100 Years Young

Our neighborhood park celebrated it’s 100th anniversary last night with a 12 hour party. We headed over at about 6pm to eat (bad hotdogs), drink (just a little) and be merry.

I took this first photo at about 6pm. By the time we left at 9, the park was a lot more crowded.

The first thing we did was to join our friends while we ate dinner and listened to some fantastic big band music.

After the kids enjoyed a free ice cream, I took a group of them over to the bouncy house – so we could wait in line for 30 minutes before their five minute bounce.

While I waited in line, the boys wrestled…

…the girls danced…

…and ran around…

…or just waited quietly and watched others enjoy their bounce.

FINALLY the bouncing began.

And then ended just as quickly. The kids seemed satisfied but I felt a little short-changed, even if it was free.

But at least that meant we didn’t miss out on seeing my first ever real-life maypole. I’m not sure I fully understand the concept of the maypole, but it sure looked pretty.

On our walk back to the other adults, we bumped into a crocodile wearing swim trunks (as you do).

We also dodged a few jugglers.

We arrived back at our picnic spot to discover that the music had turned from big band to funk… and that’s when the dancing started.

I wish I had this guy’s moves.

My boys asked me to dance and it was so much fun! Thomas gave up after one song but Samuel and I got our groove on for quite some time until the lure of the iphone became louder than the music. In fairness, they were both pretty exhausted and a little wind down time was needed.

We headed home at about 9pm as the sun started to disappear. We didn’t have the stamina to stay for late night movie.

Good thing too, because I could still hear it playing when my head hit the pillow at 11pm. Such a fun way to spend a warm summer evening and a fitting way to celebrate 100 years.

Goodbye Pre-K…. Forever…

Excuse me while I reminisce a little. Just over a week ago my baby (MY BABY) finished Pre-K. It was an emotional day, not only because the baby years are officially over, but because we said goodbye to a teacher who cared for both of our children during a year when they seemed too tiny to be in Elementary school. Although tears threatened to cloud my strong composure, I didn’t cry. A miracle really because I feel like crying at the end (and the beginning) of every school year. Once those hormones kick in during pregnancy, they never truly leave.

The kids spent the first week of their holiday at Zoo camp and IT WAS AWESOME! I picked Samuel up after the first day and asked him how it was and he said “GREAT!” He rarely says great to anything. During the course of a week, between them they got to touch a rabbit, Australian walking stick, turtle, lizard, boa constrictor (!) and a hedgehog. I was most envious of the hedgehog. They’re heading back to Zoo Camp for another week later in the Summer after Japanese camp and outdoor camp.

Honestly, the logistics are a tad overwhelming. I can’t really complain because I signed up for this in the hope of saving a few dollars. Nanny’s are expensive and that was really the only other option. We’re also restricted in day camp options because rule #1 for me is that both kids need to be able to attend the same camp and there are not many camps open to kids entering kindergarten. Still, the boys seem to be enjoying themselves and I’ll only need to work late into the night for a few more weeks…

But before I completely move onto Summer, I need to look back at the last week of school. It’s almost like if I didn’t blog it, it never happened, so bear with me.

A couple of days before school ended, parents were invited to listen to the first grade kids present their insect project that they’d been working on for a few weeks as well as a Japanese reading. Can I just take a moment to thank the first grade teachers for not scheduling this on the last day of school? I’ve already experienced running between classrooms to give equal time at class parties and I was grateful not to have to worry about it this time around.

First up was the Japanese class where the kids read their interpretation of The Hungry¬†Caterpillar. The best part about the reading is that we were able to witness Thomas’ leadership skills in action. He helped the other kids get into position and assisted them when they had trouble reading the Japanese characters.

He was pretty proud of himself when he finished.

Then he had the chance to read a story he wrote about his family (all in Japanese). His Mum is “very nice” and his Dad is “very fast”.

Again, the best part was the opportunity to witness Thomas’ kindness when he asked if other kids whose parents weren’t there could read their stories to us as well. So, so proud.

After a brief change in location, we headed to the English classroom to hear Thomas present his project on ants, complete with table of contents. It was awesome and I may have learned a fact or two.

He was most proud of his scorpion vs ant picture. I can see why.

At the end of the week I was able to attend Samuel’s year end party. It began with a group story…

…and progressed to sushi rolls. It was chaotic and noisy but so fun to see Samuel in his “natural environment”. That kid has grown up so much in a year that it makes my heart hurt – in good and bad ways.

