Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Baby's All Grown Up and Going to Thailand!

Sarah came home on 12/16 for the holidays. A few days later she got her haircut and died it back to her original red color (She was born a strawberry blond). She looks so mature with her new hairdo. The boys and Maya loved having her home. Yesterday she left for a month in Thailand with her friend Gretchen. She left me in charge of my grand-dog, Lilly. I think I'm going to be a better Grandma than I am a mother. Especially if all my grandchildren are dogs! Yesterday I took her for a walk, on a leash and everything! She's my new exercise buddy. Trevor pulls which makes walking on icy roads even more treacherous, and he weighs 100 pounds!

We had a nice Christmas. Santa brought the boys a real hockey goal. It was in our living room for a few days, now it's outside on the homemade ice skating rink where it belongs. Today Matt's siblings will start arriving for our Annual Wise Clan New Year Gathering. We will exchange gifts and feast on King crab and Prime rib. On Saturday Matt's siblings will all go fishing for Winter King, which is the best salmon on earth. It melts in your mouth like butter! We will be in Soldotna for Chris' first two hockey games. He's going to play goalie! I don't know if his ego can take it. Not everyone is cut out to be a goalie. Our coach is going to rotate several kids through the goalie position. I wanted him to play other positions, too, since it's his first year of hockey.

Maya has been resisting learning to skate. We had our first melt down a couple of weeks ago. Last week she did fine once we were out there. She doesn't like the group activities, prefers to do her own thing. I think I'm going to try her in a dance/movement class after New Year's. We can try skating again next year. Maybe she'll actually be able to bend her arms and legs in her gear! She turns 4 on January 2nd. She decided to have a swimming party with 10 of her friends. We are going to have her birthday party next week, since Matt is on call this weekend.

Sarah leaving for Thailand.

Our homemade ice rink.

Now the boys want a mini-Zamboni!

Yes, our whole family fits in a hockey goal.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the First Week of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas, Chris and Maya both came down with the stomach flu. Maya bounced back after 12 hours but Chris continued to have stomach pain all week and missed 3 days of school. When he wasn't lying on the couch with stomach pain, he was busy putting up our Christmas tree. Since he was under the weather he decided to reuse our fake tree instead of chopping a real tree down this year. Chris doesn't like us leaving the tree lights on all the time. He's afraid we are going to run out of electricity before Santa gets here.

On the second day of Christmas, we got about a foot of snow. We actually got 2 feet of snow but the day before it had warmed up and rained. On the top of the ridge where it never got warm enough to rain, people got up to 3 feet of snow over two days. We also lost power for a few minutes several times during the storm.

On the third day of Christmas the sun came out. It was so beautiful outside with all the new snow. It looked like a Christmas card. Nothing like fresh snow to get you in the mood for Christmas!

Maya has quickly learned about Santa Claus. She tells Grandma about all the toys Santa is going to bring her when she see the toys advertised on TV. At our house she looks through catalogs and puts an M on all the toys she wants with a marker. Right now she is sitting on her potty chair with a toy catalog.

Today we are going to watch the Nutcracker. It is a local favorite production that has been reborn every year for probably about 20 years now. Every year the director adds something different so it's always fun. For example, the year the kids had a visiting circus school and learned how to juggle and ride unicycles, Jill worked a circus theme into the Nutcracker. The boys enjoying watching their friends who are in the performance. The high school boys are cast as King Rat and his army, Russian dancers, Matadors and Spanish dancers. In fact, our high school football coach's son thinks that performing in the Nutcracker ballet is what football players do after football season is over!

The performance is is our high school auditorium which is a world class auditorium used for lots of community events. And then we have the Nutcracker Fair. The high school gym and commons area is packed with local artists and merchants hawking their wares, so you can pick up some unique gifts while you are there.

Chris micromanaging Maya as they decorate the tree.

Chris putting the tree together in his pajamas.

Chris and Riley learning to make gravy on Thanksgiving.

Chris is learning to play goalie. Maya is helping to defend the goal while I take shots on Chris. At first she just stood in front of the goal. But when I learned how to do lift shots to get the puck past her, she started charging me and trying to take the puck from me!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pilgrim Play/Bonding Through Hockey

Happy Thanksgiving! Yesterday we attended Chris' Pilgrim Play. He was one of two Indians. He played Samoset and had two lines which he delivered with more style and finesse during the performance than he did during rehearsal at home. Afterwards he served us apple cider, crackers and cheese, meat stick, pumpkin bread and cookies.

Samoset the Indian.

