Sunday, February 28, 2010

The party's over

The week-long celebration of turning 40 seems to be done, and not a moment too soon. It was so much fun, but also, quite honestly, exhausting. And I'm sure that has nothing to do with my advancing age. But the parties, along with the subsequent thank-you notes that needed to be written, combined with hockey tournaments, vacation preparations and an insane work load has made it impossible to find time to blog. That, and the fact that this post required me to scan a few items and figure out how to capture and share a particularly memorable voice mail message.

So in chronological order, here are just a few of the "special" ways people helped me celebrate. For instance, there was the invitation for my surprise party. The outside looks nice enough...

and then you open it up...

The creative director at my agency got me to pose by telling me to give him a stressed out look. It was for something funny he wanted to put on the Web site, he said. Instead, he did some swell swirling technique in photo shop and shared it with all. Lovely!
On my actual birthday, I was greeted by this little ad in the Duluth News Tribune. How much does Sydney look like her Mommy? My boss didn't realize it was a picture of me.
Over the course of the day, numerous relatives sent me e-mail birthday wishes, plus dozens of friends posted greetings on Facebook. That evening, my parents called and, as they always do, sang Happy Birthday to me over the phone. At the end of the conversation they mentioned they had to run because they were on their way to choir practice. I joked that I felt short changed that they didn't get the entire choir to sing to me.
Later in the evening, we returned from dinner to find this message waiting. Pardon the shaky video at the beginning, and the boring visual throughout.

Keep in mind, that song was recorded through a cell phone onto my voice mail, which I then played on speaker phone to record the audio on my camera. And still it sounded that good! I love how much fun they had with it, especially the pianist at the end. No wonder my parents so enjoy singing with this group during their winters in Florida.
One last note... my mother and sister should count themselves lucky that the old photo albums with plastic film are not kind to the pictures you put in them. My brother reminded me of the "birthday cookies" we'd made in the shape of a 40 for our mom, and a 16 for Lisa, pointing out that I'm now that old. I considered scanning that photo and adding it here, however when I pulled out the old album, I discovered the picture has basically faded away. Let me just say, I may be 40, but at least I don't have a curly perm like some close relatives of mine once wore.
Thank you all for making this a birthday I'll never forget.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Communication malfunction

Generally, AJ's pretty easy to understand. I can't remember the last time he stumped us this badly.

Driving home from dinner last night, AJ announced, "I need to wear wet pants and pennies to school tomorrow."

Come again?

"Wet pants and pennies," he repeated. "We're having a parade. I made a flag."

Jeff and I turned to each other and stared. Dumbfounded.

I don't recall if AJ mentioned shoes, but somehow I figured out that pennies really meant "tennies", as in tennis shoes. But wet pants?

"Red pants?" Jeff guessed.

"No, wet pants. WWWETTTT pants," AJ repeated.

"AJ, is there a note about this in your backpack?" I asked hopefully.

"No," he said with growing frustration. "I really know this. Trust me."

"Why do the pants have to be wet?"

"Because we're having a parade for the Olympics."

"Are you talking about SCUBA diver pants? Or a swimsuit?" Jeff tried to guess.

"No. WET PANTS," AJ tried to over-enunciate.

"I think what we'll do is send you to school in dry pants. And if they really need to be wet, then you can let your teacher pour water on them," I suggested.

AJ was not satisfied.

"AJ, tell us again why you need wet pants," Jeff said.

"We're going to have a parade in the gym, and teacher said we should wear wet pants and tennies."

I was still confused, but the word "gym" gave Jeff the clue he needed to solve the mystery.

"Sweat pants?"

Aha! I'm guessing they're going to have the kids pretend to be Olympic athletes, parade through the gym, and then do some kind of exercise. AJ actually has a pair of wind pants with an Olympic logo on it. What are the chances that they're clean?

***Quick update*** There WAS a note in his backpack. It said:
We will be having our own
Preschool Olympic Winter Games
Thursday, February 25th
Please wear clothing to be active and gym shoes!

