"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings








Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Transcript from the Backyard

Me: Okay, guys, ten minutes and we're going in for dinner!

Evan (glancing at his two buddies from down the street, who had come to play): Can I stay out longer?

Me (thinking that I'm calling his bluff): Sure, but I need to go in. You're welcome to stay out and play, as long as you boys stay in our yard.

Evan: [Quiet. Considering.]

Me: [Packing up toys, gardening gloves, the two other children. Watching him out of the corner of my eye.]

Evan, to his friends: Hey, guys....Would you...feel comfortable staying outside to play after my Mom goes in? She'll be right inside if we need anything!

Buddy #1: Dude. We do that all the time. I mean, like, we were just outside of his house for, like, five hours By Ourselves.

(They hadn't been home from school for even three, and had been at mine for one.)

Buddy #2: Yeah. We do it all the time. We're seven.

Evan, to me: Hey, Mom! We're just gonna stay out and play for awhile. Call me when it's time for dinner.

Me: Okay, bud! Sounds good.

Evan: I promise we'll stay right in the backyard.

Me: Great!

Evan: Right here, where you can see us.

Me: Yup! Have fun!

Evan: ..... ..... .....

Buddy #1: So, are we gonna play?

Evan: ..... ..... Yup.

***

He was inside less than ten minutes later.

"Mom! I'm back inside! I told the guys it was probably time for dinner, so they went home."

But that means that he was outside with his buddies, without me, for almost ten minutes.


Sometimes Baby Steps can feel Big.



Lesson Learned:

Seven year old boys are the best.
(Especially mine.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Austin: A Super Helpful Travel Guide

We just got back from our second trip to Austin, Texas, to visit Sam's sister Kelly, her husband, Steven, and their new itty-bitty, brand-new baby boy, Duke. Our first trip to Austin was two years ago for Kelly and Steven's wedding. So it seems that, if you want us to visit you, all you have to do is get married or have a baby.

We're practically traveling experts by now, so I thought I'd share some of our Super Helpful Travel Tips that will make your next trip to Austin a breeze.

Um. Yeah, right.

Some day, these kids will be awesome travelers. Until that day, we'll keep our visits short and sweet and our expectations low. But read on to find out what we learned on this adventure...

***

1.  Stay where there are at least two bedrooms so that all of the sleeping that needs to happen, can happen. We rented a condo through VRBO, which ended up being cheaper than a hotel AND included a kitchen. I guess I forgot to tell my boys that separate rooms is supposed to mean better sleeping because they were still up BEFORE 5am. Yawn. Next time I'll make sure they get the memo.

1a.  And, just as importantly, stay where there is a Washing Machine. It allows you to pack for five people, for four days, like this:


1.b. It also means that the family who were on both flights of your trip to Austin will see your whole family in EXACTLY THE SAME OUTFITS when they are on both flights of your return trip, but you're not trying to impress anyone, so it's fine. Really, it's fine. You don't need to explain yourselves to them, even though you kind of want to.

2.  Bring extra jammies. I mean, like, a LOT of jammies. Because for some reason, when you are traveling in Texas, all of the kids don't quite make it to the potty in time in the middle of the night and huge, epic, meltdowns occur when there are not enough clean jammies to change into when they are needed at 4:45 in the morning. Explaining that washing machines (and screaming about having to wear CLOTHES instead of jammies at breakfast) are loud and neighbors are sleeping doesn't go well for anyone before 5am. Also, extra jammies will be needed when the orange juice is spilled all over the just-cleaned-from-peepee jammies.....which means that by 6am, the poor neighbors have heard two epic meltdowns and they're counting down the minutes until our trip is over.

3. Bring snacks. You'll need them on the plane because you'll be with your children On A Plane For Multiple Hours, which means they'll probably, at some point, get bored, which means they'll say they're hungry. Probably loudly. You'll also want snacks handy when you're on the go around Austin because meal times may be off schedule and nothing keeps a kid in the Vacation Spirit (and out of Off Schedule Grumpiness) quite like unrestricted access to snacks.

