Monday, May 31, 2010

National Pasttime

Aaron sliced up a pineapple last night. And of course, being the frugal guy he is, he didn't want to waste any of the deliciousness, so he gnawed at the skin portions to get those few bites worth, slobbering and dripping over the sink while I watched with a mixture of amusement and horror.

Later at dinner, he was moaning about how pineapple he'd eaten. I wasn't very sympathetic, and pointed out that it hadn't helped that he'd gotten to first base with that pineapple before supper had even started. We looked at each other, and then he said, "I got waaaay past FIRST!"

Leah laughed and said, "You probably got all the way to home base!"

Just wait until she knows what that metaphor is actually referring to. Then we will ALL be in trouble.


After dinner, we all hung out in the backyard for a bit. Aaron played baseball with the big kids, and surprisingly, they each got a few good hits from the pitches. At one point, Leah got a hit, and Ben grabbed the ball and tried to tag her out. As she ran in a random line that may or may not have followed imaginary bases, but DID go over a pile of rocks, she yelled out, "There's no bases, so you can go wherever you want!"

This continued for the next several hits, until they figured out that the runner had to come back to home, and would corner them there.

Okay, this story is not nearly as funny as it was at the time, watching those kids run like crazy people all over the yard.

What was ALSO funny is when Aaron gave Leah license to push Ben back when he started shoving her. It's like the thought had never occurred to her! What a girl. Another boy would have been all over that from the first stumble.

Anyway, that dissolved into a good wrestling match, with Leah being bigger and stronger, but Ben being more aggressive. Some ground rules were established: No biting or pinching.

Leah inevitably won just be being able to sit on him. And Ben...started crying. And then shoved her from behind as she walked away. And then she sat on him again. And he started crying again.

You know what that means? Bedtime.


What is a sure sign of bedtime at your house - for you OR the kids? Any backyard baseball memories? Any metaphors that your kids have inadvertenly gotten correct?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bring it on!

Summer is here!

Time for...dirty babies...

...and baths almost every night (can't stand the thought of them sleeping in bug spray & sunscreen. Gross.) Daddy got to give Adam his immediately after this episode, since of course it was his idea! Mommy just allowed it and took the photos...:)

....big smiles and new adventures...

...and veggies fresh from the garden! Well, in a few weeks, anyway.
Leah graduated from kindergarten last night. And although that might seem like a non-occasion (and I would have to agree with you, a little bit), they did such a good job! It really was a production - 20 kids sang about 10 songs, all of them completely adorable. But my favorite was a rendition of "New York, New York" but the Big Apple was replaced with, "I'm gon -na be a part of it, FIRST GRADE, FIRST GRADE!" Loved it. Their little helium voices just cracked me up, as well as the expressions and antics of various classmates.

(Our school has two campuses, each with a kindergarten class. This is Leah's group.) My little honey is that teensy one in the front row, second from the right. She loved her pretty new pale yellow dress, which I found at a garage sale earlier in the day for $4! She sooo doesn't care.:)
Now that we will have Leah home with us every day, there are some changes a-comin'.
1) I want to get out with the kids and go around our neighborhood every morning right after breakfast. It's a nice 2 mile loop, which they can bike pretty easily.
2) To end any "I'm boorrred!" complaints, I'm going to establish "the popsicle game". A mom I knew in Rochester did this with her kids: she wrote every. single. toy/game the kids owned on a popsicle stick and then put them in a cup. Any time a kid was bored they'd pull out a stick, and that's what they'd have to go play. I explained this idea to Leah, and she was game for it. But the rule is, you can't say, "I don't FEEL like doing that." You have to just do it. I don't quite know what to do with 2-people needed games...any ideas?
Of course, with the original kids, it became a fun thing to choose a stick, and they'd ask to play just for the heck of it.
3) Ben has a new poopy motivation plan. We were taking things away each time he went #2 in his pants, and had quite a pile up above the cabinets. He started going in the potty, and earned them all back. And then he'd have an accident, loose his cars, and the earn them back again - this went on for about a week.
AND, we will be leaving town several times this summer, and I just can't see that whole method working very well away from home.
So yesterday I started a new system. Instead of negative reinforcement, we're going to give the positive another try. I made a chart with 10 boxes. Each time he goes poop in the CORRECT place, he gets a sticker on a box, and when they are all finished, I promised to take him to a zoo with monkeys (the nearest being 45 min away. I don't care. )
Of course, he followed the explanation of that plan by pooping in his shorts again.
We'll see how this works.
4) Today I have to sit down with Leah and go through the end-of-school questionnaire that I did with her when school started. It'll be interesting to see what has changed, and if she really learned what "100 plus 100 is!"
5) At the end of every summer, I want to make sure that we "suck the marrow" (Ha! Such a Little House on the Prairie saying!) out of the summer. Now that the kids are big enough, we are going to a make a list of things to do. I'm anticipating that, "buy ice cream from the ice cream truck" and "go swimming" and "eat popsicles" will be on there.
I'm going to make a super-sized copy of that list and put it in their bedroom. Before bed we can mark off what we've done. Then at the end of the summer, we can review and know that we had a worthwhile summer.
5) My favorite change?Not having to wake up Adam every morning. I feel so bad doing that to the little dude. And maybe I'll get a few more winks, also!
Any summer changes to your schedule? How do you adapt to more kid time? What is the summer activity you are most looking forward to?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Week

Lately I realized that I can't do it all.

