Eight and Six and Family Vacation

September 17, 2013

(I know I’ve been gone a while.  Apologies.  I’ve got a long post below for you to read.  I quickly want to announce that I have new classes listed on my the site – go to the “classes” tab or just click here.  Some really good things coming your way!)

Three years ago, I wrote a post called Five and Three in an effort to try and capture the sweetness of my children.  Also to tell the story of why I have two of them.  The year after that, I wrote a post called First Grade and Pre-K.  Last year, I intended to write something called Seven and Five or Second Grade and Kindergarten, but I just never did.  I now feel this call to write about them.  I know I always do around their birthdays and I know I’ve written quite a bit about Graham, and I know they appear frequently on my Slice of Life posts.  I guess I feel this sweet sweet age that they are now, Eight and Six – or really Eight-and-Three-Quarters and Six-and-a-Half – is fleeting.  I watch them grow and mature practically before my eyes.  These kids (kids!) are really mine?  Where did the babies go?

(First Slurpees!)

We’ve been living in Oakland for a year now (!) and my boys have just started their second year at our sweet school – third and first grades.  They have adjusted to our new life amazingly well.  They love the sunshine and have made some nice friends.  Our community is so friendly and we love being able to just drive home from somewhere and pull over to buy lemonade from a schoolmate’s stand.  They spent the summer in camps and swimming at the community pool.  They have gone from being sort of confident in the water to really being able to swim in the space of the summer.  We traveled a bit, to Delaware with Randy’s family and to Seattle to visit mine (more on that in a minute).  On both of those trips they were terrific travelers.  We had long delays and long car rides and they took it all in stride.  I can put them in a strange bed and they will just pass out without anxiety or nightmares.

(First day of school.)

How to describe who these boys are right now?  I think six and eight is a bit magical.  People often smile at me when I walk down the street with them.  I know they are cute boys but I also think this age exudes sweetness and yet they are far from babies.  They are old enough to be a bit independent but young enough to still need their mommy.  And they still call me mommy.  They remember (most of the time) to pull their lunch boxes (Spider Man and Batman) out of their backpacks (ditto), but I still need to pack those lunch boxes.  They listen to me when I tell them they don’t get a treat if they don’t finish their fruit.  They don’t question my rules.  They are quick to say, “Sorry Mommy” if they cross a line.  They play well together, usually with the millions of Legos we seem to have acquired.  Sometimes the games involve multiple sheets of paper taped together with masking tape and require pens to be scattered across the living room floor.  Their imaginations inspire and amaze me.  I love hearing them using pretend voices.  I giggle when they play “restaurant”.

I love to kiss their necks in the morning just after they have woken up, their skin so warm and smelling so sweet.  They are still very innocent in the ways of the world and very trusting.  Also so curious.  Spencer asks me about 60 questions a day ranging from the interesting to the hilarious.  (A recent favorite – If you were having a snowball fight and one of the snowballs got hit by lightening, what would happen?)  If I answer that I don’t know, he will suggest we ask Daddy or Boppa – my dad.

With a new school year just beginning, we have high hopes for the boys.  Spencer had a magical kindergarten year – a kind teacher, nice kids, involved parents and real! big boy! school!  He was so ready.  He thrived in his classroom, got invited to all the birthday parties, and had lots of play dates.  I called him the mayor of his classroom.  He got lucky again with another nice teacher and many of the same sweet children.  I have already gotten five emails saying he has had Outstanding Behavior from his teacher so it looks like we are off to a good start.

Second grade was a tough year for Graham.  Being the new kid and being a bit different turned out to be a bad combination at that age.  Throw in a few really mean boys and a teacher who yelled a lot and it is astonishing to me that he wanted to go to school at all.  But want he did and he got three good report cards with the surprise that he is advanced in math and the non-surprise that he excels in listening, being a team player, and being kind to his classmates.  Thankfully, the mean boys were split up this year and Graham has a much nicer teacher who seems to be really on the ball and to already “get” him.  With the help of an attorney, we have been pushing the school district to provide more help for him in the areas where he needs it and hopefully it will all be in place soon.  We just never stop fighting for this boy.

