Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

5th Birthday Party, at the Prospect Park Zoo

April 5, 2011

zoo party



January 28, 2011

Earlier this month, we had a movie night and dinner at Patrick’s house. Those kids were insanely happy to see each other.

movie night

When you pretend to kill someone, please use gentle hands

May 17, 2010

This morning, Charlie wanted me to tell his friend Matt about our bubble gun. It’s a gun; it blows bubbles.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Charlie had no idea what a gun was, or even how to hold one. Yes, we let him watch TV, but it’s always monitored. There is a specific selection of kids shows on PBS or Nick, Jr. on demand, which means no commercials and no violence. He’s also into old movies and YouTube, but again, monitored.

But this year his school friends are older. They know all about killing and guns and squashing bugs. Charlie has come home slashing a pretend sword and making his sticks cut down dandelions. Lately, when he gets angry he sometimes says he wants to cut my head off. (I swear, he’s well-balanced! I can be aggravating at times.)

I was worried about the aggressive talk until I started doing some reading. If kids can’t hit or kick or throw temper tantrums, they need to channel their aggression somewhere–like into words (I am so angry I feel like cutting your head off…you know, for example) or into game play, such as pretending to cut down dandelions or shoot each other with bubble guns.

So tentatively, and mixed with a lot of outdoor running around, we’ve allowed the violent play–as long as it is not rude or physically hurtful. In other words, you can pretend to kill someone, as long as you use gentle hands.

But today, when I told Matt about the gun, he said, “Oh! We’re not supposed to use that word.”

I thought back over what I’d said, thinking maybe he’d heard “sh*t” when I’d said “shoot.” “What word?” I asked.


I was dumbfounded. “Gun? Really?”

I called the teacher over. “They can’t say gun?”

And she explained how the kids had been pretending to use guns and saying they were killing each other. The aggressive language and pretend play was disturbing to the adults, so they’d called a teacher meeting and decided the kids couldn’t use the word ‘gun’ in class.

My first thought was that making guns into something secretive and subversive would only increase their appeal.

My second thought was that this was the exact opposite of all that I’d read. Granted, I’m not an expert in childhood development and supposedly these teachers are. But I explained how we handle it at home, and told her about what I’d read. I said that pretend play–as long as no one was actually getting hurt–seemed to be the safest way to act out aggression and figure out problem-solving techniques. She said the teachers just wanted to promote peace in the classroom, which is understandable with 18 kids.

So now I’m not sure what to think. What about cowboys and Indians? What about robots vs. aliens? What about all those other boy games that I don’t know much about? Are all of these verboten?

I’m thinking of going to the head teacher with my printed-out articles and requesting some sort of compromise. Maybe pretending with guns and swords can be okay when they are outside on the playground?

But what if I’m wrong? What if it isn’t okay for kids to pretend to kill each other? What if that does lead to real-life aggression?

Am I blowing this out of proportion? (I do live one neighborhood away from Park Slope, after all.) Is it a case of, if you imagine it, you’ll do it? Or, is pretend play really what I think it is: an essential tool for helping boys–and girls, too–learn to express and work through their aggression without actually hurting anyone?

Charlie’s 3rd birthday

October 3, 2009

Absolutely pathetic. It has taken me six months to get these photos uploaded, Flickerized and put on to this blog. Ugh. In any case, click on smiling Charlie to see the March 2009 birthday fun. (And if you compare six-months-ago Charlie to the Charlie in the apple pictures, the difference is amazing. He’s grown at least two inches since then.)

There are more than a hundred photos–fair warning–and four videos. You can tell the videos by the little arrow in the lower left corner.

Charlie in the tent

Old pictures

July 28, 2009

I finally got my computer, my camera and my Flickr account all working at the same time. So here’s a bunch of photos from last fall, with more to come later today, I hope. Click on the images below for more photos and videos.

Halloween, 2008
Halloween 2008

A fall Saturday morning, 2008
Yogurt hands

Thanksgiving at the Orlowicz house, 2008
ruth and charlie


September 6, 2008

Everyone and their mothers are blogging about Sarah Palin, and it feels like I’ve been reading every post. So, to distract myself from political muckraking, I have uploaded all my pictures from our wonderful ten-day cross-country work-vacation to California. (Click the photo above for more photos.)

