Monday, February 28, 2011

Homework helper

One of them thinks homework is annoying. The other thinks it's the coolest thing ever. Want to guess which attitude belongs to which child?

This weekend's assignment involved cutting out letters and gluing them in their appropriate spot on the assignment sheet to spell the correct words. "Cutting is my worst kind of homework!" AJ exclaimed in frustration. (I'll be sure to remind him of that in high school when he's complaining about math and science assignments.)

Meanwhile, Sydney associates any project done at the dining room table as being homework. She quite frequently will run to her chair announcing, "I have to do homework!"

Perhaps empathizing with her big brother, on this day Sydney also seemed to be struggling. "It's too hard," she told me. Noting that she was just coloring, I asked what was so hard. The problem? The pink marker was almost out of ink. Switching to purple solved the problem.

If only all future homework issues could be resolved so easily!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sydney's commandments

The Sunday School theme this month is the 10 Commandments. For the preschool class, today's message was pretty basic: commandments are the same as rules, there are 10 of them, and they came from God.

How much did Sydney take away from the lesson? She knows they're from God, and that they're so important she should display her art project (which features the commandments glued to a paper plate, surrounded by tissue paper and glitter) in a special place.

When we got home, she quickly decided the refrigerator is far too ordinary for such a special project. "Mommy, I can put it on my dresser!" She proclaimed, running into her bedroom. I followed, then stepped back to grab the camera. Because apparently she'd gotten an even better idea.

"I did it myself, by my numbers." She announced.

"You mean you hung it by the letters in your name?" I asked.

I put it by my letters," she affirmed, before bouncing around her bed in a happy dance.

When Jeff woke up, it was the first thing she showed him. Later in the day she decided to literally display it on her dresser, so it's now hanging from one of the drawer handles.

Commandment #11: Though shalt proudly display art projects involving glitter and glue.


Quick update on Maggie... She's doing pretty good. Last Thursday, I thought the end was imminent. She was so obviously miserable that I figured the weekend would be spent keeping her as comfortable as possible until we could get her to the vet early this week. But by Friday afternoon she was much livelier and cheerful, and has been ever since. AJ was hopeful yesterday as he suggested, "Maybe she's just a little sick."

We know that's not the case, but remain grateful for each additional day we can have her.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


After four months working this crazy schedule, Jeff's promotion to Lieutenant was officially recognized during a ceremony Friday at City Hall. It was a long ceremony made even longer by the numerous commendations that were handed out to other officers for jobs well done during the last year.

We briefly made an appearance on my old TV station, watch closely... don't blink... and you'll see us here as I pinned on Jeff's shiny new badge.

It was a bit of a challenge keeping the kids quiet and non-disruptive for an hour and 15 minutes. I'd pulled AJ out of school early so that he could attend. His teacher was more than understanding considering she was planning to attend the same ceremony to see her husband receive two honors.

As I dug through my purse, offering my silenced phone to AJ and crayons to Sydney, I couldn't help but think back to the last time we sat through one of these ceremonies.

We seem to have changed just a bit... at least the youngest two have. That day I was dealing with a hungry newborn and a two-year-old with a messy diaper. Granted, I had two sets of grandparents with that day who were happy to help. Still, it put in perspective that yesterday's challenges really weren't so bad after all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What a character!

It's his favorite book character... honest!

As part of I Love to Read month, elementary students at AJ's school were challenged to come to school Wednesday dressed as their favorite book character. In AJ's class, he reported, one girl came as Elmo and another boy dressed as Iron Man.

And AJ? AJ dressed as...

Abraham Lincoln. Why am I not surprised?

I'd been pushing for Peter Pan. He's finally fitting into that costume I bought him a couple years ago. But no.

Reminding me of the Scholastic Book I'd just given him, Abe Lincoln's Hat, AJ felt perfectly justified going to school dressed as a president.

