Happy New Year 2013

While not breaking from tradition in sharing memories from the past year, nor in being less than punctual, we are following in Ira Glass’ footsteps this year as opposed to writing our annual letter. Even the world’s fastest typist couldn’t keep up with Miles or Charlie! So, grab a delicious beverage, sit in a cozy chair, and settle in for our annual update. We won’t judge if you listen to it like a podcast while you’re washing dishes, folding laundry or cooking a meal. That’s how Kathleen does it. It’s 25 minutes long (edited down from 3 hours), so you may want to take breaks anyway.

Here are some of the picture highlights from 2012 for your viewing pleasure while you listen.

You can play this in the browser by clicking the play button or you can download it to your computer using the link over on the right, there.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Miles!

Happy birthday, dear Mr. Miles!

Right now I want to burst into my own rendition of the Rent song about how many minutes you’ve been with us because you are just so big, so full-of-life, so unbelievably precocious that counting your time passing might best be done in whatever reflects you to be huge. Seconds might even be best. But we’ll stick with tradition and celebrate you turning two years old. As you desire, there will be chocolate cake and Pirate’s Booty.  We won’t have chocolate rabbits even though that’s your current most frequent request- Easter treats are not a faint memory for you and neither are puffed balls of rice apparently. You will also be surrounded by many of your favorite people, though I’m sure if we asked you, the list would be four times as long because you adore all our pals and want to spend nearly every minute with as big of a group as possible. (I’m just not wanting to throw that kind of party this year. Someday, sweetie.) We will also not be inviting the science center dinosaurs, which I’m sure would be at the top of your list for entertainment. Last week at breakfast you said, “Go science center. Spin Saturn.” and you always ask to see the dinosaurs, too. Probably every day. They suit you well. Rocking out, dancing, harmonica-playing dinosaurs would be even better.

You are so friendly, outgoing and welcoming. Passing neighbors get to hear repeated, boistrous calls of “Hi! He-wo!” and all day long we get to hear “Hi mama, hi papa, hi Charlie!” from your adorable little voice. You also love making people laugh and testing the limits. I am completely charmed by your attempts to get me to feed you things you know you’re done with- “Mo’ nana? Mo’ chocwate?” all with a little smirk on your face. And you already know that saying “poop” can be very, very funny. Especially to five year old boys. And that whole ball thing you’ve had since you were born, you’ve still got it. You could spend all day long kicking, throwing and rolling balls. Hopefully you’ll learn soon that rocks aren’t good substitutes in most cases. We have a flower pot and many bruises to prove it but you are still very determined. Spirited. A very spirited child, indeed.

We are delighted to celebrate you, Miles. May your third year of life bring you lots of joy and love. And no broken bones or black eyes, for you or your playmates. Besos, Little Sweets. Mama.

(I was having some posting problems, so below are a few pics and video links for those wanting to see Mr. M in action.)

Farmer Miles

toothbrushing

Luchadorito

Are You out of Your Mind?

While nobody has yet to say this to me, this is the look on some faces when I tell them that we’re seriously considering homeschooling our boys. And definitely doing so for Charlie’s kindergarten year. And I want to scream, “YES! I must be going crazy!” because so often I feel that way, too, even though I can just as easily feel that people are nuts to put their kids into the current system. I can talk myself into and out of homeschooling about as quickly as I can eat a truffle.

Obviously, no one can really predict what will happen year to year, but I have the strong sense that once we’ve jumped the monumental first hurdle of not registering for public school and begun our first projects we won’t be turning back. This may seem like a pretty brazen or extremely naive thing to say, but I have a few reasons that make it somewhat educated. I have yet to meet a single homeschooled child or homeschooling parent who has regretted their choice.  I’m sure they’re out there, but I don’t think they’re anywhere close to the majority. Every parent I’ve talked to immediately lights up with how amazing it has been for their entire family, not just the kids. It’s a little bit like talking to a newly engaged twenty-year-old: you’re happy for them but their giddiness and tremendous energy also makes you feel like you drank decaf. You also can’t help but wonder if they’re overcompensating for the struggles by being overly enthusiastic.

There’s also my heart. I think I know to my core (when I am still and not scared and trusting that we’ll all be ok) that it is best for our oldest and probably will be best for our youngest, too. This could change, but as long as I feel that way, I can’t ignore it. I’ve tried really hard and it keeps coming back. We want our boys to be able to pursue their passions with abandon. If they want to dig in the dirt for an hour, they can. If they want to paint all day, they can. If they want to do written-based work in the car on a trip to the mountains, followed by a hike, so be it. We want them to thoroughly enjoy learning. We want our life to be an education and we want it to be a lot of fun. And there are many more reasons backed up by reading we’ve done–I’ll share those another time.

