Friday, January 27, 2012

This week Edward celebrated his 100th day of kindergarten. I had heard of this milestone from the experiences of Edward's older cousins, but I didn't fully appreciate the gravity of the occasion until Edward's experience. He was WAY into it. Each kid was asked to bring 100 of something from home--suggestions included 100 Cheerios on a necklace or 100 paperclips in a jar. Edward decided on 100 Legos (Lord knows, we have enough!) so we set about sorting 100 identical sized pieces in all different colors. I thought this would be the easiest visual representation of 100 and also the highest likelihood of all the pieces returning home.

Edward told his teacher his plan, and she said he'd have more fun actually constructing something out of 100 pieces. So we carefully substituted pieces of various sizes to our original set-aside stash as he built this: a school and playground. Kind of hard to see the playground here, but there's a red slide, a horizontal bar (white/blue) and a bench (yellow/blue) behind the school. Inside the school, he finally had a use for one of the three square pieces that have simple arithmetic on them, which, in fact, are relics of one of the only Lego sets I owned as a child (separate from my brothers' stash): a school.
Each kid also brought 100 pieces of something edible to combine into a big snack mix. Apparently there were lots of mini-marshmallows and M&Ms, cereal and goldfish crackers. We sent candy corn, as I had a bag stashed away that I'd picked up for 50 cents after Halloween this year. At the time I had bribery on the brain, but this was just as useful.

While the 100th day was Thursday, Edward was equally excited for today, 101 day. This stuck me as odd at first, but the note home explained that many kids this age think the way to continue counting from 100 is to jump to 200, 300, 400, and so on. Thus the equal emphasis/importance of 101 day. It had a dog/dalmatian theme.

Next up, groundhog day next week! Not really a celebration day, but it happens to be Edward's turn to bring snack that day and he asked if he could bring something groundhog-related. I was not sure such a thing existed, so I turned to my trusty friend Google to search for "groundhog day snacks." I was horrified to discover that the results included recipes for ACTUAL GROUNDHOGS! O.M.G.

There were a few ideas for kids snacks, but they appeared to be primarily cupcakes with chocolate chip and/or raisin eyes, which I found less than inspiring. I had Edward convinced that we could make Chex mix "puppy chow" and call it "groundhog chow." But then in conversation with his teacher, she suggested honey and chocolate teddy grahams, which they will affix to regular graham crackers with frosting--the honey teddy is the groundhog, standing in the snow (frosting) as the groundhog and the chocolate teddy lays flat as the shadow. You know, there's a certain creative genius possessed only by kindergarten teachers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rising temperatures and lingering snow created the first opportunity of this winter for a snowman. John and the boys did not let it go to waste. I love how Daniel is leaning his cheek on Frosty here.

Unfortunately, he'd probably benefit from a cool snowman for his cheek today. He came down with a stomach bug and is now sleeping off a pukey morning. He didn't eat much at breakfast (unusual for a boy who usually wolfs down one or two bowls of "mixed up" cereal) but was otherwise acting just fine. He didn't hesitate to get dressed and walk to school, but when we got there he said he had a sore tummy, but "not the throwing up kind." I thought he might actually be hungry from his abandoned breakfast and went on to work. I was no more than a mile away when the school called to say he'd thrown up. Unfortunately, I had to get another mile away before I could turn around and come back as I was on the bus headed in the opposite direction at the time.

John was able to get to school quicker than I could get the bus back home, get the car and go back to the school. So I met them back at home, sent John back off to work, and got Daniel settled on the couch because, "you get to watch extra TV when you're sick." (His words; wisdom gleaned from Edward's sick day last week. That was a low-grade fever that Daniel never shared; here's hoping Edward won't pick up this bug.)

The snowman didn't last the night. Steady rain brought him down and left behind a thin layer of ice all over. We're expecting mid- to upper-30s the rest of the week, so I wonder if we'll have any snow by the weekend? We've had some fun with sledding the last two weeks, both after school and on weekends. Best new developmental milestone of the year: both boys can carry their own sleds back up the hill. Last winter one of us usually had to ride along on each run or else trudge down to the bottom to help Daniel back up. This year we can just stand at the top, watch and cheer. Even better will be when we can just send them out the door with their sleds and stay warm and cozy at home. But that's a few years down the road!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seven years ago today, two professional writers faced the cruelest, yet most important assignment of their lives.

This is what they wrote.

At the time each minute seemed to last all day and a single day seemed an eternity. Now there is a strange dual sensation that this day was both yesterday and a lifetime ago.

