Monday, April 14, 2014

Good Times in and out of the Olsen Home

It's about time for another photo blast style post, as those are always the crowd pleasing kind of posts.

On March 27th, we celebrated having Grace home for a full year with a trip to Pretend City as a family. It is crazy to think that a year has gone by already, and yet, looking at her, watching her talk, seeing how much she has grown in every way in that past year, I know that the time has certainly past.

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Remington liked riding the little car with dad.

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Blake was out of town for the 28th-30th, so I had a large chunk of time without him helping me parent. On Friday evening, I recruited my parents to help, and we all went out to dinner together. One of the things that Grace did while waiting for our food to come was go on the Merry-Go-Round for the first time. She absolutely loved it! She kept saying again. She went three times that night (and my dad brought her there another time since then). I decided to let Remington try it too after dinner, and he thought it was awesome too! Forgive my goofy face, I was trying to copy the expression he had the whole time. If I had to give him words, he would say, "This is so amazing! I am going up, and then down... and moving around in a circle too! Wow!"

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That night was the worst, as we had a large earthquake (which I happen to be afraid of) on the night that I am by myself with the kids! Of course!

The kids slept through it, and my dad was kind enough to call and check on me, which helped me calm down from inwardly freaking out. Blake calls me a superhero because I ran up the stairs, as the house was shaking, to get to the kids (to rescue them or calm them, or whatever needed doing). But I just stood outside their doors, and watched them both calmly sleep through it.

Saturday I had Jami, my future sister in law (and a super awesome person) help me with the kids, and then Sunday I had another friend over, so the time passed relatively quickly and easily.

The next big event since the last post is my birthday celebration on April 6th. We went to the House of Blues for their Gospel Brunch. It was so much fun! I love singing, and harmony, and the five women were fantastic.

I got to be on stage for my birthday, swaying for my birthday rock, and then I decided later that you only live once, and joined their version of American Idol with a little sing off.

I didn't win... and honestly I didn't deserve to win! The first girl was just fantastic, and if I was voting, I would have voted for her. I held my own in the verse, but I seriously don't know how to ad lib, and besides I went a trifle off key at one point (bleh). But I had a lot of fun, and I think I am happier going up there, and trying than I would have been if I had just stayed in my seat and watched and wondered if I should have gone.

It was a perfect send off to my twenties, lots of good food, good friends and family and just a lot of good music too!

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In other news, Grace has started her newest round of dance classes, and at least at the one I went to with her, she is doing a lot more of the motions with the class than she was last year.

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We have also attended a few of our Waldorf classes.

Nobody seems to have ever heard of Waldorf when I mention it, and I have recently become borderline obsessed with it, so I will take a few moments to try to explain what I find so very appealing about this philosophy of teaching (and not about the history of it, or its foundation or any of that stuff that you can easily Google if you are seriously interested).

Their main focus, up until 1st grade, is on play. They believe that kids should be able to experience their childhood, and reject culture's push to have them learn letters, and reading and the alphabet younger and younger.

The toys that they think that kids should play with are those that allow for divergent play- i.e. they can be used in a variety of ways and push for imaginative play, like blocks, play kitchen, fabric, stuffed dolls etc. Also, they prefer children to play with handmade wooden, knitted, or sewn toys as opposed to plastic ones. Research supports the idea of kids using their imagination when they play and shows better results on future tests by kids who play with these kinds of toys as opposed to an electronic toy that has only one purpose (push this button, it makes this noise).

Waldorf schools don't even have kids reading until first grade (obviously not meeting common core/ standards) but they do hear lots of stories, mostly fairy tales at this age. They also recite poems, and sing songs with movements, all those typical things you would expect from a preschool/ kindergarten.

Lastly, they place a big emphasis on kids being responsible and given the opportunity to do things like adults.

So, in our Waldorf playgroup once a week,  Grace gets to play with the room full of wooden, knitted or sewn toys, then we sing songs, watch a story acted out with puppets (beautiful handmade puppets), and then it it time for her to wash up for snack. We sing two songs before our snack, and then everyone enjoys the same rice and peas snack in little wooden bowls. When the kids are done, they are expected to fold their hands, and the teacher sings a song to dismiss them, and each child has to wash their own bowl, and leave it to dry, and then there is outside time.

I love all of it! I am also allowing some of it to trickle into home life. I am bringing in more fairy tales, and less academic stories to read to Grace. We are baking bread together once a week (on an around the world theme, more on that later). I moved her plates, cups, placemats etc. to a place where she is now responsible for getting them herself, and she has to fold her hands and be dismissed after meals at home too.

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I hear a child stirring, so the rest of the pictures will be without descriptions.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Last moments of my twenties

Thirty. I feel like it was really not that long ago when I was looking ahead to figure out what year I would turn eighteen... and now, somehow, I have arrived at 30.

Overall, I am doing okay with it. It isn't some major crisis, it is just strange. But, as I have shared with a few others, my life matches a thirty year old. I have two kids, been married for almost eight years, have taught for six years (even if I am not teaching at the moment), and my life, on paper, sounds like that of a thirty year old.

