Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Close Family Holiday Letter

December 2017

Hope this Annual Close Holiday Letter finds you all happy and healthy!

Despite the long winter and many snow days in PDX, 2017 fired up Mr. Close - personally, professionally and politically. He found himself inspired by both passion and a generalized anxiety about the state of the world. In order to manage the agitation and “resist the Man,” he continues with many of his social justice ventures at West Linn High School and the community at large. And to keep things fun, he commutes by bike occasionally, plays indoor soccer weekly, ‘studies’ whisky with his teacher-friends monthly, and discovered his love of plunking away on his grandfather’s refurbished typewriter.

As for Joanna, let’s just say she’s ready to ring in 2018. Life has been more home-bound and sedentary than years past. She continues to enjoy her work as an adjunct at Pacific University, where she supervises speech-language pathology graduate students in memory care settings, and works on-call for a rehab hospital treating patients following stroke and traumatic brain injury. With a daughter now in school, she’s enjoyed volunteering in the classroom and looks forward to doing more of that. Her must-read book recommendations from the year include Shrill by Lindy West, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby, and Hunger by Roxane Gay; her favorite movie of the year was Bandaid

Francie is now 5 ½ years old and enjoying kindergarten (“recess is my favorite”) at our neighborhood school. Things she’s learned in 2017: to ride a Big Kid bike, snap, pump on our backyard swings, back float, all the words to the Moana soundtrack, how to regularly beat her parents at Uno, and “the robot dab.” She has demonstrated an unwavering love of Elsa and Wonder Woman, and a burgeoning interest in Star Wars. She is learning to read and write to the daily delight of her parents. She’s a total extravert but spends her solo playtime in creative pretend worlds drawing, with dolls, and lately, playing with a haggard old nativity set in which Baby Jesus is frequently the offspring of superhero parents defeating Bad Guys with swords. 

While the Close Clan typically looks most forward to summer together, and the many adventures free time and sunshine bring, this June they embarked on an adventure of a different kind - (“geriatric”) pregnancy! A surprise, yes, but not an accident (yeah, yeah, don't talk about secondary infertility in public, it's taboo). The pregnancy has gone well so far, and Baby Birdy (not her real name) is due stateside Feb. 6. The news pretty much rocked our world, mostly by way of interminable fatigue and concern about remembering how to do it all again. Fortunately our current favorite child is gifted with grace, a wonderful sense of humor, and a way with words. 

- "You're belly is gonna get so big. You're gonna turn into a fat lady. But it's not your fault. It's the baby's fault."

- “Does Bob Lynn Close sound like a good name for the baby?”

- “Once you get used to the baby it will be your favorite person also.”

- “Don't worry. Your love will just get bigger! Right now, my love fills the whole room. When Birdy is here my love will fill the whole house!"

Take care and many well wishes in 2018!

With love, 
Alex (36), Joanna (35), Francie (5 ½ years), and Birdy (30-something week-old fetus)

P.S. This interweb version of our holiday letter has room for me to include some extra Francie quotes, for those who get as big of a kick as we do out of shit kids say ...

“Soooo, my preschool had 6 kids but my kindergarten with have 21 KIDS! That means I need to: 1) get out of pull-ups, 2) tie my own shoes, aaaaand 3) wipe my own butt!”

"Adults are better at getting all the poop off our butts because your necks are longer."

“This is how a robot does the dab.”

Monday morning eating cereal: “I wish my whole life was a weekend.”

“You know what I came over here to tell you? That I love you the most. And that I'll wipe your butt when you're old."

“I thought in my head, 'if I let my mom go meditate she won't be so mean.'”

“When you sweat it's like your face is CRYING."

Beebee: Do you know any dirty jokes?
Francie: Yeah! (Giggle giggle).
Mama: Oh yeah? Like what?
Francie: About mud!!

At Powell's, she spots one of the books by Mindy Kaling, with her photo on the cover.
F: Look! It's Mindy!
Me: Oh yeah, we really like her, don't we.
F: Yeah! She's our best friend that's on TV!

Out of the blue she touches my face: "I don't think you're old, I think you're just right."

