My New King

My temporary reprieve from day teaching is over, and I accomplished most of what I set out to do. I ripped up the carpet in the dining room and put down new pergo floors, but the project is not finished. I had to special order a piece of stair nosing, which was out of stock and then shipped to the wrong address. At some point, you wait for something like that so long that it takes on less significance. The drive I had to finish the project is long gone. Now I look at the blank stair and think, “whatever, nobody ever visits anyway.”

Mid-way through the floor project.

The thing we did manage to finish was the bedroom upgrade. Again, this was a project that should have taken maybe 2-weeks total, most of it waiting for furniture, but it took closer to three months. It involved cancelling the original bed frame we bought from Costco after a series of disappointing customer service calls, and reordering from a local furniture store which had to have the bed made and shipped from the east coast. Here, I think fate and fortune were on our side. I am 100% positive that the bed I wound up with is not only better constructed than the Costco one would have been, but much, much prettier. It is, to say the least, my style.

It was an agonizing decision to upgrade to a king-size bed. I bought a very nice queen-size bed frame about 5 years ago, and did not want to part with it. But we needed a new mattress, and although not clear at the moment, it seems obvious now that it was the natural transition point.

The old bed. So small.

Now that we have the new bed and the new mattress, several things are clear to me. First of all, the old bed frame, while pretty, was not very well built. From day one, it creaked and cracked like it belonged in a hundred-year old haunted house. This means that the motion transfer from either one of us turning over at night (which we did frequently on the old, uncomfortable mattress) was accompanied by a symphony of sound effects. It was not conducive to sound sleeping. Second, I wonder not only how I slept at all the past 11 years, but I wonder how my marriage survived. I no longer feel or hear Shaun getting up in the morning. He leaves the house before 6 a.m., a time that I am now deep in REM sleep, dreaming dreams that I actually remember. It’s a different world where only I and my side of the bed exist. Finally, my temperature seems to be more regulated. I am a hot sleeper (and a freezing all-dayer) but I seem to be less troubled by that now. Space is everything.

The new bed. So pretty.

Though I have yet to figure out what to do with the furniture that I had to remove from the bedroom to accommodate the King-size bed, I have no regrets. Just look at it. It’s like I live in my own little bed and breakfast. It’s really all you need. I have a big bed and a couple of nightstands, the TV is on the back wall above my vanity table, between the closet and the bathroom. The bedroom is at its KonMari best. There’ll be no turning back now. No, “remember when we used to sleep on that cute little queen-sized bed?” The queen is dead. Long live the king.

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My Seven-and-a-Half Year Old

“Remember that time when…?” is a frequent question posed by the seven and a half year old. Frequently, my response is, “you mean yesterday/last night/last week? Yes, I remember that.” Memory is a fascinating thing to watch evolve. She is continually bettering her grasp on time, and at 7, a week seems a perfectly acceptable amount of time to wait to reminisce. At 40, it does not.

Though the period between January and March is generally the “slow quarter” of the year, in 2019, it didn’t feel slow. I think it was the February snowpocalypse that broke up some of the dreaded monotony. Sonja noted that the last Monday in February was also the first Monday of the month that she had school. Indeed, school was cancelled the first Monday for snow, the second for MLK day and the third for snow again. The second week saw only one full day, with the rest being snow delayed in the morning, plus one early dismissal in the afternoon to beat the onslaught of snow. Here’s video of that early dismissal.

The snowpocalpse also postponed the mid-winter piano recital. She had been working on a piece called Drifting Petals. I knew, as mothers do, when she chose this piece that she would grow weary of it, but nonetheless I could not prevent her from making said decision. She whined and complained non-stop for about two months, but she did indeed work very hard for a very long time on this piece. I am proud that we persevered (yes, we) and she performed this difficult piece, even if it wasn’t as fun as Up on the Housetop.

Having been talking about it since last year, Sonja finally got to join the 1st grade drama club, and landed the leading role in the play Pete the Cat: Rockin’ in My School Shoes. She worked hard (not as hard as on Drifting Petals) and occasionally asked me, while rehearsing, “what if I get scared or forget my lines?” This was probably the worst acting she did. I don’t know if she was mimicking classmates or things she heard on TV, but this is not a child with stage fright.

Me & Pete

She lost her first top front tooth just before Christmas, and the second a couple of weeks ago. Her feet had a bit of a growth spurt and I’m about to donate a bunch of two-sizes-too-small shoes. Her appetite waxes and wanes, but it’s definitely waxing now. To the great chagrin of our dog, Pepper, she’s actually been eating her lunch at school. Most recently, entire sandwiches. We took her to the new Dick’s location in the south sound last weekend, and not only did she like the hamburger, but she ate it like a hamburger. Most of the time, she takes off the patty, eats it, and chucks the bun across the room. This time she ate the whole thing and I had to go back to the stand and buy her a second hamburger, of which she ate half. I know it may not sound like much, but every time this kid eats something, it feels like a victory.

