How did I spend his first day back at school?

It was eventful, that’s for certain. After we dropped the boy off at school, his first day back since the strike began, Matt took the girl out for a date at Dorky’s. It’s an old-school, video arcade and it’s quite possibly Oliver’s favorite place on earth; he doesn’t remember Hawaii. He’s only been to Dorky’s twice but it’s like a dream come true for him. Today Chloe’s dream came true…sort of. We think she just wanted to go because Matt has taken Oliver there and she wants to do what they do. Fair enough. Off to Dorky’s they went.

While they were rockin’ Ms. Pac-Man and whatnot, Sylvie and I were home. Around 12:45pm I heard her take a nasty tumble down our old, wood stairs and I came to find her at the bottom crying. She’s taken a spill here and there but this seemed a bit harder. I noticed she wasn’t really moving her arm normally but she wasn’t crying anymore or acting like she was in pain. Matt and I agreed that I should take her and her limp arm to the ER, just to be sure.

Ok, let’s just start with the ER and their policies. I’ve gone through a doctor’s office faster than the ER, actually I think every doctor visit combined, for my entire life, is shorter on total than I have spent waiting in the ER. This baffles me considering people are there for….wait for it….emergencies!!! When we took Oliver in for what we thought was an appendicitis we waited around six hours to get the final results (ultrasound, MRI-seriously?- bloodwork, blood pressure and temps taken). By that time he was fine. No appendicitis! Just a whole lotta poop jam-packed in the lower intestine. And then we finally left for home, but not before ringing in the new year at the local children’s hospital. I was grateful that he was ok but man, we had to wait long stretches between people seeing us.

Once again I found myself sitting in the ER, waiting for a doctor to see us and every time they come for a quick visit, they leave again for like an hour. Someone comes to take some info from me. They leave for about 20 minutes then someone else comes to check vitals. Exit again for another 30 minutes. The doctor comes to pinch the baby, move her arm around, poke at her, smile at the “darling cherub” and then say, “Maybe we’ll do an x-ray. I’ll be right back”. Riiiiiight! 30 minutes later you’re getting prepped for the x-ray, that only takes about 11 minutes, then you wait again for the results. You hear said results; in our case she has a wee fracture but, because she’s a baby and her bones are made of Rubbermaid, she’ll be on the mend in a matter of days. “Now, wait right here while I type that up” whoosh….he’s gone like a vapor; gone for another 20 minutes. “Hey, who wants a popsicle?” Well, I can’t say no to that, especially with Chloe in the room, so we wait another 15 minutes.

After this I thought we were in the clear but no, we had to wait for discharge papers and it was then that I started to feel a bit like we were incarcerated or something. I knew we COULDN’T leave until they told us we could. You even have to go in the back of the ER where the only way to get a door opened is with an orderly that has a handy card to swipe, one which you do not have, and if you wish to leave or enter, they must say it’s ok first. I felt stuck and watched and unable to ask for what we needed which was to be out of there in time to pick my son up from school. I kept asking when they thought we might be finished because I am the only one available to get my child from school and they kept saying, “Geez, I sure hope we’re done by then”. It was a bit bizarre and if it came down to it I would have left with Sylvie in her baby, hospital gown and come back later with all of them. I just can’t bear the thought of leaving a child at school with no one there to get him/her. Also, you can’t tell me I can’t leave to go get him. I-ont-thinkso!

I’m super grateful for the care we received and, to their credit, everyone there was very nice. I know they were just following protocol but I am still baffled that you end up spending so much stinkin’ time in the ER, waiting for your emergency to be dealt with, while I could go to my doctor’s office tomorrow, needing to be seen for darts stuck in my retina and I would STILL get in and out of there quicker. Why is their protocol to make us wait for hours on end, unable to leave because we’re now checked in?

Do you have a bizarre ER experience?

I want a lush garden

Tracie Bonjour 2011

Yesterday we headed to Seattle for a family get away and ended up taking the kids to the Arboretum just off the highway. It was amazing to be in this lush, fragrant space in the middle of a concrete jungle. You could hear the faint sound of the cars on the highway and could also smell pine in the trees. It was a moment that I wished I could come back to, sans children, for a bit of quiet time. When you have children life takes a new twist on moments of solitude. Basically, there is no solitude! I was strolling through thinking, “I should come back here some day after the kids are grown and married and then I’ll stroll through the garden and just think, or read or smell things. We ended up picking and eating berries and pretending the willow tree was a tent. It was a good time….after the boy stopped complaining about how much we had to walk.