Maya and Chris

Chris also played a crew member on the Mayflower. Doesn't he look adorable in this dew rag?

Look at the boys helping Maya tie her skates.

Maya watches a movie inside a hockey bag that Riley carried to the family room for her.
Riley even taught her how to drop her gloves for a "hockey fight". Riley is even learning how to speak French with a Canadian accent. He says " Martin San Louie" instead of St. Louis. See, hockey has some redeeming value.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Homer, the Banana Belt of Alaska

Okay, forget about me whining about the single digits. It's actually 37 degrees right now. Matt has been trying to create an outdoor skating rink for the kids on our cement boat pad. I don't know how successful he will be since it's warmed up. Winters in Homer range from 0-40 with occasional cold snaps below 0, but not very often. The snowing, raining, melting and freezing up again makes walking and driving very hazardous.

If you want to see something really impressive, check out my niece in a cross country ski meet at 20 below. She's wearing a respirator and the frost on her eyelashes is so thick she looks like the Fairbanks version of Tammy Fae Baker! For more information about how real Alaskans live at 20 (and up to 40 below), go to the Wise-Edic blog on my list of favorite blogs.

Now for the hockey update. Riley's team just played in a tournament in Soldotna. They defeated KPHA 5-2 last night, Riley scoring 4 of the goals. If 3 goals is a hat trick, what's 4 goals called? A hat and scarf trick? They made it to the championship game and lost to Palmer 5-1. It was a disappointing loss but nothing that a big breakfast at Buckets Sports Bar and Grill couldn't fix. As we were finishing our breakfast, a couple who had been sitting at the table next to us dropped a note in front of me on their way out. It said: I would like to compliment you on your well behaved children.

I just read the Creasy-Duda blog about God throwing us a lifeline. This was my lifeline. I often feel like I have no control over my children and wish I was a better parent. Then once in a while, something like that happens, reminding me I'm not a complete failure. I'm not going to qualify the compliment by telling you it's easy to have well behaved children when you take them to a restaurant where they are surrounded by wide screen HD TVs all playing a different football game on Sunday morning. Or remind you that three of the boys, Riley and two teammates, had just played their hearts out and lost the 8am championship game. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the compliment. It probably won't be long before someone else is asking me to get my children under control.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Snow

This blog is about 10 days late. We had our first snow on November 7th. I promised a friend of mine who was out of town that I would take pictures for her. Then things got really hectic. Riley had his first two hockey games last Saturday. Chris' hockey team was split because there were two many kids. I am managing his team now, after I gave up managing Riley's team. Riley's team is being coached by someone way more competent than me. Chris' team is very young and inexperienced so we are not going to do much traveling. I'm trying to schedule a few games for them so they feel like a real hockey team without overwhelming the families.

We've had some dramatic weather around here. First, the longest, warmest autumn that I can remember in 10 years. Then we had several wind and rain storms, one after another. Finally, our first snow in November instead of mid-October. Now, a cold snap we don't usually see until January. It's been in the single digits this past week. Brrrr! I do prefer the cold sunny days to the grey cloudy days, but single digits? Yikes! Matt spent yesterday insulating all our skylights with foam board. My heart goes out to all the families living in substandard housing like leaky trailers, running their heaters day and night just to keep the thermometer above 50, with oil and propane prices they can't afford. I don't know why anyone but Alaskan Natives live here. I don't even know how they've been doing it for thousands of years!

Morning light on a snowy day, it's 9:55am.

Riley and Chris making snowballs.

Instead of "snow angel", Maya says she's making a "snow me". Precious.

Chris' start on a snow man.

Matt bought Maya her own hockey gear because nothing at the rink fit her. Doesn't she look like a transformer?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween, 2009

Last night we went out for Halloween. Our friends got the flu so their party was cancelled. It was unfortunate because nobody does Halloween like the Greears. First we went trick or treating at Riley's school. Maya saw two of her friends there. Then we went to the Long Term Care facility at the hospital. The hospital is being remodeled so parts of it were under construction. We got lost for a minute and Riley started to get nervous. I wanted to tell him we were going to the morgue but that would have freaked him out too much. There were a lot of Grim Reaper out last night. I wondered what the elderly folks at the Senior Center thought about that.

After the hospital, Riley and Chris went trick or treating in the neighborhood with Bradley and his family while Maya and I went to the Senior Center. We ended up at Ly and Bill's house and helped Ly pass out candy for a while. Maya was mad that she didn't get to go door to door with the boys. I hate trick or treating when it's 21 degrees out. It was cold and clear with a nearly full moon. Since it's so cold here many parents drive their kids around to trick or treat. There are a few small neighborhoods in Homer that get the majority of the trick or treating. So the streets are congested with cars idling and kids running across the street in the dark. It's kind of a nightmare for me. I was perfectly happy to take Maya to a few places then go home to eat her candy.

