Estate Piovoso Continues

We are finishing up the last full week of summer vacation from school.  Woo-Hoo! (That would be the introvert in me woo-hooing, the parenting side is of course not looking forward to the battles about to be embarked on.)  And of course vacation may be over but summer will continue for many weeks.

Further analysis revealed four hours of computer time was three hours too many so we revised the Computer Use Guidelines. And now I am responsible for more entertainment of small child. So I have been doing exciting things like:

  • Visiting the Legoland Discovery Center in Tempe, Az
    • Not nearly as bad as I feared.  Two large groups were there but really not nearly as crowded as I had imagined.  I had about an hour where E was playing in the climbing gym and I got to read my book.  We had lunch at the Rain Forest Cafe beforehand and just missed the worst of a monsoon storm on the drive home.
  • Golf ‘n Stuff
    • A Groupon deal helped make this more affordable.  We played 18 holes of Putt Putt Golf ( hole in one’s:  son – 3,  mom-0, sad) and then spent some time in the arcade.  I am a sucker for skeeball and played (really badly)  some pinball as well.
  • Apple Annie’s in Willcox
    • Apple and peach picking which led to making peach jam.  Again, avoided the rain and enjoyed the cooler temperatures.
Peach jam with the ever present afternoon clouds in the background.
  • Sabino Canyon (not)
    • On Sunday night we were all feeling rather blah from the humidity.  We knew there had been a lot of rain in the mountains and thought we’d walk over and check out the creek.  But the park was closed.  We found out the next day there were 35 people stranded on the other side of the creek and shortly after we were turned away they started rescuing them by helicopter.  In my defense I never had any intention of crossing the creek. We came home and went swimming in our pool.

Photo courtesy of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department  Normally there is no water running across the road, there is a tram that uses this road multiple times a day, except when it rains like crazy!

  • The Carpet Store
    • Yes, that really is the name.  We have the brand and type selected, now we have to pick a color. We had it narrowed down to two but the sun was shining for a few moments one day and we could actually see the colors so now it is narrowed down to three.  They are coming to measure on Friday afternoon and I swear I will have a color picked by then.  Getting new carpet for the upstairs is one of my 2017 Ambitions.
  • “Captain Underpants” – the movie
    • This is on deck for later this week. I am looking forward to popcorn and hearing my son laugh.
  • Bug Spring Trail
    • Hoping to do this hike in the Santa Catalina Mountains Saturday morning, weather permitting. About 4 1/2 miles long we will take two vehicles so we only have to hike one way.  Hoping to get an early start and beat the heat/rain.  Planning on taking a breakfast picnic:  deviled eggs, muffins and fruit.
Rain drenched oranges.

It is official, wettest July in Tucson ever.  This after the hottest June in Tucson ever. Sigh.

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The Epic Computer Build of 2017

I love it when a good idea turns out to be… a good idea.

Since the beginning of the year my 9 year old son and I have been talking about building a gaming pc. My son is into all things computer and I thought it would be a really good experience to learn more about the hardware side of things. I told him we could build one over summer vacation. I said this despite having no idea how to build a computer. NOT A CLUE.

I spent a few days earlier in the year researching parts and found a great website where you pick your price range and you are provided a list of parts. Easy-peasy. No doubts about things being compatible or missing cables or fitting inside the tower.  I bookmarked the website and moved on with my life.

My son kept talking this and that about different requirements and I smiled and nodded and life was good.  And then the end of school neared.  Luckily we were going on vacation the day after school let out.  I assured my son we would order the parts after we returned home and had a few days to get sorted out.

And the day came when I could no longer put off “The Epic Computer Build”.  I showed my son the website and heard the shriek of “that is not building your own computer!”  Really?  Don’t we have to actually assemble all these pieces?  Isn’t that building your own computer? Apparently not.

So he made me a list of parts and I made a list from the website and we went through it item by item.  And we made choices from both lists. We looked at cost and capabilities and looks.  We discussed pros and cons and tried to figure out if things were compatible the best we could. We worked together.  And we placed our order.

