Soren turned 6 last May

I have a dream where I can go to Mars AND be president

I have a dream where I can go to Mars AND be president

Soren wanted to go panning for gold on his birthday. He regretted not finding any gold when we went a few years before. He was pretty little then, and didn’t have much patience. I arranged a weekend trip to gold country, although Soren got a little confused at the last minute when he realized that this was not a birthday party. I had to stop him from inviting his whole kindergarten class along.

Soren panning for gold

Soren panning for gold

I rented a house for the weekend outside of Groveland, big enough for all of us. On Saturday we visited Columbia, which is a town as well as a State Historic Park. Everyone got to pan for gold, but Soren also had some lessons included with his. This was not in a real creek like last time, but Soren did find some gold right away and was absolutely thrilled. There were also a number of semi-precious stones in the mix.

Ronin holding up his loot

Ronin holding up his loot

There were a number of things to do in Columbia. There was a stagecoach ride, shops and restaurants, museums, houses and hotels and banks that were preserved from the gold rush period. Still, Soren kept getting drawn back to panning for gold.  The lure of treasure was irresistible.

Justin and Soren panning for gold

Justin and Soren panning for gold

Stagecoach ride

Stagecoach ride

Exploring around Columbia

Exploring around Columbia

Unfortunately, the gold that Soren found at the beginning suffered a mishap. Soren was very fond of opening his container and showing off the contents. At one point, scrambling over the rocks, he lost everything.

All three kids looking for Soren's spilled gold

All three kids looking for Soren’s spilled gold  

He did pan some more, but didn’t find as much gold as he did at the beginning. I’m not sure if he learned his lesson about holding onto his commodities, either. Luckily, Soren found a way to put a positive spin on this and forged ahead without making it ruin his day.

It sure was a hot day

It was a hot day

We had cake and balloons at the rental house in the evening after we got back, and a few games of pool.

Screened porch, or "party room" at the rental house

Screened porch, or “party room” at the rental house

Claire and Justin playing pool

Claire and Justin playing pool

The next day Soren wanted to go panning for gold again and was completely prepared to throw a fit when I told him that was not on the agenda. Then I surprised him with train tickets for Railtown 1897, another State Historic Park. We had been there before, but it wasn’t open at the time and we just walked around the grounds. This time we were able to ride on the train and go on the tour of the roundhouse and the grounds.

Claire and Jan on the train

Claire and Jan on the train

Train ride

Train ride

Ronin enjoying himself

Ronin enjoying himself 

Soren, intently looking out the window

Soren, intently looking out the window

All in all, I think it was a good birthday and it was just what he wanted. It certainly provided some good experiences and will be memorable.

Railtown USA!

Railtown USA Souvenir Ticket

The kids created their own movie trailer

Sometimes they beg to go to camp instead of staying home and playing. This was one of those days. They have had a week at Children’s Fairyland Camp, which they loved so much they asked to go again next year (same week, so they could do Part II of the play they wrote and performed with their group this year). They also asked me to schedule them for more weeks next year (this is a reminder to myself).

Yesterday they could have had a day with my mom, which in general is more fun than days with me lately, because she doesn’t have to do errands or unpack or put furniture together or spend all day hauling trash to the curb at our old house. However, they surprised all of us by asking to go to camp instead.

It was probably because they knew that on that day there was a giant water slide and squirt guns and other fun water activities at Steve & Kate’s Camp, which is a flexible, come as many or as few days as you want, and don’t plan ahead or schedule. Soren loves to make bread and learn how to sew and make little movies. Ronin likes programming and also making movies, and playing Foosball with friends. Claire loves the music studio where she can record herself singing pop songs with background music. I get sent these little videos and song tracks they make, so I can see what they have been doing.

There is a template at camp, cameras, and they essentially did it all themselves, as you may be able to tell from the title. They created the storyboard. They laid out the words. Soren showed Claire and Ronin how to do it, since he’d been at camp one more day and learned how. I love it.

We bought a new house and we’re moving! Surprise!

