Archive for March, 2016

Back at the beginning of January we vaguely started talking about preschool options for Juliette – she’s been really happy at her current school, but it’s a small, humble space and we thought this coming Fall would be a good time to introduce her to a new environment and expand her horizons a bit.  Sure, the next school year wouldn’t start for another eight months, but we wanted to be ahead of the game and take some time to weigh our options.  Turns out we almost missed the game, as open houses and preschool fairs and application deadlines all happen in January and February!  We were quickly swept up in the frenzy and after much research, decided to apply to a couple of programs.  One place in particular really piqued my interest - after speaking with their director and touring their school, I eagerly texted Shane:  “Such a great space!  Art rooms and music lessons!  Super-thoughtful teaching!  Organic meals!  I WANT IN!”  We moved forward with the application process, excited and hopeful despite our knowledge that the Seattle preschool circuit is very (very) competitive.

Last Friday a letter came in the mail with the preschool’s name in the upper left corner.  I had a brief flashback to the way my heart fluttered when I was eighteen years old, tearing open letters from the colleges I had applied to.  I pulled out a single piece of paper (never a good sign!) and then my heart sank.  “We’re sorry, but…”


The past week has been a flurry of unhappy, unseemly emotions as that letter has hung heavy in my mind.  I’ve lost sleep and shed tears and probably driven Shane bat-shit crazy as I’ve processed the rejection, surprising even myself at how completely nuts I’ve been.

There were twinges of guilt and shame that Shane and I can’t give Juliette the best of the best.  Did I really do all that I could to get her in?  Was it my essay?  I must not have adequately conveyed her joyous, fun-loving character!   And maybe I should have offered more of myself to the school?  I could have volunteered to take time off of work a couple of times a month to teach art classes or help with playground duty or disinfect Legos or something!  Have I failed her in some way?

There was also a bit of self-righteous indignation, as my ultra-protective mama bear instinct wondered how they could turn down a chance to engage with my sweet, bright child.  Screw them, with their high-falutin’ speak of philosophy and pedagogy!  They don’t know what they’re missing!

There were about three hours of irrational fear, where I wondered if Juliette would be academically challenged for years to come if we don’t get her into a high-end top-notch preschool.

There was a whole lot of sadness that she won’t be going to school with her best friend next year, as he incidentally did secure a spot in the coveted program.  It’s been so much fun to see N and J share a class for the past year – his is the first name from Juliette’s lips every evening when we ask her who she played with that day.  La Verne and I have made something of a game of corroborating their toddler tales, texting each other things like “N said he put chips in Juliette’s hair today?  Tell her he’s sorry!”.  Since the time they were born, N and J’s lives have been gradually knit closer and closer together, and in a lot of ways, they’ve brought us parents right along with them.  Now it feels like we’re taking a step back – I’m certain we’ll all remain close, but dang, the classmates gig was awfully sweet!

And, for the love of God, when did our baby become preschool-age, anyway?  That parental passage-of-time melancholy is thick these days as we’ve watched our girl grow more independent, as our conversations about preschool have led into conversations about kindergarten (should she start elementary school in 2018 or 2019?) and then into conversations about high school graduation and even leaving home (if she starts kindergarten in 2018, she might move out when she’s 17!).  Things are changing all too fast – several of the buddies Juliette and I hang out with on Friday mornings are heading off to their own Friday preschool programs next year and I’m longing for the days when we were all just a bunch of new moms on maternity leave, watching our babies crawl around together.  I let Juliette nap in my lap a couple of days ago, because man, it felt so good to hold her so close.

I’m slowly finding my way toward acceptance – it looks like an exciting transition just isn’t in the cards for us this year.  Juliette will stay at her current school and I’m daily reminding myself that she’ll be fine.  She’ll be in a place that’s safe, where she’s known and loved.  Her current school might not serve organic veggies at snack time, but the cook adores Juliette and gave her the friendliest, longest embrace when Juliette handed her a homemade card at Christmastime.  They might not have a formal “anti-bias curriculum”, but she’ll be surrounded by teachers and students from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.  And as I watched Juliette interact with several of her classmates on a field trip to the library last week, I sensed how very much at home those kids feel in one another’s company, how easily they put their arms around each other and how happily they danced when the librarian cranked up the music.  Yes, she’ll be fine.

Which I suppose means I will be, too.

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Saturday morning in Santa Monica was sunny and warm, so we convened on the brightest patch of the grass in our house’s front yard to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.  Jack picked up donuts from three neighborhood joints and we oohed and aahed over the crispy old fashioned from Don’s, the passion fruit/cayenne donut from Blue Star, the butter and salt cake from Sidecar. Aggggh, donuts. So bad. But so good.

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Sugar rushed, we drove over to Griffith Park to meet up with La Verne’s sister and her family for a walk in the woods. The path was beautiful, shady and lushly planted. And we had all the time in the world to enjoy it, as it took us 30 minutes to walk a quarter-mile with three toddlers in tow!

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We eventually landed at at a small playground and lounged in the sun while the kids played.

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We spent the afternoon close to the house; the kids dozed while the grown-ups read or got out for a run. As soon as everyone was back up and at ’em, we squeezed into our rental car, picked up salads and meatballs from Lemonade, and set out for a picnic dinner on the beach.

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It was a gorgeous night, but dang, so chilly!  That ocean wind is something else.  I don’t think N’s arms ever made it out of his towel blanket!

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Jules couldn’t resist one quick lap down to the water’s edge and back.

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Teeth chattering, we packed it up and called it a day just as the sun hit the horizon.

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The kids took a bubble bath in the jacuzzi tub and were promptly sent to bed so that the rest of us could open a bottle of wine and end our day by the warmth of the living room fireplace.  Perhaps I over-did it on the bubbles.

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We got a slow start on Sunday – Jack headed back to Seattle that morning for a Monday work commitment and LaV read to the kids while I went out to grab coffee.

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We eventually rallied, packing up our towels and plastic buckets for a day at the Santa Monica beach.

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Apparently Juliette isn’t the only one in our family amused by the tide!

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Our friend Emily was in California visiting family and met up with us for a couple of hours. Does this kid look like he’s bringing the party or what?!

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I’m already itching to get back to the water with Juliette – her joyous spirit and love of adventure is so evident at the ocean.

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Beach bums!

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Our hunger eventually got the best of us and we headed over to True Foods for lunch. The kale smoothie was a major hit.

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We left the restaurant to find a hip hop flash dance happening in the plaza.  Work it, Oli!

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The kids bopped around for awhile and then it was time to head home for naps (aka, mama-Jules snuggle time!).

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We met up with La Verne’s sister and her family one more time on Sunday evening, for dinner in Korea Town.  Jules slurped down miso soup, Shane gnawed on his Kalbi short ribs, and I dug into my sashimi-topped salad.  Best food court meal I’ve ever had.

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Bedtime was often a bit of a bear at the house, as the kids weren’t entirely sure what to make of sleeping in a new place (together), but by night #4 they went down without much fuss.  Success!

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Monday was go-day, but we had an afternoon flight and a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.  Get those wiggles out, kids!

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After breakfast, we loaded up the car and drove over to Kenneth Hahn Park to hit the playground.  (May I take your order?)

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After 400 pushes on the swings, 12 rounds down the slide, and 45 laps around the lawn, it was time to hit the road.  These two were such great little travel buddies throughout the weekend, entertaining each other as we sat in restaurants or waited in lines.  They’d say the goofiest things, speaking a language we often couldn’t decipher (“Juliette!  Where’s your goo-goo?!”), and then throw their heads back and hold their bellies as they laughed like crazy.  There was also the occasional tear-filled battle over a particular toy or the whiny tattle over an accidental push, but that comes with the territory – love hurts sometimes!  N frequently tells Juliette “You’re my best friend!”, to which she’d replies “Yeah!  I’m your best friend!”  I’m so glad they’re in each other’s lives.

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The flight home was long, as we had to sit on the runway for over two hours before take-off due to an issue with the plane.  Thank goodness for TV screens.  And snacks.  And that little bottle of gin Shane stowed in his carry on.

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We made it home eventually, with a little sand in our suitcases and a little pink on our cheeks.  Thanks for doing right by us once again, L.A.!  We’ll see you next year.

Shane, Jules, and I had such a good time on our Santa Monica trip last year that we decided to make it an annual tradition – March tends to be the time of year that I start to desperately crave a sun break, anyway.  We asked Jack and La Verne if they’d be up for joining us and they agreed with very little (no) arm-twisting.  We hopped on a plane last Thursday and headed south, happily waving farewell to a particularly gray, rainy sky.

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The flight went off without a hitch and by mid-afternoon we were walking through the door of our Marina del Rey rental.  Jules and I dozed while the guys went for a run and at 5:30 we piled into our cars to make the short drive to Venice Beach.  Ahhhh, the California Coast.  My happy place.

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I remember being surprised last year by just how much Juliette loved the ocean.  I also remember how exhausting it was, scooping her up as she darted full-speed toward the water time and again!  She has slightly better judgement now, but still couldn’t resist putting her toes in the foamy tide, laughing hysterically as we chased the waves and they chased us right back.

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This picture was taken right before a wave set off a chain of toddler dominoes, at which point we wrapped our soaked kids in towels and decided to head home for dinner, bath, and bed.

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Our house was just a few blocks from Abbot Kinney, so Intellegentsia coffee seemed like the perfect place to kick-start our Friday.  These two were big fans of the pastry offerings.

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Properly carbed and caffeinated, we drove over to Tongva Park for a romp on the playground.  Juliette immediately set up shop in this big metal egg, inviting Shane and me to place an order at her restaurant window (I recommend the imaginary pizza with broccoli and watermelon on top).

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Interest in the playground quickly waned when the kids heard the sound of running water.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that they probably ran 80 laps in this shallow pool, like little ducks splish-splashing back and forth, back and forth.

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Bird-watching break.

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And then a little boogie.

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What, now?  A spray park?  This just keeps getting better and better!

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I remember taking Juliette down this slide last year – those rollers were a little rough on the rear.  They still are.

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Lunch at Tsujita Ramen followed by dessert at Blockhead has apparently also become something of a tradition.

