Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bringing up baby

Didn't I just make the comment that Sydney has been ignoring her dolls lately? She loves her play kitchen and cooking pretend food for me, but she couldn't care less about her dolls. I'd suggest to her to feed her babies and she flippantly answers, "They're not hungry."

I'm pretty sure I told my mom this just this past Sunday.

Do you suppose Sydney overheard something? And even if she did, would that have motivated her to change? Consider the otherwise coincidental evidence:

That's the Scooby Doo gang, in case you couldn't tell. They're all lined up and tucked in for bed. Monday night, Sydney provided them with pillow and blanket.

By Wednesday, she was also caring for her other dolls, making sure they got their bedtime treat of strawberries and cookies.

Note the grip Sydney has on the doll's hair. She was making sure the doll sat up straight. I didn't say she was taking good care of her dolls... just that all of a sudden she's paying attention to them again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let's sleep on that

An out of the mouths of babes moment...

I questioned AJ about his day at school yesterday. By his lack of volunteering information, I could tell he was tired, so I asked, "Did you rest your brain today?" (His teacher's code term for taking a nap.)

"Yes," he answered, clearly no longer fooled by the terminology, because he followed up with a question for me. "Did you get to take a nap while you were at work?"

"No," I said. "We don't get to take naps at work."

"Why not?

"It'd be nice sometimes if we could, but the work wouldn't get done if we were napping."

AJ had an alternate theory. "Or maybe your boss is afraid the stuff in your pockets would get squished."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Car ride conversations

Confine my son to a car for three minutes, and he generally comes up with something pretty funny to say. Put both my kids in a car for a five-hour round trip to their cousin Jessica's birthday party (photo below) and it's a pretty safe bet that the result will be some pretty good blog material:

Early on the way down, Sydney was engrossed, watching a movie on the portable DVD player. AJ was trying to get her attention, and it apparently never crossed his mind that she might be ignoring him because he suddenly blurted out: "Sydney! Snap out of it!"
What car ride would be complete without talk of future careers? AJ decided several weeks ago he's going to be president when he grows up. During the drive he further charted the path he will take to the Oval Office. "I'm going to be a firefighter first, and then I'm going to be the president."
"A firefighter?" I questioned? This career option hasn't been on his radar since he was three. It's a good thing Jeff wasn't along to hear it.
"I'm going to be a firefighter first," AJ repeated, "because they're heroes." (Let's just turn that dagger a little deeper in his police officer father's heart.) "So then all the people will love me."
It was about this moment when Sydney must have snapped out of it, because she then inserted her own future plan.
"I'm going to be an actor," she proudly proclaimed.
Had she overheard me describing her as a drama queen and taken it to heart? No.
She continued on, "So I can be Dora."
AJ turned to suck up mode a short while later, "I'm looking out the windows at the beautiful, beautiful trees."
This comes in sharp contrast to the last car ride in which I suggested he look at all the pretty colors of leaves. To which he responded, "That means they're dead."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What to look out for

Five is a tough age. Who knew (or remembers) how many things there are to worry about? In addition to the typical, irrational bogeyman fears, there are the new worries associated with school.

Watching and listening to AJ, I've figured out his top four fear factors:

*The principal's office. Never mind that AJ has met Mr. Harker on numerous occasions and has always found him to be quite friendly. The fear of the unknown is a powerful deterent.

*Missing the bus. The bus was a few minutes early on Friday. As it came down the street, AJ was prepared to run out the door without jacket or shoes. (He hasn't yet figured out it takes the bus a minute or so to stop at the neighbor's house first, then round the cul-de-sac to reach our driveway.)

*Yellow and red. The teacher uses a color grading system to let us know how our child behaved. Green is good. Yellow means slow down and think about your actions. Red means stop what you're doing.

