Thursday, January 26, 2012

... slip, sliding away...

Last week Seattle was "pounded" by a snowstorm (and subsequent ice storm) that dropped upwards of 4-6 inches of white on the city. As you can imagine, if you're from around here, things quickly slid to a halt. (And if you're not from around here, and imagine that 4 inches of snow isn't really that much, you're right, but this is Seattle so everyone freaks out when it does anything other than rain (we even have "sunshine slowdowns" in traffic, when the sun manages to come out), so it was SNOWPOCALYPSE 2012!

What this meant, among other things, is that the girls were out of school for 3 of the 4 days that were scheduled (Monday was Martin Luther King's Birthday), and that in turn meant that parents all over the region were driven crazy by their snowbound children. Including parents in our neighborhood and more specifically, in our house.

I knew the storm was coming (they'd been forecasting it in some for for 10-12 hours months) and had my laptop at home, so I "worked" from home on Weds, the first of the girls' snowdays. This meant that I worked in the morning, while M took the girls out into the arctic conditions.

And then they returned, or M and L returned, and I was suddenly on-call to go be with K on the sledding hill.

When I got there, I found K looking like this:

K, watching neighbors sledding

As soon as I walked up and she saw me, she turned and buried her face in my legs, crying. It turns out that she was having a horrible time, feeling left out. No one was asking her to sled, no one was offering her a ride. And as we only have a snow disc, she was feeling out of the loop.

The thing to realize is this: K had never been sledding. We'd tried a couple days before, when the snow first started, in our yard, but it wasn't enough snow and wasn't enough of a hill to really work. And more importantly, it was with her parents, not with cool neighborhood kids. Who had a sled, not a lame-o snow disc.

I'd brought the snow disc down with me, and I asked if she wanted to ride in it. "With you?" I said yes. She shook her head. I stood with her and we watched a bit, then I asked again and this time she grudgingly agreed to go. And we did. And she almost had fun. A few more turns, and then a neighbor girl asked her if she wanted to ride with her, and K was suddenly in 7th heaven. She was being included, and she was having a blast.

So K sledded and I disced and eventually we headed in for lunch (everyone else was doing the same), and we ate and chilled out for a bit. And then I looked up and saw beautiful light and asked K if I could take a picture of her. And she agreed. And I got these:

Happier now, after a positive experience on the "slopes"

And then she took the camera and took this one of me:

Not bad for a 5 yo!

And then, after a bit more resting and reading, we all went back out, K&L&M and me. And this time everyone had a great time. There were neighborhood kids to sled with, neighborhood girls riding their own snow discs (which put our disc into a different light!). And K was getting comfortable with the whole idea of careening down a slick hill with little or no control, on her own:

L didn't have any problem doing that, but then she's sort of that kind of girl:

And M didn't have any problem with it either, but then, she and I had had martinis at lunch:

M, showing them how it's done!

M&L on an end-of-the-day run


Ultimately, it was a good day for the family. It started out rough, but everyone adjusted and got into the swing of the experience, and we all had fun and crawled into bed that night feeling happily exhausted, with snow still falling, and the promise of another snow day ahead!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

... i held my breath...

It's been a long week, because it started snowing last Saturday (during a race I was doing), and continued, off and on, through Thursday. Monday was a school holiday (Martin Luther King's Birthday), Tuesday they went to school, Weds/Thurs/Fri were snow days. Every day was a long one for the parent left home. (I worked from home on Monday and took the girls sledding - more on that in another post), I went to work Tuesday, worked from home Weds, went to work Thurs and Fri. M went mostly a bit stir-crazy.

's been taking the girls to swim at her club for several months now, and telling me that they're doing really well. Some Sunday mornings K and L will come back excited to tell me that they swam to their mom, or jumped from the side of the pool to a noodle, or dove down to the last step to get a swim toy. M too has been keeping me posted on progress, but I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, until this weekend.

But we all went to the club on Sunday and I got to witness the swimming. And I was impressed.

The last time I saw the girls swim, they were clinging to us, insisting on holding on, maybe grabbing one stroke as they crossed a 2-foot gap between one of us and the wall. On Sunday I watched them both jumping off the side of the pool (no noodles), swimming 10 and more feet, diving down (or trying to, in the case of L, our resident cork). It was impressive. So much so that I took several videos, only one of which I'll inflict on you.

And so much so that a woman there with her own 2 children asked me how long the girls had been swimming and how they'd learned. I told her that M had been doing a lot of work with them, and that they'd also started watching a mermaid show (which I'm convinced encouraged them to start putting their heads under water in the bathtub). The show itself is dreck, but if it contributed to their comfort in the water, then I'm willing to put up with it. Even though it's no Saddle Club....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

... 'cause baby, it's ....

