Saturday, September 18, 2010

Apple picking time...

I'll get back to revisiting summer soon, but while it's still fresh, I thought I would share today's trip to the apple orchard. To say I've been a little overwhelmed since school started would be an understatement. Every evening has been filled with preparing for the next day, and this weekend I have plenty of grading to do. But I needed a break, and the weather is only supposed to get worse. Dan and the boys appeased my pleas to head to Parkdale and the Kiyokawa Orchards.

Despite the gray skies, the drive there was beautiful. Instead of taking grading in the car, I took my latest knitting project and made a real mini-vacation of it. It was so nice to sit and listen to Car Talk podcasts and knit rather than think about students and grades. Just what I needed today.

The orchard was busy, but the u-pick areas were nearly empty. We all headed out to pick the three varieties that were ready - Sansa, Akane, and Ginger Golds. Max is becoming quite the experienced picker, and it was fun to watch him really search for the best apples - even if that meant he had to get up on Daddy's shoulders. Lucky for us, they also had u-pick strawberries and peaches - both of which were beautiful and perfectly ripe. Luke may have eaten more berries than he picked, but the grin on his face was worth it.

The orchard was also offering free hayrides around the farm, while the owner shared a little of the history and told us about his father's start of the orchards. The boys loved the ride, and I liked hearing about the place we've been visiting for the last several years.

Tomorrow I will work on canning some peaches for the first time, and applesauce will be made next weekend. Strawberries are cleaned and ready to be used in smoothies this winter. And my mind is just a little clearer.

A day well worth it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Max's first sleepover...

Just a warning: the next few posts will be catch-up posts. There were so many things that we enjoyed this summer that I haven't gotten a chance to share.

In our house, birthday parties are every-other-year occurrences. Max gets them on even numbered years, Luke on odd years. But we still want the non-party years to be special.

This year Max really wanted to have a sleepover, and his ideal sleepover guest was his good buddy, Ollie. Ollie is a member of our playgroup, and they have known each other since they were about 2 months old. They get along perfectly, and we love having Ollie around. We were thrilled when he accepted Max's invitation.

I was prepared for anything - arguing, homesickness, staying up all night. NONE of that happened. Now, they didn't fall asleep until about 10:30, but it was the smoothest, most fun evening. The boys played legos, ate pizza, and dressed up. They slept in sleeping bags and giggled as they made shadow puppets. And they woke up with the bedhead and sleepy eyes that are universal signs of a good sleep over.

I am so happy that Max has such great little friends. I'm glad he wants to bring them to our home. And I am glad it all went so well. We can't wait to do it again!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Week of First Days...

This last week was a week of first days of school. It's always a busy, crazy week. The biggest goal is just to get through it. My students started on Tuesday, so even though I had been back to work for a week, that was my first REAL day. And even though I have had 12 first days as a teacher, it still makes me feel on edge - like a big audition for something.

Wednesday was Max's first day. Now, for a lot of his buddies, this was a FIRST DAY of major magnitude. They are all starting Kindergarten, after all. But Max's start of Kindergarten came on a much more mellow scale. He is doing his K year at Harmony, the same place (same classroom, same teacher, many of the same friends) he loved last year. No hesitation for this kiddo - he was ready to go! And, of course, the first day went well. He's glad to be back, and is right back to work.

Now, the big first day of the week was for Luke. This year Luke is also going to be at Harmony (in the classroom across the hall form Max). He was so excited to start preschool on Friday and go to "big kid" school like Max. And of course, in his typical Luke fashion, he was super laid-back about it all. No nerves, no tears. In fact, the only issue of the day was when he told me at pick-up that he "wasn't a very good listener" in his early care. (According to Max there were no issues, so we aren't sure what he meant by that!) Other than that, he loved painting and dancing with his buddy, Ben.

I am so happy that the one who seems to have the hardest time with first days is me. And I'm not sure how we got so lucky to have two little boys who will jump right into a new routine and new adventure without batting an eye. And I couldn't be more thankful that the week of first days is over!

On to week two!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goodbye, Sam...

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that our beta, Sam, wasn't eating his food. As this continued, I knew we were looking at the end sooner rather than later. On Friday, he was doing the half-hearted swim, and the slow drift to the bottom of the bowl. Ugh. I decided that it was better to prepare the boys rather than surprise them with his impending death.

