Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just squeezing in one last July post so as not to suffer the blogger humiliation of only two posts in the whole month. The shame!We've been keeping busy with cool indoor and wet outdoor entertainment, key to surviving the sticky July that has descended upon us. On days when we're just not up to dragging out the whole pool and watching the water meter tick as we fill it, we've had some fun with a simple sprinkler. The first one broke after being stepped on too many times, but was quickly replaced with a cheap, flat model that probably would be useless at actually watering a garden, but is perfect for boys running and leaping.
This week also marked the annual Johnson County Fair, an event we barely even knew existed before we had kids, but now would not miss. The boys got to see one of their favorite firefighters and found out that he'd been promoted since the last visit. So they've had to modify their role playing to "Captain Jason" instead of mere "Firefighter Jason." Good thing they've met plenty of other firefighters in our frequent visits to the station; there are enough names to go around, including finally one for me. I get to be "Battalion Chief Tina." I can't tell you how pleased I am that the first female firefighter they met was the boss!
There was plenty of farm equipment on hand at the fair. Edward was suitably impressed with the size of the tires on this combine. Daniel was more interested in climbing all the way up, which was fine until we had to figure out how to get him down.
But it was not all fun and games at the fair this year. When it came time for the rides, Daniel was determined to follow Edward's lead and bravely got on the tilt-a-whirl with John and Ed. John reported that as soon as it started moving, Daniel said, "Daddy, I'm done!" but he didn't cry and got off saying he liked it. But then he would not be dissuaded from this "roller coaster."
It's not big, but it was definitely scary. On the third time around after seeing this face, we flagged the operator who stopped the ride to let him off.
He was going to keep going for Edward and the other kid, but they decided they'd had enough as well. Beware the crocodile! We tried to persuade him to go back to one of the tame rides like the car he'd already ridden so he would not leave with that fear, but he was done.
So Ed used up the rest of the tickets. He remains adamant that pink is his favorite color and was thrilled to be able to select his motorcycle for his ride. He did ask about the helmet, but we explained that a ride is different from an actual motorcycle, so he didn't have to call out "bad choice" to himself.
Another first for all of us that evening was the "tractor pull." For the city folk out there, this is an event wherein drivers of various vehicles (including tractors) vie to see who can pull a weighted, flat trailer the farthest across a dirt field. The part we saw was pick-up trucks; we didn't stay long enough for the tractor part of the event. Although I've lived in Iowa long enough now that I truly think of myself as an Iowan, my urban roots were showing at my absolute amazement at the crowd gathered to watch this spectacle. I kid you not, there were at least 1,000 people in the bleachers and up the grassy hillside next to the field. It was quite loud, and soon after we sat down, someone behind us offered us ear plugs for the kids (who were clamping their hands over their ears--lots of practice on that this summer!) We thanked him, but explained that we weren't staying long. Two pulls and we were gone.

John took Edward to his first movie in the theater on Friday afternoon--Toy Story 3. They both had a great time, and Daniel was basically none the wiser. He knew Dad and Edward were "out" and we met them for dinner after the movie, but I don't think he realizes that Edward's obsession with Buzz Lightyear was renewed by anything other than the DVDs of the first two movies they've both seen at home. Well, Daniel has seen snippets. He never sits still for more than about 10 minutes, which is perfectly fine. Actually, Ed had never seen an entire movie in one sitting either, but John said he did fine. (For those who have seen the movie, John claims he did not cry at the end, but "it was close.") Edward has temporarily turned his firefighter gear into Buzz Lightyear gear and has added an unsharpened pencil, which serves as his laser. Before it is deployed, a warning is frequently issued: "I'm going to "laze" you!"

Even before the movie theater, "Toy Story" almost complicated my life. Edward's class had earned a prize for good behavior and voted on "costume day" as their treat. A week in advance I started reminding Edward that if he wanted to dress in anything other than his firefighter costume he had to let me know soon so we could figure out another costume. I could just picture a bedtime request the night before! So three days in advance, he timidly said he'd changed his mind and wanted to be "a farmer." I asked what that would entail and he detailed "a hat, boots, and vest with black and white spots." Oh. No. He's describing Woody, the cowboy. Did I want to go shopping for and/or spend money on cowboy boots & hat or try to fashion some sort of acceptable vest??? Not in this lifetime. Think. Think.

"Hey, Edward. What if we tied a rope around your swim ring and you could wear your swimsuit and a visor AND a whistle. You could be a lifeguard!!" Lots of build up here. Breathless. Dramatic. Hook, line and sinker. He totally bought it. The only thing was that he insisted that lifeguards wear red swimsuits and he has a blue one and a brown one with sharks all over it. Hmmm... Well, he figured that one out on his own--he has a pair of mesh athletic shorts that are black and red, and this was deemed acceptable. At the last minute, we realized he could wear them inside out and they'd be all red. A hit! I did buy the shirt for $3 on summer clearance, but even then he almost didn't wear it because it wasn't red.
My summer class ended Wednesday, and I now have four weeks off before the fall semester. Lots of reading to catch up on before I dive back in!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In honor of the hottest day so far this summer, we headed out to one of the areas largest expanses of asphalt yesterday morning. Genius.

