My Favorite Color

When Larry and I started dating, he would ask me things like, “What’s your favorite movie?” or “If you were stranded on an island, what CD would you bring?” or “Who would play you in the movie of your life?” These are all stumpers for me as are basic questions like, “What’s your favorite animal?” or “What’s your favorite food?” I’ve never thought much about any of these things and when I do, it always depends on what I’ve seen recently, whether it’s cold outside, or if I’m PMSing.

But a few weeks ago, I was driving Walker to school and we started talking about color and he asked the obvious question. “Mommy, what’s your favorite color?”

Stalling for time, I asked him what color he likes. His response was immediate, “Black because that is the color of Venom and the spider on Spider Man’s costume!”

He looked at me expectantly. I started to answer with my stock response (red) but, I wanted to honor his question and for the first time I put some thought into it. I don’t really own much that’s red. I have a computer bag I got for free and a scarf I bought. But that’s it. My purse is green and I have a matching green iPad cover. My green gloves match my travel cup. My new fancy jacket is green and grey. So, it would appear I’m drawn to the color green. Uncharacteristically, I put even MORE thought into why I have forsaken the color I thought was my favorite for a color I’ve thought was nice for walls but not much else. Yes, it’s the color of trees and gardens and life but that’s not it.

Then it dawned on me.

Walker’s eyes are green.

And driving through the lush greenness of Golden Gate Park on that sunny morning, I started to tear up. Then I remembered my mom’s eyes were also a shade of green. And then tears rolled down my face.

My voice trembling, I answered “Green. Green is my favorite color because it’s the color of your eyes and there’s nothing more beautiful in the world to me.”

What Walker knows about Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, Walker came home from school recently and started talking about Martin Luther King. Apparently we saw him one time when we went somewhere together. But that’s not all he knows about MLK. His teachers have been talking a lot about Dr. King and what he stands for and I got to see what a huge impression his teachings can make on a community — even when that community is under the age of 5.

Last Friday was the Pacific Primary Peace Parade celebrating the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Families were encouraged to participate so Larry, Aunt Hilary (a Pacific Primary Alum), Grammie Jane and I crammed into the Rainbow Dolphin classroom with another 50 or so people to help the kids get ready for the big march. All the kids had made peace crowns, necklaces and signs and we had a massive Circle Time where teacher Jaime asked the kids to remind us all what King taught us. “No hitting,” declares Walker. “No biting,” “No spitting,” “No fighting,” other kids contribute. And Jaime asks what we should do instead of these things?

“Use your words.”

“Share.”

“Go to the Peace Place and solve the problem.”

(The Peace Place is a special process the kids use when they have a problem like two kids wanting to play with the same toy — they have to stop, state the problem and then discuss options until they can agree on a solution. It’s amazing to watch these four year olds resolve differences better than most adults.)

Once it was clear the kids truly understood what this parade was all about, they practiced their chant they would share with the rest of the school — “Martin Luther King was a good, good man and a good, good man was HE. He was a teacher, a preacher, a man of power who worked hard for YOU and ME!”

The kids were ready and we joined the other 200 Pacific Primary kids, parents and staff for the walk. It sounds corny and a bit stereotypical for a preschool in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury to have a Peace Parade but I am not a skilled enough writer to communicate the feeling I had watching these kids celebrate the teachings of a man who died the year before I was born. It’s so easy to get caught up in the history and the complexities of the time but at its essence it is very simple. Dr. King thought things were unfair and he used his words to drive change. And if the parade didn’t have enough of an impact, we all reconvened in the courtyard and listened to the last three minutes of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Then we sang Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King and had popsicles.

Thank you Pacific Primary for making such a special and memorable experience.

The Boy at the Other End of the Year

A little Holiday Story from guest blogger, Larry Young, written last year for Walker’s three and a half birthday (which just happens to fall on Christmas Eve). We hope you enjoy!

Nick looked down at his watch and saw there wasn’t much time left.

He wasn’t feeling himself, but he put that aside. He’d wrestle with that one in January. Right now, he had a job to do and he needed help. Right after Thanksgiving, Old Man Winter had fought with Santa Claus and it didn’t end well. Winter had hit Santa so hard that the jolly old elf split into his component parts and was cast to the Four Winds. If there was to be a Christmas this year, Nick was going to have to collect all the bits of Santa and re-unite him at the North Pole.

But, like I said, Nick was going to need some help. And he knew just the boy for the job.

+++++

In December 2010, Walker Young was playing Legos and pirates with his good friends Nolan and Emma and Violette and Big Buddy Lucas at Sofiya’s when Mommy and Daddy came to pick him up in Daddy’s car. With them was their friend Nick, who needed Walker’s help.

“When is your birthday, Walker?” Nick asked.

“I’m three and-a-half!” Walker said in the driveway, showing three fingers.

Mommy nodded. “He was born June 24th.”