I know. It's shocking.

There is just NO WAY that I can keep up with 2 book clubs, my scrapbooks AND my sewing wish list at the same time. Oh yeah, and those 3 kids who keep needing stuff, like food & clean clothes.

So I've figured out a kind of system. I choose one of those hobbies and go hard core on it for about a week. Then I can take a breather and see what else needs to be dealt with.

For instance:
Reading: The last week has been panic-reading. This is no leisurely read - this is reading to be done within 3 days of a book club meeting. Last Thursday I got our book for the monthly club - which met Saturday, and I've had the book for my bi-monthly (by that I mean every other month, not twice a month, which would surely kill either me or the kids) for a couple weeks. I started reading Monday evening, finished last night at 11pm, and the group met this morning.

Scrapbooking: A couple months ago I realized that Adam will soon be one year, and his baby album is still back at 5 months. However, our FAMILY album was even further behind. So I've pretty much gotten caught up there, and now it's on to Adam's book. Right after I finish a mini-scrapbook for my grandma's birthday on Saturday.

Sewing: Between Adam's birthday party and leaving to see my family for several days, I want to sew some baby stuff - there will be 3 days. Huh.

After we get back from that "vacation", I will be passing out in front of the television.

Here are some details from the Salem Book Club - that would be, the monthly one, and the one WITHOUT half a dozen babies to keep track of at the same time:

We met Saturday at G's 1st stop on her family's tour of local homes (for those of you unfamiliar, G's fam sold their house this month and is heading out of the country for a year in August. Until then, they are staying at various vacationers' homes and visiting family around the country.)

First order of business, realizing that we must have been crazy when we chose the June meeting date, since it's only 2 weeks away and also the first night of Vacation Bible School. It must have sounded good at the time, but now it sounds insane. Will try to reschedule for the end of June - when G will be staying at MY house! I'm trying to talk Aaron into painting the guest room before then.:)

While we waited for 2 regular members to not show up (Hi IA & CB! We missed you!) we discussed some other books. G has lately read "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" which she said was a beautiful story of a girl's relationship with her grandpa. I suggested that if she liked THAT, she might want to check out "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard, which bored me to tears during a writing class in college.

Our discussion was on "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. It's basically his take on heaven, although we agreed that it was more about what keeps people from getting there than what heaven is actually like.
- a collection of short stories, with each being a background of a character, could easily be written
- the concept of heaven and hell working backwards was interesting. 2 people could live the same life, but to one it would be hell and the other heaven... Don't ask me to explain this now, but it made sense at the time!
- Basically, the characters are kept out of heaven by their need to hold onto sins & guilt and not just let go to God. If they can just look to Him and joy instead of themselves, they would be fine.

Then of course we discussed some other stuff, like how the starting line of a marathon is NOT necessarily an accurate cross-section of America. That is because, according to one member WHO WILL REMAIN ANONYMOUS BY REQUEST, "Marathoners are wacky." Having three of them in my own family, I tend to agree! I prefer my pain accidental, not deliberate. But to each their own!

Another quote, which I think is fairly accurate, is G's summary, "Books are ALWAYS better than the movie." I have only found this not true in one circumstance - "A River Runs Through It". Unless you are a fly-fisherman, the book is rather boring.

This came up when I was assessing the movie versions of "Time-Traveler's Wife" and "The Other Boleyn Girl". Neither of the movies are nearly as racy at the books. But then again, "I have some very loose standards," for movies, of course. Not in general.

ALSO, the book for my other group was "The Help", and if you haven't read it, you really should. It's not often that a book set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 60's can actually make you chuckle. Meaning, it's more fun that you would think it would be. The Salem book club will be discussing this book in August, and YES that is totally because of my insistence. I can't wait!


So, have you read any good books lately? What was the shortest time between you finishing a book and when it was supposed to be done? (and CB, you don't count, since obviously you are addicted to the adrenaline rush of a last minute reading frenzy.)

How do you manage your time to avoid a spouse and/or children feeling neglected?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gifts, Please.

As the list of kids invited to Leah's birthday party inched closer to 20, I started stressing. Not about games, food, or location - thankfully those were easily dealt with.

What I was stressing out about was the gifts. All those gifts. I am not altruistic enough to say "no gifts", not unless we had a specific goal - like friends a few years ago, who asked for small items and used clothing for a close friend to take to Africa.

And I really couldn't imagine having the kids sit through Leah opening 15 presents. It was tough to see ADULTS sitting through that.

Then I stumbled across this etiquette article. Finally, the solution!

