Saturday, May 30, 2009

The little drummer boy

I turned my back for a minute, and AJ ran off and joined a band!

Sort of...

On Friday, we visited the aquarium and then Playfront park. Jeff picked up lunch and joined us for a picnic. As we were finishing eating, I could hear a rhythmic pounding coming from the opposite side of the playground. AJ was getting fidgety, so I asked him if he wanted to dance. He did and took off running. Jeff followed, while I waited for Sydney to finish her lunch.

A few minutes later, we caught up, and this is what I saw:

Apparently the group thought AJ's dancing was so cute, they invited him to play one of their drums. I never did find out the group's name, or where they were from, but it was the highlight of the day for AJ. And for us.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Oh what a tangled web we weave... especially certain preschoolers who like to climb up, but then need help getting down.

During a playdate Thursday at our favorite playground, AJ and his friend Avery took to the ropes, pretending they were spiders. AJ wanted me to guess what kind of spider he was.

"Black widow," I suggested, naming the scariest spider I could think of.

"No," AJ corrected me. "I'm a Daddy long legs."

Avery immediately chimed in, "and I'm a Mommy long legs."

I suppose if you count all of their limbs together, they equal an eight-legged creature.

I have particular fun watching these two play together. AJ doesn't know it, but I think Avery is the first "friend" he ever met. We first met Avery and her Mom during an ECFE-sponsored baby massage class. AJ was five or six weeks old, and Avery was a couple months older than that. And just look at them now...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The one that didn't get away...

...until they threw it back.

After countless unsuccessful attempts last year, followed by two catchless trips on Saturday, my two favorite anglers reeled in AJ's first fish (a walleye) followed quickly by fish number two, three, four and five. (Jeff suspects one of the fish made a repeat appearance on their hook.) Most were fairly small, but Jeff figures at least one was a keeper.

Unfortunately, Jeff had been expecting similar results to their previous ventures, and so didn't have a stringer with him. Thus it became an afternoon of catch and release.

Luckily for us, a very nice and talented photographer happened to be nearby and later e-mailed us some pictures so that we can forever remember this afternoon of angling glory. He included a nice note stating, "As a father and grandpa, being a part of that moment was the highlight of my day."

AJ clearly lacks a fisherman's instinct to protect his secret "hot spot." He happily announced to everyone within hearing distance, "Hey people! We caught a fish over here."

And what does he have to say about his first fish? Knowing that I frequently order walleye at restaurants, he shared with me a cautionary note to be careful when I eat them, "because they have sharp spikey things."

And his lingering memory of the day? As he gazed at the photo, he excitedly said, "Hey, that's where we found the plastic worm!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Routine routine routine

Sydney is a stickler for following routines. As much as she likes surprise treats, she wants to know exactly what to expect in her daily schedule. I just discovered this applies not only to real life, but also make-believe time.

Playing a game of role reversal, Mommy became the baby, and Sydney became Mommy. She ran into her room to get what she needed to take care of me, and returned with exactly what she insists on at bedtime. I asked for milk, and she yanked out a bottle. I then called for a blankie, and she whipped that out as well. She was prepared!

It works for her, so she assumes that's what everyone else would want, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Presidential aspirations

I must have been six or seven years old the first time I paid attention to anything political. I was in first grade and I remember learning Jimmy Carter was president, and he liked peanuts.

AJ, who we frequently joke is our future politician because of his enthusiasm to introduce himself to everyone he meets, is already aware of the man with the top job.

On Monday morning, AJ woke up first and so crawled into bed next to me. Out of the blue he said, "Mommy, you and Daddy make the rules. But Barack Obama is our boss."

I think the President's unusual name helps make it more memorable for AJ. It has a fun ring to it. Recently, at the playground, as AJ rode faster and faster on a horse swing, I asked if he was riding a bucking bronco. A little later, AJ announced, "Look! I'm bronco-bama."

