Saturday, October 30, 2010

Katie's 3rd Birthday

My little girl turned three-years-old yesterday! Do I even need to say how much too quickly the time has gone? Or how it seems like just seconds ago that I was kissing her little baby toes and holding her for the first time? I find myself unable to think too much about how time has passed, or I start to feel tears in the back of my throat and a yearning to hold my little Baby Kate again...and to freeze time forever in the moment we're in.

We began the day with our weekly music class in Fallbrook. We all dressed up in our Halloween costumes, and so it was fun to feel festive.

Home again, Katie and I finished some of the dinner preparations, which began on Thursday. We made chocolate frosting for our cake and decorated it. Right after that, my Eric had a bit of time reacting to his immunizations (both kiddos had check-ups on Thursday). Katie used to sleep them off with hardly a reaction; Eric developed a low-grade fever and was a bit fussy. He is such, such a mellow guy (our pediatrician in fact remarked how "sociable" he is) that any fussing for him is definitely a sign of hardship. He hadn't taken much to eat, but thankfully my Nurse Mom came over and made a little sugar water and got him settled and helped to draw the fever off naturally. He spent time with Boppa while Katie, our cousins, and I went to the pumpkin patch. When we got back, Eric was feeling much better and ready for a birthday party!

Here are some pictures of our sweet girl's birthday:

She loved her tea table from cousin Hannah, who gifted us also with real Yorkshire tea---the loveliest cup of tea I've ever had. Hannah is from England, and everything about her---her manners, her taste, her use of language---makes part of me want to be British, too. I remember how I sometimes used to feel that way in high school, as well.

Katie's birthday cake. She asked for a yellow (butter) cake with chocolate frosting. I love making my daughter's cake every year, as a little way to honor our bond as mother and daughter.

Making a wish!
Earlier in the afternoon, our cousins Kd and Hannah came over, and we all went through the corn maze at the nearby pumpkin patch. I was extremely touched that Kd and Hannah suggested coming for Katie's birthday, cousins who are much like siblings to me really. Katie is absolutely delighted with them and looks up to them, as you can see in this picture.

Through the corn maze! Katie brought her magnifying glass to look for clues. It was a present in the morning; she got to open one before the day started. 

Daddy and Eric hang out before dinner. Eric is enamored of Bill. When Bill comes home, Eric gives him the biggest smiles, and they talk/coo together constantly.

Eating her cake and ice cream.

Boppa and Eric love each other so much.

Birthday guests! (Katie is hugging Eric).

Some of these pictures were captured by Hannah....I am so thankful that she took so many as I often forget. I love this one she took of Eric. He seems to be saying, "Hmmmm."

Katie holding Kd's hand.
The birthday table. Oh yes, party hats!

Happy birthday, 3-year-old!

Hannah taught us how to make Shirley Temples the English way! They were different than our American way, and so good!

Katie loves the tea table from cousin Hannah and cousin Brandon.

Opening presents.
Tractor at the pumpkin patch.
Watching the pig races.

So my little Baby Kate has turned three! Last night I cuddled her to sleep, and right as she fell asleep I sang her our special song, the first song I ever sang to her in the hospital.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: Disneyland Trip 2010

"A dream is a wish your heart makes/When you're fast asleep..."

For Katie's 3rd birthday, which is actually this coming Friday the 29th, we took a family trip to Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel for a few days last week. Organizing the trip last July, I remember thinking at the time how excited I was that Eric would be born by the time we went and how he would be with us. Amazing how fast time goes...

Everything about our trip was magical. We happened to be there during an overcast patch of weather, which meant that we zipped through twelve attractions and also had time for the parade and several meet-the-character lines. We went with my mom and dad, and we were lucky to have cozy adjoining rooms in the hotel. Katie really loved her birthday trip, especially, and I think all of us had longings to return once the trip ended. October is so magical as it is, and this little trip right in the middle has made the month extraordinary. We are all so thankful for the memories we have made and now all share.

