Monday, August 31, 2009

The daddy of all traditions

As if getting to listen again to heavy metal rock music in the black truck wasn't enough reason to be thankful, here's another bonus that accompanies Daddy's return: he can once again mow the lawn. Actually, it's a double bonus. The most obvious benefit is that Mommy doesn't have to cut the grass with the push mower. But it also means Sydney once again gets to "go ride on tractor with Daddy."

Based on this photo, I'd say the only one not thrilled by this return to normalcy is the guy in the driver's seat.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Toddler triage

This picture really has nothing to do with the story, but it was too cute not to post.

In case anyone is wondering just how good Sydney's conversation skills have become, here's an example.

A little bit ago, while playing in the living room, she let out a small grunt. Jeff asked, "What happened, Sydney?"

She responded, "I stubbed my toe."

"You stubbed your toe?" Jeff repeated the question.

"I need a band-aid" She answered.

Apparently noting a lack of blood, Jeff suggested, "How about a kiss instead?"

Clearly looking for more attention than that, Sydney moved on to the kitchen where I was making dinner.

"I got a owie, Mommy."

"You did? Do you need a kiss?" I asked.

My kisses must hold more healing power than Daddy's. Sydney accepted my offer by bracing herself against the cupboard and lifting her foot up in a rather ridiculous pose. She then pointed to the bottom of her foot (not her toe) and directed where she needed the kiss. "Here."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Imagination at work

Working hard, or hardly working?

We sent the kids to their bedrooms last night, directing them to clean up the toys that covered their floors before Daddy came in with the vacuum cleaner. I helped Sydney, while AJ, well, I'm not sure what AJ was doing, but as I discovered later, it certainly wasn't cleaning.

Sydney's room was well under control, so I moved on to the next task, folding and putting away the laundry. A few minutes later, with laundry basket in hand, I returned to the kids rooms to find...

Sydney was playing cowgirl while talking to her baby. Note the new jacket she couldn't bear to take off and so wore most of the evening. And AJ, well, I'm still not exactly sure what he was doing. Wearing an emergency worker costume (because we know better than to call it a firefighter costumer in this house), AJ was trying to snag his octopus using the anchor from his pirate ship.

When TV isn't an option, you never know what these two will come up with for fun. Watching them is certainly more entertaining for me than any of the programming I might find in prime time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Traveling music

He looks so sweet. So innocent. If you could tell his lips were moving, you might think he was singing a lullaby. But no. He's happily singing along to We're not gonna take it. Apparently there's nothing like Twisted Sister to rev a guy up before a soccer game.

The kids were greatly dismayed while Jeff was away at Fort Ripley to learn that Mommy's car didn't offer the same musical selection as "the black truck." A few times I humored them by tuning in the local classic rock station, but according to AJ it just wasn't the same. "We like wild music Mom. Loud, wild music."

It sounds, though, like even Daddy is getting tired of playing certain select songs over and over again. He revealed last night that he's now trying to expand their musical tastes to include Def Leppard. We'll see how that goes.

All tied up

You win some. You lose some. Or, at the U6 level, you (big surprise!) have another tie.

I would classify last night's game as a blow-out tie, with the picture below as the best representation. That's AJ on the ground as his coach helped free him from the net after his cleats got entwined. For the second time. In just a matter of minutes.

The kids played hard but were clearly outmatched. I wouldn't say out coached, because the two women for the Cloquet team seemed far more concerned about blowing their whistles if the ball happened to stray an inch over the line, while turning a blind eye to the number of the times their players were grabbing shirts and pulling our kids to the ground.

AJ ultimately scored twice. So at least he sent the ball into the net as many times as his shoes got tangled there. He's clearly emerged as his team's scoring leader. I wouldn't say he's a team leader. At this age, they're all too easily distracted to serve in that role. Motorcycles passing by, playgrounds in the distance or just a chance to wrestle: all have been more interesting than the game at points during this short season.