A little more about our trip to Seattle.  It was actually supposed to be trip to Sun Valley to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.  My whole family was set to meet up and stay in my parents’ time share condo but the terrible fires in Idaho kept us from doing so.  We were literally on the road, car packed up, friends in place to house- sit in Oakland, when my dad called and said the condo building was being evacuated.  I turned to Randy and asked, “Should we just go to Seattle?” and he said, “Sure!”  The boys were so ready for a road trip and so ready to see their cousins and to turn around just seemed sad.  So we tacked on an additional 400 miles to our trip and headed north and west.

Probably the most special part of the trip is that we got a chance to go to Lopez Island.  I was actually feeling a little stressed that this was going to be the first summer in 32 summers! that I wouldn’t spend a night on that island.  But with some frantic phone calls to find space to accommodate all of us, we squeezed in two nights there.  We got to visit Holly B’s and all of our favorite spots on the island, including the sweet church where we got married.  We had been planning to have a photographer take family shots in Sun Valley and Randy made some calls and somehow found us a wonderful photographer on Lopez to do the same.  We are all thrilled with the pictures he took and as soon as I can figure out how to share them, I will.  We got a picture at the more or less exact spot where we got engaged.

The sweet church.

The most beautiful beach in the world.

Madrona trees are my favorite.  They only grow in Northwest.

My dad, overwhelmed by choices at Holly B’s.

My parents.

My youngest brother Michael and Graham.  They look alike, don’t you think?

I made a decision that on road trips, long or short, we do them with no screens.  I am not *that* mom.  I let my kids watch tv and they play with our iPads after dinner.  But here is the thing.  When I was a kid, we drove to Sun Valley every winter and summer and I remember being bored but I also remember listening to my Walkman, looking out the window, napping, snacking, and just generally spacing out.  I don’t think kids get a lot of time to space out these days and I wanted to give them that chance.

As it turns out, they were busy on this trip.  The good kind of busy.  This was one of the keys.  I got lots of dot-to-dot books, coloring books, sticker books, comic books –  most of which we picked out together – and plenty of pens.  This contraption sat between them throughout the ride and they could dip into it whenever they wanted.  They also got plenty of snacks in their very own bin and they did not have to ask me whenever they wanted one.  The biggest time passer was listening to Harry Potter on CD.  Randy had read them the first one and we listened to the second one and all of us loved it.  The above photo of Graham is how he looked when we listened to it.  Just Zen.  It was a great trip.

Finally, randomly, this is a shot of us going out to celebrate our 11th anniversary.  That dress is my wedding dress.  Randy and I both been married before and had both had big weddings.  We decided to do something much smaller and more simple and I decided to wear a dress I liked, not a wedding dress.  It turned out that I fell in love with a white dress and I have worn it every anniversary since (except the pregnant and nursing years).  It doesn’t fit quite the same but it still fits!  Randy is wearing his wedding finery too.


  1. Love this post. Welcome back. I love, love the pictures of your sweet boys. They look so grown up now! I’m shocked and saddened by your struggles with the school district about Graham’s schooling. (I realize that we have been so lucky with incredibly supportive teachers, school staff and district with our boy). Love the Lopez snaps and I’ve been on that beach! Love the pic of you and Randy – lovely. And I have a similar love of kissing my boy’s neck.

    Comment by Charlotte — September 17, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  2. Your boys are gorgeous! Thanks for such a great post!

    Comment by Emily — September 17, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

  3. Happy to see you back Dana! Best Wishes to the boys in the upcoming school year, as well as to you in your Cooking Classes.

    Comment by Peggy Gilbey McMackin — September 17, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

  4. Great post! and happy 11th anniversary!

    We also were married before and had a very simple ceremony – it’s definitely not the party that counts…

    My favorite photo: Zen Graham… just perfect!

