Wednesday, April 23, 2014

easter

Easter was quiet. Saturday LD took to kids to their cousins house to dye eggs. That night MIL, LD, and I packed small chocolates into plastic eggs and hid them around the house. In the morning the kids found their Easter baskets at the foot of their respective beds and bounced downstairs to start collecting loot. Wow was a little slow to understand the purpose of the hunt and so Munch swiped up about 90% of the eggs. Later, upon discovering their contents, he helped himself to a good portion of his sister's stash.


I see an egg...
getting cooler..
now warmer..

warmer..
cooler..
still cool..





After breakfast I got into a wrestling match with Wow over the issue of pants, specifically with this being Easter and all, he needed to wear them. 

I didn't then have it in me to insist that Munch wear the Easter dress I'd picked out for her. She piled on a favorite assortment of stripes, hearts, and flowers and we headed over to Factor V's house. All day my Facebook feed rolled through pictures of Wow and Munch's friends in miniature bow ties and patent leather shoes.
We spent the remaining morning with Factor V's family and the early afternoon at the nursery buying flowers for the yard. Wow and I had not been getting along very well - a recent friction that has run deeper than NO PANTS NO - so it felt good to snuggle next to him for his late afternoon nap. We'd cancelled the big family dinner when LD, MIL, and Wow all developed viral gastroenteritis.

As we are not the particularly religious sort, Easter can be a difficult holiday to navigate. Actually, that isn't entirely true. LD has never been "the particularly religious sort", whereas I was once a practicing Catholic. Even though I am no longer religious, I don't want my children to think that Easter a holiday dedicated to creepy man-sized bunnies and discolored eggs. Easter, with its emphasis on new life, is also about death and rebirth, forgiveness and redemption. As far as LD is concerned, all of that is fine, so long as there are decorated, hard boiled eggs that will later be made into (and I love the irony) deviled eggs. I hate deviled eggs. 

Every night before I leave her bedside, Munch asks me to tell her about my day. I wrote about the problems this line of inquiry can pose at MiM, the gist of which is that I am sometimes unsure about what's appropriate to share with my five year old. Since I wrote that post we've started talking more about death, so that now she wants to know ABOUT THE PATIENTS WHO DIED. Although I am still uncomfortable discussing this subject matter with her, I try, quite awkwardly, to present her with what I do and do not know of death. So Sunday night, instead of patients, I talked her though the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I emphasized that "some people" believe we continue living after we die, but shared that I personally wasn't sure what happened after death. She was silent for a few minutes, then asked (and I swear I did not see this coming) HOW DID THEY KILL HIM? 

Even though its been thirteen years since I practiced Catholicism, I'm not so far removed so as to not realize that, in the grand pantheon of Christian iconography, the image Jesus's crucifixion is arguably the most important, but in the small narrative I'd cobbled together for my daughter, with its borrowed bits from Christianity, pagan naturalism, and my own personal ethos work hard, play hard, and be nice to people, it was difficult to find a place for that particular bit of information. I said I wasn't sure. And she totally, 100%, in no uncertain terms, did not believe me. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

gluten-?

Another blog post lacking in a central theme

----

On the advice of my acupuncturist, I've decided to become gluten-free.

There are several problems with that statement, the first being I ate an almond croissant for lunch yesterday. I was running errands, hungry, and about to be late for a second appointment with the aforementioned acupuncturist. When presented with the choice between a bran muffin and almond croissant, I employed a special bit of mental arithmetic and arrived at the conclusion that a butter-based pastry, rather than a flour-based one, would be more in line with my new diet.

So maybe I am not gluten-free so much as gluten-avoidant. Only when it's convenience and definitely when it means I can select a croissant over a muffin.

The second problem with the previous statement involves the acupuncturist. Remember, I poison people for a living. I am not a primary care doc, a radiologist, or a endocrinologist. I don't prescribe medication that lowers blood pressure. I don't bring babies in the world. It is exceedingly infrequent that I encourage anyone to lose weight or change their diet. My practice involves therapy with the ability to denude the skin from your lips to your anus.

But now I see an acupuncturist, and, just as with every weird lifestyle and diet modification I make, this one is also because of migraine, a fact that doesn't make me feel like less of a fraud sitting in her office.

February and March were terrible headache months. I established with a new PCP who, in addition to prescribing nasal steroids and ovulation suppression, referred me to an acupuncturist. I've gone twice.

