Friday, September 30, 2011

School Search Part 1

Daycare center #1 was housed on the grounds of a Catholic church. I carefully inquired before we went as to the religious content of the school and was reassured that it was secular in every way. What we did not expect was the level of orthodoxy, not in religion, but in the Montessori method. Now there are many ways of interpreting the teaching of Maria Montessori, but in this school it meant no toys (only “work”), no cuddling (“we want them to be independent so they won’t grow up to be drug addicts, criminals, or obese”) and no color on the walls or furnishings. While it wasn’t dirty or scary or creepy, it was not the kind of place I wanted to leave my little girl. The expensive car (vanity plate “school”) in director’s parking spot also didn’t help.

Daycare centers #2, #3, and #4 were quite a wide range of experiences. We saw them all on the same day, so it was quite easy to see the differences. #2 was not bad at all. In fact, I think it’s my top pick so far. It is a strict Montessori, but very clean, bright, and even elegant. It also had the benefit of being extremely close to my work which would make me feel so much better about leaving her if I know we are very near each other. The downside of this school is mainly potty training. They require it, and our girl will not even be two and half by the time she has to start. Dicey to say the least.

Daycare #3 was fine. Pretty much everything about it was fine but not wonderful. The littlest kids were housed in a smallish room with a reasonable number of activities sprinkled around. The teachers were friendly, and all the teachers had been with the school for many years (the best feature in my opinion). It was a little shabby, a little drab, and the outdoor play area was downright sad. Aside from that, the biggest downside is that this school runs on a school year schedule, but not the same schedule as my school. This means that there could be whole weeks where her school was on vacation while mine was still in session.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Playing Pretend

Imagination is the word of the month at our house. The little big girl is learning about how you can pretend things that aren't really happening. This is a pretty significant step for a little brain, and she is taking to it like the proverbial duck to water. It all started with me pretending to feed her dolls (whom she loves with a passion) and took off from there. Now her favorite game is called "night night."
For some reason it's a game that can only be played with Daddy in attendance. She sits in the middle of the living room floor, and pats the carpet while saying our "names" (Dada and Mimi). We have to sit on the floor until she comes up to each of us and "pushes" us over. Then we have say "night night" and pretend that we are asleep. Sometimes babydolls, stuffed animals, or toys join us, and the baby herself goes down to sleep too. After a minute or two, she sits up again, and we are all allowed to yawn and stretch and say "good morning!" She will play this game as long as you are willing to continue, and her dad is especially kind about this. If only bedtimes and naptimes could be so easy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quotable Pine

"What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."

Albert Pine

Monday, September 26, 2011

Anti-Atheist Bias Alive and Well

Harpers Index reports that nearly 60% of the U.S. population claims they would consider a well-qualified homosexual candidate for president. However, only about 25% would consider a well-qualified atheist for the same job. I'm delighted to hear the first number, but dismayed by the second. One would think that a more open-minded populous would try gauge candidates based on their merits rather than some arbitrary moral standard.

There seems to be an assumption that one cannot be an ethical person unless one subscribes to some sort of faith. Thus atheists who wish to participate in politics will need to hide their true feeling behind a facade of religion. Intolerance is intolerance plain and simple, and it is such a same that people who are otherwise liberal and inclusive should still subscribe to this particular brand.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Annoying Restaurant Trends 2011

We're certainly not getting out to new restaurants like we used to before the baby, but we do still get to visit our favorites upon occasion. Some of the new and notable "trends" in the hipper places are downright irritating. The communal table is one of my personal pet peeves. One thing I hate is making small talk with total strangers, and that is exactly what a communal table often forces you into. Communal tables and nine other bad ideas are listed here by Zagat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We Grow Tomatoes!

As summer comes to a close, I just have to take a moment and sing the praises of my favorite variety of tomato. I know this may seem weird, but we do love our garden, and this tomato plant is our shining glory. Why should we care so much about a stupid plant? Because we're not supposed to be able to grow tomatoes in our yard. I visited a "master" gardener at the farmers market, described our situation to him, and he said that we could not have tomatoes in our yard at all! I could not believe it. "Not enough strong sun!" he declared with great surety. Well I simply could not accept this!

