Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you can't say something nice...

I am going to resist the urge to write about our day on Monday. Let me simply make two observations and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

  1. My normally sweet little girl was about as lovely on the inside as she appears on the outside in this photo.
  2. You know how there's always that one mom who seems to juggle a career and parenthood with such ease? No one who saw me arrive late at AJ's soccer game, just in time to deal with my filthy and overly tired daughter's attitude, will ever suggest I'm that mom.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The event was called Bubblefest, but it involved so many other fun things to do, that we barely spent any time blowing bubbles.

In fact, AJ never even made it outdoors. As part of the festivities, sponsored by the Children's Museum, there was free open skating time at the neighboring Heritage Hockey Arena. It was AJ's first time on skates in five months.

It was interesting to watch the various people out on the ice, and definitely a "You know you're from Duluth, if..." kind of moment. Tank tops and shorts - on ice. And we certainly weren't the only ones in that sort of attire.

The other highlight was the huge, turf-covered indoor field. Imagine a football field-sized space. Now imagine letting loose dozens of small children to run and tumble to their hearts' content. Add in a few gym mats, and you get the picture. Sydney's favorite game was one she made up called Catch Me. She'd run around, daring me to chase her. Then, without warning, she'd plop down and expect me to join her.

A little later, AJ and Daddy joined us, which meant I got a much needed break. I always love it when the simple things prove to be the most fun. Here the kids had access to a bunch of different activities involving bubbles. And they couldn't have cared less. But give them a wide open space in which they can run around and be as loud as they want to be, and their imaginations go into overdrive. We had to drag them away.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Girl time

Not to be too stereotypical, but while Daddy and AJ went fishing Saturday, I thought it'd be a great time for Mommy and Sydney to do a little shopping. The plan was to visit Kohl's and the mall, and then wrap it up with a trip to the grocery store. Since it was such a gorgeous day, we couldn't resist adding a slight detour to our agenda.

At the mall, one thing we needed was new shoes for Sydney. She loves her imitation Crocs, but they're not the most practical footwear we could choose come winter. And so we had her feet measured (9-9.5 depending on how much growing room I want to give her) and began test running (literally) several pairs of shoes.

The Dora tennis shoes were an immediate hit, until I asked her if she thought we should buy them. "Umm, no thank you," was her reply.

That was her same answer for several other pairs of shoes. For Sydney, none were anywhere near as exciting as the nylon socks she got to wear while trying them on.

She was so excited when I told her she could keep them. When it came time to leave, ultimately after buying a pair of sparkly pink Disney Princess dress shoes, Sydney continued wearing the nylons under her Crocs.

We wrapped up our visit to the mall with a stop at Dairy Queen in the food court. Holding my hand and skipping along side me, Sydney looked up and said, "I love shopping with you!"
As I looked around at the many mother/sullen teen combos we passed, I couldn't help but wonder how her opinion will change in years to come. At least for this day, we had a good time together.
Our final stop was at Cub, and guess what we found?!? After joking earlier this week that Cub would never be able to compete with Trader Joe's in Sydney's mind, it turns out they can.

Cub has little grocery carts, too! Sydney was quite selective about which items were allowed in her cart, versus which ones went into my cart. Her criteria seemed to be food that she liked and that she could stack neatly. That meant bananas, Lunchables, hot dog buns, Jell-o and gummy worms. Cheese slices almost made it in, but ultimately didn't make the cut.
All together our adventure lasted about five hours. If this was a preview of what Fridays will be like once AJ starts kindergarten, we are going to have fun!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday morning sponge

