Friday, December 25, 2009

So, I won't quit my day job, but this met a 4-year-old's aesthetic requirements for a "Mater and Lightning McQueen birthday cake" while also avoiding the dreaded "at least a day old and dried out bakery cake because your kid's birthday is on Christmas." I ordered the cars online and Googled "Mater cake" and "McQueen cake" for ideas on how to decorate. There were some quite elaborate designs, well beyond my limited skills. When I read in the description, "It took four hours, but it was totally worth it to see my son's face..." I knew I was on the wrong track. But I did like one person's idea of using crushed Oreos to make a road.

I remembered too late that the last time I used my cake decorating tips (e.g. Daniel's birthday, last January!) I gave up on trying to get the left over decorating icing out of the writing tip and threw it away thinking, "It's way easier to just buy a new one." Yeah. If you remember. Oh well. John unearthed in the baking cabinet an unopened tube of writing gel and it lasted just long enough (it started sputtering on the "d" in Ed, hence no "ward.")
John helped me unscrew all the Oreos and he simply could not let all that luscious cream filling go to waste. He piled it high into a super-quadruple-stuffed-steroid-Oreo, which he admirably saved for Edward to eat as his afternoon snack. I do have a spectacular photo of John with said cookie, however, and would be willing to share for the right price.

All, in all, a successful, if exhausting birthday extravaganza (complete with homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner, as requested by the birthday boy.) Now, we have to summon all of our reserve energy to power through the weekend.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas card continues to elude us. We love receiving them, but just can't seem to get it together to send them. But since this blog is something like the letters many people enclose with their cards, we'll add the family photo we finally managed to capture today and call it quits.

Merry Christmas with love from The Kenyons

We'll have lots of Christmas stories and pictures to share in the coming days.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Here is a photo of Edward after his haircut this morning. I was distracted by Daniel, and the next thing I knew, nearly all of Ed's hair was on the floor. One of his teachers stopped me as we left school today: "I can't believe you had all of Edward's hair cut off. He worked so hard to get it!" Consider it a lesson learned for his next haircut... sometime in mid to late 2010. The upside? He seems to like it.

Addendum: One good line from Daniel. He refers to everyone as "people," even singularly, so he'll point to someone and say, "That's a people, Daddy." So, when he got into the barber chair, he was not happy. At one point through his cries as he reached out wanting me to pick him up, he said of the barber standing behind him, "I don't want that people back there give me haircut!" Of course, he calmed down and was very good for much of the rest of the time, mainly because I assured him that when we were done, he would be handsome.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We took a late afternoon trip to the Children's Museum today, a brave adventure given that the museum is located at the mall. But we parked and got in with no mall hassle. As soon as we got there, Edward had to go to the bathroom (despite having just gone before leaving home.) As I headed toward the door to the women's bathroom, Edward stopped and said, "No, Mom, this is the boys' one" pointing at the other door.

Amused, I asked, "Well, how do you know it's the boys' one?"

"Because it says right there, B-O-Y," said Edward, age three years and 51 weeks.

The signs also had the standard white male and female character drawings (female denoted with triangular skirt.) Is it too much of a stretch to say he actually read the word "Boy?"

In other linguistic news, I've been meaning to chronicle some of Daniel's lexicon here. One of the funniest recent ones is that he refers to ambulances as simply "amb."
"I see amb right dere Mommy wih lights on."

Another source of endless amusement is the substitution of an "f" sound for many an "s." This list includes fwippers (slippers), fwoman (snowman), fool bus (school bus, ironically) and fweeper (sleeper), and creates a bright morning when he declares while rubbing his eyes against first light: "I eat cereal-milk in my fweeper."

He often initiates a "yes I am" - "no you're not" exchange with Edward, who can not be persuaded that Daniel is only trying out words and does not mean to engage in a debate to the death over whether or not we've just driven past another "fool bus." However, he sometimes stumbles over the grammar during a heated debate with his brother, as the other morning while driving past a construction site when he shouted, "Yes I AM see the crane, Edward!"