    Comment by sallybr — September 17, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

  5. That is wonderful! You make me want to visit Lopez Island. I hope Graham’s year goes better this year.

    Comment by Kel — September 17, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

  6. I’ve been wondering why you haven’t shown up in my RSS for a while – glad you’re back. Great post!

    Comment by Amy — September 18, 2013 @ 3:03 am

  7. Love this little life update and it’s so great to see some pictures of the boys! It’s crazy how big they’re getting.

    And I love that last picture. You are such a stunning couple!

    Comment by Joanne — September 18, 2013 @ 3:20 am

  8. I’ve missed you Dana! I love your posts and hearing about your life in Oakland. Your children are so beautiful, and you are clearly an incredible mom. I was bummed I didn’t make it to SF this summer, but there’s definitely hope for 2014! xx Clara

    Comment by Clara — September 18, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  9. Glad to see a post from you! Your boys are adorable and Lopez Island looks like a great spot for a summer trip. You must have a lot of discipline to stay so thin with all the yummy treats you make;) .

    Comment by Karen — September 18, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

  10. Dana,
    Missed your posts! So nice to hear of your wonderful summer. My kids are older now (21, 23, 27) but we went on many long car trips in the summer and also refused to have the kids watch a screen on these trips. They all loved to read, and that kept them very occupied. In addition, same things you did, busy books, markers, and LOTS of healthy snacks. They became great car kids very quickly.
    We also have a special spot we go to in Maine, near Acadia Nat Park, that we have visited almost every year since my oldest was 3 years old. Now, it’s usually just my husband and I, since they are all working at new jobs, but I am hopeful in the next couple of years it will turn again into an extended family vacation spot yet again, as my kids bring their husbands, wives and children to the same spot again. There is something to be said for discovering the new (which I love too) and revisiting the old, and having those special memories.
    Your boys are amazingly adorable. How proud you must be of them! My youngest will graduate this coming spring with a degree in Elementary Ed, and she will be (I know!) and amazing combination of sweetness and firmness, with no yelling. I am hopeful that your son has an extraordinary year this year.
    (PS, I loved your wedding dress)

    Comment by AnnieM — September 18, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  11. What a lovely post. I love the pictures of your family. The picture of your parents especially makes me want to pull up a chair and share a pot of tea and some conversation. They look like they would be great company.

    Comment by carole — September 18, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

  12. Welcome back. I was getting worried about you. My husband and I spent a week in Seattle this summer. We plan to go back so that we can explore more islands. Lopez will be on the list!

    Comment by Linda — September 19, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  13. Really missed you, Dana. So happy you’re back … and Happy Anniversary to you and Randy! Tomorrow just happens to be my anniversary … 38 years! Still madly in love with my man! But my wedding dress … well it’s a few sizes smaller now for some reason. :-0

    Comment by Julie J — September 20, 2013 @ 12:15 am

  14. Miss and love you guys! I’m overdue for a phone call…and of course a visit. I almost teared up reading this post, because I realize the hole that I feel with you so far away! Even the kids feel it. Kendall just gave her Barbie a very hip, short haircut and told me that she wanted it short because it reminds her of Dana! Love it. :) Kiss the boys for me!

    Comment by Deb — September 22, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

  15. Every time I see a picture of your mom my jaw drops. WOW.

    Comment by Hilary — September 23, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

  16. Dana, I haven’t been here in a while but I’m glad to have caught up! What a sweet family. Your boys are so handsome. Hope you’ve been well.

    Comment by jamie @ arugulaholic — October 1, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  17. Your mother is gorgeous! As are you! xxoo

    Comment by Audra — November 17, 2013 @ 4:34 am

  18. Happy to see we are both on the same space.

    I have built an iPhone/iPad app about Vegetarianism and would love to hear your thoughts on it. Check it out: http://bit.ly/1ytAnWI

    Keep up the great blog! :)

    Comment by Niraj — September 26, 2014 @ 4:39 am

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