Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: October

October is always a busy month, and this year has been no exception. I always mean to write more updates throughout the month, but guess what? I never do.

We started the month with Christopher's 4th birthday celebration. (Is there such a thing as the terrible fours? Because Christopher has been very cranky lately.) Anyway, we went out to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe on his birthday. (His choice. His local grandparents joined us.) On the following Saturday, we had a small party with all four of his grandparents, a great aunt and uncle, Josie, Aunt Katie, Uncle Andrew, Aunt Meg, and his godparents and their two kiddos. We ate pizza and he was spoiled with many lovely presents. He was definitely into the presents this year in a way he hasn't been in the past.

We also went to an apple orchard that weekend. It was a warm day, and the kids had a great time in the corn maze and on the pony rides. My parents came with us and paid for the tickets, which was great because otherwise it would have cost a small fortune to do all of the activities at the orchard. The fall colors have really been beautiful this year, too.

The following weekend the kids and I went to stay at my friend Chelsea's cabin on Lake Vermillion. Her cabin is beautiful. It is really a house, not a cabin. My friend Cindi and her husband were there, too. We had a great time kayaking (I only fell partially into the lake)  and hiking near a waterfall. And drinking lots of wine. (Me, not the kids.) I can't wait to go back next summer.

October also means my birthday, so I thought I'd check in on my 40 x 40 goals. Yeah, I haven't made a lot of progress this year. Maybe I'll do better next year. My actual birthday celebration was great, though. I got kidnapped by my friends and taken out for dinner and drinks (along with my friend Kerry, whose birthday is just four days after mine). Ben had me convinced I was going out to eat with him, so I was pretty surprised when my friends showed up at my door. It was a great night. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends.

We took our annual fall camping trip to Cascade River over MEA weekend. It was fun, despite a little rain. We go with a group of close friends, and I hope we can keep the tradition going. The kids had a blast running around the woods. I always enjoy sitting by a campfire. Something about being in the woods and spending some time staring at Lake Superior was very therapeutic. Too bad it didn't last long.

We had a bonfire night at Clare's school last week, as well as her annual fun run. I volunteered this year, and it was great to meet some other parents at the school. I hope to get more involved once I am no longer watching Josie and I have a few free mornings while Christopher is at preschool. Clare has a new best friend at school, Natalie, and it was so fun to see them running around together.

Christopher continues to entertain us with his many jokes, funny comments (which he makes even in his sleep), and dance moves. When we were camping, I shined a flashlight on his face to check on him after he'd gone to sleep. Christopher: "Stand aside!" The other night at dinner, we were discussing why Clare might not be allowed to have a pajama day at school. (She thinks it is the greatest of injustices that she is not allowed to wear a Halloween costume to school or have a pajama day, both of which Christopher gets to do this week. I told her she could ask her teacher about the pajama day, and she wanted us each to say one reason why he might say no.)

Me: It might be against school policy.
Christopher: That's what I was going to say!

School continues to go well for both kids. I am so happy with Clare's teacher this year, and she is doing great. She is in the most advanced reading group, and her teacher said it is the first time he's had a first grader in that group. (She is in a combined first-third grade class.) We just finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." She is reading the first Harry Potter right now, which I am so excited about. I plan to giver her "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Charlotte's Web" for Christmas. She does well with math and science as well, but needs to be pushed a little more in those subjects. She doesn't like math problems that are challenging. She and I have been getting along well lately, too. We do much better when we don't have to spend all day together. Christopher is also enjoying preschool. He is still getting used to having to go three days a week. It is a big adjustment for him, since he's never gone to daycare.

And now it is somehow the end of October and Halloween. The kids are very excited about trick or treating tonight. We are planning to go down our block, and then meet friends at one of the block parties nearby. They close the street and the houses go crazy with the decorating. The kids got to wear their costumes on Saturday at the Highland business trick or treat event, and then again on Sunday at my friend Heather's annual Halloween party. (Although Christopher refused to wear his Batman costume because he declared it to be "too sweaty.") I am going to leave a bowl on of candy on the porch with a note that says, "Take one. Do you know what karma is?" We'll see how that goes.

Many pictures ahoy, some with very poor lighting!

School picture time! What a cute chipmunk she is.

Three generations hamming it up at Rainforest Cafe.

Christopher's Batman birthday cake, baked by Ben, decorated by me. (Can you tell I spent a lot of time on it?)

Me and the birthday boy.

Opening presents.

At the Orchard.

Cow ride!

Corn maze fun. Our group got separated at one point and Christopher climbed to the top of one of the viewing spots and screamed "Clare! Clare!" at the top of his lungs. "No answer," he said, disappointed.

Very accurate measurements.


Clare kayaking. She did all the paddling herself. Photo and French braid by Cindi.

We hiked by the waterfall while Christopher slept in the car. (With Chelsea for company in case he woke up.)

Rest stop in Duluth on the way to our camp site.

Hiking at Cascade River.

Our camping crew.

I took the kids to see the "My Little Pony" movie on a recent day off school. It was our first time all seeing a movie in the theater together. (40 x 40 goal!) And it was fun, despite a bathroom incident and most of that popcorn spilling on the floor.

Clare is the only one who posed for this photo. Christopher refused. I don't know what Ben's doing.

Batman and Supergirl.

Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Superman and Supergirl.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


He refused to sit next to the moose. In fact, it took me three days just to get him do this.