Our house, in the middle of our street

Our house, in the middle of our street

Believe me, I’m almost as stunned as you are. It’s already done. When the kids and I got back from Sacramento at the beginning of April, Justin told me he wanted a new house. He said he found a crack pipe and a bullet by his car and our house was too small. He spent half an hour telling me that we needed to leave asap. I weakly murmured a few rebuttals (like I usually do) about how our neighborhood really is great, our school is wonderful, and we were going to investigate adding a second story or otherwise making our space work better. Still, Justin was determined, and he started showing me examples of houses that we might look at that very next weekend that were for sale, both nearby and in another town with a very good school district. I just could not imagine the amount of extra work this might entail, when I could barely keep up with laundry.

Soren and Claire at the kitchen counter

Soren and Claire at the kitchen counter

We spent an entire weekend going to open houses, which did not please the kids that much. The very first one we went to was a sprawling structure with several outbuildings on two lots. We liked it a lot, but it was the first one we saw, so we looked around some more. We still liked it, and put in the only good offer they had. As far as I know, that house still has not sold, and the owners are holding out for more than asking price.

Claire and Soren drawing furniture layouts for a bedroom

Claire and Soren drawing furniture layouts for a bedroom

This was the second house we offered on. I loved it the second I saw it, and I called Justin and asked him to meet me here on his way in to work. I said he shouldn’t miss it. It is just a few minutes away from Mom’s house, and not too far away from our old house. The kids can still go to their old school if we want. It’s a quiet street, and most of the houses were built in the 50’s. It reminds me a bit of my Grandparents’ house on Hammersly Road in Madison when I was little. Everything matched and was tidy. I told my parents when I grew up I wanted a house like that, with maybe only one room for animal bones (as opposed to every room in our house then). It probably represented the stability and normality that I felt everybody else had and I didn’t.

One of the many living spaces

One of the many spaces in the new house

This house is very big. It has 1000 more square feet than our current house. Five bedrooms. Three bathrooms. Two kitchens. Two living rooms. Two stories. A nice large laundry area. I finally was able to get a washer and dryer that could handle drying a pair of Justin’s jeans. It has a garage! It has a back yard with a glass enclosure over part of the deck, where Justin has been putting his orchids.

The solarium, when the house was staged

The solarium, when the house was staged

I think the solarium was what convinced Justin that this was the right house. It’s a lovely spot. We are going to need to buy some patio furniture, and we’ve been having to buy other furniture. Pretty much all we had was one couch and two end tables, a lot of bookshelves, and a dining table and chairs, because that was all that fit in our old house.

View of the deck from inside the solarium

View of the deck from inside the solarium

This past week was a vacation week for me. It followed the last week of school for the kids. Soren graduated from Kindergarten. Claire is currently in Wyoming with my mom, taking horseback riding lessons and having indulgent dinners out with my dad. My original plan was to take the boys camping during this time, but instead we’ve been packing and moving and moving and packing. I paid for some last-minute camp days and had them attend every day except Friday. They get frustrated that we are working on moving chores most of the time, although they’ve stopped saying things like, “It’s a nice day today, so can we go to the beach?”

Things are still in shambles

Things are still in shambles

We have boxes everywhere. Justin informed me Thursday morning that he only had one pair of socks and didn’t know where his box with socks and underwear was. We’ve been looking for it and unpacking things, but I still haven’t found it. In the meantime, we have a lot of pressure to finish getting our old house completely emptied out so we can get it ready to sell, because sooner is better than later for a neighborhood with a good school, and because it’s not good to be paying for two houses simultaneously for too long.

My mom admiring the view from the spacious kitchen

My mom admiring the view from the spacious kitchen, or maybe checking for spots on a wine glass

We also have a lot of work to do, on both houses. We just had $6500 worth of electrical work done here on the new house, because none of the outlets were grounded and the fuse box was overloaded and the breaker box needed to be replaced due to fire hazard. We just brought the cats over yesterday, but we have them closed in one of the bedrooms for the time being because there aren’t screens on a lot of the windows and there are five doors that lead to the outside, any of which can be left open by a careless person.

