Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall Festival

Our church's Fall Festival was this Sunday night. I didn't make last year's fall festival because I was sick, but others told me this one was bigger and crazier than ever. Marcus had the camera all evening because I was responsible for the toddler area in the auditorium (where the lighting is terrible). Outside, there were three huge bounce houses, pony rides and food. Inside, there were four small bounce houses for the younger kids, toys, snacks, and a cake walk. The kids all had a great time, which almost made it worth all of the work :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

We went to Old Baker Farm to check out their Pumpkin Patch on Saturday. Caleb got to have his friend Matthew along for the day, and all three boys had a blast! We got there around 10:00 am and played hard for five hours (other than the short nap Ethan took in the stroller). The kids enjoyed a couple of hay rides, dancing to a live band, wandering through a field of pumpkins, petting farm animals, playing in a hay maze, picking cotton, climbing up and sliding down a haystack, eating PB&J and fried chocolate pies, and getting very, very dirty. We were all filthy and exhausted by the end of the day, but very glad that we decided to try a pumpkin patch this year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Caleb (Monthly Update)

It is the 23rd again, so Caleb is 3-years-and-7-months-old today. His favorite activity this month has been putting together the same 100-piece floor puzzle over and over again. He does this puzzle at least once, and sometimes two or three times, every day. We keep it up in the living room (not the play room), so Ethan is less likely to disturb Caleb's process. Caleb just asks politely, "Mommy, can I go do my pirate puzzle in the living room," and then heads upstairs. Usually I don't hear a peep from him for about 30 minutes until he shouts, "Mommy! I finished it! Come look!" Then I go upstairs and "ooh" and "ahh" while he stands there proudly. In the evenings, when Ethan is asleep, Caleb likes me to do the puzzle with him. We've had some of the best conversations over that puzzle. It's usually just me and him in the house because Marcus is working late, and we just sit and chat. Caleb is not a talkative child, so when I am so blessed to catch him in a chatty mood, I am all ears. I have a feeling that will be true for many years.

A cute morning interchange between Caleb and Ethan has started up this month. Ethan always wakes up shouting. Usually he is shouting "MA-MA" at the top of his lungs, but sometimes it is "DA-DA" or "BUH-BUH" (Caleb). Since poor Ethan is on the demanding side of the spectrum, Marcus and I often bury our heads under the pillow and let him shout through our shared wall for a few minutes. At least that's what we did until Caleb intervened. If Caleb hears Ethan (from his room down the hall) before one of us gets up, he darts into our room and exclaims, "Mama! Ethan is calling for you! He needs you! You have to go get him!" Caleb's compassion for his brother is so sweet that I always force myself out of bed when Caleb pleads his brother's case. Sometimes, Ethan calls for Caleb himself, and Caleb runs happily into Ethan's room, very proud to be the one his brother is calling for. (Of course I quickly follow because as soon as Ethan realizes that Caleb can't lift him out of the crib, cries will ensue.) The other morning, Caleb was sleeping between Marcus and I in our bed (after a mid-night waking). Ethan woke up shouting as usual, and one of us poked Caleb and said, "Caleb, go talk to your brother for a minute." Caleb rubbed his eyes sleepily and said, "He's not calling me...he's calling you." Details, details, my son :)

Of course, the biggest development for Caleb this month has been starting preschool. Preschool is still going very well. So far Caleb has not had one negative thing to report. The only thing that I don't like is all the extra time spent in the car. It ends up being over an hour each school day...15 minutes each way, four times a day, plus 5-10 minutes twice a day waiting in line to pick up and drop off. As much as I dislike being in the car that much, it is worth it because Caleb is getting so much out of the experience. His self-confidence has improved. He is more willing to do things himself, as well as to try new things. He is also eager to please and cooperative more often than he used to be (in general, he is NOT a people-pleaser).

All in all, this has been a very good month in Caleb-land. My only regret is that I can't think of any of the hilarious things he has said lately. I really do need to write them down somewhere as soon as I hear them. Otherwise they slip away and never make it to the blog. Oh, well :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall Campout (continued)

So, here's more on our camping weekend:

On Saturday morning, Caleb and I got up around 6:30. (Marcus and Ethan had left for home an hour earlier.) The five Pollard's were still asleep, so Caleb and I tiptoed quietly through the camp down to the bathhouse nearby. Then we went for a little walk, trying to kill time until the end of the "quiet time" (7:00 am). By the way, it is AMAZING how deathly quiet the campground is in the morning, and how quickly sound travels from tent to tent. This is why we have never camped without having to take Ethan away in the car at some point in the night or morning, because he wakes up SO early and he is SO loud.