.... freakin' freezing outside! So what am I thinking?!?

Saturday it was blustery and cold and I did the first race of the PNW-ORCA Winter Series on Lake Union. The wind made the water lumpy and disorganized, which meant that Jeff and I had a challenge keeping our seats. And it meant we weren't able to do what we'd planned, which was to get a jump at the start and put some distance between us and a lot of the other canoes.

We've been training to push hard, and we'd intended to try and bust out at the start. Instead we sort of wallowed out, with me paddling on the left a goodly portion of the time, just to make sure we stayed upright.

And the wind was windy. And the cold was coldy. And then it snowed. And it snowed as we paddled. We caught most of the others by the time we were 1/2 way to the Ballard Bridge. And we did fine.

Here's a picture of the start, which was off of Gas Works Park.
bumpy start
(we're somewhere way in the back, putting ourselves in a hole)

The wind was blowing from the west-southwest. Which meant not only that the wind bumps were reflecting off the breakwall at the park, making for the choppy conditions shown in the picture, but that we had a headwind all the way down the ship canal to the Ballard Locks. The wind eased some on the way back (which meant that we didn't have it pushing us along going east). But it was fun.

Here's our track for the race:

We came in at 57:34, which is fine. We were the 16th canoe to finish (7th oc2, first sr. master oc2) and though we didn't manage our unofficial goal of averaging 7mph, given the conditions, I'm good with it.*

This was the first time Jeff and I have raced oc2 together, and the first time he's raced in a small boat, so all-in-all, it was a good day.

*in comparison, last year I did the race in milder conditions in an oc1 and finished in 1:05.1, 26th canoe in, 2nd sr. masters.

Monday, January 16, 2012

... snow day!!!

disclaimer: these were all taken yesterday, Sunday.

I was at home today (Monday), but I was working. So I didn't have time to take more pictures of the girls playing in the snow. But we had snow. Starting on Saturday. Continuing yesterday. And today.

A snow bunny

The start of something

The middle of something

(flying toward me, at the top center of the picture)

It turns out that K has a pretty good arm. And that the snowsuits M found for the girls work quite well in keeping them warm.

Today, when I took a break from working, we all walked down toward the Junction to get coffee, since if we were going to be snowed in, we needed coffee. Almost more than water or air. Except that we also need water to make coffee. So it's not a one-or-the-other kind of thing. It's coffee, water, and then air is a distant third. If available. Air we can actually do without. In a pinch.

And we made it partway there before we needed to catch a bus and we did and we went into Cupcake Royale to get a cupcake (and a bag of Stumptown coffee, out of which Cupcake Royale was almost sold... out... of), and then we caught another bus back toward home. It was a good break.

So we were successful. The girls got some exercise and fresh air. As did M and me. And did I mention that we got coffee? For espresso tomorrow morning. Because if you're snowed in, you need coffee. Coffee!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

... get yer motor runnin'...

There's something inherently emotional about watching a child moving away from you at speeds you cannot yourself maintain. It's "so metaphorical!" to semi-quote the girls.

After all, what better way to represent the growth and ultimate freeflying of offspring than with a photo showing one of them riding her bike away from you with no hesitation, no thought of what she's leaving behind.

I watch L riding away from me down this boardwalk and think about how she's destined to leave one day, to ride away either by herself, or with some greasy-haired, no 'count biker dude boyfriend, or to college, and I realize my baby was growing up.

In other words, I took L and her bike to the park yesterday (Sunday) morning and she had a blast. Our street is a bit too bumpy, and a bit too sloped, to make it ideal for learning to ride a bike. Either you're going too fast (downhill) or too slow (uphill, needing constant pushing from a parent). So we figured if we could get the girls to some smooth, flat surface, they might have a better experience. That was the plan. Note that I said "the girlS."

But things didn't go as planned. (I know, I was shocked too!)

K's been in a bit of a state lately. Honestly, we all have been. We got bad colds over Christmas. And there's the inherent stresses of the holidays (good as well as not so good). And the girls were home for 2 weeks, which is a mixed blessing, as it means both they're home, and they're not getting the activity/interactions they're used to at school. So we've all been a bit less than jake. And K is in one of her 1/2 yearly stages where she intentionally pushes buttons, pushes L, pushes us. So yesterday morning she was misbehaving and got a timeout but refused to go upstairs, so I walked her up and told her she needed to behave or she would lose privileges. Like maybe going to the pool. Or to the park. And then she spit at me (really, just a bronx cheer, but still, with a smirky grin on her face, and very intentional). So I lost my temper and said "Ok, you've just lost the privilege of going to the park to ride your bike."

