Monday, December 31, 2012

Per tradition, we spent Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa's house with plenty of presents and a delicious ham dinner. The boys were totally wired, but found this reindeer doorknob hanger craft strangely soothing.

Then we moved on to presents and all bets were off. We try to have them not open packages simultaneously so that we can all see all the presents being opened. There was just too much giddy anticipation this year and the system broke down quickly. They did managed to open together two shared gifts from Grandma and Grandapa--a set of backyard soccer goals and an "indoor camping" playset.
roasting marshmallows and hot dogs in Grandma and Grandpa's family room

Other highlights were Angry Birds hats and dinosaur- and gorilla-foot slippers. (Sadly, the dinosaur foot slippers were defective--back-of-heel seams split the first night--and were returned to Old Navy, which is no longer selling them. A similar item is on its way to us via

sitting on hands in attempt to keep from ripping all packages at once

There was a last-minute rush at bedtime to put out cookies and milk for Santa (they must have read this in a storybook.) And then I inadvertently got them all wound up again by reading "A Visit From St. Nick" with some slight deviations from the original. ("Not a creature was stirring, not even an elephant." "I sprang from my bed to say, 'Hey, quiet down out there!'" etc.) Brought down the house with my ending: "And I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight, 'Next year get your own presents!'" Gales of giggles. There were several encore presentations requested in the ensuing days.

The boys dutifully waited until 7 a.m. to wake us up to behold the beauty of Santa's visit. There was a LeapPad for Daniel and a Nintendo DS for Edward, plus a game for each.

They would have spent the whole day like this. But there was also Lego to put together. Edward spent most of the afternoon in his room alternating between Super Mario and Lego construction (Forest Police Station from Grandma and Grandpa.)

And of course, there was the cleverly-named Mr. Snowman. John spent every night of the week leading up to Christmas in the basement finishing this project. It was a hit! Definitely too big and bulky for Santa's sleigh (plus Santa's workshop annex is too accessible to prying eyes.) And John has already declared victory that the snowman lasted longer than the number of hours it took him to create. That doesn't mean there won't be tears if/when he meets his demise.

We all got dressed and went to Mass at 10:30 (I'm still not strong enough for the effort it would take to get us all through the Christmas Eve children's service.) But after we got home, Edward declared, "It's my birthday, so I'm putting my pajamas back on." Daniel followed suit so even when Grandma and Grandpa came for dinner and cake, the boys remained pajama-clad.

I did manage a birthday picture in real clothes. This shirt is the size seven version of the one he wore for his first birthday/Christmas. I found it at a consignment shop last year and scooped it up. Happy Birthday to our big guy!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

After lunch, Edward was working on the puzzles from his "children's worship" bulletin from church this morning. A code was presented as the way to find the answer to the question, "Where was Jesus" (when he got separated from his parents after traveling to Jerusalem for Passover.) Daniel, across the hall in the bathroom, piped up, "In His Father's house!" (wait a beat) "And I don't mean Joseph." Guess he was paying attention to the story!

And speaking of stories, here is Daniel with his first book. We've had several conversations recently about how long it takes to write a book because we've been listening to the Harry Potter series in the car. I've been trying to explain that kids who were reading them when they first came out had to wait months and years for the next installment. Daniel presented this with a flourish, "I'm a book author!"

Edited to add: I was sure Edward had also "written" his first book around this age, but couldn't find the video. Finally found it last night (1/7) while browsing the blog archives to fill out a birthday information sheet for Daniel's school. (It asks for a few accomplishments from each year of life that the teachers can read to the class as part of the celebration.) The video is at the end of the blog post and starts with Daniel singing before transitioning to Edward's book.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Kenyons!

We'll have more stories and photos to share before the end of the year (I promise!) but as of 8:53 p.m. on Christmas night, there is only the sound of heads hitting pillows. A beautiful, but exhausting Christmas/birthday celebration.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The excitement of Christmas has the boys on edge, and it has made for some tense moments where they just can't bring themselves to behave. This morning, Daniel was playing with his new remote control car, and sent it down the stairs. This is something he was told numerous times yesterday not to do, with the warning that he would lose the car for the day if he didn't obey. So, the car went down the stairs and then went to the basement. He told Mary that if he didn't get the car back, he was going to take all of his pajamas and clothes and leave (bonus points for preparing for night... something I never did when I threatened to run away).

