Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm raising a germaphobe

I have a cold. I caught it from the little germ factory better known as Sydney, who undoubtedly caught it at daycare. The same daycare AJ attends. Nevertheless, AJ is treating me like I am Patient Zero in the sure-to-become swine flu pandemic.

Here's some background to illustrate the depth of AJ's concern:

Yesterday morning AJ gave me a major guilt trip for not coming in to snuggle with him the night before. I'd been busy with Sydney, and by the time she finally fell asleep, AJ was already asleep, too.

So last night Jeff and I switched up the bedtime routine so that I was the one to read AJ his bedtime story and snuggle with him. This didn't sit well with Sydney who threw a fit that Mommy wasn't cuddling with her on the couch. But eventually she calmed down and fell asleep next to Daddy.

Meanwhile, in AJ's room, I'd finished reading "Dino-hockey" for the 5,428th time, and turned off the light. I then made the critical mistake of blowing my nose as I was crawling into bed to snuggle.

"Do you have germs?" AJ asked.

"Yes, Mommy caught Sydney's cold." I replied.

"I don't want any germs," AJ said.

"I'm being careful," I assured him. "That's why I wash my hands a lot and cover my mouth when I cough."

AJ asked a few more questions about how I and Sydney had gotten our germs. I didn't realize it at the time, but as we talked, he was slowly inching as close to the far side of the bed as possible. Finally, in a whimper, my little mama's boy announced, "I don't want you to snuggle. Can you ask Daddy to snuggle instead?"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Be our guest!

Attention friends in need of a place to stay: we are ready to host you!

The guest bed has a new mattress and pillows. It probably should have a new bedspread but, sorry, that's farther down on the priority list. We still need a TV and couch for the family room.

The bathroom also is fully functional now, equipped with exciting things like toilet paper, soap and brand new towels. It's wired for a heat lamp, but I haven't been able to find one yet. I figure once we get that, we ought to qualify at least for a 3-star rating. By the time we add a bar and finish the family room, there'll just be no competition!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

As AJ sees it...

AJ had an eye doctor appointment Monday afternoon. It was his first check up in six months. I already knew that wearing a patch two hours a day hadn't fully strengthened AJ's left eye. I can see it still tends to cross when he isn't wearing his glasses, and at his preschool check up a few weeks ago, the nurse identified it as a problem. So I was curious to hear what the doctor had to say.

Well, he concluded that while AJ is "making progress," he needs to continue wearing the patch. We'll have another check up in six months.

AJ took the news surprisingly well, saying simply, "I'm glad I don't have to get contacts in my eyes."

That surprised me a bit, but the doctor just laughed and assured AJ he'd need to wait about 10 years before thinking about contacts.

Later, as we were leaving, AJ inadvertently explained what he'd meant. He said, "Remember a long time ago when Daddy had to hold me and they put contacts in my eyes? I'm glad they didn't put contacts in my eyes."

Aha! AJ had his words mixed up. It was the drops used to dilate his eyes that AJ was glad he hadn't needed.

So how do I break it to him that those drops will be used at his check up in six months?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This is how the big guys do it

Growing up, one of my favorite memories of church involved doodling in the bulletin. I wasn't very good at it, but I knew my Dad would eventually lean over and "finish" the drawing for me, turning my scribbles into something really cool.

This weekend, I got to watch him perform this talent with AJ and his watercolors.

Amazing how a cheap paintbrush and set of paints, in the right hands, can still create nice images. There goes that excuse of mine! Grandpa tried to teach AJ how to make a sun without spiky lines sticking out of it. We'll have to see if the lesson sticks.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I love it when the weathercasters get it wrong and it works out in our favor.

Friday was supposed to be cold and rainy. Instead, we had playground-perfect conditions with temperatures in the 60s.

When he wasn't trying to sneak into the now-empty skating rink, AJ's favorite thing to do was riding his "race horse."

