Thursday, October 28, 2010

Common cents lessons

It's the thought that counts, right?

In this case, it's the thoughtful one who counts.

AJ's school has been raising money this week for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The elementary students were encouraged to bring in loose change as donations: pennies on Monday, nickels on Tuesday, and so on.

Unfortunately for St. Jude's, about two weeks before we got the note about the fundraising effort, Jeff had cashed in about a year's worth of pocket change that had been accumulating in a bucket on his dresser, so we didn't have much left to gather. But digging through coat pockets, vehicle ash trays, the cup on top of the washing machine and everywhere else I could think of where coins tend to gather, we managed to scrounge together at least an acceptable amount of coins.

That led to a great learning activity for AJ - the child who loves presidents and math. We had him help sort the coins as we talked about which president was on each coin (and on what other money their pictures could be found.) Then we counted up how much of each coin we were giving.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself until Monday evening when I asked AJ how it had gone with the pennies. Apparently our baggie full was pretty feeble compared to the jugs other kids brought in. I told him to be patient. We'd see how generous these other families were by the time we got to quarters. I must have been right, because his enthusiasm for the project has grown as the week progressed.

I figured we were done after today, but the school seems to be making one last effort to raise money. AJ announced tonight that tomorrow he can bring whatever kind of money he wants. Isn't that nice? I think I'll suggest he look in his own wallet and decide just how generous he wants to be.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I'm not ready for this! It's ironic that I feel this way. In reality, I'm more prepared for winter this year than any other. The kids have winter coats that fit, plus hats and gloves/mittens that I already washed and verified still fit from last year. AJ still needs boots, and the zipper is broken on my winter coat, but other than that, we're set.

That said, I'm not ready for this!

We got a couple inches of snow. I haven't heard an official total (probably because I didn't have time to watch the news) but it was definitely a non-uniform storm. Duluth schools closed down. As soon as I heard that I expected a domino effect with everyone else closing too, but no. When I reached work, there was no snow on the ground. In fact, the only snow I saw is what I transported in on my car. Two colleagues who live over the hill, however, were dealing with power outages and 6+ inches of snow.

AJ's school had already been set to have a shortened day today for some reason, so Jeff and the kids had all afternoon to make the most of our front yard's new ground cover. By the time I got home, the lovely snow woman you saw above had a mate (it was too dark to get a picture.) Sydney informed me that the snow couple is Jeff and me. I suggested that perhaps the snowboy and snowgirl were her and AJ. Absolutely not. It's Mommy and Daddy.

Yes it is. I should know better than to question an artist's work. By that same token, I guess I should also know better than to question God's delivery of what seems to be a way-too-early winter blast.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Suffer the little children

If the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these, it most surely is an interesting place.

It's fall clean-up time at our church, and somehow our job - wiping down the pews with Murphy's Oil, became way more complicated than it needed to be.

It started with a phone call a couple weeks ago from the woman who was supposed to be our work crew's leader. She basically told me she was far too busy and dumped the responsibility on me. After multiple phone calls to the othe person in our work group, and a wasted trip to church to take care of things - only to discover the door locked, Jeff and I finally completed our task - on our own - on Monday night.

We'd brought DVDs for the kids to watch in the nursery, but Sydney thought it was far more fun to try and help us. AJ, the older and wiser of my children, stuck to the toys in the nursery. When he did venture into the sanctuary, it was to play the piano or ask questions about the scenes depicted in the various stain glass windows.

In the end - despite our children's "help" - it took us less than an hour to finish the job. It wasn't until I went to cross our task off the master list that I realized we'd only been responsible for the pews on one side of the church. In other words, we'd accidentally managed to complete not only the job assigned to our work crew, but also to an entirely different work crew. That'll teach me to read carefully what exactly we're supposed to do!

This is the third or fourth year we've been assigned to help clean the pews. I always wonder if it's just a coincidence, considering the amount of candy and treats we make available to our children to keep them quiet during the church service.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Suddenly fun toys

I mentioned last week that Sydney suddenly couldn't get enough of a toy she's ignored for months. Whatever caused this new-found appreciation for previously unappreciated toys seems to have been passed on to her brother.

