Ballad of the backpack begins.

It’s the night before first grade starts. I guess I’ve lived through multiple (somewhere around 30+) of these nights, but this one is different.

By my front door there’s a Spiderman backpack filled with lined notebooks… clear plastic book covers… pencils…

Everything is still innocent. Everything is still fresh-faced and calm. Bracing for the change.

And 12 hours before school starts, we got our first panicked –

“But I don’t wanna go…”

Nettles update: sixteen months

SHE’S WALKING…!!!

And she’s everywhere.

And she’s climbing onto the kitchen table to make it rain napkins and wipes.

And she’s climbing backwards down the stairs if she can outpace me.

Which – she can.

And she’s force-feeding baby dolls like the CIA is amateur hour.

And she’s yelling. YELLING ALL THE TIME: “AHHHHHH. MOTHER LADY!!!”

But she’s got curly hair. And she’s delicious.

(But… don’t be fooled: in her mind, she’s ripping apart an actual butterfly.)

Nettles update: fourteen months

Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of… 

…in your weird outdated genderized dreams.

This little girl is made of naughty grins, cunning eyes, plans to hatch, to get a rise.

A hand over here, a hand over there, another fistful of big sister’s hair.

You want to be big, you’ve got a loud roar, at the very least you could try to help out more.

Play on, Nettles.

Best 6th birthday party idea ever: Go take a hike!

tiyul partyWe brought you superhero explorers… we brought you dinosaur adventures… this year, it was a birthday party on a hike. And this was by far the easiest and best and most all-around enjoyable birthday party that we’ve done so far.

We are fortunate to live within a nature area, and in our town itself, right in the center, is a valley with a hiking path through it and a beautiful park at the top. So we planned that Koala could pick 3-4 friends, and, along with his sisters and parents, do a hike from the bottom – starting with lunch at the horse farm – up to the top, ending with cake at the flower park.

Turns out I prepared more activities than were necessary, which I’m more than happy to not have done. The central focus was on the scavenger hunt and the hike itself. Here’s what I prepped:

  • Equipment: Each kid brought their own hat and empty backpack, and I filled them with a bottle of water, a packet of homemade trail mix, and a magnifying glass. 
  • Scavenger hunt: Everyone got a ‘guide’ with pictures of things to find on the way. Bugs, birds, flowers, other bits and pieces. Each kid also got stickers, so they could mark each item they found. Turns out we found those items, and more, and this was the most engaging bit. 
  • S’mores! Since we weren’t building a fire, and we’re also not in s’more country, I hacked it by bringing tea biscuits, marshmallows, and chocolate spread. I explained to the kids about s’mores, they all stared at me, and stuffed their faces. 
  • Nature tape bracelets: I had actually prepared for two ‘artsy’ projects for the end of the trail, but the ‘rubbing tree bark’ with crayons and paper didn’t really work out. What was cool was the nature tape bracelets – we stuck packing tape around the kids’ wrists, with the sticky side up, and they went around collecting flower pedals, small rocks, dirt, and let’s face it, hilarious forms of garbage, to stick on their ‘bracelet’. 

The best part about a format like this is to leave room for surprises along the way –

I think the keys to this for us were:

  • Keep it small. Realizing over the years my son has a harder time being the center of attention in large groups, letting him choose 3-4 friends created a situation with good chemistry and less pressure. Also, for a hike with two adults, the amount of kids to look after was perfect.
  • Keep it comfortable. Everyone had their own water and trail mix for whenever they needed, and we made plenty of water stops. The s’mores were the biggest stop on the way, and light enough not to ruin the mood for cake at the very end.
  • Keep it simple. I worried we’d speed through the trail and get to the park too quickly, but I must have completely forgotten that kids age 4-6 years old will stop and stare at EVERYTHING. It was a great amount of time to be out.

We had a great time, and came home to no mess in the house (well, except the usual). I highly recommend the same for your own spring/fall babies!

Koala update: six years

Six years – six years a force in my life, six years a mom. Six years old, Koala. Six means:

  • you are going to first grade in four months
  • you are asking a lot of questions but answering a lot of mine
  • this is the last Koala Update I write before you will begin to know how to read.