Every year, I attend the Romance Writers of America convention as part of my job, and in the past few years Jesse and Charlie have come with me and we’ve tacked on a few vacation days at the end to explore the destination. (So far: Atlanta–where we visited family and swam in the Pine Mountain pool; Dallas–where we took a road trip to Austin and Galveston and swam in the Hotel Galvez pool; and San Francisco–where we visited our dear friends, the Zanklins, and didn’t actually swim anywhere.)

This year, though, Jesse’s cousin Chad’s wedding was the day after the conference, so we put our vacation before my work trip and added a jaunt to PA to the end. The multi-leg journey was not as crazy as it sounds, travel-wise. Charlie was super-fab on the plane. He played, he napped, he ate, then we arrived. And he adjusted to the time difference without a hitch.

We spent most of our CA time hanging out with the Zanklins in Berkeley, where we got to stay in our own Berkeley house (thanks Zanklin neighbors!) and run across the street at every opportunity for food, conversation, and feeding the chickens that live in their backyard. (The chickens eat broccoli! Charlie has not forgotten this.)

The whole gang camped in cabins at Big Basin state park in the Redwoods and took a day trip to Santa Cruz. We got very dirty, hot and happy, in spite of the aggressive blue jays who really wanted our food. And we even managed a short hike to a small waterfall. (Molly walked the whole way! She’s a veteran of the hiking thing already.)

[Okay, short aside here. This was actually the second camping trip Jesse, Sofi, and I took together, and we eagerly dissected every memory from our previous excursion while staying in our rustic Big Basin cabins. Because, see, the first time we went camping, it was at New College, right after a flooding rain, in the swamps of Florida. We hiked five miles into palmetto scrub, through thigh-deep murky water that we tried to pretend didn’t hide alligators, into a backwoods campsite filled with mosquitoes from hell. These things were as thick as rain, and they dive-bombed into our tent all night. We slept five people to a four-person tent, and even in the suffocating heat no one would get out for fear of the gigantic bloodsuckers. Sofi slashed her finger on a can of beans and should have gotten stitches. I tried to wash dishes in the orange water from the pump, but only managed to get a severely itchy rash on my skin. We’d planned to stay two nights–if you can call our lack of foresight planning–and ended up hiking back the next morning. Thank God. With all of our ignorant mistakes we should never have made it out of that swamp alive. But we did. And then we did camping better this time, with tent cabins, flush toilets and running water.]

After Berkeley, I did my work thing while Jesse, Sofi and the kids took in the SF sites. (Charlie is still talking about the sea lions they saw on Fisherman’s Wharf.) After one and a half short nights in the hotel, we took the red-eye to PA, where Charlie made it almost all the way down the aisle at Chad and Jen’s wedding. (After too little sleep, jet lag, no real lunch, and never having seen a wedding before, I was impressed that he was willing to walk down the aisle at all.)

The wedding and reception were lovely. (We’re all still talking about the dozens and dozens of homemade cookies made by Aunt Becky, Aunt Debbie, et al. Ah, the glorious chocolate, peanut butter, cream-filled cookies!) From all my running around, I got sick for the rest of trip. In my weakened state, we missed swimming, but did manage to see some of Pittsburgh and visit with Pap, Elaine and the aunts and cousins on the DeWitt side of the family.

Except for my illness, we had a grand time. As soon as we got home and I could do more than lay around, I began planning our next trip.

(Just because I promised my mom I’d take video of Charlie in his monkey suit, here is all I managed to snag between getting him down the aisle–partway–and trying to keep him from crying on his way back up.)

Charlie’s birthday celebrations

April 5, 2008

I can’t believe that I actually downloaded all of these photos and videos so quickly. (It’s cause I knew Pawpaw had asked for them particularly, I think. I mean, I still haven’t done the pictures from last summer’s vacation!)


Charlie started off his birthday celebrations with a party at Fedkids. To my horror, I realized I had forgotten my digital camera, so I grabbed a disposable one on the way to the festivities. Charlie had a blast snapping away and making everyone say cheese. (Any blurry pictures are, of course, his.)

Two of his teachers gave him some books that he loved. (He even refused to leave one of them behind when they went to the gym, and when I came back to pick him up a few hours later he knew what guinea pigs were when I pointed to their picture in the book!) Two of his other teachers baked him a delicious cake and came by to visit with him as he blew out his candles.

It was a fun time, and Charlie really took a shine to everyone telling him “Happy Birthday” and giving him presents. (He has the “open please” and tearing paper thing down.)

