Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Race to grace

Not that my children are a tad competitive, but...

What could possibly inspire AJ to shovel in his dinner just as fast as he possibly could? (Especially considering it was a hotdish that included stuffing and mixed vegetables, neither of which he particularly likes.)

The chance to pick the dinner prayer the next night.


We alternate each meal between the kids as to who gets to select which prayer to say. The Thanksgiving holiday knocked us out of our rotation a bit, and by the time we gathered around our own table Saturday night, I had no idea whose turn it was. Sydney was sitting quietly, so I awarded the choice to her.

AJ was none too pleased, so I announced whoever finished their supper first would get to pick the next time. I knew it wouldn't be much of a race - that AJ could beat his sister without even trying. But then I looked over at Jeff, who was pretending to eat as fast as he could.

Thus set off the eating frenzy that ended only when a gloating kindergartner was able to walk past his Dad carrying his empty plate en route to the sink.

Good thing his memory isn't as strong as his competitive streak. With his hectic hockey schedule, we haven't sat down for a family meal together since, which means AJ still hasn't had a chance to "collect" his prize.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Let the anticipation for Christmas begin! With the exception of a tree, which we'll get next weekend, our halls are now decked!

Both kids were very excited to help. Translation: both kids were eager to dig through the boxes of decorations and pull out their favorites. I think Sydney just enjoyed saying a four-syllable word. Over and over she'd ask, "Mommy, can I help with dec-o-RA-tions?

I'd say yes, and then she'd wander off to play without helping at all.

AJ was most excited to find the Santa hat. Followed closely by whichever ornament he's holding above, simply because it was surrounded by bubble wrap.

It was sad to pull out stockings and find the one that says Maddie (my old white cat). This will be the second Christmas without her, but I can't bring myself to throw it away, which means I guess we'll be repeating that moment for years to come. I think of her anyway each time I pull out the strings of beads. Nothing turned her into a kitten faster than the chance to chase them around the kitchen floor. She'd be happy to see that Sydney is enjoying them in her absence.

Next up is repairing/replacing the outside lights. I hung them on the porch yesterday afternoon. I'd love to know what naughty little elf snuck into my basement over the summer and shorted out sections of two strings of lights that worked perfectly last January when I packed them away. I guess maybe it's better I don't know. Standing in the cold and surveying my less-than-fully-illuminated handiwork, I was not feeling particularly full of Christmas spirit.

And I couldn't help but think, this is the fun part. Wait until it's even colder in January and I have to take them all down. That's when the Christmas spirit will really evaporate.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Like lambs to slaughter?

I'm trying to get motivated to wake my children up for Sunday School. But knowing the hour at church will be spent practicing for a Christmas program that I'm quickly losing interest in, has me less than excited.

AJ has the highly challenging role of "Sheep #8."

In this part, he has one solo line: "Check"

He also has to repeat "Check" six other times, in unison with the rest of the sheep. Not to be confused with the one time when he and the sheep and shepherds are supposed to yell in unison, "AAHH!!"

I'm sensing a train wreck.

I wasn't asked to be involved in the Christmas program this year. And I'm okay with that. Perhaps my honesty was a little too harsh for some people last year. I'm happy they've moved practices to the Sunday School hour, rather than expecting families to give up three Saturday mornings in a row during this busy season. But then they moved the program to a Sunday night, rather than mid-week as was done last year, and suddenly it conflicts with holiday gatherings and hockey practice.

Added to that, the show's storyline is much more of a play, rather than a traditional Christmas program, meaning it's more of a dialogue than a series of children each saying a "piece." Considering that only two kids (AJ being one of them) even put in the effort to memorize their lines, and all depended on cue cards to know when to say them, I think I'm glad to not be a part of it.

In the meantime, I need to get myself and the kids ready for practice #2.

Who's going to put on a happy face so as not to influence her son's thoughts on the Christmas program? Check!

Friday, November 26, 2010


There are certain benefits to having tall friends. One of those benefits is turning into a bit of a holiday tradition. That's when "Uncle" Korey lifts the kids high up in the air - upside down - so they can walk like Spiderman, pushing up the tiles on his mom's kitchen ceiling.

Sydney had been too scared to attempt it last year at Christmas, but this Thanksgiving she was excited to try, and ultimately begged to do it again.