Good think long jackets were the trend back then. AJ's ensemble consisted of an old black suit jacket of mine (with sleeves rolled up), his own black pants and dress shirt, a bow-tie from Jeff's Army dress uniform, and the glitterty hat from AJ's birthday party. Jeff tried to convince him to wear the black hat that came with his magic kit, but it didn't fit well, so AJ stuck with the red, white and blue.

AJ's teacher responded marvelously to our efforts. She was so impressed with AJ's costume, that she read the book to the class.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The ultimate match up!

Look closely and you can see my two birthday presents. (No, not the helmet. That's the new one I gave Jeff for Christmas - a new one, I must mention, that already smells incredibly bad.)

Just in time for the annual Moms versus Mites hockey game, and much to AJ's dismay, Jeff gave me my birthday presents a day early: a hockey stick that shoots right, and (you might be able to tell by my chunky knees) my own shin guards.

"Dad, how could you?"  AJ asked as he watched Jeff wrap my stick with tape. He seriously believed the excuses I'd been giving him - that I just needed my own stick, and then I'd be better than him. I finally 'fessed up and told him it was just an excuse. He giggled then and all was well.

We made it to the rink. And then I headed home. To get my skates. (I'm blaming Jeff for this. He'd grabbed everything else.) Good think we only live a few miles away. I made it back to the rink and quickly laced up just as the first puck dropped.

We skated the standard 2-minute shifts. The coaches would send out five kids, and the matching moms would head out accordingly.

A season of teasing and trash-talking culminated in this one game. Surprisingly, AJ focused more on the game than on me. He'd usually say something like, "You're going down!" as we faced off, but once the puck was in play, he just wanted wanted to score.

And score he did. Thankfully. I scored once, but he scored twice. Therefore, the game was a victory for him.

Three older brothers of various kids on the teams served as referees. They were awesome. They tended to help the Mite team. For most of the game, I noticed doing double duty as goalies. Towards the end of the game, they were skating the puck down the ice, kicking it with their skates and passing to the boys to help them score. And always with the cutest grins on their faces.

It was a warm night with snow falling. The ice was a mess - lots of chips to skate through. But we all had a blast. Based on AJ's age, I get one more chance to do this. (Unless Sydney decides she wants to play.) After next year, AJ will be a Mite 2, and at that level, it's the dads who get to play.

It sounds like the hockey season comes to an end next week. Sure, now that I have some gear of my own. I suspect we just might be spending a little time at the rink this weekend.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Preparing for goodbye

The 4+ week-long roller coaster ride that is marking Maggie's final time with us, took a decidedly sharp dip down a steep slope Monday night. I thought the end of the ride was coming nearer than I could bear, but thankfully, by Tuesday afternoon she seemed happy to climb at least one more hill for us. Still, the sudden turn left me shaken.

Something happened Monday evening. We don't know what. I came home with Sydney after AJ's hockey practice and couldn't find Maggie. It's not unusual for us to walk in the door and catch our "watch dog" sleeping. But calling her name didn't result in the typical jingling sound of her collar. With fear smacking me in the gut I turned on the light in our bedroom and found her on our bed. She barely raised her head.

Suddenly the vet's warning about lethargy and depression was all too relevant. It looked like her front right leg (the cancerous one) was slightly wedged between the mattress and bed frame. I carefully shifted her and she let out a sigh. Finally she raised her head, and the expression on her face was at last more like the one I'm  used to seeing on the dog I love so much. Yet still she made no effort to get up or off the bed.

I cannot describe the sense of helplessness I felt. How I wanted to help her and take away her pain. All I could do was bury my face in the still puppy-soft fur of her neck and tell her how sorry I was for her hurting. After about a minute (it felt much longer, but I'm trying to be realistic) of petting and hugging, I asked her if she wanted to go outside. At last she stretched and sat up, then clumsily climbed jumped down to the floor. Limping badly, she headed outside.

By the time Jeff and AJ came home, Maggie was mobile, but still limping. We gave her more medicine and held our breathe, hoping it would kick in quickly and give her relief. It didn't seem to make a difference.

