Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stick Dragon

I got inspired to sew again recently. I loosely followed these instructions, which Tombi pointed out to me. Loosely being the operative word - I pretty quickly decided that instead of a horse, I was making a dragon.

 It turned out pretty good. Here it is in action:

It breathes fire, naturally.

The bridle has already been removed.  Everyone agrees the dragon looks more comfortable now.

I'm already thinking of half a dozen other stick creatures I want to make. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sleep Aids

Conan is a great sleeper these days.  I guess we earned it, with all the trouble we had getting him to sleep the first 9 months or so.  We've got a super bedtime routine, including a few special objects that he takes to bed EVERY night.  The two most important are his bad-dream-catcher (seen in the photo above his ear) and his sippy cup of water.  The bad-dream-catcher prevents bad dreams, and the cup prevents requests for drinks of water. We know he's sound asleep when we hear the "thunk" of the sippy cup falling to the floor.  He also always takes a toy to bed with him, but it alternates which one.  Frequent favorites are Baby (pictured),  Horsey, and James*.

Even better than our bedtime routine these days is Conan's morning routine.  He gets up about 6, takes off his nighttime diaper, goes to the bathroom, flushes, and washes his hands all by himself.  Then he either comes into our room and climbs in bed for a little snuggling, or frequently goes and plays quietly by himself for a half hour or so.  It's amazing.  It's always been a challenge to keep up with his early rising tendencies, so every extra minute we get to stay in bed is a minute for which I'm very grateful.

UPDATE: We were still having some trouble with Conan getting us up before six. We finally realized he had no way of knowing when it was too early and when it was OK to get us up. So we put an alarm clock on top of his bookshelf, where he can see it. We covered the minute digits so only the hour shows, and told him he has to wait until it says "6" before he can wake us up. He can get out of bed when it says "5" but he has to play quietly until the "6" comes up. It's working beautifully!

*James is a character in 'Thomas the Tank Engine'.  James is red and his tender has the number 5 on the side.  I fondly remember the days when I did not know the names, colors, numbers and defining personality traits of a dozen talking trains.

Monday, January 23, 2012


He's 3 going on 15 these days.  Defiance, determined independence, willful disobedience, and a little bit of manic preschooler moodiness thrown in for good measure makes for some frustrating times.  Sometimes I want to pull my hair out; other times it's all I can do not to burst out laughing at the cuteness of his defiant posturing coupled with a baby doll and temporary flower & heart tattoos.  He's working hard on his sneer, too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sudden Loss

This week our community was stunned by the sudden and tragic loss of a young boy, Caleb Kors. Caleb's parents are friends, and I have been deeply affected by this staggering loss. He was a special boy, talented and charismatic and posessed of extraordinary potential.

I left work early when I heard the news. I really needed to see and hold Conan. I didn't tell him anything (I didn't know what to say, frankly, and I didn't want to burst into tears in front of him) but he sensed my sadness. He said I needed some quiet time, and he took me by the hand and led me into the bedroom, where he made me lie down and then carefully tucked me in. He got a book and sat by me and "read" it to me. Then he lay down next to me so we could cuddle. It was exactly what I needed. I am continually astonished at his sensitive and loving nature.

The outpouring of support for the family has been amazing; I am really proud of Bellingham right now. There is a memorial on Monday and many, many organizations collecting donations, putting together benefits, and generally demonstrating our community's love and support in every possible way.  It is beautiful, and also profoundly sad.

Most of all though, this tragedy has reminded me to make sure I make every day count, because we REALLY don't know how much time we'll have with the ones we love.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Life, Death & the Holidays

Sorry the blog has been dark for a while, it's been a busy and emotional month.
On the 11th of December, Conan's "Great Marjorie" passed away at the age of 92. It wasn't a surprise, exactly: we knew her health was declining and she had started hospice care. But we all thought there was more time. I suppose that's a common phenomena, that the end comes more quickly than we expect. The picture above was taken just a few days prior to her passing; Conan was excited to show Great Marjorie his new balance bike, which was an early birthday gift. They had a great relationship, for which I am really grateful. Conan saw her nearly every Wednesday, and they shared a love of reading, a fascination with cats, and neither of them ever missed a chance for desert.
In addition to Marjorie's death, we also had to put down one of our cats. To most people, Marcellus was a big mean scary cat, but he had his loveable side too. He came to us as a few years back for a temporary stay while Cynthia (who had raised him from a kitten) finished graduate school. He had a serious weight problem and an eating disorder, but it quickly became clear that living with us really improved his health. We got an automatic catfood dispensor which helped prevent him from overeating, and he got a lot more excercise wandering our property than he had gotten as an indoor cat. He dropped from 24 lbs to 18 lbs, and really seemed to enjoy life with us.

Cary really bonded with Marcellus, and when Cynthia graduated and returned to Olympia we officially adopted Marcellus. This past year, however, his quality of life begin to deteriorate. He appeared to be in pain when he walked, and he was grouchier and meaner than usual. Conan was afraid of him. He took his last trip to the vet the day after Christmas, and is now buried in the yard near a spectaularly thorny shrub called a Poncirus Trifolata. It seemed a fitting marker for him.
Marjorie's memorial service was this past Saturday. Conan doesn't understand memorial services any more than he understands death. He misses both Marcellus and his Great Grandma, and has told me more than once that he wants them back. I told him that the memorial was "a party where everyone remembers Great Marjorie" and he asked me if she would be there. I had no answer for him. He still looks for Great Marjorie in her bedroom when we visit his grandparents house.

The memorial was held at the SGI Buddhist Activity Center in Bellingham. Marjorie wasn't a Buddhist (she told the hospice spiritual councillor that music was her religion) but Dave and Anita are active SGI Buddhists. The service was simple and lovely. There were many special rememberances of Marojorie, some chanting, and a ceremonial offering of incence for her spirit. Afterwards, Conan was very interested in a framed picture of Marjorie as a young woman, which was sitting in a place of honor on a small table next to a vase holding three yellow tulips. Worried that he would spill the flowers, I picked up the vase and held it for him, thinking he wanted to smell them. Instead, he gently kissed each blossom. It was a sweet and special moment, a perfect goodbye.
Despite (or perhaps because of) our losses we had a wonderful Christmas celebrated with both sides of the family, and a fun New Year's holiday with many great friends. We really have a lot to be grateful for in this life, no matter how short it may be. :)