Friday, April 11, 2014

Four Times Round the Sun

Yesterday Gigi made her fourth rotation around the sun - Happy fourth Birthday sweet daughter!

My whole heart is so full - fit to burst - when I think about how lucky we are that we have Gigi as our daughter.  She is so loving, clever, sneaky, gentle with younger kids, expressive, affectionate, doting, articulate, curious, assertive, judicious, lively and beautiful.  It is a joy to watch her grow up.

In the morning we started with a surprise of a donut tower for breakfast!  Four donuts, which equalled four mistakes.  Gigi only ate a half of one donut, and by the time I had finished mine, just the thought of the brownies I had made for a special birthday preschool treat that would come two hours later, free ice cream at the farm later that day, and cake and ice cream at dinner that night was enough to make my stomach hurt.  Am I getting old?  I can't consume as much sugar as I used to be able to.  Next year we will start a day of birthday celebrations with a bowl of Grape Nuts or something like that as a buffer!


At preschool my friend Guenieve made Gigi a birthday crown and the kiddos had my homemade brownies for a special birthday treat.  After a picnic lunch out on our front lawn in the sun, my mom and I took the kids to Farm Animal Days in Raleigh, hosted by the NC State University agricultural department.  It's a free family event to give kids exposure to all of the baby animals that are born on the farm in the spring and it was really fun.  We went last year, and now Orion was able to enjoy it too.  His 17-month old brain categorized every single animal as a dog, but... you know, he will sort it out.



Our friends the Liengs joined us at the Farm, and Gigi's little friend Boy Boy worked through some inner hesitations about holding her hand.  And the tractors!




Orion was a happy farm boy, wandering around, climbing up whatever he could.  We worked on stroking the animals with soft hands.  He thought the chicks were quite something.



The best thing about Farm Animal Days is that it is really hands on.  There are many University students there as volunteers, helping the kids to hold chicks, or pet the baby goats and sheep.  



And their dairy cows make a delicious ice cream.  Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry were distributed in little cups and devoured.


So glad that my mom got to come with us!  Gigi loves having her Tutu be such a regular part of our lives.  Me too.  It's amazing what can get done with another set of hands on deck.


And some classic shots of Boy Boy and Gigi in the tractor tire on the way out...




That evening, after a spaghetti dinner (per Gigi's request), we invited some friends over to help us eat our enormous cake, and had a spontaneous cake party back out in the front yard.  I super love this photo of Marcos and Gigi.  


After cake, the kids ran off to draw with sidewalk chalk and play ball in the cul-de-sac.  It was a fine day to turn four.  Happy Birthday sweet Giovanna!


  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Preschool

We are coming up on the final few weeks of coop preschool and my heart is already starting to mourn its end.  This has been our second year doing coop preschool with our friends, and it has been such an awesome thing for us in this chapter of our lives.  Every four weeks I get to hang out with Gigi and her buddies Ezra, Tyler and Lily on a Tuesday and a Thursday morning, and through teaching them and watching them play and interact, I have seen the kiddos grow so much this year.  They are more emotionally level, their bodies are settling, and they engage in our lessons with curiosity and eagerness to learn.  



On St. Patrick's Day we had a party, which is our tradition for pretty much every holiday that passes.  I was hosting preschool that week, so we partied at our house, and it was one of my favorite preschool days this year.  Each time we do a party all of us moms prepare something special and stay at the party to lead our part so that the entertainment doesn't all fall to one person.  During circle time I taught the kids about the history of St. Patrick's Day, traditions in Ireland, and the symbolism of the shamrock, and we read a few stories I found at the library.  Then the kids followed clues around our house on a treasure hunt which was planted by "Lucky the Leprechaun" (me), and there was a pot of gold (Rolos) at the end of the rainbow.  Then for fun I did a science experiment: the baking powder and vinegar volcano experiment, with green lava instead of red.  It was momentous.  Then for snacks I pulled out a lot of healthy foods, and Ezra's mom Guenieve had made the most beautiful shamrock cookies iced to perfection with green royal icing.  After snack, Lily's dad Nathan brought out the craft supplies and the kids designed a shamrock by gluing little balls of crumpled crepe paper onto their cut outs.  And finally, Tyler's mom Kim took us into the living room and showed us a clip of Riverdance and we all got sweaty trying our hand at hopping and kicking like Irish dancers.



