Monday, September 11, 2017

First Day of Preschool

Christopher was nervous yesterday. He said he didn't want to go to preschool. "I changed my mind, Emily," he told me. (He calls me Emily almost all of the time these days.) Then I mentioned the gym at the school. He stopped crying. He looked at me and said, "Oh. A gym? I was hoping there would be a gym." And that was that. This morning he ate his special breakfast of zucchini bread and was ready when it was time to leave for school. He bounded in, excited and ready to play. 

I got a little teary eyed leaving my sweet boy at school. I knew he was going to have a great day, though. And this is just the start of a new era of free time for me. Josie and I went to the Y and Starbucks. Soon, I won't be watching Josie anymore and I'll have three mornings to myself. It will be glorious. The only downside: right now, Josie and Christopher are happily playing while I write this. I'll have to find something to entertain him in the afternoons after his cousin is in daycare.

In the meantime, I am so glad we found Christopher's great little preschool.  It is in the basement of the church, and the teachers are wonderful. I think it's going to be a great year.

Freddy Fox came along, too.

He didn't want to leave.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First Day of First Grade

Clare was so ready to go back to school this year. She was ready long before the bus came, and she was quite put out when I told her she had to wait awhile for the bus.  I was able to distract her with the homemade banana bread I'd baked the night before. It's our back to school tradition. I also left a note in her lunch wishing her luck.

She has a new teacher this year, and the class is a combination of first, second and third graders. I was a bit nervous about the large age difference at first, but like I've said before, she usually plays with older kids when we are with our friends. (Two of her best friends, Nora and James, are third graders.) We visited her classroom last week. It was very cozy and welcoming.  I am impressed with her teacher so far. He is communicates with parents a lot, which is something I appreciate. (He even sent us an email after the first day of school letting us know how her day went. How he finds the time to email all of the parents I don't know. He said that Clare was very eager to learn and a hard worker.)

Her bus was late returning home at the end of the day, and Christopher and Josie spent 25 minutes staring out the window waiting for it. When I asked Clare what took so long, she said the driver couldn't find our house and she had to give him directions. I am wondering how clear her directions were.

She got to play with old classmates at recess, and I am happy she gets to see her old friends.

So far, so good this school year. Christopher starts preschool next week!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: August

Another summer is coming to a close. This month has been a mixed bag, really. Lots of fun family activities, but things are falling apart here a bit. I think everyone is ready for school to start again. Clare is bored, and I am not doing a great job of finding things for her to do. We are home every afternoon for Josie's nap, and there have been lots of movies this last week. I seem to have lost all of my patience, too. I am not sure where it went. I hope I find it again soon. I have been a wreck about the news, too, which isn't helping anything. (And I still haven't kicked my habit of eating my feelings.)

So, what did we do this month? Lots. I took the kids to my parents' house for a long weekend the first weekend of August. We swam in the pool and went to the library, where I ran into a friend I haven't seen since high school. It was so fun to see her. We both agreed we would probably skip our 20 year reunion next year. As I say frequently, the kids love their time at the Cuckoo House.

We finished gymnastics this month. Christopher said he is done with it, although he ended up liking it once he got over his nerves. Clare has graduated to the next level, and will continue this fall. Clare also started piano this month. During her first lesson, she barely opened her lips. When we left, though, she was bubbling with excitement. She loves it. Her piano teacher, Mr. Wilson, is very sweet, too. Unsurprisingly, Clare is quite good at piano. There are rules, after all. And her good memory helps, too.

Clare also had a camp this month at Gibbs Farm near the St. Paul campus of the U. (It's a historical site.) One day they learned what it was like to be Dakota girls, the next was Pioneer girls, and the last day was Victorian girls. She had a great time, but the Victorian girl day seemed to be all about how Victorian girls liked to look pretty. I wasn't thrilled with that, and gave Clare a long speech about all of the other things they did. She was in camp with a girl who will be in her class next year, as well as her good friend Nora. (Both third graders. An aside: Clare always hangs out with the older kids. She gets along better with the third graders than her fellow first graders. I guess it's good that she's in a combined classroom next year.)