4. But most likely, you'll need additional groceries besides the snacks you packed, so go to Whole Foods. But go to the Whole Foods store not the Whole Foods Regional Office. It's tricky because they're both on Lamar Boulevard. You'll know you're in the right place when the building in front of you looks like a grocery store, not an office building.

4.a. While at Whole Foods, watch out for Hipsters. They're in every aisle. And they'll make you feel a hell of a lot older and less cool then you already feel...while you're explaining to your 7-year old why we're not buying Every Snack today, and telling your 4-year old to get off the floor and OHMYGOD STOP LICKING THINGS, and manhandling your 2-year old who wants to simultaneously "walk by MYself" and "hold mommy, HOLD!" they're sauntering, with iced coffees in hand and knit hats artfully placed upon their professionally-styled hair, talking to each other about microbrews and "shows."

5. Make reservations for The Thinkery. It's the new children's museum, and it's great. If you don't make reservations ahead of time, you end up waiting on an incredibly long line for a super long time and nobody wants that. Reservations allow you to skip to the front of the line like the VIPs you know you are. Once inside, avoid the water area. Remember that part about the freak-outs about wet jammies at 4:45 in the morning? Imagine that same scene going down for the second time in one day, this time in front of two hundred other kids and parents. Some people might suggest allowing your children to go in the water area and just bringing a change of clothes. Those people don't have my kids. My kids took one look at the sign at the entrance to the water area that read: "You Will Get Wet," and said, "We should definitely NOT go into that area, Mom." My kids can be so fun sometimes.



6. If you eat lunch at Central Market, which you should, and then let your kids play on the giant, awesome playground there, which you also should....then watch out for the three-year old climbing up the Little Kid area ramps while holding a full-to-the-brim green smoothie. Every time he squeezes it a little tighter when he starts to lose his balance, a glob of green smoothie swooshes over the top and onto the ramps, making them green and slippery. His mom, who is watching him closely, will offer once to hold it for him, but will decide that he's pretty much got it under control.

7. If you eat at The County Line, which you should, you should bring your own ketchup. They do have it there, but you'll have to ask for it and the waiter just might smirk at you, you obviously not-a-Texan, when you do.

7.a. After dinner, go out back to see the turtles and boats!



8. If you go to Zilker Park, which you definitely should, you should go with more than one adult. For some reason, the playground is split into two fenced-in areas, which are divided by a TRAIN. (It's a little park train, but still.) The playgrounds are connected OVER the train by elevated walkways. If your 2-year old climbs up, which she will, you either need to push the other preschoolers out of the way so you can follow her up and across the playground before she dives headfirst off the 8-foot ladder, or you need to try to beat her to the other side as you dodge a hundred kids, cross the tracks, enter the other enclosure, and navigate to where she has ended up....which could be anywhere. So bring a spare set of eyes and position yourselves on either side of the tracks.

8.a. While at Zilker, don't miss the Botanical Gardens. They're amazing.

(Pictures taken by Evan)










 (Then I took my phone back for a bit...)




9. And finally, while you're in Austin, you should stop by Kelly and Steven's house and see this baby. I have just received the Official Word from three Very Discerning Judges that he's the cutest little baby in Texas.


But you can judge for yourselves.

Who's the cutest baby in Texas?
I am!

Lesson Learned:
It was another great trip to this great city. Can't wait to explore more of it on our next visit!

Which, if Molly and her new BFF, Jelly, have anything to say about it will be sooner rather than later...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seven? You Got This, Evan

About a week ago, Sam was out of town for work. We usually use the Divide and Conquer approach to bedtime, so we were going to have to switch things up a bit since I was on my own. When the kids were all finally washed, dried, jammied, combed, and brushed, I told the boys to go play quietly in their own rooms while I put Molly to bed.

I finished an abbreviated bedtime routine with the littlest and went to see what kind of messes were created during the boys' playtime. Instead, I found both boys tucked into Max's bed, a pile of books next to Evan. "Evan's reading to me, Mommy!" Max gushed as soon as he saw me. Before I could offer to take over, Evan waved his hand, shooing me out of the room, "You can go fold laundry or something, Mom. I can read to him."

