to get things ready for the start of school. BJ is more than ready. He's excited about his new teacher, delighted by his new backpack (which has pictures of the planets) and just generally enthusiastic about heading back to school.

This evening we went to the annual back-to-school BBQ, and everybody had a nice time reconnecting with friends and acquaintances. It's such a nice community -- we feel so lucky to be part of it. And as we were leaving the BBQ, BJ did something amazing. (For him, at least!)

The big news: BJ (finally!) made it all the way across the monkey bars!

He's been working on this for a looooooong time. Almost every other one of his other kindergarten friends had come to school able to do them or mastered the skill during the school year. He knew he was in the minority in not being able to do them, but when he'd make the attempt he'd get frustrated and not really want to try. He didn't like it that other kids would see him not being able to do it. So (with a wee bit of encouragement from S) he decided he was going to work on it over the summer when none of his friends would be around. For the past three months, he worked on it now and then, at the school playground and at other park playgrounds.

Thinking a little incentive might help, S had told him that when he could make it All The Way Across (all 7 bars) we would celebrate with a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And tonight, BJ was determined to do it. And he did!

The best part: he didn't just do it once and then leave. He was so proud and excited he wanted to do it over and over. "I can do this!" he announced. And he could! He made it all the way across four times.

So sweet to see. (I wish I'd had the camera!) He ran over and told his kindergarten teacher, who fully appreciated the magnitude of the accomplishment. And then started announcing his achievement to anybody and everybody who walked by. Pretty proud kid.

And as one of the other families said, when he informed them "I can do the monkey bars!" -- just in time! Guess he really is ready for first grade now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beach Day!

All summer the kids had been asking for a day at the beach, and today we finally fit one in. We'd spent some time at the lake beach in New Jersey when visiting my sister's family, and we'd done an afternoon at the beach with Nana, so it wasn't our very first summer day at the beach -- but what the kids meant by a beach day was time at one of our local beaches. So to Capitola we went!
It was a bit chilly and grey -- typical "over the hill" summer weather -- but we had a nice time of it. BJ was very excited to try out his aquascope for the first time.

Unfortunately, as we'd predicted, it couldn't see much in the churned up water of the surf, but he gave it a good go. We'll need to bring it along when we next head to the tide pools.

BB had fun drawing letters in the sand -- here's "A."

BB and I took a nice long walk and found lots of bits of mussel shells, much to her delight. While we were beach combing, BJ and S started a cool sand castle. BB was happy to help finish it.

We really don't get over there often enough. I think it's because going to the beach was always a big deal when I was growing up -- a two hour drive to get there, with all that entails. And I've been hesitant about hauling the kids over that way, given how beach visits have tended to go in the past. But this one went pretty well. And especially considering how close we are to the shore (though they don't call it "the shore" here -- there's another East Coast remnant) we really should go more frequently. Something to try for!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


BJ has learned to whistle (at long last, after much practice). He has currently mastered a single whistled "note" and repeats it rhythmically, almost constantly, and is working on adding other notes to the repertoire so that he will have a tune. He's very proud of this accomplishment. It has not yet become annoying (I hope it stays endearing). It will also be interesting to see if he can still whistle once his two front teeth come in.

Since there is also a drum major camp going on in our building, we are hearing lots of whistles in the vicinity. It gave me an unexpected burst of nostalgia to hear the rhythmic tweets -- though I could no longer recall what each of the patterns symbolized -- and we've been having fun watching the majors with their batons, twirling and tossing. Ah, the memories of being in the marching band. Nothing quite like that combination of enthusiasm, precision, energy, and en-masse earnest geekiness. I think few things in life are as sincere as a really good marching band.

Case in point: OK Go's Marching Band Version of This Too Shall Pass

This one is a family favorite, and when I called that up on YouTube to get the embed code, BJ came over to watch it with me. And proceeded to mono tonally (but mostly rhythmically) whistle along throughout the song. Pretty danged cute.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Week in Review

Whew! It's been kind of crazy over here. I've been having some insomnia issues. The kids' sleep schedules are still messed up from the late hours they kept at Nana's, and we all know the chaos that ensues when the kids aren't sleeping great.

