Friday, May 31, 2013

Roasting memories

Have you ever noticed that the first s'more of the season just seems to taste better? We've been waiting for the chance for a backyard campfire. But first it was too cold, then there were burning restrictions followed by so much rain the wood was too wet.

But at last, this past weekend, conditions were as good as we figured we might get.

We had a small crisis when we couldn't find the roasting sticks. Jeff had cleaned the garage a few days earlier, which means they may be lost or buried forever. But we convinced Sydney a regular stick would do just fine. And once she blew out the flames on her marshmallow,

she realized we were right.

AJ was busy playing a one person game of baseball in the front yard, and so skipped most of the campfire experience. But he did manage to overhear when we started roasting marshmallows, and so briefly came down to join us.

He also stepped in to help find more sticks.

I don't remember what Sydney was laughing about here. But her smile is too cute not to include.

After a while, Sydney headed up to the house with AJ, which meant Jeff and I could sit together and relax. Just the two of us. It often makes me sad to realize how quickly the kids are getting older and more capable to do things themselves. But sometimes it's quite nice.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The graduate

My eyes got a little moist walking into the school, imagining how quickly the next 12 years will fly by. But after that I did okay. No tears as I watched my baby "graduate" from kindergarten.

This was a very exciting day for Sydney. Thank goodness we'd been through one of these before with AJ, so I remembered how many parents surprised their daughters with flowers. I also remembered the tissue paper corsage, and so bought her a wrist corsage instead.

Here they are, the class of 2025. (Look for Sydney in the middle of the second row.)

The ceremony included a lot of singing. Also, each child approached the microphone, stated their name, their favorite part about kindergarten and what they want to be when they grow up. If these kids stick with their current plans, there will be no shortage of teachers in about 20 years. There were also be a whole lot of artists, police officers and even a few spies. I loved the well-rounded nature of the interests expressed, particularly the kids who said they wanted to be artist when they grew up but listed science as they favorite class.

And then there's Sydney's dream: 

I missed the beginning part of Sydney's speech because the boy in front of her suddenly had a panic attack and ran back to the bleachers, giving me not enough time to turn on the camera. She spoke quickly, so in case you need the translation, her favorite thing is art, and when she grows up she wants to be a supermodel. I was hoping a bunch of her friends would all say the same thing. That would explain where she got the idea. But no. My darling is an independent thinker. She was the only one out of all four classes to have come up with that career goal.

At the end, the principal solemnly shook each child's hand and presented each with a diploma. Video probably would have worked better, but here's the moment:

One last fun photo, Sydney with two of her "BFFs": Jaydon and Ceci.

 I would love to get a similar shot of these girls at their high school graduation. But I definitely can  wait. Just the thought is again making my eyes moist.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No, you didn't happen to mention the tadpoles in your room

File this one in the category of conversations I never imagined having, but probably should have since I have a child...

Last night at bedtime, AJ suddenly announced to me, "Oh, I forgot to show you something, my tadpoles."

"Your what?"

"I got tadpoles at school," he said, as if he'd forgotten to show me his latest library book or something. "I told Mrs. Harms you wouldn't mind if I had some."

I tried to keep my expression neutral. By now he had walked to his dresser to show me a glass - a glass I have frequently used that will now never touch my lips again - filled with tiny tadpoles swimming laps around the bottom.

Many questions swirled in my mind. The first to come out: "How did you get those home?"

"In a plastic cup. I carried it on the bus."

He didn't ride the bus yesterday, which means these mini amphibians - all 13 of them, assuming none have yet escaped - have been inhabiting my house for at least 24 hours.

"What do you plan to feed these things?" I finally asked.

"Probably just grass," was his answer. Before I could point out that probably wouldn't work, he added, "I already got them pond water, so they can eat some stuff in there."

"And what do you plan to do with them?"

"I'm just going to keep them in a box with holes in it until they grow and then I'll let them go in our pond."

Jeff at last joined the conversation. "I think we should let them go sooner than that."

AJ wants to keep them longer, and suddenly my inner tomboy - the one that kept two salamanders as pets for years when I was his age - came to life. It would be interesting to watch the tadpoles grow into toads.

