Monday, February 28, 2011

Swimming Lessons

February flew by for me because of the nice weather.  The boys took swimming lessons this month.  (It's a month earlier than our swim lessons last year, but we had to get them in before our membership to the gym expired.)  Lessons went well for both boys.  I was relieved that Caleb didn't lose any ground over the winter.  He can still swim (dog paddle) on his own.  The point of lessons this time was to encourage him to swim underwater.  He is still resistant to putting his face/head in, but he definitely made progress.  By the end of the month, he was swimming in short spurts under the water without freaking out about the water in his eyes/nose/ears.

Ethan's entry-level preschool class was more about getting comfortable in the water, which turned out to be kind of a waste of money, since he is already as comfortable as can be in the water.  He was the only one in his class who was perfectly happy to jump off the diving board, over and over again (Caleb still doesn't like the diving board).  Ethan has no problem putting his whole head under the water, floating on his back, blowing bubbles, kicking, or any of the other swim lesson activities.  The one thing I wanted Ethan to work on in swim lessons is keeping himself afloat independently, but they spent so much time playing games and "getting comfortable" in the water, that he had very few opportunities to work on that, and therefore made very little progress.  Regardless, it was good for him to be in the water twice a week all month.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Week of Parks

We have had such gorgeous weather the past ten days or so!  Last week, we went to a different park every day of the week and enjoyed hours outside every day.  On Sunday, we took the kids to Leeds Park.  It is really pretty far from our house, but not too far from church, so it's a great Sunday afternoon option.  Plus, the kids don't get to go there much and therefore they love it.  It has a huge play set that makes me a little dizzy when I look all the way up it, but doesn't daunt the boys at all :)  On Monday, we met a friend and her two little ones at a little neighborhood park near our house, and then, after Ethan's nap, I took the boys to Hoover Sports Park Central, another nearby park that Marcus recently discovered.

On Tuesday, we spent almost three hours in the afternoon at our very favorite park, which the boys have dubbed "The Castle Park."  It has a huge maze of wooden levels with "castle" look-out points that the boys love exploring and running through.  When they were younger, it made me nervous to go there, because I can rarely see both of them at once, but now that they are older, it is fun for all of us.  Caleb recently learned to do the monkey bars at this park, because they are low to the ground and he didn't mind dropping whenever his arms got tired.  While we were there this afternoon, Caleb and Ethan made friends with a sibling group of three, and the five of them played hide-and-seek-freeze-tag for a long time.

On Wednesday, we went to Homewood Park (the kids call it the "Caterpillar Park") and rode bikes.  This was quite a workout for me because I had to keep up with Ethan, who is not quite old enough to be trusted to stay on the sidewalk throughout the park, nor to steer clear of younger/smaller children.  I was pretty worn out after an hour and a half, and the park was starting to get crowded, so we loaded back into the car and went over to Aldridge Gardens to meet Aunt Wendi and Joel for a quick hike around the gardens.  Caleb loves parks, but Ethan prefers hiking and the zoo, so this was his favorite part of the week so far.  On Thursday, we spent the morning at Veteran's Park.  I guess the rest of the Mommies were pretty parked-out by then, because it wasn't too busy.  Caleb and Ethan did manage to find two little girls (sisters) to play monsters with, though (monsters = the boys act like monsters and chase the girls and the girls squeal and run away).

By Friday, I was almost ready to stay home and forgo one day of beautiful weather, but a friend called and invited us to a play date at the castle park, so we got ready and headed over there.  I probably should have followed my instinct, since this turned out to be the only day all week that the boys weren't happy and well-behaved outside.  Ethan was whiny and Caleb was mischievous, so we called it a morning a little early and headed home for Ethan's nap.

Saturday was the best day of all, because Marcus got to go with us to Oak Mountain State Park, where we hiked for hours with Aunt Wendi and Joel.  We stopped by the petting zoo first, and were amazed to see five new pairs of goat kids in the barn (I say pairs because there were two born to each mother...maybe goats always have two at a time, I don't know :)  All five pairs had been born within the past week, and one had been born just two hours before we arrived.  They were still wet and very, very new.  Since almost all the goats were in the barn with their babies, there were only a strutting peacock, a very sweet Shetland pony, and a lot of very shy sheep in the barnyard, so we didn't get to do much petting.  Next, we drove over to one of the lower trail heads and set off on our hike.  We always hike pretty slowly with plenty of stops to allow the kids to climb up a slope, walk over a log bridge, or collect cool things they see along the path.  At one point, we stopped near a stream so the boys could throw stuff in the water (a favorite amusement).  The weather was so nice that we even let them strip down to their undies and play in the stream for about 30 minutes.  They, of course, got soaking wet, but they had a blast, and, when they were done, we just took off their undies and put their shorts, T-shirts and shoes back on.  When we finally got back to the cars, we looked at the trail map and realized that the boys had made it for a 2.5 mile hike! (and Marcus only had to carry Ethan for about ten minutes)  It was a beautiful day outside, and I am so glad Marcus got to take a break from his dedicated studying to enjoy it with us.