*Forgetting a library book. His class goes every Tuesday and each child is allowed to check out one book. That book must be returned the following Tuesday. If it's not, the child can't check out another book. And that's simply a fate worse than death. Almost daily AJ asks how many more days until Tuesday. I help him count it out, after which he reminds me how many days until he has to bring back his book.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Music lessons

Mozart got his start on the piano at age 3. (I just looked that up to verify what exactly he'd accomplished as a toddler). It wasn't until he was 5 that he started composing minuets.

Sydney may have him beat.

It's been too many years since piano lessons for me to remember exactly how complicated a minuet is, but surely it can't be that much more elaborate than the impromptu "Mommy and Sydney" song that a certain prodigy of mine composed on the spot at her favorite toy store.

After all, Mozart was only writing music. Sydney came up with a melody and lyrics. I will concede that it was a rather monotone pounding. But she played loud and with passion!
I always wonder what the store owners at Explorations are thinking. "Hmmm, let's set out this toy piano for kids to play so they can annoy the other shoppers, not to mention inspire migraines in the staff. Because once the parents hear how much noise the child can make, surely they'll want to spend $54.99 to buy it."
I think not.
Though several seeds have been planted that perhaps a piano should be in our future. Music class is one of AJ's favorite parts of kindergarten. Last week he mentioned he'd like a piano to help him sing. Meanwhile, our friend Addie, I just learned, has started taking piano lessons.
It's definitely something to think about. Right after I figure out either a.) where we could fit a piano upstairs. Or b.) how we'd get a piano down the steps into our basement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seasons change

Soccer is officially over for the year, and not a moment too soon.

Low temperatures combined with a Lake breeze during Monday's finale to make it a brutally cold evening. Wrapped in a blanket on the sideline, it was hard to believe just a mere five games ago we worried the kids would get heat stroke.

For AJ, it was a tough game. A parent on the other team complained he was pushing too much, requiring Jeff to have a talk with him. I hope the talk focused on, "be careful around the shorter kids" because in reality, AJ wasn't pushing any more than anyone else, it's just more obvious because of his size.

He still managed to score three goals. He's gotten "cool" enough that he doesn't run over to the sidelines to give me a hug anymore, though he still high-fives the coaches (on both teams).

At the end of the game, each child got a medal for their efforts.

One nice thing about the weather this week. It's good practice for hockey season, which starts in a little over a month.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AJ moments

I used to call them "AJ-isms" - the cute things AJ said that didn't come out quite right. His vocabulary and understanding have advanced to the point that now he gets things spot on. Sometimes painfully so.

For instance, at Sunday School this past week, I was teaching his class about Noah's Ark. To emphasize how long it rained, I had all the kids count to 40. Just as the kids were finishing, "37 - 38- 39- 40," AJ blurted out "My Mom's 40!" (To my relief, that set off several other children announcing their parents' ages. I discovered I'm not the oldest parent of a kindergartner.)

The night before, AJ showed just how literal he can be in interpreting instructions. Jeff told him to clean his room. Correction... Jeff told him to clean his floor. AJ did exactly that. He was actually proud to show me what a good job he'd done.

I give the boy credit. It could not have been easy to stack that many toys on top of his toy box. This was the point when Mommy took over. Ever since organizing Sydney's room, I've been thinking AJ's room needed that sort of help even more.
AJ looked at me warily as he saw a box of neglected Playmobil Roman figures come out of his room. "What are you doing with them?" he asked nervously, no doubt remembering his book Too Many Toys, which involves a Mom giving away a bunch of her outgrown toys.
"They're going to be basement toys," I answered.
That seemed to calm him, though he still came back from time to time to check my progress. He'll never know how much has been tossed.
The reward for me came the next day, watching him rediscover long-forgotten toys that suddenly were visible now that other junk was cleared out of the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fair education

What did I learn at the Fair this year? That my camera lens needs to be replaced. No, this photo of my kids with their cousins wasn't shot through a chain link fence. It was shot with a lens that hasn't been protected by a lens cap for far too long.

