Monday, November 29, 2010

What do you do when you've had all your toys taken away?Well, you play in the toy cabinet of course.

What if you end up going the whole day with no toys because you bounce from one end of the behavior scale to the other, winning an item back only to have it taken again?

You invent new ways to destroy the furniture. But on the plus side, the endless repetition of this cycle burns a lot of energy on a rainy November day.

Toy tally: Daniel won back his coloring materials (which Ed was desperate enough to play with even though I can't tell you the last time I saw him sit to color) and a "yellow and blue airplane" that is so rarely played with I didn't even know what he was talking about for five minutes.

Edward started out in the hole, losing his security blanket, "Teenie" for breakfast hijinks. He won it back at nap time, lost it at dinner, and won it back by bedtime. After further discussion, we've also installed a "good listening" sticker chart on the refrigerator. I told him it would take a lot of practice to become a good listener, just like it took a lot of practice to be able to make baskets at basketball. We remembered how in his first two weeks he didn't make any baskets. "Kind of like two days--yesterday and today--of no listening," I coached.

"How many baskets did you make the third day?"


So tomorrow's goal is five good listening stickers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It was ultimatum night at Casa Kenyon. The room above is our dining room A.K.A. playroom, which is a common backdrop for blog photos, but loyal readers may not recognize it as it hasn't looked like this since August 2008. While we have enjoyed some fun family time in this long, holiday weekend, it's been a near-constant battle of wills to get the boys to listen and do what they're told. The delicious Thanksgiving dinner John's mom cooked us was a circus, they were so naughty on our trip to Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma's on Friday that they were told there would be no dessert for a week, we had to leave church early when they would not listen to me and quit poking people's legs under the pews (among other things), and the final straw was tonight's dinner where all our calm but firm instructions fell on deaf ears and they finally saw their pasta dumped in the garbage and were sent from the table (in tears.)

But even that wasn't enough to make the point because they repaired to the living room and started in on two things that are expressly forbidden--taking metal trucks in the play tent and going in and out of the tent without unzipping the flaps (leading to strain, and eventual ripping.) John saw this from the kitchen and stormed in to take the tent down, telling them he was giving it away to kids who know how to listen to their parents. Ed did not listen when John told him to move away while he was folding it up and sending them out of the room just led to gales of giggles. (They're both nervous gigglers when in trouble, which is amazingly infuriating!) So they were sent to their bedrooms, doors closed.

While cleaning up dinner, I hit upon the idea of clearing out all the toys before inviting the boys back down to their new toyless existence. Luckily we had some empty boxes in the basement. What an amazing amount of crap!

After this was done, we called them down and told them to walk through. Upon entering the dining room, Ed said, "Oh! It's completely empty!" and Daniel echoed, "It's a-pletely empty!"

But instead of wondering where their stuff was or how to get it back, they started playing with the empty cube shelf (lower right in the picture above) so that John had to pick it up and take it out of the room as well. It was not the impact we'd hoped. They were sent back to their rooms, which led to pajamas and early bedtime.

Our plan is that as they demonstrate good listening they will be able to earn back one item (or category, as in, games, coloring, stuffed animals, etc.) We're not talking about overnight transformation, but not responding to every instruction with "No" or "Why" will be a good start. I imagine it will be two steps forward and one back for a while (forever?)

In a way, this is just a more comprehensive version of the stealth toy removal I've undertaken in the last few weeks in preparation for Christmas and birthdays. We are guessing that at least a quarter of what went to the basement will never be asked for and will not return.

A highlight of the weekend was the boys' overnight with Grandma and Grandpa Kenyon on Friday. We had planned it in advance but could never have imagined how much it would be needed after the frustrations they gave us on the trip. John and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a new(ish) restaurant with NO KIDS MENU and slept almost until 8 a.m. Saturday (this is major, trust me.) When we went back to get them after naps, Daniel raced to the door with huge hugs for both of us. Edward was more nonchalant. But a few minutes after we got there, Daniel said to John, "You had to leave us at Grandma and Grandpa's because we were naughty in Chariton." Not exactly the message we were going for. John reminded him that we'd been talking about the overnight all week and that being naughty had nothing to do with it, but that may be lost in the world of three-year-old logic, such as it is.

We ended our night tonight with snuggles and stories and reminders of how much we love them. Here's hoping for a better tomorrow and week ahead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

So, a week after Edward gave himself a fat lip, you'd hardly know he had been injured. It lasted longer than I expected, lingering into Tuesday or Wednesday, but by Friday, it had completely healed. That was good, because his burgeoning basketball skills, while improving immensely over the five weeks of our class, didn't keep him from taking a basketball or two to the face today. As they say on the court, no harm, no foul.

The class was called Start Smart, "the critically acclaimed program from the National Alliance for Youth Sports that helps kids prepare for sports. It’s a step-by-step approach that builds confidence, self-esteem, and makes sports fun. Parents will work together with their child in a supportive environment to learn the basic skills involved in sports."

