Thursday, December 5, 2013

Birthday surprise for Ms. Khoshen

I'm posting this because it's cute, and also to test the mobile Blogger app. I think I'm much more likely to start posting again if I can do it from my phone where most of my picture are. So! Anne (Jack Cheatham's mom) organized a surprise party for Nate's teacher, Ms. Khoshen. She was surprised and touched and the kids loved making her happy. She's an amazing teacher!!

Let's see how this posts!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Traveling Around Panama - San Blas

Several months ago we got the great news that New York cousins Phil and Leslie, and kids Noah and Evan, were coming for a visit! Stewart teamed up with the for planning a neat vacation to San Blas - I would never have planned a sailboat vacation but I'm so glad they did!

Sleeping was a little rough (it was hot and a little cramped). The first night, Nate and I slept up on the deck of the boat. The stars and the breeze were wonderful, and Nate woke me at sunrise by saying something beautiful and deep that I have not managed to remember at all. But I remember being so glad he had the chance to be there, and it clearly struck a chord with him. We work very hard to vocalize our appreciate for life and hearing him echo our perspective was thrilling.

Jack was his usual impish self and dove right into the activities. The first day, they both swam like fish under the water right off the back of the boat! There was a little perch in the front of the boat which was duly fought over. Even Mama took a little time sitting there and yes, I had to fight for it with all the other little rugrats.

Evan and Noah were great sports and great cousins to my boys. Jack and Nate just reveled in being there with them and it was beyond heartwarming. I don't have a big family, so to see the next generation connecting makes me really happy.

Our grouchy captain had a little dinghy and a surfboard of sorts to pull the kids around on. Nate was a little timid but went for it. Jack was not timid and went for it. Even Leslie got in on the fun!

It was amazingly beautiful. Stewart, who is not one to gush over anything besides his kids, said "It looks like it's out of the pages of a travel magazine." Spot on.

I had purchased a snorkel set for the boys and the last day we were there we found an amazing reef - it was out of a movie. Tons of different types of coral, hundreds of fish darting around. I took Jack out and he was a little soldier - swam all the way out, looked around, nodded his head, headed back without much hooplah. Nate was very nervous about stingrays and the seagrass and the big unknown but agreed to go with me and Stewart. We swam together, each of us holding one of Nate's hands. He did it. He really did it. He stuck it out and showed himself he could do it. Seeing the reef and the fish pales in comparison to the will he showed in conquering multiple fears. Beyond impressive.

All in all, a wonderful trip. Thank you Wagners for making it happen!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Right where we are

With a little more free-time on my hands these days, I am taking a second to document random things going on with us lately.

Jack figured out how to do kung-fu: "You just need peace, Mom." Said earnestly, with hands folded in the prayer position across his chest. Playdate with Ronan, Nate led the little boys in a kung-fu lesson on the trampoline. Kids come back inside, Ronan is sniffling. He is only level zero and Jack is level 2,000. I hear Jack helpfully tell Ronan: "You just need to have peace!" Ronan whines that he really does have peace, and Jack reassures him he too can get to level 2,000. "You just need to have the same amount of peace that I have." Problem solved.

Jack still uses the word "fastly." As in: "Mom, did I clean up my room really fastly?!?!" Nate continues to insist that "brung" is a word, as in "I brung it home with me." Jack continues to lisp mightily, skipping "th" where it belongs, turning three into "free", and adding "th" almost anywhere it does not belong. I should probably do something about it.

The boys got to play robbers at a play-place here in Panama - it was a little dark room set up with lasers pointing all which ways, and the boys had to go over and under and steal the diamond at the end of the room. They were graded on speed, and how few times they triggered the laser. They loved it. I loved when Nate decided to simply run through the room and see how many times he could trigger the laser. A year ago he would never have been able to deviate from the rules like that!

The kids are doing memorization projects with Stewart. Nate memorized all of the presidents in order, and is now working on the Bill of Rights (the 5th Amendment is long!). Jack has memorized all of the countries and capitals in Central American, and the planets in order. Stewart is starting him on the States next, though Jack is advocating for dinosaur species. There are treats involved in this memorizing which is a nice feature for the brother of the child who has memorized something - everyone gets a treat. Nice for the parents too.

We took a sailing trip to San Blas with the New York Wagners. Nate and Jack reveled in the company of older cousins Noah and Evan. We are gearing up for a trip to Orlando to see Islands of Adventure and Disneyworld. I may be more excited about it than the children. I am certainly more excited about it than Stewart is, poor dumpling. Then in July, a trip home to DC. We are all looking forward to it greatly.

Nate has started emailing recently and he gets very emotional when he hears from someone in DC. Sometimes I think about whether this life is fair to them. It has so many advantages, but there is so much loss. I'm missing home and family a lot, so I empathize with my sweet tenderhearted Nate.