Anyway, around 7:00, Caleb and I came back to camp and got to work building a morning fire. It was (at most) about 40 degrees outside, so we needed it. Despite the fact that I am not skilled in such areas (that's Marcus and Quenta's area), somehow the fire got going and even burned throughout the morning, much to my amazement. Caleb sat and ate a muffin while I moved to my more comfortable domain: making breakfast. I started the first of three packages of bacon. By the time Marcus and Ethan got back to camp, we'd all feasted on bacon and eggs and English muffins (I kept a big plate for him, of course).

Next on the agenda was a drive up the mountain for a hike. The hike was a lot of fun. The path was very wide, allowing all five kids to meander at their own pace without getting too far from an adult. The kids collected rocks, sticks, acorns, leaves and anything else that lay along the path. Their excitement about that stuff is infectious. They were all collecting acorns and most were sharing them liberally with each other. When we got to the end of the flat trail, Marcus and Caleb continued down a steep slope to see the waterfall while I took Ethan back with the Pollard's. The Pollard's gave a lady and her daughter a ride down the mountain to their car and I took Ethan for a drive so he could get a car nap.

We all ended back up at camp around 3:00ish, the kids marginally rested from car naps and all very ready to get another fire going. Dinner Saturday night was hot dogs for the kids and steak for us (after the kids were asleep). The great thing about camping is that side dishes are completely unnecessary: all anybody wants is the meat :) We let the kids stay up a little later the second night, and they all (except Ethan) tried their hand at roasting marshmellows. This was a bit nerve-wracking as their marshmellows frequently caught fire and one flaming marshmellow ended up far too close to Addison's hair, so we called that activity and moved on. All of the kids preferred eating the chocolate to the marshmellows anyway.

After some AWESOME steak (true Pollard-style), we talked and laughed around the campfire for a couple more hours before the guys (party-poopers) decided to turn in. Marcus tried to go to bed, but Ethan kept waking up cold, so Marcus took him home and the two of them slept in our warm bed and came back in the morning again. Quenta and I stayed up later and had some good girl time together. I do feel sorry for all of the other campers because I laughed so long and so hard that night! Sunday morning was more bacon and eggs, and several hours of breaking camp. We finally had the cars and kids loaded up around 11:00 am, and we headed home for much-needed baths and naps. Another succesful, though challenging, weekend of camping.

Despite the challenges, I truly can't wait to go again!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mac Daddy

So during our campout this weekend, we (the adults) got a glimpse of what we are in for with our four close-in-age boys. I was piddling around the camp kitchen at the Pollard's campsite when I looked up to see Caleb chatting with a little girl who had walked over to our campsite. It was just the two of them at our campsite...everyone else was hanging around the fire at the Pollard's. Caleb was standing there with his knee propped up on a rock, leaning forward, looking up at where she stood above him. Just the image of them chatting was too cute, so I couldn't resist wandering over to listen in on the conversation. Here's what I heard:

Izzie: "My name is Izzie. It's short for Isabel."
Caleb: "I'm Caleb."
Izzie: "I'm five-years-old. How old are you."
Caleb: "Almost four." (yeah, Caleb, in about five more months)
Izzie: "So, you're three." (perfectly delivered...absolutely hilarious)
Caleb: "Yeah."

Jackson, one of the Pollard's 3-year-old triplets, had sidled up during the conversation. He took this opportune moment to jump in and offer this bit of info to Izzie:

Jackson: "I have a quarter." (nice job Jackson...distract her from the age thing, since you are also three, and tell her what you DO have going for you)

The interactions between the three of them continued for probably twenty more minutes. They had these preschool-sized camping chairs that they were moving around and lounging in. At one point, Izzie (who was in the middle), angled her chair toward Jackson's chair, leaving Caleb looking at her back. Not daunted, Caleb just picked up his chair, squeezed it into the space between Izzie and Jackson, and plopped down in it again.

