Friday, October 31, 2008

The T-rex jack-o-lantern

As we prepared to carve pumpkins, I off-handedly asked AJ, "Okay, what should we make it look like?"
Little did I know that he had a very specific idea. Namely, he wanted it to look like the jack-o-lantern in his book T-rex trick-or-treats. So that's what we did. Or at least, that's what we attempted to do.
At three-and-a-half, he's not exactly a discerning art critic; so he's pretty easy to impress.
Just wait until next year. Hopefully the calendar will cooperate so that we can resume the Larson tradition - the annual jack-o-lantern carving competion.
Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things to do before you grow up

Riding in the car with AJ, there's just never a dull moment. Any random thought that pops into his head immediately comes popping out of his mouth.

Last night, in the midst of telling me that someday he was going to be the dad and Sydney was going to be the mom, and I was going to be the baby in Sydney's tummy, and Daddy was going to be the little boy, he suddenly switched gears to a new topic.

"Next time, we can go to Grandma Elouise's, and we can go to Chuck E. Cheese's. And I can see the REAL Chuck E. Cheese, and I'm going to give him a high five! And then I'll grow up. Would that be a good idea?"

During our trip to the Twin Cities last weekend, we had dinner at Chuck E. Cheese's. AJ saw someone in a mascot costume, but the person was posing for a photo with another child at the time, so I held AJ back. AJ quickly got distracted playing another game, and by the time we looked back, the giant mascot was gone. He had to settle instead for the pretend mouse.

Clearly, the missed opportunity is still weighing on his mind.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I guess I'm the giant

AJ tried so hard to get me to play football with him last night. He threw the ball and smacked me in the forehead.

"All right, that's enough," I said.

"Play football with me, Mommy."

"I don't want to play football."

Thinking quickly, and obviously drawing a parallel between what he'd just done and his favorite Bible story, AJ next suggested, "Play Goliath with me."

Apparently Mommy isn't the only spin doctor in the family.

Monday, October 27, 2008

They're trying to kill us

In their defense, we did cram 65 pounds of kids, 75 pounds of dog and a slew of toys (that were supposed to entertain them) into the back seat of a car for a two-and-a-half hour road trip home from the Cities. And they did well in the beginning.

Sydney fell asleep fairly quickly, and AJ was content to watch a DVD. Translation: Mommy had an opportunity to nap during the drive. Except AJ repeatedly managed to bump the pause button on the DVD player, which meant he repeatedly needed me to "make it work" again. Translation: Mommy really didn't get to nap at all.

Maggie, meanwhile, was feeling particularly insecure for some reason, and so decided to sit as absolutely close as possible to AJ, which prompted more whining, "Maggie's in my way!"

We were able to cajole Maggie several times to shift over enough to give AJ more room (and an unobstructed view of his DVD player.) But finally Jeff had it, ordering AJ to "just deal with it."

Trying to help AJ, I again tried to get Maggie to move over. I needn't have bothered. AJ's method of dealing with it was to shift 180 degrees. He announced, "It's okay. We're cuddling."

Did I mention that Sydney had awakened by this point and was practicing her various pronunciations of the word, "No"?

Finally, mercifully, we made it home. We brought the kids inside the house and began unpacking, looking forward to some relative quiet. That's when Sydney found her latest favorite toy: a red gorilla that dances and sings, "Rollercoaster" when you squeeze its foot. It was at this point that Jeff concluded, "They're trying to kill us."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who needs a chin, anyway?

Sydney seems to find amusement looking at AJ's masterpiece: Mommy in pastel.

It was an amusing process. AJ announced he'd drawn my picture, then said, "See, there's your eyes and your arms and your legs."

"Do I have ears?" I asked.

He proceeded to draw some for me.

"Do I have a chin?" I asked.

He paused for a moment, then said, "You don't need a chin."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Take time to stop and look for worms

There's nothing like a preschooler to remind you of the important things in life – like the cool things you can find on the driveway after a rain storm.

