Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Coding #likeagirl

Alice watching the video intro for her next coding lesson
I've posted a few things about Alice learning computer code and each time, I've gotten a few questions about what she's using to learn and how she got started and why. So I thought I'd write up a little bit about what we're doing.

Lately, it seems that I've been seeing so many articles about the importance of computer coding and programming as basically the language of the future, as well as the dearth of women in STEM fields (that's science, technology, engineering, and math - in case you aren't hip to the lingo).

Last December, President Obama became the first president to write a line of code as part of the "Hour of Code," an online event promoting Computer Science Education Week. "President Obama spoke about the importance of strengthening STEM education, especially for girls and students underrepresented in STEM fields: "Part of what we're realizing is that we're starting too late when it comes to making sure that our young people are familiar with not just how to play a video game, but how to create a video game."

According to statistics from the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but that isn't evenly represented in the STEM fields, or evenly distributed among the fields of discipline. Though they make up high shares of social sciences (58%) and biological/medical sciences (48%), there are significantly less women in engineering (13%), computer and mathematical sciences (25%). The percentage of women entering into computer science studies declined from 37% in 1984 to 18% in 2009. The Labor Department says only 20% of software developers in the U.S. are women, while only 12% of computer science degrees today go to women (I was kind of depressed to see the top 20 occupations for women: secretary, nurse, cashier, teacher, salesperson, waitress, retail supervisor, customer service, maids, childcare, receptionist, etc...).

Here's what the breakdown in the science disciplines looks like.
  • 39% of chemists and material scientists are women;
  • 27.9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists are women;
  • 15.6% of chemical engineers are women;
  • 12.1% of civil engineers are women;
  • 8.3% of electrical and electronics engineers are women;
  • 17.2% of industrial engineers are women; and
  • 7.2% of mechanical engineers are women.

I'm not an expert, and I'm not looking to become one or write a thesis here, but it doesn't take a genius to look around at the way we treat girls in this country to figure out that they are being fed a steady diet of limited expectations. Whether it's messages from clothing stores, toy stores, schools, parents, society at large, etc., it seems to me that the loudest message girls are hearing is that their bodies are their most important asset (rather than their brains) - and that they can't even always be allowed full ownership and autonomy over those...

These kinds of messages pop up too often to even get into here - I don't have the time or the stamina to dredge them all up right now - but they show up particularly frequently in retail environments, and they make my head explode every time they come through my news feeds. Like the infamous "I'm too pretty to do my homework so my brother does it for me" shirt, or generally idiotic Barbie (see: "Math class is tough!," and how NOT to be a computer engineer). Or the Marvel Avengers play set replacing the female Black Widow character with Captain America. The play set depicts a scene where Black Widow comes to Captain America's rescue and now, in the play set, he's the rescuer and the female is not even included. Or in the Lego universe, where girls are virtually non-existent in most play sets, including the "city" sets, but now get to enjoy their own universe full of feminine hobbies like swimming, hanging out at home, going to the juice bar or salon, or playing with animals.  To be fair, the girl-oriented "Lego Friends" sets include a couple of cool-looking options like the jungle sets, or the vet clinic, the news van, and a couple of small business type things. The recent female-centric Research Science Institute was a step in the right direction, but it was designed by a fan, and definitely seems like more of a popular vote appeasement than an actual improvement.

Girls are literally half the world, it seems like it would be reasonable for half of the people in the Lego city play sets to be female. This is sending the wrong message to girls, that they are not valuable in the literal day-to-day world that we live in; and it's sending the wrong message to boys, that, beyond female creative hobbies, there is no room for girls in the civic sector (or the military, or space, or fantasy, or adventure) except as side notes or lust objects. This is pretty obviously ingrained in the retail culture, as evidenced when this female licensing manager from Springs Creative replied to a mother's letter inquiring why the female characters (Honey Lemon and Go Go) were not included in the company's Big Hero 6 fabric line. The employee wrote, and I quote directly: "We have found boys do not want girl characters on their things (eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha)." So instead of collectively smacking these boys and reminding them that they owe their very existence to women, corporations have collectively agreed to literally eliminate the relevant females from these boys' playthings. Terrific. And forget about the girls who might actually want to buy things with these female characters on them, because they literally do not exist except for maybe one or two measly pink t-shirt with their likenesses...

