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!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First day of school! Edward bounded out of bed at 6:11 a.m. and ran into our room (I was in the shower, John was still in bed) shouting, "It's the first day of school!!" Wish we had a recording to play back to him when we're dragging him out of bed in high school.
I got in trouble because taking this picture required me to step down off the curb into the street. The boys were shocked. Never mind that it's a quiet suburban side street that only one car drove down the entire time we walked the block. It was sprinkling lightly when we left, but pretty much tapered off by the time we got to school.
John managed to capture the 1.2 seconds of uncertainty Edward displayed upon arrival.

This was the dominant emotion of the day--Ed bursting with excitement; Daniel not quite so sure about this new arrangement.
Parents were welcomed into the classroom for the first few minutes. Edward hung up his backpack, deposited his lunch in the proper bin and handed his star to Mrs. Smith, who exclaimed over its beauty as only a kindergarten teacher can. Here he is sitting next to his friend David, who lives down the hill from us, and coloring his "Lucas Mighty Hawk," the school mascot.
Daniel was most excited about the umbrella opportunity. But after about a block he decided it was too heavy and let me carry it.
Edward's school is a block closer than Daniel's so we dropped him off first and then headed over to Willowwind. We were a little late and didn't stop to take a picture out front. Perhaps this afternoon. I did end up walking into the classroom with Daniel to help him find his cubby and hook for his backpack (this seems reasonable on the first day, despite the preference for parents to stay in the hall.) I had a tube of sunscreen for him to give his teacher, so that was the perfect separation tool. I said good-bye and stepped out while he did that, and then John and I watched through the hallway window to see that his teacher helped him select a water-pouring activity. His favorite! A good start.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Edward needed a family picture for the center of a star he was asked to decorate and return to school on the first day. The five points were to be decorated with his interests--he chose Lego, Titanic, riding bikes/playing outside, vehicles and knights/castles.
They played Pomp and Circumstance for the graduates this evening, but no tears here. Perhaps it was a good idea to spend the whole day leading up to graduation one-on-two with the children, whose idea of a fun day was riding buses all over town and then not taking naps. I wasn't feeling very sentimental. I almost lost composure when I saw two other moms crying because I pretty much always cry when I see other people crying, but I looked away and held it together.

Each graduate received a special award/gift from the teachers, personalized to their interests. Edward's was the "Sir Edward" award in recognition of his knight fascination and the fact that he started most days in the classroom fashioning personal chain mail from a set of some sort of linking building blocks.

Boys are tucked in now and getting ready for the big day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to school night! Both boys' new schools held ice cream socials to welcome the kids to the new school year. Yes they were at the same time, but luckily they are only a block apart (one of the reasons for moving Daniel to a new preschool) so we managed to take in both events. Since they were both in the 5-6 p.m. hour, our kids basically had ice cream for dinner. Nothing like a healthy start to the new school year!

Ed insisted on carrying his own school supplies. This lasted less than half a block before he handed off the extra bag. He made it about another block before handing off the back pack. Thankfully it won't be so heavy most other days.

On Friday afternoon, we went up to the elementary school playground and Ed noticed that the kindergarten windows were open. He looked in and the teacher came to the window.

"Well, hello," she said. "You're Edward, right? Your favorite color is pink and you like castles." My heart instantly melted for this woman, but we didn't know officially until tonight that she would be his teacher. Mrs. Smith, prepare for some Edward-style adulation!

Daniel's school will be quite different from his current preschool/daycare. The Montessori method seems very deliberate--all the elements of play are designed to stimulate the senses and prepare the kids for reading, writing, learning. They're also all about giving the child independence so parents are not encouraged to come into the classroom except for specified visits or volunteer time. In the morning we're supposed to stop in the hall for goodbyes and let them go through the door on their own.

I took vacation time this week so we could have a few days of fun activities before schools starts. Also, this way I'm not in a rush to get to work while dropping them off for their first days. Yesterday we went with Edward's old class on a field trip to a nature education center. Today we visited The Playstation in Cedar Rapids (indoor climbing/slides/etc.) A few weeks back they offered a Groupon for half price admission so I thought that would be a fun back-to-school treat.

Tomorrow, the boys want to ride the bus "for the whole route." That is, they want to see where it goes after we usually get off. Daniel also wants to ride a Coralville bus, and I haven't figured out a way to get out of that yet. That's a lot of public transit for one day. We'll end the day with Edward's preschool graduation and then come home to get ready for the big day.

Oh, by the way, Edward received a gift from the Lucas Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization tonight: all kindergartners get a t-shirt that says "Class of 2024."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

John was sick all weekend, but didn't realize it was a sinus infection until Sunday when his mom, dad and I all told him he had to go to urgent care. He'd had a fever since Thursday and despite ibuprofen and acetaminophen he was alternating between shivering (in sweats and fleece under blankets when it was still 90 outside) and sweating. Even after a couple of doses of medicine on Sunday he still was feeling lousy enough to stay home Monday. (He also stayed home Friday. In the 15 years I've known him I can not recall another time when he missed two days of work to illness.)