“That’s great,” Nick said. “Born as far away from Christmas Eve as you can get. He’s the perfect boy to help me put Santa back together!”

“What you said?” Walker exclaimed, a little dubious. “Him got parts?”

“Like a puzzle,” Daddy said, dramatically pointing his finger directly into the sky. “There’s only one kid who can put Santa back together… and Walker Young might just be that boy!”

There was a pause when Nick and Mommy and Walker all looked at Daddy.

“Daddy, you so silly,” Walker said. And they all got into the car to go find all of Santa.

+++++

“Where to first?” Daddy said to Nick, who was sitting up front. Mommy was sitting in back with Walker, who was strapped in and ready to go.

“Scandinavia,” said Nick.

“Wait, what?” said Mommy. “That’s a long ways away. Sure, this time of year, you can try to hold back the cold with eggnog and carols and presents and stuff, but…”

“But what!” Walker yelled.

“Chicken butt!” Daddy cried in response, and everyone laughed except Mommy.

“It’s a long drive to Norway, and Sweden, and Finland, from San Francisco,” Mommy said. “Look it up on the map. I’m not sure Daddy’s car will make it to New Jersey, much less all the way to there.”

Nick seemed to have something in mind, and smiled quietly to himself as he reached into his backpack. “I have just the thing,” he said, holding up as mall leather sack.

“Santa let me have a bit of this, one day, when I did him a solid; it’s Twenty-Minute Powder. This is how Santa gets around the world, giving toys to good little girls and boys all over the planet in just one night. You sprinkle this stuff about your head and shoulders, and you can get to here from there in twenty minutes, guaranteed.”

And Nick sprinkled the powder around, and in twenty minutes, they were there.

+++++

Daddy’s car drove a bit through a meadow and stopped at a tree stump where a man in a grey cloak and staff and wide-brimmed hat sat, idly smoking his pipe. Wisps of smoke curled around his long, white beard. An eight-legged horse grazed on the grass a bit behind him, and he didn’t think anything about that was odd.

Walker and Mommy and Daddy and Nick got out of the car and asked the man where they were.

“In the woods,” the man said. “My name is Odin, and Sleipnir and I…” he cocked a thumb towards the horse… “are getting ready to go on a hunting party. This time of year, we go hunting across the sky. As we go, children place their boots by the fire and fill them with straw, and sugar, and carrots, for Sleipnir. I thank them with small gifts and candy.”

“That’s like the stockings we hang by the fireplace,” said Walker.

“Too right,” said Nick. “You must come with us, Odin,” and Nick beckonedhim towards his backpack. Odin jumped in. And so did Sleipnir.

+++++

Nick threw some more Twenty-Minute Powder, and almost suddenly (twenty minutes later), they were in Germany. Mommy got out of the car first, and reached back in to undo Walker from his seat.

“Where we go, Mommy?” said Walker. Mommy looked around.

“Call me crazy,” Mommy said, “but I think this is Schmieheim, where great-great Grandpa Bernheim was from. You ask me, I’ll bet we’re coming to collect Knecht Ruprecht.”

“Yes?” said Knecht Ruprecht, coming out around from behind a barn. “I’m sorry for my black clothes and dirty face, but I give coal to naughty children, and switches, and stones; ugly, useless gifts in their boots and the soot collects on me as I go down their chimneys.”

“This sounds familiar,” Daddy said.

“Like Santa Claus!” Walker yelled. “Good boys get presents! Bad boys get coal!”

“Too right,” said Nick. “You must come with us, Knecht Ruprecht,” and Nick beckoned him towards his backpack. And Knecht Ruprecht jumped in.

+++++

Mommy and Daddy and their friend Nick took Walker all around time and space in Daddy’s red car using Nick’s Twenty-Minute Powder. Nick’s backpack was getting full. They collected Pelzmärtel on his wooden horse, and St. Martin on his white stallion. By the time they got to Saint Nicholas, a Fourth Century bishop known for giving gifts to the poor, Nick’s backpack had swollen up and his supply of Twenty-Minute Powder was running down.

And Nick himself was looking a little more jolly, come to think of it, and his clothes had changed! Pelzmärtel means “Fur Martin” in German, and now Nick was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot. And his clothes were all tarnished in ashes and soot.

“One more ought to do it,” said Nick.

“It’ll have to,” said Mommy, consulting her iPhone. “You’re down to your last pinch of Twenty-Minute Powder, and it’s almost Christmas Eve. We’re running out of time!”

“We need one last bit of Christmas cheer, Walker. What do you think?”

“Christmas tree, Daddy! I’m not playing… I’m decorating!”

So Nick fluttered out the last bit of powder, and Daddy pointed the cartowards Half Moon Bay.

+++++

Mommy and Daddy and Walker drove all the way past Santa’s Workshop to where the Douglas Fir trees grow. They got out to cut down their Christmas Tree and Daddy was worried.