It was one of those moments where as soon as you speak, you wish you could take it back and say something slightly different - because this was a lose-lose-lose proposition. She won't get the exercise/fresh air. I won't get to spend time with her. And M has to stay home (rather than either come with us, or go do the week's shopping). But once I say it, there is no way to back up. So L and I head out while K dissolves in tears. With M having to clean up that mess.

And L had a blast.

Getting the hang of it

I'm sure K would have as well.

(It's amazing how fast you can make a kid go, when you give them a good stiff push on a steep slope!)

Moving... not as fast as it looks

Actually, L has a built-in tendency to toss herself off things willy-nilly. Like the pool deck. She's got a bit of a thrill seeker in her I suspect.

So our approach was to spend a bit of time peddling on the flat cement, then out on the boardwalk ("Dada?" "Yeah L?" "What if this all fell down?" "It's not going to fall down." "But what if it did? For real?" "Then I'd climb us out." "But Dada, we'd be falled down." "I could get us out!"), then I pushed her up the path to the viewpoint at the top of the view tower. And then we went back down, with me holding her back. And then back up again. And back down. And this time she got annoyed at my holding her back. By the time we reached the last (small) ramp, she wanted me to just let go so she could go fast. And I did. And she did. And her giggling echoed across the park.

I mean, she really got a kick out of it. So I had to push her back up and she rode back down. And we did it again. And I told her that we could do it "one more time" before we had to start back.

I wish M could have seen it. She'll see it soon enough, I guess (and she's been seeing them both swimming, since they get into the club on M's membership and I'm not a member). L just got such joy out of going fast.

Like a fledged bird, leaving the nest. It's all but done now, isn't it. Goodbye little 4yo!

And then reality.

She stops. She looks back, yells for me to hurry up because she needs my help:

She's stuck on a particularly lumpy board, and can't go anywhere. And I realize that there's a a chance she may never leave home, not to mention our bed.

And then we took video to show to M and K when we got home:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

... how do you sleep...

As much as I complain comment about the swings in behavior that occur with the girls, I have to acknowledge that there are what might seem to be similar swings in my own behavior... at times.

She looks so pleasant in daylight....

For example. I can go for a good long time wanting, insisting that the girls sleep in their own darn beds. Alone. Without intervention from us. And ultimately this seems like a good goal, given that M and I will likely not be available to crawl into beddy with them, say, once they're in college, or on their honeymoons.

But there are times when I weaken. Like last night, for example.

I woke up around 2-ish to L calling, "Mommy!"

By all rights, I could have turned over in some manner that woke M up so that she realized she was needed, but for some reason (possibly I've gotten closer to enough sleep in the last couple of nights, possibly I'm starting to feel nearly over my cold, possibly a combination of both....) I got up myself and went out and found L lying completely uncovered in her bed.

I knelt down and put my hand on her tummy while I pulled her covers up.

L (loud "whisper"): Dada?
me: Yeah?
L: I need someone to lie with me.
me: Yeah?
L: Would you lie with me?
both of us, in unison: Just one minute?
me: Ok. (patting the bed) I need to lie here, on the inside.
L (misunderstanding and shifting over to where I'm patting): Ok.
me (what the hell): Just one minute.
L (snuggling in now, hand poked down my left sleeve, head resting on my shoulder): Ok.

In just a few minutes she was breathing deeply. And there's something undeniably awesome about curling up with my daughter in the middle of the night, feeling her body warming up, feeling her relax and drift off.

I'll admit that a big part of my willingness to do this has to do with my sense that time is passing quickly, and before too much longer neither of the girls will want me to snuggle in bed with them, and while that's appropriate and even desirable, there are things about it I'll miss. Don't get me wrong. I have no desire to snuggle in bed with my getting-grown-up child, but while she's 4yo it's a joy to share that time with her. Sometimes.

We both drifted off, actually. I woke up some time later and slipped out and went back to my own bed, but it felt like it was good to have done this, and that it wouldn't ultimately have a negative impact.

I suppose we'll see. Her roommate (or husband) may hate me in about 20 or 30 years....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

... just a little bit...

... of your time...

It's as simple as this: take a moment, be there and listen to them and really hear them. Look eye-to-eye and share the time.

Tonight, I was tired, late home from work, wanting to eat and chill out, and M had the girls bathed and dressing in their jammies, ready for toothbrushing, books and bed. And K asked if I would tell a Belle story. And M asked if I wanted her to read to them tonight.

And miraculously, there are moments when, in spite of myself, I somehow manage to appreciate what I've got right here in my hands.


Some background: lately K has been a really pain in the... something. In our house we call it "being a pill," and she knows it.