When the boys and I got home around 1 p.m. he opened the door for us and Daniel immediately said, "Daddy! You look so handsome!"

We had a great laugh. It was so out of the blue, but a true testament to how much better he was feeling/looking.

He's not up to full speed yet, but managed to go back to work today and then mow the lawn when he got home.

The biggest bummer of the illness was that he had to miss his grandpa's 91st birthday celebration on Sunday. But the boys and I went to Chariton and had a great time with the whole family and then meeting Grandpa's friends from the apartment building who stopped in to share some cake.
Daniel was so pleased with his party hat that he wore it all the way home, asleep in his car seat. Unfortunately my phone does not transfer pictures to the computer, but ask me about it next time you see me. It's priceless.
The other milestone of the trip was Edward's introduction to the iPhone. His eight-year-old cousin Ethan was entertaining himself with his dad's phone and Edward sat himself down for a tutorial. At one point I left my cake-cutting post to check on him and saw him holding the phone.

"What are you doing with that?" I asked.

"Angry birds," was the gleeful reply. (I can't begin to explain this, so if you're not already laughing, try this link for additional background.) Looks like even more pressure for me to upgrade my circa 2005 flip phone. My sisters are lobbying for me to finally learn to text.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Sometime back in June Edward asked, "Mom, when are we going to Gram's beach?"

"Hmmm," I thought. "Good question." I started mentally considering our summer calendar and realized how quickly it was filling up. After consulting with my mom, we settled on the last weekend in July for a visit. As we were driving from the Interstate to Evanston it became clear that Daniel thought we were heading straight for the beach. He was not at all pleased to learn that this was to be our Saturday morning activity. And he let that be known. Loudly. At the end of a four hour drive during which he slept for about 25 minutes. Not our finest travel moment.

Luckily, he was easily distracted upon arrival and spent the next two hours along with Edward bouncing from one zone to the next, as if every time he started playing with something he suddenly remembered something even cooler and abandoned the current activity in favor of the newly-remembered one. Not to worry, because the abandoned would soon switch places with the newly-remembered and on and on all afternoon.

Since the boys are early risers, we ended up arriving at the beach by about 8:45 a.m. (it doesn't open with lifeguards until 10:30 a.m.! My mom said that as she was enjoying the morning breeze and watching the boys play she was thinking to herself, "I wonder why it's not more crowded on such a beautiful day?" Then she remembered it was not yet even 10 a.m.!) The water was calm and shallow and warm enough for the boys to just jump right in. The rest of us were more comfortable wading up to our knees.

My Dad saw a school of fish and held the boys still long enough to see them without scaring them away.
And of course, self burial is an essential part of beach going.

This is what you look like after about an hour of submerging yourself in sand. We ended up leaving just after the lifeguards arrived at 10:30, but not before the boys stood at the foot of the lifeguard chair, mouths agape in pure awe/admiration of the mighty guard. They also wanted to help dig the sand into a pile at the foot of the chair to cushion the jump down, but we persuaded them that they'd just be in the way.

The other item on Daniel's wish list for the weekend was riding the subway. We've ridden the "el" a few times, but have never gone all the way downtown to go underground. This was the time. Aunt Nora met us upon our return from the beach (and may have been scarred by the discovery that I'd stripped the boys and wrapped them in towels for the drive home. They still lack even a modicum of modesty so when the towels fell off while dashing from the car to the hose, they did not hesitate for a moment, leaving two naked boys dancing around my parents back yard.)

After lunch, the five of us headed for the train with PopPop's advice to "sit in the front car so you can see it going down into the tunnel.

The ride from the suburbs downtown was a bit longer than they'd bargained for with too many stops for Daniel's taste. Leave it to Aunt Nora to turn it into a game though--she soon had the boys counting down with each stop, how many more until we go in the tunnel. It was all so dramatic!

Once downtown we came up to see the skyscrapers, walk over the drawbridge over the Chicago River, stop in the very middle (on the crack!) and admire the boats.
We kept walking another few blocks in search of ice cream before the return trip. We found a frozen yogurt place and decided it would have to do. The boys were pleased with the "serve yourself" set up. The adults were less than enamored of the chemically taste of the fake ice cream. But it was a good stop since the trip home was just as long and without the eager anticipation of the subway tunnel (though we did sit in the front again so we could watch the climb out into the light.) We said good-bye to Aunt Nora at her Addison stop and continued on.

