Thursday, October 28, 2010

Keenan Takes a Nap

Keenan has the knack of falling asleep nearly anywhere.  That is, other than in his bed and at the designated bed time. When he saw these photos of his mid Cars Wii siesta, he asked me, "Mommy, why do you always take pictures of me when I sleep, is it because I look cute when I sleep?"  Yes, my little bear, the answer is yes.

Block Party

We have some really nice neighbors and they are far more social and extroverted than we are. They are able to throw a block party together with a moment's notice and don't seem to exhibit even the slightest amount of stress.  As for me? I have always been an introvert and tend to be uncomfortable in large gatherings.  Sophia seems to take after me while Keenan is ready to be the life of the party.  

Sophia did have a chance to play "Feed the Kitty" with some new friends while Keenan focused on keeping his distance from another little boy who had been monopolizing the electric car for most of the evening.  Keenan finally got his chance to ride the car and he wasn't about it give it back after only riding it for three minutes.  With each pass, Keenan eyed the little boy warily because the boy kept pursuing him.  Keenan rode for another five minutes and then gallantly drove up to a girl that had been waiting and handed the car over to her with a flourish, but not before staring down the other little boy who tried his best to oust it from the little girl. Apparently, chivalry can still be found, even among four year olds.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

All Smiles

Daddy's on his way home, so it is all smiles with the kids.  Poor Keenan is still on the mend from a unpleasant bout with an ailment that produced prodigious amounts of vomit.  Thankfully, he seems to be feeling a lot better.  

Oh, and there was that little incident at school where his face met a chair (hence the cut over his eye).  I'm trying to get used to the phone calls from the school letting me know he got hurt, but it still racks my nerves.  I really should be used to it by now, this little boy has two left feet and love of danger.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Great Concentration

When Keenan is playing with his trains, he exhibits such great concentration.  He is utterly absorbed in his imagination and has great running commentary about the action.  I love just sitting and watching him play.  

The kids also love playing their Leapsters and both are unable to communicate with the outside world when they are in the Leapster Zone.

Enough Words...It's Time for Some Photos!

Painting Day was a great success.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids were enthusiastic, it was a lot of fun.  I think we'll have painting days more often.   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parking lots and pre-schools

I wrote this for my son's pre-school but I thought it wouldn't hurt to post it on the blog too.

As I was pulling into the parking lot to drop my son off to pre-school the other day, I noticed a mother backing up her car while she was talking on her cell phone. For me, seeing this simple act in a parking lot full of children triggered some very unwelcome memories.

In a former life (the one I had before I had kids), I was a police officer in California. By the very nature of the work, police officers tend to see a lot of things they would just as soon forget. For me, the memory that haunts me most is an accident that occurred outside a local pre-school.

While a Mother was dropping off her older son off at pre-school, her younger son unexpectedly pulled away from her grasp (it was a hot day and their palms were sweaty and slick). She immediately reached out for him but before she could grab him, he was struck by a passing car. The Mother told me he had been laughing just before the car hit him, he never saw the danger he was in. The little boy suffered a severe head injury and other officers and paramedics struggled to stabilize him at the scene. When he was ready to be transported, I was tasked with driving the Mother to the hospital. The Mother’s cries and screams of anguish in that fifteen minute drive is a sound I will never forget.

The little boy survived, but had significant brain damage. He would never be the same. His Mother, Brother, Father and other family members and friends would never be the same. In this instance, there was nothing the driver could have done to prevent the accident, but she was horrified and traumatized. She would never be the same.

The tragedy took less than five seconds to unfold but the pain and loss would last a lifetime.

There is one question I would like you to ask yourself…is that phone call really that important? Is it worth risking someone else’s life? Is it worth risking forever altering your life, your family’s life?

Inattention and distractions in school parking lots are not problems unique to the parking lot at my son's pre-school. I watch the same things happening when I take my daughter to her elementary school. Many parents drive talking on their cell phones, or talk to each other out the window of their cars, they often drive too fast, and can be extraordinarily impatient and reckless. Due to the way children’s brains develop, small children have poor impulse control and by their very nature are impatient and unpredictable. Putting all these factors together in a crowded and busy parking lot is a recipe for disaster.

We are the adults and so it’s up to us to act responsibly and attentively. Put down your cell phone, ignore any incoming phone calls, slow down and pay attention. Just because your child seems to be responsible, don’t trust them to make good decisions while they are in a parking lot. Carry them, or hold them firmly by the wrist and don’t start chatting with your friend until they are safely inside the school. Avoid walking your kids through the parking lot behind other cars, use the designated walking areas and medians, even if the route is considerably longer.

Slowing down and paying better attention might cost you a few seconds of your time but it also just might save you a lifetime of regret.

Additional comments. Donna T. made some important additional points in the comment section. Donna is also former law enforcement and her observations about little ones being too little to be seen by cars backing up is incredibly important. I needed to keep my letter for the school at one page and I struggled with space and wanted to add this important aspect to parking lot hazards but just didn't have the room. Thanks Donna for taking the time to point out how vulnerable little kids are walking in any parking lot, school or otherwise.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trains and the Park

Today Sophia had a play date for three hours and Keenan was very upset that he couldn't go with her. It was time for some quality Mother and Son time.

Our community has a really unique feel to it. Residents jokingly say they don't like leaving the 'compound', it has most of the amenities you could ever need and some really wonderful parks. I love that we are in a somewhat remote suburb but there are times that I feel like I'm in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. Now that the weather has cooled down a bit, there is so much activity in our community. People walking, running, riding bikes, playing Frisbee, huge cookouts in the park, ducks to be fed, playgrounds to be played, and most importantly for Keenan.....trains to be ridden.

The kiddie train that loops the perimeter of the main park is a highlight for him. He always begs to go on it (which isn't always easy because it's really not that cheap) and he smiles from ear to ear and cuddles up close as the train plods along. The park is always playing the Beatles at the train depot and Keenan loves to tell me "listen, I think that's the Beatles" I praise him for his astute ear and then we play the game of- whose singing, John or Paul...he almost always gets this wrong but he is so proud when he gets it right with his second guess :)

So today I felt so incredibly lucky to spend three hours in the park with our son. Riding a train, feeding the ducks (especially the funny looking one with the strange beak), playing in the playground and getting ice cream. Yes, indeed, I so enjoyed trains in the park with Keenan.

Growing Pains

Sophia is sweet, smart, sociable and loves to play. But she is human, and as such, she has foibles. She can be a tad bossy when playing with others, be it adults, or other children, Sophia has a temper (which she usually only displays around people she is close to), and she can be incredibly stubborn.

So far, her teachers adore her because she is bright, helpful and very compliant. In fact, when they split her Kindergarten class because it was too large, the two teachers actually argued over who got to have her in their class.

Sophia looks forward to going to school and seemed to be making friends. But this week, I noticed she seemed a little sad when I took her to school. I asked her if everything was going OK at school or if there was anythings he wanted to talk about, but she just shook her head no. Talking about her feelings does not come easily for Sophia and it takes quite a bit of prodding to get her to discuss what is bothering her. When I noticed the sadness three days in a row, I decided it was time to gently push the issue.

My first concern was that she was perhaps being bullied by one of her classmates. There is a boy in her class that picked on her a lot the first couple weeks of school. I caught it early and had talked to the teachers who seemed quite responsive to the situation. Sophia said the boy no longer picks on her and has actually helped her on occasion. After several minutes of talking to her, she finally gave up what was bothering her. She said that she doesn't feel like she has any friends. The one girl that she had been eating lunch with no longer sits with her and actually moves to eat with another girl. Sophia is feeling confused and lonely and my heart just aches for her.

We are lucky, Sophia's school permits parents to join their children at lunch. I had been doing that once or twice a week since school started. I don't want to go everyday, because I wanted to her to make her own friends. But when she told me how she felt, I told her I would join her for lunch more often and that made her happy.

I'm trying to reach out and arrange 'play dates' for her. That seems to have helped a little, but she is very sensitive and if she feels like the friend is playing with someone else more, her feelings are hurt. One on one play dates seem to work out better but it takes time to get to know people.