“How will we get the tree home, Mommy?” Daddy asked. “We don’t have a roof rack, and there’s no room with Nick and his bag.”

“Where’s your Christmas spirit, Daddy?” Mommy said. “We’ll figure it out. It’s the season for miracles!”

They picked out a good one and started walking towards the car.

“Mommy! Daddy! LOOK!” Walker yelled.

…and the back door of Daddy’s car opened, and Nick threw out his stuffed backpack. Except now it looked like a great big green sack! Nick stepped out and his shoes turned into boots! And he grew bigger, and rounder, and more jolly! His cheeks got rosy red, and his beard grew long and white! Mommy and Daddy’s friend Nick was really SANTA CLAUS!

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa exclaimed as Walker ran up to give him a big hug.

“How you know my Mommy and Daddy, Santa?” Walker asked. Santa knelt down.

“Oh, I’ve known your parents since they were little children, themselves, Walker. And I’m so glad they met and had you, for you were the one who collected all my parts and helped to put me back together so I can give my gifts on Christmas Eve night.”

Santa’s reindeer and sleigh came swooping down out of the sky and landed next to Daddy’s car. Santa threw his bag of toys into the back of his sleigh. He went to get in, but stopped as if remembering something.

“Thank you again, Walker,” said Santa. “I’ll deliver my presents tonight when you’re asleep, but I wanted to thank you for your special help. So you get one present on Christmas Eve night, before you go to bed.” And he gave Walker a big box with a big red bow on top.

Mommy and Daddy and Walker waved to Santa as he flew away. “Merry Christmas, Santa!” they said.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Santa replied.

Then as Mommy and Daddy knelt down beside him, Walker opened up his present from Santa…

…and it was exactly what he’d always wanted.

Mr. Loophole

First Day of Pacific Primary
First Day of Pacific Primary

I think my son is going to grow up to be a lawyer.

The other day, Walker was at school playing freeze tag with his friends. This is not a complicated game and it’s understood that as a participant, you will be chased and FREEZE if you are TAGGED. Walker adores this game and plays it frequently. He’s clear on the rules. But, the other day, he was tagged but he kept running. His friends reminded him that he was indeed tagged and therefore, it was incumbent upon him to be frozen until he was tagged again to be unfrozen. Nonplussed, Walker responds, “I’m made of fire. I CAN’T be frozen.”

Well, this sort of thing has happened enough that Larry has nicknamed our son Mr. Loophole because he is able to find the one way to create an exception to the rule and exploit it.

I’m looking forward to this year. Walker is now attending Pacific Primary — a preschool founded in the mid 1960’s which helped shape the lives of my brother and sister. It’s an extraordinary place with truly fabulous teachers and an incredible desire to create a tight-knit community. I’ve been amazed by the energy and skill of the staff who have taught me so much and I’M only there a few minutes a day (I can only imagine what a full day will do to shape Walker’s mind). For example, during the first week, Walker made a best friend and they played together constantly. They are really similar — both boys love robots and superheroes and running outside. But one day, Walker came home and said the little boy told him he wasn’t his best friend anymore. He was crushed. The next day I left Walker playing with his friend and they were having a great time. But when I picked him up, the same story — Walker wasn’t his best friend and he didn’t want to play with him anymore. Now I was crushed. I had a chat with his teachers who told me that the boys play with each other all the time but when one gets tired and wants to do something else or perhaps play with another friend for a moment, they don’t have the nuanced language to say “I want to play by myself” or “I’d like to play with this other friend and I’ll play with you later.” They only have the general language of friendship which translates into something like: when I’m playing with you I’m your friend and when I’m not, well, I’m not your friend. Apparently it’s very binary being in preschool and thankfully, we all now have more nuanced language and Walker is happily playing with a variety of boys (who all enjoy robots and superheroes and running outside).

Walker with teacher Bianca and new friends Jonty and Vanessa at a Pacific Primary picnic.

I have been able to spend more time at school because I’ve recently started Cheesehouse Consulting. Clearly I have lost my mind and have ventured out on my own to provide marketing consulting services in one of the worst economies that I can remember. I’ve been enjoying the variety of work that I’ve been able to take on and I really love the ability to get to know Walker’s friends and teachers. Of course, it’s good I have some extra time because now that Walker has settled in to Pacific Primary, it’s time to start the horrible KINDERGARTEN SEARCH that only parents in San Francisco can truly appreciate. Our city has a lottery system for school assignment and that means that you may live next door to a school but your child may be assigned to another school across the city. While there have been changes made recently to the lottery algorithm (which seems contradictory) so that if you put your “neighborhood” school at the top of your list of SEVEN school choices, you MIGHT have a better chance of getting in. The good news is that the school near us is supposed to be quite good. It has a highly respected principal, an active parent community and despite the horribly inadequate budget for the SF school system, provides a diverse curriculum that includes academics and arts. Regardless, I know we’ll be spending lots and lots of hours visiting schools, talking to staff and parents, and pondering what will work best for Walker. We know that wherever he goes, we will need to augment his school with additional activities to ensure he gets a well-rounded experience. And as I drive Walker through the fog to Pacific Primary where it’s bright and sunny, I realize that should he get in to the neighborhood school, it’s possible the primary augmentation will be to go to Marin to ensure he sees the sun a few times before he’s in middle school. (And yes, I jest. It’s been beautiful and sunny and warm in the Sunset.)

