Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canadian curiosities

Now that we're safely back on the U.S. side of the border, I have to question a few of the things we saw. For instance, what does this sign mean?

Beware of person with detachable hand?
Beware of person bowling? Playing basketball?
And did I mention the sign was posted in the middle of nowhere? On a lengthy dirt road that led to the amethyst mine?

Something else I noticed: what is wrong with this picture?

Notice that the drain is at the front of the toilet?
Kind of different, eh?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cool store, eh?

The reason behind our trip across the border was for Jeff to participate in a parade and ceremony on Sunday in observance of Canada's Law Enforcement Memorial Day. He's been taking part in the event for years, and this time we decided to join him and turn it into a long weekend vacation for the family.

And then something happened. It rained. More accurately, it poured. Really, really hard.

Jeff and his fellow officers still took part, but I, fair-weather parade goer that I am, decided the kids and I would rather stay dry. My heart goes out to the families of these fallen officers, but I suspect they'd understand my decision.

We did make it to the reception that followed, where AJ not only got to meet a real, live Mounty; he also got to try on his hat. Imagine if he was old enough to watch Dudley Do-Right.

So what did we do with our couple hours of unexpected free time on Sunday? We just happened to discover the coolest toy store ever. Talk about a best-kept secret: the store's name was
Auto*Tool*Toy Sense. Now, I can understand lumping automotive and tools into one store, but toys? It's not the most natural brand extension, but definitely a fun place. It easily had the largest selection of Playmobil toys I've ever seen, plus a large play area for test drives - literally.

Note the Thomas Train engine in the background. The kids had fun climbing inside and pushing buttons to make whistle and horn sounds.

That is, when they weren't playing with the smaller train set, or the doll house, or the mini-construction site. In the photo below, Sydney had been guiding the train around the track, saying, "Choo, choo, choo... crash."

I'd hoped to take a second trip to the store this morning before we left Canada, so that Jeff could see what the kids and I were talking about. Unfortunately, a powerful wind storm knocked out power to a good chunk of Thunder Bay, including our motel, so we packed up and headed home.

AJ, ever the optimist, found a bright side. "Hey, the rain washed the dirt away on our car. Thanks, God!" And if you ask him what his favorite part of Canada was, he'll tell you it was the Thomas Train store.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A taste of the good life

We'd heard that our hotel offered a pretty impressive Sunday brunch buffet, and so decided to check it out. After a 20-minute wait for a table, we were seated... only to discover that our hotel has two restaurants, and of course we were in the wrong one.

We left, and at last found the right spot, where we were greeted with, "You don't have a reservation?" Thankfully, they squeezed us in pretty quickly.

Yes, it was impressive: ice swan sculpture, guy playing a grand piano, juice served in cocktail glasses. And we were there with two small kids.

Once AJ got past the shock of "I get a glass like this?", he warmed quite quickly to experiencing how the other half lives.

Salmon prepared two different ways, plus steamed mussels, and marshmallows dipped in a chocolate fondue fountain. AJ proclaimed, "This is the goodest restaurant I've ever seen!"

Sydney was a little less impressed with her surroundings. Though she somehow managed to force herself to dip her grapes in the chocolate fondue.

We followed that up with dinner at Montana's. After all, nothing says authentic Canadian dining like a restaurant named Montana's. And what an appropriate culinary bookend, considering our first meal in the Great White North was at a restaurant named Boston Pizza.

Montana's was nothing special. The food was so-so, and the service was slow. The most memorable part of the meal was the role playing that took place at the table. Thanks to the discovery of a really cool toy shop, which I'll write about at a later date, the kids were freshly equipped with some fun Playmobil toys. AJ had knights, and Sydney had a mommy, four kids and a stroller. Eventually, the two worlds collided, with AJ's knights returning home from work to play with the brothers and sisters in Sydney's family. I love how their minds work.

Wait! I thought of another nice thing to say about Montana's. They do take Visa.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canada - day 2

I believe the tagline for Visa is something like "It's everywhere you want to be." So I guess that means we don't want to be at Tim Horton's in Thunder Bay. Would have been nice to learn that before we racked up a $16 breakfast tab. They also don't take Discover card. Luckily, they do take U.S. currency.