He stomped upstairs, then came back down and said he needed the blue bag and a suitcase, which were the things we used when we packed for our trip to Evanston over the weekend. I gave him the blue bag. He came back down a bit later and issued one last ultimatum. Give him back the toy, or he would run away. I told him goodbye. He went upstairs and banged around for a while, then came back down and, on the verge of tears, said that he didn't really want to go. I pulled him onto my lap and told him I was glad about that. I figured he was near tears because of the thought of leaving, but instead it was more practical: He had taken all of his pajamas, underpants and socks out of his dresser, and was having a difficult time getting them back in the right spots. 

I went up and everything from that drawer was out and on his floor. We got it all put back. As we came back downstairs, he said, "Dad, as I was packing the blue bag, I thought to myself, do I want to leave and make Dad, Mom and Edward sad, or do I want to stay and make them happy? I decided to make you happy."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did you hear that? It's the sound of a huge sigh of relief--two actually. Edward has been skillfully steered away from the monstrosity he expected Santa to produce for him.

Sunday night while lying with Ed as he settled to sleep, John got him talking about being excited to go back to school to see his friends. This led to Edward admitting that he doesn't always understand what his friends are talking about because many have video games that he's not familiar with. I'm surprised that the HUGE light bulb that went on over John's head didn't jar Ed from his pre-sleep.

John waited a few beats and then Edward said, "Will you get me one of those?" John advised that he could put it on his Christmas or birthday wish list. "OK, I'll ask Santa...oh, wait. I'm already asking Santa for my big snowman. Well, maybe I'll ask Grandma and Grandpa." Ha! Nice try, kid. John let him know that this type of gift was more than he could ask for from someone else, but suggested that he could change his request to Santa if he wanted to.

Then he bolted downstairs to work with me on a plan to infiltrate Edward's subconscious.

Turned out, there really wasn't any plotting necessary. All John had to do was ask this morning at breakfast, "Hey, Edward, do you think maybe you'd want to build your own snowman, and I'll help you, and then you can ask Santa for a DS?" (a hand-held video game toy)

"Yeah!!! Can we start right now."

Well, no. We're not getting into snowless snowman construction at 7:30 on a school morning. But we're looking ahead to some weekend construction.

In the meantime, John has found some info online on papier mache, specifically, how to create a giant jack-o-lantern (oversize garbage bag stuffed with newspaper,) which, if not decorated for Halloween, might make the perfect bottom snowball for a snowman large enough to climb into.

John and I actually spent the two hours we had free while my parents took the boys to their hotel to swim on Saturday afternoon wandering around three different hardware/home improvement stores seeking inspiration. We came up with a few possibilities, but it still was going to be a Herculean effort, and there was no telling whether, in the end, our vision would match Edward's. We were afraid of putting in all the time, effort, and expense of making this thing and having him come down on Christmas morning and wail, "That's not what I meant!"

Oh, and he did bust me on the "Santa doesn't do electronic toys" comment regarding the snowman, but we decided that because the DS is so common (apparently every one of his friends has one) that Santa could figure it out. "Or," says Edward. "He could just go to the store and buy one." Yeah, that Santa...always looking for the easy way out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I mentioned in the Halloween post that Edward (and to a lesser degree) Daniel fashioned their own Halloween costumes from various amalgamations of their dress-up inventory. In some cases they had to fashion accessories or other authenticity-related items from scraps of paper or ribbon. I loved this creativity and vision. I loved that they did not involve me except to ask for more tape (I finally just gave them their own roll--you would have thought it was pure gold.)

Last week we got to meet up with some friends from out of town just before they left to head back home. They brought a gift for the boys--a science kit with a series of experiments starting with acids/bases and working up to creating a volcano. After an initial disappointment that we couldn't just get right to exploding a volcano, the boys and John set about systematically working through the experiments. They (all) were captivated.

I love this. I really do. I love the curiosity, the delight, the questioning, the quest to find the answer, the imagination. It is truly wonderful to observe, and I know it will serve them well going forward.

However, it may not serve ME very well come Christmas. You see, with all this imagination and inventiveness, Edward has come up with a very specific and complex request for Santa this year. He will not be deterred by our assurance that no such item exists in this world, because "Well, Santa's elves can just make it in the workshop."