We took a little trip to our favorite nursery, Molbaks (my friend CH once recommended it by saying "it's expensive, but the plants mostly live." where we found several varieties of cherry, beefsteak, and heirloom tomato plants. We bought four different plants, and took them home with our fingers crossed. Even though the year was not overly warm, we got cherry tomatoes within just a few weeks. That season the Supersweet 100 did the best, but a few of the other varieties produced as well.

This year the difference is even more pronounced. The Supersweet started producing first, the fruit are zingy and flavorful, and now, in the middle of September, we're still getting about a pint per day. I cannot say enough about the variety, and we will be planting only these next year. Take that Mr. "Master" gardener! I should invite him over to sample some of my produce.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hello My Name is Mimi

For reasons known only to her, the baby has suddenly decided to call me "Mimi". It's always been "Mama" since before she really knew what she was saying, but for some reason it's changed. I first started noticing when she looks at my driver's license photo (which she does a lot because it keeps her from fussing when we have to wait for things) but now she says it all the time. One person suggested it might be her transition from saying "Mama" to the more grown up "Mommy" and she's just a bit stuck. Whatever her reason, I find it irresistible, and she can keep using the nickname until she leaves for college if she likes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bento Fever

The baby is getting older and acquiring more teeth at an astonishing rate.  As a result, we are doing less and less toddler finger food and more grown up menu choices.  This means that when I pack things up to for an outing, I'm doing something with multiple parts and often several courses.  After all, We're still eating every two hours (either a meal or a snack) so you have to be prepared!  I'm getting so tired of all the little tubs I could scream.  This morning our little meal pack for the morning included six different tubs and a water cup.  This is why I'm excited about bento boxes.

I know, I know it is the trendy yuppie mom thing to do, but they are just so darn practical!  Two, four, or six little compartments for all sorts of tasty tidbits, and the good ones have tight enough lids to keep everything separated and fresh.  Some require an elastic band to hold them together, but many are self-locking.  Hello tasty lunches and goodbye diaper bag filled with peas that escaped their inadequate container. 

Besides the practicality, they're just so darn cute!  This one features dragonflies.  While this one is actually shaped like a frog.  I'm not sure why the band makes the frog look like he's crying, so we'll probably skip that one.  This one features a very strange English phrase on the top that is either meant to be nonsense or a very poor translation.  I think it says "Around the year when we would like to stand on tiptoe."  That's bound get more than a few head scratches.  I know our girl would be tickled by several of these little boxes, but I refuse to pay more than about $15 for mine.  I haven't quite decided on which one we should have, but I'll keep you posted on this hugely important topic.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Science of Napping

Napping is a topic up for much discussion in our house. We LOVE naptime (those who actually sleep and those who just enjoy the quiet) but it can be a tough thing to achieve. It seems like some weeks daytime sleep is not a problem at all, while other weeks it's achingly difficult. In the short term, it's quite clear what happens when a nap is missed or shortened, but I often wonder about the long range effects. This article, in the New York Times, gets into the science of toddler sleep. It doesn't offer many clear answers, but it's quite interesting nevertheless.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NW Trek

Over the weekend, we got the chance to visit a local wildlife park called NW Trek.  It's a wonderful place set on 500 acres of forest and meadow land, and it is home to many native Washington animals.  The carnivores and smaller animals are kept in more traditional zoo-like enclosures, but the larger herbivores get to roam "free" in one huge area.  The people cue for a chance to ride the tram and try to spot the animals.  The baby, having recently ridden another little train, was very excited to go.

First we saw huge bison, and then the sweetest little bison baby, which made quite an impression on our girl.  She kept making the sign for "baby" after that one. Next were some bighorn sheep.  A large group of them were on the trail as the tram came up, and the scatter right along side, so we could get a really clear look at them.  Again the baby was excited, but this time she started making a different sign.  For some reason she made the sign for elephant over and over.  I have no idea why, but at least she was happy.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Camano Island Camping

In pursuit of one more dose of summer, we made our way up to Camano Island. It is stunningly beautiful, like most all the islands up here, but it has the added benefit of no ferry ride to contend with. Now don't get me wrong, I love to ride the ferries as much as any Pacific Norwesterner, but during tourist season they can be a bear. We've waited in ferry lines that were four hours long! Especially with a toddler, this is not a happy prospect. Thus we love the "drive on in" quality of Camano.

