Thursday, April 29, 2010

Refrigerator artist in residence

It started with Sydney trying to copy her big brother, who loves to draw. The difference being that while he's busy drawing pirate ships and smiley faces, she just likes color.

Lots and lots of color. From as many markers as possible.

Tearing a piece of paper from a small notebook, she scribbles on it using at least three or four markers. Try to stop her and she will protest, "Not yet! I not done yet."

A few days ago, Sydney presented me with one of her finished masterpieces. I praised it profusely and asked her to help me hang it on the refrigerator, which of course she happily did.

This must have meant a lot to her.

Walking through the kitchen this evening, I noticed that our refrigerator is now almost completely covered with these small sheets of paper. You can't see all of them in this photo, but there are a total of 12 there.

I asked Jeff if he'd helped her with this. Nope. This was all her doing. He'd watched her. First she colored the various sheets of paper and yanked them out of the notebook. She then carried them in a pile to the refrigerator. The toughest part of the process was finding enough magnets to display everything. I notice that a couple magnets are holding up multiple sheets.

Artistic vision. The 2-year-old version.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tooth truth

I've been duped! The tooth fairy's been duped! Even the duper (AJ) has been duped!

Where to begin...

The first deception started in Florida. While on the beach in Hollywood, AJ discovered the rock shown in his right hand. He excitedly announced he'd found a shark's tooth. Jeff and I tried to explain that no, it wasn't a tooth. But Jeff's Aunt DeeDee, figuring there'd be no harm in it, gave AJ the answer he wanted, "Why, I think that IS a fossilized shark's tooth."

Validation! AJ has been telling people about his shark's tooth ever since.

Grandpa and Grandma, who were with us that day, decided to set the record straight, and so brought back with them from a Florida a real shark's tooth. (Shown in AJ's left hand, in case you hadn't guessed.) AJ is beyond excited by the real tooth. In fact, when I asked him to hold the two items together, he protested about the original saying "but that one's just a rock."

So now to the greater duping...

It turns out the tooth fairy's first visit to our house was for naught! When AJ announced he'd lost a tooth, Jeff believed him. When Jeff, in turn, told me AJ had lost his first tooth and must have swallowed it, I believed him. The gap in AJ's mouth looked awfully small, but baby teeth are pretty small, and I looked at several "before" photos that didn't seem to have that gap, and so the tooth fairy showed up, and paid up.

Over the weekend, however, AJ's Aunt Sarah (who, as an orthodontist, knows a little bit about teeth) took a look in AJ's mouth. She noted that only one tooth was missing. So unless AJ had an extra tooth to begin with, he's only lost one tooth. I kind of suspect that an extra tooth would have been noticed at his dentist visit last year, and it wasn't, so draw your own conclusions. I've drawn mine.

Maybe I can use this as an excuse in the coming years if the tooth fairy forgets to show up sometime. "Oh, she probably figures this makes everything even for the time she paid you when you hadn't really lost a tooth."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ta Dah!

We did some serious housecleaning over the weekend, much to the kids dismay. They did their best to find excuses and distractions, but eventually hunkered down and did what we told them to do.

Of course, Sydney had to add her own bit of dramatic flare to the process. Every time she'd pick up a toy off the floor and throw it in the toy box, she'd wave her arm and declare, "Ta dah!"

It got me wondering where she might have learned that. Maybe from her brother?

Or Daddy?

Certainly not from me. (Though anyone who' seen pictures of me during my family's visit to the great Salt Lake when I was 7 may beg to differ.)

These pictures, by the way, are all from Epcot.

Hmmm... I just don't know where she gets it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The passing of the toys

With Grandpa and Grandma back from Florida, we took a day trip down to the Cities on Sunday for a visit and to celebrate all the birthdays they missed over the winter. It's the first time the entire family has been together since Christmas, and it was fun to see how much the youngest cousins have changed in those four months.

I knew Sydney had a growth spurt, but seeing her tower over Zane, she suddenly looks huge. What happened to my baby girl?

For his part, Zane has become quite mobile since we saw him last. At 14 months, his sturdiness seems to be surpassed only by his determination as he motors around to wherever he wants to be.

We used the trip as a chance to get rid of some toys my kids have outgrown. This little "house" originally came from my sister. Both of my kids loved it when they were younger, but have since lost interest in it. I figured this was the perfect time to return it, so that it could be passed along to Zane. Sydney initially didn't want to share, but eventually we were able to convince her to show Zane how it works.
Of course, moving the toys to a new location made them absolutely fascinating again. The rocking bumble bee that has been collecting dust in our basement once again became a favorite.
With Sydney happily rocking, Zane finally had a chance to check out the mailbox and all the other fun features.

There's something about this house, especially the mailbox and plastic "envelopes", that is so appealing to toddlers. And just how durable of a toy is it? Look at it this way: it's now been well loved by everyone in the photo below.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Awesome Saturday morning

We tired the kids out good on Friday, let them stay up later than usual Friday night and then something amazing happened. A miracle!

Everybody slept in on Saturday morning.

I woke up first at 8:15. I wandered around the house, almost unsure of what to do. I never get the house to myself at a normal hour. I made coffee and settled onto the couch. Spike, recognizing the rarity of the situation, curled up next to me and purred and purred. I grabbed the remote control and actually watched grown-up shows. On a Saturday morning. A little bit of Food Network, followed by a little news. Appropriately enough, the anchor on MSNBC was interviewing the author of The Book of Awesome.

Of course, within about 20 minutes, AJ was awake, and Sydney soon followed. But that short bit of "me time" was truly awesome.

Once the kids were awake, I tried to keep them quiet so that Jeff could continue sleeping. AJ suggested playing Go Fish. Let me just say it's really, really hard to lose to a 5-year-old who lacks the coordination to hold all the cards in his hands. But I did it.

He'd spread all the cards on the floor in front of him. He couldn't grasp the concept that he wasn't supposed to let me see his cards.

Sydney, meanwhile, let Mommy play with her hair. Sit her in front of a DVD player with snack in hand and she does a really good job sitting still.

She got a real kick out of seeing the braids once they were done. Every time she'd run by the mirror in our closet, she'd stop, stare at herself and do a short dance.
Saturday's can be so awesome!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Such foolishness

Somewhere in my small town is a parent who deserves to be slapped silly. Let me explain...

AJ was so excited when I picked him from from preschool yesterday. It was the culmination of their "April Foolishness" week, which included wearing clothes inside out and backwards on Tuesday, crazy hair day on Wednesday and pajama day on Thursday. (An interesting side note, I noticed AJ's hair looked just about as crazy Thursday, when Daddy got him ready and neglected to comb his hair, as it did on Wednesday when I carefully spiked it and doused it with mega-hold hair spray. But I digress.)

Also on Thursday, his class celebrated every one's birthday at once. We were instructed to send a wrapped gift worth no more than $2. Our contribution was a nice slinky.

What we got in return was the lovely new recorder the maestro is blowing in the photo above. (You can thank me later for posting a still photo rather than video with sound.)

The parent who thought this would be a good gift to give a preschooler ought to be banned from the school district for life! You don't give a musical instrument capable of producing a single, piercingly high note to a five-year-old! And I don't think you can buy a recorder for under $2. I suspect this parent was conveniently trying to get rid of the thing that had been given to their child, and thus passed the misery on to us.

AJ's friend Gino was getting picked up at the same time yesterday. When Gino's mom saw/heard what AJ had gotten, she quickly dug through Gino's backpack to see what treasure he was bringing home. A nice, quiet Frisbee. I looked at her and asked, "Wanna trade?"

She smiled, "No chance," and hustled him out the door.

If I find the guilty parent, there will revenge. Somehow. Someway. These kids are going to be together for the next 12 years. I will get even.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fun quotes

Last night, Sydney requested A Day at the Beach as her bedtime story. It's a swell little book featuring Dora the Explorer that I've read... oh... I'm guessing at least a hundred times. As we turned to the first page, I started to recite from memory, "Hola, soy Dora, and this is my best friend Boots."

Sydney interupted me, her eyes wide with excitement, "I go to the beach!"

"Yes, we did go to the beach. What did you do at the beach?"

"I looked for sea shells!"

