Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cooper's First Photo Shoot

It dawned on me today that I haven't had Cooper's pictures taken yet - well, except the ones from the hospital. Since the older ones are still "on vacation" at Nana and Papa's house, I thought I might take advantage and go get the 4 1/2 month ones done. You know ... the ones you take when you've forgotten the 3 month ones.

I think it was a pretty successful trip. The immediate gratification side of me is also really happy to have them in 15 minutes. Now if I could just get them framed and hung.....

Monday, December 29, 2008

Forever a Family Day!!!

Well, the moment we've been waiting for has arrived. Kevin, Sarah, and Hannah are forever a family. You've gotta see her. Right now. Go get a tissue and a diet coke and set aside a little bit of time to read and reread. Click here.

Isn't that just what you needed today?

Prayers for a continued wonderful "getting to know you" time in Taiwan. Then hurry home guys so we can love on her too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ode to Troy Gardner - This One's for You!

To find a great guy, you must know where to look
I hear that this one has a page on Facebook.

Now ladies, I'm sorry to report that he's taken
My friend is the one to whom he brings home his bacon.

But Troy ... so handsome, so funny, so smart
They're lucky to have him - retail genius - Walmart.

Customer service driven - both at home and at work
Having a this guy as a friend is a joy and a perk.

Our TV wasn't working - is just wasn't right
He took care of our problem - the very same night!

Compared to some guys, he's a prince among men
He's constantly in contact with lucky wife Jen.

This summer while we ladies sat by the pool
He sometimes stopped by to "help us look cool."

He offered - no kidding, no joshing, no jokes
to run to McDonald's for large Diet Cokes.

He knows that we love them, Jen, Martha and I -
so he brought us each one - that considerate guy!

His kids? They both love him - to them he's no zero
With the Wii and home theater - he's Blake's guitar hero.

I could go on and on.. and post 'till I'm blue
Troy Gardner - we love ya - it's all ABOUT YOU!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

The Christmas season can get crazy with all the preparations, shopping, and spending. This year was no exception. With a new baby and all that goes with that, things were a little more harried this year. However, as it always does ... the Christmas eve church service put my heart and mind in the right place and reminded me again of the reason for the season.

I am thankful for all our blessings ... faith, family, and friends. How perfect to be surrounded by all three this holiday season. Happy Birthday Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2nd Annual Gingerbread Party

Our neighbors are near and dear to our hearts for many reasons. One family is particularly so. The mom is one I aspire to be like and the kids, oops - teenagers, are really great. They host an annual gingerbread house decorating party and have been gracious enough to host my kids for the second year in a row. How great is that?

Emma suggested we put the houses around one of the trees and make it a "gingerbread subdivision." She's at work right now assembling roads and cars. I did draw the line at fake snow. The house is in shambles enough without vacuuming snow off the floor.

I wish I could have seen the big girls' houses this year. They astound me with their architectural designs. When I get pictures I'll post them.

I'm glad they do this each year. Other than the kids really looking forward to it, having the houses around really gets me in the Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Don't Worry Mom and Dad...I'm In Good Hands...

Kevin and Sarah left today for Taiwan to go get Hannah Claire. Well, at least I think they did. With the recent ice storm and all the bad weather we've had ... I'm hoping they got off the ground and am praying for safe travels there and back.

We're so honored they've entrusted us with their "first child" Sedona to watch while they are gone. They looked just a little bit nervous when they left last night so I'm letting Sedona tell them how she's done her first 24 hours.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank goodness things have calmed down here quite a bit. I guess it isn't EVERY DAY that this family hosts a sleepover, coordinates a girls' night out in the midst of a massive power outage, and gets a canine houseguest. But that's what happened.

So far I can't complain. I'm getting A LOT of attention. There sure are a lot of little people here. Five tonight - but they say one is going home tomorrow. Whew!

I'm getting used to the kids. They all sure smell differently and I've had to check it out repeatedly to make sure I know which kid I'm dealing with. One of them has a particularly smelly bottom - though not all the time. It's the same one that spends a lot of time on the floor. He's about my size.