The item is a toy snowman, large enough for a child to climb into and hide/play in. This snowman will have a hinged door in the back through which the child may crawl as well as a hinged top hat which the child may doff from inside the snowman, standing on a stool. This is slightly scaled back based on my informing him (out of self defense!) that Santa does not do electronic toys (though he could totally bust me on this since last year's haul included walkie talkies.) The original imagined prototype had interior buttons that the child could push to automate the hat-doffing and/or arm waving, and/or snowman talking.

So now, I throw myself on the mercy of the blog and BEG for ideas of how to pull this off. Keep in mind that this is a boy who cut out a paper star and taped it to his shirt to become a sheriff and who willingly, excitedly accepted a dry-cleaner hanger bent into an arc with a string tied from end to end as a bow with "arrows" being the removable cardboard bottom of said hanger. That is to say, it does not have to be a masterful work of art. But it must be big, it must be white and it must have a hinged top hat. And it must be in our living room on Christmas morning.

Last year's Santa test was a breeze compared to this.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This year's Halloween can be summed up in a single word: overload. We started with trick-or-treat at my office on Friday afternoon, followed immediately by two community Halloween events/parties for the kids. For this occasion, we had a pirate and a cowboy.

As mentioned in the previous post, the next two nights included trick-or-treat events in Wisconsin. We took Monday off, but were back at it Tuesday with pumpkin carving with Grandma and Grandpa. It had been many years since they last participated in this form of artistry, which was good, because it meant they'd forgotten (suppressed the memory of?) how messy and disgusting it is. But I was SO glad for their help. My kitchen was a big mess, but without their support we might have had to cordon it off as a biohazard. They were also good at watching for little eager-to-help fingers getting to close to my carving knife.

We ended up with two relatively respectable attempts to carve the images they saw in their creative minds. I was not up to the challenge of eyebrows, mustaches and beards, but they were satisfied to sketch these in with a Sharpie.
Note that Edward's has glasses
Later that night, John finally returned, fell into an exhausted but grateful-to-be-in-his-own-bed sleep and was thus able to power through the entire next day at work followed by an hour and 20 minutes of neighborhood trick-or-treating. 
A vampire and a ninja
It was the longest we've ever been out and the farthest from home we've ever ventured on this night. We went with some friends who live on the next block down the hill. Our customary routes really only intersected on our block, so we ended up covering the majority of both our individual routes, which resulted in a mammoth candy intake.
A lesson in sorting and early graphing
And all of this was preceded by costume parades at both boys' schools (Daniel's at 1:30; Edward's at 2. Not as tight a schedule as it may seem given that Daniel's parade lasted about 15 seconds.)
Check out the policeman behind  Snow White
 Edward's costume was perfect for school as he was able to wear it all day and just add the hat and glasses when it was time for the parade. He was very happy to stay out of the chaos that was the bathroom changing area (even if he was a little disappointed that not everyone knew who he was. Do you?)
 After school, the PTO put on a Halloween party/dance for the kids. I was lucky to be assigned to the clean-up brigade, so Daniel and I stayed away until the last 15 minutes or so.

So, to sum up, we went trick-or-treating four times. The kids each wore four different costumes over the course of the extended celebration (Daniel: pirate, ninja, knight, policeman; Edward: cowboy, ninja, Waldo, vampire.) But they put together all of their own costumes from pieces in our dress-up collection. The only thing I had to buy was the Waldo hat and that involved a five-minute search and two clicks to purchase--pretty much exactly the energy I wish to expend on this particular celebration.

I mentioned that the boys and I took a trip to Milwaukee while John was away. We had SO much fun and it really helped distract us from the disappointment of John not coming home as scheduled. It was the weekend before Halloween and plenty of seasonal fun to be had. We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday (had to delay our departure from Iowa City until after Edward's final soccer game of the season.) After an early dinner, we headed out to the Milwaukee County Zoo for "Boo at the Zoo."

Same as above, but closer and no flash

This is a pretty representative photo of the evening--dashing from exhibit to exhibit in search of animals (a few were not sleeping) and trick-or-treats.

This is not a great picture of the kids (except Maggie!) but check out that pumpkin sculpture behind them. It was an undersea theme and yes, that is an octopus carved from a pumpkin.

There were also some more traditional jack-o-lanterns and plenty of festive spirit. A great night out and not even too cold!

The next day we met for Mass and the boys were very impressed with Uncle Chris's musical skillz. Which is not to say that they were extremely well-behaved, but what can you do? Chris stayed at church to get some work done and Ann and I took the kids to Discovery World, which we'd first visited during our brief stop-over last December. It's a great science/exploration museum for kids of all ages. We liked it so much we got a membership (reciprocal benefits will give us free entry to a number of other museums in our travels.)

