Monday, July 14, 2014

Blogger Done In By Facebook

I must face up to the fact that I am no longer blogging.  When Zane was a tiny baby it was a wonderful way to keep up with family in Maine.  Zane still learns a lot and has fabulous experiences, but not at the breakneck speed of a baby and toddler.

Facebook now fills the purpose of sharing Zane's life with family and friends.  And so, I bid adieu to this blog.  Look for Zane on my Facebook account!

It's been sweet!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Christmas!

This year Christmas has been really fun.  Zane remembers enough about Christmas to be really anticipating the day.  We kicked off our Christmas festivities with a visit to Santa!  On our way to the mall to visit Santa Zane commented that we sure are lucky to leave near the mall where Santa is!  Two years ago Zane would only walk by and look at Santa.  Last year he sat on Santa's lap and asked for a mobile crane.  This year he sat on Santa's lap to ask for a volcano science kit and he let us photograph him!  Now we have a sparkly snow globe with Zane and Santa inside for all time.

On December 1st we started the Advent calendar.  This year, thanks to a tip from a friend, we got a Lego Advent calendar!  Every morning Zane would pop out of bed wondering what could be behind the next little door.  Each day was a small figure or thingy to build.  By Christmas Eve we had a who scene with a party in a house with a decorated tree and food on the table, fireplace, fire fighter, police man, crook, spaceman, dog, grill with sausages, toy planes, boats, and a digger, and finally Santa and his sleigh. 

For the last weekend that Grandma was visiting, all four of us went to our very first roller derby!  Very Christmassy, I know.  Most of the events have been too far away or too late at night, but a new practice rink opened up relatively nearby, and they were having a charity event.  We ate Dante's Inferno Dogs and rooted for our randomly chosen teams.  The first bout was confusing as we really had no idea what we were watching, but by then end we had kind of figured it out (rules here).  For the second bout we picked teams, and that made it enormously fun.  Zane was yelling and cheering and pumping his arms!  We definitely need to do this again.

The next afternoon Grandma and I and Zane went to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker.  This one was designed by Maurice Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are fame).  It was really spectacular.  My Mom and I dressed up, and Zane wore his vampire cape.  Zane was pretty excited to be there, and the Act I with the Christmas party, growing tree, and fighting soldiers and mice was very exciting.  Act 2 was a bit much for Zane to sit through, and he was pretty unhappy.  It was tiring to keep him in his seat, but I sure enjoyed the performance itself.  We won't do that again unless Zane asks to, however.

The next day was Grandma's last day with us, so we used the day to bring home wreaths and a tree and do our decorating.  Zane immediately picked out a tree, and although we looked at others, we did end up coming back to that tree and getting it.  We had previously brought out the boxes of Christmas decorations so that we could find our Christmas CDs, so we we were set for decorating!  I had promised Zane he could do some lights, and I figured I would need to surreptitiously have to fix them later.  Grandma even tried to step in to "fix" them, but I let Zane do it.  He ended up doing a really good job!  A bit clumpy, but I didn't end up changing them at all.  I filled in the empty spots with the plain lights.

Every year Zane has loved the tree decorations.  Michael was never much into decorating for Christmas, so it is a lot of fun for me that Zane likes it.  And with my Mom there, too, plus Christmas music, it was extra fun this year!  Zane created a special area near the bottom of the tree with little bells and soft ornaments for JoJo to bop.  We finished the tree of with a special Golden Bird that Michael and Zane got a few weeks before.


















I did a little bit less baking this year than in the past.  No gingerbread cookies and no saffron buns.  We had done the gingerbread train kit after Thanksgiving, but I wouldn't let Zane touch it until Christmas Eve.  The local Community Center was having a gingerbread house making evening, so we went to that for an auxiliary gingerbread structure to eat.  It turned out just to be done with graham crackers, but Zane still loved it, and I let him start eating that one right away.  It was a pretty funny little house I called his Gingerbread Shanty.

Then we did Christmas sugar cookies.  This year Zane didn't want to bother with making the dough, he only wanted to do decorating.  We made a special trip to a decorating store to stock up on sparkly sprinkles and candy googly eyes.  I made tinted egg yolk with the idea that we could brush it on.  Zane did, and then started to artistically splatter the color.  He said he got the idea from watching a a show on cement many months before, where the workers shake water on a sidewalk as they smooth out the drying cement.  It looked pretty cool, and I was impressed that he could carry the splattering idea over to decorating cookies.  Unfortunately some of the animals and people looked as if they had been murdered.  We took some of the cookies to the folks at the local train store, since we spend so much time there without buying anything.  We're eating the rest!