AJ couldn't read my thoughts and so suggested a compromise. "Can we just keep them until Sunday?"

If they live that long, sure thing. And if I can figure what to feed them, and how to guarantee their glass doesn't get tipped, we might keep them a week or so longer. Keep your fingers crossed that I won't be writing a subsequent post about toads missing in my house.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Career plans

Sydney "graduates" from kindergarten later this week (she'll still have two more weeks of school, but the special ceremony the teachers put together to make parents all emotional and weepy eyed is this Friday.) As part of the show, each child walks across the stage and says their name, their favorite thing about kindergarten and what they want to be when they grow up.

When AJ was in kindergarten, he planned to do about a dozen different occupations. Sydney, perhaps influenced by her brother's ever-changing career plans, has taken a wait and see approach. "There's lots of time to decide," she's told me, demonstrating wisdom beyond her years.

Until about two weeks ago. Suddenly she figured out her purpose in life. My brilliant and talented child wants to be... drum roll please... 

A super model.

Please know that I've done nothing to encourage this. Though I quickly tried to find some good in this.

"Mommy," she asks, "Can I have an Oreo?"

"Not if you want to be a supermodel. They only eat super healthy food."

"Can I have some fruit then?"

"That's a much better idea."

Then, the child who likes to demonstrate how to catch snowflakes on her tongue, showed me something new last night - an art technique that I'm assuming she learned in school. And suddenly I see three possible career paths for her. Take a look:

Perhaps she'll be an art teacher like her Grandpa David. Or with that ability to demonstrate and then jump to the finished product, perhaps she'll be the host of her own cooking show. Or, using that technique, maybe she'll become a psychologist and create her own Rorshack test.

I don't want to discourage her dreams, but knowing how much she hates sitting still to have her hair combed, I don't see her lasting long in the modeling industry.

P.S. Grandpa David, if Sydney should happen to give you one of these masterpieces this weekend, remember to act surprised.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I'm sensing a pattern here. A very wet pattern.

For the sake of basements everywhere, Sydney cannot celebrate her birthday ever again. I'm not suggesting she not live to see any more birthdays. We just can't acknowledge them.


Well, let's think back. Sydney's birthday is June 20. The eve of her birthday last year just happened to coincide with this little weather event we experienced that's since been termed a 500-year flood. 

Fast forward 11 months. During these final days of the school year, each of the kids with a summer birthday gets to have a special day to bring a treat to class. Tomorrow is Sydney's pretend birthday. And what's happening now on her fake birthday eve? 

A torrential downpour.

I'd planned on stopping at Cub for cupcakes and a few other things on my way home from work. But somehow during my 30-second mad dash to my car through the pouring rain, I forgot about the cupcakes. As I shook the water out of my hair, I thought to myself, there is nothing I could possibly need that's worth making a trip in this weather.

And so I headed home. Sitting at a stoplight watching a small river flow past me near the curb, I couldn't help but tense up as I imagined what might be happening in my basement. I wonder how long it will take before I can listen to rain without imaging worst case scenarios.

About half way home, I remembered the cupcakes, and so dutifully headed to a different grocery store and picked up the treats. In the rain.

Sydney was thrilled. She didn't seem too excited about the idea of no more birthdays. But I figure wait a few years. About the time she turns 29, she'll be all for it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't judge me based on my children's choice of snacks

I can only hope that my children's elementary school teachers are the understanding and forgiving sorts. When AJ shows up for school wearing hideously mismatched clothes, I have to believe his teacher will recognize that I let him pick out his clothes himself.

But I'm more nervous about what the teachers think at snack time. In kindergarten, the teacher sends home a monthly calendar and each child is assigned a day to bring snacks for the class. Last month, it was about two days after Sydney's assigned day that I remembered to look at the schedule. I wonder how many friends Sydney lost that day?

By first grade and beyond, it becomes a daily complication. Each child is responsible for bringing their own healthy snack every day.

AJ is weird about that. And I say that in the most loving way possible, considering I've been dealing with his love/hate relationship with various fruits and other treats all year.

