February 28, 2009

What a difference a week makes

We awoke Saturday morning to four inches of snow and more falling in fat flakes from a gray sky. The kids were thrilled but all Mark and I could think about was how one short week ago we were enjoying an outdoor birthday party for our niece, wearing flip-flops and enjoying the sun. We are so not winter people.


We headed to sunny California on Thursday morning to visit the Hendersons. We hadn't flown as a family for a year and it was a whole new experience. We went sans-stroller, sans-sippy cups and I packed only the kids' clothes and essentials. Then I gave them backpacks and told them to fill them with whatever they wanted on the plane but not to make them too heavy because they were going to be responsible for them. They chose surprisingly little and were perfectly content. They also wore them through four airport visits and generally traveled like seasoned pros. We were truly really proud of them.

We went straight to Butch and RoRo's and arrived at the same time as the Tucker clan. The kids all piled out of cars, took off running and never looked back. It was amazing. They began playing like they'd seen each other last week and, save a few moments here and there, played without fighting or fussing the rest of the week. It was this afternoon when my sister-in-law, Maria, noted that Thomas and Claire sized each other up, seemed to reach an unspoken agreement and then played together the rest of the stay with virtually no conversation. Funny.

This day began with a stroke of brilliance wherein Maria and I left bright and early for pedicures while Mark and RoRo took the kids to the park. After stuffing ourselves with yummy Mexican food for lunch and napping little ones we enjoyed smoothies at the newest joint in Claremont and the kids played at the Tuckers' until they were very exhausted. Then we ate some more food that someone prepared. I could get used to a delicious meal just appearing in front of me every evening. :-) We watched a movie after dinner and bathed kids who were so tired that they fell asleep on the way to bed. I love that.

It's birthday day! Saturday was Claire's 3rd birthday and we celebrated at the Tuckers' with pizza, salad, cake and ice cream in the late-morning. All of Claire's cousins were there and the birthday girl was gifted with all things pink and purple. When you have balloons and a custom Tinkerbell cake, life is good. We have never enjoyed a birthday celebration with a cousin so it was really special for us to get to be there.

As the party wound down, Eric, Mark and I headed with the boys to an indoor rock climbing facility. Naptime hadn't gone so well for Thomas the day before - think 60 minutes of him jumping on his mattress on the floor, singing, dancing and repeatedly hollering that "me not tired" - so I thought we would save him the trouble of just being naughty for an hour and we would take him on the adventure. Predictably, he fell fast asleep on the four-block drive. That saw us sitting in the car for the next 75 minutes while the big boys and dads climbed in the coolest place ever. They received a lesson, were harnessed like the pros and did a great job. Thomas and I went inside just in time to see Uncle Eric reach the top of the high wall and to see Zac and Andrew each reach the top of their walls on their last climbs. They were chalky from head-to-toe and had a great time. It was male bonding at its best.

I helped Maria cook dinner this evening - my only domestic foray of the week - and the kids played, played and played some more. They invented a game whose rules we were not privvy to, but basically it involved them hiding in the bedrooms then all running like screaming banshees into the kitchen, dining room and family room in search of adults. As soon as an adult made eye-contact they would turn and run away, screaming all the while. They did things like this with no adult-intervention for hours on end. It was truly impressive that they could play so well and with so much joy for such extended periods of time. It gave the grown-ups actual time to actually sit and have actual conversation. Huge.

The weather was perfect during our entire visit. This was no exception and while rain had been forecasted for Sunday as if it would be a bonafide winter storm, it never materialized. Instead we spent a beautiful day in Long Beach at the Aquarium of the Pacific. This place is great and has many hands-on exhibits where you can touch manta rays, sharks, starfish, sea anemones, etc. We know this because the boys touched every last one of them available to touch. They had a blast and learned a lot, partly because of the Aquarium's good staff and signage and also because Uncle Eric is a wealth of knowledge too.

They began their day wearing long-sleeve shirts and jeans and as the morning progressed their cuffs were wet, then the bottom of the sleeves were wet, then when they pushed the sleeves all the way up to their shoulders, their shoulders were wet. Eventually there was so much Purell and ocean water on them that RoRo took pity on them and purchased them official Aquarium of the Pacific shirts so they could eat lunch and ride home in something dry. They were a hit and our boys have each worn them twice to school already. They did look cute in their matching shirts, didn't they?

We enjoyed lunch in Long Beach where we could watch the yachts leaving for their Sunday afternoon sails and then headed back home. The kids spent the evening playing and snacking their way through the house while most of the adults watched the Oscars and Uncles Mark and Eric went on the world's longest ice-cream run. Don't ask.