Now, in this area of the country, pretty much everyone opens presents at the party - be it a kid's birthday, baby or bridal shower, or wedding (although that might be a separate party). So I felt a little oppositional saying that there would be no gift opening at Leah's party.

The precedence for our family was set by also not opening presents at Ben's party. This actually made things much easier, since those little boys have a tough time paying attention to someone else having all the fun, and I really didn't want 200 plastic dinosaurs strewn across the house. My plan was to have the most fun activity after the cake and singing, to distract from any expectations (do 4 year old boys have any expectations for a birthday party besides friends and treats?!) So the dinosaur excavation outside was perfection.

For Leah's party, we did cupcakes outside, and then a scavenger hunt. What also helped was that I covertly mentioned to most of the moms of invitees to BOTH parties that we would be opening gifts after the party.

Both parties went without a hitch and the kids all had lots of fun. But I've also had a few parents disagree with my new policy. The main pro for opening presents at the party is so that kids who carefully chose the gift for the bud can see them love it.

I get this. I really do. And I wish there was a way to still have that experience - maybe one year I'll take a photo of the kid with each gift as they unwrap it and use that as a thank you note. But here were my own reasons for opening later - and some benefits that I didn't anticipate:

1) No drama. A mom commented, "There wasn't any ISSUES!" What do the tears and arguments usually arrive at a birthday? Right about gift opening time. Probably because that's usually at the end of the party, but also because greed and envy rear their evil heads, and kids just can't hide it very well.

2) No toys being opened willy-nilly. Which is especially beneficial when those toys are Littlest Pet Shop sets that have about a gazillion pieces. Although since each tiny item is lashed down with about 5 ties, the kids would at least be slowed down a bit.

3) Thank you notes are a must. This is mostly for MY benefit - I'm kind of a slacker when it comes to thank you notes. I figure, if we say thank you in person, a card is not really needed. But this way, there is no doubting that they MUST be sent. And Leah wrote out every one of them, to her friends at least. I told her I would do the ones for aunties or uncles. When she complained about being bored, I told her I'd take back the gifts. Guess what? She finished.

And we also made special thank you cards, with a picture of the whole group and one of Leah with her cupcakes. She wrote her little note on the backside of the photo card (5x7).

4) Opportunity for re-gifting. This sounds terrible, I know. It happened that one gift was something that Leah already had, but would be perfect for a party she was attending the next week. And I didn't have time to get to the store. Is this so bad?

5) Calm & collected unwrapping. We had some family over for dinner and cupcakes after the friend party, so Leah opened all the presents from both groups at one time. It was fun! We enjoyed watching her reactions and also getting a chance to really check them out, versus handing out goodie bags and hustling kids out the door.

6) Hilarity. Leah was blessed with wonderful presents. Just about every friend also included a sweet greeting card. The one I remember, however, was from a kindergarten classmate, and it said something like, "You are turning into a lovely young lady, " on the inside. Oh, how we laughed.

Aaron and I got off kinda easy in the whole present department this year, thanks to all those friends. But I still made her these stuffed bookends:

Blossom turned out a little scary looking, but Ruff is pretty darned cute, if I do say so myself. Now Ben wants a set of friendly monsters, but I'll have to make sure they are super strong, since he wants to throw them around!

So where do you stand on all this? Which way do you prefer - gifts during party or gifts after? Why? What do you do about thank you notes? Can you possibly imagine a baby showere where the gifts WEREN'T opened at the festivities? I think there would be a stampede to get to those teesny cute outfits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Christian school is totally worth it.

Since there are only single-digit amounts of days left of school, I asked Leah the other day how she felt about school being out for the summer. I honestly didn't know how she'd respond, since she adores the place, along with her teacher and friends. Luckily, Mrs. D goes to our church, so we'll see her on Sundays (how that woman can have the enthusiasm to return Leah's hugs every blessed week is beyond me. I guess God gives us all different talents.) But of all the families from our church who go to this particular Christian school, NONE of them have kids Leah's age.

Anyway. Here's how our conversation went:

Me: Leah, how do you feel about school being done for the summer?
Leah: Weeeelll, kind of good and kind of bad.
Me: Really? Okay, tell me the good parts.
Leah: We won't have to be in such a hurry to get ready in the morning.
Me: Alright, now what are the bad parts?
Leah: Well, we won't get to learn about God as much...

There may have been more, but honestly, that is the part that sticks in my memory - my baby girl loves learning about God!

Are your kids excited about vacation? What will they miss about school? What are your end-of-school memories?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why my kids are awesome:

Ben has a sweet tooth - this is a known fact. At least once a day he asks for a piece of candy, and I usually indulge him, assuming it's not too close to supper and he hasn't just crapped in his pants. Leah, on the other hand, enjoys the occasional treat (usually requested after Ben walks up to her chewing on a sweet), but has had candy in her possession for literally weeks before I put her out of her misery by eating it myself (candy hearts. jelly beans. tootsie pops. I love you all.)