And then somehow I managed to not think about the computer assembling process AT ALL. And before I knew it I had a big box of computer parts and one very excited child.  The parts came on a Saturday afternoon and my son was going to a baseball game with his father bringing me another day’s reprieve.

And darned if I didn’t climb into bed that night and realize I still had no idea how to even begin assembling a computer! So I climbed out of bed and looked at a few websites and watched a couple of YouTube videos and came up with a plan.

Honestly I expected “The Epic Computer Build” to take at least a week.  The start of Day 2 had us putting in the final component (the Optical Drive) and checking the cabling one last time.  We plugged it in…and nothing. And we were not surprised.  Two people who have no clue as to what they are doing do not expect success on the first try.  There was no clear directions about connecting everything together so I had let my son do most of it.  Now what?

So we unplugged and opened the tower and thought about it.  One of the videos I watched talked about the cables for the power switch and LED lights and how it was easy to screw them up. So I unplugged them and started over.  I examined the diagram in the motherboard manual closely and re-connected. And it seemed different than the first time.

Once again we plugged it in…and the sweet joy of success!  Until we realized we had no wifi.  What? I thought all motherboards had built in wifi but apparently most don’t. So day 3 we went to the computer store and bought a PCI-E wifi card and installed it with nary a cuss word. And while we were in there we also figured out why we didn’t have any sound and fixed that too.

Yup, less than 3 days to build a computer from the ground up.  My son and I keep looking at each other with big we did it grins.  We have really bonded over this achievement and I think we have each developed a bit more respect for the other’s capabilities.  And I have been reminded that I can do anything I really want to do, especially if I want to do it with someone I love.

So today the computer usage limits have been suspended and we are having ice cream to celebrate.

One happy computer user!  When will I get to use it?  Apparently not until school starts 🙂

P.S.  Want to know the hardest thing about assembling a computer?  Teeny tiny screws in teeny tiny places.  Seriously.

 

The Summer of ‘Yes’

We are back from our two week vacation to California. The remaining weeks of unencumbered summer stretch before us. I love not having to set the alarm, love the idea of stay at home and hide from the heat days. Lovin’ the 90° pool water.

But I am sick to death of parenting. I can not say “please brush your teeth” one more time.  Six plus years of saying it multiple times a day is enough.

 

My favorite peak name at Yosemite is “Cloud’s Rest”.  The peak just to the left of Half Dome.

 

So I am taking the summer off from parenting (except in the event of true danger of course). No more teeth brushing reminders (the cost of any cavities will come out of his college fund).  Snack away my son because I am not doing much for dinner these days anyway. Okay, don’t shower or comb your hair, the only place we are going is in the pool anyway.  Yes you need to be in bed by 9:00p at the latest but you can stay up and read as long as you want.

And while I know the answer will not always be yes at least now I am offering alternatives: “No”, we cannot go to the park at 11:00a.m when it is already 100°, how about going in the pool instead?

My favorite photo from our trip to Yosemite.

Because my son would happily play on the computer 12 hours a day we sat down together and wrote some agreed upon guidelines which I printed out and placed next to the computer.

GUIDELINES FOR COMPUTER USE

  1. No more than 4 hours per day. (Be honest!)
  2. Only use the computer when time is available. Don’t forget to:
  • Play with friends
  • Go swimming
  • Eat
  • Play with your other toys. (Legos, cars etc)
  • Do chores and errands
  • Go places and do fun things
  • READ!
  1. No computer use after 6:00p.m.
  2. Stop using the computer when you feel cranky or frustrated. (Or when Mom says enough!)
  3. Do different things on the computer. Don’t play Roblox or Minecraft for 4 straight hours!
  4. Remember that using the computer is a WANT not a NEED.