Lego and Disney Consumer Products are the target of a lot of my ire (largely because they have so much pull and potential, but refuse to level the playing field), but the problem is widespread. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is focused on the representation of women in movies and TV and has some great information on their research at their website, like their Myths & Facts page.

Although women make up roughly half the population and workforce, you wouldn't know from the media where female characters are outnumbered by male characters three-to-one. According to a study by the institute, only 29.2% of 5,554 speaking characters in the 122 family films they analyzed were female. This is the same 3:1 male to female ratio that has existed since 1946. Males make up three-quarters of speaking parts in children's entertainment, and 83% of film and TV characters are male. In some group scenes, only 17% of the characters are female. And even in family entertainment, the females contue to show dramatically more skin and are hypersexualized, compared to the males onscreen. From 2006-2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in the law, or in politics. A joint 2012 study from their institute and the USC Annenberg Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative found that in prime-time TV, 78.9% of characters in STEM fields were male, while only 21.1% were female.

As a side note, here, I have to hypothesize that perpetuating these misrepresentations makes it hard for boys to grow up to respect women as equals, let alone leaders; to respect their autonomy and right to things like equal pay and equal rights and the right to the reproductive care and choices they need...

So, in light of these dismal statistics, I was super excited to read about the Disney Junior show Miles From Tomorrowland, which made a concerted effort to show strong female characters in STEM fields, specifically to help girls get interested in science. The show is a space adventure about a family who lives on a spaceship and works for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. The mom drives the spaceship and was inspired by astronaut Yvonne D. Cagle. The older sister uses computer code to solve the problems the family encounters in space. The show's creators work with NASA, Google, and Microsoft to more authentically portray the way the family uses technology and lives in space (though it is an animated show, after all!). Google's research showed a direct link between the low rate of females in science featured in the media and the low rate of girls pursuing STEM careers. Selfishly, Google believes that efforts like this one with Disney will help create a bigger labor pool for them in the future. The bonus side effect is that it also shows boys that girls are just as smart and capable and valuable. We're definitely going to be putting it into rotation.

I also loved this take on Tinker Bell as an engineer and STEM promoter. Alice is really into the Tinker Bell movies and I always point out when Tink is engineering something. 

So this is the world we live in, that my daughters are growing up in. As they get older and more aware of and involved in pop culture (yes, already!), I can't have total control over their fashion and toy and media choices. But I can still heavily direct them. Thanks to the internet, I can curate a mom-approved selection and let them choose from those, without them being bombarded with a bunch of inappropriate options and stereotypes as we wander the aisles in a store.

And while I have absolutely nothing wrong with their preference for spinny, ruffly, fluffy dresses, or their love of Disney princesses, I want them to know that they are worth more than their appearance. I want them to know that they are the heroes of their own stories and they can engineer their own destinies while wearing whatever pink fluffiness they want. I don't have any problem with the pinkness of girls' clothes, or really even their toys. I just don't love that making the "girl" Legos and crossbows pink reinforces that girls and boys can't play together with the same things. Obviously, there are some things that girls and boys will play with differently, and girls and boys are drawn to different things (role-playing/kinetic play), but I would just really love to see more common ground for boys and girls to share than the very, very segregated and color-specific toy aisles in the big toy stores. 

I am trying to let my girls develop their own tastes and interests, and trying my very best to give them a wider range of options and experiences than our consumerist society wants to sell them. So instead of limiting their toys to dolls, dress-up, fashion/beauty, and art supplies, we buy building and engineering and science toys like play dough, blocks, trains, Duplo Legos (so far, we stick to the gender neutral sets), Goldiblox, Battat's Take-A-Part toys, remote control cars, science kitsmagnet builders, and Cuisenaire rods. I love the fact that they play with these things in their princess dresses and tutus and ballet shoes.

