Monday, August 22, 2016

Thirteen in Seattle

We have a teenager in the house, y'all and looking over all the pictures from previous years is messing me up!

I mean, those older people tried to warn me....but when days of sick babies and sleep deprived mama seem long, who can believe that years fly.    My daughter is 13 this month, but honestly, I feel like I have been mothering FOREVER.  I hardly remember my life pre-babies anymore.  This is partially due to my ever failing memory, but mostly because I was blessed with a new identity that one summer night and I never looked back.  Who am I apart from being a mama to 5? I can hardly describe...

Back to my baby girl.   I just reread this post from 3 years back and giggled at some things that were present at 10.  Some things have changed, but some are very much still there.

Over the past year, especially, I have been thinking a lot about how her and I are similar and how we are different.   The differences are so great that sometimes I am at awe that we share genetical makeup.   I love our differences, but sometimes I look at her and say--"Yep, that is so me!"-- with pride and other times with my head hung low hanging on to grace...  

I decided to document some of those things for the sake of maybe revisiting it in a few years for another chuckle.  

  • She is a blond, I am a brunette
  • She's got beautiful eyes that are blue, mine are the same shape as hers but brown.  
  • Though we both have curly hair, she loves to wear hers straight.  
  • We are both very responsible especially when it comes to schooling (Runs in the family--thanks, mom!)
  •  She very much cares about her appearance in public, while I do too, I have no problem running to a grocery store in the same clothes I spent the day cleaning in.  
  • Abby is obsessed with high end brands.  I can care less and prefer that I don't advertise any company's logo for free. (Praying she will grow over it).  
  • She's also obsessed with cars.  Talks a lot about owning a fancy one one day.  All I care about is that it runs and is roomy enough for our fam.  
  •  While we both love sushi and other Asian food, I prefer to reserve soy sauce for those cuisines while she can add to it every meal.
  •  She is athletic and I am (was?) too.  
  • I love to read for pleasure, she reserves it for academic purposes.
  • I love her choice for clothing more with every day that passes...
  • She loves to play her music loud.  I'm getting way to old for that... 
  • She loves the mall, I prefer boutique style shopping.  Choices overwhelm me.  
  • The girl loooooves high heels.  Ouch--is all I have say about that.  
  • She loves to cook and experiment with different combination of flavors--I am a devout recipe follower.  
  • She's got a knack for organizing, please don't open my cupboards. 
  • She plays the piano better than me, has an ear for music and also plays the flute.  
  • She is an extrovert all the way. 
  • Though we share jeans, she is a pear, I'm an apple.  
There is probably more, but thats all I can think of right now.   We spent her big day in Seattle--here is a quick recap.

We woke up early, but ended up leaving around 8am.   Our first stop was of course the Pike's Market. We were mostly impressed with the street musicians and various seafood--foot long
lobsters, y'all!

The market itself is a bit overwhelming--lots of people and lots of vendors.   I don't do well with too many choices.  We made our way through the covered area and out to the street where we found Pike Place Chowder.  The line was loooong but definitely worth the wait.  

Though my husband enjoyed his lobster roll, I think I will skip my crab roll next time and just get a double serving of chowder.   Yum!

After lunch we got coffee here.  Another score (not money wise, but flavor)! Its located on the upper floor of the building right across from the market--feels worlds away from the hustle when you are there.  My latte was so smooth and delicious and the decor and architecture is so so beautiful.  If I had more than one day to spend in Seattle, I might have just camped myself there for a whole day with a book in hand.

 Goodness, she looks all grown up!

We passed the ever colorful Gum Wall on our way to the Ferris Wheel and Pier 59.  I wanted to keep walking, but teenagers had to take a picture ;).

It was the perfect day for the Ferris Wheel.  The 360 degree view from the cabins (?) was so pretty, definitely something I would love to do again.

Pier 59 is full of gift shops, an ice cream shop and seafood restaurants.  Restaurants range from casual to fine dining; we gravitated towards casual.   The gift shops had mostly tourist material with some gems such as these mixed in:

After Pier 59, we decided to walk all the way to the Sculpture Park.  Ahem.  Maybe not such a great idea.  It was farther then we thought.   Would have been wiser to park closer to the park and take a walk in the park instead.

By the time we made it to the park, no one felt like walking much further.

Mixed in our trip was a parking ticket (almost a towing ticket--sign of relief!) and my husband being mistaken for a homeless person while waiting for us near the gift shop.  We had all had a good chuckle.

 Love you baby girl, many many more Happy Birthdays to ya!  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Free-End of the School Year Reflections

It seemed like June would never get here and did.

