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.

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?