I love having conversations with her now that she speaks in complete sentences. Often times, they're conversations we've had numerous times, but they're cute none-the-less.
Other cute things that have come from their mouths lately:

AJ: "When I grow up, I want to change my name to Dave."
Me: "You want to be named after your Grandpa David?"
AJ: "Oh." (Apparently he hadn't made that connection.)
Me: "What's wrong with AJ?"
AJ: "I just want a name with more letters."
Me: "We could call you Alex. That's your real name."
AJ: "No, I already have two friends named Alex.
Me: "So can we just stick with AJ?""
AJ: (big sigh) "I guess."
Sydney woke up in the middle of the night, crying out, "Mommy! Mommy!"
Rushing to her bed, I crawled in next to her and soothed, "It's okay. Mommy's here."
She wrapped her arms tightly around my neck and announced, "I was SO worried!"
Watching the Twins game with Jeff a few nights ago, AJ held his Justin Morneau baseball card tightly in his hand. A little later, while I was out of the room, AJ excitedly shouted, "Mommy, Justin No-more got a hit!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Round and round

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that during what's shaping up to be a long and frustrating week at work, my thoughts are drifting back to our vacation, specifically to our rides that went round and round without really going anywhere.

At least at Magic Kingdom, we enjoyed the ride.

Ditto at Sea World.

The key difference in my analogy is that at the amusement parks, it felt like we spent a long time in line, and way too little time actually spinning in circles. Where as at work I find myself tired of the cycle and wishing to stop the ride.

Aaahhhh... vacation. How I miss thee.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vacation memories

The sad thing about taking little kids on an elaborate vacation is knowing they probably won't remember any of it long term. In the short term, however, it's interesting to discover what does stand out for them.

For instance, as I dressed Sydney for Sunday School a few days ago, in a little denim jumper that I love, Sydney proclaimed, "I wear this to the beach!"

I was confused for a minute, but then recalled she was right, sort of. The last time she'd worn it was in Florida.

And later that day, we'd gone to the beach. (We'd changed her out of the dress by that point.)

That was the day (it's so nice of Sydney to give me a perfect transition into fun stories I've yet to put on the blog) Jeff learned about misjudging drop-offs and the size of waves.

It was also one of the best overall days of the trip, I think for all of us. Lots of sunshine and sea shells as we visited Marco Island, and the temperature was fabulous, at least by our standards. (Those wimpy Florida folks still thought it was a tad chilly.)

I can't believe it's already been a month since we were there. I'm definitely ready for another vacation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pick your battles

It's good for me to share this story on a Monday, because as I'm mentally preparing myself for a stress-filled week at work, it puts in perspective that the grass isn't always greener on my days home with the kids.

Last Friday started out fun. AJ's breakfast request: "Pancakes. Viking pancakes."

I'm pretty darn proud of the result:

As I confessed to friends who heaped on the praise when I shared this picture on Facebook, I deserve points for presentation only. I used two store-bought frozen pancakes and cut one of them creatively, added strawberries and Cool-Whip and... tah dah!

Breakfast went pretty much downhill after that. At an incredibly rapid pace. Within minutes of eating the pancake, AJ was in tears. Not just whining for attention tears. These were lower lip quivering, fighting to control his mounting frustration with his sister tears. Why?

Because "Sydney says crocodiles live in rivers and I want them to live in oceans."


"AJ, let's think about this," I reasoned. "First of all, your sister is right. Secondly, is this really that important that you need to cry about it?"

"But Sydney always thinks she's right!" cried out Mr. Pot-calling the-Kettle-black, concluding, "Sydney's not my friend anymore!"

Sydney sat there, smugly silent. Which successfully infuriated AJ even more. I told him to get down from the table and follow me to his room. I again asked him if he really thought this was worth getting so worked up about. He insisted it was.

That got me remembering why I'm glad to not be a stay-home mom. It also got me questioning why I get up so early Monday-Thursday and work 10 hour days so that I can end my week on such a high note. I love my children dearly, but I'm also very thankful for the professional childcare workers in their lives.

Of course, by later that day, all annoyances between the two were forgiven and forgotten. Running up and down the aisles at Sam's Club they were all giggles as they conspired to hide behind some of the pallets and boxes. As I continued to push the cart, both kids hopped on the side. AJ helpfully put his hand around Sydney's shoulders to help her hang on. Having seen Jeff put his arm around my shoulders on a number of occasions, AJ must have made a connection to what he was doing with Sydney. "Look Mom," he called out, "Sydney and I are married!"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eyes on the prize

The thrill of victory. The knowledge of a job well done. The pride in sticking it out through a frigidly cold season. Sure, whatever.