We hit Capitol Hill for an Indian Buffet where the man charged us for four plates even though my daughter only ate a bite of chicken and three chunks of watermelon. That’ll be $8 each, please! My kids aren’t completely use to the city where anything goes, in terms of fashion and apparel. We passed two “girls” holding hands (one was a large man dressed like a woman-complete with lace up boots, make up and a wig) and Chloe said, “Those two were really silly, mama”. My kids also kept staring, wide eyed, at most everyone on the streets as if we were a Tree House family that lived outside of civilization. It was amusing.

We then went to B&O espresso and Matt took three sips of his double espresso before it fell to the ground. We found a little vintage clothing boutique that sold a dress for $185 yet it had a large tear down the back. I let my voice be heard!

Lastly, we found a cute little community garden in the middle of the city where we walked through with the kids and I pointed out to them all of the flowers and veggies that were growing. They are super interested in how things grow so this is actually where we spent most of our time yesterday. It was a lovely, lush getaway in the center of the crazy city. Sunflowers, tomatoes, cosmos, strawberries…..We walked through pathways and I felt a little like I was in a jungle. Maybe this is the imaginative child in me; the one who still pretends I am on a tropical adventure whenever I get around a garden that grows flowers as tall as myself.

It made me think about how I’ve been taking back my own yard bit by grassy bit this year, and so far I have three raised beds in the back and two, large patches in the front where the grass has been overtaken by veggies, berries and flowers. Slowly but surely I want that wretched grass out of there and a haven of gardening goodness in it’s stead. I want pathways and stones for the kids to step on and winding ways for them to walk through as they pretend they are in the forest or Eden or something like that. It’s one of the ways I find rest in our urban jungle.

I love the city and all of the buildings; the sounds of horns and sirens, close housing proximity, accessibility to cafes, restaurants, museums, libraries, parks, pubs and bakeries. Yet, in the midst of my urban life, I want quite; beauty, refreshment, color and scent (good scent). This year I am on a mission to take back more of my yard and turn it into a place of rest for myself and my kids who still play-pretend they are on a tropical adventure every time the neighbor’s grass grows over two feet tall. How does your garden grow?

Tracie Bonjour 2011

Chilly weather is coming

Today I woke up to cooler air and a leaky sky as my tomatoes sat under an inch of Pacific Northwest sprinkles. Now begins the colder weather that will lead us into the Autumn. I like to say Autumn rather than Fall because the word sounds crisp and crackly and it seems like it would smell like a clove….not to sound too poetic. I just think the word sums up what is happening to my garden. The sun is also disappearing (no surprise for those of us who live in the PNW) and it’s sweater weather outside.

As a treat, Matt and I took the kids to our favorite burger spot where everything is cooked fresh and the cow is slaughtered in the kitchen sink before you eat it. We’re regulars at this burger joint! I never thought this would be me. I feel like we should have a parking spot or something. Sylvie is also getting older so we actually need to start ordering her food instead of letting her pick off the occasional pickle or hardened french fry (you can’t give away your good ones).

Then we came home and I baked bread, made fresh pasta sauce with tomatoes from my garden and let the chickens run out to poop all over the yard while they have yet to give us just one damn egg! I love days like this for myself. As the season changes I want to sip tea, listen to jazz and write silly, poetic posts or read a classic novel; maybe knit an entire  cozy for our desk top computer  or figure out a new recipe using acorn squash and rosemary, all while I wear an itchy sweater with muted hues and sit on my couch with an afghan over my lap. With three kids, what it actually ends up looking like is this:

“Chloe, get your feet off the dinner table!

Oliver, stop farting while we’re eating!

Sylvie, no no! Don’t throw your food on the floor! Oh, dear Lord! Did she poop…again?

Guys! Quit jumping on the furniture!!! Can we just have it a bit quiet in here? Please? I can’t hear my jazz! I’m sweating while picking up after you all so I don’t even need my sweater with muted hues!”

So much for jazz in the background and camomile tea in an orange and brown cup.

We had to go to the park because the kids were climbing the walls. We also took a kid, and his friend, from down the street and Oliver was kid number three of the crowd so he was the runt that was picked off of the pack. It’s hard to watch your child being left out but, to his credit, he was a bit oblivious of the situation so I didn’t step in too much because he was actually having fun. I just kept glaring at the other two kids and suggesting games to play together. Take that, other- kid-leave-outers!

