Thursday, May 28, 2009

We've had some adventures since the last post. I had a work project that kept me away from home last Wed-Fri so John pulled single dad duty. We were very lucky to have the able assistance of Grandma and Grandpa, who took over my usual afternoon routine so we wouldn't have to have the boys stay extra hours at daycare. It was hard for me to be away, but it was a very busy trip, so not much time for pining. It was quite a luxury to have two consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep! John will get his taste at the end of June when he attends his annual conference for business newspapers.

Friday night was laundry night so we'd be ready to hop in the car Saturday morning for a trip to Milwaukee. Our newest niece/cousin, Abby, was being baptized Sunday and John and I are her godparents so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet her and visit with the rest of the family. We ran into a bit of trouble on the way there as we discovered too late in the process to change our route that the interstate bridge over the Mississippi River was closed headed east. The detour took us well south and added at least a half hour to the already four-hour trip. If we'd known in advance, we probably would have taken a different route. We stopped at a mid-point for a picnic lunch in a park we discovered while making this same trip last Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, Edward took a wrong step on a bouncy bridge and ended up with a bloody mouth, which really freaked him out. I'm sure it was painful, but the sight of his own blood really sets him off. (He's had frequent nosebleeds, so this is well documented.)

Some folks who were there with their own kids directed us to a nearby Walgreens, where we were able to buy some children's Tylenol which either helped or was quite an effective placebo. We gave him a dose and he fell asleep almost before we left the parking lot. We also used this opportunity to pick up "big sister" gifts for Abby's sisters, since it's hard to watch so many presents for your new baby sister. Edward got one too--further easing the oral wound. These bubble wands were fun and didn't spill as fast as regular bottles of bubbles. Of course there was still spillage, but they got some play time before that happened. Daniel was a little ticked that he didn't have one, but come on--that wand is way too big for his mouth. Luckily there were plenty of supplies on hand at Casa Sepersky.

This is what happens when you wake up at 5:45 and the hotel pool doesn't open until 7. Jam your face full of Cheerios and enjoy swigging a sippy cup. Also, talk to each other on the disconnected hotel room phones.

The baptism was lovely and it's always such a treat to be able to attend Mass with them because my brother-in-law is the church musician so we get to hear him sing. They had an ambitious family party after the Mass--carefully planned based on how many 9x13 pans (6) could fit in the oven simultaneously to warm the meal when we returned from church. The cousins had so much fun playing that nap time was abandoned--only the second or third time in Edward's life that he's skipped a nap. But at about 3:30 he asked my dad to take him up to his cousin's bed, where he promptly fell into a deep sleep, from which he had to be woken, forcefully at 5. (Daniel took a short car nap during this time while John and I took turns changing out of our church clothes back at the hotel.) After that we had some low-key play time (the rest of the family left), a simple supper for the kids and some TV zone-out time. Then back to the hotel for bed.

On Monday, Memorial Day, we all went to the Milwaukee County Zoo for the morning with the express purpose of exhausting the children so they would sleep for as much of the return drive as possible. It worked and we had a great time. This and the above pictures were taken on the zoo train, which, to Edward's way of thinking, trumped all the animals. "We got to ride a train and there were gates and lights and people had to wait!" The train crossings on the zoo paths were a close second to the train itself. They did run around quite a bit, but there also was a bit of chariot action going on with a single stroller with infant carrier, a double sit-and-stand stroller and a two-seat wagon to hold all five kids. The cousins mix-and-matched a bit so they each had turns in the various seats (except for Abby, of course, who pretty much slept through the whole thing. It was old-hat to her on her second zoo voyage in her young life--she's a month old!)

Another exciting part of the zoo trip was watching the bears play in the water in their exhibit. All the adults agreed it was the most activity we'd ever witnessed in a non-monkey zoo exhibit. Daniel was impressed, calling out "There's a bear!" which you can kind of hear (with a generous ear) at about the 20 second mark in this video:

And finally, another bit of hotel entertainment. We had a suite at the Staybridge Suites in Franklin, WI, a relatively new hotel designed for extended stay. We liked having separate sleeping accommodations for ourselves and the children. Also, the kitchen was handy. The boys were most enthralled with the phones (see above, breakfast photo) and the bathroom. We do not know what a "harbastore" is, but Edward identified it for his and Daniel's amusement:

Monday, May 18, 2009

We're embracing our agriculture roots here in Iowa. Last week Edward and Daniel helped me plant two tomato plants. On Saturday we all attended the Johnson County AgFest at our county fairgrounds. We're feeling very earthy these days.

The boys had already had lots of practice with digging, as there are several untended areas of our yard that I've let them use their plastic garden/sand tools in. I actually had plans to transplant various hostas from random places around the yard into an empty space next to the porch, but that has become a favorite digging spot, so I'll probably let it go for now. Maybe next year.

The tomatoes are an experiment because we don't have an ideal planting spot as I did in our old house. The two plants are in two different spots--one that probably gets too much water (low spot in the yard) and the other that might not get enough sun. We'll see if they can thrive in either spot and let that guide future planting. Also, the soil here has a high clay content, whereas the old house had rich, black, dirt. So we'll see. I'm hoping for at least a few tasty morsels in the heat of August. Basil will eventually go in as well, but lack of time and lots of rain last week has delayed further planting.

The AgFest was kind of a mini-county-fair with emphasis on kid-friendly activities. There were animals to pet, balloon animals to wear, a merry-go-round to ride and lots to eat! The calf Edward is petting here was just born May 1. It's amazing how resilient animals are--think of how helpless a four-week-old human is!

