Friday, September 28, 2012

This is the life

"This is the life," AJ declared last night as he raked leaves that had fallen in the yard on the side of the house.

Funny how this one particular chose can seem like such a treat.

It probably has something to do with the ever-building anticipation for what would happen next.

Ready... Set...


Of course, that was followed by AJ doing what big brothers do: stuffing leaves in his sister's hood and down her back.

Sydney thought it was funny at first.

But quickly grew tired of it. And so AJ resorted to throwing leaves in  the air.

While Sydney attempted to do to me what her brother had just done to her. Um... no thank you.

And then it was time to do it all again: Rake the leaves into another pile. 
And then jump, throw leaves, wrestle and giggle.
Worth mentioning... did you notice who was in a lot of the photos... running loose and sticking close to the kids as opposed to disappearing into the neighborhood?

I decided to try a little experiment with Gus last night. I let him loose from the back yard fence. And then ignored him. As expected, he took off running. I told the kids not to chase him but rather to continue playing in our yard. We kept an eye on him through the trees as he sniffed around the neighbor's yard. And then, sure enough, he decided what we were doing seemed like a lot more fun and so he returned on his own.
We praised him, and played with him, and totally tired him out - so much so that he actually went to the front door and waited to go inside for some water.
Yes, there's still hope for Gus.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The more things change...

It's a good thing I blog. Otherwise I'd never remember so many of the awesome moments I've had with my kids. Snuggling with Sydney at bedtime last night, I know she said a couple of adorable things. But then I fell asleep before I wrote them down, and now I can only remember one of them.

Sydney: I will always love you forever.

Me: (giving her a big hug) I will always love you forever, too.

Sydney: Will you watch my kids when I get big?

Five years old and she's already buttering me up in hopes of getting free babysitting!

Because I can't remember what else to include here, on a whim I started looking at what I wrote about at the end of September in other years. In 2008 (You can take a look back here) I was writing about Sydney's inability to sleep through the night - thank goodness that's no longer an issue - and about AJ (at age 3.5) wanting to play baseball outside after dinner and predicting he'd someday play for the Minnesota Twins and be on TV.

Some things change. Some things never do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Aging outlooks

Isn't it funny how perspective changes as we get older. That annoyance of having to pull out your drivers license at the liquor store when you're in your mid-20s, becomes the highlight of your day when you're 40. "I got carded!"
It's a similar story at bedtime. "Bedtime is the worst time of the day," AJ complained last night. "I wish it was morning so we could play."

"You just wait," I told him. "When you're my age, it's the opposite. Bedtime is a good thing, and it's when the alarm goes off in the morning that you dread."

"Sleeping just seems like a waste of time," AJ said. "I have other things I want to do more."

He continued, "you probably like bedtime because it gives you a break from your kids."

That boy is pretty smart!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

And the award for silliest hair goes to...

I love having my hair combed by someone other than me. When I'm tired, it relaxes me as much as a massage would.
Sydney can often be talked into styling my hair. And even though she doesn't necessarily have the gentlest touch, it's still better than nothing.
Sunday evening, I was watching TV with the kids during the final hour before bedtime, and I asked Sydney if she'd like to style my hair.
"Sure!" was her enthusiastic response. And then she did nothing, distracted by whatever cartoon we were watching. I reminded her a few minutes later, but she remained enthralled with Sponge Bob.
In desperation, I turned to AJ, "How would you like to give me silly hair, tonight?"
"Silly hair?" Sydney interupted. "I'll give you silly hair!"
It's all in how you sell it!
And so she happily twisted and clipped my hair, and then took a really blurry picture when she was done.
And then I did the same thing for her (except for the blurry picture part).

And then we giggled and showed Dad what we'd done, and giggled some more. And then we took out all the clips and did it again.
Sydney decided our styles needed names. So this is the silly fountain style:

And mine is the silly rainbow style.

Our styles were so silly that Sydney decided we deserved a trophy. And so she drew one for us.

Later, as we snuggled in bed, she declared that Monday night would be fancy hair style night. We did that last night, but didn't bother taking pictures. It turns out there's really not much difference between silly and fancy.
But I got my hair styled two nights in a row. Score!

