Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014!

We've opened presents with Grandma and Grandpa and are eagerly anticipating Santa's overnight visit. 

Interestingly, Daniel has been very into the mythology this year despite, or perhaps because of his Easter demands for the true story. He's talked a lot about Santa never once with a wink, and today he asked if I'd set a letter to tell Santa what he wanted. I reminded him that this was his job not mine but assured him Santa would know. 

Suspension of disbelief is useful at any age!

Unbridled Lego love
And part deux-- Lego, the book. 
Comfy new reading pillow. 
Light sabers!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Latest installment of "Mary joins the 21st century"--video uploads from phone to YouTube and then to Blogger.

The boys have been home from school with fevers this week but rallied for their piano recital tonight. 

We weren't in a good spot for video at the recital but ended up with a better performance at home afterward. Not much energy for practice this week-- lots of moaning in the couch. 

We are hoping we've turned a corner and will return to regular schedules next week. Then of course there's winter break, so I guess we won't really have routine again until the new year.

Edited to add: The music teacher had a videographer at the recital, so here's the video there:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I just upgraded to an iPhone so this is my inaugural attempt at mobile blogging. Here are the boys decorating Will's tree. 
Daniel was singing "you better watch out you better not cry" as he was hanging ornaments but I'm not ready for mobile video editing. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

While visiting my parents this weekend we picked up a treasure cache bequeathed to the boys from my aunt and uncle as they prepared for retirement in Florida. We tucked them into the trunk of the car without telling the boys and not entirely sure what it all contained. We happened to notice a Millennium Falcon peeking out of one bag.

We arrived home last night to two inches of snow but unfortunately sub-zero windchill forcing us to stay inside today. So before I went to pick up the boys from school, I left the bag in the middle of the living room to be discovered upon our return:

It has been brought to my attention that this video does not display on iPads and perhaps other devices. I have no explanation as YouTube and Blogger are both Google products. You should be able to watch the Star Wars glee here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I recently found myself ranting about how much I hated a certain type of Facebook post--the ones where parents share pictures of their kids and then bemoan their advancing age with woe. "Oh, I can't believe how big she is!" Or post an old picture and yearn for the child to be that small again. I've always found it just a little too contrived and precious, but this day about two weeks ago, I really felt anger, which is a little odd and certainly uncalled for. But it stayed in my head a few days and came out as this

Happy 10th birthday, Will. You continue to be a gift in my life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The boys started bickering as soon as they saw each other after school and by about 4 p.m. I'd had enough. I told them they were not allowed to talk to each other until we left at 5:15 for an event at the school. Of course, as soon as something is forbidden it's the only thing they want to do, but I stood my ground. Hoping for silence, I was rewarded with giggles as Edward prepared this masterpiece

And then Daniel said, "Will you make a copy on the printer so I can cross out 'little' and write 'big?'" Edward found this to be a major affront and later in the evening tried to take Daniel's sign down. I wouldn't let him. Then he said "I'll put an "RM" on it. Or is it "RT?" His grasp of trademark/copyright is a bit shaky.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deep thoughts with Daniel (at bedtime, of course.)

"Mom, is it actually possible to have hearts or dollar signs in your eyes instead of pupils?"

Think someone's seen a few too many cartoons lately? At least they're not all on TV.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

All kids think the world revolves around them, but lately our kids have had pretty good reason to believe it.

Over the summer, our Downtown Association sponsored a Where's Waldo contest, in which people (kids) were invited to search in downtown stores for a cardboard cut-out of the character and collect a card from each store in which they found Waldo. Once you collected 10 cards you could turn them in to one of our book stores to be entered into a drawing for Waldo-related prizes. Our kids so enjoyed the hunt that they ended up collecting cards from 20 stores, resulting in 2 entries each for the drawing. Still, the contest ran for a month and plenty of kids and parents participated. It's not like there were only four entries.

