Saturday, December 24, 2011

We love getting Christmas cards from friends and family, and we're especially grateful to remain on those lists despite not sending a card ourselves in at least four years. I am even beyond thinking, "Well, there's always next year." I think I've moved safely into "My blog is my card." So here's a greeting from our house to yours:

Merry Christmas from the Kenyons! 
We hope to see as many of you as possible in 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas is coming. School's out in 30 minutes. The boys are already beyond whacked-out with anticipation. I do not know how they will survive the next five days. Is there any way to avoid a let-down when an event is this hyped in their minds? Especially when Edward seems to be changing his Santa list by the hour and the one thing he finally said out loud to the big man is not, in fact, awaiting? (At least not the specific Lego set he happened to mention; fingers crossed for an acceptable substitute.)
On the other hand, I'm hoping for a magic moment when he discovers the item he told his teacher he wanted from Santa but was not planning to tell Santa himself or anyone else but the beloved Mrs. Smith. She sent me an email, which sent me scrambling to make the magic happen; said item has been procured. (Funny that she said, "Sometimes I'm like a bartender--privy to all sorts of things no one else knows!") There is also the possibility that Santa and the Tooth Fairy may visit on the same night as Ed has a couple more loose teeth. When questioned, Santa denied knowing Ms. Fairy, but Ed said, "I hope they talk to each other loud enough to wake me up so I can see them!"
Note the even distribution of ornaments all over the tree this year. I am surprised at how much I miss the "only at kids eye level" decorating style, but Edward took the initiative to get a chair to hang ornaments at different heights. Daniel attempted to follow suit, but was returned to low ground when his efforts almost resulted in him doing a face plant into the tree. Just for my own record keeping, I'm noting that we purchased and decorated the tree the weekend of Dec. 10/11. Even this far in advance, only a small selection of trees remained at our favorite tree lot (fundraiser for the local Optimists.) We've been burned before by waiting too long, so I'm glad we went against my "week before Christmas is plenty of time to have the tree in the house" instincts.

And in case you were wondering about my level of school-break neurosis, No, I do not have an activity grid for the two week break. The boys and I will spend part of that time with doting aunts, uncles and grandparents, so that takes some entertainment pressure off the parents. Otherwise, we have baking, library visits, movie(s), and friends to invite and are hoping we'll emerge unscathed in 2012.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

 Will's tree is decorated for the season. We invite any friends and family who stop by our house during the holiday season to take an ornament from the tree and remember Will as you hang it on your own tree. All the ornaments are the same, except that Edward found a stash of left-overs from previous years and couldn't resist adding a few for variety. It's an evolving tradition.
The other innovation in this year's tree decorating was Edward's careful apportioning of the ornaments to be sure each boy had exactly the same number to hang on the tree. The main pile is in the middle and here you see "One for Daniel, one for me..." (You also see a pile of random clutter, but please try to ignore that.)

(Special shout out to our AZ crew for today's wardrobe selections :-) )
Sunday afternoon, a friend and I took our kids ice skating in an effort to fill an afternoon with some fun physical activity. We'd been once before and the boys enjoyed it. They weren't terribly mobile, but they didn't seem to mind the slow stagger and frequent tumbles. This time we were better prepared with snow pants to cushion the falls and fend off the freeze. Daniel was quite the go-getter, scooting out in front of all of us requiring neither an adult hand, nor the wall for support. When he fell, he just got right back up and kept going.

Until he didn't.

I looked up from helping one of the other kids when I heard him scream and saw him splayed out belly down on the ice. I attached the other kid to the wall and skated up to assess the damage. He was screaming so much I didn't know what exactly had happened. I thought at first someone might have skated over his hand. But he finally screamed, "I twisted my ankle!"

Of course we were at the far opposite corner of the rink from the exit, but thankfully the hockey team pens (or whatever they're called) were just a few feet away. I managed to scoot him over and get us both to the bench and get his skate off. I noticed the laces had come loose from one of the upper hooks. I held him for a little while thinking he'd calm down after the initial shock. Nothing doing. He was simply screaming. I didn't think I could carry him across the ice on my own skates, and was a bit at a loss for what to do. Luckily my friend noticed that there was a non-ice exit from the other hockey pen, so we scooted over there and got out. I tried taking off the other skate to see if he could walk and he just crumpled to the floor.

With help from Edward and my friend (who also had her own kids to help de-skate) I managed to get him out to the car, where I called John and asked him to meet us at the urgent care clinic near our house. There the P.A. was able to manipulate the foot up and down and, noticing no bruising and only limited swelling, was confident that we did not need to head to the ER for an x-ray. We took him home to rest, ice and elevate.