So with the last of our cash gone, we had little choice but send the kids to work in the mines.

Today we toured Thunder Bay's amethyst mine, apparently the largest working amethyst mine in Canada, and possibly in all of North America. (The tour guide told us that twice.)

We also met "the Amethyst King". I've forgotten his name, which is probably good, because I don't have particularly nice things to say about him. Hanging on the wall of the mine's gift shop, is a framed magazine article that anointed him with this royal title. We, meanwhile, had already dubbed him the Amethyst Nazi. (Think of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, and you'll get an idea of this guy's sense of customer service.) Whatever you do, don't touch anything. If you drop your camera lens cover, don't bend over to pick it up, because he'll think you're reaching for amethyst, and he'll yell at you. And if you arrive late and miss the repeated warnings, don't pick up a piece of amethyst, because he'll yell at you. And if his yelling scares you, don't drop the amethyst in fear, because he'll yell at you for that too. Did I mention the guy is about 80? Charming old gent. (And no, we were not the ones he was yelling at.)

Thankfully, the tour of the restricted section came to an end, so we at last got to do what we'd come for – look for our own amethyst. I wouldn't call myself a rock hound, but as someone who's been hunting agates since I was my kids' ages, this was pretty cool stuff...

... though probably not the best example of responsible parenting. Here kids, take these pointy metal rods and go play on the loose rock that's extra treacherous because of all the hoses and running water used to help with excavating.

So we improvised. Sydney was put in charge of watching our treasures.

AJ, meanwhile, lost interest after a short time. So we put him to work searching for dinosaur bones instead. I suppose someday we'll have to tell him the truth about those special white rocks he found.

We left with a little over two pounds of treasures. I just might have to try this again someday.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh Canada!

We've made it to Thunder Bay. The trip went quite well: it was a gorgeous drive and the kids were good and patient travelers. (It helped that Sydney napped from roughly Two Harbor to Grand Marais.)

We got a slightly later start than we wanted to, and so decided to hit a drive thru for lunch, rather than take additional time to make a meal at home. That set Sydney off: "No go McDonald's! I go Canada!"

When we reached our hotel, we discovered that the Valhalla Inn is NOT the hotel with the cool water park. It has a nice enough pool area, but the water is cold. AJ braved the water with Daddy, but Sydney decided a pool side chair was close enough.

Here's what else we've learned: nothing is complimentary on this side of the border. You need a room key just to get to the hotel's ice machine. And you better bring re-useable bags to the grocery store, otherwise they'll charge you a nickel per bag, and they'll delay you by a few seconds... seconds you'll realize in the next paragraph may have been crucial.

We've also learned that liquor stores here close at 9:30 p.m. And the one we tried to give our business to apparently locks up at 9:27. (I discovered that at 9:28.) As we drove back to the motel, AJ explained to Sydney why I was irritated. "Mommy wanted licorice."

Oh Canada!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Last Supper (at Gordy's)

The awesome temperatures of the last few weeks have allowed us to pretend that summer is still here, and that the potential for a blizzard isn't just a mere month out. But if the shorter days didn't give it away, then here's a just-no-denying-it sign that fall is here.

Gordy's Hi-Hat (sniff, sniff) is closing for the season.

So of course we had to journey to this holy land in Cloquet for one final memory-making meal: one final tray of Gordy's legendary, though artery-clogging, hand-pattied cheeseburgers and home-made onion rings.

One last chance to try and convince Daddy to: "Hey, look over there!" so you can grab something from his plate. (Never mind that the subject of this sentence couldn't finish what was on his own plate. It's always more fun to sample Daddy's.)

One last chance to goof around on the tables on the outside deck when you're too full to eat anymore but have to wait patiently for everyone to finish before crossing the parking lot to the playground.

One last chance to cozy up to Daddy when you realize he has a chocolate shake, and then to dribble some of that shake on his shorts.

Lucky for us, the final part of our tradition - tacking on a couple thousand more calories in the form of ice cream goodies at the adjoining Gordy's Warming House while the kids run around the playground - can continue. That part of the business stays open year 'round.