At the end of the contest we got a call that Daniel had won one of the prizes, a small book of Where's Waldo postcards. He was SUPER excited, yet vowed to share with his brother and co-hunter.

Another summer adventure involved Herky On Parade 2, large statues of the Iowa Hawkeye mascot, Herky, all decorated differently and dotting our local landscape. They were on display from May through last week, and John and the boys made it a personal project to visit all of them and get pictures. There were 84 statues. This was quite an effort. I didn't mind because it meant several serene Sunday afternoons to myself while they went searching for Herky.

As the installation was winding down, our local newspaper sponsored a contest--send in a photo of yourself with one of the Herkys and be entered into a drawing for a prize. Again--LOTS of people took lots of pictures with these Herkys all summer long. The boys had to narrow down their favorites to submit--one from John's email and one from mine.
Running scared from Big Foot Herky
Walking dead with Zombie Herky

Wouldn't you know--their Big Foot photo was randomly drawn as the winner. The prize? A set of 12 (TWELVE!) miniature versions of the Herky statues. I suppose I can be thankful they didn't win 12 of the actual statues, or a complete set of 84 minis, but still, these "miniatures" are about a foot tall each. And 12 of them? I tried to explain the concept of eBay to the boys (they retail for $40 each), but nothing doing. They are far more motivated by the prize itself than by any monetary value. So far, they've designated one for John to take to work and one for my office, one for each of their bedrooms and the football Herky for the living room. This last is to be rotated seasonally. We shall see.

And as if that weren't enough, they also were invited to be among the kids throwing out the "first pitch" at the Cedar Rapids Kernels game on Friday night. Our elementary school had a group excursion and part of our package was that we got to designate kids to make a "high five tunnel" for the players entering the field, carry the flag for the national anthem, and throw out the first pitch. I didn't sign us up for any of this, but the day of the game the school secretary called and said no one had signed up and would the boys like to do the pitch? I said sure, but when we arrived at the stadium they were horrified at the prospect and flatly refused. A one-hour rain/lightning delay gave Edward enough time to change his mind and once he saw his brother about to grab the glory, Daniel got right in line. Four or five other kids went first--ballpark birthday kids get the honor as part of the party package. They were older and perhaps had practiced ahead of time. They all fired it straight down to the catcher. Our boys...well, let's just say they helped ensure the catcher was warmed up for anything the pitcher might toss.

We might need to move to a bigger city. These boys have a serious case of Big Fish, Small Pond!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the year...the First Day of School!

Daniel was so excited/nervous he had
a hard time falling asleep last night.
Edward's all "Been there...done that."

 They only deigned to take a "nice" picture together if it was followed by a series of "goofy" pictures.

We didn't realize until this morning that Daniel had picked out a first-day-of-school outfit that perfectly matched his new shoes. He swears he didn't do it on purpose, and I believe him. His idea (and Edward's) of "outfit selection" is "whatever is on top of the pile in the drawer." Yesterday before they got dressed, I just mentioned that if they had something they specifically wanted to wear for the first day they should be sure NOT to wear it yesterday since that would result in it being in the laundry today. It's the little things.

By all accounts it was a good day. Daniel told me, "First grade is AWESOME!" Let's see if that holds up when the homework starts. He also said he'd give it two thumbs up. Edward was more nonchalant, but was very excited about "a secret." I thought I'd find it when I opened his backpack at home, but he said, "No, Mom, it's not something you can touch." Woah...getting all metaphysical. It turned out to be that Edward's homeroom is paired with Daniel's for weekly "reading buddies." I doubt the brothers will be matched up together, but still a fun way to share part of a school day.

All in all, a successful first day!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let's get into our way-back machines and add to the blog a celebration of the end of Daniel's Kindergarten year. His class shared some of their favorite songs with the assembled parents on the last day. 
Then they all got to cross through the "Welcome to First Grade" banner and emerge as 1st graders. This was all topped off with ice cream sundaes on the playground. Doesn't get much better!