There are two girls - they take turns holding me on the couch. Their mom keeps cramping my style by making them get up and do chores and things. No matter - I've been keeping their spots warm until they come back.

Wrigley and I have adjacent beds and I must have been tired because someone said I snored in the night ... but I don't know anything about that.

Better go - treats to eat, things to sniff, and laps to lay on. Wish you were here! Have a good time in Taiwan!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Four Months Old!!!

In all the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, I haven't been taking enough pictures of Cooper and he's growing up soooo fast. He's fairly successful at getting objects to his mouth, is fascinated by his hands, and loves to stand up.

The poinsetta plants are just about his favorite things to look at right now. If he's in the living, he'll crane his neck to look at them. A smile lights up his face then his eyes glaze over as he stares and stares. It's a bit like baby porn.

But ... if it gives me a few extra minutes to load the dishwasher, then I'm a happy mama.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dear Santa

I know that by now you have received all the letters from the kids. Please take exception to Emma's handwriting and Grayson and Claire's spelling and syntactical errors. The little two are new at this.

For the most part, the kids have all been good this year. Cooper is doing exceptionally well with sleeping through the night so he gets extra credit. Please continue your tradition of writing them a letter back and leaving it with their presents. Feel free to put in a paragraph about room for improvement. I would be happy to provide you with suggestions - just email me. I don't do texting.

As for me, it's difficult to come up with anything I would like - as I already have everything I could ever need with this incredible family I have right here in this house. However, as a glutinous citizen of the USA and natural born capitalist, there ARE a few things I could put down on my list.

1. Self-flushing toilet
2. Toilet paper roll dispenser that only gives as much tp as needed for 4, 5 and 7 year old bottoms (sold as an accessory to #1)
3. Thighs like Beyonce
4. An all night hair salon (it can't be just me that requires a three hour appt - carving that amount of time during the day just isn't easily done)
5. About five more hours built into every day (during which time the kids are asleep, my husband is awake, and all my favorite stores are open)

Oh - one more thing. Thank you for giving Sarah and Kevin their most amazing Christmas gift ever.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Visit With Santa

Thanks to GE, the kids were able to attend a visit with Santa yesterday, complete with a story reading from an elf, cookies, and gifts. It was a nice time and the kids really enjoyed their stuffed bears (wearing a GE sweater) and a great hardback book of classic Christmas stories.

Each one of the kids got a minute with Santa to tell him what they wanted most this year. They didn't tell me what they asked for (this is Emma's scientific method of testing whether Santa is real or not) but it got me thinking what I would ask for if I were brazen enough to climb up on Santa's lap. Maybe tomorrow I'll write him a letter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Breakfast in Bethlehem

This weekend we had a busy Saturday. For the first year since we've been here, we actually attended Breakfast in Bethlehem at our church (we've bought tickets every year and had something come up and couldn't go). Actually, it was just Cooper, the girls and I. Monte took Grayson to his first ever swim meet. More on that later.

It was a really cute event. They had a pancake and sausage breakfast, live calves, a tasting table containing regional foods for the times (dates, figs, pomegranates, etc), a play, and a craft. Between the cows and the craft, my girls were over the moon. My friend Myah even looked the part of a very pregnant Mary as she and hubby Josh are due for their third baby in January.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun Updates

It's been just a little bit crazy around here maintaing the regular schedule with all the holiday stuff thrown in. It's really been just about all I can do to keep my head above water. I haven't been as consistent as I'd like with jounaling, blogging, OR exercising but I'm trying to just keep breathing deeply and knowing it's ALL GOOD.

Some fun updates ...

Cooper went to the doctor for his "almost four months" checkup. He weighs 18 and 1/2 pounds and is 26 inches long. He is 80 percentile for height, 90 percentile for head circumference, and is off the chart for weight. He also grew two inches since his last checkup. Good stuff.

He also got two shots. He was supposed to get many more, but this mama just doesn't feel like we need to give all these shots at the same time. He'll get them all - I'm not against vaccinations - just spread out a little more. We have an understanding at our ped's office. They do what I ask and I exhaust them. It works out well for both of us.