We took our annual family camping trip this month. We camped at Gooseberry Falls for the first time. It was great. The weather was perfect, even a little cold. Although the Falls themselves were packed, the campground was quiet. (In fact, I am going to put our site number here so I remember it for next time. 32. Will I remember to look here? Doubtful.) We brought bikes and rode from Gooseberry to Split Rock. It was only 8 miles, but I was hurting. I had Clare on the tag along, which didn't make it any easier. The ride was beautiful though, and the kids liked the lighthouse. There was a meteor shower that night, which was pretty neat to see.

My parents came to visit this month, too. We went to Square Lake in Stillwater, which is really beautiful. The beach is clean and the water is clear. We all enjoyed our time in the water. I also enjoyed having my mom here for a few days during the week. It is always nice to have another adult around. She even babysat so I could go shopping by myself one afternoon.

Last weekend was the Fair. Clare loved it, as usual. Christopher was on an emotional roller coaster, loving it one minute and hating it the next. I kind of felt the same way. We did Little Farm Hands, the Big Slide (which I had to ride with Christopher. It was kind of scary.), and rides on the Kidway.  We ate mini donuts, cheese curds (some of us - they ate them all while I was waiting for jalapeno poppers. Rude.), french fries, ice cream, cotton candy, cookies, beer, and pronto pups. Somehow we still had the energy and room to meet friends for beer at Lake Monster after the Fair.

We are finishing summer by hosting a cookout for friends on Saturday. Ben and Clare are off to the Fair again on Sunday, and we are having lunch with Ben's parents' on Monday.

Then it's back to school for one first grader. And Christopher starts preschool the following week! It will be good to start our new routine.

I couldn't resist posting this photo of the bearded lady.
We also went to Como Town one day this month when I didn't have Josie.

Ice cream at Como Town.
I found them like this one night.

At Split Rock Lighthouse.
Throwing rocks into Lake Superior was his favorite thing to do.

At Gooseberry Falls.

The little gymnast.

He enjoyed the applause.

Clare was a bit shyer about it.

We also watched the Eclipse in our backyard.

I took the kids to the Sculpture Gardens, which was kind of a bust. Clare made a sculpture of the cherry and spoon in an art class she took this month, so I thought she'd like to see the real thing. They were all mostly bored.

Little Farm Hands at the Fair.

Christopher flying high, with Baba Steve's arm in the foreground.

The bumper boats.

Clare on the swing ride.

Annual beer selfie.

On the Big Wheel. The views were cool, otherwise it was not that exciting.


Splash pad at the big zoo during the last week of summer.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: July

Well, that was a whirlwind month. I kept thinking I should do an update, and then I didn't. Good story, right, Aunt Katie?

We started the month with our annual trip to my parents' house for the 4th of July. Robby, Andri and Bambos were there, and so were Katie, Andrew and Josie. It was great to have everyone together. We did our usual routine of race, parade, cookout (with flag cake), and fireworks. I ran the mile with Clare, and she beat me handily. She was barely winded, cheerfully telling my dad that "Mommy is way back there," when she ran by him. Ben ran the 10K, and came in second overall, first in his age group. The kids loved the parade, and came home with way more candy then any person needs. Ben and I went to the fireworks by ourselves, which was really fun. Evansville puts on a great show for a small town, and of course there was the beer tent. It's Wisconsin after all.

We spent the rest of the week at the pool, visiting my grandmothers in Oostburg and La Crosse, going to the zoo and just hanging out. My Aunt Karen came over for dinner one night. I also had dinner with my friend Christina, who I hadn't seen in months. Catching up with old friends over a nice glass of wine is just the best.

My brother and his family came back to the Twin Cities with us after the fourth. We had an early first birthday party for Bambos and an adults-only night out to Betty Danger's Country Club. The kids had a great time with their British cousin, especially Christopher. He was constantly trying to entertain Bambos.