During our first appointment she took an impressively long history, looked at my tongue, checked my pulses, and declared mine to be "migraines of deficiency", as opposed to "migraines of excess" -  or those suffered by patients with high blood pressure and more ruddy complexions.  She jammed some needles in my hands, feet, stomach, and between my eyes, left me pinned on the table for forty-five minutes, then suggested I avoid gluten. I've enjoyed both our visits immensely.

I really want this to work. If it does I will gladly pay for additional sessions to continue after my referral runs out. But the only people I've known to undergo acupuncture (two for infertility, one for morning sickness, and one for insomnia) all say acupuncture didn't help their respective aliments. Maybe if it doesn't the new diet will.

---

It's been great having MIL with us for the last few weeks.  Aside from the extra pair of hands to help refill milk cups and mop up spills, MIL is far more interested in, and tolerant of, messy play than I am. She and Munch have made cookies, Playdoh and "high tea", all of which required various combinations of food coloring, flour, rainbow sprinkles, and the ladling of sticky liquids from one vessel into another. Munch and Wow are getting used to pancakes in the morning and cornbread with dinner.

She's also happy to watch Wow while we go skiing, and so we've been getting in the last trips of the season.

----

Skiing.

Last Saturday we got to the mountain a little after 9 and left at 12, which means we spent the same amount of time in the car as we did skiing. A storm had come in during the early morning and the conditions when we arrived were more of deep winter than early April. We made the mistake of taking Munch up the summit lift early, where visibility was near zero and the wind gnawed at every minor track of exposed skin. When we got of the lift she started screaming at the absolute peak of her lung capacity. These were not screams of protest, but of an actual, palpable fear. There could be no calming her down or reminding her that she'd skied this same trial a few weeks ago.  I wrapped my arms around her torso, locked my skis into a hard wedge, and held her between my legs as we chattered down the slope together.

But even on easier terrain with an improvement in the conditions, her screaming continued. Not quite at the same intensity as on the summit run, but persistent nonetheless. Gradually LD's screams (of frustration) matched those of the five year old and it was clear we needed to go. We ate our packed lunch in the car on the near-silent trip back home and did not stop for ice cream.

We had planned to go back up Sunday, but in the interest of preserving the family peace, opted for a morning at the Japanese garden,  an afternoon on the tennis courts, and an easy dinner.

We returned today, and I am grateful to report we will end the season on a high note.

It was a perfect Spring day. Munch sang Let it go and In summer with her arms in the air as she bumped down the slopes. We laid off the requests for FRENCH FRY and let her wedge when she wanted to. Instead of Tic Tacs, she got Starbursts. We stopped for lunch on the earlier side and when she started getting grumpy, we headed home. I think we've agreed on ski school for next year.

----

Kindergarten.

Munch got wait-listed at the French charter school. Her number is so high it's unlikely there will be a spot for her in the fall. She did, however, get into the private French immersion school. I think LD is relieved about the charter school and anxious about the private school. We wont hear about the Spanish program for a few more weeks.

----

I think those are all my thoughts. MIL, Wow, and LD left to join my parents at the beach after we got back from the mountain this afternoon. Tomorrow LD and my dad are going to surf while Munch and I are at Ben's birthday party. Tonight she and I went to the library to get more Ivy and Bean books, then had "girls night" which involved (another) viewing of Frozen and popcorn. I've been working on this post and eating cookies 'n cream ice cream since I put her to bed, which I have just now realized is not, in fact, gluten-free.

Friday, April 4, 2014

kindergarten

We still don’t know what to do about it. 

We could have gotten more house for the money if we’d looked east and bought into one of the few upscale urban neighborhood that are cropping up around New Seasons grocery stores and historic city parks, but let the school system - which included an elementary school with a Spanish immersion track, a French charter school, and one of the best high schools in the state - heavily influence our ultimate decision. 
Entrance to both the Spanish program and French school is by lottery – as a neighborhood family we have a 40-50% chance of getting into the Spanish program and a 25% chance of getting into the French school. But aside from the benefit of language immersion, the schools are just ok. The Spanish program in particular seems to benefit from an active and dedicated parent base, but by report has a number of teachers who do little but make the kids copy sentences during class time. Most of the kids would be like ours – born to middle class American parents and raised here.  The facility itself is bright and cheerful with well-maintained grounds, large play yard and is located at the end of a quiet suburban street. Munch and Wow’s friends would be the kids we’ve already met playing in the street outside or down at the park. The parents I've met of the kids in the English track are less happy, and those with the financial resources to do so are thinking about private school. 