But to the greasy food and quaint atmosphere, and to Gordy himself who, at age 82, still stands behind the counter taking orders, we say, "Thanks for another summer of memories. See ya next year!"

Late night inspiration

The creative process at work, in theory, allows at least a few days to just think about a project because often the best ideas come to you when you least expect it: in the shower, while driving, washing dishes, etc.

In the case of this blog, my inspiration sometimes comes in the middle of the night. Because that's when these two wake up.

Two nights in a row. Sort of a 'which came first, the chicken or the egg?' situation. Who woke up whom? Tuesday night it was Sydney's cries that woke me first. Just as I was reaching her room, I heard AJ's frantic calls, "I have to go potty!"

"By all means, get up and go!"

Last night (early this morning, to be more exact) Sydney's cries again woke me. I got to her room and crawled into her bed to quiet her. And that's when I heard a loud cough, followed by the somewhat clumsy sounds of AJ hurriedly climbing from bed.

"I have to wash my hands!" AJ shouted, to no one in particular.

Yes, my child who is too scared to climb out of bed in a dark room when he has to go to the bathroom, feels a far greater sense of urgency to wash his hands after coughing into them. I quietly climbed from Sydney's bed to see if AJ needed any help. No, by the time I got into the bathroom, he was standing on a stool, with water running, carefully rubbing soap over every finger.

Ever since news broke last spring of the Swine Flu epidemic, I've figured it's not a question of if, but when we'll be dealing with this virus at our house. With AJ going to two different preschools starting in a few weeks, he'll be exposed to two different sets of kids and all the germs that go with them.

But perhaps I can rethink that. It is AJ after all. With him and his obsessive germaphobic tendencies, I think the H and N in H1N1 could stand for "Heck no!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kids try to say the sweetest things

My planned blog post will have to wait, as will the work that I really should be doing right now. I need to write about something that just happened.

My good friends Sue and Gary Holt just made a decision that no one should have to make. Gary's been battling pancreatic cancer for two years, and tonight they announced their decision to discontinue the painful treatments. I worked with Sue and Gary for many years at WDIO, and played volleyball with them as well. They are such good people, and I couldn't stop the tears as I relayed the news to Jeff.

And that's when my two little sweethearts stepped in.

Sydney looked up at me as I was wiping my eyes and asked, "Are you scared?"

"No honey, I'm not scared," I answered.

"Don't be sad Mommy," AJ said, immediately coming to give me a hug. "I don't want you to be sad. Everything will be okay."

Is this child really just four and a half years old?

And then, as if to affirm his innocence and young age, he continued, "Don't be a sad girl, because that will make me sad. Just be a happy girl. Don't cry. It hurts my brain. I don't want you to blow your nose anymore!"

Bless their good intentions. More importantly, may God bless Sue, Gary and their family. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason. But that's easy to say considering I've never experienced anything of this magnitude.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kids say the sweetest things

Sydney is becoming quite the conversationalist. She's piecing together more and more words into phrases, as well as copying some of the comments she hears from those around her. That means her darling little mouth is now uttering some darling little sentences.

For instance, during our recent trip to the cities, after about the millionth time of hearing her question where we were going, I responded, "Are we going shopping?"

My unexpected (and wrong) response caught her off guard. She answered, "No, you si-we (silly) goose!"

When I got home from work tonight, I picked Sydney up and then sat down with her on the couch. Giving her a big hug, I told her, "I love you."

Doing her best to give me an equally tight squeeze, she replied, "I wov you SO much!"

Of course, she's also figured out how to use this new ability during her moments of over-dramatization. Now when she gets even the most minor bump or bruise, she runs to me crying, "I need a hug!"

But my favorite, while far from grammatically correct, is when she wants me to join her at bedtime. From her bedroom, she'll call, "Mommy, will you snuggle me?"

And how do you say no to that?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy birthday to Jessica

All the way down to the cities, a two hour and fifteen minute trip that took almost three hours because of road construction and stupid drivers...

"Mom, it's not nice to call people stupid."

"Yes AJ, you're right. Mommy shouldn't have said that."

But I digress. All the way down, Sydney couldn't resist repeatedly asking, "Where are we going?"