Sleep -- it affects EVERYTHING!

Let's just say I'm looking forward to schedules adjusting and the predictability that will come with the school year starting.

(Which happens a week from Monday! Eek!)

So anyway, here are some highlights from this past week:

  • BJ lost his second tooth, so got his second visit from the tooth fairy (this one was also on the bottom, so he's got that classic 6-year-old's gap-tooth smile, pretty danged cute). This time the tooth fairy left three dollars in coins, some more foreign coins, a commemorative coin for Apollo 11. And fairy kisses for both kids -- she's getting smart, eh?

  • Kids completed their summer reading program through the library and were delighted to pick out their own free books (Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea for BJ, Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones for BB -- Skippyjon has been hugely popular with her lately)

  • BB got a "great job!" sticker at gym class for going over and around the bar All By Herself

  • BJ went to the park day playdate for incoming first graders and was happy to see so many of his old friends

Today should be a good day -- we're meeting Tia M at Hidden Villa, a place I've long wanted to visit with the kids. Then this evening S and I get a date night (Yay!) and while we don't yet know exactly what we're going to do, it will be Very Good to have some grown-up time. So hard to believe the summer vacation is almost over!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trip to Nana's

We are back home after our last trip of the summer, having spent a long weekend at Nana's new place in southern CA. It turns out that her move to the other side of Los Angeles added a significant amount of travel time -- it took us 9 hours to get there on the way down (thanks to L.A. rush hour traffic) and a little more than 8 hours to get back home. Whew.

But once we got there, we had a nice visit with Nana. We walked around the lovely grounds surrounding her new apartment, climbed a tree that they think is more than 400 years old, collected nature treasures, played with her dogs, and also got the unexpected pleasure of hanging out with S's Aunt S and Uncle J whom it turned out were visiting Nana as well.

Of course any visit to Nana's will have a lot of outings. We visited the Santa Ana zoo, which was a neat time -- the kids particularly liked the camel ride.

We went to the Rainforest Cafe for the first time with the kids, which was fascinating for them but ridiculously and even (for the kids, especially BB) frighteningly loud.

But the best outing of all, especially for the kids, was the day we spent at Disneyland. It was BB's first time at the park (S and BJ went together last year) and I hadn't been to Disney in quite some time. For BJ, the highlight was riding Space Mountain (the kid is definitely a roller coaster enthusiast) and riding the Rocket Ships.
For BB, it was all about visiting the princesses. We had to stand in two separate lines, and were in line for more than two hours total, but she got to "meet" four princesses: Ariel


and Rapunzel (with her Prince Flynn, too, as BB pointed out). Rapunzel even let BB hold her hair!
Giving the princesses hugs was a Very Big Deal for BB.

BB even gave a hug to Flynn.
And all day long, BB had seen other little girls at the park with a long Rapunzel wig, so when we visited Rapunzel she got up her nerve to ask if they knew where those girls had gotten hair like that. "The Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo Boutique," we were told. And boy, was BB thrilled to learn that the wig was under the $25 limit we'd set for what the kids could spend!

She loves this wig more than I can possibly explain and wore it for the rest of the day.

BJ also rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and we all did the Jungle Cruise. Dumbo and A Small World were popular, and BB did the teacups. But BB was really hesitant to do anything that had any possibility of getting scared (poor thing was really startled by the Jaguar when we climbed up into Tarzan's treehouse and went into hysterics) but BJ was up for almost anything (except the Haunted House).

Unfortunately, I ended up with my second-ever migraine when we got back to Nana's after our day at Disneyland. I was miserable for most of the night and the 8 + hour drive the next day was no fun since all I really wanted to do was lie down somewhere dark and quiet and be still. Thank goodness S was able to drive the whole way. It's good to be home again, and while we had some fun adventures after all our July travels I'm glad that we don't have any more trips on the calendar for a while!