After we got home we opened report cards and they were… terrible! OK, I’m kidding. They were perfect. I may be bragging just a little but I can’t help myself. We’re so lucky to have such wonderful children…

… and I’ll remind myself of that tomorrow when they’re driving me crazy.

Parenthood is all about the ups and downs, but mostly the ups.

 

Storm Clouds Clearing

I’m feeling a tad bit stabby this morning and I’m almost certain it’s everyone else’s fault – whiny children, ungrateful co-workers, nasty freeway commuters, the starbucks guy who said “WHAT?” way too rudely when he didn’t hear my order and, now, WordPress. I saved a draft of this post and it disappeared so now I’m writing it all over again. Universe? Do you have a problem with me today? Because I’m ready to take you on.

OK, maybe staying up to watch the season final of Hannibal last night was a mistake. Gore, darkness and mystery may not be the best thing to watch right before bed. But, in fairness, I had to get the horror of a powerpoint presentation out of my mind after I worked on it until 9:30pm. The lesser of two evils for sure.

Still, it’s Friday and I have the entire weekend ahead of me to work on my attitude. To help get the process started, I’m posting a few iPhone photos taken during my flight to and from Seattle on Tuesday. Except I’m posting them in reverse order so it looks like the day started out stormy and ended with sunshine.

See what I did there? ūüôā

Happy Friday!

 

Making My Father Proud

My Father is a gardener. Not just an occasional gardener, a hard-core, get out there every night and weed, weed, weed gardner. And, despite his insistance that I must have the gardening gene passed down from my grandparents, I’m not sure I’ll ever LOVE gardening.

But I am learning to like it, especially now that our backyard no longer looks like this:

I took this photo in 2008 after our house renovation, during which a bulldozer came in and basically demolished what was left of our backyard. I haven’t looked at this photo in a long time and, now that I do, I’m pretty impressed with what we’ve achieved – even if it took about 5 years.

I didn’t manage to get a photo from the second floor for comparison but here’s a quick one from the deck (on a very sunny day).

In five years we’ve added french doors, a back deck, a patio, a veggie garden and a shed. Not to mention a good place to put my wine while I take photos. We’ve planted grass off to the right but currently the weeds are winning so I’ll spare you the trauma of that view.

Here’s closer look at the veggie garden.

Our snap peas are coming along nicely. Samuel spent at least 30 minutes grazing on them last night.

I have my fingers crossed that our warm early summer will produce a few peppers/capsicums.

I used to grow Strawberries in the hanging baskets but this year I planted some ground cover flowers. The basket linings also provide nest material for our hummingbird visitors. That red thing is a hummingbird feeder and it’s attracted at least one return visitor who was too quick for me to take a photo. I may have to plane a stake out to catch him.

Carrots, brussels sprouts and chard. How do you know when a carrot is ready? We pulled one last week and it was a teeny tiny little thing. I was embarrassed for it.

I also planted a flower garden this year and filled it with things that smell good like lavender, thyme and sage. I can’t wait until they threaten to take over the yard. (I find pruning quite therapeutic).

I have high hopes for this peony.

And, finally, my bother and sister-in-law’s contribution. I think they bought it from a dollar store in Melbourne. I’d say it’s a little bit of Australiana in our backyard but if you look closely you’ll notice that the flag is backwards. How many people can say they have a backwards Aussie flag in their veggie garden? I think that makes it all the more special.

I can see us spending a lot of time out here over the Summer watering, weeding and simply enjoying our backyard, all while I wait for our hummingbird friend to return.

Then and Now

It’s the last day of school today which means lots of reflection about how much the boys have changed in just nine short months.

THOMAS THEN AND NOW

  • When Thomas began first grade he was struggling with his reading. We were told that he was within the normal range but it still felt like a hurdle, one that I wanted him to get over mostly because I knew how much he would love reading if it was less of a struggle.¬†At the end of first grade, he wants to read chapter books and our days of spelling things out to hide our conversations from the kids are over. It’s really incredible and I am so proud of how far he’s come.
  • He struggled to write more than a sentence or two at the beginning of first grade but last week read us an insect report that he wrote – more than 10 pages, complete with a table of contents.
  • He started the year with all but one of his baby teeth and now they’ve almost all been replaced, making his smile even bigger with those two huge front teeth. He also asked to grow his hair out (no more buzz cuts) which makes me realize that this is just the beginning of the many decisions he is going to want to make for himself in the coming years.