Tuesday morning she continued to lay around. It took much coaxing to get her to go outside. I called home late in the morning to see how she was doing and Jeff said she was sleeping. Then, about 1 p.m. Jeff called me. I answered the phone, fearing the worst. But instead it was the opposite. Jeff wanted to let me know Maggie was awake and happily playing outside with him and Sydney.

She's not as good as she's been, but still seems ready to fight a little longer. Still, the scare was enough for me to insist we finally tell the kids the reality of Maggie's situation.

It was horrible. Sydney didn't understand, but AJ immediately dissolved into heart-wrenching sobs. "But I'll miss her. She's the best dog in the whole world!"

His grief was intense, and he cried loudly for at least 15 minutes. Reminders that Maggie is still here and promises of getting a new puppy did little to console. In other words, now I have a dog and a child with incredible pain that I would do anything to relieve. But all I can do is offer hugs and soft words.

At bedtime, AJ's tears started again. I'd been holding off on suggesting we pray. I assumed I would hear, "Dear Jesus, please don't let Maggie die," and - on top of everything else we were dealing with - I wasn't ready to have the conversation that God doesn't always answer prayers in the way that we'd like.

And that's when my compassionate little boy amazed me. His prayer was to please watch over Maggie and protect her, and please help her find Maddie and other good pets to play with in Heaven. He repeated how much he was going to miss her, but never once asked that she be allowed to stay with us.

This morning, Maggie is doing okay. Still not as good as she was. She may never be again. But at least the ride seems destined to last a little longer. And that is an answer to my prayer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More pink

I've already acknowledged that my hockey "talent" is inferior to that of my six-year-old. Now I've discovered a skill area in which my three-year-old has me beat. I never want to be the kind of parent who lives vicariously through my children. But when it comes to manicures, that just might have to be the case.

Check out the pretty pink polish on Sydney's nicely filed fingernails. Despite the diva-ish precedent this no-doubt will set, I am beyond relieved that my daughter is not following my nail-biting ways.
A few months ago, it dawned on me that I hadn't had to trim her nails in a while. I started watching her and, to my dismay, noticed she was biting her nails. I cannot put into words how guilty I felt. She had to have learned it from me. And as someone who has struggled unsuccessfully for more than three decades to break this bad habit, I absolutely didn't want to pass this trait on to her.

Then, suddenly, she stopped doing it. Over the last few weeks her nails have been growing longer and longer. The tricky part is, she hates getting her nails cut, and so I needed to come up with a way to trim them without using a clipper. I found an old nail file from a baby kit and used that to smooth them back to a manageable length and shape. And then the ultimate treat – I pulled out a bottle of pink nail polish.

Sydney did a very good job sitting still while I painted her nails. What she does not do a good job at is allowing the nail polish to dry untouched. She concluded our first attempt by excitedly clenching her hand into a fist. Out came the nail polish remover. The second time through I taught her how to lightly blow on her nails. That worked pretty well, but she still managed to smudge one of the nails. Holding her finger for me to see, she announced, "I need more pink."

By the time we got to the second hand, she was fascinated. We still ended up with a few smudges. I didn't think they were too bad, but apparently she did. She instructed me, "we need more water" (nail polish remover). I removed the messed up part, after which she prompted, "Now, more pink."

Yes, I've created a monster. Now if I could just get that monster to share her secret for stopping nail biting...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Three for three

It's fun at the end of AJ's hockey games to watch the players on both teams raise their sticks high in the air as they celebrate victory. In a game where no one keeps score.

It's been an interesting month for hockey. Two weeks ago, the practices were cancelled because of below zero temperatures and dangerous windchills. Then, last week, the practices were again cancelled, this time due to slushy ice conditions caused by 40-degree weather.

But this weekend, we returned to full-fledged hockey hecticness. As part of a tournament in Cloquet, AJ played two games Saturday and one Sunday (all of which he won, of course). He'll follow this with practice Monday, another game Tuesday and the Moms versus Mites game Wednesday.