For as long as there have been Saturday morning cartoons, there have been Saturday morning commercials targeting young sponge-like minds. (Yes, I note the irony that I am complaining about something like this.)
From what I remember of Saturday mornings long ago, the commercials that used to interrupt shows like Super Friends and Land of the Lost focused on sugary cereal that we could only hope to eat at our grandparents' house, and the toys that everybody had and no child could possibly live without.
In the last two years, watching with my children, I've noticed the messages have expanded to include Happy Meal toys, cool shoes and various craft supplies.
This morning I noticed a new trend. More and more commercials are directing children to go online and visit their websites. Even the non-commercial stations do it. AJ today informed me that, "if we go to p-b-s-kids-dot-org, we can do anything we want. We can play games. It's online."
"Do you know what online means?" I asked.
"No," he admitted.
I explained that online is on the computer, like when we go to the Playmobile website where he likes to play what he calls "playset games."
A little later, while watching a commercial for a yogurt smoothie product that was advertising a contest, he again quoted their web address and told me we needed to go see if we had won. I explained there was no chance we had won, since we hadn't bought the product they were selling.
I can see this becoming a growing issue in years to come, as he becomes more computer savvy. Suddenly I'm getting a glimpse of what other parents have understood for years. That the online world of possibilities is not such a friendly place for overly receptive young minds.
That idea I had of someday putting a computer in the basement? Not going to happen! Any computer in our house is going to be where I can see it at all times.
(By the way, the photo at the top is from a playground visit yesterday. Pirate AJ was in the midst of an intense battle.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The dirt on Sydney

I came home from work yesterday to be greeted by the dirtiest little girl I have ever seen. Sydney clearly had had a fun day outside at daycare. Her face. Her legs. Even the crease on the inside of her elbows. All were streaked and stained grayish-brown.

So dirty was my little darling that I insisted she take a bath before dinner. Perhaps an even stronger indicator: I was so shocked that it didn't even occur to me to take her picture until it was too late to capture the evidence on her.

But perhaps this will give you an idea of how much dirt came off of her. Note the color of the water in the tub:

As she happily played in the water, Sydney explained how she'd come to be so messy.

"I was just playing in the dirt with Izzy," she told me. "Izzy got dirty too."

Well, doesn't that just make it all okay, then? It kind of reminds me of the "but you should see the other guy" rationalization.

As dirty as the water had become, I actually insisted on rinsing her with water fresh from the tap.

And then, just like that, my little princess was clean again. Just in time to get ketchup all over her chin, arms and hands at dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We all have our talents

I am not a teacher. Sure, my children have learned plenty of things from me, but those are the kind of things they just sort of pick up on (whether I want them to or not.)

When it comes to sitting down with them and providing specific instructions... the results are not successful. Which is why AJ is still wearing shoes with velcro.

I've had him try to tie his shoes. I've had him try to tie my shoes. I say one lace goes up and over and through. He twists them into a corkscrew. I say make a bunny ear. He does it, right at the end of the lace. I show him and show him and show him how to make the bunny ear right next to where we just tied, so that there's a long tail left. He makes another bunny ear, right at the end of the lace. And then when it doesn't work, he wrinkles up his face in a look or irritated frustration, as if I'm tricking him and leading him on a wild goose chase.

To him, it appears that tying shoes is a bit of a puzzle. If you see any kind of loop, stick the end of a lace through it.

But we'll keep working on this and some day will be successful. On that day, I will inform Jeff that since I taught AJ to tie his shoes, he gets to be the one to teach AJ to drive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Healthy perspective

The dinner conversation went something like this.

Sydney: "Mom, can I have more jell-o?"

Me: "After you finish your tortellini."

A few minutes pass. Sydney doesn't touch the food on her plate.

Sydney: "Mom, can I have some more jell-o?"

Me: "Not until you finish your tortellini."

More time passes. By this point Sydney is the only one left at the table. I'm just around the corner by the washer and dryer.

Sydney: "Mom, now can I have more jell-o?"

Me: "Did you finish your tortellini?"


Sydney: "What did you say?"

Me: "Did you finish your tortellini?"

More silence.

AJ: "She said, 'Did you finish your tortells...'." (He couldn't remember how to pronounce it.)

Sydney: "AJ, you stay out of it."

Hmmm... I wonder where she learned that line? I rounded the corner. Not only had she still not touched her tortellini, she gave an Oscar-caliber look of surprise when I pointed out what I expected her to eat.

And I couldn't be more thankful.

There's nothing like spending a couple of hours in a hospital's pediatric wing to remind yourself about which battles really matter.

