Thursday, June 17, 2010

Evie on England

My dad and Evie are back from their trip overseas, which Evie described as "awesome". We are currently hanging out in Rhode Island for the week so we've got all sorts of time zones going on here, which explains why I am going to bed on Colorado time and waking up on English time...

I asked Evie to describe some of the things she saw on her trip. Here's what she had to say:

Favorite thing about England: The British Museum. It had really cool stuff about history and there was a really cool audio-guide.

Best food you ate: Fish and Chips at Sea Fresh.

Worst part of trip: Trying to go to sleep on the plane.

Most surprising thing about England: Big Ben was smaller than the London Eye.

Thoughts on their accents: Funny.

Biggest difference between England and the U.S.: All the tourist sites because there are so many. Also it's smaller than here.

Weirdest thing you saw: The duck that jumped on our pedal boat in Oxford right next to me and kept quacking.

One thing you learned: Learning how Stonehenge was built without all the resources we have to do stuff.

Welcome home Evie and Nid!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Three Girls, Three Schools, Three Philosophies on Learning

Noni will head off to preschool this fall, two days a week, on Wednesday and Friday mornings. This is a simultaneously wonderful and sad thought for me. Sad because my last baby is heading off to school. Wonderful because I'm excited for her and, let's face it, I'm excited for me to have eight whole hours to myself a week. Eight hours to paint and write and climb mountains and, probably, to learn that eight hours isn't all that much time. But still. It's more time than I've had in nine years so it's sounding kind of luxurious right now.

With summer still in full swing (or, according to the calendar, not even officially started yet), I am not too focused yet on how I will feel when Noni walks into her classroom on the first day. But I did just get an email from Noni's school director today, which started with a quote about King Sun climbing higher in the summer sky, that got me thinking that, while Noni is following in the footsteps of her sisters as she heads off to school this fall, the girls have all gone to notably different types of preschools.

When Evie turned three, we had just moved to Maryland and I signed her up for the school our neighbors there recommended. I soon found out that it was an evangelical Christian school, which is not really our thing, but I loved her teachers, who were warm and encouraging. I'll never forget Mrs. Tregoe and her guitar. She taught Evie the love of singing. She would come home from school belting out the lyrics to every Jesus song out there (Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!) It was a traditional school so she also learned her letters and numbers and how to stand in a line to walk to recess. She loved it. She walked right in and never looked back. I remember her coming home after the first day and she wanted to play school. To "play school", I had to pretend to be Evie and cry because she had to leave school, while Evie pretended to be her teacher, telling me I'd get to come back tomorrow.

Lucy started her preschool years at the same school, but obviously had to change when we moved to Los Angeles. "Where will Lucy go to school?" was one of my first thoughts once I knew we were moving. From my desk in Maryland, I discovered one open spot at a school I found online, knowing nothing about it except for its convenient location, and sent Toby to look at it while he was working in LA for the week. As soon as he finished the tour of the school, he called me and told me he couldn't be more certain that Lucy would love it. He was right. Every corner of the school was bursting with children's artwork, much of it displayed outside. The kids played freely in the yard and there were tables covered in boxes of paint, wine corks, puzzle pieces, glue, or other materials for the kids to put together as they wished. You couldn't walk into her school without feeling happy about the creative energy swirling around you. Lucy is a free spirit and the school was absolutely perfect for her. Toby and I have marveled many times how much Lucy grew up that year we spent in Los Angeles and I give most of the credit to her school.

With Noni, as you know, we have moved yet again. So once again, I had to find out a different preschool. A few people had recommended one, a Waldorf school, just a few blocks from our house and in September I walked down to check it out. I immediately fell in love and didn't look any further. The yard of the school looks like something out of a fairytale. All of the play structures are made of wood and blend in with the trees and plants. Inside, Laura Ingalls would feel quite at home. Hand-dyed dolls sit around a wooden table drinking out of wooden cups in one corner and a table for peeling apples and making bread is in the other. The teacher talked about how they spend their days taking walks around the neighborhood, preparing for the numerous festivals they celebrate, and cooking and playing in the classroom. I don't know yet how Noni will feel about going to school this fall, but I am confident that it will be a great place for her.

With Noni heading off to a Waldorf school this fall, we have tried structure and unstructured and now seemingly-unstructured-but-actually-quite-structured. One school was traditional, one arts-based, and now one's focus is on the natural world. I can't help but wonder how the different starts to each of their school experiences has and will affect the girls and shape the way they view both school and the world. Or will all that really matters be that each of them went to a preschool where they were taught by loving and dedicated teachers?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Full Circle

This morning, while I take the car to the mechanic, my eight-year-old daughter will be watching the changing of the guards. I had written before about my dad's plan to take Evie to London (nearly twenty-five years to the day from the day his mother took me on the same trip), and on Sunday evening I dropped the two of them off at the airport and they were on their way. I expected that when I watched Evie walking through the sliding glass doors, wearing a backpack full of books, a travel journal, and her stuffed "Bubby" and dragging her suitcase behind her, I would feel both sadness and a moment of anxiety at sending her off overseas. Instead, I found myself simply excited for her. Well, that and maybe a little envious.