 

***NOT FOLLOWING COMPUTER GUIDELINES WILL RESULT IN A 24 HOUR LOSS OF COMPUTER PRIVILEGES!!***

 

Personally I would prefer a 2 hour limit per day but I am trying to be flexible and open minded. (I am also secretly hoping that after a week or two he will get kind of sick of the computer and move on to other things.) The great thing about this list is there is no arguing or discussion. I merely say a number and he gets it. Yesterday for the first time I did not remind him of rule #3.  At 6:30p.m. his father reminded him because he needed to use the computer. At first my son tried to argue about the consequences and I simply  said if you don’t want to follow the agreed upon rules then we eliminate any computer use for the rest of the summer.  Hardcore and Easy-Peasy at the same time.  Guess who spent three hours in the pool today, read a book and finished building the Lego set he got for a good report card?  Guess which mother and son are both perfectly happy?

My second favorite photo from Yosemite.

Welcome to Summer!

 

Epiphany

Today is the last day of Christmas for my family. Tomorrow the tree comes down and we start packing up all the decorations. I thought I would feel sad but instead I feel a great contentment.  I spent time this morning sitting on the couch drinking a mug of tea while looking at the Christmas tree and nativity scene.  One last respite before the hustle and bustle of real life returns tomorrow.

My son’s second full week of winter break has been busy and satisfying.  I relished all the time we spent together even if it has left me feeling exhausted.  While I will not mind when peace and quiet descends on Monday that doesn’t stop me from embracing our one last outing today.

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Cool wisps of clouds!

In honor of the Wisemen’s journey to Bethlehem my son and I took our own hike.  We  went across the street to Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and meandered around for two hours.  The weather: absolutely perfect.  I think the pictures say it all.

 

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Our own “forest” of cacti.

 

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Sabino Creek really flowing with snow melt.

 

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Sabino Dam

Cheers to the end of a Delightful holiday season!

 

Quiet Time

I have been thinking of this week end as the calm before the holiday storm begins.  Even with all my planning and lists and trying to keep social outings to a minimum things will get hectic.  Tis the season after all.

Having embraced my introvertedness I realized I wanted to do something to carve out a little pocket of quiet time each day.  A few moments to breath and sit in peaceful solitude are essential to my happiness.  And to ensure this happens I devised a project.

Each day I will sit down and color one picture for my son.  A Christmas countdown.  Starting on December 1st he will get a picture colored by me counting down the days to Christmas.  He might get it in his lunch or find it in the bathroom when he gets up or in his room after school. I selected 24 pictures from a couple of old holiday coloring books we have.  Some will be easy to color, others may take a bit more time. I’ll add the date and remaining number of days until Christmas.

I have to confess I have already colored a few.  For all my good intentions I know there will be some days when activities and travel won’t permit me to sit down and color. But they will be the minority.  And riding the Polar Express?  Totally worth missing a day of coloring!

I find this project very soothing and akin to meditation.  I don’t find it a chore, one more thing on my to do list but rather a chance to pause my day. I find my mind slows down and empties out.  My focus is on what shade of green to use, or finding what colors I can use besides red and green.  Afterwards I am relaxed and recharged, ready to tackle the next item on my to-do list.

Take time to enjoy the peace of this holiday season.  Remember, it is a whole season, not just one day.

 

Oh, Santa

My almost nine year old son is pretty mature for his age. But every once in awhile I will be reminded of just how young he really is.

This time of year he starts making the Birthday/Christmas list. And this year everything on it was a bit pricey. An IPad, IPod, a computer and several large lego sets. I pointed out that he had a lot of big ticket items on the list. “Don’t worry mom” he said, “it won’t cost you anything, I’m going to ask Santa for this stuff.”

Oh, Santa, right.

A few weeks later…

During the Olympics my son decided he would root for Canada as well as the USA. (Because he was born in Montana and considers Canada a neighbor. Cute!) Then he decided to add combined USA/Canadian bedding to his Christmas list.  He described what he wanted in great detail.  Um, I’m not sure that exists I tell him.  “That’s okay mom, if you can’t make it I”ll ask Santa to.”

Oh, Santa.