The first game of his tournament felt a bit like a bait-and-switch situation to me. Cloquet has a very nice, heated arena. Last year, all of the tournament games took place there. As it turns out, Cloquet also has an oversized aluminum shed housing a second rink. Wanna guess where AJ's first game was played? I was not dressed for it. Sydney was not dressed for it. Hours later I still felt chilled.

At least AJ's team won. In a game where no one keeps score. Thankfully, the other two games were played in the warm arena.

Even more exciting, Jeff has revealed yet another hidden talent. My better half can "chuck a puck" with the best of 'em. (For anyone who hasn't been to a Mite hockey tournament recently, Chuck a Puck is a standard fundraising event. Fans buy a puck, then during a period break, everyone hurtles their pucks at a cone placed in the center of the rink. Whoever gets closest wins.) Jeff won the contest once during a tournament last month, then repeated his winning ways both Saturday and Sunday.

AJ, meanwhile, also seems to have picked up a new habit. If he's not able to stop the player with the puck, he turns his attention instead to moving the goal.

I watched AJ slide into the net more times than I could count this tournament. No wonder his team keeps winning.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Game night

Gotta love the classics! There's just something about them that make them timeless and engaging and... classic. I'm talking, of course, about board games. I've been pleasantly surprised to discover just how many of my favorite childhood games are still around.

Trouble is a new favorite of AJ's. We'd given it to him for his birthday, but - with the tact of a six-year-old - he dismissed it saying, "I hate that game." He's apparently played it at Cool Kids, with other kids, none of whom know the rules. I finally convinced him to play it with me last week. Once he figured out how to play, his competitive nature took hold, and he's been loving it ever since.

Another classic, which I was amazed to find on the store shelf, was Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots. (You can see the game if you look past the dog mooching for popcorn.)

AJ looked almost confused when he saw the box. A toy that he hadn't seen advertised? What's that? Once we set it up, he instantly loved it.
A side note... as the photos show, Maggie is still with us and is doing relatively well. We continue to give her various pain medication 3-4 times a day. I suspect the extra attention and treats we've been plying her with have also helped.

Looking at the ease with which she's moving around, it's hard to believe the end could be near. We have enough medicine for at least the next two weeks, and will continue to refill the prescriptions as long as they're working for her. Still, it's a very morbid thing to buy food and treats for her in smaller quantities, recognizing that she may not be around to finish it all. We've yet to tell the kids how seriously sick Maggie is, but to a certain extent I think they've noticed we're spoiling her more than usual, and have been happy to help us with that effort. Sydney asked me yesterday at least 10 times if she could give Maggie a treat.

Each day she remains with us is a gift. I wish it hadn't taken a diagnosis of cancer for me to remember that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The errant prince

It's tough to be a prince these days. Especially when the monarchy is headed by a three-and-a-half year old girl.

Prince Charming joined us last Christmas. He was basically an accessory to the Cinderella doll Santa gave to Sydney. Little did we realize at the time what a critically important role he would play in Sydney's fairy tale world. As it turns out, he has become... drumroll please... the token male.

We've discovered that it's fairly inexpensive to purchase other princesses, and so Cinderella has gained Sleeping Beauty and Ariel (the Little Mermaid) as friends. But their male counterparts can only be purchased as part of sets that cost upwards of $25. And so that's created a problem. As Sydney says, "We need another boy."

Thankfully, the other princesses have been gracious in sharing the Prince. Ariel seems to be the favorite at the moment. Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but Sydney likes the redhead best, which means that's who the Prince likes best, too.

All this catering to multiple princesses has been taxing on Mr. Charming. Two weeks ago his legs broke off. Specifically, the plastic piece that held the legs in place got cracked. A very intricate surgical process followed, and I'm happy to report the Prince is almost good as new. Sydney now thinks Super Glue can fix anything.

But the risks of royalty didn't end there. Earlier this week, Prince Charming disappeared. Remembering the lessons of the Little Unicorn, I first checked Sydney's coat pocket, but he wasn't there. He'd apparently accompanied Sydney and Daddy on a variety of errands last Tuesday. Both Jeff and I dug through the truck, but both came up empty. As gently as possible we told Sydney her Prince was still missing.