AJ suddenly loves Matchbox cars. Never mind that he's had some of them for two years, playing with them - on average - maybe once every couple months. Now they're the coolest thing since... pirates and knights (I needed a more age/gender appropriate analogy than "sliced bread.")

Race them. Crash them. Attack them with dinosaurs. He's even got his sister in on the action. For this version of the game, the cars have to race down the ramp and try to avoid being eaten by the dinorsaur.

Of course, since Sydney is a girl and is only a preschooler, she couldn't possibly understand the intricacies of the game and the fine art of lining up the cars just right, according to AJ's very exacting standards. All it took was the threat that I was going upstairs, which meant Sydney would want to follow, ("What?" Screamed AJ's thought process, "but that would mean I'm downstairs by myself. I'm not brave enough, though I'll never admit it, to play downstairs by myself!") and suddenly AJ was able to adapt the game so both he and Sydney could have fun.

I'm going to be watching him closely in weeks to come. If this interest holds, I see some great potential for Christmas gifts. He's always pointed to car sets in the stores, but I've learned to ignore him because I didn't want more toys collecting dust.

I'm trying to think if there are any other toys of his that he's yet to show interest in. If I find them, they're coming out of the toybox because who knows what the next greatest toy will be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The family that shops together...

Long weekends can be a blessing and a curse. They're a blessing when they allow you time to relax, make a dent in an overly long to-do list and spend time together as a family.

They become a curse when it becomes a family chore to tackle to-do list items that would better be handled by one person, resulting in spending more money than you planned and feeling a stronger need than ever to relax.

Friday started as a blessing. Waking at 7:55, I was the first one up. The kids soon followed, and eventually woke up Jeff. We all ate breakfast, then headed out the door to visit Auntie Barbie so that AJ's "Grandpa hair" could be trimmed and tamed.

Everything was going smoothly: haircut done, quick stop at my office to pick up a notebook I'd forgotten, lunch and Playland fun at McDonalds. I suggested on the way home we could stop at Batteries Plus to get a new battery for my garage door opener and then we could stop at Beachcomber Hot Tubs, which is just a few blocks away, to pick up one of the chemicals we need to balance the water.

And that's when everything somehow unraveled. Jeff reminded me that we needed a new battery for the Explorer, which we could also get at Batteries Plus, so I suggested he go into the store and I would wait in the car with the kids. The next thing I knew an employee was accompanying Jeff out of the store and pulling a cart of tools as Jeff raised the hood.

Many, many, many minutes passed.

By now a second employee had replaced the first as they struggled to get at the battery, which apparently was firmly corroded in place. Ironically, the tool they needed to get it out was suffering from a dead battery.

Many, many, many more minutes passed.

By now I'd helped both kids decorate their Mr. Potato Head Halloween Happy Meal pails with the eyes, noses and arms stickers that had come with them. Finally it was decided that Jeff would return later in the afternoon - by himself - to let them remove and replace the battery.

As we made our way to Beachcomber, I casually asked Jeff if he'd remembered to get batteries for my garage door opener. Yes, he assured me, tossing his garage door opener at me.

No. His garage door opener wasn't the one needing new batteries. His garage door opener was the one I'd sent in with him so that he'd know what kind of batteries were needed for my garage door opener, which was at home in the car we weren't currently driving.

We reached Beachcomber. By now the kids were absolutely stir crazy, as was I. So this time, Jeff stayed in the car and I headed inside with the kids. Beachcomber used to be a client of mine, so the manager has gushed over my kids since they were infants.

Thankfully we were the only customers in the store. As I searched for the needed product, I could hear Sydney repeatedly exclaiming as she ran from tub to tub, "We have a hot tub like this one."

This was followed by AJ discovering, "Hey, this hot tub has water in it."

No - they didn't fall in. It didn't get that bad. But as I was at last checking out, I could hear AJ exclaim, "I caught one!"

They'd each found a handheld skimmer and were now standing on the step of the filled hot tub, scooping them through the water. I ordered them down. We finally made it out of the store. Visions of soaking in our hot tub later in the evening kept me from banging my head against the car window as I at last got the kids strapped in.