But it is so crazy! I KNOW! I get scared. Every time someone talks about our neighborhood school positively, I doubt our choice. I freak out a little bit every time I meet a weird homeschooler. We all know them–though I wonder if we’d all be weird if we weren’t trying to shape ourselves to fit in at school because we would be more unique, more ourselves. I wonder if we’ll find a community of homeschoolers that fits us. I wonder if I’ll be lonely and missing my friends with children in public schools. I wonder if we’ll all feel left out from school’s big events.

Despite all those doubts and some yet listed, kindergarten still feels like a no-brainer. Our neighborhood school requires full-day K and you have to pay a hefty monthly tuition to compensate for the lack of full-day funding. And since the school has chosen to focus on providing language immersion and academics, there is not a single dedicated art teacher for any form of art. It is totally up to the classroom teacher to provide music, visual arts, theatre, dance or anything else. I’m sure the teachers do their best to fit these in when possible, but these are Charlie’s passions and we don’t think a full day of dealing with 27+ other classmates and their behaviors while listening to and completing academic lessons he already knows is worth the second language exposure. Especially at the cost of missing the chance to pursue his passions and have some afternoon rest before a group activity. We could supplement art in the afternoons, but I am really wary of over-scheduling the boys and know he also wants to play soccer, pursue music and have downtime. Charlie still sleeps 12 hours a night and definitely needs it. Packing in activities at the cost of play time, family time and sleep has no appeal to me right now.

So, we’re going to take it year by year. Kindergarten will be a great low pressure chance to see how we like home-based education. We will get to know a few local homeschooling groups (Seattle is overflowing with opportunity in this regard), Charlie will likely continue with the Seattle Children’s Theatre next year and his group activities beyond that will come from sports, church, playdates, and anything else that float his boat. He’s already got the K-level academic basics down, so continuing to build his literacy skills, math knowledge, and general world knowledge will be a continuation of how we already function.

We have not run into this decision blindly. Who the heck would do that? Why would a stay at home mom give up the potential for six hours of gardening, cooking, exercising, meeting friends and running errands by herself, uninterrupted?!? This choice does not come easy. In fact, I spent a good year incredibly torn because I felt homeschooling would be the best education for our boys but not if my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t feel up to it and I was concerned I was going to be angry and eventually bitter. So, late last summer we committed ourselves to the idea of public school, allowing cognitive dissonance to do its work and make us feel fine about our choice. “It’s a bilingual school! It’s going to be a brand new building! Everyone we meet there is happy! Our boys will have more fun!” There’s a lot you can tell yourself to make it feel alright and I eventually forgot about homeschooling and embraced the idea of being an involved public school volunteer.

With the passing of a few months, life got much easier for us. Harry had a steady income. Mr. Toddler was safer, more independent, and didn’t require constant attention. The boys started to play together long enough that I could bake or cook while they were awake without fear of setting the house on fire. I had an outlet for regular exercise while they were cared for and life was much, much better. I was really enjoying my role.

So, into that environment walked my brother, the sailor, spending time unwinding with us after a few months at sea. He is one of several incredibly bright people I know who were failed by the public school system. Bored to death, needing creative outlets, and happier learning from a book than from teachers (I’d bet he had more book smarts than most of his teachers), he skipped high school classes to sit in the public library and read. He got kicked out of high school and later passed the GED with a nearly perfect score (without studying, of course). He’s a voracious reader to this day. Within a few nights of staying with us, he told us about an article he read at sea about a few homeschooler’s experiences while we were eating dinner. The minute he started talking I got a little anxious, sipped on my red wine a little faster. I had grown accustomed to the idea of having time to myself once Miles started preschool, of participating in Charlie’s classroom as a happy volunteer, of having instant community from his classroom peers and more friends for him. But, he got me thinking again. Harry didn’t need any convincing. He had always liked the homeschooling idea but also supported my decision to not do it if I wasn’t passionate about it since I would be doing the bulk of the work.

I was scared, I wanted to fight it, but I eventually started believing that I might really enjoy it. Maybe I was actually in a spot to thrive in the role. Our family has a pretty amazing setup for it right now. Harry works from home and has some flexibility in schedule. He often has jobs that he can do from anywhere there’s an internet connection. So, I began dreaming. What about January in Florida, escaping Seattle’s nasty rain, enjoying sunshine and beach, and learning from Harry’s mom’s house? What about June in Colorado, enjoying a longer summer than Seattle provides and spending time with all our family there? And dare I really dream, what about a year or two in Europe? Introducing our kids to all my Dutch friends from my exchange student year, visiting other friends scattered around the continent? These make my heart jump with delight. And yet I fear holding onto them too tightly because they might not happen.