And no, AJ's pants weren't clean. But they were clean enough, and he's happily wearing them.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 5-year-old diet

I hope it's just a coincidence, but AJ's had some crazy meal ideas the last few weeks since his birthday.

Last Friday, I asked AJ if he wanted cereal or toast for breakfast. He wanted neither. Instead he informed me that he wanted "silly food like Daddy eats that's not breakfast." And so I let him eat a slice of leftover pizza from his birthday party. Cold. He loved it.

Meanwhile, for lunch on Saturday, he wanted a sandwich. It was a little early for lunch and I was busy with Sydney at the time, so when he volunteered to make the sandwich himself, I decided to let him go for it. And what did he come up with?

From the kitchen I could hear him thinking out loud. "Let's see, I need cheese and bread."
And apparently that's all. He proudly came into the living room a few minutes later with an admirable (and thick) first effort at sandwich making. He basically layered bread-cheese-bread-cheese-bread. But he'd done it himself, which of course improved the taste dramatically.
If he becomes a chef someday and opens his own restaurant, we'll have to remind him of how he got his start.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Friday friends

Just some cute, random shots from Friday afternoon that would have been posted sooner had it not been for an insanely busy weekend of hockey, surprise parties and the oh-so-painful time needed to recover from that party. And so without further ado...

The kids and I stopped at McDonald's in Hermantown for lunch on Friday. It doesn't have a Playland, but it does have a fun eating area. Of course my children had to choose the table where a certain clown was already sitting.

Believe it or not, my kids purposely chose a McDonald's that didn't have a Playland. In fact, AJ would have preferred if we'd gone through the drive-thru. Why? Because they wanted to quickly finish lunch so we could head to our next destination: the Aquarium.

Look closely. AJ is nose to nose with a huge catfish. He was actually talking to it when I took this shot. I wish I could remember what he'd been saying. I think it was basic introductory statements like 'Hi there, Mr. Catfish."

We were quite disappointed to learn that the new exhibit I thought had opened earlier in the week, didn't actually open until the next day. Thank goodness for our year-long membership. I'm fairly certain I know where we'll be going later this week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

40: Bring it on!

He got me and he got me good. Jeff surprised me Saturday night with a party to celebrate my looming landmark date.

The kids don't seem to mind that I'm getting older. In fact, if the hot dogs, cake and helium balloons are any indication of what's to come, then they think 40 is pretty darn cool.

In addition to black balloons and table cloths, the absolutely impossible to miss decoration was a mammoth banner created by my Dad and shipped from Florida. The thing was so long that even in the giant warehouse of the Lake Superior Brewing company where the party was held there wasn't a long enough wall to hang the entire thing. And so it was cut into three strips and stacked.

So how did he pull it off? I'm thoroughly impressed with the amount of advance planning Jeff put into it. He started a while ago, casually mentioning there was going to be a deployment party for Jason Tanksi, a fellow cop who serves in the Air National Guard. That story almost got blown a few weeks ago when I happened to run into Jason and asked him how soon he was leaving. He corrected me that he'd somehow lucked out and wasn't deploying this time.

Lucky for Jeff, I happened to be with my boss at the time, and she was in on the surprise plans. She quickly excused herself for a minute and frantically called Jeff to warn him of what had just happened.

Thinking quickly, Jeff called Jason, explained the confusion, and then asked if his partner, Jason Eickem was around. He was, so Jeff hastily instructed the new Jason (who I don't think I've even met) to pretend that he was about to be deployed, should I ever happen to run into him.

Crisis averted, Jeff continued with his plans. He lucked out when we bought our iPhones because in the process of transferring our contact lists from our old phones to the new ones, the lists got merged, so he suddenly had access to all my friends phone numbers. Meanwhile, he got the creative director at my ad agency to create an invitation. I just can't wait to see how that turned out, but I hear it's swell. I remember shortly after the new year, John came around the agency asking to photograph each of us with our most frazzled/stressed out expression. He'd explained it was an idea he had for our new Web site. Well, now I know what that photo really was for.