I should also mention that there has been some adjustment with attending Pacific Primary. When Larry was at the Maintenance Day before school opened, he learned that “character” clothing was not permitted. Um, seriously? No Batman, Superman, Captain America or Star Wars shirts? Thankfully they turn a blind eye to shoes (his are Boba Fett) and socks (most of his have Spiderman on them) but we did have to go out to get a few character-free shirts. The thinking is that they can be overwhelming for some of the smaller kids (his school is about 80 kids ranging from 2.5 to 5) and that it provides an environment that’s more conducive to imagination. Well, it hasn’t stopped Walker. For the last few days he’s claimed to be a radio active spider (um from Spiderman) frost giant (and this would be from Thor). Additionally, kids are not allowed to pretend to play guns at school. Walker goes to Expressive Arts frequently and constructs things out of toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, and colored tape (which he selects from among the hundreds of other really cool craft supplies). These often take the shape of “binoculators” but they will also look a lot like a something that might shoot a laser or bullet. Today he was telling me all about the piece he made. At school it’s big flying elephant but at home, it turns into a BLASTER.

Thank you Mr. Loophole.

One of Walker's outfits that would NOT be OK at school.

Tracing Walker for his school nap time sheet
Tracing Walker for the nap time sheet for school.
The end result.
The end result. I like the gloves and the spots.

Breakthrough

This is going to be a rare non-Walker blog (although don’t be surprised if there’s a mention about him at the end…)

Yesterday, I had a bit of a breakthrough which I am very proud of and I thought I’d share. Those who know me may say that I’m kind of a passionate person. I get excited quickly and by the same token, I can get frustrated and angry quickly. However, I can also be extremely patient. I have yet to understand the pattern of how these traits are applied but I’m sure if I spent some time doing some serious introspection, I’m sure I’d figure it out. I simply don’t have the patience for it. (Heh, get it?)

It’s also important to know that once I get passionate about something, I stay passionate about it. So, I’m currently involved in one of these through-lines of my life. The longer I’m involved with one of these situations, the more dramatic it can be. Eventually, the slightest infraction can send me into an intensely emotional state. The most legendary moment was when I walked into my unsuspecting boss’ office to inform him, “While I’m not proud of this, I must tell you that the sight of you makes me angry.” Of course, this is one of them there “outlier” experiences and I’ve certainly evolved past that. I must also note, I very much respect this person and we have a very good relationship to this day. I guess there’s something to be said for honesty.

Clearly, these experiences are exhausting for me and for those empaths around me.

OK. Now for the breakthrough. Wait for it…

The other day, something happened where I felt myself getting worked up disproportionately to the stimulus. As I was literally getting hot under the collar, I had a moment of clarity. (Symbolically, I was at a stop sign.) I realized that it didn’t make sense to expend the energy on getting cranky about the symptoms as these were just part of a larger pattern. I should simply accept that these things will happen until I can address the root cause.

It was that simple. I was liberated.

A colleague once had someone come in and give a presentation on some sort of personal development hooha I don’t remember much about but to this day, I still joke about the exercise where we took all the things that bothered us and we wrapped them up in a little ball of light and let them go.

NOW I get it. Be free little ball of light! Be free!

<Begin Walker Story>

Walker starts Pacific Primary in a week. Larry represented the family at the maintenance day being all handy and whatnot. In the course of the day, he discovered Walker will not be allowed to bring anything to school that has a tie to media — no shirts, no backpacks, no socks, nothing. OK. So, his closets are filled with superhero and movie and tv stuff.

I find that kind of ironic. Super media kid going to a media-free school.

We have a shopping trip in our future.

<End Walker Story>

You Don’t See That Every Day

Walker is fond of picking up key phrases of ours. Frequently we hear “You don’t see that every day,” which can be used for a very broad range of things. In this case, I think it’s appropriate to describe the video below (Gigi, you will need to go to the blog to see it…) from our first visit to San Francisco’s incredible Exploratorium museum.

We had a great time at the Exploratorium and it reminded me of summers past when I hung out as a 13 year old with my cousin Jane and her college-age friends. It was SO FUN! I just walked in and went to the Tactile Dome whenever I wanted. I took a few rides on the swing that hangs from the ceiling of the incredibly tall building (which very few folks know about) and would gag when Jane had her required cow eye dissection duty (which they still do each hour). But now, I get to see the museum through the eyes of a four year old who loves to bang on the xylophones in the sound proof rooms and see how water reacts to sound waves and how the sand from Ocean Beach creates “hair” on really big magnets.

