Thursday, June 30, 2011

What animals

The kids and I went to the zoo Sunday. We checked out the lions, tigers and kangaroos - none of which seemed all too interested in posing for a picture. They all were too busy dozing in the sun. As we came to a fork in the path, I gave the kids the option of checking out the polar bear or the grizzly. And what did they choose?

"Let's ride the train!"

The train ride took us passed the petting zoo and near the monkey house. When our ride came to an end, I suggested we walk back to those places and see the animals up close.

"I want to climb on the snake!"

"Who wants to go see the little goats and llama?" I asked a few minutes later.

"Mommy, ride with me!"

In other words, in the first half hour of our visit, I had exactly zero photos of the kids looking at animals. Finally, we made our way to the petting zoo. Miraculously, I actually had two quarters with me, enough to plug into what I'm sure was a gumball dispenser in a previous life, and buy two handfuls of what looked suspiciously like dog food.

AJ was almost as excited as the goats.

Sydney, on the other hand, was feeling less than brave. She first attempted to set the tiny pellets on the white ledge just inside the fence. When that didn't work particularly well, she happily handed over the remaining pieces to her brother.

And then, because I'm sure there was some meteorological force plotting to make sure I didn't get too many pictures with animals, it started to rain. That made it the perfect time to tour the indoor nocturnal exhibit.

Thankfully, the rain didn't last. By the time we came back outside, the rain had stopped. Giving AJ yet another opportunity to play with a fake animal.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mmmm... s'mores

It's not raining. Daddy's not working. And the kids talked him into buying a bag of oversized marshmallows. Sounds like everything we could need for a backyard campfire.

It was our first campfire of the season, which meant a bit of searching was required to find the marshmallow roasting sticks. AJ tried finding some downed tree branches near the river, but all were ridiculously large. Eventually I found the metal sticks, "hidden" in plain sight on a shelf in the garage in pretty much the exact spot where I'd told certain family members to look for them.

Once we put them to use, Sydney happily proclaimed, "This is what I call camping!"

I must say the big marshmallows sound cool in concept, but what a mess! They take forever to cook, and then ooze stickiness on chins, cheeks and fingers. And really, the marshmallows aren't the key ingredient. It's the chocolate the kids really want to eat.

An indication that the kids are getting older: the mosquitos came out before the kids' attention spans ran out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bouncing birthday fun

What could be more fun than a birthday party that involves a bouncy house? A birthday party with a bouncy house that has a princess and pirates theme!

My friend Kim held a multi-purpose party Saturday, celebrating her son's birthday #4, her daughter's birthday #6.5, (Cece's real birthday is Christmas Eve), plus her own graduation - she just earned her MBA.

The kids were a bit leery at first, not of the bouncy house, but of Cece, who once, a long time ago, tried to kiss AJ. He didn't appreciate it, and he's not letting go of the grudge.

So it was fun (and perhaps a little bit of a blow to his ego) to discover Cece was having so much fun with her girlfriends, that she pretty much ignored AJ. Meanwhile AJ found a few boys at the party who liked to sword fight, and suddenly all was well.

When it came time to leave, the kids didn't want to go. I needed to run a few errands before stores closed, so Kim suggested I let the kids stay and play, and go shopping without them. (She sure didn't have to make that offer twice!) I asked the kids if they wanted to do that, and got two enthusiastic shouts of approval. As I walked past the bouncy house on my way out, Sydney was already back inside, jumping up and down as she shouted, "Bye, Mom, we'll miss you!"

Call me a skeptic, but I didn't really believe her.

The party was so much fun we're going to copy it. We're finally going to invite Sydney's friends over in a few weeks for a belated birthday party for her, and so I just called and rented a bouncy house for the occasion. I'm pretty sure I'll be bouncing a few times before the party ends (or at least before we have to return it.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rock stars

This weekend was so nice. It was even - dare I say - relaxing. After three straight weekends of non-stop parties, we actually were able to take it easy and set our own agenda. (Okay, there was one birthday party thrown into the mix. I'll write about that tomorrow.)

Part of that play-it-by-ear agenda became a trip to the playground, followed by a stroll to the harbor. I tried to recreate the photo at right, to show how much the kids have grown in the last year, but the sun was just too intense to get a shadow-free shot.

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT complaining about the sunshine. Just making excuses for the shadows.

Happy to be able to stop posing, the kids scrambled for the tiny deck that sticks out over the rocks. AJ discovered some tiny rocks that must have blown onto the deck from an adjoining garden, and simply had to start throwing them into the water. Because what else do you do on a summer day when you find rocks while standing near water?

And that, of course, meant Sydney had to copy her big brother's actions. She was much more particular about the rocks she picked up.

