Friday, February 22, 2013

First Snow (Trip)

We went to the snow. 

Not only did we go to the snow, we went by TRAIN to the snow.

Not only did we go by train to the snow, we went with GRANDMA and GRANDPA and UNCLE JESSE and AUNT LISA to the snow.

The train worked well for transporting the kids. On the way there it was very smooth. The way back was bumpy for Sabien (due to a little overtiredness and napping challenges), but was way better than driving or flying would have been. Trains are so wonderful, and being able to walk around and enjoy the beautiful scenery makes it a practical (and very special) way to travel with kids.

We were fortunate enough to borrow snow gear from playgroup folks. We stayed in a cabin for two nights and mostly tromped around the yard and neighborhood with a nice jaunt into downtown Truckee.

As predicted, Wesley was adorable in the snow. At first he was unsteady on the snow. It was quite hard snow and a little bit slippery. But, after awhile, he was running around, pulling his sled, sliding down the hill on tummy and sled. In short, he was having a great time.

The weather was pretty warm for having snow on the ground, which was nice because we were able to stay out for longer periods of time. The first evening we stayed outside extra hours due to a snafu with a broken wood stove (i.e. smoky house). Once we put out the fire, the central heat kept us warm the rest of the trip.

The cabin was quite beautiful.

Wesley thought it was so fun to step down and "get stuck" in this hole. He repeated many times the process of stepping in, pretending to be stuck, declaring he could get out on his own, escaping, and running over to us.

Sabien spent most of his outdoor time on me, often sleeping. I think it was the easiest place for him to focus on naps. He loved watching Wesley run around.

Wesley loved going down the (very little) hill with Casey. He also laughed heartily as Casey ran and pulled the sled on flat ground.

Wes was very industrious in the snow. He was taking his sled to the gas station and filling it up, delivering gas to the gas station, delivering various imaginary things, etc.

Wes pulling his "blue bulldozer"
On the day of our departure, a big storm was moving in. We got out in time for it not to cause travel troubles, but were able to experience snow flakes falling on us.

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa D for such a wonderful first snow vacation. It was very special.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

We have waited ever so patiently, and the weather has turned beautiful. Just in time for Valentine's Day at Bodega Bay.

Casey got off work at 2pm and we jumped in the car to head to the beach. A few stops (to soothe Sabien) later, we arrived. It was gorgeous.

It was Sabien's second trip to the beach. The first while he was awake, really. It was so good to be at the ocean.

Wes had so much fun making sand castles and decorating them with seaweed. When we got home he gobbled up a sheet of nori as he was so excited to be eating seaweed.

We also made Valentine's. Wesley painted a few hearts and enjoyed gluing tiny hearts on a couple of valentine's. We delivered them to his two friends and kept his favorite one for himself because he said he wanted to hang it up. It is now displayed on our fridge.


I wrote the below post at the end of 2012. Now seems an appropriate time to document and share it...

*  *  *
On December 27, Wesley independently spelled his first word. Without my assistance in sounding the word out, he collected the letters for LOG and delivered them with his truck.

On December 29, Wesley read his first word PEG by sounding it out phonetically. It is so exciting to see the next phase of reading click into place. 

I hear him walking around the house, talking to himself now, sounding out words in the same way he used to walk around emphasizing first sounds of words when he was learning that. It's pretty adorable.

Of course, I played it really cool. We play spelling letters a lot. As in, there are constantly trucks delivering letters to various creatures in my house.

Until last Friday, though, Wes would never want to try and sound out a word, or wouldn't let me put together a word without his having chosen the word, moved each letter meticulously with his trucks, and placed them at the delivery spot. He has a specific way he likes things done. Though he doesn't want to play on his own, he often doesn't want anyone else to move the letters or delivery trucks. We often are just support trucks who tag along or carry letters if his truck is too full. 

It frequently takes 40 minutes to deliver one word. The words are generally of his choosing, and often not "beginner" or phonetically simple words. I know they say you "shouldn't" correct spelling early on, but when he's asking how to spell it...cement isn't sement (it's just a word with /C/ pretending to act like a /S/). At least that's how we're doing it now in this context.