Since I knew she knew the answer, I threw it back at her. "Where?"

"Jonathon and Jessica's!" she'd squeal with delight.

And why are we going to Jonathon and Jessica's?

"Jessica's birthday party!"

Yes, we were celebrating Jessica's birthday. And that meant presents! (Thank you, Jessica, for letting Sydney open them for you.)

And cake and ice cream! (Thank you, Lisa, for purchasing a cake with which I will never, ever be able to compete.)

AJ, frosting lover that he is, honed in on the squid tentacles snaking up the side of the Pirates of the Caribbean cake. Oh yeah, there's a sugar rush that's going to last all the way home.

And, of course, no visit would be complete without posing for a photo with cousin Zane. For some reason, AJ, who can't sit still for any other pictures, has started asking to have his photo taken with his young cousin every time we see him.

Thank goodness Zane remains a willing participant.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shopping with AJ... Arrrghhh!

I probably should have been at least a little sympathetic, but when I got the call from Jeff, I couldn't help but think, "I leave him with the kids for 10 minutes, and what happens?"

What happened, was Daddy got a taste of the chaos I endure on any given Friday when I venture out shopping with both kids.

Jeff was off on Friday, getting ready to go up to the armory for Guards by late afternoon. And so he went with me and the kids as we ran some errands. AJ needed his glasses fixed, and I wanted to get Sydney some new sheets and a comforter for her bed. So off to the mall we went.

We took the divide and conquer route upon arrival. Jeff headed with AJ to Lens Crafters, while Sydney and I tried to find the bedding department at Sears. It didn't take Sydney long to rule out the choices of Disney princesses and psychedelic flowers, announcing, "I want Dora." And so we headed out to meet back up with the guys.

I can't decide if the kind folks at Lens Crafters find AJ to be delightfully amusing, or if they draw straws when they see us approaching. We certainly visit them frequently enough. On this day, it was "Marc" who deserves the bonus pay for trying to straighten a pair of glasses, (and more specifically, for trying to check if he'd straighten them enough) on a child who couldn't stand still.

When Sydney and I arrived, AJ was busy telling Marc all about his recently wrapped up soccer season. Marc found it particularly amusing when AJ explained that "all the games are a tie. Because they don't want any of the kids to be sad." Then, out of the blue, AJ asked Marc, "Where's your boss?"

Marc was perhaps a little too cheerful in flagging over his supervisor. I suspect he was looking for someone to share in his pain, because he then asked AJ repeat the story about why his soccer games end in ties. Right about then, another employee walked by, ruffled AJ's hair and said, "I remember you!" Yes, this kid makes an impression.

This was, by no means, Jeff 's first experience with AJ getting his glasses straightened, but his expression through it all resembled a cross between amusement and shell shock.

Right outside the Lens Crafter store, because, I suspect, the mall gods hate us, is a bunch of coin operated rides. I decided to use this to my advantage and asked Jeff if he'd be okay watching the kids climb on the rides for a few minutes. This would allow me to quickly check out the other stores for Dora bedding. He was fine with this, so off I went.

JCPenney, which of course is on the opposite end of the mall, had nothing. It was as I was heading to Younkers that my cell phone rang.

"AJ had an accident. Can you pick up some new shorts?"

"Accident, as in, potty accident?"


"So... he needs shorts and new underwear."


"Are you by the bathrooms in the food court, or where should I find you?"

Jeff wasn't even pretending to be patient by this point, "We're already out in the car. Just hurry."

So AJ wet his pants and Jeff hustled the kids to the car... all in the time it took me to walk across the mall and check out the lack of bedding choices at JCPenney. I'm sorry. I just can't stop myself from smiling broadly when I picture how it all played out.

I did go to Younkers... just not to the bedding section. AJ was quite excited to see the dinosaur-print underwear I'd picked up. "You got these for me?" He asked.

I tried to explain that this wasn't the best time to be excited about new clothes. But then I caught sight of Jeff's face, and started laughing again. Not the best time for that either.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

That's Sydney

My poor, poor baby.