I called Max over to watch him for a moment. The struggle with swimming, the old food floating in the bowl, and the look on my face must have said it all. "Mom, is Sam going to die?" And I answered yes. He asked a few more questions, and then went off to play.

Yesterday, Sam was at the bottom. His little fish soul had moved on to bigger bowls. I told Max that Sam had died, and when asked what we would do with his body, I replied that we would flush him. Fortunately Dan was there to step in when the deep worry and fear crossed Max's face. "Or....we could bury him in the back yard, if you want." And that was it. We'd be having a fish funeral in the yard.

Today was the day. The boys were out riding bikes in the driveway when I carried the bowl out to let them know it was time. I figured they were over it. After all, I'd already agreed that we could get a new fish in a couple of days. And as far as Luke was concerned, it was done - old fish out, new fish in.

Max was a different story. I hadn't realized how upset he was about it all until I proposed the flowerbed closest to the garage (get it over and done as soon as possible, right?). Well, that would just not do for Sam's final resting place. Max wanted a spot IN the grass. Fortunately, our local mole had already disturbed a perfect fish-size patch. We dug a hole, placed Sam in, and covered him up. The boys each shared something they liked about Sam ("He was a fish" from Luke, and "He was the prettiest, best, first pet I ever had" from Max). Luke headed back to the bikes. Max said he wanted some time with Sam, and I went in the house.

Twenty minutes later, he was still sitting there, with tears streaming down his cheeks. He wanted to make a headstone. I tried to explain that for mowing purposes we couldn't just leave a rock in the middle of the yard. Couldn't we just put one in the dirt nearby? Certainly not. No, we needed to MOVE Sam to the flowerbed where his tombstone could stay. Did I do it? Of course. My baby lost his first pet, after all.

Exhumation and reburial complete, Max and I searched the yard for the perfect rock. And in his five-year-old hand, he wrote "SAM" in permanent marker. We laid it on top of the new spot. And then he stayed there for another 20 minutes.

While it wasn't how I planned on spending an hour of an already-too-full day, the Burial of Sam was a good reminder. Loss hurts - and it isn't up to me as the parent to determine how much any loss might hurt. I'm glad Max cared enough to be sad. It shows character and understanding of the value of life. It shows that he really did notice the poor little fish I often thought he forgot. And it helped me to slow down and listen to what his heart needed.

Thanks, Sam, for the lessons...

Friday, September 3, 2010

The fifth birthday...

We're nearly a month past, but that doesn't mean that it's too late to share some memories of Max's 5th birthday. Well, maybe birthdays is more accurate. We do birthday parties every other year in this house (this year is Luke's, next year is Max's), so on these smaller celebrations we have celebrated with both sides of the family at different times.

Max's actual birthday fell at the end of our week at the beach. With the marvelous help of Aunt Carrie we decorated the living and dining area of the house the night before, and he was thrilled to come upstairs to the surprise of pirates and balloons. Then he and I hopped in the car (in his pajamas - a real treat) and went to the donut shop. The day was spent at the beach and playing Frisbee in the backyard. By request of the birthday boy we had pizza for dinner, and he got to open his gifts.

His second birthday was a couple of days later when my parents came up to celebrate with us. We opened gifts and were joined at Montage (a local restaurant that serves many types of macaroni and cheese - Max's favorite) by GiGi (my grandma) and her boyfriend, Jack, and my uncle and his friend. It was so nice to have everybody join us, and Max just reveled in the attention.

If there were one word to describe Max's birthdays, that word would be LEGOS. He has been in love with them for a while now (that will have to be a whole other post), and he was very clear that he hoped that is what people would get him. To put it mildly, he was not disappointed. In fact, last week he finally finished building the last of his birthday gifts. He even got a cool Lego soccer watch from Aunt Carrie.

Seriously, though, I can hardly believe I have a five year old. Time has gone so quickly, and I am having so much fun with the person he is growing into. He is a sensitive soul with a wicked laugh. He still loves to cuddle with anyone who will hold him (although he holds a special place for all of his grandparents), but is hard pressed to stay still for too long. He loves to ride bikes and scooters (another birthday gift), play basketball, and read. Conversations with adults come easily for him, and he'll chat anyone up. He is starting Kindergarten this year, but is staying at his Montessori school. He and Luke love playing together and Ollie and Eli are his best buddies. We are so proud of him.

I can't wait to see the joy and changes that being 5 brings!