Monday, January 18, 2010

This will be a bit scattershot, but I hope it becomes a worthy chronicle of the last two weeks. Rather than a chronological exposition, we'll start with the highlight--Daniel's second birthday. A quick note to let you know that the birthday photos are brought to you by John's technological ingenuity, as they were inadvertently deleted from the camera without showing up on the computer. I downloaded them, then downloaded a second set (non-birthday), deleted all photos from the camera and went to the folder where they download only to find just the second download. While I panicked and waged an internal battle between logic (they're only pictures) and emotion (they're the ONLY pictures of his second birthday! I wonder if I could make another cake and re-stage the whole thing without confusing them...) John went to work looking up freeware programs that allow you to recover deleted files. He tried two or three before finding one that worked. A huge sigh of maternal relief. But seriously, how could I not be disappointed at the prospect of losing this photo:
Or this one:
For the occasion we decided on a pineapple upside down cake. We'd had a lot of cake recently with Christmas, Ed's birthday and Grandma's birthday so I was looking for something different. I was thinking banana, but when I opened the cookbook for the recipe, the pineapple upside down picture grabbed Edward's attention. He thought it looked good, and I liked that it was a simple, one-layer cake--a lot less left over! Daniel said, "Mmmmm, that's good cake" and gobbled it up. And we had pasta with marinara for dinner and did not wash his face before cake. John said it's his "Homer Simpson" look.
Our present to Daniel was this tent, to which our play tunnel can be connected. It's big enough for two kids and an adult (if the adult is flexible) and has already been "a bargain at twice the price" for the indoor entertainment novelty. In addition to a regular old tent, it has also been a fire truck, an ambulance, a bear cave, a dog house, a school, and a bakery.
Aware that it might be difficult for Edward to have Daniel at the center of attention, I took him the day before the birthday to pick out a present that he could give Daniel. He selected a Fisher Price Little People birthday set and wanted to know if I thought Daniel would need help opening it. Also, could he play with it as soon as Daniel opened it? So, marginal success on the lesson in giving. Ed actually did very well throughout the day, but had a complete meltdown at bath/bed time, finally wailing, "I'm just too tired!"

Daniel loved all the presents and wanted each item not just unwrapped, but fully relieved of its packaging immediately. Still, I managed to secret away a few things that will be much more necessary come March or rainy summer.

As with the tent, we've found that most toys are used for many things beyond their intrinsic purpose. For Christmas, Daniel got a doctor kit and Edward a tool set, but Daniel is just as inclined to use the tools to "fix" himself or others and both kids love using the reflex "hammer" in the doctor bag to "fix" the wall.
As mentioned, we've had lots of indoor time recently as our year started out as only the fourth on record with average temperatures below zero.
I don't know how the daycare teachers survive when there is no outdoor play to break up the days. We marshaled all our creative resources and got through with some coloring, many games of chase, lots of different wooden train configurations, countless games of Cars dominoes/Zingo/Hungry Caterpillar/Thomas cards, and a few trips to fun indoor spots like the Children's Museum.

We also tried a place at the mall with a large, indoor, soft-padded climbing maze. Before stopping there, we needed to hit the store across the way for a birthday gift for Grandma. We were looking for a picture frame, but also told Edward that Grandma likes snowmen. As we were browsing, we suddenly heard from behind a discount display of Christmas ornaments, "LOOK!!! It's a snowman POLICEMAN!!!" You'd have thought he struck gold. This was of course purchased and proudly presented by Edward later in the week. I wonder if he'll remember it as fondly when the tree goes up next year?

Another bonus during the cold snap were the new pajamas I'd found at the Carter's outlet post-Christmas.
Also made for some very cozy Orange Bowl viewing, although I must say that even though they are Hawkeyes through-and-through, they were MUCH more excited about getting to eat Oreos in the living room than about the game itself. As soon as the cookies were gone, Daniel pronounced himself ready for bed. He might have seen one or two plays in the game, as it started at about 7:15 p.m. Edward stayed up a bit longer (perhaps through the first quarter?) but still had to wait 'til morning for the good news. Go Hawks!
In additional Edward news, he had his four-year well-child check up the first week of January and was pronounced in good health and right on track with the growth curve. He's tipping the scales at just under 38 pounds and is about 40 inches tall. Surprisingly, that's only about three inches taller and five pounds heavier than he was at his last check up a year ago. I would be willing to bet that at least two and possibly all three of those inches have come since September, as we feel like he's growing from one night to the next morning. His well-established curiosity (why? why? why?) now extends to clusters of letters and full words, as he frequently asks "What does (insert string of letters here) spell?" The other day he asked about a word, and when I told him it was "light," he responded, "Then why does it have a 'g' in it?" A good reminder of the insanity that we call the English language!