AJ is having fun, though, and that's what matters most. And his teammate Jack brought Oreos and Juice Boxes for the post-game treat. That's what matters second most.

I'm enjoying watching the new friendships forming on the team. As we left last night, AJ was trying to make plans for his new friend Riley to come over to our house "so he can wear our costumes." A few minutes later, as we were driving out of the parking lot, we passed Jack, who was still being loaded into his car seat. AJ instructed, "Wait, I have to say goodbye to my teammate."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why mommy doesn't like "coater" bears...

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. When you think you've found a bargain, don't just look at the sticker price, consider also the toll it might take on your sanity.

Both of my kids loved the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, so when I saw a brand new copy of its sequel at a garage sale last week for a buck, I had to grab it. What was I thinking?

I've lost track of how many times I've read Polar Bear Polar Bear What Do You Hear in the last five days. I know it was three times yesterday. Sydney is obsessed. I think there should be a rule requiring proper pronunciation for anything you love that dearly. She asks for "Coater bear" first thing in the morning, and as her bedtime story at night. Yesterday, she repeatedly announced she had to go potty, so I finally asked, "Do you really need to go to the bathroom, or do you just want mommy to go in there with you to read Polar Bear?

At least she was honest in her answer.

She's also turned the book into a sort of song. The melody is the same as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. "Coater bear, Coater bear, what do you hear? I hear a lion roaring in my ear." And on and on it goes. She now can say "boa constictor" because that's one of the creatures in the book. Though mommy tends to shorten it to "green snake."

I liken the author and illustrator, Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle, to the creators of Barney. Clearly they understand what clicks with children, but they show no compassion for the parents of their obsessed fans.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear what do you hear?
I hear a Mommy trying to hide a book. That's what I hear.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Life is like a trampoline

We could learn a lot about life from a trampoline. One minute you're up,

and then you're down.
Of course, the best thing to do is get right back up again,

and savor every minute of the fun.
And it's even better when you can share the time with a friend.

Thanks Addie for inviting us to your birthday party and letting us play on your trampoline. I say "us" because even I got to join in the jumping fun. Or, as Sydney repeatedly said, "I bounce."

Start your engines!

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the... backyard

Call it the preschool version of Born to be wild as AJ and Cece go zipping around trees, toys and parents.

My incredibly awesome friend Kim volunteered to watch AJ and Sydney for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, giving Jeff and I some much appreciated time to go out to lunch, do a little shopping and just enjoy each other's company without the non-stop interruptions of "What doing?" and "For Halloween, I want to be..."

Making it as much fun for the kids as it was for us, Kim's children recently became the proud owners of little motorized cars. Sydney's enthusiasm for the cars apparently sat on idle for awhile, but once she got going, there was no stopping her. Until the battery wore out, which it did.

As for AJ, he seems to enjoy speed more than steering. He needed rescuing more than once from crashing into the garage, trees and the other car.

I can just hear it now, "Mommy, for Christmas, I want..."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yeah, Daddy!

It's not necessarily the most flattering photo of our favorite brave army soldier, but the expressions on the kids's faces as they attempt to tickle him at dinner shows their excitement better than anything I could write.

It's funny how our reunions have changed in recent years. It used to be me running into Jeff's arms after a long separation. Today I ended up fourth in line. Even Maggie got in a few licks before I could give him a hug.

Jeff arrived home shortly before the kids and I headed out for our friend Addie's birthday party. (We left Jeff on the couch, where he remained napping until we returned home more than three hours later.) As we drove to the party, AJ, announced from the back seat, "I'm happy now."

Later in the evening, Sydney wouldn't let Daddy out of sight, following him around the house, giggling when he would catch her watching him. At dinner, (we went to Gordy's) Jeff had more helpers than he could handle. Both kids wanted to stick with him as he carried our trays of food to the table. And at bedtime, you can bet it wasn't me who was asked to read The Monster at the End of this Book.