The kids each have a "candy bowl" on the counter, partially out of sight, where I deposit all the loot from birthdays and holidays. Lately, the bowls have been brimming, thanks to several birthdays (btw, I didn't put candy in EITHER of the kids' birthday treat bags), Easter and May Day (this one was a surprise. They both got quite a haul, and it was so dreary and rainy that I didn't bother to do anything ourselves.).

What I love is that when Ben says, "Can I have a piece of candy? Just one? Pretty please with cake on top?" (he hasn't quite got the hang of that form of wheedling), and we concede, the kids spend about 10 seconds hovering over their bowls, trying to decide what to choose - Large tootsie pops, small tootsie pops, toosie rolls, fun-size Hershey bars, Laffy Taffy, DumDum suckers - and they have lately been choosing the smallest thing possible, the Tootie Frooties, which I think cost about 10 cents for 100 pieces. That's just awesome.

And it leaves the bigger things for me.


Leah and Ben are not allowed to leave their rooms before 7am. They have been taught this since they were able to match the 7 on a digital clock to the 7 on a piece of paper covering the digital minutes. (This keeps them in bed, but allows for sleeping in.) However, they don't have to SLEEP until 7am. As long as they are quiet, we don't really know or care what they are up to.

For the past couple months, their internal clocks have had them waking up around 6:30am. Well, that's BEN's internal clock - and then he wakes up Leah. Don't you just feel sorry for her? OH YEAH, I've had a personal wake-up almost every day for the last six years. Chickee doesn't get much sympathy from me.

Anyway, back to why they are fantastic.

Since I've been occasionally getting up at 6:30am for some quiet time with God and a cup of tea latte, I've been able to hear when they wake up. Sometimes there some loud squawking going on for quite a while, and sometimes they are looking at books together on Leah's bed.

The other day, it was all quiet, even until I went upstairs around 7 to shower. I looked into the room to check on them, and saw them curled up on Leah's bed. Leah was still under her covers on her side, but Ben was laying with his head on her hip and feet pointed towards the headboard. And they were holding hands. And chatting like an old married couple. It was about the sweetest thing I'd ever witnessed, and made me so glad that we'd had two kids close together.

And then there are a couple smaller, more random things, but it's stuff like this that makes me impressed with my kids - and maybe reveal my own personal biases:
- the day Leah chose Rice Chex over all the other "sweeter" cereals in the pantry
- when Ben got super excited about vanilla yogurt out of a tub, which I'd never considered even offering and only purchased for Adam

How have your kids made you proud lately? Or, what is a little thing that can make your outlook sunnier?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Physics Stinks.

I've been fighting the law of gravity lately, and losing. As you might expect.

The first battle was just over a week ago. I was bringing up a tub of Leah's baby clothes from the basement. My niece MVJ is just the right size to wear some of those cute dresses, and Mom has given me permission to hand them down...temporarily.

I was heading into the living room with the tub, when my sandal (completely free of traction) slipped on the carpeted step. This has happened before, and before I've been able to catch myself.

Cue tub of clothes.

This tub was too large for me to just toss aside for the flailing arms. And so I took option B, which was an awkward collapse to the floor, all the time still holding that darned tub. To those watching, it appeared that I had simply decided to sit down. Only I was aware of the seconds of panic, resulting in a slightly twisted ankle.

And then again this last Friday at playgroup. We were all in the kitchen while the kids had a snack (and can I just tell you that these new moms in our group have really stepped up the snack game? We're talking MULTIPLE options, for both kids AND moms, and even juice boxes. I usually just throw out some fishy crackers and water...). I was sitting at a counter on a high swivel chair while Adam was on my lap eating some crackers.

As I was sitting there, I was aware that the ring around the bottom of the legs was loose.

And then I was aware that I was falling.

A screw had come loose, and the leg of the chair slipped out, dropping the chair to the ground. Fortunately, Adam had been on my LAP, and not sitting on the actual chair - he didn't make a single squeak, and in fact I don't think he missed one bite of his cracker.

I, on the other hand, was a bit more startled. My arm hit the chair somehow, and my rear took some impact of course. The lasting effect was the arm, which now has a 3 inch yellow bruise on the underside between my wrist & elbow. The bruise didn't show up until Sunday, but hurt well before that. Thankfully now I have proof for my whining.

And the next time I decide to take on Gravity, I'll make sure I don't have anything in my hands. And a soft place to land.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not just good - super fabulous!

Today was kind of nuts. We started with dentist appointments for me and Ben. When I first told him about it, I got the predictable, "Nooooo!" with appropriate facial and shoulder reactions. But then Leah piped in with one of her more helpful comments: "I wish *I* was going to the dentist!" And she meant it. Cause she's weird that way.
At any rate, he seemed okay with it from then on. We brought along his Leapster and a few cars, and he sat quietly and happily for my entire exam/cleaning.

When it was his turn, he sat in the chair on his own (the last time, he sat on my lap) with his little sunglasses and did whatever the hygienist asked. He did so great! And he was rewarded with a Mater (from Cars) toothbrush. I'm telling you, these dentists don't mess around - they go straight the 4 star freebie toothbrushes.