Though if he ever hopes to serve in politics, we're going to need to find a way – in our lily-white community – to expose him to or teach him greater cultural awareness, or maybe just some political correctness. During a visit to my parents' church last week, the service included a testimonial from an African-American man. As the man left the podium, AJ whispered to me, "Is that Barack Obama?"

By the way, that "stick" in AJ's hand is actually a small flag pole. AJ was very excited to march around with a flag over the Memorial Day holiday. Showing it to his favorite brave soldier, he told Jeff, "I'm a brave soldier, too." If only waving flags was all they had to do...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Play ball!

Once again demonstrating their special relationship, our original baby girl patiently allowed her replacement baby girl to throw tennis balls for her. Over and over again. It wasn't so much a game of fetch, as it was an exercise for Maggie in blocking the ball, because she usually could grab it in one bounce. What's amazing is how Maggie, who locks her jaw and turns deaf when I ask her to drop or leave the ball, would drop the ball and nudge it over for Sydney to grab.

For a while, they had three balls going. That slowed the game down a lot, because Sydney only wanted to throw the ball from the chair. That meant climbing down, retrieving the balls from the retriever, and then climbing back into the chair to start the process again.

I guess she's not a southpaw.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Such a boy

I've done my best to expose my children to a variety of interests, irrelevant of their gender. And so I'm proud that AJ is sensitive enough to appreciate flowers. He certainly charmed the elderly ladies shopping at the greenhouse, as he would excitedly run to me with a small pot in hand and exclaim, "Let's get this one. It's beautiful. Would you like to smell it?"

And then we got home and I was reminded of what a boy he is. As we dug in the garden, he discovered a worm. AJ then spent the rest of the afternoon searching for more worms. He literally left no stone unturned as he once again destroyed my garden border.

If Daddy gets a fishing license, I suspect these two will be spending some quality time together by the river this weekend. They now have plenty of bait. For the worms, after being poked, prodded and closely examined by a curious and overly enthusiastic preschooler, I suspect the end of a hook won't seem so bad.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The best laid plans...

All I really wanted was a free bike helmet for Sydney. And somehow the whole evening unraveled from there.

Each year, a local hospital partners with a couple of retailers to put on a bike safety clinic. Two years ago, we got AJ a helmet at this event, and so I wanted to get Sydney one, too. The event ran 4-7 p.m. My friend Jess suggested we meet at McDonald's afterward for dinner and a playdate. Sounds like a fun plan.

Problem one: Jeff had to work late. So I left work early, raced home to let Maggie out, picked up the kids and headed back into town.

Problem two: Highway 53 is all torn up. You can't turn into the Kohl's parking lot (where the event was being held) from the normal spot. No problem I figured, I'll drive to the next intersection and turn onto the service road. Wrong. That intersection was torn up too, as was the next one. Finally, by Walgreens, several miles away, I was able to turn onto a service road and back track to Kohl's.

Problem three: It was 6 p.m. when we pulled into the lot, and they're all out of helmets. AJ somehow had translated "we're getting a new helmet for Sydney" to mean, "I'm going to get a new batman helmet." What??? He started crying in the back seat as we headed to McDonald's, weaving our way back along the service road to the point where we could finally turn on to the main road.

Problem four: Just as we're turning onto the main road, my phone rings. It's Jess. Her napless girls are not behaving. They're heading home. Perfect. Can this night get any better?

Dinner actually went fairly smoothly, though Sydney managed to fall off a chair in Playland and hit her head. And they ran out of the current Happy Meal toy. Not a big deal, because they substituted leftover toys from past promotions... except we got the little primate guy from Kung Fu Panda. We already have this toy, and he's quite possibly the most annoying Happy Meal toy ever created. The slightest tap sets him off singing/chanting, "I like to move it move it. I like to move it move it..." So as we were leaving, I asked if we could exchange him. Be careful what you wish for. We now have the Kung Fu Panda, who shrieks, "Wa-ha! Ska-douche."

