Thursday, May 31, 2012

Last day of school today. Too bad our first rain in about three weeks spoiled plans for outdoor picnics for both boys. I was invited to Daniel's and we had a fine time inside. His day ended early, after lunch, which was perfect timing for getting over to Edward's school to help with the "last day of school Kindergarten sundae party." We helped scoop ice cream for 76 Kindergartners and for his patience and good behavior, Daniel was rewarded with an affirmative response to his request for a second helping. (I think he was pretty shocked.) Turned out his eyes were bigger than his stomach because he gave me the second cup half full and then ended up moaning about his stomach most of the afternoon. (That was partly the exhaustion factor though!)

After the ice cream, the fourth, fifth and sixth graders gave a final concert, which Daniel was better able to sit through than many of the older kids. And then he was wiped out. He was on the verge of accepting my suggestion for a nap later in the afternoon, but it turned into just snuggling in bed with books for 45 minutes. Not bad.

I forgot the camera today, but here's a shot from yesterday--when it was lovely and sunny outside--after Edward's "graduation" ceremony, complete with construction paper hat. (No pomp and circumstance though, so no tears.) He is almost over the fact that his beloved Mrs. Smith can't come with him to first grade. We'll see how he feels come August.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

 Let us take a moment to appreciate exactly how filthy Daniel is at the end of a day of preschool in the spring time. In addition to spending time in the school garden (which at this point consists mainly of sitting in the dry dirt) there is also a grassy/dirt area adjacent to his playground, which is great open running space as well as additional opportunities for dirt-sitting/digging.
 Daniel is also quite fond of the water table in the playground and often has to change clothes after soaking himself. Today, the shirt was wet, but it was warm enough to keep it on for the walk home and windy enough that it was mostly dry by then. This picture does not fully do justice to the thin layer of dirt all over his neck and cheeks--stuck to the sunscreen that must be applied before outdoor time. (Aside: Daniel's skin sensitivity continues this summer and even the extra-sensitive sunscreen that worked last summer gave him a rash this year. We're now on to an uber-natural one that pretty much only contains zinc oxide and it's working well. However at $15 for 4 oz. it could be an expensive summer!)
Let's just zoom in on those legs and feet. Would you believe that, except for the toes, those socks were white at the start of the day? Dirt. Dirt. Dirt. His teachers call it "true evidence of time well-spent." I tend to agree, but, still, I wish I had a walk-through shower at my front door. (Aside: Daniel was experimenting with scissors today--on the bottom hem of his shirt. Thankfully, this shirt was already damaged with a little hole in the shoulder area. Still, we had a stern talk about using scissors only on paper or string, not clothes!)

On the plus side, given all this dirt, (and Edward is no slouch himself in this regard) I took the opportunity while John was away to introduce the concept of the shower curtain. We needed inspiration one evening to break through the exhausted, lonely whining, so I used my best, breathless, "Oh my gosh this would be so cool!" voice to ask if they wanted to unfold the shower curtain and take a real shower behind it.

This went over like gangbusters. We've used the hand held shower with mom or dad in control for quite some time now, but this was taking things to a whole new level. It's not quite as fast, but with a parent watching from the corner and offering detailed, step-by-step instructions (pick up the soap; rub it all over your hands to get lots of bubbles; put the soap back in the soap dish; rub your hands all over your arms/armpits, etc.) the job gets done. We do need to work on not wiping away water drips in the eyes while our hands are soapy though. Little life lessons.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two funny Danielisms from the weekend so far: Edward was telling us that the orchestra played at his school on Friday. We talked about it for just a few minutes before Daniel piped up, "But how did the orca get in your school??" (Can you tell that the whale fascination continues?)

This morning at church Daniel was resting his head on my shoulder but his pointy little chin was like a dagger so I said, "Daniel, your chin is hurting my shoulder." He politely turned his head to the side, but before long he said, "Mom, now your shoulder is hurting my cheek. My chin was comfortable before!"

Today is 95 and humid--an inside with AC kind of day. Also an "Edward finally wore me down" kind of day in that I agreed to play Monopoly with him. I'm not sure where he heard of it or why he was so intrigued, but he's been asking for a few months now to play, but the timing just hasn't been right. (He usually asks about 10 minutes before dinner or bed time!)

