Monday, April 30, 2007

The Monkey Gene

Climbing counters, scaling walls, who's the monkey-est one of all?

We seem to breed monkeys at our house. Somewhere in our gene pool (not quite sure where ;)) we have a dominant monkey gene. All of our kids are and have always been fearless climbers. They scale, swing and jump from all surfaces.

Caleb was hanging on monkey bars before he could walk. He now loves to climb the rock wall in our back yard. We had to establish a rule that he could climb side to side but is not allowed to walk around on top.
Natalie ascended the backstop at Caleb's baseball game on Saturday. I looked down from the bleachers to see her about five feet off the ground. I hurried down to help her off, not because I was worried about her falling, but more to put the other fretting parents at ease. She finds a way to get to anything she wants or needs.

Our monkeys can be very entertaining but they certainly get into things that they shouldn't and make terrible messes!

This picture of Natalie perfectly depicts our constant battle to use the stairs, not the banister.
Alyssa was climbing out of her crib before she was tall enough to open doors. She would get out of her crib and call for me to let her out of her room. Last December, Alyssa decided to put her "monkeyness" to good use. She started taking gymnastics and it seems she may have found her niche. She was invited to be in a pre-team class and later this month will tryout for the team. While I am nervous about the time commitment involved, I'm excited for her and love to watch her grow in her skills.

Here's Alyssa practicing her back walkover.

With a little more practice, she may be able to challenge Mom in a handstand contest!

With no bars in the house, the table is the next best thing. I told her I wanted to get a picture but then she was not allowed to do this again!

Our furniture is often mistaken for a jungle gym, it can seem at times that the kids are swinging from the rafters, but all in all the monkey house is a pretty fun place to live!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Caleb the "WaMulian"

WaMulian is someone who works for WaMu (Washington Mutual Bank - shortened to WaMu - even the bank now officially calls themselves WaMu.)

Thursday was the National Take Your Child to Work Day. Caleb came to work a few years back but each year since they have upped the allowed age to bring your child to work with you. Finally this year kids 8 and above were allowed, so I quickly signed Caleb up. Here are the highlights of our day.

All ready to go!

"Dad, you said the train would be here at 7:35... it is 7:38... where is the train?"

Ahh... so this is where Dad spends all his time...

This year is the 100th birthday of Seattle's Pike Place Market. There will be a "Pigs Parade" in Seattle later this summer... as part of the celebration WaMu commissioned the creation of the "Golden Pig" (it is the year of the golden pig in China - which only occurs every 60 years).

Up on the 17th floor there is an outdoor patio which overlooks Elliott Bay. It was a bit chilly out, but Caleb wanted to go take a look.

Running around out on the patio.

"Dad, do you know where we are going?"

"Ahh... lunch... pizza my favorite"

We walked by the Pike Place market.

WaMu Center

Caleb said he had a great day and couldn't wait till next year to go to work with Dad!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Tara's Trios

Jay tagged me to look at myself in 3's. I've always thought 2 was more my number but there are some good things about 3, too!

Three reasons to love 3:
  • I will be 33 this year.
  • I have 3 kids and my 3rd was born on 3/30.
  • My 3rd grader will be 3+3+3 in 3 months.

Three things I love:

  • Being with Jon
  • Football!
  • Holidays with my kids

Three things I miss:

  • Flying through the air
  • Fitting into that little skirt
  • Teaching school

Three people that make me laugh:

  • Caleb
  • Natalie
  • Jon--except when the joke's on me, then he's not so funny!:)

Three things that scare me:

  • Outer space
  • Windows at night
  • Flying

Three things on my desk:

  • TV
  • Dictionary
  • Coupon for a free Ben and Jerry' s ice cream cone

Three things I want to do in life:

  • Save enough for a nice retirement
  • Be a good mother
  • Travel with Jon--(just have to keep working on that fear of flying)

Three things I can do:

  • Handstands
  • Make rolls--here's Sunday's batch
  • Sing with my mouth closed

Three things I can't do:

  • Sew
  • Read music
  • Hide my annoyances or hurt feelings

Three things I regret:

  • Not putting Caleb in a different preschool
  • Times when I let my emotions get the best of me (a work in progress)
  • All those Macy's twist cones when I was pregnant with Caleb

Three of my favorite foods:

  • Caramel
  • Mexican
  • Avocadoes

Three of my favorite shows as a kid:

  • Silver Spoons
  • Diff'rent Strokes

  • Family Ties

Three people I tag:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Derby Debut

Kyle Lightning!
Meet Kyle Lightning. It may be Dad's creation but the name was all Caleb! He wanted his car to look like Lightning McQueen but have the NASCAR sticker and number five as a tribute to Kyle Busch, his favorite NASCAR driver.

