Archive for the ‘Elena Says’ Category

After-dinner science experiments

Posted by jonesey on Monday, 20 January 2014, 8:33
Sometimes we just have brownies.

They said they were trying to turn their faces pink.

Elena’s friend (middle): “I can totally see my feet!”

Elena (left): “I can’t see my feet because I’m not long enough.”

Happy Birthday, Elena! You’re 5!

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 20 August 2013, 11:20

This is you, standing in Fish Lake (there’s water there in the winter) after you’d just turned 4 last year.

This is you this summer, blowing away the competition in the 200m.

Dear Elena,

You’re starting Kindergarten in less than a month! You are excited, and so am I. You are a bundle of social energy, and I think you’re going to really love being in school. It’s fascinating and fun to parent two very different children and observe how you both interact with the world. When Sylvan entered school, a year older than you, he was definitely reticent and nervous, and he was also already reading, although he wouldn’t admit that (he read signs to us, but he refused to read books). You are enthusiastic and ready to go; you probably know most of your letters, but we haven’t tested that; and I couldn’t imagine holding you back to prepare for another year, despite limited but available empirical evidence that students older within their peer group outperform the youngest students. I have no fear that you’ll succeed, Elena, really at whatever you put your mind to.

On the Merced River.

Half Dome from the other side and some wind-blown kids.

You are a master of Vision and Action, one of NOLS’s seven leadership principles. When something needs to get done, you simply buckle down and do it. If it’s time to put on sunscreen, you find the sunscreen and have it on before I can pack my pool bag. If you want to create art, you walk in and cut and paint and draw and paste until it’s time for a snack; then you get yourself a carrot. Getting things done is a crucial and healthy trait, a characteristic that will serve you well as a student, as a grown-up, as a partner, and simply as a successful human. I could probably serve you better by making art supplies more available to you­—­­or cleaning supplies, for that matter. The house would sparkle if I just stepped back and let you at it. As a student, I think you would thrive in a Montessori setting. I hope Edison’s Kindergarten is hands-on enough for your sensibilities.

The other thing I hope is that this hitting phase subsides as you gain more and more coping skills. You get frustrated with your brother—as any human being would when confronted with big sibling cruelty (sorry, Jenn)—and you just haul off and whack him. You went through a phase like that a year ago in pre-school, and then it passed as your communication skills improved. Please don’t let your Kindergarten teacher call us because you’re beating up your friends.

Can’t have too many plungers on this blog.

You’re changing your child-logic verb tenses to grammatically-correct ones these days, inserting “went” where “goed” used to sit, for instance.

Right now, you’re motivated by being a “big girl.” I try not to utilize that too much, because it’s nice to have a little girl; but I don’t mind telling you that 5-year-olds can use Hideaway Bakery’s bathroom alone.

I love this photo. Two of these kids will be in Kindergarten next year. Two of these kids love to read and have water fights with each other.

Yesterday, four days after you turned 5, you went down the big blue slide at Amazon Pool by yourself, without the lifeguard catching you at the bottom! After your first ride down, when the lifeguard caught you and then helped you swim to the side, I saw the disappointment in your eyes. “Go back!” I suggested, “Tell them you don’t need a catcher.” Big girl, you just zoomed out into the water, put your head down, and swam like a fish to the side. “The current helped me,” you said.

I love you, Big Little Girl.


Fun at your birthday party.

I don’t tell you very often that you’re beautiful, because I want you to know that being generous and clever and funny are more important; but, Elena, you are lovely.

Happy Birthday, Elena: 4 2/3!

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 16 April 2013, 22:52

Dear Elena,

My little spitfire. I definitely wonder how Kindergarten will treat you, my little free-spirited wood sprite. You’re observant and a quick learner, and you love to be a good role model. Those qualities will treat you well as you enter school. You’re also a chatterbox and stubborn as that gluey residue left over from masking tape that’s been through the dishwasher. Kindergarten will be tough when you’re asked to zip your adorable lips.

It’s birthday party season, and at a party this past weekend, I was chatting with a mom about schools, because that’s all we can discuss when our babies are turning 5 and we want what’s best for them. I told this mom that you’d recently said you’d draw and paint all day, if given the opportunity. She said, “Yes, until college, and then she has to major in something that will make money.”

My expression must have illustrated my discomfort. Elena, you can go to college if you want. And, if you choose to go, you can major in art if you want. Or dance. Or theater. Or photography. Or religion. Or physics. Or chemistry. Or astronomy. But this you’ll never hear from me: “Consider pre-med. Doctors make more money than artists.” First of all, life’s too short to do something you think will make you money rather than something that will make you happy. Secondly, some artists actually make more money than doctors. And thirdly, it’s your life. You have this fantastic opportunity to make your own decisions. You will realize that some of them turn out to be ones you wouldn’t make again.

One of the biggest gifts my parents gave me was complete support. I was never made to feel like I wasn’t making the right decisions; they were my decisions, and I knew I was loved and that my family had my back. I should have asked for more advice, though. I still should. Like me, you are independent to a fault. You don’t have to take other people’s advice, but sometimes it’s good to hear it.

The first of two years of $5 annual ski passes at Willamette Pass. It’s good to be 4!

Right now, you love: pink, purple (you say it’s your favorite now), glitter, anything shiny (maybe you’re a magpie), playing with letters, drawing, collecting tiny objects (again, magpie), swinging, helping, running, dance class, saving food for later (sometimes later doesn’t come), cheek kisses, and amazing us with how big you are.

While we were sorting socks the other day, you said, “Yuck, this sock smells like rice. Italian rice.” Better get over that one, lady, because risotto’s delicioso!

I love you,

Pale not only because we’re Oregonians. Jumping waves with a fever. Yeah, I’m a good parent.

Wait, what lava? We’re making silly faces.


Happy Birthday, Elena! You’re 3 3/4.

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 15 May 2012, 13:39

You started the day with princess face paint...

...and you ended it with an impressive fat lip. Your mouth bled for two nights afterward, as you slept. And your nose is now bruised. It was some bar fight.

Dear Elena,

You are a tough little chickie. While your latest big injury—your fat lip, bleeding gum, bloody nose, and subsequent bruised nose—did leave you weepy for the rest of that evening, you never needed any pain medication, and your didn’t have any trouble eating the following day. We coached you to tell grown-ups that you’d been in a bar fight, which was more amusing than the I-fell-off-the-bathroom-stool-and-hit-my-face-on-the-sink explanation.

If you knew my Gramma Jo, you may have seen her in glasses like these—they probably would have been black, or maybe red, but she'd have appreciated the panache of the pink ones..

You have a very respectful sense of nighttime and morning. While you do wake us (read: Daddy) up in the middle of the night because you need water or you can’t find Bunny, when it’s nearly morning but still dark, you hole up in your room and talk to your various dolls and stuffed critters. Sometimes you sing, and sometimes you fall back to sleep. Then, when you notice light, you fling open your door and holler enthusiastically, “It’s morning!”

Elena and Grampa Tom with their Stuart Little-sized snowmen

You are currently an interesting and contradictory collection of characteristics and behaviors. Since you were born, you’ve been happy and smiling, and you still are. Life is exciting, and you sing your way through it. And you’re also very much THREE! Three is an age of strong opinions and hardheadedness, at least for children who live in this house. You feel your emotions so strongly, and sometimes you just lash out with your negative ones and they manifest as ear-piercing screaming, fake crying, real crying, hitting. or, excitingly, biting!

In the past couple of months, you’ve started doing some representational drawing, encouraged by your calm and inspirational teacher, Jen, at school. Largely you’ve been drawing people, but I’ve seen some animals too. You can now cut with scissors on a line very well—better than some adults I know, in fact. You often ask me to draw hearts, which you trace with marker, cut out, and decorate with shiny things. You like to paint, and you’ve recently been painting a piggy bank, rocks, and probably the couch cushions.

You counted to 23 the other day, when you were counting stickers on your sticker chart. I was dumbfounded, as I’d never heard you count above 13. Yesterday, you added “eleventeen” after nineteen. I smiled; Sylvan corrected you, because you have to be right if you’re the big sibling.

These last couple of photos attest to your fearless nature. I won’t be at all surprised when you join the IceAxemen at South Eugene High School and tell me that you’re climbing Middle Sister in January. I just hope you don’t mind too much if I foil your plans to kiss that cute sophomore by joining the trip as a chaperone.

Elena, I really appreciate your hugs and kisses. You never fail to be aware of other people’s feelings, and you know when mine are low. You wrap yourself around me like a baby monkey and don’t let go. Thank you.

I love you, Miss Thing.


5/21/12 P.S. I forgot to mention your singing habit, at least more than in passing. Especially when your big brother’s annoying you with loud noises or copying your every word, you have started to sing a happy song to keep yourself smiling. It usually goes something like this: “Princesses like hearts. And fairies like hearts. And unicorns like hearts.” Repeat. It’s difficult for me not to smile when you sing it, so I can only assume that it works for you, too.

"Go, Mommy, go!" Here's you cheering for me at the marathon, mile 8. You look really old in this photo, thin and tall.


Headed to the pool

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 28 December 2011, 5:59

Getting ready to go to the pool two nights ago:

Elena: Mom, are you wearing a top?

Julie (holding up her bikini bathing suit top): Yeah, here it is.

Elena: No, that’s just nipples!

None more black

Yes, there is normally a photo in this space. No, there is not a photo in this space today. The reason you can't see the photo here is because I like being married.

Happy Birthday, Elena: 39 Months

Posted by julie on Monday, 14 November 2011, 23:46

Dear Elena,

I glimpsed my future today, and my knees trembled a bit. Daddy and I had a conference with your preschool teacher. I went in without any concerns; unlike some parents, I don’t expect you to learn all your letters or start long division in preschool. I do expect you to become better at sharing, expressing your feelings, and cooperating. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it’s progressing at the moment. You had to be removed from the lunch table today because you were trying to put an orange peel on your friend’s plate. When you were asked to stop, you refused.

We’ve noticed that stubborn streak at home, too. After I removed you from the couch for jumping on it the other day, you smiled sweetly at me and jumped on the couch again. Before you entered preschool, I joked that you were socially ready for Kindergarten: you shared well and played with others. Now, though, you’ve started hitting your friends if they’re in your space.

Elena in Grampa Dick's clothes. That makes this cute little tailored number about 65 years old!

Now, I’m not worried that you’ll keep hitting your friends. But I can see the social butterfly with a silly, stubborn streak causing a ruckus in Kindergarten—and an even bigger ruckus in 7th grade. Ruckus-maker, I’m not ready! I have to prepare.

It’s just that I think of you as easy: a pleasure to be with, easy to please, happy in the morning, with the ability to make everyone laugh. But you are three. Time to test out those parents and teachers, you say, and find out what they’re made of.

  • You recognize a couple of letters now: E and S, for Elena and Sylvan. You enjoy playing with the magnetic letters, but you become frustrated if Sylvan tries to spell your name with lowercase letters. They’re not as easy for you to recognize.
  • You are counting higher, often to ten with no mistakes.
  • You like to say grace before every dinner. That means holding hands and thanking whomever cooked the meal.
  • Like your brother, you like to run around naked, and you seem incapable of feeling the chill of a 62-degree house. The other day, I said, “Elena, you’re naked.” You responded, “Yes, but I have hair!”
  • Although I don’t remember the context, you said, “It would be funny if you had blinky eyes.”
  • You like to sing the ABCs and Hey, Diddle, Diddle before you go to sleep. I sing and you sing along.

I love you, Miss.


Elena being gentle with her new cousin, King George. Or Dominic.

Birthday greetings for Aunt Stephanie

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 1 June 2011, 20:39

Elena sends birthday greetings to Aunt Stephanie, on behalf of naked people everywhere.

"She lives in Switzland? No, she lives in BADGER!"

I Da King

Posted by jonesey on Monday, 18 April 2011, 7:30

When I arrived to pick up Elena at school on Wednesday, she and her teacher were both wearing paper crowns they had made. They were having a highly intellectual discussion that went something like this:

Elena: “I da king.”

Lori: “No, I’m the king.”

Elena: “No, I da king.”

Lori: “No, *I’m* the king.”

Elena: “No, *I* da king.”

Elena da king.

A Fish

Posted by jonesey on Saturday, 19 March 2011, 7:38

Elena: “I want some tape.”
Chris: “You want some masking tape, with writing on it?”
Elena: “Yes.”
Chris: “What do you want it to say?”


Appreciating My Preschoolers

Posted by julie on Monday, 7 February 2011, 21:38

I wrote these first few paragraphs a week and a half ago, and I intended to follow them up with an account of our trip to the beach, farther below. My words seem prescient and bittersweet, given the sad events at the coast this weekend and my last blog entry.

27 January 2010

Dear Sylvan and Elena,

The truth is that I wish I realized, every single moment of every single day, how fleeting this is, how you’re going to grow up and be teenagers tomorrow. But I’ve never been patient, and I feel like parenting preschoolers is all about boundless patience.

But today I appreciated you both. And I have some joyous images in my mind that will remain with me when you’re 13. We headed up to Salem so I could pick up a craigslist find from a seller in Keizer. You guys and I went to A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village to make a day of it. What a super place! It consists of three old Victorian houses, painted brightly and filled to bursting with exciting, well-considered kid rooms.

Snapshots I’ll remember: Elena disappearing into the black void of the slide below me, completely fearless. Sylvan in a scarlet macaw costume two sizes too small, a costume you returned to when I said we had 15 more minutes before our drive home.

Tonight, when Sonya arrived to babysit, she said to you, Elena: “Are you my bug?” You replied,  “You my bud.” G’s are challenging.

The craigslist find, in place in our bathroom. Not a project, and under $100. And look at the bonus cutest cat in the world!

7 February

When the kids and I got into the car in Eugene last Thursday, it was 38°F and partly cloudy. An hour and a half later, at the beach, it was 55°F and sunny. We packed a backpack of sand toys, snacks, and warm clothes, and we set off for the boardwalk trail through the dunes. The highlight of the day for both kids was pooping in the dunes; I do what I can to provide authentic experiences. We spun, ran, skittered from the waves, threw wet sand at a tree stump, ate, played horseshoes, drew letters in the sand, turned cartwheels, got our clothes wet and sandy, patted nice dogs, walked pretty far (Sylvan on his own, with zero whining. Yay!), collected shells and driftwood, and even relaxed for 3½ minutes (Oh, that was just me.).

Then, the angels fell asleep in the backseat while I listened to a podcast on the way home (Have you ever noticed that every sleeping child is an angel?).

On the boardwalk trail. I love her look; I feel like she rarely looks to him for reassurance, but maybe she's just good at pretending.

Ah, dune running. I remember the first time I did it: on Cape Cod with Aunt Sheila and Mom.

I definitely wanted to take this home for our backyard. I considered rolling it. Far. I think it was the same age when it was cut down that I am now. Look at the little people footprints in the sand.

See ya, Mom. We're going in!

Run away, run away!

Okay, am I supposed to throw this wet sand in your eyes or call it poop?

Sand dance

See my sand?