Saturday, March 31, 2012

The bob

I've known for a week that Sydney needed a haircut. What I didn't realize is that she wanted one. And not just a simple trim. She was ready for a new look.

Here it is... the bob:

Sydney 's new look was a spur of the moment decision on her part. While waiting to get her haircut, I opened up one of the hair style books sitting in the reception area. Sydney spotted a picture of a girl with a bob and said, "I want that!"

"You want a bob?" I asked, rather shocked. This is the child who, as recently as a week ago, wanted hair like Rapunzel.

"I do!" She insisted, even as I showed her pictures of little girls with longer hair, and pointed out that she wouldn't be able to style her hair like theirs if she got hers cut that short.

"I want a bob!" She repeated to me, and then ran to a stylist who was busy with another customer. "Can I get a bob?" Sydney asked the woman. I'm pretty sure she just liked calling it a bob.

And then I told her she wouldn't get as many snarls in her hair if it was short. She was sold! Off came a couple of inches of hair. As if recognizing what a big girl decision she'd just made, Sydney did a remarkable job sitting still for the stylist and looking down when asked to do so. And when all was done, a perkier than ever child emerged. She excitedly predicted, "AJ isn't going to recognize me!"

About the twentieth time she asked, "what's my haircut called?" I started telling her it was a pixie cut, figuring that might be easier for her to remember than "bob." But no, she likes calling it a bob, and I've belatedly realized she doesn't need the reminder. She just likes asking questions for the sake of asking questions.

Later in the evening, as I watched her twirl in front of the mirror and admire her new 'do, I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of deja vu.

There's definitely a slight resemblance. I used to call it my anchor bob. Seeing how cute it looks on Sydney, I'm almost tempted to go back to that style. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cut to the good stuff

Remember the pictures I took Sunday of Sydney working on an art project? It was while taking those photos that a simple fact became apparent that I could not deny or ignore any longer.

Sydney really, really needs her hair cut.

And so, Tuesday, I suggested to Jeff that – since it was his day off and Cost Cutters offers a discounted rate on Tuesdays – that he take her there for a trim.

And that is how we ended up going to Gordy's for dinner Wednesday. (If the photo wasn't so dark, you'd be able to see that Sydney still needs a hair cut.)

It kind of reminds me of one of AJ's book reports on which the teacher writes, "you didn't really tell me what happened in the middle."

Tuesday night, I encountered a still shaggy Sydney.

"You didn't get your hair cut," I stated the obvious.

"I know. Daddy forgot," she told me. "But Daddy's got a surprise tomorrow. We're going to Gordy's!"

And when you're four, that totally makes everything okay.

"That doesn't sound like much of a surprise, if you already know about it." I told her. "Did he say we're doing that for dinner?"

"Uh huh." The all-knowing child proudly nodded her head.

That was enough to get AJ excited. He'd been listening in.

Later that evening, I mentioned to Jeff what Sydney had told us. Hmmmm. Now the surprise was on him. His version of the story was that he'd forgotten to take Sydney for a haircut, and so had told her they'd do it Wednesday and then go (just the two of them) to Gordy's for lunch.

But of course that plan was now out the window.
Which explains why we were among the masses packed in to Gordy's on it's second night of the season.

And somehow, apparently, that's also why Sydney didn't get her hair cut Wednesday or Thursday, and why today - Friday - her bangs are longer than ever. If anyone can explain the missing part in the middle of that story, please let me know.

At least I got a cheeseburger out of the deal.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supplies me

A while back, I went through a phase in life in which I actually had spare time. It was a phase I call "life before kids." 

As evidence of that, if you look in my basement, you'll find large stacks of stamping and scrapbooking supplies. Some are still neatly organized based on paper size and color family. Others are haphazardly piled on top of each other in an attempt to keep it all off the floor. 

Most are covered with dust.

I spent a small fortune on all those ink pads with coordinating cardstock and markers, not to mention the paper cutters, corner rounders, adhesives, stickers and other accessories and "embellishments". There's maybe not enough down there to finance a child's college education, but I bet it would cover a semester or two.


Thankfully, the expense of higher education is still a few years off for us, and so until those wonderful craft supplies can help fund my kids' college, I guess I'm glad they can help my daughter in preschool.