Jeff next enlisted my sister and numerous friends to help with preparations. Fast forward to yesterday: as we were getting ready to take AJ to his first of two hockey games, I could hear Jeff on the phone as I got out of the shower. A few minutes later he came bursting into the bathroom and announced there'd been a call-out for the Tactical Response Team, and he had to leave. WHAT?!? We needed to be driving to the Cloquet Arena in 20 minutes and I still had a towel on my head, and now I was on my own? Jeff assured me he'd already gotten AJ into his gear, so I just had to get myself ready. Jeff then proceeded to get into all of his SWAT gear, and out he went.

It was just before the start of the second game that Jeff called to say all had ended peacefully and he was on his way to the arena. By that time, my sister and nephew, who'd been in town so that Jonathon could tour UMD with a friend, had joined us at the arena as well. Jeff finally made it to the game, still in his camoflauge gear, and announced there was a new problem. Tanner, who he'd lined up earlier in the week to babysit, called him and was sick. Lisa overheard this and immediately volunteered that they could help out. I should have been suspicious.

Arriving at the brewery, after a stop at Jeff's office so he could retrieve his wallet, we walked in the door. In a split second, I noticed black balloons, which seemed an odd color for a deployment party, followed by my friend Kim Parmeter, and my creative director John Keuning. And then I knew. Surprise!

But even then it didn't fully sink in. I spotted my friend Geralyn's family and was thinking, if her kids were there, then it was too bad our kids weren't there to play with them. And then I thought, oh, I should call Lisa and see how late she's willing to babysit, because we're obviously going to be staying longer than I'd told her we'd be. Right about then, AJ, Sydney, Lisa and Jonathon came bursting into the room. The kids were as surprised as I was. (AJ is still asking when Tanner is going to babysit.)

I was talking to our friend Tim a few minutes later, commenting on the amazing coincidence that they'd had a TRT callout that day. Ten years ago, when Jeff threw a surpise party for my 30th birthday, the whole thing almost got ruined because of a stand-off that lasted all night. Tim smiled sweetly and shook his head, "there wasn't a TRT callout today."

Aha! That was Jeff's cover to be able to secretly meet up with everyone he'd enlisted to help him shop and decorate. And why did he wait until the last minute to shop? Because he knows how obsessive I am about monitoring our charge cards. He knew I'd spot and question any suspicious charges. He even made certain that the rental company he'd used for tables and chairs not charge our account in advance. He knows me so well.

The only downside to a surprise party is that, as the guest of honor, I didn't have nearly enough time to talk with all the people who were there. Early on, I found myself stationed near the door simply to make sure I could talk with everyone before they left.

It was while talking the my friend Tracy, who commented on the cool banner, that I suddenly was reminded of just how old I am. I explained to her that my Dad used to paint signs for extra income, and that he often made banners such as this one. I told her I remember him making one for my Aunt Jean and hanging it across her garage that said something like, "Happy Birthday, 39 years and holding."

And then it hit me. The banner for my Aunt Jean was the first one I remember him doing. It was for her 39th birthday. She's now in her 70s. I'm now older than she was when he made that banner.

But here's the wonderful part of living a good life. I don't care about getting older. Every day, every year, continues to be better than the previous one. If, to be younger, I'd have to give up the experiences I've had, the family I've helped create or the friends I've gained, then I guess I'm happy being older. Plus, I get to grow old with a man who never ceases to amaze me with all that he's able to do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Moms vs Mites

How much do I love AJ? Enough to don my neighbor's hockey skates and Jeff's smelly helmet and take to the ice for an intense battle of Mites hockey players versus their moms.

I have to say, it was fun. Really, really fun. We moms stood in our team's box and would watch each line change. If our child hit the ice, then it was our turn to play.

Nobody kept score, but of course we let the kids win. For me, the only number that mattered was zero, as in I didn't fall once. Not easy when you have tiny hockey players frequently falling in front of you. And did I mention I've gone skating exactly once in the last fifteen years, and was wearing borrowed skates because mine have disappeared? And they were hockey skates, not figure skates.