Today we march forward as always, pushing aside the "would have/should have been" and focusing on "what is." We launch our annual March of Dimes fundraising effort in memory of Will and in honor of Edward and Daniel, two beacons who continue to light the darkness in our lives.

If you read this blog, you're already a part of this journey with us. We thank you for your love and support and invite you to continue with us in whatever way suits you best--joining us in person in Iowa City April 14, participating in your local March for Babies, donating to Team Kenyon, or offering your support and encouragement.

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Daniel's birthday, we started at the doctor's office, but never fear, it was for well-child checkups, which confirmed that both children are quite well. Edward continues to be quite average for height/weight (near 50th percentile for age) and Daniel is tall for his age (90th percentile) and proportionate for weight. No wonder he feels like a tank when you pick him up. Also, no wonder people ask us all the time if they're twins. Only about four inches and six pounds separate them.

Thankfully, neither of the boys needed shots at this visit. When I made the appointment, the receptionist asked if I was sure I wanted to schedule it on Daniel's birthday. Our doctor only sees well-child patients on Tuesday mornings so as difficult as it is to get appointments, I decided to run the risk.

After that it was off to school and work and then quite a busy afternoon, as I attempted to get the cake baked and the soup prepped for dinner before picking up the boys from school. Then, as it was amazingly warm (55 degrees!) of course we had to stay and play for a while on the school playground. I told Daniel it could very well be the only time in his life he plays outside without a jacket on his birthday.

Then it was home to meet up with Grandma and Grandpa who came to celebrate the big day. They kept the boys busy playing while I made dinner. Daniel requested "bacon soup" for his birthday dinner--a favorite recipe, but one that can't easily be made ahead of time. (Note: it's actually baked potato soup, but at one point Edward declared that he wouldn't eat it because he didn't like potatoes. We rechristened it "bacon soup" and both boys have devoured it ever since.)

At one point while I was cooking, Daniel came into the kitchen to report, "Mom, Grandma's playing with my garbage truck, and I didn't want her to!" Oh, those dastardly grandmas and their garbage-truck-stealing ways!

Another gem that was loud enough for me to hear from the kitchen while the boys were playing pirate in the living room: "Arrgh. You can not chop off my head. It's my birthday!"

When John got home it was (finally!!) time for presents. Daniel had been asking all afternoon, but I assured him that Dad would not want to miss him opening presents. Once he opened this present from Gram and PopPop, there were no more vehicle disputes with Grandma--his-and-hers garbage trucks.

He did learn not to play too rough with it though. Shortly after it was removed from its box he managed to yank hard enough to pull off the back tailgate. As he held the truck in one hand and the piece in another, he said in his best crestfallen Charlie Brown voice: "Broken on my birthday." Never fear. The toy is actually designed to withstand this type of preschooler aggression and was fixed immediately.

I did take out the fancy champagne flutes again for birthday dinner and my prediction almost came true. Daniel took his first drink and set the glass down, but ended up with the base of the glass on the rim of his plate, sending it toppling to the table. I made it worse by trying to catch it, which ended up splattering milk all over the kitchen. But at least the glass stayed on the table, so it was only milk to clean up and not shards of glass and a devastated birthday boy.

After being in charge of the lights while Daniel's birthday candles were lit, Edward said he was too full for cake and ice cream and bolted for the living room. What he really wanted was time to play with Daniel's new toys (including aforementioned garbage truck as well as a car transporter from Grandma and Grandpa) solo. We were impressed enough with his maturity and relieved he wasn't freaking out about Daniel being front and center that we did not hesitate to send him off. Daniel himself ended up eating his ice cream first along with a treat bag of M&Ms from Grandma and only had about one bite of his own birthday cake. He was serious about those M&Ms though. When one dropped on the floor John made a move like he was going to try to grab it. Daniel leaped down from his chair and literally body checked John to beat him to the rogue M&M.

The night after his birthday, I was "telling his day" (our calming ritual before bed) and included the detail that we ate left-over birthday cake for dessert. "I really liked my cake, Mom," he said, which was very sweet. (It was chocolate with pink frosting--cherry-flavored.) But then he was worried that Gram and PopPop didn't get to have any and suggested that we "put it in a box with lots of wrapping so it won't get broken and send it to them." He accepted my alternate plan of stashing half a cake in the freezer until their next visit. Will be interesting to see if he remembers.

