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Always A Surprise

In yet another turnaround, the boys recently started asking to paint

Mica likes to paint, of course. But it’s been years since I could entice the boys to paint, and I can’t remember when they last asked for it. I suppose it’s related to their recent interest in drawing; Nathan in particular has been creating drawings with surprising depth to them, and experimenting with facial expressions.

We spent some time — weeks, perhaps? — with this as a regularly-requested activity. And now it is gone again, no doubt to resurface again in future.

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A New Space

Over Christmas break, VFS moved into a new location. Only about a mile north of their previous location, they are still close to downtown. The major advantage of this new spot is space.

It is difficult to describe what this means to the school. For as long as we’ve been going there, the entire ~60 kids and associated staff have been crammed into four rooms (plus office and supply closet). There were some very good things about their location, and they created systems to make things work, but there was no helping the fact that every nook and cranny was used, it was hard for classes to be insulated from noise, and at the end of every year they were required to pack the entire school into the supply closet for the summer.

The new space is more than twice as large. There is room for rough-and-tumble play, for projects to be left out overnight, for groups of people to gather in corners with a real sense of quiet and focus. It’s astonishing how the same group of people, who in the previous space were constantly tripping over one another, now can be absorbed almost effortlessly. And there will be no packing up for the summer, or trying to shoehorn a summer program into various parks around town; the building is available year-round.

I haven’t spent as much time there, of course, as I used to. But I frequently drop by on my lunch break to reconnect with my family and see how things are going. And it feels as though, just as they’ve gained a great deal more physical space, they’ve gained a similar increase in mental space.

Circuits

The kids like taking things apart. I suppose this goes without saying; anyone who interacts with kids for any length of time must be aware of their propensity for destruction.

But they especially seem to like taking apart electronic things. It helps that Dave is knowledgeable enough about electronics to be able to point out things like capacitors and explain what they are for. (I have run into that information over the years, but my brain classifies it as “hardware” knowledge and dumps it with prejudice.)

Recently we had the opportunity of a thoroughly broken CD player, and the kids took advantage of screwdrivers and pliers and made it into much smaller and more interesting pieces. This was great fun; they got to see what was inside speakers, for example, and Dave explained how the mechanics of speakers functioned. And when the disassembly was complete, Nathan decided that he needed to build a shelf from scrap wood to hold their newly acquired treasures.

Christmas

Christmas has felt a little different to me this year, since I haven’t been around on weekdays. It’s also been a bit odd because our living rooms is full of furniture. Village Free School is moving to a new location over Christmas break, and we’ve been collecting and storing some furniture to help them set up in their new space.

This means that the Christmas tree is squeezed into a fairly narrow slot between shelves and tables. And since I wasn’t around much, most of the decorating was done by Nathan, with occasional “assistance” from his sister. He did a splendid job in my opinion, although he had little patience with untangling strings of lights, and mostly just put them up in large globs.

We followed our usual tradition of opening one gift per day leading up to Christmas, and that worked well again. Next year I may even put them out under the tree and see if Mica has developed enough executive function not to rip them open. And this year, partly because I was gone so much, we did our Christmas cookie baking on Christmas Eve. This was, as usual, all about frosting and insanely large piles of sprinkles.

But the most exciting part of the day was undoubtedly that evening, when I looked up from cooking dinner to see traces of white on the ground. In record time all three kids were outside, where a thin layer of hard, pellety snow was busy accumulating. It was really more like a combination of freezing rain and ice pellets, but they didn’t care — for them, all those snowy Christmas cards were coming true.

Title And Salary

I have a job — by which I mean, I now have the sort of job that comes with a title and a salary, not the sort I’ve been doing for the last eight years that comes with neither.

This has changed some things around here. I now get up before anyone else in the family, not to have time to myself (although the house is very quiet), but to beat traffic up into Portland. I spend all day working with other adults on intellectually strenuous problems. At lunch I read my book; at the end of the day I drive home alone, listening to a book on tape or classical music.

Dave, meanwhile, has been packing lunches, taking the kids to school, and handling dentist appointments. He takes his laptop to school and tries to squeeze in a little work while Mica plays with the other kids, returning periodically to be fed. This week he has also started making dinner during the week — for the second night in a row I returned home to a hot meal.

The boys have expressed mixed feelings about this change. On the one hand Dave asks much more work of them than I do. (When I gave Dave my list of weekly chores, he expressed confidence that he could train the kids to do them.) On the other hand he has also raised their allowance. There are clearly pros and cons to the situation.

There are pros and cons for me, too. Most of my hobbies have been put on hold, at least until we can move closer to Portland and I can spend less time commuting. On the other hand I am meeting new people, doing interesting work, and getting way more reading done.

Overall the family seems to be settling in quickly. Soon I suspect this will feel entirely natural.

Awesomeness

Nathan has done it again. This time we skipped bleaching his hair and just applied the dye, a rich royal blue. The result is a lovely steel blue shade with hints of pure blue and teal at the edges.

He is very happy with it. Now he thinks I should dye my hair. I told him I’d consider it after I’m no longer interviewing.