Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The pictures and stories in this post do not necessarily go together. Let's just call it a random assortment of moments in the last few weeks.

With these smiling faces you'd never know that we were less than an hour away from Daniel being carried kicking and screaming from church after Edward declined to share his Goldfish crackers. Both boys had been offered the same snack choice before we left and Daniel had selected bunny crackers, but had some buyer's remorse when he saw Edward's. Should I have simply forced Edward to hand over his snack? Perhaps, though the way Daniel's fits have been escalating lately, it's unlikely it would have ended there. Instead, we left as fast as we could and I barely made it to the car a block away carrying a writhing, screaming, hitting Daniel. He then screamed all the way home and for half an hour buckled in his car seat (windows and garage door open on a cool morning) once we got home. This pattern has become all too frequent lately and we are absolutely powerless to intervene once he gets going. This one was actually better than most because at least strapped in his car seat we knew he couldn't hurt himself. Although we know that the best response to a toddler tantrum is to ignore/walk away, and we do employ this tactic in other situations, we don't feel this is a safe option during these episodes. He flies around the room crashing into walls, screams and hits whoever attempts to come near, occasionally sweeps entire shelves of books/puzzles to the ground, pulls out dresser drawers, etc. It's actually quite like a night terror episode, except he's awake. At night in the dark he usually isn't terribly mobile so we can just wait nearby until he calms.

But he does have moments of controlled anger, such as in the car returning from a picnic Sunday evening when he and Edward were bickering about something completely insubstantial. After several rounds of "No it's not!" "Yes it is!" Daniel finally shouted, "Edward I am SO angry at you. When we get home I am going to draw my angry face on the whiteboard."

Attempts to stifle the front-seat laughter utterly failed. And, just to show how innocuous it all was, it was entirely forgotten by the time we got home 10 minutes later and the whiteboard drawing never appeared.

And we must remember that although he thinks he can do everything Edward can and can talk as well as kids much older, he's still not even three so there's still a baby lurking as seen in his re-imagining of this photograph.

There's also plenty of goofy to go around.
This week at school each day has had a theme as they celebrate "Homecoming" in honor of the UI homecoming this weekend. Monday was "Crazy Hair Day" which was eagerly anticipated, despite our boys' cropped locks. After John fixed these 'do's, Daniel shouted as he came down the stairs: "Here comes Daniel in a mohawk!"
And this was a party favor at Daniel's first "friend" birthday party, which he enjoyed two weeks ago. It was fortuitous timing as Edward has suddenly been deluged with birthday invitations and Daniel has had a hard time understanding why he can't go to the parties. We've explained that Edward's friends invite him and when Daniel's friends have parties they will invite Daniel and not Edward. So even though the parents hosting Daniel's friend's party generously offered for us to bring Edward, we kept it strictly a Daniel occasion, which sort of helped when we explained Edward's departure for the next party.

Edward's brand of goofy included sprawling himself on the floor of a barn poking a long piece of grass with a sort of cattail on the end through a crack in the floor. "Barn" only applies to the general shape and location of this facility, which is used for parties. John noted as we walked in, "Wow, the floors in this barn are nicer than the ones in our home." Edward had been in the lower level to use the bathroom and wanted to go up a flight of stairs until he noticed that it led straight into the ceiling. It was a trap door from the party room above so I took him back up to show him the outline on the floor of the party room and how the door would open on its hinges if people weren't using the space for tables and chairs. He then spent about 15 minutes laying flat on his belly in the middle of the floor. We didn't know it was anything more than poking a piece of grass through a hole until I finally asked him what he was doing and he replied: "ice fishing."

This one is for Diana and Sean.

Sometimes it's easy to forget how literal your world is as a child. On a recent Saturday morning, John had to tell Edward not to bother Daniel, who was carrying a stack of books, because Daniel will have a fit "at the drop of a hat."
Daniel, looking at a book that has fallen off the stack onto the floor: "That's not a hat."

And to show that not all sleep disturbance is a scary night terror, here's what happened last night. On my way to bed I stopped in the boys' rooms to be sure they were covered as our nights are growing quite cool (though not cool enough to turn on heat!) and they both have trouble staying under the covers. Usually I can do this without them noticing even if I have to pull the blanket out from underneath them. But I must have caught Daniel at a bad time because about a minute after I left his room I heard him call out:
"Goldbug! Goldbug?" (This is a character in Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go" a current favorite, that John had read before bed about two hours earlier.)

