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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hell Has Officially Frozen Over ...

The government has approved a monumental buyout, an African American male is running for president, a woman is running for vice-president, and I have a Vera Bradley bag. Nope, make that TWO.

I know ... I've been making fun of them for years. For those of you less familiar, Vera Bradley is a Fort Wayne based business. She makes those flowery print bags (and other accessories) that are cute, but overpriced (in my humble opinion). Possibly because it is a local business, it seems EVERYONE here has one ... or several.

For two years, I questioned. I balked. I crusaded. I persevered. Yesterday, I caved.

The sale at the coliseum beckoned. I have been gently persuaded (OK - harassed) by friends to get "a Vera" for some time now. And, apparently, the 7 year old black vinyl backpack currently used as a diaper bag was just not working for me. Or .. my friends were a bit embarrassed to be seen with me. Either way, I came ... I saw ... I bought two bags. Let the record show two things ... they were ON SALE and ... I am no longer a Vera virgin.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday Claire!!!

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing four years ago today - marveling at the (then) newest member of our family. We fell in love with her immediately ... and she continues to bring us laughter, joy, and the occasional attitude to this day.

She loves princesses, Wrigley, "not soft" blue bear, ballet, swimming, preschool, and her best friend Phoebe. She's not fond of spiders, green beans, or going to bed.

Today she is four years old and has a big day planned. Emma and Grayson made a big deal over her at breakfast. None of the usual squabbling over who get what cup/spoon/bowl/whatever. She then had gymnastics and lunch bunch before preschool.

She's responsible for snack this week. I know many of you can relate to just how monumental this undertaking is. It can't be just ANY snack - thanks to today's "big government" preschool rules, it must be: healthy, individually wrapped, and require minimal effort. It can't be homemade, sugary, frosted, or otherwise fun. And ... it must pass four year old muster. We went with apples and caramel dip. It was healthy and seasonal. I sent my apple slicer in hopes I wouldn't be deemed the "high maintenance" parent. The two preschoolers I polled said it would be appropriate for their discerning palates.

Tonight she gets to plan the dinner menu. She wants chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce. Ice cream for dessert. You've gotta love a girl who knows what she wants. She does ... and we do. Happy Birthday Baby.