This morning Butch took the kids on rides in the Model A. The boys love riding in the backseat where they seem to think they're really living on the edge.
This was also the day reserved for train riding and lunch at nearby Victoria Gardens. This activity is part of most of our visits and the kids love it. Sadly, in SoCal, a little drizzle apparently cancels outdoor train riding. No matter though. The kids decided since they were already a little wet from being outside that they would get up close and personal with the fountain. The big boys played in the water forever and were so wet that even after Uncle Eric took them to the restroom and wrung out their clothes, they both rode home in their underwear. That hilarity eclipsed the disappointment of no train.

By the time we got home it was sunny and warm so more outside playing. RoRo and I also headed to an art installation at the Claremont Colleges that evening at sunset that I would never be able to do justice with my words. It was a very cool outdoor exhibit with lights that change color as the sun sets and I can safely say I had never known the sky was made of so many hues during that 20-minute span between light and dark.

After another evening of playing and movie watching and communal bathing of kids, it was time to face facts that our visit was drawing to a close. The kids all hugged and waved goodbye and didn't have a clue that after five days of nearly constant togetherness, they were going to miss one another. We learned that lesson the next night when Andrew cried himself to sleep telling us he missed California and really, really missed Zac.

We journeyed to the airport bright and early and traveled all day, and were once again so pleased with how well the boys did. We had one brief potty emergency somewhere over eastern-Arizona but we made it, and with a tailwind that got us home early. Later that night we made the solemn promise to ourselves and to Andrew that we won't wait so long to go again because cousins need to know each other and, well, it was fun.

Several loads of laundry later we're settled back into routine and we've become reacclimated. The kids are hoping for more snow tomorrow because they heard someone say tonight that it was good sledding snow and Mark and I are hoping to pack away the boots for the season.

February 26, 2009

I second that emotion

The theme of the week in Pre 2 is "feelings." Never one to hide his, Andrew brought this artwork home tonight, illustrating his emotions. (Please excuse the spelling error on the bottom right - executed by one of this state's finest college students, no doubt!)

He said the angry guy is so angry that his face is cracking and that the "frusterated" guy has a loud word coming out of his mouth. I didn't ask what word that might be because, well, I don't want to know!

February 15, 2009

The best ever

We had a busy friend and family-filled weekend. We started with dinner at friends' house on Friday night where the boys were introduced to the notion that three girly-looking girls can be rough and tumble kids who like to push each other down the stairs in laundry baskets and generally engage in play that makes my kids feel right at home.

On Saturday the boys enjoyed Valentine's treats, lunch at the neighbors', taking flowers to great-grandma and lots of candy. Today they went with me to another friend's house where Andrew got to play with his buddy, Jackson, who has moved along to kindergarten and is always a sure thing for a good time.

With all that fun, Andrew informed me tonight at bedtime that it had been "his best weekend ever." That's a pretty big statement from Mr. Difficult-to-Impress. I asked him why and he said that he like seeing Jackson and that most of all he liked sleeping in his sleeping bag at Grandma and PaRon's last night and reading his new Texas State Travel Guide.

He's still a little bothered that we retrieved him this morning before he got to paint with PaRon and we read the Texas Visitor Guide like it was a novel tonight. It's been put UNDER his bookcase for safekeeping because he doesn't want Thomas to mess with it.

Being 5 1/2 is a good gig if you can get it. I'll happily settle for mom of 5 1/2.

February 12, 2009

Get in line, girls

Thomas has been battling a cough and the cough has won. After two trips to the doctor in a span of 48-hours he started prednisone last night and we're maxing out his breathing treatments. This is full-on warfare. When any child of mine is moaning, choking, gurgling and coughing continually in his sleep for hours on end and is so oxygen-deprived that he's delusionally telling us about the tunnels in his room at midnight, it becomes a no-holds-barred type of engagement.

He technically could have gone to school today but we thought he could use a day of rest and that the other kids probably didn't need to listen to him. The kid literally hasn't slept in three days so we hoped that he might expend less energy away from the mania of Preschool 1. Grandma and PaRon were willing to watch him so I could attend a way too long meeting today. He definitely had a great day there and was pleased to have drawn that assignment.

When I arrived to escort him home I learned that he had been forced into child labor. Only in this particular case it was his idea and he was delighted to have been drafted. Grandma has a couple of small utility ladders that he loves to use while he "helps" her with housework. Apparently after the dusting today he offered to do a little tub scrubbing. You'll see that it too involved the ladders and oh boy, did he have fun.

As you can see, he scrubs, he rinses, he wrings and he's darn cute. He is currently exhibiting some prednisone steriod rage and he's coughing up his left lung as I write, but this young man is a catch, ladies. Start your bidding.