I'm not sure what criteria played a role in the selection process, but not just any rock was picked up and tossed. In fact, one of the rocks was so nice it had to come home with us. She even gave it a name. (Don't ask me what it was... some non-sensical couple of syllables stuck together.)

With the special rock safely in Mommy's pocket, it was okay to pick a few less-special rocks and toss them into their new watery home.

How lucky we are to live so close to such a freshwater marvel. It's moments like this that almost make up for the many days when the winds blow off the Lake and drops our temperatures by 20 degrees.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Care to change your answer?

Aaaahhhh... the innocence of youth. Children say the sweetest things, and they do it in all sincerity, not realizing their opinions will likely take a 180-degree shift over the next 10 to 15 years.

Just in the last day, Sydney has proclaimed the following:
  • (While looking at Jeff's and my wedding picture hanging on the wall) "Mommy, when I get big and get married, can I wear your princess dress?"
  • She seemed to backtrack on the whole marriage idea a short time later when somehow it became apparent that she'd live in her own house once she got married. "I don't ever want to get married. I want to live with you forever!"
  • And despite her brother's taunting that she'd have to live somewhere else someday, Sydney still insists, "AJ, you're the best brother in the whole world!"
Yeah... we'll see how long those opinions last.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let's eat out

Look! Up in the sky! What could it be?

To steal a Facebook post from one of my favorite authors, Michael Perry, "The sun comes out and I react like a baffled animal...what is in my EYES!?!...FIRE IN THE SKY!"

After eight straight days of rain, and nearly a third of our all-to-short-to-begin-with summer nearly gone, we at last got a day of summer-like weather. And you better believe we made the most of it. Determined to soak up every second of sunshine we could get, I moved Sydney's folding table onto the front porch for breakfast.

Cocoa Puffs taste so much better in the great outdoors. That is, until you spill a few into the garden. AJ, noting how much the little brown puffs resemble something else we often find in the garden, commented, "The rabbits are going to think it's poop."

Lunchtime followed with a picnic at Playfront park.

We couldn't stop there. Jeff was working, but I managed to light up the grill in the backyard (that makes my record two-for-two this year.)

Quick! Note the happy expression on Sydney's face. It didn't last long. 

Various backyard bugs took an interest in us and our meal, and all it took was one itty-bitty black winged thing to land on her arm and the drama queen was ready to head back indoors.
She'll have time to practice and perfect her insect-swatting ability. We'll be spending plenty of time outdoors in the near future. Thankfully, the weather forecast sounds quite pleasant for several days to come.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Puppy love

In a little more than a month, one of these needy little bundles of squeaking activity will be ours.

Wednesday night we made what will be a weekly tradition between now and late July - a visit to the breeder to see the puppies (there are 11 in all). I quickly determined it's basically impossible to take a clear photo with my relatively slow shutter speed iPhone, because the subject matter never stops moving.

We won't get to pick our exact puppy until she's six weeks old. The breeder says there's no point to do so any earlier because of how much they'll be changing. Right now, each weighs just 2 to 3 pounds.

The mama dog had been outside when we first arrived. She had to have welcomed the break from her brood. A little while later, she came inside to let them nurse. Instinct certainly must give her patience. She hopped into the pen and almost instantly 11 puppies made their way over to her, squirming and scratching in a sort of a high stakes game of musical chairs. (The breeder told us Dixie has two fewer nipples than puppies.)

If you look closely in the middle of the photo, you'll see one puppy laying on its back as it nurses, feet sticking up in the air. Whatever works!

AJ, of course, never stopped asking questions. One of which was, "When was Dixie (the mama dog) born?"

The woman did some quick mental calculations. "Let's see. She's six. So, February of 2005."

AJ's face broke out into a hopeful grin. "Is her birthday February 5th?"

The woman couldn't remember, but just knowing the month and year were the same as his was enough. Suddenly he had a pretty cool bond with Dixie.

For me, it was harder than I thought to visit the puppies. How is it possible that one of these tiny little creatures that stumbles around with its eyes barely open will someday develop a personality as awesome as Maggie's?

I remember when I first got my cats - right after an old roommate's cats moved out - I felt a tinge of resentment toward them for the first day or so. They weren't the cats I was familiar with and loved. They had different quirks and habits, and were a lot more work. But we adjusted to each other fairly quickly and soon were inseperable.

I know it will be the same with Molly. Whichever of the puppies she ends up being.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birthdays are sweet!

I'd intended to post this earlier today, but blogger wasn't allowing me to upload photos. A few more reflections on my four-year-old's big day...

It seems the way to my birthday princess's heart is through her stomach. Via her sweet tooth. 