In the midst of trying to hustle the kids to the car to begin a myriad of errands, I sent AJ ahead to open the garage door. Of course I then remembered several things I still needed to grab, and so ran back into the house. As I finally stepped outside, I could hear AJ calling me. The light rain had kicked AJ into worm-rescuer mode, and he couldn't wait to show me his latest friend. "Look Mommy, he likes me."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Toddler rations

Maybe the headline should be toddler rationale. I'm not sure why, but Sydney suddenly wants to eat all her food from these little gray cups. The cups are pieces to one of AJ's games, but Sydney has claimed them for herself.
It started out simply enough – she wanted small treats, like M&Ms or fruit snacks, in the cups. Then she wanted to drink water from them. Today she tried mashing a cereal bar so that it would fit into the cup. And then she couldn't understand why it remained stuck inside the cup.
On the bright side, it's an easy method of portion control.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Farewell to Fred

We had an extra splash of color in our living room this week. AJ was asked to "fishsit" a little guy named Fred while our neighbors were on vacation.

I'm very happy to say that Fred the goldfish has now left us... via the front door, NOT the toilet drain. Our neighbor had joked when he dropped him off that it wouldn't be the end of the world if Fred hadn't survived his week with us. But I assured him that if something happened to Fred, then they would find a look-alike goldfish, who answers to Fred, swimming in the bowl upon their return.

AJ was quite enthusiastic about caring for Fred. The only time we ran into trouble was Friday morning. AJ convinced the babysitter that he needed to feed the fish. Let's just say the water was pretty murky later in the day. We cleaned it up, cut Fred's rations for the day and all ended well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A little pre-dinner music

Imagination is a good thing, right?
A child who can entertain himself is a good thing, right?
Then why are my ears ringing?

AJ's impromptu concert in the kitchen really wasn't so bad. His drumsticks of choice were a plastic spoon and fork, which aren't nearly as loud as their metal counterparts. I wish I could remember some of the lyrics he came up with. Mostly he just "sang" all of our names. At the end of his percussion solo, he held his plasticware high in the air and shouted, "Rock on!"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eleven words

My baby is 16 months old today. She celebrated by sleeping through the night. Hooray! Even more exciting, last night she pooped in the big girl potty for the first time. (Yes, that's just one more sentence I could never have imagined writing before I had kids.)

Her vocabulary has now grown to just shy of a dozen words:
  • Mom
  • Daddy
  • AJ
  • Maggie (her word for ALL dogs)
  • No
  • Yeah
  • eat
  • hi
  • bye
  • all done
By far, her favorites from that list are "AJ", "no" and "all done" (which actually sounds more like "ow dow".)

Meanwhile, our friend Jess has added pictures and stories about our adventures at Boo at the Zoo. Check out her blog at:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The dinosaur pirate

AJ's eye doctor appointment didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped. While his vision continues to improve, the doctor is concerned that AJ still has a tendency to cross his left eye when not wearing glasses.
He wants AJ to wear a patch on his good eye for two hours every day until the next appointment, which isn't until next April! That ought to be swell for all involved.
Jeff and I immediately tried to put a positive spin on it for AJ, telling him that he gets to be a pirate when he wears the patch. The well-meaning doctor quickly jumped on board, enthusiastically adding, "you can be a pirate for Halloween."
Wrong thing to say!
Poor AJ looked crestfallen as he quietly said, "but I want to be Spiderman for Halloween." (We quickly assured him that this wouldn't affect his costume choice. And thankfully, AJ was able to pick out two patches with dinosaurs on them, making it all the more palatable.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

All aboard!