Daniel insisted he would play too and NOT with John's help. So John was the banker/photographer.

Here I'm explaining the concept of "Free Parking" as Daniel deposits a "Community Chest" fine.

On the very next turn, Edward rolled a winning combination.

And won the "Free Parking" pot.

He was pleased.

We played until all three of us landed in jail at the same time. We used the break in momentum to notice that each boy had acquired nine properties, which made it a good time to stop. Edward had Park Place and Boardwalk; Daniel had Mediterranean and Baltic. It probably wasn't going to end well, right? We never got to the houses/hotels. Edward wanted to leave it set up and continue later, but then we pointed out that we had the game spread out on the dinner table. Pizza with Grandma and Grandpa triumphed over real estate mogul dreams.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

John got home as scheduled on Friday evening and all is now right with the boys' world. They practically barreled him over with hugs as soon as he came into sight. Luckily this was after he'd cleared the secure area! He'd had limited free time during his week of conference meetings, but attempted to procure suitable Montreal souvenirs for the boys. Coming up empty, he ended up giving them the "Montreal: City of Design" pencils that were in the conference swag bag (luckily there were two!) They were completely thrilled. It's the simple things in life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I think Edward discovered today that it's possible to miss someone so much it hurts, physically. As afternoon faded to evening, he had taken himself upstairs alone to play Lego in his room. Daniel and I were reading on the couch when he came down near tears saying, "Mom, my side hurts, right here!" He was edging toward panic, holding his side while I determined it was the right side, but too high for appendix worries. He said it was his rib cage hurting. I had him lay flat on the floor and stretch his arms above his head. That either stretched out the cramp or distracted him from the problem because he said he felt better.

Then I offered dinner and, while gathering up the left-overs to reheat, made a quick call to John to see if he could step away just for a moment to talk. His meetings have been all day long and through dinner. With the time difference they're starting just as the boys are waking up and ending after they're in bed. My instinct told me that just the sound of John's voice would set all to right again. He didn't answer, but when the phone rang a few minutes later and I saw his number on the caller ID, I gave Edward the phone and said, "It's for you!"

Ear-to-ear grin: "Hi Daddy!!"

They chatted for a bit until Edward was ready to hand the phone to Daniel and for the rest of the evening he never mentioned a pain or acted sad. It's not a replacement for the usual "Dad's home from work" romp, but in a pinch it will do.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Well, I started out great guns this month, but then life just got in the way. Last week I spent Wednesday through Friday leading a tour of NE Iowa for a group of University of Iowa faculty. This is usually the only work travel I do all year, but of course it fell on the day of Edward's Kindergarten music program. John, Bill and Holly all went and reported that it was a fabulous nine minutes. Video was captured so that Edward could re-create the show for me when I got home on Friday.

John usually doesn't travel for work either, but he started his new job last week and as luck would have it this week is the annual meeting for representatives from all the Creative Cities around the world. They're gathering in Montreal, so after one day all together yesterday, the boys and I dropped him at the airport this morning. Here's the beautiful thing about the Cedar Rapids airport. We dropped him off an hour before his flight, went to SuperTarget, and on the way back south an hour later, we swung by the airport again to see his flight take off. There was a gravel lot just to the east of the runway and of course there was only one United flight taking off anywhere near that time, so we were sure it was him. Small airports can be a pain with the high cost and lack of direct flights, but this was definitely a perk.

Now we'll just see how the three of us do without him until his return Friday evening.

I won't bore you with the details of my trip--it's an annual program for which I am the coordinator that gives faculty an opportunity to meet with Iowans in their own communities to learn more about the issues of greatest concern statewide. So we went to Waterloo, Tripoli, New Hampton, Decorah, West Union and Sumner over the course of the three days. Exhausting to be sure, but it was rewarding to hear the 30 faculty rave about the experience. One even wrote in an email, "I never use the word awesome. This was AWESOME!" Makes all the planning and the stress of herding 30 people around for three days worthwhile.