Monday, September 24, 2012

All in a morning's workout

Week two of gymnastics for Sydney was just as fun as the first. And even harder to photograph with the relatively slow shutter speed on my iPhone camera.
There was a lot of bouncing and jumping. On trampolines, mats and spring boards. My
little daredevil loved it.
AJ, meanwhile, came along this week and discovered it wasn't half bad. True, Sydney's gymnastics class doesn't take place in the back room of a pizza restaurant, like her dance lessons did; so his chances of getting pizza for his next meal are greatly diminished. However, he did find plenty to do in the side room. For instance, he was able to lift small weights, and work out on an exercise bike.
Even better, there was a phooseball table.

Of course, Sydney's gymnastics lessons suddenly didn't seem so fun to her once she saw the fun her brother was having. So when class ended, I let her play for a few minutes.

And then I figured out a way to make this work to my advantage. Next week, when I'm trying to hustle her out the door, I'll simply remind her that if we get there early, she'll have time to play in the side room. She'll flip!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What they watch on TV...

I can tell fall is here. How? Because AJ's after dinner activity of choice is no longer baseball in the front yard. It's playing hockey in the basement.

That happened last night. And Jeff agreed to play with him. And Sydney agreed to go with them so she could be the pretty cheerleader, or something.

And that's how I found myself alone in the living room with the TV remote in my hand. Bye-bye cartoons. Mom is seeing what else is on.

Ever hear of "What happens in Vegas"? I know it's a tag line for the tourist industry there, but it's also a nearly five year old movie (I go to non-animated movies even less than I watch non-animated TV) with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher - a romantic comedy. And so I started watching.

A half hour or so later I was still watching when my hockey players and cheerleaders returned from the basement. AJ plopped himself on the couch and started watching the movie with me.

I don't know what it's official rating was, but this mom deemed the banter... between characters who'd gotten drunk and married and then won a jackpot in Las Vegas and now are being forced by a judge to try and make the marriage work if they want any of their winnings...  as not appropriate for seven year olds.

But before I could say that, AJ started bouncing up and down on the couch, "I love this part. This is really funny!"

"You've seen this movie before?" I was stunned.

"Yeah, I watched it with Dad when I was in like kindergarten."

Oh, how lovely.

What happens in Vegas supposedly stays in Vegas. What happens on TV stays in my kids' memories for a long, long time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

So long, soccer season

Just as the years seem to pass by more quickly as I get older, so too do the kids' sports seasons. Didn't we just start soccer a few short weeks ago? When the weather at game time was 40 degrees warmer than it was Thursday night?
Okay, I guess it was more than a few weeks ago. But it's still done now.
AJ has made remarkable progress this year. I've liked all the coaches he's had, but the ones this year were particularly good at reaching him - giving him just enough praise, and just enough criticism to really help him improve, both as a player and as a leader.

AJ certainly throws his entire body into the game. Now if we could just teach him to keep his head up up, and roll his socks down (at least below his knees), we'd be getting somewhere. 

His coach recommended we look into an off-season soccer league for him, but it turns out he's about six months too young. But the seed has been planted. Starting next year, soccer season may start overlapping with hockey.
And then there's Sydney. Is she yawning?
Sydney had fun, which of course is the most important thing. (Along with the treats and juice boxes after the game.) But she never quite developed that intense desire to score. She likes doing corner kicks. 

And any time a pile of kids tripped, she always seemed to be part of it.
In the final games, she got a little braver at entering the fray to kick the ball.

I like to think she's just a good team player: as happy to celebrate her teammates goals as if they were her own. For alas, like her mother who played basketball for a year without ever making a basket, Sydney went goal-less for the whole season.
There's always next year. And in the meantime, there's going to be hockey. Yes, she's now signed up to be a Mite 1.
I have a feeling that all too soon, when it's 40 degree colder than it was Thursday night, I'll really be missing the soccer season.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The confidence of a kindergartner is such a wonderful thing. Everything is exciting. Everything is an opportunity. It's too bad we're not all willing to tackle life's challenges with such enthusiasm and total lack of fear of failure.
Sydney mentioned last night that in gym class, if they're really good, they'll get to have free game day. Hearing this, I asked, "So did your shoes fit okay today?"
Yes, Sydney confirmed. She'd gotten her shoes back. And what did she do with the one that was too small?
"I returned it to its rightful owner."


While reading a story with her recently on the couch, Sydney stretched out her legs and accidentally knocked a toy off the coffee table. Wanting to rescue the toy before Gus could get it, my high tech child asked, "Mom, can you pause the story for just a minute?