The homework assignment? Cut out and decorate what looks like an oversized daisy petal. I suspect the teacher will then piece them all together into some lovely flowers to hang on the classroom wall.

Sydney was very excited to tackle the project, asking if she could use my "supplies".

"I guess so," I told her. "What do you want to put on your flower petal?"

"Supplies," was her answer.

And so we found some ink pads and sponges, which were just perfect for getting ink all over her fingers.

Next we turned to glue and glitter. But the sparkle seemed too subtle for Miss Sydney, and so she determined we needed to look for more options. I opened another drawer of doo-dads, and Sydney spotted some fake flower parts. Done! From that moment there was no question of what would make her flower petal complete.

I had her pick out the pieces and helped her fit them together on a paper fastener.

First she needed one flower. Then one more. Then one more. And just one more. Four flowers later, something still was missing. A heart sticker!

I wonder if someday I'll ever need these supplies again. Technology has changed so much in the ensuing years that I suspect my next scrapbook will be a digital one. So maybe if Sydney uses up some of what I've got, I won't feel so silly for having spent so much on it back in the day. Back when I had spare time. What was that like?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have some heart

Part of a conversation with my seven year old last night...

Me: How was school today?

AJ: Ummm, it was not so good, I guess.

Me: Why? What happened?

AJ: I didn't get any exercise in gym class. We just had to watch a video and listen to (the gym teacher) talk.

Me: What video was it?

AJ: Some company is raising money to give to hospitals, and they want us to jump rope.

Me: Ohhhh (Moment of understanding - AJ brought home a "save the date" card last week, announcing that the school was participating in the Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart.) So what was the video about?

AJ: It said the prizes we could win, and it was about a girl who had a hole in her heart.

Me: So do you want to do it?

AJ: I could give them $5 and then I'd get a water bottle.

Me: So you want to do it?

AJ: Nah. I'd pretty much just rather give them money and get a water bottle. I'm not too good at jump ropes.

Having volunteered with the local Heart Association for a number of years and taking part in the annual Heart Walk several times, I wasn't willing to let the conversation end so quickly.

Me: Did you know that when I was born I had a heart defect?

AJ: You did?

Me: It turned out to not be a big problem. It fixed itself. But Grandma still calls me her miracle baby because they didn't think I was going to live.

AJ: What was wrong with it?

Me: Have you learned much about the heart yet? How it has four sections and the blood pumps through it?

AJ: Yeah, we learned that today.

Me: Well, the area between two of the sections of my heart wasn't working right. But Grandma and Grandpa and a lot of other people did a lot of praying, and God made it start working.

AJ: Wow. If I'd been alive back then I would have prayed for you, too.

This child has such a big heart. Maybe next year he'll have the coordination to go with, and then we'll consider again jumping rope. I'm not going to push him to jump rope if he doesn't want to do it. I can make a donation through other means. And we really don't need another water bottle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What to 'do?

More and more, Sydney is paying attention to ways she can, in her opinion, make herself prettier. Accessories! Accessories! Accessories! This is a girl who pays attention to detail. She doesn't necessarily choose matching details, but as long as there's some bling, she's happy.

She's also starting to request particular hair styles. I suppose I should be grateful that her requests have nothing to do with peer pressure. She has several friends whose mothers must have been hair stylists in previous lives, because the little darlings always have adorable 'dos. But I've yet to hear Sydney ask to wear her hair like one of them.

No, she sets the bar much higher. She wants her hair styled like Ariel, Belle and Cinderella. I have no idea how to do anything like that. If I did, my own most common hairdo wouldn't be a simple ponytail.

So it came as some relief Sunday morning when, as we were getting ready for church, she asked if I could braid her hair like Rapunzel's. For those who haven't seen Tangled, there's a scene in which children dance around her like she's a May pole and weave her hair into a beautiful french braid with flowers. I can do a french braid!


I can french braid hair that's longer and less fine hair than Sydney's. As a compromise, I convinced her to let me do two braids. That worked. Tah dah!

And then I looked at the clock. To be on time for Sunday school, we needed to leave in approximately three minutes and I hadn't done anything with my own hair other than towel dry it. I rushed into the bathroom and went to work with my hair straightener, remembering the days when I used to spend 20+ minutes curling and styling my tresses. Now that time is spent on my daughter's hair, and as long as I'm looking mildly presentable, we're good to go.

