Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quiet Afternoon Reading

It's a lovely day for a reading mother.

Xander is following along in the books while our Smithsonian Oceanic Collection audiobook plays. Nick has a new total obsession with fish and sea creatures, so he is sitting next to Xander reading his library books Where's That Fish? and Ocean Counting: Odd Numbers for the hundred and thirty-first time.

In the last month, when reading to Nick, I have sometimes used my finger to point at each word as I read it. I bet Xander has been doing the same while trying to keep up with the audiobooks. What I noticed today is that Nick is slowly drawing his finger along each line of words on each page of the books he is "reading." I think he really gets the concept that these words make up the story that has been read aloud to him.

He has been sleeping with favorite books for the last week or two. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out - I didn't want him to stay awake in naps and bed times to read the books. I don't think he has been. His sleep has been good, and he protests very little at sleep times when I let him have the books in bed with him. In fact, they go almost everywhere with him.

What has their mom been doing with all this free time while they read books? Aside from writing a blog post...baking whole-wheat chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies to bring to our friends' house when we go over for dinner this evening!

I am looking forward to the holiday tomorrow. There's not much pressure to be in bed right on time tonight and no pressure to be up in time for school the next morning. I want to do a Memorial Day activity with the boys, but other than that, I think it will be a trial day to see how our summer schedule will work with both at home.

We just got to see Erik on Face Time which was great. He read the Diego book he has there to Nick, on request. Nick always requests that now when he sees Daddy on the "pooter." Justin was there visiting him! They are now going to meet up with my college friend who lives in the area. Justin had met her before, so hopefully it will be a nice day for them.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zoo Trip Today

Xander slept here last night

What's in there?

Had to remind Nick a few times not to chase the birds

A coati, I believe

Ooh! A bear! Poor thing was pacing and it was a hot day.

There's a lion in there - the man to the side is probably smiling at Nick's over-loud pronouncements: "Oh! It's a lion in there!"

Can you see the lion now?

I don't know if you can see it, but that's a tiger head peeking up out of the water. I wanted to be in there...minus the tiger.


They got a corn dog and a bag of cookies each for dinner. Oy. Xander was profusely thanked when he decided to help our seat-neighbors by picking up something they had dropped. I have actually gotten three compliments in the last few days on how well-behaved the boys are and what great little men.

The birds had their revenge on Nick. This one looked like it was about to bite the corn dog right out of Nick's hand and I had to pick up the poor scared child. This is Xander's hand trying to scare it away, which had no effect. I was intimidated myself. There is something about a bird slowly marching up to you, and not stopping, and not stopping, and coming closer, and not stopping...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Field Day 2012

A little wet, a lot happy

You can barely see the bird up there, but it had straw in its mouth. There is a nest of babies up there, and the whole class gets REALLY excited when they see the mama.

By the way, the entire time I've been uploading these photos, Nick has been singing his own made-up song while he plays with his figures. I don't know, it's been twenty minutes or so. He took a break to read aloud fish books that we borrowed from the library. Now he is back to singing and playing. You'd think his throat would get sore.

Young Librarian

I was putting on makeup just now while Nick talked and sang into our full-length mirror. First he was talking, then he was announcing "Twinkle, Twinkle," then he was singing it, then he was announcing other things like "Itsy Bitsy Spider"...

He was putting on a library story time for the mirror!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Family Movie Night

We started Family Movie Night after Xander heard how the family of one of his classmates does it. For us, it happens Wednesday evening, and it's not super family-friendly yet because we have to start a movie at 5:00 in order to make bedtimes happen at the right time, and Erik wasn't getting home until 6:00 or so. The kids have a hard time agreeing on something to watch. I am aggravated by how much time and effort it takes to choose something. When I choose on my own, Xander protests that's not how it works. So many of my choices are "baby movies." Who knew?