Two Grim Reapers, a Faerie, a "Mint Witch" and Darth Vader. Bethany's costume bag said "mint witch", meaning green. So she carried a bag of mints around and passed them out.

The Faerie, Darth Vader and the Grim Reaper.

Lawson and Maya

Olivia and Maya

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Party

Yesterday we attended the Annual Sonnen Family Pumpkin Carving Party. It is wholesome fun for the whole family. Karin and Rich served up chili, pumpkin bread, apples with caramel, hot and cold cider. I helped Rich and Karin judge the pumpkins. It is no easy task! The results:

(back row left to right) Jessica: cutest pumpkin, Chris: most unique, JJ: best cyclops.
(middle left) Andy: best triclops, Rachel: nicest eyelashes.
(front row) Maya: best smile/frown, Brad: most resembles a hockey player, Riley: scariest.

Shadow is the perfect Halloween cat. I accused Karin of picking him up from the pound as a Halloween decoration and returning him after Halloween. Here he is eyeing my dog suspiciously.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spiders and puppy tails

I have been asked by mothers expecting their first child in the past: Is there really a difference between little girls and little boys? I remember being at a baby shower once, full of intellectual, professional and gentile women. When that question was directed at me, I forgot the company I was with and blurted out: "Why yes! Boys are generally louder, more active, and girls don't go around pretending to pee on the dog!" The last part of my response was accompanied by the full on Elvis Presley pelvis wiggle as I imitated boys pretending to pee on a dog. Of course it totally depends on the child. Sometimes there is no difference. Most children are somewhere in between.

Both my daughters are girly-girls who like to do boy things. Sarah has always had more male friends than girl friends. She was a femme fatale from the get go, picking out leopard print skirts before she was 12 months old. I started to really worry when she started preschool at Montessori and her two best friends were twin boys! My mom said she was super easy to babysit because she just carried an old purse around and filled it with things. But she played dentist instead of doctor. When she was in high school, she wanted to be a marine biologist. I could imagine her, the only marine biologist marching around the research vessel in high heels and a mini skirt. I feel guilty telling her that most marine biologist end up categorizing plankton, not swimming with dolphins. But maybe the real reason she went into psychology was because high heels are not practical on a marine vessel.

On Tuesday Maya had playdate with her new friend E. They are both high energy girls so I was prepared to be on full duty. After feeding our neighbor's horses carrots and broccoli, running through the woods and swinging on our playset for 30 minutes, we came inside to play where it was warm. E. asked if we had any dress-ups. I pulled out our little chest of poorly stocked dress ups: several Chinese and Vietnamese outfits, an old lion costume and an old dalmatian costume. None of them fit E. but she managed to squeeze into the dalmatian outfit which barely covered her tummy, her tights and panties visible underneath. Maya changed into a pink Vietnamese outfit, not the au dai but the pajama style. I carefully hid the fairy costume knowing no amount of diplomacy would save the playdate if E. spied Maya's only girly costume. They started to play doctor.

I was strict about leaving the bedroom door open. They told me they didn't want me to see what they were doing. I said that's why we have to leave the door open. I was agreeable to them practicing any kind of medicine except gynecology. Maya lay down on the bed while E. pretend to cut her tummy open with a plastic knife from the play kitchen set. I reminded them to leave their clothes on and no surgery on private parts. They assured me they were not going to do any such thing. Then they fed each other medicine from wooden spoons. This went on for some time.

Then Maya pulled out her favorite dress ups: sports gear. She put on the boys' old elbow pads and knee pads for skateboarding. I helped E. to do the same. They both wanted the fingerless gloves and they each had one on. I talked Maya into wearing the wrist guards and letting E. have the other fingerless glove. I told her, you can wear the gloves when E. goes home. In classic 3 year old fashion she said what we as adults have learned to keep to ourselves: "I want her to go home right now." But we got past the glove incident and that is when E. father arrived to pick her up.

He could not stifle a chuckle as he asked "My, what are you wearing?" I told him we were seriously lacking in the dress up department so she had to settle for a dalmatian costume 3 sizes too small and skateboarding gear. Like a true doting father he whipped out his cell phone and snapped a photo. He suggested next time maybe E. could bring over some of her own dress ups. Maya can't wait for E. to come over today and give her more medicine.