And speaking of Christmas, that was fun as usual, and New Year’s saw Sonja and I making pizza and having a tea party.

Christmas Loot

Now old enough to understand that Mom writes about her online and to have an opinion about it (she likes it), I asked her what she wanted you, my imaginary readers, to know. She said,”I really like Odd Squad.” She watches Odd Squad the old fashioned way, tuning in when it comes on PBS in the afternoons. The rest of the time, she watches the dozen or so episodes of Pete the Cat that are available on Amazon. She’s been stuck on this show since she started the play back in January. She has all the lines memorized. She still adores playing teacher, and barely touches the cavalcade of toys she has in favor of making things – anything – out of paper. Toys, crafts, charts, coloring pages, books, whatever. Earlier this week she made a behavior chart to police herself and earn tokens from me. It has actually helped her recognize when she is misbehaving. Basically, she’s parenting herself now, so what does she even need me for? Oh right. Money.

And that is 7 1/2. Old enough to know what she wants, not old enough to get to where she wants to go or pay for what she wants to buy.

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My Unexpected Time Off

The fact that my house was Not Right metastasized into the notion that I myself was Not Right, or that my survival in the world depended on my constant vigilance against various forms of Not Rightness.

Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

I find myself with a stretch of empty time in front of me. No, I haven’t been furloughed by the government, but I did have one of my classes cancelled. And since I really worked during the holiday break to prepare my evening class, I find myself looking at a nice and quiet quarter. This is the first time I haven’t had to teach during the day in over a year, and I feel I should make the most of it.

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like staring at a two-month expanse of time, the equivalent to a blue sky and unlimited visibility, to make me go, ” ah, what the hell was I going to do? I can’t remember. Guess I’ll just watch TV and check social media.” Thus, in times of great opportunity like this, a list is of vital importance.

There are many things to do, but I’m trying to be realistic about the time cost. We recently bought a new bed, which will arrive at the end of this furlough, so repainting the bedroom must be on the list. That shouldn’t take too long and I do love painting. Or at least, the results of painting.

Also recently, we had a sick cat decide that the dining room was his new litterbox, and there seems to be no undoing what has been done. No unsmelling it, either. So the carpet is going to have to come up, the floorboards primed, and… Well, I guess we’ll have to put down some sort of pergo. I don’t know how this is going to look. I’m not sure about the transition to the living room, which is a step down and still carpeted. I believe when we moved in it was a carpeted dining room and a pergo living room, and I didn’t care for that. But my interest here is keeping costs low and not having a repeat of this dreadful situation.

If there is time and money, I’d like to replace the guest bath floors with some kind of click-together, vinyl flooring. I think, with the exception of lifting the toilet, this would be a cheap and easy project I could do myself. (Cheap because our guest bath is small.)

Those are the three most pressing Not Right things about the house at the moment. I am, as always, working to achieve some sort of balance in a house that was not built for the middle-class abundance we’ve brought into it. I read a quote somewhere (fine, it was on Pinterest) that said, “having a house means a relationship. I think you should conform to what the house wants, and not ask the house to conform to you.” I’ve asked this house what it wants so many times, and every answer gives me the impression that the house is drunk. Here’s an example:

In order to prepare for our new, king size bed, I rearranged the bedroom. Our current queen size bed fit on the wall by the door, but that wall will not accommodate a king bed. Since our headboard will be taller than the bottom of our window, the only space the bed will fit is the back wall. So I moved our current bed to help me visualize the space. (My spatial reasoning doesn’t exist.) This is clearly where the bed is meant to go. The only reason we didn’t put it there when we moved in, 11 years ago, was because the cable for the TV was in the back corner, and I didn’t want to run cable all around the bedroom. If the bed was meant to go against the back wall, then surely the TV was meant to go on the tiny, TV sized wall in the middle of the closet and bathroom. So why the hell is the TV outlet all the way across the room?

Old bed, old config.
Old bed, new config. New bed coming (sort of) soon.

This same drunkenness permeates throughout the house. Odd little walls here and there, too many to facilitate function; elsewhere, wide swaths of space where truly nothing can exist. The longer I live here, the more I feel this house was not designed to be lived in. It’s a series of random spaces with a roof overhead. It was not thought about in the way that other, more modern homes are designed, with function a foremost concern. It irritates me because of the reverence I have for well-designed items. I have made great improvements to this particular structure, but in the end, I always feel a little defeated. Things get better, but they’re never truly right. I want everything to be thought-out and well-designed, most especially the things that I love and live in. If where I live is Not Right, then how will I ever be right?

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My Best of 2018

What did I like about 2018? Well, let me tell you what I liked about 2018.