My favorite moment came at the end of our third or fourth shift on the ice. As we were skating back to our respective boxes, I said, "Good skating, AJ."

He then skated up to me, said, "I want a hug," and wrapped his arms around my waist.

Assuming AJ will want to continue playing hockey next year, I definitely want to invest in a pair of hockey skates of my own. Some padding would be nice, too. And definitely a helmet of my own. Oh yes, and a stick that's about a foot shorter and shoots right (Jeff shoots left.) Hmmm... this is starting to sound expensive.

A cool side note to this story: when I discovered my skates were missing in (in)action, I posted on Facebook that I was looking to borrow a pair of skates. I ended up with three offers within about 20 minutes. Gotta love social media and friends who understand what it takes to be a hockey mom.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What do you see?

Who knew this could be such a challenge? Touch the tips of your thumb and pointer finger together as if you're making the "A-OK" sign. If you do it with both hands and then try and look through the circles you've created, you can pretend you're using binoculars.

Unless you're Sydney.

"Help, Mommy. Make 'ocu-wars," is her newest command. She just hasn't developed the motor skills yet to make those circles. Short fingers don't help either.

Maybe the folks at Nickelodeon are aware of this. I've wondered why Diego always tells kids to put their hands together to form a "spotting scope", rather than have them make a more familiar item like binoculars.
I'm guessing it won't take long for Sydney to master this newest skill. She clearly is frustrated that she can't do it herself. It's about time she put that stubborn will of hers to constructive use.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rink rats

Funny... I used to think it was Jeff's Guard schedule that screwed up our weekends. Well, one week after clearing that crimp, I was reminded of our new one: hockey concession stand duty. Four hours on a Saturday afternoon, tending watch in a tiny kitchen while trying not to think of the good I could do if I ever dedicated that much time to my own kitchen.

Sydney has been a trooper throughout. The portable DVD player helps.

Jeff deserves a lot of credit, too. He brought the kids down about an hour into my shift, then spent at least an hour and a half out on the ice with AJ.

I have one shift left to work, but it's not until early March. If these warm temperatures continue, I'm wondering if there will even be any ice left by that point.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


We've set a new record. Fourteen kids came to our house on Sunday for AJ's birthday party. Fourteen kids ranging in age from 2-6.

And nothing got broken.

And nobody went insane.

Jeff didn't wear any special costume this year, but still did an awesome job coming up with a game that AJ later told us was the best part of the party. Anything that, to a 5-year-old, beats out opening presents and eating cake and ice cream – wow! You know it has to be pretty amazing.

Since it was a Scooby Doo-themed party, the game was a search for clues to solve a mystery and find a treasure. Jeff had rolled up tiny sheets of paper, inserted them in balloons and then inflated the balloons. To get started, he gave each child a balloon to pop to see if it contained a clue or just a blank piece of paper.

The excitement in the room was something! Children were stomping and sitting on balloons trying to get them to pop. Sydney wasn't too wild about the noise, but everyone else seemed to have fun.

It took seven or eight clues and a trek around the house to finally find the treasure, which was hidden in the basement and filled with Dum-Dum suckers (plus the Dove chocolates I'd bought for myself. But, this is a happy post, so I'll try not to be bitter as I recall my precious dark chocolates smeared across a preschooler's face.)

I really was impressed with how well the kids played together. It was a mix of old friends and new, some from daycare, some from preschool and some from hockey. Several of the kids cried when their moms announced it was time to leave. That's how you know it was a good party!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Say what?

Look closely in the middle of this admittedly bad picture (taken with my phone from the back row of our church's fellowship room) and you'll be able to see AJ, a.k.a. Peter, in an impromptu presentation of the Transfiguration.

Sunday was family day at our church. Sure would have been nice if I'd remembered that ahead of time. The other half of my family stayed home, where I'd planned to return as soon as I'd dropped AJ off at Sunday School. We had a lot of cleaning to do to get ready for AJ's birthday party.