With that thought still in my mind, we got in the car to leave for church. It was as I was backing out of the garage and looking in the rear view mirror that I happened to spot AJ in the back seat.


As if the ratio of 20 minutes on Sydney's hair to three minutes on my own wasn't bad enough, I suddenly realized I'd spent zero time on AJ's hair.

Keep smiling Sydney! Maybe no one will notice you're related to the boy with the really messy hair.

Thank goodness his hair is short! And the spiky look is popular right now, isn't it? Hopefully no one spotted the totally rumpled part on the back of his head.

When we got home, Sydney couldn't wait to remove the braids. She had a new idea. She remembered the neon pink, fake hair braid that she'd gotten at her friend Lily's birthday party the day before and decided that was a much better look. And bonus! looking through AJ's goodie bag, he got a neon green one, which he was more than happy to share.

Why couldn't Disney come up with a princess who wears her hair like this:

It'd make my life so much easier!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring firsts

So we had a week of unseasonably warm, make-you-forget-you're-in-northern-Minnesota-in-March, kind of weather. And then we had a week of still unseasonably warm, but depressingly dreary/foggy days. And then, all of a sudden Saturday afternoon, the clouds cleared and bright, glorious sun shined (shone?) down.

I saw my first robin Saturday.

And then eight short hours later I saw my first mosquito.

Yeah, whatever. In between these sure-sign-o-spring sightings, I decided to change dinner plans and soak up as much vitamin D as possible.

It wasn't really warm enough to go shirtless, but AJ had been goofing off with Gus by the hot tub and - big shock - managed to splash himself and drench his shirt.

It should be noted that this was all pre-mosquito sighting. I even thought to myself how nice it was to be able to go back and forth between the grill and kitchen without worrying about bugs. Silly, silly me for jinxing it.

Gus quickly adapted his mooching habits and joined us on the back patio.

Jeff had to work, and so it was up to me to light the grill and cook the burgers. I haven't necessarily had the best success with this, and the children apparently remember that fact. And so it came as a pleasant surprise to them that their cheeseburgers came out softer than hockey pucks.

"I think these turned out pretty good," I said, fishing for compliments.

"Yeah," said AJ. "The first couple bites weren't so good, but the rest is. And we're tough, so it's okay."

Who invited the food critic?

Sydney barely touched her cheeseburger. There was watermelon and pea pods on her plate. Why would you need anything else?

And then the first mosquito suddenly appeared, and the relaxing atmosphere ended just as quickly. I failed in my attempt to swat it, and so all Sydney wanted to do was go inside to finish her meal. I delayed the inevitable as long as I could, but then gray clouds started moving closer and AJ guessed that the UMD Bulldogs hockey game was starting, and so we gave up on the picnic and headed inside.

I'm tempted to use the cliche "It was nice while it lasted." But then I remind myself this spring-like weather is here one to two months sooner than usual. And so I'm doing my best to simply be grateful for the glimpses we've been given. That worked for about a half hour this morning... until I had to scrape the frost off my windshield. Wouldn't you know, the one night I'm too lazy to pull my car into the garage, the temperature has to drop into the 20s. Ahhh... the joy of whatever season it is right now in northern Minnesota.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New math

Helping AJ get ready for school one morning earlier this week, I was looking through his back pack and paging through the half a tree's worth of paper that comes home in his folder each day. And there I found a stapled packet that confused me. His teacher has this nifty system to minimize parental confusion - any papers that come home in the left side of the folder should be left at home. The right side - should come right back. (Clever, right?) But in the midst of the sheets in the left folder flap was one clearly labeled as homework.

I looked at each page to see what still needed to be done, and saw that all the blanks had already been filled in. But beyond page two, there were a lot of corrections. For instance, page 3:

Page 5... more of the same:

Once AJ sat down to eat breakfast, I asked him if there was something more he needed to do with this homework.

"No," he answered, "we already did that."

"You kind of had trouble with it, didn't you?" I commented. It made no sense. This is the child who excels in math. The child who I - as someone who chose a journalism major because I don't like math - would wonder, if it weren't for all that blond hair, is he really mine.

At this point, Jeff picked up the papers and flipped through them. "I did this with him."

AJ looked over and helpfully noted, "we got them all wrong."