Alice, the remote control car-driving ballerina.
And Ivy, the fanciest airplane mechanic/pilot says, "Yeah, I do aviation #likeagirl."
In light of all this, I figured that computer coding was a logical tool for building computer literacy and competency and confidence, as well as sparking an interest in computer science and other STEM disciplines. I want my daughters to be interested in technology and confident in their ability to understand it and use it, more than just being able to navigate an iPad at age 2...

As I was trying to gather up all these articles that I've been reading lately, I came across a bunch of other articles questioning the value of computer coding for students, cautioning against using it as a cure-all for the educational woes our kids are facing in school, and pitting it against humanities studies. I certainly don't think it should be overemphasized, or relied on too heavily, especially in early education and especially not in place of music, art, reading, math, science, etc. But I definitely think it is an invaluable tool that is only going to become increasingly important in the global marketplace.

Julie Ann Crommett leads Google's effort to educate the media on computer sciences and says "Code is a mechanism to enhance anything you want to do." I completely agree, and I think computer science and technology is heavily intertwined with the arts as well, with so many digital tools and mediums for photography, film, music, art, etc. Even just having the skills to build your own website for your creative company or portfolio is valuable.  I know that the technology teams at the Disney and their Animation Studios are heavily involved in the filmmaking, supporting the artists to understand their craft and crafting new tools and technology to produce breathtakingly beautiful art that is technologically advanced lightyears beyond my capacity to comprehend. I know this is true at Pixar, and surely at the other animation and digital film studios as well. 

I like the STEM to STEAM movement, pioneered by the Rhode Island School of Design to include and incorporate art and design alongside the STEM disciplines, to integrate art and design in primary and higher education, and to influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation. I do think that art and design is highly relevant to all fields of technology and engineering, as is clear with prestigious and innovative companies like Disney and Apple and Tesla Motors

Whether or not Alice chooses to pursue a STEM career, I want her to develop a good foundation and appreciation for math, science, and computer technology before she gets to school and finds out she's not supposed to like or be good at those subjects because she's a girl. Everyone knows that reading to your babies and toddlers and preschoolers and children is very, very important. But I definitely don't think that we put the same emphasis on early math or science concepts, especially for girls. I'm not trying to push early reading or math skills, but I do make a huge effort to incorporate math concepts at every opportunity (we talk about money, fractions, addition and subtraction), and point out different scientific concepts and fields of study whenever possible (we talk about hypothesis and observations, chemistry, astronomy, physics, earth science, biology, etc.). I want to give her some tools to level the playing field before she's put at a disadvantage, and I think computer coding is a great place to start.

I also make a huge effort to draw Alice's attention to the Mighty Girls who are innovating, inventing, engineering, coding, and making scientific discoveries to make the world a better place for everyone - including the next generations of girls. At this point, I'm hoping she still thinks it's normal for girls to do these things, instead of the reality that I'm pointing out the minority. Like at the Paine Field Aviation Day last weekend, where we saw little cars built by girls from a co-ed and all girl team that compete on fuel efficiency.

It's totes OK to wear princess dresses in your race car or airplane.

We also saw several high school robotics teams that included a few girls. Alice helped me take one robot for a test drive and we chatted with the girl who was at the controls. I made sure to point out that the girl helped to write all the code for the robot, visible on the computer display at the controls. 

So that's some of the background on why I introduced coding to Alice. Just as all these articles about coding were coming to a head, Pamela Ribon skewered Barbie's computer engineering skills in a scathing post that quickly went viral. Shortly thereafter was the international Hour of Code. And that may have been where I learned that our favorite Frozen characters, Anna and Elsa, were ready to help you learn coding over at Code.Org. Their lesson is an hour long, perfect for doing the hour of code on your own time. I just loved the juxtaposition of idiot Barbie wrecking her computer next to our favorite princesses helping us write elegant code to create cool snowflakes. 