After hours of playing one day, I took one of his guys (Dark) and grabbed a few letters without Wes noticing. Then Dark flagged down the big flatbed who was delivering letters, and asked for help figuring out what word was in front of him. I wasn't sure if Wes would reject the invitation to play or think it sounded interesting. Kevin (the playmobile driver), hopped down the ladder and sounded out "PEG". Thank you, Kevin, for your assistance. Then we went on to deliver the other letters per usual.

Deliver letters in an awesome bucket truck rigged by Daddy
Since then, the resistance has broken and we mix spelling words we know with other trucks delivering extra words. He's read MUD, RAN, LEG, and maybe a couple others. Good fun.

I am very cautious in the early stages of any new skill. We play and I try to let Wesley lead, to express his knowledge when and how he wants to, and to keep it private for a long time if he wants.

I have respected his truck method and would check and see if he wanted to read words occasionally. For the past months, I've played and occasionally seen if he wanted to play different games with the letters. We have played many different ones, though first and last sound truck delivery, and word spelling have been the primary activities for awhile.

Having his little guys do the reading clearly took any pressure off of Wes and made it more fun. Also, some barrier with blending sounds was clearly broken last week when we were sounding and spelling out soooo many words.I try not to test him very frequently, and then mostly so I can grasp what's most relevant and fun for him.

I feel myself hesitating over publishing this post. and I may not right now. Because if I do, I know, it will be hard for others not to ask after the skill, not to want to see it for themselves, or have him talk about it. The same was true when he learned his colors or his letter sounds. I like to protect his privacy of knowledge, especially in the infancy of any new concept. I have to watch myself, too, because I often want to share it with others, because it is exciting.

I told Casey that Wesley read a word, but asked him not to mention it yet, not to make a big deal. I don't want Wes to learn for others or for approval, but rather, to continue exploring knowledge as he does, for the intrinsic gratification of learning.

We have a tendency to test children. We all grew up in a culture of testing. So, we do it. Also, it is insatiably cute and one does get a feeling of awe in hearing a little kid say, in that sweet little kid voice, what he or she knows. But I can see Wes cringe or just respond with silence in the face of such testing, whether from myself or others.

Similar cringing looks and silences appear under the pressure of praise. "Oh I'm so proud of you!" "Oh I'm so impressed" "Wow aren't you smart, look what you can do". I am trying to wean myself from  such knee-jerk "good job" reactions, but it is easy for me to resist in a context like this--when a skill feels so tender, fresh, and delicate. It is in moments like these that we see the momentum of inwardly motivated learning.

I try to create a safe space for playing and learning and growing in its own fun form. Knowledge demonstrates itself. Our method of demonstration usually involves trucks and letters, but it's purpose is for fun and practice and expansion of knowledge, rather than for the demonstration.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tot School (30 months)

Here's a glimpse at the Tot School things we've done the past couple weeks. We are working a lot with letters and words as Wesley is excited about that. He's reading cvc words well and some ccvc words, too, though he likes those less.

We have been spending much of our time in The Field. There are various scenarios to The Field. This is The Rainy Day Field...

The Field always involves animals and trucks reading words, and usually delivering items to said words. Sometimes it is a Truck Field full of truck words (dig, dump, flap, big rig, etc). 

Often it is The Animal Field. The animals in the field are usually VERY hungry. Our play goes like this...

  grocery: ring ring this is the grocery store calling. I have some food I need delivered
  fire truck: yes I"ll be right there
  grocery: I have this slop I need delivered to pig
  fire truck: ok I can do that
  ::fire truck goes into field and tries to find "pig" by reading various animals. chats with them, promises them food next time, etc. until "pig" is located, slop (blocks) is delivered

 This is the night he cuddled up on my lap and said, "Mommy, I really love pelling words with you" (spelling). Melt my heart...

We were spelling letters on cvc and ccvc cards from I did write letters on little blocks that we happened to have and he was much more interested once we did that.

 Reading one day...

This is Wesley so excited because we confused a "b" for a "p" (twice). He then did it on purpose and thought it was reeeeaaally funny. It's so cute to see him jump around laughing at his letter joke.