I liked…

…reading the Ramona series with my daughter

The Ramona books were my favorite as a child, and when I was looking for something longer for my superstar reader to read, I immediately thought of Beverly Cleary. We went to the library and checked out Ramona the Pest and not only did my daughter love the story, I loved the writing. As an adult, I know they type of books I like to read and the writing style that most appeals to me. It was surprising to see that in Ramona, a children’s book. Not only that, I am able to draw a clear connection between Cleary’s writing style and my own. That’s surprising to me, since I don’t remember details of the book, only loving reading them. I love the way Cleary describes Ramona’s emotions – she’s upset with the little boy Howie who lives down the street from her, because Howie doesn’t show excitement. (Agreed, Ramona, agreed. Unemotional people are suspicious.) She doesn’t want to take a bath because she knows that at the end, she has to wring out the wet washcloth and she doesn’t like that. Everyday details made extraordinary through the process of describing them. My kinda thing.

I liked…

Leavenworth, WA

Fun in Leavenworth.

We wound up in this sleepy little tourist town twice this year. Once was planned, the other was an impromptu pit stop. I’ve thought a lot about what appeals to me about this place, and I think I finally figured it out. It’s hygge. If you are not of the Scandinavian persuasion, hygge is a Danish concept that “cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.*”


Bavarian Starbucks. Charming.

*(Yes, I do think it’s odd to be talking about experiencing a Scandinavian lifestyle in a Bavarian-themed village in the Northwest United States, but as they say in Disneyland, it’s a small world.)

Leavenworth is tiny. It’s simple and cute. It’s definitely cozy.  We found a great hotel there, a fun burger restaurant, and I can find SO MANY zero waste items that I cannot find in my much bigger city, all in a 1.25 square mile radius. Oh an it’s very pretty, nestled up in the Cascades. What’s not to like? Now I just need to visit in the winter sometime, when the whole place is lit up like a Christmas tree.


Zero waste contentment

Leavenworth in Winter. Gazebos are definitely hygge.

I liked…

Your Dad Stole Myh Rake by Tom Papa

I like to read books by comedians I like, but I always struggle to find the humor without the delivery. So for our road trip to Spokane this summer, I got the audiobook of Your Dad Stole My Rake by Tom Papa. I’d seen him promoting the book and was aware of him as a comedian before that, and I always liked him. Listening to this audiobook, read by Papa himself, was a highlight of the trip. I nearly had to pull over when he talked about having to park at the ass-end of the Chip & Dale lot at Disneyland I was laughing so hard. The one annoyance was that he actually performed in Spokane about a month after we left, and I didn’t get to see it.

I liked…

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman

I’m not sure how I have continued to exist without David Letterman. I watched him from the time I was 15 years old. In college, I had an audio clip of him talking to Larry King on my computer – King was asking if he worried from the time he got up in the morning, and Dave said something like, “well yeah, you gotta have something that slaps you in the face and gets you out of bed.” I still have the Late Show mug on my desk. I love his humor, but I have also always felt a personal connection, as I am a fellow worrier, perfectionist and troubling-ly sarcastic individual. This show was a breath of fresh air, a little relief from the absence of Dave.

I liked…

Barry

This was the stand-out series of 2018. It was way more violent than I was expecting for a “comedy,” but every bit as compelling. This is a truly tragic character created and portrayed by Bill Hader, and six months later, it’s the most memorable thing I watched all year.

I liked…

I, Tonya

When I look back at the list of movies I watched, more this year than in year’s past, the standout is I, Tonya, which is a way better movie than it should have been. I Tonya had a point of view, and it made it’s point. And surprisingly enough, it was a point that I respected. I feel the same way about Barry, and that’s what I’m looking for in entertainment. In contrast, a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which apparently everybody liked but me, has no idea what it wants to say. Sure, it’s easy to watch because nobody gets brutally murdered or violently abused, but structurally, it’s all over the place. I don’t know how it wants me to feel, and neither does it.But I digress.

I liked…

Disneyland, California and Travel


Fun in Toon Town.

These things are all the best. I liked all of our mini-trips this year, but a warm, sunny state with a special park where the designers continually consider the user-interface? Yes, please. Now that I’m older, I think that I may have missed a calling in user-centered design, and then I wonder if I’m supposed to work at Disneyland. I don’t know what use they’d have for someone with my skillset, but if I ever figure that out…

And that’s what I liked about 2018. I hope you liked some things, too, and if you did, please share in the comments. Here’s to an eminently likeable 2019!

-Jennifer

P.S. I also like blogging on New Year’s Eve. I’m so much better with a deadline.

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My 2018 Year-in-Review: Entertainment Edition

Here is a list of (just about) everything I watched or read in the year 2018. The list is in (mostly) chronological order.