Those dreams may not ever be the reality of our homeschooling. Harry’s job could change and he could be gone from our home 10 hours a day in a full-time job with very little flexibility. That may change my mind altogether about this endeavor. More likely, though, is that our reality may be some typical “schoolwork” / paperwork and lots of projects, reading, cooking, gardening, beach trips, library visits,volunteering, hikes, walks through the zoo, classes (there is an astounding number of really cool extracurricular activities for homeschooling kids in the city) and maybe a homeschool co-op for some academics.

I have also had the pleasure of working closely and being friends with someone who homeschooled her two boys, now in college, and saw the incredible projects they achieved, the quality of their writing, the passion they maintained for interests that likely would’ve been squashed by peers in public schools. She owns a business, her husband worked contracts and the two of them pieced it together to handle their boys’ learning. I have other friends who grew up spending hours every day just playing with their siblings because they completed their “work” in a few hours. Some completed lots of workbooks without much adult interaction, others completed amazing projects that were very dynamic. You don’t have to guess what we’ll be doing.

But doubt creeps in. I ask myself if I’m crazy. I hear that a dear friend’s son, who is also one of Charlie’s best buddies, will be moving into our school zone and I immediately want to enroll Charlie, too. But I think about it and know that the move feels better for me than for Charlie. I am more worried about my loneliness than the boys being socially isolated. I think to my childhood and the best times I had with friends. All were after school, either in each others’ homes or in extracurricular activities. These things will be easy to work in, especially when my boys are not worn out from a day of school and don’t have homework. I think about how many close friends I had that I really delighted in and know we only need a handful of great companions for the boys to be in quality relationships.

So, consider this my announcement of yet another unusual step by our family. I am comforted deeply that all our past choices that felt stupid, nutty or risky have all been worth it. I think this will be the case again but I can’t always walk boldly in that space. I try to keep my eye on the beauty that will be found in simplicity, the fun that will be had, the passions that will be allowed to fully blossom, the relationships that will be deep and rich. If you catch me forgetting these things, I would love a nudge in that direction. And if you know of fantastic resources, I am always happy to add them to our ever-growing pile. Thank you for supporting us in our many nontraditional ways, dear friends and family!

Literal Language Interpretations

Another old one

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After listening and singing along to Boogie Down a lot, Charlie said, “You know what, mama? I think my boogie is stuck in a tree and I need to get it down.”

“Can you give me a hand?” sent him into deep sadness wondering why I was asking him to give up one of his hands.

“No, I didn’t bike all the way here. I biked there.” (Pointing to where he parked his bike, ten feet away from where the question was asked of him.)

No wonder there are so many tears and outbursts! Four year olds know enough and speak well enough into fooling you that they understand a lot, too. And as an SLP I should know better, but I’m still constantly forgetting how literal they are. And they don’t understand that idioms can’t be changed. So, it’s freaking raining trains or cars or elephants at our house, not just cats and dogs.

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An extremely belated 2011 summer recap: Deedledeedles and Dakuums

If you recall from our 2011 recap, I mentioned the goal of not letting my perfectionistic ways keep me from action. This step is a definite example of working on that side of me. I am about to post words originally written last summer. LAST SUMMER. I know. If I kept a to-do list of everything I mean to take action on and forget about because they’re buried under files or piles, it would probably fill a notebook. Maybe better organization will be next. But, I would rather have these things written (even if not well) and posted (even if late), than not at all. So, sit back and enjoy a ride to late last summer. Miles was 17-months, Charlie was 4 1/2.

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Rain is falling but the sun is shining.  Wind is bringing the first leaves down, though most have yet to change color.  Friday afternoon and Saturday felt like perfect summer weather and Seattle citizens, true to form, did not take this for granted.  On Friday evening families filled the beach at Green Lake, many kids were swimming, and I was sweating because I foolishly failed to change out of my jeans after the morning’s cool weather.  Charlie watched fascinated as older kids caught fish from the lake and put them into a bucket.  He now wants a fishing net.  Saturday we enjoyed the company of dear friends, our favorite bakery’s amazing twice baked croissants and time at Alki.  Miles played quite happily in the sand with his shovel, Charlie spent most of the time getting in and out of the sound.  It was the first time he didn’t let the cold water completely scare him away and he kept getting back in.  We had a lot of fun being silly about how chilly it was.