I talked to Evie yesterday via Skype and she had slept for nearly the whole flight over, taken a ride on the London Eye, and was heading out for fish'n'chips. My dad emailed me today to let me know that she gone to bed at 8:30 London time last night and was still asleep eleven hours later. Today, their plan was to head to Churchill's bunker, the changing of the guards, and the British Museum.

As one of three kids, Evie rarely gets any one-on-one attention. One day this spring I left Lucy and Noni home with Toby while I walked to get Evie from school. On the half mile walk back from school, Evie turned to me and said, "It's nice to get some alone time together like this." Even fifteen minutes of it was special to her. Clearly we need to make more of an effort to have some time alone with each of the girls. This is why I love that Evie is having a whole week right now with just my dad. He began his email today saying that "Evie is a great traveling buddy!" I love that for this week, she can walk through a museum at her own pace (which, as Christine wrote here, can a much different pace than her little sisters') and have an adult's undivided attention.

I also love that Evie is making memories right now that will last her a lifetime. I still have distinct memories from my own trip twenty-five years ago and a photo album full of pictures of me and my grandmother, in our matching beige trench coats, touring England.

Before they left for their trip, my dad found some pounds he had saved in a pile of money in his drawer. He brought them with him on his trip, but when he presented them at the restaurant, the waiter laughed. "We can't take those. You're going to have to bring them to a bank. They're at least twenty-five years old." And that's when he realized that they had been saved from the trip my grandmother took me on all those years ago.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Princess-Off

A new family just moved across the street from our house. Remembering how much I appreciated it when Hannah and Ian showed up at our door in Studio City with a plate of cookies, I baked them some brownies and the girls and I delivered them this afternoon.

Two little girls opened the door when we knocked - Carson, 4, and Delia, 2. Delia took one look at Noni, who was dressed in - what else? - a princess dress and turned around and ran back inside. A few minutes later, she reappeared. This time she was dressed in a yellow Belle dress and clutching a Sleeping Beauty and Snow White doll. Noni gasped. Seriously. I'm not just saying that -- she actually took a deep breath of air. Delia walked up to Noni and they stared at each other for a minute. Then they began admiring each other's dresses. Noni fingered the Belle brooch on Delia's dress and Delia pointed out the flowers on Noni's. They stood looking at each other in mutual admiration while I chatted with Delia's mom.

Before we left, we invited the our new neighbors to Noni's princess birthday party. Then her mom asked Noni if she'd like to come over sometime soon to see their "basement full of princess dresses."

As Cinderella says (because, yes, I can quote Cinderella off the top of my head these days), "a dream is a wish your heart makes." For a sixteen-year-old princess, that dream might be a prince on a white horse. For a two-year-old girl, a little girl with a basement full of princess dresses right across the street is about as good as it gets.

Later, the girls came over to play. You can see that Noni was a little bit excited about it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Are You Reading This Summer?

For some reason, over the past year I have read a number of books about World War II and the Holocaust. I don't shy away from books that deal with difficult topics, but you can only read so much about such a horrific time and at a certain point I started trying to avoid books about WWII. Except people kept recommending books about it for some reason. Two of the books, Sarah's Key and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society were forgettable. But, while you might not think of WWII books as summer reading, the three books below are all brilliant and original and, while they deal with a depressing topic, ultimately uplifting.

I love Jonathan Safran Foer and his wife, Nicole Krauss, proved to be just as brilliant. (Their son is still in diapers but I'm already waiting for his books to come out.) Both authors were recently listed on the New Yorker's list of twenty best authors under forty. This book was both funny and heartbreaking and the characters are completely original.

While this book is told by Death, worn out from all of his work during WWII, it is ultimately a story of hope. As soon as I put it down, I thought "Who should I pass this on to?"

I loved this story of two Russians, Lev and Kolya, who are given a chance to save their lives by finding a dozen eggs for a Soviet colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. Not an easy task in a city where the Nazis' have cut off all supplies. Benioff is a Hollywood screen writer and it shows in his writing - this book is definitely a page-turner. And yet it manages to be thoughtful at the same time. At the end, he turns on the action a bit too much to be realistic, but I still loved this book and highly recommend it.

The books on my to-read shelf right now are fortunately not about WWII:
Wuthering Heights
Let the Great World Spin
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Cutting For Stone

I also just got a great list of books on Facebook today when I asked if anyone had suggestions for books this summer. (I think I'm overly optimistic about how much time I'm actually going to have to read, but it's nice to have a list of fall reading too!) I love getting recommendations from friends. Let me know if you've read anything good recently.

No matter what you're reading, I hope you get some time swinging on a hammock or with sand between your toes to enjoy a good book this summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bolder Boulder

This weekend, 54,000 people ran in the Bolder Boulder, a 10 kilometer race through town. The streets were lined with 31 bands and people handing out everything from Gatorade to bacon to marshmallows. After finishing the race, I met my family at our friends' house, where we cheered on the other runners and the pro-racers (and even managed to pick my college roommate out of the huge crowd!) It was a great way to end the long weekend.

Lucy and Calvin handing out high fives and popsicles to the runners.

Princess Noni cheers on the racers.