I'm working on a video for a client that involved interviewing several nurses and doctors today. While in the pediatric wing, I had the opportunity to play with a two-year-old boy who really should be at least three months younger. Evan was born at just 24 weeks, and has spend a good chunk of his life in hospitals. This week alone he's on visit #2 so he can be treated for dehydration caused by a problematic form of #2.

Evan, at least, was feeling healthy enough to play. Two other children were bed ridden. One boy, who was probably just a little younger than AJ, laid curled up in a fetal position. His worried father could only stroke his hair. I never saw the other child, but I could hear him/her whimpering from down the hall for much of the time we were there.

I wonder if my children recognize that tonight they can get away with just about anything. For as long as they are healthy and I can hold them, that's more than enough for me to feel blessed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wolverine on wheels

File this photo as one that AJ will someday wish didn't exist. But he sure was excited Sunday night to parade around the neighborhood in last Halloween's Wolverine costume.

And a parade it was... at least in AJ's mind. At dinner, he first asked Jeff if he'd "do a parade" with him. Jeff tried instead to convince AJ to watch the Vikings gamewith him.

Clearly AJ does not share his father's enthusiasm for football.

He looked at Jeff and suggested instead, "How about if you just tell me if the Vikings win?"

So by default, it was me who ended up looping through the neighborhood with a child wearing a neon yellow costume while riding a bright red bike. Had I let him, AJ would have thrown candy. I squashed that idea pointing out there probably wouldn't be too many people lining the parade route to pick up the candy.

AJ still has a ways to go before he'll be ready to give up the training wheels. But he's gotten much faster and braver pedaling down the street. Plus he's able to pedal and whistle at the same time. That's something even I couldn't do.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mommy's shopping helper

I've heard plenty of good things about it... even signed up as a fan on Facebook to bring a Trader Joe's to Duluth. And yet I've never set foot inside the store. Until today.

While visiting the Cities for my Mom's birthday, we had a little extra time in between church and lunch, and so "the girls" (me and the two lovely ladies shown below) decided to make a quick trip to check out the store in Maple Grove.

For Sydney, all she had to do was spot the mini shopping carts and she is now a fan for life. This was even more cool than the "grocery store" at the children's museum in New York. She got to pick out real food, and didn't have to put it back on the shelf when she was done playing with it. And I let her buy applesauce.

Cub is never going to be able to top this.

Up and down the aisles she ran, at times narrowly avoiding other customers, most of whom were pretty forgiving when they spotted her gleeful smile.

"One more row!" was her excited shout each time she rounded the corner of an aisle. When it came time to check out, once we'd piled up our impulse buys at the register, she took off again, "I have to park the cart!"

By dinner time, her enthusiasm faded a bit at the sight of the whole wheat gnocchi on her plate. Apparently she doesn't remember the last time we served this, and never the daring one, she initially refused to eat it. Once I cut one in half so she could sample a smaller bite, and explained she really didn't have a choice if she ever wanted to get down from the table, she finally opened her mouth.

And guess what. She liked it.

Gender differences

How boys and girls are not alike - Observation #2,469:

They both will play with dolls. Just in very different ways. Sydney, for instance, likes to set her "people" at a table where they enjoy a delightful conversation.

That is, when Sydney's not busy climbing on their house. She is 3, after all. But I digress...

The way she plays, her Barbies take care of each other, and she takes care of them.

Contrast that with AJ.
AJ stages jousts and battles between knights and pirates. While his sister is styling Barbie's hair, AJ is feeding a knight to his toy dinosaur.

(Look closely at the feet sticking out of T-rex's teeth.)
Though, in fairness to AJ, as I watched Sydney's attempts with the toy comb, I couldn't help but think Barbie probably would have prefered taking on AJ's dinosaur.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Car games

Sometimes their creativity leaves me shaking my head.

Driving into Duluth yesterday, the kids clearly grew bored in the back seat. Their solution? A make-shift game of Go Fish. Using baseball cards. At first, it seemed like an impossible game idea. AJ has very few baseball cards, so the chance of finding a match is miniscule at best.

And then I heard how they were playing, which sent my political correctness meter spinning out of control.

