Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the Meantime

I have many tales o'Christmas to tell, but I don't have the photos available just yet. So for now, please to enjoy these pictures of Willem giving his face a good workout.

Friday, December 18, 2009

You Don't Say

Nels came home from school today really excited to tell me about his class's Christmas activities:

"You're gonna be SO AMAZED. You're gonna be shocked into baloney over this!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Farewell to Fall

Well, shoot. It's almost Christmas. Remember Thanksgiving?

We had a fan-diddly-tastic time gathering with most of Shaun's extended family. There were over thirty for the big turkey dinner.

Cousin Heidi does an excellent imitation of a Cabbage Patch Doll:

Here is the first photo (as far as I know) of just the four cousins. And, yes, it is essential to photos of this nature that each child be looking somewhere different.

They're just so sweet when they can't talk back.

It may not officially be winter yet, but it's sure been feeling like it around here. It was really, really cold for about a week. We picked one particularly frigid, windy night to go get our Christmas tree. At Walmart they were reluctant to let us untie any of the trees to see what they looked like. "We leave 'em tied up. It's easier to take them home that way." So it was off to Home Depot, where at least we could see what we were getting. All the trees were very dry. Next year we'll fork out the extra ten bucks and buy one from the Scout Troop lot right here in downtown Camas. And we'll pick a warmer night. I get cold just thinking about it.

Once we finally got a tree, the real work had only just begun. I'm not sure how many days it took me to decorate it, but I do know that I bought and returned two sets of lights before settling on our old ones, and I tried out several tinsel/bead combinations. Christmas is a very challenging holiday for a perfectionist with poor time management skills.

The wintry weather put me in a baking mood, so, in my usual all-or-nothing fashion I embarked on a baking jag. I did have an excuse; I was bringing bread to our church small group potluck.

First I tried out a new-to-me recipe for French braids from the Pillsbury Cookbook. It looked and smelled amazing. It tasted just like French bread from the can in the refrigerated section in the grocery store. Shaun tells me it made good toast, though.

Deeming my first attempt a failure, I decided to make my mom's country braids recipe. The extremely dry weather totally foiled me. I added all the "stir in" flour and couldn't even incorporate it all into the dough. Kneading was next to impossible, and I had to struggle to stretch the dough into ropes. It rose nicely, into two big puffy braids. And then Nels put his knee into one of them. Oh well. They still looked magnificent once they were baked.

Worried that my country braids would be tough (and maybe too plain for our dinner), I tried a surer thing: Cheddar-Chive Scones. Many of the reviews of the recipe complained about the dough being too sticky to handle, but in this case the freakishly dry weather worked to my advantage. Making the scones was a cinch, and I am not known for my light hand with pastry. If you have any holiday brunching to do, these are the savory scones for you.

At some point in this comfort food frenzy, I got a hankering for roast leg of lamb. I have never fixed it before, but I found a small boneless roast and went to town. Rubbed with fresh rosemary and garlic, it smelled and tasted delicious and elicited much piteous begging from our cat. (Of course she was also begging for some garbanzo beans today, so that's really neither here nor there.) It was a great success. Until the part after dinner where I accidentally upended the dirty roasting pan and sent it flying across the kitchen to land on the floor. The CARPETED kitchen floor. Such a great idea, carpet in the kitchen.

Of course, all of that culinary activity was followed by a week of frozen pizza and potstickers and hot dogs. All or nothing, people.

It's warmed up this week, back to the gray drizzle we all expect. But it was still cold enough on Sunday that we got a call telling us church was canceled. So we stayed cozy at home all day, and that evening we watched Rick Steves' Christmas (in Europe) special on OPB and drank Mirror Mirror Barleywine from Deschutes Brewery and ate Tillamook aged white cheddar, and we pronounced it a Pacific Northwest trifecta worthy of becoming an annual tradition.

And now, on to winter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Do I have to Pick Just One?

Willem bounds into the kitchen while I'm loading the dishwasher and demands to know:

"Are you mean or are you delicate?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

I am collecting laundry in Willem's room. He's hanging out in the doorway, watching me.