They had baby chicks, ducks and turkeys for the kids to look at and for older kids or adults to hold. You'll note that it was John who did the livestock handling. I've also cropped a bit tighter than I might have otherwise, but Grandma Kenyon was in this picture and she doesn't do PDP (public display of photography.)

This was a very small merry-go-round, and after one jaunt with Dad, we thought Daniel could probably handle it on his own. I worried that he might try to get down from the horse, but the ride operator was aware of this potential and ready to stop if necessary. He actually did very well as you can see from this casual pose.

And of course, no Iowa farm experience is complete without an American Gothic parody. This just cracks me up.

Speaking of which, Edward scored the blooper of the day when he got tired of high-fiving the bear mascots from a local bank and went around to pull on one of the tails. He peeked around while holding the tail and asked, "Hey, how does he poop?" These are the important questions of our time.

Daniel has been enjoying exploring the backyard with all of his senses, including taste. He is especially fond of this bubble container, which I love because it is spill proof. However, it has recently become a water container since Daniel's idea of "blowing bubbles" is to take the wand from the cup, blow on it, and then when nothing happens, stick it in his mouth. Since he doesn't know the difference, we figured, water was probably a better idea. He also likes to dip the wand in his various dirt piles before putting it in his mouth so a dip in the water helps with that as well. Let it never be said that my kids live a pristine existence.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Lest anyone think that reading comic strips is not an intellectual pursuit, let me present exhibit A: Edward Kenyon, avid reader of "Get Fuzzy" and "Calvin and Hobbes" (if by reader I mean, one who pages through looking for pictures of fat dogs and creepy bugs), who was rejected from a University of Iowa study today because his vocabulary is too large for his age.

The study is one for which Mary signed him up that was to judge the vocabulary and comprehension of children with cochlear implants when compared with those without. I took Ed this morning and the researcher showed him about 100 sets of four line drawings, then asked him to point to one of them. For example, there would be a page with a guitar, a trumpet, a drum and a violin, and she would ask him to point to the drum. He did very well, getting many of them right. Too many, in fact. She said his vocabulary was at the 93rd percentile for his age, and they wanted someone more average. They should have said that before they called us in. We could have told them he was many things, but "average" is not among them.

I was impressed by the things he knew, as he picked some things right that I wasn't sure he would understand. Other times, he missed things I thought he would know. In a couple of instances, he did this because he was playing a game we have where Mary or I will say the wrong thing while reading a book and then wait for him to correct us. He picks up on this and will say the wrong thing, too. If we agree, he then corrects us. He did this a couple of times today and I caught on to it and had to explain to him that we weren't playing that game. Other times he would be asked to identify something on a page that had a train or a plane or a tool, and he would say, "I want to do the plane first, then I'll do the other." The researcher would agree, and then he would do just what he said.

She asked me at the outset to try not to coach him, and I was able to maintain decorum. A couple of times I cringed, however, knowing that he knew the right image to go with the term in question, where other times I wanted to give him a high five for getting something right.

He was clever. At one point she asked him something he clearly didn't know. He waited a beat, then looked up and said, "Which one do you think it is?" She stifled a laugh and explained that she was more interested in what he thought.

There were a couple of gimmes. He was asked to identify both a cactus and a palm tree, something we saw a lot of two weeks ago in Phoenix. I told the researcher as much, and she said reading and travel are two great ways to increase vocabulary. He also identified "swamp," something I attribute to the book I Love You Stinkyface.

Meanwhile, Edward's younger brother is also exploring the world. He loves to go outside, and will bring his shoes to us if we don't get the hint. If we delay, he tries to put them on himself. He can't manage this yet, but it's certainly not for a lack of effort.

Tonight, taking advantage of a rain storm, we went outside to stomp puddles (don't knock it, it's really quite fun). Edward has some ladybug boots that he inherited from a neighbor who grew out of them, and they're great for stomping. After we had come in, Daniel decided that he wanted to try them on. We finally gave him a hand, and he then walked with big, tentative steps around the foyer. His curiosity got the best of him, however, and he soon was bending down to get an up-close look at what was hiding his toes. It won't be long before Ed grows out of them and Daniel into them, so it was a nice chance to take them for a test drive.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Edward and Daniel are both contributing to science this week. Researchers at the university use local birth records to contact parents of children who are the right ages for their studies. We just happened to get one for each boy in the last couple of weeks. Edward's is Friday and Saturday, something to do with how hearing children learn words compared with children with cochlear implants. I can't wait to see how they handle his endless stream of questions about the new "nonsense" words they'll teach him for various objects. Then they'll see how many he remembers the next day.

Daniel was totally in his element in his study Monday afternoon--that element being food. This was studying how children name and generalize about objects--such as "yours" and "mine." The tester gave him three paper plates with food items arranged either in four globs or in a shape like a 'C,' 'T,' or '8.' He got to mess around with them and taste to his heart's content. These food items were things like applesauce, chocolate pudding, frosting, cheez-whiz and other things of that general consistency. There were only a few that he rejected, attempting to wipe them off his tongue. (I couldn't really tell what they were.) But for the most part he was gleeful, beaming from ear to ear with the food smeared the same distance.

After a minute or so of play, she took the plates and arranged two on a tray with a divider between them. Then she held up another that was either the same substance or the same shape as one of the two on the tray. She said, "Daniel, this is mine. Can you find yours?" and pushed the tray toward him. It seemed to me that he was picking whatever was in the same shape as what she held up, except for the things he didn't like the taste of. But I was also filling out some paperwork on his vocabulary at the time (and laughing at the huge mess he was making) so it was a little hard to keep up.

I try to participate whenever we're invited to these types of studies. Who knows what could be learned and how it might have an impact in years to come?

Here are the Arizona videos, as promised: