Sunday, February 28, 2010

We have had a very active couple of weeks, with a daycare winter pageant and the start of Edward's gymnastics class as the highlights.

The Apple Tree Winter Wonderland event came first. Both boys have been practicing for this for quite a while. It involves all of the classes in the school doing a short song or skit for the assembled parents. This year's event was so large that it went off site to the Iowa City Public Library. Things were chaotic when we arrived, as one would expect from an event where dozens of kids must be corralled by teachers, dressed up and made to perform. Given that, the event was a smashing success.

Daniel's class was first up, performing a handful of songs, including a song about a mitten that allowed Daniel to wear a large cardboard mitten around his neck. The only photo I could get of this in action had Daniel with his back to the camera, so this shot of him waiting to go on must suffice. They also performed the Iowa Fight Song, during which Daniel (who knows some of the words) stood stoically with a serious look on his face, pumping his fist with determination (see video).

Next up was Edward's class. This was more involved, as they did a skit rather than songs. They performed a version of "The Three Snow Bears," a retelling of "The Three Bears" that is set in the Arctic, with Aloo-ki standing in for Goldilocks. Edward was a Mama Bear (taller kids were Papa Bear, shorter kids were Baby Bear). Because there are so many kids in his class, there were several of each; it was quite amusing. While Edward was one of two mama bears that seemed to remember his lines, his biggest moment came when he saw another child's costume paw on the ground. He stooped to get the paw, then held it up and told his teacher that he had found it. He would not move until he had been acknowledged, thus pausing the skit. She told him to hold onto it, which he did, dutifully, until the skit was over.

The kids came back after all of the songs and skits were done to do more music. Both take a weekly music class called Kindermusik that they really enjoy. They often come home telling us about musical terms or singing new songs. The kids in the Kindermusik program closed the show with some songs. Daniel's group played bells at piano (quiet) and forte (loud) volumes. Then Ed's group showed their new knowledge of the length of notes (which has been shown around the house as he recited "ta ta ti ti ta" over and over. It was late by this point (and Mary's class night), so I got these two sleepyheads home and to bed very quickly.

Gymnastics is a new endeavor for Ed. It's pretty low-key -- he's not on an Olympic track by any stretch -- but it does burn some Saturday morning energy and have some fun, and that's all we're looking for at this point. This was the first week with a teacher, so it was more structured that last week (and thus less energy-burning). He did tumbling, balance beam walking and several jumps from a vault. Meanwhile, Daniel was at the library, which is our usual Saturday morning routine. Daniel isn't jealous, but he does miss his brother ("I want Edward to come to the library") has been a frequent Saturday morning utterance.

One chuckle. When I was bringing them home from the Winter Wonderland event, they were a little punchy. Edward started singing the the "days of the week" song in Spanish (they've been learning this at school. That led to a discussion of names. I asked him what "Edward" is in Spanish. He said "Eduardo." Soon, in their punchy state, they were calling everything "-uardo," as in "Dad-uardo," "Mom-uardo" and Daniel-uardo." This got Daniel's dander up. In true "I'm not, you are" sibling rebuttal form, he said to Edward, "I not wardo, you wardo." I nearly drove off the road.

Here is a video of all of this. You get Daniel and the Iowa fight song, Ed as Mama Bear, Daniel with bells, and both boys playing with scarves (Ed is a very casual "whale," walking around with one hand in his pocket and the other very lackadaisically swinging a scarf around). After that is a minute of Ed at gymnastics. Sorry for the long video; we had a lot to summarize.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This is a special "Gram and Bridget" edition of the blog.

Last Wednesday at nap time, Daniel insisted that the only book he wanted to read was "Hop on Pop." This proved problematic, as we don't actually own "Hop on Pop," but frequently borrow it from the library. I tried promising that we could go to the library after naps, but since he has no concept of time, this totally did not work. He ended up flopping in bed in tears. Which lasted about six seconds before he fell asleep. He comes home from daycare exhausted!

