Friday, August 22, 2014

Liam Retires from Soccer

We made it almost three days. Day one went better than expected. He didn't leave with any permanent emotional scars. Day two we were assigned to a certain "group" based on apparent skill level. They didn't actually say that, but they didn't have to. Each group was given names like "superheroes" and "rockstars" as opposed to "athletes", "bench warmers", "going to prom stag", and "jazz band". Liam's group of special athletes were assigned to the most patient of volunteer parents and instructed to play a running version of follow-the-leader. Day three the volunteer coach for Liam's group lined them up for a game of Red Light/Green Light. If you're unfamiliar with this game it goes like this: the coach stands at one end of the grass and calls out "green light!" and all the kids lined up at the other end run toward the coach until he calls out "red light!". If you move when "red light" is called, you're out. The first one to reach the coach wins. When the coach called "green light!" everyone ran except for Liam who was busy engaging the coach's 6-month-old baby in conversation in a stroller at the edge of the field. When he called "red light!" Liam ran over to one of the frozen kids and tackled him to the ground.

I didn't immediately throw in the towel at that point. I really wanted to feel as though we gave this soccer thing a shot so I waited until the impressive patience of the coach was completely exhausted before taking Liam by the hand and guiding him to the car. I think it took a little over 12 minutes.

In my hurry to get Liam to soccer practice I'd forgotten some papers at the office, so we went back to retrieve them. I took advantage of the opportunity to show Liam around daddy's new work. He was completely awestruck.

To say I'm excited that he's ambivalent about organized sports and amazed by absolutely every aspect of my greatest passion, isn't accurate. I want him to love some kind of group thing that makes him sweaty, it's important. It might end up being soccer after all, just not yet. It might turn out to be something else like baseball, karate, or (god willing) rowing. Time will tell. Until then I'll encourage all interests and let him find his way. If his path happens to lead him to becoming a winemaking oarsman, well don't blame me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fire! School! Etcetera!

Well, I awoke at 6:43 this morning to the sound of smoke alarms, and we all know what that means: First Day of School!!

Being the champs that they are, Jonah and Evie rose at a record-breaking hour of the morning and got themselves dressed, brushed, and packed, and were working on making their own breakfasts when the alarm sounded. Sometimes Jonah turns on the stove before prepping anything at all, in any way whatsoever, like even getting the eggs out of the by the time he puts something into the skillet it's like a pyrotechnics display all up in our kitchen.

No big deal, my alarm was due to go off in two minutes, anyway.

Yes, Jonah IS wearing spy glasses. Of course.
Since they'd done everything that would normally require me to rush around in a state of half-dress and flurry, we were able to enjoy a relaxing morning -- until I remembered that I hadn't packed lunches. Oops! Evie helped with that task, too. While doing so, she explained that since they knew I'd been out late, she and her brother were trying to make my morning an easy one. *Tear!* These kids, they are the motherloving best.

I was indeed out late, at my own 'first day of school', if you can call a 7pm - 10pm class 'first day' worthy. Yes, I am still slowly but surely plodding along with my own schooling, one class at a time. The good news is, after this semester I'll only have ONE MORE CLASS until I finish, woo hoo! By 'one class' I of course mean math, which also means I have to take All Of The Math Classes that lead up to the One Class I need to get that damn degree I've been working toward for the past twenty years. I took one of them last semester and I miraculously passed it by a whopping and impressive 4 points. So....yeah, talk to me in a few years.

Happy first day of school, everyone!

Monday, August 18, 2014


I guess I just wasn't prepared. I'd forgotten that I have the emotional fortitude of a hungry wet kitten. 'Kindergarten' is a funny word. It means 'garden of children' in German. If, in fact, I had taken Liam to school and they had buried him in dirt up to his neck while some enormous FRAU in a dirndl sprinkled water on his head, I would have been no more traumatized than I was last Wednesday. Go me.

The team that worked on his IEP during preschool had sifted through a number of programs in three different school districts and had sold me on the special education program at Mattie Washburn Elementary. It even sounded cute, and in fact the place is pretty adorable. Erin was dropping Liam off for his first day and I'd planned to get away from work for a bit that morning to see him off and meet his teacher.