The great weather is supposed to be continuing this week, so the plan is to visit the zoo and another favorite park that didn't make it into the line-up last week, though we are taking Monday off for grocery shopping and getting some housework done :)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Birmingham Winters

As I've mentioned before, I love the climate here in northern Alabama.  Each season lasts about 3 months, which is the perfect amount of time (in my opinion).  For the most part, winter is December, January & February; spring is March, April & May; summer is June, July & August; and fall is September, October & November.  It gets pretty cold during the winter months (at least compared to Florida), but we rarely get snow or ice.  This is our third winter here, and we have had snow for 1 or 2 days each year.  That is just the right amount of snow for me, since we are a southern family and my kids will only play in the snow for about 30 minutes at a time anyway.  My favorite thing about winters here is the random warm days (or weeks) that seem to come out of nowhere.  In December, there are usually 5-7 sunshiny days during which the high is in the upper sixties (or even higher).  In January, we're lucky to get 1 or 2 nice days like that.  In February, it's usually back to 5-7 pretty days.  We're getting even more than that in February this year: this is the fourth day of temps in the high 60's, and they are predicting the same kind of beautiful, sunny days for the next five days.  We went to two parks on Monday and spent most of the day outside yesterday, so we are milking this taste of spring!  I love being outside!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lego Mania

For the past six weeks or so (ever since Caleb got five sets of Legos at Christmas), building Lego creations has been his favorite past time.  He hasn't been napping at all for the past four weeks, and he usually spends Ethan's nap time breaking and rebuilding one of his Lego sets.  He is impressively focused and meticulous about following the directions.  He checks and double-checks that he's done everything on one page before moving to the next, and he rarely makes a mistake.  When he asks for help, it's almost always help finding a piece, not figuring out where to put something.  And it is definitely the process that he enjoys more than the product, because he has no problem breaking one of his creations so he can start a new one.  The first few pictures are of him building one of the cars in his car set.  The last picture are things he built over the past couple of days: a house/carport, a mini-castle, and a helicopter.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Puff the Magic Dragon

My kids are currently fascinated with the song Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul & Mary.  They follow the lyrics (and can sing most of them), and listen attentively every time we sing it or play it. They are intrigued by the idea of a boy with a magic dragon to play with, but they are puzzled by the fact that the boy grows up and deserts his friend. You can see on Ethan's face that he feels the dragon's pain on that day that "Jackie Paper came no more." Caleb's favorite part is the chorus, which he sings with gusto, but Ethan is captivated by that final verse..."the sad part," as he calls it.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.

Oh Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called  Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called  Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.

Oh! Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ringling Brothers Circus

We got two free tickets to the circus through our library children's reading program, so we took the boys to see the show while it was in town last weekend. The kids had a great time. They saw tigers, elephants, horses and zebras, as well as stunt men, acrobats, tight-rope walkers and all kinds of other performers. Marcus and I were most impressed by the human canon ball catapulted across the arena, as well as the animal trainer in the ring of white tigers. The whole thing lasted several hours, but the boys didn't get antsy until the very end. We did find out that the reason the circus can afford to give out free tickets is because they make most of their money through the vendor's booths. A little plastic toy cost $22, cotton candy was $12, a snow cone in a cup was $18. The shocking thing to us is that people were buying this stuff right and left. I was flabbergasted to see one Mom hand over THREE $100 bills to a vendor to pay for a few toys and snacks for her three kids and herself. We, needless to say, bought absolutely nothing.  But we had a great time walking around looking at everything, and definitely enjoyed watching the show with the kids.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Ethan is 2 years and 10 months old today.  He is doing really well with recognizing his letters.  He knows most of the them, capital or lower case, on site, as well as the phonetic sound.  A few cause him some trouble, like "V", "J" and "W."  He loves to do his ABC puzzle, write letters, or do letters on the Starfall website.  He is learning to recognize his numbers as well and knows about half of them.  He can count a group of objects of up to five consistently, which he does multiple times of day.  He knows his birthday, our address  (at least the street, city & state part), and is well on his way to being able to recite Mommy's phone number without help.  He can say the seasons, the days of the week and all twelve months in order, most of the time without missing any.  He loves to sing the songs "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Jingle Bells."

His love for his Superman costume has not waned in the six months we've had it.  At some point around Christmas time, I started limiting him to wearing it just one day each week (to avoid the battle of getting dressed in other clothes all the other days).  So for the past two months, he has asked every morning what day it is, since he knows that he can only wear Superman clothes on Monday.  His second-favorite thing to wear is absolutely nothing, which is only allowed for a little while after baths (since it is the dead of winter). After naked-time, his next choice is pajamas, which he wears almost all of the time we are at home.  He does not like regular clothes at all (particularly pants), and getting  him dressed to go out is always either a negotiation or a battle.

Ethan has a lot of favorite toys right now: a baby iguana (a little TY beanie baby) that sleeps with him every night and every nap, an Imaginext Batman plane with a specific Batman figure (we have 3, but he only plays with his favorite one), a Superman figurine (we have two of the exact same one, but he will only play with the one that doesn't "kick him's legs"), a long orange Tinker Toy stick that is a sword to him, and a flashlight that Uncle Mike gave him at Christmas time.  He totes some (or all) of these toys around the house with him all of the time, and he doesn't like to set them down.  If he needs his hands for something else, he wants me to hold the toys that are in his hands.  Usually I just help him find a nice corner to pile them in for the moment.

He is still very generous and forgiving and protective of others.  He always shares his treats, is quick to forgive almost every offense, and is the first to jump into a (literal) fray to defend someone else.  He will go so far as to hide the switch when he hears me tell Caleb that he is going to get a spanking.  When Caleb has been caught by the "tickle monster" and is being mercilessly tickled, Ethan stops mid-run, turns around, and jumps right into the conflict to pull Caleb away.  He is an energetic little sweetheart and we love him dearly!