It's good to feel whole again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Just like Mommy II

Sydney's "Aunt Wisa" will probably find more humor and justice in this story than anyone else, considering how many chocolate chips coincidentally disappeared from her Tupperware container with the dusty rose cover any time I house-sat for her back in college.

Friday morning I was determined to shower. I had two children happily working on puzzles at the dining room table, so I figured it'd be safe to duck out for a few minutes. Everything sounded fine (i.e. quiet) as I stepped from the shower a short time later. Beware of quiet toddlers. As I came from my room, AJ, who was still piecing things together at the dining room table, announced, "Sydney's not helping me with my puzzle any more."

Sweet little Sydney, from her elevated perch on a dining room chair, apparently had spotted the still-half-full bag of chocolate chips still left out on the kitchen counter. No, Lisa, I had not been munching on them all morning. I'd used them to make banana/chocolate chunk muffins, and hadn't put them away yet. On a side note, because the recipe includes applesauce and yogurt, it's somehow considered low fat. Love it! Let me know if anyone wants a copy. But I digress...

So Sydney had seen the bag of chocolate chips, managed to stretch up and grab it and was now happily seated in her princess chair, watching TV and setting herself up for a lovely chocolate rush.

Of course I told her that wasn't okay. Though secretly I was thinking this child had a pretty good idea. I was 18 before I figured out what a great snack these were. She's 2. Look out!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Go cars!

Line 'em up and watch 'em go!

Mommy decided she not only needed, she well deserved a break last night. So off to McDonalds we went for dinner. Wait... didn't that use to be one of their ad campaign themes? "You deserve a break today... at McDonald's." Brilliant and effective, that jingle has stuck with me for years.

Equally brilliant and effective: the genius who thought, "Hey, let's add an indoor play area to the Golden Arches." That's precisely the reason we headed for McDonald's on what was the second night in a row of extremely soggy weather. The Playland, plus Lego car Happy Meals, kept the kids happily occupied for over an hour. I actually sat and read part of a magazine.

Even though I managed to lop off a significant portion of Sydney's head, and the cars have rolled out of the picture (blame it all on the digital camera delay), I love this shot because of the expression on AJ's face.

The kids raced their cars down "the little kids slide" over and over again. Each time, the two of them would then slide down after the cars, and each time AJ would patiently wait for Sydney to slowly climb back to the top.
I really was proud of how well the kids played together. I'll have to remind them of this when they reach their teenage years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A pocket full of sunshine

Look at that X-citement... that delight... that ridiculous pose. All because of the skull and crossbones embroidered on the pocket of his new jeans.

X certainly seems to mark the spot for fashion tastes among four year olds.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, AJ is now the X-tremely proud owner and wearer of pirate pants. If there's a bright side to be found in today's chilly weather forecast, it's that AJ can wear and show off his new pants to his friends.

We found this denim treasure at Target last week. Bless them for inserting adjustable waists in their jeans. A couple tugs on the elastic and I think these pants should actually stay above his hips.

One question though... is this considered Back to School style if he's yet to start school?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Child's play

I've been working with a client the last few weeks on an ad campaign that reminds people to recycle their cans and bottles. The strategy we're using is to point out that recycling has become so easy, there's no really no excuse to not do it.

Ironically, my kids have fun recycling when they turn it into more work than it needs to be. Why? Because to them, crushing cans is like a mommy-endorsed form of destruction. And they know I'll praise them for their good teamwork.

AJ, because of height, strength and birth order, gets to claim the role of official crusher. He stands on a small step ladder and smashes the cans using the cruncher we've got mounted on the wall.

His assistant, Sydney, meanwhile keeps the cans coming. And going. She happily hands cans up to AJ...

...and then takes the crushed ones from him and dumps them into the designated bin.

My job in all of this is to give the cans a slight squeeze before Sydney delivers them to her big brother. (They tend to collapse faster for AJ if they've already been dented.) I also stomp flat as many cans as possible during the brief moments when Sydney doesn't need my help. Otherwise this process would take forever.

