29 June 2009


School ended last week, and so far we are having what you might call a blissful summer vacation. The weather has been gorgeous -- sunny, warm but not hot, with enough rain to keep things green, and a few nice thunderstorms. The kiddos are playing outside daily, and are fairly committed to their daily chore schedule. Mostly they're happy because I'm being more permissive about video games and computer games.

We really started our summer fun before school was out though, with weekend activities like strawberry picking, a Father's Day visit to the science museum to see some nature films, Father's Day brunch at our favorite diner, and two or three trips a week to various parks where Greg and I have been playing lots and lots of frisbee.

Greg is busily preparing for his defense, but his schedule is much more flexible and relaxed now than it was in the weeks before he turned in his thesis, so we're all enjoying spending more time together. He's arranged to keep working at the university once he's officially done, continuing to do research for his adviser, but with a significantly higher salary and more regular hours.

The expected increase in income has us shopping already. We recently bought a new camera, only to discover after bringing it home that our computer and printer are both so outdated that they aren't compatible with the camera's memory card and software. Luckily Greg's laptop is compatible, although it's going to be a bit of an inconvenience to upload all of our photos to the laptop and then transfer them to the desktop. (In other words, no photos for the blog for the time being.) This has gotten us thinking about upgrading to a new computer in the near future as well.

We've also started car shopping. We've had our current car for five or six years, but it's a 15-year-old vehicle and we've had to make a lot of repairs and replace a lot of parts in the last couple of years, so we're finally upgrading to a car from this century. Interestingly enough, looking at new cars has made us value our old wagon even more: our two requirements for a new vehicle are that it has at least as much space as our current vehicle, and gets the same or better gas mileage, two criteria which are surprisingly difficult to find in one vehicle.

Even car shopping has been a lot of fun though. The first place we looked was at a tent sale at the local mall, where they served free food, and where a clown provided free balloon hats, candy, toys and face paint for our kids. Another chain of dealerships is running a special where you can get free tickets to a local amusement park just for test-driving a vehicle. They must be getting desperate to sell cars in this economy, but we'll take it.

I don't expect to be blogging much this summer -- there's just too much to do to spend much time inside at the computer. For once I'm actually feeling ambitious, and I want to take advantage of that while it lasts, as ambition is not one of my stronger qualities. I hope you're all enjoying your summers as well!


10 June 2009

big news!

Just a quick update. Most of you reading this probably already know, but: Greg handed in his thesis! He has a month to prepare his defense, and then, he will be finished with grad school. Finished! It's possible he'll have to make some corrections to his dissertation after the fact, but he will be able to get a real job, with a salary large enough to support our family, and we'll actually get to see him every day.

So! Exciting!

James and Evan came in from playing on Monday afternoon to see Greg sitting on the couch. "Dad!" they cried, "Are you done?" When he replied in the affirmative, James asked, "Does this mean you'll get to stay home all the time now?" Sadly, no, but he will be home a lot more often now that he's not spending all of his waking hours writing.

So things are good. We're feeling a little more relaxed now, and starting to make plans for the summer now that we have a time frame to work around. We'll keep you posted as to what's next!


05 June 2009

four years old

Dear Evan,

Today you're four years old. This is an important birthday -- this year was the first year you've really understood what birthdays mean, and you've been waiting for this day for a long time. Since James' birthday back in January, every time we've gotten a new Lego catalog you've gone through and pointed out to us which sets you wanted for your birthday. For the last week, you've been counting down the days.

When Grandma arrived this morning to spend your birthday weekend with us, she asked you how old you are now. You replied three, and wouldn't admit to being four yet. Eventually we were able to understand that you didn't think you actually turned four until you had the birthday cake. Eventually we were able to make you understand that this isn't true.

You've grown up a lot this year. I'm not foolish enough to tempt fate by saying that your tantrums are completely over, but I really think we're getting close. We can even go whole days without tantrums, sometimes! You're learning to control your temper, and I am so proud of you when I watch you struggle not to scream or flail or explode, when you express your emotions with words, because teaching to do those things has been a very long, hard road for both of us, and I think you're finally coming to the end of that road.

Lately you like to hear stories about what you were like as a baby. I tell you that we used to call you Monkey Paws, Crazy Eyes, Tomato Face. I tell you that you've always been a picky eater, and you've always been a reluctant, light sleeper. I tell you that your first words were "ball" and "car" and that you loved mama's milk and that you've always adored your brother and you just eat up every word.

Your imagination continues to surprise me. You're so inventive, creating names, putting together costumes, designing Lego ships, constantly narrating stories. Now that you're learning to draw recognizable pictures, your creativity is blossoming even more as you color monsters and Pokemon. You and your brother spend hours together inventing and creating and designing and building.

You are still stubborn, still willful and determined. Now that your tantrums are fewer, though, I'm coming to value these qualities in you because it shows you know your own mind. You're full of confidence. You hate being told what to do, and you won't take no for an answer. I keep reminding myself that someday your persistence will be an asset in achieving whatever you set your mind to.

Physically you're still spirited and rambunctious. You run almost everywhere. At the community play classes we went to this year, you tested your physical capabilities and limitations, often threatening to give me a heart attack with your stunts, jumping, leaping, diving on the mats. Any time I asked you to stop doing something dangerous, you'd look at me with that pouty lip and say, "But Mom, it's so much fun!" At playgrounds, other parents watch you with worried eyes as you climb structures they don't think someone your size should be able to climb. You like to tell people that you're small, but you're very strong.

It's been a difficult year for you in some ways, now that your brother is going to school full days. Learning to play without James alongside you, and learning the patience of waiting for that bus to arrive every afternoon have been hard for you. Yet you've done it. You two are still best friends, and you still miss him while he's away, but I think you've grown into yourself more as an individual without James. You can't wait to go to school now yourself.

We've had a good year, Evan. Maybe even our best. You're learning so much: you can write your name, you can read simple words, you've learned to dress yourself and do some simple chores around the house. You hardly nap anymore, and are learning to deal with being overtired. You are naturally very resistant to change, but you are learning to be a little more flexible when it comes to trying new foods. (We're still working on your clothing and shoe issues.)

Also, this morning, after years of thinking you'd never be able to, you learned how to roll your tongue:

Four years old, Evan, but I'm still allowed to call you my baby. I love you.