Schedule-free Saturday

We enjoyed our first completely unscheduled Saturday in months. The gorgeous weather was a bonus.

Cute W spent much of the day staining a desk that his dad made for him.

Staining furniture has got to be on the Cute W’s top ten list for things that make him most tense, ever. For part of the time I stood next to him, catching errant drips with a rag, and listened to him moan, mutter, and curse. This was particularly amusing to me, because it seems like a pretty Zen process. That’s largely because he doesn’t trust me to do it myself, so I don’t have primary responsibility. You might think I’m kidding, but he truly would not let me do it. Anyway, I asked, “What is it about staining that stresses you out so much?” And he answered, “Because everything is a potential mistake.”

Ah, yes. So then it struck me as a perfect metaphor for parenthood. We’re walking around this desk, fussing over the imperfections and touching up what we can and fretting. Because it’s a race against time: if we don’t fix something quickly, it will become a permanent flaw. Cute W is afraid that there will be a thick, ugly drip that he’ll see every time he sits down at his computer desk for years to come. A constant reminder of a momentary lack of competence. Just like parenting, when we encounter bad habits or annoying phases and wonder, is this something that will pass, or is it an indication of a permanent character defect? A defect which is no doubt due to our own parenting incompetence, something that we could have prevented if only we’d been more vigilant? I was thinking all of this while Cute W stained and I wiped drips and we both fretted over the mottled surface.

Then J came along and said, “Wow! That looks wonderful! You guys are doing a great job!”

When we weren’t staining, we were walking. Yesterday, I took the girls to visit my sister and her family in Vermont. When we returned, the weather was gorgeous and I desperately needed to get off my butt. J was at gymnastics, so M and I took a walk. Strangely, this was a revelation. When the girls were in the Baby Bjorn-and-stroller stage, I walked with them often. But we haven’t taken too many random strolls lately. M gushed, “We never just walk without going somewhere. We bike around, or we walk to somewhere, but we never just walk around.” She decided that we should walk far.

When we returned home, we mapped our walk to find out how far we’d walked, and then we logged our time and miles.

So, today, M was eager for another walk. First, J came along. This was a bit of a flop. J didn’t walk fast enough for M, and M wanted to walk farther than J. There was drama and sorrow. We ended the threesome walk, then M and I headed back out.

By the end, M was tired. I asked if I could take a picture for the blog, and she consented.

Then she began to collapse for the camera.

We were both laughing, because we were passing by a neighbor’s house, and they’re always posting photos on Facebook of the whole family climbing mountains. I jokingly narrated the contrasting families’ adventures, “Here’s so-and-so on mile 8 of our trek at 320 feet, still looking good! . . . “Here’s M after a walk around the neighborhood. We borrowed a stretcher for the final block of our stroll.”

So, I’m hoping we stick with this new mother-daughter ritual. J was tired today, but I suggested that we take a one-on-one walk soon. At this rate I might need to get a decent pair of sneakers.

Oh, hey! Stay tuned for another circus giveaway coming up soon!

Cruising Through the Internet

Hey! Happy Friday the 13th! I consider this day especially lucky for me. At some point in elementary school, I read that it’s lucky for anyone born on the 13th of a month Here’s a big pile of links for you.

The Power of Moms has a post called Your Children Want YOU! which made me feel much better about how very little I accomplished this week.

All Over Albany reports that there’s an Egg Hunt for Grown-ups in Troy’s Prospect Park this Saturday.

I am loving Jezebel these days. Specifically, I award them the Best Post Titles in My Entire Google Reader Award. I was forced to invent this award due to their awesome post titles, like: Teacher Fired for Being Pregnant Wants Public to Know She’s Not Like Those Other Whorish Single Mothers. . . Meet the Rising Republican Star Who Would Love to Punch Hillary Clinton in the Face. . . Pageant Moms Resolve Feud, Are Still Terrible Parents. . . Why Marie Curie is Awesome, Now With Finger Puppets. . . Men Are Getting Bikini Waxes. Our Work Here is Done.  That’s pure entertainment, baby!

