Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Birthday Party :)

After the Easter egg hunt crowd thinned out, we went ahead with the one party activity I'd planned. Marcus popped out of the woods dressed as Swiper the Fox, the "villain" from Dora the Explorer, and stole the birthday cake. Aunt Wendi was dressed in a Dora the Explorer T-shirt, and she led the kiddos through a series of clues hidden all over the park in a search for Swiper and the cake. At the end of the hunt, Swiper was apprehended by the crew of preschoolers, the cake was recovered, and it was time to sing Happy Birthday.

We tried to light candles, but it was too windy, so the group sang to Ethan and then Caleb. I admit, I wasn't too disappointed that the candles wouldn't light...I am not a big fan of fire and preschoolers in close proximity. Caleb and Ethan were both pretty stoic during the singing. I thought Ethan would be excited to be the center of so much attention, but he just studied the faces around him with a hard-to-read expression. Caleb generally does not like to be the center of attention, so his lack of expression did not surprise me. It was funny, though, when, right after the singing stopped, Caleb's good buddy Matthew leaned over and said, "Caleb? Are you happy? It's your birthday!"

Everyone played on the play ground a while longer after cake time. After all the guests had headed home, I took Caleb and Ethan to McDonald's with our BFF's, while Marcus headed home to work on a presentation. We decided to wait and open the presents after the boys had taken their naps, rather than at the party. After naps, we spent over an hour leisurely opening presents, playing with some of the toys, and even writing thank you notes as we went. Despite the curve balls thrown that morning, the boys' birthday bash turned out pretty well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthday Party!

We gave the boys another joint birthday party this year (I wonder how many more years I am going to be able to get away with that?). This year, the weather cooperated and we were able to have the party outside at a park. In invited all of the kids in our church small (large) group plus two more from Marcus's work, and 17 of the 18 were able to come! Glad I had plenty of party favors :)

The boys are really into Dora the Explorer right now (thank you, Netflix Instant Queue), and they wanted to have a Dora party. I talked them into making it a Dora and Diego party, for obvious reasons. I didn't do much to keep the party on theme except having a Dora & Diego cake and balloons, but I'm pretty sure nobody noticed that everything else was from the Dollar Store :) And instead of doing a goodie bag as a party favor, I decided to buy all the party guests cute little sun hats from Old Navy, blue for the boys and pink for the girls. The kids looked so cute wearing matching "explorer" hats.

I have to admit, the party didn't go off without a hitch. I pulled up at the park about an hour before the party was supposed to start, and the parking lot was completely full. My heart sank when I realized that another group was using the park for an Easter Egg Hunt that same morning. Thankfully, there were two small, unclaimed picnic tables, which I covered with our party snacks, cake and balloons. The Easter egg hunt was scheduled to begin at 10:00 am, exactly the same time as Caleb & Ethan's party. Also thankfully, the Easter egg hunt went very quickly, and our party guests were almost all late, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The park was still very busy the rest of the morning, but the party went on.

More pictures and stories from the party in tomorrow's post :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Funny Ethan

Ethan is such a funny kid. He makes me laugh out loud regularly with his shenanigans. So here's a post devoted to a few Ethanisms.
Ethan LOVES to eat. His teachers at church and his caretaker at the Rec Center say that he asks for snacks the whole time he is with them. And I know that he eats all day long with me. The other day, he skipped his afternoon nap, and then fell asleep on our way to Wednesday night church. I carried him in asleep and laid him in the nursery crib. I knew he would be a basket case when he woke up, but I hoped that he would sleep the whole hour. Sure enough, he woke up about twenty minutes later, completely inconsolable. His teacher and both children's ministers couldn't calm him down, but, thankfully, our good friend Mr. Al was teaching another class nearby, and he knew exactly which buttons might pull Ethan out of his meltdown. He gave Ethan a choice: "Calm down, go back in his class, and eat a snack, or keep crying and go find Mommy." Ethan choked back a couple more sobs and pointed to his classroom saying, "snack."

When anything bad happens in Ethan's world, it is always someone else's fault. The other day at a restaurant, Ethan was sitting in a high chair and he banged his head forward onto the table, completely on his own. But he immediately turned to his right and yelled at Wendi, who was unlucky enough to be seated there, "STOP DOING THAT! THAT HURT ME!" He can trip over his own feet running through the house, and amidst his wails on the floor can be heard, "BUBBA DID IT!"