Nate continues to act as Jack's third parent, the sternest of the lot. At dinner the other night he scolded Jack for slurping his spaghetti (something that Nate does every single time, but anyhow...). Jack's indignant response? "I wasn't slurping it, I was just kissing it!"

Nate's mind continues to amaze and impress. We were talking about numbers the other day and I said something about not being able to do math without numbers. Nate insisted I was wrong (as usual). Okay, Nate, how could we do math without numbers? He thought for a moment and offered up shapes: triangle + triangle = Chanukah star. Not too shabby. Jack was putting something in his backpack and I hear him talking to it: "Say ahhhhhh backpack!"

I went to Jack's track and field event at school, and for the first time he didn't run into my arms. He hardly spoke to me. He smiled shyly but definitely kept his distance. He held my hand between events. He is growing up.

Nate did an overnight field trip with his school, where they traveled around Gamboa all day and then slept in tents in the big field behind the school. I drove by to check on him before bedtime and he was happy and wanted to stay. I watch him watch the other boys run around, an eager smile on his face, learning what he's "supposed" to be doing. He wants to fit in. He runs after them. Then I see him at school for his play's rehearsal, and the other kids are trying to get his attention, to whisper and laugh with him, and he brushes them off and sits quietly because that's what you're supposed to be doing. He is growing up.

Jack still likes to organize everything. He sorts crayons into little color piles. He lines up little wooden animals on the window sill, grouped in "armies." He took the time to sort all of the Candyland cards into colored piles, then came to me and earnestly explained that what I'd told him had worked: he'd stuck with it, done it inch by inch, and he finished! He wasn't sure he could, but he did! What do you do with a child like this? How do you keep him forever?

Nate got his second-trimester report card. Summary: "Nate is an excellent student. He is very knowledgeable about many topics. He is a thinker and he is creative with his ideas. Nate is passionate about his success in the classroom and about doing his best. He always tries to go the extra mile in his work and discipline. He is helpful and sensitive to others. His peers and teachers always recognize his caring ways. Nate is a role model in our classroom and students learn from his commitment and motivation. It is a joy to have Nate in our class."

Jack got his second-trimester report card, too. Summary: ""Jack is a bright, outgoing, and very confident child whose considerate manners and happy, friendly demeanor have earned him many friends among his peers. He is always a cooperative and constructive team member and is willing to play on any team to which he is assigned. He accepts various roles within the class and group, including leadership. He is a highly motivated student who participates in class activities with creativity and a great deal of enthusiasm. He loves learning new things, which becomes evident in his enthusiasm about work in general. All in all, Jack is a balanced child who enjoys learning as much as socializing and playing with his friends. Keep on shining, sunshine Jack!"

The two of them, it's almost unspeakable how much I love them. I would do anything to make sure they always know how much we love them, and how proud we are to be their parents. So on Saturday I will shower them with sushi and edamame, and we will wear our fancy clothes and clink glasses, and try to breathe in our good fortune and save it up for later. Love you boys.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Smarty Mom

Jack resists, over and over, changing out of his school uniform after school. It is an endless routine. Not fun for either of us, but he keeps it up for some unknown reason.

Today after playing dinosaurs, helping me with a craft project, and delivering some goodies to a neighbor, he declared that he was going to jump on the trampoline. I asked him to change out of his uniform first (I pick my timing carefully). He sighed, and flounced to the bedroom.

I sat typing, and he called out "Don't come in!" Okay, no problem. Again: "Don't come in, please!!" Sure, okay. Nothing weird going on there. Jack comes slinking out of the room, sliding against the wall through the room, "don't look at me!" Uh huh. Jack, come here. He peers around the corner. Here, stand next to me. Jack, go take off your uniform (it is under his play clothes, sneaky guy, he's only tried this 37 times before). Jack's eyes wide: "How did you know??"

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tenderhearted Boy

The more tired Nate gets, the more tenderhearted he becomes.

Tonight I was tucking Jack in on the downstairs bunk and Nate said "Remember when we lost Bumper at Peepa's house?" This was one of just a few Bumpers we had, but it was Bumper #1, and we believe he fell into Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

"I feel happy for Bumper" he said. "I imagine he's exploring the ocean."

I said "That's beautiful, Natey."

And then he burst into tears.

Sweet boy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Roadtrip Recap: Vermont House Swap!

Was it a sign that on the way from Niagara Falls to Vermont we saw a rainbow in the middle of a beautiful sunny sky?

I think it was. Incidentally, we had amazing weather nearly the entire trip. I don't remember it raining once, and my iPhoto is filled with snapshots of gorgeous blue skies. Lucky as always.