So, true to my word, we went to the library that afternoon and got the book. I can not begin to count how many times I've read it since then. He simply can not get enough. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that when he brought it to me again this afternoon, I groaned. Audibly. I told him I would read it "in a minute," but he plopped on the floor, book in lap and said, "I wanna see 'sad dad bad had,' " which, for the uninitiated, is a double page spread in the book about sad dad who had a bad day. Then he brought it back to me saying "cup pup up," the first page in the book. He stood next to me and proceeded to "read" almost the whole book while I held it and turned the pages. Too bad I didn't keep track of how many times I'd read it this week, because apparently it's the magic number for toddler memorization.

When John got home, Daniel was ready for another round. Warning: this video is LONG (3 min.) and probably will not make sense if you don't know the book. This one is for Gram.

As always, Daniel wanted to "see Daniel" as soon as he got done. Edward then decided that he needed to get in on the performance action and reminded me that I've been trying to get him to sing one of his new songs "for Aunt Bridget." Up to now, each request has been met with indifference/refusal. But tonight, for your viewing pleasure, here is Edward singing the days of the week in Spanish:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ed helped me make Valentine cookies last week, a grand family tradition. It had been on my "to do" list but was in danger of falling too low to accomplish before the holiday. But then when I heard our neighbor snow-blowing our driveway after the latest blast of winter, I was inspired. Nothing says "Thank you!" like a sweet Valentine treat. We're hoping it also says, "Please, please, please, keep up the good work" as we're due for another five inches tonight and tomorrow. Yes, that's right, tomorrow. Monday. The occasion of my weekly trip to Cedar Rapids. ARGH! It's supposed to be done by the time I'll hit the road, but it was also supposed to have started by now, and any delay in onset brings a parallel delay in ending.

Ed had fun with the cookies, but didn't have the attention span to continue with the decorating. I actually consider cookies my best artistic medium, so I didn't mind adding the frosting and sprinkles myself. We also took some to our "church friend" Barb, who sits with us each week and helps me keep the boys corralled. And of course, we managed to eat a few ourselves!

Despite the snow, we may be off the sledding circuit for a while. We tried again after the previously described trip and Daniel was not into it. I'm not sure if it truly was lingering fear from the previous wipe-outs, or just that he happened to be tired and hungry, but after one trip down he declared he was ready to go home and started walking toward the car. We tried some persuasion, to no avail. I said I'd take Daniel home and John could call when he and Ed were done. Once we got the car, Daniel was in such a state that he could not say whether he wanted to get in or stay and go sledding. The response to either option was a screaming "No!" It took me long enough to figure out how to proceed, that John and Ed took a few more trips down the hill and Ed decided he didn't want to stay if we were leaving. They came around the corner to the parking lot just as I was at my wits end with how to get Daniel home. John got him buckled and I declared I was DONE with sledding for the season. We'll see.This morning the boys were playing firefighter, rushing from this "truck" to the next room to put out a fire "so big it's pink and purple," according to Firefighter Edward. There was a house fire in town (close to campus) this week and he saw a picture in the paper, so he's been extra interested in all things rescue this week. However, I'm not sure how color and size became conflated. During this picture, Ed made a siren sound so loud it sent him into a coughing fit.

For some reason, Daniel finds it easier to put on the fire helmet backward, so this is most often the way he wears it. I think he also finds that it stays on his head better this way.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Some indoor and outdoor play photos to go along with tonight's musings.

Daniel has entered a difficult stage. Some might like to call it "being 2." I hesitate to do so, because that implies that it might last another 11 months. Basically, he has a total meltdown over any contradiction to his stated plans or desires. This is zero-to-hysterics in under 2 seconds and there's no stopping it once it starts. At home when he starts this we try to speak calmly, ask him to "use words" and tell us what he wants. If it's something he can't have we try to distract with alternatives. This pretty much never works, and we have to remind him that if he wants to scream he has to do it in his bed. We only leave him a few minutes and then go back to ask if he's done crying and ready to come out. Even if he's still crying, he usually takes this opportunity to collect himself and come back to play. The real downside is when this happens away from home, particularly at times when we're trying to get in the car. He's not so much fighting the car seat, as the fact of being placed in it when he wants to stay somewhere else. Today I discovered that his shirt sleeves were wet (from vigorous hand washing) just as we were getting ready to walk out the door of the daycare. He wanted to "go back my class and change my shirt" (which is what we do if we discover the damp before leaving the class; this happens a lot.) but I said we could change it at home. Absolute meltdown. He actually laid himself face down on the floor at the daycare entrance--I shudder to think of the dirt and slush! So then of course he would not allow himself to be strapped into the car. It was really quite a horrible scene. He all-out screamed the entire drive home, which takes about 10-15 minutes.When we got home I took him straight up to his nap, but had to change his wet shirt first. Then I picked him up and held him as tight to me as I could quietly chanting in his ear, "Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you. Grandma loves you. Grandpa loves you. Gram loves you. PopPop loves you" just trying to get him to calm down. Edward came up and inserted "Edward loves you" into the meditation. It sort of worked, but he still screamed when put in bed. Eventually he laid down with his pacifiers and allowed himself to be covered. Then he proceeded to sleep for three hours.

