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.

last blog

I am writing to let you know this will be my last BLOG for a while. My mantra has always been “women can have it all, they just can’t have it all at once.” The first part of my adult life was the military, now I am in the motherhood phase. I hope the next phase is when I will be a writer, or at least someone who writes.

I thought I could get a bit of a head start this year on the writing now that my son is in kindergarten. He only goes half day (3 hours) and one day a week is early release (2 hours). I started the school year with a good plan (that did not include a blog) and everything worked great until life got busy. There is a lot going on this time of year, camping trips, birthdays and all those lovely holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At first I thought I would just miss a week or two on the blog while we celebrate my son’s 6th birthday, go on a 5-day camping trip and finish up our healthy eating experiment. But after thinking about my priorities I realized this blog wasn’t part of them. Writing this blog takes more time than I thought. My son needs lots of me right now. I want to spend our afternoons together doing homework and playing games and going hiking in the cooler weather. I miss working on my ‘shitty first draft’ of a novel.

Next year, when he is in school full day I will make another plan and maybe it will include re-starting this blog and maybe it won’t. Time will tell.