Thursday, February 24, 2011

The perfect snow day...

We don't get a lot of snow here.  Maybe 1-2 "good" storms a year, with a big storm being defined as any that brings snow.  And because it's so rare, people tend to overreact - if there's snow on the roads, its a pretty good chance that there will be no school. Now, I know those of you in other areas are laughing, but I have to admit that I don't mind that even a few flakes bring on the "snowpocalypse" warnings of every weatherperson (professional and amateur).  I'm all for anything that brings a little variety to our lives - especially if it means I get to stay home from work.

So when I got the call at 6am that school was closed for our whole family, I did a little dance of joy.  I would have liked to go back to bed, but I was too awake by that point.  Oh well - may as well begin enjoying the free day as soon as possible, right?

And enjoy we did.  The boys couldn't have been more excited to see the snow outside, but were perfectly content to hang around indoors and just look at it for a while.  In our house, being "stuck" inside often means it's time to break out the folding tables.  It was blanket fort time. And staying in pjs. And playing rocket ship/African safari/doctor.There's no better way to start the day.

Before the snow could all melt away, we had to head outside.  While I lasted all of about 5 minutes, the boys played for over an hour.  They played snow soccer, then got out the shovels.  Truth be told, they came in more muddy than wet, but they had a blast. It was only made better by the cocoa and marshmallows that were waiting for them by the fire.

The afternoon was filled with more fun.  Lego invaders were created. Letter writing was practiced.  Stories were read. But my favorite part?  The oldest was sound asleep in the blanket fort, Dan was napping in our room.  I had just finished reading a novel and the little one came wandering out from his nap. I was sleepy, he was still sleepy, and he climbed onto the couch and into my lap. We pulled the fuzzy blanket up, and the cat hopped onto the party.  And we fell into that delightful not-awake-not-asleep state.  And while we lay there, the snow started to fall again.

I'm not sure that I have ever felt so much at home.  So at peace.  So in love with my life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes you have to give in...

In my ideal world, every holiday and celebration is filled with homemade goodness.  Tablecloths carefully sewn.  Garlands created by the boys.  Evidence of preparation and crafting that is filled with love. Handmade cards in the mail in plenty of time to arrive at their destinations.  Gifts wrapped with love and heartfelt cards that will get stashed away in that special place where you put things you never want to forget.

And then there's the reality.  Yes, I know that Valentine's Day is the same day every year.  It shouldn't be a surprise.  But what I have learned is that I have difficulty with the multitasking of it.  I can remember to get something for the boys, or I've got ideas of ways to celebrate Dan. But those cards and sweet things that should get in the mail?  The decorations that need to be made? They slip the mind and the to-do list far more than I would like to admit.

So sometimes we settle for the less-than-ideal in the hope that it's good enough.  Today that meant a trip to Target.  I was able to pick up some cute window clings and stickers for the bathroom mirror, a pack of cute napkins and a table runner.  I put them out while the boys were at school (I was home sick, and the "I'm just going to lay down for a minute" became a three hour nap), figuring they'd hardly notice.  Mostly it was to save me from the guilt of not doing anything. 

You know what?  The moment they walked in and saw the decorations, they squealed with delight.  They ran back and forth between the mirror and the windows, trying to decide their favorite. Did they complain about the commercial-ness of them?  Of course not.  They were just excited that there was something new and different to celebrate the specialness of the day. It's the whole Votaire quote - "Perfect is the enemy of the good".  I could have done nothing since I wasn't going to be able to make it perfect.  Instead I tried to go with the "good enough".  And you know what?  It was.

Sometimes you give in. But next year?  You better believe there will be some handmade loveliness to accompany our Target window clings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Letter Practice

I'm a teacher.  Both by profession and by nature.  My mom was a teacher, my sister is/was a teacher, my mother in law was a teacher.  It's all around, and it's all I know. Watching a child learn something new rocks my world.  And I get to see it everyday in my classroom or middle school students.

But, to be honest, at the end of a teaching day, I'm tired.  Unfortunately, this means that my own boys don't get nearly as much academic enrichment at home as one might think.  Part of this has to do with my strong belief that they are working at learning all day, and at home we work at playing in the evenings. And so, for the most part, I'm ok with the Legos/blocks/dress up that dominate our after school hours.

Until something catches my eye.  And the other day, it was the way that my oldest was writing. Oooooh boy. He's trying to write all kinds of things - and a lot of it makes sense and is pretty legible (at least to this teacher mama). But the other day, it was the letter e.  Oh man.  It was screaming for help.

So, much to both of our surprise, I pulled out my teacher supplies - a small chalkboard and chalk.  Why not pencil and paper?  Because chalk and the chalkboard provide more resistance, which is helpful at this stage.  It slows down the movement of the hand, and for him, helps him to be more deliberate.  Then I made a grid on the chalkboard - lots of spaces to fill in makes it feel more like a game than just asking him to write a letter over and over again. I modeled writing an e, then held his hand and we made one together. Then he went to it.  The first few were tough - he wanted to start the way he always had, so we made a dot for the starting point, then one for the second point, and from there he knew where to go.  That only took 3 boxes, and after that he was off and writing.

When he was done, he headed to the easel to write some more.  And when Dad got home, the oldest child modeled writing a "huge little e". He was so proud, and didn't feel like it was a chore, like I was afraid he would.  Since then we've tackled a few other letters, usually at his request. And in other ways, we are tackling some of the same sorts of things with his little brother.

I love things like this.  Things that bring my two worlds together, things that feel like I'm doing what I'm meant to do. And hopefully I'll find other ways to let some of our time be a little more academic, without taking away the play that makes it enjoyable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Loving the sunshine...

Winters in Portland can be dreary.  Yesterday was a solid sheet of grey skies, and we fully expected today to be the same.  But, as the day went on, the skies began to clear, and by the time I left work there were blue skies and beautiful sunshine. Just going home wasn't going to be enough today.

After a quick stop at home to pick up bikes and helmets, we headed to our favorite neighborhood park. As the sun began to set, the boys ran and rode and climbed and laughed. I chased and teased and kissed scraped knees. It was just what we needed. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A busy week...

So, supposedly this blog is all about our search for balance, right?  Weeks like this last one remind me why that is so important for our family.  Usually we try and limit it to one or two activities a week that take us away from home and each other.  For us, that is the right number. 

This week we had at least one or two things going on every night.  Staff meetings, swim lessons, performances at my school, foundation meetings, Mom's night out, and a birthday party were all on the agenda.  Add to that a sick mama, full days at school and work, and you have a house that feels slightly out of whack.

But the beauty in it?  It really reaffirms how much more we enjoy our lives when we keep things simple.  For a lot of other people, the full evenings and lots of weekend activities add richness and joy to their lives.  But for our little family, we find that too much going on greatly diminishes our ability to enjoy any of it.  When things started piling up around us (laundry that didn't get done, stories that were sped through, dinners that were less than ideal), we hung on, knowing that soon enough we would get back to our normal, calm, quiet life. 

This weekend has brought a return to calm.  We ran our weekly errands this morning, and have tucked in for some knitting/reading/lego-building time. And this next week? We're back to our normal limited schedule. 
I can't wait.