When you first see Stanwood, your heart sinks a little. At least mine did because it's such the classic depressed agricultural town. I grew up near one in Oregon, and I do not care to revisit that culture. Perhaps I'm being overly judgmental here, but there it is. However, once you pass through Stanwood things change fast. The "island" itself is beautiful, but when you get to one of those viewpoints where you can look out over the water, it beautiful becomes stunning.

The state park is pretty much what you'd expect as far as amenities. The sites are drive-in, they have easy access to water, toilets, and garbage, and they all boast reasonable fire pits. None of the sites are right on the water, but many of them have very impressive views. One downside is that many of the best view sites are also right along the road that leads down to the boat ramp. Still, the traffic is not too bad, and most people are moving very slowly.

The baby did pretty well on this trip. She really enjoyed the company and the novelty of it all. She sat in her own fox-themed camp chair, ate normally forbidden snacks, and went hiking and strollering with the group. One of our favorite parts was going down to the rocky beach and throwing stones in the water. Some of us (not me) are very good at skipping the flat pebbles. The baby was just concentrating on trying to throw them far enough to actually have them land in the water. Her first few dozen "throws" really consisted of her dropping them next to her own feet. The image of her standing next to her daddy, in her little blue fish dress, throwing stones is one I will not soon forget.

In short, Camano Island is glorious, the campground is decent (but not so good if you really want to "get away" from people, noise, and cars), and I would certainly go back. How else can we practice our skipping?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Pony Ride!

To celebrate the continued existence of summer sun, we made a pilgrimage to a local institution, Remlinger Farms. This is a wonderful place where you can visit with farm animals, ride a choo choo train (with steam and whistle!), and float along in a little canoe (if you weigh less than about thirty pounds). You can also have A PONY RIDE! On A REAL LIVE PONY! Oh yes, and they also have lovely flowers and fruit and veggies and a big trike track and a hay maze, but did I mention THE PONY?!

It was very hot on the day we were there, but that did not dampen our enthusiasm for the task. We waited in the shade of a Conestoga wagon cover as the other children got called back for their rides. The girls doing the leading would pick the next child based on their size so that small ponies would have small riders and so on. Being a very small person, Delphinium got to go to her pony very quickly.  Her tiny blond pigtails were bobbing like mad when she first saw the horses. 

His name was Spice, and he was brown with a cream mane and tail. Once we got up close to him I asked Delphinium if she was sure she wanted to get on his back. Lots of nodding and happy chirps dispelled my concern, and she was up on his back in no time. Grinning and holding on for dear life, the pony turned, and we headed down the little path. Spice must have been the world's calmest little horse because he did not so much as turn an ear to anything. A few minutes of chattering and waving later, we were back at the "barn" and it was time to get off. Luckily, Grandma was there, so it wasn't too sad to leave the pony. I do believe that's an experience we'll have to have again.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day '11

In honor of Labor Day, and great big "thank you" to everyone who works hard.  Thanks for keeping us safe, healthy, fed, watered, clean, comfortable, organized, educated, inspired, and entertained.  Many, many people work without much or any recognition, and it is time to realize the contributions that people do make.  They say that hard work is its own reward, but a little appreciation doesn't hurt either.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Rock Collecting

Yesterday we were playing in the backyard doing our best to enjoy every last rain-free day.  Delphinium was enjoying a tub of warm water filled with toys, when her attention was drawn by a pile of rocks in the corner of the yard.  She took her little red bucket out of the water, wandered over to the rocks, and then methodically began to sort through them.  She put about one out of every five in her bucket, and I could not tell what her logic was for choosing some and rejecting others, but it looked like she was doing the most serious task of all time. 

After the bucket was about one quarter full, she took  it over to the tub of warm water, and dumped in all her treasures.  A few minutes of swishing, and she popped them back in the bucket one by one.  Without a second glance at the water and the other toys, she marched her bucket'o'rocks up the steps and into the house.  She plunked the bucket down next to her little table and let out a sigh as if she was saying "well that's done at least."

I know this sounds like a boring blow by blow of a kid playing, but I've never seen her do anything so complicated before.  She made a plan, worked through the steps, and did not become distracted along the way.  I have no idea why, but I suppose that really isn't the point.  Does this mean she'll grow up to be brilliant, focused, and dedicated, or just somebody who really likes rocks?