On your birthday this year, I’m offering six things to take with you, to hold close, as you finish your last year in kindergarten and begin your journey through grade school.

1. With great curiosity, comes great – why do plants have roots, Ima? 

Here’s how much curiosity you are packed with: In the time it takes your sister to get dressed, teeth brushed, shoes on, hair done, waiting at the top of the stairs for you, you have one – yes, just one – leg through your underpants. The reason, without fail, is because you have been into space and back, and have prepared a list of completely unconnected questions to ask right now in this moment. The moment between when the first leg goes in the underwear, before the second one does.

I wouldn’t trade that for the world, but I would implore that perhaps you look deep inside yourself and find the capability to multitask just a little so we get to school on time next year.

2. Get your hands dirty and make mistakes

This past year, I taught you what a pencil eraser is for. Through your tears and sweat of frustration, you saw the logic in this technology and you used it with vigor. I also introduced you to white out – once – because you had drawn a great picture but realized you couldn’t find a solution for the marker mistakes.

The thing about erasers and white out, is, they don’t turn back time, and they don’t leave a blank slate. Mistakes will always be made, and things will get blemished. But are we worse for the wear? This is what growing up is about – we experience, we became a little more full and also a little blemished.

The cuts and scrapes on your knees will tell a story for days to come. You may or may not have a scar on your face from a friendly fight – another experience to pocket.

You struggle with out-of-order and imperfection but hopefully you will come to see there is really no order, and perfection can be found in just that.

3. Use that big head and be proactive

  

In the last few months, there are two modes: the days when you assume you’ve got some kind of blue blood, and others where you’re begging to help around the house.

We’ve grabbed the reigns of the latter and have let you/told you to aspire to help, to do your share, to take care of your sisters, to lead by example.

Guess what? That’s only going to become more of a theme here. Our family grew. Both of your parents have full time jobs. And more than anyone who lives in this residence, you leave your stuff scattered around in organized yet haphazard piles throughout the house.

Now grab a broom.

4. Be kind to the people who love you 

While I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday, your sister worships every day she spends with you. I promise you – this will not last forever. And you don’t need me to tell you that in the last half year she has mustered up quite some sass – it’s no longer a one-way street. And that’s natural, and that’s good. And it will make for a much better sparring partner throughout the years.

Please, Koala. Please be kind to the people who love you. I work on it myself as I say this to you. Let’s get better at this together. It’s a fleeting thing in siblings, trust me. You may never know unconditional love from a peer like you have right now from Bebe.

5. There’s only so much I can give you, but it’s a lot  

Here’s an example of something I haven’t thought about in decades: elementary school. And it’s slowly creeping up on me that suddenly I will be thinking about it a lot more.

It’s where I painstakingly learned Hebrew. And multiplication. And what cliques are.

So, yeah, the thought of you entering the jungle with a few pencils and a Spiderman backpack completely freaks me out.

Is this a do-over for me? Absolutely not. I think the most I can do is encourage you and support you and be there for you as you trek through this stage of childhood.

6. Let it all out 

You know this already, but I don’t hesitate to say it again. There’s no sound in the world like when you laugh.

When you really laugh.

When the funny thing you heard or saw or thought or said has gone deep inside you, planted roots, those roots started tickling your insides, and your whole respiratory system is now erupting in laughter.

So you know how to let it all out. What I want you to try is to let it all out even when you’re not 100% comfortable. It won’t always be comfortable, but there will always be cause for feeling free.

There’s nothing about you to hold back, Koala. We’re always here, waiting for whatever you have next. Just let it out.

Nettles update: thirteen months

13 months. 13 things I hope you will keep doing.

  1. Playing in the dirt
  2. Saying ‘hello’ when I hand you a ‘telephone’
  3. Hide and seek with your shirt 
  4. Climbing over your siblings
  5. Claiming what’s rightfully yours 
  6. Cuddling us
  7. Rumbling on the bed with the blankets and pillows
  8. EATING AND NOT GIVING A $#*%@! 
  9. Taking what you want 
  10. Giggling, snorting, cackling
  11. Enjoying the breeze on your face 
  12. Contemplating everything with the seeming wisdom of a 105-year-old woman 
  13. Watching the world, wide-eyed