That's a fancy way of saying, "for your $25, we can only afford to hire one instructor, so parents must contribute." That was fine, as it was better for me to work with Ed because I know his quirks. I know he's competitive and loves to count, so I could challenge him to do a few more of whatever it was we were doing than the time before: more dribbling, more shots, more passes. The class included drills on defense, passing, dribbling and shooting. He liked shooting best (as does anyone who has ever played basketball) and found his most improvement there. As he narrates when asked: "First two weeks: no baskets. Third week: three baskets. Last week: 10 baskets. This week (long dramatic pause): 20 baskets!

This was the set up and make for no. 16 of the day (that second shot is artfully blurry thanks to the glacial shutter speed on my smartphone). He really seemed to enjoy it, and told me tonight before bed that he was going to make 31 baskets next time... so we now need to find someplace with 5-foot baskets where he can go to practice.

He and Daniel are becoming quite rabid Hawkeye fans. They both know the fight song (Mary and I heard Daniel on the monitor last night singing it to himself as he tried to go to sleep) and have a lot of black and gold clothing. We and my folks took the boys two weeks ago to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for an exhibition basketball game to see the Hawks shellac the University of Illinois-Springfield Prairie Stars. They actually seemed to pay attention, with Daniel giving rousing applause at one point to a Hawkeye dunk.

The popcorn was also a big hit (and despite the fact that tickets were $5 and kids were free, you can see by the sea of empty seats behind them that the Hawks have their work cut out for them in their "Let's Be MAD Again!" campaign.

Today we took the boys on the Hawkeye Express, a train that runs from Coralville to Kinnick Stadium. For 99 percent of those aboard, that means an easy trip from their car to the game. For us 1 percenters, it meant a round trip taken simply to experience the train. The boys enjoyed it (this was their second time; my dad and I took them last year on our way to a game (Mary picked them up that time and took them to a park)).

Lastly, it hasn't all been athletics all the time at our house. Edward's (and by extension Daniel's) latest fixation is knights. He has read several books about them lately, and recently decided we should use our blocks to build a castle. Here is one of our grandest. That's Ed in what to the savvy eye is obviously a knight's helmet with the visor pulled down (to the less-savvy, it's a backward hardhat with the adjustable band pulled down in front).

I'll leave you with more exciting basketball action:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Edward had a rough weekend. First he took a basketball to the face on Saturday morning, leaving his glasses askew. Then he slipped in our hallway in a dash to the lunch table today and bloodied his mouth. Inconsolable does not begin to describe the scene. Even spoonfuls of ice cream did not ease the trauma. He ended up going to bed without lunch and sleeping for more than two hours. (The picture is immediately post-nap. The swelling is down a bit now as we approach bed time, but still uncomfortable for him.)

It was a sad capper on a very fun weekend. My parents were visiting, he got to go to a friend's house for a long awaited playdate/birthday party, he skipped his nap on Saturday, he exhibited his best ever church behavior this morning and thus earned some pool time at Gram and PopPop's hotel pool.

In other weekend news, I finished my second-to-last MBA class. I have a paper to write this week, but no more class time until January when I make a sprint for the finish line with another accelerated format course. Anyone who is tempted to say, "Wow, that's great. It went so fast!" should talk to my Aunt Rita about the consequences of saying that to someone who has just completed an arduous academic endeavor.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Last weekend we noticed Edward was squinting and covering his right eye to look at things. We asked him why and he said, "I see two things unless I cover my eye." We wondered if it meant the same thing to him as it did to us: double vision?

I called the pediatrician's office and was told that absent other symptoms (uncoordinated, fever, sore neck) we should probably just take him to our eye doctor, so I made an appointment for Friday after school. The eye-covering continued through the week.

John ended up taking the day off because he has many days to burn before the end of the year. Thank goodness he picked up Daniel and took him home because I would not have been able to keep him wrangled for the TWO HOURS we were at the doctor's office. John was freaking out by the time we got home, convinced that something was horribly wrong to take so long. But it just turns out it's really hard to conduct a standard eye exam on a four-year-old. He knows his letters, but couldn't quite follow the direction to read them straight across on the numbered lines. It was really hard to tell what he meant by some of his responses. The doctor wasn't even sure he knew what the word "double" meant when he was talking about double vision. Without getting into our daily conversations about "double bad choice" (e.g. smoking and not wearing a helmet) I said I thought he knew what it was.

Then we couldn't be sure the dilation eye drops actually got in the eyes. We didn't know the first set hadn't made it until we waited 20 minutes and nothing happened, so we had to repeat and wait again.

In any case, diagnosis: far-sightedness.

Prescription:The doctor said all babies are born far-sighted but it corrects itself in time and eventually will for Edward. He thinks the only reason it's become noticeable for him is that he's "an early reader." (He's not actually reading, but follows words closely while we're reading to him and is starting to notice familiar words around him--signs, buses, trucks, etc.)