A few hours later, at work, I got an e-mail from Jeff. The subject line was "Fairy tales come true." From her carseat, Sydney had spotted something.

Great joy in the kingdom! Prince Charming has been found! How exactly did he get from Sydney's clutches in the back seat into the center console at the front of the car? My guess is Jeff set him there while cleaning up the taco he'd foolishly thought Sydney could eat while riding in the car.

But that's a story for another day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Out of the mouth of AJ

Here's a sampling of some of the things AJ told me yesterday.

First of all, it was Crazy Hair and Socks Day at his school. I don't quite get the connection, but somehow this ties in with I Love to Read Month. That meant digging through the Christmas decorations box in search of his striped elf socks, and sculpting his hair to look like a stegosaurus.

As badly in need of a haircut as he is right now, I probably could have just let him go to bed with a wet head the night before and come up with comparable results. AJ loved the look and giggled, "We should show Grandpa." (If you don't understand his reference, click here.)

When I asked later who had the craziest hair in his class, AJ pondered for a moment, then said, "It was a tie."

"Between who?" I asked.

"Me, and... ummm... I don't know."

"Who had the craziest socks?" I asked.

He grinned, "Me!"
Meanwhile, he informed me that he made a new friend, but can't remember his name. To make a long story short, the boy is in a different kindergarten class, but they met on the playground and went on a treasure hunt together.

"We found poop!" AJ excitedly revealed. "We thought it was a rock, but I poked it with a stick and it was soft, so it's poop."

Clearly a bonding moment and the start of a beautiful friendship.
AJ also told me he got a new book from the school library. Amazingly, it's not about a president. Rather, it's about the Apache Indians. As a preview, AJ told me, "It has an indian and a fox. And now the fox is a hat."
(Sure enough, the book features a photo of a boy performing a traditional dance ceremony, and a fox pelt is part of the boy's head dress.) 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Party with Chuck E.

How much fun did we have at Chuck E. Cheese's? Sydney is already asking if we can go back for her birthday. (Is that a collective groan I just heard from my parents and siblings?)

AJ's favorite game was some sort of combination football/ping pong/basketball game. Pound on the football to launch a ping pong ball through little openings to score points. I think AJ's tongue got the biggest workout of any muscle in his body.

Sydney, meanwhile, was a flurry of motion, running from game to game. She became particularly skilled at finding tickets that previous players had forgotten to pull from the games. I guess that made up for how many tokens she stuffed into rides, only to be disappointed afterward when no tickets resulted. Still, she seemed drawn to rides - the bigger and bouncier the better. At one point I lost sight of her, only to discover her sitting high atop a horse ride. She'd managed to insert her token and climb onto the ride. Talk about self-sufficient!

Some of the bigger kids also found games to play. I'm fairly certain we've cured our friends Gregg and Jeralyn of ever needing to visit this restaurant again.

 Cousin Jessica, despite recent knee surgery, was still able to give Sydney a boost with some of the games.

Here's a rare shot of cousin Zane actually sitting still. Most of the time he was running around. What a good little boy to give his parents so much exercise.

Something we learned the hard way this year: don't wait until the last minute and just show up on a Sunday afternoon with 13 people. Despite their large eating area, all of the tables were reserved for other parties. It's also important to order the cake ahead of time, otherwise be prepared to wait.

Still, when the giant mouse showed up with cake in hand, AJ was pretty excited. And really, that's what matters the most.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The party place

Is it a sign that we're in a rut? Or just that in some areas my children's tastes don't change?

Sunday afternoon, we gathered for yet another birthday party for AJ at his Twin Cities restaurant of choice - Chuck E. Cheese's. (Incidentally, the blurred effect on AJ's face is courtesy of cousin Zane who got a hold of my camera lens shortly before the photo was taken.)

Two years ago today it was supposed to be a similar event with most of the same guest list. But at the last minute we had to cancel. Jeff got strep, and Zane decided he was ready to make his grand debut. A few weeks later we tried again. Click on this link for a reminder of how much everyone has changed.