The power of levers!
After that, it was home for some down time watching a movie while waiting to trick-or-treat.
 Yes, you read that right, a second big night of trick-or-treating, courtesy of a weird Wisconsin tradition of holding the event on the Sunday before Halloween. This time around, Ed stuck with his ninja costume and Daniel switched to a knight. Maggie was a bookworm, Katherine a witch and Abby a zebra.

We collected treats for a few blocks and then came home to lay by a nice cozy fire.

The boys and I went back to the hotel for a swim in a warm, but surprisingly deep pool. Even the shallow end only gave Daniel enough room for a few steps before it went over his head. They're both passable swimmers, but it made me quite nervous being the only adult.

We fell into an exhausted sleep, blissfully unaware that in a few hours travel chaos would ensue. The next morning, as I was on the phone with the travel agent, the boys impressed the Denny's waitress by inhaling their pancake/bacon/sausage breakfasts in about 5 minutes flat. From there it was on to the Betty Brinn Children's Museum for a morning of play with Aunt Karen who joined us from Cedarburg. The kids had a blast--here are a few examples from the 50 states exhibit.

Building the St. Louis Arch

Using foot power to make the geyser gush (loud!)

Riding a burro in the Grand Canyon (hope to visit for real someday!)
It wasn't until after three hours at the museum and an hour at lunch that the travel agent was final able to confirm John's ticket home for the next day. At one point, it looked like he'd only be able to get as far as Chicago, so I started thinking maybe we'd head to my parents' house (they were in AZ) for the night and then wait to pick up John the next day. That would have meant a late night for all, so I'm glad it didn't come to that.

We headed back to Iowa City (listening to the first Harry Potter book as we drove) and spent one more night and day on our own.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

At school drop off one morning, Daniel noticed another mom who had some purple streaks in her hair. (Kind of underneath in the back, so not screamingly obvious, but definitely not remnants of a costume.)

D: Mom, why does she have purple hair?
M: Well, I guess she likes it that way.
D: She used dye to make her hair purple. Why don't you?
M: Well, purple hair's not really my thing.
D: inspecting me more closely "I see you used some white dye in your hair on the sides."
(Hello, cut and color, please!?)
M: That's actually not dye. When you get older your hair starts to turn white. You know like Gram and PopPop and Grandma and Grandpa?
D: But Daddy's older than you. Why doesn't he have white hair?
M: (did not say) "because it's totally unfair!" (did say) "Because his hair is blond like yours and it's hard to see the white mixed in.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Saturday before John left for his trip, we spent the afternoon at Bloomsbury Farm, a farm full of fun fall activities that we first visited last fall. Check out the six-inch height difference from last year:

But the big rocker is still super sized

They've added a zip line this year (which we did not attempt) and some of the old favorites were moved around, but we still found all the old stand-bys: tire horses, big tube slide, enormous inflated pillow,  rope spider web, goats to feed, hay to jump in and a fun house to navigate (some of us more than once; some of us more than four times!)

An anxious flier, John decided that simple Dramamine would not suffice for his long trans-Atlantic flights and talked to his doctor, who prescribed the anti-anxiety drug Ativan (a drug we hadn't thought much about since Will's time in the NICU.) The doctor advised taking one before his trip just to make sure he didn't have any negative reaction. Since he didn't fill the prescription until Friday, that didn't leave much time for experimenting. However, it worked out in John's favor, as he found the whole Bloomsbury experience much more tolerable with his chemical friend. Maybe he'll hold one in reserve for next year.

So I've alluded in the past few posts to John's big trip. Some of you were able to follow the ups and downs via Facebook, but here's the lowdown.

Late in the summer, he received an invitation from the city of Krakow, Poland to come for a literary conference the last weekend in October. They would pay his travel expenses, and those of the representatives from all the other Cities of Literature, who were also invited. Krakow would like to join the Creative Cities Network and thought they might gain some insight by inviting the current members to participate in this regional conference.

Expenses-paid trip to Europe? Why, yes please! And since it's a little silly to fly all the way to Poland just for a two-and-a-half day conference, why don't you go early and spend two days in Edinburgh, the first City of Literature? Good plan! (Too bad the boys' schedules, our house construction, and of course, finances, prevented me from joining him!)