I am more concerned about the French charter school. It’s about two miles away in an urban location and without its own playground or outdoor facility. Once a day the students get walked to the nearby high school for recess. The school has only been open for two years and the funding for the next few years isn’t guaranteed. LD didn't get a good impression of the staff, parents, or facility when he went for Kindergarten open night. But I’ve been in email contact with two mom whose kids go there, both of whom have had good experiences with the school. 
And finally, there’s this private school. It’s on 14 acres with nature trials, covered play structures, two art studios, a music center, and outdoor classrooms. It’s also a language school – the elementary school is French immersion and, starting in the seventh grade, each student selects a second language – German, Spanish, or Mandarin- to study. LD and I met with director and one of the teachers, both of whom presented themselves as highly skilled professionals, and were impressive in how they articulated the school's purpose and mission. Language is a huge component of the curriculum, obviously, but even more important than language is the emphasis on art, culture, curiosity, and global responsibility. Most of the teachers had participated in language immersion programs in their youth and spoke of what it was like, not to speak, but think in another language.  Many of the students were not American born and English was not always the language spoken on the playground. The class sizes are half what the public schools average and the grounds are more beautiful than most college campuses. Art, music, yoga, chess, photography were offered as part of the after-hours care program.  The school closed for one week every seventh, to allow students and teachers a chance to recharge.
And it’s ungodly expensive. The total cost of one year,  including tuition for two kids, extra fees, the added expense of the before/ after hours program, and care during those recurrent weeks off would be more than I paid for one year of medical school.
I could understand paying that price if the public schools were terrible or if she had a specific need that could only be met in a particular setting, but it’s a hard to say that the tuition could be justified on the merits of the school alone. 
I’d like my children to have an immersion experience, and I’m actually not that picky about which language it is, because – and now we are getting to the real issue – it’s something I wish I had had at their age and I can't teach them myself.  My Spanish is embarrassing, so much that I don’t share with people that I studied in Spain for a semester of college and I am overly hesitant to use what skill I have retained while traveling. 
If language can be a door or a window, in my life I've felt it as a door - a heavy obstruction between myself and experiences I'd wish to have had. For my children I'd like it to be a window, a second source of light in which which they could maneuver their thoughts and expression, a way to make the world feel smaller while it actually expands.

LD does not share my view on the subject. He prefers she get into the Spanish track at the neighborhood school, and if that doesn't happen, to have her stay there for the regular program.  As I mentioned before, he didn't get a good impression of the French charter school and thinks that our (over active?) Munch wouldn't do well with once a day recess. And that's a fair point. But we feel differently about the private school, specifically the relative value for its expense. 

It's a debate to be continued. 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MORE FRENCH FRY LESS PIZZA

This is Munch's third season on skis. And Sunday was her third time of the season.
first run of the day and super excited

Not that you would have suspected as much by the crying and moaning that took place during the morning's initial few runs. Even pink Tic Tacs and the promise of hot chocolate couldn't stem the tide of I HATE SKIING and I CAN'T DO IT and IS THIS THE CHAIR LIFT THAT GOES TO THE BOTTOM?, all of which was followed by her sitting back on her skis and collapsing into the snow. Mid-tirade she was hit from behind by a snowboarder who didn't see the shock of pink parked under a small lip in the run. I was certain that crash would be the end of the day and possibly the season, but, after whimpering for a few minutes in my arms, she got up, pointed her skis downward, and resumed her sluggish pizza wedge.

We are not terrible parents. She likes skiing. Really, she does. But LD had removed the clip that kept her skis from crossing in front of her and the new responsibility vis a vie ski alignment was seriously wigging her out.  LD and I both grew up skiing. We'd like our children to learn with the hopes it will be an activity the four of us share, especially during the tween years when hanging out with your parents isn't very appealing. And although I think she'll take to the sport more easily now than later, the problem with teaching any skill-based activity to a young child is that it's easy come, easy go, and so seems as if every time is the first. 

I'm not sure what we would have done if whining protestations had continued. I hoped she'd work through the fear and frustration, and gradually put the pieces together (MORE FRENCH FRY, LESS PIZZA). I'm from the parenting camp that thinks a little frustration is not a bad thing, as long as it's in balance with the self confidence that comes with the acquisition of a new skill. But I also didn't want her so aggravated that she gave up. 

It might have been a lot to ask of a five year old. But three runs into the morning, something clicked. She still wedged herself down the steeper and/or bumpier portions, but did so with more control over her skis ... and her fear. By the end of the day she was giggling, making PIZZA jokes, requesting more frequent tic tacs, and now comfortable on the intermediate terrain. 