Of course, once AJ tired of their game, Sydney had to climb the ladder and try smashing a can herself. (She requires a little help with the handle from Mommy. Though I have to be sneaky about it because she insists on "do myself!")

Sydney had so much fun that the next challenge became trying to scrounge up a few more cans to extend the game a little longer. Lucky for her, I found a few empties cluttering the floor on the passenger side of my car. I knew there was a reason I was allowing those cans to accumulate there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just like Mommy

"I'm sure this is how I saw Mommy do it. First you smear this stuff around your mouth..."

"And then you rub your lips together."

"I'm not sure why you do this, but if that's what Mommy does, then that's what I'm going to do."

Sydney certainly loves Chapstick. I finally gave in and let her have one of my tubes. Mostly because she had soaked it with so much slobber that I didn't really feel like touching it to my lips ever again.

And if you think that's cute, you should see the little copycat trying to lift her shirt in an attempt to apply deoderant. I don't have pictures of that yet, because I've been too busy trying to stop her from smearing the supposedly non-whitening formula all over her shirt.

It's easy to tell when my attempts are unsuccessful. Not only does she leave lovely white marks on her clothes, but she also emits a faint "fresh summer breeze" scent the rest of the day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's all a blur...

I'm too tired to blog today, and so am again falling back on that lovely rule in TV journalism: good pictures can salvage even the weakest of stories.

So consider the above photo to represent Sydney swinging in to save the day.

As someone who's taken photography classes in the past, it's cool to upload my photos into the computer and discover one like this in the mix. Admittedly, it'd be more impressive if I knew exactly what I had done to achieve this effect: Sydney, in motion, remains in focus, while the background is a blur. I think I was unintentionally moving the camera at the same pace she was swinging. It seems to me that was a technique I learned in a class long ago.

If that's not it, then I will have to fall back on TV journalism rule #2: It's better to be lucky than good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August Halloween

Jeff's and my honeymoon in Hawaii took place during the third week in October. That meant we saw lots of spooky Halloween decorations hanging amidst the palm trees. I remember thinking how odd, and nice, it must be to trick-or-treat in a tropical setting.

Last night, the kids and I had a chance to find out.

Auntie Barbie's campground in Sturgeon Lake has a Halloween party every summer, and she invited us to join the fun. I'm thinking the above photo is the only one I'll ever take of my kids in costume in which you'll see green grass in the background. (Unless she invites us back next year, which she's already promised to do.)

The weather didn't completely cooperate. It rained quite a bit. But it was a warm rain, and let's be honest, there was candy involved so none of the kids seemed to mind. Sydney wasn't too thrilled with the rain drops at first, burying her head in my shoulder. But after about the second or third stop, she figured out the candy haul potential and was rarin' to go.

AJ, along with Barb's other nephew DJ, plus two kids from the neighboring camper, happily ran through the mud. Quite often I would hear one of them shout out to the others when they found a camper with lights on, "Hey! There's candy over here!"

The timing of this couldn't have been better. It was the perfect distraction from missing Daddy. And it came just one day after AJ got his new Transformer costume.

The only downside, if you don't count my mud splattered legs, was the ensuing sugar rush on a certain little fairy princess. Watching her repeatedly body slam herself against Barb's couch and then giggle hysterically should have been a clue that she'd had enough Tootsie Rolls. But I still went ahead and changed her diaper before we left the campground (a little before 9 p.m.) thinking she'd fall asleep for the night during the drive home.

Silly, overly hopeful me.

AJ, who has never been overly affected by sugar, fell asleep soon after we got home. But Tinkerbell was still running on pixie dust until almost 11 p.m. (I'm really not complaining too much about this fact, because right now it's 8:30 a.m. and they're both still asleep.)

By the way, I should mention that, when combined with what we got at parades this summer, we now have enough candy to last until Halloween 2010!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Super what?

Every so often, AJ's imagination leaves even me asking, "huh?"

Such was the case when he appeared at the breakfast table in his Superman pajamas, with an army helmet on his head and a pillow case on each arm.