I don't remember when I fired up the first lesson for Alice, but it must have been sometime after the holidays. She begs to "do computer code" all the time, but I save it for when we need to keep quiet during Ivy's naps. I have to sit near her and read her the lesson instructions and pop-up dialog boxes, and help her decipher some of the words, but she's got a good handle on how to manipulate the blocks of code into the right order and how to navigate all the controls. We don't have a mouse, so her hands get tired from the fine-motor skills of navigating the track-pad. One of these days we might have to get her some of her own computing gear. She is just thrilled every time she gets the coding right and the computer correctly runs the instructions she's put together. She's been keen to learn typing and spelling, so she can tweet out the images she's created. She was so proud of herself when she finished the last puzzle, and immediately wanted to start over, and start experimenting with another lesson featuring Anna and Elsa as well as Baymax and Hiro from her other favorite, Big Hero 6. I really hope that she continues to be interested, because once she can read on her own, there will be no stopping her...

So, ladies and mamas, have you or your kids done your Hour of Code yet? If not, sit down with your little ones - especially your daughters - and check out some of the great resources out there. Even if they are too little to use the computer, I bet they'd get the general idea of watching you putting blocks of code together like a puzzle to watch something happen on screen. And showing your kids that you can try and try and succeed at learning something new is also hugely valuable for them. Let me know if you give it a try! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Honey Lemon Birthday

Ever since her last birthday party, I've been telling Alice that we wouldn't have such a big party this year since we would be in a new city and wouldn't know very many people and would have a lot going on getting settled in a new house and getting ready for a new baby.

But she wanted a Honey Lemon birthday. If you aren't familiar with Honey Lemon, she is the chemistry whiz in the team of crime fighting super hero smartypants in Disney's Big Hero 6.

We saw the film in theaters when it came out, and again for Ivy's birthday because she is a big, big fan of Baymax. And over time, Alice decided that she actually is Honey Lemon and Ivy is Go Go, which really actually suits them both to a T.  In fact, they refer to each other pretty exclusively as Honey Lemon and Go Go, and even introduce themselves to strangers as such. Strangers are always fairly confused...

I wanted Alice to have a special birthday, even if it was a small affair, so I granted her wish of a Honey Lemon dress. I made the whole outfit the day before and finished it just before bedtime. Yikes!

She changed into it immediately after breakfast, just in time to open presents. We made her be patient while we cleaned up the dishes, and asked her what her wishes were for her fifth year. In the last few weeks, she's been asking for a training wheel bike and said that her wish was to ride her very own training wheel bike.

And then she got right down to business, opening her card and gifts.

She tore through them all, and then we told her that Jon had seen something else on the porch when he went outside earlier in the morning. So she raced outside, with Ivy hot on her heels...

And found a glorious, shiny new beach cruiser with a basket and streamers. So, so cute. And sturdy.

She impressed us when she took off on a neighbors training wheel bike a few weeks ago, and has been doing so well on her balance bike we thought we'd give it a try without training wheels first. And so, at 8am, Alice was learning to ride a two-wheeler wearing a tank top dress in the fog. Yep. Apologies to our neighbors for all the early morning bell-ringing...

 And then about ten minutes later, she was doing it all on her own. And I was totally teary-eyed.

 She still needs to work on big turns, braking, and stopping - in the lowest position, her seat is still too high for her feet to reach all the way to the ground, she's on her tiptoes and hasn't gotten the motion of leaning over yet. And she needs to remember to watch where she's going, but she's really doing great at pedaling and steering. She'll be flying around the neighborhood in no time flat.
Jon had to get back to work and Ivy had to take a nap, so we went inside and Alice wanted to get right to work with her new chemistry set. She was using her test tubes and pipette like a total pro.

Since we are, in fact, new in town and don't know anyone and are spending a lot of time getting settled in our new house and getting ready for a new baby, we didn't have a lot of time or money to spend on a birthday party. Frankly, we didn't have many/any guests to invite, either! But, to my delight, there are ten kids six and under between our house and the two next door to us, so we invited them over for a very casual get together. Unfortunately, one household was down with a cough and stayed home, but we had a really lovely afternoon with the three girls who live down the street.