I showed up early to find out where his classroom was and to case the joint. As soon as Liam got out of the car he was thrilled. He ran up to me "Hi daddy!" and closed one eye and pointed his finger at the campus behind me and said "SCHOOL!"

Erin and I walked him to his classroom through the sea of harried parents. The room was a small portable with bare grey walls and sheets draped over all the bookshelves. The teacher seemed nice enough but it was hard to get a good read on her while she was wrestling a 7-year-old boy who was about her size and having a violent screaming tantrum. There was an aide tending to the three other kids in Liam's class who were huddled near the classroom door, not sharing Liam's enthusiasm for school. Liam, meanwhile, had found some blocks and action figures hidden behind one of the sheets and couldn't have been happier.

I had only done the first day of school with Liam once before when he started pre-school. That environment was cozy and sweet, with finger paints, toy kitchens, macaroni art, and shy little kids clinging to legs. This felt like an institution.

I get it though. The environment is designed not to distract and of course these kids are going to have some anxiety, but this unexpected scene was making me want to do something inappropriate. I wanted to grab Liam and bolt, but that probably would have ruined his fun.

I held it together long enough to give him way too firm of a hug and then forced myself to leave. I made it about halfway to the car before looking back and seeing Liam line up outside with his new classmates. He was watching Erin and I go, not with sadness or fear, just with curiosity. Right about then is when I turned into something that made all the other parents in the parking lot uncomfortable; a 6'8" puddle. Luckily Erin was used to it.

I had to get a grip obviously. It was too early in the morning to start drinking so I dashed to work and wrote Liam's teacher an email:

Hello Ms. Peyton,

I'm Liam's father and I just wanted to say it was nice to briefly meet you this morning. I wanted to touch bases with you and let you know this is my email and I can be reached here any time so please don't ever hesitate to contact me for any reason.

I'm impressed with Mattie Washburn and everything the school has to offer and I'm grateful such programs exist to help my son thrive. I have no doubt everyone involved with Liam is doing all they can to help him succeed. I'll be curious to learn all I can about his schedule and what his education there "looks like" as I'm eager to help assure that his setting is the "least restrictive environment" for him.

Of course it's just the beginning and no doubt this is a very hectic time but I'd really like to know when, generally, we might meet to evaluate his program and the goals in his IEP.

Thank you and I hope your first day went well.


Mike Bairdsmith

There were a few less level-headed drafts. Not too bad though, eh? Believe it or not she's since sent me half a dozen or so emails that have comforted me beyond measure. She's clearly a pro at handling tantrums from parents as well as children. We're going to 'reassess' in six weeks and I've stopped breathing into a paper bag...for now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oh No You Didn't!

Someone just informed me that there's only one more week until school. One. More. Week. I was like "what the hell, man?! Why you gotta bum my ride, homie? Dang!"

Sure, I knew summer was coming to an end. But come on - I know better than to say it out loud, jeez! I'm just going to admit it: I LOVED THIS SUMMER! I'm totally not ready for it to end. Allow me a moment, if you will, to get just a bit verklempt... *tear!*

Okay. I'm better now. Rather than mope, I will now reflect on what I shall henceforth dub The Best Summer Ever:

3...2...1... Swimmer!!

We started with a trip to Mexico. The kids and I had never been there before, and we had to save up all of our dolla bills an entire year to make it happen - but thank goodness we did because we had a mother freaking blast! Evie mastered swimming within about 5 seconds, and pretty much didn't leave the pool or ocean for the remainder of the week.

After that we took some recovery time and did low-impact stuff. Like eating ice cream. There's a place right down the street from us where they have crazy flavors like sweet corn, spicy pineapple, cucumber, avocado and rose petal, to name a few. We feel it is our responsibility as active members of the community to try them all.

Or just stick with vanilla

Because of the whole 'Serious Drought' thing, we didn't have many beach days this year because I thought going to the river might depress me. But boy was I wrong, woo hoooo! We took a day to chill out at Johnson's Beach, where the oldies jazz plays all day from the snack bar, the super old-school owners call out to risky kayakers from their crackly megaphone, young dudes come over and pound your rented umbrella in the perfect spot for maximum shade, and the snack prices are from another era. Burgers for 3 bucks? Yes, please.