He was being Batman, of course. That's what he told me. I understand the wings. And he probably didn't remember what pajamas he had on. (The pants of which were inside out, so the reverse view, complete with tag hanging out, is even more charming.) But I still don't get what the helmet has to do with anything. Oh well... he was happy.

A little later, after switching into knight mode, he requested an orange for breakfast. I thought that a little odd, but am always happy to oblige when he asks for something other than sugar cereal.

Interestingly, he asked me to not break all the pieces apart. And that's when I figured out what he was planning. Yes, he wanted to use his sword to cut the orange.

The countdown to Halloween has begun. With less than three months to go, AJ's costume wishlist is growing longer by the day. And some days by the minute.

During a car ride yesterday, AJ announced he wants to be "a flying dinosaur. A robot one. A green flying robot dinosaur."

Thankfully, before I had a chance to fully think about how a needle and thread-challenged person such as myself could possibly create a costume like that, he changed his mind again.

"Or a knight. I think I want to be a knight."

An hour later, as we were touring the toy section at Target, AJ transformed his mind again after spotting an Optimus Prime costume. And it was only $9.99. Bonus! I'm not kidding myself into thinking there's any chance the Transformer costume will still be in trick-or-treat condition come Halloween night. But for a little boy who's missing his Daddy very much, I think $9.99 is a small price to pay for a fun distraction.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Race ya!

I wasn't brave enough to take AJ to the kids race in Esko last weekend. It's a full lap around the track, and last year he needed Jeff to run it with him. There's no way I could have done that with Sydney in tow.

So when a friend suggested that our play date group go to the Wednesday Night at the Races this week, I thought great idea!

Yeah. Let's just file this one under the category of "what were we thinking?"

Hundreds of kids. Just as many parents. It was a zoo. For most kids in AJ's group, (boys, age 4 and under) a parent ran right along with them. But with Sydney, that wasn't possible. Thankfully, our friend Paula and her son Cameron were running, too, so AJ lined up with them.

And then they were off. Did I mention the race is an eighth mile long? I thought it'd be a short dash similar to the Whipper Snapper Races, which is put on by the same organization. No. This race had the kids weaving through a park to a finish line way on the other side.

So as soon as the crush of runners passed, Sydney and I started a dash of our own, catching up to him shortly after he crossed the finish line. Apparently he did quite well. My friend Michelle figures he finished about sixth. Of course all the kids get a ribbon at this age.

Talking with my friends afterward, we've decided we are willing to try this again. We'll just know better than to call it a play date. Because when you have to keep an eye on kids with that many people around, there's just no chance for adult conversation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Long distance bedtime story

So what could possibly be on the computer screen that these two find so interesting?

It's a video showing Daddy reading the book that AJ is holding in his lap.

Both kids LOVE the Sesame Street classic There's a Monster at the end of this Book. So much so, that on a recent evening, Sydney picked it as a bedtime story. Then, when it was AJ's turn to pick, he chose to have us read it again. How wonderful is that?!?

A few days before Jeff left for Ripley, big surprise here, the kids chose "the Grover book" at bedtime. Jeff gets quite animated as he attempts to imitate the lovable, furry ol' guy; so I videotaped him with the kids as he was reading it.

Last night, big surprise here, the kids wanted the story again, so I set them up in front of the computer and started the video. AJ knows the book so well that he had no problem turning the pages at the appropriate time. Sydney, meanwhile, just kept pointing at the screen, alternating her squeals between, "Daddy!" and "That's Sydney Bean."

I've heard of military wives using this storytelling technique as a way to keep kids connected to Dad during deployments. And let me just say, I am again reminded of the incredible strength of these women to keep their families going during such lengthy separations. We're just on day six of Jeff being gone, and I've already had to deal with tears from AJ twice, along with comments that bring tears to my eyes like, "I don't want to talk to him on the phone. I just want to give him a hug."