This picture sums up the spectrum of our boys and our girls.

Chris is into making animals out of construction paper. Here he is attaching the tail to paper Trevor.

Here's Chris' tarantula. I helped with the legs. Note the articulating knees (even slacker moms occasionally overachieve).

I helped Maya with this black widow for her bedroom door.
Riley is finally discovering the joy of reading. Having completed his first book report without any bribing, coercing or threatening from me on "The BFG" , he is now reading "Ruby Holler" with gusto. I complained loudly and frequently last year about our struggles with him being in the "college prep 4th grade". This year it's all paying off as he does his homework with very little help and few reminders!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Learning to Skate

Today Maya went to her first Learn to Skate lesson. It's a great program for kids starting at 3 years of age. It's a great way to learn to skate because it doesn't hurt to fall down. She loved every minute of it. When you put a bunch of 3 year olds on ice, there's always bound to be somebody crying. Not Maya! I thought she was going to cry when I pulled her off the ice. The gear was too big so she could hardly move. The coach suggested we make some modifications, like using elbow pads for knee pads. One of the mom said to me "She's not afraid of anything, is she?" I answered with "Only flies!".

Gearing up.

I'm ready!

Got my name on my helmet.

Pushing buckets encourages them to move their legs outward in a skating motion.

Making new friends.

Look who else is learning to skate!

No more pictures, Mom!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Chris has been begging me to carve pumpkins for a month. I couldn't hold him off any longer. So Wednesday night we carved our first pumpkins. They are attending a pumpkin carving party in another week. Maya was into it for about 5 minutes. Then she played with orange home made playdough. I helped finish her pumpkin.

Theses pumpkin carvers are safer and actually work much better than knives.

Maya kind of looks like her pumpkin, except she has more teeth.

I turn my back to make dinner and Maya makes herself a headband out of playdough!
I was not amused at the time but then I realized how funny it would be if it was somebody else's child.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Earthworms and parachutes

Last weekend I went to my annual Alaska Nurse Practitioner Association conference. My favorite lecture, once again, involved brain chemistry. I am fascinated by the brain and learning what makes us, okay, so the heart is the ticker. I am more interested in learning how we think, feel, respond to the world around us. This particular lecture was on insomnia, taught by a neuropsychiatrist. He was trying to explain anatomy of the brain and the sleep-wake cycle. Most people have heard of the cerebrum, the cerebellum, maybe even the hypothalamus. But did you know about the the amygdala and the locus ceruleus? Judging from those names, it seems George Lucas shares my passion for neuroanatomy.

Fastforward 5 days: I'm now home with the kids. Chris stayed home from school yesterday with a stomach ache. At first I thought he was just suffering from MDD (Mommy Deficit Disorder), but last night he actually had a fever. So today he is home again, even though he is feeling better. After Riley and Maya left for school, he got bored and wanted to go for a walk. He seemed fine so I packed a lunch and we went for a short hike. It's a gorgeous sunny fall day. He held my hand and we walked and talked. I really enjoy being alone with Chris. Being a middle child, so much of his (bad) behavior is influenced by reacting to his older brother and younger sister. But when it's just him, he has no need to define himself in the context of his siblings and is free to just be himself. I never believed in that sibling theory stuff until I had three children who are less than 4 years apart.

Now we are home with Maya and he wants to make a parachute. Yesterday he wanted to know if earthworms can see. So I googled "can earthworms see?" and we got the answer to our question (Earthworms do not have eyes but they have light sensors and can tell light from dark). It worked so well I decided to google "how to make a parachute". I got some directions, it seemed pretty straight forward. Since I am too lazy to read the directions to him (because I'm in the middle of blogging), I look for a video. I click on a video and we start watching it. After about 15 seconds I realize the guy doesn't seem to be making anything that looks remotely like a parachute. There is rock music blaring in the background. I look back at the description of the video and realize I'm showing my 7 year old how to make a homemade pipe for smoking pot. Okay, one more reason why I should NOT home school my kids.

Update on Maya: Maya is loving school. Her speech teacher wrote me a note telling me how impressed she is with Maya's progress in speech. Yesterday she used a 6 word sentence. She told another child "You should get back over there!" Then the bus driver called me because Maya told him to drop her off at Grandma's house. The bus drops her off at Grandma's on Mondays when I am at work. On Wednesdays it brings her home. She was trying to pull a fast one over on the bus driver. On Monday she told Grandma "Grandma, if you that again, I going to kick your butt". I think she got some time out to think about how NOT to talk to grandma. We are obviously still trying to establish the pecking order around here.