We headed home. Later in the day, Jeff returned with not only the car battery successfully installed, but also a new battery in my garage door opener. The salesman at Batteries Plus felt so bad about how long it'd taken them to install the battery, that he gave us the two small batteries for our openers at no charge.

We ended up not soaking in the hot tub until Saturday night. It was then that Jeff broke it to me that I'd bought the wrong chemicals. Instead of a bottle of Care Free, I'd grabbed Care Free Boost. I'll need to go back. I'll make sure to do it when I'm by myself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall feelings

I know there are many people, my husband included, who pick fall as their favorite season of the year.

I am not one of those people.

The temperatures are dropping. Days are getting shorter. Sure, the leaves are pretty - while they last - but they've been gone for at least a week, and it'll likely be seven months before they reappear. Nice days are a treat, not the norm. And it's only going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

That said, I think I'm beginning to understand why some feel a certain appreciation for these waning days before snow. It's a sentimental fondness linked to memories from childhood. I suspect my children will be joining the masses who look forward to fall as the season when Dad says those magical words, "Who wants to go outside and play football?"

I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Friday was definitely one of the "treat" days. MEA weekend meant no school for AJ, and the temperatures reached the 60s. We finished the day with a campfire and s'mores in the backyard.
In other words, it's not just the kids who will have fond memories of this perfect day that just happened to be in the fall.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sydney style

After spending the day with her brother and dad, Sydney apparently felt the need to connect with her feminine side. Suddenly the Tinkerbell pop-it beads that she has basically ignored since last June are THE coolest toy ever. Whoever suggested diamonds are a girl's best friend clearly doesn't know what appeals to my little girl.

Two necklaces, three bracelets and a ring later, she was at last satisfied with her bling. (Or perhaps she recognized she was out of beads.)

Be sure to take note of the totality of the ensemble. The layered pajama look was a compromise. Sydney felt she absolutely needed a nightgown with ruffled edge. Mommy knew she absoltely needed to wear something warmer so she wouldn't wake in the middle of the night when she kicked off the blankets and her legs grew cold.

And thus was the origin of what will surely become the hot new look among the preschool crowd: Tinkerbell nightie over Elmo flannel jammies. With jewelry of course. And don't forget the "ballerina" slippers.

If anyone ever suggests I'm influencing her style choices, I will present these photos as evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fit to be tied

Tonight I will go to sleep in my own bedroom, as opposed to a room with rubber walls. I consider this to be an accomplishment considering the events of the last 30-odd hours (emphasis on the odd.)

Also important to note, AJ liked his tie-dyed shirt. So maybe this day was a success after all.

It was one of those days that had me questioning if God was bored and looking to me for some entertainment.

A bit of background: AJ brought a note home from school a couple weeks ago with a note informing us of his upcoming Grandparents' Day program at school. The note included the line "we are asking your child to wear any bright-colored or tie-died shirt and jeans. No problem, I figured. Grandpa David and Grandma Elouise had given him a tie-dyed shirt from Florida. It'd be perfect.

I then waited until Monday night to think to look for it. And it was nowhere to be found. Not in his dresser. Not in his closet. I finally found it in the basement - in a bin of clothes AJ had outgrown two years ago.

So Tuesday evening we headed to Walmart in search of a tie-dyed shirt. As I hinted in yesterday's post, they had none. So instead we headed to the craft section and bought the tools to make one ourselves. I probably should have read the directions that included "allow to soak for 4-8 hours, then rinse and hang dry." At 11 o'clock last night, I was finally able to rinse and start the drying process.

Jeff, meanwhile, got called in to work early Wednesday morning, which meant - in the middle of trying to write a brochure that I'd brought with me home from work - I was on my own to get the kids ready and out the door. It was hectic, but finally I got them awake, dressed, fed and loaded into the car. The plan was to drop Sydney off at daycare, then drop AJ directly at school (skipping the bus ride) and then off to work I'd go. Sounds simple enough. And then I turned the key to start the car.


