First Day of Kindergarten (round 2)

Yesterday Benji finally started full-day kindergarten at our local elementary school. The last week or so my Facebook feed has filled with moms posting pictures of their kids going to school for the first time, nearly all of them posed in their school regalia with a sign saying something like “Benji’s First Day of Kindergarten, September 11, 2017.” The caption almost always says something like, “I can’t believe how my baby has grown up so fast!”

While I empathize with the sentiment, this school year starting hasn’t fazed us that much. It’s a new school, yes, and a new teacher, new kids — all these make it challenging. But we’ve sent Benji to some kind of preschool for the last three years, and the year before that he did a mini-school program at Kindering. Plus he did daycare for a couple years and Y summer camp for about eight weeks this summer.

This all adds up to us feeling pretty sanguine about starting kindergarten at public school. In so many ways, we’ve practiced and prepared for this transition for years. Now it’s here, and it’s no big deal — or, at least, no bigger deal than any other similar transition.

What I am glad about, though, is deciding to wait to start kindergarten at age six. Not only did it let Benji practice and learn a lot of academic material last year, but he’s shown huge growth in maturity in the last couple months. I’m really glad we gave him time to mature a bit more before leaping into the demands of five days a week of all-day school.

I’m also really glad we did Y camp this year. I can’t overstate how great it was for him. It basically served as practice kindergarten with no pressure. The adults really helped the kids get ready for the amount of independence kindergartners get at school. I was really impressed.

So between half-day kindergarten last year and all-day Y camp this summer, yes, Benji is ready to do well at school this year. And I haven’t felt the need to shed even one single tear.

Seaside 2018 Family Vacation Report

This year our family trip to Seaside took place over Labor Day week, later in the year than we usually go. The last couple years I’ve skipped it, but this year I came along, and I’m so glad I did: Not only did the weather produce possibly the finest stretch of days I’ve ever experienced on the Oregon Coast, but we just had the most unalloyed fun of any family vacation I can think of to date.

We drove down on the Sunday before Labor Day, and traffic was minimal. Ian and I had planned out a bunch of possible places to stop to charge the car, in case we couldn’t make it, but we had plenty of charge remaining when we arrived — 47 miles minimum, after driving about 210 miles. For an electric car, that’s pretty great. It started our vacation off on the right foot, and it kept going well from there.

Naturally, we went to the beach first thing.

Seaside 2018: Hurry! The Beach! Seaside 2018: Before the Wave During the Wave Sandcastle Vigil

On Monday, Ian and I went for a hike out past Cape Falcon.

Cape Falcon Hike Start Cape Falcon Hike View South Cape Falcon View of I don't know what Cape Falcon Sign

That evening, we let Benji stay up “late” (8:00 pm! Wow!) to do his first-ever beach fire and s’mores. Needless to say, he loved it. Marshmallows were popular, of course, as was burning various things. 

Seaside 2018: Beach Fire

The next day, we drove to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where Benji took care of the most important part of the day: ice cream. We had enough time, and he was doing well enough, that we played for a long time at Oswald West State Park on the way home.

Tillamook Cheese Factory Aftermath Oswald West State Park Tall Driftwood Adventure

We weren’t actually prepared to play in the water, so Benji ended up with no pants or undies… but the shirt was just long enough. 

The next day was our last full day in Seaside, and Ian and I did a few errand-type things — I got a massage, Ian went to the outlet malls, and we both bought hats.

We Got New Hats

We also went and saw Mission Impossible: Fallout in the Seaside movie theater, which was crammed with two other people. I never saw an actual employee the whole time. Benji hung out with Grammy and Papa and they put him to bed, so we got a little date night. It was nice!

And that was pretty much the vacation. 

Seaside 2018: Walking with Papa

We drove home on Thursday and dove into real life again, with a school meeting on Friday and then a regular weekend before Benji’s first week at school. It was a great break.

Seaside 2018: On the way home

Oh, That’s Saturday

Thanks to Ian, I get to spend most of every Saturday biking. It’s the part of the week I finally don’t worry about anything harder than not getting dropped. It helps keep me sane. I ride on Saturdays rain or shine, heat or cold; the only exception is extreme wind or ice.

The other exception is when I’m sick. This week wasn’t my best for health: On Tuesday I got a cold from Benji. But I spent all of Wednesday, the Fourth, lounging in bed watching Netflix (thanks, Ian!), and by Thursday I felt much better. Friday I planned to do the usual Saturday ride, maybe albeit a little slower than usual.

Then, on Friday night, I got some kind of what I suspect to be food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty for about four hours there, is all I’m going to say about that. After which I went to sleep (it was the middle of the night, naturally) and woke up feeling normal. Definitely some kind of food poisoning, but to be on the cautious side, I decided to move my ride from Saturday to Sunday.