Also - we are officially dog-sitting for our friends Sarah and Kevin when they go to Taiwan in two weeks or so. Sedona and Wrigley had a little "meet and greet" last night. Sarah's blog explains it all so well, I'll just let you check it out over there if you are interested. The kids are over the moon about it. It was THE topic of discussion at the breakfast table this morning.

Oh, and I've gotten three Christmas cards so far. Not even close to doing ours yet so don't be looking for it this week ... or maybe next. Anyone for Happy New Year's cards?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

My comfort zone is pretty cool. I like it here. A lot. I tend to want to stay here.

But ... that doesn't promote much growth now does it? So .. I'm tackling things that challenge me.

Like exercising. Comfort zone=walking. Briskly and with incline (in my defense). But still...walking. But I'm doing it. I'm up to about half and half. If I put in three miles on the treadmill, that means I have to run a mile and a half. Yep. I can do it too. I just still hate it.

Technology is the other area that is clearly out of the "zone." I made some progress in that area last night making some Christmas presents I would not have attempted a year ago. It made me really want to explore photography. Not as a profession or anything ... but just some photo editing that would enhance the pictures I do take.

My friend Rebecca has taken on this same challenge lately with fabulous results. Check out the yummy picture she took of Cooper at Sarah's baby shower. Of course, if you know Rebecca at all, you know she seems to conquer EVERYTHING she tries ... and makes it look effortless. And she's skinny too. So NOT FAIR. =)

So, I'm going to keep plugging along. If nothing else, my New Year's Resolutions are pretty much all lined up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Join Us in "Not Going to Dinner"

Tonight is our dinner club. We are not going. Not because we don't enjoy it or our friends. We do. A lot.

But we have a sort of tradition in our house that is really quite exciting. It's called "We're Not Going to Dinner." We try to do it once a month. We stay in, make some leftovers, save the money, and pick a worthy cause to give the money to. The monetary value varies and we have been known to donate food or clothing instead. But you get the idea.

We get a family night, the kids learn about giving, and a worthy cause gets something they need. It's a win-win.

I try to let the kids pick the cause. I do narrow the field to a few selections. It's amazing to me how vested they become in the process that way.

Anyway, this month the kids picked our friends. They are going to China to get their son Owen. Read all about them here. I'm so excited for them and so honored to be able to be a very small part of their journey. I must say ... tonight I am glad we are "not going to dinner."

Maybe this is something your family could do too. Imagine all the causes in your communities that could use your help. It's a win-win. Just a thought. Just to make it more fun, if you do it, let me know. We could really start something here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Runner's High

I hate running. Not "dislike, don't care for, or prefer something else" - just outright loathing.

You know that "runner's high" people talk about? I don't understand it. The only high I get is when I'm done. Seriously. My endorphins don't get it either.

It's not as if I haven't tried it. Many times. High school ... college ... grad school ... after each and every baby. Still the same disdain. Rather like olives.

But - this time is different. I'm going with a different approach. I'm not going to pretend to like it. I'm just going to do it.

I ran one mile yesterday. All at the same time. I still hate it. But I'm going to do it again tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Step Away From ...

I've watched enough SuperNanny to know the right way to handle an anxious 4 year old who DESPERATELY wants to rock, sway, and bounce her little brother in the newest baby contraption.

Knowing does not mean doing.

I really needed a few minutes to finish the dishes and thought Cooper might be safe in his Johnny Jump Up while Claire finished her lunch. No such luck.

After the hundredth reminder not to twist him up and let him go ("just like that one ride at Disney - remember mommy?"), I must have given her the exasperated look. That's when she calmly stopped, took two steps back and said ... "I know mommy ... step AWAY from the baby."

I just had to laugh. She's been hearing that term from us a lot lately. I've mostly used the term when speaking out loud to myself during post-Halloween bag looting. You know ... "Step away from the Reese's", etc.