For his part, Jeff's been doing a great job finding time to call home daily. Last night, he lined up a group of soldiers in the background who shouted on cue, "Good night AJ!" (Had I been thinking, I'd have coached AJ to respond, "Hoo-ah!")

One last note about the videotaped story. There's a particular bonus in this technique for me, as well. After five straight nights of reading this blessed book in my best Grover voice, it was nice to get a break and let Daddy take a turn.

Monday, August 10, 2009

He's got it!

Three games into the season, and the best way to sum up AJ's performance is to simply say, "Wow!"

Of course I think he's doing a great job and is trying so hard and is showing remarkable improvement. I'd be a pretty sad excuse for a mom to not think that. But maternal biases aside, let me just say, "Wow!"

AJ has figured out what it means to go after the ball and to stay with the ball. He doesn't just kick it, he then runs after it. And if another player intercepts it, he goes after it some more. The first time he came off the field tonight, I gave him a high-5 and told him that was the best he'd ever played. The smile on his face was just about the sweetest I've ever seen. And he followed that up by giving me an equally sincere hug. It sure is fun being a soccer mom!

I'm savoring every moment that he's not embarassed by my praise. I did my best to cheer for all the kids. And clearly my voice is loud enough that they hear me. When it was AJ's buddy Gino's turn to play, Gino ran halfway out onto the field, then turned around and ran to me and requested, "Will you say 'Go Gino!' ?" Of course I would, and did.

Did I mention all this happened during an extremely lopsided game that could better be described as a rout? That made AJ's enthusiasm all the more impressive. Nobody keeps score at this level (thank goodness), but if I had to guess, I'd say the final count was somewhere in the ballpark of Cloquet: 92, Esko: 6.

And AJ scored half our team's points.

We suspected we were in for a rough game as the kids lined up for the first kick. We could hear the opposing coach direct, "Natalie, you play defense."

Defense? Their kids know what defense means?

It would have been ugly, except mercifully at this stage, our kids are too innocent to realize they were the victims of a blowout at the hands (or feet) of a group of 5-year-olds. And AJ was having fun. So much fun that when his teammates on the other line got tired, hot, bored or whatever other reason they gave for needing to rest, AJ stood on the sidelines and waved to his coach that he would take their place. Coach Rod looked to me to make sure it was okay for AJ to play so much. I knew he was drinking plenty of water so I said sure. Rod smiled and said, "he's got enough energy for all of them."

When Jeff called from Ripley to say goodnight, AJ's version of the game went something like this, "I scored four goals," (slight exaggeration) "and Mommy said, 'Go AJ!' and I knocked a girl down, and then I tackled Gino."

It's nice to know which parts stood out as highlights for him.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I see this picture and several questions come to mind:

  1. Everyone is wearing jackets and long sleeves. Is this really a photo from a parade in August? (Answer: yes)
  2. Considering these kids still have massive amounts of candy left from the July 4 parade, and their systems are still digesting breakfast, which consisted of a sugar-cereal trifecta (a mix of Cocoa Puffs, Trix and the Cub version of Lucky Charms), why on earth would I not only allow, but in fact enable them to gather more sugar treats? (Answer: I apparently hate myself.)
  3. If they still haven't finished their candy stash by October, would it be tacky to hand out what's left at Halloween? (Answer: Don't say anything. I know.)

As small as it is, I love our town's parade. You can arrive at the last second, or even a few minutes late, and you'll always find a place to park and sit. And chances are, you'll see people you know both on the sidelines and in the parade. I didn't even have my chair set up before I heard an excited voice yell, "Hey, AJ!" So we sat with AJ's buddy Jace and family. It's so nice how my kids are helping me expand my circle of friends.

And AJ got to turn one of his favorite parts of last year's parade into a tradition: giving high-5s to the football players from the local community college.

Last year we battled rain. This year we battled cold. Surely next year's weather on parade day has to be nice. Doesn't it?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This is the life - II

A few weeks back I shared the ironies of how reality compares with youthful visions of what adult life would be like. I had another of those moments Friday morning.

