28 July 2012

San Onofre Recreational Beach

...on Camp Pendleton is full of rocks that clang and bang into each other with the surf.  So strange! 

I didn't feel like lugging the big camera because it's wasted in bad midday light (I'm such a light snob!) so I Insta'ed the entire trip:

1st Annual Water War

Final tally: 19 boys (and 1 sister), 500 balloons, 12 Aqua-Zookas, 10 sponges, and 2 enormous catapults.
Winner: The grass, which will be lush and green for its soaking.

Here are some horrible photos of the event that embody reason #427 why I can never been a wedding photographer:

26 July 2012

A2 indulgence

There's no reason for this post other than to talk about the little guy.  Here he is at 4 days old in my Hotsling (photo by then 2-year-old A1).  I can't believe he had so much hair when he was born!  He quickly lost it and didn't gain it back for a long, long time.

And here he is about 2 weeks ago, looking as guilty as his guinea pig.  Why are they both staring at me like they've done something wrong?

Everything A2 does is so BIG!  His love is so, so big.  But his anger is equally robust.  I always thank A1 for making me a mother.  But at that point, it was just a mom and a dad and their baby.  So I thank A2 for making us a family.  We weren't complete until he came along. 

He's been asking to be made a big brother.  He really wants a new baby in the family so that he can take the lead as A1 has done with him.  It's such a lovely sentiment on his part, but I don't think my aging body, let alone my dwindling sanity, can make that wish happen!

Hmm...in reexamining that pic above, maybe they're both looking at me like I am the one who has done something wrong!

It's for your own good!

Having the boys both attend figure skating lessons together is really easy.  I don't drive all over town for various activities; we don't squeeze activities into multiple days per week; there's not a huge load of different gear to lug and manage.  It's all so very easy.  Except, of course, for the fact that I know darn well A2 doesn't love figure skating.  I knew this then and I know it now.  But I let that nagging knowledge fall right out of my head and continued to sign him up skating anyhow.  Now that was hard!  Don't get me wrong, he never hated it.  I never forced him to engage in a sport he found utterly loathsome or anything like that.  But at the prospect of returning to the rink weekly, he's never exactly been filled with overwhelming joy and excitement.

So this upcoming Wednesday, A2 will take his very last skate lesson.  He's done.  He stopped having fun so I have no choice.  He's asked for soccer and baseball next year.  I am not shocked.  Team sports perfectly suit his personality.  But when did that happen?  When did he diverge so deeply from his brother, who wants to repeat the same routine over and over again until he makes micro-adjustments to his timing?  When did A2 become own person?  It's bittersweet, really. 

In the same respect, basketball was not going to well for A1.  He perseverated over rule violations, wondering why teammates and opponents felt the need to bend the rules laid down by Coach.  He was agitated by aggressive players and their resultant aggressive plays.  And when that basketball somehow ended up in his hands, he immediately passed it, obviously lacking the hunger for ball that has possessed his little brother. 

But unlike figure skating which can go, and has gone, on for what seems like an undetermined amount of time, basketball camp only lasts for a single week.  A1 wanted to quit after the first day but I asked him to tough it out because LIFE is a team sport.  There will always be times when he doesn't agree with those around him.  There will always be times when he doesn't win.  These are important lessons.  I have continued to reinforce a message that we always emphasize in our family, "You may not be able to change the situation, but you can always change your attitude regarding that situation."  So, basically, I have Tiger Mom'ed him into an activity he found loathsome...for his own good.

And you know what?  Tomorrow is the last day and he's a little sad because he learned to enjoy it.  He's discovered that while he may not love the games, he's very enamored of the rules of the game and knowing the names of the different passes, dribble techniques, and shooting styles.  And he's learned to focus his attention on the nice kids he does like instead of the ones who bother him.  He's proud that he will be a better basketball player on the playground at recess next year for having continued this course of study instead of quitting (as if that were really a choice!).

Go, Tiger Mom, go!

It's okay to repeat

I purposefully put the boys in 2 different preschools as 3- and 4-year-olds. 

The first year, I send them to a co-op program where they swam in endless pools of paint and glitter.  There was a ceaseless well of novel projects and grand experiences like visits from camels, donkeys, and elephants and snow days and daily snacks that were more like feasts.  More is more on that campus.

The second year, I send them to a program that adheres to Reggio Emilia principles.  At first glance, the school seems barer--fewer toys, less activity.  But the truth is, there is so much more going on behind the scenes.  The students are encouraged to express themselves through their environment, to work cooperatively with their peers and their teachers, and to explore their own interests in a productive and sustained manner.  The students all feel that they are genuinely loved and respected so they, of course, flourish.