The twenties, to me, evokes an image of someone just leaving high school behind, starting a career, starting a marriage, and maybe starting a family. It is a time of life full of the main images of coming into adulthood.

Thirties are the solid adult time, where you have life figured out (in theory). The time with parents is long behind you, and nothing is in the sparkling new phase (except your own kids), but that's okay. There is a kind of beauty in having a pattern and a rhythm of life. Honestly, I feel like most of my life has been spent somewhat waiting for this time...it is just strange to be here, living it.

I thought a nice tribute to my farewell to my twenties would be to look back at my blog posts about my birthdays and reflect on any interesting parts of what I wrote years ago.

So, my blog started back in 2009, and consequently, the first birthday post is about twenty five. I don't have much to say about life in this post, but just share about the event, which was at Napa Rose's chef's table. Best quote: " It was a terrific night, and probably my best birthday ever. Yay for 25!" Clearly at peace about being twenty five, but nothing deep to share.

As insignificant as my 25th birthday post was, apparently 26 was even less. There was no post! Seems like since my birthday fell in the time around a trip to celebrate my mother in law's birthday in Morro Bay (awesome trip) and a trip to visit a good friend in Oregon, I considered my birthday not worthy of writing about!

Turning 27 was a footnote in a post about our Ireland trip being delayed (because originally I would have been gone on my birthday, and then the trip was postponed, so we celebrated after all). I said, " Small thing, but it was a nice night" since about half of the original group couldn't make it as the date changed to later in the month, and then switched back to my actual birthday.

28 got its own post, with a strong dose of wistfulness for the time I am at now. "There is the added weird feeling where I remember not so long ago that I expected to be a mother by 26... and here I am at 28 and still not one. I know that time is coming, but it is an interesting feeling all the same as just another reminder of how much time has passed since we first decided that we were ready."

Twenty nine shows the main shift, "Twenty nine is quite the amazing birthday. Not because of any special party or dinner (though I get one of those later) but because I got the present that I have wanted for the last four years- I am a mom." Only one child on the outside, with another growing inside, but definitely a mom.

I have so much to be thankful for, and my life is so different than how I started my last decade. From 2004 to 2014, I graduated from college, got a masters, got a teaching credential, got married, got a house, got two dogs, two cats, have taught six different classes worth of students, and become a mom of two great kids. My twenties were great, to be sure, but I am ready to step into my next decade with my head held high.

By forty, Grace will be 12, and Remington will be 10. I will have seen all of Remington's big milestones of walking, talking, and other "no longer a baby" moments. Both kids will start school, and Grace will even be almost starting junior high. Blake and I will have celebrated our ten year anniversary, and will be getting close to twenty years of marriage. Who knows what other significant moments will be a part of these next ten years. I am sure that we will experience our fair share of good, bad, happy and sad, with hopefully greater quantities of the positives than the negatives.

I am ready to say it. I am now (at least in a couple hours) a thirty year old!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Filling Days

I don't like being bored. Never have, in fact. Blake has, in the past had some jobs that I know I could never handle, because unless he had customers, he spent most of the time bored. I would hate that.

As first a host at restaurants, and then later as a waitress, I was rarely bored at work. There was a time that I worked a Sunday night shift at a restaurant in a business area, so it was pretty dead some nights...like me and a coworker played chess between helping our tables... but most of the time waitressing kept me busy.

Teaching too, was a very busy, keep me going kind of job. I liked that every 40 minutes to a hour I was doing something different with the kids, each day was different than the day before, and each year was different than the previous year because of the students. I also really enjoyed the power to decide shift the schedule if needed, or if the kids were really getting antsy, I could take them all outside for some spontaneous exercise before getting back to work. Teaching's pace really suited me.

If I'm not proactive, my current job can get boring. This job being, of course, mom to two kids. Not boring because of the kids, who I love, and are always surprising me, but just there are a lot of hours to pass during the day, and many of them I am simply an observer.

Besides the fact that on days that Grace goes nowhere and sees no one and does nothing but play with her toys at home, she tends to get bored too, and thus acts out, and I have more tantrums to deal with, adding to my frustration of being bored myself.

So, I have made it a point to fill days. An empty day is a bad day... so those are to be avoided at all costs.

For the last month or so, the day filling looks like my mother in law watching the kids for part of Mondays, my mom and the kids and I having lunch and playtime together on Tuesdays, Blake comes home Wednesdays, Thursday are usually some playgroup activity and Fridays we go to a Bible study that has free child care for Grace as a bonus (and she likes it too). On the days that it is only a lunch plan, not a play time plan, we also go to a place near our house called Pretend City.

I decided a few weeks ago that it was worth it for us to become members there, and it has already well paid itself off. For one day it is twelve dollars a person (Remington is free... I am not) or you pay 140 for the year.

Six visits, it is already worth it, and in the few weeks we have had it, we have already gone nine times.

In short, it is exactly what it says, a small city full of things she can pretend to do, like a farm, kitchen, grocery store etc.