Last spring I was nervous about how our summer would be because it felt like such a long time to be with both boys.  We don’t have a regular babysitter and my only time without both was when Charlie was in one of his two weekly activities, which still meant I was with Miles.  With the passing of the first week I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was.  We had a great rhythm and the boys learned with each passing week how to play with each other better.  One of the cutest things they do together is vacuum.  Miles calls everything with wheels and a motor a “dakuum”, including airplanes.  So, throw a few tinkertoys together in the form of anything closely resembling something with wheels and a motor, and you have a pleased toddler who will then make motor noises and vacuum around the house.  Charlie was often happy to oblige and play along, too.

One of my favorite weekly treats of summer was attending the Wallingford Farmer’s market.  I wasn’t sure anything could compare to my love of Queen Anne’s market, but having the Meridian playground right next to the booths actually pushed me over the edge and I prefer Wallingford’s for the simplicity.  I still miss running into Queen Anne friends, Local Roots vegetables, and the food trucks, but who wouldn’t miss Parfait, Where Ya At Matt and Maximus/Minimus?   So, Wednesday afternoons we would head to the park, the boys would play, and then we’d go get our produce.  Deedledeedledeedles for Miles, blueberries for Charlie, stonefruit for me, apples for Harry, raspberries for us all and we couldn’t be happier.

While most families have started the back to school routine, it’s still officially summer vacation at the Love household.  Charlie’s new preschool doesn’t start until next Monday, so we have one more week to soak up the amazing Seattle rays and move at whatever pace we desire.  Summer has been really lovely that way.  We’ve had a lot of simple, beautiful days during which we visit a park, play in the Green Lake wading pool, or have friends over to play in the backyard.  The only scheduled events have been a couple short vacations with family and Charlie’s once weekly circus class and swim lessons.  And though the weather started out miserably cold, August and September have provided my perfect summer weather….70s and 80s.  Aaaahhhhh.

This summer was so much better than last.  Miles is sleeping most nights for 12 solid, though he still probably averages one night a week during which he’s awake for 2-3 hours, little bugger.  And he still pulls a lot of 5:30am wake-ups.  Our boys have got to be two of the most sensitive sleepers ever.  DO NOT MESS with their schedule or you will pay for it.  For weeks.  Anyways, it is really nice to be able to reflect on last summer, see how far we’ve come and know that we really survived an incredibly stressful period without too much injury to show for it.  My waistline is the biggest loser…I fed my fatigue with pastries and chocolate and rarely exercised.  And for goodness sake, I couldn’t taste anything but sweet or bitter last summer!  Oh my goodness, I just remembered that!  So, no wonder!   Bit by bit, I think I’m getting the discplines of eating well and exercising regularly under control again.  I ran a 10K with my friend Kate yesterday.  It felt like an awesome step in the right direction.

Harry and I spent many nights painting most of the interior of our new rental.  We still have our bedroom and a bathroom to go, and the boys’ bedrooms we may or may not do.  It has felt really good to fix up this rental even though we don’t own it.  It is our home right now and it’s nice to make it feel a little more warm, a little cleaner, a little less 1960s grandma who adores pink.   The yard’s weeds are still out of control but the raised vegetable bed is growing our fall veggies and my burlap bag veggies are looking like they’re going to survive a little bit longer and allow the rest of our tomatoes to ripen.

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So, there it is. I’m not going to add a conclusion that was never written. But I’m glad I’m putting this into the archives and sharing with whoever reads this. It feels nice to think about summer right now. It’s coming soon and I am more than ready for the change of pace. (Peas are planted, peas are planted! Hooray!)

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

You are five today, Charlie. Sometimes when you tell stories you start out by saying, “You know, Papa, when I was a little boy,” and then you describe this fantasy, parallel world where all these amazing things happened when you were a little boy, things that happened many years ago in a world I know nothing about, but one that I’m absolutely sure exists because you make it sound so real and you tell it so convincingly.

And I laugh and say, “When was this? Oh, when you were a little boy, huh?” And you assure me every time that these things actually happened.

One thing I can say for certain is that I’ve loved being in this world with you while you were still my little boy. In this world I still get to pick you up and give you hugs and kisses. We pray together at night while we snuggle. You still giggle a lot, you wear costumes well, and you love being a big brother, even though sometimes you don’t. You love to build, construct, and paint, and I love watching you do these things. You tell me that I crack you up.