One day as Zane was gazing at the tree, he said, "Mama, I think the tree is not quite so beautiful."  Why?  "It doesn't have any presents under it."  Good point, my boy.  I thought it would be a nice quick evening project to wrap a few presents for Michael to put under the tree.  Bzzzt!  Wrong!  Once again Zane surprised me by really getting into a decorative project.  He decided that we would confuse Daddy by wrapping his presents in small strips and patches of wrapping paper of all different styles and patterns.  He was meticulous in his choices of paper pieces and often corrected their shapes with quick snips of the scissors.  It took us 45 minutes to wrap two gifts.  I was kind of annoyed by how long it took, but pretty damn pleased by his artistic ideas.  It looks pretty cool, too!  A week or so later he decided that he could control himself if presents for him appeared under the tree, so I wrapped more for him.  Zane was now satisfied that the tree was beautiful.

One confusing thing about being a kid in the Pacific Northwest is the weather.  All of the Christmas stories have snow, lots of snow, in them.  I often wonder what kids in Florida and California think.  I imagine Australia has its own publishing culture that deals with the problem a little better.  Two years ago we had a pretty big snow in the winter, but I'm not sure he really remembers it.  Last year we had exactly zero snow.  This year we got a really lovely few inches that were slated to melt in time for me to get to work.  School (and thus work) ended up being delayed by about an hour, but otherwise it was a fun snow.  I let Zane out onto the front porch where I could watch him while I made up his lunch box, and he had a blast.  He stomped in it, scooped it, made snowballs, and shoveled.  It's a good thing he enjoyed it early on, because it turned into yucky slush pretty quickly.  It sure helped set the Christmas feeling!

I love to look at a Christmas tree sparkling in the dark, and Zane and I often turned off all of the lights to stare at ours.  Another mood setter for me when I was growing up was our Swedish Angel Chimes.  For some reason I had remembered that they weren't working last year, but this year when we fired them up, they went merrily ting-ting-ting!  I was charmed to see that Zane loved them as much as I do.  I also re-introduced Zane to eggnog (seriously cut with milk), and he had that warmed up just about every night.

The night before Christmas Zane helped Michael wrap a few present for me the new-fangled Zane way.  Wrapping was so much on his mind, that when he went to bed he told us that Michael would invent a roboticized wrapping paper with sliding plates and sideways pistons to automatically wrap packages along with a ribbon extruder.  His mind gets so funny at night; he usually has his craziest ideas then.  We seemed to be in a bit of a Christmas sweet-spot where he was excited about the next day, but had no trouble at all falling asleep.

Christmas day was great!  Santa brought a volcano science kit (as requested), but also a MegaZord!  The MegaZord is a robot-like thing that is assembled out of five smaller robot-like things.  Zane's face lit up when he saw it.  Just what a parent wants!  He also got a very big pile of fun+education stuff (e.g., numbers that transform into robots, science kit to make glow in the dark goo), as well as plain old toys and books.  I'd say Santa was very good to Zane this year!

After Michael went back to bed, Zane and I did two science experiments, made a volcano out of papier mache, and played with MegaZord.  I made strawberry-rhubarb-apple pancakes for lunch, and then we did two more science experiments with the glow-in-the-dark goo kit.  I got a brain-break for a couple of hours while Zane played a sonic game on the Kindle in Michael's office.  I also let Zane eat almost as much chocolate as he wanted.  What th' heck.  One day of hours of screen time and tons of junk food won't ruin the kid.

By then end of the day, we had a pretty satisfied boy.  Here he is lying on his new GlowPet (which he has been asking for for two years), and watching Ice Age Christmas for the 10th time.  Another week and a half of holiday, and it's back to the grindstone for all of us!

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Days with Grandma

We're on our way to the big holidays!  The best thing in November is that Grandma came to visit for three whole weeks!  Zane was very excited and Grandma shared his room at night.  Zane got lots of quality time with Grandma, and Michael and I went on two dates.  Pretty awesome.

While Grandma was here we got to do some fun baking.  She and Zane made popovers with a special pan.  We made pies for Thanksgiving, and Zane even got to make his own mini two-crust apple pie.  At one point he got out one of his toy steam rollers to flatten the crust.  After Thanksgiving we put together a gingerbread train from a kit, which was a lot of fun!

For Thanksgiving we took our pies to Michael's sister's house.  All the cousins and Grandpa were there.  Zane hardly ate a thing, but (after some initial shyness) he had a blast with his cousins.  He got to watch video games and a whole bunch of TV, so he was pretty pleased with the holiday!

This also seems to be the season for birthday parties.  We've had 4 in the last 6 weeks.  Fall and Winter birthdays need to be indoors, so most families rent space somewhere where the kids can burn off energy.  Three times now we've been to a yoga studio that gets out tons of bean bags, trampolines, hula hoops, tunnels, a balance beam, suspended rings, indoor swings, drums, and face paint.  That place is awesome.  The two swings are a bit of a hazard, though, especially since Zane doesn't seem to understand that what goes up, must come down.  He finally learned the lesson, I think.  He walked behind a swing at just the right moment to get smacked hard enough to have his feet lifted off the floor.  He ended up with his very first bloody nose.  Poor guy!  He generally bounces back pretty quickly, but we snuggled with some ice for about 10 minutes before he was ready to rejoin the party.