It turned out to be kind of a complicated itinerary with arriving in Edinburgh but departing from Krakow so John enlisted the assistance of a travel agent. (This detail is important later.) He ended up with a United/Lufthansa ticket from Cedar Rapids to O'Hare to Duesseldorf to Edinburgh; return ticket Krakow-Duesseldorf-O'Hare-Cedar Rapids. He bought a one-way ticket on Ireland's RyanAir from Edinburgh to Krakow.

As luck (and Murphy's Law) would have it, a tremendous thunderstorm rolled through Eastern Iowa headed toward Chicago the between 7 and 8 a.m. the day of John's departure. His flight was not until 1 p.m. though, and as we left Iowa City for the airport at 11:30 a.m. it was still listed as "on time." By the time we got to the airport and I kissed John good-bye at noon, however, it had been canceled. There was no way to fly to Chicago in time for the Europe-bound flight. As I was on my way back to Iowa City (for a much anticipated haircut!) John called to say he was stranded so I turned around to go back and get him. (Poor sad, shaggy hair!)

I waited in the "cell phone lot" for about 45 minutes while he worked with United and then Delta to try to get himself re-booked for the same day, later flights. We left with a new ticket, this time on Delta, departing at 6:30 that evening. (And to chalk one up in the "good luck" column, my stylist had a rare same-day opening due to another cancellation and was able to get me in after all--woo hoo!)

The boys were surprised, though basically unfazed, to see John after school despite having said good-bye to him for the week at school drop-off.

In the late afternoon, we all headed back to the Cedar Rapids airport, where this time, we parked and went in with him to ensure he was checked in and ready to fly before we left. This took a while and there was still some uncertainty about whether he'd have enough time to make his connection in Detroit. As we waited and the dinner hour approached, the boys were getting antsy and complaining that they were hungry. As there is limited food service in the Cedar Rapids airport and I actually had dinner at home, I tried to buy some time with a trip to the vending machine. If you ask them about Dad's trip to Edinburgh, I can almost guarantee they'll start with, "We got to eat POP TARTS at the airport!" Two bucks and two strawberry pop-tarts later, they were in seventh heaven.

Once the ticket agents assured us that John was booked through with time to connect, the boys and I said good-bye again and headed for home (and dinner!) About 15 minutes later, my phone rang. You guessed it: John's flight to Detroit had just been delayed, now leaving no way for him to connect in Detroit. As I was in the geographic middle of the route from the airport to our house with two very hungry and increasingly tired boys, we had to call for back-ups. John's parents hopped in the car to head to Cedar Rapids to pick him up. They ended up becoming quite familiar with the cell phone lot as it took about an hour to find a route for John the next day.

He came home extremely frustrated and demoralized, but somehow exhausted enough for a solid night's sleep, waking the next morning refreshed and ready to try again. This time he refused to let me drive him, saying the (very cheap) long-term parking rate was well worth not screwing up my entire day again. He got out on a Cedar Rapids-O'Hare-Newark-Edinburgh route with only a slight hiccup at O'Hare. So he lost one day of his Edinburgh time, but never fear, he would regain it in Krakow.

Edinburgh photos

Krakow photos

For you see, in all the re-ticketing, it seems no one had bothered to re-confirm his return route, so when he showed up at the Krakow airport the following Monday, having had an excellent trip, but fully ready to return to the loving embrace of his family back in Iowa, the gate agents said they had no record of his arrival and therefore no authorization to clear his departure. He was, once again, stranded. Six hours ahead of his sleeping U.S. advocates. And Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the East coast, closing airports, canceling flights, and causing mass re-booking for those with travel plans in or through New York, Washington D.C. and other Eastern hubs.

He went back and forth among United, Lufthansa, and Delta to determine who was responsible for the screw up and they all pointed a finger at one another. Delta finally at least conceded enough to issue a new return ticket, but not until Friday (it was currently Monday.) Once again demoralized, he left the airport to wait and see whether his travel agent could improve upon that plan once he opened for business at 8 a.m. Central Time.

I was first alerted to the situation by text message at 4:30 a.m. Normally I wouldn't receive such a message until I woke up as I'm not in the habit of sleeping with my cell phone, but I was in a Milwaukee hotel room with the boys as we decided to distract ourselves from Dad's long trip by visiting my sister and her family.