On Thursday, April 19th at 6:30 pm, there’s a Screening of “Miss Representation” at Union College. I’m super-excited that I’m finally going to get to see it, especially since I just recently missed it for what turned out to be no good reason. Here’s the trailer if you’re trying to decide whether or not to go.

Look at this awesome New York Camping Guide 2012! Thanks to Cute W for sending me the link.

Speaking of parks, did you know that Saturday, April 21st to Sunday, April 29th is National Parks Week, with free access to national parks? Yeah, I didn’t, either, until I read it on the New York History blog. Find a park to visit here.

More calendar stuff! April is National Poetry Month! Learn more at Scholastic or Poetry Foundation or Poetry 180: A Poem A Day for American High Schools or that post I did recently. April is also Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month? Learn more over at Ask Moxie. No, I am not even kidding. Really, every month is extra special in many ways: here’s a huge list of all that makes April oh-so-special. Besides the showers, of course.

Meanwhile, Keep Albany Boring reports that the Albany Bicycle Coalition is already looking forward to May, aka National Bike Month, with plenty of events.

 

We Travel the World

This is my favorite new three-of-us-from-the-back picture in a long time, from today’s visit to an African marketplace!

Okay: not really. We visited go: where children discover the world, the exhibition space for the World Awareness Children’s Museum in Glens Falls. It’s small but fun and worth the trip. I’ll be writing a more detailed review soon.

We also stopped by the Crandall Public Library, both because they have an exhibition of award winners from the museum’s International Youth Art Exchange and because I’m a Library Slut. It’s funny: whenever I think of that post about visiting lots of libraries, I do a search using the term “library slut” because that’s what I called it in my head when I first wrote it. And every time I search, nothing comes up. Because at the time I didn’t want to use the term for fear of being offensive. That was more than two years ago, when I was a newbie blogger. Such a newbie that when I just went back to look, I realized that I let through a spam comment because it seemed sincere. I was so naive. . . . Anyway, I had to confess that I still think of that post as the “Library Slut” post. Besides, aren’t we all supposed to be reclaiming slut by now?

The girls liked the art as well as the child-sized easy chairs. I loved its sparkly cleanliness and huge windows.

We had a fun outing, and I think I have a little crush on Glens Falls now.

Tick, tick, tick. . . .

I don’t quite know where the day went. That’s what it’s like when the kids are home.

Well, first, it’s not entirely true. In the morning, we visited an orthodontist. Little J has crowded teeth, and we were hoping that today’s second opinion would echo the first opinion so that we’d just know what to do. Dr. First said pull 4 teeth and see how it goes.  Which sounded awesome to us, because we love to procrastinate. Actually, by “us” I mean Cute W and me. J thought that this was a bad idea. In fact, we walked out of the office and she told me, “I feel terrified.” It took quite a bit of coaxing to convince her that it wouldn’t feel all that different from getting a cavity filled. What, you don’t agree? Well. . . just zip it, okay? We don’t need to know.

I miss those straight baby teeth.

This morning, Dr. Second was in favor of keeping the teeth and going straight to some braces. He argued convincingly that while extraction works for some, in J’s case, the braces approach would lead to greater “aesthetic success.” This term had Cute W and I snickering immediately. Because, I’m sorry. That’s just funny. I’m already figuring that this will become a new phrase for us, like when we’re out running errands and I’ll lean over to Cute W and say, “Ouch! Aesthetic failure in aisle 5!” Which is wrong. And bad karma. But sometimes it’s difficult to hold back.

The point is, we left the office and had a five-minute conversation about just how confused we were before splitting up for the day. Cute W arrived home from the office with a print-out of approximately 70-odd pages of someone’s thesis on the timing of tooth extractions that he’d Googled . He pronounced it, “Interesting, but inconclusive.” After a swift check of the introduction and conclusion, I’ll agree only to the latter portion of that statement.