Apparently, some things are sinking in. Just not when it comes to half rocketing your baby brother into outer space.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happiness is ...

answering the phone and hearing your friend's voice after she's gotten some of the best news of her life. There's nothing like it. Congratulations to Sarah and Kevin on the final court ruling from Taiwan - declaring them parents of Hannah Claire. Check out the little Miss here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Monte!!!

You wouldn't know it ... but this handsome devil is 42! To celebrate we made several plans. First, we decided to go to dinner. You know - alone - as a couple. The kids nixed that idea as they wanted to be part of Daddy's day too. You can't blame them for that.

Then we decided to go bowling. But by the time we finished dinner and the German Chocolate cake, it was pretty late. We also discovered most of the local alleys have leagues on Saturday nights anyway.

We finally decided on letting the kids watch a movie Because of Winn Dixie (highly recommend it for family movie night) and the three oldest ones camping out on the blow up bed in the living room.

It may not have been a glamorous night out ... but we do have a sitter coming today for a little grownup time in the big city.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Belated Thank You

to Marci and Nicole for keeping Cooper for me when I attended a conference in Illinois. It was incredibly good to spend another "Thursday night" with my old cronies - indulging in snacks, beverages, women talk and Grey's Anatomy/ER.

Also, click here to see Marci's slideshow of Cooper. I do have bragging rights!

Just to Reassure You ...

that according to a registered nurse in good standing at my doctor's office - a nasal bulb syringe (aka "infant torture device") will "most likely not" cause any "permanent damage" when inserted into an infant's nose by a four year old budding pediatrician when the parent in charge is momentarily distracted by speaking to said nurse about scheduling flu mist appointments for the siblings.
I suppose it is more reassuring when there is giggling by said nurse. But I wouldn't know. It is all purely hypothetical.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Go Ahead. I Can Take It.

Take a second look at the picture. Cause I know that the first one was a cursory - just being polite because she's probably just posting a picture of the cute baby in his Halloween costume - look. I understand. I'm busy too. But this is serious business. Look closer. Do it for me.

I need your opinion. How old do I look? I mean, I know I'm not 21 anymore (thank you God), but do I have that geriatric look? Not that a woman can't be regal, sophisticated, beautiful AND mature ..all at the same time. It's just not what I'm going for right now. I only ask because...

the SECOND person (in the same day) asked if Cooper is my GRANDSON. Seriously. I know I'm not superhip or anything but I didn't see that coming. Twice.
So .. if you are my friend, you'll be honest with me. Are the lowlights not working for me? Am I wearing mom jeans? Or .. am I just - as my doctor so cleverly labelled me - advanced maternal age?

So bring on the botox. and the celery sticks. and the personal trainer. and the eyebrow tweezer. Cause I'm not taking this lying down.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Unveiling of "Roots and Wings"

Once again, a huge and heartfelt thank you goes out to my friend Sarah for updating the blog. She is gracious with both her time and talents ... and luckily for me, swayed by girls' nights out to yummy chinese restaurants and cute baby retail stores. It was fun to work with her on this ... she has an eye for color and creativity ... and for her to channel her "inner Amy" and do straight lines and so much "brown" ... well, I am sure it was torturous. I sooo owe her a cute baby gift.

But, I do LOVE how it came out. So do the kids. They love this blog. They enjoy reading what I say about them ... and they refer it to their friends when they are proud of something that is on it. Funny ... that is not something I imagined when I started on this adventure. It was mainly just a way to get over my phobia of technology and to update family on how quickly the kids are growing up. Making it a family project has been an unexpected bonus.

I saw this quote years ago and loved what it said. It is the essence of what we think parenting and family life is all about. Sometimes .. this is the litmus test we use to aid in our decision to do an activity or pursue a goal. Will it deepen our roots? help them prepare for their wings?

Add the symbolic flowers and butterflies, my favorite colors, and recent pictures of four of my favorite people .. and voila! My excuse for empty baby books, extremely dated journals and virtually no printed pictures.

So thank you to all of you who check in. I hope you realize how important you are to this experience .. and to us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm Soooooooo Glad It's Over ...

the election that is. Yes, I am aware and proud that I and my family have witnessed the history making election of our first African American president. It demonstrates how far we have come as a nation. I believe we also have just as far to go. Still, I am so done with this campaign.