Last year, strawberries were always a top choice. This year, he doesn't like them at all. We've been through the grapes stage, the yellow apples stage and the granola bar stage. Now we've hit watermelon as his top choice. In a pinch he'll bring sugar snap peas ("Just not too many, mom.") Pineapple is a no (Too sour!). Bananas are a no (They get squished in my backpack.).

One recent day, when I clearly needed to get to the store to stock up on produce, I looked through the fridge trying to find something, anything, that he would want. There were still a couple yellow apples left over from his obsession with those. No, he doesn't like them any more. Ditto with the granola bars in the cupboard.

In desperation, I asked if he would just like a sandwich. Sure, was his reply. But what to put on it? He doesn't like peanut butter, and anything with cold cuts and cheese would be questionable by later in the afternoon when snack time rolls around. So finally I suggested butter. Yes, he would love a butter sandwich.

And so I sent my child to school with a piece of bread with butter on it. Isn't that what prison camp rations include? Let's just hope the teacher doesn't look too closely.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Missing the big picture

It's tough for kids to get older. One minute their cute little preschoolers saying the darnedest things and filling their mom's blog day after day. And then one day they wake up and discover they've been replaced. By their cousins.

We went to the Cities this past weekend and had a great time visiting my parents and my siblings. And when we got back and I looked at the photos I'd taken, I couldn't help but notice that like all but about three of them focus on my brother's kids. They're just too cute.

Even when they're making funny faces. Adorable.

My kids did make it into a couple of shots.

As long as they were playing with my brother's kids.

It was the first time we'd seen my snowbird parents since Christmas. So you'd think there'd be a lot of photos of them. Think again. There's my mom in the background.

And here's as much of a photo as I got of my dad.

I did get one photo that none of my brother's kids appears in. Clearly, I wasn't the one who took it.

So I guess that's the trick. The next time I go for a visit, I need to hand off my camera to someone else.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shoe hunt

Have you seen that Mother's Day card that says something like "Hey Mom, on your special day, take it easy. Don't worry about the laundry, dishes and vacuuming." And then on the inside it says, "Because it'll all still be here tomorrow."?

I think I've given that card to my Mom. At least once.

It's sad how true it is.

I started the laundry this morning before leaving for work. Came home and cooked dinner and then cleaned up the kitchen. About the time I moved on to vacuuming the living room, I heard Sydney comment to AJ, "Dad does the most work around here because he's the dad."

I must have mis-heard her over the sound of the vacuum.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out a better system of organizing shoes. This is what we've currently got, and it's just not working.

Note that the only shoes of mine in the above pile are the black flip flops at the bottom of the shot, as well as the lone brown boot in the far background, which is only there because the dog dropped it there.

I was searching through the massive shoe pile one morning last week, desperately trying to find one of Sydney's missing shoes. I told her she needed to help me look.

Five minutes passed. No shoe. By then, there was also no sign of Sydney. I called out for her and asked her if she'd found her shoe yet. She hadn't started looking for her shoe, she told me. She was still looking for a magnifying glass, which apparently she felt was necessary in order to search for the shoe.


Remember me mentioning all the work we did cleaning the house last weekend? This is the kids' play table, and believe me it's remarkably clear of junk compared to usual.

It was while staring at the table that I happened to see the missing shoe just barely sticking out from beneath the table. I bent down to retrieve it. And that's when I discovered where all the toys that typically cover the table have gone:

I need a better system. Or a maid. Or a whole lot of consecutive Mother's Days so that I can live in denial.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring music

It's a sign that the school year is coming to an end. Or that the people of our town have come out of hibernation. The annual elementary spring music program. How else could you explain the 1,000+ people (ourselves included) who willingly subjected themselves to an hour and 15 minutes sitting on hard wooden bleachers (the alternative was hard metal folding chairs.)

At least it wasn't hot in the gym. 

This year's theme was current day pop songs. And the kids did a good enough job with them that Sydney, sitting next to me, recognized the songs and wanted to sing along.

If you can't pick out AJ in the above photo, here's a close-up:

They were singing "Say Hey" - great song lyrics if you want a photo that looks like your child is smiling.

Here's a sample of what they sounded like: 

For the grand finale, all the kids (grades 1-6) came back into the gym to sing together Phillip Phillips' "Home". As luck would have it, he ended up right down in front of us. But was directed to face the folding chair crowd. But hey, at least a I got a good shot of our friend Ethan.