Monday morning he still would not put an ounce of weight on the foot so he obviously couldn't go to school. I decided it was worth a trip to the pediatrician for further examination and possible x-ray. But again, he did not indicate excessive pain from pressing at any point on his leg or foot and allowed his foot to be moved in all directions. So we went home to continue rest, ice, elevation ( P.S. How on Earth does one entertain an immobile child whose life's work is centered around dashing from one place to the next? Lots of books and games and much more TV and computer time than is standard around these parts.)
On Tuesday, the frustration level ramped up as he still would not bear weight. If he had been slowly improving, I would have been more patient with waiting, but I was almost ready for the tough love approach. Still, I had that nagging doubt: "what if it's really broken." I would feel horrible if I forced him into that kind of pain. So I took him back to the doctor to request an x-ray, just to be sure. Thankfully, the x-ray showed no break. John met us at the doctor and took Daniel home while I went to a meeting that was impossible to reschedule. My meeting ended just as his began in a building across the street so we met in the hallway to exchange the kid & stroller. (Note: I loved pushing my babies around in the stroller, but I am SO glad not to hassle with it on a daily basis any more!) John had a chance to tell me that he and Daniel had been practicing walking at home, heavily supported. This did not happen under my watch, but the next morning, it was tough love, baby: back to school whether you like it or not.

My back was screaming from lugging his 43 lbs. around for three days so I tried to force him to walk from the car to the school door. Inside, an elevator awaited, but this was not enticing enough. I ended up carry/dragging him up the walk and through the door, much to the horror of the head of the school, who stands outside each morning to greet the arriving children. She's not aware that Daniel's favorite attention tactic is to scream "Owie! Owie!" regardless of whether any part of him is actually afflicted. I explained that he had hurt it on Sunday (this was Wednesday) and that he'd been to the doctor three times and had it x-rayed. He would be fine. She did not seem convinced.

His teachers, on the other hand, were fabulous. The whole Montessori program is about fostering independence, so they were fine with letting him get around by whatever locomotion he chose, which turned out to be crawling for most of the day. (This apparently was a bit disturbing to several of his female friends, whose parents stopped me in the hall the next morning to get the full story after hearing dramatic tales from their daughters.)

He made it through the day and then seemed to be more willing at home to try putting weight on it. I should say that through all of this, HE was totally convinced that he could not walk. This was not a "milking it for attention" situation where he'd walk if there was something he really wanted and then turn around and pretend he couldn't. I'm sure it was a combination of actual discomfort and memory of the pain of the original injury that made him afraid to risk a step. He would push against our palm, and bend his foot in the up and down motion of walking. But actual walking was simply out of the question.

When he started taking steps again on Wednesday night, we made a BIG deal about it, cheering and jumping and high-fiving. I also reminded him that once he was all better and walking on his own we could celebrate by going out for ice cream. This morning he crawled out of bed, but then once downstairs was willing to take some tentative steps. He did much better at school until he slipped in a puddle and hurt it again (though not as badly.) I think he'll be back to normal by the weekend. Such drama!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Thanksgiving weekend is (almost) in the books, and I can honestly say we've had a great weekend. This has not always been the case. But this year, I was determined not to let the long weekend get the better of us. I actually made a 5x3 chart with Wed-Sun. down the left column followed by columns for morning and afternoon each day. In this way I sketched out some ideas of activities to fill the days. And, yes, I felt a little silly making a chart about my holiday weekend, but it really helped to have planned ahead, knowing which friends were in town for the boys to play with, and which activities such as movies or roller skating were limited to certain times.

Here's how Ed came home from school on Tuesday (should have taken the picture sooner--the beard didn't start out quite so bedraggled. Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like a kid in a paper pilgrim hat.

On Wednesday we made pies for Thursday. Ever since we read Amelia Bedelia for the first time, the boys have been asking for lemon meringue pie. And of course they had to have pumpkin too. Both pies were consumed with gusto after Grandma's delicious Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. (P.S. we skipped the meringue and went with Cool Whip instead, which led to Daniel's hilarious quip when I was persuading Holly to keep some of the leftover pie as we were leaving. "We don't need all this pie," I said. Daniel didn't miss a beat: "But we DO need all the Cool Whip!")

On Friday we took a trip to Davenport to visit the Putnam Museum, where our membership gives us free entry and also included four IMAX movie tickets. After spending the afternoon exploring the permanent exhibits, we took in a late afternoon showing of Puss in Boots in 3D.

This part of the museum was focused on the river. We were a little worried that there wouldn't be enough to occupy them until the movie started. Little did we know they'd spend an hour climbing in and out of this boat and attempting to walk around wearing the flippers, pretending to be sea divers.

We didn't know if Daniel would look up from his slushee long enough to see the movie, but in the end it did hold his attention. The kids didn't really like wearing the glasses, but still enjoyed the show. We also managed to get our outdoor lights hung and take a family bike ride on Thursday morning, since it was a 60-degree Thanksgiving day in Iowa this year. What a treat!

Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon we had friends over to play. Two words can be used to describe foul-weather playdates for boys: loud and messy. OK, three words--add "fun." Saturday evening the whole family went roller skating at the community center. At dinner before skating, Daniel was being quite squirmy and ended up tumbling out of his chair. He seemed  quite perplexed when he landed on the floor and declared, "These are NOT my good falling-down pants!" We attempted to stifle our guffaws enough to inquire as to what the qualities of good falling down pants were. He said he thought his sweatpants would be better because they're soft. (He was wearing jeans, which is unusual, as the button/zipper is problematic for someone who ALWAYS waits until the very last possible second before dashing to the bathroom to take care of his personal business.)

We will have to remember to wear "good falling-down pants" for the next roller skating adventure, as you can see in this video John prepped. Be sure to stick around for the grand finale of our holiday weekend: Edward's first loose tooth falling out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Scene in a grocery store during a quick after-school run for milk, bread, bananas and the first clementines of the year

Edward bites into a banana (store offers kids free bananas while parents are shopping) and exclaims, "Mom, my tooth is crooked! This one right here on the bottom!"

"Oh, really? Is it loose?"

(feels with fingers) "No, it's not loose, but it's slanting back." (begins mild panic)
"And it hurts!" (wailing, loudly, middle of store bakery)

"Edward, I think you might just have a loose tooth, let me see." Teeth appear to be in alignment, but further exploration with finger ( banana mouth) reveals that one is indeed out of alignment from the tongue side of the tooth (insert appropriate dental term if you must.)

Gently pinch tooth with thumb and forefinger to demonstrate wiggle. "See, Edward. It's a loose tooth. It's your first loose tooth, isn't that great?!" (Attempting to shift panic to joy. Maneuver successful.)

Continue through rest of brief trip discussing how weird it feels to have a loose tooth. And, of course, when Daniel can expect his first loose tooth. (Sorry, buddy. Gotta wait about two more years on that one. Blame the "borner.")

Sunday, November 13, 2011

When we moved into this house, I hated the kitchen color, but we had other priorities, like preventing rain in our living room, eliminating floods from the basement and keeping the screen porch attached to the house. Not to mention, we had an eight-month-old & a two-year-old, I was taking the most difficult course of my MBA and working half time. So in the grand scheme of things, a hospital-green kitchen just didn't make the project list. 

A few times since then I've thought, "Maybe I should tackle that," but inertia is a powerful force, my friends. I loved my sunny yellow kitchen in the old house, but sometime in the last year I read that orange hues are good for kitchens as it is an "appetizing" color that makes people feel like eating. So when I decided this would be the weekend for the project, I went searching for an "orangey-yellow." 

The boys had the day off Friday for teacher conferences (more on those reports later) and we thought it was a good opportunity for a sleep-over at Grandma and Grandpa's. Nearly every time we're there to visit the boys ask if they can stay overnight. However, they simply have not been good company in the evenings since starting school. Exhaustion is not a good playmate. But without a full day of school to suck up all their good behavior, we thought they might be acceptable house guests.

I dropped them off Friday morning, went to the conferences, and came home to paint (John had a conference to attend in town.) The first coat went on well with no major mishaps or spills. But it clearly would not be enough to cover the evil green. So after a lovely dinner & movie date Friday night, I steeled myself to do it all over again on Saturday. John headed off to Daniel's school for a fall clean-up day, and I got started on the second coat. By the time I was done, the gallon of paint was gone (truth be told, it was gone before I was done, but I really scraped the bucket, hoping against hope that it would be enough.)

Alas, as it dried, it was clear there were still places where that blasted green was showing through. So I picked up another can of paint on the way to retrieve the boys from Grandma and Grandpa's (where all reports indicate a good time was had by all.) It was a lovely day for mid-November, so we decided to hit the park before going home (also allowing John some much-needed down time after his morning work.)

John graciously agreed to pinch hit on the project, as I clearly could not face the prospect of a three-peat. In return, I kept the boys out for four hours today (church, followed by the Children's Museum and lunch), giving John time to himself after he finished the paint. So that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about how our kitchen went from this:

To this:

My photography skills are apparently as lacking as my painting skills, so the lighting isn't really helping to showcase the two colors. Trust me, it's a big improvement.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

We managed to come out on the other side of all the Halloween hoopla without a picture of just our kids in their costumes. It was just that kind of year. Edward's school celebrated on the Friday before Halloween with K-2nd graders participating in a costume parade through the school hallways before retiring to their classrooms for treats. (Older kids had the party without the parade, but a highlight of the parade for Ed was getting "high fives" from the older kids lining the hallways as observers.) Here he is in his classroom, lining up to start the parade. You'll note the "hose," which was only determined to be an integral part of his firefighter costume the moment we were attempting to leave the house that morning. The nozzle alone just did not suffice. He had to have a jump rope taped to it for total verisimilitude. A frantic two minutes led to a happy firefighter.