Jeff stared at the subtraction exercise, looking at what the correct answers were supposed to be. "I guess I don't understand what he was supposed to do."

I looked over the instructions. In fairness to Jeff, I don't get it either. And I suspect we weren't the only ones. The weekly note/newsletter from the teacher included this excerpt:

"We practiced another way to subtract. For example, if you have 13-8 and you separate the 13 into 10 and 3, you can't take 8 away from 3, so you take it away from 10. 10-8 is 2, and 3 more is 5. So 13-8=5."

Huh? The only thing made clear by that explanation is my decision to pursue a career in writing. I suppose there are kids out there who can process math problems better in this way. But to me it seems they're adding a whole lot of unnecessary steps. Whatever happened to stacking the numbers vertically and subtracting first the "ones" column and then the "tens" column?

I looked at Jeff who looked rather glum as he continued to stare at the sheet. I couldn't resist teasing, "You realize you just made the blog?"

"Yeah, whatever. Just don't take my picture."

So that's the good thing that come from this. The bad thing is the realization that next time, I bet it's going to be me trying to figure out how to help AJ with his math homework.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kindergarten countdown

How excited is Sydney to start kindergarten? Let us count the ways...

She's more excited than all the fruit loops she could string onto two pink pipe cleaners.

And more excited than all the plastic shapes she needed to find to cover up her picture card.

Thursday night was the second in the series of evening events to get kids excited about (or at least comfortable with) kindergarten. The theme this time was math, and so there were plenty of activities relating to counting, shapes and patterns.

Jeff was working, which meant AJ had to come, too. He tried really hard to adapt the cool older kid "been there, done that" attitude, but eventually gave in to the desire to play along with the younger kids. Their math, after all, was way easier than his latest homework assignment. (More on that tomorrow.)

Once I was satisfied that Sydney had participated in enough of the organized activities, I gave her the go ahead to do what she'd been focused on since we walked in the room: play with the My Little Ponies and their house/barn.

As luck would have it, one of Sydney's friends from Cool Kids also was their and also loves Ponies and doll houses, and so soon the two were happily inventing pony dialogues.

Until Greta noticed the stack of stuffed animals in the background. But that was okay, too. Stuffed bunnies love to play and talk with ponies.

What finally lured the girls away? The Candy Land game opened up. Sydney had been eyeing it all evening, but it had always been in use. And this wasn't just any Candy Land game. It was a NEW one, Sydney repeatedly told me. When you open up the board, the path is laid out in more of a vertical design, not horizontal like the one we have at home. And that makes it totally different and way better. Sydney, Greta and Stella (a friend from dance class) happily took turns drawing cards and moving their pieces. It was such a treat to not have to play the game against her. And perhaps best of all was the outcome: clean up time came before the game ended, which means nobody lost.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Going postal

Who says the art of letter writing is dead? In Sydney's case, the emphasis is on the art, more than the writing.

Note: This photo is sideways - for a reason.
(It's because I can't tell which is the top versus the bottom.)

To my friend Jess, if you're reading this, take note of the above photo and show it to your girls, so that when we see you this weekend you can all nod and smile at Sydney and say, "Yes, we saw your letter." It's her thank you note to you all for finding her missing magic wand.

Sydney mailed it last week.

She thinks.

After finishing her masterpiece, she proudly walked to the end of the driveway and stuck it in the box where our newspaper is delivered. Done! (I recovered it later that evening and have been intending to mail it for real ever since.)

Fast forward to last night. Sydney had been playing outside, then came in asking, "Can I make a letter?"

"Sure. Which letter do you want to make?" I assumed she wanted to write the letters of the alphabet on the driveway. "Do you need some chalk?"

"No. I want to make a letter." she told me, over-enunciating her words to make up for my apparent slowness. "A letter to send to someone."

And so I started pulling out craft supplies. This time, she decided she needed paint.

She carefully completed her masterpiece: a girl holding flowers. (Trust me, they're flowers. They are not balloons. Don't make the same mistake I did. )

And then she applied the finishing touch. She knows that all mail needs a stamp, and so she pulled out some of my rubber stamps and ink, and added lots of stamps.

"Now it needs to dry," she told me, "and then I can mail it."

