Friday, May 13, 2016

10 Years


10 years. Two kids. Two cats. Five cars. One condo. One (rented) townhouse. One house. Five jobs. Saint Paul, Evansville, back to Saint Paul. Hawaii, England, Florida, England again, Florida again and again. Golden Eagle Lodge. The Boundary Waters. Duluth. Countless trips to the farmers market, dinners out, movies, road trips, camping trips, hikes, bike rides, pancake breakfasts, beers, baseball games, visits with family, cook-outs, fights, laughs, tears, hugs and spontaneous dance parties.

Thanks for keeping me sane, being my co-parent, and doing the dishes. Here's to another 10 great years.






Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bits and Pieces: April

A few weekends ago, Christopher and I were walking home from the playground next door. I let him walk on the wall between the sidewalk and the school parking lot, forgetting how high it gets toward the end. By the time I realized it, I couldn't reach him to get him down. He was doing fine, though, until he got distracted by who knows what. I saw his foot coming over the edge. I broke his fall, but he still ended up on the ground. He was screaming, I was shaking. He didn't hit his head. He was totally unhurt, actually, just scared. That made two of us. This is one of my continual struggles as a parent. Where is the line between letting them explore and keeping them safe? I feel like I say "be careful" way too much. But then I let Christopher walk on a wall and he falls off. Oof. Parenting, huh?

I feel like this month flew by after our England trip. Seriously, I know I write stuff like this all the time, but how is it nearly May? How??

Christopher has been calling everything by its color instead of its name - my red, more white, your green (hat, sour cream, jacket). It's pretty funny. More importantly, though, he can say his name now! No more fa-fer. He is still being a stinker about his naps. I am hoping if I just stick with the routine of putting him down he'll start doing it without a fight eventually. (Right? Right.) I am also thinking about the P word. That's potty training. So far he is not interested at all, but that could change. (Right? Right.) I am just going to put the little potty in the bathroom without comment for now.

Clare has started reading! She is very good at sounding out small words. It is fun watching her work it all out. Clare has been enjoying telling people about her trip to England. She only has about six weeks left of school. I am both excited and scared for summer vacation. We already have several things planned, though, and she is doing gymnastics and soccer and swimming. She also wants to take ballet, so I am looking for a class for her. We will hopefully be spending a lot of time at the park playing and picnicking with friends.

We've started having family movie night on Friday nights. So far, we've watched "Frozen" and "Mary Poppins." The kids loved "Mary Poppins." I was happy, because I loved that movie when I was a kid. I am not sure if we'll manage a movie every Friday. In fact, we skipped it last night because of other plans, but it is a fun tradition nonetheless.

"Would you stop taking my picture!"

Seconds after I took this he ripped a page out that book. Not embarrassing at all!

Sleeping in my bed is so last year.

Bus stop buds.

Taking a break from the bounce house at a classmate's birthday party.

Movie night.

Eating a snack (carrots!) in the backyard.

Time for tea.

Remember how it felt like summer a few weeks ago? What happened to that?

Making crowns at the Art Institute's Flower Show.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

England!

I think I set the spring break bar a little too high. Clare, my mom and I traveled to England to visit Rob and Andri over Clare's spring break. It was pretty much the best. Clare didn't want to come home. (She did have a moment in the airport on the way home when she said "Daddy!" in a very sad voice. I think she suddenly realized she missed him.) My friend Alex suggested that next year I'd have to take Clare to the moon. He might be right.

Clare was in heaven, being the only kid with four adults. She could always talk someone into playing Peppa Pig with her. When Andri's parents and sister arrived at the end of the week, it was even better for Clare. Andri's mom Barbara was up for anything, including many rounds of "scaring" Andri's sister Anna. I enjoyed not having to change diapers all week, although I did miss Christopher. (And Ben, too.)

As for Christopher, he didn't seem to care at all that we were gone. I agonized over leaving him for weeks before the trip. Glad I wasted all of that energy on worrying about nothing! (What's new, though, right?) He had a blast with his dad and his Grandma Mary Theresa. Ben sent me daily reports, which I might have to post here because they were pretty funny. Christopher also did a little soul searching while he was away from Clare's influence, and realized that he is in fact NOT scared of dogs, and that he is also willing to at least try any piece of food on his plate. I will say, though, that Clare and Christopher's reunion at the airport was one of the cuter things I've seen. Although she claimed all week that she didn't miss her brother, she ran straight to him and they hugged and jumped up and down for a good five minutes.

When I was a kid, I used to keep a trip journal on all of our family vacations. (No, I have no idea where these journals are today.) I thought it would be fun to recap our trip with an online trip journal of sorts, with a summary of what we did each day.

(Also, a side note: this trip was one of my 40 x 40 goals!)