First Snow

This post is for all those folks who are stuck in oppressively hot and humid summer weather. Enjoy this little taste of winter…

___

OK Walker. It’s the middle of summer and as you continue to tell me, “July is a SUMMER month and we need to wear shorts,” and while that’s not always true in San Francisco, it is safe to say that talking about snow right now doesn’t feel right. However, life has been busy and I feel the need to tell you all about the first time you went to Tahoe and played in the snow despite the fact that you’re wearing shorts to school.

It won’t surprise you to know that I got a bee in my bonnet and felt that it was time to take the family up to play in the record-breaking snow fall in the Sierras. Not having been to Tahoe in almost 20 years and forgetting what little knowledge may have once had about the area, I turned to my online community to inquire where we should take you for your first trip to the winter wonderland. The overwhelming suggestion was Granlibakken and luckily, someone informed me that there was a 2 for 1 special running so Mommy even got a good deal on the room (always a plus).

We went up President’s day weekend. Before we left, Mommy and Daddy made multiple trips to Sports Basement to gear up on hats, mittens, gloves, coats and long underwear for the three of us. (Thank goodness we saved the money on the room because we certainly gave the credit card a workout preparing for the trip.)

The drive up was, well, epic. (And not because of weather — it was bright and sunny the entire way.) We didn’t realize until long after we had the insanely wonderful, fully-loaded hot dogs in Placerville, that we had taken a wrong turn south of Sacramento and were headed up toward the wrong end of Lake Tahoe which would add on about two hours to the drive. But the drive was easy, and we didn’t have much choice but to sit back and enjoy the miles and miles (and miles) of cabins covered in many feet of snow and the crystal blue waters of the Lake.

We arrived just as you were becoming impatient to get to the hotel (and honestly, we were a bit on edge after the 90th playing of the PHINEAS AND FERB soundtrack which you insisted on hearing for the duration of the drive). The snow drifts were over our heads as we drove into the parking lot and you were vibrating with anticipation of taking a big dive into the snow. But you were patient and we got our keys, drove to the room and brought our bags upstairs. Silly Mommy, thinking that we might be able to catch a nap before heading out to experience the snow even though you said you were tired. We lay in bed and you giggled and talked for 30 minutes before we threw in the towel and geared up for your first romp in the snow.

But, unlike home where we toss on a light jacket in the middle of winter, we needed to get into all that snazzy gear from Sports Basement. First there was the thermal underwear and shirt. Then the jeans and the pirate snowboard socks that would fit an 8 year old. A long sleeve shirt over the thermals and that was just the beginning. Mommy and Daddy suited up and then we finished you off with your snow pants, snow boots, coat and mittens. Twenty minutes later, we headed out the door. It was 50 degrees and sunny. Ah well.

Granlibakken is up in the woods and has its own little ski and sledding hill. We stopped by to check it out and Daddy had to jump out of the way to miss some tween speeding down in a saucer on one of the last runs of the day. Daddy pulled a muscle and was instantly on high alert for injury by high-speed plastic disc. You thought it was AWESOME.

We decided to meander back toward the room and cut between the tennis courts and the lodge. We walked into some drifts with you leading the way. You were light enough that you were able to walk on top of the snow but you hit a patch that wasn’t so strong and your foot sank deep into the snow and you fell over, hip deep in cold white soup. You screamed and giggled. At that moment, you were one big bubble of pure joy.

We explored a bit more and added on to a snowman someone had started but soon we decided it was time to get ready for dinner. Shedding a few layers, we ventured out to a highly-recommended restaurant in Tahoe City. You were excited to eat and talking a million miles a minute when we left the room but you fell fast asleep before we left the hotel compound. You were so exhausted you remained asleep as I wrestled you (and your gear) out of the car, waited 20 minutes for our table and consumed a glass of wine. Your little eyes opened the moment your hot dog and french fries arrived and you were certainly awake enough to dig into an ice cream sundae.

The next day we enjoyed the amazing buffet at the hotel and prepared for our dog sledding adventure at Squaw Valley — requiring another 30 minutes to gear up. You were so excited for the adventure but the moment we arrived you were a bit wary of all the barking dogs that had a hearty breakfast and were, shall we say, completing the digestion process. We got in our sled with every piece of clothing we could find while our musher stood behind the sled in a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt. It was 50 degrees.

The dogs couldn’t wait to drag 800 pounds of people and equipment across the snow-covered golf course. They yelped and barked until they were allowed to take off and show us the majestic scenery of the Valley. Mommy and Daddy asked all sorts of questions. You fell asleep in Mommy’s lap within ten minutes.