The hygienist and I showered him with praise, but I guess that wasn't enough. On the way home, he asked from the back seat, "Mommy, do you want to tell me something?"

I said, "No, I don't think so - why?"
"Something about how I did at the dentist?"
"OH! Ben, I am very proud of how you did so well at the dentist."
"Thank you, mommy!"

(Another Benism - the other day, he was particularly crabby with Adam, and kept saying he didn't want to sit near him, because he smelled like hazelnuts. HAZELNUTS! How does the kid even know what those are, or smell like for that matter? Not to mention that Adam did NOT smell like hazelnuts. We finally figured out that it was the peppermint-scented diaper ointment I'd been putting on him that day. Hazelnuts. Whatever, kid.)

About 45 minutes after returning home from the dentist, Ben and I headed to school to pick up Leah. Because it's been raining for oh, about 20 days now the kids were in the gym, AGAIN, and that's about the only time Ben really gets to run around, so I like to let him for awhile.

Anyway, we headed back home when the students were ready for lunch. After scarfing some lunch, I headed to my friend Grace's house to help clean their house in preparation for moving. Floors were scrubbed, a hallway vacuumed, some laundry folded (and some more brought home to dry at my house!) and then I zoomed back home again, for an hour or so, until it was time to take Leah to gymnastics.

Are you getting the flavor of this day yet? Too much driving, too much running around, not enough sitting with my family or cleaning up after them. Fortunately, Aaron was home today to pick up some of the slack, like feeding that stubborn baby of ours, who has decided he'd much rather feed himself, thankyouverymuch. Except that he's still pretty limited in his diet of "real" food. Anyway.

I took Ben with me to gymnastics, thinking that Adam would nap while we were gone and Aaron could get some non-kid time. That was a nice dream, anyway! Ben was once again super at gymnastics, and even said that he LIKED gymnastics again, and wanted to do it again. Poor kid is missing out on soccer because of the rain, and I'm not signing him up for gymnastics again until fall. ANYWAY. I think his good behavior at the dentist and gym may have something to do with that Leapster. He even makes sound effects for the cars in the game! That is SUCH a boy thing, it made me giggle listening to him.

We got home from gymnastics, and right away Leah changed and I wrapped a gift for the birthday party she was attending at Chuck E. Cheese's at 5:30pm. Thank goodness soccer was cancelled - that was supposed to be at 6pm.

After I dropped Leah off at the party, we ate our dinner of frozen pizza, and Aaron went to Menards, taking Ben with him. I bathed Adam, cleaned up a bit, and took the baby with me to pick up Leah from the party.

When Aaron got home, he reported that Ben had not complained even once the whole time they were shopping! This, along with the day's previous exemplary behavior from the little guy, PLUS the fact that he pooped in the potty again - just one attempt, no change of undies needed! - means that today is one for the record books.

Ben, you do indeed make your Mommy proud.


What is your trick to keep your kids happy in a less than ideal situation? How has your kid made you proud lately?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No more suggestions unless they are here to help.

I'm splitting the blame for this birthday party theme squarely between two of Leah's aunties. Those special aunts would be Kate (the artist) and Ruth (the musician/theater person). This whole thing started at Christmas, when Kate drew Leah a picture of her, Ruff, and Blossom in a field of butterflies.

It was adorable. And yes, it's framed and on her dresser.

Then Ruth chimed in: You could have a Ruff Ruffman themed birthday party, Leah!

Oh yes. Let's.

I mean, I love Ruff as much as the next person (What? You STILL have no clue what I'm talking about? Here's a clue:

How can you not like such a happy little dude? He's the host of a reality game show for tweens. He and his assistant, a black kitty named Blossom, kind of rock the world of kid shows.)

The only thing I had against a Ruff themed birthday party was the complete lack of anything premade. There are NO plates, napkins, balloons, goodie bags, nothing. Which means Mommy has to get creative.

Because do I really want to let down this little girl?

Um, no.

So I emailed the producers of the show. (Yes. I love her THAT much.) They were kind enough to give me a copyright release for the invitations and stickers. The stickers were just a series of images on one big 8x11.5 label, and then I cut them apart.

I also made nametages for each kid, since there were kids from MOMS Club, church, and Leah's kindergarten class. Even JJ, EJ, and MVJ got nametags, along with The Mom, The Dad, and The Brother.

Oh yeah. About all those nametags: there were about 16 kids in attendance. And 16 kids went home.

Before we officially got started, the kids played birthday freeze tag (to unfreeze, yell "Happy Birthday Leah!") and duck-duck-goose. Once they came inside, I divided them into groups. We had 4 stations set up, manned (or "mommed"! Ha!) by 4 pseudo-volunteer friends, all of whom had a kid or 2 at the party already. Leah had wanted to invite a few older girls (friends from school -she's kind of a pet there), so we made them "helpers" at the stations.

There were 2 different activities. The first one was called Float My Boat. It involved making tin foil squares into little boats, and seeing how many pennies you could put into it and still have it float in a tub of water.