Sydney, meanwhile, climbed up the steps and slid down the slide... about a million times.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Most of this story will likely make Grandpa David proud. But there's one key element that will no doubt make him cringe.

I found an "art set" that some friends had given AJ for Christmas. Up until now, we've just used the kit's markers and crayons. But this morning, I showed AJ what he could do with the watercolors.

Looking at the above photo, I now realize I probably should have paid more attention to how he was holding the brush. But he was having fun.
As focused as AJ was on his masterpiece, it's too bad Mommy couldn't show that same amount of focus with the camera lens.

Here's the part Grandpa will love the most: AJ discovered, and excitedly announced, "Mommy, orange and yellow and blue and orange make brown!"
And the cringe-worthy part? Yes, I allowed my son to paint in an oversized coloring book. Hopefully this limitation on his creativity won't scar him for life.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who's been sleeping in my bed? Again!

Just another piece of proof of why we are NOT the parents to ask for advice on how to get kids to sleep through the night. Uggghhhh!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yeah, but you should see the other guy...

Hard to believe, but when Jeff went to work on Tuesday with an eye looking like this...

...his co-workers suggested I might have been the cause. No. The next younger member of our family gets the credit for that.

Jeff had been playing in the basement with the kids while I did some work on the computer Monday night. All of a sudden I heard him exclaim, "Oh, AJ, don't do that." I naturally assumed AJ had collided with Jeff a few feet lower on the body. But no.

And just how did the injury occur? During a game I hadn't realized could be such an extreme contact sport. It was a highly competitive game of... Gator Golf.

Perhaps it was the new dress... I mean, jersey... from Grandpa and Grandma that inspired them. Or maybe it was just my boys' obsession with a certain other sport. But apparently Gator Golf evolved into a hybrid of hockey, becoming a rough game with few rules. Because as AJ explained to me, "I hit Daddy in the eye. But I said I was sorry, so I didn't get a penalty."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lessons learned

Sydney learned a new phrase this weekend: Big mess.

Meanwhile, Mommy learned an important lesson. When you're the only adult in the house with two kids, and you need to take a shower, don't put a brand new roll of toilet paper on the spindle right before you step in the shower. Especially not one of those mega-huge-quadruple rolls.

By the time I finished my shower, Sydney had managed to unravel the approximate equivalent of two rolls of toilet paper, and was casually standing next to the toilet paging through a magazine. Looking up at me with all the sweetness and innocence she could muster, she pointed to the magazine, and said, "Reading."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Going to see the grandparents

How excited was AJ to visit his recently returned Grandpa David and Grandma Elouise? Well, consider this. As soon as he got up Saturday morning, he wanted to pack. I got out one of the carry-ons, which he insisted on pulling into his room. I then went into Sydney's room to start gathering what she'd need for the trip. A few minutes later, I headed into AJ's room and found this:

He'd already started to pack. He'd stuffed two pairs of socks and a t-shirt into the tiny zippered pocket on the front, and wanted my help to squeeze his hockey jersey in there, too.

I convinced him to wear, rather than just pack, some of the clothes he'd grabbed. I also showed him the much bigger compartment inside the carry-on, where we could pack both his and Sydney's clothes for an overnight trip.

A little later, we were almost set to go. I'd made one trip out to load the trunk. On my second trip out, I discovered the kids were more ready to leave than I was. They'd even picked up an extra passenger who tried (unsuccessfully) to stow away in the back seat. What fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Like father, like son

This picture makes me smile. The similarity in their poses and expressions, right down to the little bit of tongue sticking out between their teeth, is uncanny.

During Friday's glorious weather, we took the kids to the playground on Park Point. It has a neat wooden ore carrier, which of course AJ immediately announced was his pirate ship.

But then a big bad pirate tried to comandeer the ship and make the good pirate walk the plank. Alas, ore carriers aren't equipped with planks, so the bad pirate threatened the next best thing: to throw the good pirate overboard.