You have such a beautiful soul. You’re still so new to this world that we both share and there are times when I’m frightened about what it might do to you. And at the same time I’m so excited that you will be set free one day to help this world become a better place. Your presence has already brightened the days of your family. Perhaps you will bring this world some of the lessons you learned in that world when you were a little boy and we will all be better for it.

Love,
Papa

Happy 2012!

And welcome! This will be the first Loveoirs post of the last year of Earth’s existence, or the first Loveoirs post in Earth’s glorious new dawning, or it will be just another New Year’s Loveoirs post, like all the rest, but better. In any case we’d love to see the planet undergo a geomagnetic reversal because it just sounds cool. Happy New Year!

If you remember our post from last year, it was marked by super elation because Miles was born and super stress because we had moved across the U.S., started new jobs, started preschool, and didn’t sleep much. This year was much more stable for us. Can we get an amen? How about a word up?

We’re not sure when sleep sanity finally returned to our household, but 2011 was much better in this regard. We had at least twenty or so nights of no wakeups, that is, nights when both boys slept through the whole night. Of course, those were interspersed with 345 nights of illness, bad dreams, accidents, and crying for the hell of it (Harry and Kathleen, not the boys), but we appreciated the sleep nights immensely and look forward to maybe forty or so this year.

In April we moved from our paper walled Queen Anne ice box to a lovely rental house near Green Lake. It has one story (thank goodness, no more children tumbling down the stairs). We have a backyard with trees, great light, and lots of room for flowers, vegetables, and little bulldozers. During the warmer months, the boys practically lived in the backyard. We enjoy having friends over, walking and jogging around the lake, going for coffee at Zoka, and donuts at Mighty-O. Our neighbors have been very welcoming. In short, it feels like a place we could stay for a long time and this has been the biggest and most positive change for us.

Harry worked from home the whole year. That was amazing and hard and amazing and great and hard for all of us, for all of the reasons you might expect. He started work later in the day, ended earlier, and spent flexible time with the family. Knowing now that this works for us, it would be hard to go back to a full time job with a commute and all of the little extra bits that come with working for someone else. Of course, there were many times we wished we had the security of a full-time job and its benefits, but working a flexible job, having the family together, and being free to call the shots have made it worth every penny we might have given up.

Kathleen journeyed from pure survival mode to moments of thriving in her roles this year.  She has regained most of her sense of taste and some of her sense of smell, which has helped dramatically with increased desire to pursue some of her passions, like cooking and gardening.  And with a toddler in diapers, it’s not the worst thing in the world to not be able to smell well.  She has felt luxuriously spoiled with our recently acquired gym membership at the YMCA that has childcare the boys love and allows her to exercise during the day however she’d like.  Swimming has been incredibly cathartic and totally worth dealing with the colorful experiences of a gym locker room.  Kathleen remains torn about whether or not she’ll return to a typical speech-pathology role somewhere, but is thankful daily for a degree that has helped her tremendously with parenting.

Charlie turned four this year and started his second year of preschool, this time at the Seattle Children’s Theater. He’s loved it so far and it really plays to some of his strengths. He’s riding a bike now and has gone around Green Lake a few times (~3 miles or ~4.8 km). He loves and despises his brother depending on the day and the activity, but they’re really great pals.

Miles started walking and talking this year and has become quite rambunctious. In the fall the boys invented a game of dropping themselves over the back of the couch onto little play furniture and sometimes just onto the floor. Miles enjoys this as much as Charlie. He tries out new words and phrases just about every day. He follows his brother around like a puppy sometimes. He’s totally charming and he knows it. And given his current size, we’re pretty sure our food budget is going to eclipse our college savings in ten years.

So, 2011 was great for us. We’re happy, getting healthier, getting wiser, and getting more sleep. We hope the start of the new year finds you well. As is our tradition, we’ve included some of our favorites below. Enjoy!

Favorite Books

Kathleen: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was the most heart-wrenching, gory and beautiful story I’ve read in a long time. I almost stopped reading after the twins’ birth story, had to take a several day break, and returned to start at a different chapter before going back to it, but I’m glad I regained my composure and read every word. Half way through I didn’t want to do anything but read. And the ending. I loved the ending.

I’m also very pleased to be a new owner of a Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. As I grow in my knowledge of cooking and baking, I’m longing for the scientific understanding of why certain things work and others don’t. I am also thrilled to have 2,000 recipes that have been tested so thoroughly! With this book in hand and a new skillet, I had the confidence to try pan-searing scallops that were served with browned lemon butter and butternut squash ravioli. Yum.