Nothing depressing here, folks!

They thought it was okay, too

And hey, they had ice cream, too. For the win!

I'd been wanting to take the kids on the ferry for several years, so of course we did that too. Taking the ferry is super fun! Especially given the fact that since the Exploratorium moved, you can now walk there from the ferry building!! Awwwww yeah - whassup perfect day?!

So Much Wiiiiiiiiind!!!!

This is a picture of my kids squinting in the sun. In SF.

The kids' uncle Ben and his girlfriend Ani rode their bikes over to meet us, which made the kids go all crazy with joy. Evie thinks it's really hilarious when her uncle tries to pick her up for pictures, because she's heavier than she looks and he always gets all "what the hell?!"

I have no idea what's going on here.

And you already know that we went to the fair, because we're no dummies. We know that no summer is complete without a trip to the fair.

Yeeeeee haaaaaw!!!!

In between all of this, we bottled some wine with friends...

Went to Maker Camp (which landed some pictures of the kids in the Press Democrat)...

...and tried to get in a decent amount of relaxation and snuggling, too. Since it's summer and all. 


Let's face it, you guys. We totally rocked this summer. I wish we had more of it to enjoy - but for now, with one week left, we're going to get back to the important task of having a kick-ass time. Onward!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Soccer Dad

I'm leaving work right now to pick Liam up from daycare and take him to his first day of soccer practice. I'm worried sick. I think I'm just setting him up for failure and heartbreak. In fact, I'm pretty sure now after stewing on the idea all day that that's exactly what I'm about to do. I am the worst dad ever.

I'll be sure to take pictures of him in his uniform before we go, if he'll let me. Who knows how he'll react to shin guards. I'm not taking pictures so I might one day reflect back with a "who knew?" ironic smile after he becomes the next David Beckham. I'm taking them because it will probably be the only time he dons the outfit and it's just so darn cute. God, I'm the worst.

Welp! Here we go.


Well what do you know?! It wasn't all that bad! Sure we left halfway through, but I thought it would be because of the tears, tantrums, and biting of other kids, not because of a sudden need to poop (exercise does that, I'm not blaming). 

The coach is an adorable Scotsman who gets the kids' attention by singing the first part of the Spongebob Squarepants theme and then they have to answer. It sounds like this:

Coach: Hoooo luvs un a pane-appul oonder tha sey?!

40 Children Screaming: SPONGE-BOB SQUARE-PANTS!!!!

It's feckin' brilliant. Then he gives them instructions and that's where things fall apart a bit.

He wisely separated the girls from the boys and each of the girls on the left will be in their row, listening quietly, with their foot on top of their ball and hands on their hips, while the mess of boys on the right are either sitting, standing, or laying down in the grass with their fingers up their noses and their hands down their pants. The general chaos among the boys made it so Liam's short-comings as a soccer super-star are less evident. 

He had trouble with some basic concepts like the whole feet only rule.

Way more effective

He ran wherever the swarm of boys ran and he did it with the biggest smile on his face, so we were both happy. That's about all I could hope for, at least for now anyway. We'll iron out the wrinkles over time, or just quit the second he hates it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's a Fair Fair Fair Fair World

The Sonoma County Fair is in town, and we all know what that means! Yes, that's right: we go to the fair. Woo hooooo! The kids and I LOVE the fair, and we never miss a year. Occasionally we bring a friend or family member, but the one constant is that it is our thing - me and my greatest homies. We have a lot of traditions to uphold, and this year was no exception.

Over the years, we have perfected our fair day and together we are a well-oiled machine of Fair Maximization Awesomeness!! We always go on a Tuesday because of the Too Good to Be True wristband, which covers admission and unlimited rides.I'v e been doing this for years and I still have to add up how much all of it would be if I'd paid for everything ala carte, just to make sure I'm actually getting a good deal. We usually break even.

We start our day out with a hearty breakfast at home because the temptation for greasy, sticky fair food is great and we must resist, if only so the chance for barfing is minimized. The first thing we do upon arrival is use the bathroom, because that's just some weird thing I used to make them do when they were iffy-bladdered toddlers and hey, it stuck, so why not? After that, the kids waste no time in making a beeline for their favorite part of the fair...

