Thursday, October 14, 2010

Little brother's turn

This morning I was driving my three-year-old to preschool and as we turned the last corner, he exclaimed from the back seat, "That's my school! That's my school!" It was a cool moment, and not just because of his excitement about going to school.

His big brother David went to the same preschool for two years, and Grayson was always the tag-along. I hauled him in a stroller, or with my hand firmly gripped around his wrist, for many a drop-off and pick-up. More than once I had to drag him out of there bodily because he wanted so badly to stay and play with the toys. But it was always "David's school" and Grayson's turn would have to come later.

It's not always easy being the little brother. He has to watch his big brother do things and go places he can't. He has to sit on the sidelines and watch while David plays sports, sit out of the big boy classes at the Y, and stay home with mommy when David gets to go places he's too young to visit. Not that he gets the shaft all the time. But his awareness that David gets to do things he can't do has grown and he has an insatiable desire to be just like his big brother.

School started about a month ago and things have come full circle for my little man. This morning he showed how much his school means to him, in that it is HIS. He doesn't call it "David's school" anymore, but always "my school," or "Grayson's school." He runs in the door each time, finds the box with his name and picture and deposits his coat and backpack like a pro. Then he's off to the tables with toys spread out for free play, without so much as a glance in my direction. That is his time, his chance to be the big boy without the shadow of his big brother.

Not that he minds that particular shadow most of the time. But I love that he is getting old enough for it to be his turn for the big boy stuff. I can tell it means a lot to him.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween Season

Hallween is a big deal in our house. Ever since David was about 3, he's been a HUGE fan of Halloween. I think the only reason Christmas beats it out as his holiday of choice is the presents (despite our attempts to emphasize the REAL Christmas, he is a kid and presents are pretty awesome).

Now that we're well into October, the countdown to Halloween has begun. I made an impromptu Halloween countdown to hang on the wall (simply a page of orange construction paper and black squares where they can put stickers for each day). This will, hopefully, cut down on the number of times I am asked "When is Halloween?" At least David can go to the countdown chart and count the blank squares.

This year we're all about Star Wars in this house (and Legos, but that's a whole other post). David will be going as Boba Fett, the bounty hunter who captures Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back. How do little boys all seem to know who Boba Fett is? He appears in the movie so briefly, and I don't recall ever knowing he actually had a name. But boys seem to gravitate to him. I think it has something to do with his jet pack. Jet packs are pretty sweet.

Grayson will be Darth Vader, which is utterly ridiculous in it's cuteness. The best part is that he says "Dark Mater," so our neighbors are sure to be greeted by a masked three-year-old exclaiming, "I'm Dark Mater!" And he does the breathing sound really well too.

Even Miss Ella will be in on the Star Wars action. I originally planned to dress her in something ridiculously girly involving tutus and lots of sparkle, but I couldn't resist the coordinating costumes - so she'll be playing the part of Princess Leia. They actually make a baby Leia costume, with a hat that is made to resemble the dinner roll hairdo. I don't know how long she'll actually wear the hat before ripping it off to chew on it, but if I can manage a picture or two, it will be worth it.

I have to admit, I love Halloween too. Our neighborhood is really festive - lots of houses decorate and some go all out. There is a house up the street from us that does a huge homemade banner over their entire front porch every year. This year it is a ghoul holding a flaming-eyed pumkin. They mak a tunnel to their front door, so only the bravest of kids will venture inside to get their candy. My boys, young as they are, have yet to bat an eyelash. If I walk through the dark, foggy tunnel I get candy? I'm on it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A good mommy day

I had a great mom day today. And after the weekend we had, I needed it.
I won't go into the gory details of what made our weekend so particularly awful. Let's just say it involved a husband recovering from surgery, a little boy with an ear infection, a little girl waking at all hours and up for the day long before the sun and a mommy with a severe, and as yet undiagnosed infection in her upper jaw/lower sinus as well as a very adverse reaction to vicodin. And very little sleep.
Today I was feeling much more like myself, and managed to get a lot done this morning to help the house recover from my illness. Because if you're a mom, you know how insane the house gets when you're out of commission. It's ridiculous.
This afternoon I took the kids on a nature walk. There's a trail through a rather narrow greenbelt across the street from our house. It isn't exactly the deep woods, but it's close and offers enough in the way of pinecones, leaves and sticks that the boys like it. The boys carried plastic bags to load their treasures, and I carried the Bean (aka my daughter) on my back. We wandered around, looked at things on the ground and looked up to see where they might have come from. We picked up leaves and examined their color. We found sticks with moss, and found trees with more moss growing on the trunks. We found tiny mushrooms, and the boys got a lesson in never, ever eat anything you find growing on the ground in the woods. We saw a tree that had fallen, only to sprout a new trunk growing straight up out of the bent part. We talked about evergreens and deciduous trees and David was delighted to learn a new fact to amaze grown ups with.