No time for naps amid all this excitement, which led to some truly exhausted boys. We left them in excellent grandparental care for dinner and bedtime and took advantage of the opportunity for a dinner/movie date.

In anticipation of our arrival, my mom unearthed a huge tub of Lego that had belonged to my brothers, and Nora brought back a box of random pieces my mom once sent her for one of her students. Thank goodness professional ethics prevented her from giving them away because her box contained several pieces vital to the building of Edward's long-desired fire station. Luckily there were several sets of building instructions, including one for a fire station. He wanted it built immediately and had no patience for the need to sort through thousands of pieces in search of the ones needed. He contented himself with a few small structures and vehicles, but once we got it all back to Iowa it was time to get serious.

Hundreds of TINY pieces were scavenged and within 24 hours of our return he had the beginning of the structure--enough room to park two of his existing trucks. Over the next several days we did lots more hunting and sorting (Daniel was quite exasperated with us on several occasions.) When we went to Target for Edward's kindergarten school supplies, we also picked up some organizing bins, which ultimately led to this taming of the chaos.

Now we're waiting for him to be inspired to build his own creations. Also holding our breath a bit to see if he'll modify his Lego wish list or if he still thinks he needs the 2011 version of the fire/rescue station. Could cause a bit of a "debt ceiling" issue for Santa.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

It's possible I may have overexerted myself with eight posts in June since I only managed two in July. Or it's possible that this never-ending heat has just sucked my will to blog. Either way, I'll try to get back on course.
This week and last we went back to our afternoon work/school schedule to accommodate another round of swimming lessons, this time in Iowa City's outdoor pool. This has been another rousing success (except for one blip for Daniel where he spent last Friday morning having a meltdown about not wanting to go. I finally told him I needed to talk to his teacher about why he would be so unwilling when he always loved the water before. We arrived at the pool with him still saying he was NOT going in the water. I walked to his class meeting spot and sat with him while they discussed pool safety. They they announced they were getting life jackets so they could practice jumping in the deep end. That was all he needed to get back in the swing.)

Although I thought the boys would enjoy the novelty of outdoor swim lessons and the MUCH bigger pool, I failed to take into consideration that the observation of said lessons would also be outdoors. Some days it's taken all my self control not to leap fully clothed into the pool myself. It truly has been a miserable late July. I usually feel we can turn the air conditioning off if daytime highs are below 90 and nighttime lows are below 70. This has not happened in at least three weeks.

Unfortunately, this unremitting heat coincided with the Johnson County Fair, which is usually some good, free fun for the kids. Climbing on tractors, petting bunnies, seeing sheep shorn, watching for cow pies underfoot while secretly hoping a cow will produce one before your very eyes, yes, this is the stuff of little boys' dreams.
Daniel, our diehard chocoholic, accepted a free sample of homemade (hand cranked) vanilla ice cream and declared, "This is the BEST ice cream I've ever tasted!" The only disappointment was the absence of one of their favorite firefighters--someone we've seen at these events for the last four years and who remembers them like old friends. They decided the firefighters must have been on a call--nothing less would cause them to miss the fair, right?

I said this is a free event, which is mostly true. Now that they're old enough for the rides, we do have to buy tickets for those. At least none of this year's rides seemed held together with rust and duct tape, and although several of the operators were smoking while holding the gates open and helping the kids with their seat belts, at least most of them had a full mouth of teeth. (I know that's snarky, but seriously, last year's crew might has well have come from the cast of Deliverance.) There was no scary "roller coaster" for Daniel to have to feign bravery to ride. They jumped in a bounce house, rode a "train" and climbed through a pirate ship. Ed also took a ride down a very tall slide, which Daniel claimed he wanted to ride, but then changed his mind while standing next to it appreciating its full height.

Diversion turned out to be simple: "Daniel, if you think we can be done with rides after Edward's slide, then I'll buy you a sno-cone." SOLD!
They shared pretty well, but I have to tell you, if you have never witnessed the spillage the last third of a five-year-old's first cherry sno-cone, then you have never truly seen despair. While passing it back and forth, one of them squeezed a bit too hard and the slushy remains slopped out onto the ground. Edward stared for a moment, clearly calculating whether salvage would be possible, and then burst into inconsolable tears when the reality of the frozen slush mixed with dirt sunk in.

It was very sad. And I told him so. There was no way around it (and I certainly wasn't about to buy another!) We just had to agree it was a sad thing and that it was just time to take our hot, tired, hungry selves home. Home where Dad was waiting to make us dinner. Oh, did I not mention that I undertook this trip solo? Yeah, wife of the year, right here.

For a number of reasons I didn't get very good photos, but I enjoy this sno-cone series and hope you will too. I had already put the camera away by the time of the cone's demise, and I won't deny that it crossed my mind to dig it back out of the bag, but in the end, comforting my child in his time of grief ruled the day.