We served "Honey Lemon-ade," honey lemon slices,  and honey lemon sticks. We also had wasabi peas and mochi. And of course, Baymax cupcakes - and party cups! I also made some lemon play dough and sent some home as favors in tiny take-out boxes. I got a little carried away, and so did our kids. They ate just about everything in sight and were both complaining of tummy aches during dinner. Alice actually groaned, "I shouldn't have eaten so many treats..." Hopefully the neighbor girls weren't too hopped up on sugar.


It was windy and the candle kept looking like it was out, but was still lit. So Ivy Go Go came over to spit on it...

Alice had so much fun with her new neighbor friends. They all played with the older neighbor boy and his dog, (as well as their dog!), and spent a long time running around the yard catching caterpillars. My mom sent a foam hopscotch set, a balance board, and some bucket steppers, so we put those out to play with, too. It was a perfect afternoon, and I know it was a special birthday for Alice.

After dinner, she got to open one last gift that had arrived late in the day. I found a kids' lab coat and had it personalized so she could really pretend to be her favorite "science girl." I can't wait to see her doing chemistry in her little lab coat. So super cute.

Many thanks to our neighbors for helping us celebrate and making it such a fun little party. And a big, big thanks to the real Honey Lemon and the Big Hero 6 gang (and awesome filmmakers) for making chemistry and science and robots and "nerd school" cool for girls, too! Now if only the toy companies could get their act together and make some awesome "science girl" merchandise - like a Honey Lemon chemistry set and bag! And Go Go magnet builders! And some "real" microbots. And maybe even their super suits! I'll just be over here holding my breath...

Rock on, Honey Lemon.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday, Alice!!

Dear Alice,

You are 5. You are amazing.

Alice: Day 1 and Day 1825.
I remember the first night I put you to sleep in the crib in your own room, instead of the bassinet next to my bed. I was so happy, so proud, so relieved, and then I cried and cried in my own bed, knowing that it was just one in a long line of many milestones that would bring you more independence and separate you further and further from me.

You grew in my body until the weight ached in my belly, and then we were physically separated for good. And then my arms ached from rocking you to sleep, and holding you while you nursed, and then you no longer needed nourishment from my body, or help falling asleep. My back ached from carrying you before your legs were long and strong enough to walk everywhere on your own, until you could walk and then run everywhere you wanted to be. And now you are too big to fold into my arms the way I used to do. Your legs are so long, they dangle alongside me when I do pick you up. And now my heart aches to watch you speeding away from me on your bike, long legs akimbo as you fly down the slope of the sidewalk toward your own adventures.

I have always celebrated and mourned your milestones. You do everything on your own time and so we have always felt ready for each accomplishment, you and I both, and they are exciting to behold. I feel the pride of a parent and vicariously, your joy when you learn to do something for yourself; walk, use the toilet, put on your own clothes, make your own sandwich, write a letter/your name/a word, ride your bike... But I know that every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, and soon there will be a last time for the baby rituals left behind, whether I realize it's happening or not.

You have always been independent, wanting to try things and do for yourself, and you've always seemed so grown-up to me. But there is something about five, I think. You are on the verge of breaking into a full-fledged independent childhood, and I can't wait to see how you will blossom and thrive then.

You have an insatiable appetite for books and stories, and thus, what I believe to be a fairly precocious vocabulary. Since before you were even three, you've had a penchant for Beatrix Potter, and now these last few days, you can't get enough Harry Potter. We're almost finished with the first book and we're reading about Harry Potter trying to get past the various enchantments protecting the Sorcerer's Stone. Last night, we had to stop reading after Harry, Hermione, and Ron finished their game of wizard chess. When I closed the book, you rolled over and said "But I want to find out what the next enchantment is!"

You started writing your name early and now you bind your own construction paper books and want to write stories to accompany your illustrations. You are so close to reading, too, and I just can't imagine the worlds that will open to you when you can read and write and sound out the words you want to consume and communicate. I'm trying to walk the line between encouraging your interests in writing and reading without pushing you too hard to master the skills. I know it will come exactly when you are ready, just like everything you do.