Sydney wanted "Pay-doh", so I dragged out our monstrous bin of Playdoh, along with the buzzillion cutters, presses, molds and other fun tools that accumulate in a home where the mommy is as big of a fan of the squishy stuff as the kids.

The size of our collection, most of which is AJ's, really is a bit of overkill for Sydney at this age. She's happy to simply bang the containers on the table in hopes the Playdoh will drop out for her. To do anything else, she needs help.

And so I sat at the table with her, providing help when needed. During the brief and precious moments when she was happily occupied, I skimmed through my recently received Murphy Reporter (the alumni newsletter from the U of M's Journalism School). I read that Dr. Fang, my journalism advisor, just published another book. At age 80. I, meanwhile, am sitting at a kitchen table helping Sydney create a dolphin out of pink Playdoh.

I remember in Dr. Fang's office, he proudly displayed a photo of himself with one of the (now deceased) 60 Minutes guys, whom he had helped receive a diploma based on his impressive life experience. I don't think I've quite achieved that level of professional success that would earn me a spot on his wall of fame. Though I will forever credit him for making me a better writer.

"Mommy, I cwoc-dile!"

Back to reality. Sydney now needs help cutting out a pink crocodile.

Breakfast time rolled around soon afterward, so we pushed the Playdoh to the side as AJ joined us at the table for a meal that included hashbrowns (the shaped kind, similar to what you'd order at McDonalds. AJ gobbled his down, then asked for another.

"Can I have more hashbrowns?

"No, you don't need another one."

"But I still have ketchup left."

Definitely not what the 22-year-old me imagined the 39-year-old me would be doing. But I wouldn't want it any other way. And come to think of it, by the time I'm 80, my kids will be in their 40s. They probably won't need as much supervision at that point in their lives. So I just might have time to publish a book of my own.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Who's not tired?

For years we've been told that laughter is the best medicine. Turns out it's also a pretty good stall technique.

Thursday evening at bedtime, I told Sydney to go and crawl up on the couch while I finished typing something on the computer. Of course it took me longer than I'd expected to wrap things up, and so a few minutes later, Sydney came wandering in looking for me. With mock severity, I told her go and get back up on the couch. She squealed, and then turned around and ran.

Game on.

Less than a minute later she was back, daring me to chase her.

"Up on the couch!" I ordered, as she again turned with a giggle and ran from the room.

We did this two or three few more times. The expression on her face was so comical there was no way I could yell at her. Instead, I grabbed the camera, so that the next time she came bursting into the room, I was ready for her.

Ohhh... the giggles. I'm wishing I'd grabbed the video camera instead, just so I could have captured the sound.

There are very few stages of my children's lives that I miss once they've outgrown them. Probably because so far I've enjoyed each new stage and level of ability more than the previous one. But I know I'm going to miss the high-pitched laugh that accompanies the toddler stage. There's no faking it. It's the sound of sincerity and pure joy, and I do believe one of the most beautiful sounds our ears will ever here.

AJ no longer laughs like that. I'm vowing to savor every second of it with Sydney. I think she's figured that out.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The multi-generational joust

Come on Grandpa Bill. Why the surprised look? Surely you have to know that donning a silly plastic helmet at my house is pretty much a guarantee that you become blog fodder.

Grandpa and Grandma came over for dinner tonight. AJ was relatively quiet throughout the meal, until he casually informed us that he was planning a game that seemed to be a cross between jousting and pillow fighting .

Even better, AJ was able to convince his grandpa to play along. Boy... the things this kid can talk his grandpa into doing. First it was hockey in the drive way, and now jousting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's the goal here?

Not to stereotype my children based on gender, but Sydney is showing great cheerleader potential.

On Monday night, I'd taught her to say, "Go Esko!" That didn't work so well tonight because our opponent also was from Esko. That meant both teams were wearing the same t-shirts, so our kids wore red jerseys over their t-shirts to help avoid confusion. I tried to get Sydney to cheer, "Go Red!", but she wasn't changing loyalties. Throughout the game, I continued to hear her call out, "Go Esko!"