Meanwhile I’d ignored Google, except to locate, and make an appointment with, Dr. Third. Looking forward to it. Oh, wait! But the best part is that I hadn’t yet broken it to J that we’d set up a third appointment, so she found out when Cute W was chatting to his mother on speaker phone tonight, and then Grandma started talking on. . . and on. . . about pulling teeth while J’s face collapsed in much the same way that Dr. Second predicts will happen if we choose to extract her teeth. So that was a good time.

The girls were playing together nicely for quite a while this morning and early afternoon, so I was lulled into complacently believing that I could stop puttering (laundry, dishes, etc.) and do more brain-involved computer work. Unfortunately, my psychic children sensed that I had decided to blow off activity for the day, so they reported to the computer to plead for a fun outing. Or, really, any outing. By this time it was about 1:45 pm, and J had evening gymnastics, so I just looked at them, slightly stunned and saddened that my opportunity for productivity had slipped through my fingers. Seeing my slack-and-stumped face, M grouched, “Don’t you, like, run a website about fun stuff to do or something?”

Dammit. Apparently I do. But the girls didn’t realize that organized activities tend to be at 10 am or 1 pm but definitely not, say 2:30 pm, which would have worked for us. Plus we had limited time. We ended up feeding and playing with the neighbors’ pets, visiting the library, and then going for a bike ride.

The good news is that J is finally getting used to her bigger bike, which she began resisting as too scary approximately forty minutes after begging for it please-please-please and five minutes after the credit card slip was signed. So that’s progress. Beyond that, it’s difficult to point to much that was accomplished. I read some more Harry Potter to J. I cut apart M’s wrists after J duct-taped them together (in fairness, M did it to J first). M and I took a walk and briefly kept our legs perfectly synchronized, left/right, as I realized that soon I’ll be able to rest my chin comfortably on the top of her head. Some days, noticing that the kids are still here and growing is the all the accomplishment that a Mama can hope for.

Besides, there’s always tomorrow.

Easter

Do you ever read one of those magazines and they’ll say “So-and-so hosted a casual buffet with some neighbors and invited us to see her easy-breezy style”? And what follows is several pages of impossibly gorgeous spreads of food surrounded by distinctive and clever decor and people who look impeccable and beautiful in every way? And you think, “Who the hell hosts a party like that?” Well, once a year my big sister does with her Easter Egg Hunt and Lunch.  Here are some pictures:

Cute bunny adorning the dessert table.

Plenty of fresh flowers already planted (she’s in New Jersey, so it’s a bit warmer).

An Easter wreath. One decor tip I’m going to try to adopt is that she has all of her decorative wall hangings–like autumn and Christmas wreaths–hanging out in plain sight around her basement. It makes the storage area prettier and more cheerful, makes it more difficult to forget about seasonal decor, and frees up shelf space.

J insisted that I take a photograph of the deviled egg tray. She loved how her aunt fancied it up.

Hi from the girls, playing on the hammock.

Bunny ears for everyone!

So pretty they look fake. But they’re alive!

Frankly, I think the woman has a wreath fetish. But who can blame her? And I love this door, too.

What’s a pile of asparagus without pansies?

More flowers!

Pretty again.

Pansy.

For the egg hunt, a plastic egg tried to blend in with the decorative eggs.

More egg hunt.

Another “hidden” egg.

Correspondence with Schools

First, I keep getting links for Easter fun. So here are a few:

The other day, I was pondering my school letters for next year. At our elementary school, some parents choose to write a letter about their child in an attempt to sway teacher assignments. Really, I don’t think too many families do it. In fact, I’ve never written a letter for M. Last year I wrote one for J partly at the suggestion of her teachers, because her possible teacher assignments included a wonderful teacher whom M had had and another teacher who is a bit harsh and brusque.