The day was perfect - windless, bright, and blue. We ate lunch outside, pealing off excess layer from the morning and reapplying sunblock. 
It might have been a little too bright - in the mid afternoon I developed a headache that came on suddenly. I skied down to the lodge and so was not there for Munch's final run of the day. LD would claim that he took a wrong turn and "found himself" on a black diamond with Munch. My husband has the best direction of anyone I've ever met, so I am doubtful that this incident was anything but premeditated. But with the help of a hearty pizza slice and some small french fry turns, she got down without a problem. 





Wednesday, March 19, 2014

frozen

If you know any small female people you might have heard of this movie Frozen. 


The four of us went to see it over the thanksgiving holiday weekend. Wow hit his movie-viewing limit about fifteen minutes into the film, and so the two of us were in the lobby playing violent video games during an incident that LD would tell me about later. (We weren’t exactly “playing them” per se… I did allow him to crawl into a large video arcade that was shaped like tank and equipped with two plastic rifles set up in front of an over sized screen. He spent a good forty minutes playing with the rifles.  He did not, thankfully, pantomime any shooting or demonstrate an awareness of what the rifles, which were as long as he was, were used for.)
 (Warning – spoiler alert) Somewhere towards the end one of the main characters sustains what would appear to be a lethal injury.  In an otherwise silent theater, little Munch, unable to contain her grief, started wailing as loud as she could. People in the seats around LD and Munch would later tell LD that Munch’s crying was the most heartbreaking part of the movie.  LD held her in his lap, and, this being Disney, there was a happy ending that did not involve the death of a main character (I think, anyway, not having been there and all).
Although I haven’t seen it, I like what I know about Frozen. And, despite her mid movie breakdown, Munch is obsessed.
video
I have a lot less anxiety about the pretty pretty princess thing now than I used to. I’m fairly certain that old Disney movies are not the most influential factor in her upbringing and that she will grow out of this with time. To be honest, her new interest in Barbie (Mita….) is causing me far more indigestion than Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. And I think Disney got it right with a movie about positive female relationships (i.e. lacking in jealous, evil, and/or murderous step mothers, step sisters, and fairies) where the main characters wear clothing (I’m looking at you Tinkerbell, and you Ariel), try to accept who they are, and learn that surprise surprise love at first sight IS NOT A GOOD THING. I would have preferred there to have been a mother [a novel feature of Brave wherein (1) the main character is not motherless (2) that mother raises that daughter and (3) loves her intensely. So I’ll take it, Disney, even with the whole poisoning incident] but find this a forgivable point in the estimation of a movie about the importance of that other - equally intense, complicated, and frustrating - type of relationship between women: sisterhood.

But Munch doesn’t have a sister. So, Disney, if you can make a movie about brothers and sisters that’s as good as Frozen, I’m all yours.


On a totally unrelated note (and thus requiring its own font), although I am underwhelmed by the number of real comments left on this blog, I am overwhelmed by the number of spam comments. I'm turning back on the function where you have to identify yourself in order to comment. Sorry to you (few) who like to comment anonymously. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

five years ago today

five years ago, our last BC hours
 day one
 four years ago
 three years ago 
two years ago 
one year ago
and now. 
Happy fifth birthday my love. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

nosara, costa rica

Last Friday night we put the kids to bed at normaltimeish, cleaned up after dinner, watched an episode of House of Cards, and woke them back up again. I pushed shoes on over PJ bottoms while LD and my dad loaded the car with what I think is a family record for number of suitcases employed in the conveying four people's stuff from one destination to another. I vowed this time would be the first in my five years of motherhood when packing for my family didn't feature the omission of some critical bit of clothing or equipment - items that frequently require repurchasing at a painful mark-up when their absence was eventually noted. In Disneyland I paid more for underwear for Munch than I usually pay for my own.

A few minutes before midnight we boarded an overnight flight to Houston and a few minutes after takeoff, all four of us fell asleep. The problem with an overnight flight to Houston is that it's not actually "overnight" so much as "early night to later night", and when we landed, 3.5 hours later, no one was ready to function in the new day.