I think Sydney saw more action on the sideline than AJ saw on the field. She greeted the 2-year-old brother of one of our other players with a kiss. Her newest technique for flirting: charm the guy by admiring his pirate hat. A little later she set her sights on an even younger guy, announcing, "I go see Derek." (Hanna's 1-year-old brother) Though, it turns out she really wanted to visit Derek's mom, who had a bag of Cheese Nips.

AJ got a lot of playing time tonight. Unfortunately, it took three shifts before he figured out how to play. He seemed very hesitant to chase the ball if other kids were crowding around it. He instead would head to the goal in hopes the ball would come his way.

It was the "you need to help your team mates get the ball" explanation that finally got through to him. Suddenly he was all over the field, inserting himself in the middle of the action. And a funny thing happened. He started getting the ball and scoring. That's him in the red in the photo above, kicking his second goal of the night.

What a kid!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Doing time

For some reason, I'm exhausted by the time I get the kids to bed each night. I can't imagine why.

"What doing?"
"I'm looking for the remote. Did you pick out a bedtime story yet?"
"What doing?"
"Mommy's looking for the remote. Go get up on the couch."
"Oh. What doing Mommy?"
"I'm trying to find the remote."
By now, I'm pulling up couch cushions. The sound of separating velcro catches AJ's attention. He points to the coffee table. "Silly Mommy. It's right here."
"No. That's the remote for changing channels. I need the other one that adjusts the volume."
"What doing Mommy?"
Stuffing the cushions back into place, I answered her question with a question. "Do you suppose I might be... looking for the remote?"
Sydney grins, but again asks, "What doing?"
"What do you think Mommy's doing?"
Another grin. "Wa-mote."
"Right. Now go get back on the couch."
From across the room, I can hear the garage door opening. AJ jumps to his feet, "Daddy's home!"
"Daddy! Daddy!" Sydney squeals in delight.
Jeff walks into the living room after working a late shift.
"Hi Daddy. What doing?"

Sydney and AJ are now asleep. The remote remains missing. It's not that I mind having to walk over to the TV to adjust the volume. It's just that the TV is wedged so tightly into the entertainment center, that it's a blind process to try and squeeze a couple fingers in, and then it's a best guess to remember which button will quiet the shouting, versus which one will make the shouter suddenly turn green or purple.

And the timing is grossly unfair. After the hours I spent last weekend packing away toys that were cluttering the living room, there should be nowhere for that little sucker to hide.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Game on!

It was Esko versus Cloquet, in an intense game that was too close to call (because no one was keeping score.) Cloquet had the home field advantage and, seemingly, more 5-year-olds than we did, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of these kids to chase the ball pretty much anywhere it went. Even if it was 20+ feet out of bounds.

After a non-existent attention span at Sunday's practice, AJ did a pretty good job staying focused during his first game. And he scored three goals! Never mind that the first one came while the other team was in the midst of a line change. After all, no one was keeping score. The photo below was taken about two seconds before he scored his next goal.

AJ was so excited he stood in the goal and grinned, savoring the applause and the knowledge that he'd scored. Now, this is not to be confused with what he's doing in the next photo. Either he had supreme confidence in his teammates' ability to recover the ball, or else he was getting tired. Because as the rest of the team chased the ball down the field, AJ waited back by the goal in hopes someone would pass the ball back to him.

I could fib a little and pretend this game was the start of what will surely be an intense rivalry between these neighboring schools that will last until the day these kids graduate. But in reality, AJ was cheering for at least two of the players on the opposing team: Noah and Nate, his friends from Kids Korner.

I can say in all honesty that this season has marked the beginning of AJ's school pride. He loves to tell people he's an Eskomo. And during one of the breaks in the game, he gathered a couple of his friends to repeat the cheer the coach had them do at the beginning of the game. Standing in a circle they put their hands in the middle, then raised them in the air, shouting, "Goooooo Esko!"