Oh brother.   I have already figured out what I am going to say when he starts asking if Santa is real. I am going to tell him that everyone is Santa.  That we all give gifts to each other.  Point out the toys we donate every year.  We already celebrate St. Nicholas’  birthday so I will start with the real person who started the gift giving tradition and go from there. But I have nothing to say if Santa doesn’t bring him anything he really wants. (Maybe you should have made your bed once in awhile doesn’t seem an appropriate message for Christmas morning.)

He is eight and he still believes in Santa.  I want to him to feel that wonderful joy when you unwrap an item you really really  wanted (but didn’t expect to get) on Christmas morning.  I want to give him that this December.  But how?

Usually his list changes over the months.  They get lost or I hide them to see what items he repeats on the new list.   As he gets older it is harder to find that one gift that really makes his eyes light up when he unwraps it.  His current interest is all things computer.  But I am still fighting the screen time battle and am not ready to give him more machines.  (I believe a Kindle and a Chromebook are more than enough for an almost nine year old.)  So for now I have to wait and have faith.  Faith that a subsequent list will reveal some sort of inspiration.  Faith that my son will get the message that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts, and most especially not just the gifts you receive.  But still…Faith that under the tree this Christmas there will be that one gift that makes his eyes light up with happiness.

Afterall, Christmas is the season of miracles.

Disneyland

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For Spring break this year my husband and I decided to take our 7 year old for his second trip to Disneyland. I wasn’t real excited about going and not sure why. Our first trip 2 years ago was great and I surprised myself by what I good time I had.

One should listen to that little voice though.

The first potential problem was Ethan getting sent home from school on Thursday with 102 temperature. Okay, we weren’t leaving until Sunday so he had time to get well.  Yes,  it was hard getting everything done and taking care of a sick child, but we made it happen.
The second piece of bad news: while checking the park hours I discovered ‘The Matterhorn’ and ‘Peter Pan’ (among others) were closed for refurbishment. The first two rides we had planned to ride, ‘ The Matterhorn’ and ‘Peter Pan’. Seriously?  Seriously. I kid you not.
The final straw: Standing in line to enter the park I am studying my ticket. The ticket my husband had bought 4 days previously on-base. Black-out dates?  “Uh, husband, what is today’s date?”  I ask in a panic. Yup, the tickets could not be used the 2 weeks around Easter or the two weeks after Christmas. Oh crap.

There is no way one can take a 7 year old to the entrance of Disneyland and then not actually go in.  I wanted to be mad at someone.  Yes, it would have been helpful  when Ken bought the tickets if the seller had mentioned they couldn’t be used the next two weeks.  It would have been nice if Ken had actually looked at the tickets when he bought them.  I wish I had looked at the lower two-thirds of the tickets when I was taking pictures of the bar codes in case we lost them.  I had to admit there really wasn’t anyone to be mad at.

After talking over our options we decided to save the tickets for another trip (they are good for six months) and bought one day passes to Disneyland.  The whole morning felt a little hollow though and when our wait for a table for lunch stretched from 30 minutes to over an hour I decided to give in.  This was not going to be the happiest place on earth for me today.  I was having a crappy day at Disneyland.  So be it.

Then we finally got seated for lunch.  And things started to get better!  I had grilled sea bass and roasted vegetables which were really tasty.  Right after lunch we had a fastpass for Indiana Jones.  This was our first time riding it as E wasn’t tall enough last trip.  Maybe going right after lunch wasn’t the best choice but we both decided it was our new favorite ride.

At the end of the day I realized I had had a pretty good day after all.  Six happy things about the day:

1.  My son had a GREAT day!

2.  I had a good hair day, that sea air added a little something to my curls.

3.  I didn’t get sunburned, something I had been quite worried about.  Most of the rides have lots of shade for the wait in line.

4.  I had grilled sea bass and roasted veggies for lunch, tasty and healthy!

5.  I got to ride 3 rides that I didn’t go on during the first trip:  ‘Dumbo’, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Astroblaster’ and loved them all.