SAMUEL THEN AND NOW

  • When Samuel started Pre-K he seemed so little. There were many mornings when I had to peel him off me while he cried for me not to leave. Now he gives me a quick kiss and hug and barely looks at me while I walk out the door.
  • At the beginning of the school year Samuel could read some letters and knew how to write a few letters in his name. Now, he¬†can write his name in English without even thinking about it and and even copies his name in Japanese. He recognizes words in books and sometimes surprises me by reading a street sign or book title. I have about 20 letters that all say “I love you Mum”.
  • He GREW – about 3 shoe sizes and almost skipped a full clothing size. He is no longer the smallest in his class (not the biggest either) and his baby features have faded. He is well and truly a boy.

Ahhhh – the bittersweet feeling that comes from being proud that your children are growing up happy and healthy, that they’re learning and developing minds of their own but, at the same time, they’re GROWING and there’s just no stopping it. I don’t have babies anymore. Today, we’ll say goodbye to the Pre-K teacher who taught both Thomas and Samuel. In a thank-you card I jokingly said that we should have another baby just so she can teach that one as well because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to Pre-K forever.

But I will because I have to and, besides, Kindergarten will be fun too and Second grade is a whole new world we are yet to discover. I’ll just keep telling myself that until school starts again in September.

Looking Sharp

A few weeks ago Samuel asked me if I could comb his hair after bath. Now he does it himself after every bath and shower. The sleek side part doesn’t last long with his straight hair but for about 30 minutes he reminds me of Calvin.

Calvin 2

 

See the resemblance?

Visiting Old Friends at the Oregon Zoo

It was a 75 degree Sunday, Kei was playing golf and had to get the kids out of the house. We arrived at 9am when the gates opened and stayed for 4.5 hours, saying hello to every single animal. We’ve had a zoo membership for about 5 years and so now some of the animals are like old friends. It felt good to be back.

Thomas put himself in charge of the map which only resulted in a few arguments.

As we walked around, I posted on Facebook about how grateful I am that our stroller days are behind us. We now have so much more freedom to relax and take our time without having to find ramps or stop for endless potty and feeding breaks (although we had a couple).

I am also grateful that I can stop and take a photograph without the fear that one my kids will run off while my back is turned for 30 seconds

We arrived just as the bears were being served breakfast.

This is the crowd that we had to navigate for a glimpse.

A favorite from the day. Goats are pretty cool – and able to stand still for a long time.

A quick stop to climb some statues.

It amuses me that his fingers are in the Lion’s nostrils. Looks uncomfortable.

Another favorite.

A tip for managers of Zoos around the world – if you want kids to read about animals, put the information on some sort of screen. Printed signs were ignored but if there was a screen around, we stopped Every. Single. Time.

Crickets and Scorpion lollipops. YUM!

This is the first time that we’ve been through the bird walk in a while. Samuel’s verdict? “It smells really bad in there.”

Overall, a wonderful, relaxing, sunny day at the zoo. I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

 

Almost Summer

It’s the last week of school which means Summer is officially here. And, while I am a little frightened by the juggling that comes with camp schedules, daily swimming lessons and my day job, I am looking forward to a Summer filled with long days outside. The kids are finally old enough to play without constant supervision. Thomas’ pass time of choice is Wall Ball while Samuel enjoys running around making his own fun with the occasional hit of the baseball and water gun fight mixed in.

Recently, the evenings have been warm and dry so we’ve developed an after dinner ritual where I water the garden while the kids and Kei enjoy their various outdoor activities for an hour or so. Then it’s time for shower and a story before we try and convince the boys that it really is time for bed despite the fact that sun won’t go down for another couple of hours. I’m extremely grateful that we invested in some blackout blinds when we renovated upstairs. One of the best decisions we ever made.

Following are a few photos that I took during a recent family walk around the neighborhood.

These dogs wait all day for a kind passer-by to throw their icky tennis ball. Good thing my kids are kind passers-by.

Always a good time to stop for some impromptu hoop-shooting.

I’ve lost count of the number of photos I have taken with the kids walking along this wall. It’s an essential end to any neighborhood stroll.

Feeling grateful for where we live right now. There’s nothing quite Portland in the Summertime.