Flanked by Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Turnquist
During the last week of school, I took this photo of Daniel
May 2014

Which put me in mind of one from another era. I didn't realize until I went looking for it that Daniel has been playing on this playground since before he was a year old!
December 2008
While we're on the subject of Daniel, he had a summer celebration of his winter birthday in June with six friends--three from pre-school and three from Kindergarten. We had squirt toys for all as well as a pool, water balloons, pizza and cake. Good times!
Someone's eager to get started; note "swimming pool" cake

pizza and watermelon, lunch of champions

water relay

musical chairs--by request of the bday boy
School starts tomorrow! The last day of vacation seems like a good time to reflect on some of the summer fun I missed blogging about.

The boys were persistent, though not whiny, in their requests for another camping trip. The first weekend of August the weather conditions looked favorable, so we loaded up and headed to Backbone State Park, about two hours away. Actually, it should have been closer to an hour and 40 minutes, but inevitably, construction slowed us down. We picked this park because I'd heard great things from friends about its beauty, especially the namesake hiking trail. Also, it had a "tent-only" campground that didn't require reservations or a two-night minimum. We thought we'd found a nice site, though later in the evening we would learn that our neighbors were not too concerned with the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. quiet hours rule.

We set up the tent and then split up to collect (boys and me) and buy (John) firewood. On our hike from the campsite in search of firewood, the boys and I spotted two deer eating dinner beside a creek. Their nature camp training allowed them to spot the scene, silently point it out and then stand still to observe without scaring the deer away. Priceless!

We gathered plenty of kindling to go with John's fire logs and soon had a fire burning for our hot-dog dinner. I'd looked up "camping recipes" before we left, but decided I'm just not that ambitious.
Burning sticks
S'mores for dessert, of course!
We did not get a great night's sleep, to say the least. Neighbors were loud until close to midnight, so that I was determined not to try to keep our boys quiet in the morning. But then the same neighbors got up and started being loud even before we did! I also discovered in the middle of the night that my air mattress had a slow leak. Both of these factors combined to ensure this would be only a one-night stay. Still, I do love the early morning light and air and stepping outside just after waking up. I just don't love the non-bed and non-bathroom (pit) that accompany this sort of rustic living. I was once lucky enough to have the ideal combination--a full bed on the sleeping porch of my aunt's family cabin overlooking the Puget Sound. Sleeping outside on a real bed while listening to the gentle lapping water and with a bathroom and kitchen just inside the door--Paradise!

But back to Iowa--we had muffins (store bought in advance) and cereal for breakfast, loaded a backpack with water and granola bars and set out to find the Backbone trail. The park map left a lot to be desired, but we eventually got there and were not disappointed. The boys each packed his own pouch with "essentials" for the hike--a whistle/compass combo, flashlight, band-aids, granola bar. I carried all the water in the backpack.

We were tired when we got back after about two and a half hours (recall the lack of sleep) and not excited about PB&J for lunch, so we decided to go into the nearby town of Strawberry Point. (Unbeknown to us, the very next week, this town would be the foil in a Jon Stewart bit on The Daily Show.) Thus re-energized, we headed to the Backbone lake to fulfill another of the boys' long-standing wishes--paddle boats. Unsurprisingly to the parents, the boys were much more interested in using their feet to dangle in the water than to pedal the boats, but it worked out to everyone's satisfaction. And from there we headed home to our showers, our toilets and our beds!

Another fun summer day was a combo Kernels game and Planet X game night. Planet X is sort of a smaller version of a Chuck-E-Cheese, with pizza, video games, rock climbing, bumper cars, laser tag, and on this special occasion, face painting. The occasion was a fundraiser for the Summer of the Arts organization, for which John is a board member. This group puts on a series of summer festivals in Iowa City.