Sydney's likely the only one who will be able to do this many more times. AJ, along with Korey's daughter Jenna, are both getting so big (and heavy) that my spider senses tell me their airborne days are numbered.

My mom senses, meanwhile, were just happy that the kids' Thanksgiving meals stayed down throughout their trek upside down.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Writing a blog about my kids, I always feel pressure to write something particularly poignant on holidays such as Thanksgiving. Something sweet and meaningful, filled with unique insights about the magic of motherhood.

And so I procrastinate.

And pray that the kids will sleep in late on the big day, giving me extra time to think and write and be poetic.

Half my wish came true this year. My two magical creations slept in late, but the most brilliant thing I can come up with is this:

Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the family that I am so blessed to call my own. I am thankful that we are all healthy. And we are here together.

It's been seven years since Jeff and I spent this holiday half a globe apart. Right now he is still in bed, but he's home.

And for that I am thankful.

It's been four years since AJ proved my Thanksgiving decorations were no match for a busy toddler. This morning my mature kindergartner greeted me with, "Today is Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving Mom."

And for that I am thankful.

I can't think of any particularly memorable Thanksgiving moments involving Sydney. But the day is young. I'm sure her incredible mind will come up with something. When she woke this morning, she announced, "I had a good dream."

"What was your dream about?" I asked.

"It was about while I was sleeping," was her circular answer.

I am thankful for the rest of my family and the people I call good friends. For my home, my health, my freedom and my job.

Life is good. And for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


New Year's Eve is still more than a month away, but there are two junior revelers at my house who are ready to celebrate.

Cheers! That's sparkling apple juice in their glasses. "Sparkly juice" as Sydney calls it.

They're drinking for a good cause. At work, we're designing an ad for a client that calls for a photo showing a variety of empty beverage containers that should be recycled. Specifically, it should show the beverage bottles most likely used around the holidays.

Well, how else are you supposed to get empty beverage containers other than to buy them full and then drink up? Jeff did his part with a bottle of egg nog. I took one for the team, enjoying some champagne, while the kids practiced toasting with the sparkling apple juice. I suspect they enjoyed clinking glasses more than they enjoyed the juice.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Arts and crafts

The latest example of the difference between girls and boys, or at least between Sydney and AJ, became evident Sunday night as the kids worked on art projects at the dining room table. I just wanted them to start calming down in preparation for bedtime, but soon their creative juices were flowing.

Sydney wanted to make a card for Keegan. I've never met Keegan, nor do I recall Sydney ever mentioning his name. I'm assuming he's a daycare friend, but really have no idea how he rose to the top of her special list so quickly.

What I do know is that suddenly all she wanted to do was glue a whole bunch of punched out shapes onto a card. She was a little concerned that most of my stamping punches are flower shaped because "boys don't like flowers." At the same time, she was impatient, and so decided it wasn't worth the wait for me to punch out some fish, frogs and stars, which are about the most boyish shapes as I can provide.

I don't know if it's a coincidence, but she did an amazingly good job of gluing the various pieces into the shape of a heart. As she worked, I heard her say repeatedly, "Keegan will love this!"

I'm going to have to do some investigating and figure out just who this Keegan kid is.

AJ, meanwhile, wanted to color pirates. But the way he colors, the black outlines in his Treasure Island activity book are mere suggestions of what the finished page should look like.

It should be noted that AJ didn't want the above photo taken. "It's not ready yet," he protested. "It's gonna take me an hour to be done."

Among the finishing touches, he asked me to help him spell out a pirate threat, "Get them!" He also colored in some musical notes across the top of the page. One of the pirate's swords is now outlined in red. "That's blood," was the explanation. Lovely.

Alas, bedtime arrived before his masterpiece was complete. I'm beginning to understand what AJ's teacher explained to us at conferences. AJ takes longer than many of his classmates to get his work done, primarily because he's so detail oriented.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sit down and eat

Welcome to Sydney's diner, where the master chef seems to firmly buy into the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth.

Last Friday, when slick roads kept us home instead of running our usual errands, Sydney treated me to a lunch of shrimp and pea pods, followed by a sandwich, with an ice cream cone for dessert. Did I mention that everything was made from wood?

As I sat on her bedroom floor, watching her stir the contents of her wok, pots and pans, I asked if there was anything I could do to help her.