Whoever thought of the idea to have school go through the middle of June here in the PNW has probably never attended school in the summer.  Growing up in Russia, traditionally, September 1st marked the beginning of the school year, and June 1st marked the beginning of summer.  Three solid months off.  Simple math.  Brilliant idea.
As usual, kids started to check out in early May and by the time June came along...fuhgeddaboudit!   
As a parent, I checked out around the same time as well.  Overnight,  I seemed to have forgotten that they still get homework and that I might still need to read the paperwork that continues to come home.    And as a teacher... well this may very well sum it up.  

My professional and personal life limped to the finish line slow but steady and starting today, I'm a free bird.  Sort of--if you don't get 5 human beings 12 and under that will accompany me in my flight full time.    But seriously, being a teacher is awesome in so many ways, but June (though half of!), July, and August make it that much sweeter.  

I was anxious about this school year.  My baby was around 9 months old when I returned to work, not sleeping through the night, and with soccer and other activities, I was worried it would be a hard year. What I didn't know is that our family will be hit with a lot of sicknesses (all temporary though--grace!) including yours truly who was down for about 5 days with a bad ear/throat infection.     In addition to this, we would buy a 1920s farmhouse in our dream area that needs LOTS of love and even more work, begin renovating it and go through process of prepping for and putting our house on the market.   A separate post about this purchase is due, but the reason for this big (for us) endeavour was so that our kids could have space to roam around and we could be debt free (or close to it).

Of course, my husband's job had to pick up crazy speed in January and it seems like we've been on a hamster wheel for as long as forever.  

School year started off really well.  My students were wonderful, lots of teaching and learning was happening, and then as soon as I thought about how great everything is going....A few kids with complicated, big personalities got thrown into my mix and my job became a lot more interesting challenging.   One group of kids in particular,  could not have been more diverse in many different ways.  I love diversity, but polar opposite personalities, language levels, and abilities all in the same class present itself a complicated bunch to steer in one direction.  

Slow and steady, limping towards the end there...they too made it and are now free.  

I said good bye to many seniors who grew up right in front of my eyes (transformation from a freshman to senior though) and sincerely wished them the best of luck now that they are free from the 7-2 daily commitment.  

In May, I'm often tempted to sign kids up for summer camps and classes and then I'm thankful that I didn't.   Summer is not the time I want to feel restricted and rush everyone out the door in the mornings.    For us, being free to plan our day however we want to has worked in the past.  This summer, the kids will do some overnight church camps, but those are a breeze to get ready for and are a load of fun for the kids.  

What is different this summer though is that our house is still on the market (SIGN).  So, keeping it presentable with 5 kids living their lives is going to be a challenge.    Showings that are scheduled several hours ahead are grace, but I am getting a little anxious for the whole thing to resolve with an offer.  

Here is to a carefree (ha! totally fooling myself here, but still) summer. Wish you, friends, some carefree days this summer as well!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Pee Happens

I should have followed by instinct to unload everyone at home and call it an evening after making a u-turn two blocks from the grocery store I was heading to because one of my babies fell asleep on the way.   Instead, I gave into the plea of my two oldest to take them to the park as their cousin was playing soccer there.  I'm a sucker for soccer.   I love to watch them play and that they love it so much.  So, I had them grab a milk bottle from the house and back up the hill we went.

Tim after first soccer practice.   Lovely.  

As I waited in the car with one baby sleeping and the other jumping on my lap, I grinned from ear to ear as I watched them play.    Pretty soon, the thought that the baby just drank the last of milk dawned on me and I started thinking about getting back to the grocery store somehow.

BUT, the four year old woke up and wanted to play and the weather was so nice and if it weren't for the complete darkness that we soon found ourselves in, we would have stayed longer. 

With my youngest three  boys in tow (the oldest asked to play at his cousin's for a bit), I glanced at the clock and against my better judgment, I decided to do a quick stop at our neighborhood store at 8:45 in the evening.

Needless to say, a quick stop turned into an hour long trip.  They opted for one of those hard to maneuver kid shopping carts  and enjoyed them for about five and a half minutes.  That's about when the struggle began and it was real. Between handling the baby climbing in and out of the "driver" section and wanting to be held and to run around, the four year old asking to buy this and that, the eight year old doing the same as both the four year old and the baby, the kind shoppers who were complementing my monolingual four year old on his shiner, I thought I was never to complete this trip.

As we finally, somehow made our way around our usual route, I remembered that we didn't have much of anything for the late dinner we were about to have.  So in my effort to find something hot, economical and healthy,  I went back and worth between the deli isles while chasing a toddler and answering unimportant questions that my  talk abled children wanted answered.