Daniel's school celebrated on Halloween itself (Monday) also with an in-school parade and treats. How thoughtful of the schools not to expect me to be in two places at once! Here is Daniel with his friend Opal, whose mother spent more than two minutes on her firefighter costume--fashioning it from sweats and reflective tape.

For trick-or-treating, Ed opted for his knight costume, which was just as well, since we had another little firefighter with us--Daniel's friend Xander from school. His mother created a hilarious moment in the parking lot the week before when she breathlessly came up to me saying, "Did I talk to you about trick-or-treating, or did I just dream that whole conversation." So, we hadn't previously discussed it, but apparently the idea was deep in her subconscious. It hadn't occurred to me to gather a posse for trick-or-treating, but it turned out to be a great idea. Along with our neighbors, whose son is a year younger than Daniel, we had four kids and six parents strolling through the neighborhood. Well, parents strolling, kids dashing. They collected an impressive haul in just under an hour and three blocks (both sides of the street.)

Over the weekend in between the school celebrations, we traveled to Evanston for the occasion of my 20th high school reunion.Our class had never quite gotten it together to organize a reunion before, so for most of us this truly was the first time we'd seen each other in 20 years. It was shocking how easy it was to recognize these adult women whom I'd last seen when we were teens. It was a fun night, although not much chance to get into conversation any deeper than "Married or not? Kids or not? Employed or staying home?" with most. I was one of the few to travel from out of state. Most of those who attended still live in the area. Several out of town classmates wrote to say they couldn't make it back.

Since the reunion was only Saturday evening, we took the opportunity to use our reciprocal member benefits at the Field Museum on Saturday morning. Thank goodness for our membership at the Putnam Museum in Davenport. Without it, it would have cost our family $100 to go to the Field, in which case we would not have gone, since we knew at the outset that we had about a one-hour attention span to work with. Here are the boys, dwarfed by "Sue," the Field's famous T-Rex.

We learned right away that while most of the bones here are real, the actual head is too heavy to be supported in this display, so we had to look for it elsewhere in the museum. By the time we got there, Daniel was in over-stimulation mode, but Ed was still interested.
They actually were really into exploring the permanent collection of mammals and birds (shudder) though at first it was all a bit too real for Daniel. He went dashing ahead of us into a display that included some large bears, stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to run back to cover when he heard what he thought were real birds chirping overhead. That made him think all the animals were alive. It's nice to know that he still thinks we'd offer some sort of protection against a 9-foot brown bear.

Even though I laughed about the absurdity of taking our Iowa kids to Chicago to play with corn, this "Kid Zone" activity was a favorite. It was a mock-up of a Pueblo where the kids could "plant" and "harvest" corn and then take it in the hut to "cook" in a large pot for meal.

Our strategy of arriving when the doors opened at 9 a.m. worked well so that we never felt crowded. We left by 11 or so and headed back to Gram and PopPop's for lunch, where Aunt Nora joined us in between two social engagements that day. Then the boys and my parents went across the street to the fall festival at the local elementary school, and John and I sneaked in a quick run to the mall. (And I do mean quick--we were gone less than 2 hours and it takes 20 min. each way to get there. I do hate shopping, but sometimes it's a necessary evil.) When we got home, the boys and PopPop were vegging out to some SpongeBob Squarepants. Life can certainly be exhausting when you're three and still physically need a nap, but are stubborn enough to refuse at all costs. (Note he's not actually sleeping here, just watching TV.)
Surprisingly, he took not one, but TWO naps this weekend, but as I did not join in his slumber, I'm losing steam so will wait 'til the next blog post for the exhausting details.

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Saturday I ran another 5K (WHO am I??) this one in Cedar Rapids with a friend from work. It was kind of a goofy affair with a Halloween theme and a few kids activities, so the boys wore their costumes and hung out with John while I ran. It was a cross country course, so a little different than what I've been used to. But a beautiful day and a lovely run through the park and Usher's Ferry Historic Village.

Since we were going to be in the area, we planned a trip to Bloomsbury Farm in nearby Atkins. I'd heard lots of friends talking about it as a great fall family activity. I knew it was an all-day adventure though and in past years we really haven't been "all day" people. Since naps have mostly fallen by the wayside (shedding a tear for those bygone days) we thought this would be a great way to spend the afternoon. Grandma and Grandpa even joined in the fun.

It's hard to describe, but basically, it's a family's working farm where they've carved out a section for a whole host of kiddie entertainment including a big slide made from some sort of agricultural tubing (tiling?), hayrack rides, pumpkin patch, pig races, animal feeding/petting, a big barn of hay for jumping, pedal carts, a corn maze, a haunted house, a fun house (more goofy than scary) and the piece de resistance, a HUGE jumping pillow. Holly was looking up the directions on Google maps and this pillow is big enough that it can be seen in the satellite image.