You have a dark side, a bit of the macabre. When you were almost two and half, waiting for Ivy to be born, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas nearly every day. You love The Neverending Story. You used to love walking down to our local hardware store and you always liked to see the seasonal displays. You especially loved the Christmas decorations, but when you were smaller, would get upset that the scary Halloween decorations were displayed alongside. You were afraid of the Halloween decorations, but wanted to see them, and wanted to see the Christmas decorations. So we called the Halloween decor "scary friends," and then you were cool with it. For a while, a few months ago, you wanted me to show you pictures of human skeletons while we were reading bedtime stories - the educational, scientific models, of course.

You are the most practical child I have ever met. When you first started imaginary play, you liked to pretend to drive a car. You would tell me that you were going to Disneyland, but instead of riding rides and eating treats, the whole scenario revolved around parking in the parking structure, getting the stroller out of the car, and getting a map. You are still so practical, we call you "Practical Pig." The other day at the library, you were playing with another whimsical four-year-old who wanted to play ring-around-the-rosie with the statues out front. You told her, very matter of factly, that they couldn't really play because they were statues. Then she said the bear statue was stinky, and you told her it wasn't stinky because it was just made of metal. She didn't quite know what to make of you.

You are an amazing problem solver. You are incredibly motivated and creative, but only when there is an obstacle to something you want. When it's something I want, you are virtually incapable of finding any solutions to the problem. Your practicality comes in handy here...

Your practicality does not inhibit your creative imagination. I love to see what your little mind spits out. Right now, you play a game where you get inside our empty TV cabinet and call it your "secret hamaya," which means secret treasure house. You also pretend it's your car, and that you are en route to "science school." You like to take walks or ride your bike all the way down to the way other end of our street, where there's a little court and a forest, and say you are going to "science school." You love to cook in your play kitchen, and cook with play dough. You make up the most amazing concoctions and flavor combinations, inspired in large part by your penchant for watching cooking shows with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.

You are super into learning and practicing computer coding, particularly the modules with Anna and Elsa. You call yourself "Honey Lemon," after the character in Big Hero 6, and say that you are a "science girl" like her. You know that she does chemistry, and you want to, also. You are turning into quite a little naturalist, with all the wildlife in our yard. You take care to save the bees floating in your water table, and you collect every caterpillar you see.

You love to chat with anyone you meet, especially the other kids at the park. I am always surprised at how, when you introduce yourself, so many kids just give you a blank stare and run away. Your dad is always amazed at how outgoing and at ease you are; when he was your age, he would refuse to play at the park if there were any other children there. You particularly love playing with older girls, and so far, they are enamored with you and very kind.

For the first time, I am really starting to see flashes of your grown up face. It always amazes me to look back at your baby photos to see your little face and think, of course, and yet still not be able to know how that will turn into the girl and tween and teen and woman you will become.

I can't wait to see what your fifth year holds for you, and how you will grow. You will become a big sister again, you will go to kindergarten, you will make new friends and have new experiences, and new adventures that will and will not include me. We asked you yesterday what you hoped would happen in your fifth year and you told us that you wanted to learn to ride a training wheel bike. Well, you did one better and learned to ride a pedal bike without training wheels by 8:30am. So I can't wait to see what's next for the rest of the 364 days.

Happy Birthday, Honey Lemon. The nickname could not suit you better, my sweet, tart, vibrant, smart, creative, darling child. I love you big, big much.
Birth through five. Five years of mama-made birthday dresses.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Our first houseguests!

We finally got to move in to our new house and spent five days unpacking like crazy and getting things settled. Then a funny thing happened. I called my mom to chat one morning, and she asked Alice if she could come visit tomorrow. I laughed, knowing that would be pretty tough to do, and that her plane ticket was for next week. Then, later, she asked who was going to pick her up at the airport tomorrow. And I said, "but you aren't coming until next week!" And she said, "No, your Dad is coming next week. I'm coming tomorrow!" Um, yeah, I totally read the airline confirmation completely wrong. So it was a good thing we chatted! 

She was arriving in the middle of the afternoon, so we were trying to figure out who would go to pick her up, since we can't all fit in our little Subaru. We had put a deposit on a minivan that was supposed to arrive at the dealer some time before I thought my parents were arriving, but we hadn't heard anything. We thought it would be pretty great to have a car we could all fit in before my mom landed, so we called the dealer to check up. It turned out that the car was there, getting washed, and would be ready for us to pick up that afternoon! So we did! Our Monday and Tuesday and week got a lot more exciting than we were expecting. And just like that, we joined the official minivan club. 