Zane has continued to be a fun guy to share random facts with.  One night at dinner we had salad, and on the back of the Newman's Own Caesar dressing was a drawing of a man on a couch with a dagger in him.  "Mama, what is that picture?"  Michael and I had fun telling him a brief history of the Roman Empire, culminating in the Republicans stabbing Caesar in the Senate.  As soon as we were done, Zane asked us to tell it again!  He asked for the story several times again.  I can't wait until he's old enough to watch I, Claudius.

We often have Archaeology magazine or National Geographic or Natural History magazine open on our table, so he'll ask us about the pictures he sees.  That's pretty fun.  In the last few weeks we've ended up talking about facial reconstruction, Civil War battleships, Amazon Basin natives, Komodo dragons and the like.  Sometimes it is educationally stimulating to have a messy table!

Another fascination these days is numbers and how they work.  He will often ask us things like, "What's 1+6+10+10+10+1000+1?"  He loves to try to trip us up. Then he asks, "What's 3 + a banana + a cement truck?"  Giggle giggle.  One night I was listening to Zane and Michael talk over the monitor at bedtime, and as Zane was asking about numbers and counting, Michael told him there were negative numbers.  "For real?" says Zane.  Then Michael tells him there is a number called Pi (pie). "Ask Mama! I think you're wrong, Daddy!"  I found a great series of math books in the library about Pi and other concepts for kids, and we've been reading those.  We don't expect Zane to really get these concepts, but he'll have heard of them when it comes time to really learn them.

Coming up: Christmas and more awesome adventures with Grandma!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fall Starts and Halloween

After an awesome summer, we have continued into a lovely fall.  The weather has continued to be really nice for the Northwest.

This year the Seattle Children's Theater hasn't had many offerings that would suit Zane, but in early October we went to see Pippi!  I loved  Pippi stories as a girl.  I was way more excited to go than Zane was, but he loves a live performance so it was a lot of fun.  The SCT really does an awesome job with everything.

The next day we headed out to Remlinger Farm for some harvesty fun.  We met up with Zane's friend Evelyn and her family for most of it, and also Anneke and her family a bit at the end.  The day turned out to be sunny and downright hot, so I bought Zane a t-shirt in the gift store to make the temperature bearable.  Last year we were alone and the weather was drizzly, so this year was extra fun!  Zane rode a huge ear of corn, a small train, and ran around in the hay maze with Evelyn.  Together we rode a mini-roller coaster, spun in a pumpkin, drove an antique car, and took a ride on the little steam train that circles the farm.  We met farm animals, Zane rode a pony named Peaches, ate ice cream with the gang, and picked a pumpkin after crawling over all of them ten times.  All-in-all a fabulous time.


With pumpkins in hand it was time to get ready for Halloween!  It was fun to get out the first set of decorations for the end of the year, and Zane was way more into it than last year.  We strung pumpkin lights and spider garland along the entryway to our house.  A trip to the store and we were back with spider webs and many spiders, including a battery operated one with flashing red eyes that jumped down at you on a string. The cherry tree in our front yard became a Spiders' Den of Doom.  One weekend when I was at work Zane and Michael went to a neighborhood fall festival and made a scarecrow from old clothes and hay.  We put that up by the front of the house.

Fall brought us some really lovely vegetables this year.  Zane got on a squash kick and we roasted many butternut and acorn squashes and ate them up, yum!  Pickled beets have been a big hit, too.  With kale chips thrown into the mix, I feel pretty good about our nutrition these days!

A week or so before Halloween we finally carved our pumpkin with a standard big toothy mouth, and Zane had the idea to add two little white ones inside that looked like they were being eaten.  On Halloween night I lucked out and was able to come home early to help get Zane and the house ready.  We added a horror mask to the scarecrow, turned on the spiders, and filled a big bowl with candy.

Earlier in the month Zane had decided to be a vampire.  Then we saw some pretty cool pirate accessories, so we agreed a Vampirate would be just the thing to be on Halloween.  He wore his costume to school sans teeth and weapons, but on Halloween evening we suited the whole deal up!  And for extra fun, I spiked his hair and sprayed it red.  For some reason he only wanted the top half done, and it looked pretty cool that way.  The teeth only stayed in for the picture, and by the time we were done trick or treating, the sword and hook were off, too.

Two years ago Zane went just on our neighborhood block and just about passed out from exhaustion when we got home.  Last year the one block was just right.  This year I told him he could do two blocks.  I did the first block with him and Michael did the second.  Zane had a blast going door to door and seeing all of his neighbors and friends in costume.  He was careful to assure people that his hook was fake and he really had a hand inside.  He got a great haul and still has candy 6 weeks later, mostly because his mom won't let him eat more than a piece a day.  What a Halloween scrooge I am!

 We left the decorations up for about a week, but then it was back to regular fall business.  Like raking leaves!  This year Zane was an actual help, and he really got into jumping in the leaf pile.  I thought we didn't have space for a good jumping pile, but Zane figured out a good spot and dove in!

In non-seasonal news, Zane is behaving like a regular four year old.  He is aggressive and attacks people that he loves.  He is regular budding lawyer when it comes to challenging rules.  He can't sit still at the table.  He has a mysterious chip out of his front tooth that we all have no idea how it got there.  He has ceased to nap.  That's a big one for me.  I've finally come to terms with it and embraced it.  Days are easier to plan and night-time sleeping is longer.

Zane of course also has many delightful four year old qualities.  He has gotten into telling jokes, only he really doesn't know how to do it.  He helps me out with his jokes by saying, "Mama, when I say something crazy, you laugh."  Zane has started to be able to play by himself for awhile, especially with his Legos. He's really into robots, too, which we make out of Legos.  I try to make sure he has "girly" things to choose, too, but he just used his jewelry as chains to subdue the bad T-rexes  Zane is an articulate, polite, and almost always happy boy.

We sure are lucky!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Glorius Summer

At the end of August I took Zane to the Evergreen State Fair.  This is a very nice small fair that reminds me of the one I grew up with in Maine.  We went last year, too, and had a blast.  I bought Zane a full-day pass on the rides, but only a few tickets for myself.  I really should have gotten the full-day pass for myself, too, as there were still a lot of rides he wasn't allowed to go on by himself.  This year we went on an evening after work so that we could also see our very first monster truck show!

We got to the fair in good time and had plenty of time to whirl on tea cups, ride motorcycles, trains, airplanes, run through obstacle courses, and try our hand at winning dirty plush animals.  I did pretty well at the dart throwing, thank you very much!  I think the coolest things were huge clear bubbles which floated on water with a person inside.  The balls were unzipped a bit, Zane crawled inside, and then the ball was re-inflated.  Then Zane was shoved off into the pool!  When I was little I would have been freaked out a bit by these, but Zane loved them.

We had some time before the monster truck show started, and Zane was eager to see some of the animals.  I was glad since last year I had to drag him to the animals.  We saw lots of fancy rabbits and chickens.  I was running out of cash, so unfortunately we only munched on a corn dog, some egg rolls, and some food I had brought with us.

Then it was time for MONSTER TRUCKS!  I'd never been to a show and didn't really know what to expect.  There was a line to get in, but the grandstand was a bit more sparsely populated than I thought it would be.  The announcer tried to whip up the crowd, but the crowd was kind of tepid.  Before the show people were walking around looking at the trucks, and some sort of monster bus was giving rides in the distance.  When the show started those engines were LOUD!  I was surprised to see about half the kids without ear protection.  I wish I had some!  The trucks faced off in pairs and did a short hairpin-turn obstacle race.  In the end Wrong-Way Rick won, and he did it driving backwards!  After this was a race with some beater cars.  One of them was such an awful racer I think it was actually demolition car version of a clown.

During a break in the action there was a kids' dance mosh pit where stuffed animals were handed out.  At first Zane was too shy to join, and by the time he did join the animals were gone.  That was a bit of a bummer.  Then we headed over to some National Guard vehicles he had been ogling.  He wanted to go in, but I said we probably couldn't.  As we were peering into some sort of armored vehicle a guardsman asked Zane if he'd like to go in!  What a huge smile on Zane's face.  The man gave Zane a tour of the truck and let him sit in the turret of some sort with a periscope.  I was really surprised at how awesome Zane thought it was, as we talk way more about monster trucks and construction vehicles than about military ones.  I think this was the highlight of his Monster Truck Rally experience.

From the moment we got to the show Zane had noticed a huge stack of junked cars in front of a ramp. After the thrill of the military vehicle Zane was ready to go, but just before we did the big stunt happened.  Mr. Dizzy in his matte black car had been really talked up at the beginning of the show, and now he was ready.  We were standing almost in front of the ramp when Mr. Dizzy revved up and came at it.  As he went over the ramp flames shot into the air which shocked Zane and I, and then he crashed right into the pile of cars.  I let out an "EEP!", and Zane declared he didn't like it at all.  We watched Mr. Dizzy drive off and the pathetic smashed cars get cleaned up, and then we headed out.

We found an ATM outside of the grandstand and I got some money so we could have a caramel apple and a drink.  It was really late and already getting dark, so we headed home.  My clever plan was to stay out until bedtime so that Zane would fall asleep on the way home, but he was so jazzed by the experience that he stayed awake until I got him home and into bed.  On the way home in the car he told me an elaborate story about a robot garbage truck made of diamonds that could crush any other robot out there.


Well, in a complete 180ยบ turn, our next adventure was bread baking.  Zane had been asking to do it, so when we had a full day open before a school potluck, Zane and I made challah.  Challah is such a lovely bread to look at, and you get to braid it, paint on eggs, and sprinkle on seeds.  What could be better!  I usually get the urge to bake in the winter and then have a hard time getting dough to rise in a cold kitchen.  This time it was summer, and we also have a newish stove which has a warming pad on it which is just perfect for helping the bread along.

 Zane eagerly put on his chef outfit he got from Grandma for his birthday.  He really enjoyed mixing the dough and did an excellent job of kneading the dough.  I was really quite impressed.  Waiting for dough to rise can be pretty boring, but we managed to have some activities in between.  We went out for brunch during the first rise, and when I asked for the check more quickly than usual, I proudly explained we had bread rising at home.  I felt so homemakery.

Next we got to PUNCH the dough, and after another rise braid the dough.  One more rise and we were ready to paint with eggs and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds.  Zane is a good egg painter, too, and really took the job seriously.

The bread came out beautifully, and tasted amazing.  Everyone at the potluck was very impressed.  Usually when I make something for a potluck I expect to have about half of it for leftover, but the whole thing was gobbled right up.  A little too successful!  We'll have to make another for us soon.


In early September we headed out for some blueberry picking.  I think that's when we went last year, but I guess the blueberries ripened a bit earlier this year due to our abundance of hot sunny days.  The berries were pretty sparse on the bushes.  Still, we had a good time.  It's a lovely way to spend a morning.

The next weekend we headed to the Seattle Tilth fair which is all about urban gardening.  We had fun playing in the park, eating honeyed roasted corn on the cob, and making a fairy wand.  I saw some raw peanuts for sale with their greenery still attached.  I thought it was pretty cool to show Zane how peanuts really grow, and I bought some.  We tried one uncooked to see what it was like, and it was like a tasteless plain white bean seed.  I roasted them at home, but they never really got to tasting yummy no matter home much I roasted them.  If I ever get more raw peanuts I'll try boiling them.

After the most amazing summer ever, on September 17th I finally conceded the end and packed away the pool, the slip 'n' slide, and the fans.  Many people are sad that Fall is here, and while I'm usually sad, too, this year I just feel really, really satisfied.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Four!


On August 15th, Zane turned 4!  It was a school day, but we had time to open presents in the morning before school.  He had been asking for a piggy bank with two slots, but got one with four.  A Spirograph set, an awesome Tidmouth Sheds for his Thomas trains, and a personalized apron and chef hat from Grandma with fabric markers to make them even more awesome.  His really big present, though, was his very own pedal bike with matching helmet!

In the afternoon I picked Zane up early from school, and the three of us headed downtown to the waterfront arcade and Ivar's. The arcade was awesome as always! We played tons of games and earned enough tickets to turn in for a flashing spider necklace.  At Ivar's we went to the fancy sit-down portion of the restaurant, and a very nice waiter made sure to get food going right away for a hungry boy.  We had window seats right next to the fire boat station, so we had a lot to look at while we waited.  I let Zane eat some cake and ice cream *first* before dinner! Then he finished his salmon and got the rest of his cake. He hardly left any at all for me.

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A few days later on Saturday it was time for his birthday party in an oceanfront park.  He wanted to wear his train engineer outfit (smock), so in the pinata-loot picture it looks like he's wearing a dress. This park (Carkeek) is wonderful because it has a huge grass field to run on, hills and trees to hide in, several bunches of playground equipment, paths and greenery tunnels through bushes, an enormous salmon with a slide inside, and a bridge from the park over some train tracks to the beach.  It's like kid paradise.  Zane and I had gone to Display & Costume a few days before to select Batman cups, plates, dishes and even a Batman pinata.  We had finger food from Costco and pizza delivered at lunch.  After a break for a toy filled pinata, we had plain and chocolate Rice Krispie bars for dessert.  Zane had specially requested those after they were the treat at our neighbor's recent birthday party in the very same park.  We all had a great time!

Last year when Zane turned 3, here is what I guessed was in the year ahead:
In this next year Zane will begin school and I imagine that will cause a lot of changes, along with just growing older!  I can't think of any really big changes like weaning and sleeping in a bed and toilet training from the last several years.  I think there's a good chance that he might be reading just a little bit when he turns four.  Hopefully he will also be better with numbers and counting.  He still zips around on his balance bike, but maybe he will learn to pedal a bike without training wheels, too!  I hope he can form some really good friendships and start to hang out with more kids (I have to make that easier for him).
School definitely brought a lot of changes as he learned independence and has been challenging us a lot in terms of discipline.  I had the librarian's dream of having a reading prodigy, but he really is not interested.  Once or twice he has shown a flash of insight into how reading or writing go, but he just doesn't have the spark to learn quite yet.  He's a wiz with numbers and counting!  And just under the wire he mastered riding a pedal bike by himself.

So, for this year, what do I guess?  Well, I'll have to hope again that he gets the reading bug and really wants to learn when I try to prompt him.  I hope he can improve on his bicycle so that he can ride up small hills by himself, too.  He's grown a lot and gotten much stronger, and I imagine he'll continue to get coordinated in soccer and ballet.  I will love it if he can make it to the end of the day without getting so dang cranky.  But mostly, I hope he continues to be the most wonderful and fun child he already is!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Camping

I am such a blogger loser!  I think I'll blame it on Facebook.  I post a few pictures and a brief sentence, and then all the steam has gone out of my story telling.  That and I'm a lazy writer.  Since I post sporadically, and then do a bunch at once, you can surely guess that I was one of those students who put off her papers until the last moment, and then did a marathon writing session.

As I've said in other posts, Seattle had an amazing summer this year.  Day after day of blue sky and warm weather.  So of course, for our camping trip that I had been planning since MARCH, the weather forecast was for thunder showers.  For years I have been wanting to get out of the city to see the August Perseid meteor shower, and this year I organized a group camping excursion with families from Zane's school.  I found a site about an hour away and up a long dirt road.  Far enough away to seem like quite an adventure, but not too far to take up the whole day.  I took Friday off from work, and after a leisurely start to the day packing the car, Zane and I got to the site at about 1pm.  Getting there first has its perks, as I got first pick of the tent platforms!  Setting up our enormous tent by myself resulted in much swearing, but I got the job done and all the stuff out of my car.

A few hours later other families started to arrive, and the fun began!  I brought a bunch of toys with us which was a good thing, because nobody else did.  We had extra hammers and tent spikes to play with, buckets and shovels and trucks to dig in the gravel, foam swords, a soccer ball, and a croquet set.  Early on Zane, Ryder, and Anneke rode around on their bikes having some sort of foam sword jousting competition.  Later on in the weekend when more kids showed up I ended up having to put the swords away, but they were fun for a while.  The hammers and stakes were endlessly popular.

The first afternoon and evening was mostly taken up with the excitement of everyone arriving and setting up and all the kids playing and running around.  The campsite was really lovely, and we were right next to the toilets which was convenient (and only occasionally smelly).  One big bummer, though, is that there was only one solar water pump for the entire campground.  There were supposed to be two, but one was not running for some reason.  The other was about a 5 minute walk away, which is pretty far when you have an antsy almost-four-year old with you, and you have to drag the water back.  That was a little unexpected, so we washed much less than I would have liked.

I took some kids on a flashlight hike around the campsite while dinner was being made.  It was a bit spooky for them, and one boy told me in all seriousness he was afraid of sharks.  Apparently, they could come up the little streams into the woods!  All during dinner, the thunder rolled in the distance, echoing off nearby mountains.  We could see flash after flash of lightning, but it didn't seem to be getting closer.  After most of the kids were in bed the adults sat around the fire talking and watching the storm get closer and closer.  We did have clear skies for quite a long time, but no meteors were to be seen.  The rain finally hit us in the night, soaking one family's tent.  Zane and I and the Loggers (who were sharing our tent) were cozy and dry. 

By Saturday morning the rain was gone, and we were ready for an adventure!  Michael arrived just as we were heading off on a hike.  The Middle Fork campsite has a nice little loop trail nearby with signs about the trees, and a stop off on the Taylor River.  This turned out to be a truly excellent and memorable adventure!

First we clambered over the rocks to the river and discovered some kids in our group were already half naked in the water.  I parked my camera and bag and headed in with Zane.  We were ready with water shoes and swim pants!  The water was cold, but not too bad.  Michael got some pictures of us picking our way across the rocks in the river.  Eventually Zane wanted to see the other side of the river, so we carefully made our way over.  We discovered a small branch of the river entered there, and someone had dammed it up making a lovely swimming pool!  We saw another even smaller stream coming in that had also been dammed into a pool, but we didn't take a closer look.  After poking around for quite a while we thought we ought to head back, only to discover the rest of the crew coming over to join us!  We had 4 kids and 6 adults on this part of our adventure, and everyone thought the pool was cool.  Then Auggie's dad Eli discovered the very small pool from the stream was lined with what seemed to be bentonite clay, the green clay used for fancy-pants spa treatments!  Eli pried chunks from pool and soon we were all smearing ourselves with clay.  The kids loved smearing themselves, and Zane thought it was even better when I invited him to coat me with mud.  We hung around in the sun letting the clay dry while the kids played in the water.  Eventually it was time to rinse off, and the adults plunged into the water with exhilarated whoops while every single kid screamed and cried while they were washed.  We made our way home for lunch, and I managed to carry a chunk of clay back in a zip lock baggie.  I still have it under my bathroom sink!