Meanwhile, mistakes? There's just no such thing.

While making a birthday card for her friend Addie a few weeks ago, Sydney accidentally misspelled a word. No problem! "I'll just turn it into a big flower," Sydney announced. "She won't notice at all."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is it possible to outgrow gym shoes in less than two weeks?

Can you hear crashing sounds coming from my house? We are shattering records left and right this new school year. For instance:
1 day: that's how long it took for Sydney to bring home her first school fundraising form. That's right! Her very first day of kindergarten and a packet for selling cookie dough came home in her back pack.
7 days: how long it took Sydney to catch her first cold in kindergarten.
2 days: how long it took me to catch Sydney's cold.
8 days: how long it took Sydney to start complaining to the teacher that her new gym shoes were too tight.
Barely a week after she started kindergarten, Sydney asked me at bedtime if her teacher had talked to me about her gym shoes because they were too small.
It was the first I'd heard of it, and so the next day I e-mailed her teacher and asked what was up with Sydney's shoes. Her teacher wrote back, apologizing that she'd forgotten to mention it, and then confirmed Sydney was complaining that her shoes were too tight.
That night, the shoes came home in Sydney's back pack. I pulled one out and sure enough, size 10.
Well, of course they're too small. Sydney's a size 12. Had I somehow grabbed the wrong pair after we'd tried them all on?
But then I noticed something interesting about this pair of shoes.

Yeah, I bet one of those shoes WAS too tight. Now I wondered if I'd mixed the shoes up between boxes when we'd been trying them on. Though that didn't seem right because usually the pairs are tied together, plus the Target clerks are usually pretty careful about checking that the shoes match.
And then I happened to drop the smaller of the two shoes and it landed upside down.

A ha! Apparently I'm not the only mom who shops at Target. Do you suppose Sydney has a classmate (Just a hunch... someone with the last name Hagelin) who's got a problem with a shoe being too big?
I looked inside the larger shoe:

Mystery solved!
I'm still stuck with a cold, and a cookie dough fundraiser. But at least I don't have to go shoe shopping again. At least not quite yet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In case of emergency...

There's nothing like slicing open your finger to learn certain things about your children. For instance, Sydney stays fairly calm in the face of crisis. And AJ? Let's just say he's not the one you want as back up in a situation involving blood.
Monday morning started out relatively calm for us. I was getting supper ready in the crock pot, when I managed to cut my finger while removing the top of a can of cream of mushroom soup.
I knew instantly it was a deep and long slice. As I stuck my finger under the faucet and gritted my teeth, I called out something like, "Oh, that's bad! Somebody get me a Band-aid!"
"What happened Mom?" AJ wanted to know.
"I cut my finger."
"Are we going to have to go to the emergency room or something?"
Sydney dutifully ran to the closet and grabbed a Band-aid. Never mind that it was a Muppets Band-aid, she got the job done. She even added a helpful tip, "Don't get lotion in it!"
"Thanks, Syd!"
AJ, meanwhile, could only hover nervously. He'd gotten close enough to see the blood gushing down my hand, and acknowledged, "it's kind of freaking me out."
Sensing a learning opportunity, I asked, "If this had been really bad, what should you have done?"
"Call 9-1-1," AJ answered immediately.
"Right. And do you know how to call Dad on his cell phone?" (Jeff had already left for work and missed the fun.)
"Um, no."
"Do you remember where the phone numbers are so you could call him?"
"Not really."
Thank goodness it was only my little finger.
I used a paper towel to at last get the bleeding to stop, applied the Muppets Band-aid and resumed my work.
AJ, meanwhile, wanted breakfast - a frozen sausage egg biscuit or something that needs to be microwaved. He knows to wrap it in paper towel, but couldn't quite reach the dispenser to pull off a sheet. I reached over and grabbed a towel for him. As he started to wrap it around his breakfast sandwich, he noted, "Ew, there's blood on this."
Figuring I must have dripped earlier, I grabbed him another.
"There blood on this one, too."
That's when I looked at my hand. It could have been in a horror movie. The cut had re-opened, and Kermit and friends had done little to stop the blood from smearing all over my palm and... yes... the handle of the spatula I'd been using.
I thought AJ was going to pass out.
Eventually all was cleaned up, the bleeding stopped, breakfast was eaten and supper made. And all that excitement was contained by Miss Piggy on my pinky.
All at last seemed under control. And then I looked out the window and noted the bus driving away. While my kids still stood at my side.
Aren't Mondays swell?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Better than an egg roll

In one of my parents' many photo albums, there exist pictures of me at a young age demonstrating my total lack of ability at doing a backwards roll in gymnastics. I was probably about Sydney's age when my parents signed me up for what turned out to be my only gymnastics class. While my older sister seemed to get the hang of it all, and stayed with the sport through junior high, I peaked and ended with that first class. My toughest tumbling accomplishment: tucking into a ball and rolling sideways in a move the teacher called "the egg roll".
Sydney's already got me beat.