I'd like my kids to go back to being kids. Emma (being in second grade) first started hearing about McCain and Obama in kindergarten. A big thank you to our local schools for keeping the students abreast on current events, but enough already. I'm done explaining what stem cell research means, where Vietnam is and what "torture" and "POW" mean. The under 8 crowd (in my humble opinion) doesn't really need to know what "affiliation with terrorist groups" means.

I'm exhausted by attempting to explain what taxes are and breaking up disagreements between Girl Scouts and neighborhood kiddos who think they know which candidates will raise them or lower them. I've assured many a child that the results of the election will not have an impact on their piggy banks in the forseeable future.

My oldest two actually asked me if our family qualifies as "middle class." Heavens.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for educated, well-informed children. But seriously. I was sort of hoping we'd have a few more years of being called "poopyhead" and "doggiebreath" instead of "liberal" and "conservative."

Congratulations to president-elect Barack Obama. Now let's get on with it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick Or Treating Fun

Happy Halloween everyone! We had a very full night ... great weather ... great friends... and GREAT chocolately selections for Monte and I to rifle through after the little ghouls go to bed...

The evening started with our Fort Wayne tradition of the Jack O Lantern pizza from Papa Murphy's. We had the Gardners go trick or treating with us this year and Jennifer and I stayed home with Cooper (fully dressed in the skeleton sleeper - thanks Auntie Janet!) while the men took the others around the neighborhood. I've never stayed home to pass out candy and I loved seeing all the kids all dressed up.

Emma was a vampiress (I'm sad to report that cutesy, girly costumes are no longer "cool"), Grayson was a vampire (anything to carry a weapon of some sort), and Claire was the heroine from her favorite fairy tale - Rapunzel (dress also compliments from Aunt Janet). I will take credit for the "wig" made out of a sorry left-over bundle of barn purchased from Big Lots last night and tied to a pony tail holder at just shy of midnight. Martha Stewart I'm not.

We finished up the night with a small gathering at our neighbors' house. It was a great chance for the kids to dump out all their candy and trade for their favorites. It had me reliving my childhood.

Hope the kids don't notice they are a few Reese's short ...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Can the Feds Please Bail Out the Tooth Fairy?

She's going broke visiting our house lately.

Just in time for Halloween, Emma is missing her top two teeth and Grayson is missing his bottom two. Despite cashing in, Emma is pretty bummed. Her vampiress teeth now don't stay on. The costume is so cute, I am considering Pediatric Poly-Grip.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And It All Circles Round ...

I woke up this morning thinking some fairly deep thoughts. For instance, how much I enjoy babies sleeping until 5:00 am. I don't feel the same way about 3:30. But somehow, 5:00 seems a more humane hour to wake up, feed a baby, let the dog out, and climb back into bed, knowing you still have a few more hours to go until the rest of the house wakes up.

This morning, I remembered doing the same thing 7 1/2 years ago - but with Emma ... and a different house ... and a different dog. Funny the things you remember ... and that life always seems to circle its way around.

For me, my professional life (such as it is right now - can less than 10 hours a week be considered a professional life?) is circling around too. For those of you who knew me immediately after grad school, you may recall that the only arena I did NOT want to practice in was early intervention or the 0-3 population. You may also recall that oddly, that is EXACTLY what I took my first job in - in an unfamiliar place called Milwaukee, WI. A place I had never actually visited before I took a job I had no business taking. And life circles around...

Anyway, here I am back doing early intervention in Hoosierville. I only have four clients right now but I am loving it. I'm back to doing something I really find value in. I enjoy going to work - an hour at a time - at a time and place mutually agreed upon by the family and me. They actually enjoy me coming and I feel like I am helping both the child and family. It's what I was doing (partly) right before I left Milwaukee - not long before Emma was born. So here I am again - treating little ones, rising early with a little one of my own, and letting out the dog at 5:00 am.

And it all circles round.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Six Events, Five Hours, and Several Life Lessons Later...