Harry: The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1 – The Phenomenon of Life, by Christopher Alexander. In it, Alexander identifies and measures the properties that create life in the built world, from leaves to art to buildings to neighborhoods and beyond. I’m grateful to have these new eyes as I experience the world now. I’ve read the first two volumes and I hope to read the other two this year.

Charlie: The Three Snow Bears. My Father’s Dragon. “I like reading new books that I haven’t read before.”

Miles: My First Word Lift-the-Flap Board Book and Goodnight, Seattle were requested quite frequently.

Favorite Music

Kathleen: I have really enjoyed Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, and The Autumn Film this year. Not just new stuff, but the albums that I keep returning to because they speak to my soul. I have also loved the precious few minutes that I’ve had to play piano all by myself. Granted, I’m half-watching the boys to make sure the dissonant, non-piano noises I’m hearing aren’t resulting in either of their serious harm, but it’s happening. Sometimes I even get through an entire song.

Harry: You can listen to my favorites below. This past year the themes were nostalgia, introspection, and the reinvented 1980s, except for the last song in the list, in which one group traveled to the year 2025 and returned with its dystopian hip hop. My favorite was “Beth/Rest” by Bon Iver.

[mp3-jplayer tracks="Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes@06-Helplessness-Blues.mp3, Like the Wheel - The Tallest Man On Earth@03-Like-the-Wheel.mp3, Up in Flames - Coldplay@11-Up-in-Flames.mp3, Beth/Rest - Bon Iver@10-Beth_Rest.mp3, Peace on the Rise - Chad VanGaalen@02-Peace-on-the-Rise.mp3, I Am Dead (CFCF Remix) - Jori Hulkkonen@I-Am-Dead-CFCF-Remix.mp3, Before and After Life - CFCF@01-Before-and-After-Light.mp3, ccore - Jacob 2-2@ccore.mp3, An Echo from the Hosts That Profess Infinitum - Shabazz Palaces@02-An-Echo-from-the-Hosts-That-Profess-Infinitum.mp3"]

Charlie: “Crocodile Dock. Huey Lewis & the News. U2. The fireflies song. And 5-4-3-2-1 Blast Off.”

[mp3-jplayer tracks="Faith (Hebrews 11:1) from Crocodile Dock - Jay Stocker@06-Faith-Hebrews-11.mp3, Doin' It All (For My Baby) - Huey Lewis & The News@03-Doin-It-All-For-My-Baby.mp3, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of - U2@02-Stuck-In-A-Moment-You-Cant-Get-Out-Of.mp3, Fireflies - Owl City@06-Fireflies.mp3, Rocketship Run - Laurie Berkner@13-Rocketship-Run.mp3"]

Miles: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He sings this a lot.

Favorite Movies/Shows

Kathleen: My only steps into a theater were for a viewing of 50/50 with Angie. I absolutely loved it. I laughed so hard that I cried, cried so hard that I was snotty and doing the ugly cry. I looked hideous at the movie’s end, but it was worth it. Had I been at home without reservation, I would’ve blown through an entire box of tissues. At home I enjoyed The Trip, Kings of Pastry, Outsourced, The Secret of Kells, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Pressure Cooker. Next year I will certainly tell you how I loved The King’s Speech and other grand movies that came out because they will finally be on Netflix streaming!

Harry:The Secret of Kells, Pressure Cooker, The Trip, Lenny, Exit Through the Gift Shop, At Close Range, Sling Blade, Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, Who Is Harry Nilsson?, Mesrine: Part I and Part II, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (the Swedish versions of those; I haven’t seen the David Fincher version). Yes, I still loves me some movies.

I loved watching season 1 of The Cosby Show. I will also admit to watching every episode of every season of thirtysomething. Both shows make so much sense now as a married parent of two.

Charlie: Kipper, Caillou, Busytown Mysteries, Pingu, Cars, Charlie Brown.

Miles: When he thinks he has a chance at watching a show (which is extremely rare), he requests “Elmo” (referring to anything from Sesame Street) or Thomas the Tank Engine.

Favorite Games

Kathleen: The games that make my heart melt usually don’t involve me. They’re the games resulting in the best giggles I’ve ever heard. Recently, Miles and Charlie spent at least ten minutes running around the house laughing like crazy while they took turns dragging a sheet and pulling on it. At Thanksgiving all those under ten laughed hysterically at Harry’s silliness. The games I love to instigate are based on whatever’s going on at the moment that can be made fun. Sometimes it’s when one of the boys makes a weird noise and we all keep trying to make it. Other times it’s me dancing in the kitchen with a colander on my head while I feed them a meal.