Since I believe I am Constitutionally required to include photos with these posts, here are a few left over from the last week or so.

Here we see our genius sons attempting to put their ornament stockings on their feet.

Here we see why we're eagerly anticipating a hand-me-down sled from Gram and PopPop next week.

Here we see a favorite post-snow activity, one of the few television options they have that includes commercials. When the program is interrupted, they call to me in the kitchen (or wherever I'm accomplishing life's tasks while they're entertained) "Commercial, Mom, please hurry!" (The later after they were admonished against the use of "Hurry UP, Mom" when I delayed a moment after the call so as not to scorch our dinner. We were not amused.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The boys had an eventful day today that involved a Christmas tree and a snowman. A quintessential December day.

First up: The snowman. Mary had a social outing today, so when the boys got up from their naps, we suited up and headed out into the surprisingly warm -- and subsequently messy -- afternoon. Edward said he wanted to build a snow firetruck complete with ladders and hoses, but settled for a plain old snowman. When we had finished with that, complete with charcoal eyes and a carrot nose, Edward declared that he was going to knock it down. My pride was too powerful, and I declared that this would not be happening. So, we built another snowman (less flashy, and given its intended purpose, intentionally more wobbly) that the boys could topple.

The results of this destruction, scattered across the back yard, were quickly adapted into a car, and then a train (see the video). I was even able to convince Daniel that an adjacent lump of snow was the back seat, so both boys actually played on it with out incident for five minutes or better.

Bookending this was the decorating of our Christmas tree. First, an admission: Our tree is crooked. It didn't look that way at the lot, but after considerable effort to get it to stand up straight in the tree stand, we took a closer look and realized that about a foot up the trunk, it takes a noticeable left turn that gives the tree a mean lean. We aimed it toward the wall and are hoping for the best. Mary put on lights while the boys napped. Daniel was first up, and as I carried him downstairs, he caught sight of it in the living room. "That's fancy, daddy!" he exclaimed. I was able to capture his second reaction on video.

After we came back inside from our snow adventure and Mary returned, she and the boys put ornaments on the tree. Yes, they actually helped, though we did have to redistribute a bit because they were clustering the ornaments in bunches along the bottom-most branches. They seemed to enjoy it, though, as with everything else, their attention was soon diverted and they moved on to something else.

Here's the video: First up, Daniel and the tree, followed by some creative use of snow piles:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

We were reminded tonight of another two-year-old and the winter of 2008.
(scroll to the end of the linked post for the video)

Let's begin by saying that Pajama Week 2009 has ended. After the Thanksgiving long weekend, Edward was having trouble getting readjusted to our morning routine. He stayed in his pajamas through breakfast and when it was really getting down to the wire to get out the door, he started having a huge fit when John tried to get him dressed. Seeking the path of least resistance, I said, "Fine, just put your shoes on and wear your pajamas to school." We were out the door minutes (and many fewer tears) later.

I sent regular clothes in his backpack, figuring he'd feel silly once he got there and none of his friends were in pajamas. Oh, how wrong I was. Not only was he still in pajamas when I picked him up, he continued this pattern the entire week. Each day we tried new ideas to coax him toward normal clothes, and each day he steadfastly insisted on pajamas. One morning I said, "I bet you can't get dressed in 60" and started counting. In a Pavlovian response, unable to resist the challenge, he jumped out of his pajamas and, with John's help, was dressed in a (slow) count of 45. He appeared triumphant, but then, considering what had just transpired, he melted in a pool of tears and began pulling his clothes off. He was back in pajamas seconds later.

Finally, on Friday afternoon, I was ready to take them to a retirement party for a colleague. I told Edward there would be cake at the party, but that I would like him please to wear regular clothes. He considered, asked if he could take his pajamas in the bag, and then agreed to change. Saturday we insisted he had to wear regular clothes for our trip to the library and Sunday clothes were mandated for church. By Monday morning, the idea was fading, and he was persuaded to wear clothes with the promise that he could change to pajamas when we got home. (He didn't, but apparently the option was sufficient.)

