Monday, June 22, 2009

The Birthday Boy

Sam is one today. I can hardly believe it. First birthdays are so funny, because they are such a big deal to the parents, while the child has no idea the day is different from any other.

In our family, Aaron always hand-designs our kids' birthday cakes, and this was his first year to design a cake for Sam. The theme of Sam's birthday is dogs, so the cake design is obvious.

Sam is such a happy little boy--he loves to explore the world around him, he keeps up with his sister (believe it or not) and he has a very obvious spirit of adventure.

Happy First Birthday, Samuel Nathan Russell!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Words I Hear

Some Maya-isms:
  • “Benember how we like to go to the park?”
  • “That Aristocats, I'm really interested in that one. I'm really interested to see it.”
  • “Let's tell everybody what states we've been to. Does that sound like a good idea? I've been to California. I've been to Minnesota. I've been to South Dakota. I've been to Idaho. Even Chrisy and Morgen's state. And I've been to New Jersey and we have some friends there. And I've been to Pullman. That's all the states I can think of.”
  • “Sometimes I just like to be alone. Especially when I'm by myself.”
  • “Sam, come to Sister. Come to Sister. Come on, Sam. Mom, he's NOT coming.”
  • “Well, I don't really know about the Wonder Pets. The only thing I know about is that they sing songs and rescue animals. I think I like them, but I don't know” (after watching Wonder Pets every day for three weeks).

Sam's lexicon:
  • “Da-Da” (Daddy)
  • “Dah” (Dog)
  • “Duh” (Duck)
  • “Dis” (This)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Jersey

On Maya's birthday, June 2, Sam, Maya and I flew across the country for a week-long visit with Uncle Nathan and Aunt Keri. Aaron got to join us for an extended weekend as well. Although the weather wasn't what we had hoped for (it rained several days during our trip), we enjoyed spending time with Nathan & Keri. On Sunday afternoon, the six of us ventured into New York City for an afternoon of sunshine in Central Park and a tasty dinner at a fantastic Mexican restaurant. Manhattan is beautiful this time of year--flowers are blooming, the park was elbow to elbow with people enjoying the sunshine, and we must have logged at least four miles walking around the city. I'm amazed that there are literally thousands of children growing up in Manhattan -- to me, the city is alive with people and activity, but it's also cramped and busy. You have to look closely to see the schools, playgrounds, dance studios, gymnasiums, and parks tucked into the corner spaces of the city. And yet, as we sat in the middle of Central Park (on the south end of the Great Lawn, for those who would know or care), the grass was awash with children tossing frisbees, throwing balls, and running in circles. Pregnant women littered our view, strollers were another accessory, and the youngest generation certainly had a presence. It was intriguing to me (and nice) that although we were in Central Park, we could have been anywhere in the country. Maya managed to ride THREE carousels during our time on the East Coast . . . one of her favorite things to do, in fact. In this post you'll see pictures of her on two of them. And here's a funny anticdote: When we landed in Seattle yesterday after a 5 1/2 hour flight, the flight attendant was making the typical announcement about landing, the gate number, and other details passengers would need to know. All of a sudden Maya turned to me and said (with the brightest eyes I've ever seen), "Mom, they have a CAROUSEL in the airport in Seattle." A carousel, I thought? She must be dreaming. Then it dawned on me what the flight attendant had just said: "Your luggage can be picked up at Carousel 7 in about 15 minutes." Ah sweet Maya . . . to be so excited about the prospect of a ride on a carousel. So in my very parental, articulate way, I explained that the word "carousel" had a few different meanings--and this time, the flight attendant was talking about the circular moving belt that brought out our luggage. Disappointed, Maya said (as only Maya can), "well, it's just good that I got to ride THREE carousels in New Jersey. I don't think they have any REAL carousels in Seattle but that's okay."

Maya's glass is definitely half full.

Maya's 4th Birthday

June 2nd was Maya's fourth birthday. Since we flew to New Jersey that day, we celebrated in grand style the weekend before. Dave, Paula, Bruce, Barbara and Amy came from out of town to celebrate and we did a family dinner on Saturday evening that included our friends Phil and Kaitlin. Sunday afternoon from 1-2:30 was Maya's first "kid party." We invited seven of her friends from Pullman to come to a Zoo Train Party . . . classic kid style, complete with a water-balloon toss and pin-the-tail-on-the-elephant (think: zoo theme). Maya felt truly celebrated -- she blew out candles THREE times (Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and again on her actual birthday when we arrived in New Jersey). It reminded me how excited I was for my own birthday celebrations as a kid. Now, while I don't tremble at the thought of another birthday, it doesn't have the magic and excitement that it used to. But watching Maya truly ENJOY her birthday reminded me again how magical it can be to celebrate the passing of years. Maybe she'll feel differently at 33 (like me), but I for one hope that sense of wonder and magic stays with her as long as possible. She's kindled it in me once again.

Pictures from the party:

Phil gives Maya some t-ball lessons

A ride in the new wagon from Grandma & Grandpa

The Birthday Girl is all smiles

Some of Maya's friends at the birthday party

The water-balloon toss

Hiking Kamiak Butte

One of our favorite spots in the Palouse is Kamiak Butte (possibly the highest "peak" in the whole region). On Saturday morning May 18, we loaded up the kids and headed up for a hike. It was the first sunny Saturday all Spring here in Pullman, and everything was in bloom. With two parents who thrive outdoors, I think our kids must have hiking and camping embedded in their genes. They love being out with us!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Aaron's Doctoral Graduation

I know this blog is supposed to be focused on the kids, and I promise it will be, but I wanted to post a few pictures of Aaron's Doctoral Graduation on Friday, May 1st at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. We traveled from Pullman with the kids to attend this event, and were joined by family from both my side and Aaron's side.

It felt like a reunion of sorts because Aaron got to reconnect with his colleagues/friends AND his mentors and professors, after being away on internship for almost a year.

The ceremony itself allowed time for each of the doctoral graduates to receive their hoods, then the new "doctors" had a chance to talk. Aaron sweetly and intentionally thanked every single family member and friend who had come for the ceremony--he spoke of the ways he was shaped by his program, by the experiences, and by all he has learned. It provided a chance for those of us who companioned Aaron through this season to get a sense for the caliber of the program, professors and support network.

Aaron's doctoral hooding was a very significant event for us--it marks the culmination of FIVE years of study and practice, and a very successful academic program for Aaron.

And what's next for the Russells, you may ask? These are the things we hope for:
  • A successful completion of Aaron's doctoral internship, which ends July 31st.
  • A move to the west side, preferably somewhere between Seattle and Portland
  • A job for Aaron where he can begin to develop his professional skills as a clinical psychologist
  • A house (yes, we HOPE to buy one soon)
  • A place to be where we can stay for a LONG time
Many thanks to all of you for your support of our family during the past five years: for praying for us, asking questions, feeding us, playing with our kids, giving us jobs, places to stay during transitions, and being enthusiastic about this amazing academic journey Aaron started on. It has almost come to completion, and we are thankful.

A Warm Welcome to Our Readers

I've just launched the new Russell family blog, Hold On for the Ride. I'm glad you decided to be part of our virtual community.

The blog's title comes from a song off my album The Finest Hour, and I think it also reflects the life and times of parenting two young children, finishing up a doctoral degree, and waiting for life to settle down a bit. There are moments where it's all we can do to just "hold on."

My hope is to post pictures of the kids, share some thoughts about parenting, record my kids' hilarious sayings, and create a virtual space where our friends and family who live at a distance can stay connected to us. I hope you'll visit us regularly! Please feel free to leave comments as well.