And now it is time to plan for next fall, and I'm not sure what direction we will go in, with Gigi and her schooling.  We always told ourselves that the year before Kindergarten would be the year we bite the bullet and pay to have Gigi go to a "real" preschool and get used to having a real teacher, the routine of a school day and the benefits of a whole room full of socialization, but now that option is not as clear as we would have hoped.  The primary hang up (and blessing) is that with Marcos having found a job that does not require us to move away from this area, we have access to the Emerson Waldorf School which is a mere 15 minutes away.  Having grown up in the Honolulu Waldorf School and loved every second of being there, I have always hoped to provide that kind of education to my own children.  We would LOVE for Gigi to start at the Emerson Waldorf School next year, but she is currently on the waiting list, and even if she gets in, we think it might be prudent to find a good alternative and save up for a year before jumping in to a private school tuition.  So, we have a big decision to make!


But whichever way the tides take us in that decision, we will definitely miss our coop preschool.  It is definitely a highlight of my week to drop Gigi off at a friends house, knowing that she will have a fun time, learn a few things, try out new skills and play with her friends.  We have really lucked out to have this small group of dedicated moms in our lives, and we hold them dear for the love they have given our daughter!



Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Next Step: In Which we Decide our Future

Well folks, we did it.  After weeks and months of back and forth with various companies and navigating three formal job offers, Marcos and I made the decision to stay here in the North Carolina Triangle area, and he accepted a job with Fidelity Investments!  He will start his training in mid-July in the area of Quality Assurance, and he will work through training with a cohort of new employees all entering at the same time.  As a large, and very stable company, Fidelity works like a machine.  There are parts of the machine that will be really great, and parts that we will have to put up with, but overall, this was the best decision for our family at this juncture of our lives.  Thank you to all of you who have been patient listeners and good advice givers as we have been working through this process!

There are a few lessons that we've learned along the way that have been so valuable.  I'm going to jot them down so that I don't forget the gems of this experience.

First of all, we have learned that we can be a really good team when the stakes are high.  One day last week my mom hung out with the kids while Marcos and I went to the local public library and shut ourselves in a glass study cubicle for two hours, to have a major brainstorm and communication session, and send out some really important correspondence.  At the end of those two hours, and through this whole process, we have felt really united as we have come together in an effort to choose the best future for our family.

Another thing we had to remember was that choosing the best out of many good options is really hard work!  At the expense of sounding like I am complaining about a blessing, I will say that having multiple job offers on the table was emotionally taxing.  For years we have hoped and prayed that when Marcos finished up schooling he would be sought out by multiple companies, but I don't think we knew how stressful it would be to move through this process.  Whew, first world problems!  But seriously, even after the spreadsheet was drawn up, and the list of pros and cons for each option were measured, we felt like there was no package that was obviously the best match for us, across the board.  If we could have morphed together the work satisfaction and camaraderie that the job at the coastal non-profit offered, plus the leadership experience and salary of the job at Infusion, plus the stability and benefits and long term pay off of Fidelity, it would have been super easy to reach our decision.  But alas.

Another thing we learned was that a job offer is so much more than just the starting salary.  At the end of the day, we had whittled our options down to two offers, and the starting salaries between the positions were $15,000 apart.  Now, in our book, that is a gigantic sum of money.  But you know what?  We chose the job with the lower starting salary.  And the reason was this: when we poured over the health premiums and benefits, took into account the generous 401-K plan at Fidelity, and their profit sharing perk, and did the math at the end, our present looked slightly better at Infusion because we had more dollars in our hand at the end of the month, but our future looked much better with Fidelity.  Ultimately, the money bonus with Infusion at the end of the month was not enough to outweigh the final difference: Fidelity pays time and a half for hours worked overtime, and Infusion told Marcos frankly that if he expected to work 40 hours a week, that would not always be possible.  That piece of information alone sent us a pretty clear message about how life would be for our family in each of the jobs.  After years of him having to do homework in the evenings as a student, we're all ready for Marcos to be fully available after 5pm, and Fidelity will make that happen.  We're pretty sure that if Marcos were a single guy with only himself to think about, Infusion would have been the right decision, but for us right now, we're all about Fidelity.

And finally, we learned that peace comes from making the right decision.  Even as close as the day before we had to make our decision, we had decided to move forward with Infusion - the exciting, new job that promised good pay and some immediate leadership opportunities - and we prayed that night for a confirmation that we were on the right track.  But Marcos woke up anxious in the morning, wanting to comb through every benefit document to make sure that we weren't missing any vital information, and feeling generally stressed out.  It wasn't until we both said, "Let's go with Fidelity" that we stopped fretting and the huge breath we were both holding in whooshed out and our bodies and minds were at peace.  Marcos has talked with both companies, and our peace still holds.

And that's where we stand!  Marcos' training will start in mid July, so after a mid-May graduation from UNC we have a few months of time before the next chapter.  Our want is to enjoy the time off and travel to some exotic destination, and our need is to work and pay our bills through those months.  Hopefully our reality will be some of each!