The next day, Saturday, was Charlie’s party at our house. Many of his friends from daycare were there, but the highlight of the day was an appearance by his beloved music teacher Gina Samardge. He was delighted, and a bit confused, to have so many people he sees outside the house in the house.

I knew Charlie would love to have Gina sing just for him. (He talks about her every time he sees a guitar or a snake—you’ll see why in the pictures.) And so I looked into her schedule and fees when I first started planning the party, in February. That’s when I also looked into reserving spaces or hiring out a party package from a local kids’ store that included Gina’s talents. When I heard the cost, my Southern raised-to-be-a-homemaker brain kicked in. “I can do that at half the price!” I thought.

And I nearly did.

And nearly keeled over trying.

This was a decidedly small affair. Eight kids total. But now I know why people hire event planners or pay mega-bucks to have their shindig for two-year-olds catered and held at a location far away from the place where they plan to sleep.

After a month of doing the scheduling, the invitations, the planning of decorations, the buying of goody bags, and the enlisting of borrowed toddler tables and chairs, I woke up at 6 am to bake the cake, clean the house, rearrange the furniture and tape up balloons. Jesse and Charlie spent the day blowing up balloons, buying beverages and veggies, and trying to blow off steam somewhere besides our living room.

Here’s what it looked like when we were done.

The party was messy, loud and delicious.

The plan was for a full hour and a half of toddler entertainment. A half hour for arrivals and art, a half hour for pizza and cake and a half hour of Gina’s music. The toys in Charlie’s room were ready as back-up. With only a few snafus, and surprisingly few crayon marks on the furniture, it went well.


Of course, when we were done, we were all really done.

And after Charlie passed out in his bed, it only took Jesse and I an hour or so to get all the chocolate cake, apple juice and pizza off the floor.

Here’s to happy birthdays!

Snack time

November 23, 2007

Now that I have a new camera, I thought I’d document one of Charlie’s snack times at Fedkids. We usually eat, play around, read books, and usually have the kind of active time only toddlers can have. One of my favorite parts of snack time is getting to know Charlie’s friends and seeing how he interacts with them. When they wake up from nap, he calls their name and says hello. Often, they come over and give him a hug or a kiss. I love that the teachers and the kids at his daycare are so free with affection and showing that they care. Here are a few photos of Charlie and his friends. (Remember, I still haven’t perfected my aim. I tend to get the shot one second before or after what I actually aimed for. And, click on the photo for more pix.)

snack time

On that same day, Elsie, one of Charlie’s younger friends, came into the classroom and greeted him with a kiss. Twice. I missed it both times, so I asked Charlie if he could give Elsie a kiss. He does, and she gives one right back.

Lots of hugs and kisses

October 14, 2007

Charlie likes to give hugs and kisses, especially to his friends at daycare. When we were out of town in September he came back to big hugs from Clara, Henry, Patrick, and little Maryn who is half his size and has twice his energy. Maryn and he collided into a hug and ended up on the floor, what with the instability of their toddler legs. Today, Maryn again greeted Charlie with a hug, but he’s learning a sense of his own size and strength. Instead of running toward her, he just stood still with his arms out and waited for her to hug him. Success! No tumbling.

He always greets his friends so kindly. A touch on the back when Henry is sitting at the table, as if to say, “Nice to see you, pal.” A kiss for Clara–and a kiss back from her. He wants to greet every small person–and creature–that way. All the toddlers and babies on the playground get the “kiss eye,” with him leaning down slowly to put his face next to theirs.

On Thursday, he even kissed a cat! We went to a neighbor’s house to pick up our CSA meat products. (Yummy organic and pasture-raised beef and pork.) She had a big, lovely living room filled with books, cushy sofas and an orange cat lazing around.

“He’s very nice,” she said, offering to let Charlie pet him.

Charlie looked at the cat with eyes wide. “Neow?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s a cat. You can pet him if you want to.”

He marched right over to the cat then stopped about a half foot away. He slowed down, lowered his face and gave the cat “kiss eye.”

The cat raised his face in curiousity and sniffed Charlie’s nose–a cat kiss right back.

For the rest of the night Charlie was in love. “Neow. Neow? Neow,” he said, telling me the story again and again, in not so many words.

Clara Emma Franklin Zander

October 9, 2007

Sofia (my college roommate and good friend) had a baby this Monday out in California. Everyone seems to be doing great, and Clara is beautiful.