A few weeks ago, as we debated which day of the week would work best for Sydney to go to dance class, she announced she didn't want to go to dance class any more.

Fine by me.

She then decided she wanted to try gymnastics instead. Coincidentally, I had just signed us up for a family membership at the YMCA, which offers gymnastics. Perfect!

Until a boy in her class told her she wouldn't like gymnastics. Why? Because the water was too deep.

It took some convincing, but at last she believed me that Brock must be trying to trick her. There's no water in gymnastics.

And that's how I ended up spending an hour Saturday morning watching Sydney's attempts at somersaults, hand stands and cartwheels. She has plenty of room for improvement.

She also got to to walk, jump and turn on the balance beam.

As an added bonus, there's a playground with a slide right outside. Sydney can't wait for next week!

Until then, I can work with her on hand stands and cartwheels. I may even try to teach her my specialty move, which I was quite shocked wasn't part of the initial lesson. But then again, it takes some skill and practice to perfect the egg roll. Her instructor must be saving that for a later session.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bus safety tip

Sydney came home from school yesterday announcing she'd watched a video about bus safety.
She doesn't need to watch any videos. She has an overly cautious big brother who's got it all figured out. And he shares his wealth of knowledge with her whether she wants to hear it or not.
That was evident the first day of school as the bus came into view, heading down the street toward our driveway. Sydney excitedly dashed from the house. But before she was even half way across the yard, AJ caught up to her, stuck out his arm like a crossing guard to block her and shouted, "Sydney, wait! You have to stand behind the crack!"

That's right. AJ has been using a crack in our driveway's asphalt as his mark of wear to safely stand until the bus comes to a complete stop and opens its door.

I guess it's a good thing we didn't reseal our driveway this summer.

I don't know how long AJ has been using this jagged line as his guide. I remember wondering last spring why he was standing so far back on our driveway. Now I know, and as long as the bus driver doesn't mind the extra 15+ seconds it takes them to walk halfway down the driveway, I'm not going to say anything.

And clearly the visual cue has stuck with his younger sister. For the last two mornings, Sydney has eagerly headed out the door before AJ, announcing, "I'll meet you at the crack!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11th

I didn't attend this year's 9-11 remembrance ceremony. I've only missed it once before. That was the year (2003) Jeff was deployed to Bosnia.

Maybe if the kids hadn't been in school. Maybe if I hadn't been so busy at work. Maybe...

The annual ceremony has become one of my most consistently photographed events each year. As I look back through the albums and computer drives, it strikes me how young Jeff looked that first year.

And how much spare time I had to scrapbook it all.

So that was 2002.

The next time I took pictures was in 2005. This photo still hangs on AJ's bedroom wall.

My photo-taking efforts lapsed for a few more years. I recall one year attending the ceremony on my lunch break, and another year doing all I could to keep a newborn and toddler quiet through the solemn event. I'm pretty sure it was the following year I was thrilled to again be able to attend without kids.

The location has moved around a few times. From the Bayfront, to the Depot, and, in 2009, to Wade Stadium.

(Yes, I know how to stage a photo opp.)

By 2010, AJ was starting to ask questions about what happened on September 11th, and I found myself dealing with the issue parents had been facing since 2001: how do you explain something so evil to an innocent child?

Last year, the event moved again, this time to the DECC. I guess technically I missed that ceremony. AJ had had soccer practice and by the time we got there it was all over, other than the honor guards packing up their gear.

I look back on these pictures and can't help but marvel at how much life we've been blessed to experience since 2001. Which drives home the realization all the more of how much the victims and their families have been deprived of these last 11 years.

Life has gone on.