"Ummmm... (she stretched out the word as if considering her answer) No," she told me. "I'm the only cooker."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meanwhile, the other kids...

My 4-legged kids have no problem making themselves at home. One morning last week, I had to stop home briefly from work. Here's what I found:

Not only did Maggie not look the slightest bit embarrassed or ashamed, she never really looked up. Not when she saw a camera pointed at her. Noteven when I asked if she wanted to go outside. The message: "I'm sleeping. This is my routine. It's swell to see you, but please don't wake me again."

Spike, meanwhile, continues to demonstrate why I always believed she was the smarter of the two cats.

What you don't see in the above picture is the heat vent in the floor. That's because she's completely covering it, warming her body on a chilly morning. Occasionally she'll switch her spots and I'll find her in the kitchen in front of the heat register that's below the kitchen sink. But during daylight hours she prefers this spot, because it gives her a decent view out the sliding door of birds and any other activity in our backyard. It's no accident she's lived 16 years. She's no dummy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The report card

He's not perfect. We already knew that.

But I was interested to hear what his teacher would have to say about AJ at conferences Thursday night. Overall, he's doing quite well. His teacher says he's very smart, friendly and detail oriented.

Two areas needing improvement are listening and using time constructively. Hmmmm... sounds like the exact two reasons he lost his "green" status the prior week. Among the carefully worded comments: "We continue to work on Alex following directions the first time given" and "Alex is often thinking about something else and not focusing on the task at hand".

There are many more points on the plus side. His math skills clearly didn't come from me, because that's his strongest area, followed closely by reading and art. Teacher comments include: "Alex always gives me quality work" and "Alex is a great friend and often helps others".

The teacher assured us that we have nothing to worry about, and nothing in particular to work on with him.

Meanwhile, she shared with us a note the librarian had given her. AJ's class visits the library each Tuesday and each student gets to check out a book. The majority of time, AJ comes home with a book about a president that's geared to older kids. The librarian took special note when he chose Millard Fillmore - the thirteenth president. She suggested he open the book to make sure it was one that he really wanted. AJ responded, "Oh yes. I really like the government because I'm going to be the president someday."

And what does AJ think of school thus far? Mrs. Boese gave us the results of a report card she'd had the children complete. His favorite things are gym, show and tell, free play time and riding the bus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The art of magnetism

What's a budding artist to do when inspiration strikes, but the refrigerator is already covered with previous displays of creativity? (Not to mention the magnets are all in use, holding up the previously mentioned masterpieces.)

Well, if you're truly creative, you think beyond the refrigerator door and look for new exhibit space. Unfortunately for Sydney, she doesn't quite understand the concept of what makes magnets work.

She was clever enough to grab one of her magnetic animal parts off of her Fridge Farm game. But quickly learned that they don't stick to the kitchen cabinet doors.

Actually, that learning moment took a while. She next moved on to the doors under the sink. Same result.

About the time I heard the magnetic piece hit the floor for the third or fourth time, I decided to get involved. I couldn't let this moment pass without taking pictures, after all. So once the magnetic piece hit the floor a few more times, and I snapped some photos, then I showed her a magnet-attracting alternative:

And once she went to bed, I weeded out some of her older projects off the refrigerator door, so that the next time she needs to hang something there, she'll find the space (and magnets) that she needs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The new look

Pardon the glare on the lenses, but here they are: AJ's new glasses.

They're a little bigger, a little more rectangular than his previous pair, but overall fairly similar. His prescription hasn't changed much in the last year, but clearly it changed enough that it took him a couple hours to get used to his new, sharper vision.

Leaving the eyeglass store last weekend, he was ready to chuck the new glasses almost immediately and return to the old, scratched up and too small pair. We were told it could take a day or two for him to adjust, but by later in the afternoon he was fine.

Unfortunately, the new glasses don't seem to help him see how silly some of his clothing choices look. What you see him wearing in the above photo is his choice for pajamas. He continues to prefer wearing "a regular shirt" (or in this case - several shirts) with his pajama pants.

I asked him why he was wearing a tank top over a t-shirt. His explanation? "It's so I don't get cold."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Barbie computer

So many possible ways to start this story. The lead sentence could be:

Another gem from the land of long-neglected toys.

What? Did a man just admit he was wrong?

Where's control/alt/delete when you need it?