Actually, it was our third annual visit to the Crusin' for Kids car show at the Kinnick Stadium parking lot, a benefit for Children's Miracle Network. Grandpa likes to see those from his high-school era, including this BMW, a version of which a friend of his owned back in the day. Must have been quite the thing for tooling around Fort Dodge.

The boys were eager to see a real "monster truck" which we have lately been successful in explaining was not a truck filled with monsters or a monster in the shape of a truck, but only a very large truck--as big as a monster. They were not disappointed--we saw two. Edward also picked up on the term "muscle car" at this event last year and has had that on his vehicle watch list ever since. He sometimes thinks any loud car (e.g. broken muffler) is a muscle car, but may be picking up on the subtleties of a souped up car that is intentionally loud.

The owner of this car suggested that Daniel honk the horn, but did not warn the boys of its old-fashioned "ah-OOO-ga" sound. They were not amused. However, they quickly recovered and Edward decided he needed to take a crack at it as well. He was better prepared for the second one (notice the use of the elbow to engage the horn...probably not in the driver's manual.)

We were glad our own cars stayed in the shadow of the Kinnick Press Box the whole time we were there. We then headed over to the Iowa City Book Festival, a relatively new event that had beefed up its kids programming for its second year. There was shady grass seating for the kids to watch a clown/puppet show that kept them giggling for about 20 minutes. Then on to the art tent to make book marks and a "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" craft. But what we were really waiting for was the appearance by everyone's favorite monkey, Curious George.

Daniel was so enthralled he just could not walk away.

Even when he moved aside to give other kids a turn, he stayed close and even petted George's leg. (Note: we were all surprised at how tall George was. We wondered how tall the Man with the Yellow Hat would have to be to retain the proportion of the book illustrations...)
We finally managed to drag him away and headed home for naps, but it was a very exciting morning all told. After a nice long nap time, we headed over to the splash pad for some cool, wet fun.

Today's afternoon fun was the new pool I found on clearance at K-Mart this morning. Our first kiddie pool was purchased when Edward was 18 months and was just about perfect for that age, but by last summer it was clear it could no longer contain both growing boys. While it was a warm afternoon, it was not humid (what??) and there was a nice cooling breeze, so after a while the boys started to get cold in their wet t-shirts. Since the pool was fully in the shade by then, we had them expose their white bellies and they were able to get in some more splashing before drying off and calling it an afternoon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Well, I think I've given the "Edward getting lost" story top billing for long enough. Perhaps it's time for a mid-summer update. Appropriately enough, the first few tidbits are agricultural.

Beans! Edward's beans finally were ready to harvest last week. He got six. But quantity was not an issue. He was thrilled to pick them, and, John reports, eager to eat them. (It was Wednesday so I was at class.) There may be more, but probably not ever enough all at the same time for everyone to have a serving. Lesson for next year--not all the seeds will produce stalks.

Blueberries! We'd been reading Robert McCloskey's "Blueberries for Sal" and the boys were eager to go to "blueberry hill." This not being 1940s Maine with open fields of wild berries, we visited a local farm where you can pick your own over the July 4th weekend. Daniel was a bit nervous that there might be a bear, but we reassured him that there are no bears in Iowa. We had a great time, and the boys were surprisingly dexterous, picking only the ripe berries, not the mounds of green ones that are probably ready now. They even waited until we got back to the car to wash some berries before eating any, though we found out that they don't spray them at all, so it probably would have been OK to eat off the bush. A little dirt never hurt anyone, right? I'm hoping we'll go back again sometime this month.

(Note to self: don't dress kid in green shirt and green hat before attempting to take nature pictures.)

Farmer's market! We try to make it to the market each Saturday morning. Edward gets his own dollar (or two as needed) to pick something to purchase. (We also get a sweet treat to share--usually an apple turnover, delicious!) When it comes to the vegetables, he really likes the idea of "something new" and has picked a different one every week--asparagus, broccoli, spinach, onion, summer squash--all of which he has eaten and enjoyed. At first he thought he didn't like the asparagus, which wouldn't have surprised me, but after it sat on his plate a bit he gave it another try, this time actually taking a full bite (rather than touching it with his tongue and rejecting) and he ate it all and asked for more. He keeps asking if we can have it again, and I'm having a hard time explaining the seasonal nature of certain crops. Last night we had grilled summer squash with pesto--tasty! I suggested that we could grow zucchini/summer squash next year, which I may live to regret, as everyone I've ever known who has grown it has ended up with at least three times as much as they could possibly eat! (Note to self: Do not pose for picture two days before desperately-needed haircut after wearing a sun hat all morning in the berry fields.)