One thing about where Wesley is with reading right now. He can read regular cvc words very handily. He's starting to learn some of the odd rules for words like "fly" that have alternate letter sounds. While he can read some cvcc words, he is intimidated by them and doesn't enjoy it as much or isn't as eager to read them. I sometimes feel like I'm running out of cvc words, especially since he really likes them to be animals or trucks! 

I imagine he will gradually get more comfortable with blends and longer words as we play more, he already seems to be catching on. He doesn't want to do multiple words together, yet. It's wonderful to see his reading blossom, and interesting to see all of its little permutations.

His imaginative play seems to have taken on a new dimension the last couple weeks, too. His play scenarios are becoming more varied and more complex. It's hard to describe the shift,'s there.

He's also cooked up some delicious food...

We've built some magnolia pod and acorn houses in the park. This is Wes with his paintbrush painting it red...

Mom's visit

My mom visited for my 30th Birthday. That was the greatest birthday gift of all. She came in on Friday and stayed through The Redeye on Tuesday night. A nice long-feeling trip. She baked me a cake, she and Casey prepared me a wonderful Birthday Brunch. She played with the boys. We had a massively successful shopping trip to San Francisco. We had many hours of talking. It was awesome.

I just really love having her around. We all did.

This week has been hard. I think partially a let down of her being gone. I miss her.

This is Wesley saying "I'm a dancing dragon" whilst leaping up and down. We happened upon Chinese New Year's celebrations at Union Square when we were shopping for my birthday clothes (sooo nice to have a real wardrobe). He and Casey spent a lot of time watching the festivities (which gave my mom and I plenty of time to shop). He loved the dragons.

Grandma did so much good truck playing. Sabien just loved her and had so many smiles for her.

The trip was a last minute treat. We had extra flight vouchers from our trip last spring (we delayed two days and "took deals" = two days x two people = four vouchers for $400-$500 each = a family trip to Hawaii and Mom here for my big 3-0).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

30 Years Old

I turned 30 years old.

Most of my friends are already 30, so much of the drama around "turning 30" had dissipated. However, there was a nervousness which grew as the date drew closer. A time of reflection, a time to think of the coming decade and the one that is coming to an end.

I started my 20s as a sophomore in college. I knew how I wanted to spend my 20th birthday. With my very best friend of a year and a half, Casey. We would go for sushi, the two of us.

I had gone out the previous week and bought a birthday outfit. A shiny magenta mini skirt (what was I thinking??). As I leaned over the sink applying my eyeliner, I realized that I was very excited for the evening. Like, butterflies in tummy excited. I was so excited to spend the evening with Casey, though I spent essentially all day every day with him aside from classtime. I realized that I was excited because it felt like a date, and I surprised myself in enjoying the feeling.

We glowed through dinner, too young for sake, but old enough to be having a wonderful dinner out. Walking across the parking lot, full of wasabi and veggie sushi, feeling a warm glow, our romance began.

That was ten years ago. So much a part of thinking of the past ten years involves thinking about my time with Casey. How we bounced from place to place, how we wondered if we could align our locations, our visions of personal growth, our worlds. Then, how those questions dropped away in secure commitment. How good it feels to know that we are the lucky few. We are the ones who have found our match, who have learned how to grow with one another, who look forward to watching one another age and change. We are each other's favorite. We feel how fortunate we are.

Wes saying "Happy Birthday, Mommy"
In my twenties I was in college. I was steeped in philosophy, literature, and Buddhism. I wrote a thesis and graduated. I backpacked in Europe with Casey for three months on a shoestring (or less). I worked for a finance firm in San Francisco. I started training as a Montessori teacher. I lived in a tent on a farm and then upgraded to an adorable cob house with no running water. I researched a film documentary. I went to France on business. I finished an MBA in Sustainable Business. I learned Transcendental Meditation and lived in a meditating community. I moved back to California and found a home in Petaluma. I had two babies. I stayed home to watch them grow.

Perhaps the thirties will entail less bouncing around, living in fewer locales (until Petaluma we''d never been anywhere two straight years). But, there are many adventures to be had. I look forward to seeing the catalog in a decade--when we have a middle schooler in the house (whoa).