Our new living room furniture, and an old rug that we haven't had a place to use before now

Our new living room furniture, and a beautiful old rug that we haven’t had a place to use before now

Still, every day Justin and I look at each other and remark on how much we love this house. We love it more and more all the time. We love the shape, the layout, the spaciousness, the views, the little architectural details. We love/hate how we can not know where anyone is in the house because it’s so spacious. We can call out for someone and hear a distant, “I’m in here,” and still not know if that person is even on the same floor.

Anyway, I had better go wake up Justin and get to unpacking some more. If you are reading this and need my new address, send me an email.

“Our mom took us to Sacramento and all we got was Fool’s Gold!”

In a covered wagon at Sutter's Fort

In a covered wagon at Sutter’s Fort

We did not travel by covered wagon. We took the standard minivan. It was Spring Break this past week, and as usual for my work, I had to request all of my vacation weeks in October of last year. This was one of them. However, we had no plans because we kept waiting to figure out whether or not Justin was available and what he might be able to do. Last Fall we thought we might try to visit Argentina over Spring Break, but as of last week we still had no idea what we were doing. Justin was trying to decide if he was going to stay with his job or take a new job that has been actively recruiting him.

Soren also learned how to jack up a wagon to repair a wheel

Soren learned how to jack up a wagon to repair a wheel

Justin told me last Friday, once school was already out, that we should go ahead and make plans to go somewhere without him. So I spent the next few days trying and failing to secure reservations somewhere near enough that he could join us if he got a day off or two, but far enough away that it would be interesting and seem like a vacation.

The obligatory lunch stop at Fenton's on the way to Sacramento

The obligatory lunch stop at Fenton’s on the way to Sacramento

After a few days of not being able to make plans, and getting more concerned about not being able to do anything, Justin said he definitely wouldn’t be able to join us, and I changed my search terms to not include space for him and we got a place with 2 beds. With Hawaii and now this, it seems like last-minute vacations are our new reality, and what I would call a First-World problem–something that would be very petty to complain about.

At the Nimbus Fish Hatchery

At the Nimbus Fish Hatchery

I had about an hour all told to come up with some ideas of things to do and to bookmark websites and open hours and directions before we left, and I had a loose schedule in my mind. I was mostly going to play it by ear. The first day we got there we went to the Fish Hatchery, because it was free and it was pretty close to closing time for just about everything. The kids LOVED it.

Since we were there close to closing time the first day, we were fortunate enough to receive the bounty of free giant cups of fish food. The kids were not the only ones who were delighted to see the fish thrash around every pellet that hit the water. I was fascinated.

The kids pretending to be fish swimming down the railings

The kids pretending to be fish swimming down the railing

Soren kept dumping a bunch of food in at once and then running out of food and looking for lone pellets on the ground. He would hold them up over the water, hoping that a fish would leap out and eat from his hand.

At one point, a lady came by with extra food and offered it to him. He said thank you, and she nodded and smiled and said, “Yes, isn’t it great eating the fish?” He agreed, and then a moment later did a double-take and asked me, “Mom, did she say eating the fish instead of feeding the fish?”

Soren at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery

Soren at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery

They all loved the fish hatchery so much we went there again the next morning, since we’d gotten there late and hadn’t gotten much time in the Visitor Center. However, when we went back, we still didn’t spend a whole lot of time inside, and instead went out and fed the fish again. It became a bit of a joke the whole time we were in Sacramento. Every time the kids asked me where we were going, I told them “Fish Hatchery!” and Claire would make a funny face and Soren would get all excited.

Claire and Ronin in the mouth of a fish

Claire and Ronin in the mouth of a fish

The next day, we had a full day of Funderland and Fairytale Town, both of which were in the gigantic Land Park near the place we were staying. It was wonderful to be in a quiet residential area so close to a gigantic park, but also close to downtown and Old Town Sacramento. The only downside was that the fish hatchery was about 25 minutes away.


The front yard of the house where we stayed – the boys were chasing bugs

Funderland was a small amusement park designed for the younger crowd. It didn’t have anything too scary and wasn’t full of rowdy teenagers.

