Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year.

I know this is a time when you're supposed to make resolutions to change but I don't even really want to do that. I wouldn't have wanted to change anything from this year. In a quiet moment I flipped through  my photos and saw how much we were able to fit into these last twelve months. It's surprising how much things have changed. 

Last year, we were a family of three. I know that this makes perfect sense because Colin is less than a year old but it still seems weird to think about. I don't remember us being three. Four seems like the way it's always been, but in this case "always" is only 8 months long.

Having two children is different than I expected it to be. I expected to feel pulled between their drastically different needs but I don't. I thought I would feel guilty about the time Oliver and Colin don't get from me as the result of sharing me with a sibling, but I don't.  I expected so much turbulence and hardship with the addition of another family member but it never came. It's all quiet here on the western front. We've survived the first eight months of this new life with smooth sailing. We've enjoyed it even.

Aside from the exponentially longer amount of time it takes for us to get fed, dressed, and out of the door, not much has changed.  Though extreme, all changes that we made were so gradual that falling into our new routine was almost imperceptible. Like a lobster put to boil in a cold pot of water, we didn't realize we were cooking until somebody stuck a fork into us and proclaimed us "done."

We have two kids? Two? Since when did this happen? How come nobody told us?

We did a good job this year. We've taken care of each other. We've kept busy learning new things. We went on adventures. We all had food and clothes and a safe place to stay.

The house wasn't organized. Our kids walked through grocery stores with crumbs on their faces, stains on their shirts, and hair sticking out like crazy. We showed up late for dates and appointments. At times the laundry and dishes stacked up as tall as mountains.

While some people might see that as something I should resolve to change, I'm not even going to try. We did a good job of being a family this year and that's what's most important to me. I'd rather have these awesome times together instead of a tidy home and punctual arrivals and perfect attendances. Hands down. Every time.

Hands down.
Hands down.

Hands down.

Hands down.

Hands down.

Every. Single. Time.

So I guess this year my resolution will be to keep this momentum going and enjoy the ride. 
Happy New Year, everybody.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chasing that tennis ball.

I feel like all I ever do here is expound upon how busy we are, but it's true. We're busy. We're busy in a great way. Our life is so full that we're exhausted but it's wonderful.

We celebrated Halloween with our annual pumpkin patch trip and some trick or treating. We attended the opening for the black bear exhibit at the zoo. I spent the first part of November in Florida helping to organize my mother-in-law's home before it gets put on the market. Over Thanksgiving, the whole family flew to Napa to celebrate my brother's beautiful wedding. While we were out there we made a little family vacation stop in San Francisco. Now that we're back home, I'm stringing up Christmas lights and planning for our holiday guests. Our calendar is packed with dates and shows and more house guests and. And. And. And!

Sometimes I feel like maybe we should take a break. Maybe?

Finding the perfect pumpkin.

Jared is out standing in this field.

Bouncy castle.

Our fine pumpkin choices.

Jared's pumpkin - it's larger than he is.

Our trick-or-treaters

Daddy & Doggy.

Dressing for the wedding.

Baby in a tie.


Aquarium at California Academy of Science.

Touching some seaweed.

Hanging out in the baby backpack.

Checking out a giant toad.

Smiling one moment before crawling away.

Observation floor.

Chilling on a park bench in Golden Gate Park.

Oliver wearing my headband.

Typical view from the top of any of San Francisco's ridiculously steep roads.

Golden Gate Fog.

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay(by).

Handrails you can stick your head through!

Dock at Sausalito.
Two of many large trees.

Muir Woods redwood walk.

I feel like a family of labrador retrievers. Somebody throws a tennis ball for us, and you had better believe we're running for it.  We're on that plane. We're there to see you. We're trying out something new and making it up as we go along. Adventure after adventure after adventure, we just can't stop. Our feet hurt and we're tired of running but we'll be damned if we won't get up and run some more for that next tennis ball, because who knows when you'll get another opportunity like that? We just can't pass up that joyous feeling of the wind running through our hair and the thrill of the catch.

There will be plenty of time to be tired later. Right now we've got another ball to chase.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Half Birthday!

Do you know what the smallest boy can do now?