Not even the slightest whirring of a battery trying to turn over.

Absolute silence.

I believe the thoughts racing through my mind went something like "Really?!? REALLY?!? Are you freakin' kidding me?!?!?"

From the backseat, AJ started questioning what was wrong. I called Jeff and left a message that he needed to call home as soon as his situation was resolved.

I continued trying to start the car, cursing myself for stalling and not bringing the car in to be fixed last summer, the last time the starter acted up. But why did it have to pick today for a repeat performance? I must have voiced some of these concerns out loud, because then from the backseat I heard:

"Mom, sometimes it helps to take a deep breath and count to three."

Stunned, I could only ask, "Did your teacher tell you that, AJ?"

"No," he answered. "They say that on Wonder Pets."

Yet another reason to hate that show.

Nevertheless, I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. After counting to three, I turned the key.

Still nothing.

Amazingly, Jeff called back right then to say he'd be home as quickly as possible.

Remembering that the last time this happened, the starter had magically started just as suddenly as it had decided to not work, I continued trying to start the car.

Still nothing.

I unbuckled the kids and we headed into the house. I returned to the car and continued my attempts to start it.

And then... success. I quickly called Jeff back and then loaded the kids into the car. Leaving the car running at each drop off point, I got the kids to where they needed to be. Did I mention AJ continued to make his "fluh-fluh-fluh" sounds (see yesterday's post if you're confused) during the drive? I then headed into town, switched cars with Jeff and at last made it to work. Remarkably, I was less than a minute late.

Appropriately enough, the kids are watching Yo Gabba Gabba right now (another annoying Nickelodeon show, though at least the characters don't speak with bad lisps and baby-talk voices like Wonder Pets.) and the characters are singing a song that includes the chorus, "Keep going. Keep going. Don't give up."

Sometimes I think my life could be the plot for a sit-com. But I'm afraid the critics would pan it... as way too unrealistic.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sound effects

The child who can click his tongue louder than anyone I've ever heard, and who taught himself to whistle, now can make a new sound.

It's quite possibly the most annoying sound I've ever heard him make. But perhaps I think that only because he's been making that sound ever since I picked him up after school this afternoon:

In the hallway on the way out the door.

In the car on the way to get Sydney.

At Kids Korner while picking up Sydney.

In the car on the way to Walmart.

Walking through the boys clothes section at Walmart trying to find a tie-dyed shirt for his school play tomorrow.

Walking through the craft section at Walmart trying to find tie-dye materials to dye a shirt for his school play tomorrow.

Driving home, until I yelled I just couldn't take it anymore.

Later in the evening when Daddy finally got home from work.

And lastly, when I turned on the camera and told him he could do it one more time.

And where did he get the idea to make this sound? It's Perry the Platypus from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb, is what he told me.

I should have known. I guess.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pain management

Let's review what we learned tonight in our crash course on pain tolerance.

1.) A Hepatitis booster apparently is far more painful than splitting open your lip and gushing blood all over yourself and Mommy's dry-clean only sweater.

2.) For all of AJ's various career aspirations, he would be wise to skip the ones that might involve the sight of blood.

Sydney did a header in the basement tonight, tripping on something and smacking her chin on the sit-n-spin. Which led to biting her lower lip. Which led to a large volume of blood gushing from the two puncture holes. Which led to her brother running up the steps ahead of us screaming as if a monster was chasing him.

Sydney, of course, cried. But it was nothing compared to the dramatics she displayed last week at the doctor's office while finally getting her 3-year check-up and the shots that go with it.

Sydney shrieked in pain and then sobbed in self-pity at the one small syringe prick in her leg last week. She then managed to produce real tears 30 minutes later as she told my co-workers about the horrible incident she'd just endured. Two hours after that, it was a repeat performance as she told Daddy her great tail of woe.

With the cut lip, she cried a bit, but as we continued to praise her for being brave, she actually attempted to giggle as we did our best to stop the flow, put ice on her lip and clean the blood off of her (and me). The only part she struggled with was the ice, so Jeff wisely pulled out a push-up popsicle, which she more than happily kept pressed to her lip as she sucked on the frozen treat inside.