Harry: Being silly with Charlie and Miles. Whatever we’re doing, there’s always an alternate, ridiculous way of doing it that makes them laugh. They’re also big fans of my “going down the elevator behind the kitchen counter” sight gag (thanks, Mike Myers). I also enjoyed Glitch, Real Racing, and Machinarium.

Charlie: Heroica. Chutes and Ladders. Busytown.

Miles: Climbing on the couch. Basketball.

Moments of Beauty and Inspiration

Kathleen: There is too much to share here, so I’m going to pick the first five that come to mind. Fasten your seat belt, I’m about to bullet:

1) Harry and I choosing to fix up this rental has provided unexpected fun for our marriage, often while we’re covered in paint or dirt. Being in a free-standing home for the first time since our immaculate and basically brand new Colorado home led to some unexpected shock and grief for me because this place was far from clean and pristine. I was inspired by Harry’s encouragement and our subsequent devotion to make our shelter a place of beauty, however we could. If the carpet has to be stained and teal, let the walls be clean. If the grass has to stay put and be moss-filled, let the weeds be pulled and eventually replaced with vegetables and flowers and mulch. Bit by bit, it becomes more lovely and life-giving. It was hard at first to think about pouring so much time and energy into a rental, but it makes sense why it’s been such a gift to us to do so. It is our home.

2) Charlie learning to ride his bike without pedals made me tear up because I know what a huge mental feat it was for him (much more so than the physical challenge). He had taken a few falls, was scared and wanted to give up. When Harry and I told him how many times we fell and that we still sometimes fall, and let him know that he had to decide to tell his body that it was worth a few bumps and bruises, he decided to go for it and the look on his face was amazing.

3) Miles learned to walk this year. And talk. And run. And throw balls. And build train tracks. The joy Miles expresses with any new experience is so contagious I always end up smiling with him.

4) A very tall, lanky, tattered homeless man wearing a feathered hat walked to the front of our church sanctuary during a morning service with a big bunch of flowers and a toilet plunger in hand. The flowers looked like he picked them out of people’s gardens on his way in: loose, mismatching, and hand-picked. Everyone was standing and singing, Harry and I were in the balcony and could see him walk up to the front stage and lay everything down, retrieving the plunger from the midst of the flowers and putting it in his back pocket. He then sat awkwardly and raised his arms to worship, seemingly singing a different song because his mouth wasn’t moving to the same rhythms. A very well-kept older woman left her pew unnoticed but returned to the stage with a large pitcher of water. She leaned in towards the man, I assume to ask him permission, and put the flowers in the water. I completely lost it, overwhelmed by the love of that moment.

5) So many simple things from nature: sprouting seeds, pulled weeds, turtles on the logs at Green Lake, flavor grenade pluots and other divine stone fruit, changing leaves, harbor seals, sea stars, waves…

Harry: I have loved watching our boys grow into playmates. It’s taken them a long time and only recently did they start playing really well together, but for the most part they enjoy each other’s company. They giggle a lot together. They hug goodnight. It’s amazing watching two beings who came from my DNA ask to embrace each other without prompting.

I’m fascinated by Charlie’s paintings: the subjects he chooses, how he depicts them, his use of color and size, the whole bit.

Miles has a fantastic smile and sense of humor. If you need cheering up in 2012, we rent him out at $26/hour, up from $19 last year. Still a great bargain!

I’m inspired by Kathleen’s love of cooking and her blossoming as a chef. I’ve reached the point where I prefer her food to just about anything, save the hoity-toity places we go on special occasions. And even with some of those places, I prefer her meals. I tag along just so we can say hoity-toity once in a while.

Charlie: “I remember you [Papa] blowing the biggest bubble. And we went to the beach. I remember moving into our new house. It has more space than our old house.”

Miles: “This doesn’t count as beautiful, per se, but I was moved by the zeal of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, regardless of their tactics or effectiveness.” [Miles is a realist.]

Best Surprise

Kathleen: We enjoyed a pretty incredible year, including moving back to our favorite neighborhood (close to our first home). It was also filled with lots of high-quality family time, my brother getting a job based out of a Seattle that led to many great experiences together and the beginning of us really knowing each other as friends, loads of fun play dates, evenings with dear friends and bellyaching laughter, a few lovely getaways and the amazing day-to-day pleasure of having Harry work from home. But my heart jumped the highest when my dear friend Kristine, our Siberia teammate and first Seattle friend, called to let us know that her family’s return to Seattle was finally happening. And it beat fastest when two dear friends went into labor early, one with twins. Thankfully, all the teeny-tiny babies are thriving.