"But I don't have any laundry to fold..."I started.

"Then just go into your room and relax or something. I got this."

***

Evan, you're the best big brother there ever was.
You love them when they're babies...

Evan and Baby Cousin Kieran

You love them when they're slightly bigger babies...


(You even tolerate them when they're getting into your stuff.)



And you share your excitement of Getting Bigger with them as they follow in your footsteps.
And they love you....So Much.


You are Getting Bigger so fast, Ev. And as much as I wanted you to slow down and stay my *little* boy when you started to take your first steps away from me (to kindergarten, then to first grade, needing less snuggle time and more time playing by yourself or with your neighborhood buddies...)
I don't want that anymore.

I love this Getting Bigger thing. You are so smart and you ask such great, thought-provoking questions...about life, and science, and history, and beliefs. I can picture what our dinner conversations are going to look like in a few years when we're (hopefully) past the "Stay in Your Seat"/"How Many More Bites Do I Have To Take" phase....and I can't wait. You want to know things that I don't have answers to...like how is it, exactly, that evolution actually happens? And, what was it like to live in the Wild West if you were a kid? And what was it like in the 1880s ("when you were a kid, Mommy."). And, what's going to happen if the bees all die? And so many questions about Star Wars...thank god for the internet. 
I love hearing what makes you wonder.

As you Get Bigger, your confidence does, too. You wanted to sign up for gymnastics again, after taking a break for the winter. During your first class, you did a cartwheel like a pro. No hesitation, no over-thinking. You just did it. And then you turned to me, waiting in the Parents' Room behind a large window, and you flashed me a thumbs up. You got this. 

During your second class, you did a cartwheel (with only minimal assistance) ON THE BEAM. And you blew my mind. But again, just a quick thumbs up and you were off to your next challenge. 

Last week was a tough week in gymnastics...not for you, you were loving it...but for your brother and sister who were Not Happy to be spending an hour in a 2'x3' space with only the books and Lalaloopsies I had brought for them for entertainment. I was busy with them, trying to keep them quiet and happy and not whining, fighting, or crying, and hadn't had a chance to watch any of your practice. But somehow, by some miracle of lucky timing, I looked up and watched as you did your very first unassisted backwards flip over the bar. That one surprised even you. You dismounted and whipped around to meet my eyes...the look on your face I'll never forget. Equal parts "I did it!" and "Holy shit!" and "Did you see that?"

I did see it. I also saw the pride on your face when you accomplished something you'd been working towards but had never done before...and whether I had been there to see it or not, that feeling wouldn't have changed. YOU did it. 

Getting Bigger is so awesome, buddy. And I'm not going to wish for time to slow down anymore. I'm going to enjoy this as much as you are.


Because, let's face it.....you're not all Grown Up quite yet. There's still a goofy little boy not too deep beneath that Big First Grader exterior....

You wanted me to take a picture of your "messy" face after eating a cupcake.
I can still count the times you've actually needed a napkin on my fingers.





And nothing, nothing, gets you goofballs going like throwing around a few potty words. A few weeks you came home from school with a big announcement...for Max. "Max, come into the playroom for a minute," you said, and of course he followed. And of course I perked up my ears. "Did you know that weenie is another word for penis? It really is." (That damn school bus.) Max started giggling, which got you going, until you were both beside yourselves with laughter. You both tumbled out of the playroom, anxious to share with me and Molly the new addition to your vocabulary. "Weenie! Weenie! Weenie!" Max sang as he danced around. I furrowed my brows at you in disapproval. "What?" you shrugged with contrived innocence, "It's just a part of our body!" I shook my head, but promptly turned to hide my smile. I mean, c'mon....Weenie? It is funny. 

But as you Get Bigger, you are starting to learn that there actually does exist a brand of humor beyond the Potty variety. In fact, I've heard you tell Max a few times lately that he's taking the potty talk too far. "Max," you'll state with Big Brother Authority, "that's totally inappropriate."