Nothing I could do until 8, but as soon as I could I was on the phone to the travel agent, who was shocked to hear what had happened. His read on John's travel record showed no reason he should have been denied in Krakow. (As of this writing, it has still not been determined fully, why and how this happened.) He stared working the various routes to try to find empty seats on flights the next day. By 1 p.m. our time, he'd found and booked a ticket from Krakow-Munich-O'Hare-Cedar Rapids, arriving home at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, one day later than originally scheduled.

John's Krakow hosts were quite solicitous, arranging another night in the same hotel, and promising to set up additional meetings if he were in fact stuck there all week. In the end, he did get out the next day and flew the   entire route without a single delay, arriving back at home (though he hardly recognized it!) by 11:15 and falling, exhausted, but happy into his own bed. He reports that other than the air travel nightmares, the trip was a huge success. (To quote my father, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the show?") However, I doubt he'll be eager to stamp his passport again anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our house on October 16, 2012

Our house on October 30, 2012

Taking a closer look: then

And now: 

Oh, yes, and all this was going on the week John was away. Utter chaos, but a great result (both the house and John's eventual return.) Interior shots may be forthcoming, if I ever feel the inside of my house is worthy of public display. (Read: probably never.)

And because my photography skills are suspect, you should note that the before pictures have grey vertical T1-11 siding and a red front door (and rickety wooden storm door that didn't fully latch and often blew open with a bang during storms.)  The after pictures have sand/tan horizontal vinyl siding and a forest green front door with full glass (retractable screen) storm door.

We have wanted to change those front windows since we first looked at this house five years ago (and bought it four years ago.) But other expenses took priority until now. We are VERY happy with the change and loving the natural light in the living room! Now, what's the over/under on how long the "temporary" paper shades will remain in place there before I make a decision about window treatments?

Monday, October 15, 2012

 The boys were quite pleased to welcome John home and wasted no time getting cozy together.
John didn't have much time for couch cuddles though as he had three major work events in five days starting the weekend after his return. All were successful and he was glad to have them behind him so he could focus all his nervous energy on his upcoming overseas trip.

In the meantime, he finally persuaded Edward to let him liberate a tooth so loose that Edward was pushing it through his lips for an impressive pre-Halloween fang. (Oh, so gross! I totally did not know that I was squeamish about loose teeth, but I am.) Although the first front tooth is already starting to come in, he does have that adorable first-grade gap grin for the time being.
With the tooth gone, the only thing in danger of destruction at his weekly soccer games is his glasses. Twice this fall we've had to visit the optical center on a Monday to have them straightened out. He doesn't play quite with quite the same aggression as Daniel, but I guess any time you have eight six-year-olds in a scrum, things are bound to happen. He has been very happy to attend practices and Saturday morning games, so even though his attention to the finer points of the game (kick toward the goal, not toward the white chalk field boundary!) might be a bit lacking, at least he's out there being active with his friends.

In other news this month, I got a new phone, which brings me up to at least 2010 technological standards. It's not a iPhone, actually not even a smart phone (though it could be if I were willing to pay the monthly fee) but it does take better pictures, and more importantly (according to SOME people) allow for quicker writing/sending of text messages. Now, if I could only figure out how to get the photos to download to the computer, I'd have a few more to post here! Baby steps.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Get out your "Way Back Machines," 'cuz we're headed all the way back to the first weekend in October. Yes, I realize I've been absent this month. Let's try to play a bit of catch-up, shall we?

So back in the beginning of the month, John took a long weekend to travel to Cleveland for a writing conference. It's a great opportunity for him to connect with other writers and it really fuels his creative spirit, so the boys and I sent him off dark and early on a Thursday morning. (His flight was at 6:30 a.m. departing from an airport an hour away. He got up at 4 and left by 4:30. Edward actually heard him heading down the stairs and called out for one last kiss good-bye.)

That weekend happened to be the "bye" weekend for the Hawkeye football team. This meant that EVERY single event for the fall was scheduled then. It also happened to be our first blast of cold with high temperatures only in the 40s. (We turned the heat on this weekend.) Daniel and I bundled up in down coats and a blanket to watch Edward's soccer game Saturday morning. Then it was home for some soup for lunch before heading back out to the Northside Oktoberfest, a new tradition in town, which was very fun last year, but definitely felt the chill this year.

 Don't get me wrong--we still had fun. Just not quite as enticing to guzzle root beer when your hands are as frosty as your mug. (This event is held in conjunction with a brew fest and includes a soda fest for the kids.)

