Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feast or famine with the blog these days. Here's a quick post of our Monday adventures. The Children's Museum opened a new exhibit on flight and invited members only from 3-5 p.m. (usually the museum is closed on Mondays.) It was quite an impressive exhibit with fun for kids of all ages. It was tough to capture any pictures since the boys were on the move (mostly in opposite directions) the whole time! But we got a few. Looking forward to a return visit on a quieter day.

On Monday night after dinner I was holed up in the office working on a simulation project for my operations management class (we're spending a week simulating managing production in a factory that produces digital satellite receivers in a four step process...fascinating, I know!) I heard quite a bit of activity from the living/dining room play area and was subsequently summoned to see what the fuss was about. Apparently the boys were fighting over a set of 10 nesting blocks so John sent Edward upstairs to get a second set so each boy would have his own. Daniel is just discovering the joy of building towers, so they were soon happily building side by side. Then they combined forces into one mega-tower that was quite pleasing to all involved. However, as you'll see from the video below, Daniel has not completely abandoned his destructive instincts.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This post is a tale of three Sundays. I'm sure the blog police are well aware that the last full post was two weeks and one day ago, with a video addendum five days later. What can I say? These boys are keeping us busy. The Sunday of Labor Day weekend, we ventured out to the apple orchard with Grandma and Grandpa. Hard to tell if the highlight was the apple picking/eating or riding the tractor wagon from the store out to the trees. The long-time orchard owner drives it and delights in corny jokes and pretending to get stuck in the creek while driving through the shallow water. The kids love it and truth be told, it's hard for grown-ups to suppress a smile and a chuckle.

Fast forward one week and Sunday found us scrambling to get from church to the opening hour of "Move It! Dig It! Do It!" an annual festival of vehicles whose proceeds benefit our Children's Museum. Last year's event was somewhat marred for our crew by the incessant honking of horns. Edward is still not too fond of loud noises, but was willing to clap his hands over his ears and run from truck to bus to tractor. Our favorite Hills firefighter was there and remembered Ed from the county fair in July, so that was a big hit. (His memory was likely aided by the fact that after the fair John had sent a note of thanks to the general email account for the City of Hills and it was forwarded on to the firefighter, who wrote John an effusive note saying how much it meant to hear from us. John then sent a couple of pictures, and we now have a firefighter friend for life along with an open invitation to tour the station.)

Our camera isn't quite sophisticated to capture an image of a large machine in which you can still see the kid, so here's Daniel way up in a huge combine. John had to carry him up a ladder to get into the cab. Ed is behind him with his hands over his ears. Too many horns honking.

While Edward tried out the tractor, Grandpa took Daniel to the city bus, the vehicle with which is is most ardently obsessed. Grandpa reported that after Daniel climbed up and took a seat he kept leaning forward saying "Go go!" He did not appreciate a stationary vehicle. He thinks the bus takes you to the library because we've created a Saturday adventure this way a few times this summer.
This is the "Dig It!" part of the day--huge piles of sand to climb on and dig in. This of course led to streams of sand to be poured out of shoes before heading home.

Ironically, with all the real-life vehicles on display, our kids were most excited about a collection of Cozy Coupe cars to drive over a bumpy gravel lot. Ed was most enthralled with these "fire cars," but they actually got in and out of several different models. We flamed out after about 90 minutes and headed home for naps. Too bad I didn't get a picture of Daniel asleep in his car seat still clutching the plastic "hard hat" issued to each kid at the gate.

And now for the third Sunday, a description of which does not include photographs, came close to including child abandonment, but ends happily. We have been battling some annoying behavior tics the last week or so, which we know can be attributed to age, peer influence, and our vehement disapproval. However, understanding the source(s) does not make it any less irritating in the moment. The primary offenders are spitting and screaming. We actually battled the scream/shrieking earlier this summer, but it's back with a vengeance and can seriously drive a person insane, especially when the two boys are trying to outdo each other. Last time around we eventually hit upon "ignore" as a solution. But this time, combined with the spitting, it's just too much to bear. We have tried time-outs. We have tried "no TV" or "no computer." We have tried leaving the room. We have tried saying "that is bathroom behavior so you'll have to stay in the bathroom if you want to do that." (This is one of the school strategies. How can pre-school teachers put up with this all day every day times 12 kids????)

Part of the problem is that Daniel is too young for actual punishment so Ed sees him getting off easy and thinks he can do the same. This morning both of them had their breakfasts taken away and were sent out of the room. Ed ended up deposited in his bedroom wailing at the injustice no less than three times before 9:30 mass! Miraculously, they actually were decently behaved at Mass (the "no computer" threat works for Ed there--when he starts acting up, I tell him he won't do computer when we get home and he settles, usually.) When we got home, they played for a little while, but lunch was a repeat of breakfast and we were about to lose our minds.

Finally, during the peace of nap time (hallelujah!) I came up with the "divide and conquer" solution. We know that they feed off of each other--one starts and the other tries to go one better. They both laugh their heads off as we seethe and eventually explode. So we came up with a plan that gave each of us one-on-one time with each boy and kept them separated from each other. Ed got up from his nap first and he and I left to get new shoes, some art supplies for a school project, and groceries. At the store, when I told Ed we were getting hamburger buns, he asked if we could also have s'mores. Ingredients were purchased with the hope that such a delight could induce a calm dinner.