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That green tea shaved ice is the stuff of dreams!

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Shane, Juliette, and I all piled into bed at naptime – “bed-sharing” with Juliette hasn’t worked well for us in the past, as she prefers to play rather than sleep when we’re around, but water and sun seem to be the magic ticket for a solid crash.  I came to love these afternoon snuggles.

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The Chens had a dinner date with some friends Friday night, so we struck out on our own in search of margaritas and tacos.  Happy Hour at Mercado hit the spot – the carnitas tamales with green sauce were amazing.  We left the restaurant at prime sunset time and Juliette and I jogged the couple blocks to the waterfront while Shane paid the bill and got the car.  Made it!  Barely!

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But jeez, was it windy!

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Juliette and I took a quick walk down the Santa Monica pier and then we called it a day.  A very, very good day.

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Saturday and Sunday were also packed with sand and sun – stay tuned!

Project Tidy continued last weekend with an emptying of our bathroom cupboards and our linen closet, followed by a go-through of Juliette’s toy collection.  There actually wasn’t a whole lot to discard from her toy shelf, but pulling everything out, putting all the stuffed animals and puzzles and matchbox cars into one big pile, was a good opportunity for me to stand back and consider my philosophy on playthings.  I read Simplicity Parenting last year and could only vaguely remember my favorite passages, so I took a second look at my highlights on Sunday and recommitted to a few main goals:

Don’t accumulate, don’t buy on a whim.

“To a child, a mountain of toys is more than something to trip over.  It’s a topographical map of their emerging worldview.  The mountain, casting a large symbolic shadow, means “I can choose this toy, or that, or this one way down here, or that: They are all mine!  But there are so many that none of them have value.  I must want something else!”  This worldview shapes their emotional landscape as well; children given so very many choices learn to undervalue them all, and hold out – always – for whatever elusive thing isn’t offered.  “More!” “

I love watching Juliette tear into gifts and get so much satisfaction from seeing her happily engage with a new toy.  But we’ve learned that her interest is fleeting, that she’d rather have a few precious playthings that allow her to imagine and pretend, like her MagnaTiles and her baby doll, than a mountain of “single-use” stuff.  It’s tempting to give in when she asks for that super-cuddly teddy bear from Costco or that cute wooden cash register from IKEA, but I’ve learned to stand my ground (and then treat her to a cookie instead!).  She gets toys for her birthday and on holidays, maybe an irresistible trinket or book every couple months, but other than that, “not right now, honey” is the party line.  If she does get something new, something old has gotta go – real estate is scarce on this toy shelf!

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Keep it real.

“I think it is important that, whenever possible, what a child touches be real.  A plastic hammer has no solidity, no weight or heft in the hands of a five-year-old.  Even small versions of real tools are preferable to such blatantly false imitations…With such play comes the bonus of genuine involvement and mastery.”

Juliette is free to rummage in our tool drawer and our kitchen cupboards for playthings when her usual toys aren’t piquing her interest – cabinets and drawers that are off-limits are either locked or out of reach so that we don’t have to worry about her wielding knives or wine glasses.  She spent a solid 20 minutes under the dining room table with a screwdriver and a set of Allen wrenches a few weeks ago, shouting “I fix it, Mama!” as she tinkered away.  When I tell her I’m hungry, she’ll pull out a pot and a wooden spoon and throw together a batch of “spicy pepper soup” (main ingredients are puzzle pieces and spare change).  I love watching her flex her imagination as she gives new meaning to the contents of our junk drawer.  Letting her play with “real” things also goes a long way in helping me stick to objective #1, as I’m not buying a kid’s version of the stuff we already have on hand.

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Let her “help”.

“Children love to be busy, and useful.  They delight in seeing that there is a place for them in the hum of doing, making, and fixing that surrounds them…As small beings they can feel like inferior, passive observers of all that happens around them.  A sense of industry – of busyness and purpose – counteracts feelings of overwhelm.”

I’ve mentioned before how much Jules loves helping me in the kitchen, and while her assistance usually doubles my cooking and clean-up time, I do my best to let her in on the action.  I know she’s facing several years of being told she’s not old enough or big enough to do grown-up things, but she sure can stir with the best of them!  Now if only she could scrub a toilet…

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March in Seattle.  Often gray, often rainy, but dappled with sunshine and color and the promise of brighter days to come.  The weather today was wild – gray then gorgeous then pouring down rain.  We made those sunshiny moments count, swinging by the UW Quad before church this morning to check in on the cherry blossoms, which seem to be just a few days from peaking.

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We were there for about 15 minutes when the skies opened up and we had to dart to the car to take refuge.  First, though, one quick toss!

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As we were leaving church, we got a text from Jack and La Verne, asking if we’d be up for a romp through the arboretum since the skies had cleared again.  We headed that way and strolled down the blossom-line paths, warily eyeing the gray clouds rolling in while the kids reveled in being outside.

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Sure enough, 20 minutes into our walk we felt the first sprinkles and made it back to the car in the nick of time, buckling our seat belts as big fat raindrops pelted our windshield.

Spring, you’re such a tease.