This past Wednesday, when Xander insisted once again that the movie has to be one that everyone wants to watch, I said, "Xander! The only movies we will be able to watch that everyone wants to watch are nature documentaries, every week!"

He said, "Yay!"

So problem solved. Hopefully.

Xander's Last Soccer Game of the Season

This time, I just took photos, thinking I had a better chance of getting some good ones if I took a bunch of photos rather than two or three videos. I can't show the photos here in the interest of the other kids' privacy.

Sandbox boy

This guy's having fun, but he needs his cap pushed back off his eyes!

Xander scored three goals this evening. They got participation trophies and lots of treats after the game. Xander was so excited about his trophy, and Nick had quite a lot of admiration for it. Once we got home, Xander told Nick that he won it because his team was the best and he was the best one on his team. I simply said, "Xander, you couldn't have done anything without a team."

Other non-optimal things happened as we attempted to join the team after the game for dinner. Instead of a quick pizza joint like I thought it was going to be, a reservation for 7:15 was made at a restaurant. Nick's bedtime is 6:45. It was about that time before we even started driving to the restaurant. At the restaurant complex, there was a playground, but some of the other children there really rubbed me the wrong way with their yelling, ignoring, plowing through people, blocking people, and selfishness. A feeling of dread crept over me.

Suffice it to say that we had to leave without eating with the team, which made Xander very upset and me sad for him. I finally got us out of there with one screaming and the other crying and yelling. In the car, both started screaming and in the end we were all in tears. We reconciled somehow, safely drove to the Wendy's drive-thru, and made it home in one piece to eat and wash hands, face, and teeth. Kids were in bed by 8:30. Nightmare.

But all in all, Xander has loved participating on the soccer team. It's been wonderful. The coach was great, laid-back and encouraging but a good teacher of the sport. I suppose next year we work more on Xander's surprisingly healthy ego.

Big Mistakes, Big Achievements


I know when I take time to think about it that my children are sweet, caring, conscientious, smart children who will grow into wonderful, mature adults. In the day to day scuffle, though, I sometimes think I am doing a bad job! Xander often has a wildly negative interaction with me and/or Nick as he transitions from school to home. Nick is still - sometimes - in the screaming phase. I guess he has gotten much, much better, but he will still let out a frustrated or disappointed scream when he feels those emotions. It's a short scream and he responds to my "quiet voice" by stopping right away, so I guess that's great. But his voice is so loud! Short screams are still bad when they come from Nick!

Anyway, today I got a taste of what a great duo they are all on their own. Xander came home telling me about the "DS" he was going to make for me and three others for various other friends. (I love how he takes these high-tech games and systems that he hears about from peers and makes them into low-tech drawings and paper figures.) I managed to redirect him to make mine for his soccer teammate whose birthday is today. We have the last soccer game this evening, followed by cupcakes and pizza. Yeah, wrong order, but not everyone is going to pizza and his mom is serving the cupcakes immediately after the game. Well, when you hear what my kids had for snack, you won't worry about what she's serving when!

Nick was still whining that he wanted ice cream cones. I had bought ice cream cones right in front of his little face at the grocery store this morning. They are part of my new chores reward system.

The chores on our chart right now are: Clear your place. Wipe your place. Pick up toys. Compliment your brother. Set table. Plan meal with Mom. Make grocery list. Help prepare meal.

Each chore done results in one star. Five stars = playground trip. Fifteen stars = ice cream cone. Thirty stars = small present.

So back to the car on the way home from school... I explained to Xander that Nick was wanting ice cream cones but couldn't have one until he earned it by cleaning up toys lots of times or doing several chores. Xander came up with a Plan to Get Them Both Ice Cream Cones As Soon As Possible. He and I and Nick struck a deal: If they went into the house and immediately cleaned up the whole living room, I would make them both an ice cream cone.

The reason this was a good deal was that the living room was strewn with their toys. In Very Bad Shape. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about it and thought the momentum created by the boys cleaning up the whole room would get us over the Dirty House Speed Bump.