AJ: Do you have a black guy?

Sydney: Nope.

WHAT?!? I couldn't possibly have just heard what I thought I'd heard. At the moment, I was driving over Spirit Mountain, through a construction zone, in foggy conditions. There was no way I could take my eyes off the road. The game continued.

AJ: Do you have a white guy?

Sydney: Yup. Here.

We reached our exit, and as I slowed down to turn I asked AJ to show me his "black guy" card. He held up the card so I could see it in the rear view mirror.

It was a Caucasian baseball player. Wearing a black uniform.

Too bad we couldn't all be so innocent.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Inside sleepy heads

Sydney's imagination seems to be as active in dreamland as it is when she's awake. One morning, earlier this week, I could hear her moaning and rolling around in her bed. I headed in there to rub her back. Just as I reached the door, she called out, "That's mine!" And then she settled back to sleep (no back rub necessary.)
A similar situation greeted me this morning. As I reached her bedside, she was mumbling in an almost whiny voice, "I want... I... wa... (a few more unintelligible moans)... I want more ice cream."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pirate treasure

This happened a couple weeks ago, but I forgot to mention it. We took the kids back to Treasure Adventure exhibit... must have been two weeks ago last Friday. We were supposed to go the following Sunday for our friend Addie's birthday party, but the overall exhibit had such disastrously low attendance, that the organizers shut it down a few days early. Learning this, we headed down on the exhibits final day, so that AJ could have one last chance to look around and dig for treasure.

I give the organizers credit. They lost a lot of money on this venture and spent several weeks dressed in elaborate pirate costumes (often in 80-degree temperatures.) And it was all for naught.

So what did they do on their final day? What any broke pirate would do, I suppose. They loaded a make-shift cannon with candy and blasted it into the air.

What an unexpected surprise! Suddenly, my children who were too cool or picky to grab the candy tossed to them in a parade were running around in search of soot-covered candy wrappers that had just dropped back to earth.

It was simply one of the moments when you have to scratch your head and ask, "Did I really just see that?"
Aside from the candy cannon adventure, the kids checked out what inside the main exhibit space.

Sydney liked the play cannon. I hope there's a simple way to open the back of it and empty out all the "cannon balls" she'd loaded, because she dropped a lot into it.

AJ, meanwhile, was invited by the main organizer, whose name I now forget, to turn some of the keys to open all the interlocking mechanisms on this authentic chest.

Inside the chest was a real sword, and AJ got to touch the handle. He was enthralled. I'd say it was his favorite part of the day. Until they fired off the candy cannon. Because what could possibly compete with that?

"To school" shopping

So maybe I will cry on the first day of school.

I didn't think I would. I've always thought it a bit strange when my mom friends talked about the tears they shed as they walked their child to the bus or classroom. Think of what you're saving in daycare, for goodness sake. This is a great, great day!

Now I'm not so sure.

I took AJ "to-school" shopping on Sunday. (Since it's his first year, I'm dropping the "back" from back-to-school.)

He was quite excited to get two pairs of shoes. One for everyday and the other for gym. I was very happy to see that his top priority was how fast they are. (I remember doing that with my sister at the Brookdale JCPenney.) He took off across the aisle for a short test run.

Something else to note about these shoes: they have laces. No velcro. Guess what we'll be working on the next few weeks.

After that it was off to the chaos of the school supply aisles. It amazes me how non-logically this stuff is merchandized. I'm sure there's been some study that says people will buy more stuff if they have to look harder to find a box of #2 pencils. It was ridiculous.

It was as we gathered the crayons and markers and notebooks and 1.5" 3-ring binders (which also are a challenge to find) that it hit me that I have to let go a lit bit more of my baby. This isn't daycare where I call the shots on the schedule. This isn't about me and Jeff anymore and trying to find a place for AJ while we're at work.

This is now about AJ. He is embarking on a journey where I'm not as much in control. He will learn things from teachers that I probably don't know. He will learn things from kids that I don't want him to know. He will get bigger and more independent.

And I have to learn to let go.

I'm getting teary-eyed just writing this. Yeah - I'm probably going to cry on Sept. 9.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Super Sydney!

It occurred to me today that Sydney is now just a couple weeks shy of the age AJ was when I started this blog. What made me think of that? She's now reached that stage of spouting all sorts of adorable things. Here are a few examples just from today:

  • I stepped out on the front porch for a moment to check the temperature. When I came back inside, Sydney scolded me for leaving the front door open, "Mom, you let the bug bites in."

  • While she sat at the table eating a bowl of cereal, Jeff sat down next to her with a bowl of leftover pork fried rice. Sydney couldn't resist pointing out the absurdity of this: "Daddy's eating supper for breakfast."

  • Ever the drama queen, after Daddy sent her to her room to clean it, Sydney came whining to me, "I'm having a hard time."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Parade time

Considering the many hours we shivered together in the dead of winter around a cold hockey rink, it's kind of odd (but nice) for the Esko Youth Hockey Association to get together on an 80-degree day in August. The occasion? The Esko Fun Day parade.

AJ has been looking forward to this day for weeks. He got to be IN a parade. On a float! Throwing candy to all the kids. (Never mind that they handed out push-up popsicles, not candy; and they ran out before they ever reached us.) It was a dream come true.

Should it come as an surprise that he hammed it up when he spotted Sydney and me sitting on the curb?

With AJ and Daddy in the parade (if you squint, you can see Jeff toward the left side in the top photo), Sydney had the added responsibility of being the sole candy collector.

She was pretty cautious about venturing into the street. "Lucky" for us, our church, which also had a float in the parade, apparently bought way more candy than necessary. When their float passed us, both pastors, along with one of the pastors' sons, all dumped a handful of candy into Sydney's bucket.
I think to show my thanks, I'll let the kids dip into the bucket tomorrow morning and get a good sugar high going. Right before I send them up for the children's sermon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Girl power

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy having another girl in the house?

A couple days ago, I couldn't decide between two pairs of shoes. Sydney recommended the blue ones. I love having access to another female's perspective. (I suspect Jeff is equally glad to be off the hook on answering these kinds of questions.)

Meanwhile, Sydney has also become my workout partner. I recently started using an exercise ball and its accompanying DVD. Sydney is fascinated by "the girl movie" and so loves heading down to the basement with me in the evening. It didn't take her long to find some compable toys so that she could join in.

That's AJ's bouncy ball she's hoisting over her head. Other times she used her Chuck E. Cheese gym ball to lift and stretch. Most of the time, however, she simply liked counting along with the announcer as I sweated through the reps.

Contrast that with AJ's style of encouragement. He joined me in the basement for a different workout this past week. As I grunted and groaned through some reverse push-ups, AJ questioned, "Are you making muscles mom?"

"I'm trying," was my pained reply.

A few moments passed. Then suddenly AJ exclaimed, "I think I see one!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Visit #2 to the dentist was a success! No cavities, and we learned his
six-year molars have already come in, bringing his total tooth count
to 24.

AJ wasn't too wild about the polishing process- it sounded too much
like a drill. Ever since watching the dentist scene in Finding Nemo,
he's terrified of drills. He wasn't too thrilled with the fluoride
process either, until I reminded him it was like wearing his hockey
mouth guard.

On the plus side, he loved the reclining chair and the Spiderman
sunglasses, and the thing that sucked liquid out of his mouth was just
the coolest thing to play with.

Glad he enjoyed it, because we get to do it all again in six months.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


At the risk of sounding like an annoying proud mom, I have to again write about AJ's success on the soccer field. He is having so much fun this year, and is definitely the most aggressive one on the team.

(Jonathon and Jessica, feel free to analyze his form here and offer any pointers. He's going to want to play with you the next time we visit.)
At the end of the game, I overheard the other coach talking with our main coach. The gist of the conversation was that they had a really good player and we had a really good player, and it was fun to watch them go head-to-head and challenge each other through-out the game. What really caught my attention was when the other coach asked, "What was that boy's name? AJ?"
Yeah. I'm just a little proud.
The temperature was in the upper 80s throughout the game, so we made sure the kids drank lots of water. During one of the breaks, Jeff squirted AJ's friend Avery with one of the water bottles to cool her off. That started a whole new game. At one point, even I got doused. (Thanks AJ!) I suggested to the kids that they should instead squirt Coach Jeff at the end of the game.
Any water left in the water bottles ended up poured over Jeff's head. (That's Avery, the original water bottle victim, waiting in line behind AJ.)