Then we made sure to pick up my mom on time the next day.

We had a great time visiting and playing with her, and showing her all around the new house and neighborhood and town. I think on her very first day, we went down to the beach park.

For a special treat, Grandma took us all to the movies to see Cinderella, and Frozen Fever (of course!). Alice thought the Snowgies were hilarious. and she loved the new dresses, and seeing the gang again. She really enjoyed Cinderella, too, especially that amazing gown. I thought the movie was beautiful, and very sweet. Ivy ran out halfway through to practice her race car driving. Alice and Ivy were super into the race car game in the lobby, we killed a lot of time there before the movie started. Apparently, Alice is smarter than I was because she kept asking me for money to play. I guess I didn't figure out that those machines needed money for a good long time...
I love her crossed legs. Such a civilized race car driver.
Otherwise, the kids played in the playroom and did a lot of this with Grandma while Jon and I unpacked, organized, ran errands, and had meetings about window coverings and whatnot. I think they watched all of the Tinkerbell movies about five times each...
When my dad arrived, we took him to the park, too! We had a morning full of local color and nature. 

There was some brouhaha about a sailboat abandoned on the beach. We'd seen it earlier in the week, up on the shore, and by that morning, it was in the water, tied to the dock. There was a news crew there, but I skedaddled before they asked me anything... The boat is gone now and I haven't checked up to see what the story was...
There was also a harbor seal sunning itself on the beach, like a little sea cat. Ivy had a hard time spotting it, it looked just like another rock until it would lift its tail or head and look at everyone gathered round. People were getting awfully close to it (not us!) but it didn't seem to mind at all.
Can you spot the seal? It's lifting it's little tail fins....
We also took a stroll around the Lighthouse grounds. I can't wait until the summer when it's open and we can go inside and check it out!

There was a man there feeding the pigeons and gave Ivy some extra pieces of bread. She would chase the pigeons around with the bread and couldn't figure out why they kept running from her. .

Then Grandma and Alice found some crazy caterpillar "apartments."
We later found out that they are tent caterpillars, and I guess they can be a real nuisance, eating away all the foliage in the bushes where they make their home. Apparently, their tents, or "apartments," are also considered "unsightly." I thought they were pretty cool and it was fun to see all the caterpillars wiggling around in there together.

Grandpa and Alice had a nice walk along the beach, they even found the back of a crab shell for Alice's shell collection.
We went to the aquarium the next day and let Alice bring her camera. She blew through the place so fast, I wasn't surprised to find she only took a few photos.

While we were watching the diver swim with the fishes and tell us all about it, Alice was practicing her selfie game.
This just makes me giggle. She was so proud of herself.
She did get these nice shots of the tropical tank and the octopus. Without a frame, no less!
Alice wasn't so much interested in the touching pool, but my other little urchin liked checking out the sea urchins.

I LOVED the octopus, naturally. We weren't able to make it back for the "Meet the Octopus" session, but I'll make sure we do that next time so I can find out if it's a he or a she. Whatever it was, it was totally on the move, walking all over the wall in front of us. So awesome.

I also love cuttlefish. These were tiny ones!

Lionfish are always mesmerizing, even if they are invasive...

Ivy loves jellyfish. She was just watching them, chin in her hands...

I also love seahorses and the tank was full of them, squiggling all around.
This was after Ivy dipped her curls in the water, trying to get a good look at something.

As we were walking up the ramp to the top of the seal and otter tanks, all three of these fur seals popped their heads up like gophers or jack-in-the-boxes to look at us. They seriously just stared at Alice and Ivy, who obliged them for a minute or two but were not nearly as entertained as I was.
Then I spent a good long time watching this little otter massaging his cheeks. He must have been clenching his jaw or something. Then, all of the sudden, he fell asleep and drifted away from the window.