Instead, I think God chose to remind me of how I should be spending my Sunday. So instead I stayed with AJ, who quickly raised his hand when the pastor asked for volunteers. I think it's safe to say AJ learned nothing from the story. I think he was jealous that he didn't get to be a cloud, like Rachel from his soccer team (the girl in red whose job was to walk in circles around the small group as they gathered on the mountain top.)

It was hard to concentrate on the rest of the Sunday School experience because I got distracted after taking a look at our church bulletin. I was the "reader" for the church service immediately following, and so I wanted to at least scan the two bible passages I was going to be reading. I usually try to do this just to make sure there aren't any names I don't know how to pronounce. Oh my goodness!!! Check out Deuteronomy 34: 1-12. If God had a message for me here, I'd say he was telling me he doesn't like me very much. This was a passage packed with every obscure geographic name you can imagine. Mount Nebo, Negev, Pisgah and Beth Peor, just to name a few.

I told AJ I needed to find the pastor because I didn't know how to say some of the words. AJ helpfully suggested an alternative. "Why don't you just say my line?"

"Your line from the Christmas program?" I asked.

"Yeah," he answered before launching into it, "In baptism, Jesus comes to us..."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My little sweethearts

There's nothing like an insane work load, last-minute (is there any other kind?) birthday party planning and a 4-hour stint in the hockey concessions booth to keep even the most well-intentioned blogger from finding time to write. I actually struggled the last few days to think of things to write about, and was forced to admit it's not my kids who are being any less creative than usual. It's me who's been too busy to tune it to all the content they've had to offer.

For instance, there was this wonderful example of sibling bliss on Saturday night. It was an absolute treat to watch and listen as they played together.

If you can't tell, they were being pirates. Remind me of this moment next fall if I spend more than 30 seconds deciding what to buy/make them for Halloween costumes. They put these ensembles together themselves and had a ball.

Sydney, for some reason, felt an urge to run around the living room. Over and over and over again. As she ran, she chanted. "We have to run!" Except she can't quite pronounce the letter R, so it sounded more like, "We have to won! We have to won! We have to won!"

AJ, meanwhile, alternated between comandeering his bed and the couch as his pirate ships.

Happy Valentine's Day to all. Sometimes they really can be little sweethearts!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nine lives and beyond

Spike is going to live forever. If for no other reason than to annoy Jeff.

The kids and I got to take Spike to the vet this morning for her annual check up. It's always such a fun trip! Getting two kids into coats, hats and mittens is the easy part. Tricking the cat into coming out of hiding, so that I can grab her and throw her into the carrying cage, that's always the challenge.

Amazingly, we were only four minutes late, and the majority of the delay came in the parking lot, trying to safely transport two children and a grumpy cat across the slippery pavement, past a 4-pound Yorkie on the sidewalk and finally inside. Out of the mouths of babes, AJ had to stop on the sidewalk and ask the Yorkie's owner if it was a cat.

Spike yowled pretty much the entire 20+ minute ride to the vet. AJ tried consoling her by promising, "It's okay, Spike. You can get out once we get to the vet." I'm guessing that didn't do much to make Spike feel any better.

Small world that it is, (and further emphasizing my initial sentence) the vet's assistant is a friend of one of my old roommates. Her comment was, "I can't believe Spike is still alive!"

Spike is now almost 15 and a half, and appears to be as healthy and quirky as ever. She started purring as soon as I set her on the exam table. She certainly didn't want to be up there, but she purred anyway. The problem with this is that the vet can't hear her heartbeat over the sound of her purrs. So they tried tapping her nose. And still she purred. They blew in her face. Purrrrr. They gave her a rabies shot. The purring continued. Finally they turned on the faucet and carried Spike toward the running water. This near-terroristic threat finally did the trick, stopping the purring just long enough for the vet to detect a "possible slight murmur," but nothing serious.

That's because Spike is going to live forever.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Be mine!

We hadn't thought about it when we named him, but giving our first born a two-letter nickname has some definite advantages. For instance, when that child reaches the age of five and has to sign his name to 32 Valentines, having an extremely short name certainly speeds up the process.