Emma participated in her first swim meet. She swims for SWAC. That is a bit of a story in itself and one I will think back on because it was an incredible teaching moment. From the parenting perspective.

Emma started out the summer comfortable in the water but didn't have any "strokes" to speak of. She also wasn't diving in off the side or from the board. She was a functional, "not- going -to- drown- so -I -can- take- my- eyes -off- of -her -for -one- minute -to -take- the -little -one to- the -bathroom" kind of kid at the local pools. Grayson was very much the same way but since he is younger, shorter, and more adventurous, I decided it might be prudent for him to take some lessons. I signed them both up for six lesson with a local lifeguard.

They really enjoyed themselves (it could have been the candy she gave them at the end of each session) and Emma later took an Intro to Competitive Swimming Class at school. She and a friend wanted to try out for SWAC. Here's where it got hard. For me anyway.

SWAC is a fairly competitive club. It requires a significant commitment in terms of time, money, and effort. Not everyone makes it. You have to try out. No matter how old you are.

I struggled with the decision to let her try out. Emma is not competitive. She is not athletic. She had just started swimming strokes weeks prior to the tryout. I knew the odds were not in her favor. So. If you know, as a parent, that your 7 year old probably will not make the team (and conceivably - her friend might), do you encourage her to try out anyway?

In theory, OF COURSE you do. It fosters a sense of reality - you don't always make every team. It teaches your child to be graceful and accept when things don't go their way. Of course.

However, I am here to tell you. When actually faced with it ... it gave me pause. Cognitively, I knew it would be good for her either way. But emotionally, I knew it would really hurt if she didn't make it. And Emma ... well, she tends to have a flair for the dramatic.

Ultimately, I encourage her to try out. She and her friend went and did the best they could. They didn't make the team. I was really proud of them. They handled themselves well and while disappointed, they made plans to swim for another local club.

Then, a few weeks later, there were openings and both of them received calls back. It took Emma a minute to decide to try it out. One practice and she was excited. She was motivated.

I think it's been about four weeks since she's been part of the team. This meet was optional. Again - same fear. Do I let her do it knowing she is less prepared than most? Of course. But ... part of me still wants to protect her. Shield her.

Then I channel my inner Glenn Beck and decide. That's not reality. That's not the kind of parents we want to be. That's not the kid we want her to be. So ... off she went yesterday. She swam six events - a 25 each of backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and butterfly - a 100 IM, and a relay.

No .. she wasn't the fastest. Or the most technically skilled. But she impressed us. She held her own and finished well in her heats. We are immensely proud of her. Both for how she swam and how she has handled herself in learning some really important life lessons. Most importantly though - I can tell she is proud of herself.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cooper Update

Many people have asked for a Cooper update ... I have been remiss in not posting (and taking) more pictures. I plan to do right by the little guy in the future.

Our littlest man is now 9 weeks old. When he went to the doctor for his 7 week checkup, he was 15 lbs and 24 inches long. He was 100 percentile in both height and weight at that time. I guess we are still growing them big!

He's now smiling - alot and is very responsive to our voices and expressions. He continues to be very laid back and goes with the flow - great for our busy schedules. He's fond of taking one loooong nap in the middle of the day instead of frequent mini-naps. He went to a babysitter today for the first time and slept for the entire three hours, waking up as I walked in the door.

The nighttime routine is pretty solid. After bedtime around 9:30, he does get up once - usually around 4:00 am. Sometimes getting him back down to sleep after 6-7 hours can present its challenges but it is usually doable.

To answer the most popular question - we still don't know what the hair color is doing. It looks different every day and it is getting pretty thin now. I guess to sum things up - the hair is falling out while the personality is coming in!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fairly Typical Friday Night

Growing up, I remember our house being the one kids from the neighborhood liked to hang out at. I think that's why I really like the noise and chaos associated with big families and/or get-togethers. Anyway, last night after swimming, the kids had some friends over. After playing wiffle ball outside, they shared a pizza dinner, movie, and popcorn. With seven kids in the house, it was a little noisy at times and Monte was running the vacuum in our bedroom at 10:00 pm to pick up all the rogue popcorn kernels. But ... the kids went to bed TIRED with that big goofy grin on their faces that said they had a great time. I remember that too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Lane ...