Christopher went out front to wait for Clare's bus. I heard him calling "hi, hi!" to everyone who walked by. Then silence. I go outside to find he has stopped a woman walking her dog. He was petting the dog and telling the dog's owner that he has his own dog. He says his dog has the same name as the dog on the sidewalk. I explain it is stuffed. He runs inside to find the dog to show the person on the sidewalk. He has never seen this person before, but has no trouble carrying on a five minute conversation about whatever comes to mind.  We were at the park last week and he did the same thing - this time cornering a mom who was playing with her daughter to tell her all about his upcoming birthday. He is so different from Clare in this way. I needed him four years go when both Clare and I were too timid to make friends at the park.

We discovered on Labor Day that Christopher is allergic to cashews. One trip to the ER at Children's and a prescription for an epipen later, Christopher joins the ranks of the allergic in this house. I took him to the allergist earlier this week, so we'll know in a few days what other allergies might be lurking. When we were at the doctor, he charmed everyone as usual, including an old woman in the elevator who loudly cried, "He's cute!" when we got on.

He is currently into superheroes, especially Batman and Spiderman. He is dressing up as Batman for Halloween (Clare is going as Super Girl). He still loves trains and dinosaurs. His favorite book is "Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever," which was also my favorite book when I was his age. (Yes, payback, Mom.) He also likes many other books and happily sits and snuggles to read. He also likes to listen when Clare and I read chapter books together (currently the selection is "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.") His favorite TV shows are "My Little Pony" and "Octonauts." His favorite movies are "Mary Poppins" and "Cars". His favorite food is pizza (or pizz-ya, as he pronounces it. He also pronounces piano pi-pano.). He also loves all fruit, and was very excited when they made fruit salad at preschool on Monday. ("We made fruit salad, Emily! And it had strawberries and apples and BANANAS and MARSHMALLOWS. You should make it sometime.")

He loves playing at parks and petting dogs and running around. He is finally old enough to play with other kids, and is excited to have his own friends (rather than just my friends' kids, although he loves them, too). His best friends in the world are his sister and his cousin Josie. (Clare came home from school on Monday and said, "Christopher, I actually missed you when I was at school today. That's never happened before.")

Oh, and blankie. Christopher's beloved blanket is now in four pieces. All of those pieces are slowly getting smaller, as new holes appear every day. The partner of Clare's piano teacher mistook it for one of their dogs' chew rags. That's how pathetic it is. Despite all of this, it is still his most beloved possession.

He still loves music. He plays his guitar and sings along to any song he knows. He loves to dance.

Whenever Clare is not listening or giving me grief, Christopher instantly turns on the charm. "Mommy, I love you. I am listening, Emily. Clare's not listening." It's pretty funny. He is really a sweetheart, though. He'll wake up early in the morning and come and snuggle with me in bed. He is helpful around the house. He especially loves cracking the eggs when he make pancakes with Ben.

And of course, he is always a comedian. He loves to make people laugh. I love it, too, because it definitely cheers me up.

I still think of him as my baby, and I suppose he'll always be my baby. He is just such a little boy, now, though. Happy birthday, Christopher. We couldn't love you more.

Edited to add this video:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bits and Pieces: September

I have been struggling a lot lately with The Events of the Day. It is hard for me to keep it affecting my mood and how much patience I have with the kids. I hate the feeling of hopelessness and dread that seems to affect me every day. So if anyone has any advice on how to stay positive, I'd take it. Anything, really. (I have already tried eating my feelings. And drinking my feelings.) I've noticed my SAD has started early this year, too. I think it is time to finally buy one of those happy lamps!

Aside from all that, this month has had some high points. For one, I went to Sonoma! Without my kids! My college roommates and I made the trip for a long weekend mid-month. It was wonderful. We don't see each other much these days, despite everyone living in the Twin Cities (and Rochester). We flew there on a Thursday and immediately went to a winery. On Friday, we took a tour to four different wineries in the Sonoma Valley. The best part was that no one had to drive. On Saturday, we drove to several different wineries in the Napa Valley. We ate delicious food along with all of the wine. Spending time with these ladies was so nice. Even though we don't see each other much, our history holds us together. It feels like no time has passed when we get together. We have 11 kids all together, and we all definitely need some time away. I wish we could go every year.

I already wrote about the first days of school, and it continues to go well for both kids. Clare loves her teacher. She is very excited about what she is doing at school, and is eager to tell me about her day. She seems much more enthusiastic than last year. Christopher also loves preschool. He sometimes claims he doesn't want to go, but he then he has a great time. And I have evidence: the school's Instagram account. It is so much fun to look at pictures while he's at school in the morning. He is always having a blast, and they have some pretty funny quotes under the pictures, too. Clare has started asking to go to the bus by herself, which is fine. The stop is right across the street from our house and I can stand on my porch to keep an eye on her. The only problem: Christopher insists on giving Clare a hug and a kiss at the bus stop. It is really sweet, actually, and Clare has been good about letting him do that, even though she really wants her independence.

We started ECFE again, and both Christopher and Josie are enjoying that.  I also enjoy my adult interaction and kid-free time.

My grandma, who turned 94 in August, received a Presidential Lifetime Achievement award for her volunteer work. She has volunteered weekly at the hospital for years. I thought that was neat, even though she is unhappy with the signature on the award.

Christopher's birthday is next week, so I'll be back with more then!

Petting a police horse at the neighborhood festival.

Elsa. She also climbed the rock wall.

Sonoma Valley.

Outside at Hall Winery in the Napa Valley. Can't go wrong with wine and cheese and crackers.

Jessie, Cindi, me, Chelsea, Jessica. 

Rutherford Winery in the Napa Valley. I also made a life decision: I am only getting gel manicures from now on.

Clare waiting for the bus on her own. She looks so small standing there.

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.