I went in to find him standing in the middle of his room in the dark calling for Goldbug. I asked him if he needed to find Goldbug and he just stood there trying to form words. Classic sleepwalking/talking. I've done it myself--just ask John. He sat down cross-legged for a bit and I sat across from him waiting to see if he'd need anything. Then he just laid down on the floor and closed his eyes. I think he would have stayed there, but I picked him up and put him back in bed.

Edward started playing soccer two weeks ago and seems to be enjoying it. It's all 4- and 5-year-olds, once a week at a park near our house. They're spending the first three weeks just learning some of the basics and then will attempt "games" for the next three weeks, one of which he'll miss while we're in Chicago. I haven't managed any pictures as Daniel is not a good soccer spectator. As soon as Edward joins his team, Daniel makes a beeline to the playground. John may have one on his phone--he tries to stop at the park on his way home from work to catch the last 15-20 minutes or so. If he does, I'll have him post it later.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We may be approaching a new record for delayed blog posts. This one focuses on an event that is already three weeks old, and I'm on my third day of attempting to complete the post.

As you can see from Daniel's leisurely pose, we took a family trip to a waterpark the last weekend in August, taking advantage of our last year not beholden to the school calendar. The Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque includes three large waterslides (one of which is navigated while riding on the tube Daniel is modeling, though his pose was for show only; the boys had to ride in our laps.) It also has a big climbing playground, for lack of a better descriptor, that includes lots of sprayers, buckets, and any other implement for playing with water that you might dream up. There's also a lazy river (though it wasn't working while we were there) and a smaller zero-depth entry pool with sprayers like the ones our kids have enjoyed at the splash pad this summer. The whole thing is a Huck Finn, steam boat theme (Dubuque being a Mississippi River town.) We were there when Edward was about 20 months old, but this was an entirely different experience.

It's hard to take pictures in an aquatic adventureland such as this one, especially when neither one of your children is an independent swimmer. Plus our camera isn't really good enough for action, so we never were quite able to capture the delight on the boys' faces at the end of a slide. Delighted they were, however, and so were the people who happened to be standing in the pool when John and Daniel came whooshing out of the tallest/fastest of the three slides. This slide had a separate set of stairs, much more intimidating than climbing up the "steam boat" playground area to the other two slides. It took Daniel a while to decide he wanted to try it. Edward had gone several times before he finally consented to ride. But when he came down: pure glee as he shouted, "I did it!!!" The other people in the pool could not stop smiling as John paddled the raft over to the side so I could help Daniel off as he shrieked with delight.

Another moment was a bit less gleeful. Even after his roller coaster lesson at the county fair in July, Daniel totally hasn't learned that he isn't big enough for all the things Edward can do. After a few trips down the two simpler slides, we suggested Ed could go by himself since they ended in only a few inches of water, not a pool. I went first, then Edward and the plan was for John and Daniel to follow. Waiting for Ed, I saw that by the time he got to the bottom he'd twisted around from the swirling slide motion and ended up sideways. Next thing I know, here comes Daniel, completely twisted around and on his stomach. It's not deep water at the end, but it is if you're a toddler laying on your stomach! I scooped him up and waited for John, who explained that Daniel had a total fit and insisted that he go by himself like Edward. Let's just say neither of them wanted to go alone again, which was fine.

Edward was very proud to practice/demonstrate his new level of comfort with getting his face wet. He wanted to be watched over and over dunking himself. Water play can be exhausting, and also a bit chilling for those without sufficient body mass (Edward) to keep warm. When we were not in the pool, we also had the opportunity to visit the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, which is part of the same complex. The boys loved all the hands on displays, especially a water table set up to demonstrate water currents, lock&dam operation, water ecosystems, and other kid-friendly lessons. They probably didn't absorb too much other than the water itself, but they sure had fun.
Here they're "operating" a steamship boiler, inserting logs and then watching the boiler fire to power the ship. They probably ran around this display 25 times, retrieving the log and re-inserting it to watch the fire.Here we see that preschoolers do not pilot steamships for one of the same reasons they don't drive cars--they can't see over the wheel. But they sure can spin it. This boat would have had quite the seasick crew with these two at the helm.
Here's a nice lesson in teamwork. If you look closely, you can see that the barrel doesn't get much height with just one person on the rope. But working together:
Here they are looking for the shark (note Ed's wet shirt from his previous water table adventures.) In the aquarium displays we also learned that crayfish swim backward, which is sort of a Cliff Clavin ho-hum factoid, but I must tell you greatly enhanced by observing this phenomenon in close proximity to a curious preschooler.
The lizards were also a popular feature, though you can't quite tell from Daniel's expression standing next to this Komodo dragon. He liked the smaller ones a little better, especially an exhibit where you could crawl through a tunnel and stand up with your head in a bubble "inside" the habitat.
They also got to touch a fox snake.