I did NOT come up with this activity, or the other one. If you follow that link above, you'll find yourself at the Fetch! website, and there are tons of activities there. So fun!

The other activity was Throw Your Weight Around. It had the kids trying to get up out of a chair without bending their backs and trying to pick up something off the ground while leaning their shoulder against a wall. Also, they had to do a pretzel race (photo above) and other goofy balance stuff. Some of the groups even managed the puzzle sit - where everyone lays back on someones legs, and you all have to support each other for everyone to stay up. I was pretty impressed with their teamwork.

In past years, the cake has been a centerpiece of the party. But this year, I slacked a bit. Leah preferred cupcakes, and I kept it simple - JJ frosted them yellow, and then I use a grass frosting tip (lots of little holes) to pipe "fur" around the edges.

I was aiming for them to look like Ruff's belly, but they may have fallen a bit short. They were good, though!
The kids were herded outside for cupcakes and juice boxes (with straws already inserted, one of my better ideas!)

Then there was one more thing...the treat boxes.
The kids had a short scavenger hunt to accomplish before finding the basket of goodies under the tree in the front yard (an evil plot of mine to get them to run around outside for a little while). I'd like to have had a more extended hunt, but it had been raining all week, and I just wasn't sure the outside thing was going to work at all. But it did!

Leah reads the first clue...

...and on to the next one! It was pretty hilarious to watch those kids on a mission.
And the treat boxes? I'm particularly proud of them. Any fan of Ruff's knows that he is one dog who loves his Chinese food. So I bought some from our neighborhood buffet, and filled them with magnifying glasses and notebooks from Oriental Trading, along with some dog biscuit shaped graham crackers and few of those Ruff stickers I made. The notebooks had a blank cover, and I added a Ruff sticker and another that said: The fact is, I'm glad you came to my birthday party! Cute, huh? We were trying to push the science aspect of the Fetch! show.
There you go. The party was fun, we've had positive feedback, and we are not asking those aunties for party suggestions for another several years. (We love you! And can't wait to see you in ONE MONTH!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Next up, Shrinky Dinks!

Aaron's brother JJ and our lovely sister-in-law EJ visited this weekend for Leah's birthday celebration (I swear photos will be posted soon!). The other night at dinner, JJ was telling us about how he was doing some painting for hire. We were teasing him a bit, because Aaron & JJ's dad owned a painting contracting business, which all the kids worked for at some point - and JJ almost took over.

JJ said that a friend had offered to help paint, but he "charges $50 an hour and doesn't know how to hold a brush!" We laughed, and I said that in THAT case, I could help, too...and Aaron said, "For that matter, LEAH could help..."
Leah: "Help with what?"
Aaron: "Help paint a house!"
Leah: "PURPLE?!"

What killed us is that there was NO hesitation. And I don't know where she got purple from anyway, since we'd been talking about yellow, orange & pink all day. But if anyone is painting their house purple, I know someone who can "help".


My SIL EJ brought me a stack of Martha Stewart's Kids magazines, and it was like I'd been given an extra Christmas present. I love those magazines, and Leah is just getting to be able to do some of the projects.

I had a page open to examples of clay buttons and beads that you make yourself when Ben came over to check things out. He pointed right at it, and said, "Can we do that?"
Me: Sure, we can do that sometime.
Ben: We better have Grandma help.
Me: Why? You don't think I can do a craft without Grandma?
Ben: Nope. can sew. (His tone here was not very convincing, as if he wasn't quite sure about that one, either)

So no offense, Mom, I love (and, lets face it, need) your assistance, but I think I need to start doing some stuff on my own with the kids, or they are going to think I'm completely useless.

The big kids have been taking swimming lessons once a week at a local university, and let me tell you, it's worked out to be pretty cheap private lessons. Leah only has one other kid in her class, but usually she's by herself. Ben is the only one in his class. I was a bit worried about Ben's cooperation, but he got in the first day and has loved it ever since, so it's actually been kind of pleasant. Their classes are at the same time, and I get to chat with a friend for part of that time, so it all works out well.

Today I almost forgot about lesson altogether except that I was folding towels and came across their swim towels. Lucky that was an hour before we had to leave!

On the way to the pool, we drive by a uniquely shaped dormitory commonly known as the Beer Can. Of course the kids commented on it the first day, but I didn't tell them THAT name, of course. I just said it was round, so the rooms were shaped like pie pieces.

Today Ben pointed out, "Mommy, there's that building that looks like a jar of peanut butter!"

So that's what it is for us now. The Peanut Butter Jar.

And a potty-training update for those of you wondering: Ben had a relapse of #2 on Saturday (WHY would you run RIGHT BY the bathroom when you desperately have to go potty, and instead choose to lean against the freezer? I do not understand what is going on in his head sometimes.) but this evening went in the potty like it was no big deal. He agrees that it is much easier to go in the potty (especially since it doesn't require 20 minutes of theatrics while he takes off the soiled undies and dumps the poo in the potty - THEN I'll help him.) There are only 2 toys left up on the shelf from when we resorted to negative reinforcement, so hopefully soon I won't feel the need to update you all on this rather gross topic.