Pull up to sitting on his own and squeal with delight.

Enjoy the zoo and notice the animals.

Sit on a park bench and take in the scenery.

Pseudo-crawl after big brother and his toys.

Pick out a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch.

Sit and smile for 30 seconds before eating a handful of hay.

Crawl to attack the camera.

Show off (and bite with) his four teeth.

Enjoy the fine taste and texture of watery pureed squash.
Have you noticed how big Colin is getting? I feel like everyone else has noticed but me. We've just been so busy lately that it seems like no time has gone by at all. Last week I got an email offering us free Chuck E. Cheese tokens to celebrate Colin's half birthday. Can you believe that? It's his half birthday already. He's 0.5 years old, going on 2.

I know that second babies are supposed to do everything faster and more intensely but.. really, baby? Really?!

It's a good thing we installed the stairway gate early.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"We can fix this together."

We're not a religious family. I've written about this before. 

I catch a lot of heat for omitting religion in Oliver's childhood. Jared and I have decided that it's best for our family and for our kids. Oliver can think for himself. He is smart. He will choose what he thinks is right when the time comes. Colin, too, will follow suit when he gets older.  If they choose differently than we do, we will support them, no questions asked. They are our children and Jared and I want them to be happy.

I know this. I really, truly, 100% feel like we are doing right by our children in this way. 

Yet it's still hard for me when people, well-meaning or no, tell me that I'm somehow harming my kids by doing this. It's hard to defend myself without turning everything into a huge argument, or worse, a personal attack. It's hard to say to somebody, "No. I disagree with you." 

Since people often define themselves by their religions,  even hinting that I disagree with their fundamental beliefs makes it seem like I am devaluing them as a people. I'm not. I never am. I never intend to harm people by my lack of beliefs. I don't intend to be confrontational, but nothing will make people argue more than a disagreement over religion. It's just a fact of life. 

I'm not very forthcoming about being agnostic. I'd rather not argue with people. I don't like the constant pressure to be "converted." I don't want to hear your tales of woe about how I am wrong and I will come to see the light one day. But most of all, I don't mention my agnosticism because of the stigma. I don't want everyone out there thinking I am some evil, sinful person living without morals, values, and rules.

I'm not. We're not. We're good people, leading good lives. We have more or less the same "Christian values" as everyone else does, only we're not basing them on hopes or fears of redemption or condemnation. We disregard scripture and canon and  tradition and instead use our own brains and our own consciences as guides. We're holding ourselves accountable for our actions just because we think it's right. Because we think people are good. Because we think we are good. Because we think everyone is deserving of love and nobody is below forgiveness. Period.  

We live by the golden rule that transcends religion: Do unto others as others you would have them do unto you. 

But the second people hear that we're agnostic, or even atheist? They're blinded to the goodness that might be in us. They assume we're "lost" or confused. They assume we're "heathens" who deserve a good baptizing and an outpouring of faith. It's like no religious person can accept that we have chosen this and that not believing can be somebody's informed decision.

Last week as Oliver and I were walking to the car after preschool, another mother was pulling her son through the parking lot. It was drizzling and the lot was slick. The boy slipped and fell and the bag of plastic fruit he had slung over his shoulder went skittering across the pavement. The mother yanked the boy up by his arm and started screaming at him. 

I stood there gaping at that woman yelling at her 3-4 year old boy for tripping and falling. I couldn't believe it. I stopped and stared dumbfounded.

But do you know what Oliver did? He tugged on my hand and pulled me over to the boy and his mother. "It's okay," he said to them, "It was just a mistake. Calm down now. We can fix this together. It will be okay." And with that he squatted down and picked up the scuffed toys, dropping them one by one into the tote bag they came from. When everything was set back to right, Oliver smiled, waved goodbye to the boy, and headed back to our car like it was nothing.  He stood up to an adult stranger, acting of his own volition,  and did what he knew was right. He didn't expect any reward. He didn't do it because the Bible told him so. He did it just for the sake of doing good.

How could anybody look at that boy and accuse us of teaching him wrong? How could anyone tell me that a boy like that could be sent to hell for the way I'm raising him? I just can't see it.