Sydney has re-discovered her pink Barbie-as-musketeer computer. This is a toy that Jeff, for reasons I have yet to understand, felt compelled to purchase for her last year on the day before Christmas. Afterall, she only had a couple dozen presents already waiting for her under the tree. (Okay, I'll be honest. The couple dozen presents were still waiting to be wrapped. But he knew how many were piled up in the closet.)
"Hi there musketeers!" says a sing-songy voice as annoying music twangs in the background.
Each and every time you turn it on.
It's a really annoying toy in the hands of a two-and-a-half year old. At that age, they don't understand the games at all. They just like pushing buttons. And apparently the power button is the easiest button for a toddler to find, so over and over again I would hear, "Hi there musketeers!"
Mercifully, the pink computer must have gotten lost/buried in Sydney's room, because I didn't hear it for months.
Last week she found it again.
"Hi there musketeers!"
Oh joy!
I will admit, the toy is much more age-appropriate for a three-and-a-half year old, and Sydney is having a lot of fun following Barbie's prompts as she asks "what word begins with the letter... (fill in the blank)?" Sydney's favorite is when Barbie asks what word starts with 'S'. Even though it's not the answer Barbie is looking for, Sydney always shouts "I do!"
Sydney has been playing with her pink computer so much the last few days that the year-old batteries are starting to die. Barbie's voice is getting a bit scratchy, which makes "Hi there musketeers!" all the more annoying.
I couldn't resist flashing a close lipped smile at Jeff as I reminded him, "that sure was a swell present, Hon."
Spreading his arms wide as if in surrender, he responded, "It was a mistake. Okay?"
Not okay. But somehow a little more bearable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

VIP week

At least it's not a duck. Or a guinea pig. Or any other creature that we needed to keep alive over the weekend.

Meet Little Bear, the much-loved, somewhat crusty teddy bear with a tattered felt cape that came home from school with AJ last week. The reason for this special treat? AJ is the "VIP student" this week in his kindergarten class.

This is the second time we've been through the experience, having experienced "Star Student" week in preschool last year. I'm starting to suspect it'd be more appropriate for VIP to refer to Visibly Irritated Parent. Why does celebrating a student have to be so much work? And we really do it to ourselves. It's all about keeping up and surpassing the Joneses.

AJ jumped off the bus Friday afternoon and came running to the house. He was barely in the door before he opened the special bag that carried Little Bear, along with a journal in which we were supposed to record the bear's adventures. I paged through it briefly, noting that each previous VIP's mother had written a story that was roughly one-page in length.

Several pages in, Emma's mom had to ruin it for the rest of us by adding a photo she'd printed out that showed Emma riding her bike with Little Bear. Really? You had to raise the stakes by adding a picture? I've met Emma's mom. I used to like her. Not anymore! Every subsequent child's story included a picture, so of course - come Sunday evening - there I was at Walmart picking up a printout of the the photo you saw above. (Zoe's mom tried to up the ante even more by including not only a photo, but also a picture that Zoe had colored of Little Bear. Thankfully the following week's parent didn't take the bait, and that trend quickly died.)

In retrospect, it would have been smart for me to review the entire contents of the VIP take-home bag before my visit to WalMart. Because it was as I was packing up Little Bear and his journal that I discovered the "All about me" poster that also was supposed to be completed and returned. I put AJ to work coloring, and helped him spell out the answers to questions such as "My favorite place is..." (his answer: the Cities because he likes to visit his uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents.) We then picked out some of this photos of himself playing hockey, soccer and baseball, and I printed them out using our computer's printer.

They're not the greatest, but they're good enough. I decided the insanity had to end. Next week's parent can thank me later.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Having a ball in the snow

Ahhh... the dilemma. Mother Nature hit us hard this past weekend. The former reporter in me couldn't wait to take pictures and share for all to see.

But the mom in me couldn't find time to blog. I was having too much fun playing with the kids in the snow.

As far as snowstorms go, this one was just about perfect.* It was wet enough for snowballs, snow forts and snowmen, and the weather was warm enough to spend lots of time enjoying it.