...the hot tubs. Yes, the hot tubs. We have to look at and discuss the beneficial features or lack thereof for tub. If you've never noticed how many hot tubs there are at the fair, now you will. They are literally everywhere, inside and out. WHY?! Anyway, it's cute.

After that, we head to the second-most exciting thing at the fair:

The beds, of course.

Eventually we make our way outside, only to quickly duck into yet another building, the Hall of Flowers. Behold! The Beauty! The Wonder! Unfortunately the kids had already seen it, so they zoomed me through pointing out all of the highlights so fast that I didn't have time to take more than one picture:

This one. 

Next, we stop at the Walk on Water feature on our way to pet all of the adorable animals. This is the only fun thing I'll pay extra for that isn't covered with the wristband because yes, I am that mom.

Then we move on to pet all of the afore-mentioned adorable animals. I mean, if the fair didn't have any rides, we'd go just for this, because animals are incredibly cute and soft and furry and oh man. We love them.

We reallllly want a baby goat

Then comes photo booth time. We've done this every year since Jonah was a wee babe and Evie but a twinkle in my eye. The pictures are usually crappy because we aren't paying attention when the light flashes, but they're crappy in a 'ha ha' way, so we keep up the tradition because we like a good laugh.

Yay photo booth!

After that, lunch. This year I broke the One Important Fair Rule, which of course is to Eat All Of The Fried Foooooood! I had my sights on some fried cheese on a stick, but when the food-carnie girl saw me clearly hesitating, she said "if it helps with your decision, those are made with Velveeta." Yeah, no. I ate a freaking salad on a tortilla instead. I count the fact that it's topped with enchilada sauce as fair-worthy:

I am a disappointment to my elders, I know.

By this point my fat pockets had pretty much been cleared out, except for the money I was saving for the kids to pick one souvenir each at the end of the day. By 'fat pockets' I mean that literally, my pockets were bulging with the change I'd been saving for the last year or so, which thus far had financed our day. Wanna piss off fair vendors and fellow customers behind you in line alike? Pay with change, that you first have to count out. It's a hoot!

Well, I AM happy to see you...
but also there's a buncha coins in there

So, with my jeans sufficiently 5 pounds lighter and no longer a hazardous risk to other ride-goers, we made our way to THE RIDES!!! Weeeeeeee! Every year, we must:

Swing on the swings

Ride the Carousel

Zoom on the Silver Streak!
The Silver Streak plays really loud metal music which I've discovered turns Jonah into a raging Metal Head, despite what this photo might indicate. Note to self: keep him away from the Metal at all costs in the future.

Finally, we always go down the Giant Slide on our way out. The line is generally super long, but it's worth it for the 1 - 2 seconds of last-hurrah fun. While waiting, the kids got all goofy and huggy, which was a joy to watch.

Side note: a stranger complimented me on how well my kids get along so, yeah. Proud mama. Until next year, Sonoma County Fair - thanks for the memories!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping 2014

I am grateful to Erin for being a fantastic mom to Liam and Finn and for filling their lives with love and good times. The one time of year I'm most indebted to her is when she takes the boys I never have to.

Ever since Berkeley Tuolumne Camp burned to cinders along with my childhood, I'd abandoned any notion of spending days on end in the filth and pestilence that is 'nature'. This past weekend though Erin once again fulfilled my fatherly duty and went into the woods along with the boys and her parents. I missed them terribly while I was sitting poolside with a magazine and cocktail, but she was kind enough to send me photos. I can only speculate as to the context of each:

Nature? Nah, I'm good here on the camper carpet

Wood + newspaper + match = FUN! Got it!

I love climbing rusty metal pick-up trucks!

Me too!

This next poem I call The Fallen Bird's Nest

Fire ants! YUM!!

No Caption Necessary

To say I'll never head back into the woods is an exaggeration. The stubbornly idealistic people of Berkeley have set up camp at Echo Lake this summer for the more tenacious veterans of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. At the same time they're figuring out ways to raise my childhood from the ashes of the original camp and hope to have it back in the next few years. Hopefully it will be up and running some time after Finn and Liam develop a healthy fear of wild animals, fire, and slimy things that bite.