I suspect we've started a new team tradition.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Peace and love

They've gotten quite good at pushing each other's buttons, and I'm sure, sooner or later, I'll hear an "I hate you" yelled from one to another.

When that happens, I hope I'll remember to look back at this post and remind them of this moment of harmony - when they were the best of friends - when the spirit of cooperation inspired a five-and-a-half-year-old wanna-be pirate to push his sister on the swing, needing to hear only her giggles as his encouragement to continue pushing higher and higher.

It was such a welcome treat for Jeff and me to sit in the shade on the sidelines and watch them play together. Until AJ tried to lift Sydney out of the swing. I think AJ recognized his limitations, but Sydney continued urging him to help her.
Mommy to the rescue. All is well. Cherish the moment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lofty dreams

For more than a month, ever since Sydney's birthday party, our dining room decor has included three Mylar balloons. The helium seemed destined to keep those things afloat forever. While the cat was thrilled by it (she couldn't walk by the dangling ribbons without taking a nibble), and Sydney loved seeing Dora at dinner time, I was getting sick of the added clutter.

So last week, I finally cut the balloons loose. Not completely loose. I tied them to a refrigerator magnet to keep them floating up to the very top of our vaulted ceilings. Alas, the magnet was no match for a 5-year-old football player who simply could not walk past the balloons without attempting to tackle them.

Actually, the magnet did just fine. It was the other end, where the ribbon wrapped around the balloon, that couldn't hang on. Up, up, up went the balloon.

Sydney's first solution was to drag a dining room chair over to the scene of the crime. Surely that would give her enough of a boost to reach the balloon.

Or maybe not.

Next she called me over to climb up on the chair. I tried to explain that wouldn't work, that Mommy still wouldn't be tall enough.

Not to be discouraged, Sydney next announced she would get Daddy to help.
"Sorry honey," I said. "Even Daddy's not going to be able to reach."
"But Daddy's strong," Sydney insisted. "He can get it."
Did I mention that was a week ago? Perhaps we could start a betting pool on when that balloon will finally come down. My guess is Halloween.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wild things

What's that creature peering through the glass at AJ?

Here's another look at it as it passed by a different panel of very-thick glass, a panel that hadn't been scratched and gnawed at quite as much:

Jeff had to work late on Friday night, so, to give him a quiet house Saturday morning, I took my wild things to look at the animals at the Lake Superior Zoo. I called it "Operation: Give Daddy a quiet house to sleep in."
At the petting zoo, AJ got really close to the llama, until the llama suddenly decided to stare right back at him. I snapped this shot just as AJ jumped away.

Sydney had no desire to see the animals close up. She prefers just about any animal that Diego has saved in one of his cartoons. I again can't recall the name of these adorable little monkeys. But Sydney insisted I take their picture.

Perhaps she didn't trust my photography skills, because she seemed to want a back up source. As I turned around after snapping the picture, I discovered she'd swiped my phone from my purse and was snapping a shot of her own. (Mine turned out better.)
And of course, no trip to the zoo is complete without climbing on the big frogs and turtle. This was a first for Sydney - she made it to the top of the big frog all by herself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The difference between princesses and knights

Now that AJ feels he's established a few ground rules, I think he's ready to play.

Sydney woke up this morning wanting to be a princess. I helped her into a dress, and she then ran to her brother and asked, "AJ, do you want to play dress up, too?"

"Sydney, boys don't play dress up," was AJ's rather grumpy response.

Really? This from the child with superhero, knight and pirate outfits cluttering his bedroom floor?

"Boys just wear costumes," he further explained.

AJ ran into his room to get his knight costume. Just as Sydney muttered, "He's playing dress up."