After a lot of jumping and falling, Daniel discovered that it's even more fun to let others do the work. His giggling was so infectious, you can hear the adults joining in.

Of course, our kids wouldn't be our kids if they didn't eschew a whole new realm of fun activities in favor of playing on the most mundane, everyday item in the area,

but we were able to persuade them to take in the rest of the fun.
We even ran into some friends (it's a popular weekend activity for Iowa Citians) so the boys had friends to play with in addition to each other. Edward has been begging us to take him to a haunted house ever since he missed an opportunity at the county fair when the "ride" operator wouldn't let me send them through without me, and I was unwilling to use all of our tickets for all three of us to go through. I promised him then that I'd take him to a "real" haunted house, and he has not let me forget for a second. The impulse may now be quashed however, as he did not like the loud noises or the uncertainty of finding our way in the dark. And this was a very tame haunted house with no monsters jumping out and with daylight peeking through the cracks in the walls.

If the boys and I have our way, we'll be back next year for another photo:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The boots I ordered the boys from Lands End arrived today, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take inventory of our winter gear. Edward's recent growth spurt probably means the coat I thought would last two years will need a mid-season replacement (which is already in his closet since I ordered it at the end of last season on super clearance,) and Daniel's general bulk means he's wearing the snowpants Ed wore last year (Lord help me if they ever completely catch up in sizing--our family economy is based on hand-me-downs!) But it looks like we're in good shape.

Putting on the snowpants triggered some sort of sense memory though because as soon as I was done with my inspection, they both raced up the stairs to slide down (extra fast) on the slippery pants. This occupied them without need for parental participation for more than an hour this afternoon. They did have to stop at one point due to excessive heat. But they solved this on their own by running upstairs to trade their sweats for shorts and jump back into snowpants action.

I was in the other room, listening in case of fighting or injury, and close enough to veto the idea of sending their large metal Tonka dump truck down the stairs to give their stuffed animals a chance to join the fun. I kept hearing things about "tractor" and "car" but I knew there weren't any actual vehicles involved. It wasn't until John came home, witnessed the spectacle and doubled over with laughter that all was revealed.

I give you

and just for a bonus, here's TUMBLE (unplanned and, ultimately, unscathed)

P.S. I started the season a little annoyed at Lands End for eliminating 2/3 of their kids' boots selection, leaving only the most expensive model. But I emerged victorious when they marked them down 30% for the Fall Sale and my Parents magazine came with a coupon for $10 off next LE purchase plus free shipping. Ended up with quite a steal #pattingselfonback.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Overheard in the bathroom this evening:

Edward: "Awww, COOOL!!! Daniel, come see this!"

Daniel races to the bathroom, "What is it? Oh, cool!"

Edward: "See how great it smells. It's like Gram's!"

Daniel: "Yeah, it smells GOOD! And it's pink!"

We got new soap in our bathroom. Pomegranate Mango hand soap from Target. And people wonder why we don't bother with big events and flashy toys for our children.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy birthday to me! I'm sitting at home waiting for the delivery and installation of my fabulous birthday present...wait for it...a new garage door opener!!! WOO HOO! Man, I know how to party. Whew, just exhausted myself right there.

Before John starts getting blog hate mail, I should specify that it was only coincidence that our ancient opener happened to conk out last week and that the first available time for replacement was today. I was already planning to take the day off with a simple goal of quiet "me" time, so I went ahead and scheduled it. I'm sure there are other lovely presents from my boys in my future. Though the youngest two of those boys did not at all understand why they couldn't stay home from school to help me celebrate. I mean, if you could spend your birthday doing this

why would you choose anything else?

While the boys don't totally grasp the concept of "someone else's birthday" yet, they sure are into the other approaching October holiday. I may have fed the frenzy a bit when a trip to the consignment store turned up the fabulous viking hat along with another set of plate armor so they can now both be fully outfitted for battle.
Edward is definitely a multi-purposer when it comes to costume items, as seen below where the knight helmet doubles as a fire fighter's air mask and construction goggles are added for extra protection. I'm surprised he hasn't figured out how to add the Harry Potter cape to this ensemble.

The only downside from the consignment treasure trove was that the 5T frog costume doesn't quite fit both boys. I thought it would be a little big for Daniel, a little small for Ed, enabling them to share it. However, it's basically a perfect fit for Daniel and a pants-splitter for Edward (literally--it's already required repair, though I can't say for sure it wasn't like that when I got it.) Ed has a bit of costume envy on this one, but luckily he has plenty of other items to distract him.