It all pales in comparison to the excitement of receiving your very first trophy.

The Esko Hockey Association celebrated the end of its season with a banquet Saturday night. Talk about a loud and hyper time! Four teams of kids ranging in age from 4-8, plus siblings, running around a large party room. Some of the kids hadn't seen each other in more than a month, so there was a bit of a reunion element besides. Wow! But they sure had fun.

Sydney's favorite part of the evening was the cake. I tried to grab her a piece with a lot of frosting, knowing that's all she really eats. Next time, I think I'll go for a piece with a lot of white frosting. Her cheeks are still stained blue.
The excitement continued on the way home as AJ dug through the bag of treats he'd been given along with the trophy.
"Hey! We can go camping." AJ exclaimed. (A note: AJ thinks camping means having a fire in the backyard.) "I got camping chocolate!"

I explained the s'mores would have to wait until the fire ban is lifted. The next thing I knew, AJ had figured out that "camping chocolate" tastes pretty good all on its own.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Phone app fun

We've had our iPhones not quite three months and I continue to think it is one of the greatest inventions ever. Everything I need in one little rectangle: access to e-mail, grocery lists, maps, camera, music and games to keep the kids happy on long car rides. It's all there.

And sometimes I even use the thing to make phone calls. What a concept!

Currently, Sydney is fascinated by the How to Train your Dragon "book" app. AJ's latest favorite is Connect 4. I recently skimmed an article predicting how touch screens are the future of computers, and watching AJ, I believe it's true. He's gotten so used to sliding his finger around the iPhone's screen; I recently noticed him sliding his finger on our lap top's screen trying to get it to page down.

As for me, I'm having fun with some of the camera apps. How else would I be able to turn my children into Dr. Seuss characters?

Or learn what they'd look like if built out of Legos?

Now if only someone would invent an app that doesn't just remind me of the housework on my to do list, but actually does it for me. (Sigh) Can you tell today's agenda is for some serious spring cleaning?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fearless fun

I think it was the summer AJ was one that I started using playgrounds as a gauge of how much he'd advanced in terms of coordination and sense of daring. Slides that seemed so scary in the spring to a 15-month-old, were child's play by fall for my 19-month-old as he moved beyond them, challenging himself to even scarier feats. And by the following spring, there was just no comparison.

Last night, while visiting our favorite playground in Cloquet, I couldn't help but again measure development - this time for Sydney who, with her brothers help, came down the big slide for the first time.

For anyone not familiar with the "big slide" at Churchill Elementary School, it's really, really big - I'm guessing about 25 feet high - and you have to climb numerous steps and ladders to get to the top.
After a couple trips down, AJ moved on to other adventures, but Sydney continued to shoot down on her own. "I do 'gain!"
I was thinking to myself, two years ago when we came to this park, this child couldn't even walk, and just look at her now. That got me searching through old pictures. I couldn't find any playground shots from April of '08, but I did find the one below, taken April 17, so almost exactly two years ago.

Yeah... they've changed just a bit.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Widening the gap

It seems like only a few weeks ago I was writing about AJ losing his first tooth.

Oh, that's right, it WAS just three weeks ago that the Tooth Fairy visited our house for the first time, and already tonight she gets to make an encore appearance for - just like last time - a tooth that's been lost - literally!

A few days ago, while trying to wake AJ, who was sleeping soundly with his mouth wide open, I saw that the tooth next to the missing one was extremely crooked. Having never noticed his teeth to be so twisted, I asked him if his tooth was loose. AJ gave it a wiggle and, why, yes it was quite loose. The excitement has been building ever since. Another dollar! He just couldn't wait.
And now the tooth is gone. As AJ tells it, he lost it sometime after lunch, somewhere on the floor of the lunchroom at school. "There was a little blood," he described. But all that was of little concern in his mind.
"The tooth fairy is still going to bring me money," he assured Grandma Elouise on the phone.
As we prepared for bed, he surprised me by suggesting we leave some money for the tooth fairy so that she could leave more money for other children. I said okay and told him to go get some of the quarters that he'd gotten from the Easter Bunny.
That stopped him. Clearly he hadn't considered funding this idea himself. "Why don't we just leave her something nice instead, a small present," he quickly recovered.
"I think she would like it best if you would just go brush your teeth," I offered.
That worked for him, and so off he ran. A few minutes later, he asked me to help him write a note to the tooth fairy. He wanted it to say:
Dear Tooth Fairy,
I lost my tooth.
I'm sorry I lost it, but I want you to still be happy.
Love, AJ
This is serious business to him. I better go find my fairy wings. And a dollar.

