Happy Birthday to my First Born (Subtitle: OMG He’s Eight!)

My first born child is eight years old. On the one hand I am shocked (SHOCKED!) that I have an eight year child. On the other hand, Thomas grew up so much over the past year that it feels like he should have turned eight months ago. He was SO grateful for his birthday yesterday that he must have said thank you about 20 times. Presents included a lego set, resource guides about reptiles and insects to build out his collection (he already has birds and mammals), some fun chapter books, a Harry Potter lego book (from Samuel) and Dumbledore’s wand. The birthday boy decided on rotating sushi for dinner along with a promise that he could eat as much tamago yaki (egg sushi) as he wanted.

A eight, Thomas…

  • Is a champion reader. In just one year he progressed from barely reading a full sentence to starting to read the first Harry Potter book all by himself – by choice!
  • Is a great and (mostly) patient big brother, although he’s learning not to let his little brother push him around.
  • Enjoys Soccer and Karate and has just taken on the unofficial role of Karate “mentor” to Samuel.
  • Has a renewed obsession with Lego.
  • Has a continuing obsession with everything Harry Potter (see birthday gift list and book of choice)
  • Started second grade with some reluctance but seems to be settling in
  • Is sensitive, smart and sometimes silly.
  • Still likes to hold my hand and would cuddle all day if he could.

Just 8 years ago he looked like a teeny tiny bald-headed buddha baby…

(his first passport photo)

And now he’s overcoming his fears and climbing (fake) mountains.

So proud to be his Mum.

Water Babies

I think we can call 2013 the Summer of swimming, well for the kids anyway. After years of intermittent swimming lessons, we decided this year to enroll the boys in six weeks of daily lessons.

It was risky move given Samuel refused to enter the pool when we last tried this approach. He’d sit on the stairs and refuse to budge despite bribery, threats and pleas.

I’m thrilled to say that, this year, Samuel is like a different child. Or maybe he’s just the same child with a couple of extra years under his belt. He was a little tentative getting into the pool for his first lesson, but as soon as his body hit the water he was all giggles. My stubborn little boy even decided to participate. That’s huge!

Thomas, meanwhile, has been swimming underwater, practicing his freestyle and overcoming his fear of the deep end of the pool. He’s becoming quite the little fish.

So, swimming lessons have been a huge success for us this year. The only thing that would make it better would be if they let parents in the pool on 95 degree days. It’s really not fair to make me watch the boys enjoy the nice cool water while I sweat on the sidelines, although I have managed to read a book or two and, when I get tired of that, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m on a beach in Maui.

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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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?

Celebrating Five

My baby turned five yesterday. We celebrated with a weekend stay at Mt Hood where we swam, hiked and played mini golf, often in the rain. All day we heard the phrase “It’s my birthday so I get to choose” or “It’s my birthday so I want to go this way”. It was at times cute, sometimes annoying, and thankfully only for this one day of the year.

Gifts included some new books, including this fast favorite and one that I remember from my own childhood, a marble run, Sirius Black’s wand (from Thomas), and the gift that I was most excited about, a Harry Potter Lego Quidditch set. Samuel asked for this lego set for Christmas and it had been discontinued. At the time, I thought about spending $40 above retail to buy it on Ebay but quickly decided that was insane. Fortunately, Amazon restocked them for about five minutes about three months ago and I was able to snag one at it’s regular price. I’ve been like a kid on Christmas waiting for him to open it ever since and he was just as excited as I had hoped he would be. An added bonus was the 2 hours that the boys spent playing with it, without arguing, after we got home yesterday. The gift that keeps on giving.

The gifts and the cake are all fun, but the best thing about birthdays for me is the opportunity it provides to reflect on the past year and think about how much my kids change in just twelve short months. This past year has been a big one for Samuel. In just one year he:

  • Started Pre-K at a real elementary school where he learns Japanese.
  • Played his first games of soccer and progressed from the kid who didn’t really want to play last season to one of the best players on the team in the Spring.
  • Developed a love for reading everything he can and, most impressively, writing about 20 letters a week to various people. They all say the same thing – “I like you Mum, I love you Mum” or “I like you Dad…” – and they are wonderful.
  • Learned how to spell certain words so that he now refers to me as M-O-M or M-U-M, spelling out my name when he calls for me, switching between Australian and American spelling.
  • Developed a wonderfully clever sense of humour.
  • Progressed from cranky a LOT of the time to only cranky some of the time – in fact this shift occurred over just the past few months.
  • Grew about 3 inches. Suddenly, his pants are too short, his shoes are pinching his feet and his legs hurt from the growing pains. Time to go shopping.
  • Gained a lot of independence. Now, instead of clinging to me until the very last moment when I drop him off at school in the morning, he greets his teachers and sits down to start the day with barely a backward glance. He can also buckle his own seatbelt (huge!).

Still, there are a few things that haven’t changed about Samuel – and I am holding on to them as long as I can. He still holds my hand, gives me the best kisses and hugs, sometimes needs me to help zip  up his jacket, says he’s thankful that I cook him a great dinner almost every night, hugs his brother goodbye in the morning, says he loves me at least twice a day, shares incredibly observant and wise thoughts out of nowhere, and can usually be pulled out of a bad mood with a tickle.

He’s quite simply my favorite five year old.

Mother’s Day and a Childhood Flashback: The Sprinkler

Another relaxing Mothers’ Day has come and gone. Breakfast cooked by hubby, the last soccer match of the season, time to read a book while watching the kids have a water pistol fight (in the rain), and then dinner, also courtesy of Kei. The boys bought me some beautiful flowers, Thomas made me some notecards and Samuel gave me a card that said simply “I love you Mum. You love me.” He likes to get to the point.

Just before bed, Kei videotaped the boys telling him about why I am such a great Mum. Thomas shared a bunch of reasons, most of them focused on food and laundry, while Samuel was a little less forthcoming. After a couple of minutes I decided to leave the room to see if Samuel would be more willing to share without me watching. I’m excited to watch the full video later.

A few minutes after they went upstairs to go to bed, they came back down again. Just as I was about to get frustrated that bedtime was taking way too long, I was informed that they came down so that Thomas could read me a book called “My Mom is Great“. We’ve read this book together a number of times in the past, but this is the first time that Thomas has ever read it to me. I’m still amazed that he has gone from reading almost nothing at the beginning of the school year, to reading entire books by himself.

I’m so happy to be their Mum, even though they drive me nuts sometimes and make my life way busier than I could have ever imagined. Some of my favorite moments are when I eavesdrop on them giggling together from another room or when they’re excited to share something they learned at school or when they just like to cuddle up with me on the couch. These times almost make me forget about the fighting and talking back and the laundry (so much laundry). But there’s no ups without downs. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, Parenthood.

Grandma: “You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!… I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Speaking of thrills, we’ve had more than our fair share of warm, sunny May days in Portland lately. So warm, in fact, that I brought out the sprinkler which is something I remember doing when I was a child. Of course now that Melbourne is almost always on water restrictions, I’m not sure that Aussie children are allowed to experience the thrill of the sprinkler on a hot day. I’ll have to make sure my 1/2 Aussie children fully appreciate that running under the sprinkler is a very special benefit that comes from living in one of the rainiest cities in America.

I’m sure the entire neighborhood was witness to the squeals and giggles coming from our front yard on this particular sunny day. Who needs water slides and swimming pools when a $20 sprinkler will do the trick?