He earned the Most Animated award. That's fitting, isn't it?

The pleasure on Caleb's face is reward enough
for all of Dad's hard work!

He won two out of his five runs. Not enough to be in the
ranks of the fastest cars but he never came in last either.

Precise placement can mean the difference in the race.

Our high-tech track included a computerized sensor at the finish line. The races were tracked on a computer program which was able to transfer the results from the finish line to the scoreboard projector on the wall within seconds. Pretty cool stuff!

Who's gonna win...

Is this fun or what?

This is what winning feels like! I jumped and cheered too; I felt happy for Jon's creation but more importantly, relief that I wouldn't have to give the good sportsmanship lecture on this round!

Nothing like sharing good times with your two best friends! Caleb was just as excited for their cars as he was his own.

This is what Best of Show looks like. His dad was also awarded the People's Choice/Busiest Dad award. His dad used real car paint for this amazing paint job. He tried to explain the process but he lost me after the second step. The detailing on the front was done with cameleon paint which changes colors as the car moves in different light, and costs $500 a pint! The Cameleon earned endless oohs and aahs but unfortunately was not very fast.

I see now why the dads get so fired up about this whole Pinewood Derby thing. It really is fun! It's great to see the sheer excitement in the boys' faces. Now if we can just foster some better sportsmanship in our son, it will be that much more enjoyable. He wasn't the prettiest or the fastest, but Kyle Lightning provided us some good clean fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Men From The Boys

Pinewood Derby. That is code for: a fierce competition where a father's tool skills, creativity and overall manliness are put to the test; all disguised as a fun activity for Cub Scouts.

I love a good competition. I'm a passionate person and I like to win. When my football team (no need to name names) loses, it can ruin my whole day! Yet, I don't feel the fire of the Pinewood Derby. What's wrong with me? Perhaps it's my gender that keeps me from fully understanding its significance in the life of a man (and his son.)

Jon vowed that his kid's car would rival in both appearance and performance. Though he had never completed any project of the sort, he was going to take his car-making debut seriously. He did not disappoint.

Caleb is obsessed with the movie "Cars" so we were not surprised by his desire to have a racer that resembled Lightning McQueen. Not very original, but that minor fact couldn't keep his father from creating a masterpiece. Using Caleb's toy McQueen as a guide, Jon traced the outline onto the wood block.

"Are you going to have Caleb do any of this?" I asked.

"He can help with the sanding." That made sense, I thought, he is a little young for sharp tools. Jon carefully cut out the body of the car and then moved to the sanding, which he did meticulously with his nifty Dremel tool.

"I thought you said Caleb would do the sanding."

"He can paint it." I was beginning to see how this would go. Jon beamed with pride as he presented the perfectly sanded car with its wonderfully smooth lines.

The next step was to add weight to the car. I didn't even know that was a step. Evidently, it's the most important one--along with making sure the wheels are aligned properly and spinning at optimum speed. Now I know.

The next available evening was set aside for the paint job. Jon and Caleb went to the garage to do the job together. After a few minutes Caleb came in the house and started watching TV.

"Did you paint your car?"

"Well, I tried but I didn't really know how to hold the can the right way so Dad is doing it." Translation: Caleb's eight-year-old haphazardness with the paint can threatened to destroy his father's handiwork, so Jon had no choice but to take over.

"I thought you were going to have Caleb paint it."

"He can put the stickers on." I don't need to expound, you can guess what happened with this step, too.

A high-gloss finish was all that remained. Jon made yet another trip to the store because apparently you don't know all the supplies you'll need at the time the first trip is made. After he (meaning Jon, Caleb's opinions were vetoed) was satisfied with the sticker placement, he took his baby (the car) to the garage to spray the finishing touch.

OH NO! The glossy coat caused the paint on the top of the car to wrinkle and crack! How is that going to look next to the car done by the dad that works in an auto body shop for a living? He used real car paint on his son's car. He's already been a threat to every other father's pride, even before anyone has actually seen his finished product!

Surprisingly, Jon handled this setback with grace. I felt badly for him and did my best to express my sincerest sympathies. Never fear, the ruined paint job will be restored to its original beauty by race time.