On to Sam's Club we went, with "Wa-ha! Ska-douche" sounding over and over from the back seat until, tragically, AJ dropped the toy on the floor. Oh... too bad. The actual shopping trip went relatively smoothly until we got to the check-out line. "I have to go potty," AJ announced. Thankfully I hadn't started unloading the cart, so we headed to the bathrooms. AJ went in by himself and returned in a remarkably short period of time. I should have questioned that. I didn't. I'll never make that mistake again.

Problem five: The same engineering geniuses who thought it would be fun to block off three consecutive exits from 53, clearly decided that wouldn't be enough of an inconvenience, so they decided to tear up the parallel Maple Grove Road at the same time. What on earth? Carefully inching out of the Sam's Club parking lot, I made it onto the one lane wide, very unevenly paved road. We'd driven a couple minutes when AJ inquired, "Mommy, can you drive a little faster? I have to go potty real bad."

I'm trying to figure out if there's a moral to this story. I don't think I was being greedy in wanting a free helmet. I am happy to report that AJ made it home without having an accident. So maybe at least he learned something from the evening. But I doubt it.

Wa-ha! Ska-douche.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The princess and the pudding pop

Neither survived.

Princess jammies are in the wash. Pudding pop is on everything. Sydney just doesn't grasp the concept of holding the treat by the handle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hunting for bugs

Hate me now? Or hate me later? Which do you suppose would upset AJ more: if I told him he couldn't go outside dressed in his silly, too-small turtle costume? Or if I show him these pictures in 15 years so he knows that I allowed him to run around our front yard in his silly, too-small turtle costume. Hmmmm....

What AJ is doing, by the way, is "just looking for bugs." That's what he told me as he investigated the inhabitants of the garden on the side of house. I wasn't too concerned. It kept him busy while I unloaded the car on Sunday.

And then I came home from work Monday and found this:

"I was just looking for bugs Mom," he explained, totally baffled as to why I might be upset.

Spin doctor that I am, I'm sensing opportunity here. I've been wanting to head down the hill in our back yard in search of more rocks to further line our yard/gardens. AJ wasn't too interested in helping the last time I asked. It's not that I need his help, I just need him to be near enough to me that I can keep an eye on him while I'm digging. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to convince him this time to come along and help me dig. The question I'll ask will be, "Who wants to help me look for bugs?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome to the family

It's good to be loved Zane. Just keep telling yourself that. It's good to be the center of attention and the object of such fascination.

Never mind that one of your cousins is wearing a ridiculous ninja turtle costume and the other - who's covered with gooey yogurt - insists on putting her sticky hands on your nice, clean car seat.

Hey Zane, if you're lucky, AJ won't totally destroy the costume, and in a few years you can wear it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hello Diva

"So let me tell you baby, it's taken a while, but I think I've finally got Mommy trained on how to appropriately treat her little princess. She got me a new necklace and this super cool chair. Sure, they came from garage sales, but that's okay. I think that's Mommy's way of keeping me down to earth and in touch with how the 'real world' lives."

"Oh, hi Mommy, I didn't see you there. I'm just hanging out with the girls here, having a little milk..."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Supporting the local economy

Demonstrating our sense of good civic responsibility, we helped many of our neighbors clean out their basements this weekend and provided them with some extra spending money at the same time. Translation: you should see the cool stuff we found during the annual city-wide garage sale.
Among the favorites: a doll house with a whole bunch of people, furniture and mini-sizes toys for Sydney, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume for AJ. Though a close second is a
"Pirate's Treasure" Matchbox Car track, complete with spinning, cackling skeleton.

It's fun to watch the kids mix and match their old toys with their new. An old Spiderman action figure is the perfect size to fly AJ's new fighter jet. And his old Playmobile pirates are enjoying new digs aboard a pirate ship commandeered by none other than Captain Hook. The ship and Captain Hook were lucky finds from two separate sales.