Saturday/Sunday

We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, had a short layover, and then went on to Norwich. Clare did really well on the flights both there and back. (Other than screaming with joy on takeoff.) When we arrived in Norwich, Rob and Andri took us to a traditional Sunday roast at a local pub. It was so good. Beef brisket, delicious potatoes, red cabbage, and of course real English ale.


There was also some mask decorating.


 Monday

On Monday we explored Norwich. It was rainy, but we took it in stride. We were experiencing England - complete with the typical rainy weather. Norwich is super old, to be technical about it. (There have been people living in the area since the 5th century.) We took an AWESOME tour in the afternoon, guided by a Norwich resident who was very knowledgeable about the town. His driving, however, was quite scary. We thought we were going in the river at one point. He was funny and informative, though, and we all loved it.

We road in this thing:


Before our tour, we stopped in one of Norwich's 33 churches, because Clare of all people wanted to go in. She is quite interested in churches. We did some shopping, and then had lunch at Biddy's Tea Room. It was a very cozy place, and we all had tea and sausage rolls and cake and other good things.

Tea time.

It was a good start to the week.

Norwich market.
Tuesday

On Tuesday we drove to Cambridge. It is a beautiful town. We walked around and looked at what we could of the various colleges, had lunch in a pub that is famous for being the place where Watson and Crick announced they had discovered the structure of DNA, and went punting on the river. It was sunny that day, so it was perfect weather for wandering around outside. (The highlight of Clare's day: getting to ride on the top of a double decker bus.)

Apologies to King's College Chapel for cutting off the spires.
Time for a steak and ale pie.
This building is across the street from the Eagle, and is the oldest standing building in Cambridge - the tower was built in 1033.

Punting.
A better view of King's College Chapel.
Wednesday

On Wednesday, we visited Blickling Hall, a grand estate in the countryside. It reminded me a bit of Downton Abbey, because it was still decorated as it was in the 1930s. The gardens were beautiful, and Clare really enjoyed exploring them. She was less thrilled with the house itself, but I promised her cake in exchange for her patience, and she did pretty well after that. I found it fascinating, and if I hadn't had an almost 5-year-old in tow I would have spent more time looking around. On the way back from Blickling Hall, my mom and I were dropped off at Norwich Cathedral, where we were promptly caught in a hailstorm. We made it unscathed into the cathedral, though, and I am glad I did because it was impressive. Norwich Cathedral was completed in 1145. Sometimes I find it hard to wrap my mind around how old so many of these buildings are. On Wednesday night, Andri generously babysat Clare so my mom, Rob and I could go out for drinks and dinner. It was really nice. We ate some delicious tapas, drank wine, and had a lot of fun talking.

Our new house. Oh wait.
The view is okay.
Milky tea and a Victoria sponge cake.

Norwich Cathedral.
Thursday

We started the day with a traditional English breakfast, which was one of the things I requested we do on the trip. Then we explored Norwich Castle. Clare was looking forward to seeing the castle all week, and even though I warned her it would be nothing like the castle on "Sofia the First" I think she was still a little disappointed. She ended up having a great time though, because the castle was super kid-friendly. And packed with kids, incidentally. (And she was able to purchase a plastic crown in the gift shop, so that made her day.)

Yeah, that crown was broken 24 hours later.

Queen Clare.

#awesome
That afternoon we went to afternoon tea at the Assembly Rooms in Norwich. Andri's mom and sister joined us, my brother and Andri's dad ditched us and went to a pub. I don't know why. The tea was lovely - small sandwiches, raisin scones, clotted cream, and many desserts. And tea, of course. (Side note: taking Clare to a fancy tea party is another of my 40 x 40 goals!) The room we were in was beautiful, as well. If I knew anything about decorating I might be able to describe it here. I don't, though, so let's stick to the food.

My favorites were the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and raisin scone with clotted cream and jam.

Crown still intact here.

Clare and Andri.

You can see a bit of the room behind Clare and Meema Jo.


Friday

On Friday we drove to Wells-Next-The-Sea, which I kept insisting on calling Wells-Next-To-The-Sea. My brain just automatically put the "to" in there.  It was a gorgeous day. We were on the North Sea, although due to the interesting geography of the coastline, we couldn't actually see much of the sea, because the tide was out. It was nice being in the sun on the beach, though. Clare and I both got sunburned. We had lunch outside, and a duck took a piece of bread right out of Clare's hand. That was traumatic, to say the least. There was quite a bit of screaming. Once we escaped the duck, we spent some time at a playground and wandering around the shops. Then it was time for ice cream and the drive back to Norwich. We spent our last night there going out for a delicious dinner. (And a delicious gin fizz.)

The many last-named clan.

A treat from Barbara.