So what is this competition all about? Is it for the men, or the boys? The men painstakingly create the cars, dreaming of the accolades that his work of art will bring to the family's good name. The boys, they don cute Cub uniforms and cheer their fathers' efforts down the track. I guess it's fun for all!

Stay tuned for the unveiling and results tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mommy Clout

It's not too often that the title of "Mom"offers much clout. But today, it was just the title I needed.

Yesterday marked the first day of WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) testing. It's serious business, something Caleb has been preparing for and I myself have spent plenty of time worrying about it. The questions can be confusing, especially for a child with processing disabilities. Caleb's IEP includes accommodations to assist him in the test-taking process. One such accommodation is that he takes the test in a private room with a paraeducator overseeing the administration of the test.

Each classroom has a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. Several suggestions for maintaining silence are written in small print; "turn off cell phones," for example. Great effort is made to establish the best testing environment by eliminating as many distractions as possible. I can appreciate that.

I volunteer in the kids' classrooms on Wednesdays. After helping 25 kindergartners plant sunflower seeds, I left covered in potting soil (literally) to go to Caleb's class. Caleb is taking the WASL in the speech room, which happens to be half-way between Alyssa's class and his regular room. Being the ever-curious mom I wanted to sneak a peek to see how things were going. I glanced ever so quickly past the bright pink "Do Not Disturb" sign to see Caleb reading a book. It was evident that he was done with the test. I continued to his classroom where it was clear that the students there were taking one of their breaks from testing so I disregarded the sign and quietly entered.

"Perfect timing," Mrs. Knapp said. "We are just taking a break between test sections. Will you take this snack down to Caleb? He hasn't had his snack yet."

"Sure. I just peeked in on him and he was just reading a book. Does that mean he's done?"

"Yes, he's probably done. As soon as we are done with the next section, I'll send a runner down to get him."

I was excited to go see him and take him a little treat. I entered the room, ignoring the sign for a number of reasons; 1. it was clear he was not currently taking the test, 2. his teacher asked me to go, and 3. this isn't just any student, it's my son.

The immediate glare from the para sent the unmistakable message that she was not pleased by my presence. I cheerfully greeted Caleb and offered him his snack, feeling the need to also explain that I was on the errand of the teacher. She abruptly told me that he has already had his break and was not interested in a snack. While maintaining a cold stare, she explained the purpose of the proverbial sign which I had obviously disregarded. She went on to tell me that she is required to keep a record of any person that enters the room during testing, if the phone rings, etc. In other words, I was an intolerable distraction.

Feeling my defenses rise and wanting to justify my actions I said, pointing to the book, "This is part of the WASL?" I knew full well it wasn't. As she struggled to explain herself, all the while maintaining her disgust for me, I mustered all the friendliness I could manage and said, "I'm Mom, by the way." In an instant her cold stare changed to a blank one. Seconds later she was offering her apologies as the handshake of friendship was extended to me. She awkwardly explained her "impressive" five-year history of being a para who helps with the WASL.
I turned my attention to Caleb, giving him a good-bye hug. The para offered another sincere apology as I left. I felt embarrassed for this woman, she was just trying to do her job, but I laughed my way to the workroom as I thought of the powerful title of "Mom!"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

If you are ever in the Seattle area in the first few weeks of April, a must see (in our opinion) is to go up to the Skagit Valley and see all the tulips blooming in hundreds of acres of fields. It is an amazing sight to see--rows and rows of colorful tulips as far as the eye can see.

The Skagit valley is 60 miles north of Seattle and some of the pioneer settlers in this area come from Holland. They brought their farming traditions as well as raising tulips and other flowers. They now sell their bulbs all over the world and they ship fresh flowers to Pike Place market and other areas each day.

Skagit Valley 2007

One of our favorite places to go is Tulip Town. Here you can catch a tractor ride through fields of tulips. Inside there are murals of the same scenery you could see if you walked outside.

I think our favorite tulip color is red. It is just stunning to see what are seemingly endless fields of red tulips.

Alyssa took this photo of us. Not bad eh? Perhaps a career as a photographer is in her future.

Alyssa is our only child that actually likes to pose for the camera! You probably will see many pictures of her since she is the only one to stay still long enough.

Natalie "tiptoeing" through the tulips.

The Evans called us and said they had come up. We met and went to Roozengaarde.

The boys riding the bull"frog".

Here are my favorite "two-lips".

See ya next year, tulips!