I have about a million, trillion, bazillion here are really just a few. (My Facebook album is filled with more). Sorting through them for our scrapbook is almost impossible, in the best of ways! Although they are out of order, here are a few pictures:

Amie and Katie wait in line with Daddy and me for the submarine ride while Eric hangs out with Boppa.

Katie had fun on the Autopia! It was like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, part II!

When we checked into the hotel, we were greeted with several little magical Disney touches. They knew it was her birthday, so they gave her balloons, a special birthday badge, and a photo card of the major princesses, signed by all of those princesses.

On the day we checked out, we went over to The Grand Californian for their Storyteller's Cafe brunch with several critters.

Walking to dinner at Goofy's Kitchen on the first night, we actually saw Cinderella's carriage drive by. Later, we saw her glass slipper, too. Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother walked by on their way somewhere at the park, said hello, and commented on Katie's Cinderella cup in the stroller. I love how attentive the cast is to children at Disneyland.
Eric liked Small World.
Eric looks around Fantasyland. He is such a mellow little baby to travel with.

Eric Pan! Eric got a Peter Pan hat with his name stitched on to commemorate his first Disneyland adventure.

Cinderella and her brother at the hotel.

Goofy's Kitchen: we met Goofy, Minnie, Jasmine, Aladdin, and Pluto. Katie was enchanted. We got to dance with several of them, as well.

Smiley Boy was content to look around from his stroller.

Goofy enthralled Katie during dinner on the first night. The kitchen even brought out a cupcake and sang for her birthday.

I've never been to Disneyland in October since they started decorating it for Halloween. It was amazing! Here, I am in line with my latte and my baby for the Haunted Mansion.

Princess Jasmine and Katie admire each other's dresses.

Kisses for Winnie the Pooh!
Katie got her first set of mouse ears! She also went on her first roller coaster, the Matterhorn. She thought it was a bit scary!

Main Street, USA!
Meeting Pluto again!
Pajama party! Our headboard sparkled with light and played "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." Enchanting.

Meeting Sleeping Beauty. So happy!

Whee on the teacups!
With Amie as we are about to go on the Winnie the Pooh ride.

All of us were a little sad to leave, it seemed, and I began to wonder why. There is a tangible happiness at Disneyland, a place to be absorbed by wonder and play. What people like most about Disneyland, perhaps, is that it really is its own ideal world, and enclave mostly untouched by negativity. People are happy when they are there, and being around other happy people is contagious. Humanity seems better, the world nearly perfect. What if we could create the same kind of feeling within our own home? The beauty of Disneyland can be just as accessible from here: it is a heart-attitude, a way of looking at life. What if we could be absorbed by the wonder and simple beauty of our day-to-day lives?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Aiming for the Stars

As Katie heads toward her 3rd birthday and embraces her role as the Big Sister, we are working on cultivating a new kind of maturity. Not only do we want to give her the tools to continue her good and sweet behaviors, but also we want to give her a way to reflect actively on all that she does well and to be able to be part of the process for making objectives for herself.

Once again, I have been so thankful for my teaching experience and career prior to becoming a parent. One my wise aunts, who is also an educator, once put things in perspective for me when I was asking her about Katie waking up still in the middle of the night at age two: very few teenagers ever wake up wanting comfort from their mommies in the middle of the night, so wait it out and guide with patience. Pick your battles, and know that sometimes children move on their own time lines. The education of character is far more important. I have heard it said a few times recently that, "When I have a child, they will never do...blah-di-blah." Well, never is a strong word. Just wait. Sometimes we think as parents that we can, or should, control everything...but each child is a gift that comes to us, a separate person to be taught and guided. Sure, a tantrum at the dinner table is never acceptable, but as parents we, if we care, are often in the middle of trying everything in our toolbox---much like a passionate teacher who will reteach and reteach a student who just needs to hear it a different way, perhaps several times. Parenting is as much about learning, and commitment both to learning and to our children, as being a child is about learning. I feel empathy for the child whose parents think they have it all figured out before they even begin. Parenting is the most humbling experience...and the most rewarding.

Among her many awesome behaviors, the past few months Katie has still been clinging to one or two more childish behaviors. Even in the last couple of weeks, though, I have seen her decompress and return to more of her normal self with more rest, less external commitments to various classes, more scaffolded preparation going into situations with people she doesn't know as well (which stresses her like it does her father) and---this is one of my tricks---a house filled with song. She responds better to instructions about, say, picking up toys, when I sing all the instructions like an operetta. Our house has been almost like living in a musical this week. I am reminded of learning this a long time ago when she was a few months old and starting her rice cereal. She would only eat it if I sang to her the entire time. Same thing at about a year old when it was dinnertime. Her language is music. I would do better to remember that more often.

So we went to the teaching supply store yesterday and had fun picking out our materials for our "Katie's Stars for Good Behavior" chart. When we got it home, we brainstormed TOGETHER the objectives for her behavior that we wanted to put on it. I reinforced that she was already so good, that it was going to be fun watching her earn her stars. We chose some easier objectives such as "Brushed my teeth this morning," some mid-range like "Helped to straighten my room and playroom," and some that are more challenging on certain days like "Stayed calm and had no tantrums." I wrote the "brushed my teeth this morning" first on the chart, so that she starts the day with a star. I think that is an important trick, psychologically, as it helps give her confidence right away that she is in control of her behaviors.

We also have "Bonus Stars" as possibilities, like "Took my nap today" (we don't nap everyday) or "Helped Mommy with the groceries" or "Helped Mommy dust and polish" etc. We plan on converting the stars to a currency, giving it to her as an allowance, and letting her save and spend some.

I am big on themes, and I also want to teach her specific beauties of character, and so the character trait/theme for the first set of stars is "kindness." I am calling these traits "heart-attitudes" and each one will have a little handmade poster. Right now our "kindness" poster is hanging above the star chart. It contains pictures, examples of how to be kind, and who to be kind to: 1) to Mommy and Daddy; 2) to your brother; 3) to other people; and 4) to yourself. We talked about ways we could be kind to all those groups. I also made sure that we phrased some of her behavior objectives in terms of kindness: "Demonstrated kindness to others today" and "Helped Mommy take care of Eric" and "Shared my toys" for example.

It was important, also, when we wrote our objectives that we phrased all of them in the positive form as much as possible.

Just as in teaching, having these objectives helped not only Katie today; they guided my parenting in a more focused way as well.

Katie earned all of her expected stars today, plus a bonus star! Awesome job, Little One! You are well on your way to being an amazing three-year-old. I love you, and it is an honor to guide you in this life.

Katie puts her stars on her chart...

A completed star chart for the day! We are so proud of you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Earl Grey

Recently on a coldish morning I made myself a beautifully steamy cup of Earl Grey, my favorite tea with its slightly orange aroma, its hint of spice. I am not so much of a tea drinker as I once was: I developed my devoted relationship to coffee when I went back to work after having Katie. I'd give myself exactly the distance from my mom's house to the corner Starbucks to cry every day after leaving my baby...and then I'd have to put on my game face to go inside and order my latte. It became my talisman as I stepped inside of my teacher role and tried to compartmentalize the part of me that missed my daughter terribly.

Sipping my Earl Grey on a recent morning, however, transported me back to the days when I used to drink one every day. Like my favorite Star Trek captain, Captain Picard, I would choose my "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." each morning from the dorm cafeteria my freshman year at Stanford. Back in those days I always mixed a little cream in it before starting the walk to 8:00 AM Latin. Clutching the cup, I always took the same route: out from Twain, past the red hoop fountain and Green Library, down the steps---one of my best friends, Steve, counted them once when visiting from Berkeley (I forget now how many there were)---and onward into the Quad. I suppose the ritual gave me some kind of comfort as I wondered if my eventual alma mater and I had made a wise decision in choosing each other (we did, as it turns out) and what my life would hold beyond noun declensions. All that year I drank my tea, finding my place in the larger world as an 18-year-old. Often I was glad of heart and hopeful in spirit, and sometimes I was in worry...about the demise of my first love relationship which showed early signs of wear stretched so thin over the long distance from Stanford to UCLA, and which eventually imploded over much bigger concerns. During the winter term, when I felt the most homesick, my tea gave me comfort, as did certain music, taking long walks, and writing handwritten letters to my Nana.

The senses of taste and smell: amazing how they can transport us so easily back in time, yes?

As I drank my Earl Grey just a few mornings ago, I was suddenly 18-years-old again for just a moment. I thought for one instant about who I was back then, and all I hoped for and feared, all I thought I would do or might not get to do in life, all that I did not know and all that, despite the years in between, has remained part of my consistent essence. Just like a flash, I saw all these things.

And then I looked around, looked at my Katie playing near me in the kitchen, looked at Eric hanging out on his Boppy pillow while I fixed breakfast. How blissfully funny to know all that I know now, how well and happy it all turned out...and to wonder at the miracle of it all. If only I could go back in time and tell myself not to worry, not to waste moments given to fretting.

One of the biggest differences between myself now and myself then is knowing this: I will always be a recovering perfectionist who struggles with the idea that if I am only good enough or energetic and enthusiastic enough, no one else around me will experience conflict or unhappiness. Yet at age 30 I have gained the understanding that, really, we cannot control the actions or emotions of those around us, however much we want to take away their pains.

All we can truly control is how we react, how we let the work take place in us.

How lucky I am these days that my Earl Grey tea opens my eyes to my children and not to Latin cases. And how thankful I am that I am right where I am at this moment in time and to be old enough to understand what it feels like to live truly in a moment.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October Festivities

In October, there is coziness, family, and adventure around every corner. We want to make the most of every October day, and our weekend has been blessedly filled with family and time together doing Autumn-y things!

On Thursday afternoon, my mom and I took the kiddos back to Peltzer Farms' pumpkin patch. Although we have already been once this season (haven't yet blogged about that, though the pics are already posted to Facebook), I wanted to take Katie on a pony ride this year. Readers may remember that she got cold feet at the last moment before her pony ride last year; however, this year she was the one to bring it up and ask for one. The October light made the afternoon golden as we spent a blissful hour at the farm.

Katie and Eric in the hay

My beloved little people. No matter that Eric has been with us for two months---I still cannot believe that the two of them are finally here together and that we are making these memories that I have dreamed about for so long.

Katie goes for a ride on Puddin the horse.

This was maybe a couple of turns before she announced definitively "I'm done!" She was the only child riding, and she made it around several times before she wanted to be done.

On Friday, we had a cozy-cousin-baking-crafting-talking day after music class. My cousins Kd Horne and Hannah Lambert drove up from Vista/Oceanside to spend the day with us. Hannah is Brandon's wife and just returned from a trip home (the first in 18 months) to see her family in England. Just down the street from her family's farm is the pub where both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein wrote their masterworks. Oh, how I long to visit England someday! Kd is my youngest cousin, and her life has been changing in amazing ways lately. We wanted to get together for some womanly heart-renewing time. Kd once made me a card that said it best: We Matics-Lambert-Horne cousins are cousins by family, friends by choice, and often like brothers and sisters. I am so thankful to have these relationships.

Eric visits with his beautiful cousins.

Hannah, Katie, Kd, and I tried a new recipe for pecan tassies.

After a lunch of various cheeses, breads, pumpkin butter, mulled cider, fruit, and ham, we had time to play and talk with each other.