I explained that we are new to the neighborhood and that many of the girls went to pre-school together and have known each other for a while and that sometimes it just takes a little time to meet people and make good friends. That seems to make her feel better but there is no getting around that fact that she is melancholy right now. To make matters worse, Keenan and Sophia are fighting like the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat these days. I know the sibling stuff can tough. I naively thought that because they were seeing less of each other, they would be happy to spend time with one another. It doesn't seem to be working out quite that way.

In the meantime, I will keep setting up 'play dates' (I have to admit, I really dislike that phrase). Tomorrow morning, I'm sticking the kids in the jogging stroller and we are going to run to Walgreens to pick up so water color paints. The three of us are going to have a paint party tomorrow morning on the back patio. When I made this suggestion at dinner, her face lit up and she cheered up considerably. I know both kids are missing their Daddy but we are on a 7 day countdown and they can't wait to see him.

Life just gets a little more complicated the older you get. My biggest hope is that Sophia and Keenan have a relatively smooth road because they have already been through so much. But I know that the road of life has bumps and ruts and it seldom leads to where you expect. Mostly I hope they both can find contentment and a few good friends along the way.

A Punch in the Gut

Everyone who has ever had kids will tell you how fast they grow up. But the first couple of years, I was so busy changing diapers, dressing kids, feeding everyone and waking up 15 times a night with Keenan that it was almost a blur. And honestly, there are aspects of that time period that I do not miss.

Then yesterday, Sophia said something to me that hit me like a punch to the gut. We were at the local park and I was pushing Keenan on the swing and Sophia was on the swing next to him. Sometimes Sophia will ask for a small push to get started but she is very capable of keeping herself going. At one point, I reached over to give her an extra push just to make sure she wasn't feeling left out. Her response? "No Mommy! I don't need help anymore, I can swing by myself."

That's when it hit me....she is growing up, starting to become more self sufficient and there are just some things she doesn't need or want me to help her with anymore. I imagine that before long, this phenomena will become more prevalent, and Keenan will soon follow suit.

Just like that, I felt this immense wave of sadness. I'm so proud of all that she is becoming, but I just didn't realize how it would be tinged with such regret. That moment, the one where she would prod "Mommy, please push me on the swing", that moment has passed. And that's just how quickly it happened.

So feeling nostalgic, I looked at the kids' baby books. When I look at the photos of me with the kids, I see a woman who looks happy but who often looks exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed. I see two little babies doing things that were sweet and cute. They still do sweet and cute things each and every day, but those early years are gone. Thankfully those moments are well documented in photos and on this blog. Sophia's comment reminded me that when the kids ask me to do something for them that I know they can do themselves, sometimes it's OK to go ahead and help them anyway, because before I know it, they won't be asking anymore and those moments will have passed.

"Up" was a downer..............

On Friday nights, I like to pop some popcorn and watch a movie with the kids. It's a good way for us to reconnect after their long week at school and I also like to give the kids a chance to stay up a little later than on school nights. The kids have enjoyed this tradition, that is, until last night.

I had ordered the Pixar movie "Up" from Netflix some time ago but it has been sitting around for the better part of a month. I decided that last night was a good time to watch it.

I have to preface this by saying that Sophia is very easily frightened by movies while Keenan usually remains pretty unruffled, especially if Colin or I are nearby.

Keenan and I were enjoying "Up" and Sophia was predictably a little less enthusiastic. But as the movie got about 3/4 the way through, Keenan started to inch closer to me, which is not unusual during tense scenes. However, when the dogs turned vicious again, and the bad man was trying to hurt Kevin and his friends, Keenan came unglued, and Sophia quickly followed suit. I could not turn the movie off fast enough for them. Even after the T.V. doors were shut, Keenan was repeatedly wailing "I miss Daddy" and tears were streaming down his sweet little face. I felt so bad because it is so unlike him. It took a long time to get everyone calmed down. I'm still not entirely sure what triggered his anxiety but today, he did tell me that he wanted Daddy there to protect him when he was scared.

So Honey, you truly do not need worry that your kids are so used to you being away that they no longer need you. If anything, your absences cause them to need you all the more. I'm sure that's not much comfort but I thought you should know.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Long and the Short of It Revisited

I have had some people try to find my update post in September (The Long and the Short of It) and, for some reason, it doesn't show up on September's archive and I can't figure it out.  So for the benefit of those who are directly trying to find this particular post  (Mom, you know who you are :)   I'm posting it again.  For those who have already read it, I apologize for the repeat.