What did AJ learn at the Fair this year? Before you stick your head through the cut-out in a piece of plywood, you should probably first check what's painted on the other side.

Actually, I have no idea if the lesson will stick. What he does remember is the sugary sweets he found in abundance. Sweet Martha's cookies and cotton candy. Is it any wonder he loves the fair?

Sydney learned that three minutes is a long time to bounce. Mommy, meanwhile learned that sometimes you have to be rude to children whose parents are even ruder. Otherwise you'll be standing in line forever.

The Minnesota Twins had their usual fan games set up. Unfortunately the people they'd hired to supervise the games were clearly bored with their jobs. The guy who should have been watching the line for the bouncy house was too busy texting on his phone to pay attention to the kids who were cutting in line... while their parents were watching. I finally looked at two little kids and said rather loudly, "Excuse me, you need to wait in line like everyone else." It was amazing, and satisfying, to see how many parents finally snapped to attention and remembered basic manners.
That's it for the Fair this year. Until the next Great Minnesota Get-together...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The grown up world

Not so long ago, AJ asked me what it was like to be a grown up. It's hard to define. Easier to give examples.

Saturday morning, my back was killing me. I must have slept wrong. Nevertheless, I found myself down on all fours with AJ's Nerf sword in hand trying to fish out a wooden "N" from the far corner under Sydney's bed, so that she won't grow up thinking - based on the decorative letters hanging on her wall - that her name is spelled "SYD EY."

What I discovered when I finally got down to floor level, was that the "N" was surrounded by a whole bunch of partially used kleenex. Apparently every time my daughter wipes her nose, she stuffs the tissue between the wall and the mattress. (I guess I'm glad to know the dog hasn't been eating them, which is what I'd always assumed.)

Stretching with the sword, I'd retrieved about half the kleenex when I heard Sydney call loudly from the living room.


"What Sydney?"

(No response.) I continued to swipe at the kleenex.


"What Sydney?"

Still no response. I started to get up.


By now I reached the doorway to the living room. "What Sydney?"

She was laying on the floor watching TV. She held up her empty glass of milk, "I'm done with my milk."

I directed her to get up and put her glass in the sink as she's always expected to do.

She followed that up, just a couple hours later, by running inside and excitedly announcing, "Mommy, I picked you a flower!"

A mix of frustration and sweet moments. That, my son, is what it's like to be a grown up.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Star student

Clearly, the novelty of kindergarten has worn off. Thursday morning, AJ asked, "How long 'til I get a day off?"

By Friday, he was asking, "Is today a school day?"
"It's always a school day," he sighed.

I am happy to report that his first homework project was a success. He just brought home the graded paper and got a star and a "wow!"

The start of school also means the start of fundraising season. If anyone wants to buy some cookie dough, just let me know. He's also being asked to collect the Box Tops for Education. We've got lots of those so I got him started on filling out the form that gets turned in with them. (I assume so his class gets credit.) He had no problem writing "AJ" on the sheet, but then stopped when it was time for his last name. I started spelling for him. "K" - it took two tries (that's why pencils have erasers, right?) to get it going in the right direction. "A" - no problem with that one. "Z" - he wrinkled up his nose as if he'd never realized that letter was in his name. "E" - by now he was getting cocky. "A big E or a little e?" he asked, "Because I can do them both. They're easy."
Since he'd been using all capitol letters, I told him, "Big E," pointing out that easy starts with e. That got a smile.

Finally we moved on to "L." He stopped for a moment until I reminded him it was the letter that looked like a hockey stick. "Oh yeah," he started writing, "that's easy peazy lemon squeezy."

Friday, September 17, 2010


It started with a search for free re-usable shopping bags. And while my search proved ultimately to be in vain, it was still worth the extra walking (on very tired feet) to find the Eco-Experience building at the Fair. Why? Because the kids had fun with the other exhibits.

Foam blocks made from recycled materials kept them busy for 10 minutes, and would have held their attention even longer if we'd let them. Sydney seems to like vertical stacking:

While AJ's goal was to build some sort of compound.