I don't think Daddy appreciates all the new treasures quite as much as the rest of us do. 'Course, he happened to arrive home unexpectedly early from the Armory, when all of the toys, along with a few hundred Legos. were spread out across the floor. That probably explains the raised eyebrows.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A polished smile

Once he confirmed that they weren't going to put drops in his eyes and weren't going to use the "whir-whir" thing like on Nemo, AJ did a great job during his first visit to the dentist.

As he reported back to Daddy afterward, "I was a brave, brave guy."

He sat pretty well for the hygienist as she counted his teeth and polished them, which we convinced him would only tickle. By the time the dentist came in, it was clear AJ's attention span was waning.

"She kind of made me choke," he told me later.

So what did we learn? AJ has 20 teeth, with slight tartar, which they cleaned off. He also has a slight "open bite".

I asked if this was an indication of how his permanent teeth would grow in. The dentist gave a longer than necessary explanation, which I concluded could be abbreviated as "pretty much." So I asked, "In other words, we should start saving for braces now?"

Her response this time was more succinct. "Probably."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Living green

Yes, our temperature could again drop into the 30s tonight. But other than that, the signs of spring are all around us. The two surviving branches on the willow outside Sydney's window are sprouting small green leaves. I'm not sure why the deer spared these two limbs. They decimated the rest of the plant.

Other evidence that we can finally bid winter goodbye... I've been able to leave my potted plants out overnight - two nights in a row - without fear of frost.

Across the street, our neighbor is again practicing his golf swing in the front yard. His wife has given me strict orders to tattle if I catch him doing anything but putts. Apparently his faulty aim has led to tensions with some of our neighbors.

In the backyard, Jeff and I are looking the other way. The grass is actually in need of mowing, but it will likely be mid-next week before either of us has a chance to tackle it.

Beyond the backyard fence, I've discovered a new crop of rocks breaking through the clay, pushed up by the frost. Now if only I could spend some quality time with a shovel and dig them up before the weeds grow taller and hide them from sight. AJ doesn't seem to share Mommy's addiction to rock collecting this year. I wonder if I could interest Sydney...

Quick update: I knew I was tempting fate when I wrote the above blog entry last night. This morning, snowflakes hit the windshield as I drove the kids to daycare. AJ demanded, "Why is it snowing out?" I answered, "I think God is teasing us."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Move over David and Goliath

AJ has a new favorite Bible story. Initially he called it dandelion, until we corrected him that it was Daniel in the Lion's Den.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that his fascination with the story comes just days after he got to watch the youth group at my parents' church perform a musical about Daniel and the big cats.

I used to think that church programs like this were performed for the benefit of the children involved and their parents. Now I realize what a valuable teaching tool they are for the even younger kids.

Sunday night, as AJ talked on the phone with his other Grandmas, Daniel got top billing as he described what we'd done that weekend. He's told me twice that when he gets big he's going to be in the show, too. He rotates between wanting to be the king and one of the soldiers. I think the cool costumes have something to do with his choices. He's told quite a few people about the gladiator helmet he got to try on.

As luck would have it, we already have a book about Daniel. Last year, when David and Goliath were the coolest characters in the bible, I happened to find a book about them at a library book sale. The Daniel book was sitting right next to it, so I grabbed it too. AJ hasn't been interested in the story before, but he sure is now. You could say that seeing the story come alive has given it some teeth. (I couldn't resist the pun.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Backyard treasures

In the midst of a great excavation, our young archaelogist takes a break, realizing that crocs were not the smartest choice in footwear for this backyard adventure.

Sandy socks aside, the dig continues. The archaelogist doesn't seem to question what geologic conditions could have led to the mottled appearance of the sand. Perhaps it was because she was with Mommy at Menards when the white beach sand was purchased this spring. Mommy, meanwhile, is wondering why no one ever warned her of sandbox sand's mysterious ability to evaporate over a long winter.