By next year's photo, we'll need to come up with yet another configuration of who's holding whom. With another little boy soon to be added to the crew of cousins, it's time for Sydney to learn to stand on her own like a big girl. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

LEGO adventures

Pardon the pun, but we discovered the building blocks of a great weekend! Our two-day trip to the Twin Cities started with a visit to the Children's Museum in St. Paul, which is featuring a special exhibit on LEGOs. Much to my kids' delight, they weren't just any LEGOs, they were castle-themed. That meant knights and princesses.

There were all sorts of impressive statues made out of LEGOs - numerous castles, plus this fully armored knight.

And what castle would be complete without a fiercesome dragon? (And yes, that's my beloved offspring sticking his finger in the dragon's nostril. "I'm picking his nose," AJ giggled.)

Of course there were also numerous places for kids to build their own creations. There were three different areas, each featuring different sizes of LEGOs for various ages and abilities. And they had pink LEGOs. Sydney was in Heaven.

For AJ, the highlight was the jousting area. That's a "horse" he's wearing as he runs toward the target.

 I had to remind him more than once to let other kids have a turn. He was having so much fun!

Sydney's favorite part was the princess costumes - hooded capes. She looked a bit like a boxer as she ran around the exhibit. The first time through, she wore a purple cape. Then before we left, we stopped back for a few minutes more and she found a pink one.

I don't think we even made it out of St. Paul before Sydney started asking, "Next time, can we go back to the museum again?"

I'll have to check how much longer the exhibit is there, because yes, it'd definitely be fun to bring them back again.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Random conversation

We're sitting in a motel room right now, trying to keep quiet so Daddy can get a little more sleep. I'll do my best to paint a picture with words because, even though I remembered to pack the laptop and took a lot of adorable photos during our visit to the Children's Museum yesterday, I forgot to bring the connector device to transfer photos from my camera to the laptop.

The kids are sitting on the floor in the area closest to the door. I've got the bathroom light turned on, which makes it bright enough for them to play, while not disturbing Jeff. AJ is playing with his new LEGO knights, while Sydney is allowing Prince Charming to cheat on Cinderella by wooing the Little Mermaid.

Out of the blue, AJ asked, "Mom, did they have computers back then?"

"Back when?" I asked.

"When George Washington was president."

"No," I answered. "They didn't even have electricity back then."

Sydney joined the conversation, "What's lec-cursidy?"

How do you explain that? "It's what makes the lights turn on and the TV turn on and things like that."

I watched Sydney's eyes wander around our darkened room. Either she'd already tuned me out, or she was noting all the areas where we weren't using "lec-cursidy."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday night lights

A little perspective makes this even harder to bear.

Six years ago, AJ was barely home from the hospital. He was dependent on me for everything.

Friday night, that little turkey not only beat me at hockey. He skunked me. 11-0.

And I was trying my best.

Beyond skunking me, he out-skated, out-maneuvered and out-stick-handled (if there is such a word) me. And oh yes, I was definitely out-trash-talked. Not that I ever had reason for gloating.

I don't know how much longer I can get away with the "I would have done better if I had a stick that shoots right" excuse. I just need to get better. And I definitely need to learn to do a hockey stop. I'm a grown woman, and I was beaten by - check that - I was slaughtered by a Mite 1 player. I've been skating for close to 35 years, and he's been skating for two. The fact that I only fell down once is small conciliation. Perhaps with more padding I'd be willing to push myself a little harder. The fact that I'm strategizing how to improve my game so that I can compete with a six year old makes me shake my head in wonder.

To my credit, I am at least good enough to make it interesting and fun for him. At bedtime, as he thought back on the day, AJ told me his favorite part was "beating me 11 to nothing." I guess I should take that as a compliment considering our day also included lunch at McDonald's and a trip to his favorite toy store.

Meanwhile, where was Miss Sydney all this time?