I tried to get Alice to lay down on this otter bench like an otter and play with her camera like a clam, but she absolutely would not have any of it.
Then we walked up to the Pike Place Market and headed to Le Panier for some macarons. On the way, we stopped to admire this statue, but we couldn't fool Alice. She knew it was just a person, but she was definitely too nervous to drop a dollar in his case, or get anywhere near him.
So my mom gave him a dollar and a high-five.
And then so did my dad.

And then Alice gave him the most tentative, least physical contact fist bump ever.
And was so bashful.

Jon and I were off to the side with Ivy, who kept saying "I don't wanna meet the statue..."

The bathroom signs at the market cracked me up. This is exactly how dad races a wet, poopy, barry, stinking baby to the bathroom, with mom waving them away in the background. Yes.

We stopped at one of the first produce stalls, my favorite one that always has truffles and fiddlehead ferns, and the grocer there enticed us with the most sumptuous peaches and sweet purple asparagus, and the first corn of the season. So we bought some purple asparagus and fiddlehead ferns for dinner, and some peaches for breakfast, and corn for dinner the next night. Yum.

And then we spent a small fortune on a whole Sockeye salmon, which got thrown overhead, of course. There it goes!

My dad and Ivy were watching all the action, and moments after I took this photo, she fell asleep like a sack of potatoes.

So Grandma and Alice got the fish and we headed back to the car with Grandpa carrying a sleeping bug down about 156 stairs. Yikes.
Oh, I just want to smooch that sleeping beauty face.
She did not flinch a bit when I buckled her into her seat, and then Grandpa fell asleep in the car, too.
The next day, we took the ferry for the very first time and headed over to Whidbey Island.

A car on a boat?! What?!
Everything the light touches is yours.
It was awfully cold and windy on the deck, so the girls wanted to head inside after a few minutes.
Grandma and Grandpa were hearty enough to stay outside.
Alice enjoyed all the places to sit, and looking out the windows.

Once we landed, we headed straight for the Greenbank Farm, which was a lovely little place. Right away, we spotted two families of geese with five goslings apiece. We stayed a little ways away, since geese can be a bit aggressive, and the mamas kept their eyes glued to us.

We ate at the Whidbey Pies & Cafe on the recommendation of a friend who is friends with the owner.
It was just charming, and it was a good thing we got there early for our little early birds, because it filled right up by noon!
We had a lovely lunch with delicious sandwiches, seafood chowder, quiche, and salad with the most tender butter lettuce and some kind of purple flowering ornamental onion. Neither Alice nor Ivy could be enticed to eat their gourmet grilled cheese, though...

And of course we had to have some pie. Ivy ate her marionberry pie with her fingers and came away from the table looking like a crime scene. Luckily, the splatters all came out of her pants. My cherry pie was very tasty but the clear winner was the salted caramel apple. We bought one to take home and it didn't last long... And I just noticed that we could have gotten cheddar on our apple pie. I have never tried that and might have to when we go back!

The girls could have spent all afternoon playing on the swings while we took turns browsing in the cheese shop and art galleries. There is a Great Blue Heron rookery right across the road, apparently, and one landed in the field right next to the swing set. I loved watching him hunt while we played in the sunshine and cool breeze and freshly mown grass. It was really delightful.

We'd gotten a late start, and needed to get back home in time for dinner, so we left and hurried back just in time to be the last car on the ferry home.

We parked and the ferry pulled away. We were pleased to see they'd stuck chocks under our tires so we wouldn't roll off the back...

Bye, Whidbey Island! See you soon!

The "Mickey Van" riding the ferry. 

The next day, we played for a bit in the morning before we had to take my parents to the airport. But on our way, we made a pit stop to see the Fremont Troll.

After the other kids climbed down, Alice asked to climb up on on his hand, which was sort of a surprise.
That didn't last long and she wanted to get down, but we enticed her to take a photo near his eyeball.

And then we said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa at the airport, knowing we'll see them again soon to welcome the newest addition.

Now we're all just getting over colds, and getting back into the groove of daily life. I'll get back to unpacking as soon as I'm feeling well again, and will hopefully write a bit about our new house and move-in adventures!