The kids had swimming lessons this month as well. Christopher struggled, even though his class was in the kiddie pool and they just splashed and sang songs. The first week he wouldn't stay with his group, running back to check in with me. By the second week he was staying with his class, but refused to do most of the activities. He likes playing in the pool fine when he is on his own, so I am not quite sure what it was. Maybe the teachers' poor singing offended his musical sensibilities. Who knows. Needless to say he will be repeating that level next year. But Clare. Clare! The girl who just a few years ago was so scared of the big pool that she would cry before lessons. This girl went off the diving board! Multiple times! She can actually swim a bit now, goes underwater with abandon, and actually swims on her own underwater. She loved every minute of it. We went to a school friend's birthday party this past weekend at the pool, and she nearly cried when it was time to leave.

In mid-July we spent a long weekend at Itasca State Park with my in-laws. We stayed for two nights in the Itasca "suites" and one night in our tent. The suites are really nice - they look like a cabin on the outside but are more like a hotel on the inside. And it was good we were there on Friday, because after spending the morning at the Headwaters, Christopher spiked a fever and slept all afternoon. Then a severe storm rolled through, and we ended up losing power. I was grateful to have more shelter than a tent that night. Despite the illness and the storms, it was a nice trip. I went on two long walks by myself, which felt like a luxury. Ben's aunt and uncle were there one night, and it was fun to spend some time with them. On Saturday, we drove to Bemidji to visit "the giant Bunyan" (Christopher's name for Paul), play at the playground and have a beer at the brewery. The night we camped was beautiful. We made s'mores and watched the sun set over Lake Itasca. It is so refreshing to be in the north woods. We are going on one more camping trip in a few weeks.

Christopher has been having some separation anxiety. My friend Sarah picked up the kids to take them to the park while I recovered from a medical procedure, and she had to carry him away screaming. I felt bad, but I got a text a few minutes later saying he was totally fine. So out of sight, out of mind, but I thought he was too old for this. Maybe he is just finally being three.

Let's see, what else. We finally visited the newly reopened Children's Museum. I wasn't blown away. The kids missed some of their favorites from the old museum (especially the dreaded ant hill), and it seemed like there wasn't all that much there. The huge three-floor climbing thing was cool, but Christopher refused to do it. We'll see how it is when school starts and there is hardly anyone there. It was a madhouse last week.

Clare went to a performance at Circus Juventas with her grandparents. (A local youth circus, lots of acrobats, etc.) She loved it. I might send her to one of their camps next year. Christopher got to go to Menards with Ben and me. He wasn't thrilled, but he did get an ice cream cone at Izzy's and a trip to Choo Choo Bob's as a reward for behaving at Menards. (Which he mostly did. I only lost him once.)

Ben and I went to see the Minnesota United play at TCF Bank stadium. It was really fun! The stadium is nice, and we had great seats. And they actually won!

Oh! Christopher finally decided to start wearing summer clothes. Apparently July is the month summer officially starts for him.

There are five weeks until school starts. That seems like way too much time and not nearly enough.

Ready for the parade!

Small town Wisconsin means lots of tractors.

Pony Rides on the 4th.

He started yelling "Giddy Up!" The pony was not impressed.

There was also a water bounce house. They went down the slide about 1,543 times.

Flag cake.

Cousins at the Cuckoo House.

See if you can spot Christopher. He is wearing a blue hat.

They are best friends.

Yes, he ate this entire waffle cone.

Cousins at the Terrace.

Two kids in the pool + one beer + my favorite book = a perfect day.

Two boys and a train.

Ben took Clare and Christopher to Highland Fest while I got my nails done. It was a good arrangement.


At Itasca.

The start of the Mississippi. We were here last year, too.

The giant Bunyan.

Someone is excited about the fire.

A beautiful sunset on Lake Itasca.

MLS at the Bank.