I blame sleep deprivation for a hazy recollection of what my children ate for breakfast that morning in the airport. There were definitely donuts. We met up with Jordan's family and boarded the second flight to Liberia, Costa Rica. We met Dan's family outside customs and climbed into a van that would lumber south for two hours before we finally arrived in Nosara, a sleepy surf town buried at the end of an unpaved road along the Nicoya peninsula's western edge.
And, with the exception of one afternoon excursion to Playa Pelada, we didn't leave Nosara for the eight days we were there. We talked about day trips to the nearby monkey sanctuary, wildlife refuge, a guided nature tour, or zip lining, but when it came down to figuring out the logistics and making reservations, it suddenly (and repeatedly) seemed preferable to just re-do today. Again. And then again some more, so that now, at the end of our week I'm only familiar with the bougainvillea-lined path between our house, the beach, the ice cream shop, and the treetop yoga studio.

Dan found the house on VRBO. The bedroom quarters were tall and narrow with a ground level living and kitchen space that spilled into a indoor/outdoor patio and pool area. The husbands got up with the daylight to surf while the wives slept in, shared coffee, and fed the babies.  Munch and Wow were usually in the pool before LD got back, and I’d leave the three of them splashing in their rash guards to go running on the beach while a morning breeze kept the tropical heat tolerable for aerobic exercise. White vapor rose from the thicket of trees that spilled onto the sand, and with the disappearance of the breeze and the vapor came the full effect of a blazing tropical sun.


When I got back, the moms (Debby, Steph and I) would bump along unpaved roads in a golf cart, park next to the "no parking" sign at the base of Nosara's Yoga Institute, and hike a short distance up to the treetop studio for a pre-lunch class in a canopy of palm trees.

It was as freaking amazing as it sounds.

There was more family to family variation in the afternoons, allowing for the different needs and nap schedules imposed by 1 year old Luk, 2.5 year old Jul, Munch, and Wow. And by variation, I mean

beach time



ice cream,

coconut water
or, not infrequently, all three.


I had never heard of Nosara before Dan and Jordan proposed it as a possible destination for a group family vacation.  Although Nosara is also known for its beautiful beach and relative safety, the main reason for this suggestion (and their wanting to return after a trip two years prior) was fairly specific.

LD
Jordan and Dan
I'd warned Debby (Luk's mom) when we spoke on the phone and whom I haven't seen since we left San Diego 4 years ago, that we, um..there's um.. a lot of yelling that happens in our household and that I hoped living with us for a week wouldn't be too, um, intense.... She assured me it would be fine.


And it was. The four kids got along as best as can be expected. Luk got knocked over and roughed up a bit, Wow and Jul stole each other's toy cars and plastic airplanes, and took turns throwing them into the pool. Jul initially showed an interest in whatever Munch was doing, and she reciprocated this interest by developing an vehement hypersensitivity to anyone touching her crayons or watching her draw. Two seconds after Jordan yelled SLOW DOWN, Jul tripped, skid down the gravel, and took the skin off his forehead, chin, and knee cap.  Luk tasted his first ice cream, and immediately broke out into hives.  Wow cut his eye lid on the staircase, blackened the forehead on the coffee table, and within an hour of arrival, threw a toy into the pool, leaned over to retrieve it, and tumbled in. Very disappointing, young man.

So, in sum, when traveling with people who are not blood relations, I'd highly recommend the parents of other young children who are also in the middle of the are you kidding me with this? years of child-rearing.

But it was a lot of fun. Almost without exception the ten of us ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner crowded together around the patio dining table. Dan hired a cook and housekeeper to come in a few times during the week and off load some of the more chore-like aspects of vacationing with kids. Meals, whether they were prepared by us or the cook, were based on a framework of beans, rice, avocado, tortillas, and grilled meat. The kids got used to mango in the guacamole, coconut in the oatmeal, and papaya after almost every meal.

Wow fell in love with Steph.
Jul fell in love with Munch.
Munch fell in love with waves.
And Luk was just relived to be free of the Nor'easter storms, if only for a short while

(hives shortly to follow) 
When the sun set on our last night in Costa Rica, all ten of us were down at the beach. The boys were inspecting, and (eventually) releasing the small crustaceans they'd catch on the shoreline. Munch could not be enticed out of the water, and so she and I were the last ones still playing in the waves.  I wanted to watch the sun as it dropped towards the horizon, but had to continualy reassess Munch's location as she kept moving deeper and farther away from me. Another wave toppled her over and as her head disappeared beneath the white surf I thought for the zillionth time that day that I wished my children were just a little more afraid of the water.  I meant to chastise her again, but she came up with a smile on her face. She coughed, caught her breath, and laughed THIS IS THE FUNNEST DAY EVER.