While we were at the doctor,I also snuck Daniel on the scale for a quick comparison. He's about 33 pounds, but we'll get the official weigh-in at his own check up later this month. (Quick note about the doctor, whose name is Stacey McConkey: Daniel has taken to refering to her as "Donkey Conkey.") I knew there wouldn't be much difference. Daniel is now wearing many of the clothes Edward wore just last winter. I am going to be really bummed if he thwarts my hand-me-down plans and ends up the same size as his brother, leaving me to buy two wardrobes in each size!

This is my last Monday night at home until April. Another class starts next week--Global Business Policy. I have every hope that I will be able to leave my calculator stashed in my book bag for the duration of the term.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

After about an inch and a half of rain on Christmas Eve (which fell as more than a foot of snow in other parts of the state!) we ended up with a white Christmas--a few inches of fresh powder, starting as we exited Christmas mass. Given the difficulty I have keeping the boys in line for one hour of church each week, it was not realistic to return to mass on Sunday. We went sledding instead. We were the first people on the hill at a local elementary school, which meant lots of powder to the face and slippery climbing to return to the top after each run, but we loved it.

My mother thinks she would medal in Olympic sledding and has been quite eager for the photos of this outing. She was sad we had rain while she was here. Readers other than my mom might choose to scan/skim (skip?) the following, as it is unlikely anyone else is interested in 14 photos of our sledding adventure.
After our first run, Edward learned to bury his face inside his jacket, as the fresh snow really kicked up as we sped down hill. This was less of an issue as our sleds continued to pack down the snow and other sledders joined us. However, by the end of the outing, Edward said he wasn't cold except for his cheeks, and we had to talk about how it's hard to cover cheeks and still maintain vision and breathing.

Here we see the boys getting a push off from dad and a "catch" at the bottom from mom (with camera.) We didn't have any disastrous wipe outs/sled flips, but we did try to have a parent at the bottom each time in case of such an eventuality. We did have one near repeat of history as Daniel's rope got caught under his sled as John gave him a push off, causing him to curve into the sled Ed and I were riding. It was too late to stop our forward motion, so we just all slid down together with Daniel's sled facing backward and me hoping our sled didn't tip toward him, causing me to relive Mom's famous sledding take-down of my brother P.J., circa 1981.These are some happy sledders.

I call this photo "snow butt" as this is how Daniel spent most of the morning.

Some shots of Mom and Dad in sledding action.After a trip down the hill with Dad, we see Edward carefully making his way back up. As I noted, the fresh snow was slippery, and he sometimes opted for crawling when the footing wasn't working well.Daniel got pulled back up hill in the sled a few times, but that was really hard to manage and plus, we were really hoping to wear the boys out beyond comprehension, thus facilitating long afternoon naps (a.k.a. "me time" for mom and dad.) So we started helping him walk up hill, and it actually worked out better than I expected. It was slow going, but he didn't complain and no one ended up slipping back down sans sled.
We're almost there!
We made it! Here's what we look like going down.

After about 30-40 minutes of climbing and sledding, the boys opted to head for the nearby playground rather than climb the hill once more. They "snow plowed" these two slides and then took many more FAST trips down, skidding of the end and plopping in piles of snow.

You can kind of get the idea if you play this short clip about 25 times in a row:

The end of the outing. Tired and happy, cold cheeks, but otherwise not complaining. Daniel's mittens have fallen off about 42 times despite being tucked into the cuffs of his jacket. Discussing this later with my mom, I was reminded that putting adult socks on the hands/arms before the mittens and jacket can help keep everything in place. When Aunt Nora visited on Tuesday, we used this method and it worked like a charm. One stipulation of Aunt Nora's participation in sledding was that there be no photographic record, so you'll have to use your imagination.

It was much colder on our second outing--only in the low teens--but we still managed to stay out long enough to justify the effort of getting ready. However, in all the pre-trip fuss, I forgot to change Daniel's diaper. After about 30 minutes of sledding, he announced, "I pooped." Nora and Ed stayed to sled while I took Daniel home to change, where I discovered he had not pooped, but that his over-saturated diaper had soaked his shirt and pants under his snow pants. Poor guy! Talk about Mom-guilt!

We mixed up some hot (warm) cocoa to take in sippy cups as a bribe to get Edward back in the car. He was very concerned that I pulled up next to the hill in a No Parking zone to get out and let them know it was time to go. "Mom, if a policeman saw you, you could get a ticket!"

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. We did not make plans for New Year's Eve, which turned out to be a good thing, since Edward vomited in the New Year. I knew he wasn't right at dinner, and while he was snuggling with me reading books afterward I asked John to toss us a blanket, sensing we could be headed toward disaster. We managed to make it all the way through the bedtime routine before tooth brushing finally sent him over the edge. He was a little freaked out at first, this being unfamiliar territory (thank goodness!) He kept asking us why it happened, and we were hard-pressed to explain to his satisfaction. By the second go-round he had figured out how to aim for the toilet. The next morning, he told us he had taken himself to the bathroom to throw up overnight, but didn't flush because he thought it would be too loud. We were skeptical, but the evidence presented itself. We both felt bad to have slept through this entirely, but he didn't seem bothered. Our New Year's Day tradition is to stay home in pajamas anyway, so we were all set for the day. Lots of Gatorade and a few bananas later, all was forgotten.