When we got back, John had the grill prepped for a burger dinner, which we ate in relative peace. Daniel still screamed and spit a bit, but each time we looked at Ed and warned him not to join or there would be no s'mores. He kept it together. Then "because he screamed," Daniel did not get to have s'mores (of course he didn't know the difference, but Ed did) and instead went out for a walk with me. John and Ed stayed home to roast marshmallows, eat their treats, and decorate a letter F with pictures and objects that start with that letter (school project.)

Worked like a charm. Daniel and I got back around 7, had a little more play time, and then hit the bathtub. The only hiccup was extending the playtime a little too long so that bath time ended in tears of exhaustion.

Whew! Sometimes weekends are all about survival. And sometimes it's really tough to be smarter than your kids!In other news, Edward started swimming lessons this last week and seems to like it. He's leery about full face immersion in the water, but has made some valiant attempts. After last week's lesson, I told him he could spit in the water and it would help him blow bubbles. We'll see if that works. Maybe he could get the spitting out of his system that way! There are four kids in his group with one teacher and they have their lesson in the shallow wading pool at the community center, which is nice because the kids can stand in the water. At this point, it's mostly about safety and feeling comfortable in the water, but the idea is to give him the building blocks for actual swimming. As long as he's happy, and willing to go, I'm satisfied. (These pictures were taken through the window from the parent waiting area, hence the low quality.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I didn't complete my video before the weekend ended. I had a lot to piece together and worked hard to try to keep it short, but it still ended up at four minutes (fair warning before you click 'play.') Started it this afternoon, but didn't finish before leaving for class. I decided to tackle it tonight since I was up late watching tennis and winding down from class so I know I'll be tired and probably napping tomorrow.

So without further ado, here are three of the eleven parks we played in during the first 10 days of September. (Warning of mild scatological content at :42 and 1:50.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The boys got their first taste of Hawkeye Game Day this morning without actually seeing the game. John and his dad had tickets so I suggested that they take the boys on Hawkeye Express (a train that runs fans from Coralville to the stadium.) I scouted a park on the west side of town that seemed close enough to be able to walk up to the stadium and meet them, but far enough that it wouldn't be totally insane at 9:30 in the morning (game time 11 a.m.) Well, I was half right. The street bordering the park, so quiet when I drove by on my test run Wednesday, was brimming with Hawk fans and cars parked on both sides. Luckily, I still managed to get a spot on the street, but I probably only made it by 10-15 minutes. I unloaded the stroller and started walking down to the stadium (about a mile.) I was the only one not wearing black and gold and even more conspicuous for pushing an empty stroller.

As it turned out, the Kenyon men had gotten on a train almost as soon as I'd dropped them off, and since the ride is less than 10 minutes, they reached our general meeting area before I did. They didn't have to wait too long though, and all in all, I think it was a success. Not sure what the kids thought of the teeming masses of Hawkeye fans. It's really insane! We ended up walking against the current, headed back to the park. For about half the trip we could walk in the street as no traffic was getting through. Back on the narrow sidewalk, things were a bit trickier, but we made it. The park was a hit (it had a fire truck AND a digger--what's not to love?) and they didn't seem to mind a bit being left behind for the actual game.

We've actually be on an unofficial Park Tour for the last week, starting with last weekend in Evanston. As if it's not enough to have a whole porch full of trucks, trains and other toys to play with, there's also a world of parks to explore at Gram and PopPop's. We started with feeding the ducks at the Northwestern University lagoon on Saturday morning. Daniel could not understand why anyone would throw perfectly good food in the water for a bunch of ducks. It took me a few minutes to realize that nearly every piece of bread I handed him was going straight in his mouth! Edward enjoyed watching the ducks gobble what he threw, even the pieces that were bigger than their heads since he couldn't quite remember to break apart the bread before throwing.

Later in the day we visited a park with a play train that Gram had discovered in her weekend preparations. They loved it! (Hence the real train excursion today and the possibility of one at the end of the month.) In this picture, Ed has just jumped off and called at the top of his lungs: "All Aboard!" I think there's video of this as well, but I haven't had time to go through it all and edit. Maybe next post. The train had an engine and two cars, all with seats, but why would you want to sit when you could be climbing?

The expressions on these next two are priceless, and pretty much speak for themselves. They were taken one right after the other. I should also note than when I try to help him on this type of rocking toy he pushes me away and says, "No, Mommy!"
The Chicagoland weather was a little chilly (no complaints!) but we returned to near perfection--70s by day 50s by night. That along with an advantageous nap schedule (leaving enough time for an excursion before John gets home from work) led to five different park visits this week (every day but Wednesday and two on Friday.) Seven if you count two today. Here's Daniel enjoying his afternoon snack at a picnic table, but neither boy could sit still long enough to eat much. Monday's excursion took us back to the park in our old neighborhood--always a fun one. It makes me miss living just half a block away. We got to see our former neighbors who are like surrogate grandparents to the boys. It was great to be able to catch up with them and let them see how the boys have grown. It was also helpful because Ed decided he had to go to the bathroom so he was able to go to their house.

Edward is working on mastering the "fireman pole" and does pretty well with low- and medium-height poles. This one was pretty high so he had me come spot him, but he mostly did it on his own. It's not a smooth slide, but he's building confidence.Daniel still likes to try everything Ed does, but luckily he seems to recognize his limitations when it comes to this particular apparatus. He has not attempted to lean out and grab the pole yet, though whenever he's up I'm either right next to him or right below, just in case!

I'll close with two close ups and I'll do my best to get some video together before the weekend is over. This shot of Edward kind of looks like one of those cheesey photo studio back drops, but I promise, it's live, sitting on a rock next to the bridge over a creek into which we were throwing leaves and maple seeds (whirly-gigs.)