Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Having a ball with our cousins

We can only imagine what they we talking about. Perhaps the conversation started something like this: "So, we've all been born into this family. What can we do to make them seem a little more normal?"

Or maybe it was AJ and Sydney trying to recruit Zane to help them take on Jessica in a game of soccer. During our visit to the Cities last weekend, which included a picnic at a playground in Rogers, it quickly become apparent that despite AJ's best efforts, he was no match for his talented cousin.

Sydney seems to be a bit of a ball hog. In the worst way. She uses her hands! Maybe she's just destined to play goalie.

That's right Sydney. Don't let her intimidate you! Just because she's twice as big and has been playing soccer for, oh, at least three or four times as long as you've been alive. Show her who's got attitude.

Or maybe just be glad that Jessica is a friendly (and very patient) opponent.

Game on!

What are the odds? At AJ's first baseball game, his team of 18 players matched up against another team of 18. And at the end of three innings, the score was tied 54-54.

I've never claimed to be a mathematician, but I do believe that averages out to exactly one run per child per inning. Amazing!

Here's AJ's first turn at bat. You can probably see why it wasn't much of a pitcher's duel. Following a high-strategy line-up based on where the kids chose to sit on the bench, AJ ended up batting last. That wasn't all bad, however. Each child before him hit the ball and then ran to first base. They'd then advance one base at a time with each batter behind them. As the ultimate clean-up hitter for the inning, AJ got to run all four bases without stopping.

An infield home run! Not bad for a hit that barely passed the pitchers mound.
Next it was his team's turn to take the field. The infield that is. Since nobody at this age is physically able to hit the ball beyond the baseline, there's no point in sticking kids in the outfield. And so they assigned a child to each base, and the other 14 filled in between. It was a formidable defense.

Every few batters, they'd change up the defense, rotating positions so each child had the chance to play different roles.
I missed the best photo opportunity of all when it came time for AJ to play first base. As luck would have it, his friend Avery, who was on the other team, had just batted and was standing on first base. So what did these two opposing players do when they spotted each other? They hollered each other's name in delight and forgot all about the game for a moment as they embraced in a big hug. What sportsmanship!
We're paying $30 for AJ to play this baseball season. I figured the cost was to cover the shirt and hat, as well as helping with any field maintenance costs. What I didn't realize we'd get along with it is some of the best, most hysterical entertainment I have ever enjoyed in a long time.
It is absolutely impossible to keep a straight face as you watch a dozen kids all dive for the ball, sometimes fighting amongst themselves over who then gets to throw the ball to first.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lost and found

If I ever wondered just how much Sydney is learning from the cartoon Diego, I got a quick lesson while touring the zoo with the kids last Saturday.


We interupt this regularly scheduled blogpost with some exciting news! AJ lost another tooth. And this time he really lost the tooth from his mouth, while not losing it all together.

Got it? This is pretty exciting.

For those of you keeping score, this is the first tooth that's really come out AND that hasn't been lost forever. Tooth #1, you may recall, came out at daycare, or so we thought, and was apparently swallowed by AJ during naptime, never to be seen again. Tooth #2 came out just a couple weeks later, this time during lunch at school, only to be lost in the lunchroom, never to be seen again.
It was right after this that Aunt Sarah took a look in AJ's month and figured out that only one tooth was really missing. That tooth's permanent counterpart, incidentally, is about halfway grown back. It's nearest neighbor on the bottom row, which has been loose for quite some time, is what's now lying in wait beneath AJ's pillow, in hopes that the tooth fairy will think it's worth another dollar.
As we snuggled at bedtime, AJ asked how the toothfairy can get in our house at night.
"I'm not sure," I answered. "Do you think it uses pixie dust?"
"But how does the toothfairy fly?" AJ continued pressing.
Not wanting to ruin the fantasy quite yet, I turned it back to him. "I don't know, what do you think?"
"Because it has wings," AJ answered simply.
Of course. Why didn't I think of that?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday morning fun

As I sit down to begin writing this, it's about 8:35 on a Saturday morning. I can't help but note the time and think of how vastly different this morning is compared to one week ago. Today, I'm wandering around the house, still wearing what I slept in, enjoying a big ol' mug of coffee. In contrast, just seven days ago, I was rounding the final curve and heading for the finish line after a 13-mile run.