TV Series Watched

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (season 3 finished, season 4 in progress)

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 1, season 2 in progress)

Hater’s Back Off (abandoned)

Jane the Virgin (season 4)

A.P. Bio (abandoned)

Joel McHale Show (abandoned)

Big Little Lies (season 1)

The Middle (season 9)

Sneaky Pete (season 2)

Cougar Town (seasons 5-6)

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (season 4)

Barry (season 1)

Glow (season 2)

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Orange is the New Black (season 6)

Better Call Saul (season 4)

The Good Place (seasons 1, 2 and season 3 in progress)

The Romanoffs

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Netflix)

Silicon Valley (season 5)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 2)

 

Movies/Documentaries/Comedy Specials Watched

The Beguiled (2017)

An Inconvenient Sequel (finished)

Battle of the Sexes

The Help

Leap!

War for the Planet of the Apes (unfinished)

Gad Emaleh: American Dream

Coco

I, Tonya

Ricky Gervais: Humanity

The Disaster Artist

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (Netflix)

The Theory of Everything

Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Mike Birbiglia: What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

Ladybird

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Ferdinand

Kevin James: Never Don’t Give Up

Paddington 2

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous

The Post

Peter Rabbit

Darkest Hour

Molly’s Game

The Incredibles 2

A Wrinkle in Time

Hotel Transylvania 3

The Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries 2

Winnie the Pooh (animated, 2011)

Deepwater Horizon

Christopher Robin

Chappaquiddick

Isle of Dogs

Ramona and Beezus

Arrival

101 Dalmatians (live action, 1996)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Ocean’s 8

Matilda

Smallfoot

Howard’s End

Blue Planet 2 (unfinished)

Eighth Grade

On Chesil Beach

Juliet, Naked

Overboard (2018)

Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet

The House with a Clock in its Walls

Mary Poppins Returns

Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable

Books Read

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Emotional Design by Don Norman (unfinished)

The Exhaustion Breakthrough

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

There Are No Grown-Ups by Pamela Druckerman

French Women Don’t Get Fat (abandoned)

Your Dad Stole My Rake by Tom Papa

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt

10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

The Good Neighbor

——

This list makes it look like it wasn’t a good year for reading, and it wasn’t. I can hardly begin to tell you how many books I picked up that I didn’t finish. I didn’t find much that clicked with me this year. I suspect it was too much interest in silly lifestyle books. I’ll get interested in something I see online, like this no-shopping for a year challenge, then borrow the book from the library and try to read it. I’ll get 30 pages into the author’s excruciatingly detailed account of how he or she was a raging alcoholic/drug addict/hoarder/workaholic zookeeper, and knew something had to give, then realize that if I wanted to not shop for a year, I wouldn’t need advice on how to do it, I could just do it. Then I return the book to library. Lather, rinse, repeat. The more lifestyle books I read, the more I’m convinced that the only one anyone needs is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – that woman speaks to my soul. You’ll definitely see her new Netflix show on my 2019 round-up.

One can see by the books I did finish (minus the children’s ones, which I added for bulk and also because they were good) were not about advice. They were cultural commentaries and auto/biographies, which are the type of things I like to read. And yes, I intentionally followed Fear with The Good Neighbor as a palette cleanser, though at some point the main idea of The Good Neighbor, Mr. Rogers is a saint, became abundantly clear and when I was 1,000 pages into it and hadn’t hit Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood yet, I decided I’d gotten all I was going to get out of it.

I suspect other reasons I didn’t read as much as I wanted are an addictive personality that’s drawn to stupid social media, and general household chaos. I’ve been focused on streamlining the things that feel chaotic (I think I did good in my office!) and that, I assume, will provide more leisure time when life runs more smoothly. This could also be a fantasy that there will at some point life will be smooth, but we can all dream, can’t we? I just need to make sure I’m doing what I want to do and not reading about someone else doing it.

Lookie, I still have space to fill! This definitely brings me joy. Thanks, Pinterest, for the inspiration.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make 2019 the year of the book.

Highlights of the rest of this list in my Best-Of-2018 edition.

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My House Update

I recently read an article in The New York Times that said that the reason we don’t finish projects we start is because we severely underestimate the time it will take. However long we think it’s going to take should be multiplied by three, the article stated, for a more accurate timetable.

As 2018 comes to an end, there are many things I want to fix, repair or upgrade in my house, if I ever get the money or estimate the time correctly. There are even a couple things that I have finished* that I haven’t shared yet but that I want to share.