Soren was very proud of himself that he finally rode a roller-coaster (the “Dragon Ride”) without yelling for it to stop and that he loved it enough to go on it three times in a row. Claire helped convince him and she was equally thrilled that she coached him through it.


Everyone got to ride a horse, and they took turns leading it around

They spent a lot of time in front of a fun-house mirror. I won’t bore you with the all of the details, but I can tell you that I have some videos from that mirror that sends the kids rolling on the floor with fits of laughter. “Look at my arms!” “I was just a ball of hair!”


Fun-house mirror at Funderland

Across a grassy field from Funderland was Fairytale Town. You would think that my 8-year-olds would be growing out of this sort of thing, or not be quite as interested because they have so much access to Children’s Fairyland here. Maybe it’s because they have backstage access to Fairyland and know that there is a lot more complexity to these kinds of places than meets the eye that they still found it very interesting. Maybe they wanted to compare and contrast. Or maybe they just liked being able to run and climb on different types of things.

Cheese Stands Alone

Cheese Stands Alone was a big hit

The giant block of cheese was very slippery, hard to climb up, and was a kid magnet. They also walked the crooked mile about 50 times. They were very proud of themselves for walking 50 miles. I had them check their pedometers just to be sure. Ronin apparently has found a way to game his so that it doesn’t reset every day and his was displaying that he had already walked 30K steps that day, shortly after noon. It did look like he’d walked a lot.

I still get the notice every day at midnight with an accurate count of their steps (zero if they don’t wear their watches), but Ronin’s watch shows that his exercise is very impressive. If only he knew that hiking 13 miles on a Sunday and being eager to do more to beat his record is pretty darn impressive in and of itself, he might not be so eager to fake out his watch.


Checking their pedometers after walking the crooked mile

We stayed until Fairytale Town closed that day. If we were in the park after it closed at 4 PM, we were allowed to stay until 5 PM. We ran around after it was nearly empty and watched a film crew set up to film a little girl in Cinderella’s carriage. All three kids slid down the slide at Owl’s House by the 100-Acre Wood in every way they could–upside-down, backwards, and standing up. Soren called me when he got lost and said things like “Where are you? I’m over by the castle” or “I’m at the tepee” or “I’m climbing Jack’s beanstalk.”

They told me they explored every inch of it, but later on Soren found out there was a pirate ship he hadn’t seen and he is still lamenting the fact that he didn’t play on it. I saw it probably half a dozen times. He is still upset and wanted to go back a number of times. Claire, on the other hand, wanted to leave Fairytale Town and go back to Funderland and ride on the rides again, without the rest of us. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t do it, but even if I had let her, they didn’t let kids in without adults (or vice versa).

She became amazingly upset and worst-case scenario’d everything for a while. I asked her to sit on the grass and calm down before trying to talk more, but she followed me around and said things like, “So you’re saying you’ll never ever let me ride on a roller coaster again?” “So I’ll never come back to Sacramento ever?” “So I guess I’m never going to have fun in my entire life?” “I guess you just don’t care about me having any fun at all ever!” Soren and Ronin tried to talk to her, as had I at the beginning, and nothing we did made her feel better.

The only thing that did help calm her down was, as I told her at the beginning, taking a little time to herself and a little time away from the urgency of the issue. I was incredibly sympathetic (as I was to Soren with his pirate ship incident), and I gave her hugs and understanding, but I have learned that talking to her when she gets worked up like this only prolongs her agony and mine, since she is not able to have a rational discussion.


Soren at the State Capitol in Sacramento — he loved this brochure and wanted a picture of it

Claire did feel better, as I mentioned, after a short time by herself to calm down. We had a decent evening and I braved going out to dinner with all of them before going back to get them ready for bed. The next day we went to Sutter’s Fort, which I thought was fantastic but ended up being very disappointing for the kids.  The pictures from that part of our trip are up at the beginning of this post, and although the fort and activities were fascinating, my kids were a little left out because there were a ton of 4th grade field trips and overnight camping trips that day, with all kinds of kids in period costumes learning how to card wool and make bread and churn butter and rope cattle, and ours weren’t allowed to participate at all. Liability. Pooh.