And now you know what was happening when I snapped the photo.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oh brother!

I hope Sydney appreciates how often AJ looks out for her. Sure, she has to put up with occasional annoyances - such as during bath time last week when AJ apparently was splashing a little too much. She started whining, to which AJ replied, "Sydney, I am not bugging you!"

But overall, he's on her side, including at times when she doesn't deserve it.

During another trip to Gordy's for ice cream. (This week, the temp was 78!) Miss Grumpy didn't want to eat from Mommy's dish of ice cream. So AJ, very generously, shared some licks from his cone.

A side note: it was her loss. AJ's cone was rainbow sherbet. Mommy had mint Mackinac fudge. No comparison!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Kazel spa

If I could just get them to refine their technique a bit, I could get used to this. As AJ "bumped" my back, Sydney brushed my hair. Aaahhhh.....

Yes, it occasionally meant dealing with AJ sitting and bouncing on my back.
"Does this hurt?" he would ask.
Meanwhile, Sydney expected applause each time she pulled the brush through my hair. She'd peer intently through the hair that was covering my face and ask, "Okay?"
"Yes, okay." I would answer.
"Yeah!" She would clap her hands and then do it again.
Gotta love when the kids provide full service!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breakfast conversation

AJ happened to look over at the newspaper as Jeff was reading it Wednesday morning. He noticed a photo of a glum-looking gentleman and asked, "Why does that man look grumpy?"

Noting that the photo appeared next to an article reminding people of the tax deadline, Jeff answered, "probably because he has to pay his taxes."

Not knowing what that meant, AJ apparently translated it into words he did understand and questioned, "He's grumpy because he lost his taxi?"

Jeff had a mouthful of food at this point, so I responded for him, "Something like that."

After swallowing, Jeff looked at AJ and said, "I'll let you live in bliss for a few more years."

AJ corrected him, "Dad, I live at..."
(AJ then stated our address perfectly, but I'm leaving it blank for security reasons.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy meal

During a weekend trip to Dairy Queen, Sydney demonstrated her technique for charming Daddy. It's the same adorable look I'd wished I'd had a camera to capture at Gordy's.

AJ, meanwhile, was the first child ever to enjoy a dipped cone. At least, he seemed to think that.

With wonderment and excitment in his voice, he announced, "Mommy. Guess what! Inside my chocolate ice cream cone is a... is a... is a... is a white ice cream cone!"

Monday, April 13, 2009

The thrill of the hunt

I realize this is not a good picture. And considering three of our four family members are visible in the blurry shot, it's pretty easy to narrow down who the bad photographer is. Yet, if you can see through the haze, you'll see a good representation of the chaos that briefly overtook our house Sunday morning.

As I reviewed the photos I'd taken, I discovered Sydney was a blur in every one of them. Why? Because our quick-learning little toddler never stopped moving. Silly me for worrying that she couldn't hold her own against her big brother in the search for candy-filled eggs. With Daddy holding her basket to keep it from spilling, there was no stopping our determined daughter. Amazing to think she wasn't even walking last year at Easter.

I am thankful that the Easter bunny remembered an important lesson from last year. The kids don't need nearly as much candy as was left in 2008. This year, AJ and Sydney got a fraction of the chocolate, enjoying instead small toys like Play-doh filled eggs, new markers and a Gator Golf game.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

The kids got a chance to practice their egg-hunting skills Saturday at the Lake Superior Zoo. This the first year we've brought the kids to the annual "Egg-stravaganza". The weather was great and the kids had a ball.

The "egg hunt" is really a fairly minor part of the event. Kids just need to find and retrieve a couple empty plastic eggs, which I noticed were scattered in abundance near the doors of the main zoo building, and then were nowhere else on the zoo grounds. That meant as soon as the kids picked up a couple eggs, we could spend the rest of the time enjoying the animals. As we got ready to leave, we simply exchanged the eggs for treat bags. Egg-celent!