We got home and they proudly showed their finds to Daddy, who was working from home. Then they drew pictures, telling the story of their day.

David drew the half fallen tree that looked "like a rainbow," ferns and rocks on the ground, and two little figures with bags full of leaves and branches in their hands.

Grayson's was a little more abstract, but he is three. He told us all about what his scribbles meant, so the intent was there.

Ella wandered around the dining room playing with her sippy cup and a pan lid, occassionally peeking up over the table to see what her brothers were doing.

It was a totally random idea, and it went so well, it made me feel a little like supermom.

Then after dinner, the boys wandered outside as I made orange popcorn balls. They noticed something in the sky, so we went out to investigate and after conferring with my astronomy expert (aka, my mom), we think it's Jupiter. So we talked about the differences between stars and planets, and why they look the same in the sky. Then we looked up pictures of Jupiter, and various other planets and astronomical things on the Internet. I think David may be developing a new fascination with space and astronomy, but we'll see. The kid loves to learn how things work and why - he's a little scientist already.

All in all, a good mommy day. Goodness knows on this crazy journey, they aren't always this way. But this one certainly made up for the awful weekend, so I'll take it!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Potty Training

Potty training is not my favorite part of childhood. Once they are solidly potty trained, it is great. Changing a baby's poopy diaper is one thing, but the horrific mess that is a toddler's poopy diaper is quite another. So once they are competent at using the potty and don't have to go every 30 minutes in order to keep dry, it's pretty nice. It's getting there that I don't like.

We're working with Grayson on going potty, but it's been slow going. We've been through this before, but every kid is different and the things that worked so well with David aren't so effective with Grayson. He pulls the stickers off his sticker chart and throws them on the floor (not sure why), he argues with me about the two Skittles he is supposed to get after going pee on the potty, and so far the promise of various treats and rewards for finally pooping on the potty haven't motivated him in the least.

Fortunately, he's able to initiate going potty some of the time and we had a trial run in underwear last week that went pretty well. Since then I haven't been able to convince him to wear underwear again, but today I insisted. He was upset for a while, and I let him stay naked and throw his fit. Then I offered some Wall-E underwear and that turned the tide. Unfortunately, the package only has one pair of Wall-E, so if he insists on them again tomorrow I'll have some more convincing to do. But hopefully we'll be able to get through the next few days without too much mess, or too much fuss.

He's supposed to be potty trained when he starts preschool and that is rapidly approaching. We have about 5 1/2 weeks until the big day, and although technically they'll let him come in a pull up if he still needs it, I'd really rather not. So I guess it's time we start trying a little harder to make this potty thing happen.

I do have to wonder if the cashier at Target found it funny last week when I bought two packages of toddler sized underwear and a bottle of carpet cleaner labeled "Kids and Pets". Hmmm, what am I going to be up to the next few weeks.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Camping, take one

This weekend we attempted our first ever camping trip with kids. We used to love camping, back in the days when that meant IM'ing each other at work on Friday with a, "Yeah, let's go camping this weekend!" Then loading up the car with a handful of stuff, arriving at a campground after dark and not caring in the least, and sleeping in the next morning well after the birds started chirping.

This was a far cry from the pre-kid days. I spent several days planning and an entire day organizing and packing. You always have to take a bunch of stuff camping - after all, you're essentially bringing all your basic needs, including shelter. But kids take it to a whole new level. And we don't just have kids - we have three, ages 5, 3 and 11 months. Are we crazy? Maybe just a little.

The weather forecast was iffy, but we decided not to scrap our plans. Our good friends were planning to join us at the state park, docking their boat there. And my dad and brother had an adjoining campsite. The first night went well. We arrived and set up camp, got a fire going and had the requisite toasted marshmallows and such. We let the kids stay up way too late, and we had quite a bit of trouble sleeping once we finally went to bed. The thing with the first camping trip in about 6 years is that you work out the kinks and realize what you need to do differently next time. On that list are new sleeping bags for me and the hubs - we were freezing. Add to that a few wake ups by Miss Bean and Grayson coughing for about 2 hours, sleep was in short supply.