Part of me is grateful that there's been less emphasis on the anniversary this year. AJ hasn't thought about it, which means he hasn't asked any questions, and Sydney has no idea of the significance. And that makes me feel guilty. Forgetting is all to easy. It's remembering that hurts. I can't help but wonder if by skipping this year's ceremony, if somehow I'm taking the easy way out. I did forget - for the first time - to wear the red, white and blue ribbon given to me by a co-worker at the time at the Aquarium.

There is no single correct answer for what's the best way to remember and honor those who died that day. For each person, that answer will be different.

For me, as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to hug my husband and children and take a moment to remember how lucky we are to be here together. That's my answer.

We must never forget those who died. But we as survivors must also remember - and be grateful for - the blessings that have come since then.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Second grade analysis

Second grade is easier than first grade. That's AJ's analysis so far. Sure, there's math homework now, and it includes story problems, but overall he's liking it.
"Mom, finally I have a teacher who understands it's a challenge for me to listen," he excitedly told me earlier this evening. As if it were a good thing.
"AJ, I'm pretty sure all of your teachers have figured that out."
"But she says if I look at her when she's talking, it might be easier for me to listen."
As look as he thinks she's wonderful, we'll just leave it at that.
Despite today's breakthrough, AJ would still prefer to be on summer vacation. "Why couldn't we just be born smart?" He wondered.
His biggest worry is that's he's going to get in trouble. He's such a cautious kid. I try to reassure him that as long as he listens and does his best he's going to do just fine. But I'm secretly thrilled that he has that much respect for authority.
His other gripe - his homework requires him to show his work. He not only has to solve math problems such as "Zeke bought 4 toys. Laura bought 7. How many more toys must Zeke buy to have as many toys as Laura?"
AJ has no problem solving the problem. It's the follow up question that causes issues. "Explain how you solved the problem."
I wish I'd taken a picture before I made him erase it and start over, because his initial explanation was, "I just know it."
But back to praises for his teacher. She's very good at positive reinforcement. Squint and you can see one of the projects AJ brought home.

AJ didn't care if we saw the front. He was more excited to show what had been written on the back.

As always, it'll be an interesting year.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

One more reason the State Fair is a hit

Last week I wrote about Sydney's favorite part of the fair being the big yellow slide. For AJ, it's the Minnesota Twins' booth. It's what he looked forward to the most and will no doubt be the part he remembers best.
They have a mini field of dreams set up, and kids get to play a couple innings, both batting and in the outfield. AJ was so overly confident of his abilities that he bragged he was going to get a home run as a switch hitter.
"Why don't you see if you can hit a home run batting right-handed?" I suggested, remembering that he hadn't batted particularly well the first time.
"But, Mom," he started to whine.
"Hit a home run batting normal," I said, "and then you can try switch hitting."
And so he got in line to hit, while I took Sydney to the bouncy house. (Look up my post from last year if you need to see a picture. It looks the same.)
Right about the time Sydney finished, it was at last AJ's turn to play. He swung hard...
and got a single. Undeterred, he waited until it was his turn in the rotation came again. And again he swung hard. And got a single.
In between at bats, he also took his turn in the field, running and diving with great (and often unnecessary) intensity. But he was having fun. He told me later he felt like he was in a real game and liked having all the people watching in the stands.
The game ended, but the line of kids waiting to play was short, so AJ asked if he could play again. I'm pretty sure he would have asked to play again even if the line had been long, but since it was short, we told him he could.
Again he stepped up to the plate and swung with all his might.
And hit yet another single. It was at this point Sydney's attention span ran out. Leaving Jeff to watch AJ, I took off with Sydney for some girl time. We visited the neighboring Bizarre, where Sydney found an adorable tutu with matching fairy wings. How could we pass that up? And once we bought it, how could she not immediately wear it?
We also checked out the flowers in the horticulture building (making more than a few people nervous, I suspect. The flowers were still being judged, and Sydney wanted to sniff them. Alas, we left all flowers unscathed.) Finally we made it back to the Twins booth where AJ had just finished his third game.
"Mom, I hit a home run!" He announced victoriously. "So next year I can bat left handed."
What a field of dreams this had turned out to be. And with that he turned his attention to pitching. Anyone who questions if he's giving 100 percent needs only to look at his facial expressions for confirmation.

Sydney decided she needed to give it a try. Let's just say she throws like a fairy princess.

I'm fairly certain she'll have a chance to improve next year. Because I'm willing to bet her brother will be dragging us back to this booth for a well-earned chance to bat left-handed.