Snuggle Heaven

Before Christmas I bought a red/green/blue projection light to decorate a wall at work. We only ever turned it on a couple times; it distracted the people sitting nearby. Today we took our Christmas decorations down and I brought home the projection light for Benji’s room.

I had a kind of idea it might work as a dimmer night-light than his zillion-lumen pink LED lightbulb, pictured below. That light is so bright you can literally read by its light.

Zillion Lumen Pink Lamp

For the time being, until we could get the projection light mounted more officially, I just jammed it between his dresser and wall. Then I called Benji in to see.

His 100% instantaneous, unalloyed reaction: “It’s heaven!”

Heavenly Light

He later clarified that it was actually snuggle heaven, and we played a game where one of us was St. Peter standing outside the door asking why the other person should be let in to snuggle heaven. Once in snuggle heaven, you get to toss snuggles and bedding all over the room and snuggle around anywhere you want while gazing at the mesmerizing light.

In short, I’d say so far it’s a much greater success at home than it ever was at work.

I is for Ice Cream Sandwich

We have a cookbook from my childhood that’s an alphabet cookbook. It has 26 recipes, each one starting with one letter of the alphabet. I actually use the Wonderful Waffles recipe as my go-to when we make waffles — it’s pretty good! I also like the Oatmeal Pancakes, which are heartier (probably not healthier) pancakes that include quick oats.

Not surprisingly, Benji has decided he wants to cook every recipe in the book.

More surprisingly, he doesn’t care to do them in alphabetical order. Instead, he’s picking and choosing the order he wants to do them in.

Not surprisingly, he’s picking desserts first.

Thus, today we started with I, Ice Cream Sandwiches.

The recipe is super easy:

Step 1: Make peanut butter cookies and let them cool all the way.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Step 1

Step 2: Plop a blob of soft ice cream between two cookies and re-freeze them.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Step 2

Step 3: Melt chocolate chips and dip frozen cookie goodness into the chocolate. Re-freeze again before eating.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Step 4: Enjoy frozen chocolaty, peanutty, vanilla-y goodness.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Success

Merry Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone, and we’re approaching the New Year. It was a tough season, with my crushing work deadlines running right up to January 1; we didn’t do all the decorating and hoo-rah that we normally do, but you know what? As the Grinch discovered,

“[Christmas] came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!

The inestimable Dr. Seuss

This year we made generous donations on behalf of the adults in our family, with very small token gifts for each person. My employer matches 100% of donations up to $2,500 total, so we made sure to do donations through their system and double the dollars. I felt pretty smart about that.

Benji received Pokemon pajamas, Pokemon cards, and a Pokemon book he really wanted. Commence the Poke-mania.

Christmas evening Colleen and Jordan joined us, fresh from their flight from LA, and we celebrated with our traditional Happy Birthday, Jesus! Birthday Cake:

Happy Birthday Jesus, 2018

On December 26, my entire side of the family, including Colleen and Jordan, went to Lopez Island for four nights. I’ve made some tough choices and culled down to one picture per day.

Going to Lopez Ferry Puzzle
We got started on a 1,000 piece puzzle on the ferry to Lopez. Sadly it’s only 40 minutes, so we didn’t get that far; plus, we suspect some of the pieces were missing.
Lopez Loop: Iceberg Point
On Thursday morning Dad and I went for a 45-mile ride around Lopez Island. We started in the dark and got to see the sunrise. We went slow, but appreciated every beautiful minute.
Yule Log
On Friday it rained ceaselessly. Benji went a little stir-crazy, but Colleen and I did manage to squeeze in the time to make a Yule Log, which we’d planned well in advance. It turned out beautiful and delicious.
Shark Reef
On Saturday it rained hard most of the day, but in the morning we got out to Shark Reef before the rain started. It’s a tiny park with a minimal hike but a truly spectacular view. My phone camera really couldn’t do it justice. The Olympics, the sunrise, the currents, sea lions and eagles and enough moss and lichen to warm any botanist’s heart.
Ferry Home
On Sunday morning just Benji, Ian, and I caught the 9:30 ferry back home. We got in line an hour early, so we arrived just after sunrise, and again got some wonderful views. The San Juan Islands really do spoil a person for natural beauty.

Not pictured:

  • The countless hours Colleen and Benji played Pokemon, with Benji being different pokemons (Bulbasaur, Pikachu, Jiggly-Puff, and Charmander, I believe) and Colleen acting as the trainer;
  • Playing lots of board games, including Shadows in the Forest (cool concept but a rocky execution), Tofu Kingdom, Azul, and Mole Rats in Space (we lost two consecutive games, much to our astonished dismay);
  • Doing two puzzles, including one 1,000-piece puzzle in one day (Benji “helped” by taking pieces apart — gah!!);
  • Going out for walks in the dark and rain;
  • Going out for walks in the dim and cloudy;
  • Benji sleeping on a pile of pillows in the closet of our master bedroom and waking us up at the crack of dawn even on vacation (gah again!);
  • Watching a couple of the new season of Mystery Science Theater episodes (Mac & Me and Atlantic Rim — both truly terrible, as expected);
  • The amazingly uncomfortable “carpet” made out of what appeared to be rope, and an entry way made of the same large aggregate cement they use in driveways, truly a brutal floor for bare feet;
  • Lovely views from the beach-front side of the house;
  • The bazillion times we reminded Benji to please be quiet, because Jordan and Colleen were still “sleeping” (I seriously doubt there was a lot of sleeping going on after 6:30 am, but the thought was there).

We left the island a little earlier than anticipated, at 9:30 am rather than 1:30 pm, and that was a good call. We got home in time to rest and reset, and Colleen, Jordan, and my parents joined us just in time for Indian food dinner and one last game of Pokemon-and-trainer.

Overall, a good but exhausting trip. Now do I get a vacation to recover from my vacation?

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.