Around 3 am the rain started. We knew rain was possible, but it seemed like it might rain a little, but not torrential downpours. When the kids woke around 7 (and we'd slept a little in between), it was still raining. We decided to go out to breakfast, instead of getting soaked outside and by the time we got back, it was down to a light drizzle. We figured we could stick it out, and decided to stay - at least for a while. The rain actually stopped, and we managed a trip down to the beach and the boys got to do some fishing with Grandpa. Ella took a good nap and we thought we'd at the very least stay through dinner, and then decide if we wanted to pack it in early or spend another night.

Then the rain started again. And didn't stop. The middle part of the day had been filled with short drizzly bursts of rain that stopped as quickly as they started. This rain started, and didn't stop. And still didn't stop. And then got harder. By about 3:30 I knew we were done, so I started packing our stuff.

I'm a bit disappointed that the weather cut our trip short, but overall I actually feel really good about it. If we can survive camping in the rain with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and an 11 month old - heck, we can do anything! More than anything, this felt like a test run to see if our kids are camp-able, and this certainly was the ultimate test. They did awesome. David and Grayson had a blast playing in the woods around the campsite and Ella was her usual magic-baby self. All in all, I'd say the weekend was a success.

And I'm not going to lie, I'm really looking forward to sleeping in my bed tonight.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


We went to the library today. I know, alert the media, right? I slack off on writing anything for ages, and I sit down to write about the library? Well, one has to start somewhere.

I used to take D to the library all the time, particularly when he was my one and only, but on into G's babyhood. We went to storytimes, and often went just to pick out books to borrow. You know, normal library stuff. And then G got mobile. Let's just say G is not a library kind of kid. He can't sit still for very long, he doesn't particularly like looking at books (a concept which both astounds and alarms me, being an avid reader since, well, since I could read), and he lacks the self control required to use a quiet voice, at least for very long.

Still, I want to make library trips a regular part of our routine, at least for the summer. With D out of preschool (that's a whole other post!), I'd like to find at least a few activities we can do rain or shine that will build some regularity into our week. We all function better when we have a few things planned to get us out of the house.

So off to the library we went. D is well versed in library etiquette, but G got the 3-year-old version - no running, listen to Mommy, and use a quiet voice. As he ran in the doors, exclaiming, "Where's books!" at the top of his lungs, I knew it was going to be a short visit.

D was happy to browse the shelves, although I think he got a little overwhelmed with all the choices. But it didn't take long before he had a few picked out. G, on the other hand, after grabbing a few things off the shelves, only to abandon them on the floor, bee-lined for the little play area next to the window. Another little boy, who looked to be about the same age and of similar temperment, was already playing. The two of them managed to get each other riled up, despite both myself and his mom doing our best to keep them quiet. On the playground, those two would have been a lot of fun to watch together; at the library they were a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for me, they left shortly after we arrived.

The rest of the visit was what I expected it to be - ok, overall, but a little hectic. I had to keep G from running around while trying to help D look for a dinosaur book (and we never did find what he wanted), while holding Miss E because she decided she was bored in the stroller. I should have known on that last count; next week I'll just sling her. She's always happier when she's being carried.

I'm going to have to get creative to think of ways to get G more interested in reading. At home, we tend to just let it go (aka, give up) and not read to him very much. It's tough when he won't sit with you to read, and forcing him obviously doesn't do any good (nor do I want to make it a chore that he learns to dislike). He ended up chosing a Disney Cars comic book, which I'll attempt to read with him. We may be onto something there; if I can find a few Nemo, Wall-E and Cars books, we might get him to read a little more.

I think the key to library trips with my zoo is to make it short and sweet. Get in, pick a few books, play in the play area for a few minutes, and jet out of there. Hopefully this will do more to encourage D's reading, and instill at least an interest in books for G.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worlds Apart

Recently my husband and I decided to sponsor a child through WorldVision. It is something we've considered doing in the past, but for one reason or another (mostly my procrastination and shameful lack of generosity) we didn't. Recently, my husband came home and said, "We need to sponsor a child through WorldVision!" Thank goodness for that man. Without him, I shudder to think how limited my generosity would be. It's something I'm working on.

How does one choose a child? Out of the literally millions of poor, impoverished and hungry children in the world, how do you choose one? We decided to choose a child with the same birthday as our oldest son, with the hope and plan that we'll soon add two more, also sharing birthdays with our other two kids. It seemed as good criteria as any we could come up with.

So I searched the website for a boy with my son's birthday. And we found Thapelo.

He is five years old, living in Lisotho, in southern Africa. It's a country devastated by the AIDS epidemic. Entire communities have been devastated by the disease, leaving children orphaned, farms unplanted, food in short supply. His profile lists his health as "satisfactory," whatever that actually means. He lives with his mother, two sisters and a brother.