The laundry room overhaul I began back in January doesn’t feel exactly finished because I still have not carried through on my plan for a barn door. The laundry room is a very narrow room and the door swings open right to the front of the new, front-loading washing machine, making it impossible to do laundry or maneuver with the door open. (I initially bought a top-loading washer because I knew that would be a problem, but went through the hassle to exchange it because it tangled up my clothes and I hated it. If you ignore the door, I’m happier with the front-loader.) Closed halfway, the door gets in the way of the dryer. It just doesn’t make sense the way it is now, and after 11 years of dancing around, I’ve had enough. A sliding door would ease the awkwardness. The rest of the work I did on the laundry room I’m quite proud of. I took out the ugly dark cabinets and put up two floating shelves. In place of the dark cabinet over the sink, I put up a drying rack. Yes, I definitely lost some storage space, but this design adds functionality for me (I’m always drip-drying something – this keeps it out of sight and over a sink). I painted the walls and the one dark cabinet that was left, the sink cabinet. On the narrowest wall at the back of the room, I installed an ironing board hanging rack so that I finally had a space to keep my ironing board that made sense. Ironing = laundry ∴ ironing board => laundry room. Finally, I swapped the old lighting fixture with a track lighting fixture from my husband’s man-cave office that he didn’t like, and now I can actually see what I’m doing! (Also, while painting, I took off the door to the adjoining half-bath. That room has a window and lets in natural light. I liked the light so much I left the door off, since nobody uses that bathroom anyway. It seems that the solution to most of this house’s problems is to remove the doors.) I’ve been very pleased with the results of this room, but for it to truly feel finished, I need to add the door. The final wish I have for this room is to swap the position of the washer and dryer. They are backwards now and unfortunately, that is the way the plumbing is set up, so it would not be an easy job (or so I am told.) The current setup requires me to dance to get clothes from the washer to the dryer, and often results in back injuries from running into the ajar door. Continue reading

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My Seven-and-a-Quarter Year Old

Seven.

Sonja wants you all to know that she likes to play school so she can be the teacher. Despite this, she sometimes claims to be bored in school and I sometimes believe her. It seems the enthusiasm for 1st grade is somewhat less than the enthusiasm for kindergarten. I know she’s learning, but I can’t shake the feeling she could be learning more. She participates in a pull-out enrichment program twice a week for 30 minutes, but it doesn’t seem enough. The comment from her report card for reading and math was, “student demonstrates an exemplary level of understanding on the standards assessed and work shows a sophisticated understanding of content.” Yeah.

I am torn between wanting the school to do more and realizing that challenges are probably going to have to come from us. There are worse situations to be in, but I am frustrated. I feel pressure to grow her skills at this early age but I don’t know how to do that. I’m concerned that some opportunity will be wasted and it will be my fault. Or worse yet, that she’ll completely shut down at school because she’s bored.

Some of the things I am doing: She continues to be an insanely good reader, and I am looking for books that are age-appropriate and literate. We have taken to reading the Ramona series, a favorite from my childhood, together. She loves Ramona and I love Beverly Cleary’s writing style.

She continues to play the piano and is developing her music reading skills. Piano practice can be a point of contention with her, and I think that’s because it’s not as easy as everything else is. But she loves it and she’s good at it, and I think if we keep going as we have been going, and pushing the accelerator ever so slightly, this will not be an opportunity wasted.

I also think that experiencing more of the world can provide great opportunities for enrichment, so occasionally, I try to get us out of the house.

In September, we had a little birthday party. (This was actually at the house. Strike one.)

Opening presents.

In October, we took a little Great Pumpkin-themed train ride up into the mountains. Sonja declared it the best day ever.

Also in October, Sonja won an award for being organized. It was barnyard bash day.

We went trick or treating, using the costume obtained for extra money at Disneyland. The costume was worn under some amount of duress, and constant reminders of the conversation we had about Halloween before we bought the costume earlier this summer.

Violet Incredible.

In November, someone had a birthday, but we won’t say who or how old they turned, but we will laugh heartily at this card.

I hope you have a happy b-day! Even thow your 41 now I still love you. No efens.

 

In December, she performed in two piano recitals: one in a church, the other at a lovely nursery.

Ready to go on stage.

At the nursery after the recital, we met Donner & Blitzen.

Also in December, I volunteered in the classroom on craft day, and she won an award for being dependable on pajama day.

Oh, we also visited the North Pole…at the fair. Indoor North Poles are my favorite kind of North Poles.

And that just about rounds out our year. Sonja’s on the verge on losing one of her front teeth, but that’s the only milestone I can think of. After being over-scheduled at work this past quarter, I’ve come up with an idea to make a Disney scrapbook, and I hope that this can be a fun, quiet activity for the two of us over winter break. In pursuit of challenges and after the summer of media literacy, I’m looking to scale back our screen time. These may indeed just be things one thinks as the numerical year comes to a close, and visions of a productive, perfect new year dance in one’s head, but this one definitely gives me plenty to think about.

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My Seven-Year-Old

The birthday girl, out for a birthday pizza dinner.