For about three months now, anytime someone addresses Ethan with any appellation other than his name, whether affectionate or inciteful, Ethan takes it literally and promptly disagrees. I say, "Come here, Buddy." And he replies with, "I not Buddy. I Ethan." He does it with adjectives, too. "Ethan, you are so cute," evokes "I not cute. I Ethan." And, of course, Ethan shoots down all name-calling with the same discussion-ending phrase: "I not _____. I ETHAN!"

When Ethan does something wrong and he is being scolded, he interrupts the scolder with an excited look on his face, points off into the distance, and says something like, "LOOK, A BIRD!" or "OH NO, A BIG BUG!" Of course, there may or may not be a bird or bug or whatever else he has cooked up to distract the scolder, but his expression is so convincing that it almost always succeeds in delaying the scolding, at least for a few seconds.

Ethan regularly falls asleep in the car seat, the stroller and even his high chair. Once he's asleep, there is only one way I've found to wake him up. Talking to him, picking him up, and even tickling him yield no results. I have to pick him up and set him on the ground standing up. As soon as his legs are supporting him, his eyes pop open and he is completely awake, and even in a good mood. It is funny to watch, because it looks like someone flipped a switch on to convert the lethargic, sleeping baby into a fully-functional, running and talking toddler, with absolutely no transition time. I want to get it on video tape soon.

I'm really glad that God made kids cute and funny...if they weren't, I'm afraid hardly anybody would procreate, and those that did would not be nearly as happy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bedtime Chat

The other night, Ethan fell asleep for the night in the car, so Caleb and I enjoyed a one-on-one bedtime routine. Caleb requested a book about Jesus, so I picked one off the shelf called Jesus Blesses the Little Children. I'm not sure exactly why his interest was so piqued, but he was hanging on every word I read. After a few pages, he interrupted me with a frustrated,

"Why can't I sit on Jesus's lap and hug him like those boys and girls (pointing at the picture)? Why he not ever, ever come down and see me like that?"

I told him that Jesus is in heaven, building a beautiful house and park for Caleb and all of the other people who love Jesus, and that, when the right time comes, Jesus will come down from heaven and take us to see the amazing things he has prepared. Caleb asked a few more questions, like how old we would be when he came to get us, and what if somebody died before Jesus came back. So I had a great little theological discussion about the incarnation of Christ, the resurrection, and heaven with my just-turned four-year-old.

And, the next morning, he woke up all excited because he had had a dream that he was flying. It was so real to him that he begged me to help him go back to sleep so he could fly again. He's been talking about that flying dream every since. It has been his go-to conversation topic for the last couple of days, especially with anyone who hasn't heard about it yet:

"I had a dream I was flying. I didn't have any wings, but I just flapped my arms and flew around in circles. And Jackson and Addison and William were there watching me but they couldn't fly. I told them to flap their arms like this, but it didn't work. But I was flying around and around and around!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Day at the Zoo

The weather was gorgeous yesterday, and the boys and I spent the middle part of the day at the Birmingham Zoo. It was so fun to have them in shorts again after a long, extra-cold winter. Apparently the sun and excitement was a little too much for Ethan, because he conked out in the stroller during lunch.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ethan Can Ride His Bike!

So Ethan has figured out how to pedal on his little bike (with training wheels), just in time for his birthday party on Saturday. He can't pedal if there is any upward incline, because his legs aren't strong enough, but if it is flat or a downward incline, he is off. He is SO excited to be able to ride his bike "like Bubba!" I got some video of him riding and Caleb swimming that I really wanted to post, but, despite months of make-over efforts, I've accepted that my poor old computer is just not meant to process video. You'll just have to imagine those cute little legs pedaling on their own :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Caleb Is 4-Years-Old!

Caleb is four-years-old today! He is so excited to be four! His friend and classmate Matthew Jones has been four for two months, and Caleb has eagerly anticipated the day that he would be "four-years-old, like Matthew."