Polka fun

After seeing yesterday's video of Sydney dancing, my Mom reminded me of the fun Sydney had dancing during our trip to Florida last month. I don't have any photos of that evening at their park, but my Mom's comment reminded me that I still hadn't put up pictures of one of the trip's highlights: lunch at Epcot.

We ate at the Biergarten Restaurant, a German-themed buffet that included live music.

There was about a 20-minute gap between when the kids finished eating and the start of the first show. Some kids a few tables over apparently were even antsier than ours, and so their parents let them run around on the wooden dance floor. It took little encouragement for our kids to join them.

Of course, the real fun started when the musicians came on stage. At first, it was only kids dancing. But then Jeff decided it was time for a Daddy-daughter dance.

After about a minute of that, AJ, who'd been dancing solo, invited me to join him. I discovered later that a very nice gentleman who'd been seated farther down the table from us, whom we'd been talking with throughout the meal, had picked up my camera and recorded some memories for us.

Later in the dance, Jeff cut in, so we switched partners.

Someday the kids will probably want to destroy all evidence of this moment, but it was really cute to watch them dance together.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dancing queen

"Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching and live like it's Heaven on earth."

- Mark Twain

Sydney seems to put her own twist on that inspirational line. For her, Heaven on earth is when everybody's watching her dance. She got her wish last Friday. The organizers of Jeff's hockey tournament hired a musician to entertain the crowds outside the rinks.

I never caught the singer's name, but he did a great job. I think he enjoyed Sydney's enthusiasm for his music. Numerous times he called her darlin' as she alternated between dancing and hanging on the stage like a groupie.

She stumped him at one point asking if he could play a pirate song. But she started a trend. Before we left, there were three or four other kids dancing with her. Surprisingly, AJ was not among them. He was too busy watching the hockey game.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dinosaur bones

I probably should feel a little guilty about misleading my daughter, but I figure - hey - she's only two. She'll never remember. And besides, she started it.

While down in the cities this past weekend for a hockey tournament for Jeff, the kids and I took a side trip to the Children's Museum in St. Paul. It has a dinosaur exhibit right now, which absolutely terrified Sydney until AJ found a section where they could "dig for bones".

It was the perfect exhibit: kind of like a sandbox, out of viewing range of the big model T-rex, and it had cool vests (like Diego wears) and even goggles. Sydney was fascinated.

Though she didn't quite grasp that the purpose was to sweep aside the grey foam pieces to discover white "bones" underneath. Instead, she proudly held up the little grey pieces proclaiming, "I found dinosaur bones."

This frustrated her brother to no end. "Those aren't dinosaur bones, Sydney!"

Since she'd had so much fun searching for little grey pieces on Saturday, I suggested a new game when we got home on Sunday. Every spring we find little grey rocks from our garden scattered around our yard. The rocks bare a striking resemblance to the foam pieces at the Children's Museum. And so Sydney went to work again in search of "dinosaur bones."

I think she got 'em all!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just not the same

The kids are so confused. We're staying at my parents house this
weekend, but grandpa and grandma aren't here. We'd told them that they
wouldn't be here, that they were still in Florida, but once we got
here, I could tell they were still peaking around each corner,
expecting... or at least hoping... to find them.

Mom and Dad, knowing that you'll read this, I'm happy to report I
successfully upped the temp on the hot water heater, and haven't found
any mice or dead fish. There are hints of leaves starting on trees,
and the grass is green.

Also, the doll in the living room is doing just fine. Sydney's taking
good care of her.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Easter fun

As I reviewed my Easter photos, I forgot I'd also taken some pictures with my phone. Here are the kids with their bubbles (before spilling them.) AJ managed to kick his over first. Sydney soon followed.

These photos were taken before the wind shifted directions, dropping temperatures about 15 degrees.

The kids, of course, seemed oblivious to the temperature change. Especially when they learned the Easter bunny had hidden some eggs outside Gayle Jaski's house.

Mr. Money-bags, here, is no doubt hoping this becomes an annual tradition. Whereas the eggs left at our house are filled with candy, these eggs each contained a quarter.