"Do you know what's going to happen?" he asks.

"No, what?"

He lets out an enormous toot.

"That is. Excuse me."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Never A Dull Moment

To file under Exchanges I Will Treasure Forever:

Shaun to Nels, who was moping about not getting to do what he wanted to: "I think you like being sad."

Nels to Shaun, fixing him with a cold eye: "Don't be a fool."

Nels has been especially morose lately ("I can't sleep. My feelings are too big.") and I'm hoping it's just because he's been coming down with a big old cold. Again.

Willem has suddenly abandoned a year's worth of potty training and we are likewise hoping it can be attributed to being under the weather. It is certainly one of the more baffling and frustrating parenting challenges we have faced.

On the bright side, Nels has finally embraced drawing! He frequently comes home from school and sits down to draw, first thing.

He was going through a very martial period when he first got started:

And yes, he was asked by his teacher not to use the word "bomb" at school any more.

Then we watched the movie Iron Giant and it was all robots, all the time:

Here's a battle scene...the spheres are robots, which are capturing the monsters on the ground. There's a TIE Fighter thrown in for good measure.

And, finally, I had to throw in this rare depiction of a benevolent world in which everything is smiling.

It was a prescient drawing, perhaps...the sun is actually shining today. Smile.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November Doings

I'm going to go ahead and call last weekend relaxing, despite the fact that we spent it with a four year-old whose sole purpose in life seems to be to express his disapproval of everything (be it an idea, an object, a person, an observation, a song, or a snack) that crosses his path.

On Saturday we cast a critical eye about the house, rearranging some furniture and making plans for what we'd like to change in the future if large piles of money happen to fall unexpectedly into our laps. In what passes for quality family time around these parts, we spent Saturday evening watching TV. Shaun and I watched the Ducks play Arizona (an incredible game) while the boys watched Star Wars on the portable dvd player within easy fast-forwarding reach.

That was our final evening of laying about on our giant squishy sectional sofa, the suburban denim equivalent of a black hole. On Sunday we sold it on craigslist to a very nice family who live in a restored chicken coop. And we sold our old dining chairs to a girl in North Portland who already had the fabric picked out to recover them. We would have liked to be friends with all the people who bought our stuff. It almost made it worth dealing with all the flaky losers who kept saying they wanted to come see our things but then never did. Ah, craigslist.

If weekends can have opposites, then the weekend before last was indeed last weekend's opposite. Shaun's parents watched the boys while Shaun and I went to Seattle. We stayed at the Red Lion Inn downtown. We had some good cocktails, some dismal cocktails, and lots and lots of frites. We also got our hairs cut at Rudy's Barbershop. I should mention that that was THE FIRST TIME SHAUN HAD HIS HAIR CUT AT A BARBERSHOP. EVER. So that was fun.

We mostly walked around (we could see Pike's Place Market from our hotel room window) and ate, but we did venture out (and venture was the word!) to a little non-profit movie "theater" in the University District to see a newly restored version of Leave Her To Heaven. I give the experience two thumbs up.

We enjoyed our tiny taste of big-city life (it's not every day you watch a drunk guy chuck a can at a passing car and then get immediately swooped in on by the police) but it sure made us appreciate the quiet little beauty of our day-to-day life.

In between the weekends we had the Dennis family over for dinner. They are, in fact, a good deal more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Joy brought two delicious apple pies. The kids (well, at least the six youngest) put on every variation of every hat and costume we own and ran around having a whooping good time. Leo even found the time to draw a most winsome seascape:

So there's a taste of our November so far. I expect the rest to be grand as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Kids Like Dressing Up Every Bit As Much As I Did...

but somehow that's not as gratifying as I expected it to be. I guess I didn't need to hold on to all those bridesmaid dresses.

It's Been One Year Now...

since Willem had his heart fixed. I took a little walk down memory lane this evening.

God is good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Older? Check. Wiser? **crickets**

Well, right on the heels of Willem's birthday came mine. Because it is a requirement in our family that we do things in clumps. We have the September/October/November birthdays plus Halloween and Thanksgiving cluster in the fall, and we have another nice little busy time in May with Shaun's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and Mother's Day. And yes, Shaun's birthday inevitably gets short shrift. Sorry, Shaun.