Not Sydney. I'm talking about Mary Ann, my old doll, who now is being a little too well cared for, thanks to the good, though misguided, intentions of her new toddler-sized caregiver.

I figured there's nothing Sydney could do to Mary Ann that I hadn't already inflicted on her at some point during my childhood. This is, after all, the doll that accompanied me on cross-country trips involving dramatic elevation changes that caused her to bloat out and then de-compress, depending on where we were in the mountains.
I figured wrong.
Mom, correct me if my memory is fuzzy, but I'm fairly certain I never slathered Mary Ann with diaper rash cream. That's what Sydney was doing when I caught her explaining to the doll that "This tickles. Okay?" (Sydney is not a fan of diaper cream, so, to get her to lay still when I have to use it on her, I tell her that "this will only tickle.")
In Mary Ann's case, it may have tickled having the cream applied. But wiping it off was no laughing matter. Arbonne diaper ointment certainly does do a good job of sticking to surfaces and warding off moisture. And there was a lot of it. The picture only shows the little bit that Sydney wiped on the doll's face and legs, but her entire back side was covered with it. I could not wash that stuff off! It finally took a few Clorox Wipes to get rid of the goo.
I guess I should be grateful for Sydney's thoroughness and attention to detail when role playing. Note that she also had pulled down a clean diaper for the doll. That's what Mary Ann is laying on. Why is this a good thing? Because it kept the diaper cream from getting on the carpet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What a ball!

AJ's soccer season has come to an end. I'd like to say his final game was his best yet. But that would be, well, lying. It's amazing how much he forgot and/or regressed in the two weeks since his last game. Gone was the assertive kid who chased after the ball. AJ pretty much reverted back to the kid at the beginning of the season who stood in the net in hopes that someone would kick the ball to him. His one "goal" of the night... was kicked into the wrong net.

But he had fun, which really is all that matters. And I now have a button with AJ's picture on it, which makes it all official. (And yes, to the grandmas who read this, we have pictures for you, too.)

I thought watching the coaches try to line up the kids for the photo was almost as entertaining as watching them try to keep the kids focused during some of the season's practices and games. To aid my feeble memory in years to come, here's who's in the picture: front row - Gino, Jack, AJ, Avery; back row - Rachel, Riley, Hanna, Owen. Coaches: Joe and Rod.

AJ didn't seem too sorry to see the season come to an end. Probably because just yesterday we registered him for... drum roll, please... hockey. Though his memories of soccer should last far longer than his attention span did. When we told him we'd signed him up to play hockey, his first question was, "Will Owen's dad be my coach?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sweet dreams my little star

Guess who's getting a big girl bed!

Sydney will soon be able to sing Twinkle, twinkle little star as she stares at the stars on her new bed - a bed I just learned has been in my family for five generations.

Now if I could just get her to stand still for five seconds so I could snap a photo by the headboard.

I'm quite proud of how it turned out. Gone is the dark brown, rather scuffed finish. I've spent the last four days sanding it smooth and repainting it. The stars were the finishing detail. Now we're just waiting for the footboard to dry (I had to re-sand and paint it because of some bad bubbling) before assembling it.

I should have realized that I was expecting a lot, asking a toddler to stand still right after she learned she was getting a bed with stickers on it. "Daddy, I got stickers," she exclaimed. "I get stars!"

Actually, the "stickers" are vinyl rub-ons which can be easily removed when she outgrows this stage. But I think it's safe to assume she wouldn't understand, nor care about, that distinction right now.

Based on my mom's calculations, this bed quite possibly is 95 years old. I'd always known it as my Grandpa LeVahn's bed. It became my bed through college and my early years in Duluth up until the time I married Jeff. Most recently, the bed served as the spare bed in our guest room. But I just learned this week that it actually was my Great Grandma Pearson's bed, possibly dating back to her marriage in 1914.

I find it rather cool to think that Sydney and I, her only two descendants to be given her middle name now also have been given her bed. Sweet dreams my little sweet heart. I suspect there's an extra angel smiling down at you as you sleep in what once was her bed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The future pastor

What do you mean you can't tell that's a cross he's holding up?

AJ started Sunday School yesterday. What you see is the craft he made on his first day. If the morning was any indication of how the rest of the year will go, look out!