Twenty cards for preschool, another 12 for Kids Korner; if he'd had a longer name, we'd have been working on this all night.

"Mommy, do my friends want my autograph?"

"Something like that."

Bummer for AJ, his Mommy can't seem to turn off her tendency to proofread everything. Those couple of cards on which he signed just"A"... they were put back in front of him to finish. Of course when you're five, it's extremely funny to realize you'd signed your name as A. So then it became a game to see if he could sneak another one past me.

Not too likely. Especially with the way he giggled, making his "trick" pretty obvious. (I did let him get away with the "signature" that looked more like AL. Hey - it's tough to remember which direction to make the loop on a J.)
I'm thinking this might be a good time to shorten my daughter's name to Syd.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why did I have children?

There will be no pictures accompanying this blog post. You'll understand why soon enough.

As I type this on my laptop, I'm sitting on the toilet in my bathroom. No, that's not too much information. The lid is down. It's the only chair I can find where I can sit and still keep an eye on Sydney in the bathtub.

It's her second bath tonight. The first ended rather abruptly when she pooped in the tub. Like a scene in a bad movie, played out in slow motion, I knew what was happening, and yet couldn't get her slippery, resistently stubborn body out of the water in time. I heard the grunts. Saw her lying on her stomach, body stick straight, legs crossed at the ankles. NOOOooooo!!! And then there it was. And still, Sydney did her best to avoid my reach, not wanting to get out of the water.

I finally grabbed her arms, hoisted her out, and carried her dripping and crying over to the toilet, warning her to hang on tight when I set her down so she wouldn't slip in. I wrapped her in a towel and then started draining the tub. It was only after the water had gone down the drain that Sydney joined me at the side of the tub.

Peering over the side, she saw what remained and finally understood. "Ooohhhhhh." As realization set in, she dragged out the word. She then looked up at me with her sweetest smile, "Can you get it out?"

This of course came after a hectic evening that started when I had to leave work early, pick up the kids from two different places, get home, let the dog out, get AJ into hockey gear and Sydney into a snowsuit, feed them both a snack, drive to the hockey rink, lace up AJ's skates and snap on his helmet. And did I mention all this had to be done in less than 90 minutes? At least I remembered AJ's hockey stick.

As I wrap this up, it's now a few hours later. The kids are asleep and Jeff is finally home. (He had to work late and then help flood the rink, so it's not as if his evening was any easier.) Feeling I earned it, I dipped into the already nearly empty bag of Dove chocolate hearts that were supposed to accompany the Valentines my kids give to their classmates. I love Dove chocolates. But why oh why did they have to ruin them be printing a helpful tip from Martha Stewart on the inside of each chocolate's foil wrapper?

"Try wrapping a floral bouquet in a classic love poem."
"Add rosewater to a Valentine dessert for a light floral flavor."
"Put a few drops of rose-scented essential oil in your humidifier."

Sure Martha. Let me get right on that. Right after I finish sanitizing my bathtub.

Ask a silly question

On second thought, it wasn't the question that was silly. It was the expectation that I might get a straight answer out of this guy that was overly optimistic.

"Hey AJ, how did you tear your pants?"

Thankfully, these were not new pants. In fact, I believe they came from someone else who'd outgrown them, and I'd noted earlier in the day, based on the amount of sock I could see when AJ was walking to the front of our church's sanctuary for Sunday School, that he also has pretty much outgrown them.

"Um," AJ looked down quickly. I suspect it was the first time he noticed the gaping rip. "A big hole happened."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Home for good!

There's been only one other time I've been this excited to see Jeff come home in uniform. That was almost six years ago, the day he returned from his deployment to Bosnia. That time, there was a bus caravan, more flags than anyone could count and a massive welcome home ceremony at the armory.

Sunday's return was a bit more low key with a considerably smaller welcoming committee. But it was all the more important.

Jeff had, after all, only been gone about 10 hours, and we'd just seen him up at the armory less than an hour earlier. But this return was the final one. He's now officially discharged. Retired.