The letter thing is a little nutty. We aren’t permitted to name teachers, so there’s a rather well-established code called “learning style.” For the first graders, instead of naming teachers A, B, or C, parents tend to say that they believe their child would flourish with “discipline and structure,” with “a warm environment with some structure,” or with “plenty of freedom and warmth.” The quotations aren’t exact, but I think most parents at our school would be able to match those up fairly well with the three first grade teachers. I’ve even had school staff advise me on the code to avoid a particular teacher: “I believe strongly that teachers should conform to our school’s homework guidelines.” Anyway, the whole set-up is goofy, but I don’t really have a better method to suggest. Parents want input, but they can’t be in charge of these assignments. Parents don’t know the teachers, the other kids, and the curricula as well as the folks making the assignments. And our kids can act quite differently at school than at home, so if our kids are the one area in which parents claim expertise, I don’t even know if that‘s true.

This year, we received a special note from the principal in which she once again said what we couldn’t say, like teachers’ names, and threw in some new ones including no mention of  “learning style” and no requests to avoid combination classes. One friend summed it up something like, “in other words, please don’t write.” But of course it’s precisely this year’s uncertainty, including teachers getting reassigned all over the place and a possible combination class of 1st and 2nd graders, that made me feel like I had to write something for each of them. For M, I told the principal about her miserable experience with a math teacher on the off chance that the teacher would be reassigned to 5th grade. For J, I explained that J still has a complex about being “too old” for first grade. She turned 7 on October 1st. I just went back searching for a post of being a Red Shirter and I realized that I never wrote one–how is that possible? Anyway, if a stranger asks her what grade she’s in, she’ll still sometimes answer, “I should be in 2nd grade, but I’m only in 1st grade.” It makes me crazy.

So I wrote those letters, and then I remembered another communication I had. The 4th graders have been doing practice tests for their upcoming state tests a lot. And we’ve been getting all sorts of reminders about the test dates, and the importance of plenty of sleep and a healthy breakfast. Plus, M’s been doing great on the practice tests. Comments like, “Wonderful!!!” So over dinner recently, I joked that we should tell her teacher that M was going to be absent. I was only kidding, of course, but Cute W and M kept saying, “Oh, we have to!”

We’ve been known to miss school for unacceptable reasons. We went to Disney World, we’ve gone skiing. I feel some guilt over it, but M’s teacher has always been so kind. We’ll send her an email, and she’ll reply with a perky, “Have fun! Wish I could come, too!” So the other day I sent an email:

M won’t be in school on Tuesday, April 17th or Wednesday, April 18th because we have an important rollerskating outing we’re planning as a family.

I was hoping that “an important rollerskating outing” would be sufficiently ridiculously to make her re-read it and realize it was a joke, but I was underestimating the sort of ridiculousness that teachers encounter. Instead, she replied with a polite and diplomatic reminder that those dates were state testing dates. I felt so bad. I sent her a reply right away ‘fessing up, apologizing, and promising that I’d buy some more #2 pencils. She replied quick with all caps and a declaration of war. So now I’m a little scared. She’s basically got custody of my children for hours every day. That’s a lot of power.

Finally, I stumbled on my first letter to a school when I went to write my elementary school letters. I usually just open a previous letter so that the format and address are already there. I accidentally clicked the document from long ago, when we withdrew M from daycare. I attempted to go back to work shortly after M turned one, and it didn’t work out too well. But the brief letter I sent made me laugh:

Dear Ms. Daycare Director:

Our daughter, M, will be leaving Daycare in order to pursue her first love:  hanging out with Mommy full time.  Her last day will be Thursday, December 4th

For those keeping score, little J got started a month later and was born the following October. I figured that if I was going to Mommy full time, I may as well get rolling on a sibling.

 

Vacation: Day 1

We started our spring break by being Easteriffic today. We finally got to egg decorating just barely in time for the holiday.