Caleb and Ethan will have a joint birthday party on Saturday, since their birthdays are so close together, but we are doing a few family things today to make Caleb's day special. Yesterday, Caleb and I made cupcakes together, so he could take cupcakes to share with his class at school today. He is also getting "birthday boy" privileges today, meaning he gets (within reason) what he wants to eat at each meal and gets to make all the little choices throughout the day. After naptime, I'll take the boys to the mall and let them ride the carousal, something Caleb has only done twice and Ethan has never done. Then we will all go out to dinner at a restaurant of Caleb's choice, after his swimming lesson tonight. We'll top the day off with cupcakes and a Happy Birthday song after we get home from dinner.

Today's post marks the final monthly update for Caleb. I figure that four years old is as good a cut-off as any. From here on out, he'll have to earn his "face" time on the blog :) But, for today, here is one final update:

The biggest thing this month was learning to swim, which both he and I are very excited about. Yesterday I took the boys swimming and Caleb took the step of jumping in the pool and swimming to the side independently. Before, I would wait in the water after he jumped in and pull him back up to the surface. Now he surfaces himself and swims to the side. He's also gotten good at flipping over to his back when he's out in the middle of the pool and getting too tired to swim.

Another big interest for Caleb this month is numbers. He counts EVERYTHING...his cereal, shoes in a row, markers, signs, how many times he has done things, and on and on and on. He can count to twenty consistently, and tries to count through the twenties and thirties, but it kind of falls apart after twenty. He loves playing the number games on the PBS website, and can even do some basic adding (adding numbers 1-4 to each other). His favorite number is five thousand, which he says in different contexts about 20 times a day. He told me today that he is going to die on his 5,000th birthday.

Caleb is definitely in a "showing-off" phase. He is always saying "Watch this trick! Is that cool?" He loves an audience for all of the gymnastics and athletic moves that he comes up with. He is also very concerned with getting bigger and stronger, and with how big and strong and fast and smart he is compared to his peers. I discourage him from focusing on himself in comparison to others, but he definitely does it anyway.

This past Sunday morning, when I picked Caleb up from his class at church, he was the proud bearer of a very big twisted-marshmellow treat. His teacher told me that he was the first one in his class to correctly recite all of the Books of the New Testament, something they have been working on since January. In true Caleb-form, he took two bites of his treat and then shared the rest with Ethan, Daddy and me. When Caleb was about 20-months-old, my friend Lauren told me that she thought that Caleb had the gift of sharing, and I think she was right about that. He is a beautiful little boy who is all-too-quickly becoming a beautiful big boy. As I tell him every day and every night, I am so grateful that God sent him to live with me, and I am thankful for every day we have together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Busy Saturday

This weekend was so beautiful! We spent most of Friday and Saturday outside in the upper-60's, lower-70's weather and loved every minute of it. I am so excited that spring has arrived! The Bradford pear in our front yard bloomed yesterday, and it is gorgeous. The boys found their first bug of the spring (a carrion garden beetle, thank you insect field guide), and squealed and laughed for twenty minutes watching that thing crawl around. They even got brave and let it crawl on their hands for a little while. When the fun was winding down, Caleb suggested that we let the beetle back go back to its family, so we put it on a tree and said goodbye.

This weekend, we had several ambitious projects on the list, and we amazingly got through them all. The two fun projects were planting my raised bed garden and creating a "club house" area for Caleb and Ethan in the back yard, under the deck. I simplified my garden this year, only planting the four plants that produced a very good crop last year. So I've got five tomato plants, four pepper plants, four basil plants, and about 12 strawberry plants that survived and even grew all winter long. Half the garden is strawberries this year. I still have a little room, and I may add a couple more herbs in the next week or so.

Caleb and Ethan's club house is just an area of about 15' x 7' under the deck that we put picket fencing around, mulched, and made a cool little entrance for. We're going to build a small table from scrap wood in the garage, and I'm brainstorming for other things to add that they will like. I'm thinking about getting some old aquariums and letting them start a bug/critter collection in the club house. That may be a better project for next summer...we'll have to see. The other projects on Saturday were fixing a leaky faucet (yay, Marcus!), blowing the leaves off the roof and driveway, setting up the mosquito zapper, and cleaning out the garage and the dogs' cage.

We topped the day off by heading to a friend's beautifully designed and decorated loft in downtown Birmingham for dinner. We made delicious mini-pizzas, and had a very nice evening...thanks to the fact that all five kids and all six adults played nicely together :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Caleb Can Swim!