Meanwhile, Chloe was taking Sylvie by the hand in the park and I had this thought, “Maybe walking in the grass isn’t best for a baby; you know, dogs and their poop and such?”. I shook off the thought…. Always follow your heart!!! Lean into those intuitions! Allow them to guide you in your wisdom, otherwise your one year old might just put dog poop in her mouth because it was on the ground and she puts EVERYTHING in her mouth! There really aren’t words to describe how horrific it is to clean canine crap out of your baby’s mouth. But I digress….It was a decent time at the park and I was able to enjoy, sort of, my crisp, Autumn day.

Our life is slowly changing with the season. We had an amazing summer outside but it’s slowly coming to an end.  We eat a lot of our meals outdoors when it’s sunny and warm but we’ll be moving all of that inside now. We’ve had our share of backyard campfires since it’s been cool and dry. Now the heater will keep us warm. And it’s been amazing to camp, swim, hike and tan our skin in the lovely sunshine these past three months. On with the sweaters and muted tones! Welcome Miles Davis (cliche, I know) and camomile tea! Bring it, squash and rosemary ravioli! Here comes Autumn! How are you celebrating the changing season?

My son is a first grader

Today Oliver began school as a full-timer. He goes from 9am-3:30pm and it’s just mental to me that he is in school again; it’s never been this long though. He went for a few months last year but it was part day so I could handle missing him for a few hours a day. He actually loved it. He came home with tons of projects every week and always played with the wee little boys and girls that seem so tiny to me with their little back packs and their little shoes.

I’ve had a variety of thoughts since my son was about two years old regarding school. It was clear to me early on that he was highly curious and he soaked in information at lightening speed. All kids are little sponges that soak in learning (they are natural learners) but there has always been something unique about my son in terms of how he learns. He’s very tactile so he needs to manipulate materials in order to understand. He learns very fast and has a curious interest in science and art. He also loves to make things out of ordinary items. I have had so many kitchen utensils disappear into the abyss of our home because he is always making robots out of spoons and spatulas.

I have long asked myself what I will do when it comes to school and I have read, and reread, countless books on homeschooling vs. public school vs. unschooling all before my son was even of traditional schooling age. He needed intentional investment early so I’ve been reading about learning since he was about two. While most kids are fine just playing I had to keep him busy by teaching him about space and the human body otherwise he was always bored.

I’ve always told myself we will only take school one year at a time because my kids are always growing and changing so their needs will likely change from year to year. Yet, I have gained a very different view on education because of what I’ve researched and the questions I’ve asked regarding my own family values on education. It’s been a fascinating journey that is very much still just that; a journey.

It was also clear to me that he needed school this year. He’s been very under stimulated at home these past six months homeschooling and I haven’t really been able to keep up with his level of curiosity and creativity. Many days were spent researching a project for him online, gathering the materials for it, helping him put it all together (all of this taking about an hour or more from start to finish) only to hear him, the moment the project is finished, say, “Ok. What are we going to make next?”  Then I would collapse into a ball and rock back and forth, clutching my knees to my chest. This has been every day for the past six months, that and the endless asking of who we are going to play with every moment of the day. He’s also highly social.

We were able to send him to our community school, a centre for the expressive arts, and I was floored when I realized he would be able to attend this year. Oh, the stuff he will make!!! The thing that has been the hardest is feeling like we’re ‘giving him over to the system’. I’m entrenched with homeschooling mentality so it’s very hard for me to let go of what I wish I was able to do with him (homeschool). I still agree that every child is different and you can always take things one year at a time, which is exactly what we’re doing; one year at a time.

Matt made an interesting comment this morning as I was wiping the tears away after dropping off Oliver. He said, “It’s not like we’re handing him over to the federal government and asking them to educate our child! We’re sending him to a school in our community and there is also something Biblical about this model; the entire community helping invest into children.” It’s a valid point. I realize the analogy breaks down because it’s sort of a community we don’t know intimately yet but there is always space to be highly involved in our kids’ education even if we are sending them to school. In fact, I think that’s what teachers expect of us too; to be highly involved in our kids’ lives. Imagine that! I just wish first grade didn’t have to be so long.

In my heart I still agree that we can turn out amazing kids who are highly creative, compassionate, having close connectedness to family before peers, all while fostering a love for learning. I think it just has to be done very intentionally. But that’s what I found with homeschooling as well, it has to be intentional or it doesn’t work. So we’re still at the place with our children where we follow their lead in terms of what they are interested in learning, we create space for them to try new ideas in a safe and nurturing environment and we teach them compassion all in the same vein. The only difference is that he’s also in school while I do all of this. Oh the things we will all learn this year!