“I think because I'm an Oregon girl, the sun chose to come out for my birthday.”

Sadly, on her 5th birthday: “I don't feel five. I feel like a person.”

Francie, getting upset and whiny about having to do a puzzle alone:
Me: “You don't have to do it alone. But you have to use your words to tell us what you want. Not your whiny words, you big kid words. We can't read your mind.”
Francie, stopping the puzzle to address me directly: “But you can read my mind sometimes.”

Alex: "How about you go outside and play for a bit."
Francie: "No, I don't want to."
Me: "How about you go outside and find five things that start with the letter F."
(Less than five minutes later, she returns.)
Francie: "I did it! I found five things. Flowers. Fence. Fire pit. Fucket."
Me: "Uh, what's a fucket?"
F: "It's like a bucket. But with no handle."
Me, laughing: "But also, that's only four things."

F: Maybe every night you remember me you could read “the magic string.”
Me: I could never forget you.
F: Yeah, because you're nothing without me.

Throwing a fit one night before bed: “It's not hard to be tired, it's hard to be FIVE!”

"Ghostie did it … he likes to get into mischief.”

I have a shell that my mom brought me from Bali in 1998. I have it in a shelf in my meditation corner, and Francie likes to listen in it. One night before bed she says:
“I'm listening to Grandma Nancy. ‘I wish I could be your grandma’ she says.”
Then she holds the shell up to my ear and says,
“She says she wishes she could live until you're a grownup. Until you're an old lady.”

She's been toying with jokes now for a couple years, but she FINALLY made up a good one!
"What does a coyote say when he gets a shot at the doctor."
"I dunno, what?"
"Owwwwwww, ow owwwwww."

Thursday evening, F sitting in my lap drawing in her notebook, me picking my nails and kissing on her, Alex playing the guitar.
Mama: I think it's pouring out.
Alex: I hope our basement isn't flooding.
F: Uh oh … But daddy we're in luck.
Alex: What's that?
F: No more snail tracks!

Francie told us a story from Art4Life (aftercare) …
"We have FAIRIES at our school! But a boy and his friends were destroying the fairies and their houses. So I asked him if he lost all his teeth yet. He said no. I told him that he wouldn't get any gold coins because he basically just killed the tooth fairy."

Continued fascination with Africa and concurrent drumming class at school had us talking/researching all things Ghana and Ethiopia one evening ...
Mama: Why might Ethiopians only eat with their right hand?
Francie: Uh, because maybe they want to look at their phones with their other hand?
And later, “you know, Hazel eats like an Ethiopian all the time!”

Francie: "You know what Natalie and I do when Owen is being mean to me? We teach him a lesson.”
Mama and Daddy: "Uh, like what kind of lesson?"
Francie: “When he's mean, we're nice. To teach him a lesson.”

Allllllmost asleep: “You know who I want to marry? I want to marry a donut. And I would dress my donut in some fancy clothes!”

P.P.S. The Cliff's Notes version of some highs and lows from the year ...

Snow days and sledding. Multi-generational Women's March. Screen-free success for a month. Learning to: snap, ride a Big Kid bike, pump on the swings, dab. Superhero 5th birthday party. WLHS Unity Day. “Phucket.” Our Uno savant. Refurbished typewriter. Suncadia WR 2017 with hubs/families. Graduating pre-K. Cow Camp in Central OR and Family Camping at Timothy Lake. Summer swim lessons. Learning Birdy's a girl. George Rogers Park. Daily dress-up - Wonder Woman, Elsa, Moana, Dorothy, Minnie Mouse. Family bike rides. New backyard swing set. Near-total solar eclipse. Francie feeling Birdy kick. First carnival. Graduating Pre-K and starting Kindergarten at Maplewood. Manzanita with Jo's besties. Cirque du Soleil. OSU soccer alumni weekend. First sleepover away. Portugal the Man album. Francie's expertise implementing Montessori-type tasks with individuals with dementia. Unified soccer tourney. Visit from Telluride Hartmans and QT cousin time with Hazel. Erika’s new baby, Evie. A white Christmas in PDX with the whole Close Clan and Beebee. 