We made more gourd people! (My mom, Katie, and I made gourd people on our first Pumpkin Patch Day---pics on Facebook). Crafting is good for the soul and healing for the heart. I am a firm believer in good food, fellowship, and crafting whenever there are bumps in the road for those we love. We must nourish each other.

Later Friday night, I took the bathed kiddos over to my mom and dad's to celebrate Ashley's 21st birthday! David and Ashley were spending the night at my parents' house on their way to Palomar Mountain for some camping and stargazing this weekend.

Eric hangs out with his aunt and uncle.

Family dinner. Happy birthday to Ashley!

On Saturday my mom came over with a new recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies.

Amie and Katie measure ingredients.

Yummy! The batter is the best part!

We have McGaugh Family Movie Night every Saturday, and now that we're in the month of October, we are choosing movies with October themes. This weekend we watched Ghostbusters. I remember that movie when it was new, when I was about the age of five. Watching it now with my own children is a little surreal...Where does time go? Katie liked it, but we had to cover her eyes at many of the scary parts (scarier than I remember!). She loved Slimer, though, as well as the "Stay Puft" marshmallow man.

I made a thematically appropriate dinner out of our food: mummified hotdogs, ghostly mashed potatoes, and vampire apples.

Sunday morning found us more restful, and we stayed in our pajamas much of the morning. Bill took charge of the kiddos while I slept in (thank you, Husband!). Considering that I have broken a couple of different glass items and managed to flood the kids' bathroom while filling up a bath for Katie all within a week, I think he realized that I needed some more sleep. Sleep deprivation for me results in total klutziness. I love having my two children, but I must say that having two children under three-years-old and one a wakeful newborn is not easy physically. I've never worked this hard in my whole life, to be sure. Thankfully, I love hard work and believe in it and also believe in chugging along even when my body is weary---the mind, heart, and spirit are willing.

On Sunday afternoon, I had a much needed mommy-daughter date with Katie. I hadn't realized how much she, (and I, as well) needed this time alone together until after we were back home. She was absolutely on cloud nine, and she was referring quite a bit to how things "used to be" when it was just the two of us. She even wanted me to "carry [her] downstairs like Eric," so I know she has been thinking about her babyhood. She has been so patient with my time with Eric, often content to sit nearby and play while I am doing something with him. So many times, too, we have sat down to read or play, and he will need to eat or be changed in the middle---and she never fusses or complains about that. But she needed this date with me. I think it is important to make time for siblings both together and one-on-one. Hopefully I will get another chance to do that again with her soon.

For our date we went to the Old Town Temecula Theater to see an operetta of Hansel and Gretel. One of my former students, Nichole Lohre, now a graduate of University of Redlands with degrees in voice and business administration, performed as the Dew Fairy. I loved seeing her and hearing her matured voice. She was my student before I married Bill and long before Katie was part of our lives. It was such a treat to remember her in my classroom long ago and to have Katie meet her after the performance.

Katie waits outside of the theater.

Holding her ticket.

Meeting Hansel and Gretel after the performance.

The witch was a bit scary to her, but she loved the guardian angels (ballerinas) who protected Hansel and Gretel all night in the forest. She did so well watching the performance and deciphering the opera. She sits quietly and still, and she is developing a liking for the rituals of theater-going: paying a visit to Will Call, holding her own ticket, watching the lights go down, taking intermission, returning inside at the bell, applauding at the end. I am so happy Temecula has this theater, an amazing educational and artistic resource in our own backyard. Katie has now seen orchestra, ballet, and operetta performances. We are excited because we have tickets to The Nutcracker next month, and in December we are seeing the play The Christmas Carol.

After Hansel and Gretel, we made a stop for gelato right as the cafe was closing. Gelato is our post-theater ritual, and we shared a mixed berry scoop this time. I loved my date with my firstborn, and Eric got to spend man-time with Daddy. It made for a perfect end to the weekend.

Happy Autumn!