30 August 2012

An unofficial end to summer

The truth is that I really enjoy the beach--I just don't enjoy the sun.  Unfortunately, those two tend to go hand in hand.  It turned out that we saw the ocean (both Pacific AND Atlantic!) quite a bit this summer.  These shots were left over in the "to be blogged" folder but I don't know when they were snapped!

It's great that we got all the beach time in because Labor Day is nearly here, marking the unofficial closing of summer.  School is just around the corner, A1 started a new session of skating lessons,

...and this afternoon, A2 had his very first soccer practice.

This is our family's very first foray into organized team sports, what with A1's aversion and all.  So far, so good!  But I did just realize today that being Assistant Coach means I'm on the field chasing a bunch of 5-year-olds and not hangin' and gossiping with the other moms.  Obviously, I love being able to be part of this experience for A2 but part of me just wants to cluck with the other hens!  Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that they are sitting comfortably in the shade while I'm running around like crazy and sweating up a storm.

28 August 2012

Writing books

 I really love movies and summers are a great time to catch up.  I recently enjoyed two small films that both happened to be about the journey inward--both were slow (at times, painfully so) but with great punchlines at the very, very end.  Both endings were somewhat ambiguous, but I found Another Earth wonderfully hopeful whereas Young Adult was deliciously cynical and hopeless.  Neither of these films were especially pretty, not like Atonement, which was just so beautifully shot.  Sadly, Atonement was more flash than substance because I found it exceedingly boring!

Maybe the boys will enjoy film (watching/making) as much as I do.  I meant to do some stop motion animation with them this summer, but I was never able to carve out the time.  They make their own time for familiar media though.  Today, they decided to make books.  A1 said this would be his first without illustrations because he wanted readers to use their imagination.  He says his novel will have many chapters that will thrill and entertain, promising A2 that he would love it.  I'm sold!

He talks to himself when he writes (I do that too).

He wanted to do a preview reading for us:

In seeing this, A2 quickly wraps up his first chapter and narrates for us.  Seems like an uplifting story.  See the, "Don't worry," text on his page?

A2's writing is poorly spaced and upper- and lower-case letters are strewn about haphazardly.  But I don't worry too much because he seems to have good fine motor control in other tasks like stuffing his raspberries with mozzarella (bleh...that's his recipe, not mine) and making vehicles for his Lego men:

27 August 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park

As with just about all of the National Parks we've visited, this one did not disappoint.  We're always so pleased with both the upkeep of the landscape as well as the kindness of the Rangers in addressing the boys' endless questions about the natural and cultural history of the area.  We always try to participate in the Junior Ranger Program whenever possible, but I have to remember to download the PDF so we can get started on the ride to a park--it's hard to finish all the requirements toward the badge in just a day's visit.  The boys had a great time using the infrared thermometer (which just looked like a tricorder to me!) when we toured the geothermal areas.  I have no photos because I was so captivated by the discussion!

Here is the obligatory entry sign photo.  To change things up a bit, the boys climbed up the back so that they could peek just their heads out:

A1 got more and more excited the higher up we went.  We actually reached 8,000 feet, but that sign was on a treacherous part of the road that prohibited stopping so we didn't get a pic.

That's okay.  It's not like they cared to photograph the sights.  They were more interested in capturing each other anyhow.

A1 heads up his first hill of the day.

His poor brother trails behind.

In fact, it would seem that we all trail behind A1 nearly the entire time.

Here he is on top of 2 more hills.  He's more easily found in the 1st image, but in the 2nd image, he looks like part of the landscape, mimicking one of those trees at the very top.  He's the third tuft over from the left.

Again, poor A2 tries to catch up but by the time he's nearly at the top, A1 had already headed downward.  (A2 is waving his arms in front of the treeline.)

A2 looks pretty excited to be able to catch up to his big brother on this little rock in the middle of Lake Helen.

The truth is, he's doing much more than A1 was doing at this age:

Once again, A1 heads off beyond our reach.  He's on the bank on the other side.  Just sitting there.  It's odd that a super active child like him would self-initiate these strange moments of contemplative silence.  See him sitting there on a tree stump on the other side of the lake?

A2 is content to stay by my side and force me to make silly faces for him.

A third and final lake on our way out:

On our way down the hill, I suddenly appreciate the minivan even more than I already do.  I don't understand all the hate.  Vans rule!

24 August 2012

Mendocino National Forest

Email is simply not a priority for me right now--this is evidenced by the hundreds of unread entries in my box.  That's not to say that it shouldn't be a priority.  In fact, my inbox is sprinkled with important personal emails, professional queries for portrait commissions, bills, and the like.  I feel like I'm drowning in the immediacy of it all.  But how can something so indirect and so far removed from actual contact be so demanding of my attention?  See my dilemma?

So instead of facing my life and its inherent responsibilities, I left town!  James and I drove the boys up north, hoping to make it to the redwoods.  We never really got there.

Here are the boys all red and blotchy from a day in the sun:

My first night out!

Under the guise of dedicated parenting, I shunned Moms' Night Out events.

