Sunday, September 25, 2011

Zoo 2011

Today we went to the zoo!  Conan and I met Jon, Nadege and Chloe and spent the day checking out all the animals.  We had a great time.  One special highlight was seeing the tundra wolves hunting squirrels right next to the viewing spot at their exhibit.  I've never even glimpsed the wolves before, my understanding is that they stay hidden a lot of the time.  But not today!  We also had a lot of fun watching the gorillas.  There was a young one, not exactly a baby - call it a toddler - who was nursing when we arrived at the viewing station.  It was such a sweet and loving moment to see between mama and child.  Very human, for lack of a better word.  Another gorilla came right up to the glass, sat down, and made faces and interacted with the kids for quite some time.  We also enjoyed feeding the birds in the parrot house, watching the elephants being fed, and watching the penguins swimming in their pools.  We saw snakes, toads, lizards (including komodo dragons), turtles, lions, tigers, kangaroos, meerkats, bears, eagles, fish, and lots of different kinds of monkeys.

I'm exhausted, but in a very good way.  It's been a year since we last visited the zoo.  I hope we go again sooner next time!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The kid I don't want

As a parent, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want for my kid.  I imagine him being talented, charismatic, intelligent, athletic, kind, generous and thoughtful (not to mention tall and good looking).  I want him to have plentiful opportunities, wide-ranging experiences, and lots of fun.  It's fun to let my mind wander to the future, dreaming of the amazing things Conan could do - maybe he'll be an astronaut! maybe he'll be the poet laureate! maybe he'll be a TV chef!

On the flip side, sometimes I think about what I don't want him to be.  Oh, there's the obvious ones that all parents probably have: I don't want him to be a drug addict, or a gun runner, or a pimp, or a tabloid front-page celebrity.  I mean really, I'm his mom: I don't even want him to get dehydrated, let alone arrested.

But that's all in the future.  When I think about the short term, the kid I REALLY don't want him to be is the one that is good and nice and obedient when grown-ups are around, and then mean and spiteful and awful to the other kids the minute they are alone.  The one where his mom thinks he's a little angel and everyone else just rolls their eyes and wonders how she can be so blind.  Maybe even ALL the moms think he's a little angel, and it's only the other kids who know the truth.  I knew kids like that when I was young, and it was horrible.  It was incredible the way they could transform from angels to bullies the minute the adults left the room. 

For the record, let me say right now that I don't think Conan is now, or will ever be, that kid.  He's such a nice little boy.  Everyone says so! 

But then, I'd be the last to know, wouldn't I?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Conan started preschool at A Step Ahead in July, and he is loving it. It was a big transition for all of us, but we've adjusted now and couldn't imagine life without it. The school we chose is a really neat bilingual (spanish-english) language emphasis program, and Conan is learing spanish so fast, it's really incredible. The words just seem to magically appear in his vocabulary! So far, he has learned

  • hola
  • amigo
  • adios
  • por favor ("bor pabor")
  • muy bien
  • buenos dias
  • mamacita
  • agua
  • leche
  • manos
  • azul
  • and he can also count to ten!

Little children are natually attuned to aquiring language skills, and beyond the obvious benefits of simply being bilingual there is also a lot of evidence that early secondary language learning helps prime kids for better academic performance later. Not that it's all about the academic benefits - there's also a lot of fun to be had! The kids sing songs, play, eat snacks, play outside on the playground, paint pictures, and make whole hosts of things out of paper plates, glue and construction paper. (That's an octopus he's holding in the picture.)

Even more exciting than seeing Conan learning spanish, however, has been the improvement in some of his behaviors.  Prior to starting him at the preschool, mealtimes were a constant struggle for us.  Conan didn't like to sit still and eat, and when he would sit at the table he would fidget and play with his food, often knocking over his beverage and/or dropping food on the floor "accidentally".  At the school they make the kids all sit down together for snacks and meals, and they all have to be seated before the food is given out.  Then they have to wait until everyone has been served before they start to eat.  After just a few weeks, Conan started announcing proudly "I gonna sit at the table the WHOLE time!" when we'd sit down for a meal, and it just keeps getting better.  He now eats his food calmly, says please when he wants more, and asks to get down when he's done.  Most shocking of all, he often says "Thank you for making dinner, Mama!" without any prompting. 

He also has  gotten better about taking turns, made more progress in potty training, learned to put on and take off his own shoes, and generally learned a lot about social interactions.  He scolds me for not drinking up all my water, because "if you don't drink it, that's wasting it" and councils himself "you get what you get, and you don't throw a fit" when we're out of his first choice of popsicle flavor.  He's proud to tell us fun facts that he has learned at school, such as "fish breathe water" and "big trees grow from little seeds." 

He still frequently cries when he's dropped off in the morning on school days, but the teachers assure us that he stops after just a few minutes.  He often tells me in the morning that he's not going to have ANY fun, but then when I pick him up he tells me that I was right, he did have fun.  Some days he doesn't want to leave, or wants to go back again after we get home.  All this is perfectly natural, but that doesn't mean I won't be releived when he is consistantly cheerful about getting dropped off!

It's a little bit of a struggle for me to come to grips with the fact that my little baby is grown up enough for preschool, but overall I'm really thrilled with how well he's doing. He can't stay a baby forever, and I'm glad we've found such a great preschool program for him. 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Late Summer Garden

It's almost fall, and we're finally getting our first taste of warm weather. All the plants are hurrying to ripen up their fruits and seeds, and I'm hurrying to keep up with the harvesting. The main crop blackberries are on now, while the tayberries, marionberries, cascade blackberries, and raspberries are finally finished.


I've made a nice collection of jams and jellies from our berries, and even a big batch of pickles, all from our home grown cucumbers. I love seeing the pantry shelves so nice and full of good preserves.

I'm very excited that we're going to harvest our first ever crop of asian pears! There will be three of them. There were originally two fruits on each tree, but one of them dropped off. The three that are left are looking really delicious, though. MMMMM.

We are also looking forward to our first hardy kiwi. I was super surprised to see flowers this spring, there were about 6 of them. Only one set fruit, and it's still firm and green. I really don't know when to expect it to get ripe, so I check it every few days.

Our little tomato starts have grown into big, healthy bushes with lots of green 'matos on them, and a few are starting to turn color. I sure hope we have a good stretch of warm, dry weather so more than a couple of them can actually ripen this year. I'm not sure why I keep trying to grow tomatoes without a greenhouse in damp, cold Whatcom county, but looking at these bushes now I get hopeful all over again. Maybe this year will be THE year...

The sunflowers are huge and lovely this time of year. I planted them in a circle in the center of the garden, about 10' across. Standing inside the sunflower ring is pretty cool. When I planted it, my idea was that it would be a place for Conan to play, but he doesn't seem very interested in it. Fine by me if it becomes a sanctuary for me instead!
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