The boys always ask for face painting at these festivals, but the lines are always ridiculous and it seems like a lot of $ for something you'll just wash off in a few hours anyway. But this time it worked well. Edward requested these eyes on his eyelids--creepy! Daniel got a batman mask, but I can't seem to find a picture--will have to check John's phone.

This event was on a Sunday evening and the Cedar Rapids Kernels had an afternoon home game that day, so it seemed like a good combo. The boys had participated in the Kernels Summer Reading Challenge, reading 1,000 minutes to earn a whole spate of prizes. (These could be claimed in 250 minute intervals as you "arrived" at each base on the activity sheet, but we saved it all for one trip.) They got a free game ticket as well as a wristband for unlimited access to the Fun Zone. They would have been very happy to stay in this area the whole time. In fact, I'm not sure they were even fully aware there was a baseball game going on!

After the game, kids were invited onto the field to run the bases, play catch, and get player autographs. Ours were primarily interested in the base-running.
Daniel rounding second; Edward on his way from first
Coming home
Running in a crowd toward home

Other summer fun included:

Grandpa's birthday
Note the Lego cakes and number 71

Johnson County Fair (OMG it was so hot! And it rained while we were there which did nothing to cool but really ramped up the humidity.)
"Pirate ship"
Messy science day at the public library--wading pool full of oobleck!

This was before the full body immersion

I don't know what this was, but it kept the boys occupied and giggling for a while one afternoon.


 Not all of it upside down on the stairs, but hey, we take what we can get. As noted above, the boys completed 1,000 minutes of reading for the Kernels Summer Reading Challenge. This also doubled as minutes toward the public library summer reading program. They finished the library program with five weeks left of vacation so we created a bonus Kenyon Summer Reading challenge seeking 500 minutes with the prize of The Lego Movie DVD. We did not take into account that the final two weeks of summer included all-day, exhausting, outdoor camps, so we still have about 100 minutes to go, but we'll make it by Labor Day, which is the true end of summer, right?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Last Sunday, we tried something new as a family: stand-up paddle boarding. Just last year the city opened a new park/recreation area with a small lake and contracted with a local business to provide a boating concession there. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and paddle boards are available to rent by the hour. We've biked the trail around the lake and Edward and I tried kayaking earlier this summer when Daniel was enjoying a week off camp and having a sleep-over with Grandma and Grandpa. The paddle boards had piqued our interest, so we made a plan and off we went.

We decided just to get two boards for the hour as we didn't know if we'd like it well enough or have the stamina for a full hour. This was a good choice, though I'm told we did not do a good job splitting the hour evenly. John and Daniel went first and didn't think they were out for a full half hour. They were expecting Edward and me back in time to take another turn. But time is not really the first thing on your mind when you're paddling around a peaceful lake with a light breeze to keep cool (and blow you ever so slightly off course.)

Daniel receiving instructions and a push off
Paddling like a pro

Edward back paddles away from shore
Ready to cruise

We ended up running a bit over the hour as it seemed the breeze had picked up by the time Edward and I were returning to shore and it was kind of tough to steer. He grew quite frustrated and stopped paddling at one point, but I had to explain that there really was no way for me to do it for him, so he'd have to keep going. That was a tricky thing about paddle boarding with kids, but ultimately I think a good lesson. Edward eventually got himself going in the right direction.

 Then Daniel, who thought he hadn't had a long enough turn, went back out again with John (who would have been quite satisfied to leave well enough alone) and ended up getting stuck in the marshy area you can see just behind the beach launch. He was standing there pulling his paddle and barely moving. The water is not deep, and we could have gone in to get him if things had gotten desperate. But with John's coaching from outside the marsh and our encouragement from shore, he inched his way slowly back to open water and decided to call it a day. But not before some splashing fun in the lake and off the dock!

(See what I did there with posting as if I hadn't taken a nearly three-month blog hiatus? Apologies for the virtual silence. I promised my mom some new material in time for her birthday next week, so will try to fill in some of our summer adventures in the coming days. Also, watch for 1st day of school on Tuesday!)