September 2010

I'll start with the obvious....prior to yesterday's post, it had been a long time since I ventured into the blogging world.

Suffice to say, we were busy, very busy and I just didn't have a lot of extra energy at the end of the day. We have made three major moves in four years and I'm hoping this last one is the last one for many years to come.

Seattle was beautiful and we had fantastic neighbors. For Colin, the commute to Japan was quite easy. That being said, the schools in our area were very poor and it was also far colder than I could have imagined. The rain and the gloom really didn't bother me but I discovered I was really sick of being cold. At the end of June, it was still in the 50s! I grew up mostly in Arizona. Many of my closest friends were there. I longed for my friends and some warmer weather.

Thankfully, Colin was on board. We had almost purchased a house in Phoenix back in 2005. So he was familiar with the area and liked it. Of course, he had yet to experience a Phoenix summer, but I figured he went to college in Florida and could probably handle the heat. We have been here since July. Although we are ready for the mercury to dip below 100 degrees, we have all handled the summer just fine. In fact, the kids spent most it learning to swim (and, in fact, are still working on it).

We have bought a house and are in a school district that offers a partial immersion program for Mandarin. We were lucky to get Sophia in and she is loving it! Keenan is going to pre-school and never seems to want to leave when I pick him up.

We are extremely grateful that Colin has a good job, but the extended time away is hard on everyone, especially the kids. We know that this is how it has to be for now, we just hope that things will get a bit easier as time goes on. At least now I have close friends nearby and that has made a huge difference! After we moved here, one of our friends volunteered to take the kids for an afternoon so I could run some errands. When I went to pick them up, some mutual friends had stopped by their house. We said hi and exchanged hugs and Sophia asked me "how do you know them?" I explained they were old friends of mine and she just looked at me with the blank stare. It occurred to me that over the years, she has rarely seen me interact with friends, mostly just family. Old friends were an alien concept but now she really looks forward to seeing them. She is also starting to make her own friends and we are about to enter the dawn of the 'playdate' era.

Both kids seem to be fascinated by the desert, with the understandable exception of rattlesnakes and scorpions and a variety of creepy crawlies. Unfortunately, we have already had several scorpions in our house (the house had been vacant for quite a while) and we had to pay to have the house "sealed" and hopefully there won't be any more scorpion encounters.

As for mammals, we have also had a couple of encounters on that front. One evening, while my Mom was visiting, we took a family walk. I knelt down to check the dog's paw and I heard Colin, my Mom and the kids talking about the kitty cat across the street. I looked up and said "uh, guys, that's no kitty cat, that's a Bobcat." Thankfully, he didn't seem to be interested in us, so we were able to move on without incident. Hopefully this curbed any urge the kids might have had to pet outdoor "kitties." Especially since we have had a couple stroll through our front yard at dusk while we were outside. Coyotes seem to like to hang out by the local Walgreens and we have spotted some crossing the road in our downtown area. We live in a planned community, but we are on the edge of the desert, so it kind of goes with the territory. I'm happy to report that we have had more pleasant encounters with Roadrunners, Chipmunks, Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Jackrabbits, coveys of Quail and Lizards galore. When I get back from my runs, the kids want a full report on how many of these I spotted while I was out and about.

We tried to get a second dog to help keep Marz company. She was sweet and tiny, but also came from an abusive home. Keenan's boisterous nature scared her and she nipped him, then Sophia and then the rest of us. Though she didn't have big teeth, we couldn't take the chance of having her hurt someone, so unfortunately, having two dogs was short lived.

Sophia is now five years old and Keenan just turned four. They are both trying to learn how to read and really seem to enjoy their new home. Sophia told me she never wants to move again. I hope we never have to because I'm really happy to be home and I'm sick of moving and really sick of painting walls. But with the aviation business, you just never know.

In the meantime, we have been working on getting the grandparents to relocate. I suspect it's going to be a tough sell since I don't think they trust us not to move again. I can't say I entirely blame them.

Sophia loves wearing dresses and shorts. If given a choice, she will always choose a dress. The only time we can get her in anything but sandals is when she is playing tennis or doing some other sports activity and that is after considerable cajoling from me. She is sweet, curious and smarter than a whip.

