Monday, April 28, 2014

Easter and a Wedding

Last Easter was the first holiday that Grace celebrated with us. When the family looks back at those pictures, the biggest thing that we notice is how very skinny Grace's legs were, and how much healthier she looks now.

This Easter was Remington's first Easter (at least on the outside). We also decided a while back to make Easters in the Olsen household a bigger deal than probably the average family. Our logic was that both kids have fall birthdays, quickly followed by Christmas, and it is a long time to ask a kid to go between Christmas and a fall birthday if they are waiting for some certain special object. At the same time, we don't want them to think that just any given day they want they can get cool presents. So we settled on Easter as the spring occasion that we have an excuse to give them some nice bonus gifts before fall rolls around.

The biggest thing that Grace got was a bike. It is a training bike, but not a tricycle and doesn't have training wheels. For now, she moves it by sitting on the seat and walking forward. As she gets better, she will, in theory, be able to get some momentum and then glide forward a bit, improving her balance more before she ever gets pedals. We chose blue so that someday Remington can inherit this bike, maybe around the time she graduates to a bike with pedals.
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Remington's "big" presents included a pop up toy, some blocks, and some wooden cars. (Though, Grace seems to be almost as into his presents as he is, he just loves to explore everything in the room).

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She did decide to wear her helmet throughout the rest of the egg opening.

After church and a brunch with my parents, we came back home, she had her nap and colored eggs for the first time. She had a blast, and was sad when we said that we didn't have more eggs to color, and actually have asked a few time since then if she can color eggs again.

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The other big event since the last post is that Blake's brother Graeme got married! Blake was in the wedding party (obviously) as the best man, and both of our kids were in the wedding as flower girl and ring bearer.
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This left me in an interesting position. I termed myself "wagon bringer" as my main task was bringing Remington down the aisle in a wagon. But in practice, I was an excellent ambassador of sorts.

I had this unique position on the wedding day where I had to be around since 1-Blake had to be around, and 2-my kids had to be around, but I didn't have the same responsibilities as the bridesmaids. So, for example, I hung out with the bridesmaids for a bit, then while Grace was taking a nap, I spent some time with Blake and the groomsmen, and kind of spent time in both "camps." This left me in an ideal position to notice things like the guys' thoughts of when they should get ready did not match when the photographer thought they should get ready. Basically, they thought they were supposed to get started getting ready when they were actually supposed to BE ready and having pictures taken.

I heard their timing... thought it sounded off, went back to the girls to check, and confirmed that yes, they were supposed to already be getting ready, and I relayed the message back, and we didn't get too far behind schedule.

I was responsible for getting the ring from Jami, and her photo shoot, over to Blake so he could hand it to Graeme at the wedding.

After the ceremony, Jami realized that something was left at the hotel, and someone had to go back to get it, but everyone around her at the time was supposed to be getting pictures taken... except me, since I wasn't bridal party. So I was able to head to the reception, and get someone on the task of going back to the hotel.

There were a few other minor things where I found that while I wasn't important in any official capacity, I could be a great help for that exact reason.

There were a few bumps along the way, including Remington, though he has awesome sitting skills, tipping back in the wagon at his key moment in the ceremony, so I really pushed him along, not pulled the wagon.

Grace did great, better than expected, though she did dump out her animal cookies (her bribe to be good) during the ceremony, and then wanted to sit on my lap with Remington, which was interesting.
The hardest part for her was waiting her turn to go down the aisle, but I started singing some dumb song about "wait your turn" which she LOVED and I'm sure to the annoyance of everyone else, I sang that song on endless repeats till it was her turn to just keep her happy.
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Remington, for his part, loved Grace's flower basket and petals and was kept amused by getting the remaining petals out of the basket, and trying to put them in his mouth (and being stopped by mom).

Best part though was that Jami and Graeme had the foresight to invite my parents, so after the ceremony, my mom took Remington (who quickly fell asleep) and my dad took Grace (mostly to the photobooth over and over again), so Blake and I could relax and enjoy ourselves after a stressful day.

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We recently used our salt block to cook, and I truly notice the difference in flavor. First we made bacon and egg on it, and then more recently (no picture) we cooked chicken on the grill with the salt block on top, and it really added enough flavor to the chicken that I didn't even want or need sauce with it!

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The rest of this post is just "My kids are so cute!" pictures randomly from the last couple weeks.

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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 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!