Update on Riley: Riley started band this year and chose to learn how to play the trumpet. We dug Matt's old trumpet out of the closet and he was able to make noise with it right away. Now he is working on making music. It's neat to see him excited about something besides sports. It seems music is not his only new interest. Monday he sheepishly said to me "Mom, Bradley is trying to get me a girlfriend." I answered "Why? You don't like to talk on the phone, you can't go on dates yet, why do you want a girlfriend? You tell Bradley I said you are too young to have a girlfriend." He walks downstairs with a smile on his face, looking mildly embarrassed. Then Chris says in classic deadpan, nonchalant Chris fashion: "I have a girlfriend." I said "You do?" He said "Yes." I said "Who is your girlfriend?". He answered "Quinlan". I have learned from past experience that teasing Chris about girls is off limits. So I just say"Okay" and drop it. From downstairs I hear Riley saying "See, Mom? Even Chris has a girlfriend".

I'm not ready for the boys to have girlfriends. I want Chris to keep making parachutes for a long time. He has now finished a plastic one and a cloth one. Now he's busy making homemade ice cream. I better get dinner started!

I can't seem to get the black birds to land in a yellow tree on a sunny day with the blue sky in the background. Matt suggested I hang lunch meat from the branches!
Fall currant leaves against tree trunk.

Trevor got this big bone for his 5th birthday. Chris cut his bangs in school when he was bored. This is how he looks after the fix-it-before-picture-day-haircut.

Maya's new Tinkerbell cell phone.

Let's see which works better, plastic or cloth parachute?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mom Takes Owl to Show and Tell Without a Permit

The most exciting thing that happened to us this week was finding a dead Great Horned Owl on the road. Well, we didn't actually find him, Alana did. She sent me a text message that said "I found a dead owl on the road, do you want it?" I sent her a message back: "Yeah!". So we met at Jerami's and I got the dead owl out of her trunk.

It was lying on it's back with it's wings spread out. It was such a beautiful specimen, if you didn't look at it's head. We think it might have been hit by a car. The neck appeared to be broken and the head was kind of smashed. One eye had been pecked out (probably by ravens) and the other looked like an ogre sucked the jelly out of it. There was some dried blood on the head and just a little on one of the wings. But if you ignored the head and just looked at the wings, it was an incredible creature.

I took it home and showed the boys when they got home from school. At first they were not very impressed. They barely gave it a second glance. The next day I took it to Chris' class and asked his teacher if she wanted to see it. She was absolutely thrilled and asked me to bring it into the library. I spread it out on the lid of my tote for the second graders to see. Most of them were duly impressed and there were only a few "ews". Some of the children touched it's leathery feet and long talons while Ms. Boone said "Can you imagine being a mouse being carried away inside that foot?" While the kids crowded around to admire the beautiful feathers, Chris gave me a hug and said "Thanks, Mom." Then I took it to Riley's school and showed his class. Riley's teacher from last year is really into science so I showed her class, too.

Next, I had to figure out what to do with the owl. I wanted to have it stuffed and mounted but Matt informed me there might be laws making it illegal to possess an owl. So I called every scientist in town that I know but kept getting voice mail. Finally, someone called back and told me I needed a permit to show him around and then I needed to turn him over to Fish and Wildlife. I had already taken him to show and tell without a permit. It was kind of exciting to think I had broken the law! I could just see the headlines: "Homer Mom Imprisoned for Illegally Showing Dead Owl to School Kids". I secretly hoped that I could served my sentence in the same prison condominium where Martha Stewart and Paris Hilton stayed, instead of getting thrown in with the hardened criminals.

I brought it to the wildlife refuge research center here in town and the bird expert took the owl from me. I confessed I had taken it to two schools and she said "That's okay. Thanks for turning it in." That was it. The anticlimactic ending. I didn't get so much as a slap on the hand or a fine. It was really cool to have been able to see such a magnificent animal up close like that. I do kind of miss it and wish that I could have had a skilled taxidermist restore it to a fraction of it's previous glory to keep in my home. After it gets tagged and registered, it will be turned over to our local museum. I forgot to take pictures of it so I uploaded some photos from the Internet for the blog. I wonder what manner of creature will wander into our yard next week, perhaps a porcupine?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Bear Visit

Trevor treed another bear in our yard the other day. Matt thinks he weighed about 300 pounds. This is not the cute young bear we had in our yard a couple of months ago, unless he gained 200 pounds over the summer!