Keenan is funny as ever. He chooses new characters to be every day (last week it was Scooby, Daphne and Fred, this week he is Rainbow Fish). He talks to everyone and says a lot of funny things. The pre-school staff can't get over how articulate, smart and charming he is (most of the time anyway). He is creative, loves to draw and sing and has an incredible imagination.

Both are growing up so fast, it feels like a blur. But this is such a great age, I'm just doing my best to take it all in and get as many hugs and kisses as they are willing to part with (before they get any older and decide those things aren't cool).

That's all for now, I just can't write like I used to, but I can post more photos :)

Friday, October 08, 2010


Sophia hates wearing pants.  I strongly suspect that one of the reasons she loves being in Arizona because she can wear dresses nearly every day.  There is only one problem.....she sometimes forgets to put on her underwear.

Because of this intermittent oversight, I do an "underwear check" before we leave the house to take her to school.  However, today I was running late and in my rush, I forgot to do this routine check. So I took her to school, completely unaware she had chosen today to go commando.

Fast forward to a couple of hours later.  I was getting my hair done and my hair dresser had just finished putting in the last of my highlight foils when I heard my cell phone ring.  Because the kids are in school, I always check to see who is calling just in case the school needed to get a hold of me for some emergency.  Sure enough, it was Sophia's school and my heart went into my throat, thinking she had gotten hurt.  I should have picked up on the embarrassed tone of the woman who was calling.  After reassuring me that Sophia was not injured, she paused and said "umm...a fellow student noticed that Sophia wasn't wearing any undergarments today and we were wondering if you could bring some."  Looking at myself in the mirror, with foils sticking out in every direction, bearing a strong resemblance to the Bride of Frakenstien, I asked her if it was possible if I could bring the missing wardrobe pieces at lunch time. Fortunately, that was agreeable to the school. 

At lunch time, I sauntered into the lunch room and ambled up to Sophia and asked her to accompany me to the rest room.  She followed me without protest but when I started to take her into the stall, she said "but Mommy, I don't have to go the bathroom" I replied, "ahhh, but I think you do" pulling her Fancy Nancy underwear out of my purse with a flourish.  She giggled and said "I guess I forgot my underwear" and put them on without further delay.

When I picked her up from school and talked to her teacher.  She was very nice about it and fortunately, it was one of Sophia's girl friends that noticed the commando status and privately brought it to the teacher's attention.  

In the future, I don't think I will ever forget to check Sophia's underwear status.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sophia Is Reading!

Sophia is finally starting to read on her own! Tonight she read us four books and there was only one word she couldn't figure out.  I'm so proud of all her efforts! She is growing up sooooo fast.


Finding Ourselves Again.........

The past two years have presented us with a fair amount of challenges and change.  In the midst of such turmoil, it's easy to lose yourself as individuals.  Colin recently told me that he finally is starting to feel like himself again.  

Starting to fly in another country with such great cultural differences was difficult and he tried to change his flying style to adapt to his environment.  Now he realizes he has to fly the way that works best for him and just be himself. He says it's a relief to feel centered again.

I can relate to his experience on a different level. Quite unconsciously, I found myself going into survival mode to cope with the drastic changes we have experienced in the past couple of years. I pretty much withdrew from the outside world and really did a poor job of keeping up with my friends.  I stopped doing some of my favorite things and I didn't even realize it was happening. 

Perhaps it has something to do with my feeling of having come home (to Arizona that is) and getting a little more settled, that has allowed me to take a deep breath (for what seems like the first time in over a year), and get back to doing more of what I enjoy.  Spending time reading to the kids, going for walks as a family, reading a good mystery novel before bed, taking the dog for a walk by myself, or maybe just sit and do nothing but enjoy the sunset.  It seems like I should also add riding to this list but I don't think I'm quite ready to own another horse or devote the time needed to keep up said horse.  But I am enjoying playing tennis.  I'm not very good at it but I think I'm going to start taking lessons next week and hopefully that will enable me to play decently enough that I don't feel so guilty for running poor Colin all over the court, to the ends of the earth, and back again. 