From there we headed over to Daniel's school for the annual Harvest Fest--also an outdoor event. I blatantly ignored the food assignment based on last name, making the executive decision that an event running from 2-4 p.m. did not require a main dish. One pan of pumpkin bars could be divided between this event and another party that evening. And besides, who's going to say No to cream cheese frosting? No one at this party, that's for sure! The Willowwind fest had games for the kids and a short music performance from each class. All three pre-school classes kicked things off with a little song and dance. We were then told that the K-6th grades would each have a song and the program would end with a second song from the pre-schoolers. Um. No. Note to school: do not make your shortest-attention-span, least-patient pupils wait the longest. We ditched the program and headed home to warm up a bit.

Then it was off to our friends the Jordans' for another Oktoberfest. We were all a bit worn out from the day and I may or may not have threatened to leave before dinner was served. We made it though and had a great time, including two firsts for the boys: a three-legged race and bobbing for apples. Yes, bobbing in a water bucket, outside in 40-degree weather. Daniel of course soaked his shirt, but they both came up with apples, thanks to some generous stems.

Oh, and Daniel's assessment of the three-legged race: "We tied our legs together and had to run to the fence and back. We fell down a lot."

Sunday was our 12th anniversary, but with John away all weekend, we didn't think it would be right to get a babysitter and head out by ourselves. We planned an evening at home with a delicious lasagna dinner. We were all very happy to welcome John home mid-afternoon. This four-day absence was our trial run for a much bigger trip later in the month.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

 We are at the end of a very busy week. Luckily we launched it with a tranquil Sunday afternoon picnic at the apple orchard.
Then on Monday we all attended Open House at Edward's school. This was our first chance to see his classroom since he was moved to the newly-created section of 1st grade after the first two weeks of school. He was very excited to show us around. I'd met his teacher during the daily pick-up, but it was John's first opportunity to meet her. We got to chat briefly about some of the class work. I hadn't realized that they split the kids into reading groups and send one group to each of the four classrooms for an hour of reading work every day. I'd been a little annoyed at the daily "reading" he was bringing home--books that might focus on sight words or vocabulary, but have no plot or characters and do not hold any interest for the reader at all. Luckily we have easy access to our fabulous public library. It usually takes two to three trips a week (sometimes just John or me stopping on the way home from work) to keep him supplied.

On Wednesday, I had a late afternoon function for work so John came home early to hang with the boys and eat dinner. I got home just in time to leave with Edward for his first night of religious ed. I am slowly getting over my irritation that this is scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 on Wednesday evenings. I'm also happy that Edward's teacher is also a teacher at his school, so I at least have some confidence that she knows how to handle 10 first-graders for an hour at what is normally bedtime. I think I'm succeeding in keeping my bad attitude to myself because he seems to think of it as something he "gets" to do, not something he "has" to do.

On Thursday, Daniel had his first soccer game, which also coincided with Edward's school participation in the City High Homecoming parade. The game was at 5 and the parade at 6. As luck would have it the parade staging area was in the parking lot of Daniel's soccer park. I wasn't sure Daniel would have the energy for the mile-long parade after his hour of soccer, but he insisted he was going to walk, and he did.

Four-year-old soccer is a sight to behold. At first Daniel was eager to try his hand at goalie, but quickly learned that it can be dull when the action is at the other end of the field. "Mom!" he called from his post, "Why don't they come down here?!" Soon enough  he rotated into the scrum and wasted no time charging after the ball. This is quite a rough and tumble game as the kids are so focused on getting a foot on the ball they don't seem to notice when they get a shoulder or hip directly into another player. They were all tumbling around but getting right back up. Daniel even managed to get a break-away from the pack and kick/dribble it the length of the field for a goal. Even though they don't keep score, this was a very exciting moment.

After the game, John left us to head downtown to a music show, where I was to meet him after the parade. I'd had some trouble securing a babysitter, as all of ours seemed to have a role to play in the high school parade. Edward's kindergarten teacher not only connected us with her daughter, but also offered to meet us at the end of the parade to drive us home and drop her off to stay with the kids. Now that's a full-service kindergarten teacher!

Our boys were a little disappointed not to be on the receiving end of the candy give-away at this parade, but never fear. The very next day was the University of Iowa Homecoming parade and they came home fully loaded from that one.

After Edward's soccer game this morning (during which he bore the brunt of a head collision with an opposing player) we are very happy to have NOTHING on the agenda this afternoon or evening. We have a back yard full of leaves to jump in, some burgers for the grill, and a lovely fall day to enjoy.