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?