One of the real reasons for not going out at night was that I had dependent sleepers.  I thought I made them that way by exclusively nursing them to sleep.  Even after A1 and A2 both weaned at 20 and 28 months respectively, I still stayed with them until sleep overtook their little tired bodies.  I've finally let go of the guilt of believing that I'd created nervous Nellies because, now, I send them into their rooms by themselves and they engage slumber without so much as a peep.  In fact, I credit those early secure associations surrounding our bedtime rituals with their current comfort in putting themselves to bed.

The other, and probably more salient, reason for staying in at night was that I just don't like to socialize that much.  Well, I actually very much enjoy being with friends, but mustering the effort required to initiate said socialization by countering my irrational fears and quelling my unfounded anxiety get to be too much most of the time.

But two weeks ago, I went out at night for the first time since the boys were born!  Duran Duran, baby.  It was an excellent show!  It would seen that all of us old folks took our Advil for our achy joints because everyone stood up and danced the ENTIRE length of the concert.  But why does John Taylor look the same now as he did when I was in junior high?  Here I am below with my friend.  Maybe the question I should really ask is why we are as giddy now as we were in junior high.

Here are the boys during two separate trips to the beach with people they'd never met before (because what is a post without pics of the boys?).  They have clearly not inherited my phobic response to social situations.  I'd like to think that if I'd had a sibling, I too might be less of a social freak.

20 August 2012

What else?

I asked the boys what it would take to make this a fantastic summer and they had no answer!  Yay!  Summer hasn't gone as I had thought it would but I'm very happy and relieved that the boys don't give a hoot about any of my grand schemes and have enjoyed the mix of both free play and structured activities.

Here they are at the local spray park and, yet again, in the library.  Yes, I give my five-year-old Sharpies.  They both actually have pretty great self-restraint so I've never been too concerned about things like crayon murals on the walls and such.

Sunset at the beach

The boys go to bed at 7:00 every night.  I realize that's very early, but they need time to unwind with a book or two (I'm thrilled by their love of reading!).  Of course, that means they miss out on spectacular summer sunsets.

Last week, I took them out to dinner after A1's figure skating session and they were totally impressed by this:

I told them a strip mall sunset was not photo-worthy, but they forced me to snap a shot anyhow--they're dictatorial like that.  To make up for that lackluster experience, I took them to the beach yesterday, arriving around 6:00pm. 

A1 knows to go far out and find secluded areas because I don't like to capture images with too many bystanders.  He really took that message to heart yesterday:

I let them dig and play in the sand as they normally do:

But when the sun got really low, they stopped to watch the final moments of the sunset.  Ha ha!!  Splash all you want: Mama's new awesome possum camera body is weather sealed!

A1 describes it as the ocean swallowing the sun.  It was pretty neat, but that meant we had very little light left for beach play.  I have no idea what this synchronized swaying was all about, but I do know they were having a good time in the waning light.

Well...they were having a good time until A2's mood soured.  He's my little capricious fella--no worries though, joyful states are just as sudden and inexplicable.  Here is his big brother trying to cheer him up.  I think that just exacerbated matters.  Oh well...it's too dark anyhow.  Time to pack up.

The boys weren't quite ready to go home so we walked the pier for the first time ever!  The last light as we faced East:

This is horrible straight-out-of-camera shot around 8:00pm of a super sleepy A2 and A1 in the middle of a blink.  It was so black out that I didn't couldn't see the boys that far in front of me I didn't know what they were doing.  Fortunately, the D4 is practically equipped with night vision, though I should have upped the ISO a bit.

Wow, no wonder I hardly ever compose text to match the photos.  So boring!

16 August 2012

Zoetropes at the museum

I cannot say enough about the Orange County Museum of Art not just for the projects they set up or the performances they schedule, but also for the discussions that these projects and performances spark in our family.

Not a Firefly reference

...but my mind immediately went there when I saw this page from a library book:

Is Firefly child-safe?  Can I let the boys watch it with me?  They've enjoyed an occasional Star Trek (TOS) episode with me now and again.  I still laugh hysterically whenever A2 busts out an unprompted, "Brain and brain, what is brain!?!" from the first episode I ever let him watch.

I've been dutifully engaging in my Tiger Mom, teaching-to-the-test, drill and kill with poor A2 (no worries--it never lasts longer than 20 minutes daily and always stops any time he asks to close up for the day) and to pass the time, A1 has been reading to himself.  He's been put on a steady diet of classic science fiction so as to prepare for the day when I start him on a fuller course of Star Trek study.  Here he is reading H. G. Wells' The Time Machine.  I'm so thrilled and impressed by his genuine love of and fascination with symbolism so we are going to have a blast discussing this one!

Here is A2 in his usual furrowed state.  He's always fiercely focused, "Wretched blocks, I will conquer you!"

The two pics following were from another day in the library but they seem to fit here thematically so I'm squeezing them in.  Here is our setup--A2 at the table with me and A1 dancing around in his chair every 2 minutes in strange and seemingly uncomfortable positions.

One of the neatest things I learned about A2 is that he thinks he ambidextrous!  When asked to trace an object, he holds the figure with his left hand and the pencil with his right hand.  But then when he's on the other side of the figure, he switches so that he holds the figure with his right hand and traces with his left.  Strange aside: I have a high school friend with a daughter A1's age.  When her daughter started showing preference for her left hand, my friend corrected her!  Who knew that kind of thing still happens this day and age?