These had been up for play for a couple of days:

They always seem to encourage a hugely messy living room. They are like the two broken windows on a car at the side of the road. An open invitation to trash and plunder.

Back to the Plan. Xander was cheerful about the large task and he even coached Nick into helping clean and corral toys where they should be. I was so impressed! They got the living room 90% done and I didn't nitpick after having Xander pick up the remainder of his clothing. Ice cream cones for both. Amazingly, Nick ate his properly without spilling, and he did it faster than Xander.

This is one of the very few instances of the boys getting along in the last few months, let alone cooperating. It made me feel so good. I gave Xander kudos for not only cleaning up quickly, but also for leadership.

Nick and I had an unrelated scare right before picking up Xander from school. I was trying to get Nick and my purse and other things out the door, as usual, and somehow left the keys on the inside with us on the outside. I am a very good door- and window-locker, so I thought we were probably out of luck. The cars were totally locked. Couldn't get into the garage to check the garage-house door because our garage door opener was locked inside a car. Our windows are burglar-proof, except for smashing them, I suppose. I didn't try it. I wanted to check our back door, and I thought I could scramble over our tall fence, but not with Nick. And I couldn't leave Nick out in the front yard, crying, while I tried it.

I decided to go next door to our neighbors that we don't speak with very often. I knew their baby would probably be sleeping, but I was panicking. We had only a few minutes before we had to pick up Xander and no way to get to him. I wasn't even sure if the school would allow a phone call from me as permission for a friend to pick him up instead.

Our neighbor graciously invited us in and said not to worry, her baby was a sound sleeper. Nick stayed with her while I scraped up my legs getting over our fence. Door was locked. Suffice it to say I found a weak point in our house's defense, which I will fix before tonight. Thank goodness I did! Our second set of keys is in another state! Our landlord does not live very close!

I went back over to get Nick and say thank you. He screamed as I grabbed him up to get him out of their house and into the car. He wanted to stay to play with the baby's toys. I'm afraid their little boy didn't sleep much longer after that screaming.

I am very glad this happened, actually, because it broke the ice. She mentioned she had almost asked me to watch her son for an hour the other day. I told her I would love to. I've been wanting to lend more of a hand around the neighborhood. Plus I can obviously use some help myself!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Reasons to Celebrate

  1. We were not able to Skype with Erik for a while there - problem solved and now we can, even easier than before!
  2. Nick is back to potty training today after our, ahem, digestive issue of the last week. This time we are doing 100%. No pull-ups, ever, except MAYBE when we go on our road trip. However, that is planned for a month from now so I hope we won't need to. Nick is napping right now in underwear, with permission to get out of bed if he needs to go potty.
  3. Xander is back in school after our, ahem, issue! That makes everyone a little bit relieved.
  4. I feel organized!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


After the soccer game today, we went to the library. The boys played with their sliding beads table for quite a long time; ditto for the puzzles. In the puzzle/puppet section, a man was putting on a great, and very quiet, puppet show for his children, so we got to watch that as well.

I borrowed the only Robin Hobb book I found/could snatch from the adult section in my limited time there. Unfortunately, after finding time to peruse it, I realized I have already read it.

I also got:
  • If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  • a National Geographic Kids "Funny Photos" issue
  • and Snowmen All Year by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
As I suspected, they were all pretty much big hits. Nick, Xander, and I all had a nice long reading session together before Nick's bedtime. The one that I was most impressed with tonight was the Dr. Seuss book. I hadn't read any Dr. Seuss to Xander in a long time, although he was reared on Dr. Seuss along with his mother's milk back when he was still taking it. (We are on our second copy of Hop on Pop and it has seen better days. Our Dr. Seuss's ABC has been much-requested - somehow that book made it all the way from my childhood. I think the scribbling in it is actually from me or one of my siblings.)