The daily blows from the current administration. Feb/March illness. Racism. Spring Break stomach flus and subsequent panic. The Sisyphean task of grading English papers. The shock of pregnancy after three years if secondary infertility. First trimester fatigue. The Tahoe 4th that wasn't. A sedentary summer. National natural disasters. The 'geriatric' part of being pregnant at 35. Fires. More stomach flu. Louis CK & Matt Lauer. Net neutrality. Banned words. Iron-deficient anemia. Worries of a receding hairline. Bloody noses on bike commutes. The new tax plan.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

(68 Months) - 5;8

Quotes and notes from the month ...

“You know what Natalie and I do when Owen is being mean to me? We teach him a lesson.”
“When he's mean, we're nice, to teach him a lesson.”

Allllllmost asleep:
“You know who I want to marry? I want to marry a donut. And I would dress my donut in some fancy clothes!”

B/Z/Hazelin town and F loooooooooves (aka harasses) her cousin.

I was complaining about being pregnant and nobody taking care of me. Alex offered to make me food, go get me something to drink, or draw me a bath of Epsom salts. Francie proceeded to, literally, draw me a bath. Then she drew the whole bathroom. And herself in the tub.

Halloween - Pegasus unicorn, 3+ streets trick or treating; candy in the evening coupled with tiredness leads to tantrums!

“Quiet coyote” signs

Parent-teacher conference with Ms Thomas

School pics returned

Mama: How was QT? Did you play Legos?
Francie: Yeah, but I got frustrated.
Mama: What do you do when you're frustrated?
Francie: Sometimes I just work it out. And sometimes I just play with something else.

Discovered Hangman, thanks to Uncle B

Continued fascination with Africa ...
Mama: Why might Ethiopians only eat with their right hand?
Francie: Uh, because maybe they want to look at their phones with their other hand?

And later, “you know, Hazel eats like an Ethiopian all the time!”

Mimi and Papa visit while Mama is at ASHA conference in LA

Mama got the stomach flu :(

On Grandpa John’s bday, Daddy was telling Francie about the family tradition of having beer and ice cream, describing what a great guy his Irish grandfather was:
“Back in the day, was he the head of the goofball club?”

“This is how a robot does the dab.”

Monday morning eating cereal: “I wish my whole life was a weekend.”

Photos and memories from the month ...

Sporting her Mama's Amish-style dress from the 1980s.

Favorite park trees - if you look closely you can see that from left to right they are exactly positioned like stages of autumn - the ones on the far left is nearly out of its leaves, the one on the far right is still green, and everything in between is, well, in between

Cousin Hazel in town from Colorado!

Uncle B reading to the girls.

Cousin PJ play.

A day off from school and at the zoo.

Sweet cousin love.

Bathtime for Hazel and Francie.

Mama babysits - with the help of Moana.

Auntie Love!

B, Z, and Hazel took a trip to Cannon Beach.

Uncle Alex plays guitar for the girls post-bath time.

Somebody found a good hiding spot to eat another apple!

Apple eaters.

Matching dresses in the fall sunshine.

Hazel, Uncle B, Alex, Francie and Beebee

Cousin Moana cuddles

Pumpkin carving with my two loves

Except I'm not carving, but just sitting there instead

Painting a sugar skull from Beebee.

Halloween porch decor.

The "Pegasus unicorn" family

Francie and Hazel as unicorn cousins

And Beebee as the scariest monk ever; we even heard little kids who wouldn't come to the porch to get candy from him.

That time Francie literally "drew Mama a bath"

Fall "hike" - about 3 miles in the park off 45th on the way to the freeway

Comparing kindergarten school photos!

Francie's kindergarten school photo = perfection

Some morning work from Ms. Thomas's class.

Rachel and me enjoying our fancy hotel - and room service - at the ASHA conference in LA.

When we got to see, Katie, too!

And Miss Hannah May, too!!

Rach and Hannah at donuts (even though I was already on the plane taking my uncomfortable pregnant ass back to PDX).

Meanwhile, at home, Mimi and Papa helped Francie and Alex hold down the fort.

Francie met Moana and learned to hula at Thinker Toys in the Village.