The next exhibit demonstrated the energy savings of compact fluorescent bulbs. AJ first had to spin the handles hard enough to light up the standard bulb. I'd say his tongue gives a pretty good hint to his level of exertion.

Next, they flipped a switch to direct his energy output to the CFL bulb, so he could see how much easier it was to get it to light up.

I'm fairly certain the kids don't remember the environmental messages they learned that day. I'm equally certain Sydney doesn't remember anything at the fair beyond our visit to this building. It seems by that point in the day her energy output was maxed out. She fell asleep shortly after and slept all the way home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's a long way down!

More Fair fun: Ask the kids what their favorite ride is, and they'll both say the big yellow slide. What's not so fun, the long climb to the top. See how many Kazels, Larsons and Bianchis you can find in the picture below:

Here's a hint: There are six.

Once at the top, AJ looked a little concerned about going down on his own.

It looked as if he was going to roll off his mat toward Jeff. But there were two problems with that idea: Jeff and Sydney had already started moving. And so had AJ.


Thankfully, gravity worked in our favor and everyone made it down safely. Despite the scared expression, he continues to say it's his favorite ride.

Cousin Zane seemed to enjoy his first trip down the big slide.

Note Jessica in the background. She also went down the big slide, but I was so focused on the three who share my last name, that I missed out on getting action shots of the others.
Next year someone else can take pictures. It's going to be my turn to go down the slide!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

City kids

It's not as if my children live in the heart of a big city, but after watching them at the State Fair this year, (yes, I'm finally writing about the Fair) I can conclude they're definitely not farm kids. Take Sydney, for example. I definitely note a look of concern/wariness on her face while in the animal barn.

And believe it or not, the fact that she was standing on her own, as opposed to clinging to my neck, is progress over last year. At age 2, she was terrified of all critters big and small. By age 3, she was at least interested in the baby animals.

Piglets were here favorites. We got to see them both in the pig barn and in the miracles of birth exhibit.

Meanwhile, AJ was perhaps a little too excited.

If he had to milk a real cow, how long do you suppose his enthusiasm would last before the novelty wore off? I give it two days max!

The babies were a hit with AJ too. The lines weren't too long this year, so he was able to pet a chick, duck, rabbit and sheep.
And then we headed back to our happy little life in suburbia.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Figuring it out

Leave it to my child, while playing the parachute game in which you're supposed to lift the big canvas up OVER your head and then all squeeze in together UNDER it, to find the hole to stick his head THROUGH.

Sunday afternoon, I volunteered for the Duluth Youth Agency Coalition's Kick off for Kids event. It's a group I initially got involved with through work, but then continued helping because I appreciate what they do. Jeff brought the kids down, thus AJ's involvement.

Speaking of my big kindergartener, day three (Monday) seemed to go by smoothly. AJ's recap of the day included:

"We had lunch. We didn't have gym. We had math, but it wasn't real math."

"What kind of math was it?"

"It was monkey math."

The conversation deteriorated from there, so I have no clue what monkey math is all about. He had an activity sheet in his backpack, but he insisted that wasn't it. So I guess we shall see...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Girl time

As we head off for our first full week of school/work, I have to share one more fun story of how last week ended. With AJ now in kindergarten five days a week, Friday has turned into a special time for me to spend with Sydney.

And so we ate. A lot. Every one of Sydney's wooden food sets came out. She started with the stir-fry set you can see above in the lower right corner. After that, my little sous chef moved on to pizza.

Slice after slice of pizza. Mostly pepperoni, but every so often she'd "sneak in" a piece with mushrooms velcroed on top. Then she'd dissolve into giggles. She knows what toppings I don't like. After that it was time for sandwiches and burgers. Don't forget the ketchup and grape jelly.

And we washed it all down with tea. Normally she makes me coffee, but on this day she was in the mood to use her tea pot.