As I mentioned last week, Caleb is in swim lessons this month. He has continued to do really well in the lessons, but, up through this past Saturday, had only been able to swim alone for about six feet or so (as long as it took him to expel a lungful of air). On Saturday morning, we took him to the YMCA with some friends, and, totally out-of-the-blue, he could swim on his own. After a few practices runs from the pool side to one of us, Caleb spent more than an hour in the pool, swimming completely independently. It was the weirdest thing, seeing him chilling out in the water on his own. He was like a little fish, floating on his back, dog-paddling, doing full strokes and kicks to the side of the pool. I had no idea that swimming was such an on/off switch like riding a bike. I had figured that we would have gradual progress over a period of weeks and months. We didn't have the video camera with us on Saturday, but we took it to his Tuesday swim lesson. His teacher, Miss Liz, was very, very impressed with his dramatic improvement over the weekend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mommy Daycare

This week, I had the opportunity to keep a friend's 5-year-old and 3-year-old for about 24-hours. My friend needed to paint her house and air it out for the night before her kids came back home, so Daniel and Laura came over Tuesday morning, played all day, and stayed over for a big sleepover. I was a little uncertain about how it would all go: me with a 5, 4, 3, and 2-year-old, but it went surprisingly well. Like any challenge, I approached it with a plan: I wrote down a long list of actitivities and kept it on hand, so anytime conflict became a problem or the kids were bored with what we were doing, we cleaned up that stuff and moved to something else.

We started out with a Little People Village, which is what I call it when I get all of the Little People toys off the shelves and put them in a big circle in the playroom. Then we played with Play Dough, had snacks, played on the deck in the sandbox and came back in for lunch. After lunch, we got out the Thomas train set and Ethan went down for a nap. When they got tired of the train set, I let the three older kids watch a Winnie the Pooh video for the rest of Ethan's nap. When Ethan got up, we had a snack and then got out coloring books, crayons and markers. When that got old, we made a fort out of the dining room table. By this point, Ethan was very tired of only getting 1/4 of my attention, so he wandered upstairs to hang out with Aunt Wendi, since her attention was not so unacceptably divided.

When Ethan rejoined us, we played a rousing game of Lion Chase...Ethan was the lion and the other three ran the loop through the kitchen and living room with the little lion in hot pursuit. Marcus came home from work early at 5:30 so he could take Caleb to his swim lesson while I kept the other three and cooked dinner. While Caleb was gone, me and the other three kids read books together and did some puzzles. We had a late dinner at 7:00 after Marcus and Caleb got home. After dinner, we switched to zone defense...I did the dishes while Marcus manned the play room. Then Marcus bathed and bedded our boys in our bedrom while I put Daniel and Laura down in the boys' room.

After all four kids were asleep, we emerged from our respective rooms and were amazed that it was only 8:30 pm. We had the whole evening in front of us! But we were pretty beat, so we just talked for a while, watched 24, and went to sleep.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dinosaurs Are Dead

A couple of weeks ago, I had the FUNNIEST conversation with Caleb, and I've been meaning to get it typed up ever since then. It went something like this:

Caleb: Mommy, are there any dinosaurs at the zoo?
Mommy: No, Caleb, there are no dinosaurs anywhere. All of the dinosaurs are dead.
Caleb: (in total and complete shock) ALL OF THE DINOSAURS ARE DEAD!!?? WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM???
Mommy: Well, they died a long, long time ago, before people were even alive.
Caleb: How did they die?
Mommy: I think they ran out of food. Some people believe that a big meteorite, which is a giant rock, fell out of the sky and destroyed a lot of the things that dinosaurs eat. So the dinosaurs ran out of food and they all died.
Caleb: Oh, no. That is awful.
Mommy: Well, it is sad, but there are lots of other animals that God made that are still alive.
Caleb: Which ones are still alive? Are the dolphins dead? Are the whales dead? What about the elephants? I never saw any of those animals...are they all dead, too?