Leah's birthday party was very fun, and thanks to my many mommy friends who helped out, I retained my sanity throughout the entire day. Every time someone asked what Leah wanted for her birthday (to which SHE would reply, "I don't care! Stuff girls like!") I'd tell them that she loves art. And it's a good thing I was correct, because almost all of her gifts are art/craft kits. She is in heaven, and I know she (and her mother) won't be bored for a long time.

I'll update you on the status of those kits. I'm trying to let go of "saving" them until she can make a "really nice" project, and just let her have fun. Of course, I'm going to encourage her to think about her designs before jumping in with the paint....Not only will that make the creative process last longer, but it will hopefully contribute to her valuing them more, as well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And maybe he'd throw in extra chores, too!

The other night I revisited Adam's early days, except without all the cute, new-babyness. The part I got to experience again was being woken up every 2 hours by a needy child.

I went to bed at 10:30 (which is actually earlier than usual, sad as that is). At 12:30, Ben woke me up, needing help to go potty. Fine. This has become a new normal.

At 2:30, Adam started crying, and I went in, gave his pacifier, and left while he cried - until I closed the door behind me. After 2 beats, he was quiet until he woke up at 7:15am. NO nursing. YESssssss.

Then at 4:30, I think Leah came in with bad dreams. But I KNOW Ben did. After I wouldn't bite for tucking him back in after a bad dream ("you can tuck yourself in" has become my new night-time mantra), he decided that he'd try to go potty. This is outright taking advantage of my sleep deprived state, and manipulating my desire for him NOT to have an accident while sleeping. He knows that if he goes potty, I'll tuck him back into bed.

My alarm clock went off at 6:30.

And this mommy has had quite enough of walking around tired all day.

So last night I laid the smack down, and told Ben that he would be going potty by himself from now on, and I would NOT be tucking him back into bed, for any reason. He acknowledged the new rule, and when I kissed him goodnight, won my heart all over again with his sweet little, "Mommy, me sorry me wake you up."

But he still did. BUT, I didn't get out of bed, and I think everything went alright. At any rate, he didn't wet the bed or his pjs, and he didn't fall off the stool and get a concussion. And in the morning, he was insistent that I'd helped him. No, dear, I did not. But if you need to BELIEVE that I did, go right ahead.


Last night was bath night, and as usual, it was Adam's turn first. He just loves his baths and gives you the biggest, "This is AWESOME!" grin when you plunk him in the baby tub. After I had washed him up, I decided to feel for a new tooth that I'm sure is coming in (that would be the 7th.) He was so obviously enjoying it, using my finger as a teether. I was being so very careful to avoid those pearly whites already present, when I got distracted and moved just a hair to the wrong side....and got my index finger biten on both the top AND bottom.

I yelped, and Adam looked at me with his bottom lip tucked in, eyes all big and round. Then I looked at him again and said, a little less sharply, "Owie!"

And he started bawling. Not just play crying either - his face turned red, tears were rolling, and it took several moments for me to reassure him that everything it was fine. It did, however, take me MUCH longer to get over the pain in my finger.

Then I got to thinking - wouldn't it be awesome if parents still had that power when the baby is a teenager? They'd come in late, Mom would glare and say, "You are late!" and the kid would ground HIMSELF. After crying himself to sleep.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Leah's Photo Review

Six years ago, we became parents for the first time.

I'm a day late posting this, of course, but I remember very VERY clearly that it was about 10pm on Sunday night, May 2nd, 2004 when contractions started. Aaron and I, being novices at this whole "labor and delivery" thing, spent the whole night breathing through contractions. And yes, I do mean BOTH of us, cause there was no way I was going to let him sleep with that kind of pain going on. But they were still 10 minutes or so apart! By 6am we decided to go to the hospital. (I am NOT sure of when I called my substitute teacher and asked her to go in for me the next day...)

I could barely stand the ride to the hospital, and refused a wheelchair because standing seemed preferable to sitting. I wonder if that medical resident has ever gotten over the terror of riding in an elevator with a woman hoo-hoo-heeing through contractions? While leaning against the wall?

Anyway, by the time I was examined I was 7cm (YES! What were we thinking?!) and I got a blissful epidural at 8cm. Blissful except that I couldn't feel my left leg at all. Weird, but I was able to take a nap while dilating to 10!

And then I pushed for FIVE. HOURS. There was a lot going on during that time, but I'll try to summarize by just saying that after 2 1/2 hrs we discovered Leah was in the worst position possible for a normal delivery (sunny-side up AND diagonal) and that her birth involved my midwife, the OB resident on call, the OB head resident, and the OB doctor on call - and also the vacuum. They may have been a cleaning lady who hadn't been in the delivery room yet, but I think pretty much the rest of the floor staff had been.

We finally got that girl out (after she turned herself face down, in the birth canal, thankyouverymuch) at 3:20pm.