Note how nice the new corner of her room looks. Gone is the changing table, replaced by these nifty new organizers from IKEA. They're a little tall for her to use the top as a work station, but I figure by next year they'll be perfect. The openings are large enough for even her tall books to stand up, and the various drawers work to keep toys with small parts together. Barbies and other little dolls and all their accessories go in one drawer. Plastic food and dishes go in another.
One week after setting them up, her room is still clean. They work! Making it all the more fun to play.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering and honoring

Parents have been struggling with this for nine years, and this year it was my turn. How do you explain to a child what happened on September 11 and why?

He caught me crying while watching a Sept. 11 tribute on TV and started asking questions. I tried to keep it simple: some bad people destroyed some buildings and a lot of people died. I tried to keep out the areas that might affect him: no mention of airplanes, no mention of the firefighters and policemen who died.

Of course his first question was "why?"

"Because they didn't like America," I told him.

"Why don't they like America?"

"That's a good question," I said. "It's just a very sad day."

Later in the evening, we attended a 9/11 ceremony in Duluth, which Jeff took part in. As luck would have it, I found a couple flags in the trunk (most likely still in there from the fourth of July parade), so the kids were able to carry them to the event.

I've gotten used to seeing very low attendance at this event. Quite honestly, if Jeff wasn't with the Honor Guard, I wouldn't go either. But I was really disappointed by the number of flags I saw flying at full staff yesterday. Almost 3,000 people died on 9/11, and approximately 6,000 military men and women and have died in the nine years since. Yet the majority of the people in this area couldn't be bothered to lower their flag in honor of them. Even the flag at the stadium where the tribute was at the top of its pole. How quickly we forget.

Except AJ. I know he'll be asking me questions about this for days and weeks to come. One nice thing about the small community we live in: the husband of AJ's teacher was marching along side Jeff in the ceremony. So if AJ starts asking his teacher a lot of questions, at least she'll understand why.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day two

I wondered how soon I'd hear those magical words. Turns out it was even sooner than I expected. After just two days of kindergarten, AJ came home and announced, "I have homework."

It wasn't much (at least not for him, since he already knows how to write his letters.) Side one involved tracing some lines. The flip side had a dot-to-dot.

Other exciting events: AJ got to ride the bus home for the first time. Apparently he did not realize you need to get up and walk down the aisle when you see your house. And the fill-in driver didn't realize where AJ was supposed to be let off. When I saw the bus coming down our street, I stepped out into the front yard to greet AJ. When the door opened, I saw our three neighbor kids get off, and then the door shoot and the bus started to drive off.

No AJ.

I started waving my hands and calling out to stop. One of the neighbor kids heard me and started yelling too. I looked to the kids and asked, "Wasn't AJ on the bus?"

Yes, he was. They hadn't realized he wasn't following them down the aisle. They quickly assured me the bus would be stopping at the next driveway to let off another boy, so I started jogging after it. Sure enough, the bus stopped and the boy got off. And then the bus shut the door again.

By this point, there were three of us yelling, which caught the attention of the boy who'd just climbed out, who was able to motion to the driver. At the same time, AJ must have finally figured out what was going on, because I saw him inside the bus, moving toward the door.

The driver was apologetic. AJ was grumpy. I was simply relieved.

By the time we walked home, AJ was excited again and able to tell me about his day. He had fun and he had homework.

I asked if he'd played with his friend Owen. "No, they didn't play. But they put their mats together when it was time to "rest their brains."

So that's what you say to get a five year old to take a nap.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Kindergartner

AJ just climbed on the bus for day two of kindergarten. His pants aren't on backwards, so we're already doing better than yesterday. Thankfully nobody else seemed to notice (or tease him) for the wardrobe malfunction. Here are photos from the first day:

Before we headed out the door yesterday, AJ struck his version of the thinker pose. Apparently he thinks that's how kindergartners sit.