Fire station! On the way to the Farmer's Market one morning, the ladder truck drove right by us, and I guessed from its route and direction that it was headed back to the station, which is across from the market. We hurried our pace a bit and got there in time to see it back in, lights flashing. Then the boys wanted to go closer, and we discovered that the crew had just cleaned the truck bay and were all standing around with no immediate task. Our boys were welcomed by about eight firefighters, each one more eager than the next to show them a good time. They sat in the trucks, saw the rescue boat, explored some of the gear (though the ranking firefighter advised against actually trying on the hat since it's so heavy) and got bags full of coloring books, trading cards (with pictures of the trucks and the firefighters we met), stickers and temporary tattoos. They now think they own the place. We were in the area again Friday evening and saw a firefighter getting exercise by walking around the block carrying a radio to hear any potential call. The boys found this fascinating and insisted that we walk up to the truck bay again to see if the doors were open. They were, and the exercising firefighter was just getting back as we walked up. So he gave them the tour all over again. Apparently it never gets old.

Now when the boys play firefighter, they give each other the names of those we've met--Daniel usually is "Firefighter Mark," Edward is "Firefighter Jason or Lance" and John is "Firefighter Will." They tell me I'm the firefighter cook. I have a new goal to introduce them to one of Iowa City's female firefighters, lest they believe only men can do the job. This is their firetruck with Edward driving, Daniel sitting "on the hoses" and John relegated to the rear. In between calls, they "sleep" in the fire station (tent.)

Fireworks! Edward started talking about fireworks a few weeks before the 4th. I said I would take him, but we didn't make concrete plans. I figured if he forgot about it or was too tired, we'd skip it. (I actually love fireworks, so it wasn't an issue of me hoping he'd forget.) We had the most beautiful weather the week leading up to the 4th, but the day of was cloudy with torrential rains in the forecast. Those held off the whole day, until about 7:30 p.m. as we were leaving a cookout with friends. We headed home to put Daniel to bed, trying to prepare Edward for the fact that they couldn't have fireworks in the rain. He insisted that he still wanted to go, and it did stop raining, so at about 9 we set off.

We parked a few blocks south of the viewing point, walked over, and found a spot to set our chair. Waiting was difficult, but it was only about 20 minutes or so. The show in the next town over started a bit before ours and though all we could see was the flashing on the horizon, Ed thought it was the real thing. After a few minutes he said, "Are any of them going to be not white?" Shortly after that, our show started and Ed figured out the difference distance makes. He immediately clapped his hands over his ears and I thought he was going to want to leave, but he settled and was fine, as long as he covered his ears. After about 10 minutes he suddenly sat up, panicked: "Mom! I have an itch!" This was a momentary crisis, because to scratch would mean to remove his hands from his ears. We decided I'd cover his ears while he dealt with the itch. After about 15 minutes he said he was ready to leave. I think this was more about his limited attention span than anything else, because it wasn't during a particularly booming part of the show. It turned out to be for the best because as we were walking away the finale started, with the accompanying increase in decibel level. This was not greeted with enthusiasm. Keeping his hands over his ears, he started running ahead of me. It was a well-lit downtown area so I could keep up and keep track of him. He shouted: "I want to go where I can't hear it!" I told him we'd be able to hear it even back at our house, but that by the time we walked back to the car it would be over. It was, and by the time we were on our way home he declared the outing a success and said he liked fireworks. We'll see how he feels and what he remembers next year. By then I don't think Daniel will be denied. He was absolutely falling asleep this year and couldn't have made it until 10 p.m.

This weekend, the boys enjoyed a sleep-over at Grandma and Grandpa's while John and I went to Des Moines for a 40th birthday party for some dear friends who we do not get to see often enough. We all had a great time. When we called the next morning the boys were not ready to come home, and Grandma and Grandpa were agreeable to having them stay until late afternoon. John and I took the opportunity to out for brunch, but learned that we can't truly shake our parent routines, as we arrived an hour before they opened. No worries--we went to another place and had a delicious breakfast al fresco. By late afternoon though, John was getting antsy, and practically dashed out the door as soon as his mom called to say the boys were up from naps and ready to come home. It's so refreshing to have a break, but we do miss them when they're gone.

I made it through the "ouch" apex of the semester workload curve described here a few weeks ago. It's still busy, but not quite as all-consuming. Would be even better if all five team members were equal contributors to the effort. One in particular has been incredibly frustrating, in that he acknowledges he's not doing the work, but makes no effort to change his behavior. I should let it go, but it's hard. Three weeks to go.

Finally, I keep thinking I should write down some of Daniel's amusing expressions/lexicon, but then the time for blogging gets away from me. Here are some I can think of now, but I may have to come back to this list in the days/weeks ahead as more come to mind:

"muh-quipment"=equipment, usually on the playground
"frcycling"=recycling; can refer to the truck or the act of placing items in the bin
"lock it up"= unlock; yes, the opposite of the standard interpretation. Daniel has figured out how to lock the car door with his foot, which involves pushing down on the button. So when he wants me to unlock it, he knows it has to come back up, hence, lock it "up."