Family Home Evening last month.  A lesson about the parts of a computer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lovely Son

Here is our little son, Orion.  At about 16 months he is starting to really come into his own personality, and we are (mostly) enjoying watching him blossom as a little boy instead of a baby.  With his increasing ability to communicate his needs and wishes has come a strong sense of preference, and with it, much satisfaction and of course, much frustration (we are very good at letting our kids practice being frustrated).




When she was younger, Gigi received attention from strangers for her massive amounts of hair, and Orion receives attention for being a "handsome boy".  We think he's pretty cute, but I have to watch what I say because he's basically my mini-me.  Me, but the little, attractive, boy version.


With all of the wide variety of toys that are around our house, Orion is most drawn to the trains, balls, wooden tool set, legos, wooden knife and fruits cutting set, and of course, any stray balloons.  He has a mean arm with a ball, and he is just starting to get the hang of putting trains on the tracks and pushing them around.  We let him select whatever he wants to play with, and he seems to be wired to "typical boy" things.  He is still skinny and active as ever.  I am not by nature a very laid back person, but I've noticed that I am far less jumpy about his clambering and crazy dancing, and stair climbing and movement than other people who don't know him very well.  I am sensitive to other people's discomfort when they watch him do things that are a little crazy for a 16 month old, but he seems to be aware of edges and dangers and he appears to know how to manage his body for the most part.  He doesn't put things in his mouth, and we know the areas where we can trust him and where we can't, so we manage accordingly.  

Orion has just recently shown interest in talking again (there was a brief spurt before he turned a year that lasted for about a week and then fizzled out) and we are getting into some fun communication.  He signs a few words and says a few words, and he has his head shake and nod down for his "yes" and "no", which is very helpful.  My favorite by far is his attempt at "please", which is a spastic hand motion in front of his body and his little voice saying, "Eeeeeee".  He also signs "thank you" and is great at cleaning up, so look, we already aced parenting!  Ha.  He has also started trying to beatbox, and sing (specifically, the song "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen).  Both of those attempts are not very successful, but they are so endearing.  As if we needed any other reasons to be in love with Orion.



As far as personality goes, in public he is really friendly and likes to wave at strangers.  He is still pretty happy most of the time, but as I was recently perusing a take home pamphlet from the pediatrician, I read that 16-month olds "like lots of attention, are self-centered and may be unfriendly".  Whew!  It's not just him.  Orion can be a real stinker sometimes, and he has discovered the effectiveness of pulling Gigi's hair or trying to bop her on the head with lincoln logs, or train tracks.  We are working on that one.  It has been tricky trying to discipline him, because at this age NOTHING really works well to change the behavior of such a little guy.  So much physicality, so little rationality.

And that is a little glimpse at Orion.  I'm forgetting a lot of things, but those are the major highlights of who he is right now.  Love this boy!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lovely Daughter

I am in a stay at home chapter of life right now and I have decided that for my family and me, being with these littles and raising them myself is the most important thing I could be doing in the entire world.  So, seeing them grow into happy, curious, kind creatures is what my success is all about.  I must post about Giovanna every month, but for me it just doesn't get old.  Have I told you that I have a super daughter?    

Zorra the Princess Superhero, here to save the day!


What is going on in Gigi's world these days?  Well, Gigi loves big words.  She frequently inserts words like fascinating, fantastic, apparently, necessarily, and reaction into her sentences, usually in the proper context.  When she had the chance to play with some older friends and cousins over the holidays, the following days were filled with sing-song monologues - long strings of big words and big girl talk.  None of it made any sense, but we loved hearing her practice being a big girl.

And I am not sure if I have written before about Gigi's interest in music.  We keep a basket of instruments at kid level for spontaneous family jam sessions and I have always considered Marcos and I to be music fiends, and this little apple is not falling far from the tree.  While I was preparing dinner yesterday, we listened to our new Pandora station that mainly pulls a cappella songs.  In the short time we were hanging out in the kitchen, Gigi kept identifying the original artists of the songs saying, "Isn't this a Journey song?" then a Madonna song, then Katy Perry (what does this say about us?).  When we were tired of listening to a cappella we changed the station to our Raffi kid's station and Raffi sang "What a Wonderful World".  I asked Gigi if she remembered who else sang that same song and she said thoughtfully, "Iz... and Louis Armstrong".  Nice.  Gigi's most recent musical interest is beat boxing.  Our youtube search bar is familiar with our frequent "How to beat box" query, and Gigi is often practicing her beat boxing at home and on the road.  Being her mom is pretty fun.

Especially when she calls me out on my disorder of priorities, like she did the other day.

Gigi: "Mom, do you clean up the house more?  Or play with kids?

She wasn't even pulling a guilt trip because she doesn't understand guilt yet.  She was just genuinely curious and trying to figure out the hierarchy of my attention.  Needless to say, I have been trying to truly tune out the ten other projects I always have in my mind, and give her my undivided attention every day for a good piece of time.

Here are a few other recent conversations:

After Marcos accidentally gives her too much maple syrup.
Gigi: Wow, did you give me lots of maple syrup because you love me?
Marcos: Yes.
Gigi: Never. Stop. Loving me.  You can never stop loving me!

****

At the kitchen table doing art together.
Gigi: I'm drawing me, as a bride, with a bouquet.
Metta: Oh, wonderful.  And who are you going to marry?
Gigi: Well, this drawing is just me.
Metta: Okay.  You are very young now, so you can choose later who you want to marry.
Gigi: Actually, I am going to overmarry Papai.
Metta: Good plan.  What does "overmarry" mean?
Gigi: Well, I'll still live with you both, but I will marry Papai over again.




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Day!

The night before last night it snowed, leaving us with a fresh white morning of snow when we woke up yesterday.  It was probably only two inches, but in the South, two inches is a lot.  School was canceled...


...and after a lot of looking out the window...



We saw our neighbors outside with a sled tramping around the yard, and so we bundled up the kids and went out to join them.  Gigi's buddy Michael and James his dad made Olaf the snowman, and the kids made snow angels in our driveway.




Orion wandered through the white winterland amazed by everything and not at all bothered by the cold, and the kids sledded down the hill across the street.  



Orion also went down the hill, with Papai and then alone.  This time he was still sitting upright when he reached the bottom.



But our favorite part of snow day was having the neighbors over afterwards for hot cocoa and cookies!  Having that long slow morning stretch out, and time for Marcos to be with us and our neighbor friends instead of at UNC all day was such a treat!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Weeks before Christmas

And here we are again, back to talking about December!  We traveled for Christmas, so we tried to do a few local fun activities before we left for Utah.

We made it to the Emerson Waldorf School holiday fair, one of the places we like best around these parts.  Poppy lemons, the carriage ride, happy Orion and Gigi's gnome hat.





On a cold Saturday morning our friends Zoe and Cary invited us over for a pancake breakfast and the Hillsborough Christmas parade.  They just happen to live on the parade route, and wasn't that handy to just step out into the front yard to watch the small-town procession march by!  There were a lot of local businesses, churches, school marching bands and a lot of girls dancing and waving batons and pom poms.  Not one dancing-girl group passed without Gigi improvising to their music on the sidelines with her buddies Silas, Asha and Liam.



And then there was the spirit of Chanukah.  When we were in New York City at Thanksgivvukah there were crowds of young men in kippas spilling out of trucks and handing out menorahs ("Anybody over here Jewish?").  So we brought one home and sang the Chanukah song every night that we remembered to light the candles.  Kitchens are very homey places when they are lit only by the lights on the Christmas tree and the thin candles of the menorah.  


And then there was our favorite small town Christmas party at Fitch Lumber store.  Isn't he the jolliest Santa around?  Orion thought so too.



And what is the Christmas season without our Treats for the Carrboro Firefighters afternoon at my sister friend Becca's house?  Seth and Emerson at the top, Gigi with her buddy Olivia, and little Achilles all helped out.  "One candy for the firefighters, one in my mouth, one for the firefighters, one in my mouth..."





And the delivery is the best part.  We had the nicest firefighter give the kids a tour of the engines and fire station.  Sometimes I wish the kids had a longer attention span, because I always have so many questions that don't get answered.  Here's Gigi in the boots and protective gear that sit at the door of every engine, ready to jump into at the ring of the alarm.  And our little group checks out the extra oxygen tanks the firefighters carry into burning buildings when they know there are others trapped inside who might need fresh air.  Always a winner afternoon.



And lastly, our early Christmas celebration with Tutu.  Since we were traveling for Christmas and didn't want to haul presents, we did our gifts celebration early at home.


Gigi and Marcos scope out the loot under the tree, Gigi tries on her new clip-on earrings, and Tutu opens her can opener.




Papai received nail clippers from Orion (with the note "stop using mine!" on the wrapping), and Orion got a new dinner plate.  (I know we're such interesting gift givers, stop gushing!)





Unknowingly, Marcos got me a 90-minute massage and I got him an appointment for acupuncture, so that was kind of funny.  He also surprised me with gadgets for my camera, which have already come in handy.  And Gigi now has her first baby doll, from Santa.  Her name is Lydia and she smells like vanilla, which I like.



Whew!  That was our run up to Christmas!  I think I've brought us up to the trip to Utah!  Get ready for some snowy photos, folks!