So on any other day we could have gone around looking at all of the displays and learned about a bunch of stuff, but on this day we saw kids doing things we couldn’t do. Claire especially languished and pouted. I loved seeing all of the kids in the costumes, though, and my fingers itched to sew some and see them dressed up. I mentioned this, and they all perked up and said that it would be nice if they could just sneak into one of the school groups.


Dome at the capitol

We went to the California State Capitol after Sutter’s Fort. It was beautiful. The children were a little blasé about it, since they’d already seen the one in Wisconsin. Seen one dome, seen them all. The guy at the information desk was surprised that they’d seen another one before ours, even though we were from California. There were some neat displays from every county in the corridor. Our county (Alameda) was broken, appropriately enough. All 3 kids knew what county we lived in without prompting.


Ronin and Soren passing from Marin to Madera County

There was a big press conference and a rally outside when we were there, and a senator speaking about increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We watched it for a while and saw people holding signs and heard all the excitement. This is government in action! Since we were on the outskirts of all of the activity, though, they mostly got distracted by the random people who still smoke (“Cough, cough, Mom, this is awful, why do people have to smoke? Can we go somewhere else?”).


Pioneer Park – where street level used to be in Sacramento

We next went to Old Town Sacramento. A lot of the buildings had been lovingly restored, and there was a paddle wheel ship in the river and an old one-room schoolhouse. Pioneer Park was a small area that showed the original street level. Beginning in the 1860s, Sacramento started raising the streets so it wouldn’t have to endure the seasonal flooding from the nearby Sacramento River, some of which could be devastating. Soren loved it. Ronin read the plaques. Claire was disappointed that Pioneer Park wasn’t really a park.


They spent some time in school, even when they weren’t in school

At one end of the cobblestone street, we found a little yard with some swings, a pump for water, and a one-room schoolhouse. Soren ran inside and immediately sat down and began practicing his sums on the slate. There was a docent inside who looked almost like Soren’s kindergarten teacher, and the list of punishments for infractions (“4 lashes for boys and girls playing together”) is a little harsher than what Soren’s been dealing with in his class.

We have had a few meetings with the principal of our real school about not taking away Soren’s food as punishment, and not taking away his recess time to spend time writing sentences such as “I will not be disrespectful to my teacher.” Or having him spend recess or circle time inside to rewrite his homework paragraphs to make them neater and easier to understand. Especially since he is not disrespectful and because he really does want to please. His biggest issue, aside from handwriting, is impulsiveness.

Okay, I keep wandering away from our trip. This is what happens when I don’t update for a long time. I keep meaning to, and I have lots of stuff to talk about, but I’m trying to stay on top of the laundry, just finished putting on our Spring Conference, haven’t quite finished our taxes yet, and Justin has been coming home later and later all the time with his job, which has been getting more intense. He loves it, and he is very valued, but it leaves him with very little time at home.


Soren at the California State Railroad Museum

The final day in Sacramento I got breakfast for the kids in our rental house and made sure it was completely tidy before we left. I packed up the car and we went to the Railroad Museum, which was the last thing on my list of places to visit. I actually had a few more items on my list if we ran out of things to do or had more days, but I knew that this one museum was worth going to Sacramento for even if we weren’t going to visit any other place. In fact, I had occasionally thought about taking the train from Oakland to Sacramento during some of the summer fare sales just for that reason.

Shortly after we arrived, Claire got very anxious to leave and said she was hungry and wanted to go home and see Justin and couldn’t stay any longer and was bored and when were we going to eat and how soon were we going to leave and were we going to stay all day and where were we going to have lunch and do we have to stay here and… you get the picture. We ended up leaving within about 30 minutes. Didn’t see much of anything. It was very disappointing. We ate lunch and didn’t go back to see the trains. We drove straight home. I did six loads of laundry in the first 24 hours after I got back.