Auntie Barbie has the best ideas! She invited us to join her Friday afternoon on the Pumpkin Train - a special trip on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. The train traveled from the Depot out to Lakeside, where we stopped briefly at a "Pumpkin Patch" (i.e. an empty lot adjoining the tracks where they set out a bunch of pumpkins.) AJ, Sydney and I were all train travel rookies, so this was a pretty cool experience. On the ride there, we crammed into the upper level of one of the cars. It was the only spot I could see where all of us could sit together. Had I looked a little harder, I would have realized there were quite a few cars with open seats. Oh well. We had better seats and an awesome view of the lake on the return trip. AJ loved the whole experience, including the "wizard" (a magician) who performed on the ride back.
Sydney's favorite part, meanwhile, was the bag of Cheetos from Auntie Barbie.
Next stop - the Polar Express. We had so much fun we can't wait for another chance to ride the rails. We just need to find a weekend when Daddy doesn't have Guards, so that he can join us. Thank goodness Auntie Barbie has been working out and could carry the pumpkins for us. There's no way I could have carried Sydney and a pumpkin while hanging on to AJ's hand.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spider vision

Two things to know in order to appreciate this story:

1) AJ has an eye doctor appointment this afternoon. It's a check up to see if his vision is continuing to improve and if one of his eyes still has a tendency to cross.

2) AJ's Spiderman mask has very tiny eye holes. We keep saying we're going to cut them bigger, but have yet to do it.

That said, this was the conversation at our house this morning:
AJ: Am I going to the doctor today?
Jeff: Yes, you're going to see the eye doctor.
AJ: Is he going to help me see better?
Me: He's going to look at your eyes and check how good you can see.
AJ: Is he going to fix my glasses?
Me: We'll stop and get your glasses straightened at the same time.
AJ: Will he fix my Spiderman mask so I can see better?

Now we know what really matters to him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The good listener

Who are all these costumed characters? Why, it's Spiderman, a little cow, and two snowbirds disguised as Minnesotans. For the latter, we believe the masks are coming off today as Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo head south for the winter.

Now, for a fun story about a certain preschooler who seemed to be suffering from selectively deafness.
AJ's daycare teacher pulled Jeff aside recently and mentioned that AJ was not listening very well. She actually wondered if perhaps he was having hearing problems.
So that evening, we put it to the test. During a short car trip, Jeff and I had a quiet conversation about bed time treats. From the back seat, a voice chimed in, "I want an ice cream cone for a bed time treat." There's nothing wrong with that boy's hearing.
So our next conversation with him was about why he needs to listen and respond when teachers talk to him. Clearly, he was listening to us, because the next day we received a note from Pam that said:
"AJ had a great day. He listened the first time and kept reminding me he was a good listener. Thank you for talking to him. It made a big difference."
So not only did he listen. He made sure she knew he was listening. I love it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taking care of friends

Much to Maggie's dismay, the torch of responsibility for feeding her seems to have been passed. Just when she finally trained AJ on how she likes to be served, (After filling her bowl, he announces "maybe she would like a treat," and then heads to the cupboard for her.) Sydney wants to take over this task.

And from the looks of it, Sydney's going to need considerable training. Rather than scooping up a cup full of food and dumping it all into the dish at once, Sydney seems to follow the dietary recommendation of little meals all day long. She reaches into the bin of dog food and pulls out 2-3 pieces with her hand, then drops them into the cup, walks from the closet to Maggie's dish, and finally dumps those few pieces into the bowl. Then back she goes for more.

It's hysterical to watch. Sydney is so proud of herself, while poor Maggie gives us looks like, "can't you please do something?" To accomodate them both, we now start the process by feeding Maggie approximately half of what she's supposed to get, and then let Sydney take it from there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Let the sugar rush begin

Halloween is still 18 days away, and already the trick-or-treating opportunities have started. Never mind that we're still working on the candy haul from last summer's parades. The Sponge Bob bucket is again nearly full thanks to the loot AJ picked up Saturday at Boo at the Zoo.

Our fairy friends, Addie and Lily, joined us, on what turned out to be a perfect day weather-wise. It was a treat for me to not have to squeeze coats under the costumes.