My point is that Xander really appreciates Dr. Seuss's humor now. I'm so glad I read it to both of them. He laughed about the "deer that's so nice he could sleep in your bed/If it weren't for those horns that he has on his head." Seriously, if those horns were real they could give you nightmares.

My favorite line was: "In the Far Western part/Of south-east North Dakota/Lives a very fine animal/Called the Iota." Try to visualize the geography. It takes several moments, no?

Now, Nick. Nick is a different story. He does not quite appreciate the humor of Dr. Seuss. He did like the book, but he did not see eye to eye with its author.

He would say, "What's that, Mom?" and I would say, "It's a Joat." He would say, "What's that, Mom?" a little more insistently this time. I would say, "It's a Joat." He would say, "Cow."

Fine. Cow.

He was on board with the bugs, I guess because some bugs in real life can look pretty outlandish. He also did a very sweet toddler rendition of "Mulligatawny."

Then there was the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill. Repeat above scenario for this beast but substitute, "Horse," for Nick's previous, "Cow."

Fine. Horse.

No, not fine. This beast looks like an old man who is really a camel with furry sea turtle legs and pom poms on its ears. I am not on board with, "Horse."

We got through the book and everyone was pleased with the time spent. Even Nick.

More Soccer - A Good Day

Another soccer game this weekend, and I think I got two decent videos. Xander scored about three or four goals. It was a bit confusing - plus I wasn't counting - because some of them were own goals by the other team. And, as usual, I had one eye on Nick who went from sand volleyball court to watching the game to kicking the little soccer ball to the playground and back again.

Today was a good day. More than one of us has been getting overtired with night wakings, early wakings, getting to bed too late, and the poor babes having a digestive issue that kept Xander home from school four days. Last night, all three of us slept through the night. Nick had a long nap, about two hours and forty minutes. I did a lot of maintenance cleaning that made a difference in my mood. Xander is responding well to my renewed disciplinary resolve (there is a tendency these days to know more than Mom and show it by tone of voice and disobedience). He also had a great soccer game. Both boys have had their nails clipped and Nick is squeaky clean from his bubble bath. Therefore, we are all feeling good.

Xander had me take these pictures and told me that Uncle Jeff set up all the green ones.

I believe Xander was in charge of these.
So, I accidentally made sort of a butterfly pattern with the chocolate syrup and You-Know-Who asked me to do you-know-what.

I embarked on the somewhat irrational project of setting up a cocktail tray. Irrational because I don't drink much of anything and Erik mostly drinks beer. Oh well, it was fun and it helped me find a place for another kitchen item I was having trouble organizing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I said to Xander, "I love you." He said, "I love you."

I said to Nick, "I love you, Nick. Hey, put books back before you take another one out! And I love you."

He followed me down the hall and said, "I wuv you, Mom."

My first full-sentence "love you" from Nick!

I said, "Thank you, Nick!" and he said, "Thank you, Mom."

Then Xander came to tell me that really he said "I swuv you." Also, Xander showed me what "swuving" is, which I did not know before now. (Apparently, it is putting a palm on someone's chest and a palm on their back and then pushing back and forth.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Now for Grandma and Grandpa Antics

Trucks from Grandpa Mike and Grandma Lesley

Cowboy hats from Gpa and Gma

Playing with Lego guys

Making music

Time to get out the doctor kit

Doctors' tools colliding in midair

Not pictured: watching tons of Youtube videos of kittens, bunnies, fish, and other sea creatures, eating noodles and pancakes, bringing out the toy box and strewing every dress-up toy on the ground, wearing dress-up wings and flying, chatting, getting into the dirt in the back yard, etc.

Now Grandpa Mike and Grandma Lesley have gone to the airport, too. There are some long faces around here.

Let me show you one of them.
This started out as cat's whiskers. Then it became something a little bit more, I think. At one point he was shooting different-colored rays out of those finger tips. Washable Markers. Yes.