Perhaps the coolest thing that happened had nothing to do with the months of preparation I put in. As we were driving a rural highway from Decorah to West Union, we suddenly felt the bus slow down. Not slam on the breaks, but enough of a change to make you look up to see what's happening. I saw an animal in the road and after a split second realized it was much too hairy and large and lumbering to be a dog. In another split second one of the faculty shouted out, "Look! It's a bear!"

Indeed it was, a black bear that had been spotted roaming the area a few times over the previous few days. The bus driver actually stopped the bus and pulled over so we could watch it make its way slowly through an adjacent field. One of our crew called the local sheriff, who ended up finding it later and using an ATV to gently direct it away from the town of West Union and into an unpopulated, wooded area.

I took this photo from The Des Moines Register website, but I'm pretty sure they got it from the Fayette County sheriff, so I'm not too worried about copyright.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day! We had a great day including a slew of homemade cards and gifts (which were kept secret through sheer force of will from Friday after school until today), brunch with John's parents, and then John's completion (with some "help") of my fabulous Mother's Day present--a raised garden bed.
We decided to start small with plenty of room to expand if needed in coming years. We'll still have a few potted plants as I didn't want to overcrowd. Not exactly a high quality picture, but that afternoon sun causing the glare and shadows will, with any luck, lead to juicy sun-ripened tomatoes come August.

I include the following not as a highlight of my Mother's Day, but as a testament to my love for my children.

Between church and brunch this morning, in an effort to keep them from heading out to get dirty, I agreed to play the game Cootie with them. This game was clearly invented not just by a childless person, but by a childless person who had a vendetta against the parents in his/her life. It has absolutely NO redeeming qualities. Except, I guess, that the kids seem to get a kick out of it. But even they get frustrated by the lack of progress and the tedium of rolling the die over and over and over in an attempt to collect all the pieces of the cootie.

While we were all dressed up, I should have taken the opportunity for a mom-and-boys portrait. But, alas, this thought didn't enter my head until we were all covered in dirt. Maybe I should have still done it--much more authentic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Haircut day!

These ought to last a while. Note to self: be diligent about neck and ear sunscreen. Actually, Edward got a bit of sun on the back of his neck today, but I'm attributing that to his shirt being on backward.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

This is what "school gets out a 3 but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the playground until 4:30 and then the three-block walk home took 20 minutes" looks like. Sippy cups are still useful for the exhausted couch-flop known as "after school."

Oh, and P.S. the blocks lined up in front of the couch are an electric fence that continues throughout the first floor. Visitors beware!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy named Ed.
Poor six-year-old saw an "Octopod" in his head.
Using the garage door filled Mom with Dread!
Had to be satisfied with old curtains instead.

The latest TV obsession is a Disney Channel show called Octonauts. I couldn't even begin to tell you what it's about except that it's ocean-explorer themed and the characters' home base is called an Octopod. This afternoon I turned around in the kitchen to see Edward stretched to full tip-toe-to-finger-tip length about to lower the garage door. I did not see Daniel so I yelled, "STOP!" and asked for an explanation. Apparently the door to the Octopod operates like a garage door, so naturally, he thought their pretend game should include this feature.

I should stop to note that I was pretty happy earlier this week when Edward realized he had achieved that final half-inch of length required to reach the garage door opener. It's quite handy not to have to drop everything I'm doing the very moment they decide it's time to ride bikes. However, after this incident, we had a very serious discussion about how the garage door opens when they go out and closes when they come in and does not move otherwise. (We also have the kind of door that won't close if something is in the infrared path and/or crosses through said path while the door is in motion, but still...)

Anyway, this compromise was achieved, somewhat reluctantly, but accepted grudgingly (and after a few tears.) I must say that I never EVER could have envisioned this as I sat hemming these curtains by hand for the bare windows in my very first apartment of my own, Arlington, VA circa 1996. Why have I carted them through four moves since then? Apparently to be prepared just for this afternoon. (The stroller and chair were added after the tears over the fact that the curtains didn't reach all the way to the ground and my rejection of the idea to fill the gap with the cardboard blocks from inside.)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