So, obviously he was exhausted, and of course I know that when I pick him up. Unfortunately, that knowledge is no help against the force of a screaming toddler arching and wrenching his body away from his car seat. I guess we'll all live to tell the tale.

We had a bit of a rough-and-tumble sledding adventure with Grandma and Grandpa on Saturday afternoon. On the first run down, Ed and Daniel rode together in a new sled, got a bit off balance and ended up tipping over. Daniel took the brunt of the fall with his face (above) and sustained a bloody lip. We dabbed it with tissue and applied Chapstick and he was willing to have another go. We kind of got a late start and as it started to get dark, the boys said they were done after about 20 minutes. We convinced them to have a few more races down with Grandpa (Grandma opted to observe.) It wasn't our most successful outing of the season, but the new sled is pretty killer. It's just a plastic two-seater, but it really flies down the hill and coasts far beyond the slope. I think we'll have more opportunity to use it this weekend after another snowfall last night and today. That makes three Monday nights in a row with snow--the night I have to drive to Cedar Rapids for my MBA class. UGH! It's a really interesting class though, and I think I'll be able to keep the calculator tucked away all semester, which is a big plus in my mind.

Our boys don't let the snow deter their favorite outdoor activities. I have tried to tell Daniel his "school bus" will not work in the snow, but he would not be denied. I finally got it out and he scooted along until he hit a snow bank. Then the slight uphill grade in front of our house was impassable, but he didn't mind--just got off and pushed from behind. Until he hit a snow bank.
Seeing this, Edward bolted to the garage. Unable to see behind the parked car, I wasn't sure what he was doing until he came peddling out on the tractor. Lack of four-wheel drive was also a problem with this vehicle, but he managed to head downhill toward one neighbor and then convinced me to offer a light, but continuous, push back up to our house. He was more willing than Daniel to admit his vehicle wasn't up to the snowy terrain. Then again, he also has more ability to entertain himself in other ways, like climbing through the snowy yard and up the banks of shoveled snow. Whatever the case, they stayed out for an hour, which is good for all of our mental health.

I think my Grandma was having a good laugh with us at church last week. She used to tell the story of wanting to be in the band but her family not being able to afford an instrument or lessons. She thought, "Well, I'll just be the conductor--all they do is wave their hands like this" and then she'd wave back and forth. Well, Ed often turns around to watch the choir at mass and sometimes he pretends he's the conductor, but this week, he really got into it, imitating the rhythmic up and down, side to side motions and even turning his hands from parallel to perpendicular to the floor. He watched and imitated for at least two verses. I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, but I kept thinking of my Grandma's boisterous laugh and how much she loved that story.

In other musical developments, there was a string quartet program in place of the usual Saturday story hour last week. They are part of the Cedar Rapids Symphony and do these educational programs throughout the area. It was one of the best library programs we've ever seen--the cellist really connected with the kids. They kept the pieces short, but described what to listen for ("engine," "whistle," "raindrops," etc.) On the way home, John asked Ed if he'd like to learn to play the cello someday, but Ed said, "No, I want to play piano." Well...someday. But then yesterday he was sitting on backward on his little chair and the position (having his legs around the chair back) reminded him of the cello and he asked me what "that big instrument" was. It's amazing the impressions that are made.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ah, brotherly love. Calm, reasoned, sharing of trains. And if you believe that, let me tell you about this bridge I have for sale...