It'll be interesting to see what it looks like in the morning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Everybody in!

Jeff and I celebrated our anniversary with a very nice dinner and overnight stay at a motel.

With no kids.

I am forever indebted to my sister for watching my kids overnight. I suspect the best way to show my appreciation will be to pay it forward. So Jonathon and Jessica, if you're reading this, if you ever have kids of your own, put me on speed dial for babysitting.

This weekend was such a good reminder of how full my life is. Saturday night was all about relaxing and enjoying time with just my husband. Then, Sunday morning, we could better appreciate the chaos our marriage has produced:

The Bianchi's brought the kids and joined us for some swimming and lunch in our hotel's waterpark. Guess who's not afraid of the water anymore.
Over and over again she went down the slide. She didn't seem to care if I was waiting at the bottom to catch her. Though of course she always appreciated the applause and praise for her bravery.

Neither of my children are comfortable putting their head underwater yet. The wettest AJ's hair got was from the water spraying cannon in the wading pool area.

My brother and nephew joined us as well, though a lack of swim diapers kept them out of the pool. At least we were able to have lunch together. I'm not sure if this was the first time Zane sampled pizza, but based on his enthusiastic response to it, I'm willing to bet it won't be his last.

And now it's time to return to reality of work and our other daily routines, which will soon become even more hectic with the start of hockey practice for AJ in just two weeks. My life is wonderful. I am blessed. My life is wonderful. I am blessed. Maybe if I repeat that enough, I'll be able to focus on the positives of the present, rather than remember the fun of 11 years ago as Jeff and I jetted off for a week in Hawaii.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eleven years

What a journey these last 11 years have been. I am so thankful for my travel partner who has been with me throughout this adventure.

I was thinking about this last night, remembering some of the stress and nerves of the wedding rehearsal and groom's dinner.

Throughout our engagement as we planned for the big day, I think I kept a pretty level head, keeping in mind that a wedding is one day, and it's all the days after it that really matter.

But on the eve of our wedding, as we were dealing with lost luggage issues and other last minute details, I certainly wasn't thinking beyond the next day. And I certainly couldn't have foreseen that 11 years out, this would be our life:

How grateful I am.
How in love I am.
How curious I am to imagine what we'll be doing 11 years from now.
Perhaps we'll be teaching AJ to drive and chauffeuring Sydney to some junior high-related activity. Perhaps I'm just going to savor this moment and not think that far ahead.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween treats

Is there anything more exciting than opening your front door and discovering a box that had been delivered earlier in the day?

And then you see that it's from Daddy's Aunt Dee, who always sends the coolest presents!

AJ was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement, waiting for Jeff to finish opening the box. He helpfully reminded Sydney: "Remember Aunt Dee? She took us to the ocean."

At last the box was open and the individual packages inside unwrapped. Tah dah!

Knight gear for AJ and a Halloween-colored princess dress (do NOT suggest to my daughter that it's a witch's dress) for Sydney. How does she do it? Aunt Dee has spent exactly half a day with our children on just one occasion - our trip to Florida last spring, and yet has always shown a seemingly instinctive, uncanny understanding of what they like, not to mention an incredible generosity toward them.
Since she seems to predict my children's likes so well, hopefully she also predicts there's a near-zero chance they'll pose nicely for a photo while wearing their new costumes.

Okay... finally we've got something close. (Note to self: next time, wash AJ's glasses before attempting to photograph him.)

Aunt Dee also threw a bag of candy into this Halloween care package, but nothing could compete with the excitement of cool costumes. Proof that the best Halloween treats don't need sugar, just a big touch of sweetness.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More bedtime conversations

Last night, it was AJ's turn to get "Mommy snuggle time" at bedtime. I alternate between the kids, and they keep careful track.

As much as I enjoy the sweet moments with Sydney, I savor the conversations I've had with AJ, laying in the dark in the final moments before he falls asleep. His curiousity amazes me. His train of thought baffles me.

"Who was president when you were born?" is one of his favorite questions. It's generally followed by, "how old were you when he died?"