Your humor is becoming more clever...you love a good joke (though you're still honing your joke-telling skills...we have to do the "Wait, pretend you don't know the answer" routine at least once or twice with every joke you tell so you can get the punchline right) and you're figuring out puns and word play. The other day, at lunch,  you told me a story, one based on a favorite character, but completely your own: 
"Once upon a time, Amelia Bedelia's mom said to her, 'Amelia Bedelia, I want you to go to Amazon and get some new boots.' She meant that she wanted her to go to Amazon.com, you know, the website? But Amelia Bedelia misunderstood her and went to the Amazon rainforest instead! She took the boots right off of someone who lived there!"

But regardless of whether it's potty talk or a witty pun that elicits it from you, there is nothing, nothing, like the joyful, infectious sound of you laughing. I wish I could bottle it up and listen to it on rainy days.

Six has been a big year for you, buddy.
First lost tooth....


First time in a space chair....or cranial x-ray machine...


First cartwheel...first handstand...first time trying a tortilla (this was huge)...first time playing outside with the neighborhood kids by yourself, while I was inside with the other kids...first time braving the carpool drop-off line at school...

And...my favorite....first time reading a Big Kid series independently. 
Reading? Oh, yes. You got this.



We were talking about the magic of reading one day recently. "It's like a whole world exists inside your head that wasn't there before," I told you, "that's why reading is so amazing...an author can make you have certain thoughts or feelings just by putting words together into a story...they can introduce you to characters and worlds that once only existed in their minds...but now they're sharing them with you." You thought about this for a minute, then said, "I think you should read these books after I finish them. Then you'll have the story in your brain, too, and it'll be like we know what the other person is thinking."

I hope you always let me in on what you're thinking.

I love our moments together when it's just the two of us. They can be hard to come by, some days...




But we find a way. We always will.

Lesson Learned:

Thumbs up for Seven, Evan. It's going to be a great year.


I love you more than you could possibly know. Lots and forever.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Lego Movie Party

This boy...


woke up on Saturday, declaring it His Birthday, despite the fact that it was two days before he actually turned seven...because it was, in fact, Birthday Party Day. He wore his crown (from his kindergarten birthday last year, saved especially for this day...) all morning.

Evan has been Lego Crazy for over a year now. Last year's Ninjago birthday party was, apparently, the first in a series of Lego-themed birthday parties. That's okay by me because these birthday parties? They practically plan themselves.

The decor was super simple.

I downloaded the Lego font to create this Lego Birthday Banner. (I think I downloaded the font from Urban Fonts, but a Google search should turn up something.)


I highlighted each letter in my Word document before printing them out (I printed four to a page on white cardstock). Then, I cut out each individual letter and mounted it on red cardstock before taping it on the string. 


I almost spent $12 to get a roll of actual Lego Brick wrapping paper to use as the table runner....but then I found this multi-colored square pattern at Toys 'R' Us for $3 and figured it would look just as great. I'm pretty sure zero of the 7-year olds even noticed that there was a table runner.

Because it was an afternoon party, the menu was simple....fruit, veggies and hummus, juice boxes (wrapped in cardstock, with cardstock circles taped to the front to look like Lego Bricks...)


....and Boob cakes.

I mean, Lego Brick cakes.


So maybe my mini-cupcakes were just too big or my mini-loafs were just too little...but either way, the proportions were off and these cakes definitely looked like breasteses. I felt a bit like I was setting up a Bachelor Party instead of my 7-year old's birthday party....but cake is cake, and none of the boys (sweet, innocent, Lego-loving boys) saw anything other than building blocks. Phew.

Because this was a Lego Movie birthday party, we had a few "Master Builder" challenges. Each child needed to create a unique mini-figure, vehicle, and building/base.


(Molly played, too.) 

Then, they had to work in teams to create a story that incorporated all of their creations. Because it was a room full of 7-year old boys, all of the stories sounded like, "The good guys were there and then the bad guys came and then Blam! There was a battle! And the good guys won!"

But I loved to watch the process...

 
We also played a game called "Build and Switch." Each child started with a tray with a set assortment of Lego pieces on it. He had two minutes to build, then we switched trays. At the end of six rounds, each child had contributed to the team-building of each finished creation. This was a Great activity..... but it was really unnecessary....