Originally, I created this blog as way to deal with our journey (and wait) to become parents. Once the kids were in the picture (literally), the blog morphed into my musings about parenthood and, most importantly, to document Sophia and Keenan's childhood.  I did pretty good the first two and a half years but have failed pretty miserably the past two.  I feel like I'm ready to resume what I set out to do.  I don't think that many people still read this blog, but since I'm primarily writing it for the kids, I'm okay with that.  Besides, this way I won't have to worry so much about my typos :)

In the meantime, I'm going to head to bed, snuggle in and break out the latest Janet Evanovitch book and have a few laughs.  And that feels pretty good indeed.   

Sophia's New Ride

Sophia had completely outgrown her little 12" bike and it was clearly time for a larger bike. Unfortunately, in spite of the training wheels, last week she took a pretty good tumble off it and has not wanted to get back on.  

The only way I could finally persuade her to get back into the saddle was to plaster every form of knee, elbow and hand protection on her that I could find.  I also have to walk alongside her, ready to steady any bobble before she will agree to even get near her beautiful new bike.  

The weather has finally cooled down a bit, so when I picked her up from school today, I suggested we go outside so she could ride her bike.  She looked at me horrified and emphatically shook her head no.  When that didn't dissuade me, she took a different tact "riding my bike is so boring."  I countered that I did not want her to be one of the few five year olds in her class that couldn't/wouldn't ride a bike.  She did not appear to be impressed with my argument and promptly changed the subject.

Well, I must have made a little headway, because not 15 minutes after we got home, she disappeared while I was prepping their lunch boxes for tomorrow.  I assumed Sophia was playing with her dolls in her room.  So imagine my surprise when she came around the corner in her helmet and all her protective glory, and announced she was ready to ride her bike.  She actually made it out of the garage, and she seemed a little more confident, so I think progress was made.  I just hope it continues.   

Even the Dog Gets Sad

I will preface this post by stating that we are very grateful that Colin has a good job.  I remind myself of that fact nearly every day.  Having said that, his prolonged absences have been difficult for all of us, especially the kids.  Thank goodness for Skype, I'm not sure how we would have survived without it.  At the moment, for the most part, Colin is away 20 or 21 days at a time is home 11.  Some months are worse, with him gone for 30 plus days.  Colin knows he is lucky to have a paycheck but feels like he is missing his kids growing up.  As for me, each and every time we take Colin to the airport and I watch Sophia's face crumple up the moment he leaves the car, or I hold the kids tight while they sob because they miss their Daddy so much, my heart twists and breaks a little more each time.  

I honestly don't know how military families do this and even endure far longer separations on a routine basis.  I have the utmost respect for their incredible sacrifice.

On Monday, Colin left for Japan.  This time it was my face that crumpled when he left the car and kids tried to cheer me up.  Marz accompanied us to the airport and even he looked forlorn when the door shut.  This is how he has been looking for the past three days, he gets so depressed and withdrawn when Colin leaves.  

Today we pulled out the calendar and began the count down to Daddy's return.  The upside is that when he is home, he is fully present and wants nothing more than to spend time with his family.  All of us truly treasure our time together and I hope we always remember this hard won lesson.  

Monday, October 04, 2010

Montezuma's Castle

From the time Colin and I met and he found out that I grew up in Arizona, he always talked about the time he traveled to Arizona with his family when he was kid.  The thing he remembered most vividly (that is after the Donkey poop on the Grand Canyon trail memory-which by all family accounts were Colin's undoing in the holding down your food department) was Montezuma's Castle.  

It has always been a favorite spot of mine, so I looked forward to visiting it with him.  I didn't imagine that it would take some nine years and two kids later to actually make it there, but things unfold as they do and we finally got around to it.  The kid's thought it was great fun (although maybe a tad too hot for such an adventure).  Both kids wanted to know why they couldn't climb up there (sorry the site has been off limits for the better part of a half a century) and Colin couldn't get over how much smaller it seemed than he remembered -isn't that the way it goes........  Nevertheless, the trip was a lot of fun and I can't wait to play more of the tour guide role and perhaps see a few tourist sites I never got around to seeing in my 22 years in the Grand Canyon State.

To be honest, I can't remember which photos were taken by Colin and which were taken by Sophia, but here it is all the same....