The tigers were actually quite mobile during our visit, which is unusual. Usually we're lucky if they move enough to stretch and yawn. But something was bugging this guy enough that he was pacing and bellowing every minute or so. AJ, in all seriousness, asked, "Do you think he wants to eat the Easter bunny?
And now back to our efforts to try and teach the real meaning of Easter. AJ did a pretty good job listening to a children's book I read to him. Or so I thought. At the end, he asked, "Why did those bad guys shoot Jesus?"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

You know you're a Northlander when...

We've had such a gloriously sunny stretch of weather the last week. By Friday night, we had to celebrate. And what better way to do that than with a trip to Gordy's Warming House for ice cream and fun on their playground.

Did I mention it was only 42 degrees?

I, being the only one in the group who didn't grow up in this part of the state, chose coffee.

Too bad I forgot the camera, because I missed some darling photos. Sydney becomes quite the charming Daddy's girl when a hot fudge sundae is involved.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hockey Mom

Okay... Jeff gets credit for coming up with the title. It was pretty cute watching Sydney try to play with the boys while refusing to set down her "baby". I will say this, if she maintains that level of determination, she will be quite the competitor.

I don't want to jinx anything, because I know we had a blizzard last year on April 11, but I think spring may have finally reached our piece of the tundra. I love the ever-lengthening days (the photos above were taken after 7:30 p.m.) Also, I spotted two robins in our yard last night. Hooray!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Deciphering Sydney

Well, there's no questioning what she's telling me in this shot as she frowned at the camera and said, "No cheese."

But frequently it's becoming more and more of a challenge to understand Sydney, as her interest in talking has grown far faster than her vocabulary and enunciation skills.

Take for example, the three items in the picture with her: Bookie, mookie and beekie. Got that? Translation: book, milk and blanket.

Sounds simple enough, but when she's grumpy at bedtime, it becomes even harder to understand what she's calling for. And God forbid we bring the wrong item, that only upsets her further.

By the way, less than a minute after glaring at me in the earlier shot, she decided she wanted to ham it up for the camera. That's her other latest, lovely quirk. Any suggestion is a bad idea, until it's her idea.
"Sydney, would you like some milk?
(Ten seconds passes.)
"Say please"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The "Jesus-God" song

If AJ learns to play an instrument, which I hope he does (though not for this reason), I can easily see him playing for hours in a coffee house, making up lyrics and notes as he goes along.

It started Monday at bedtime while I was snuggling with Sydney on the couch. I could faintly hear AJ in his room. I called Jeff to go check if he was singing or crying. Jeff emerged laughing a few minutes later. AJ had, in fact, been singing. Here was the song's lyrics:

"Jesus loves me this I know. With a knick nack patty wack give your dog a bone..."

By the time Sydney fell asleep so that I could go in for a short snuggle with AJ, he'd further modifed the song, creating a rhyme:

"Jesus loves me on my own. This old man gives dogs a bone."

He then turned to me and in all sincerity asked, "Did you like that song? Was that a good one?"

I assured him it was. That was all the encouragement he needed. He's been singing variations of Jesus Loves Me ever since. He calls it the "Jesus-God song". My favorite version last night went something like this (though don't even bother trying to guess the tune):

"Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves all the people. He even loves sheep."

The fact that he remembers Jesus being compared to a shepherd floored me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Almost done

After weeks of construction and thousands of dollars spent, the kids' favorite part of our nearly finished basement is... (drumroll, please)... the closet in the guest room.

It's a well-lit place to hide and giggle, where your voice carries in a wonderful echo. What fun!

A couple of vent covers is the only thing keeping the guest room and family room from being complete. And the bathroom will likely be done tomorrow. It's all very exciting. The only downside is we now can move stuff out of storage, which means cleaning off the deep layer of dust that's come to coat just about everything that's down there.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the depth of the dust. I've been complaining for weeks about how much of it had risen to the upper level. It's just amazing how difficult it is to wipe it all off. I swear there's some sort of magnetic field at play that just refuses to let go. On the flooring alone, we've swept, vacuumed and "swiffered", and still the dust seems to re-appear every time we turn around.