I don't even know her name, but I think of Thapelo's mother often. We share a bond of motherhood, made just a tiny bit more special because we labored and delivered a child on the same day. Her joy was my joy. Except each morning, I get up and go to my well stocked refrigerator and pull out fresh eggs. I take out bread and pop it in the toaster, and pour a cup of fresh, cold milk. I hand my son a healthy breakfast as I prepare to send him off to preschool, and most days I don't even think twice about it.

I have no idea what she has to feed her son.

I think of her often. While I worry about whether we'll have to miss picture day for D's baseball team, does she worry about whether she'll be able to feed her children that day? While I fill out forms to register D for his free education, does she worry about whether her son will ever learn to read? Or how she'll pay for his school uniform?

I do feel good that we are going to begin helping them with our sponsorship. I have faith that this organization is, and will continue, to do good in their community, and Thapelo and his mother will benefit. I hope to receive news that he gets to go to school someday... that his community has a source of safe, clean drinking water... that they have enough to eat. I don't know how much is possible through that measly little $35 we send each month, but I hope it is something. I hope it helps ease the burden Thapelo's mother must feel every day.

I live with the joy of knowing my children are not going to go hungry, will be cared for when they are sick, and have every opportunity to grow and thrive. She does not. Each day I need to strive to remember how lucky I am, how lucky we are. And pray for sweet little Thapelo and his family. It is, quite literally, the least we can do.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Final wrestling meet

Last night was my pint sized five-year-old's final wrestling meet. We made it to three out of the four they had this season (he had an ear infection the day of the first) and it was amazing to watch his improvement. Daddy has spent time working with him, in addition to the regular practices and he really learned some moves.

His first match was really impressive. They don't actually keep score or declare a real winner (it's strictly recreational), but he did very well against the other kid. I was so amazed to see him putting the things he's learned to use the way he did. His improvement in just the two weeks since the last meet was obvious. I was really proud of him.

His second match didn't go so well. He wrestled a different kid, one he's been matched against before, but he got taken down hard and hit his head right at the beginning. You could tell he wanted to stop right then and there, and he never really got it together. But he never quit either. He was almost crying the whole time and I'd be lying if I said it didn't absolutely break my mommy heart. But he kept fighting, and kept fighting and stayed off his back the whole time. Although he wasn't able to do much to the other kid, he didn't let the other kid do much to him either. I suspect if points were kept, he'd have lost that match, but I was so impressed with his determination. His head hurt and he wanted to stop, but he would. not. quit. We cheered him on and yelled for him to keep going, that he was doing so great! And he kept fighting.

Afterwards, he broke down in a puddle of tears in Daddy's arms. His head hurt and he was frustrated and upset. He had held it in so fiercely during the match, all that emotion came bursting out with equal ferocity when it was over. He cried for a bit and my husband proved, once again, how incredible he is. He held him and talked to him and helped him calm down.

You'd think after all that, he would have said he doesn't want to wrestle anymore, or that he's glad the season is over. But no, not my little monkey. After the outburst had run it's course, he was nothing but proud of himself and happy with what he'd done. He told anyone and everyone that he did a good job and even though his last match was really hard, he didn't give up.

He's actually disappointed the season is over.

Wrestling is not an easy sport. It isn't easy for the wrestlers, obviously. And it isn't easy for the mommies either. I'm happy that he did it, and I think he's learning some incredibly valuable lessons. He's learning to push himself, to try harder than he thinks he's capable of. He's learning to listen to those around him who can teach him, and that when he does what they tell him, it pays off. And he's learning that even when something is hard, pushing through and not giving up can pay off in a big way. If he'd quit and insisted on stopping the match, he wouldn't have been nearly as happy when all was said and done. He felt good about how hard he tried, whether or not he "won." And that's a powerful lesson for a kid to begin learning.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Roly-polies and push ups

Miss E is a mover. She's about 5 1/2 months old at the moment, and already she's trying to move around. She started rolling at 3 months old, which was amazing to me. Her brothers didn't roll until 5 months and, geez, 7 months I think. I don't know, poor middle child and his milestones, I can't remember for sure when G rolled, but it was later. So now I have this little girl who rolls from back to tummy like crazy. As an aside, I do wish she'd figure out how to roll back the other way so she wouldn't keep rolling and getting mad about it.

But rolling isn't her only trick. She lifts herself up pretty high with her arms when she's on her tummy and sometimes lifts her hips up off the ground. Recently she started getting into what looks like a push up position; she lifts her whole body, holding herself up with her arms and tippy-toes. She can't hold it for long, and I can't figure out what exactly she's trying to do, but she's so strong!