As heavy as the snow was, it was surprisingly easy to clear the driveway. All I had to do was push the shovel. The snow slid easy, so I could push it right off the sides of the sidewalk and driveway. I'm sure my neighbors thought I was nuts on Saturday, trying to shovel while the storm continued to rage. But Jeff had to work, which means he'd be coming in the dark, so I wanted to at least build up some sort of banks on the edge of the driveway to give him a better idea of where to turn in.
As I shoveled, I could hear my dad's voice in my head, "It's only November. Push the snow past the edges of the driveway. I don't want to have to throw snow over big banks in February."
My children are too young to pass that lesson along to quite yet. However, there's a more basic lesson they need to learn now. The goal is simple: it's to clear snow off of the driveway and sidewalk.
AJ chose the driveway as the perfect spot to build a snow fort. "Can't you drive around it?" was his response when I told him he needed to build in the yard.

Meanwhile, Sydney was happy to help shovel.

Over and over again she headed into the garden, scooping up a load of snow which she then dumped onto the sidewalk.

They'll have plenty of time to learn this stuff. As always, it's going to be a looooong winter.
*A side note: I'd referenced earlier that the storm was only "just about perfect." The reason for the less-than-perfect designation is that I got stuck driving on some pretty slick roads early Saturday afternoon. AJ just got a new prescription for his glasses, so I headed out early with the kids to accomplish two things: get AJ's glasses, and give Jeff a quiet house to sleep in. The weather wasn't too bad starting out, but in the "about an hour" it took to get the new glasses made, the stormed worsened dramatically. The drive home was terrifying. I counted at least seven cars in the ditch, one of which was upside down. A lot of silent prayers were said during the 45-minute drive that usually only takes 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Making a list - II

Sydney didn't get too excited looking through the toy catalog with her brother. She much prefers going straight to the source.

On Friday we did just that during our "Mommy-Sydney" time. Running errands, we squeezed in time to check out the toy displays at Sam's Club and Target.

Playmobil playsets caught her eye, especially the animal safari ones. Sydney loves Playmobil toys - probably because AJ does - plus she loves Diego the animal rescuer, so this was like the best of both worlds.

Until we got to Target.

Row after row of princesses and Barbies and dollhouses. Oh my! It was interesting to watch her navigate up and down the aisles. Of course all the best toys are at her eye level or within easy reach. And reach she did. An invisible magnet seemed to draw her to any toy with a button that she could push to make it sing, dance or move in some other way. A couple of times she got tricked, spotting and attempting to push what looked to be a button, but was was really just part of the toy's design.

One note to any family members who may be reading this. If you get her the Dora doll shown below, she will love you.

I will hate you.

Squeeze the hand and Dora sings and shakes. Sydney danced in the aisle right along with her. But the voice! And the songs! Dora would quickly find herself banned to the basement.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making a list

I want this... and this... and this...

When I was little, it was the arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog that started us dreaming of the pending gift-receiving season and all the wonderful opportunities that went with it. (I think they still called it a Christmas catalog back then, rather than today's politically correct "holiday catalog".) Sure, the JCPenney catalog was nice, but it just showed clothes. The Sears catalog had toys! Pages and pages of toys!

Today, the stores have changed. The catalogs have changed. And so has the complexity of the toys being marketed. But one thing that I doubt (and hope) will never change, no matter how sophisticated this or the next generation of kids becomes, is their excitement when this book of magical possibilities arrives, inspiring fantasies of all the fun that is to come.

It was late September, earlier this year than in years past, that I maxed out my tollerance level for AJ's never-ending requests each time he got excited about some new toy he'd seen in a commercial or on a store shelf.

"Put it on your list."

Translation: no more impulse toy buys for the next few months. He'll have to wait - and hope - for Christmas.

So the arrival of the toy catalogs from Target and WalMart just a few days after Halloween serve as a tease that maybe... just maybe... Christmas is no longer so far away.

Next year, I think I'll make him actually write down the names of the things he wants. Making him work a little just might shorten the list. But for now, I let him get away with circling the items he likes. It probably would have been faster to have him cross out the items he doesn't want.

When he pointed out the $219 mini-ATV, I told him not to hold his breath. Classic AJ moment - he responded looking perplexed, "Do we have to pay Santa for this stuff?"

I covered quickly, telling him Santa usually brings smaller presents, because if everyone asked for something big like the ATV, it wouldn't all fit in the sleigh.

A kid can still dream...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day thanks

What's the best way to honor a veteran? The answers will likely vary depending on which veteran you ask. But in broadest terms, I think most would agree they want people to remember and appreciate their service to our country.