It went well, and I credit our great success to timing, because we decorated while fresh and perky,  immediately after breakfast. As a result, events that could cause an outburst of tears in the late afternoon (a miscalculation in the dye mixing, for example, or the dropping of an egg, followed immediately by a second drop of the same egg) were shrugged off. Hooray.

Then, if you can believe this, we spent some quality time with a bunny.

We are visiting our neighbor’s menagerie while they are traveling. Did you know that if you hold a rabbit and he tries to jump free, he can accidentally break his own back? That’s what the neighbors say. That’s horrifying, right? That’s the kind of thing you hear after you’ve already agreed to take care of the animals. Needless to say, no bunny holding is permitted, just in case. We’re confining our affection to cooing, stroking his back, and offering pieces of parsley.

Beyond that, we ignored the day’s gorgeousness in favor of the movies. I feel like that one week of serious heat has ruined me for spring. Today was a fabulous day, and it wasn’t cold, exactly. If we’d had a normal winter and spring, I would have been rejoicing. But after having several days in the upper 70s, I’m way too spoiled for this 50s and 60s stuff. I know it’s wrong. I’ve been calling these “window days.” I look out the window and think it’s awesome, and then I go outside and start pouting because I need a jacket.

But no matter the weather, M and I had made a date to see Hunger Games with her friend. Cute W, who worked a half day, took J out to see Mirror, Mirror. Cute W reported that reviews were accurate: the movie is pretty but plot-light. They both agreed that it was funny. M and I both liked Hunger Games, but I had to laugh at those friends of hers who told me it wasn’t so violent. On the way to the movie, M asked me, “Are you on Team Gale or Team Peeta?” and I thought to myself, “Yep, she’s slipped irrevocably into tweendom.” For the record, M’s on Team Gale. I abstained since I know how it ends.

Tomorrow we’re heading to NJ to visit my sister and see other family. Happy Passover and Easter to all!

Easter Weekend

I thought some of you might like a look at Babble’s list of top 25 blogs for family travel.

Here’s some of what’s happening over the next few days. Click on the day for a more complete list.

Friday, April 6th

Saturday, April 7th

 

 

Easter Sunday, April 8th

Need something to do? Most movie theaters are open. Here’s what open at Crossgates and Colonie Center .  Or get out and play at a playground  from the Playground List or try a Capital District Family-Friendly Hikes.

Up for a drive? It Pittsfield, the Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm are out at Hancock Shaker Village.

 

Girl Power Summer Camps

Over the weekend, I visited Hudson Valley Community College’s Summer Camp Fair.  I walked around telling people to add their camps to KidsOutAndAbout.com, and I heard about tons and tons of programs for the summer. Debra’s been sharing a “Camp of the Day” on the KidsOutAndAbout Facebook page, which somehow makes it seem just fun and not as utterly and completely overwhelming as it feels when I just look at lists of everything. The trouble is that there’s just so much, and a lot of it costs serious money, and schedules are all so different, and our various family schedules often conflict with what we want, and next thing you know, the whole process of choosing our summer camp plans starts to give me a bit of a headache. Especially when the one camp M insisted was her absolute must-do (Camp Wa Wa, Session 7) now conflicts with our family vacation (vacation wins, and it’s not even close), and her new, revised must-do is a small soccer camp (West) that has yet to announce its dates or, incidentally, return my emails. And beyond just figuring out our own plans and scheduling, there’s trying to negotiate and coordinate with the girls’ friends. Sigh.

But enough whining! Beyond the frustrations, there are Camps in Whose Existence I Revel. Because I am a feminist mother of daughters, I was super-excited to hear about some awesome-looking area Girl Power Camps. Here are a few:

Rosie’s Girls is a summer program teaching carpentry, automotive repair, masonry, and other non-traditional trades to girls going into 7th, 8th, or 9th grades. It’s being offered in New York for the first time ever at Emma Willard School. Beyond the trades-oriented stuff, they’ll have arts and games and other camps with an emphasis on helping each girl find “her own strength, power, and confidence.” Um, hello, when are they going to offer this for 30- to 40-something women, please? Emma has other girl programs including day camp for ages 6 to 14 and academic enrichment for the high school set.