Back to the dig, our young archaelogist pauses to examine her latest discovery: A sand-encrusted vehicle that appears to be a remnant indicating past adventures of a certain preschooler.

Oh, who are we kidding? Digging in the sand is interesting for about 12 seconds. The real fun is knocking down Mommy's sand castles. "Again! Again! Again!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Mom's thoughts

A belated Happy Mothers Day to any Moms who see this. It'd be easy to get sentimental and include the sappy but true cliches about how being a Mom means accepting that a piece of your heart will forever more walk around outside your body.

But I'm feeling a bit more practical today, which means my thoughts about motherhood all tie in to how children affect their parents' sleep habits. (Could it be sleep deprivation that's putting me in such a practical mood?) For me, motherhood means no longer being in control of when I sleep and when I wake. It means viewing late afternoon car rides with mixed emotions because you know the kids will take much-needed naps, but then will be rarin' to go late into the evening. It means best intentions to get up early and jog can be dashed by the sound of a toddler's whimpers at 5:12 a.m. It means feeling even prouder of things accomplished, like still managing to run two miles on the treadmill after she went back to sleep, despite those kind of interruptions.

Don't get me wrong. Motherhood isn't all about sacrifice. There are plenty of rewards. Once again I'll stick to the practical ones. If you didn't have kids, people would think you were weird to spend an afternoon building way cool houses out of Legos.

Okay... I can't be completely unsentimental. Motherhood also means truly loving the scribbled Mothers Day card your preschooler colored at daycare. And when he asks what's the best part of it, being able to honestly say, "My favorite part is that it's from you."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bright kid!

I think it might be time to rearrange the furniture in Sydney's room. Guess what she's figured out how to reach from the corner of the crib.

That means, when she decides it's time to wake up at an ungodly early hour on Saturday morning, she can turn on the light, which then shines into AJ's room, waking him up too. Which means we all end up starting our day a little earlier than we prefer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Does this mean I'm a soccer Mom?

Let the school spirit begin! AJ came home from soccer registration proudly wearing his new bright yellow t-shirt... correction... jersey. (He gets upset if you call it a t-shirt.) He then proclaimed, "I'm an Eskomo!"

Turns out I have a little time before I need the minivan with vinyl stickers in the window. The season doesn't start until July.

Warning to Jonathon and Jessica: AJ is expecting you to tell him all about what kind of gear he needs. He was quite disappointed that Daddy didn't immediately buy the socks, shin guards, shoes and balls that were for sale at the registration.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Mama shirt

It finally warmed up enough to wear short sleeved shirts this week. Sydney turned it into an opportunity to further charm her grandparents.

When I asked her what she wanted to wear, she pulled out the t-shirt she'd been given 3+ weeks earlier when my folks got back from Florida. As she hugged it to her chest, she exclaimed, "Mama!" (Sorry Grandpa. Grandma seems to be getting all the credit for it.)

I 'm just amazed she remembered where she'd gotten the shirt.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

All hail the spring thunderstorm

I was at work when the fun started. Thankfully it only lasted a couple minutes and the cars weren't damaged by the pea-size and larger hail. I'm wondering what it was like at home though, because it was close to two hours later when I was able to snap this picture.

There were two spots in our garden that had large piles of hail. It must have piled up on our roof or in a gutter, and then all slid down at once, because there was no evidence of hail anywhere else. Go figure.

AJ didn't seem to recall ever picking up hail pellets, though I know he has. He immediately wanted to bring some inside to throw at Daddy. Daddy, who was busy making meatballs for supper, wasn't amused. So AJ and I went back outside and threw some at each other.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Hockey.

I've seen those t-shirts that say "Hockey is Life. The rest is just details." Now I understand.