AJ certainly appreciates soldiers... as much as a five year old can appreciate anything. His flag is a little backwards, but the patriotic pride is strong. He says he wants to be a soldier someday. If that's still a goal in about 13 years, I hope I will be strong enough to say, "Sure. Good luck!"

I wonder in years to come if AJ will even remember the weekends and annual training drills that kept Jeff away from us. This is the first Veteran's Day that I can sit back and be grateful, without fear of my favorite soldier being called up to serve one more time.

May God bless all who have bravely and willingly sacrificed so much. And may He look after their families and give them the courage and strength they need, as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Presidential woes

Every so often I see a photograph of one of my kids and it's like a smack in the face - the realization that they're growing up. Such was the case when AJ came home with his kindergarten pictures.

Holy cow! He's not a little boy anymore. This is a kid with big aspirations. Though his bid for the presidency has hit a few road blocks in recent weeks. Don't get me wrong - he's as enthusiastic as ever to serve as Commander in Chief, he's just started realizing it's not all rosy in the house with a famous rose garden.

For instance, when he moves to the White House, Mommy won't be able to snuggle with him at bedtime. Likewise, he's going to need to learn to tie his shoes because Mom and Dad won't be there to help. (Granted, he'd probably have plenty of staff there to help as needed, but we won't tell him that.)

Another issue, he now has a blot on his record. He's no longer perfect. As he walked in the door Monday afternoon, he immediately confessed to Jeff, "Dad, something bad happened in school today."

"What happened?" Jeff asked.

"I'm on yellow."

At least he still feels comfortable telling us when he's gotten in trouble. His teacher uses the color system as a threat to the students and to report any problems to the parents. Green is good. Yellow means the child received a warning about something. Blue means something worse than that, which I don't exactly remember because it just got added to the system. And red means a trip to the Principal's office.

In AJ's case, it appears Mr. Chatty had issues in music class, preferring to socialize rather than sing, despite several warnings to stop talking. I'm curious how he reacted when the teacher told him his perfect behavior record had come to an end. Her note to us included a smiley face with the line, "I'm sure the one color turn will stop this!"

It better.

In the meantime, AJ continues his fascination with presidential history. Each week he brings home a different book from the school library. Recent books have focused on George Washington, Millard Fillmore and Thomas Jefferson. I'm fairly certain he's the only kindergartener who's ever checked out those books. They're definitely written for an older audience.

I found a U.S. President's app to add to my iPhone. AJ is starting to recognize the presidents' pictures. He's also starting to pick up on some of the other details about them he can learn despite his lack of reading ability. During a drive last week, I could hear him in the back seat, "Jimmy Carter's on the donkey team. Ronald Reagan's on the elephant team."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Here we goal again

It just doesn't seem that long ago...

since we stood in the cold shivering... three nights a week... wondering why we inflicted this extra level of hecticness on our already busy schedules.

And yet here we go again. Hockey season is back.

It actually started a week ago, but this was the first time I remembered a camera. At Monday night's practice, as the kids skated around cones and played sharks and minnows, there was a new guy on the ice.
Jeff decided to join in the fun, chasing kids through the drills.

AJ seems to have picked up where he left off last season. Already the kids are practicing skating backwards and attempting crossing their legs over as they skate. To be sure, AJ still spends plenty of time flat on the ice.

But he's getting the hang of it and still having fun, and I'm willing to stick with this as long as that's the case. I shouldn't really complain, not yet anyway. Come January we'll be moving to outdoor practices, which means much colder nights and even busier schedules. That's when we add in flood nights and concession stand duties. Compared to that, we've still got it pretty easy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Halloween was a week ago, and even though we still have plenty of candy left, I think it's beyond time to finish writing about the occasion. So without further ado, here they are the skeleton and the Halloween princess:
These kids have joined the ranks of the sophisticated trick-or-treaters. No walking door-to-door for these two. We traveled in style, riding with friends Ethan and Carver and Avery and Reese on a trailer towed by a 4-wheeler.

Sydney quickly grew tired of it all. Trying to keep up with the rest of the kids as they ran up to each door and then returned to the trailer was simply too much for her. She gave it her best shot, but by about the fourth house she was happy to just snuggle with me on the trailer.