Last night I could tell AJ was tired. He wanted to cuddle, but wasn't particularly talkative. Just as I was thinking he must have fallen asleep, he whispered, "Mom, you kind of smell like Mrs. Boese." (His kindergarten teacher)

"Oh?" I responded. "And what does Mrs. Boese smell like?"

He thought for a moment. "Kind of like nice candles," he answered. Then, after another moment of thought he amended his answer, "She smells like a good teacher."

He is going to be such a charmer!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Motherhood moments to cherish

I'm tempted to write yet again about my children's odd wardrobe choices. For instance, suddenly Sydney insists on wearing nightgowns to bed. Because how could she possibly be expected to go to sleep until she's done a few dance spins? Even a too-small nightgown (as long as it has ruffles at the bottom) over regular pajama pants is sufficient for her needs.

"Mommy, I have to spin," is how she explains it.

But enough about their quirks.
As I snuggled with Sydney at bedtime earlier this week, I couldn't stop the tears. (Mine, not hers.) She is such a fascinating contradiction of personality traits. Even as she tries with increasing frequency to exert her independence, she resists change and insists on the comfort of repetition. So it came as little surprise as I laid next to her in bed, to hear her quietly ask, "Mommy, can I lay on your tummy?"
I'm pretty sure I will never deny that request from her.
I helped her shift over until she was snuggled on my chest, her arms wrapped around my sides, my arms wrapped around her back.
"I love you," her voice sounded in the darkness.
"I love you, too" I whispered back, kissing her hair.
She's getting so big she no longer fits on top of me like she used to. But she's not ready to give up this bedtime tradition, and I'm going to continue it as long as she lets me. She repeatedly shifts her head back and forth, switching the direction she's facing as she tries to get comfortable. Each time, I use my hand to brush aside her mop of hair to keep it from getting in the eyes that should be closed.
But stubborn little girl that she is, she fights sleep with every ounce of her being. Even as I can feel her body relaxing, she resists, jerking every so often as if making one last attempt to stay awake. Finally she sleeps. Often it's not her breathing that gives it away, but rather she rolls off my body and then snuggles into my side. I could probably get up at this moment and leave her to sleep. But instead I stay a few minutes more, savoring the sweetness of it all. In a few years, this won't be an option. In a few hours, she'll grumpily tell me she's too tired to get up.
And so I stay next to her, marveling at this little miracle. I thank God that she's healthy. I thank God that he has entrusted her to me. That is why I can't stop the tears. They are happy tears. I am blessed beyond anyting I could ever have imagined.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dress for Success - part III

I can't believe I didn't figure this out sooner. Hmmm... I can't think of anything to write about. What should I do? Let the kids attempt to dress themselves. Instantly I have new material with which to work.

Not to spoil the surprise but...

Monday morning I committed the ultimate Mommy no-no. I picked an outfit for AJ to wear that... (gasp of horror)... he had just worn last week. Noooooooo!!! I am such a failure!

When AJ pointed this out to me in a rather accusatory voice, I couldn't help but wonder could this possibly be the same child whose wardrobe seemed to rotate between three Minnesota Wild hockey jerseys most of last winter. Suddenly he cares about what he wears.

We had plenty of time until the bus was schedule to arrive, so I told AJ he could choose a new outfi. He happily disappeared into his room.

A minute or so later I heard him call from his room, "Mom, is it going to be nice today?"

"Yes," I answered back. "You'll need a jacket this morning, but it's supposed to warm up." I was beyond impressed that he would think to take that into consideration.

Several more minutes passed, so I called out, "How are you doing in there? Do you need any help?"

"I'm just getting my shirt on," he called back.

A few more minutes passed and then he excitedly called out, "I did it."

He certainly did. Take a moment to page back up and review the photo. Shorts askew. Way-too-big navy blue t-shirt over way-too-small royal blue sweatshirt. He was pretty darn proud of himself and his ensemble.

I was pretty darn sure there was no chance I was letting him out of the house looking like this.