You woke up just as we ended the trip and insisted I carry you back up the hill to the car. The sun was extremely bright for your little eyes and Sherpa Mommy hadn’t had a Diet Coke so we went in search of sunglasses and caffeine. We found the former and got you some nifty blue skull glasses to match your socks. Mommy was out of luck. We found a Safeway and got ourselves some lunch items and a sled.

Back at the hotel we attempted another nap but you were not having any of it. You were telling us stories about Batman, Robin, Superman, Cat Woman, Batgirl, and Walker. Again we gave up and suited up to go sledding.

We decided to see what the hills were like behind the hotel for your first run and happened upon a Dad and two boys who had built a sled path not far from our car. It was perfect. You could hike up the hill, the run was steep and fast but just long enough that you didn’t get scared. And, they had built a cool little jump and a berm at the bottom so we could really fly but not worry about skidding into any cars or trees. They had even tricked it out so that you could try to grab a tennis ball on the way down if you were really feeling lucky.

Mommy hadn’t been sledding in years and it took a few runs for me to remember how to steer the crazy red plastic missile. It was second nature to Daddy and you two sped down the hill with giggles and screams. You hated walking back up the hill and begged us to carry you but as long as we gave you a fist full of snow to munch on, you were satisfied to slog to the top on your own.

Mommy was focused on making a snowman. In all my years in the Midwest, I had never remembered doing that. The snow was heavy and wet and I struggled to put the body and head on the huge base I had created but I conquered that snow and we made a very impressive figure. You helped decorate it and we brought Snow Batman and his snowmobile to supervise.

As the sun set behind the mountain, you and Daddy had one last run down the hill. Mommy decided to run as fast as I could down the drifts and did a rather impressive face plant into the soft snow. All the boys were shocked as Mommy came up laughing, looking like the Abominable Snow Man. With pants, socks and shoes sopping wet, we made our way back to the room and changed for dinner. What we didn’t know was that we’d left Snow Batman behind…

We decided to make it an early night and headed for dinner at 5:30 in the hotel. You were so excited and we were the second table seated. You feel asleep eating a french fry. You were instantly awake the moment the band invited the kids in the room to play instruments with them. You stole the show.

Another morning and another amazing buffet. Mommy ate everything in sight, Daddy exhibited some self control, and you pecked at a muffin. We suited up one more time and you really wanted to try the hill “where Daddy had to jump out of the way.” Now, this was a really BIG hill. You could ski down it. We brought our sled and rented a saucer. You braved it like a trooper but it was really too big and busy to have much fun so we decided to head back to check out the private run. We also thought we’d see if we could find Snow Batman who we said went on a “mission.”

As we approached the hill, Mommy spotted a small blue spot in the middle of the hill. There was Batman. He had fallen out of Mommy’s pocket during the kamikaze hill descent the night before. However, we were not the first ones to find him. Something small with very sharp teeth found him first and after gnawing on his head, decided he was not interesting enough to keep or eat. (Today he is with Helicopter Batman, Motorcycle Batman, Black Batman and all the rest of your superheroes, villains and other guys in your toy bin. He bores them nightly with tales of his close call in Tahoe. Green Lantern told me so…)

Luckily the run was still in good condition albeit a bit icy. We went down a few times but it was much faster than the day before and that jump really catapulted us into the air. After about 30 minutes we had a run where we got four feet of air and we hit the ground with a big thud. Mommy decided to end the day with that one before needing an emergency trip to the chiropractor.

The trip home was much shorter than up since we followed the proper route and we all had a fantastic time. There will be many more years in the snow (wearing the same clothes since we purchased them so oversize). While the trip was almost seven months ago, it feels like yesterday and we will never forget the joy and fun of your first snow.

A Note to Walker

Dear Walker.

I know it’s been some time since I have documented your life for the world to witness. I missed telling everyone about your first trip to the snow. I haven’t talked about your penchant for boogers or how you’ve begun what I believe will be your life-long adoration of superheroes. (All this will certainly be chronicled shortly.) However, I’m stuck at SFO waiting for a plane that will leave more than two hours late to take me to LAX and then to Melbourne, Australia for eight days and nights. While I should be working on employee reviews or other woefully late work-related items, I’m musing on what an incredibly BIG BOY you’ve become. I’ve only left you for three nights of your whole life — a one-night trip to Las Vegas (which was for a life-changing business conference, not some raunchy all-girls weekend) and for a two-night work off-site in Napa (which I must admit did include a bit of, well, it would be fair to characterize as excess wine consumption). Both separations included many tears for both of us. I’ve tortured myself about this trip. I’ve put it off for quite a long time. I researched bringing you and Daddy for two weeks. But ultimately, Daddy and I decided it would be best if I focused on work. It was an excruciating decision. I wasn’t sure how you’d handle it. But my Little Man, you have been so mature. When I talked to you about the trip, the first thing you said to me was, “Mommy, I’m NOT going to cry. I promise.” Which of course made me tear up and wonder if it was OK if I cried. Ultimately we were both right. When you waved goodbye, you remained bright eyed and positive while Mommy and Daddy cried. As a marketer, I’m especially cognizant of selling ideas whether it’s to people who should be buying software online or to my Little Person. I said you were going to have a great time with Daddy. I said you would have a “Bachelor Week” and asked if you knew what that meant. I explained that while I was away, you could do things that Mommy wouldn’t like. “You mean like throw dominoes?” referring to the other night when you made a complete racquet — and perhaps dented portions of the room — by chucking a bunch of Google-branded dominos at the bedroom door in the dark. Yes, your week will consist of eating “Daddy Chips” (Doritos), domino throwing, STAR WARS watching, missions to Target, staying up late and perhaps a bit less bathing. You will love it.