Jeff was quite smart in choosing a spot from which to cheer for me. As soon as I passed, he and the kids were able to walk a very short distance and discover a wonderful distraction that kept them happily occupied until I could back and find them.
I have mixed feelings about the new Playfront Park. The old castle structure was so big and awe-inspiring. But it was also old, so I understand why it had to go. This new playground, which just opened earlier this month, is wide open, which I love because it will be so much easier to keep an eye on the kids. But I don't see much about it that's particularly unique from other playgrounds we visit.

The kids had fun, Jeff said. And that, of course, is the most important thing.
If it ever stops raining, perhaps I could take the kids there for some fun on a Friday. That probably would be enough to raise my enthusiasm level for the new playground. As it is, I can't help thinking that the "AdventureShip" (check out the name above AJ's head in the top photo) would have been better named "Adventure pARK"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Knight time

Is there any doubt about AJ's favorite part of the Renaissance Faire? Watching the knights joust, of course. This year it was Sir Steven for who we were rooting. And I'm happy to say, he proved victorious.

Never mind that the "joust" included a few choreographed moves reminiscent of something you'd see in the WWF. (As they moved from jousting to hand-to-hand sword fighting, one of the knights stood on the back of his horse and then jumped down on the other knight, using an arm-bar type move. Really? Were they going for the over-the-top cheesy effect, or were they hoping people didn't notice the similarity to a wrestler leaping from the top rope into the ring.)

Regardless, AJ was thrilled. And thankfully he hasn't tried copying the move. Earlier in the day, he happily made friends with a few other young squires he found while the rest of us were finishing our lunch.

The adult in the photo below, who I suspect may have been enjoying a few alcoholic beverages before challenging the boys to a battle, quickly realized she had bitten off more than she could chew. I wonder if she has much experience with young boys because she grossly underestimated their enthusiasm and intensity.

We skipped the pony rides this year, due to the cost of everything else. But did let AJ try one game in the children's area. It involved a type of catapult game, and AJ, let's just say, struggled with it a bit. The first two times he brought the mallet down to fire off the ball, he missed the mark and smacked the side of his knee instead. That's when Jeff stepped in to help.

A post script of sorts... as we'd been driving to the festival, we'd told the kids we were simply taking them to a surprise. Clearly the kids enjoyed the surprise. Just last night, Sydney asked, "Mommy, some day can we go back to the surprise?"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Faire hair

It's been so long since we went to the Renaissance Faire that I've almost forgotten the stories that go with it. But these photos are simply too adorable not to share.

The kids' section was a bit of a disappointment this year. (Or maybe we were just more aware of it because we forgot to visit an ATM before traveling back in time.) The games and activities were as fun as usual, but they all came with a hefty price tag.

The highlight (despite now costing $1/kid, as opposed to being free) was the craft area. It was here, with the help of a very nice lady, a bit of tulle, ribbon and beads, that we completed Sydney's transformation into a princess.

First step in the process was choosing the beads. No shockers here - Sydney wanted pink.

But then in a surprise move, Sydney decided on green ribbon. Why? Because Mommy likes green, she explained.
The very nice lady patiently allowed Sydney to try and string some of the beads onto the ribbon. That takes an awful lot of eye/hand coordination for a toddler.

To speed things along (we quite possibly would still be there, otherwise), we had Sydney continue with the bead selection process, while leaving the bead stringing process to the very nice lady.

With the ribbon/beads twisted loosely around the tulle, it was at last time to crown our little princess. I'm curious what Sydney was thinking in the photo below. She squeezed her eyes so tightly shut.

About the time the very nice lady finished her work, two young girls ran up, calling her "mom."
That explains her patience. She's been through this before a few times herself.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Race ya!

Why is this boy smiling?

It could be because he was about to run in the annual Whipper Snapper races as part of the Grandma's Marathon festivities. But I suspect it may have had something to do with all the mascots he'd just met, such as Champ the Bulldog from UMD.

Or maybe it had something to do with the autographs he'd gotten from a couple of attractive Vikings cheerleaders.

Mommy always appreciates when he brings me coupons after meeting the Caribou Coffee mascot. But alas, it was AJ's non-coffee-drinking Daddy who was accompanying him through the tour of characters, and so no coupons were attained this year.