It was one of those moments that reminded me of how blogging has made me a better parent. Rather than immediately suggesting he change into something that matched, which would have no doubt hurt his feelings, I recognized the blog potential of the moment. I took a deep breath and grabbed the camera.

I congratulated AJ on a job well done, then suggested he needed to change one of the shirts because otherwise he'd get too hot. He decided he liked the t-shirt better than the sweatshirt, so we peeled it off and found a long sleeve t-shirt that matched the shorts, and then layered the short sleeve shirt over that. AJ was happy. Mom was happy. Everybody wins.

And now I'm shaking my head all over again. As I was writing this, Jeff walked by and glanced over my shoulder at the photo. "So what's wrong with what he's wearing?"

Monday, October 11, 2010

The skeleton and the princess

How is it possible these two are related? Born of the same womb, one wants to be as ghoulish as possible, while the other wants to be a diva princess.

At Boo at the Zoo last Saturday, the kids got to give their costumes a test run while getting a jump start on trick-or-treating.

Not only do they have drastically different taste in costumes. They also have drastically different attitudes toward wearing them. AJ was so excited to dress up that it wasn't not enough to wear one costume, he then had to modify it by adding a second costume. He couldn't settle for being a mere skeleton. He wanted to be a ghost pirate. So we cut up the now too-small pair of pirate pants from an old costume and added a pirate hat (which he rarely wore) and sword.

AJ was thrilled with the results, and even more excited when he found another pirate with whom he could battle.

For AJ, the highlight of the day, however, had nothing to do with his costume. He described his up close encounter with the alligator as: "it was kind of squishy and kind of heavy."

And where was Sydney all this time? First of all, in contrast to her brother, she wasn't particularly excited to dress up. The Daphne (from Scooby Doo) costume she'd gotten so exited about a week earlier? Not so exciting anymore. She was much happier wearing one of her princess costumes. She also was more than happy to trick-or-treat from the comfort of the stroller, and she wanted nothing to do with the alligator or any of the costumed volunteers.

The one time she was excited to climb out of her Daddy-powered chariot was when we came to the playground outside the zoo. She happily informed me, "Princesses like to swing."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What we know about Noah

Today marked the end of our Sunday School's five-week focus on Noah's ark. That means, as part of the new lesson format, today was family day. The kids had fun doing a variety of craft projects and games, all with themes relating to Noah's story. That included making rainbows with glue and construction paper circles.

Also a dice game with animal picture taped on each cube side (roll doubles and you get to put that animal pair on the ark.) AJ and his friend Jace teamed up against Jeff for that one.

When the boys finished their game, they decided they wanted to make rainbows, too. Jeff wisely got involved when he noticed how enthusiastic they were with the glue bottle.

All together, we had six activities to choose from, some of which were more suited toward older kids. That didn't stop Sydney from attempting them however. When you're three, any time you have a chance to use a scissors is a good time. Noah's dove may never be the same.

Though, perhaps Sydney just didn't understand what she was supposed to do. She happily looked at me and said, "Mommy, I cut up the dove."
"Why, yes you did." Never mind that the instruction was to cut it out, not cut it up.
Next week we move on to Daniel and the lion's den. AJ's very excited. As am I, though for a different reason. I'm happy because I won't be teaching. At least for the next five weeks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Migration patterns

Just like that! In the space of 24 hours the kids went from having four grandparents in the state, to zero. Grandpa David and Grandma Elouise headed south Thursday morning, followed by Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo on Thursday night.

I guess, technically, Bill and Jo will still be in the state for a few more hours. They spent the night camped in the parking lot of the WalMart in Cloquet, which is where we were able to catch up with them for a few more hugs and kisses to last until next spring.

As we drove home, AJ asked, "why do my grandmas and grandpas go to different states to get away from the snow?"

You just answered your question, kiddo.

I do feel kind of bad that he won't have any grandparents around when his school does a special "Grandparents Day program" on October 20. Despite the name, any family members are invited to attend, so I'll be sure to go. Though... if any of the 20-something parents mistake me for a grandparent... that's when I'd really feel bad.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Painting with friends

Sydney's interest in watercolors has progressed to an obsession. I believe she has blessed us with a new masterpiece every day this week. She's not big on white space, I've noticed. Every color gets used and every blank spot on the page gets filled.