[Off-topic, but on my mind: I'll breathe easier once Thanksgiving is behind me. I have a history of contracting spectacular maladies on Thanksgiving; appendicitis, viral meningitis, and one very memorable case of the flu.]

As for getting older, I have never had much sympathy for the woes of the newly middle-aged. Friends who were turning 40? Young! Aches and pains, wrinkles, a slowing metabolism, hair where you wish it weren't and no hair where you wish it were? It's inevitable--and you know it's coming--so suck it up, people.

MY APOLOGIES, PEOPLE. I get it now. I am sympathetic. Chock full of sympathy, in fact. Despite knowing that I would get exactly one year older every year, I am shocked to find that I am thirty-seven years old and doing all those things that I always thought it was silly for people so young to do; things such as contemplating my mortality and re-evaluating who I am and what I've "achieved." Gah.

And yet, despite my disappointment in myself for caring a fig about aging, I could not help but be anything other than grateful and happy on my birthday. There were cards and gifts and phone calls and birthday serenades from all my nieces and nephews, not to mention a nice lunch out with Shaun's folks and grandma in Portland after church.

But the absolute highlight of the day came when we went to pick Nels and Willem up from Sunday school, where Nels had enthusiastically spread the word that it was my birthday. The class devoted the entire morning to thinking of ways to show me kindness.

When I stuck my head in the door, I was quite surprised to hear, "She's here, she's here!" and then be sung "Happy Birthday" to by a room full of four to six year-olds. I was then given a gift; a "pillow" made out of the backside of a lesson coloring page, stuffed with strips of cut-up paper, and stapled shut around the edges in lieu of stitching. My name was written on it in purple highlighter, along with a drawing of a flower. The grand finale was a birthday cake; they'd raided the church kitchen and made me a layer cake of graham crackers and peanut butter, with pretzel filling. Also, it's hard to tell in the photo, but my name is spelled on the top of the cake in pretzel pieces.

Nels was pleased as punch with himself, and I was happy to see him so happy to make me happy. A very memorable birthday, indeed.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Hoo boy. As you can see, this year we went with standard-issue, store-bought costumes that look so flammable that I feared for the boys' lives whenever they got within ten feet of a lit jack o'lantern.

Willem had been begging for several weeks to be a skeleton, and Nels wanted to be a Star Wars character. Good old Darth was the only Star Wars character available whose integrity had not been compromised by the prequels. I do have some standards.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to let the boys go downtown for trick-or-treating on the Wednesday before Halloween. My plan was to ignore the event, but Nels's school really talked it up (thanks a lot, teach) and I momentarily took leave of my senses and said, "OK, let's go!"

Our downtown is REALLY SMALL, with only one main drag, and the place was wall-to-wall children. It was enough to make my chest tighten with anxiety even without my accompanying foot-dragging mouth-breathers. We had to stand in lines on the sidewalk just to get to the next store where I would have to tell my boys for the millionth time to hold out their buckets already. I won't say any more about it except to say NEVER AGAIN. NEVER. EVER. AGAIN. Next year I'll take them out for an ice-cream sundae instead.

On Halloween proper we got serious and Shaun and the boys carved the perfect pumpkin that Grandma brought us from her garden.

My boys really love Halloween. But wow, I'd never realized how much socialization is required for a proper trick-or-treating outing. Every little step I'd always taken for granted needed to be gone over in explicit detail. Over. And over. And over. And over.

We briefed the boys before every house, and still they had to be prompted through each interaction. They would truly just stand in the open doorway and stare as though they were wishing to be hugged and then invited in and then adopted forever.

OK, walk up to the door. Ring the doorbell. Stand back! You're too close, they won't be able to open the door! Say 'trick-or treat'! Oh PLEASE stop staring and say 'trick or treat'! Now what do you say? Thank you! Say thank you. OK, guys, turn away from the door. Turn away. Stop staring. Turn around. Time to head out. Really, guys, stop staring.