Check out the new helmet. It's not pink (apparently that wasn't an option). She was pretty excited to try it out for the first time. Until she got cold. Then she was pretty excited just to wear it as she checked out the players' benches on the side of the rink.

At least I can still skate better than she can.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be mine - the 2011 version

Valentine's Day came a bit early at AJ's school because the holiday happens to fall in the midst of a four-day weekend. That meant the job of addressing all those little cards for his classmates had to be done in time for a party yesterday.

I was pleasantly surprised watching AJ work on this labor of friendship. Last year, it was a challenge for him to sign "AJ" to his cards. (Okay, the greater challenge was for me to keep him on task to sign "AJ" on each card.) This year, working off a list, he successfully filled in both the "to" and the "from" line.

It was by no means a fast or easy process. We spread the work over two nights. Incidentally, this year, his cards are from Alex, not AJ.

Once the cards were done, it was time to tape on the "Snick Snack" bars. (AJ has some sort of mental block when it comes to remembering the name of his favorite candy bar - Kit Kat.)

Alas, for all his hard work, he came home empty handed. Tragedy! He forgot his bag of Valentines - and more specifically his bag of Valentines candy - on the bus! I left a message at the bus garage and got a call back confirming they found it and will hang on to it for him until next Tuesday. That calmed him a bit. I feel a bit sorry for the bus drivers on days like this. The woman I talked to commented, "You have no idea how many candy wrappers I had to sweep up this afternoon."

Meanwhile, Sydney's Valentines also had to be ready by Thursday. Because of Jeff's schedule, Sydney won't be going back to daycare until after the Valentines party. At least with her class,  we (I) only have to sign her name without addressing each card to a specific child. It simplifies the distribution process.

Her teacher must have already counted out her cards/treats because she came home with one of them. Totally oblivious to the fact that it was a card from herself, she excitedly showed me the heart-shaped sucker that I had taped to it. "Look Mommy! I got a treat!"

Other than that, I guess we get a bit of a reprieve until Tuesday. That's when the real sugar rush will begin.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When Daddy calls

On the nights Jeff works, he does a good job of calling home to talk at least briefly with the kids and to wish them a good night. The conversations - at least the half I hear - can be pretty entertaining. AJ tends to ask Jeff a lot of questions about how his evening is going, while Sydney usually talks about whatever she's doing at the moment.
When I handed the phone to AJ last night, he became a bit of an interrogator. "Hi Dad, did you catch any bad guys yet? Or are you just sending guys out?" (Pause) "How many guys are you sending out?"

Sydney, on the other hand, could only talk about herself and her exciting news. "I'm wearing a hair band, Daddy. I'm watching Tinkerbell with my princesses. (Pause.) "Mommy made meatballs. And noodles. And I had milk and chocolate milk." (Long pause.)

"Sydney, tell Daddy good night," I prompted.

"Good night, Daddy," she said.

As I took the phone away, and started to say my own good night, Sydney frantically waved me back, "Wait!" she called.

Figuring she wanted to add an "I love you," I handed the phone back to her.

"I'm playing with my princesses, Daddy."

The kids are doing a pretty good job adapting to Jeff's crazy schedule. I let them fall asleep together, and then move them later to their respective beds. It allows them to have someone to snuggle with at bedtime, while giving me a chance to do whatever needs to be done around the house. It may not be the most traditional bedtime routine, but for now, it works.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The great American novel

Since it doesn't appear I will finish (or even start) my first book any time soon, I guess it's good that at least someone in the family is busy putting pencil to paper. Wouldn't it be ironic if AJ published a book before me?

It's a pretty safe bet AJ's written masterpieces won't be appearing on a bookshelf near you anytime soon. His books tend to feature more staples than plotlines. They also tend to be just about impossible to decipher. For instance, one page says this:

What? You can't tell that says "Grandpa likes fishing" ?

Regardless, his intentions are good, as is any interest at all in the literary word.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shopping with Sydney

Two "Sydney-isms" to share from our shopping trip last Friday:

Sydney was excited to help when we reached the check-out line at the grocery store. Grunting at times, she would hoist items from the cart (where she was sitting) and heave them over the side onto the conveyor belt.