Soren taking a break after playing at Land Park

So, the vacation went really well in general, and I thought we were all having generally a good time and enjoying ourselves, but it ended on a little bit of a down note. Maybe we packed too much stuff into the days. What seemed to be difficult for the kids was leaving something they really enjoyed to go on to something else, or wanting to go back to something when the other kids wanted to stay and play longer. Basically, dealing with not being able to do exactly what they wanted to do all the time because other people were involved. There was an extra note of desperation for them, because this wasn’t a place we could just try to visit next week if they couldn’t see everything now. I did try to ensure extra down time and an earlier evening the second night we were there, but I’m not sure that was the issue.

Justin said I had no idea what he’d been through while we were gone. I told him he was right.

Read-a-Thon 2016

Claire can't decide which book to read

Claire can’t decide which book to read. Why not both?

It is the time of year for the major public fundraiser at our school. Those who follow my blog regularly know that the Read-a-Thon raises money in order to pay for teacher enrichment, academic support, wellness support, and provides vital services to our school. It pays for a PE teacher and playground equipment, music education, strengthens science programs and art programs and drama. It provides funds for field trips and the opportunity to use technology as a tool. The school PTA makes the difference between a school that only has math and English and a smattering of other subjects, and a school that exposes children to a much broader range of opportunities and experiences.

Claire and Ronin could not stop reading after they bought books at the school book fair

Claire and Ronin could not stop reading after they bought books at the school book fair

I like that the children don’t have to sell things, and although they need to track what they read and the number of minutes they read every day until March 4th, the donations are not contingent on the amount read.

Ronin has also mastered the art of reading while walking

Ronin has also mastered the art of reading while walking

The hardest part of this for me is fitting the number of books and minutes into the tiny spaces that they have on each day. Right now, Claire still has a book in each hand and I’m having a difficult time getting her to brush her teeth because she doesn’t want to put one of them down. She keeps sneaking books to the table and hiding them on her lap. I understand, since I was the same way as a kid. I still read when I brush my teeth.

They have gotten much better at reading while going down the stairs

They have gotten much better at reading while going down the stairs

If you are able to donate, a flat fee of any amount will help. Contact me for details or for the online donation link. This is tax-deductible, and I can send you a receipt if you mail a check.

A page from a book I made for Soren to help him learn how to read

Pages from a book I made for Soren to help him learn how to read

This is the first year that Soren is participating in the Read-a-Thon also. He has been progressing very nicely in learning how to read and write, and he knows all of the sight words he needs to know by this point in the year. He still loves being read to more than trying to read things himself, and he surprises himself sometimes when I ask him to read words and paragraphs and pages and he realizes he can do it. He reads similarly to Ronin, in that he favors fairly advanced and technical books and doesn’t tolerate easy reader books. It’s harder for an early reader to follow along with the words in those types of books, but when it all comes together there is a great leap forward.

Reading together is so much fun

Reading together is so much fun

Thanks to all of you who have supported this fundraiser in the past, and for those who plan to do it this time. We appreciate it so much!

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

My mom is so old…

Chickadee thank you note

Chickadee thank you note

I showed Ronin this thank-you note I drew for my grandmother. He told me how much he loves my drawings, and how he thinks I’m the best artist in the family.

I said that I might be OK now, but he is certainly better now than I was at age 8, and all of his practice is really paying off.

He asked me if they had markers when I was a kid, or if I had to use quills and ink (?!?!?!). I said sadly that I wasn’t so lucky as he is, having all of the nice drawing supplies, and that when I was little I just stuck the ends of sticks in the fire and used the sooty ends to draw on pieces of rock, or cave walls.

Then he asked if maybe I could have found a feather and a partially filled bottle of ink and dipped the feather into it to draw with. I glanced at him with raised eyebrows, and he thought about it for a moment, and then answered his own question, saying that maybe the bottles of ink were just refilled and re-used, so they weren’t just lying around.


I’m so glad I’ve risen beyond my humble upbringings. Kids these days.

Technology gifts for Christmas

The kids got GPS-enabled watches for Christmas

The kids got GPS-enabled smart watches for Christmas

I already regret it in some ways. But after the Halloween experience of losing Soren for a while, and for many practical reasons, it seemed like a good idea. After an initial outlay for the watch itself, it is only a $5 cost per month per device on our bill, and we can call and message each other and Justin and I can look up the kids’ locations through an app. Even better, the children can run around like crazy at a busy playground and Claire can message me and ask me where I am when she can’t find me.