I'll leave it up to you to imagine how much of that we actually had to say out loud. More of it than you might think.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Willem turned four almost two weeks ago. Where do I start with this kid? How about with the salute he gave me after we sang to him and I placed his birthday cake in front of him:

And that's Willem for you. Even when he's not talking, his life is one long running commentary; a salute, a thumbs-up, a high five.

Willem wants to be the boss of the world. And he's starting at home. He always has to have the last word, and his habitual attempts at a power grab have led to some truly ridiculous exchanges:

"Good night, Willem. I love you. Have a good sleep. See you in the morning." I pull the door almost shut.

"Mom! Say 'I love you.''"

"I DID say I love you."

"Say 'I love you!'"

"I already did, and you know I love you. No more talking."

"Say it, mom! Say 'I love you!'"

"Say 'I LOVE YOU!'"



Willem loves to pretend. In one morning at home he was:

a robot
a chef
a pirate
a kitty
a dog
and an old guy.

In that order.

Willem puts on "naughty" in much the same way that he puts on any of his other personas. He throws strangely dispassionate tantrums; in pursuit, I think, of having the upper hand. The other day he was rolling around on the rug, screeching in fits and starts.

"Have you EVER gotten what you wanted by throwing a fit?" I asked him. He stopped and rolled over to look at me.


"Then why do you keep doing it?"

He just looked at me blankly, gave a half-hearted shriek or two, and got up to do something else. Alas, the conversation had no lasting impact. He perseveres. And just when I'm about to tear my hair out, we have a conversation like this:

"Do you want me to drop you off here with the teacher, or do you want me to park and walk you in to school?"

"I want you to take me in. Because I love you and your hair is so soft."

Willem tells me thank you, unprompted, all the time. Thank you for the dinner, Mommy. Thank you for cleaning the house, Mommy. Thank you for my shirt, Mommy. He's full of compliments, sometimes even when he's not about to ask me for something.

Willem watches the scary parts of Iron Giant while Nels covers his eyes and then tells his brother when it's safe to look.

Willem makes you shake your head and say, "that kid." His body language is idiosyncratic and completely charming. He captures the attention of almost everyone we meet. I feel like I have some sort of insight into Nels's personality, because it's similar in many ways to mine. But Willem's (perhaps also because of his younger age) is more of a mystery. I can't wait to see how it shakes out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Space Alien by Willem

So we don't have to keep looking at the gross photo from the previous post.

Wild Kingdom

Not long ago Shaun and I were rudely awakened in the wee hours by the most unholy noise I have ever heard in my life. Next to whatever was going on outside, the most obscene cat fight would sound like the Vienna Boys' Choir.

I've watched enough public television to have seen my share of lions gnawing on a gazelle, but I realized that most of the time the visuals of the food chain in action are not accompanied by the audio. It was downright scary. I half expected to come out of the house the next morning to find black scorch marks on the grass and wisps of faintly sulfurous smoke rising from the shredded remains of a little demon.

But I actually didn't see anything the next day. I wondered for about five days, until I happened across this on our front yard...complete with buzzing flies:

This morning there was a kid hanging out near our bus stop, waiting for his mom to take him to school. He was kind of bouncing around in the middle of the street.

"I saw a wolf! Right there!" he said, pointing to a nearby house. I noted Nels's alarmed look.

"That would have been a coyote."

"Yeah, something like that."

Then the neighbor came out with his briefcase and confirmed that there was indeed a coyote in his yard.

"Cool, huh? Mangy-looking thing," was his take.

I don't know if it's cool. But I'll take a coyote over the devilish fiend of my imagination any day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Snap Judgement Gets a Pie In the Face

I was in the check-out line at Whole Foods. The cashier was in the middle of ringing up my order when an elderly lady entered the store and started walking towards us. The woman was trim and petite, and her expensive clothes fit her perfectly. She wore white capris and a boxy three-quarter-sleeve jacket with a mandarin collar; white paisley on a ground of navy blue. With her navy and white wedge flip-flops, she looked like she was just about to board a cruise ship. Her perfectly coiffed hair was fake pale blond, but not brassy. She was carrying a cardboard box.