Besides the spooky stuff, the kids enjoyed checking out the animals. I don't think any of Sydney's tootsie rolls ended up in any cages. Though plenty of chocolate-colored drool ended up on her costume.
These kids' costumes are certainly getting used this year. Next up is the daycare Halloween party on Oct. 24, followed by the Anoka Grey Ghost run the next day. And I think AJ has now worn his costume for at least a short time every day for the last week. He's very careful with it, and follows all the rules. (i.e. he has to take it off before eating anything, so that he doesn't spill on it.) It's probably a good thing that he won't be at daycare on Halloween. He would need help getting out of the costume every time he needed to use the bathroom.
Sydney, meanwhile, has slowly warmed to wearing the cow costume. She's not wild about having the hood up, but otherwise likes it. She nearly had a fit when she saw it going into the washing machine. I tried explaining that we only wanted black spots on the cow costumes, not brown and blue spots from the candy she'd been eating. Logic doesn't work well with toddlers either.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Five scary words

"Mom, look at my moustache!"

Such a simple sentence. Yet it's sure to strike fear in a parent's heart. I'm trying to decide if it'd be any scarier to hear it from a 17-year-old. Because coming from a three-and-a-half-year-old, you just know it can't be good.

Whatever marketing genius at Subway thought that a microphone-shaped marker would be a good idea for a happy meal toy... ought to have the word "IDIOT" written across his/her forehead with said toy.

And why did AJ decide to add a moustache to his appearance?
"So that I can look like a Daddy," he answered.
"Does your Daddy have a moustache?" I asked.
"No," AJ acknowledged.
"So," I pointed out, "you could be a Daddy without having a moustache."
AJ's reply to that? "But I need a moustache to look like a Daddy."

Never bother using logic with a preschooler.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sometimes kids can come in handy

First of all, for those keeping tally: here's AJ in his THIRD pair of glasses. We certainly are getting our money's worth on the frame package we bought - an unlimited number of free replacements for two years!

Now, to my confession...
While shopping at Target today, I had to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, the handicap stall was open, so I was able to drag both kids in with me. I went to the bathroom, and then discovered... no toilet paper. And no one in the stall next to me to help.

So what did I do? I asked AJ to crawl under the divider into the adjoining stall. He was more than happy to help. He scampered into the next stall and grabbed a long piece. And that was the last part of the process that went smoothly.

It didn't occur to him to simply hand the toilet paper under the divider to me, despite my repeated requests for him to do that. No, he instead managed to wrap the toilet paper around his legs. By the time he'd climbed out of this mini mummy wrap, most of it had touched the floor, and some of it had even been stepped on. His next trick was to walk out of the stall. Apparently he figured he could just walk in the door of my stall. But of course the door was locked, and since this was the large handicap stall, there was no way I could reach the door handle while sitting on the toilet.

He finally started listening to me as I directed him back into the adjoining stall, where he at last handed the toilet paper under the divider. And then he grabbed another piece for me. Except he couldn't tear it off. So I next got a strip of toilet paper that was approximately 10 feet long. Worked for me!

I told AJ to just wait for me as I finished my "business" and opened the door. Sydney merely followed, giving both of us a look as if we were nuts. Perhaps she is right.

And yes, Lisa, I did make AJ wash his hands.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The road warriors

Look out world - here they come!

Well, not quite. The blue pedal keeps sliding off the big wheel (it's missing some sort of a fancy washer) and AJ refuses to believe that he can pedal without it. Sydney, meanwhile, can't reach the pedals, which means she's stuck until her source of horsepower puts down the camera and returns to give her a push.

We spent as much time as possible outside tonight. (No, we didn't really stay out after dark. The flash just makes it look like we did.) It was such a treat to have relatively warm temperatures after two straight days of heavy rain.

Lucky for us, AJ has decided that his big wheel is a more appropriate vehicle for a preschooler. That frees up his trike for Sydney. Wannabe big girl that she is, she hates going for walks in a stroller. Put her on the big kid tricycle instead, and she lets us push her all around the neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Who's been sleeping in MY bed

Our goldilocked duo added a new twist to the game of musical beds last night. By morning, none of us were in the bed where we started.
2:15 - AJ showed up in our room. With less than a month to go until Halloween, his imagination is in overdrive. And with his Superman jammies in the laundry, he didn't have his cape to protect him from the monsters in his room. We pulled him into bed with us.
2:20 - Sydney woke up. Normally, I would have gotten her from her crib and brought her into bed with us. But since we were already dealing with overcrowding, I brought her instead to the couch, settling in for the remaining short hours until the alarm went off.
4:50 - Jeff woke me up, offering to switch spots. Sydney fussed during the hand-off, but seemed to fall back asleep fairly quickly. I meanwhile, went back to bed, re-setting the alarm for 5:15, so that I could grab an extra 15 minutes of sleep.
By 6:15, it was my turn to wake up Jeff, leaving the sleeping princess to lounge by herself.
And now, as I finish typing this, I can hear AJ bouncing around the living room. At least one of us is well rested. Mama, Papa and baby are feeling a bit bear-ish.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Someone's in the kitchen with Dana...

Usually it's AJ who wants to help with the baking. But since only a spatula – no mixer – was required to stir the brownies, Pavlov's dog didn't respond to the prep work in progress.

That meant Mommy got to train in a new junior helper. Sydney wasn't too interested in helping stir, but she sure enjoyed sitting by Mommy and "helping" hold the bowl.

Of course the best part came at the end. The innocent little rookie baker didn't realize that she'd get a spoon to lick off once we were done. Bonus! She also didn't realize there'd be brownies to eat a little bit later. Double bonus!

Mommy, meanwhile, quickly learned to add a second spoon to the mixing process. AJ may not have heard us stirring the batter, but his superhero hearing sure picked up the sound of Sydney's excited squeals as she licked the spatula.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two down, ??? to go

Take a good look. It's the last time you'll see AJ in this pair of glasses.

We had just gotten them adjusted Saturday afternoon and then SNAP! Sydney got a hold of them.

So here's the quick tally: Pair #1 lasted seven weeks until Daddy broke the frames while trying to straighten them. Pair #2 made it eleven weeks until Sydney tried yanking them off of AJ. In other words, our rough and tumble preschooler may plaster the lenses with gooey fingerprints, but he has yet to break them. He leaves that part of the destruction process to his family members.

I can't wait to see how much it will cost to replace them. Our original package called for one free replacement of the frames and one free replacement of the lenses. Maybe we can trade the lens replacement for another set of frames?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The breakfast of champions

AJ asked for "banana pancakes" for breakfast. That sounded good to me, but Sydney, I soon learned, wanted something else. While I was busy grabbing Bisquick and eggs, she got busy picking out her own breakfast.

With a cereal bar in one hand, and a cup of mandarin oranges in the other, Sydney let out a primal, victory shriek "Eeee-yah!" She then happily headed for her high chair, fully expecting me to follow.
She was quite perturbed that I made her recreate the scene to take photos for this blog. I have to confess, knowing that she was in the kitchen with me, I hadn't been watching her all that closely. But the "eeee-yah!" certainly got my attention. It made me laugh enough to run and grab the camera.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Seasoned travelers

I can't help but look at AJ in this picture and think about how differently children travel today compared to 30-some years ago.

Buckled into his car seat, AJ's balancing a portable DVD player on his lap, while sipping Mommy's leftover drink from Arby's. Now, I can't really compare apples to apples, because I can't really remember anything from when I was three-and-a-half. But I do recall plenty of long, cross-country road trips as a child with my family when I was just a few years older. No car seats. No electronic toys. No air conditioning (or maybe it just felt like that riding in the back seat of a suburban).

I'm not complaining though. I consider those family trips to be priceless - just as I've come to value the quiet that comes with an occupied preschooler in the back seat.

Meanwhile, what was Sydney doing during this trip? She'll never remember.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sydney's secret spoon skills

Sydney loves to have a spoon in her hand when she's eating. She doesn't necessarily use the spoon to feed herself. She just likes hanging on to it.

Except when ice cream is involved. Then it's a different story – she can't wait to dig in! At Dairy Queen last week for Grandpa Bill's birthday, Sydney demonstrated just how skilled she's become at feeding herself with a spoon.