Thankfully, Daniel was not visited by the same germ, because we had plans to visit with John's grandparents, aunt and cousins the next day (Jan. 2.) We made the trip, all healthy, and had a really nice time together. Edward brought his Zingo game and the cousins all played together. A great way to round out the holiday festivities.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What is it they say about "a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step?" I'm diving into this update with little hope of catching up completely on the events of the last few weeks, but I'll get there eventually.

We'll start a full week before Christmas with our trip to visit our favorite Santa at the local mall. This man is made for the part. A story in the local paper a few days after our visit revealed that he is an amateur actor who starts growing his beard each year in June to be ready for the kids come December. He's truly great--no rush, actually talks to the kids and either remembers them from year to year or has keen hearing to pick up names being bandied about while we wait in (a short) line. He greets them by name as they walk up.
Or at least he did for Edward. Daniel was much more hesitant, as he was with the train Santa in November. Ed was chatting away while Daniel was saying, "I don't wanna see Santa." When I got down to hold him close and Santa reached out for a "five," he warmed a bit and we managed this photo.
They both asked for trains and then had a chat with Santa about Thomas and all his various train friends. This guy knows his stuff.
On to the main event. We started a day early with a visit from Gram and PopPop with special guest, Aunt Bridget. Much merriment ensued with books and forts and games, oh my! We started with Edward's birthday celebration on Wednesday afternoon and Zingo was an instant favorite. We have played many, many games. Luckily it's as tolerable for adults as it is fun for kids, so an all-around good choice. We had some birthday cupcakes after dinner just to top things off.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve day, we moved on to the Christmas celebration with gifts for both boys. Daniel was happy to be in on the action this time around.
At nap time, our visitors left and we set about recharging for an evening with Grandma and Grandpa. This would have been a better picture if I hadn't cut off the top of Bill's head, but I think it's cute anyway.
Grandma's delicious Christmas Eve dinner was so successful that Daniel lost his shirt in the process. Red Jell-O is not really meant to be eaten by the fistful, in case you were wondering. Luckily, we had extra clothes there for just such an occasion, but I was not above letting him brave the chill for moment so we could bring you this picture.

After dinner, it was on to the presents. I knew Daniel was to receive a school bus and guessed correctly by size which package to hand him first. However, after he opened this, he had absolutely no interest in any other presents and pushed the wrapped packages away when we tried to hand them to him. Somehow Edward also became enamored of this toy and they ended up fighting over it, despite Edward's receiving many "big kid" things of his own.
Apparently I am in line for "meanest mom in the world" for telling my children that Santa comes while they are at church on Christmas morning. They didn't raise a single objection--Ed's only concern was how Santa would come down our chimney after we sealed the fireplace with insulating plastic to keep out the breeze. We said lots of people don't even have chimneys, but Santa always finds his way inside. We got up on Christmas morning, had some breakfast and headed out to 8:30 mass, which had blessedly limited attendance. Christmas Eve on the other hand is a madhouse to which you must arrive at least 30 minutes early to have any hope of a seat. Our kids can barely make it through ONE hour!

Santa did arrive while we were gone as promised, and delivered the requested trains.

This was also when the packages that had been arriving in the mail from various corners of the world were also unveiled. Books and a game from Arizona, games and a construction set from Brazil (via Amazon!), Thomas trains from Wisconsin...a joy to behold!

We spent the rest of the morning playing, though not always harmoniously or together. By now they have adapted these new favorites into their play routines, but Ed preferred to do his initial exploration solo. We keep the trains in our "library" because it has a wood floor instead of carpet, so we were able to segregate a bit with one kid on trains and the other in the living room/dining room play area to keep things civil until lunch and nap time.

After naps, we were on to the birthday extravaganza, per tradition. Grandma and Grandpa came over with even MORE gifts, which we opened before Edward's requested dinner--homemade macaroni and cheese. Culinary sophistication. I already posted a picture of Edward's cake, which was tasty, even if not beautiful. I really wonder if there is some secret to writing with icing. My handwriting is nothing special, but nothing like the serial killer scrawl I manage with an icing tube!

Edward's birthday gifts were bountiful, and many were Cars themed. We gave him the DVD with the characters he so idolizes but had never seen. It took four sittings to get through it--short attention span--but now it is often requested. He likes the two short "extras" on the DVD almost as much as the movie itself! From Grandma and Grandpa he opened a Cars play rug so he can drive his vehicles all over Radiator Springs while the movie distracts in the background.

Once the kids were occupied with these new marvels, Grandpa got his chance with the coveted school bus--fun for kids of all ages. (I may be disowned for posting this photo!)

More to come on our sledding and New Year's adventures. Stay tuned to find out if I can bring us back to current before falling behind again with Daniel's birthday festivities!