Lucky for me, I've got a couple of little helpers who think it's fun to wipe things down, just so long as I let them take a break every few minutes, to run and hide and giggle in the closet.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The big 5-0

No, I don't have that much spare time to be keeping tabs on AJ's age in months. He just happened to ask me late last week how old he was. I told him he was going to be four years and two months. That's when I realized this is kind of a landmark day. My little hockey player is 50 months old.

Correction. He's not just a hockey player. He's a sports guy. He told me that on Saturday. He's quite excited because we told him he could join a soccer league this summer.

Now, before certain soccer-loving family members start thinking they've converted Jeff, stop. Jeff checked to see if baseball/teeball was available, but soccer is the only sport offered for four year olds.

So the conversation on Saturday, which took place in the car on the way to watch Jeff play hockey, went something like this.

"I can play hockey, and football, and baseball, and soccer..."

"And you're a good runner," I added, helpfully.

"And I'm a good runner, and hockey player, and football player," he continued before concluding, "Mom, I'm a good sports guy."

Nice to know there's no shortage of confidence. There's plenty of time for that later.

Venturing out on her own


With a baby in the backpack carrier (which is just as good as carrying a purse) on one arm, and my keys in the other hand, Sydney is ready to go.

Where exactly is she heading? Nobody knows. (Including her, I suspect.) But she thinks she's got what she needs, and so she proudly walked through the house, swinging the keys, and the baby, saying "Bye" over and over again.

This photo shows just how much Sydney's grown the last few months. She swam in those jeans at Christmas time. Now, the only reason they look baggy is because they're riding low on her hips.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Robot art

I can see it now. AJ's first art show will be entitled, "Robots in 37 mediums". In the past week, he's drawn robots on the chalkboard, built them out of Legos and molded them with Play-doh. Below is his "Doodlepro" version:

And I know I shouldn't allow, let alone encourage, him to play with his food, but when he used part of his salad at dinner, specifically a cucumber slice and diced red peppers to create a "robot face", it was too cute and clever to ignore.

And he did eat it after we finished praising his creativity.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eat dessert first

What? Pie for supper and spaghetti and meatballs for dessert? Either Mommy and Daddy are losing their minds, or it must be... April Fools!

Admittedly, tricking AJ and Sydney was akin to the proverbial cliché about shooting fish in a barrel. But when I saw special April Fools' recipes in the e-newsletter, how could I resist?

Jeff did a great job baking the "pie", which was basically meatloaf topped with food color-dyed mashed potatoes. AJ started catching on as Jeff served the first piece.

"Hey! There's meatballs in my pie."

Actually, it was ground hamburger. We saved the "meatballs" for dessert, along with some sweet spaghetti noodles. Little Miss Picky Eater wanted nothing to do with it at first. I literally had to hold her arms down and stuff a taste of the "noodles" in her mouth as she cried. And then her face broke into the most wonderous expression. That'll teach her! (In reality, probably not.)

AJ summed it up, "Mmmm, these noodles taste like cupcakes!"

Imagine that! Quite the coincidence considering they were made from frosting, piped over angel food cake. We topped it off with strawberry syrup and malted milk balls (for the spaghetti sauce and meatballs.)

One of the unexpected pleasures of having kids: they make it perfectly acceptable to do silly things that otherwise would have people questioning our sanity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Basement workout area

The plan has always been to turn the back portion of our new basement family room into a workout area. I just never envisioned the workouts to include dancing and running laps.

The floor isn't even fully installed, and the trim still needs to be added, but that didn't stop AJ and Sydney from getting their exercise.

And with the large room mostly empty right now, it produces wonderful echoes. I suspect the kids' vocal chords got as much exercise as any other part of their body.