You have been working on being so independent. Last night you decided to sleep in your “daytime” undies. No more nighttime undies for you. (Nighttime undies are pull-ups which are becoming a bit too small and uncomfortable.) And you had a DRY NIGHT! Great job Little Man. You are starting to try to sleep in your own Big Boy bed. You’ve done so a few times for long stretches until you get scared in the middle of the night and want a warm Mommy snuggle. Who could blame you? We all feel that way even when we’re super old like Mommy and Daddy. But each day you get bigger and more independent. Mommy and Daddy are so proud (but Mommy reserves the right to shed a tear or two.)

You will miss me. I will talk to you on Skype and on the phone (have I mentioned that I love technology?). It’s OK to cry. I will cry when you’re not looking.

When you’re a teenager and you read this, you will think I am silly and perhaps a bit embarrassing. When you’re older and have a family of your own, I hope you will appreciate the complexity of the feelings I’m experiencing as I’m about to board the airplane for what will be an adventure and learning experience for us both.

I love and adore you.

Mommy

Soooo… What’s new with you?

Gosh, tell me it isn’t so. The holidays (and by “holidays” I mean the single blur of time between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year) have come and gone and we’re back into the drudgery of every day life — which of course is an absolute joy with a three and a half year old because, well, nothing is really all that drudge-worthy. My boys are both snoring away and I had a choice — stream a movie through my Nexflix app on my phone, research workout regimens, or drink wine and write a blog. Clearly the superior choice rose to the top like a fine organic cream. OK, that was my attempt at some flowery similes and I don’t believe I can pull those off so I’ll keep to the no-nonsense style you’ve come to appreciate over the last few years.

I’m kinda thinking that the only way to catch up is to be brief so I’ll attempt to bullet out all the things I’ve wanted to document for posterity in Twitter-esque prose:

  • Thanksgiving was CRAZY. Visited Gigi in Cinci who insisted on having a homemade Thanksgiving dinner. Walker slept through the meal and then threw up as soon as we reached the door of our hotel. Saw snow that night and thew our first snowball from sn-ice (what I call icy-snow) that survived on a car bumper. Friday, Larry got the stomach flu. Saturday, I got the stomach flu somewhere at 30,000 ft between Minneapolis and San Francisco.
  • Hanukkah was a big hit with Walker. He LOVED lighting the candles so much that I believe we were up to the 17th day before we finally retired the menorah. However, it gave him enough time to really be confident with the entire prayer. Some days we had a lighting in the morning AND evening. Truly a festival of lights. Oh, and our new favorite book is THE LATKA THAT COULDN’T STOP SCREAMING by Lemony Snicket. Total classic.

I’ll need a lot of bullets for Christmas.