AJ was so excited to climb on the bus. I didn't even get a hug or kiss goodbye. When the door opened, he bounded up the steps. He told me later that he sat in the middle of the bus, and Peter, the teenager who lives next door, sat next to him. (I'll be sure to thank Peter and tell his parents how nice that was.)
As I turned to walk back to the house, I was somewhat surprised and proud to realize I hadn't cried. And just like that the tears started.

So how did his first day go? One child got sent to the principal's office, but not him. Yes, that was the first thing he reported. Why did the boy get trouble? "He made some bad choices," was AJ's solemn response. (Apparently a boy in his class was having some separation anxiety. AJ tried to comfort him and the boy responded by trying to hit him. I told AJ it was nice that he tried to help, but next time my little peacemaker should let the teacher handle it.)
Beyond that, AJ said he had fun. He told me he didn't really learn anything, but he liked music class and recess. The music room must have made an impression because he informed me he wants to learn how to play the piano. For lunch, he ate pancakes, sausage and hashbrowns, which he must have liked, because he didn't ask today for cold lunch.
Most important of all, he's still excited to go to school. He woke up this morning and the first thing out of his mouth was, "it's my second day of kindergarten."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pool party

With temperatures dropping into the 40s and 30s the last few days, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were splashing in the pool at our friends the Radecki's house. Silly me for thinking it was cool on that day. Compared to what it's been since, it was sweltering that day.

Speaking of funny thinking, silly AJ, who still doesn't like going under water, thought he could go down the slide and avoid full immersion by carrying a swim noodle with him. He quickly learned otherwise.

The smartest one in the group? Sydney. After tiring of swimming she planted herself by the patio table and filled up on chilled shrimp.

That's my girl!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Twins win!

What is it about baseball that allows grown men to act like boys, while at the same time makes me feel suddenly old?

For years (almost five-and-a-half, to be exact) this photo has sat on my desk at work. It was our first family photo.

Somehow, through all the pictures taken at the hospital and during AJ's first two months of life, we never got a shot of the three of us. Until we visited the Metrodome when AJ was nine weeks old. (Yes, the former reporter in me recognizes what a nice little story that will make should AJ ever make it to the big leagues.)

And just look at how big he is now.

Meanwhile, all those Twins players I had such crushes on in high school and college. Just look at them now, too.

Time certainly marches on. Which I guess is a good thing. That's how we finally found ourselves at Target Field last Friday. I'd bought the tickets last June as Father's Day gifts for Jeff and my Dad. This was the soonest I could find a block of five seats.
Jeff insisted we arrive early because "AJ" wanted to try and get some autographs. That didn't happen, but Jeff did manage to snag a baseball for him during batting practice.
The downside of this plan was that we then had to wait. And wait. And wait for the game to finally start. By chance, this past weekend the Twins celebrated their 50 greatest players (thus the reason for the legendary guys being assembled.) That presentation meant the game was delayed by a half hour.
Poor AJ just could not appreciate the talent and memories this group of men represented. "I did NOT like that show."
His attention was easily distracted, and as a guy wearing a Twins shirt passed us, heading for a concession stand, AJ pointed out, "Look! It's a Twin. He's trying to escape!"
Once the game started, AJ was happy to cheer along. Denard Span led off with a double, sending AJ into a clapping frenzy. "That was the best thing ever! He totally tricked the other team."
A little later, AJ discovered the joy of doing the wave. Not the best photo opp, but still fun.

By conventiently timing a couple of bathroom breaks to break up the length of the game for him, AJ made it through.
During one of our breaks from the game, we headed to a shop where Grandma was hoping to find a Michael Cuddyer shirt. As we left the store, by chance, TC Bear happened to walk by. Of course I didn't have my camera with for what turned out to be one of the highlights for AJ. He hurtled himself at the unsuspecting mascot, wrapping his arms around him in a big hug. The poor person inside never knew what hit him, but luckily recovered quickly enough to return the hug.
Final results? Twins won 4-3, and AJ's already asking to go back.