We also find her facing all sorts of different directions on the floor. She can't quite scoot forward yet, but I have a feeling that isn't too far away. She can turn herself around in a circle, essentially, and does so to reach toys and other random things on the floor. Already I'm having to pay attention to what the boys leave around because she can reach more than you'd think.

I don't know, this kid is a mover and a shaker. She's trouble already :).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zucchini in a smoothie?

As I was browsing for new smoothie recipes, I found one that caught my eye. The title began with "Don't knock it till you try it," which was instantly intriguing. The rest read, "Zucchini Chocolate Banana Peanut Smoothie." Ok, wait. Really? Zucchini? With chocolate, banana and peanuts? In a smoothie? I was skeptical to say the least.

I read the ingredient list, and it was no typo - zucchini topped the list. It was well reviewed, and people had lots of great things to say about it. Ok, this I had to try.

Turns out, the zucchini is peeled, grated and frozen. It almost acts like the ice in a smoothie, adding that cold, slushy texture. I didn't follow the recipe exactly (the original was more like a milkshake, and the original poster said she was experimenting with making a dessert), but came up with a delicious smoothie, and you'd never know it has a veggie in it!

1/2 zucchini, peeled, shredded and frozen
1 banana, frozen
1/2 -1 scoop protein powder (I used the "natural" flavor, meaning it doesn't have any flavor added - you'd never even know it's in the smoothie either)
1 heaping spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder
A spoonful of sugar (see if you can read that without the song sticking in your head)
About a cup of milk (can adjust to desired texture)
Optional: A heaping spoonful of peanut butter (I've made it both with and without the peanut butter - good both ways)
Throw the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

Seriously, this comes out delish. It tastes a lot like a creamy chocolate milkshake - except it has a bunch of protein, plus the good stuff in the banana and the zucchini. Even my kids liked it! The amounts above make a pretty good sized smoothie - there was plenty for myself and some for both my boys (although they didn't have big portions).

Tonight before bed I peeled and shredded a couple more zucchinis and popped them in the freezer - ready for tomorrow!

Chicken vegetable barley stew - new recipe for the win!

I like to cook. I'm not a fancy cook, but I do like experimenting with different flavors and trying to find new recipes that my family will all enjoy. Cooking for my zoo isn't always easy. My husband is on the picky side, although he's the first to admit when something is good even if he was reluctant to try it. He's definitely a good sport. And feeding young kids is trickier than I would have thought. D has inherited some of hubby's pickiness, at least in that he's not a big fan of a lot of different types of foods. G eats more like me - he loves his fruits and veggies, which is awesome. And Miss E, well, she's still drinking from the tap, so her eating style remains to be seen.

In any case, I get bored cooking the same old thing over and over, so I like it when I find recipes that are easy, healthy and liked by everyone. And when they can be made in the crockpot - so much the better.

That's the case with my latest dinner creation - chicken vegetable barley stew. I've been working on feeding all of us healthier things, and barley is a great grain. I was excited to find a recipe on my favorite recipe website for a barley soup that wasn't beef. Not that I have anything against beef, but I already make beef barley soup, so something different sounded promising.

I changed things up, as I'm prone to do, to reflect what I had on hand, as well as the tastes of my eaters. And what I came up with was a big win all around - and I love it when that happens!

Here's the recipe I came up with. You'll have to forgive me, but I don't usually measure things, especially when it comes to soups and stews. I just eyeball it.

3(ish) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (I used frozen chicken tenderloins, so I'm not sure how much chicken it actually was - about 8 tenderloins, but chicken breasts would work just as well)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (give or take - again, I eyeball this stuff) chicken stock (it probably needs more)
1 cup pearled barley
salt and pepper to taste (I always use sea salt)
1 cup (give or take) sliced almonds
olive oil

I chopped the veggies, cut up the chicken and threw it all in the crockpot. I added the cup of barley and enough chicken stock to cover (I had to add more liquid later, so more is probably good). I seasoned with just salt and pepper. I cooked it on high for about 4 1/2 hours. Shortly before dinner time, I sauteed the sliced almonds in olive oil right on the stove top (the recipe called for baking them, but I didn't have time). Mmmm, they smelled good! I stirred them into the stew before serving.

I had thought it was going to come out more soup like, but it was quite thick. The barley soaks up a LOT of liquid. Like I said, I added some more liquid when I put in the almonds. But it turned out really hearty, like a thick stew - nice and filling, full of fiber and it had great flavor. The almonds really added a layer of flavor - soooo good. The original recipe called for mushrooms as well, but I didn't have any, so I omitted them - but if you like mushrooms, you sure could add them.