I can't even type this without tears rolling down my cheeks. The Army has been such a huge part of his life for almost half of his life. And I know he has mixed feelings about saying goodbye to his fellow soldiers.

But for me, it's all good. I feel like the proverbial weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Jeff's been in the Guards for as long as I've known him, but it's only been since 9/11 that I've appreciated the sacrifice that his oath could have required. For the first time in eight years, I don't have to worry about him deploying.

I'm forever proud of him, and grateful for those who continue to serve. I'm honored to have been part of a less official (though no less important they always tell us) group these last few years, the army families. It humbles me to consider myself one of them, because so many of the wives I've met have held their families together through much tougher times than I've had to endure: longer and repeated deployments to more dangerous places, all while raising multiple kids. I wish them all well through deployments to come.

In the meantime, I'm going to hold my family close. And thank God that we're safely together. Forever.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Learning stAGES

Yesterday, out of the blue, AJ asked me if I knew how to whistle. He's asked me this question many times before, and I've always told him that no, I've never figured out how to do it.

AJ must think it's simply a horrible thing to go through life without this skill. And so, my 5-year-old, who is well aware of his own lack of whistling talents, did his best to console me.

"Don't worry Mom," he said. "You have to be Dad's age to know how to whistle. Or maybe five and a half."

Friday, February 5, 2010

The golden child

Of course I'm asking the usual questions like where did the time go? And how did he get so big so fast? But on top of that, I'm wondering how my child has developed such expensive taste.

For AJ's fifth birthday, his golden birthday, we told him we'd go out to eat for lunch and that he could pick the restaurant. I fully expected I'd be dining at Sammy's Pizza for lunch. But no. Mr. Sophisticated wanted crab legs. So off to Red Lobster we went.

Ironically, by the time his plate was set in front of him, AJ wasn't very hungry. He'd pretty much filled up on the garlic butter biscuits (that's my boy!) and Daddy's clam chowder. He managed to eat a couple of the crab legs, but that was it.

Never fear, Sydney to the rescue! She, too, loves crab legs. Plus, if her appetite the last few days is any indication, she's going through a growth spurt.

Sydney crawled under the table and then up on the bench next to AJ, and then happily helped herself to the rest of his crab legs.
A few minutes later, our server arrived at the table asking if anyone had saved room for dessert. AJ, who'd been eyeing the "molten chocolate cookie sundae" on the front of the menu ever since we'd sat down, suddenly was hungry again. Funny how that happens. Being that it was his birthday, we agreed to get one order for the entire family to split.
Our server, who knew it was AJ's birthday, returned to the table with the ice cream, and three other servers. They then proceeded to sing Happy Birthday.
Guess who liked it! (The special attention and the ice cream treat.)
Happy birthday to my big boy! Five years ago I couldn't have imagined that I'd be spending this evening playing hockey in the basement with you. It makes me curious to imagine how we'll be celebrating five years from now. But I'll happily wait. I'm doing my best to savor every day and every adventure with you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The morning hunt

Shoes, boots, mittens, hats, beloved toys. They disappear without warning, and many of my Mommy friends have complained about morning delays caused by lengthy searches for such missing items.

I'm certainly not going to pretend I haven't looked in vain at some time or other for all of the above mentioned pieces. But lately, the %*@$!# thing that has been disappearing the most at our house is a basic comb.

When the air is this dry, causing serious static issues for Sydney's ultra-fine hair, to not comb it and hold it back with some sort of "hair pretty" is simply not an option. Which brings us back to the daily search for the %*@$!#comb. It's not like we only have one comb in the house. We have 4-5 fine-tooth combs specifically for use on the kids. So how is it possible to lose so many, so often.

Yesterday morning, after shuffling the clutter that covers the kitchen counter and lifting couch cushions in vain, I finally offered a bribe. "Okay, I've got two M&Ms for the first person who can find a comb!"

I didn't really think the kids knew where any combs were, and so I continued my search. Suddenly, AJ came bursting from my room with my hair brush in hand, beaming from ear to ear.