We all went to the races together, and I even picked up a number for Sydney just in case she decided to run. But sensing her lack of enthusiasm for the event, and knowing how much she hates oversized costumed characters, Jeff and I decided a divide-and-conquer approach would work best. So while Jeff and AJ were busy meeting mascots, Sydney and I headed across the street to pick up my race packet for the next day. We missed AJ posing with Tiki Tom from the Edgewater...

But still made it back with plenty of time to see him run. I just didn't get a picture. There is such a mob of people at this event, that it was pretty impossible to get into position to take a photo during the 100-yard dash.

Besides, I think he had (and I know Sydney had) more fun afterward when we let them climb on an anchor down by the shore.

I noticed that this year, when I asked him who he'd had his picture taken with, he talked about the cheerleaders before mentioning the Bulldog. That's a first. Could it be a sign he's becoming a big boy? At the same time, I took comfort later in listening to him describe the afternoon to his grandparents. By then, he'd forgotten all about the cheerleaders and mascots. It was climbing on the anchor that was most memorable.
I guess he's okay being 5 for at least a little while longer. And I'm more than okay with that, too.

The birthday party

Poor Sydney is just a little bit confused.

On Saturday, we invited family and friends over to celebrate her birthday.

"Is my birthday today?" she repeatedly asked.

"No," I answered each time. "Your birthday is tomorrow, but we're having your party today."

She isn't quite able to grasp the difference between birthdays and party days. We further confused her Monday by sending cupcakes for all her friends at daycare.

"Is it my birthday today?" she questioned again.

"No, your birthday was yesterday. But today we're sharing cupcakes with your friends."

Back to the party, it started out with a Dora the Explorer theme, but by the time you add in AJ and all her friends, plus a treasure hunt to find a pinata, it ended up being more of a "Dora the pirate adventurer" party. Here are the kids with their loot.

To find the candy-filled pinata, they first had to follow some clues. Good thing our friend Addie has already learned to read.

The clues took the kids to the basement, where they ultimately found the treasure and took turns taking a whack at it. Shopping for a pinata was a bit of a challenge. I found a nice Diego one, but questioned what kind of trauma might result from encouraging all the kids to beat on one of Sydney's favorite characters. Ultimately we chose a safer, generic design.

Okay... this picture just got out of order and I'm too lazy to try and shift it. Here are the kids reacting to the news that they were going on a treasure hunt. Sydney didn't seem too interested. She was having more fun batting around her balloon.

Meanwhile, the pirate activities seemed to have affected the bigger guests as well.

All in all, it was a very fun afternoon. Even if it wasn't really her birthday quite yet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back to normal

There are so many things I could be writing about: Sydney's birthday party, AJ at the Whipper Snapper races, Sydney at the playground, Father's Day. Heck, I still have a bunch of pictures from the Renaissance Faire to share, and that was more than a week ago.

But hey, since one of the benefits of blogging is a little thing called total editorial control, I'm dedicating today to writing about me.

I survived the half-marathon. Not only did I finish the race, I shaved five minutes off my time from four years ago. Not bad for a 40-year-old.

And I could have been 15-20+ seconds faster if I hadn't veered off course to give quick kisses to my biggest fans. Jeff managed to drag two tired kids out of bed, get them dressed, (he even attempted to put pig tails in Sydney's hair, he told me later) drive through the I-35 Mega-Project into Duluth, find a parking spot and get to the race course in time to cheer as I passed. Compared to that, running 13.1 miles seems almost like a walk in the park.

He also managed to snap this shot right after I took off again. Can you find me?

I'll give you a hint, I'm the blonde in the light blue shirt and royal blue shorts. Here's a better shot, after I finished. I love this one:

I almost wish it didn't feel so good to run those last few miles past the cheering crowds along London Road and Superior Street. I almost wish it wasn't such an incredible adrenaline rush to round that last corner and push toward the finish line, to look up and see the clock showing a time that was far better than your wildest dreams. Almost.
Last week I was simply hoping to be able to finish the race. I was telling people this half-marathon would be my last, that the training was simply to hard on my legs and it wasn't worth it.
But now, everything is different. That feeling of accomplishment after four months of training and two hours, four minutes and forty seconds of hard running... is just too awesome to pass up. I'm hooked all over again and am wondering what other race I can sign up for so that I don't have to wait another year to see if I can run that far even faster.
My legs ache. If it's true, as the motivational line says, that pain is merely weakness leaving your body, then I bid adieu to a whole lot of weakness in the last 24 hours, particularly from my thighs and calves when encoutering stairs. But it's so worth it.
And now it's back to reality. Making the kids' lunches, plus cupcakes to send with Sydney to daycare, and focusing again on work. Part of me knows I should give my legs a couple days to rest and recover. But at the same time I can't wait to lace up my shoes and go running again. My new goal is to run a half marathon in less than two hours. How tough can that be?

Birthday bling

Dear Sydney,

Today you are three. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed and you have grown so big. You have an awesome imagination and the most wonderful laugh. You've pretty much figured out the potty-training thing and have lots of opinions, which you are always happy to share. You do your best to keep up with your big brother, and melt my heart every time you ask to snuggle "just the girls."

You made me laugh this morning when I asked what the birthday girl would like for breakfast. You picked hot dogs and ketchup.

Your Daddy just woke up and thinks your idea for breakfast would make a good Father's Day breakfast, as well. You two share so many similar tastes. Your ability to sleep in later than any child I've ever heard of - you get that from Daddy too.

This was the year you started to like accessories. Suddenly, hair pretties and jewelry are must-haves. I'm really glad you like the necklace. I suspect we'll be finding pieces of it for years to come. It's part of a 140-piece set of pop-it beads. Maybe inviting Avery and Reese to your party wasn't such a good idea after all.

While you were waiting for your hot dog to cook, you played with all your new friends. It took a little work to get Dora, Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake and Princess Tiana to all sit together without tipping over. You happily announced, "We're having a class."

A little earlier, it was just Barbie and Princess Tiana playing animal rescuers. Baby monkey needed a time out in his bed for scaring baby kitty. Good job keeping everyone in line, Sydney. I love listening to the conversations you have when you play.
As I think back to that magical day three years ago, I never imagined how well our family has grown together. You and your brother are learning to antagonize each other more and more, but for the most part, you play together very well. You cheer for each other and defend each other with a fierce intensity that makes me proud.
One ironic note, after running the half-marathon yesterday, I think I am in more pain today than I was three years ago. The drugs following your C-section did their job quite well. I think it's time for more ibuprofen.
I love you sweetheart and can't wait to see how you will continue to amaze me in the years to come.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My Faire lady

I often refer to Sydney as my little drama queen. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Her flare for the theatrical served her well last Sunday when we visited the Olde World Renaissance Faire in Twig. Dressed as a princess, Sydney was in her element.
While waiting for the knights' joust to begin, Sydney was absolutely drawn to a group of wandering musicians. When they noticed her dancing, one of the performers broke out of the group to teach Sydney some of their moves.

Lifting up her skirt, Sydney happily twirled 'round and 'round.

This is the third year we've gone to the fair, but the first that Sydney really showed any interest in participating.
Put her in a setting where the theatrical is celebrated, and Sydney fits right in. And watching her, I think she'd make a pretty good queen. All of her "subjects" were smiling by the time we left.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whistle while you work

AJ's newest goal is to learn how to whistle. He doesn't really make any songs, just a whole lot of notes in no particular order. He practices a lot. Which was pretty evident in the photos I'd taken at the Children's Museum. Here he is working the crane...

and building a tower out of wooden blocks...

and building an alien out of plastic blocks. The lips are still pursed.

And especially while fitting together the PCV pipes.
His lips and lungs were working as hard as his hands and imagination.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This blows!

Another Children's Museum story...

Sydney was fascinated by this air-blowing activity. Press a button on the side of the table, and air is blown out of the top of the orange cone. Try to put a ball on top of the cone and it hovers in the air. Cool!

How do you stop it from floating? Sydney's first attempt was with a hammer.

That didn't work, so she next focused on trying to discover how it worked.

It wasn't too tought to figure out that a button on the side of the table turned the air on and off. After processing that bit of information, Sydney attempted to follow the chain reaction by climbing on the table and peering into the orange cone.

I'd like to say she was smart enough not to do that again. But she's my daughter. So what do you suppose happened next? Of course, she did it over and over again. And in the end, does it really matter if you know how it works? (I suppose if you want to be an engineer or something it does.) For those of us who avoided math and science, it's just fun enjoying the end result.