She could have been in her fifties from behind, but the deep wrinkles underneath her carefully applied make-up gave away her age as well into her seventies. At least. She looked privileged and I assumed she was used to getting her way. To me, she looked like the kind of person who would interrupt a busy cashier rather than wait her turn, so I wasn't surprised when she did so.

I was surprised when she set her box down right next to my groceries and pulled from it a homemade pie.

"Here you go," she said to the checker. "I hope you like berry. That's what it is in there." She chattered on for a few more minutes, but I missed most of what she said. I was experiencing cognitive dissonance over the thought of this woman doing anything as domestic as making a pie. "I'll be back in a few days for the pan," she concluded. Then, "I made cinnamon rolls too, but I can't get rid of them. Nobody will take them. Do you want some cinnamon rolls?" she seemed to ask the air as she turned and walked out.

"I'll put this in the break room," said the checker, regarding the fate of the pie. Worried, perhaps, that I thought she was going to eat the entire thing herself. I was still staring at the pie, its crust carefully crimped and brown around the edges. "Do you want a piece?"

"Oh--no thanks. I'm good." I collected myself and left.

My next stop was Fred Meyer, where I spotted the very same lady waiting just ahead of me in the check-out line. She was not carrying any baked goods.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fun

If more newspapers carried stories like this, they wouldn't be going out of business.

Awesome. And I learned a new word to boot.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


When Nels had emergency surgery for a hernia when he was four weeks old, I couldn't help but consider what it would be like to lose him. What struck me most was that I didn't know him yet, and I wanted so much to have that opportunity.

Before he was born I wondered what he would be like. Shy? Outgoing? Reckless? Would he like sports? Books? Music? Never in all my wondering did I come close to considering even a fraction of the qualities that I've discovered about Nels in the six years I've known him.

At six, Nels is conscientious, cautious to a fault, deeply philosophical, and a total goofball. He is frustrated to the point of tears by the necessity of doing mundane tasks like getting dressed in the morning.

He is a whiz with Lego and loves to figure out how things work. He recently asked me why the birds don't get shocked when they land on telephone wires. His favorite books are all non-fiction; space, shipwrecks, sea creatures, army tanks and the human body are some of his favorite topics.

He loves to ride his bike like a maniac.

His favorite colors are orange and "sparkle."

I will never forget the first time we watched Star Wars with Nels. As the theme blasted over the rolling credits at the end, he cried and cried. From happiness. He'd never been so moved. Until we saw the movie Iron Giant, that is. At one point the boy Hogarth is having a talk with the Iron Giant (SPOILER ALERT) right after some hunters kill the deer the giant was petting.

"It's bad to kill," says Hogarth, "but it's OK to die." Nels began to sob and then shook his head.

"I'm not crying because I'm sad. I'm crying because it's so happy." It was their intimate friendship that he found so touching.

Later he proclaimed, "Mom, Iron Giant is a better movie than Star Wars. In Star Wars I cried at the end but in Iron Giant I already cried in the middle."

The jury's still out on whether or not he likes sports.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Labor Day

We had a very nice time over the Labor Day weekend visiting with the Macks and meeting our newest niece. And we have the photos to prove it.

Here's Heidi Caroline! She's changed a lot in a month (as they do) but this is what she looked like when we met her.

Do I really need three pictures of Willem shucking corn? Why yes, I do. Be sure to click on the second one so you can see him giving that ear of corn the ol' pirate-eye of effort.

This doesn't look like a relaxing way to watch TV to me, but to each his own.

One of Nels's favorite things to do is pound nails into a stump. I'm hoping Shaun told Nels to move his thumb right after he took this photo. This might look alarming to you, but at this age Shaun was gutting fish with a sharp knife. So Nels is actually behind when it comes to digit-endangering activities.

He was very proud of this frame he made. He'd want me to show you.

Playing with kitchen utensils in a sink full of water. Doesn't this make you wish you lived in a log house?

Cousin Henry leads the dimple brigade.