"Do you need help, Sydney?" I asked.

Sydney responsed: "If you're strong, you can do anything."

At a different store, while looking for a Valentine's card for Jeff, Sydney decided to look at cards too.  As I read and put back several cards, Sydney attempted to do the same, but I could hear her mumble, "This one doesn't work." A few moments later, the same thing, "this one doesn't work either."

Clearly, for her, the only cards worth considering are the ones that play music when you open them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The guest chef

It's been said that too many cooks can spoil the broth. Luckily, that wasn't the case when a special toddler made a guest appearance in Sydney's kitchen.

Friday afternoon I got a call from my brother saying he was in town for the weekend. What a fun surprise! We ended up babysitting cousin Zane (I'm trying really hard to get the kids to stop calling hm baby Zane) for the evening.

Zane was happy to explore the various drawers and cupboards, and try out all the pots and pans.

Soup and cakes seemed to be the chef's special for the night. Most were cooked in the microwave for "one minute."

Zane is both experimental and exact in the kitchen. All pots and pans needed covers to fit snug. With great effort he would lift Sydney's wooden pot over his head and into the microwave oven. Because of the toy oven's small size, if his aim was even slightly off, the pot's lid would be bumped loose. Zane would sigh as if to ask "again?" and then set the pot back down to readjust it. Meanwhile, he mixed and matched ingredients I would never have thought of using together. The pepperonis from Sydney's toy pizza had to be used in just about everything.

For her part, Sydney did a surprisingly good job of sharing. I think Zane's interest in her toys renewed her own interest in them. There's nothing like seeing another child playing with your stuff to make it all seem cool and fun again.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The party

I doubt anyone learned anything about any of the presidents at AJ's party. But they sure were happy to wear red, white and blue.

Front row: Evan T., Cooper, Addie, Avery.
Back row: Sydney, AJ, Lily, Owen, Cale, Reese, Hannah

I did hear one of the dads - a teacher - quizzing the kids and asking who their favorite president is. Most of the kids responded with a slightly confused look before eventually answering/asking, "Barack Obama?" It was as if they were asking in return, "Is that the right answer."

Of course AJ had a much stronger response, "George Washington and Ronald Reagan."

"Really. Why Ronald Reagan?"

AJ answered confidentally, "Because they say Ronald Reagan is the greatest president ever."

I'm not sure who the "they" is that AJ's referencing, but there's another reason AJ has found to like the 40th president. We discovered they share a birthday weekend. Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday is today - a day after AJ's 6th birthday.
Aside from the off-beat theme, everything else about the party was pretty normal. There was cake:
Check out, by the way, the incredible decorating job on AJ's birthday cake. I got it from the Dairy Queen in Canal Park. They have a woman there who is - in a word - incredible. I've ordered numerous ice cream cakes from them, just because I so appreciate her talents. When I ordered the cake I left instructions that said, "Presidential seal, flags or anything else patriotic." I had total confidence that she would come up with something that surpassed all expectations, and she certainly did.

Back to the party details... the kids had a ball playing all the games at Adventure Zone. There was mini-golf and a batting cage.

Plus plenty of arcade games to suck up our money and spit out tickets that can be redeemed for "treasures" I really don't want in the house. (Play money and fake bugs.WhooHoo!)

Of course, gift opening was fun. I love how the kids crowded round and then bunched up tighter and tighter to see what AJ was given. AJ may have been on to something when he selected the presidents theme. Two friends gave him money as a gift. Show me the presidents!

The only part of the party that I would have changed was the party horns. What was I thinking? They seemed so innocent to set out at the table along with the hats, tiaras, flags and leis. Wow! Were they ever loud! And they echoed throughout the large building.

The kids loved the little headache-inducers, and even marched in a mini-parade while waiting for the cake to be cut and served. I noticed when it was time for everyone to depart, that a lot of the other accessories went home with the kids, but I've still got just about as many horns as I started out with. Hmmm...