This past weekend, she even had her friend Lily join her.

Lily seems to have a slightly different paining style than Sydney. Once she finds a color she likes, she sticks with it, and apparently she likes blues and purples the best.

Lily, along with the rest of her family, stayed with us this weekend. She is the daughter of one of my best friends dating back to high school, and the last time we saw her was February. She, along with Geralyn, Paul and Joe were in town for Paul's step-father's funeral. Due to the influx of tourists looking at the fall leaves, they couldn't find a hotel room. While a sad occasion for them, it turned into an unexpectedly fun weekend for us.

And so far the table is holding up to the artistic intentions quite well. Thank goodness Crayola paints are washable.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dress for Success - part II

There's just so much to remember when you're learning to dress yourself. Tags in the back. Snaps and buttons. What arm goes in what hole. And where does the head go? It's been an issue for both kids the last few days.

To be decent, this is the one photo I can share:

And this is after mommy helped a little.

In a burst of independence Monday night, Sydney announced she was going to put her pajamas on by herself. That led to the inside out pants you see above, as well her arms somewhat confined behind her back with her bare chest exposed. She'd gone the route of sticking both arms into her sleeves, then raising her arms up to pull the shirt over her head. But she missed. So the next thing she knew, the shirt was wedged behind her neck. Undaunted, she proclaimed, "It's like a backpack!"

AJ, meanwhile, has been dressing himself for a while now. I make it easy for him by buying mostly pants with elastic waist bands because he still struggles with snaps and zippers. (Or perhaps the real struggle is remembering that he needs to snap and zip his pants.)

Monday morning he came out of his room after getting dressed. His shirt was on backwards. The waistband of his pants had rolled so many times that the top of his underwear could be seen, revealing that the underwear were on inside out.

I'm sure they must get this from their father.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dress for success

I see this photo of Sydney and am tempted to start singing, "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan..."

Sydney wanted to keep wearing the dress she'd worn to Sunday School to her friend Reese's birthday party. Ironically, the party was held at the Children's Museum, which is featuring an exhibit called Little Builders. So there was Sydney, looking like the picture of self sufficiency, wearing her fancy dress while using hammer, screwdriver and wrench.

Need help hoisting a bucket of bricks to the top floor? No problem. (In this instance she was totally copying her brother.)

Speaking of whom, AJ was dressed in his own unique mix of costumes. The party was Tinkerbell themed, so of course he had to wear his new pirate costume. The construction worker ear phones add such a nice touch. Don't you think?

One of my favorite parts of the party was simply watching all the kids interact with each other while playing with the construction equipment. Most of the party-goers came from the kids' daycare, and so every once in a while you could tell they were experiencing what could best be described as mix of confusion and delight. Confusion for seeing so many familiar faces out of context, and delight at the novelty of all the new toys they could play with their friends.
Or so I thought. The thrill of it all wore off quickly. Monday morning, as I tried to get a tired and grumpy Sydney dressed and ready for daycare, I enthusiastically said, "You're going to have so much fun today. You're going to see all your friends, and you can tell them, 'I saw you yesterday at the museum'."
Sydney had silently been listening up until that point. She then interrupted in protest, "But Mommy, I don't want to say that."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let them eat cake

What a sugar rush this has been! Over the last two weekends, we were invited to three birthday parties, plus hosted an end of the season soccer party in between. That adds up to an awful lot of frosting!

I mention the frosting because that's pretty much the only part my kids eat. No matter the flavor of cake, it ends up thrown away after being licked clean of any trace of icing.

The effects of all that sugar were evident. In the bouncy house at Carver and Ethan's party...

And at the air hockey table at Jessica's party...

It wasn't frosting that put the smile on AJ's face at our friend Reese's party, but rather getting his face painted with a skeleton to match his new pirate costume.

The face painting took place before the cake was served, so you could say that by the time the frosting-covered desert arrived, it was...
wait for it...
the icing on the cake. Buh-dum-dum.