Friday, July 27, 2012

Brotherly Love

I forgot to note that Xander and Nick have been playing together so much more lovingly. It is marvelous. We still hear cries and shouts at each other, but there are several tender moments and friendly play times throughout the day. I brought them to the playground today and it was nice to see how they played together. Previously, they played separately on playgrounds, but today they did almost everything as a pair.

Later in the afternoon, Xander asked Nick to sit down on the floor next to him to watch him play "Lord of the Rings" with some figures. Nick did! He sat very nicely for a long time to watch his brother. I had to smile when he had moved to the couch to look at his books and Xander kept calling out to him a play-by-play. Xander would ask, "Did you see that?" and Nick would answer, "Yes," in a motherly-chipper-I'm-doing-something-else-but-still-responding-to-you way. He's got me down pat. Then Xander would call out another lengthy detail about what he was doing and Nick would say, "O-o-oh," in that same tone of voice.

A week or so ago, I introduced a little "family fun unit" about super-siblings (that I found online). It included a story with cut-out figures, an activity, and an ongoing supplemental activity. First we heard a story about someone standing up for his sibling and decided when a character in the story was acting like a "big bully" and when someone was acting like a "super-sibling." Then we brainstormed ways to be a super sibling. Then we drew pictures of some of those ways. I put out a decorated jar and told them that every time I saw one of them being a super-sibling I would put an M&M in the jar. When it was full, we would get to have a family board game night and they would get to pick all the games we played.

The super-sibling jar has been filling up. Usually, there are between three and seven M&Ms put in per day. I will have to use larger candy soon so they can see more progress. M&Ms are so small. :)

So I have seen progress in their sibling relationship since that unit. I'm not sure how much the unit has to do with it, but it was well worth doing.

Tonight Nick reminded me that he had to say good-night to Xander. They gave each other very nice hugs and kisses.

Xander just told me a joke. He is on the cusp of telling jokes that are actually funny instead of just phrases he wanted to say.

"What did 0 say to 8?"
"Nice tie!"

One of his favorites right now, besides knock-knock jokes:

"What says 'a ha ha ha ha ha plonk'?"
"A man laughing his head off."


We have been so busy preparing for Erik to come home! We pick him up tomorrow night. Everyone will feel so happy and relieved to be together again, I think. There are certain projects underway in preparation for his homecoming that I won't detail yet in case he reads it before tomorrow night.

Xander has been on a kick of taking pictures of everything he likes. We should think about getting him one of those kids' digital cameras. I have been trusting him to use mine properly, which he has so far. Here are some of his latest (we might want to look up a kids' photography book or course, too - that could be fun):

 He and I set up a tent with his bright new Ikea comforter:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Good Morning

When both boys got out of bed this morning, at different times, they each said, "Good morning, Mom."

They always do. I love it. It reminds me to be more cheerful to start the day.

They sat down to a breakfast of cereal and fruit. Juice for Xander. He is appreciative of any time I give him something (like juice) before he asks for it, and he said thank you in a heartfelt way.

When Nick got up from his breakfast, he came over to me and said, "Hi, Mom!" as if we hadn't seen each other yet today. Then he said, "I nice to see you, Mom."

I told him it was very nice to see him, too. Then he repeated, "I nice to see you, Mom."

What a fabulous way to begin the day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Road Trip

Time to talk about the road trip! We took two days to drive there and two days to drive back because I thought that was the more reasonable and safe method for me to drive them there. We spent almost two weeks with my grandma and mom.

This was a trip just me and the boys. Erik is still working in another state but will be back soon.

One thing I learned while on the trip is that my boys are definitely not interested in dolls and still not that interested in Little People. I have bought things for them over the years and given them opportunities to play with these things, and they were never a big success. At Grandma's house, they were given their choice of new (to them; very familiar to me) toys to play with. They adored and adopted stuffed animals, they drew up a storm on the over-sized drawing pad, they loved the slip 'n slide, Nick obsessed over the little box of shells, and they really liked a ball-drop-and-spin toy toy my grandma bought for them at a garage sale. It is a baby toy, like this:

Neither of them touched the dolls or the piles of doll outfits. I have to say Grandma Lucy spent a lot of time dressing them up, but she did not have a very interested audience. :) The Little People and Little People bus were popular at first, but only for a day or two.

And they can't get enough of zoos and aquariums. And they will both ride little kid amusement park rides. And they are now perfect angels on outings. They could handle a longer day and more exciting outings than their grandma and great-grandma without problem. I brought the stroller to the zoo but didn't even have to push my purse in it when Nick got tired of it. He pushed it for me! I am about to retire as a parent, folks!

Just kidding. I will have to be forced into retirement for this gig.