Willem is four months older than Henry and tries to teach him at least one new bad habit every time they get together. Here they're just playing.

Family portrait for those of you who haven't already been treated to it on Facebook.

That's all, folks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

My interesting sister Hillary has interesting friends who do interesting things, like putting on a short story contest just for the fun of it.

I enjoyed participating, even though my story barely followed the theme; you can find the theme, along with the stories, right here.

You may -ahem- recognize some of the characters in my story (bonus!) but keep in mind that it is indeed fiction. Barely.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Already Drank the Champagne

Back in the early days of my writing group (when it was more of a class), we did an exercise in which we were to take a character we'd invented in a previous exercise, put the character in a setting, and make something happen. You have twenty minutes. Go!

About a month ago I got the exercise out, polished it up, and read it to the class on a night when I didn't have anything new to read. The teacher ( leader? mentor? coach?) suggested I send it to a publication looking for some flash fiction.

With nothing to lose, I hopped on duotrope and found an Ezine looking for flash fiction submissions. I sent it, they took it, and today I am published for the first time!

While I was feeling brave enough to send things out, I also sent a poem to First Things. Within three weeks of mailing off my envelope I had received a lovely handwritten rejection letter from the poetry editor in reply. It was so gracious that I didn't feel bad at all.

It feels good just to do something. And while I'm practicing, practicing, practicing (I'm giving myself at least ten years to be any good--isn't that generous of me?), I can enjoy the little thrill that comes from putting my work out there. Plus it's good for cultivating humility and thickening the skin.

In other publishing news, Shaun was interviewed by a freelance writer he works with for this publication. You can find Shaun's mug and sage advice (or blather, as he called it) on page 39 of the linked pdf.

In news that is totally unrelated:

-My new haircut is just not working out and I may have to go in for the dreaded "fix" appointment.

-Willem is being an absolute troll these days. He's never hit or pushed or scratched another kid, but it's open season when it comes to his brother.

-Nels is just about to lose his first baby tooth. This is a very good thing, because the new tooth is already up-and-at-'em right behind it. Sometimes kids look weird with their new adult-sized teeth, but in Nels's case, bigger teeth will be better. His baby teeth look like tic-tacs.

Well, that ought to do it for today.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our Neck of the Woods pretty woodsy. We have deer and all. Our across-the-street neighbors, who are right next to some actual woods, have seen coyotes and even (so they say) a cougar.

But for all our woodsiness, we have nuthin' on Shaun's folks. They appear to have a bear roaming their woods. He's been sighted in the neighborhood, and the Grandmartins have found a pile of corroborating evidence on their property. Therefore Grandma has been packing heat when out and about on the land. It certainly adds an extra element of excitement to the prospect of sending the boys out there for a visit. ("Be good, boys, and try not to get mauled.")

We've been busy since school started. We met our charming new niece, Heidi Mack (how cute is that?), and Nels turned six last Sunday. I've been thinking he's six ever since he turned five, so that doesn't seem too crazy. And honestly, it feels like I've been his mom for an eternity. I will put up some photos of these special doings very soon, but for now our home network is a little troubled and awaits some wrangling from Shaun. That's the price we pay for being fancy.

Nels is less grouchy about school these days, although our well-oiled morning routine seems to have gone down the toilet this week for no good reason. Nels's teacher, Mrs. Michener ("like the author" she always says) is a local celebrity, having taught in the district for 37 years. She even attended Kindergarten at Helen Baller.

Well, that mostly gets you caught up.

-We had glorious weather this weekend.
-I got a haircut in Portland.
-The fellow in the French bakery by the salon (inspired, I believe, by the fine weather) gave me free butterfly cookies.
-Shaun baked an apple pie.
-We've been reading The Adventures of Tintin to Nels (thanks to Danica.) He has duly incorporated the exclamation "Blistering barnacles!" into his vocabulary. The only surprise there is that he didn't say it before.

I'm feeling scattered these days. Hopefully I'll get adjusted to the new routine pretty soon. Or maybe it's just all downhill from here. Time will tell.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Transition to Fall

Willem's first day of pre-school
It's been different than I expected. I realized that it only takes small changes in my routine to make me feel like I'm living a whole different life.