Harry: I really enjoyed having Dave, Kathleen’s brother, stay with us for a couple weeks after his duties on his ship were finished. I think all of us had a great time. We shared lots of great talk, drinks, and meals, including a dream night at Canlis for Dave, Kathleen, and me on my birthday.

Charlie: “I remember trying to cheer up girls at the gym that we went to today. I really like the little bug that I got for Christmas. One of my favorite things about Uncle Dave visiting is that I was sleeping and then I woke up and I saw Uncle Dave sleeping there right in front of my eyes!”

Miles: “Hi.”

Favorite Websites

Kathleen: All of last year’s sites still remain favorites, but I add Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt to the mix. This is now my go-to blog for very unhealthy but delicious desserts or anything chocolate related. (Try her chocolate chip cookie recipe. I dare you.) I can’t wait to make more of her recipes since those I’ve made have all been incredible. I also really love Ashley’s photography and writing. If you haven’t figured it out by now, if I’m not on email or Facebook, I pretty much spend my online time reading food blogs or watching food related shows.

Harry: I read the misnamed Hacker News on a daily basis. Glitch is filled with good, creative quirk. Netflix for shows.

Charlie: PBS Kids.

Miles: Arts & Letters Daily.

Favorite or Funniest Thing Miles Says

Kathleen: It’s pretty hilarious that any time we talk about the Seattle Children’s Theatre (which is very frequent because it’s where Charlie attends preschool), Miles says “monorail!” This sometimes refers to the monorail, but usually refers to the Space Needle, which remains strongly mislabeled despite months of proper modeling. He also says monorail to anybody who talks to him on the phone. I think he’s figured out how cute it is and is getting a lot of mileage from it. I also love that he used to say “dakuum” all the time (for vacuum, which referred to anything with a motor and wheels). He wanted us to make Tinkertoy vacuums and he’d drive them, fly them or vacuum with them. Lastly, I love that he answers yes with a strong, quick “heh” and yells “ai ai ai” when he’s mad about something.

Harry: What’s not to like? His word for yes is “huh” with a big nod of the head. He tries hard to say basketball because he received a small hoop for Christmas. His best friend is a little stuffed animal called Tiger and he often says, “Tiger, where ARE you?” in a kind of sing-song voice. When he’s giving you something he says “he go” (Here you go), also in a high-pitched, sing-song voice. His typical greeting to someone new is to say “monowaya” (monorail). But I have no idea why he chooses that as a greeting over, say, “coffee” or “backyard” or “hi” or something less arbitrary.

Charlie: “Here are some of his faces that I think are funny [Charlie now shows us some of his funny faces]. My favorite face to make Miles laugh is this.”

Miles: “Monorail.”

Favorite Toy

Kathleen: Our camera’s new lens is quickly becoming a favorite! I also probably love my new immersion blender/mini food processor more than one should love an appliance.

Harry: I bought an iPad for my business. In its spare time iPad likes to double as a music recording studio, a game machine, a movie theater, a magazine and book container, and several other nouns.

Charlie: “The marble track. The magnetic block cars. The orange tool box.”

Miles: Train tracks. Tinkertoys. Marble tracks. Basketball hoop.

Plans for 2012

Kathleen: I have a huge stack of books waiting for me at the downtown library, mostly about education, learning and child development. Reading these will be my primary focus during my free time for the next few months as we contemplate what Charlie will do for kindergarten. I have signed up for an indoor sprint triathlon in April and plan on doing an outdoor one in late summer. This means I will be exercising much more regularly than I do now or I will be immobile in early April. I plan on becoming a better gardener, cook, baker and photographer. With lots of help I will grow in grace, patience and my ability to savor the moment instead of worry about the future or pursue perfection. And I will take at least one really big risk that scares me silly and makes me rely on my faith. I am really hoping to not move homes this year. Or the next, for that matter.

Harry: This year I plan to grow the business with a couple products of my own. For learning, I’m still completely engrossed in non-fiction and this is unlikely to change this year. There’s so much to know! Sitting on my table right now are Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Philosophical Investigations, Unix Power Tools, The Unix Programming Environment, Concrete Mathematics, and The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. If I get through them all by next year, it will be a miracle. Finally, I plan to ride in the Seattle to Portland bike race in July. Wish me luck!

Charlie: “It does make me really excited if we would go to the Pacific Science Center and I could use the digger. And we could go and see those crazy bugs that we have now that run around on the track.”

Miles: “raf.” [Giraffe]

That’s a Wrap

Finally, here are some of our favorite pictures from 2011.

Love,
Miles, Charlie, Kathleen, and Harry