Welcome to my soap box. Hope you enjoy the rant ... er ... discussion.

Certainly things are much different for our kids than they were for us. But as the candidates discussed last night (nope, this has NOTHING to do with politics), we are the most expensive country in the world in terms of education and we are trailing most countries in math and science and some other subjects as well. Why? Well, I think I have a little bit of it figured out.

We don't teach kids to listen anymore. I mean the good old fashioned auditory skill training. We've got TVs and video games everywhere in every car and bedroom in America. That means kids are constantly entertained - but visually. Don't you remember when we used to sing in the car on long trips - or even to the grocery store? Sure it was fun ... but it also taught us to use our auditory system to decipher subtle changes in sounds ... and that laid the foundation for rhyming, reading, etc.

OK -so enough about that. But .. I've been trying to find some auditory activities to do with my kids and their classmates to promote phonemic awareness .. and recalled the ELECTRIC COMPANY. Any of my cronies from the 70s remember running to your TV when you heard- "HEY - You Guys......?" This was one of my favorite parts of the show. It is so simple yet so brilliant. My kids have loved watching these "old" clips. Morgan Freeman never looked so good. If your kids like this clip, you can feel good about it - in my world, it's called "blending"and some kids really struggle doing it. I have to wonder if they would still have trouble if they could watch EC instead of Hannah Montana.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Fun at Hilgers

Yesterday we took a "family fun day" and went to a local pumpkin patch with the Gardners. Hilgers is only a few miles from our house and they do it up right. The kids got to hear stories told by a mechanical giant, explore corn mazes, climb giant haystacks, and ride a zipline, rope swings and ponies. That was BEFORE the kettle corn and cotton candy. The only downside - it was unseasonably warm out yesterday - in the middle 80's. So ... while they all looked adorable in their Halloween attire ... they were sweating it. So were we actually. Thanks to Jen and Troy for introducing us to yet another Fort Wayne tradition.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Claire's 4th Birthday Bash

Now that you've seen the pictures and BEFORE you think we are "one of those over-the-top, uber-indulgent parenting types" - let me explain. Claire has never had a birthday party that included friends. I know ... she's turning FOUR. How many opportunities has she really had?

Well, remember ... she is the third one ... and until very recently, the baby. That meant she got the shaft. I admit it. Emma was first and coincidentally ... so is her birthday (in the calendar year). She always had a fun party with family and a few neighborhood kids. Nothing elaborate but she got to invite a few friends.

A few months later, Grayson's birthday comes along. We are still into it so we let him do the same thing - maybe a little less "to-do" - because he's a boy and really doesn't care much for the fanfare - just bring on the presents. Family, a few friends, and a piece of cake goes a long way with him.

By the time of year October rolls around, school has started, we are typically still adjusting to the demands of the new routines, and let's face it - I'm a little birthday'd out. So I took advantage. She was too young to notice there were no "friends" at her party so I just let it go. I'm not proud. I'm just keeping it real here friends.

This year, it all caught up to me. She has been to several of her friends' parties. They all have mommies who aren't giving their kid the shaft because she's the third one with the birthday latest in the year. She knows about inviting friends. She's not holding it against me - she's just letting me know the buck stopped ... last year.

The colossal jumpy castle was the culmination of a few things - I had a little mommy guilt and I couldn't come up with a better idea at the last minute. The way I figure it, she had a GREAT time and it will be a few years before she'll be able to pull this up, read it, and learn the truth.

Anyway, we had seven of her closest friends (i.e., all the girls in her class plus a best neighbor girl) over to jump, feed the ducks, play on the swingset, and open presents after a piece of chocolate princess cake and chocolate chip ice cream. The weather was perfect, the guests were cute as anything, and hostess was elated. Heck, Daddy even threw in a few extra dollars for the princess dress on the cake to light up.

At the end of the day (after all the adults and kids in the neighborhood had climbed in and relived their childhoods), she told me it was "the best day ever." I hope, for her, it was.