Last year, Nels was a champion foot-dragger when it came to getting ready for school. I needled, I pleaded, I nagged; we were late every day. I DREADED having to have him ready by 8:15 to catch the school bus this year. But it turns out that he is deathly afraid of missing the bus (after a few tales about me doing so in my youth), and he now gets ready promptly and without complaint. He is a new child. I feel a little guilty about using fear as a motivator, but it gets results.

Willem's dream of going to school has finally been realized. He goes for three hours, three days a week. He loves it as much as I thought he would (a lot), but he has definitely been out of sorts for the past several weeks. I'm hoping he's just in the final throes of his ornery threes.

I can't vouch for Shaun, but the rest of us have a touch of fall malaise. Willem cries in the middle of the night and I find him standing in the corner of his toddler bed with bad dreams about being chased by a pumpkin. Nels realizes that he can't feel his heart beating and worries about having a heart attack. And I feel totally unmotivated to write, now that I have a few free hours a week in which to do so. I think once we get adjusted to our new places and routines, it will be just fine.

And for all Nels would prefer not to go to school, I know there's plenty he likes about it. He came home from his first full week to tell me, "Guess what, Mom? They have an ACTUAL LIBRARY at SCHOOL!" Made my day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Settling the Matter

"Maybe when I was bigger I saw this movie one time," suggests Willem.

"You've never seen it. You've never been big like ME," replies Nels with disdain.



Willem runs over and punches Nels in the stomach.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Love You Like Walmart Employees Love Always Low Prices

This note was taped to the post of the street light nearest to our house. It was there for a few weeks; I just noticed this morning that it's gone.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Obligatory First Day of Kindergarten Post

I felt like a cheeseball for getting excited about Nels's first day of Kindergarten. After all, it's a fairly inevitable and universal experience in the developed world. (I know there are exceptions, but it's still a very common thing.) It seems kind of like making a big deal about your baby's first poopy diaper or your toddler's first tantrum.

But, hey, it's one of the world's big Hallmark moments for a reason. Starting formal schooling is a major life change. Nels is a really sensitive kid; judging from his expression here, I'm pretty sure he knows what he's in for:

I never realized how many preconceived notions I had about the first day of school until the day actually arrived and nothing happened the way I thought it would. In my imagination, we would take pictures of Nels smiling in the sunshine in his spiffy new school outfit. We'd walk to the bus stop from whence would arise an excited murmur as we mingled with neighborhood parents and checked out all the kids' backpacks. Then the bus would pull up and a line of adorable children would form. We would snap Nels's picture as he stood framed in the doorway of the bus with his head turned back to smile at us as he embarked upon his new adventure.

The reality was quite different. Nels was cantankerous about having his picture taken. He'd insisted on wearing the new Star Wars Lego t-shirt I'd bought him that had turned out to be too short, so his outfit left something to be desired.

We were the only people at the bus stop. It was a little depressing. And it was foggy. I'm all for fog and solitude and gloom in general, but in this case, when the bus pulled up, I felt like I was sending Nels off to Hogwarts.

Now, the bus did not pull over to the curb at all, but stopped right in the middle of the street. Without a boisterous crowd of fellow students to join in with, the distance to the bus became a vast chasm which would be unspeakably sad for Nels to cross alone.

I was faced with a dilemma. Of all the first-day-of-school photos I'd imagined looking back on some day, not a one of them contained my backside. Walking Nels to the bus would ruin all the shots. But maternal instinct (I was relieved to find I have some, actually) won out over vanity, and I walked Nels to the bus.

He marched up the steps and never looked back. The kindly bus driver took one look at my face and said, "First day?" Of course Shaun's work garb and camera with its huge lens were a bit of a giveaway too. That bus driver was majorly comforting. I wanted to hug him.

I cried a little at this point.

And a little more here.

And that's what it was like sending Nels off for his first day of Kindergarten. Which he liked just about as much as his face at the beginning of the day might indicate.