And while we're looking at that cookie picture, let me just say that allowing Daniel to handle the food coloring for the frosting was a serious rookie mistake. I can't believe I could have fallen for it. I mean he so earnestly wanted to help, and I thought, "What a great lesson in color mixing--red and yellow make orange!" So, subtle and delicate are two words I would never use to describe either of my boys, but especially Daniel. And after all, I did neglect to specify that the dropper should be pointed down when squeezing out those three drops. He may have squeezed hard enough to empty about half the bottle all over the table and my hands thrown up in self defense against the onslaught of red dye. And it may be three days later and my hands are still stained, but  you know, they had a great time and they love deliberating over which shape to choose at dessert time. So we'll chart this one as a qualified success.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

 My sister Nora inspired me to start running late last spring when she ran her first 5K on her 32nd birthday. I've always loathed running, never could fathom the concept of a "runner's high" since it always made me feel like I had a knife in my gut and a constrictor around my lungs. But I followed her footsteps through the "Couch to 5K" training regimen that starts you out slowly and then builds on your strength and endurance each week. All along I had the annual Run for Schools as my goal. I actually snuck another race in at the end of August, but this was the first timed race and the one I was really ready for. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but it did feel great to be out there with all those other runners (and walkers, whose leagues I've joined many times for this event) and to know I could do it.

 John and the boys were busy handing out water at mile marker 1, and I waved as I passed, but didn't stop. They were done with their work in time to get back to the finish line just after I crossed, but my parents, who were visiting for the weekend, were there to cheer as I crossed. My running mantra is "slow and steady finishes the race." Today's time: 36 minutes. The men's 10K winner finished about three blocks ahead of me, and at one point while I was running, I got passed by a guy pushing a double stroller. Well, we all have our own strengths.

Daniel needed a fall picture to share at school this week, so on Tuesday after dinner we raked a small pile of available leaves for jumping. Looking up, we knew it was an exercise in futility.

 By Saturday, the entire back yard tree was bare and almost no grass was visible beneath the carpet of leaves. This kind of surprised me since we've had an extremely warm week (high 70s and 80s--beautiful!) and I usually think of leaves falling in response to cooler temperatures. Guess our overnight lows have been enough to prompt the cycle.

I've mentioned before that we often stop on our way home from school to play on the playground at one or both of the boys' schools. I am amazed a their abilities and determination NOT to use the equipment as the designers intended. Not just climbing up slides instead of sliding down, but attempting to shimmy up over the top of a covered tube-type slide and climbing up over the tops of the railings. These are things that are against the rules during school hours, but we allow a bit of flexibility after hours. I never have a camera to document the acrobatics, but I remembered to grab one for a trip to our downtown playground on Friday afternoon. My brother-in-law who teaches elementary school music and pitches in with playground duty says it's the monkey bars that "separate the men from the boys" in kindergarten.

  Well, let's just say that Ed is still a croaky-voiced adolescent. This set was particularly challenging as it did not go straight across, but had some vertical variance as well. He couldn't quite swing himself up when the next bar was higher, but even as recently as August, he couldn't move from one bar to another in a straight horizontal swing, so there's some progress.

We're looking forward to another beautiful fall week here in Iowa, soaking up every last ray of sunshine and ounce of warmth. The boys are starting another four-week session of swimming lessons, which they love, but have noted the contrast to their summer experience: much colder getting out of the pool these days (even though it's an indoor pool and heated to the point of serious discomfort for the fully clothed and dry!)

Another major milestone for Edward: he's nearly up to current in our reading of his favorite series of books, The Magic Treehouse. With the extra reading brought on by a visit from Gram and PopPop he's now down to just two published books to read. (It takes us about 4-5 days reading aloud 2 or 3 chapters a day to finish one of these books.) After that, the next book won't be published until December, so we'll be on the hunt for a new series.  He really loves the historical characters and time periods he's been introduced to through Jack and Annie's adventures. I wonder if he'll re-read the series when he's a fully independent reader? Right now he can read simple books and will ask about certain words on the page as we're reading to him, but he's not ready to dive in solo just yet.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's been a trying weekend for little brothers. Yesterday an exasperated Daniel asked me, "Why did Edward have to get born first?" "Well," I replied, "That's kind of just the way it happened."

"Well, whoever made Edward get born first," he said, "I don't like that 'born-er' anymore!"

This morning, while visiting a local church for its pancake breakfast, Edward elicited the usual, "Look at that beautiful red hair" comments from the senior set. When one varied the script and asked, "Where'd you get that red hair," Daniel quickly replied with a huff, "He's had it for a LONG time!"

Given how the world revolves around him, it's tough to imagine any sort of attention deprivation, but apparently he feels the need for a bit more personal focus. Luckily, today was the day for his school's annual fall festival so we all went to enjoy food, games, and a peek at Daniel's world. Now we're in a bit of a state though because the party was from 2-4 p.m. so we've had zero downtime for the whole day. Headed for early bedtime!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Monday I had a late-afternoon meeting at work, so John picked up the kids from school. (School day is 8:30 am. to 3 p.m. and my usual work day is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) Later in the evening, he marveled, "Can you believe we didn't get home until 4 o'clock?!" Well, yes. Yes, I can. I've learned that kids' short legs have a dual impact on their walking speed. 1. Shorter stride means it takes more steps to cover the same distance as an adult; and 2. Short legs leave you much closer to the ground where there is no end of items in need of closer inspection. Acorns, crab apples, leaves, sticks, worms (wiggling or dried out), rocks, sidewalk cracks, etc.