Our typical Pretend City day starts with the play cars, which she samples many of, and then she wanders to an area of her choosing for the day. She plays till story time, and then we hear the story, do the craft, and then I let her meander to wherever she chooses till it is time to go for lunch. One of the best stories is one day as she was cooking in their pretend restaurant, she kept going back to her pot, opening it, saying "More spice," and then closing it again. It kept her occupied for almost half an hour!

There will be copious amounts of pictures of her doing pretend city activities below... since it is at least a once a week occurrence.There are also some cute pictures of Remington.

Starting in April, we will be adding even more to our days. She will be taking both a dance class with my mother in law once a week and a dance class with me once a week. We will also be doing a Waldorf playgroup (more on that in a later post), while keeping most of our standard activities above. Hopefully we will both be happier with the busier schedule, and Remington won't mind being carted around a bit more.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One small step for Rem, one big leap for our family

September 16th, 2013, I went to bed with two cats, one dog, and a husband. From September 18th to the night before last, there was a baby in our bed as well.

First, we just shared the bed, and he fell asleep cradled in the crook of my arm. It wasn't as good of sleep for me, as I couldn't move around at will, and I didn't let myself go into a deep sleep either. But nursing was easy, and he was sweet and he slept great that way, so we continued like that until "the incident."

Thanksgiving morning, he got his first scar from a scared cat run, and we decided we had to change our arrangement for his safety. Now he slept in a bassinet type thing, in between us on the bed, and that transition was hard at first, but I had to acknowledge he slept fine in there and I slept better too. I had the freedom to switch sides in the night, sleep deep and nursing was still pretty easy.

But from November to March, this little boy continued to grow. We saw he was increasingly not as comfortable in that little space, hitting his head on the sides, and trying unsuccessfully to turn in there. Sunday night and Monday night had large stretches where he wasn't sleeping, and we tried everything to soothe him, and suspected it was because he just couldn't find a comfortable position.

Our favorite sleep book said it was time, he was a week away from 6 months, which was our original thought of crib time, and most importantly, he was telling us it was time too.

As you probably have guessed long ago, all this is leading up to the fact that last night, he slept in his own crib, down the hall. He still woke up twice for feedings, but otherwise didn't complain much about his new arrangement, either when he was first put down, or after his feedings.

He held no grudge in the morning, and after his morning feed was his normal, happy self.

Our bed is back to two humans and three pets, and I have mixed feelings about it. The space is nice, but in some ways I miss having my baby so close. Just one of many signs he is no longer a newborn.

I know he has to grow up, one step at a time, and I don't begrudge him that, but it doesn't make it any easier to see my kids become more independent, and need their mom less and less.

(Picture is of Remington this morning, to commemorate his big achievement)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February Recap

To share a picture I take on Facebook from my phone takes a few seconds, especially since my camera app has a button to share right after I take the picture. To write a blog means taking a chunk of time to write something with the pictures, then go through and select the pictures and upload the whole thing.

For Facebook friends, the blog is simply more pictures and details that they might not otherwise get, but I tend to forget my other audience. I know of five or six, family members and friends off the top of my head that follow this blog faithfully to see the kids, but are not at all connected with Facebook. To you, faithful facebook-free followers, I apologize.

I will try to post more regularly on here as well.

Most of February was routine, and I am starting to take less pictures of routine activities. For example, we go to a park or a playground literally every day. Usually after her nap. I could take a picture of her swinging every day...but I don't, because to me, quite honestly, it is boring. It is her current favorite thing to do at the park though, so we do it. I've been working on my willingness to push her on the swings for the full park time, as much as I would prefer to have her do the slide or play in the sand, or something I could be less involved with.

We usually have a playdate or two a week, and we see my mom every week and my mother in law most weeks. For most of February, my mother in law took Grace to a tap class, which she loved.

But even these events rarely warrant pictures, since they became part of my routine.

The events in February got most of my camera's attention- Valentine's Day and President's Day. For the first, Grace went to a party with our playgroup, and really enjoyed passing out the Valentines to the other kids.

President's day, Blake had off, so we had a family park day. It really was a wonderful day, with a picnic and naps on a blanket, as well as her daily dose of playground.

In other news, Grace is getting good at identifying letters, and can even write a few! The picture of her with the G, is a G she did completely on her own after practicing with my mom a few times.

Remington is now 5 months old, and is sitting well enough for us to put him in a high chair at restaurants. At home, he got Grace's old seat, and she just sits at the table with us. More recently, we started giving him some oat cereal, and will be introducing new foods every few days. He makes faces like he doesn't want it, but then grabs the spoon for more, though even so, he is only eating maybe a teaspoon at each sitting.

He is making good progress towards crawling soon too. He can push well enough with his arms to go backwards, and can get into a good crawling position on hands and knees for short moments too. He has made very little forward movement at times by pushing off with his toes or twisting in a weird way, but definitely hasn't got crawling down quite yet.

So there is the much belated update. I'll put a bunch of pictures on too.