At the end of the day, I asked her what was her favorite part. Her answer? It wasn't the Rapunzel costume or the princess castle.


It wasn't the new butterfly net. (Though I suspect that ranks right up there on AJ's list of favorite parts of the day. He's already tried to negotiate a trade: his bamboo-handled net for her new plastic one.)

It wasn't any of the presents. Sydney's top highlight was "bringing cupcakes to my friends." She'd helped the day before (and by helped, I mean she licked off the spoon and attempted to scrape and lick more batter out of the bowl) to make pink cupcakes with pink frosting.

Her second favorite part? A surprise trip to Dairy Queen after AJ's baseball practice was done.

I didn't push her to continue ranking the day's events, but I suspect if I had, the third thing on the list would have been her new booster chair.  Technically, I'm not counting it as a birthday present because she was with me and helped pick it out. Now that she's four, she can sit in a booster seat like her brother, using a regular seatbelt as the restraint, rather than being strapped into a big car seat. She felt pretty important - and independent ("Mommy, I can buckle myself!") - sitting in her new violet ("It's not purple, Mommy, it's violet!") colored chair.

It's good to be four!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The birthday girl

The big day finally arrived and it was all she could have hoped for. Sydney is now four, and we marked her birthday the way all good princesses celebrate: with hot dogs and cheeseburgers, with watermelon and peas, for supper, followed by a quick gift opening.

Not that Sydney would have taken her time if we'd let her, but we encouraged her to go quickly so that Jeff and AJ could leave for baseball practice. The plan was Sydney and I to join them later. And we did. Just a bit later than I'd expected because it seemed horribly unfair to let Sydney open her presents and then tell her she'd have to wait to play with them.

Toys, crafts and costumes - all with a princess theme. Sydney was quite excited. I asked her to show me how old she is now. That took a little coordination.

"No, silly, you're not five yet. You need to fold in your thumb. Try again."

"You're getting closer. Can Mommy show you?"

"You've got it!"

"Don't take any more pictures, Mommy." She informed me.

Who could argue with that? With a new castle for her princesses to inhabit, she was far more interested in playing. There was a moment of concern as she looked at the box, which showed only princesses in the various rooms. "Mommy, can Prince Charming go in my castle?" she asked.

"If you say it's okay, he can." I told her.

Apparently that met my little chaperone's approval, because suddenly several suitors were wooing the princesses.

Happy birthday my big girl. Always remember that Mommy and Daddy love you very much!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend celebrations

We did it! We survived the weekend. Here's a quick recap of our last 36 hours (in chronological order): 

  • I ran the half marathon and managed to shave five minutes off my time from last year and beat my goal of two hours (1:59:20 was the official chip time).
  • AJ wrapped up his week-long hockey school scoring a hat trick in the final game.

  • Our ring bearer graduated from high school. (Okay, he actually graduated two weeks ago, but the party was Saturday.)
  • My nephew turned 21. Too bad I didn't think to bring a camera to either Tanner's or Jonathon's parties.
  • Sunday morning we celebrated Fathers Day with my Dad. We gave him the royal treatment - going to McDonald's for breakfast and giving him (Eric and I) identical cards. What better way to show Dad how much we appreciate him?

Sunday afternoon we made it home right about the time Jeff was waking up. Since there wasn't much time before he had to get ready for work, we celebrated his special day in the best way my tired legs could think of: soaking in the hot tub.

As we sat there, I couldn't help but think of this morning's children's sermon. The pastor asked for examples of where/when we felt peace. Immersed in soothing hot water and surrounded by my husband and kids, it was wonderfully peaceful. 

At least for a few moments it was. 

I can't believe we managed to pack so many important events into such a short period of time. Of course it would have been better if Jeff could have been a bigger part of it, but all in all it was a pretty fabulous weekend.

The only thing we didn't seem to find time to do was sleep.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Good sports

It felt a bit odd getting AJ suited up in hockey gear in the middle of June. And even stranger to watch him later the same day switch from shooting a hockey stick...

... to swinging a baseball bat.

AJ has been taking part in a hockey camp this week at the Cloquet arena. I'm not sure how much he's learning, but it's been fun for him to skate again. It's the first time in three months. He likes the coaches, but can't remember their names. Though he does know that one of them plays for an enemy of the Bulldogs. (Mankato, he later verfied.)

 During warm up time, the kids traded off playing goalie for each other. AJ thinks he wants to be a goalie someday.

On two of the days, my versatile little sports star came off the ice at 2:30, and was rounding bases just three hours later.

Despite the very different rules and climates of the two games, AJ managed to keep one thing consistent. Note the number on each of the jerseys.

Sweet 16!