One of the joys of living in a small town, we got to visit the houses of Carver's kindergarten teacher, the paraprofessional who helps in AJ's class, and the principal. All in a couple blocks. Here's a look at the crew after we returned to our house.
The big trick-or-treaters (i.e. parents) were pretty proud of our efforts this year and are already making plans to top it next Halloween. Some of the ideas tossed around included a generator with heaters to keep the kids (and adults) warm. Another idea is to string Halloween lights along the side railings. Trick or treat!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Initially, AJ was disappointed that he'd traveled all the way to the Metrodome and Brett Favre wasn't going to be there.

We made the trip, I reminded him, to watch his cousin Jessica play soccer. It's quite possibly the most important game we'll ever get to see her play. That's why it was okay to play hooky for a day. (At least that's how I rationalized it.) I took a vacation day, and cleared it with AJ's teacher to pull him out of class. And so to the Dome we headed.

Jessica definitely made the trip worthwhile! She not only scored the winning goal, but also an insurance goal after that, helping her team win the Class A State Championship, by a score of 3-1. And to think she once walked down the aisle as my flower girl. Look at her go!

I don't think AJ recognized the significance of it all until a few hours after the game. As we walked back to the car to begin the journey north, he told me he'd had "only kinda fun" because he'd hardly gotten to see his cousin.
By the time we reached Sydney's daycare, he'd had time to think about it all and so was happy to tell his old teacher all about Jessica's success and the stats of the game. And by dinner time, when we met up with some friends of our for a playdate, he excitedly announced, "Guess what! Channel 5 talked to me cousin because she was really good. She scored the winning goal."

Sometimes it's easy to forget or take for granted the talent in the people around you... until it becomes so apparent you can't ignore it any longer. Last Friday my sister-in-law Barb achieved her personal trainer certification and was invited to participate in a weight loss program involving one of the contestants on The Biggest Loser. Saturday, my nephew Jonathon finished fifth or sixth in a 5K race that had more than a thousand runners. Today my niece played a critical role in her team's state championship win. And tonight my husband is working his first shift as a lieutenant. Wow!
I hope AJ's paying attention. He's got some tough acts to follow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Just because we didn't have enough going on during Halloween weekend, we decided to spend an hour Sunday afternoon at the "Harvest Festival" carnival at AJ's school.

The carnival featured all sorts of games, but nothing could compete with the giant inflatable slide.

Over and over the kids waited in line to climb up and slide down. And that was just fine with me. All the games featured wonderful plastic cr** as prizes, and to be quite honest, we really don't need any more plastic spider rings, monster mini yo-yos that don't work and Halloween themed pencils.

Eventually AJ grew tired of the slide, and then the slide had to come down because the rental place had come to pick it up, and so we finally started checking out the games and collecting our share of plastic cr**.
If Sydney wants to follow in her brother's foot prints (or should I say ice skates?) she's got some work to do.
AJ's great victory came at the end of the day. He won a plate of cupcakes while participating in a cakewalk. Oh joy! Just what he needed this weekend - more sugar!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cutting edge design

The pumpkins never really had a chance.

Attacked with markers, knives, scoops and competitive imaginations, they were hacked at, carved up and - in some cases - literally cut in half. All in the name of art... and family traditions.

Pumpkin carving is serious business in our family. The taunting begins almost as soon as the pumpkins appear on the table; and as work commences and piles of seeds and pumpkin goo grow the joking only intensifies.

Since AJ is still too young to be trusted with a knife, he turned instead to a new game. His favorite part, which I'd forgotten about until he asked me just now if there was a picture of it, was trying to sneak pumpkin seeds into everyone else's jack-o-lanterns.

Once each masterpiece is complete, we step back and analyze our work and compare it to everyone else's. Of course candles must be lit and the room darkened in order to fully appreciate this gourd artistry.
This year I went for the clever: spelling out BOO! and using the Os as eyes. Jeff, meanwhile, apparently was inspired by Gene Simmons of KISS. (You can better see the star-shaped eyes and protruding tongue in the bottom photo.)

In the end, AJ (who appointed him judge?) chose Jonathon's jack-0-lantern as the best.

Sure, it was good, (it's the one in the middle) but I suspect there may have been an element of sympathy factored into his decision. Jonathon somehow managed to gouge himself while peeling and perfecting his pumpkin. Perhaps AJ isn't the only one too young to be trusted with sharp objects.