AJ is obsessed with hockey. On the days his various hockey shirts are in the laundry, it is the ultimate test of my spin doctor skills. That's a hockey shirt he's wearing in the photo, don't you know - it's for the Blues. And the zip-up sweatshirt that his grandparents brought him from Sweden - that's a "hockey warm-up jacket." A dad from daycare almost blew that one for me, but thankfully caught on when I corrected him through gritted teeth.

"You're right. That is a cool hockey warm-up jacket," he told AJ.

The daycare is either playing along or feeding into the obsession. I'm not sure which. AJ no longer goes to school or work. He goes to his hockey game. The teacher is his coach. And if the kids do something wrong, they get a penalty. Nice!

AJ's favorite conversation topic generally starts with "what's your favorite hockey team?" One recent evening when Jeff was working late, AJ wore me out with questions about Gophers and Bulldogs and Wild and North Stars.

I finally asked, "Can we please talk about anything other that hockey?"

In all seriousness, he insisted, "But I HAVE to talk about hockey."

Give me strength.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

No fear

With AJ, I remember being amazed at the change in his ability and level of daring from our last playground visit in the fall to when we'd return in the spring. For instance, the tall steps and slides that intimidated him at two and a half were child's play (literally) by the time he was three.

With Sydney, I just witnessed the same kind of transformation. In one afternoon. It started with a trip to Gordy's Hi Hat for lunch, which of course had to include some time on the outdoor playground. Sydney started on the smallest slide. One trip down and she was ready for the bigger slide. You have to climb more steps and bypass more kids to get to it, and it's a longer way down. That was good for about three times. And then it was time for the big kid slide. More steps to climb, more kids to get around and a small "bridge" to cross. Sydney was in heaven! Over and over and over again.

Later, while Sydney (and I) napped, Jeff took AJ to the "rocket ship" playground. After we woke up, we joined the boys for... you guessed it... a few hundred trips up and down the slide.

Maybe I ought to just dye my hair grey. That would make my little daredevil's job a littler easier.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I sense a cover-up

I think Sydney has discovered the idea hiding the food she doesn't want to eat. But her technique clearly needs work.

Daddy's shrimp risotto on Friday night was a half-hit with the kids. They loved the shrimp, but didn't seem to care for the risotto.

Sydney quietly moved some of the food from her plate to her tray, and then covered her hands over it. I looked over and asked. "Sydney what are you doing?"

"She lifted up her hands and asked, "Where go?" (Where'd it go?)

As if realizing she'd just revealed her secret hiding place, she quickly put her hands back over the food and announced, "All gone."

Nice try.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Learning the hard way

Let me start by inviting anyone who knows how to say this toy's name, to please share with me. It's spelled Bakugan, though AJ pronounces it something like bat'-o-go-mon'.
It's apparently THE hot toy amongst the preschool crowd, as well as with some boys we saw at Target who were probably closer to 10. It's kind of like a transformer in that it converts from a ball into a little robot/alien. But it's more than that because to get it to pop open, you have to drop it on a little card that I suspect has a magnet inside. There's a bunch of them that somehow battle, and each toy has particular "powers", though you have to visit a Web site I think to learn what those are.

On Monday, after our visit to the eye doctor, I bought a grey version of the one you see above for AJ. He was so excited! He couldn't wait to show his friend Aric at school who apparently has four of these things.

I told him no, he'd just have to tell Aric about it. They're not supposed to bring toys to school.

Well, guess what AJ did on Tuesday. He snuck it to school. And he lost it. Less than 24 hours after he got it.

When Jeff picked AJ up that night, AJ told him what happened. They searched unsuccessfully, and one of the teachers promised to keep looking.

When I got home from work that night, AJ immediately told me what happened, adding, "I'm sorry I took my bat-o-go-mon toy to school."

"I'm sure you are," I replied.

"When can we go to a store and get a new one?" He asked. He was so confident that Mommy could fix anything.

"We're not," I answered. "You lost your toy. You don't just get another one."

Oh, you should have seen his face. For a split second it showed shock. He was not expecting that response. And then the tears started. Some lessons are so painful.