Naps are kinda my jam. Thankfully Francie enjoys listening to audio stories so I can laze around.

A good reminder to calm my nerves about having kids 6 years apart.

This lady sure is wild and spunky.

And bound to be a feminist, thanks to her parents.

These are Francie's "emoji" drawings.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Glimpse of the Advent 2017

Advent season! (Original idea credit and continued sponsorship: Beebee). Dec. 5th brought to you by holiday llama PJs and the "Robot Dab."

Our advent has a few gifts (PJs, new Xmas books, fancy holiday dress, a new beanie for sledding), some holiday activities/events (writing Santa a letter, family holiday movie night, Christmas Ships, Zoo Lights, Annie play), and several activities for others or acts of kindness (making teachers button tree ornaments, shopping for Toys for Tots, baking cookies for local fire station, putting together homeless bags, bean soup mix for neighbors, donations to Heifer International). This is the first year she's been a bit of a 'Gimme Pig,' so we'll see if the advent exacerbates the greed and instant gratification or remedies it. 

But also, she can be so funny. 

She has been playing with some old nativity set a lot since we got out the Xmas decorations. A bunch of wise men and lambs were scattered all over our coffee table, so I started to clean up while she’s in the bath. I had to get a new plastic baggie because she ripped the other one, and I realized not all the pieces were there. 

Me, shouting to her from the living room to the bathroom: “Hey Bean, where's baby Jesus?”

Her, shouting back nonchalantly: “I dunno."

Me, kind of annoyed: “Seriously? You lost baby Jesus?”

Her, shrugging: “I think he just got stolen by the bads or something.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

(67 Months) - 5;7

Felt Birdy kick - and I caught it on video!! - posted at the end of the blog

Playing with a baby rocker: “I'm the teenage mom.” (Every parent's dream, amiright?!?)

Meltdowns - tired from school?? Sassafras attitude. "Boring." "Ugh." "Fine."

“I do love you, even though sometimes I'm mean to you.”

Checked out Barbie book. Alex talked to her about the problems - jealous mean girl tears a dress, two boys fighting to get married to a certain girl, love spells - only redeeming factor is Ken is kidnapped and the girls save him

Playing Soccer Shots on Mondays after school.

First sleepover! - Mila's 6th bday. BuildABear. Hair paint. BFF necklaces. Up too late. Cake AND ice cream. Moana and popcorn. And a nap the next day (when Daddy was in Corvallis for his alumni soccer reunion).

Juicy fart overheard from Francie eating bfast. "That didn't even come out of my butt. It came out of my 'gina!"

Maintains a penchant for dressing up. Elsa. Wonder Woman. Dorothy from Wizard of Oz. A princess/queen/fairy. In any kind of "fancy" or nice clothes.

Still enjoying more screen time and than we'd like, movies like Sleeping Beauty, Annie, Eloise, and Curious George's headless man Halloween movie. But I'm pregnant and tired and when it's rainy or a weekend night, I am easily swayed to eat dinner in front of a kid movie and then go to bed myself just after my 5 year old.

Thursday evening, F sitting in my lap drawing in her notebook, me picking my nails and kissing on her, Alex playing the guitar.
Mama: I think it's pouring out.
Alex: I hope our basement isn't flooding.
F: Uh oh … But daddy we're in luck.
Alex: What's that?
F: No more snail tracks!

Francie told us a story from Art4Life (aftercare) …
We have fairies at our school!
But a boy and his friends were destroying the fairies and their houses.
So I asked him if he lost all his teeth yet.
He said no.
I told him that he wouldn't get any gold coins because he basically just killed the tooth fairy.

Talking about weasels and moles, "I really like gross creatures.”

Came to work with me at Waterhouse on Friday, October 13 and mastered (Montessori) therapy with Lorraine. My heart swelled and I took a million videos, in case one day I really do start an evidenced-based intergenerational preschool/memory care program.

Pretending to ‘fight war’ or be Wonder Woman or something:
“Guns and swords don't make you strong you know ... What most makes you strong is your love.”

“Can I show you my best wind sound?
And I can whistle. Listen to me whistle.
"Can I show you my best cheetah prey walk?”