6.  I found these really cute salt and pepper shakers:

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The rest of the week went okay too.  We spent time in Disney Downtown having a nice lunch at the Rainforest Cafe,  Ethan built “Disney” the elephant at Build-A-Bear and made race cars at the Lego store.  We bought souvenirs and I scored this really cool Minnie Mouse lunch box at CVS for $5.

 

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The next day we went to the beach and had lunch at a park with a playground.  The last day we hung out at the campground playing games and swimming in the heated pool.

While it wasn’t the Spring break we had planned it turned out to be a nice vacation.  The most important part still happened:  we spent lots of family time together.  And a bonus?  We get to plan another trip to Disneyland for later this year!

Best smile of the trip!

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The learning curve

My son got his report card last week and my initial reaction was shock. It wasn’t a horrible report card but it wasn’t what I expected. After a second very close read through, what I mostly felt was dismay with my self and unhappiness with his teacher.
Before my son started first grade I spent a lot of time helping him learn in fun ways. We counted apples at the commissary and looked at the numbers above the aisles. We played Sorry and UNO where he learned colors, numbers and counting. I have read to or with him pretty much every day of his life. He sends letters to his Grandparents. I have tried hard to help him learn reading and math and some writing in the course of everyday living.
Now that he is in school for 7 hours a day I didn’t worry so much about teaching him. We still play games and read books and he picks up bits of geography with our traveling but I didn’t work at including learning so much. I figured 7 hours a day was enough. I figured wrong.
He gets some homework, not everyday, and I have always had him do it on his own. I know his handwriting needs work and that he has a tendency to frequently rush through his homework. I believed he was working on his writing at school and thought the rushing was because he wanted to play.

At the fall parent-teacher conference I remember walking away surprised at my lack of enthusiasm for his teacher.  I had heard lots of good things about this teacher and was happy when I learned that was who my son had got.  I don’t remember the specifics from the conference but I remember feeling unhappy at the end.  I felt like she didn’t  have anything positive to say about my son, even if she didn’t have anything negative to say either.  I decided to not worry about it and figured my annoyance had colored my view.  I was annoyed because I showed up 5 minutes before my appointed time and ended up having to wait more than 20 minutes.  This was because the parent scheduled after me showed up right before I did and the teacher decided I wouldn’t mind waiting.  She was wrong.

The teacher’s communication with home has always been a bit spotty, but it does seem to have gotten worse since the winter break.   I didn’t even know my son had gotten his report card until he told me.  He has also mentioned several times that his teacher has been rather crabby.  I wasn’t worried about anything because my son loves going to school, says math is his favorite subject and still reads every night before bed.  I hadn’t gotten any notes or e-mails from the teacher so I assumed he was doing great.  Big mistake.

His report card has been quite the wake up call for me.   I realize it was quite naive of me to think he was actually going to get most of his education at school.  His school is supposed to be one of the best in Tucson but I do wonder.  I know it is supposed to be a good thing that he has art, music and Spanish but now I worry that it is at the expense of math, reading and writing.

Now every day after school we have a little homework.  He does any school homework first and then we work on writing and spelling.  We started out working on just his handwriting.  I had him write  different colors.  And that was when I realized he couldn’t spell.  The only color he spelled correctly was ‘red’.  I was shocked.  Because he is such a great reader I missed the fact that he wasn’t a very good writer.  And then I realized he never had spelling words  for homework or spelling papers in the work he brought home.  Now he will get a spelling list from me each week with a ‘spelling bee’ or test on Friday.

I’ll do my best to keep it short and fun.  I have been trolling the internet for ideas and printing out worksheets and thinking of different themed spelling lists.  I think the typical sight words would get boring so I will mix in pets, kitchen items, vehicles etc.  We are writing a story together, taking turns writing a sentence each. Once school lets out I will add math to our daily routine.

I am lucky that my son actually loves learning and is eager to learn how to spell.  I feel bad that it took me so many months to realize he wasn’t getting all he needed education wise from school.   There is always something new to learn about being a parent.  Each age, each stage brings new challenges, both for the child and the parent.  Now I have to go hide his vocabulary words for the week around his bedroom!