These are not birthday stories, but still vintage Daniel:

Distracted at dinner, he was clinking a glass and plate together and delighting in sound of "metal." Told that these two items are not, in fact, metal:
D: "Well, what are they then?"
M: "Um, the glass is GLASS, and the plate is, I guess, maybe ceramic?"
D: "What's ceramic?"
M: "It's, well, it's kind of like clay."
D: waits a beat "Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of CERAMIC!" HA HA HA HA

One Tuesday afternoon, as I was helping him gather his things to take home, he stopped to tell me about one of his art projects, which involved dissolving sugar in water and then making crystals on a tinfoil-covered paper plate. He asked if we could do it at home and gave a very specific, step-by-step account of how they made them. While he was talking, his teacher, who was cleaning the classroom as the other kids and teacher were on the playground, stopped what she was doing to listen. When he was done and I'd exclaimed over the beauty of his creation, she said, "You know, Mary, we did that project on Friday." She was amazed at how much detail he remembered four days later.

Final quotable moment requires some back story. When we were visiting my parents after Christmas, we stopped in at my mom's library one afternoon while she was working. A friend of hers who is a fan of this blog and thus eager for the opportunity for in-person interaction with its heroes, came up to the Children's Department to visit. She's a tech specialist, so when Daniel selected a DVD to take home and "watch with PopPop" she invited him to her office to ensure it was clean and smooth for best viewing.

Out of the blue one afternoon while walking home from school last week, Daniel asked, "Mom, what was the name of Gram's friend at the library?"
"Yeah! Becky. Remember when I got to go to the basement with her to clean the DVD of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer? That was fun!"

Speaking of fun, we finally have snow and the boys enjoyed an afternoon of sledding after school on Friday. Woo hoo! They also learned the finer points of walking to school in a snowstorm, including when the wind is blowing directly in your face, look down at the sidewalk since the top of your head is better able to withstand the chill. Only their eyes were exposed, as both boys got these facemask hats for Christmas, which they promptly dubbed "ninja hats." (I actually think they kind of look like hijabs, but regardless, they're warm!) Edward also had trouble with foggy glasses. Life lessons.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Let's go all the way back to Christmas Eve now. Here we  have a whole Saturday stretching before us and a few last minute errands to run sans kids. Given the option of running the errands (three different stops) or taking the kids to the Children's Museum, John opted for the museum. This might be a good time to mention that the Iowa Children's Museum is AT THE MALL! I worried that it would be a horrific experience for all, but apparently they got an easy parking spot and walked right in, unperturbed by the last-minute shoppers.

Later in the afternoon, we all headed to Grandma and Grandpa's to kick off the Christmas festivities with dinner and presents. A huge success on both fronts.

Here are the boys with their shared gift for this year, a large red barn. (Gift for Mom and Dad: Grandpa put it together--woo hoo!) Then each of them unwrapped a tractor, pick-up with animal trailer, some animals and fence pieces to make a full farmyard scene. Definitely a hit.

Daniel is still in the stage where any gift is a thrill to open--even if it's new socks (which it was.) He also loves to help others and was ready and willing when it came time for the adults to dig in to their piles.

On the way home we decided to drive past a legendary Coralville home, which has outdoor lights to end all outdoor light displays. Real trains on two different tracks, animatronic Santa's workshop, more than 100 Santas, including three on the roof, including two that were mechanical popping in and out of chimneys. It was a sight to behold. We actually couldn't see from the car because so many people had gotten out to stand on the sidewalk for a better look. We had to wait for traffic to clear and then drive around the corner to park and walk back. The boys had changed to pajamas at Grandma and Grandpa's to facilitate quicker to bed when we got home so they were not wearing shoes. We briefly considered digging them out of the bag and attempting to put them on over the footie pajamas, but opted instead to carry them. BIG mistake. These boys are HEAVY. Back-breaking. On the other hand, they LOVED the display, so that erased some of the agony. Next year we're wearing shoes and going on a week-night well before Christmas though. WOW!

Here's what it looked like after Santa had visited:

This video of Christmas morning 2011 is probably the kind only a grandparent could love, and even they might be hard pressed to stick with it for three-and-a-half minutes. I tried to edit, but just couldn't bring myself to do anything but trim a few seconds here and there. Forgive me, blogosphere!

The last segment of the video is Edward opening his "secret present," which was a snow globe. It has a light that fades from one color to another but is dim enough to make a good night light. About a week after Christmas I went into his room before heading to bed myself to turn off the light (batteries, people!) and it wasn't on its shelf. Upon closer inspection, Edward's bed was glowing. He was curled up with it in his arms like a stuffed animal. Yeah, I'd say it fit the bill.

Other Santa treasures were a firefighter tool belt for Edward and a pirate get-up for Daniel.