AJ says he liked last year's disco-themed songs better. They may have been more fun to sing, but from the audience's perspective, this year's concert was much better. At age 8, he still smiles and raises his hand in an acknowledging wave when he picks us out in the crowd. It's a little more low-key response than previous years.We'll have to see how his attitude changes by third grade.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Maybe I should believe her when she says her tummy hurts

Random thoughts running through my head this morning:

"Shoot! I still haven't washed the floor in the kitchen and dining room."

"I again don't have enough time to blog."

With massive heave, Sydney solved both issues for me.

I guess she's not done with the stomach bug quite yet.

I probably should start believing her when she says her tummy doesn't feel so good.

Sydney, as I mentioned yesterday, was sick this past weekend. But she seemed fine by Monday and went to school. She ate dinner last night - no problem. This morning, she ate a bigger than normal amount of cereal and then asked for more. I figured she must be refueling after not eating as much as usual the last few days. All seemed well, and then she announced her tummy hurt a little.

"You'll be fine," I assured her, figuring she was just trying to get out of going to school.

A few minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, I told the kids to get shoes and coats on. And that's when Sydney tossed her cookies. Cookie Crisp cereal, to be exact. All over the floor.

She stayed remarkably throughout. Her brother did not handle it as well.

I wish I'd had a camera.

Hand over his mouth, eyes wide with horror, AJ could only stare at the front door that was all too close to the remnants of Sydney's breakfast. Calculating that the bus would be here any moment he announced, "I have to go out a different door."

I sent Sydney into the bathroom and did my best to clean up the mess and keep the dog out of it while calling Jeff to begin comparing schedules. He headed home so that I could work in the morning, and then we switched off at lunch.

And so here I am. My kitchen and dining room floor are now freshly cleaned. I've got time to blog. And it's 75 degrees and sunny. So it's really not all that bad.

As for Sydney, she wants a hot dog to eat. I suggested crackers instead. She responded, "No thank you. I think my tummy needs time to settle."

And she wonders why I don't always believe her.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Star Writer

What a hectic weekend! We did some major spring cleaning and de-cluttering, during which Sydney started complaining she had a tummy ache. I, of course, assumed she was just trying to get out of helping with the work. I don't know who would have taught her that technique. (If my mom and sister are reading this, don't answer that!)

But then she threw up, so I finally believed her, and spent the rest of the weekend caring for a sick child. She's better now. She's moved from the actually sick stage to the milking if for all it's worth stage. I'm not sure which stage is worse.

I'm saying all this by way of explaining my lack of blogging. In fact, today, I'm going to let AJ take over by totally plagiarizing a writing assignment he aced. (And I would have said that even if he hadn't received a perfect score. Read it and you'll understand why.)

In case clicking on the image to enlarge it still doesn't make it legible, here's what he wrote:

Jeff Kazel is one of the bravest dads in america. And is a police lieutenant. He is the leader of many police officers.
Before he was that he was a soldier.
When he's at home he likes to play hockey a lot. that's why he's one of the bravest dads in the country.

Yes, I see a few minor corrections from the teacher. (And I might have made a few more.) But how can you not give a perfect score to a child who so idolizes his dad? I give him bonus points just for attempting to spell lieutenant.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bat's got your tongue?

Our seasons have changed. Yes, we may be experiencing a slight relapse in temperatures right now, and yes, the Wild are still in the play-offs. But there's been a definite shift in focus at our house.

The hockey net now serves as back stop for the pitches AJ misses. He (AJ, not the net) seems to have gotten a little rusty since last summer. But that just gives Jeff more practice to perfect his pitching form with wiffle balls.

Watching the boys play this past Sunday, I couldn't help but notice something about AJ's tongue.

He cannot swing the bat without sticking out his tongue.

These are not continuous shots of the same at bat. He does it every single time.

It's kind of like that question "can you sneeze with your eyes open?" For AJ, can you hit the ball with your lips together?

Apparently not.

It's good that his facial muscles get a workout right along with the rest of his body. His expressiveness continues while rounding the bases.