I could have dumped a bin of Legos on the floor and left the room for two hours. These boys were, indeed, Master Builders.



And then it was time to sing...


...to my almost seven-year old.


The final game was part game, part party-favor.

Musical Mini-figures is played similarly to musical chairs, but instead of kids rotating around a circle of chairs, cards were passed from child to child. Each child started with a card, each with a different Lego Movie character printed on one side. The Birthday Boy chose one of the Character Cards to be the Winning Card. When the music started ("Everything is Awesome," from the Lego Movie, of course), the passing began. When the music paused, all cards were placed face-down in the center of the circle, and picked, at random, by each child. This continued until the end of the song, at which point the boy holding the chosen Character Card was deemed the Winner. We played a few rounds, just for fun, and then was the Prize Round.

We swapped out the Character Cards for cards that all had Emmett (the main character from the Lego Movie) on the front and a number from 1 to 6 on the back. The game was played exactly the same way, but at the end of the song, the child holding the number 1 card was allowed to choose a Lego Movie mini-figure to take home. Continuing with the child holding the number 2 card, and then going in order, each child had a chance to choose a mini-figure party favor. (I bought one extra mini-figure, so that even the last child to pick still got to make a choice. Lucky Molly got the extra.)

To round out the party favors, each child got another sealed mystery mini-figure pack and a Lego Movie bag tag that I made, with Emmett pictured on the front and the child's name on the back.

It was a great, easy party. I love Legos. And I love my boy who loves Legos.

Now we just need the Movie to come out on DVD so our lives will be complete.

Lesson Learned:
At a Lego Movie Birthday Party? Everything is Awesome!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring Break: In Pictures (and a few words)

We started our break with a very exciting (and loud) Daddy Send-Off at the train station.

Then, a few quiet days at home before our grand adventure.


We went to my parents' house; the house where I grew up. My only Home until I left for college. My parents kept the favorite, most-loved toys from when we were kids. It's like Christmas every time we go...


Except for the fact that my kids don't sleep when we travel. Which leads to mornings like this...

And early afternoons like this....

...so we can rally and hang for Movie Night with Mom Mom and Pop, like this...
 (We introduced the grandparents to Frozen, of course. Now that Pop can sing along with them to Let it Go, all is right in the world--except for the time he tried to sing it "Leave me alone! Leave me aloooooone!" which actually might be my new favorite song.)

Then, it was time to be sightseers.

National Museum of Natural History 


"Hi, Li!"










National Gallery of Art

Evan did not like Art Class last year. He didn't think he was any good at it; Art intimidated him. His kindergarten teacher told him of a famous painter who created Art by splattering paint on a canvas. She told him that art came in all different forms and everyone creates their own kind of art....there is no right way, just create what you love. His confidence bloomed. 

We saw that famous painter's famous painting as we walked through the museum on our way to lunch. Evan was Very Impressed. 
Evan and Jackson
I snuck one picture before the guard pleasantly reminded me to put away my camera.
(Whoops.)

Air and Space Museum: Udvar-Hazy Center 

Vintage Star Wars toys

Rule Breakers

Evan and Max were able to land the Discovery space shuttle in a flight simulator. They took their jobs Very Seriously. The instructor told Pilot Max to come up with a Code Word to signal Commander Evan that it was time to drop the Drag Chute. He suggested what other kids had used: Now! or Drag Chute! or Pizza! Max thought long and hard before coming up with his Code Word: "Tell Me In Common!" We don't know what he meant, either.

 Driving tour of DC

DC was packed. My Dad, former police officer in the city, knows it like the back of his hand. He took us on an awesome driving tour of the nation's capital so we could see the sights. Evan commandeered Aunt Lizzy's phone and took 207 photos on our trip. That is not an estimate or an exaggeration. He took precisely 207 photos.

Here are some of mine...







And finally....
Sunday Morning Paper

Lesson Learned:
I love Spring Break. I love Washington D.C. in the spring. I love being at my parents' house with my kids anytime. I just wish they'd figure out how to sleep in beds other than their own, ever. Yawn.