  • This was the first time Walker really understood what was going to happen. He was very intrigued by the whole Santa thing and was over-enjoyed with visiting him at the Mall and at his workshop where we got our tree. We read Christmas stories almost exclusively and we almost wore out the digital data on our TiVo for Pixar’s PREP AND LANDING (which is a “must see” if you haven’t).
  • As usual, we made our trek to Santa’s Workshop in Half Moon Bay and cut down our tree. Walker enjoyed playing in the “snow” bubbles, seeing Santa and Rudolf, and taking a train ride (where Daddy gave himself a concussion on the roof of the caboose but powered through the rest of the day fueled only by Christmas spirit).
  • Mommy found it imperative to make Christmas a “teaching moment” and spent weeks telling Walker that we were going to go shopping for kids who weren’t as fortunate as him. So the day came when we went to the Disney store and bought a bunch of toys and then took them to Fire Station 18 and put them in the big bin. As Walker took each of the 15+ presents out of the bag for OTHER kids and slowly put them in the bin, the firefighters encouraged him by telling him how proud of him they were and how brave he was being. He never complained or questioned or whined. He simply emptied the bag. Larry and I were too proud for words.
  • PopPop and Miss Claire came over and helped us trim the tree. It was the modern-day Rockwell (much more Norman than Sam) experience. Larry prepared the tree in the stand and added the lights so our jobs were simply to accessorize the tree. Our tree is as eclectic as our lives including ornaments from when I was a baby to Spider Man and commemorative Fenway Park globes. Walker put all his decorations on the same branch. Luckily, it was a sturdy one.  I think our favorite ornaments are the cuttings from Walker’s past three Christmas trees. We’re sentimental saps.
  • There was the annual Christmas pageant at Sofiya’s which was, well, FANTASTIC. Walker was in his element. He LOVED performing in front of 30+ adults. He had few solos and even volunteered so frequently Helen had to tell him to give other kids an opportunity. Every day I asked him to recite the snowman poem — “Snowman, where did you go?/ I made you yesterday out of snow./ I built you tall, I built you fat./ I put on eyes, nose and a hat.” Of course, there were gestures that went along with this and Walker liked to see how fast he could complete the poem.
  • Christmas Day arrived and Walker was THRILLED to see that Santa had eaten all the food he had left for him. Santa also left him a very sweet note (that was also very well designed) which he will be keeping in his “very important documents” box. Once again, I was terribly proud of him. He DIDN’T OPEN ANY PRESENTS for more than two hours as we waited for PopPop and Miss Claire to arrive. Have I ever mentioned how incredibly grateful I am to have such a patient and understanding young man?
  • We now know when we’ve reached present fatigue. Next year, there won’t be as many packages under the tree. PopPop gave Walker a Big Wheel which Daddy diligently pieced together as we opened other gifts. Thankfully the new toy bins and table and chairs were already constructed (which have been the foundation for a much more civilized existence — with toys that are put away, areas to walk, and non-picnic dinners). A nap was had by all. Merry Christmas everyone.
  • As a present to Mommy and Daddy, Sofiya was open between the holidays and Walker played with his friends while Mommy and Daddy saw movies and Mommy did errands such as migrate data to a new computer and get a very long massage.
  • What would New Year’s Eve be without a birthday party for the Baby New Year? We made a yummy gingerbread cake with vanilla icing (Mommy decided to binge on butter and sugar before dieting in January) and wished the New Year the best of luck for us all. We were one of the very few who braved the rainy and cold zoo on New Year’s Day. Walker looked dashing in his 2011 hat (which turned into mache in the rain) and it was the only time we had a quite lunch in the zoo cafeteria with our choice of tables. (In the photo, he’s having his own bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider — WHAT DID YOU THINK HE WAS DRINKING?)

Other topics of interest:

  • Our first dentist visit went swimmingly. He got to wear sunglasses in a chair that goes up and down. Dr. David named all his teeth (which were all names of Disney and Pixar characters — I asked him if he paid royalties for that…) Walker never complained, cried or whined. In fact, he had a great time and loved his gift bag. Now I guess I need to go to the dentist.
  • I got reading glasses and apparently I look “young” and “hip” when I wear them. Yeah, well, I wouldn’t need them if I wasn’t OLD. Walker likes them so that’s a plus.
  • Despite the fact that we all got plaid pajamas for Christmas and Walker likes that we can all look the same, he still insists I wear my red pajamas with the white buttons. Nothing can obscure them so rather than put on a robe, we crank up the heat. PG&E is thankful. PLEASE LL BEAN, re-run your flannel pjs in RED (not PINK or ROSE or MAROON) so I can have clean pjs with a bit more frequency!
  • Walker’s at the age he like to pick his nose. I call his index finger the “DeBooginator.” He gives me his boogers when he’s feeling generous or bored.
  • He eats anything and everything at school. He will only eat items loaded with salt and preservatives at home. I’ve conducted an experiment — bring leftovers from Sofyia’s home and see if he eats. The answer is a resounding NO! The rationale: “That’s what I eat at school. That’s not what I eat at home.” Ugh. He has a point. Now to see if he’ll try other things Russians don’t cook like falafel and fried rice.
  • He loves to draw and he’s starting to create things that really look like what he says they are. The other day he looked at his Batman and drew, well, a Batman. The first drawing was a firetruck. He really likes firetrucks. He’s such a BOY.
  • He’s learning about different occupations in school and they were discussing reporters. “What is a reporter?” I ask. “That’s someone who tells you if someone got killed or if there’s a fire next door,” Walker says. Trying to recover what little innocence Walker has left, I explain that reporters also talk about the new hippo at the zoo and when people win big races. I relay the conversation to my father who is an Emmy-award winning reporter. “Walker has a much better grasp of reporting than you do,” is his reply. Depressed, I hang up the phone.

Walker told me tonight that he doesn’t want to be a man. “That’s bad,” he says. He wants to stay a little boy. He wants to remain “Walkerpie.”  And then he gave me a great big hug and pursed his yummy soft little lips and gave me a very sweet kiss.

“You will always be my little Walkerpie,” I tell him.

We wish everyone a very, very happy and healthy 2011.