He obviously didn't know where a comb was either, but he wasn't going let that keep him from the rare treat of candy in the morning.

And as late as we were by that point, I have no problem using a brush instead of a comb. Sure, Sydney's hair is going to start out messier than usual, but by the time anyone sees her at daycare, we'll just blame it on the hat she was wearing on the way there.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hockey and more

It wasn't necessarily by accident that my blog posts the last few days about AJ's first out-of-town hockey tournament have been about a whole lot of things other than hockey. Even though he played in three games over two days, the weekend still seemed more of a nice family get-away. It was an added bonus that so many of the kids' friends were at the motel, too.

I'm thinking the photo below is going to be a classic by the time the boys reach high school. Left to right, it's AJ, along with his friends Jace and Gino, plus Jace's older sister Tenley and Sydney. Tenley was absolutely fabulous with Sydney all weekend, helping entertain her in the pool and at the rink.

As for the games, they were fun, too. AJ scored his first real goal and continues to make dramatic improvements in his skating ability. That said, his biggest contribution to the team seems to be defense. Jeff has dubbed him "Kamikaze Kazel" for the way he wipes out, taking down with him multiple skaters from the opposing team.

Look out... here he comes again.... (dive-bombing airplane engine sound)... and he's broken up another play.

Uh oh! Based on jersey colors, it looks like one of his team mates fell (literally) victim to his friendly fire. No wonder they spend so much time at practice working on getting back up as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Poolside princess

This story is going to be told a little backward, because how could I not put this photo right at the top?

The playground I wrote about yesterday wasn't the only place we found a slide during our weekend trip to Silver Bay. The motel had a fun frog slide leading into the kiddie pool. Sydney slid down it over and over again.

That is, during the alternate moments when she wasn't deathly afraid of it.

On Friday, our first night there, she wanted nothing to do with it. By Saturday I told her to stop being so silly, plopped her on the bottom of the frog's tongue and slid her into the pool. Suddenly, she realized it wasn't scary at all, and proceeded to climb up the steps and slide back down - oh, about 5,000 times. It kind of reminded me of the slide at the outdoor pool we went to last summer. After a while, I didn't even have to catch her, she got so brave. I just sat on the edge and watched.

And then she tripped.

And went under water.

And that was the end of that.

Sunday morning, she was still quite leery of the kiddie pool. We at last got her into the water by giving her a small bowl to play with, which we'd snagged from the breakfast bar in the lobby. That kept her happily busy for quite a while. We did eventually get her to go back down the slide two more times before we had to pack up, and then it was her favorite game again. Before we could leave the pool, she insisted on saying goodbye to the frog.

Or maybe she just wanted to show it her fancy new robe. It's a size 6X, but with the sleeves rolled up, it fit just fine. (I'm guessing it's supposed to be a shorter robe.) It was a gift from Auntie Barbie, and you'd think, based on Sydney's reaction, that it was a mink coat. The little glamour girl holds the lapels and rubs her cheek against the collar. Clearly, it was her favorite part of the pool experience.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter playground

If I had the chance to re-write the article I did last summer on the Northland's top playgrounds, I'd have a new one to add to the list.

The Silver Bay school, conveniently located right across the street from the hockey arena where AJ played this weekend, has an awesome configuration of slides, bridges and tunnels, all with a Viking ship theme. (Can you find Sydney in the photo below?)

Lucky for us, the parking lot at the arena was full. We ended up across the street, which is how we found the playground. Since Sydney and I were already dressed for the chilly hockey-viewing conditions, we were set to slide!

Admittedly, boots are not the best footwear for some of the climbing involved, but that barely slowed us down. Not only was it a perfect way to keep her busy during the time it took AJ to gear up for his game, it was also a nice surprise for Sydney to show her brother after the game.

A funny note about the slide in the top picture, the kids at the school had packed down the snow right at the base of the slide, which basically made the slide about 2-3 feet longer. Sydney would come shooting out of the tube and just keep going. Whee!