Claire can't find me at the playground and uses her watch to ask me where I am

Claire can’t find me at the playground and uses her watch to ask me where I am

The GPS isn’t sensitive enough to help me find them inside the playground. In fact, Soren called me and asked me to join him “behind the large play structure.” So I went to find him, scoured the whole area behind the large play structure, called him back, and eventually found him behind the smaller play structure. It looked big to him, I guess. Yesterday I looked for his location when we were at a new playground by the Bay, and it showed him as in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, floating near the bridge. I am glad it was not accurate for his location then.

Ronin has been having the most fun with messaging

Ronin has been having the most fun with messaging – he sends me texts and emojis frequently

The downside is that I get phone fatigue. I have so many messages and calls that I start ignoring my alerts. Soren calls me from 20 feet away to come push him on the equipment in the playground. Ronin texts me from the bedroom to tell me that he’s home. Claire messages me and asks me what the fox says. I’m hoping as the novelty wears off, so will the unnecessary calls.

On the other hand, I took Soren and Ronin to another unfamiliar playground yesterday and they went far ahead of me on their scooters. They were so far ahead they were out of sight. A few minutes later I got a phone call. “Mom, where are you?” I told them I was still back on the path, walking, where they’d last seen me. They came back on their scooters from the distance. That was really nice.

The GizmoGadget watches also have pedometers, to-do lists (if we program them–I set Ronin’s up for “Have fun” on a daily basis), and only selected calling lists, both for sending and receiving. They encourage the kids to jump, as a brief form of personal training.

I can see Claire and Ronin walking back and forth to school much more easily now that they have a way of communicating, and being able to leave them at home for periods of time now. Those of you reading this who grew up when I did (and who aren’t familiar with current American culture) may be surprised to know that this is even in question, but there is a huge issue about how old children can be before being left to walk alone to school or in the neighbhorhood or being home alone, and regardless of the law, many people get alarmed at seeing elementary-aged children alone and may call the police. I have been letting the kids run around our rather large block for a few years, and I rehearse with them what they should say. Claire has had to tell people a few times that her mom is waiting for her in that house (she points) and she needs to get back quickly.

The Free Range Kids website has a lot of interesting facts, resources, and stories about freedom and children today. Here is an link to an article about the Free Range Kids project in The Atlantic, called Let Your Kids Ride the Bus Alone. I realize that GPS links to kids is kind of the antithesis of free range, but although California does not have a specific law addressing when kids can stay home alone, there is a checklist of developmental recommendations, and several of those concern being able to call parents or reach help.

Also, just last month, two blocks away from us, the older sister of Claire’s best friend was home alone when an armed intruder kicked down the door of her house, threatened to kill her as she ran upstairs and locked her bedroom door, and stole a bunch of electronics before escaping. She called her father instead of 911, but their dad responded quickly and there was a huge police response including a SWAT team, helicopter, road closures, and police dogs. We saw a lot of it. I try not to live in fear, but I also try to be practical. I can’t see leaving the kids at home without phone access.

We also were surprised to receive a hoverboard from my dad after we got back from Santa Barbara. These have been in the news a lot for stories about spontaneously bursting into flames and not being allowed on airplanes and for Amazon refusing to sell them temporarily and for lots of injuries. I checked this one out after we’d been using it for a while, and it looks like it has a high quality battery and a safer charging system than the ones that have been making all of the news.

Ronin hopped on it the second we took it out of the box and spun in a little circle in the living room. After that, I insisted on helmets and outdoor use. They are really cool. I have to set a timer for 5 minutes per kid and there is still fighting. I have not gotten a turn on it yet.

Claire went out with Justin yesterday for a walk/hoverboard trip at Coyote Hills. They went for quite a long ways and Claire got some good practice in. I can’t wait to see how she does on it the next time I’m around her. However, since we hadn’t charged it since we got it, apparently they got about 3 miles in and then it ran out of battery, so Justin had to carry it back to the parking lot. It’s very heavy.