Once the flurry was over and the wrappings collected, we had some playtime before getting dressed for 9:30 Mass. (Boys were up at 7 a.m., a reasonable hour by our standards.)

As soon as we got home, it was time to put the Lego together. John helped Edward with the Star Wars Landspeeder and I helped Daniel with the Lego Duplo Mac semi. I definitely got the better end of that bargain, but the boys persevered until the Landspeeder was ready to cruise.
Now I'm seeing that my erratic blogging is actually working out well because the next post, while written first, actually picks up where this one leaves off. Christmas is over and its time for the big birthday!
The chronology of this blog is gonna be all wacky for a bit here as I try to catch up. First order of business--Edward's sixth birthday (under the gun to get it up before Daniel's 4th tomorrow!)

Here's the birthday boy playing taking a break from playing with the new Christmas toys to mug for the camera. Per tradition, Santa came while we were sleeping and we opened those presents before heading to Christmas morning Mass at 9:30 a.m. Afterward, Lego construction was the order of the day, with John helping Ed and me helping Daniel.

Since it was (relatively) warm and sunny and we didn't feel we should force a rest/quiet time on the birthday boy, we headed out for a bike ride after lunch. The boys were sporting their new face-mask hats (Christmas Eve gifts from Mom and Dad) which fit pretty well under bike helmets. Edward also decided he needed his new firefighter goggles to complete the ensemble.

In addition to riding the bike path, we were also able to test out two Christmas presents--walkie talkies from Santa (impressive range over a very large park) and rocket balloons from our Arizona cousins. After losing a surprisingly high flier to our neighbor's roof, we thought the open park offered a better launching spot. The wind caught one though and carried it to the top of an extremely tall tree. It was impressive while it lasted, but I guess they're meant to be indoor toys (no worries--there were 30 in the package, so the loss of two was not devastating.)

Edward had requested "vanilla cake with blue frosting and Buzz Lightyear" so this is what my meager skills (and an Amazon search for "Buzz Lightyear cake topper") allowed.

Presents! Again, with the theme, here he's opening a Buzz Lightyear sleeping bag with the Buzz Lightyear Lego from Grandma and Grandpa in the background.

After a birthday meal of bbq pulled pork with peas on the side, it was time for the big moment.

He went to bed VERY happy, but we were totally exhausted. I always thought a Christmas birthday would be hard on the kid, but at least so far he hasn't seemed to mind a bit. I think it's really the adults that draw the short straw.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

This was our New Year's toast (which we had to specify did not involve bread)--7-up at 7 p.m. I will note for posterity that after a few unsuccessful attempts to get both boys smiling in the same photo, John finally coaxed these simultaneous grins by suggesting they say "Bappy Boo Beer" instead of "Happy New Year." Oh, the hilarity!

The fancy flutes garnered oohs and ahhhs from the boys and a quizzical look from John, who could not believe we owned such a thing. Never mind that they were a wedding gift from 11 years ago. This may only have been the second or third time they've ever been used. It definitely will not be the last, however. The boys were already plotting how they could get to use them again. Edward asked if he could drink from one for his birthday, which I affirmed, but then reminded him that his next birthday is a year away. Daniel jumped right in though and suggested that he could have one for his birthday which is right around the corner. Not to be bested by his little brother Edward piped up, "Well, there are two, so maybe I could also have one for Daniel's birthday!"

Anyone want to place bets on whether these glasses will last another 11 years? We may be lucky to get another 11 days out of them, though they are packed up again for now.

Our day also included a "Noon Year's Eve" celebration at the Children's Museum, including a balloon drop at noon. It was chaotic enough that Daniel was momentarily separated from us. He hooked up with a museum staffer though, and after a few frantic minutes once the crowd cleared and I realized he wasn't in it, I found him at the front desk. He did not seem worried, which was good. I was almost certain that no one would let him actually leave the museum, so I was not as crazed as the last time one of my children was lost in a crowd. Still, glad to have the episode behind us and make our escape back home.

After some quiet time in the early afternoon, we headed out to enjoy the beautiful 50-degree weather. It actually was not as warm as we expected, since there was quite a strong wind (which only got stronger overnight and through New Year's Day.) But the boys ran off some of their energy at the school park and we came home to have a pizza dinner with Grandma and Grandpa.

They stayed through bath and pajama time in order to join in the 7 p.m. toast. I may be in the daughter-in-law doghouse for posting a picture of grandma, but I thought this was cute. (It's also the only photo in this post that isn't blurry--darn those constant-motion kids!)

Christmas and birthday updates to come.