So even though Edward's school is four blocks away and Daniel's is only another two blocks from there, the walk home is never expeditious and rarely direct. Sometimes we stop to play on the playground at one or both schools. Sometimes we stop for an impromptu picnic of whatever is left in their lunch bags. Sometimes we stop to pick up items of interest to add to the collection of pine cones, acorns, sticks, bark strips, et. al. on our front porch. Sometimes we stop to have meltdowns about brothers who won't let us be first.

Thus, we rarely make any plans for the after-school/before-dinner hours. With nowhere to go and beautiful fall afternoons that beckon us outside, we're wide open for bike riding, frisbee throwing or even the latest obsession, front porch pulley.
What? You mean your kids don't use their jump ropes to string your lawn chairs up to your porch ceiling?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We had a battle of the wills tonight at the Kenyon household, and I believe the readers of this blog are the ultimate winners.

When Mary asked the boys if they wanted baths or showers tonight, Daniel declared that he would be taking neither. He had been contrary all day. Tired of it, I offered a third option that involved him in our backyard and me with a bucket filled from the hose. I had hoped it would convince him that a warm shower sounded pretty nice; instead, he thought the backyard bucket wash sounded perfect.

As the evening drew to a close, I thought he had forgotten. But when he got undressed and went into the bathroom where Mary waited to give him a shower, he said, "I am not taking a shower, so you can turn that water off right now!"

My bluff called, I grabbed some soap and a towel, and followed my naked son down the stairs and out onto our screen porch. He stood on our (secluded) patio and waited while I filled the bucket. I let him feel the water coming from the hose, and while he agreed that it felt cold, he said he still wanted a bucket wash. Edward tried to warn him as well, but he would not be denied.

I poured a little on his head, and he giggled. I poured more and really soaked his head, then asked if he was done. Nope. So, I poured enough that it cascaded down his back. He let out a "whoah!" and shivered a bit (keep in mind that it was about 80 degrees at this point). I told him he needed to look up so I could pour water on his front to get the rest of him wet, but he would not do so. Finally, Mary asked if he was ready to go in and take a warm shower. "Yeah," he said, padding into the house wrapped in a warm towel.

He certainly held out longer than I expected, just another sign that we have a very strong-willed (and tough) little guy on our hands. The next few years should be very interesting.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The boys have been asking to go camping for a long while. I have been camping a lot – first with my folks when I was a kid, later in Boy Scouts and more recently with a handful of high school friends on annual canoe trips – so I have equipment and a general fondness for it. Mary, not so much, so any camping experience would involve me and the boys.

With the onset of cooler weather (and earlier darkness), I thought it might be a good time for a backyard campout. I located my tent and our sleeping bags and then, while Mary set the mood by helping them to make s’mores over the grill after we cooked some burgers for dinner, I got out my tent without comment and began setting it up.

“What is that, Dad?” Edward asked. I told him it was my old tent that I had found while cleaning the basement, and decided to set it up to air it out. He and Daniel were wide-eyed. I heard them ask Mary if they could sleep out in it. I feigned reluctance. “I don’t know. That’s a big thing to do…” I finally let them convince me and we began planning our campout.

Because it was only 7 p.m. and still very light out at this point, we headed back inside. They put on sleepers and then we watched some DVDs for the next hour or so to let them calm down (ha!) and let it get dark out. About 8:15, we headed out. We read a few books by the light of our battery-powered lantern (exciting in and of itself), then turned out the light to sleep.

Trip back inside #1: I forgot about Ed’s glasses, so I took them inside for safe keeping.
Trip back inside #2: Daniel had to go to the bathroom.
Trip back inside #3: They wanted their “guys:” stuffed animals they sleep with.

Safely back inside by 8:45, we then hunkered down for an hour of stories, songs and goofiness. This is where an actual campsite with a fire would have come in handy. Instead, we were shoulder-to-shoulder in my pup tent, too hot thanks to very well-insulated sleeping bags (and their sleepers) and completely wired with excitement. They finally calmed down shortly before 10 after I told them they had 5 more minutes to settle down before we’d go back inside.

Once they calmed down for good, they fell asleep instantly. Nothing woke them: the neighbor kid who decided to start practicing drums at 10 p.m., the same kid who gave that up after 5 minutes (short-lived thanks) before starting to play basketball outside for another 15, the concert wafting through the air from Regina High School a mile or so away.