February 10, 2009

Joint custody

Early this morning Mark called me over to the computer to show me, quite proudly, that he had changed the template for this humble little blog. He had found a design that was several lovely shades of blue and had a very simple, clean layout. He loved it. I hated it. It was early and I might have freaked out about hating it. I feel ownership over this place because I'm the one who populates it with random, rambling stories and he feels ownership because, well, he started it and it does carry his name.

He, understandably, recoiled and was offended that I was harsh in my critique because he had been trying to help. I have told him several times in recent months that I want some cool design for this site that looks fun and sophisticated and is aesthetically appealing in all ways. I tried to create a banner but when I uploaded it to Blogger it was distorted and I got frustrated and just began whining that I wanted him to fix it. So, he thought he had.

When he very kindly agreed to revert back to the original template I had been using, he didn't know that I had customized the colors so it didn't look quite the same and he said he thought the black/white look was boring. So...pink and purple it is...for now...in honor of Valentine's Day...until we work out the kinks in the joint custody arrangement. In the meantime, if anyone out there has any mad skills with Photoshop and HTML code that you're interested in lending my direction, do be in touch!

February 7, 2009

Is H&R Block hiring?

Andrew apparently reported to one of his favorite sitters tonight that he had a secret and she needed to come close to hear it. She leaned down and he said, in his most serious outdoor whisper, "Sally, if I do your taxes for you, I get to keep your money!"

We can only assume that he overheard someone talking about completing their taxes, which means he's been hanging around somewhere else. Since it's not yet April 10, no one around here has even discussed such nonsense.

February 1, 2009

Playing catch-up. It's a long one. Hang with me.

I'm constantly playing catch-up. I'm certain I'm not at all alone in that feeling. You know the drill. It's a bit like the plate spinning circus act where one thing gets attention until something else is about to fall. It's not pretty.

Obviously this blog has not been on the list for the last few weeks.

I intended to recap my visit to my sister's last week. I envisioned that I would make time while I was there, yet I didn't ever get to it. She did a great job right here so I think I'm moving along. The only things I would add are that:
  • my sister is 34-weeks pregnant and can still walk, shop, haul groceries and move tables with the best of us. She should probably take it easier, actually.
  • I would also add that I loved getting to spend enough time with my nephew that I now feel as though I really know him. There is something about being in a kid's home environment that really helps complete the picture. He's a delightful little person and I would never tire of hearing him tell me he loves me. (He did tell me that. Kind of a lot. :-) It really hurt my feelings.)

My boys all did great while I was gone with heavy assistance from the grandpa taxi to and from school and swimming. Mark kept up with the laundry and everyone was happy and healthy when I returned. Thomas did seem to discover "why?" while I was away. I feel as though I've answered that question a lot in the last three days. He's also just more conversational everyday. Mark and I could hardly watch the cliffhanger ending of tonight's Super Bowl because Thomas' running commentary about the game was hilarious. He was convinced that Oklahoma was playing because the Cards were wearing red. We gave up telling him otherwise and just went with it. He desperately wants to be one of the guys.

Another outcome from my trip was the certain realization that our mattress is shot. I had been suspicious for months but after four days on a new, softer mattress my suspicions were confirmed. When I mentioned this to Mark he readily agreed. We've been sleeping on a handed-down one that is at least 12-years-old, possibly older, and it's done. Our first signs should have been that we've both replaced our pillows in recent months, thinking that was the problem. We corrected the real problem today with a new mattress purchase. I walked through the furniture store seeing approximately 14 other ways I would prefer to spend that money but I think this is the grown-up way to go. Perhaps my childhood dresser will look better if my back doesn't hurt while I'm looking?

We also had the pleasure today of giving Mark's friend, Kevin, a ride to the Lawrence airport where his plane was tethered, waiting for him to fly it home to Austin. The boys both sat in the plane and then we watched him takeoff. He built it himself and it's a tiny, sportscar looking thing. To me, terrifyingly tiny, but the boys thought it was very cool.

After a busy day of mattress shopping and airplane watching, we decided to host an intimate Super Bowl party for the four of us tonight. Thomas and I made football Rice Krispie treats and we had hot dogs and cheese dip for dinner. I subscribed to Cooking Light yesterday so I somehow felt justified.

Thomas is my kitchen helper. When he sees action, he scoots his chair across the room faster than you can imagine. Tonight he insisted upon putting on his cowboy boots before working.

Andrew wanted in on the icing part of the process because he wanted to eat them.

Thomas took the work of putting the laces on the balls very seriously. He called me over to tell me that "this one" had too much. I'll let you be the judge of exactly which one that might have been.