Monday, December 3, 2007

Taylor and professional football

Our younger son has milked his birthday for every last moment (good job). Starting with the day before Thanksgiving - cupcakes at school. Thanksgiving Day was his birthday - family cake. And his party was Dec. 2 so that people were in town - more cake. And presents from Thanksgiving to today thanks to e-commerce and the postal service. I am curious how to eliminate one of the three baking experiences from this mix - I don't remember getting three cakes (ok, the school was cupcakes)...but I am sure my Mom did it too. And I bought the third cake...

So, today he received a present in the mail from his Grandpa who knows that Taylor likes to play and watch football. So, he sent a 49ers jersey - official NFL gear. And it was for Alex Smith - the quarterback for the 49ers. Needed the husband's help to know that one. This morning, wearing his new jersey, Taylor asks his Dad if he can play professional football. Neal explained that with a lot of practice, hard work and luck, maybe Taylor could play professional football. Naturally, he wanted to know if Daddy did it - no. And Daddy says that not many people get to play professional football. And Taylor looks at him and says - "but Daddy, I have my jersey already". Got to love that.

Birthday season is over for five months in my house. My sister's December celebrations are yet to come. And then, in March, Ariel turns one. There really should be a ceremony where the parents of a one year old acknowledge that they still like each other, still love the baby, and - in our case - make their public commitment to being done. They're all amazing and she's trying to crawl every day. I admire her determination. Oh, her biggest brother Benjamin told me tonight that it's too hard being the biggest brother to a brother and a sister - how can he ever keep them all safe? I reminded him that it's Mommy and Daddy's job to keep them safe - we appreciate his help, but we don't expect him to take care of his siblings all the time. Love that responsible first child thing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The many virtues of sleep

It's shocking how virtually all of the behavioral challenges of my kids (and myself) can all be attributed to lack of sleep. Although we practice Judaism in the home, we are true disciples of sleep. Meaning that we run our lives so that our kids are in jammies by 7:00 and asleep by 7:30. Except for the baby, who is 11 weeks old and isn't yet on the program. That would be nice...

Sleep is the key to happy children who role with the punches. We find that even 15-30 minutes of shortage leads to a mess. For example, this morning our boys were fighting and shouting downstairs as they were preparing for their day of school/pre-school. I spoke with our eldest, who was devastated that our au pair had taken apart a lego airplane and hadn't apologized. Not sure what Livia did wrong, but he was having a fit. So I asked if his brother had woken him up that morning and sure enough, the younger one had woken the elder before he was ready. Hell hath no fury like a tired five year old.

Yesterday, after three hours of a bouncy-house birthday party, my younger boy and I stopped at a friends to meet their newborn. We couldn't find parking...anyway, we were parked on the sidewalk/driveway of their apartment and talking outside. Taylor, now nap-deprived, finds that his ears do not work when he is tired. So he is wandering into the street (and yes, I see him and stop him prior to getting there). And whining about wanting to go in their apartment. So much so, that he gets placed back in the car (I am standing next to the car), strapped in and the door shut. He needed a nap and two minutes into our drive home, he fell asleep.

Every time I deprive the kids of sleep, we pay. So - 11-12 hours a night plus a 1-3 hour nap for the under 5 set (and the 5 year old could use it)...that's the ticket for significant reduction in whining. Works for me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The ultimate road trip accessory

Let's start with a disclaimer - I like sports cars. Curve hugging, throw you back in the seat acceleration sports cars. My boys know how to identify the Porsche Carrera Convertibles we see, whenever we see them. Suffice to say, driving a minivan was never on my life short list. But with three kids, an au pair and out of town parents who visit frequently, it became an imperative that I recognized as a practical parent. We bought our minivan on March 31. Eight seater with integrated DVD and four wireless headsets. We realized a month later than our kindergartener had off the three days prior to Memorial Day through Memorial Day for observation of Shavout. Six days without school or grandparents = ROADTRIP. Apparently, Shavout is Hebrew for - I'm going to Disneyland.

We decided to pile into the minivan that inexplicably makes me think of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang (bought the movie to explain that to the kids). Livia (our au pair) and Jammer in the back, Taylor and Ariel in the middle and Neal and I in the front. We rationed out movies to make sure we spent some time talking and observing nature. We made a number of wrong turns and stopped for a leisurely dinner. All told, the 5 hour trip took 8 - and we didn't notice. It was so good that we decided to take US 1 north rather than US 5 - more scenic, but adds 3-5 hours to the trip. After two fun days at Disneyland, one hanging out and one at the Santa Monica pier, we piled back into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and headed out to Malibu and up the coast. We found Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. We stopped at Hearst Castle to learn that we needed a reservation for a tour. We found out that you can tour the Air Force Space Command at Vandenberg Air Force base (which is huge) every other Wednesday. But it was Sunday. So we stayed in the car. No accidents (auto or biological), no whining, some movies and some looking at the ocean and forests. All told, 12 hours trapped in a vehicle with our kids and we still like them and each other. So much so that our appetite for roadtrips has only increased - we found the ulimate road trip accessory - the eight seater Toyota Sienna. Now, if only the cooler was integrated instead of next to Livia!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lego Diving

My kindergartener, Benjamin, is a lego fanatic and he was given a model set for a three or four wheel vehicle/bike. He made the three wheeler and was very proud and then took it apart to build the four wheeler. As he approached completion (this set is for 8-14 year olds, so we were amazed at his focus and dexterity - it's amazing what personal interest can bring out), I heard an outburst from the playroom. Apparently, my preschooler, Taylor, had dumped some of the tupperware holding the tiny Lego parts (which probably seemed like a fun idea at the time) and we lost a key part for the four wheeler bike.

It was about half an inch, black, and necessary for building the decorative struts on his four wheeler. And it was a crisis at 7:30am as we get ready for school. What's a practical parent to do?

We talked about his model and what he needed. We looked for the part together. And then I told him that it was time for school and we needed to put the lego away to go to kindergarten. We agreed that we'd figure out what to do about the missing black piece when we were home that evening. It's important that he learns that all problems are not solved immediately and that he has to tend to his responsibilities in spite of having a crisis. And Taylor needed to know that his actions upset his brother...

We are lucky in that we have a Lego store in a shopping mall about 15 minutes from our house and 10 minutes from my office. This is a Technic lego set - not your standard blocks. But I figured that if there was a chance to find the part, the Lego store was my best bet. So, during lunch, I went to the mall with our 2 month old baby in tow and entered the Lego store. The delightful and frighteningly young sales associate led me to the lego play table with a large (and apparently bottomless) bucket of legos in its middle. After informing me that I can order the part online (a terrific service by Lego), he invited me to "lego dive". Hand over hand we dug through the bottomless bucket. In our palms we sorted through the tiny lego pieces in search of a 1/2 inch, black molded tube that fit the Technic bike. At what I think was half way through the bottomless bucket, we found two. He offered them to me gratis and into my jeans pocket they went.

That evening, I arrived home after the boys. They were playing in the playroom - having found something other than the partially built bike to use. I watched them and then walked up to Benjamin and asked him if he knew where Mommy went today. Without missing a beat, he said - the Lego Store? And out of my pocket came the magic piece. He finished the bike and showed it off using iChat on the Mac to his proud grandparents in Florida.