Camp Little Notch is a girls’ overnight camp in the Adirondacks with a mission to promote girls living in harmony with nature, each other, and themselves. It’s for girls ages 7 to 17, and they strive for plenty of diversity and positive mentoring. There’s group activity and free time to explore new things, which range from ropes courses and primitive camping to batiking to sailing to yoga and journaling. Again, I think that I would like to attend this as a little retreat for myself. Would that be awkward, if I bunked with the tweens? I’ve oh-so-casually put this on the table while the girls are doing homework. We’ll see if it takes.

And of course, who can forget the Girl Scouts? Actually, I knew about their summer camps–they’ve got day camps with a bus service and overnight camps–already. J attended a week at Camp Woodhaven last year, and we get their summertime brochures because M is currently a troop member. But it’s worth spreading the word, because I think that people have the sense that if you’re not a regular member of a local troop, you can’t be a Girl Scout. Au contraire.  There are different “pathways” like signing up for trips, a series or class on a specific topic, or special events. So, for example, later in April you could sign up for a Camp-in at the Boston Museum of Science, and over Memorial Day Weekend, there’s a Family Camp at Hidden Lake Camp that I just almost had to cut-and-paste into an email to Cute W. That’s because if I’m understanding it correctly, it’s $25/person for 3 nights of camping at Hidden Lake Camp near Lake George. Which my children would completely love. And I almost began to hyperventilate because on Saturday there’s a special ropes course ($25/person), but then I read that participants have to be 10 and up. Bummer. Because that sounds super-fun to me. Although, seriously? If they feed us, then that would still be a 3-night rustic vacation for a hundred bucks, so I’m still tempted. All of those spring programs that I mentioned are in this brochure.

 

 

Housekeeping and an Update

I don’t have a quality post for you tonight. Instead, I was doing some housekeeping. The cute little icons for Facebook and other social media had inexplicably vanished from my blog, so I put in a new plug-in. It was very, very easy to do, but I’m concerned that its floating-ness might be too annoying. Cute W says it’s fine.  At least it doesn’t flash. If nothing else, Capital District Fun will always be a safe haven from those irritating animated shrinking women: “From Size 14. . . to Size 8!” Ugh, I hate those.

I also moved my links over from the left-hand column over to the right instead. I wanted to make sure that everyone could find the playground list, but then I got a little link-happy and added KidsOutAndAbout.com links galore, too.  Although I’m wondering, now, if I should move the Search box to the top? Does anyone ever search? The searching is unwieldy at best, and that’s coming from the gal who can remember direct quotations often.

Oh, and speaking of the KOAA links, KidsOutAndAbout.com‘s own Debra Ross will be on WNYT NewsChannel 13 Live at Noon tomorrow (Tuesday). She was also just on PBS, and that’s at the top of the Youtube channel at the little link if you hit the brand new floaty Youtube icon over to the right. Because sorry, people: I don’t have a Youtube channel. I know that this is heartbreaking for you all, but you’ll just have to get over it.

- – – – – –  -

Remember the Hunger Games issue? After blowing through two books that were clearly too easy for her and ignoring several other books that are both age- and reading level-appropriate, M picked up The Hunger Games. In fact, she started reading it the night before I’d planned to just go by myself while the girls were in school. . . and so then I had to put it off again. She finished it on Saturday, but we’re waiting to go see it with Kelly (commenter #1 on that previous post) and her daughter when she finishes it. Incidentally,  M powered through all of those Harry Potters and never cried once, not for ______, or _________, or even for __________, for crying out loud. But the night I tucked her in after ___ died–you know, the scene with the singing?–she was full-on sobbing. Which was lovely, I thought. I like a little sobbing over a book sometimes.

She’s partway through the second one now.