Overall, a new winner! Hubby loved it, and even my picky five year old ate some without us having to twist his arm to try it. Good times.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


D, my five year old, had his first wrestling practice last night. It is through our local YMCA, and is completely in the "recreational" category - not seriously competitive. For this age group, it's all about learning about the sport and having fun. I can get behind that for a five year old. I'm not one of those people who think competition is bad and kids should always win every time. But wrestling is an intense sport, and it's all you out there. That's a lot for a five year old to handle, and I don't want to overwhelm him.

D is not a big kid. He's been squarely in the 50th percentile for height and weight since he was a baby, he always fits into the clothing size that corresponds for his age - he's quite average sized. Among the group of wrestlers last night, he looked absoultely miniature. He's probably the youngest kid there. It goes by birth year, and the cutoff is 2004 - his birthday is December, so he barely makes the cut. It's likely a lot of the kids in the "Pee wee" class are already in kindergarten, although there might be a couple with birthdays later in the year like him. But he was easily one of the three smallest kids there. He looked ridiculously cute, all decked out in his dark blue singlet, wrestling shoes and head gear. With the outfit, he looked like a real wrestler, just shrunk down to mini-size. As I watched him warm up I almost got teary eyed - he just looked so darn small!

Last night's practice was pretty basic. They didn't do any real wrestling, just a lot of warm up and drills. One of the last things they did was a drill that requires one kid to be on hands and knees, and another kid to be chest down on top and sort of spin their body around the lower kid. It's not an easy skill to master, and most of the younger kids had a hard time with it. D told me on the way home that maybe next time he just won't do the "spin thing." I told him he needs to try again, and we talked about how practice makes you better and helps you learn. He replied with, "But I already know how to do it. I saw what the coach did." So I told him, "Yeah, your brain knows what to do because you saw someone else do it. But now you have to teach your body how to do it." That concept totally blew his mind. The rest of the way home he talked about teaching his body how to do things. "I'm going to teach my neck how to lift up a building," and "I can teach my arms how to tackle G (his brother)." The rest I can't remember because honestly, he goes into talk mode and sometimes I just have to tune it out...

I'm curious to see how the rest of the "season" goes. He'll have practices twice a week and a match every other Friday. The program is entirely self-contained; the matches are simply against the same kids they practice with, so it isn't as if they're wrestling other teams. They just organize the kids into pairs and run matches. Right now he's so gung ho about any sports. Whenever we've asked him if he wants to try a sport, he always says yes - he loves it. We had a great experience with t-ball last spring and probably would have had him do soccer in the fall, but with the arrival of Miss E, it was a little too hectic to try to squeeze in sports. He's very excited about the whole thing, and I really hope his enthusiasm continues. I was so not athletic as a kid and my boys' both appear to have athletic tendencies (inherited from their father, I assure you). I'd love for them to continue having fun with it and have that confidence with their bodies that sports provide.

And I have to say, if G decides to do wrestling, that kid is going to be good. With the exposure he's getting through D, and being D's little sparring partner at home, he's already going to know what he's doing before he's even old enough to participate. Add to that the fact that G is not average sized, but pretty big and beefy for his age - he has the potential to be quite the little wrestler :). (If he wants to - my husband may be into sports and strongly encouraging our kids to participate, but he knows all too well how the pressure to do sports can do more harm than good).

Monday, February 1, 2010


We used to keep anywhere from a third to about half of the resident toy population downstairs in the family room. It started that way when D was little, and the only. We'd spend a lot of the day downstairs, since our family room and kitchen are one, big open space. And as D got bigger and along came G, we kept toys down there so there were things to paly with downstairs and things to play with upstairs as well - lessening the need for me to lift D over baby gates and make endless trips up and down to find suitable entertainment if I was busy downstairs. I'd planned to keep the toy arrangements that way until Miss E is old enough that the baby gates are finally history, but recently decided the poor third kid will just have to live in a world where toys are kept upstairs. To be fair, I do have a small basket of baby toys, as well as one of those little baby play gyms (a pink one!) in the family room for her. But the rest of the toys have homes in the playroom or the boys' room. And I LOVE it that way.

The boys appear to be having a harder time adjusting to the new arrangements. I don't forbid toys downstairs; especially when I'm doing things like cook dinner, I don't mind if they bring things down to play with. Not that they couldn't play upstairs while I'm busy in the kitchen, but these kids follow me around like little ducks. You'd think I'm their mother or something.... In any case, some days I have a hard time convincing them to go play upstairs, even when I join them.