After I got everybody all buckled in and we started heading home, I looked at Oliver in the rear view mirror and thought about how he handled the situation. He echoed my words but he fearlessly put them to use on his own. He put our beliefs into action, and that is the hardest part of being any religion.

"You did a good thing, you know that?"
"Yeah. I did. I am a good boy."
"Yes. You are. Did you know that boy?"
"No, he's just my new friend. I don't know him yet."

I rest assured knowing that if he does choose to adopt the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other faith when the time comes, he will be the best Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever else he chooses to be. And that's the best any parent can hope for.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I admit I was naive.

Unrelated photo.

Lies I told myself about parenting, dedicated to Matt & Rachel:

  1. My house will not fill up with plastic baby shit accoutrements.
  2. I won't take my child with me to the grocery store/mall/doctor's office.
  3. My child won't scream when I take him with me to the grocery store/mall/doctor's office.
  4. I won't be the person blocking the aisles of the grocery store/mall/doctor's office with my stroller.
  5. I will leave my child with a sitter and still go on regular dates with my significant other.
  6. I will never take my child out in something so ugly/dirty/tacky with their face/hair so unkempt.
  7. I will still be spontaneous! and fun!
  8. I'll still hang out with my childless friends as if nothing has changed.
  9. I won't leave the house with vomit/feces on my clothing. I will still shower every day.
  10. My house will not fill up with plastic baby shit accoutrements.
Considering how small NYC living is, you're screwed. :)

Me, these two children, and all of their plastic shit in my living room, bathroom, and kitchen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Oliver.


Last Sunday you turned three. It's hard to believe that you're three. You are so wise beyond your years that I find myself learning from you.  Every day you find reasons to be happy. Joy emanates from you. You flirt with cashiers and waitresses. You shout "hi!" to people that pass us by. It makes me so happy to see you so happy.

I have never met anyone as caring as you. When I come home from a trip, you say, "I am so glad to see you!" If I'm out of your sight for a while you come in to check on me, asking, "Is everything okay in here?" You are always the first person to tell Colin, "Don't cry. It's okay, Colin. I'm right here."

And you are. You're always right there. You're the best big brother he could ever ask for. You can't stand to see him or anybody else hurting. If you see me looking sad or stressed, you tell me not to be. It's okay, you say. Tomorrow is a new day, you say, and it will be okay. You've been right every time. It always has been okay.

You're the sun in our family. Before you were born, we didn't know we were waiting in the dark for you. We didn't know that you would explode into our lives and we would suddenly, effortlessly revolve around you, basking in your warmth and light. You are our gravity, pulling us back down to earth when we forget the things that really matter. Everyone is pulled in by you. You pull strangers into our conversations, and before you know it, they too are talking about dinosaurs or the weather.

As far as you are concerned, everyone is a potential friend. You chat up the oldsters living in the senior apartments. You talk to babies, to kids, to adults. You have no worries about telling a tatted up biker that you're going to have a stegosaurus cake on your birthday. You accept people's requests for hugs and good-byes and I-love-yous.

I guess I don't know where I am going with this, except to say that I hope you never change. You are so loved. You are so good. I can't wait to celebrate you all over again next year.

Happy birthday. We love you, Oliver. It'd be impossible not to.

Family Orchard Trip 2012

Last weekend was a nonstop funfest. We had our annual apple orchard visit, Oliver's birthday party, and TWO trips to Chuck E. Cheese. Oliver had a blast. I'm working on getting Oliver's birthday photos rounded up, but for now you can enjoy our annual orchard photos.

Colin keeping warm in the Baby Limo.

Say "Cheese" in a tree.

Fine specimen.

Another great find by Oliver.

A boy, a stick, and a dirt road.

Pre-picking inspection.

Oliver's photography skills.

Colin enjoying his favorite apple.

Sword fighting.

Just the right height to pick.

Oliver and trusty stick.

Oliver showing Colin his apple.

Colin and a pumpkin.

Annual Apple Orchard Cut-out Family Photo Op

Pony ride all by himself.

No fears, this year.
There's nothing that makes you feel more like a family than having annual traditions. See you next year,  Minnesota Harvest.