The afternoon was filled with laid back walks and bike rides.  By dinner time, the thunder was rumbling again, and the rain had come as a soft drizzle.  We had to eat under tarps, but it wasn't too bad.  The kids didn't seem to care at all!  Zane was just about to lose his marbles, though, as he knew tonight we would make s'mores, and he couldn't wait for dinner to be done!  All of the kids were milling about the fire like rogue electrons, waving sharpened sticks.  We tried to corral them and make some rules about fire and sticks, and then we got down to business.  They were deee-licious!  When are s'mores ever not.  It was a great fireside end to an amazing day.

Rain and thunder came all through the night and started to get the floor of our tent wet, but not where it mattered.  The next day we discovered the only functioning water pump at the campground had quit, so we all packed up a bit earlier than we otherwise might have.  I'm so glad I finally got Zane out for some camping, and having a bunch of his friends around, too, made it magical.  Everyone agreed, we can't wait to do it again next year!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adventures, Adventures, Adventures!

 

We've been having a gorgeous summer in Seattle.  Dry and warm and only occasionally hot.  The garden would like a little more water, but we help it along.

After our trip to Maine we started off with a bang: Crazy Hair Day at school!  Originally I wasn't going to have Zane go to school the day after we got home, but Crazy Hair Day and two birthday celebrations was too much to miss.  Michael picked up some hair gel for us, and I made some awesome spikes.  I personally think Zane had the best and craziest hair!

He wanted to have crazy hair again, so when we went to the Fremont Solstice Parade the following Saturday I brought along the tube of gel and spiked him up once we got there.  We rode my bike down on the hot, hot day, and lucked out on a shady spot to watch the parade.  This is the first year I brought Zane down, and he really liked it.  We got there too late to see the naked bicyclists.  Maybe next year!  As we were walking back to my bike many people complimented him on his hair.  "Nice spikes, Dude!"  He really got a kick out of that.

The next weekend's adventure was a Sunday matinee performance for kids at Teatro ZinZanni!  Teatro is in Seattle in an old spiegeltent of wood and canvas.  The performances are non-animal and contain music, comedy, and acrobatics.  For this one the kids could all sit right up front in a huge mosh pit.  I loved watching Zane's face as he saw a young girl swirl and do acrobatics in the air on silver hoops, a man wind himself up and down on a rope, pirates, genies, live music, glitter from the ceiling ....  He loved it enough that I may try to bring him to something more full length at Teatro, or maybe Cirque du Soleil next summer.  There are a lot of circus-arts classes in Seattle, too, which we can try when he's a bit older.

During this time we had a little bit of a set-back with soccer.  During the last month or so, Zane has sometimes been feeling very shy and not very confident.  We began the new soccer season with a bit of woe, as we thought we had the same coach as last session, and when we realized we needed to move to a different coach's class, Zane had a big breakdown and much sadness.  It took us until about the third Saturday to break out of the cycle of sadness and needing to run back to me for hugs all through soccer.  It helped tremendously that his friends and neighbors Caz and Henry joined his class.  Now Zane is doing his best ever.  He'll surely move up to the next level for the fall sessions.

Since the weather has been so nice, we decided to get his little blow up pool out.  Alas, it lasted a few years but it would no longer stay inflated.  I went to the store to get another, but I couldn't find just a simple pool.  So I came home with a combo pool/slip 'n' slide/sprinkler!  It's been a big hit.  The plastic seems a bit sturdier than the previous one, too, so hopefully we'll get a few more years out of it.

Another way to stay cool is -- go find some snow!  I took Zane on a looooong trip to Mount Rainier one sunny day.  It takes almost three hours to get there, so it's a once a year kind of adventure.  Last year we had no snow in the winter, and Zane was pretty bummed, but we got plenty up on the mountain in July!  We spent about two hours up there slipping and sliding and poking in the snow.  We made little snow babies and a tiny fort sized about right for elves.  There was much more snow than I had hoped for, so we really couldn't walk very far as the trails were completely covered with snow.  The slope is steep enough that it was hard work slipping and sliding up.  I'll have to shoot for a late August or early September trip next year.  Zane's absolute favorite thing was poking overhanging snow crusts into all of the melt streams.  He could have done that all day long.  He even said, "I wish I could stay up here forever!"  I'd say that was a pretty successful outing.

Zane had been asking about how things are made, so we had been reading books about metal, plastic, glass, and paper.  I told him about glass blowing and decided to see if I could find some.  A studio in downtown Seattle has a fairly continuously used studio that the public are welcome to visit.  With Zane's friend Evelyn and her Mom and sister, we set off on a downtown adventure to see glass blowing and the big downtown library.  The glass studio was very cool.  While we didn't actually see glass blowing, we did see lots of glass shaping and glass blobs going in and out of red hot furnaces.  The kids also really enjoyed seeing the part of the studio where glassblowing supplies were sold; walls and walls of colored glass rods and weird tools.  There was a gallery at the front of the studio and shop, and that place gave me a bit of an anxiety attack.  Beautiful glass objects were displayed out in the open, and we had 2 almost 4 year olds and a toddler.  I glanced at one swirly pink bowl and it was TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  I told Zane not to bump into anything, because that one bowl alone was a year of college (or part of a year).  I wanted Zane to have something from the adventure, so I bought a small paperweight with iridescent swirls on the bottom and a yellow starfish on top.