It was then decided (to use passive voice for its intended purpose, which is obscuring how/and who) that Ian would get a little mini-vacation day, while I took Benji. Thus it was that I got to see what normal people might do with a Saturday, given the whole day in which to achieve…uh…achievements.

Okay, let’s not get hung up on the use of “normal”; moving along, let’s instead get to the point of the post, which is this list of things I got done on Saturday:

  • Sort through a bunch of old clothes and bag a bunch up for Goodwill.
  • Wash a ton of dishes left from Friday night. It was a lot.
  • Drop Ian off at the place where he was going to hang out and do some stuff by himself.
  • Take Benji to Hillcrest Bakery for a little treat (where he ate the entirety of an enormous chocolate croissant, but only after agonizing between that and an apple fritter the size of his head).
  • Go grocery shopping with Benji. He stuck with me most of the time, but we went by the kids’ room where there’s a super nice attendant who will watch your kids while you shop, and he wanted to go in to play. So I finished up without him. When I came back to pick him up, he said, “Oh no, it’s time to go already?!” Then he started negotiating about when he’d get to come back.
  • Pick up CSA veggies and do the CSA kids’ garden. Benji also found a rainbow array of glass chips in the parking lot of the CSA parking lot, which is graveled with a ton of glass chips. I don’t know where they get them, but they aren’t sharp anymore. He did that, and then he picked some carrots and beets and a zucchini in the kids’ garden. Learning moments: Those squash plants are prickly! Also, to pull veggies, you need to grip at the base of the stem, near the dirt, rather than at the top of the leaves.
  • Put away all the food and wash a bunch of the veggies (although I did save the lettuce for Ian).
  • While also getting Benji some lunch, make two loaves of zucchini bread to use up the zucchini ASAP. To use up everything we got, I put in twice the amount of shredded zucchini, and the recipe turned out just fine–if anything, moister and more tasty than usual.
  • Make teriyaki sauce for the first time (easy) and start marinating some meat for today’s dinner. Hope that turns out okay!
  • During quiet time, wash dishes from the zucchini bread and eat lunch.
  • Mow front yard… it’s really mow the weeds, as the grass has stopped growing for the summer. We don’t water and I always look forward to the grass dying so we don’t have to mow any more. I’m sure our neighbors love this strategy.
  • Start weeding front yard. It may be dry, but that doesn’t stop the weeds from growing… and boy howdy, do they grow. There’s still a lot to do. While I was finishing that up, Ian got home from his adventures.
  • Take Benji to Bridle Trails for a 3-mile, zucchini bread-powered hike with Grammy and Papa Gary. As a bonus, we found ripe salmonberries, huckleberries, and some tiny native blackberries. Yummy!
  • Get leftovers together for dinner, probably the easiest part of the day. After that, Ian took Benji for a bubble bath and bedtime, and I collapsed on the couch for a couple episodes of Queer Eye (more on that another time).

Apparently that’s what I can do with a whole uninterrupted day. I can definitively say that if I wasn’t gone for 4 to 6 hours every Saturday, our house and yard would look much nicer, we’d have a lot more baked goods around, and–most difficult of all–I’d be able to give Ian a better break, plus get more quality time with my child.

Well, as time goes by, we keep finding a new balance for what works for us. I guess the thing about balance is you don’t just get it and you’re done. It’s a process that requires constant work and adjustment. On a bike, if you aren’t constantly making tiny tweaks (and sometimes large swerves, depending!), you’re going to tip over. Maybe that’s also true in life.

Mommying

Here’s what being Mommy looks like.

It looks like waking up at 3 am and staying up the rest of the night to hold and comfort your child as he repeatedly vomits. While he’s sitting in your lap, leaning over the toilet, you’re holding his head. Between bouts of vomiting, he murmurs, “I’m glad you’re here, Mommy.”
(No picture.)

It looks like playing the Hero Kids RPG at 6:30 am on Saturday, with Daddy GMing and Benji and I as characters. You work together to defeat a were-wolf, avoiding spiders and killing lots of wolves. During the game, your child takes a whole turn to bring your character up to full health, because he’s very worried that your character is injured.
Hero Kids: Adventure 2

It looks like going for walks in the woods together every week, rain or shine. You find a surprise patch of daffodils blooming in the woods, see innumerable trilliums and other native flowers, and avoid lots of horse droppings. But most fun of all is playing in the creek that’s really 6″ of mud with 1″ of water on top, poking it with sticks, building dams, and dropping big rocks in to make craters that fill in. On your walks, he wants to hold your hand no matter how narrow the trail.
Bridle Trails Walk: Daffodils

Bridle Trails Walk: Muddy Creek

It looks like staying home with your sick child when he has a cold, then getting the cold yourself — and then having the cold turn into the second round of pneumonia you’ve gotten in two years.
3 Generations of Face Masks

And this happens on the first week of the year it’s truly lovely — in the 70s and sunny — right when you’re about to start ramping up riding for Bike Everywhere month and the longer summer ride season. The pneumonia means you’ll miss at least a week of work and you won’t be able to help much with the child, which is real unfortunate, because this is the week all the grandparents and the regular after-school childcare are all unavailable.