The whole scene was one of the funniest things I've ever seen kids do. At the same time, I realize that this is only the beginning of competing for the attention of the cutest girl around. I just hope we can teach them how to keep girls from coming between brothers and friends!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Campout

So last weekend we pulled off camping trip #3 for 2009. True to form, the weather was not ideal, but we still had a great time. The two weekends that we camped in the spring, it rained profusely, so we were very excited to have a dry forecast for this weekend. What we had NOT counted on was temperatures in the 30's in the middle of October.

We set up camp on Friday morning and didn't see the sun until Sunday morning. Temperatures ranged from 35 to 59 degrees over the weekend, but at least it didn't rain. In spite of the cold, both we and the kids had a lot of fun. The five kids (3-year-old triplets and our 2 boys) played chase around the campsite, kicked soccer balls down the hill to goalie "Mr. Marcus", and went on little guided nature walks around the campground. We decided to limit Ethan's nap so that both boys would be ready to go to bed early (shortly after sundown, was the plan). So, after a short car nap, we spent the afternoon going over to the Oak Mountain Petting Zoo, just a few minutes from the campsite. After that, we headed back to camp to start a fire. Even with dry firewood and plenty of lighter fluid, the wind gave us a run for our money and it took a while to get a fire going. This was the low point of the weekend, and we even considered packing up and going home. Camping in the cold with five preschoolers goes from challenging to unbearable when you take a campfire out of the equation. Anyway, Quenta and Marcus finally got a good fire going, and the fun continued. I had made chili ahead of time, and we heated it up on the gas camping stove. So dinner was the nine of us sitting around a picnic table, chowing down on chili, cheese and crackers. (The kids mostly ate the cheese and crackers.)

After dinner, it was so cold that baths were out of the question, so we just tucked our boys in their 20-degree REI sleeping bags and kissed them goodnight. (Oh, if only it had been that simple!) Unfortunately, Ethan had no interest in staying inside his sleeping bag, so he and Daddy went head-to-head for the next 45 minutes or so, until Ethan finally conked out on Daddy's chest. During the battle between Marcus and Ethan, Marcus sent Caleb back to the campfire with me (since NO ONE could fall asleep while Ethan wailed and protested). Finally, Ethan was down, and we put Caleb back to bed. It was still only about 8:00 pm, so we had a good three hours (or more) for the four of us to hang out around the campfire. We talked and roasted marshmellows and talked some more, until the cold (and diminishing stack of firewood) finally drove us into our tents. All the kids slept through most of the first night, though Ethan woke up for the day at 5:30 am, and Marcus had to take him home to keep him from waking up the whole campsite.

I'm going to sign off here and finish the weekend's play-by-play as well as post some pictures later this week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caleb Starts Preschool!

I know everyone says this, but life has been so busy lately! Busy in a good way, but it has definitely derailed my daily-blogging thing. I am going to try to get back in the habit, but I know better than to make any promises :)

Anyway, to catch you up, Marcus and I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and enrolled Caleb in a preschool/MDO program at a nearby church for two mornings a week. Our minister's wife works at the school, and Caleb's good friend Matthew was getting ready to start there, so I decided to check it out. Now, during the past six months of toying with the idea of preschool, I have taken tours of quite a few. This one impressed me more than any of the others, though I have trouble explaining exactly why. All I can say is the atmosphere/attitude of the place fits what I think Caleb needs right now. It is structured, just like any preschool, but in a relaxed way. There is no extended care, so all the kids in his class are only there from 9:30 to 1:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (meaning no one is using this "school" as a daycare). The kids transition to different rooms for different activities, which is really good for Caleb because he enjoys the changing scenery. The kids play outside for 30 minutes every day if the weather is nice, and in the gym if it is not.

Let me back up a minute and explain how we came to the decision to try preschool. Caleb and I hit a wall about six weeks ago, right around the time that he quit taking naps. We seem to have been butting heads in a variety of new ways ever since he hit that milestone. I don't know exactly what has been going on with him, but I knew that we needed a change of pace to reset since we were both much too frustrated, much too frequently. So Marcus and I talked about it repeatedly, and we came to the decision to do something we have never done before: pay for something that we are not able to fit into our budget. I pinched and squeezed the numbers as much as I could, but we are still having to take from savings every month to cover the $140 a month. As uncharacteristic as this is for us to do, we both believe that we have made the right decision for Caleb, and therefore it is worth stepping out of our financial comfort zone.

