Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Happy pre-Valentine's day.
No pictures to post. But big news.
No, not talking about any baby news.
Or school Valentine's parties (though we did have those!).

Tonight is a momentous occasion.

As I type, Casey is snuggled up in bed. His favorite classmate, too.
Sigh. His first sleep over.

I feel so, so lucky he asked to have someone here instead of asking to go somewhere else. And still, the momentousness of this moment is not lost on me.

Apparently I had a skewed view of when things happen. I find myself constantly thinking, "Already?!?" And I imagine it will only get worse.

Tonight Marcie asked me if she could have her favorite classmate spend the night, too. We suggested we maybe start out with a play date before we encourage any preschool overnights away from home-- and she seemed fine with that. Or she was distracted by the super cool "pretty dress," tap-tap shoes, ballet slippers and Hello Kitty flip flops (which actually culled a full girly squeal from her) a co-worker's 6 year old daughter handed down to us today.

Pictures to follow.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

What Kept Us Busy In January

Two big things --

1. Disneyland with my parents:

2. Casey's birthday:

Children's Activities Hiatus-- sort of

We've been going non-stop, round-the-year to soccer and music class on Saturday mornings. It eats them up. And it's not so bad because the kids love it. Soccer times rotate (so games start anywhere from 8:00 am to 11:00 am), but music is always at 10:15 am.

Until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, when we celebrated Casey's 6th birthday with his classmates and friends, was our last soccer/music Saturday. Not forever. Maybe not even for this full 8-week session. But for now. It wasn't an accident, but it wasn't actually planned either. We couldn't decide what to do with Casey's soccer experience (bump him up a level, leave it alone, continue coaching or not), and music class had become too crowded, too rowdy and a little unpredictable because we could never be sure if Casey was going to make it around his soccer schedule, but we had to pay in advance anyway. So we stopped.

I fully intended on signing up Marcie for a dance class or gymnastics now that she's three and I don't have to participate with her. But I haven't gotten around to it. I had a bad cold two weeks ago when sign-ups were happening. And now I have one again (I know, I know-- it's not normal to get colds every couple weeks as an adult who has taught especially-- but here I am anyway).

But this doesn't mean we've really taken a hiatus from kids' activities. Just the pre-planned, pre-scheduled ones. Instead, we're doing our own thing.

Last week we took the trolley downtown and walked over to the Children's Museum for a few hours on Saturday. Sunday we had a picnic in our backyard. I'm not sure we've done anything on the grass since we put it in this past summer. It was a beautiful day. I even read outside. Alone.

This weekend it's raining. But that hasn't stopped our weekend activities. On Saturday we headed for the library. I wanted some books, but I didn't want to pay for anything. We got there about 30 minutes after opening and snagged the last spot in the lot. Who knew the library was so popular? We aimed right for the Children's section, where we spent an hour or so-- and the thing we noticed was how loud the library is! People talking on cell phones, no one using library voices, kids reading to therapy dogs (okay, that last thing didn't really bother me)-- it was strange. But good for the kids to get to the library and pick out some books. Casey bought a book at the book faire at school Friday-- then he proceeded to check out the same book at the library. We had a good laugh about it when we realized what he'd done, after we got home.

I had to bully a little kid at the mall, too. After we ate lunch, we let the kids go run around in the little play area in our local, indoor mall. And this one kids was literally beating up on his brother. He had him in a headlock and was just punching him in the side of the head. I watched for a couple seconds, expecting their chaperone to do something-- but they were behind a barrier (I don't know why they have such a tall structure parents cannot see around-- there is no spot where you can see everyone in the play area). And finally I just said, "Hey! Hey! Hey! We don't punch." He dropped his brother, who crawled off, kind of shocked and said, "You're not the boss of me!" To which I responded, "Apparently I am." And I walked away.

Last night was the highlight, though. The local high school spring musical is this weekend and next and we promised the kids we'd take them. The thing about these sorts of shows is that you have to be ready to make a clean getaway at any time, so you can't personally become too invested in the activity. Like over the holidays when the Chinese show was in town and Marcie begged us to go even though she was technically too young (you have to be 4). We knew she wouldn't last-- and we left at intermission. It kills us a little because we paid for the whole thing. But then we think that we have to do these things in little spurts-- and sort of build up.

So that was our attitude about the play. We actually brought Marcie's MP3 player and headset figuring she could listen to the Wiggles if she got bored (and she did for a while), but we fully expected the kids to want to go home and go to bed at intermission. After all, the play started at 7pm (there was no matinee) and intermission wasn't until almost 8:30 pm. But at intermission, Casey wanted to stay. And he stayed awake for the whole show. I've never seen Guys & Dolls before, and I'm pretty sure Casey didn't understand a thing that was going on-- I could barely understand what was happening -- but he loved it anyway. The funniest thing was our attempt at explaining that it was a high school musical, not the High School Musical. Finally I tried to say it was a musical at a high school, but he kept talking about the Eastside Wildcats or Bobcats or whatever they are in the Disney movie. And finally I just gave up. He didn't seem to mind once the show started.

So there we have it. Two action-packed weekends during our activity-hiatus. Oh. And this morning we're headed off to the Wild Animal Park. I guess we aren't really slowing down any time soon . . .

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Catcher in the Rye

I have composed a half a million blog posts in my mind. On my way to work. Laying awake in bed. While watching Casey play Legos Indiana Jones on the Wii. But it just hasn't been convenient to post. When I've been on the computer, it's pretty much been for work. And when I'm not on the computer, dragging it out and turning it on just isn't something I've felt like doing. But not for lack of things to write about.

Casey is now a year older. At 6, he seems so grown up. Last week when I was tucking him in to bed, he asked if he could have a friend sleep over. Already. I don't know why, but in my mind these things didn't really happen until age 8. Sigh. At least he didn't ask to sleep away from home. I like kissing him before I go to bed at night. And snuggling up with him in the mornings to help him wake up. I like having him around. But I certainly wouldn't want to hold him back. So next Friday night we'll have a house-guest. Not a cousin. Not a sibling. No extra adults. Just another friend. It'll be interesting to see how well his friend does (his friend is a triplet!) away from home for the first time. I'm fully prepared for tears. And a phone call home. And maybe even a midnight return of a child across town. But I'm also hopeful it won't come to that. Gosh, they grow up so fast.

Speaking of growing up, our world is such a crazy place. Sometimes it makes me so sad. In the past few months, we've been getting pretty regular reports from our school principal (who sends out a voicemail and e-mail twice a week to keep parents informed) of some safety issues. The first one was about a girl walking home by herself a couple hours after school who was approached by a stranger trying to entice her into his car for a ride home. Then a few weeks later came a notice that a stranger had been sighted on the playground fields; an investigation turned up nothing. Next, another child was approached walking home from school. Then another. Then an eleven year old girl was actually taken and released thirty minutes later outside a different, nearby elementary school. After that, the principal called a parents' meeting. In the two weeks that followed, leading up to the parents' meeting, there was a note scrawled on the middle school bathroom wall "predicting" a school shooting. The elementary (and pre) school are next door and share some fields. They all went into lock-down. Police determined the threat was not real. And finally, on the day of the safety meeting, another snatching attempt was made at a different elementary school a few hours after school was over. The child screamed and frightened away the would-be attacker.

This all left me wondering-- are these abnormally high "stranger danger" statistics? Or is our school district unusually communicative? Why aren't we patrolling the local neighborhoods a couple hours after school each day, since that's when these incidents seem to occur? Why are 10-11 year old girls always the targets? So I sent Jason off to the parent meeting with these questions.

It turns out these were all truthful and legitimate events. That there are two detectives' children and an FBI agent's child attending the same elementary school as Casey. And there's nothing they can do to stop the approach of strangers. It's not the same person. The timing is too inconsistent. The solution? Talk to your child.

Well, duh. But what do we say? Turns out it's not just that our kids shouldn't go with anyone they don't know, even if the stranger says we sent them, but we also need to take it further-- teach them to scream. To fight. To kick. To struggle. To shout: "YOU ARE NOT MY MOMMY! YOU ARE NOT MY DADDY! CALL 9-1-1!" Those sorts of things. People in the area will be much more alert-- and if the child is just throwing a tantrum and saying those things to their parents (this was my fear-- the cry wolf factor--), well, isn't that better than a crime scene?

Sigh. I suppose.

But to teach Casey these things means to also teach them to Marcie. We can't avoid the one while talking to the other. It's just not how our lives work, how our family functions.

And it makes me a little sad. Should six year olds really be worrying about being snatched? Should three year olds? I want to keep my kids safe, and healthy. I want them to enjoy this big, bad world with innocent eyes. They have plenty of time for disillusionment, but I don't want them to grow up afraid. I know some of this is in how we present the information. But some of it is just a fact of the world we live in. It makes me think of Holden Caulfield-- the catcher in the rye-- catching all those kids as they jump off the cliff into adulthood-- wanting to protect them from the, for lack of a better word, yuck of growing up. I'd like our kids to have years and years and years of happy memories before they have to face the ugliness of our world. I know I can't stop their coming of age-- and I'm exaggerating a bit here. But it still makes me sad.

I guess the best I can do is hold their hands through it all and hope for a soft landing . . .