Maybe even more than this blog has functioned as an information tool for family to keep up with us, it is a book I write for my boys. It is the depository of my hopes for them, my joy at their lives, and a journal so they can see what happened in their lives before memory takes over. That's a fancy way of saying that this is going to be a LONG entry with lots of boring details. This post will just be about the house and the swap; I'll write another entry about what we did in Vermont. I remember this week with so much fondness. It was a time of total relaxation and freedom for the boys. It is why I regularly fantasize about moving us all onto a small farm and living a different kind of life. And why we might, someday!

In the cold winter before our road trip, I had a thought to try to find a farm to rent out for the summer. It didn't take shape the way I'd hoped, and I switchd to the idea of a road-trip where I could show my boys some amazing sights, see some old friends, and maybe fit in a tiny bit of "farm" in the form of a house-swap somewhere more rural. I crafted an add for Craigslist. It read:
Vacation swap - your home for our DC rowhouse I am looking for a summer adventure for myself and my two sons (ages 5 and 3). We have always lived in the city, and would love to experience living somewhere totally different. I'm hoping to find another family that would like to "switch lives" for a while! Ideally, we'd like to stay somewhere rural but are open to anything. 
I'm going to post a little "about us" and a hopeful "about you" along with a few pictures of our home. If you're at all interested, drop me a line and we can talk in more detail. And if you know anyone you think might be open to this sort of crazy plan, please pass this listing along! 
About us: we live in a very walkable area of Washington, DC. We walk two blocks to the Metro, two blocks to the community center/playground, two blocks to the grocery store, 15 minutes to Chinatown and the Verizon Center and a big movie theatre, and 25 minutes to the National Mall (Capital building, Washington Monument). We regularly Metro a few stops to the museums to visit the American History Museum (dinosaurs!), the American Indian museum, and other fun adventures downtown. There is hiking nearby at Roosevelt Island, and it's easy to get to some great child-friendly places all over Maryland and Virginia. We walk to Thai, Ethiopian, Greek, and Chinese restaurants. 
Our house: a decent-sized house for the city: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, fully finished basement, pantry, washer/dryer, deep freezer. There's a small bricked backyard that you can use for playing or for parking. We have wonderful friendly neighbors who will be happy to help you acclimate, learn about the area, and provide support (and parties!) 
About you: I want to meet up with another family who is up for an adventure. I hope to find a nice house with at least 2 bedrooms, child-friendly, well-maintained, no pets that we need to take care of (we can handle fish or guinea pigs though). Having a bunch of land and a nice porch would be a bonus.
My old boyfriend Jonathan has a stellar wife named Wendy, and she put it on the local listserve in their town of Norwich, VT. I got a bite from a lady named Gail and everything clicked. Looking back, I realize that we never spoke to each other on the phone, not once. In fact, we still haven't, even a year and a half afterwards! This is the first email she sent me:
I read the posting your friend Wendy placed on the Norwich listserve about your interest in a housing swap this summer. We are very interested if you haven't found anything yet. We are a family of 4 (2 girls (8 & 12) and 2 adults) and live in Norwich. Our house is on the Connecticut River with about 4 acres of yard and a swimming beach and rope swing into the river. The house has 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths, family room, and a kitchen/dining/living room. 
We have friends in DC that we would love to visit plus would love to have a chance to visit some museums.. We are fairly flexible with time but are not available for a swap the 3rd week in June, 4th of July week or the 3rd week in August. If this is at all interesting to you, please let me know and I will send photos of the house and property.
To protect Gail's privacy, I won't post the address but suffice to say it was perfect. We sent several more emails and worked out the details. We were able to arrange to swap the week before the boys and I needed to be in Wolfeboro, NH for our week at the lake (maybe 2 hours from Norwich) and so everything lined up wonderfully. Stewart made arrangements to stay with some friends in DC. And so I both took a deep breath and jumped into the adventure! And this is what we found waiting for us:


And all of this? Just the YARD of the house we stayed in! Next post...what we did in Vermont!

Roadtrip Recap: Niagara Falls!

After our fun in Ohio, we left the helicoptor landing-site (after being mistaken for Paul's wife and being thanked for my service to the country!) and hit a mid-west landmark: Steak 'n Shake. It did not disappoint.

  From there we hustled up to Niagara Falls. I had booked a hotel while sitting on my butt in front of the TV at Becky's house in Ohio and it turned out to be further from the falls than I thought - once we'd gotten there, checked in, and charted a path to the falls it was later in the day than I wanted. We hit a drive-through and drove madly towards the falls parking lot which was a road-trip in and of itself! Parked, hereded the boys out of the car, down the paths, down a great big hill...and there we were!


We looked over the falls and got drenched by the spray. We picnicked on the grass near the falls. We pooped in our pants and hid the poop in the bushes and tucked the underpants neatly into the trash. One of us did, anyway. We washed our hands on McDonalds napkins and water from our water bottles. It was fun.


Hotel again, some swimming there the next day, and then off for the most anticipated part of the trip: our house-swap in Vermont!