School Days

We have been camping with my son since he was 9 months old. We were living in Montana amid many beautiful camping spots including Glacier NP. We typically went camping every other weekend all summer long and as far into autumn as the weather would allow.
Once we moved to Tucson we realized we didn’t have to winterize the trailer and we went camping about once a month year around. Loved escaping the heat and exploring different pieces of the state.  Arizona is very diverse with mountains and plains as well as deserts.
My son went to half day kindergarten so we were still able to leave on Fridays for long weekends. But when he started full day first grade we were reduced to camping only over holiday weekends. It has been an adjustment and I have missed out regular escapes.
The last time we went camping was in October. We didn’t camp over Veteran’s day because it fell in the middle of the week, Thanksgiving week end we had tickets for the college football game on Friday.  We skipped New Years because of being sick and bad weather and somehow just forgot about Martin Luther King Jr. day.
It is tempting to just keep my son out of school now and then. He doesn’t even get President’s Day off. It would be so easy to let him skip a Monday and head out to a nearby campground. But I don’t want to do that. I want my son to think school is an important responsibility. To know that school is not optional.  Luckily he loves school and has never complained about going or asked to stay home.  I have watched other parents keep their kids out of school for a week to go to Disneyland and two weeks for Hawaii. Sure, travel is broadening but it doesn’t replace crucial learning at this early stage of their education.  Plus, when he gets older I don’t want him to skip school because through bad examples I have  taught him that school doesn’t have to be a priority.
It sucks  being tied to the school schedule. But I remind myself it is not forever, we have all summer and some scheduled long weekends off during the school year.  I did  promise  myself though that if it ever snows here in the desert  (a whole inch not just flurries)  E will get a snow day, even if the schools don’t close.  I don’t want to be a total ogre.

A rough night for the tooth fairy

My son finally lost his second front tooth.  I had been hoping for gap toothed Christmas smiles but it was not meant to be.  As he got ready for bed I reminded him to put his tooth under his pillow for the tooth fairy.  He looked right at me and said, “I think parents are the tooth fairy.”  I responded with, “if you want money for the tooth you need to believe a little longer.”  He was okay with that.

He has had a bit of a cold and after he got done with the “Jack in the Box” portion of the evening (where he keeps getting out of bed and coming into my room for a) one more hug,  b) one more kiss,  c) one more thing he has to tell me, d) one more question he has to ask (typically something I can’t answer like: how does electricity work?)  I laid in bed reading and listening to him cough, despite the medicine I gave him at bedtime.  Finally at 9:00p I got up and started looking for the gold $1 coins the tooth fairy has been leaving him.  I finally found them in my office on a top shelf and I had 2 left.  I put the coin in this odd little pocket on the sleeve of my pajama top and climbed back into bed.  Fifteen minutes later I was asleep.

Luckily I woke up around 2:00a and remembered the tooth fairy.  Of course the coin had come out of the pocket.  There I am in the pitch dark feeling all around for one small coin.  I gave up and turned the light on, found the coin (under the pillow) and turned the light back out.  Now I really can’t see.  I stumble into my son’s room, understanding dawning as to why he picked up the floor of his room earlier and stretch my hand out toward the pillow and right into his face.  Yikes!  Fortunately he didn’t wake up and I eased the coin under the pillow and even found the tooth.  (For the first few teeth he lost we left a note for the tooth fairy asking her to leave the tooth for Mom so I didn’t have to search for it.  Those teeth are tiny!)

Mission accomplished.  Only now I have to pee.  Still leaving the lights off I use my son’s bathroom.  Only to discover there is no toilet paper.  After um, drip drying  I scramble around in the linen closet and find a roll.  Back in bed I am now wide awake.  About two hours later I finally fall asleep.

My son already has another loose tooth.  I think when this one comes out I will just give him the last gold coin and call the tooth fairy done.