After we made the decision, I went in and signed him up. I was very excited to learn that he and Matthew would be able to join the same class and would be starting on the same day. This was very nice since both boys were starting about a month into the school year, so at least they would have each other as they entered into an established class. The first day went off without a hitch, and it has been a uniformly positive experience since then.

During the past two weeks, Caleb's attitude has significantly improved. He has an air of maturity that we haven't seen before, and his desire to please has made a welcome return. He LOVES "going to school," and happily reports about his activities when I pick him up. He is doing chapel, art, music and organized movement (is that Southern Baptist for dance?) in the preschool program each week. He is in a class with ten other 3-year-olds, only three of whom are girls (poor girls!). His classroom is large and inviting, and he has already gotten in the groove of all the little routines like putting his lunch in his cubby, finding his chair, standing in line, etc.

So far the funniest conversation Caleb and I have had about school went like this:

"Caleb, does anyone in your class have to sit in time-out at school?"
"Yes, sometimes people have to sit in time-out, when they are ugly to other boys."
"Do you ever have to sit in time-out at school?"
"Just a little bit...not a lot. Just when I be ugly."
"Does Matthew ever have to sit in time-out?"
"NO he doesn't! He is SO, SO, SO good! He NEVER, EVER has to sit in time-out!" (spoken with incredulous animation)
"Wow, that is really cool that Matthew is so good. Do you want to be good like Matthew and never go to time out?"
(long, thoughtful pause) "I just can't."

At least he knows his own limits!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Psalm 27:14

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

I needed that today. Thanks, Bible Gateway :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Ethan was 18-months-old yesterday! This month, he seems to have made the transition from "Baby Ethan" to a full-fledged little boy. I don't know if it is the fact that he is in pants now instead of shorts, or if he has actually grown, but he seems so tall lately. His face has lost almost all of its baby fat, which makes his eyes look larger and even more intense than usual. In some ways, he has mellowed out a bit, and in other ways become even more challenging. One improvement is that he occasionally accepts "No" without a protest. Another positive is that his verbal and other communicative skills have taken another leap forward. It is very important to Ethan that we understand him. Now that he can communicate even more, it has given him a sense of fitting in his environment, and he is less on edge than he has ever been. He is actually a very happy kid most of the time these days.

A negative is that he has gotten MUCH faster, as well as more calculating. You may thing I exaggerate, but Ethan can glance at me across the room, accurately estimate the distance between us (and the time it will take me to cross that distance), and then proceed to whop his brother on the head and RUN. He is sometimes on the second floor before I can catch him. It amazes me how fast he has gotten. I've taken to keeping him in the stroller most of the time when we're out (even though I'd rather him be walking and burning off energy), but it is just too dangerous. If he is more than 3-4 feet from me and he decides to take off, it is very hard for me to catch him. His physical strength is also becoming a problem. It is VERY hard for me to keep him in my arms if he doesn't want to be in arms (like at the register at a store). He pushes, squirms, wiggles, twists and arches, giving me a full workout for whatever amount of time I need to hold him.

Dancing has been a favorite activity this month. He has enjoyed dancing with Daddy and Caleb since he could walk, but this month dancing has taken the forefront of favorites. We have this Wiggle Dancing video that Caleb loved at Ethan's age, and now Ethan loves it too. He is always running to the TV (Ethan doesn't walk anywhere) and exclaiming "Dance! Dance!" The cute part is that he always does a little jig complete with arm and leg motions, in case we don't understand the word "dance." Usually we just dance to music, but once in a while we break out the video.

Ethan still loves going through the letters on Starfall's website. The cool thing is that now Caleb is good enough with the mouse to lead the two of them through the letter exercises. It might be one of the cutest things I've ever seen to watch Ethan sitting in my computer chair with Caleb standing beside him asking, "Which letter do you want to do now? P? Okay, we can do P." Then Caleb leads him through the whole exercise, encouraging him and praising him when he makes the right sounds. (I'm determined to get the video camera out and tape it tomorrow. It gives me a feeling of how happy God must feel when he sees us show love to our brothers and sisters in him. There is nothing in the world like seeing your kids work together with kindness to accomplish a common goal.