They each work up a couple of times because of cold or because a brother’s leg was on them or simply because they didn’t remember that they had fallen asleep in a tent.

As the night progressed – along with the tension of the knot in my back – I checked my phone to see the time. 4:20. 5:40… at this point I got through by telling myself we’d go to the new donut shop in our neighborhood when we got up, then wondered how early they opened.

“Dad!” I awoke to a hint of light coming through the walls of the tent. I turned over to see Edward wide-eyed next to me. “Look! It’s morning!”

After willing morning to come for the past few hours, I now was in no hurry for it to arrive. I told Edward that the first hint of morning light didn’t mean we had to get up just yet, but a tickle fight between brothers quickly put an end to such foolish thoughts. So, at 6:34 a.m., the brave adventurers emerged from the tent to proudly stride across the backyard in their footie sleepers to head inside the house.

“Dad, if you could do it, we would do that every night,” Edward said as we walked inside.

I was thankful for that qualifier, knowing he knew this was a rare treat. Once inside, they were amped and wanted to play. The first thing they requested? The indoor tent that has been in storage in the basement for months. It seems they hadn’t quite had their fill.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I know it's common for kids to have imaginary friends. But what should I think about Daniel's ever-evolving story about his pretend playdate with our crossing guard?

In the first week of school, we asked what the kids call him so they could call "Hi, Mr. Smith" or whatever as we walked past. Both of our kids, but especially Edward, are really into names. He seemed surprised and in fact at first said, "Well, nothing!" when asked what the kids call him. Then he regrouped and told the kids to call him Ben. Then he showed them his name tag and explained that he worked for the police department, even though he's not an officer. They liked that.

The next morning, after he let us cross the street, Daniel started telling me a long, detailed story about "One time? When I was at Ben's house for pretend?" He told me about the toys they played with (many trucks), the snack Ben made (eight different kinds of juice with crackers) and Ben's backyard (big for running.) I found it all very entertaining and kept pumping him for details. Eventually I went too far because he trotted out his new standby "I won't tell you any more. I will tell you tomorrow morning." (This is frequently his response when we ask him about school.)

I didn't bring it up again, but the next morning after Ben let us cross, Daniel started telling me a new installment. Every few days he thinks of something new to add, sometimes when we've just seen Ben, but sometimes out of the blue.

In the meantime, Ben is a very friendly, conscientious crossing guard who never fails to greet the boys with a cheerful, "Hi Edward! Hi Daniel." He admired Daniel's painting on Tuesday and Edward's cicada on Friday. This is the cicada Edward picked up at his school, carried to Daniel's school, showed to Daniel's friends and then carried all the way home, despite the fact that he realized about a block after he picked it up that it was a stink bomb. Or maybe because of the stink. When we got to Daniel, Edward held it out and said, "Here Daniel, smell my cicada." Daniel was quite revolted--nearly to tears, "Edward! Why did you make me smell that. It's P-U stink!"

I'll close this post with another Daniel gem. Yesterday I invited him to the basement to help me with the laundry (he considers this a treat, not a chore) but he informed me, "Dad and I already took stuff out of the 'wetter' and put it in the dryer."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We spent a great weekend in Evanston, where all five of my siblings managed to gather in the same place at the same time for the first time in two years. The six of us live in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, the District of Columbia and Brazil right now, so it's not hard to see why our get-togethers are so rare. Even better, the stars aligned to make this gathering happen on my mom's birthday on Saturday. We were missing two sisters-in-law, three nieces and a nephew, but otherwise it was a perfect weekend.

And to top it all off, Edward learned to ride a two-wheeler! We'd brought his scooter and Daniel's bike and the Wisconsin cousins brought their bikes too. Seven-year-old Maggie was cruising up and down the block on two wheels and Ed wanted to give it a try. Her bike was a little too big, but luckily my parents had a slightly smaller (yet still purple) bike on hand in the garage (perhaps left from summer visits from the now pre-teen Arizona cousins?) My dad pumped up the tires, and we took a spin.

I could tell right away that it wouldn't take long for him to be riding on his own, but I never would have predicted how fast he picked it up. Once my Dad showed him that if the bike tipped to either side he could immediately put his foot down and not fall over he was full of "confidence," which Maggie told him was the most important thing about learning to ride a bike. I ran up and down the block holding the seat to keep him steady about five or six times and John took a couple of runs as well, but honestly, he was on his own within about half an hour.

And I must say that every rider should have a 23-person cheering section for his first ride. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins were in the front yard for my mom's birthday party so there were lots of cheers and shouts, which you'll hear in the video. (His tutor/cousin Maggie is seen running along side in the third segment and says, "That was awesome, Edward," at the end.) My mom was thrilled to bequeath the bike to Edward--she's all about removing things from the house/garage. Now I just hope some little brat doesn't give him a hard time about it being a "girls bike." He LOVES that it's purple!