I tried not to let it bother me. After all, parenting is about picking your battles. As long as it was just to school, I truly did not care. We all laughed about it and he went about blissfully. But when it came to appearing in the general public, I wasn't so carefree. The retirement party was to draw many people from around campus, and I was too self-conscious to bring my kid in pajamas. Why should I care if he didn't? Who can explain. I do hope he retains at least some of that PopPop-esque utter lack of self-consciousness. Life would be simpler if we never worried what other people thought of us, right?

John's birthday passed uneventfully (per his wishes) on Saturday. We did have French silk pie in place of cake, a long-standing tradition. Daniel's response to his first taste: "Mmmmm...happy!" Pretty much summed up John's day. Even though there would be no party, I felt that the 40th birthday deserved some wider recognition. I enlisted two of John's friends to help me execute a plan to create a CD with songs selected by a large group of friends (one song per friend) who are all as heavily invested in music as John. It worked perfectly--14 friends submitted songs and one of them, who is a graphic designer, created a personalized CD-sleeve. It took John a couple of minutes to figure out what it was, but when he did, he was quite pleased. It got even better the next day when John sent out a thank you email, and they all started responding with the reasons they'd selected their songs. They all held special meaning/memory between John and each friend, and John was touched that they recalled those times together--some even going all the way back to high school.

After the birthday, it was on to Christmas decorating. John says we don't have to follow that "wait until after the birthday" tradition his Mom established, but I like it. When commercialized Christmas starts before Halloween, it's nice to have your own personal benchmark for kicking off the season.

The boys helped hang ornaments on Will's tree, and loved seeing it all lit up. Edward was a bit distressed about the idea of giving these ornaments away (we ask friends to take one and hang it on their own tree, remembering Will.) But I explained that we would get a bigger tree for our own ornaments, and some of them even say "E-d-w-a-r-d" because they are his special ornaments to hang. Maybe over the weekend. I'd prefer to wait until the weekend just before Christmas, but I think all the trees will probably be gone by then. I do miss the Chicagoland availability of trees--every empty lot turns into a tree lot this time of year there. Last year, we were reduced to buying our tree at Menards. Just didn't seem very festive.
We did have one holiday experience before the birthday launch date. While visiting my parents in Evanston the weekend before Thanksgiving, we rode on the CTA Holiday Train.
It was a HUGE hit with the boys. It's a regular "el" train, but decorated "beyond the beyond" (as my Mom would say) with lights all over, inside and out, tinsel in the cars, Christmas patterned seat covers, poles wrapped in candy cane striping, and Christmas music playing on the public address system.
In the middle of the train is a flatbed car decorated as Santa's sleigh and he waves as the train pulls into each station. At the end of the line, he sat for pictures with the kids.
Daniel was totally freaked out when placed on Santa's lap, so I held him while Edward just climbed right up. After Edward got down, he realized he'd forgotten to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. He was allowed a do-over, and registered his wishes (more train tracks for his wooden set, and a Mater--tow truck character from the movie Cars, which he's never seen.)
We opted not to wait 45 minutes for the holiday train to take our return trip. But even the undecorated train was a big hit with our boys. Cheap thrills for $2 per adult.
The other special thing about the weekend was our last visit with Joe and Brenda before they headed to Brazil for Joe's first posting with the Foreign Service. We are excited for them and eager to hear about their new adventures. By the time of their next visit (probably in about a year) will the boys still fit under each arm like this?
The adults extended the bon voyage until 2:30 Sunday morning, having a roaring good time, but not allowing for enough sleeping! Luckily, those who did not have a four-hour drive ahead of them, arrived at Gram and PopPop's bright and early for a trip to the park. This had the dual benefit of letting us get a bit more sleep, and exhausting the children, so that they slept all the way to the Iowa border. And, yes, it was warm enough that day, to go hatless. Can't say the same for today, as we're bracing for a blizzard, expecting at least a foot of snow by this time tomorrow.