Counts by 10s. Can count to 100. Learning to read - books like Biscuit and Elephant/Piggie. Upper and lower case letter writing practice. Can spell some easy 3-letter words like cat, pig, dog, etc.

Eclectic sense of style. One day she wears the pilgrim looking dress that was once the bane of my existence with clogs, the next day a rhinestone “love Vegas” tee with a sparkly pink dressup skirt.

First play date at a house have never been to, in fact, I have never even seen the outside of or could locate in an emergency. With Owen, from school, but also from daycare.


Typical schedule:
Mama has to wake Francie up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. to get dressed and make/eat breakfast. Sack lunch is usually prepared by Mama the night before.
Moana song alarm goes off at 7:38 to remind us to brush teeth and put on shoes/jacket.
Walk to school- first alarm at 7:50 a.m., second/final alarm to start school at 8 a.m. She likes to show me where she's sitting and what her "morning work" is each day.
Kindergarten class with Ms. Thomas 8-2:05.
Soccer Shots until 3:15 on Mondays.
Parent Pickup at 2:05 on Wednesdays and Fridays, when she likes to stay and play at the playground either at school or the church/preschool across the street.
Art4Life aftercare until 530ish on Tuesdays/Thursdays.
Goes to bed around 8ish, although we often aim for earlier, starting bath around 6:30, PJ's, brush teeth and hair, read books, do a meditation on my phone, and Mama still lays with her until she's asleep every night.
Carries her pink Nike backpack with space patches and a reusable lunch sack and walks to school everyday; likes to carry an umbrella in the rain.
Sometimes we walk to school with neighbors Stella or Riley or Milo or the Longbine twins, we often walk home with Mackenzie or Riley/Marley.
Favorite parts of kindergarten include recess; “specials” like library, computers, dance, PE, art class; special jobs like being line leader, caboose, lunch tub carrier.
Friends (so far that we know of): Owen (from VHFLC daycare) Mackenzie, Juniper.
“Sometimes I play pirates with Osama, Awab, Orion.”
Wants to have hot school lunch, but I still haven't registered her in the PPS school lunch system.
In the morning she says she's too tired to want to do Soccer Shots or Art4Life, but every time I pick her up I have a hard time pulling her away from playing outside or just with friends.

Photos from the month ...

Quickie weekend in PDX with the Thorners and Cliftons. 
Stroller Bike Gang = Grant, Caroline, Kennedy, Francie, Peter, Evan

Francie showing Peter how to play "family."

Children's Museum fun.

BuildABear at Washington Square, courtesy of Morgan for Mila's 6th birthday party.

First official sleepover/slumber party!

Meanwhile, Alex had his own slumber party with his fellow old man teammates at OSU for a reunion weekend. Looking good, guys!

Somehow they finagled getting onto the field for the football game.

Francie came home from her slumber party with pink dyed hair and an Elsa BuildABear.

And then she cuddled and napped in my arms!

I LOVE watching her learn to read/write, and her independent attempts at spelling such as this "Beanstalk" drawing.

Our latest family portrait, that black blob in my belly is Birdy.

She likes to sneak into my weekly pregnancy photos (about 22 or 23 weeks here).

Post flu-shot cake pop, crown and all.

Daddy cuddles.

The harvest.

I swear we went into Baker and Spice for just a slice of crumb cake. But this pregnant fatty was easily convinced by my Sugar Monster to just buy a whole cake instead.

Ms. Thomas's kinder class artwork.

More kinder artwork.

Take your daughter to work day - Francie with Lorraine and Alex.

My sweet girl.

So good at Montessori!

Kruger's at Sauvie Island.

Mama and the Bean.

The (pumpkin) thinker.

With Laura.

Obligatory family pumpkin patch pic.

The tradition with Laura and Garret continues ...

Alex photo-bombed me with his school pics from this year, about a dozen hidden all over the house.

I feel like there's a statement to be made here ...

Lucky girl got to read with Daddy in our bed.

Francie feeling Birdy's first kicks (short video):

 Francie feeling Birdy's first kicks (longer video):

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