On the beach with my best girl.
Saturday morning it was back to Minnesota and reality. I miss my brother and sister-in-law more now that we got to spend a week with them. I wish they weren't two plane rides away. We will see them again in June, though, so I am happy about that. It was just so nice to be able to spend that time with them, and with my mom and Clare, too. It was a special week. I really hope we can go back again soon.

Meanwhile, these two are sure happy to have each other again.








Monday, April 4, 2016

2 and a half

This is the best I could get. He refuses to sit next to the moose.
I still think of Christopher as a baby. And I know he will always be my baby, but sometimes I am surprised when I look at him and see a little boy. I think he has grown recently. He inherited my hair, for sure. He has a lot to say, and he is saying it well. He is sweet and mischievous at the same time. He gets a glint in his eye when he is about to do something to antagonize his sister, or try to make either of us laugh. He and his cousin Josie are best friends, and they hug and kiss each other hello each morning. Then they wrestle. He is definitely not a baby any more.

When Clare turned 2 and a half, I posted her likes and dislikes. (I just re-read them, and most have not changed.) I am going to do that for Christopher, too. Consistency!

Likes: ECFE, the colors pink and orange, Cookie Monster, Grover, Big Bird, playing in the sandbox, telling knock knock jokes, running, kicking a ball, trucks and cars, dinosaurs, "Frozen," reading books, playing with Clare and Josie, cuddling with Mommy, doing "Money" with Daddy, baths, fruit of any kind, avocado, tomato, cucumber (he eats the middle first), cheese, sausage, chocolate, the Cuckoo House, going to play time at the gym, visiting the "fishies" at the aquarium, and playing in Clare's room. He is still very attached to his blankies.

Dislikes: Dogs and cats, naps, being told what to do, the dentist and doctor, car washes, and the basement. (He still thinks the cat is lurking down there.)

He also loves all of his "people" as Clare used to say, and he asks to talk to or see all four of his grandparents almost daily. He also frequently asks to talk to "Uncle Gobby."

On Easter I was wearing a necklace. Christopher was trying to nuzzle into his usual place on my neck, and he was quite put out that the necklace was interfering. He tried to lift it up and put his head underneath. When this didn't work, he just glared at me angrily for awhile. He loves to cuddle, and I never want to say no. I don't know how long these cuddles will last.

He pronounces his name "Fa-fer," which is cute, but also makes me laugh because he can say "Christoph" perfectly. (Yes, he loves "Frozen" as much as his sister.)

He is so much more destructive than Clare ever was, and he likes to throw everything. It's like he can't help himself, even though he knows he's not supposed to take all the books off the bookshelf or throw toys at his sister.

I could not love this kid more. He is just the sweetest, most affectionate, polite, (sometimes challenging) little boy.  I love you so much, Buddy.




Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bits and Pieces: March

We celebrated Easter here for the first time in nine years or so. It was our first Easter at our house, I just realized. It was really nice. The kids and I colored eggs the Friday before. Christopher only drank the egg dye twice, so I consider that a win. ("I like it this one, Mama!") On Easter morning, the kids hunted for eggs and their Easter baskets, which contained a few little surprises. They had a great time. Christopher keeps mentioning hunting for eggs, actually, and the fact that Clare cracked a few of hers. (They are hard cooked for a reason.) We went to church, and then headed to my friend Heather's for an Easter egg hunt and brunch. The adults got to participate in the hunt (we were looking for eggs with our names on them), and everyone got really into it. The fact that we had all had a mimosa probably fueled a bit of that competitive fire. Christopher found more eggs than Clare. A good time was had by all. We hosted Easter dinner here that evening. Ben's parents and aunt and uncle joined us. We ate kielbasa, warm potato salad, salad and French silk pie and lemon bars for dessert. It was a really nice day.

Tasty!
Carefully choosing colors.

Easter morning excitement.

Found it!

Don't bother me, I'm busy hunting.



Ignore the terrible lighting.

***

Christopher is speaking mostly in complete sentences now, although he is still working on his syntax. (See above. He also frequently says "don't like it this one!") I love listening to his little voice. The other day I asked him if he needed his diaper changed. "Actually not," he replied. He uses the word actually a lot. He also says things like "go see fishies today?" and really emphases the to in today. He does that with the word together, too.

He is definitely asserting his independence, as two-year-olds tend to do. He and Clare love to play together, but he also loves to antagonize her. The push and pull of the sibling relationship.

Clare had her follow-up appointment for her ears at the beginning of the month. Her hearing is perfect! The procedure was a success, for now. The next test will be what happens when the tube falls out.  She is still doing well in school. We had her conference a few weeks ago, and her teacher had nothing but good things to say. She said she is mature for her age, and has started reading a few words. The only criticism was that she is sometimes too loud when she is working with Chloe and Keira. Clare informed me of that herself, so it wasn't a surprise. She also attended her first birthday party with kids in her class. It was at the YMCA, and they rented a bounce house. Clare had a blast, and I got to meet some of the other parents, which was nice.