Sunday School began with pre-school through 4th grade gathered in the sanctuary for songs and introductions. I lead AJ to the row marked for 4-year-olds, and then took a seat a few pews back to watch.

Watching AJ sit there alongside the other kids, I couldn't help but realize how big he's getting. He's not just my baby anymore. He's already taken on the titles of soccer player and pre-schooler. Now he can add Sunday School student to his resume.

Staring at the back of their heads, I also couldn't help but notice how well AJ fits in, at least based on his hairstyle. Of the seven kids in his row, six were boys, and five of them had matching short blonde hairdos. And the sixth boy had the same hairdo, just a slightly darker color.

And then "Miss Mindy" got things started. What a saint she is - the perfect blend of patience and enthusiasm. She began with Jesus Loves Me. Thank goodness AJ knows that one, so he could join along. But bonus - they "sing" it in sign language at the same time. AJ was happy to try and follow along.

Miss Mindy next tried telling a story. She lost AJ at that point. He turned and scanned the sanctuary until he spotted me. I faintly heard, "Hi Mom!" as he waved and blew me a kiss. I'll be sure to remind him of that in a few years. He'll be thrilled, I'm sure.

AJ's attention must have returned to Miss Mindy before mine did, because the next thing I knew, she was asking a question of the group and AJ was jumping up and down, raising his arm. His answer: "He's a brave, strong soldier!" Clearly, AJ wanted to sing his favorite song of all - I'm in the Lord's Army.

His answer was nowhere close to what the teacher was looking for, (I think she'd been asking something about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) but AJ suceeded in planting the seed, because a few minutes later when it was time again to sing, she said, "...and we've already had a request from the 4-year-olds for I'm in the Lord's Army." Oh boy. AJ was in heaven.

For the sake of brevity, I'll condense the story from here. Miss Mindy used a couple kids as volunteers, trying to illustrate the point that God can help you when you feel stuck. AJ sat silently as she called kids to come up to the front. Until he saw what the volunteers were being asked to do. Suddenly, as things were wrapping up, he ran from his pew so that he too could help free Miss Mindy from the child who was holding her arms.

He's definitely made an impression. From there it was on to small class time. And then church. AJ amazed even me during the children's sermon. The pastor asked the kids why it was important to read the bible. AJ raised his hand and answered, "Um, so that when you get old and die, God will make you alive again."

Wow! He does listen sometimes. Even Pastor Jeff was impressed, responding, "Exactly! You could be a pastor someday." A few minutes later, as he concluded the message, he referenced back to AJ's answer again and gave him a high five.

Yes, this is going to be an interesting year.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Summer's over II?

I took these pictures last Tuesday. The weather forecast claimed it was going to be the last nice day of the week, which, at this point in September, easily could mean it would be one of the last few nice days until next spring, which we all know could mean mid-June up here.

I had brought a whole bunch of work home with me that night, so Jeff volunteered to get the kids out of the house, so that I could work quietly. But then I heard where he was taking them: Gordy's, for ice cream. Well, that sounded way more fun than what I needed to do. So I decided to take a trip through the denial zone, and join them.

We had "buy one get one free" (or in advertising jargon "BOGO") coupons for Gordy's Betty Boop Double Scoop ice cream cones.

Both of my children are way to young to have ever heard of Betty Boop. But they sure warmed to her quickly. Looking at AJ's face as the server handed over the double-wide mounds of ice cream (Superman flavor, of course), you'd swear it was Christmas. He gave this somewhat incredulous giggle, while, no doubt, trying to figure out what he'd done that was so good to earn him a reward like this.

And when the ice cream was done it was time to hit the playground. (Actually, there was so much ice cream that Mommy and Daddy got to finish the cones because the kids just couldn't wait to go play.) Afterall, if this was the last day of summer, we wanted to end it in style.
And then, what do you know? The forecast changed. We had a gorgeous week, including two days in a row of 80+ degree temps, which is about as nice as anything we experienced during this so-called summer.
Oh well. The ice cream and memories were definitely worth it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

King size imaginations

Funny how quickly the entire family has taken a liking to Mommy and Daddy's new bed. I think the only one in the house who isn't thrilled with the king-size addition to the master bedroom is our cat Spike, and that's because the bed frame reaches so close to the floor that it's eliminated her favorite hiding place. Even Maggie, who more and more frequently is showing signs of age, seems to have no problem jumping up the extra couple inches to nestle herself down on the new mattress.