I laughed out loud at this line of questioning, but at the same time, I completely understand where he was coming from. The dinosaurs he saw in books were as real to him as the dolphins and the elephants. It must have been quite a shock to hear that a whole group of animals exists only in pictures. We got it all straightened out eventually, but Caleb mentioned his sadness about the dinosaurs a couple more times over the next few days.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Riley & Shannon

This post is dedicated to the two furry members of our family, who have been thoroughly neglected since Caleb's birth (and the inception of this blog). Riley was our first baby. We had been married for two years and had just closed on our first home, and we wanted a dog. We bought him from an Irish setter breeder in Texas, and doted on him shamelessly for the first year of his life. When he was a year old, we decided he needed a friend. So we adopted a little sister and named her Shannon, and we doted on both of them for another year. They lived in our 1000 sq ft house with us, and even slept in our (queen-sized) bed with us, on occasion. We brushed their long hair all the time, and took them to the dog park several times a month. They had a very good life.

When Riley was two-years-old and Shannon was one-year-old, Caleb was born, and the dogs' poor little worlds came crumbling apart. Initially, we let them stay in the house and just kept them out of the bedrooms. But when Caleb was about six-months-old and started crawling, the dust and hair everywhere frustrated us too much, and Riley and Shannon became outside dogs.

This summer, Riley will be six-years-old and Shannon will be five-years-old, and they've been outside for most of their lives. But last week, I broke down and bought a set of professional dog clippers so I could cut their long hair short, remove all the matted areas, and get them really, really cleaned up. It took the better part of Saturday afternoon, but they look and smell like new dogs. I was so pleased with the effect that I even let them come in the play room with the boys for a little while yesterday morning. Now that Ethan is big enough that he is not intimidated by their size, I hope the boys (and we) can enjoy more time playing with our over-sized canines :).

Monday, March 15, 2010

First Dollars

As I mentioned in the post about the boys' hair cuts, Caleb and Ethan each got their very first dollar from their generous hair stylist, Mr. Mickey. Since the dollars were given directly to them and they were earned for good behavior, I decided to take them to the Dollar Tree on Friday to make their first ever independent purchases. (To be honest, I was quite tempted to just stick the dollars in their piggy bank and delay this whole introduction of money in stores, since I have an idea of how it may change the landscape of our shopping experiences, but I took the plunge anyway. I'll let you know how it turns out.)

Caleb was very excited about going to the store to pick out anything he wanted to buy with his dollar. He was chatting about the possibilities, and I was pleased to hear him brainstorming about things he could buy other people. Buying "something pretty" for his good friend Addison came up more than once, so I was quite curious to see what he would end up choosing. Ethan kept saying that he was going to buy a yummy, and I was pretty sure about the direction his dollar would go :)

I decided before we went in that I wasn't going to steer them at all with their choices. This time, I wanted to see what they chose completely on their own (particularly Caleb, since he had talked about buying something for someone else). We walked around for a while, and Caleb collected about five items in the cart as possibilities to consider. Ethan's latched on to a hard baton with balls on either end, which I immediately wished he hadn't seen, since I knew it would end up being used to "bonk" people and things and have to be confiscated regularly. But I stuck to my plan and let him choose what he wanted.

After we'd walked around for about fifteen minutes, I told Caleb it was time to decide what he was going to buy. In the cart, he had a bag of colorful rocks, a package of stickers, a toy car, a heart-shaped dream-catcher for Addison, and one of those eyeglass/nose silly masks. He quickly eliminated the first three and held up the mask and the dream catcher. Caleb had been giggling at the mask ever since he saw it and I knew he really liked it. As he stood their looking back and forth, I was sure inside that he would choose the mask. He looked up at me beseechingly and said, "Mommy, can I buy two things." I shook my head gently and told him that he only had one dollar, so he had to choose only one thing. He let out a dramatic, whole-body sigh and said quietly, "I want to get the dream-catcher for Addison." I was very surprised and very proud. I told him that he had made a very good choice to buy something for someone else. I let the moment sink in, and then I told him that I was going to use my dollar to buy the mask for him, because I wanted to make him happy like he was going to make Addison happy. His face broke out in a HUGE grin and he hugged me and said "THANK YOU MOMMY!"

We had plans with Addison's family that evening, and Caleb could hardly wait for the four hours to pass until he could give Addison her dream-catcher. He gave it to her as soon as she opened the front door, and she was as pleased as she could be.

(By the way, in explanation of the pictures below, Friday happened to be a dress-up day...the boys wore their pirate costume and doctor's scrubs all day long, for no particular reason.)