I'll be sure to check the paper box later today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring in our steps

Our week-long taste of summer seems to have given way to the realities of spring. But considering this is supposed to be the snowiest month of the year, I don't really mind a few days of on-again, off-again rain showers. Especially when my legs are tired. The rain (or threat of rain) gives me a good excuse to skip an evening run.

But then, right after supper last night, the rain seemed to stop, and so we decided to all head out for a walk around the block.

Some of us walked. Others skipped.

As I watched Jeff work with Gus, trying to teach him to walk nicely when all he really wanted to do was lunge forward and run with the kids...

I couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu. Was it really just seven months ago that Gus was this small and the grass this green?


Back to the present... Gus did fairly well on our jaunt around the neighborhood. I'm sure Jeff's iron grasp of the leash, combined with a choker collar, had nothing to do with it.

The fat old, retriever down the block apparently has deemed Gus to be no threat. The dog, which is kept in by an invisible fence, used to terrorize Maggie, barking as it ran along the edge of its yard. But when we passed by last night, the dog didn't even raise his head from the driveway.

As we neared the home stretch, AJ finally convinced Jeff to let him try holding the leash. I think that lasted about a block before Gus figured out that AJ wasn't as strong or strict as Jeff.

One of these days I'm going to take Gus with me when I go on a shorter run. Jeff's already done it once or twice. Gus has so much energy, it'd be good for him. It'd be good for me, too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy spring!

As the seasons go in our area of the world, most don't line up with when the calendar says they should start. Summer comes close, waiting until late June to give us consistently warm temperatures. Fall seems to come early and winter debuts long, long before December 21 and usually lasts long past the official start of spring.


But not this year.

On this first day of spring, I can say – for the first time in my life – that spring has come early. And what better way to celebrate than with ice cream cones and a trip to the playground at Gordy's Warming House.

This was Sunday night. The temperature was still in the low 60s as the sun was setting. AJ took a break from playing catch with Dad to enjoy his "Superman" ice cream (I've never figured out what's super about it, other than it turns his tongue super blue.)

Sydney, meanwhile, took a couple of licks, then plopped the cone in the back-up cup I'd grabbed. She had to make the most of the last few minutes of daylight and headed back to the playground. If ever there was a reminder of how much she's grown – in size and ability – it's this shot.

Out of habit from last year, I stood below, ready to catch her, but I needn't have bothered. She's got the climbing wall mastered. And boy, is she proud of that fact!

Down she'd slide, and then back to the climbing wall she'd run.

AJ and Jeff eventually finished their ice cream and squeezed in a few more throws, and then at last it was time to go.

It's so odd to think that less than three weeks ago we were dealing with a blizzard, and now we've had multiple days (more than I think we had all last spring) with temperatures in the 70s. Will we still see more snow this spring? Quite probably. But it sure is a blessing to be able to wear shorts in the meantime.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A little more hockey

When AJ saw "Jeff - hockey" written on the calendar this weekend, he questioned Jeff using the language of a Mite 1. "You have a jamboree?"

Sort of. It was a tournament organized as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

I discovered it's a lot harder to take pictures of Jeff than it's been to photograph AJ. Jeff and his teammates skate a lot faster.

And so most shots of him were blurry, unless he was standing relatively still getting ready for the face-off.

The kids were very exciting to go to Daddy's games. Note that I didn't say they were excited to watch the games. They usually lasted about a period before the lure of the concession stand and games won out.

And since it was warmer to watch the game from the area where the games were set up, I generally caved in to their wishes.

Playing air hockey with his sister, AJ seemed to spend more time waiting for the disc to reach him.

Sydney's arms were just a little too short.

The final game of the tournament was a 4-4 tie when the final buzzer sounded, and so they had a shoot out. Alas, Jeff's team could use a little work in that area. The final score - they lost - 6-4, bringing their tournament record to one win and two losses.

AJ took the loss hard.

Sydney tried to comfort her brother, chirping out a nice little line she no doubt heard on a well-meaning cartoon. "It's okay to lose," she told AJ, "as long as you had fun playing."

"But I didn't get to play," was AJ's come back. "So I didn't have fun!"

And then more tears. "Now they'll never win a trophy!"

I assured him that Dad and his teammates were not crying over the final score. Just to make sure, Sydney ran to Jeff and gave him a hug when he emerged from the locker room. "Daddy, did you cry?"

It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year when, as a Mite II, AJ starts playing in games where scores are counted.