Sydney thinks it's a great place to play with her babies. Note the doll in her arms that she was trying to get to "go sleep". This picture was not taken at nap time. She'd just climbed up there to play.

AJ, meanwhile, quickly attempted to comandeer the bed as his pirate ship.

When I told him not to jump on Mommy and Daddy's new bed, he asked, "Why? Could it pop?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Football rules

Nothing says fall like a pick-up game of football. Though, I should note, our version is vastly different from what you'd see in the street of most neighborhoods. That's because our game's coach/ref/person-who-thinks-he-can-make-and-change-rules... is four and a half years old.

During a trip to Gordy's for ice cream and playground fun earlier this week, AJ decided he absolutely had to bring a football with him.

Shortly after the "game" started between father and son (I was helping Sydney on the playground), AJ decided he needed to recruit me.

"Mommy," he whispered loudly, "go tackle Daddy."

And so I joined in for a few plays, which basically meant chasing AJ or Jeff for a few laps around the playground until AJ decided he'd run far enough to reach the goal line.

But then, Daddy committed the ultimate penalty. I missed the original play because I'd gone back to "spotting" the absolutely fearless (on playgrounds) Sydney. Suddenly I heard AJ call out in protest, "There's no tickling in football."

The gloves came off after that. AJ tried bringing me back into the game. I told him I needed to help Sydney. He responded, "I'm the coach. Go tackle Daddy or I'll fire you."

Little did he know that Daddy had recruited a new player, too.

I'll say this for Sydney: she has plenty of determination and competitive spirit. Now if we could just teach her to throw the ball in a direction other than straight up, to keep it from crashing right back down on her head.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Before and after

As Jeff carried Sydney out the door to daycare, I blew my darling little girl a kiss goodbye. I might as well have been blowing a kiss goodbye to any semblance of neatness and cleanliness.

Sydney started out the day looking so cute and well cared for. Really, she did. I'd dressed her in a fun polka dot dress. The one from "Aunt Sa-wa. And Eh-wic TOO! Sami-chloe. And Baby Zane!" (Yes, she credits them all, in that order and with that kind of emphasis, every time she wears any of the clothes they've given her.) Along with the dress, she wore matching polka dot bottoms and her favorite pink crocs. And to finish the look, I'd pulled her hair up into a sort of Pebbles Flinstone 'do, tied off with a beaded "hair pretty".

That was at 7:15 a.m.

By 7:15 p.m., she looked like this:

The "hair pretty" was missing in action. The polka dot bottoms were gone, too. I found them later on the bathroom floor. Jeff had forgotten to put them back on her after the last diaper change. And the crocs were on the wrong feet. AJ admitted he helped her with those.

And did I mention the dirt that covered her from head to toe? I'm not talking about a small smattering of dust here and there. No. Not my little girl.

She'd managed to get so dirty that the dark streaks left her face, arms and legs looking a bit like a topographic map.

The good news for my mud-encrusted missy? She miraculously made it through the day without enriching her hair with the remnants of any meals. Translation: she got to "swim-swim" in the bathtub, without getting her hair washed. Savor the small victories wherever you may find them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farewell to "summer"

June, July and August will be remembered around here as the summer that wasn't. In our neck of the tundra, we know we have to be patient. We know we likely won't see much in the way of steady warm temperatures until after Grandma's Marathon. But this year, we just kept waiting. And waiting. I recall one nice week in mid-August. Too bad Jeff missed it while he was at Fort Ripley. And then, ironically enough, September arrived and we got another nice week. Leading right up to the unofficial end of summer.

Labor Day was a very nice day. Perfect for a picnic (with baby)...

And a little fishing (in the hot tub)...