In my despair I settled for pizza and baked chicken.  Because we had to wait for them to bake the pizza, I, being an efficient mom (ha!) headed to the register to pay.  That's when all hell broke loose and the straw that broke the camels back happened.

As I was getting ready to pay, holding a baby tightly on my hip, a lady asked to excuse her as she made a weird movement around us.   Puzzled, l looked around and saw that something has dripped on the floor around us.  My immediate thoughts were---"Water?  Did the baby spill water on himself and the floor?  Wait a minute, we never brought water.  Oh no.  No!"  In about few seconds more liquid was on the floor and that's when the baby escaped my embrace and it was evident to everyone standing in that now long line that he peed through his diaper or that I was THAT kind of mother that has a kid pee through his diaper.

In that same moment as my feeling of inadequacy was  being validated.  I heard a man who was standing behind me gently and quietly say the following:

 "Pee Happens."

I turned my burgundy colored face around and smiled wide as he smiled back and shrug his shoulders.
I don't remember what happened next.  I remember apologizing and trying to refrain from laughing. The laugh mimicked a nervous laugh of someone who is about to become crazy.  I continued to laugh as we marched to the bathroom.  I took out a diaper that I was so thankful to find at the bottom of the diaper bag and a clean outfit.  Grace.  

I laughed when I kissed my baby's cheeks and naked tummy as I changed him.  I laughed as I took a glimpse of my self in the mirror--wearing mismatched tops and an awful hairdo.  I laughed at the fact that I would have never laughed if I wasn't a mom in my thirties.

My husband coincidently pulled up to the store on his way home from choir practice just as we were ready to leave.  I laughed harder when I retold him the events that he barely missed.

On my way home, all I could think of were those timely words of "Pee Happens!"  He has no idea how much I needed to hear them today and for the days to come.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tempted to Judge

 Earlier this week I was an observer of a scene that stirred something in me.   It happened in a library close to my home.   I noticed that the kid section was unusually busy; very soon it was obvious that the commotion was caused by a daycare group that was visiting.  As I was choosing books for my littles, I couldn't help but notice the interactions between the teachers and the toddlers present.  Four two year olds per one teacher was the ratio with 12 kids  present.    For about 45 minutes that they were there, two teachers were busy choosing "teacher books" as they called it  and reminded kids not to touch, and one was trying to keep an eye on the 12 kids who were forbidden to leave an area thats it about 10' by 20'. Throughout this entire time, I heard a lot of reminders, commands such as "Stop!" and "Sit Down!" the tone of which was not in a gentle reminder way but more of an utterance of annoyance. Not a single praise or compliment or positive one on one interaction.   At one point I might have cried a little with one of the toddlers who was put into a timeout and started to cry "Mama!" in the middle of the library.   

When I got home, I fumed with disbelief  and ranted the story to my dad, then to my sister and my husband of how this daycare located in the middle to upper-middle class area can have workers like that take care of the kids.   I mean, do these parents, who fork over close to a grand per month for these kids know how their kids are being treated?  Do they know that these teachers didn't even make an effort to be nice to the kids while out in public?  What then goes on inside the daycare?  
I went on and on and on...  until I stopped and thought. 

Would it be fair for someone to judge the kind of a parent I am based on a 45 minute observation?

I too rely on others to care of my kids.   
I too do not know how they are really being treated when I am not home.
My ratio of  compliments to reminders sucks.  
I utter reminders and threats in a tone of annoyance as well.

The words of Mathew 7:5 are spot on:  

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."  

In their defense, those daycare workers can argue that they are underpaid, understaffed,undertrained, and are simply treating it like a job not a career or an investment. 

What excuses can I resort to?   Yes, I am often outnumbered and always sleep deprived, but I have learned better and these children of mine are just that--MINE.  

I sow every day in hopes that one day I can reap the sweet fruits of my labor.  What does my labor looks like on a daily basis?   Does what comes out of my mouth build them up or tear them down?   

Reminders are always reactive, what can I do to practice responding to their actions in a way thats firm but kind?   What about sibling interaction?  How do I handle tattle-tailing, play turned fight, teasing and nagging in an non annoyed kind of way?  

The truth is, I don't know the answers to these questions.  Or maybe I do until I am in a middle of making dinner with a baby on my hip, a preschooler who is pulling the string of my apron open, a pre-teen  who chose that very moment to complain about the fact that  she doesn't have anything to wear again and a 7 year old who is crying about his 9 year brother 's comeback being far from gentle. 

Yeah, it is then that it because clear I am in no position to judge anyone no matter how tempting it might be to me, the observer.