This afternoon we had snack time, and then I announced that it was time to go upstairs and play. This was met with a resounding "Noooooo!" from both boys, in matching whiney voices. I looked around the room and back at them again. "Why not? All your toys are upstairs. What do you want to do down here?"

"Play!" my five year old answered. Um, play with what?

After some more cajoling, I finally convinced them to go upstairs. I don't get it. Other than watching movies or playing the occassional round of Lego Star Wars, what does the downstairs offer that is so appealing? D likes to run around bouncing on my exercise ball, but even that has to lose it's luster after a while. Why on earth don't they scramble upstairs to play - especially when I'm going up there too? Heck, they follow me into the bathroom with their toys while I shower, or into E's room and set up camp with cars and army men all over her floor as I change a diaper. But the transition from downstairs to upstairs is strangely difficult. It makes no sense to me.

About two minutes after we finally got upstairs, they were already running around like banshees having the time of their lives while Miss E happily jumped in her jumperoo. Today's games consisted of a hybrid basketball/football/baseball combo, featuring a hoop, a basketball, a football and a sword (which was apparently the bat); and later, running around shirtless, beating each other with nerf swords (have I mentioned how much fun it is to parent brothers?).

Now what was so bad about going upstairs to play?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bike riding boys

D is on the verge of being able to ride his bike on his own - big boy style! Over the weekend my husband helped him practice riding without training wheels and he did really well. It's tough because his legs don't quite reach the gound, even though his bike is pretty small. And it weighs a ton, which makes it a little unweildy, but he's getting the hang of it. It seems like an American rite of passage, the dad hanging on to the back of the seat, running alongside as the child pedals; letting go without them knowing and soon they're off and riding and don't even realize they're doing it. My husband took him up and down the street quite a few times and he did pretty good. He's not quite ready to ride all by himself, and the intricacies of stopping and starting without crashing have yet to be mastered. But his balance is there, he just needs some practice.

G also got a bike recently, but this is a new discovery for us - a push bike, or balance bike (I've seen them called both). It is basically a little tiny bike without pedals, low enough to the ground that the child can put their feet flat and walk or run while sitting on the seat. It is designed to teach them to balance on the bike, since they can put their feet down whenever they want. I've seen videos of kids cruising on these things. So in leiu of a bike with training wheels, G gets the push bike and when he's ready for a bigger bike, we'll just go straight to a regular one, no training wheels needed. He LOVES the thing. I think it makes him feel like a big boy, riding his own bike. Nevermind that his helmet is a bit too big and he doesn't move very fast yet. He has fun and hopefully as he gets used to it, he'll start to walk faster and get going a little so he can start to learn balance.

E, of course, is relegated to the stroller during the boys' bike riding fun. She's rather indifferent to the whole process, except to maybe wonder (if babies wonder in the absence of language skills) why her mommy makes her ride around out in the cold all the time. It is January, after all, but the weather has been good (aka, no rain), so we've been taking advantage of it and having some outside time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The hazards of room sharing

My two boys share a room. We have four bedrooms, but one is ours, one is the baby's, one is for the boys and the last one belongs to my sister-in-law for the forseeable future. The boys' room used to be just D's, but it made sense to have them bunk together once baby girl arrived. It's really big and frees up the other bedroom for my SIL, which later will hopefully go back to being an office/guestroom.

In any case, while the boys like sharing a room, it makes bedtime more, shall we say, interesting. When we first moved G in, things went so smoothly I thought we'd hit the jackpot. Most nights they both went to sleep relatively quickly and without too much talking, getting up, playing, etc. But that situation has slowly deteriorated. It started with letting them bring toys to bed - the kind of thing that begins innocently enough, but soon becomes a problem as the playing, the noise and the not-going-to-sleep escalates. Soon we were listening to them talk, sing and play for hours after bedtime - and the morning results were not good.

My husband came up with the idea of putting them to bed separately - G a bit before D, so he has time to fall asleep before D comes in. That solution often works well - G is easier to put to bed when he's by himself, and without an audience or a playmate, he quietly falls asleep after the light goes off and the door is closed. And on a good night, D can quietly get onto the top bunk and go to sleep and all is happy in our world.

Unfortunately, G tends to wake up when we put D to bed. Not every night, and the first week or so had us once again living with the delusion that this was going to work brilliantly. But some nights he does wake up, despite our efforts, and admonitions to D, to be quiet. And once he wakes up, usually it's all over.