Considering this was pretty much a pretend summer, I'd say my kids' imaginations came up with the perfect way to cap it off.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A fair-ly good day

Aaahhhh... the great Minnesota get-together. We certainly did our part, along with hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, walking around the fairgrounds until our legs ached, while eating a variety of greasy and/or sugary food until our stomachs ached. And along the way, we learned a few things. Such as...

The bus ride is still one of the best rides of the day. At least in my kids' opinion.

Other favorite rides are the carousel (shown below) and the big slide. AJ rode down by himself this year, alongside Daddy. Sydney, riding with Mommy, made her first trip down, and would have made her second, third and fourth trips as well if Mommy's legs could have handled carrying her up that mammoth flight of stairs any more times. When we reached the bottom, Sydney, who'd been beaming the whole way down, announced, "That fun!"

We also learned that Sydney does not like real live animals. At all. AJ was fascinated by the sheep, cows and pigs, but Sydney wanted nothing to do with them. She's still commenting, "I don't see animals. I don't see cows. I don't see sheep."

What she did like was sampling the milk shakes from the Empire Building. Daddy had strawberry. Mommy had chocolate. After a couple of spoonfuls of Mommy's, the strawberry got the vote.

Our trip to machinery hill went amazingly quickly. Sydney was napping, so it was just AJ who wanted to climb on the tractors. And even the cool camouflaged hunting 4-wheeler just wasn't as interesting as the dinosaur head toy he'd picked up a few minutes earlier at Dinosaur World.

In keeping with the fair's tagline, it seems for my kids the best part of the day was getting together with their cousins. They were both quite disappointed to learn they can't go back for another year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Who's ready to go?

Sydney's packed for our weekend trip to the Cities. Her brother (and Daddy) could learn from her example.

Friday morning, as I was heading to work, I called to Jeff, "Be sure to plug in AJ's DVD player so that it's charged for the trip. Late Friday afternoon, shortly after I returned from work, I noticed Jeff finally getting around to doing it.

As we packed to go, I suggested AJ put some toys in a bag to play with in the car. "No Mom, I'm going to watch my Scooby Doo movie," was the answer I got.

Female that I am, I started packing for him anyway. Soon he joined me in choosing a small pirate toy, along with his Leapfrog game.

So off we went, with AJ watching his movie and Sydney playing with a doll. Maggie begrudgingly took her place, wedged between the two car seats. This worked for about a half hour. Until the unthinkable happened. The DVD player stopped working. Surprise, surprise, the battery already had died.

We continued the ride, distracting AJ briefly with the supper of champions: White Castle sliders. But all good things must come to an end, and so did AJ's attention span. Unfortunately we were still roughly 45 minutes from our destination.

And that's when AJ began to sing:
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it... (insert a couple undecipherable mumbles here) ... in one of Santa's sleighs. Hey! Jingle bells, jingle bells...

Over and over and over again, AJ sang his favorite Christmas carol.

Jingle all the way. Oh what fun...

About the 10th time through, I asked him where his backpack of toys was?

"Maggie's sitting on it."

"...it is to ride in one of Santa's sleighs. Hey!"

About the 20th time through, I turned to Jeff, "I bet you never forget to charge the DVD player's battery again."

Jeff had been doing his best to drown out the singing with the Vikings game on the radio. "I didn't forget," he defended himself. "I just didn't charge it long enough."

Jingle bells. Jingle bells....

The driving, and singing, continued. There was a slight haze in the air. It may have been dust kicked up by road construction in the area. AJ decided it would be very bad to breathe in this dusty air, and so each time we drove through a section of this haze, he would shout, "Close your mouth!"

If he would just follow his own advice, it would be the best suggestion I'd heard all day."

Impressionable minds

Behold the power of marketing! As we drove towards AJ's preschool orientation last night, I asked Jeff where he wanted to go to eat afterward. From the back seat, AJ spoke up, "How come we never go to Pizza Hut?"

"Because we like Sammy's better," I answered.

"But they have good pizza at Pizza Hut," AJ insisted.

"How do you know if we've never eaten there?" I countered.

I thought that ought to stump him. I thought wrong.

"They said on TV they have new pizzas."

How could we resist such irrefutable proof? Yes, we dined at Pizza Hut for supper.