Clare also went to her first movie in a movie theater this month. She and Ben saw "Zootopia" with some friends. Ben said all of the kids were a little scared. Overall, though, she had fun, and says she wants to see it again.

***

I had some fun outings this month, too. I did a printmaking class at Indeed Brewery, which was a great time. I am not particularly artistic, but there was beer and I was with friends.  I also went to a friend's house to decorate Ukrainian Easter eggs. I have a bit of a collection of them now, because I've done it for the past few years. Again, I am not artistic, but the colors are so vibrant that it doesn't really matter that the lines aren't straight.



I also had lunch with my college roommates (except Chelsea, we missed you!), who I hadn't seen in many months. It was so nice. There is something about having that history with people. We may not see each other all that often, but as soon as we do get together it feels like no time has passed. I know we'll always be friends.

And best of all, I saw TWO robins this week. Dare I say spring is here? No, no I do not.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Daylight Saving Time Bites

I am blaming it all on Daylight Saving Time. My bad mood, the kids' inability to sleep through the night, Christopher's refusal to take naps. It has to be connected, right? Everyone just seems a little off. I am glad it is Friday, anyway. Even if my bracket was completely and utterly destroyed today. (Thanks A LOT Michigan State.)

We had to take Christopher to the dentist today. His face collided with a dining room chair yesterday. There was blood, but he calmed down fairly quickly, so I didn't think much of it. Then Ben told me he noticed some blood while he was brushing his teeth that night. When Christopher complained of pain while trying to bite into an apple, I pinned him down to take a look. His lower front tooth did not look quite right. And there was bruising on his gums. Uh-oh. Yes, you guessed it: the tooth is loose. The dentist wanted to take an x-ray to make sure the tooth is not fractured, but Christopher was in hysterics so that did not happen.  The dentist said that the tooth may firm back up, but if not, it might have to be pulled. That kid.

On the way home from the dentist, Clare asked me many detailed questions about Jesus, God, and death. Needless to say, I needed a drink.

As for my bad mood, I am just having one of those weeks. I am sick of looking at other people's poop and putting on other people's shoes. I am sure it is because I am tired due to the aforementioned children not sleeping through the night.

I take an ECFE class once a week, which I normally love. However, sometimes it makes me spiral. The teacher or speaker offers information about what we should or should not say to our kids, and all of the things we do need to tell our kids to keep them safe, and I start to think I am DOING IT ALL WRONG and my kids will be SCARRED FOR LIFE. Probably not, though, right?

And at least there are moments like this, however brief:


Also: this face. Face paint by Christopher, courtesy of the Minnesota Children's Museum.




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bits and Pieces: February

Do you know what I miss most about my pre-children working life? (Aside from regular adult interaction, of course.) Sick days. I didn't take many of them, but when I did I was actually able to rest, sleep and you know, be sick. Now I just have to power through. The house is trashed. The kids watch an obscene amount of TV. It is not pretty. We are all recovering from a lovely cough/cold/fever combination that infected all of us last week. Fun times!

We switched Christopher to a twin bed before we all got sick. He sleeps fine in it at night. Naps are another story. He will not stay in his bed. It is preferable to nap here:



Or here:


I tried to explain to him that I wish I could still take naps and he should stop fighting it, but it hasn't worked so far.

When he is not fighting his naps, he is busy playing in the toy kitchen or feeding his baby. He is very nurturing and loving. He is very gentle with Clare's dolls, too, when he manages to get his hands on them. (Which is only when she is at school and or has let her guard down and forgotten to shut her door.)

He has several phrases of which he makes frequent use: "What doing, Mama?" "Wait up" "Are you?" "Snuggle couch" and my personal favorite: "Never!" He employs this one with arms firmly crossed.

He likes to say hello to everyone he sees, which most people find cute. The other day we were at the open gym playtime and he was yelling, "Bye people!" to everyone as they left. (We didn't know any them.)

Clare was happy because she got to celebrate her favorite holiday last month: Valentine's Day. She just loves opening all of those little cards. I am glad her school is not one that has quit celebrating it.

She also had a special day with her grandma - she took her to see "Snowy Day" at the Children's Theater. It was also a special day for me because I drove Clare to the play and then sat at the museum's coffee shop BY MYSELF. WITH A BOOK. It was amazing.

Clare is ready for full-day school. She spends a lot of time in the afternoon saying she is bored. It will help when she can go outside. I think we're all ready for winter to be over.

Clare has her follow-up with her ENT on Friday. Fingers crossed that her hearing has improved!

Happy March.

Catching up on the news at the Cuckoo House.

Snuggles.

Fun at the Aquarium.

Yes, this picture was taken in February. In Minnesota.