Being Daddy, meanwhile, looks like trying to work as much as possible while also taking on Mommy’s jobs and all the after-school childcare.

Nobody promised parenting would be easy. It’s just the mixed-in moments of joy that make all the other moments worth it.

But I really am tired of pneumonia. Honestly.

Based on the recovery time last go-round, it’s probably ended my biking season plans before I even got to start them. I’ll spend the summer just trying to build back up to where I was last week, without any real hope of getting faster, doing the long rides I love, or keeping up with my biking buddies. I have to accept this reality and kiss goodbye the hopes and expectations I had for the season.

And that’s just biking! I have deadlines at work that I should be moving towards, projects and release-related stuff to write. It’s not going to be pretty.

It’s hard.

Easter-Time Happenings

Happy Easter! Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I was thankful to spend the first half of the day with a group of my biking friends doing a super hard ride. I don’t know why it felt so much harder than previous rides, but I felt like I got a great workout… at least, I trust that’s what that leg-burning feeling means.

I also accidentally gave myself a chainring tattoo, which didn’t wash off in the shower. I figured would look real great with my skirt at church on Easter.
Chainring Tattoo
Luckily I had some dark nylons that hid it pretty well, I think.

After Benji got up from quiet time, he and I met my friend Ellen and her Norwegian buhund Lakka at Bridle Trails. We had one of our nicest Bridle Trails walks to date, having such a good time that we walked all the way from one end of the park to the other, a good two hours in the woods. The extra daylight has really helped out with this activity.

Bridle Trails with Benji, Ellen, and Lakka

On the walk, we saw our first trillum of the season… and then lots more! I love trillium; they are so delightfully Washington.
Bridle Trails Trillium

We also helped Lakka practice lots of tricks, and Benji practiced doing those tricks, too. He’s decided he wants to be a dog, which I’m okay with because he’s far more obedient as a dog than as a kid.
Benji and Lakka: all the way up
This was Lakka and Benji practicing “all the way up,” the command to get up on a log.

Benji and Lakka: find it
Benji hid a piece of cheese in a woodpecker hole and told Lakka, “find it!” Which she did, with alacrity.

All in all, an excellent, if exhausting, day.

Sunday proved no less tiring, but also nice enough. Benji and I started the day with “empty tombs” — donuts with donut holes on top. You remove the donut hole and voila! There’s nothing inside, just like when Jesus rose from the dead!

Here’s our family looking real classy at the photo booth after church.
Easter 2018

And, despite cold temperatures and spitting rain, Benji participated in the church Easter egg hunt, where he got a super-extra-bonus egg. Thank goodness most of the eggs didn’t have candy.
Easter Egg Hunt Prize

After quiet time, we went over to my parents’ house for an Easter dinner with Ian’s parents and grandparents. It was nice. Benji even ate some stuff.

And, last but not least, I came up with an April Fool’s joke that continues to amuse me. I did a test run on our bananas…
April Fool's Googly Eyes 1

…and then I was able to do it to mom and dad’s fruit without them noticing (at least, until someone pointed it out).
April Fool's Googly Eyes 2

Viral Activities

No, I’m not talking about the next activity everyone’s going to be doing on the internet; I’m talking about literally what you do when when you’re five and a half and you have a fever over 102 for six days. You:

  • Watch at least three hours of videos or movies a day.
  • Eat rainbow Jell-O, popsicles, “Awesome sauce,” and donuts.
    Sick: Rainbow Jell-O
  • Fight taking ibuprofen, then perk up when it works.
  • Cuddle with Daddy.Sick: Snuggle with Daddy
  • Sleep.

When you feel a little better, you:

  • Build a bird’s nest out of a beanbag chair, pillows, and blankets.
    Less Sick: Bird's Nest
  • Color with chalk because it’s not raining.
    Less Sick: Sidewalk Chalk
  • Command Daddy to freehand a map of Europe for you on the blackboard.
    Less Sick: Map of Europe
  • Create your own bus schedules.
    Less Sick: Bus Schedule 1Less Sick: Bus Schedule 2

When you’re Mommy, while Daddy draws Europe and Benji creates a bus schedule, you draw flags (another interest that has coincided with his increasing interest in geography). This includes my favorite, the Rainbow Unicorn flag. Cuz what country wouldn’t want a rainbow unicorn on their flag? Only monsters.
Rainbow Unicorn Flag
Lastly, when you’re the parents of a five and a half-year-old who just had a high fever for the last six days, you wash your hands until they’re dry and raw, and you pray devoutly that your immune system can stave off whatever the kid had. Because no way do you want to spend the next week in bed binge-watching Netflix when there’s work to be done.