Tonight when he woke up, he immediately sat up and asked for his breakfast. I had to explain to him that he'd only been in bed for a little bit and it was still most definitely bedtime; D was just getting into bed and they both needed to go back to sleep. He didn't like that idea much and minutes after closing the door behind me, I heard them talking. Then I heard more noise that could only be the sound of one or both of them walking around the room. I went in to find G standing on the bedrail that keeps him from falling out of bed, trying to talk to D on the top bunk. Lovely. That's not a bone-breaking fall waiting to happen or anything. I've since made another trip back to their room with stern instructions to be quiet and go to sleep. They're still talking. And it is almost 9 pm. My kids are not 9pm kind of kids. They wake up early no matter when they fall asleep, so tomorrow has the potential to be interesting. I'm sure it will involve D telling me in dramatic fashion how G kept him up "all night long" and he didn't get any sleep. But of course my suggestion to lie down during G's naptime will be met with a look of utter puzzlement and disbelief, as if to say, "Why on earth would I do that, Mom?"

I suppose these particular challenges of bedtime are to be expected when you have to little boys sharing a room.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A good reminder for me.

It is easy to get caught up in all the "what I don't haves". I don't mean to live that way, for certain, but there are times when I find myself wishing I had this or that, or more money, or more time. Wishing I didn't have to work, even though I only work part time. Wishing someone else would do my dishes or clean my bathrooms.

But you know, I have it pretty darn good.

Let's not even start comparing how I live to how people in third world countries live. I only have to look down the street in my neighborhood, across the pews in church or to friends I know around the country to remind me that I have no cause for complaint.

We have plenty. I don't have to worry about paying our bills or buying food. We aren't behind on our mortgage. My husband has a good job. I am able to stay home with our children and even though I do work to help make ends meet, it is doing something I'm good at, I'm paid fairly and can work from home, and entirely on my own schedule.

Seriously, what do I have to complain about?

The answer to that is nothing. I have a comfortable life, if not an extravagant one. And I'm thankful for that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Milestones via paperwork

This week brought two paperwork milestones, if you want to call them that. Monday I picked up a registration from from D's preschool, but not for D... It was for my second son, G. He'll be three in May and due to start preschool in the fall. The second was for my big boy - a flyer came home from school today with information about kindergarten.

Although September isn't exactly right around the corner, my perception of time being what it is, we're going to be celebrating a 1st birthday and sending two kids off to school before I know it. I know these things are approaching, but getting paperwork for both really hit home. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was filling out the same preschool registration form for D - visiting the school, talking to the teachers, deciding if it was the right place for him. Now I'm about to register G for the fall - and that just seems crazy.

I worry a lot less about D's transition to kindy than I do G entering school for the first time. D is already excited about kindergarten, since he'll be going to the same school as our best friends' kids. Plus, this is "big boy school". He's ready. He's going to do great.

G, on the other hand, scares me. He is very high energy, and let's just be honest - very difficult. He's sweet and funny and it isn't that he's a bad kid. But he's a huge handful and it is almost impossible to imagine him functioning in a classroom environment. Obviously he has some time, and 8 months in kid time is an eternity. He has time to mature, to learn some things about taking turns, raising your hand and not pummeling into the other kids and tackling them to the ground like he does with his brother... And to potty train. Oh lordy, potty training. He has to be fully trained by September, or our $75 registration fee will have been wasted. If he hasn't trained by summer, we're going to have a lot of naked-running-around-in-the-yard time around here and hope like heck he can at least stay dry for the 2 1/2 hours he's in school.

Quite honestly, if preschool doesn't work out next school year, it will be fine. With a May birthday, he'll be young for the class and if it's a total disaster we can just pull him out and try again in a year. Depending on his readiness, we can always wait until he's 6 to start kindy, and although that would make him quite a bit older than many of his classmates, if that's what he needs, that's what we'll do - my husband's dreams of he and his brother playing on the same high school football team aside. My hope, however, is that he'll surprise us and do great in school next year. He'll probably be the kid who doesn't like to sit still and needs a lot of reminders to stay on task and not throw things and to keep his hands to himself. But the teachers are so great, and they've been doing this a long time. They've probably seen just about everything and they'll be able to either handle him, or let us know that he's not ready. Time will just have to tell on this one.

In the meantime, I'm once again faced with the reality that my kids are growing up so fast. It makes having a baby in the house again that much more enjoyable, despite my desire for a night's unbroken rest. Just think, come September I'll have two mornings a week with just one kid! Now that is a stark contrast to the way this school year began - me toting around a brand new baby, a crazy toddler and an almost 5 year old. Although I don't want to wish time away, there is a certain appeal to that thought. It's funny how when you have mutliple kids, a "break" is defined as anytime you don't have all of them with you on your own.