My child has progressed from baby to toddler to preschooler to kindergartner to what I am looking at today: a full-fledged little kid. I am acutely aware of this kid stage, more so than I was of baby or toddler or preschooler. The line Dick Van Dyke sings in Mary Poppins, “though childhood slips like sand through a sieve” makes me cry. It’s a scene that didn’t even register with me when I was a kid and now I get it. I really do. Put down your work and your screens and pay attention for a few minutes. Make some memories because what else do we have?

Like any expectant parent, I wanted certain things for my child. For example, I wanted her to have her father’s thick, lustrous hair. That did not happen. Instead, she got my thin, electro-staticky mess. I wanted her to be smart, and somehow that seemed like a given. What did not seem like a given, however, was musicality.

There are so many ways in which we want our children to be like us, or to share our interests. You think, before becoming a parent, that you’ll get a little mini-me, and you don’t. My daughter doesn’t even look like me. (Except for the hair.) But while her interests and activities are being formed, I’m taking advantage of the opportunities I have to shape her way of thinking.

I really wanted my kid to be musical. I actually tried to sign her up for piano lessons in utero, but I was turned away. No phalanges yet, they said. Although I am musical now, it was a hard row to hoe for me, albeit an enjoyable one. I wanted my child to have all of the fun I had with less of a struggle.

Ask my kid to sing you a song. I dare you. There’s no struggle there. No struggle at all. Just an innate sense of pitch. Her accuracy is overwhelming. I tell her she’s going to be the next Julie Andrews and I mean it. She’s taking piano lessons and is enjoying it more and more as she learns how to play some of her favorite songs. She’s still working on reading music but she can memorize a song. I show her how to play it and she goes about practicing. Inevitably, she’ll forget and hit some wrong notes, which she immediately realizes. She’ll go back and peck out the section, note by note, by ear, until she’s got it right. It absolutely floors me. I couldn’t do that when I was her age, I’m not sure I could do it now. It is all very exciting and I look forward to many years of being piano mom or voice mom or band mom or whatever. All of the fun, none of the struggle.

In addition to music, we’ve just finished what I like to call the summer of media literacy. It began by my mentioning that Tom Hanks was the voice of Woody in Toy Story. We must’ve been watching something else with Tom Hanks, and I called attention to it. I put an actor’s name to a character. Then we watched several more Tom Hanks movies, to further cement our love for him. We watched the original Jurassic Park because dinosaurs, and because Mom wanted to see the new one. The new ones have Chris Pratt, who she knows from Parks and Rec because we watched that together last year. Sonja now proclaims that she likes Chris Pratt, because she thinks he is a good actor. It carried on like this all summer. Thank God, after all that, she still likes to read. I suspect, like her mother, she just likes stories.

Imitating the cat

So with an ear for music and a head for story, we move on to age seven. There are still vestiges of babyhood. Children’s birthday parties and Halloween are nightmares because whatever cake or candy other people have is not the kind she likes, because she doesn’t like either of those things. But instead of thinking, “oh that’s okay, I’ll have a cookie when I get home,” which is what I want her to think, she stops whatever she’s doing and screams her head off like she’s just lost a limb. She just wants to join in on the fun, I know. She sees that this is a food obsessed culture, but what she doesn’t see is that she is not food obsessed. She barely tolerates food. I’ve seen kids who are gluten and lactose-free, whose dinners probably consist of a chiclet and a plate of dust, who are heavier than she is. It’s frustrating to me as a parent, but not because I don’t understand it. I do. I was never big on candy and I was a picky eater. But I learned how to deal with it and I want her to, too. It’s not like I’m insisting she eat kale at home for every meal and sending her to bed without dessert. I’m overly generous with sweets. The grandmas even more so. There’s no deprivation, except the deprivation of the joy the other kids are getting from eating sugar for sugar’s sake. She can’t do that. She wants to but she can’t. She won’t. She sees some candy and looks at it with large, hungry eyes and says she’s going to devour the whole bag. It’s in the very script of childhood and she can recite it with conviction. But whereas if her friends were left alone in a room with a tub full of Smarties (a candy she professes to like), the entire bag would be gone in a matter of minutes. I leave her unattended with candy all the time only to find half a dum-dum stuck back in its wrapper or three gummy bears missing from an entire pack. The only time food is devoured is when she leaves it at a height that the dog can reach. Oh, she’ll scream and cry about that too, but inside, I know she’s just happy she doesn’t have to actually finish it.

Over the past quarter, we went to Disneyland, Seattle and Spokane and Leavenworth. We went to Vancouver a couple of times, and had lots of playdates.

Pretty princesses

She did the library summer reading program and her school’s. She did a quick and forgettable 6-week ballet class at the local rec center.

Say hey, it’s the first day of ballet!

She took swim lessons at a cool and, because this is Washington state, sometimes very cold, outdoor pool, and finally made some progress with learning how to swim.

Last day of swim lessons.