One of the major highlights for me was visiting the book shop that my family used to visit after every Christmas to spend our Christmas gift certificates. It's a great children's book shop in downtown St. Paul. When you drive there, you get to see the old Victorian houses and even the governor's mansion. This was one of my favorite family traditions. It meant so much to me to go there and allow the boys to each pick out something (plus they got some major book treats from their great-grandma, and I got a major book treat from my mom!) and to see how they loved browsing and reading for a long time.

Another highlight was going to Fort Snelling National Cemetery to see my grandpa's grave in person. Grandma took me and we looked and prayed and talked and I cried a little. She showed me where the ceremony had taken place, where they did the 21-gun salute. I noticed that very few of the other headstones showed more than one war. Grandpa's had the Korean war and World War II.

Yet another highlight was seeing two close friends I've had since middle school.

Picture time!

At our first rest area

I had to convince them to run and jump around.

Like magic, we are in Minnesota at Great-Grandma's house!

One of my best friends's husband letting Nick have some wrestling time - I am leaving out all the pictures of playing with their kids in case she doesn't want her kids' pictures on the Internet. Their kids are 9, 7, and 5, and they were wonderful playmates for my guys. Nothing better than a close friendship that can be picked up at a moment's notice no matter how often you have talked in between.

At the Minnesota Zoo, which is a really fantastic and really expensive zoo - Thanks, Great-Grandma!

The animatronic dinosaur exhibit was at MN Zoo

It was hard getting them past the entrance, where a raptor was squirting water

Mall of America carousel

Me and another close friend from high school

Birthday dinner on the porch
Pancake breakfast on the porch

Nick's second celebration of his third birthday

Erik's coworker gave Xander a Lego Mindstorm set!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Erik came to see us in MN and they worked hours on Mindstorm


This thing is awesome; it can sense when an object is near and shoot little balls at it, among other things (that is, after Erik and Xander programmed it)

Oh yeah, we're back at the zoo with the dinosaurs

Nick still says, "Ee have a great day at da zoon with the dinosaurs!"

I didn't even have to push the stroller

When Erik came, we went to the Mall of America for the aquarium. We were all so delighted to have him there.

Manta rays and sting rays and sharks (?)

The really blurry part is Nick - he loved these jellyfish in tanks (we weren't supposed to use flash photography)

Bumper cars for the first time ever

So Xander has outgrown this type of thing...

We did so much more than this. What a great trip it was. Everything, including the drives, went smoothly.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eating Flamingoes

"I got a flamingo in your mouth."

This is what Nick said while eating our Neapolitan ice cream sundaes with chunks of mango, strawberry, pineapple, and mandarin oranges.

(I'm pretty sure flamingo equals mango.)

We were having such a treat because it was Xander's last day of swim lessons. What a relief. Upbeat, upbeat, upbeat is what I keep telling myself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Positive Dentist Experience

I should talk about our positive dental experiences since I have been focusing a lot on our negative YMCA swim lessons experience. (I think YMCA swim lessons will be fine for Nick, and the YMCA soccer league was awesome for Xander, but on top of the swim lessons not working for Xander, they are also doing construction right next to the pool. There are fumes of paint, sawdust, gasoline, and general yuckiness wafting over the pool. The big construction area, complete with construction vehicles, is on the way from the entrance to the temporary outdoor entrance to the pool. The fence is always wide open. If someone wasn't watching their toddler every step of the way, a kid could easily walk in, pick up some rusty nails, fall in the large hole, etc. Today they had only one working bathroom. I'm guessing plumbing was damaged in the construction process?)

Oh yeah, focusing on the positive... We have a new pediatric dentist as of six months ago because we moved here and needed a new one, obviously. It is a long but pretty drive to their office. It was really hard to find the first time, so we didn't start off on the right foot. We were late due to the confusion in directions and I had also forgotten my cell phone at home, so I couldn't call them to ask for help or warn them we were running late.

At the office, they were calm and friendly. They didn't have an uber-kids'-fantasy-waiting-room like our last pediatric dentist, but I didn't like that last one anyway. My children were fine with this waiting room. Xander went back on his own (their preference). He had negative experiences with our previous dentist, reminiscent of the swim lessons fiasco. He was okay going back on his own at the new place. I went in with Nick. The dentist asked me to have him sit on my lap facing me so he could lay back on the dentist's lap. He sang to Nick while he brushed his teeth, counted them, and put fluoride on them. It was a quick process and I liked the dentist's manner. He was positive and nice even with Nick crying loudly the whole time. The good part was that he could see every nook and cranny of those teeth because Nick's mouth was open so wide. Then we were done!

Xander had gone through his own check-up all by himself and was fine and happy. They said his teeth looked good. End our first appointment.

Waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy better than at the previous dentist. I do have to say that the expensive and traumatic procedure they recommended of putting fillings and sealants in Xander's baby teeth seems to have worked. If his teeth are good now but had several cavities a couple years ago, it's probably thanks to the dental work. He brushes his teeth twice a day and flosses them but he's six years old. Ya know. I try to take a turn doing his teeth every once in a while and I periodically retrain him, but he is still six. Oh, the other thing we've changed based on that previous dentist's advice is to NOT give gummy vitamins anymore. Oops. I was miffed when that dentist's office always offered the kids candy, though.

This new dentist's office says parents MUST brush their children's teeth for them twice a day until they turn eight years old. That seems overkill to me but I understand the principle.

So I'm only just now getting to our appointment of a few days ago. We got there easily. Xander went back on his own easily. Nick and I went back for the same routine. This time he did not make a peep, other than when I said he would have to lay back in the dentist's lap. He quietly said, "I don't wanna lay back," but he did it anyway. He was quiet and calm the whole time and responded to the dentist. (With grunts - don't you hate when they talk to you with your mouth stuck open?)

Both sets of teeth looked great. I asked if Nick really did have an extra tooth on the top like our previous dentist had said. The dentist said Nick did have an extra but he wouldn't recommend extracting it for another year because the experience might be traumatic. I heartily agree! He said the tooth would have to come out, though, to let the adult teeth come through when it was time.

Then we were done! Nick said he wanted to stay at the dentist.

My children have done a complete turnaround from the previous dental experiences. I am happy with our new dentist!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Potty Training Himself

I gave potty training a break when we went on our road trip, and for the past week I have been too busy getting things back to normal and unpacking to want to start it up again.

We went grocery shopping this morning and then to swim lessons. The YMCA swim program put Xander in a too-advanced class because of his age (ignoring his skill level). He suffered through a traumatic first lesson. After talking with Xander about his first day, I made sure they switched him to the next lowest class. He has slowly been getting more comfortable with the water again but NOT doing everything the other kids are doing...and today he could not participate because his toe started bleeding. Enough to bleed through three Band-Aids. So there was really nothing any of us could do. I had him sit and watch half the lesson so he could see the new things his classmates were doing and think about how he was going to challenge himself in his lesson the next day. Swim lessons are over in two days. He is the last person in his class who needed to miss a lesson.

I don't think I'm doing YMCA swim lessons for him ever again. I think he would have learned to swim by now if he had had individual lessons.

His traumatic first day included a time when he was under water except for his hands, which were waving in the air. Universal signal for I-can't-swim, right? I appeared to be the only one watching him. He was like that for at least five seconds. From my mom-perspective it was like a minute. I was ready to sprint to that side of the pool, jump in, and rescue him, because his instructor and four other lifeguards at that end of the pool didn't see anything. Then he made it to the side of the pool. I have been pretty furious about swim lessons since then but wanted to keep encouraging Xander so he didn't end up thinking that his mom had to rescue him from mean swimming lessons. I did move him to another class because the other one just wasn't safe for him. That instructor was not watching him and had eight kids in the class. His new instructor is gentle and wonderful and I believe that he is very safe with her. Plus there are only five kids in that class.

Luckily, Nick feels differently than Xander about getting under water. He loves to dunk his head and have water run down his face and really wants to go in the deep end so he can go down the water slides. Xander has yet to work up the courage to go down the slides again. We will be sure to work with Nick in the hope that he will always love to be in the water. (I have to be right next to him in the water. This is probably obvious to anyone with young children, or who have had young children at some point. We were in a river cove in Minnesota, playing with life jackets on, and Nick somehow plopped over on his face. He was wearing a life jacket the proper way. He just laid there, face down in the water, as I got him and picked him up. This sort of thing has happened at least two other times. It doesn't bother him, but I can see that he doesn't do anything and doesn't know how to get himself out of that situation.)

So we got home from the YMCA and ate. At some point while I cleaned up, Nick took off his diaper. I didn't really mind so I let him read his pre-nap books that way. Xander and I started silently reading together on the couch. Nick came up to me and said, "Mom? I want to put it in the potty let it come out."

I knew what that was all about, so I jumped up and held his hand to walk to the bathroom. I sat on the top of the big toilet for moral support and he crouched down over the small potty. Interestingly, he wanted to do this from the front the way he had been seeing his big brother do it. He ended up kind of sitting backwards on it. Anyway, he proceeded to go pee in the potty, empty the pot, put it back on, and wash his hands. I was so freaking excited.

Before nap, he decided on his own that he wanted to go again. Even bigger success!

I gave him the choice of wearing a diaper to nap or nothing because he has a little potty in his bedroom and I know he can make it through some nap times and most overnights without wetting the bed. He chose to wear nothing.

Nick has decided to do this thing!