Even with all this excitement, there was still time to play "firefighter" in the hotel room, using the windowsill as the truck. I'm not sure this is the approved uniform, but they improvised.

It was one of the first weekends with cool nights/mornings and we hadn't thought to bring sweatshirts for the kids. We were up long before the 9 a.m. pool opening, so they were quite the fashion bugs with their pajama shirts and swim suits taking a riverside walk at 7:30 a.m.

It was a really nice get-away, even though it did confirm my assumption that it's WAY more work to take a vacation with kids this age than to stay home. But also more fun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Today we attended our third "Move It! Dig It! Do It!" event sponsored by the Iowa Children's Museum. (In looking up the blog links for the previous two years, I discovered that two years ago Edward was wearing the same shirt Daniel had on today. Oh, hand-me-downs!) It was a new location this year, but the same concept--a field full of trucks for kids to climb on, pretend to drive, honk horns, etc. It was clearly a case of "how will we decide what to do first?" when we arrived shortly after it started at 11 this morning. But emergency vehicles are always a safe bet, so we headed to the police and fire vehicles.
Of course, our boys are no strangers to firetrucks, having visited our downtown station at least half a dozen times this summer. It's only a block away from the farmer's market, and they always demand to "check to see if the doors are open." If so, they just walk right in and make themselves at home. Luckily, the firefighters don't seem to mind. I suppose this was a change of pace since it was a Coralville truck instead of Iowa City.

Police cars are a bit more elusive, though they have been in one since a woman in our neighborhood is an Iowa City Police Sergeant and sometimes stops home for dinner while we're out taking walks. When we first walked up to this car the front seat was full of kids, so Ed hopped in the back and made his best "criminal" face.Then they got a turn up front.
Another big hit was the snowplow. I can't believe how soon these guys will be trolling the streets again. But for today, the boys were intrigued to be able to stand right next to it to see how big it really is. They also got in and took turns driving and honking the horn. The garbage and recycling trucks were also popular attractions. They liked that they could each take a steering wheel--one on the left in a seat and one on the right side standing up.

This backhoe and road roller were a bit too close to the cement mixer, which had an air horn--a very popular feature, but still too loud for our boys. Daniel wouldn't even climb up to sit in the mixer after a kid pulled the horn while he was waiting for a turn. Ed climbed up, but stuck to the steering wheel horn. You can see him covering his ears in the photo below.

Another kid climbed into the seat next to Daniel in the Gator before Edward could make his move, so he settled for this riding lawn mower and was quite pleased to be able to move the levers. I don't think he understood that this offers the same function as a steering wheel, but no matter. John said that Daniel attempted perhaps the first-ever "lawnmower-jacking" when he tried to climb in with Edward. A quick lever pull would have sent Daniel tumbling down if Grandpa had not been there to catch him.

As was the case last year, the toys were as much fun as the real trucks. We almost couldn't get Daniel out of these cars (there were eight or ten and he had to try them all.)

However, we eventually drew him away to the "Dig It!" part of the event--a huge pile of sand.
Then it was on to lunch--better prepared this year with PB&J in a lunch cooler. The adults were wishing it was a full picnic, but we were equally glad not to have to stand in the long line to buy the food on hand at the event. I am quite certain that despite Grandma's hand-wipes, the kids ingested a bit of dirt with their lunch. Oh well. We were then exactly in the right place at the right time for a "cooking with kids" demonstration--making "dirt cups" (a.k.a. chocolate pudding with chocolate graham cracker crumbs topped with a gummy worm.) Perfect end to our outing. Everyone was exhausted, but we managed to keep Daniel awake in the car by asking him to sing his favorite song--Muffin Man. That led to others, and 10 minutes later we were home. Gulps of water, quick showers, books and naptime. Oh, the peace!

The other big event this weekend was the Iowa-Iowa State football game, which was in Iowa City this year with plenty of local excitement. Our family only saw part of one quarter, and the boys' favorite part was the Aflac duck walking across the bottom of the screen (they made John rewind three times and each time they giggled as if it were the first.) Our inattention notwithstanding, the Hawkeyes won, 35-7. We're there in spirit even if we don't have the attention span for the whole event.
Watch this space for additional updates as I attempt to catch up on the last two weeks. Next up, our report on a trip to the Grand Harbor Resort (water slide) in Dubuque.