She lost two teeth, and another is on the brink.

Second lost tooth.

We went to the state fair for a few hours one Friday night, which was enough.

State fair antics

And after a brief teacher’s strike, we got back to the business of being educated.

It was three days late, but some schools in the state are still striking.

She’ll have a party in a few days and then it’s back to work for me as we settle in to the fall schedule. I hope we’re able to find a nice groove and enjoy the routine, so that we might slow this sieve a little bit.

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My Swanky Suite

How to Stay in a Swanky Hotel Suite:

  1. First and foremost, to stay in a swanky hotel suite, you must turn 40. You must turn 40 because you will be somewhat despondent about such a large, round number staring you in your face that you will spend money that you do, in fact, have, because you’re 40, but which you should possibly also save for other adult-type things you have to pay for in your 40s, like that roof that is currently being installed above your house.
  2. Next, be sure to drive five hours from your home to the second-largest city in your state, which is but half the size of the largest city, so that the money you spend on the swanky hotel suite is on the sane side of exorbitant instead of the other side of outrageous.

    Spokane

  3. Ask the front desk for the kids’ hotel detective game they advertised on their website, so they can send you across the street to their sister hotel to pick up said game, and then have your old-enough-to-know-better child throw a massive hissy fit because the game wasn’t exactly what she was expecting.
  4. If at all possible, make sure your super swanky suite has a separate bedroom, and a pull-out couch in the living area on which your child can sleep. That way you and your spouse can get some much needed exercise dragging the pull-out mattress into the bedroom every night, because said child is too scared to sleep alone in a strange place, and back again in the morning, so the maids don’t think you’re weird.

    Hotel Living Room

    Hotel Bedroom

  5. Take advantage of the super swanky hotel spa, and pay extra for a “deep tissue” massage, which you’re pretty sure is just a regular massage that costs an extra 20 bucks. Take in, with genuine awe, the beauty of the spa’s surroundings, then pull out the communal hair dryer and recoil at the plug, which has been Frankensteined with a bungee-cord to make it longer and/or to fix the areas where the wire is exposed. Put the hair dryer back because you don’t want to get electrocuted. Recoil again when you see the flat-iron has the same fix.

    Super swanky spa water fountain

  6. Take some time to get out and enjoy the city, but not too much time, because the city is sleepy and you don’t want to miss time in that expensive room you’re paying for. When you’re out, make sure to take your 6-year-old to the toy store that all the tourist websites hyped up, and notice as you walk in that every other item in the store is emblazoned with the “F” word, and that really, this is more of a Spencer’s Gifts than a Toys ‘R Us.

    Wagon slide

    Whee!

    Selfie on wagon slide

    Blocks. City of Spokane.

    Clock tower in distance

    Spokane falls

    I’m on a gondola!

    Through the looking glass

    Spokane’s claim to fame, the garbage goat

    Tiny ice cream at hoity toity dream store

    Blowing bubbles at the children’s museum

    Excavating at the children’s museum

    Eep.

    Rocket flying

    Face painting

  7. At some point, decide that dammit, it’s your birthday, and you want a milkshake. Then go to Ben and Jerry’s and sheepishly ask the teenager behind the counter for the allergy menu, because you’ve recently been diagnosed with an egg-allergy and you know that sometimes, ice cream has eggs. Leaf through the book and let the expression on your face droop as you find that ALL of their ice cream has eggs in it. Leave, dejected, while your 6-year old cackles with delight because she thinks it’s hilarious that she can eat things with eggs and Mommy can’t.

    City of Spokane

  8. On your way home, stop in a little tourist town decorated like a Bavarian village. Eat at the hamburger joint you always go to in this little town, and finally get your kid to eat a hamburger instead of the kids’ menu chicken nuggets, which not only does she not like, but which the proprietors of the restaurant say that most children don’t like, because they are coated in cornmeal. (Why even have it on the menu?!?) Have everybody in the family declare that it is their favorite restaurant in said little town. Order a milkshake and drink it and don’t ask anyone if there’s egg in it. Then, go to the oil & vinegar shop and pick up that shallot oil you should’ve bought last time you were there. Do some other quick and fantastic zero-waste shopping, and then realize that you and your family must really like this quirky little town since it’s the second time you’ve been there this year.

    Our favorite “Bavarian” town, Leavenworth, WA

    Our favorite burger place

    At a cute farmer’s market shop just outside Leavenworh

    Zero waste! I’ve had that bag in the picture for two years, and the snap just broke off. I’m having my mom fix it, but because I have loved this one more than any other reusable bag I have, I had to buy a second.

  9. Finally, the secret to staying in a super swanky hotel suite and having a great 40th birthday is to download a free trial of an audiobook service, buy Tom Papa’s new book, “Your Dad Stole My Rake” and laugh your ass off for the entirety of the trip. Listen intently to him when he tells you not to worry about being more successful or skinnier or a better person, because your are, in fact, just fine. Even if you are now an old lady.

Driving home, listening to Tom Papa (not pictured)

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The Midpoint of My Summer

It is nearly impossible to believe that we are (more than-I really hafta start writing faster) halfway through summer. It feels as if this time is slipping through my fingers like sand through a sieve. I have so much that I want to do that I’m afraid I will not get to, I thought I should document what we have done, besides, of course, Disneyland.

We took a day to explore the neighboring city of Seattle. Shaun works there everyday, and I used to, hence my general insistence to never, ever drive there. However, Sonja has only been a couple of times so we decided it would be worth it to take her to the Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Great Wheel. Naturally, the day we wanted to go, a large portion of I-5 North was completely shut down for renovation. (See my earlier comment about never, ever driving to Seattle.) We drove to Tukwila instead and took the light rail, which worked pretty well. We also decided to go on a rare 90 degree day, so that was fun. The trip went pretty much as I expected, though the most surprising thing was it was, with exception of the food, more expensive than Disneyland.

Pacific Science Center

Music in Motion at the Pacific Science Center

Inside a guitar

Trying to generate hydroelectricity is hard work.

That blue sky tho, c'mon

Pacific Science Center Seattle, WA

On the Seattle Great Wheel at the end of the day

Too cool on a hot day

We took a day to visit our friends in Vancouver (south). Somehow we always manage to plan this trip for the hottest day of the year. As such, we usually end up in the Columbia river. It’s a good little day trip that we enjoy making.

Practicing her glide from swim lessons in the Columbia

Friends

Ice cream. I look very happy because I am eating my very favorite flavor, Mississippi Mud.

 

We started swimming lessons at a cool, outdoor pool. I chose this pool not only because I think swimming outdoors in summer is a grand idea, but because the lessons are five days a week. We have had a lot of trouble getting Sonja to be comfortable in the water, and so far, I consider my plan a complete success. With the aid of a swim cap to keep her hair out of her face and goggles to keep water out of her eyes, she’s gotten over her fear of bobs. She’s still quite fearful of new things, which is unusual for her but when she does decide she’s afraid of something, she’s stubborn and very vocal about it. I decided that I would go swimming with her to demonstrate that mom had no fear of water. She asked me before we went what my favorite part of swimming was, and I said I liked doing underwater somersaults and handstands. She said she wanted me to teach her. I was worried that I’d be able to remember, having not done such a thing in maybe 20 years. We went earlier today and the good news is, I remember! And it’s still fun.

Say hey, it’s the first day of swim lessons!

We also started ballet, and the tables have turned. Ballet, once our very favorite, has fallen in the ranks. She has fun while she’s there but she’s not as excited about it as swimming. She continues to insist on never missing a swim lesson, even when it’s cloudy and 60 degrees.

Say hey, it’s the first day of ballet!

Somehow this has also become a summer of, let’s call it cultural literacy, as I’ve been showing Sonja some of my favorite (age-appropriate) movies. We watched a slew of the old Disney classics before heading to Disneyland. We’ve watched Apollo 13, That Thing You Do, and Saving Mr. Banks, and now we are big fans of Tom Hanks.

We have been reading Matilda by Roald Dahl and Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Although she loves Dahl, it took a couple of tries to get her into Matilda. But as soon as she discovered the girl’s love of reading, she was all for it. The Ramona books were my favorite as a kid, and I can see why. It’s character-centered and the prose is snappy. My only complaint as an adult/English teacher is she needed a better editor.

There have of course been all the little things. We been to the splash park and a puppet show at the library. I’ve turned Friday into out weekly lunch date. Not because I don’t see her enough but because I like lunch.

On Fridays we eat FroYo and play.

We had a little garage sale that Sonja was super excited about. Far more so than I. She sold mini-muffins, and agreed to part with a grand total of 5 of her toys in order to make some money. She was, as I suspected, disappointed when she didn’t sell any of her toys. The muffins were a big hit, though, and kind, elderly women gave her money for nothing. I didn’t sell much either. Every time I have a garage sale I say that it will be the last, but I mean it this time. Everything about it makes me uncomfortable. I said kind, elderly women gave Sonja money, but one woman was not kind. She came in and ragged on me for not having enough signage, then ragged on my rolling pin for being too heavy. I was actually selling it because I just found a marble pin at another garage sale that outweighed mine by 10 times. Wouldn’t it just make sense that the heavier the pin, the less work you have to put in? Anyway, I guess the impulse to sell your junk cheap is the same as the impulse to buy cheap junk, and both impulses should be ignored.

Now it’s on to the last few weeks of summer before we light the candles on the birthday cakes and wait for the school bus to show. Enjoy it while it lasts, kids, ’cause it won’t last long.

 

 

 

 

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