Actually, they usually do pretty well, until Daniel announces "tomato!" and then swirls all the cars under his hands until they fall off the tracks and the bridge falls down. That's one rotten tomato, you might be thinking. Actually, the intended word is, "tornado." A little lesson in unintended consequences for Edward, who invented the game, but HATES when Daniel plays it.

John snapped this with his new Droid phone during the daycare chili supper last week. They have all-school events like this in the largest classroom, which is now Edward's class--preschool ages 4 until they're off to kindergarten. Daniel loves when Edward isn't quite ready when we get there to pick him up because then he gets a few minutes to explore the big kid stuff, including an extensive dress-up collection. Edward gets mad if we get there too early because then he doesn't have time to do his "DAP" (which I believe stands for "developmentally adaptive play.") This is the post-lunch, pre-nap calming mechanism in this classroom. Each kid gets a little bin of objects to sort by shape, color, or "patter-in" (pattern) of their invention. Edward's favorite is the "fruit dap."

We had a bit of serendipity where Edward's class is concerned. The teachers had the kid vote on the themes for the next two months and "space" was selected for February. Then on Friday night, we noticed that we were to have the largest full moon of the year plus a visible Mars. So we bundled up after dinner and stepped out to have a look. This was followed by a visit to the library on Saturday and a selection of books on planets and space. There aren't too many at a pre-K comprehension level, but we're adapting and he's having fun learning the names of the planets and which are too hot and too cold.

Speaking of reading, here's a sweet picture of Edward "reading" to Daniel. In reality, this book "Dig Dig Dig" has been a favorite since Ed was Daniel's age and has long been memorized. I can't remember why Daniel is wearing his pajama bottoms with his regular shirt. It might have been the day I thought I might get him to sleep longer if I took off his jeans and gave him comfy pajamas. Nothing doing. He sleeps when he wants and not a minute more, usually waking before Edward. This gives us a little one-on-one playtime and led to a very funny exchange one afternoon last week. We were playing with trains when Daniel suddenly became interested in a blemish in the wood steps leading up to the dining room. "Hey, Mom. Come check this out!" he called. I was too stunned to move. "Did he just say "come check this out?" I thought. Then he repeated himself. It is always startling to hear oneself echoed in the mouth of a two-year-old.

Although he now has a horrible hacking cough and was sent home from school with a fever today, Daniel received a good report at his two-year well-child check last week. He is 31 pounds and about 35 inches. I think I've read that doubling the height at two gives a pretty good estimate for adult height, so Daniel may tower over all of us. I actually thought he'd be heavier--this means there's a full six lb. difference between the two boys. Hard to tell from holding them!

Unfortunately both boys learned from their H1N1 vaccine experience to fear shots. Daniel's immunization record was a bit of a mess because we had deferred a shot at 18-months and hadn't seen our own doctor at that appointment so she couldn't quite decipher the other doctor's notes. That meant we had lots of time to wait in anticipation of said shots. Sometime during this waiting, Edward figured out he was also getting a shot (second round of H1N1) and then all hell broke loose. He crawled under a chair and wouldn't come out. I tried reasoning with him, "Yes, I know it hurts, but it keeps you healthy. And it doesn't hurt for a long time, it's very quick." I pulled out some terms he uses from his music class: "Edward, it's not 'larrrrgo,' it's 'presto!'" He was not impressed. I'd even brought his "teeny" (security blanket) for comfort, and said I'd take it away if he didn't come out. He calmly handed it to me from under the chair, where he stayed. So of course, Daniel started freaking out because Edward was, and I had to hold them both down one after the other to get stuck (Daniel got two in each leg!) Not a highlight of motherhood.

Let's hope we don't have another novel flu virus next year. They're both now old enough for the mist seasonal flu vaccine (Edward got it this year for seasonal, but it wasn't available when we went for H1N1.)

I was going to include some video here, but it requires a lot more editing as it's difficult to shoot more than a few seconds without Daniel running up to the camera saying, "I wanna see Daniel!" Will see if we can splice together a few clips. Maybe John can tackle that while I'm at class tonight. Last week's first session had to be canceled due to hazardous driving conditions--even though we only had a few inches of snow, high winds created whiteout on the interstate between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids (where the class is held and many students live/work.) Tonight's forecast again calls for snow (just an inch or two), but not the wind. Spring can't come soon enough!