Post-summer camp study hall

After I pick the kids up from summer camp every day at 4, I still have an hour of work to do (at least). If the kids want to watch some tv, they have to spend some time with their workbooks. So our afternoons frequently look like this, with all of us working at the kitchen table together. 

I wish I could say they smiled all the time while working. Heck, I wish I could say that about myself. 

The fear of a bad Christmas; or, not another “the real gift isn’t under the tree” post

IMG_2371.jpgAround this time of year I tend to catch myself acting weird, and realize in astonishment (every year!) that I’m feeling some low-level anxiety about Christmas. Consistently and inexplicably, I worry that The Kids Will Not Have A Good Christmas.

Where does this come from? Why does it not collapse under the weight of its own complete improbability? I mean really, what kid ends a morning of opening gifts and says, “that was the worst”? OK, I realize this is a hugely privileged statement; obviously families that struggle with abuse, poverty, food/housing insecurity can definitely have a terrible holiday season. But that’s not the situation for my kids, so why do I keep telling myself the story that Christmas is a time that I’m in danger of displeasing them? I don’t seem to worry about this at breakfast on Jan 11, for example.

Giving gifts is weird. When you give someone something, you make an anticipatory decision about what they want or what they might enjoy. It’s a strange kind of defining action, a test of the gift giver’s knowledge of the gift getter. To excel (because I love to excel in all things), you have to go deeper than what the person *says* she wants, into the depth of her unexpressed desires. I get it, it shows connection and intimacy. It’s also an exercise in deep vulnerability. “I think I found a material object that will please you,” says the wrapped package. “Let’s see how right I am.”

So yeah, the holidays — if you celebrate them with a raft of material-gift-giving like I tend to — is a vulnerable time, with multiple chances to love your loved ones in the wrong way, or with the wrong thing. (Whose idea was this, anyway?) I want it to be fun and relaxed and exciting and fulfilling. But at the same time, I carry all these expectations and fears and they make it hard to do the fun stuff because my hands are already pretty full. Also, dread makes me hungry so my hands are also full of cookies, argh.

I hope this year (and every year) that I can put down the fear of failure long enough to embrace the vulnerability and accept the chaos. I hope you can too.

Baxter, on Pokemon world

​​Baxter has never seen any Pokemon anything — show or Go — but he’s been picking up some of the mythology via oral tradition, at day camp this summer. And now he’s running with it. As the story goes, when it’s night in our land, it’s daytime in Pokemon world, and so Baxter goes and visits there while I’m sleeping — has his own house there and everything! The house has no heat, though, which is why he’s cold and wrapped up in a blanket. The story continues in this video: 

Tree deck!

Tom’s been working on building the kids a tree-related structure (we don’t have any trees that would support an actual tree house). Amelia has been his helper. Witness the half-done result: the tree deck! 


Eventually it will have a ladder and railings and other fun accoutrements. Yay, we’ve been wanting to do this since we moved into the house, so it feels great to have made a start. 🙂 

Powell Butte adventure 

This morning we decided to bike over to Powell Butte and hike around. Powell Butte is about 7.5 miles from our house, along the Springwater Corridor, which google maps said would take us about 50m. I’m not sure exactly how long we took, but we stopped semi-often along the bike path, and had a nice time in the late spring sunshine. There’s a lot of bike theft along that stretch of the Springwater Corridor, so when we got to Powell Butte we decided against leaving the bikes, even locked up. I hiked a short spate either the kids, then doubled back and sent Tom in to hike a little with Amelia as Baxter and I snacked and rested. 4-year-olds have very different endurance levels compared to 7-year-olds, even when they’ve ridden the whole way in a bike trailer!

While we were hanging out, 5 riders on horseback came through and started riding on the trails! After our party was reunited once again, we rode back down the corridor, stopped for lunch at Cartopia, the food cart pod on 82nd (yakisoba noodles for the kids and banh mi for the adults) and then rode home. We were feeling our legs by the time we finished that last mile, and I’m pretty sure we’ll both be sore in the morning, but we had a really good time. 

Before-we-begin selfie
Pit stop at the floodplain
Amelia poses
Mom and Dad looking so fabulous
Tom examines the map
posing on the trail
Blurry trail selfie with mom
horses on the trail!
Cartopia selfie!

Hiking at Hoyt Arboretum

We had a fun Sunday morning hike at Hoyt Arboretum! We stopped for breakfast at Kormblatt’s Deli on NW 23rd (YUM), and then drove up to Washington Park to the arboretum. It was overcast, but the sun peeked through a few times. We more or less did a one-mile loop, and the kids only declared that they were tired and likely to die a few times. Maybe with increased exposure to hiking — by the end of summer maybe? — we can almost-die at the 2 mile mark. 😉 It was a beautiful hike fearuring lots of interesting trees, including various larches, which are deciduous conifers. Neat, huh?

in the beginning, everyone’s happy
we found a slug
“let’s sit on this stump!!'” – Baxter
goofing with trees
boys
amelia hugs a redwood
then we found a banana slug
that light

Poem: Scold

You did a thing I didn’t like.
I ask you why and tell you how
I’m angry, sad. You nod. Your face
gets pink. Tears well, and roll, and drop.
You ask to change the subject but I keep
talking about it, hoping that
if I repeat myself enough,
next time you’ll make a different choice.
You’re miserable and hot with shame.
I want to stop but, equally,
I want you to think twice — thrice! —
next time, and this is all I know
to do. The shame and tears ring loud
and I don’t know if I’m doing
the right thing here. When do I know —
like, really know — I’m parenting
with wisdom, skill, and grace? Your joy
is not my always-goal. I want
to raise you right. At the same time,
I’m sad when you are sad. I want
to make it better, wipe your tears,
and buy us all an ice cream cone.
The Talk is over. When I ask
if you want a hug, you decline.
In separate corners now, we go
about our days, corrected and
correct. Ten minutes later we
are back to normal: laughing, light.