I really, really enjoy myself at the first school, but the second school taught me so many things.  One of them was to trust that children will find their way and that learning and discovery would emerge with the slightest bit of guidance on my part.  Even though I am, myself, a "more is more" kind of mom, I have allowed myself to let go a little.  Things like repeating a project are now okay for me.  So here are the boys, yet again engaged (really, truly engaged!) in some vinegar/baking soda play:

23 July 2012

Diet Coke + Mentos FAIL

The last post was about our having too many toys so it seems fitting that this post is about our having too many scheduled activities.  Perhaps I made a mistake in signing up for all these camps.  The boys were dropped off at basketball as happy little guys

...but they came back as tired grumps!  We had friends over for a quick swim so that poor family was lucky enough to repeatedly witness the 5-minute intervals between whining sessions.  The boys were short with each other and so much needier than usual.  I may have to reevaluate whether it's prudent to continue as originally planned.  The boys are not used to this kind of schedule since I have always made it a priority to safeguard their free time.

After the swim, I asked for portraits and got this:
I guess one out of two isn't bad.

Even though they were giving me all forms of grump, I still wanted to follow through on my a-project-a-day promise.  Having been astounded by those foam geysers that shoot up way beyond my own adult height, I wanted to give the boys the same experience.  I'd seen on Pinterest (oh, Pinterest, how I simultaneously love and hate you!) the idea to use tape so that a single candy grouping was formed, thus allowing for quicker introduction of a larger number of Mentos to the soda bottle.  It was a multi-person job...check out all those hands!

Sadly, the tape was too loose and the individual pieces fell out.  We quickly plopped just a few in the traditional way but the geyser was not so impressive.

Well, I should say that it wasn't impressive to me--they boys LOVED it!  What it lacked in height, it made up for in duration.  It went on like this for quite a while.  I totally dig their expressions here:

The 2nd attempt--super tall, but so quick that my camera missed the entire thing! 

See?  No middle here...just the beginning above and the ending below.  But you can tell by the splatter pattern that was it was impressive!

I suppose it was a good lesson to see how the Mentos served as the limiting reagent.  Plus, I got to catalyze the release of CO2 so I was able to tie today's project into our recent sodium bicarbonate/acetic acid projects.  So maybe our fail was really a win.

An embarrassment of riches

Our house has always been crammed with toys.  We truly do have a lot of them...too many, really, considering the fact that they are hardly ever played with.  That observation about children preferring the box containing the toy over the actual toy itself has always been true for our family.

James was building two catapults for our upcoming water balloon war and the boys came out to the garage to "help" in that way that only they can.  So, of course, rather than lending a hand, they merely grabbed some leftover materials and constructed their own creations. 

A2:

A1 built his characters, dressed them in superhero capes, and wrote a story.  These are Maglifto and Ninjohnny from the planet Octogonia. They've brought their pet Pounceroo to fight the villains of Earth.

So that means I can stop buying toys and pick up extra photography gear with all the money I'm saving, right?

22 July 2012

G'night, Dead Fish

TMI warning for the sensitive!


I had this teddy bear, Betsy, who was so well-loved through my childhood that I brought her with me to college.  Some time early in that first semester, a hallmate commented on how scroungy Betsy looked.  Clearly this person was mistaken because my beloved bear was pristine! 

But then another person commented. 

And another. 

So I took a look at Betsy and for the first time I saw her that she was either bald patches or matted fur.  How did this happen?  How did I miss these developments in her aging through time?

Today, I looked up and realized that The Pax is looking pretty scroungy himself.  I mean, we love him all the same--maybe even more so because of his delicate state.  But sheesh, he's mangy!  I suppose all these morbid thoughts cropped up because our last remaining fish died this weekend.  A2 asked for me to take lots of photos (I found this a little creepy, but who am I to judge his mourning process?) and to wait before we removed his body.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to wait a bit, but the boys have been resisting said removal. 

It's now a day and a half later and there's still a giant floater in the tank.  He's become part of the family.  Tonight, before bedtime, A1 said goodnight to The Pax, Mr. Fur, and the newly named Dead Fish (she no longer goes by her "alive" name).  The boys are asleep now and I'm going to make the executive decision to remove Dead Fish.  I've been grossed out for nearly 2 days now and it's time.


Approximating a regular summer

Even though I've scheduled the boys for the entire month of July, there's actually a lot of time left in the day by the time they come home from their various camps.  So we do things that we've always done each summer like making lots of library visits and filling the driveway with chalk.

As long as they're having fun...

We have no goals (they're not Olympiads in training!) but also no actual exit plan for figure skating.  I always say that we will continue as long as the boys tell me that they are still having a good time.  But to spice things up, we've been inviting friends along to break up the monotony of weekly classes.

Here is A1 watching his skates get sharpened.  He liked the sparks.


And here they are with a few buddies:

Golf camp

In conversation with a friend whose oldest son just bridged from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, I discovered that the transition from full parent participation to virtually zero parent participation is quick and unyielding.  Their 11-year-old went camping "with" his dad but parents and children were partitioned so that they could not speak to each other the entire time.  Wow. 

Helicopter parents (like me!) are probably hit the hardest by that policy.

I didn't want to disrupt the flow of the day so I didn't get too close--these are just horribly tight crops from a great distance.  I gotta say, I don't know that I enjoy the distance.