Clare learning Viking Martial Arts. Perhaps this skill will help in her Ninja Warrior training?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bits and Pieces: June

Summer is in full swing. We've already gone to the Minnesota Zoo, spent a day at the beach at Lake Nakomis, checked out books from two different libraries (the Roseville Library is my new favorite: they have a Dunn Bros!), hit the indoor playground in New Brighton, visited the fish at the aquarium, and had friends here to play American doll gymnastics injury. There have also been trips to the park, mornings at the Y, and a late night drinking wine on a friend's patio for me.

Christopher has refused to transition to summer clothes, but since the weather has been relatively cool it has not been a problem for him. I was annoyed at first, but I decided to embrace it. He is getting plenty of sun protection, and it saves me time each morning. (Putting sunscreen on three kids and myself every day is one of my least favorite things about summer.)

I was a delegate at the St. Paul DFL City Convention in mid June. It was a long day, but very interesting. We arrived at 8 a.m. and left at 7:30 p.m. I was disappointed that we didn't endorse a candidate, and after seeing the whole process I can understand why a lot of people don't want to participate. It was frustrating in many ways. I was not bored, though. I am going to do some campaigning for my candidate and hope for a win in November.

We spent Father's Day with my in-laws at their new condo, which is just across the river from us. It is a nice place. I also made Ben a Bloody Mary and a raspberry rhubarb crostada. We gave him a Minnesota United hat and T-shirt. He is enjoying having an MLS team in town. He has been to a few games, and I am going to one with him at the end of July. His birthday is on Sunday, and it is always a challenge for me because it is so close to Father's Day. He is hard to buy for, because he never wants anything.

We had our annual friends camping trip last weekend. (40 x 40 goal - 2017 in the books!) We went back to Whitewater State Park, which is near Rochester. The weather was cool, but there were no bugs. The kids went to the beach despite the lower temperatures. The adults drank a lot of beer and Bullfrogs (Limeade and vodka). One fairly severe storm blew through. Clare was terrified and ran to the car. (I saw a bolt of lightening behind her, followed by an enormous clap of thunder. She was screaming.) Christopher slept through the entire thing in the tent. I was caught in the in the middle, because Ben was off doing dishes. I couldn't decide if I should bring Christopher into the car or Clare into the tent. Luckily, Ben came back right when it started hailing. I went to the car with Clare. A few minutes later, Ben appeared, holding my beer. Afterwards, when Clare told the other adults that her daddy brought her mommy her beer, everyone agreed it was true love. The kids also thought it was funny how all the grownups were running around in a panic, trying to secure everything before the storm got really bad. Despite all that, it was a great weekend. We are already looking forward to our fall trip.

Clare has been playing soccer on Tuesday nights, which she enjoys. Ben is her coach, which definitely increases her enjoyment. Both kids started gymnastics on Monday nights. Christopher is reluctant to go to his class. This past week, I saw him wiping tears from his eyes as he waited in line. Clare saw him in class though, and said he was having fun. I think he just turns on the tears for me. It is a bit heartbreaking, though. It is good practice for him, because he will be starting preschool in the fall.

Clare is practicing her reading a lot by reading to the other two kids. It frequently ends in a fight, but it is sweet until then. She is quite a good reader. She received a letter in the mail from her first grade teacher, which thrilled her to no end. She keeps reading it over and over.

She has also figured out how to do the jumping spider (an American Ninja Warrior obstacle) in our door frame. So she continues to work toward her goal of competing on that show. Jessie Graff is her idol. I am happy though, because she is awesome and a much better role model than, say, Barbie.

Christopher plays his guitar all day long and has quite a few new dance moves. He knows he is entertaining, so if he gets a laugh he does it over and over. And over.

We are getting ready for our annual small town 4th of July. I am very happy because my brother, sister-in-law and nephew will be joining us from London.

Happy 4th!

Swimming at Lake Nakomis.

Goofball at Hiawatha wading pool.

They tried to go to the Children's Museum while I was at the convention, but couldn't get in. Luckily there was a fun street party happening.

At the Zoo.

They watched the seals for a long time.

On Chimney Rock at Whitewater State Park.

Clare loves hiking.

This looks sweet, but Christopher was whining and crying.

Our friend Jason took this picture.  I love it!

Camping buddies.