This weekend a neighboring town held its annual "Chalk the Walk" festival, with artists filling Main Street with fabulous chalk drawings. We haven't been to it since Edward was in a stroller, but were happy to return this year now that the boys are old enough to take part. The square beyond Edward's head above is an example of what the "official" artists were creating. They also had a huge community chalk drawing that was mapped out into one-foot squares for people to fill in. We took the less structured approach of finding discarded chalk in the street and creating an "Angry Birds" scene. This is what Daniel looked like when we were done.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Shortly after John snapped this picture (with his new iPhone) Edward decided to take off his bike helmet. Shortly after that, his foot slipped off the corner of the climbing rocks and he fell. All the way to the ground (about six feet.) And landed on his head. There was a sickening moment of terror followed by full-body shaking in relief when he screamed in pain and stood up. He didn't even draw any blood, but there was a pretty good dirt mark on his scalp. We tested all the moving parts and found nothing broken. He followed John's finger with his eyes only and answered "What's your name" and "How old are you?" When John asked, "What day is it?" he hesitated a bit, but all worry was dispelled when he finally answered, "May 5th." We were only looking for "Saturday."

He had a drink of water and got back on his bike to head over to Daniel's school picnic and basically seems no worse for wear. In fact within an hour he was climbing a tree. Should we have allowed this? Maybe not, but I guess you can't keep them in a protective bubble.

Friday, May 04, 2012

In the final 20 minutes before dinner, Edward took it upon himself to dive into the puzzle cabinet and complete these three puzzles. It's possible he abandoned his Lego in search of larger objects due to this afternoon's eyewear malfunction. On the playground after school, he came running up saying, "Mom, my glasses frame cracked and the lens fell out!" It was actually a loose screw that loosened the frame, but now it appears the screw is stripped as neither John nor I was able to put it back together.

We didn't make it across town to the eye doctor for the repair because as we were walking home I got a call from the basement waterproofing experts who remedied our damp crawl space when we first moved in. Last night when we got two inches (!) of rain between 9 and 10 p.m. quite a bit of it ended up in the crawl space. John and I wet/dry vac'd it out, but we called this morning for the company to send someone out.

It looks like there's a simple solution that won't cost us anything, as they guaranteed dry forever four years ago and they stand by their work. Hooray for good customer service!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Today was Daniel's music program at preschool. We've heard the songs seemingly endlessly, but there's just something about 20 three- to five-year-olds singing together that makes adults' hearts melt. Wisely for the teachers, but unfortunately for the parents, they did not arrange the kids by size so Daniel is obscured for quite a bit of this video. Look for the sleeve of his blue shirt and his stamping feet center, rear.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A knight on his steed with his trusty firefighter side-kick. An hour-and-a-half of afternoon self-entertainment! Daniel eventually converted to knighthood as well, but finally called it quits when the helmet (knight not bike) was making him too sweaty. It's humid out there today!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sometimes it's amazing how obvious the solution is, and you wonder how on Earth it took you so long to realize it. There was a dual meltdown today when I declined the boys' request for an "after-school" snack at 4:55 p.m. since it was too close to dinner. Daniel was coaxed from his drama with the distraction of calling Aunt Nora to wish her a happy birthday. (His greeting to her included the Happy Birthday song and a disclaimer that "Edward is too crabby to talk right now.")

When Edward was still wailing 15 minutes later, I suddenly had a revelation. Dinner time! Luckily tonight's menu was leftovers so they not only got to choose their entree but it was also ready in about three minutes. Jackpot. To say that they inhaled their dinner would be a massive understatement.

As often as we repeat the mantra "What makes us crabby? Tired, hot and hungry!" I still manage to forget from time to time how hunger reduces my children to incoherent, inconsolable messes!

Since they started dinner at about 5:15, they were taking their last bites when John got home at about 5:30. Their next plan of action was to build a "couch tent" but this always ends in disaster as couch cushions simply are not sturdy building materials. John solved the riddle with this chair/couch fort, which then enabled us to have 45 MINUTES OF UNINTERRUPTED CONVERSATION while we ate our own dinner. BLISS!

We had a lot to talk about as John is currently doing two jobs as he transitions from his eight years of employment as the editor of our local weekly business newspaper to the executive director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. Congratulations have been flooding in since the announcement was made in town last week. It's an interim appointment, but I join many friends and colleagues in full confidence that he will rise to the challenge and earn the permanent position later this year.