Still in the hospital, and she blessed us with a (gas) smile. Oh yeah, before I forget to warn you - we bought our very first digital camera a few months before Leah was born, and we were still figuring things out - which is why some of these photos look pixelated.

Going home for the first time. When the boys were born, I was amazed at how much better I felt after NOT pushing for 5 hours. Thankfully, at the time I had nothing to compare it to.

Leah was pretty orange from jaundice those first days. Her bilirubin number was 17, and when I asked a doctor what that meant, he said, "Well, at 20 they usually go into the hospital." That freaked us out, and Aaron spent several days trying to get her in as much sun as possible. And I nursed her a LOT. It must have worked, because at the next check she was down to 12. (Which was the peak of Adam's jaundice, btw!)

Look at that peanut! This is after her first bath, on my very first Mother's Day.

Had to document on the blog her blankie, the crocheted one. She still sleeps with it every night, even though it has been reduced to a life-threatening pile of snarls. Every night before I go to bed I check to make sure she isn't cutting off her circulation.

About 3 months old. Still makes this "kissy lips" face every once in awhile.

Hopefully now there is no doubt who Adam looks more like. Except for the eyes, they are so similar it freaks me out once in awhile! The killer grin is just icing on the cake.

10 months, and already loving books!

1st Birthday cake! I made the same one for Ben, too, but will have to figure out something else for Adam, since Aaron has banned me from making it ever again. Apparently he doesn't like to see me stressing about cake for 4 hours the night previous to the party.

Leah stressed about the cake for about 4 seconds before diving in. And she stayed fairly clean, until she had to rub her eye.

This photo kills me. It is the perfect illustration of "first grandchild". That would be Grandpa, Grandma, Auntie Ruth, and Uncle Tim trailing behind, watching her every move.

Almost 2 years, at Ben's baby shower. The coordination was not planned, but was perfect!

Two years! Elmo cake!

Grandpa Henry has learned that the way to get a little kid to give kisses is to prep them with ice cream.

At buddy Alex's birthday, eating only the frosting off the cake. Man, I love this kid!

We bought this strawberry. Leah ate it. For lunch. (Just kidding. I think.)

On the beach at Cape Cod.

Fall Festival at our church. Leah went as cowgirl, with much assistance from friends (who lent the boots & pony) and Grandma (who made the shirt).

Gymnastics warm-up in the Pit!

This is probably one of my favorite photos of my girl. She adores dress-up, but will drop everything for television. And when she's watching her favorite show, even Mommy taking photos doesn't interrupt her concentration.

5th birthday - Dress-up theme. My daughter is testing my creativity - this year it's a Ruff Ruffman theme, which ALSO doesn't have any pre-packaged party items to help a mom out! I'll have photos on Monday so you can see how non-creative I'm being. Right now, I'm most proud of the goodie-bags. Hopefully the kids will enjoy them as much as I've enjoyed putting them together!
Oh baby girl, you are growing up so fast, and I thank God for what an intelligent, sensitive, happy kid you are. The past six years have been a blessing, and I can't wait to see what you have in store for us in the future.

Settle in, kids.

My dad has a unique way of telling a story. I don't know if he's just developed it since I've been adult (you know, in the last 3 years or so) or if he's done it forever and I just hadn't heard enough other storytellers to appreciate the difference. In any case, Dad tells a story sloooowlllly. In fact, because my family is so loving and patient, the poor guy usually gets peppered with, "Aaaaand?", "And THEN what, Dad?", "Come on, tell it already!" several times before the rather anticlimactic end of his tale.

We were up at Mom & Dad's house for supper the other night, and part of that always involves enjoying some television channels that we don't get at home. (And NO, we don't get TLC, H&G, The Food Network, or anything else worthwhile. The only "cable" channels we get are MTV and VH1, which apparently are so crappy that they give them away, since they are not officially part of our package.) For some reason, Aaron didn't want to watch a cake decorating show, so it was NASCAR, instead.

Now, neither Aaron or I can see the point of any kind of car racing. But the kids kind of like it, at least for about 10 minutes. We happened to be catching the very beginning, so Aaron had the kids listening for, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" which was kind of fun. Then we watched 4 laps or so...with only 396 to go! Seriously, I don't know how the fans don't die of boredom right there in the stands.

Anyway, Aaron made a comment about NASCAR having the biggest fan base of any sport, and then said, "Geez, there's a lot of rednecks out there!"

Leah immediately asked, of course, "What's a redneck?" and I tactfully decided to let the guys take care of that one. Grandpa jumped in to save Daddy, and started with some background:
"Well, it used to be, that when you sat in the balcony of the church you could tell who the farmers were because of their red necks. They were red because they had been out working in the sun..."
and about there Leah broke in - "Okay, I wasn't listening. What did you say?"

And we all laughed, because we, the sensitive, caring family that we are, usually tune out for the history lesson part of Grandpa's stories too.

I don't know what's more disturbing: that now she thinks all farmers are red necks, that she's picked up on our rudeness to the family patriarch, or that she was THAT involved with watching the race.