She'll intentionally do something mean to her sister and then come tell us ("I just spit at L."), basically forcing us to respond in some way (a timeout for quiet thinking, loss of some privilege, a forced apology to L). And then she reacts based on what we've responded with. In other words, she's acting her age (5 1/2).

The challenge is, it's been a while since she's acted like this. L tends to be dramatic. K tends to be rational and to listen to us and hear what we're saying. So it trips me up when she goes through a stage like she's been going through. And it's so easy to react, to get angry, to get annoyed.

But yesterday as I helped K and L get ready for bed, and they're running around and acting like little girls, I sit on the floor in their room and enjoy it. They're in their underwear, jumping over my outstretched legs, being "horses" with me being the "owner" but also the jump. (K: How about you be the owner, but you're also the jump. L: Yeah, you're the owner and you're the jump! me (figuring it means I get to sit down): Uh... ok.)

And this can be a real pain, when they get like this. I want to get them into bed, and they're wound up and seemingly not anywhere near tired. But on this particular night I've had the day off, and even though I'm tired and feeling ill, it's only 5.30p so we have lots of time and I manage somehow to find it amusing watching 2 young girls in their underwear pawing at the rug and neighing at the top of their voices, running full-tilt to leap over my legs and crash into the far wall of their bedroom.

And here's the thing, and this is a lesson I'm going to be relearning every week or so until I die, because it just doesn't seem to stick: when I can stay calm, when I can keep from getting stressed out, EVERYTHING GOES BETTER. Like with Coke. Except it's with Calm. Everything goes better with Calm!

So because I'm not freaking out about getting their teeth brushed or getting them into jammies and into bed, they accept it when I steer them toward the bathroom. I'm grinning and laughing at their high-jinks and that gets them laughing too, and we get their teeth brushed and then we're all in bed, snuggled under the covers and I'm reading a book to them and then it's time for a Belle story, except instead of snuggling in and falling asleep while I tell it, L wants to get into her own bed, so we knock on the floor and M comes up and takes her to bed while I tell K her story. I can see K falling asleep too, but we finish the story (L has fallen asleep about 2 minutes after M took her off) and then I help K in the bathroom and then tuck her in and she doesn't even ask for a song or a story about when I was a little boy. I tell her I love her and kiss her and we're done. She's out and it's not even 7pm and I stand there looking at these two little girls who sometimes seem determined to frustrate and try me, and I'm realizing just how special these times are, and I'm grateful for everything I have.

And so, tonight, even though I'm late and I'm tired, when K asks if I can do a Belle story, I hesitate, hedge, then realize that yes, I'm going to tell her a Belle story. And when I say it's going to be a short one, she snuggles in close and nods, saying "Ok" in a soft voice, already looking forward to hearing what happens.

(for the record, in last night's story, K and Annie take their newly trained wild horses Snowflake and Makaoioi to see Casandra on her island, to introduce her to the horses and vice versa. And Casandra takes them to the pirate treasure and gives them each a pair of earrings which they wear home. In case you were wondering!)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

... it's beginning to look a lot like...

...2012! How the hell did that happen?

What I look like on New Year's morning...
... after not much of any partying at all.

Yikes. So what about that year-end recap of all the exciting things I did/saw/accomplished? What about my wrap-up of paddling events for 2011? What about a post at least mentioning L's recent 4th birthday? Crap!

Well, I've got most of the paddling wrap-up written, and have thought about the recap, and as for L's birthday, here's a picture I'm particularly fond of:

And another, taken earlier in the day, during the "fairy wings" phase of the celebration:

Which, if memory serves, was somewhere around 0-dark 30 in the morning.

And speaking of which, we're in a routine these days of waking up around 5.50a, when either K or L calls out "Mommy!" As any parent worth their salt knows, this specificity gives the other parent full rights to roll over in bed (sympathetically), and try to sleep through whatever issue is being brought to Mommy's attention (could be a dirty kleenex, an empty water cup, or a question about when we can all go down stairs and have a piece a candy).

Ultimately, though, we all end up downstairs trying to come up with something to eat for breakfast (easier for a couple of us than for a couple of other, younger ones of us).

Oh yeah, and one other thing, just to prove that genetics isn't a one-to-one match. Here's a picture I took this morning of someone who doesn't much like to have his picture taken. Hard to imagine that the little girl in the preceding photos is related! And damn, I look lousy on not enough sleep! But I was in bed by 9p and asleep by 9.30p last night. And up before 6a. And that's what I was talking about.

Self-portrait, without sleep.

Beyond that, I've got not much of anything for you except a wish for a happy 2012, and thanks to everyone for being a part of my 2011.