The downtown Seattle Public Library was a bit more relaxing.  We drive by it every week on the way back from Kung Fu, and I had been promising to take Zane there. Emily and baby Kaylee hung out in the kids' area where Kaylee was finally happy, and I took Evelyn and Zane on a tour.  We saw words printed on the floor by the holds shelves.  We went up 4 sets of increasingly narrow yellow escalators to get to the top of the library and then looked down down down to the main floor.  I had to hold the kids up to the railing to get a really good look.  Then we took an elevator back to the kids' section after watching the workings of the elevator in the glass elevator shaft.  After some snacks outside we were back on a bus home!

In mid-July I took Zane to A Day Out with Thomas, which is something I'd been meaning to do for the last few summers.  At the Snoqualmie train station, a train made to look like the book/TV character Thomas from the Island of Sodor pulls passengers around.  We got there late in the day and immediately had to stand in line for the train, even though we had tickets for a specific time.  We got on the train, but we couldn't actually see the Thomas engine, so it was like riding on any train.  The view was not great, as we were mostly in trees or some sort of a ditch.  At one point we passed by the magnificent Snoqualmie Falls, but you could only see the very top of the falls if you stood on tip-toe on the right side of the train.  I was pretty unimpressed, but Zane really liked all of the old rusty trains and train equipment we saw along the tracks.  When we got off he was very anxious to make sure to tell a conductor about the rusty trains he had discovered on the ride.  Just in case they didn't already know.  Then we went to enjoy the other activities around the ride, and we finally saw the Thomas engine.  Zane has been in a "no pictures" mode for a while ("Mama, you have enough pictures."), so I don't have a good one from this (and many other) adventures.  He got to go in a bouncy house, play with train tables, drive an electric model train, eat ice cream, see Sir Thopham Hatt from a distance, and peruse the gift shop.  We came home with two trains. 

For our most recent adventure, we went to see a real machine, Big Bertha.  Big Bertha is currently the biggest tunnel boring machine on earth.  She will excavate a tunnel under the Seattle waterfront to replace our aging (and earthquake damaged) raised roadway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  The city was holding a special meet Big Bertha day where the public could go to the work site and see the machine before it disappears under the earth for 14 months.  I think I was more excited about this than Zane.  I was disappointed that we couldn't get super close to Big Bertha, but it was still very cool to see her in the tunnel pit.  We also got to see lots of other massive equipment and speak to engineers on site.  Sections of tunnel wall were also laid out for all to see, and we signed our names to a section of the wall along with thousands of others.  In a few years when we drive through, we'll know our names are there somewhere!  I think the best part of the adventure for Zane was that I bought him a Sprite.  It took him all day to finish it, and he kept proudly telling Michael, "Mama bought me a soda!"

In the spirit of Seattle tourism we all finally took a ride on the Ducks!  The Ducks are WWII amphibious vehicles that take folks on a 1.5 hour tour of Seattle by land and by lake.  The tour guides/drivers are known for keeping up a running banter of history and jokes, and Zane kept turning to Michael and saying, "Is that real?  Is that a joke?"  I had a blast, and I think Zane enjoyed it a bit, but he kept telling me not to sing so loud.  Shades of teen behavior to come!  The best part was when the Duck drove right down a boat ramp into Lake Union.  The view was fantastic, and at one point a float plane took off and flew right over our heads.

At this point I have to tell you that I was beginning to feel pretty tired of adventures.  But summer is when they all happen!  I guess when the weather closes in we can go back to having laid back "nothing days", as Zane calls them.  We still have coming up:  two nights of camping, Zane's birthday party, the Evergreen State fair with possible demolition derby or monster trucks, and I might try to squeeze in a visit to Wild Waves water park.  Just listing all that makes me tired, though!

We have been making some academic progress at home, too.  Grandma gave Zane a alphabet letter writing workbook, and one day I got it out for Zane when I was trying to keep him busy.  I was going to help him with it, but next thing I know, he had made a big A and little a all by himself!  I was pretty surprised as he hasn't done too much writing.  I haven't seen a repeat of this skill, but it shows he's ready.  He can write a Z and A for his name, so I think if I just worked with him he could probably write his name.

I have been doing a much better job of working with him on his bicycle skills, though!  Zane has been zipping around on his balance bike for a year and a half now.  For about a month or so he has also been able to ride his pedal bike without training wheels on flat or downhill sidewalks.  I think he just needs a little more strength in his legs to make it easier for him.  Maybe he will be getting a new, lighter bike very soon ...  :)