Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Weekend of Pool Fun & Residing

Some weekends at home feel relaxing, like last weekend. Plenty of naps, a slow pace, and kids that, for the most part, get along with each other. And then there are other kinds of weekends at home. Those that have you working hard at maintaining the house, and keeping the kids happy. All the time. So, now you need a break from your weekend.

There were plenty of fun things that happened Saturday and Sunday, despite how exhausted we felt Sunday evening. Yes, it was hard work for Steve to set up the pool, and then the new slip and slide, when the kids requested it, but it was also so much fun to see their faces as they slid down the slide. They're still little enough that the pool felt new to them, even though they spent tons of time doing this same thing last summer.

Steve has started a new project - residing the garage. It amazes me how he tackles jobs that are new to him. He just jumps right in and figures things out as he goes along. He worked on it all day Saturday, and then, after playing guitar on the worship team for several hours Sunday morning, he tackled the garage again for many hours in the afternoon and evening. I had wonderful nursery duty at church. We went from hardly having any babies, to the two of us taking care of five this past week. And I had to change a poopy diaper. By now I guess I can say I've changed hundreds if not a thousand poopy diapers, and yet changing other kid's diapers always makes me feel like gagging. Isn't that strange?

Jared helped Steve quite a bit, too, with the garage. I think it's because he likes Steve's drill.  He asked to have one for Christmas, but then again, he wants EVERYTHING for Christmas. Just this past week we broke down and got Tivo. We had actually been taping everything on a VCR, but it broke down. Now I can pre-record things on PBS and other basic channels (we only have cable for the hookup, not any extra channels). So, when we were at Best Buy, Jared ran up and down the aisles saying, "I want that for Christmas, and I want that for Christmas." His latest thing is wanting a Spiderman mask.

We also had two "picnics" outside this weekend. We didn't have a full meal, but on Saturday, in the middle of the afternoon, we spread out a blanket on the lawn, brought out some watermelon and blueberries, and I read more of Charlie and the Chocolate factory. On Sunday, Alexa asked to do it again, so we took out some drinks and picture books and read outside. We really need to do this more often for lunch.

I wish I would have taken pictures on Monday, but I didn't. Here's some things we did:

~ made "spicy" dough with cinnamon
~ played a game from Highlights 4 magazine - but we pretended the candle, animal, hat and presents playing cards were for the Joker's birthday
~ I introduced the kids to my favorite cartoon when I was a kid - Inspector Gadget - which they LOVED. Later that day, they rode their bikes around saying they had to pick out a present for Dr. Claw. Then they parked their bikes, ran into the house and upstairs, which they said was the toy factory.
~ water color painting,
~ finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Later that evening, after baths, we started watching the 70's version, but the kids were wiped out after a long, active day. Jared fell asleep at 8:10 (something he has only done one other time since he's been under two) and Alexa was asleep by 8:45. It worked out great because Steve was travelling, and I actually had some quiet time at night by myself. YEAH!

Goodbye, Butterflies!

This past Friday morning, on the 21st, we released our butterflies. While the kids have enjoyed watching the larvae change into a chrysalis stage and then hatch into butterflies, it has been by far Steve and I who have enjoyed the process the most. I think we'll do this every spring as a sort of rite of spring ritual.

I hadn't wanted to keep the butterflies for so long (it had been 10 days since the first butterfly had hatched), but it had to be at least 55 degrees, even at night, before they could be released, and it has just finally reached those consistent temperatures.

So, Friday morning, before Steve left for work, we released our nine butterflies. I had expected them all to fly out in a flurry, but it was all rather anticlimactic. It took about ten minutes for the first brave painted lady to fly out, and a full three and a half hours for the last one to leave.

When the second one left the habitat, it hovered in the air next to us for a few seconds, and then landed on Steve's shoulder.

After waiting and waiting for more butterflies to fly free, Steve had to take off for work, and the kids suddenly found the puddles more interesting.

It was a gray, gloomy morning, and a bit windy. Maybe that's what scared the butterflies. But later that afternoon, the sun came out, and it was a wonderful afternoon for some fun sand play. Chicago weather is so fickle. It's nothing for the temperature to change 30 degrees within 24 hours. This weekend it looks like sunny, sunny skies. Yeah!

At the Art Institue with Grammy & Pappa

The day after Navy Pier, on the 20th, we went with my parents to the Art Institute. My dad is a history buff and wanted to check out the Renaissance paintings, and I have a membership, so we split the parking and went together.

We went with my dad for a little while, checking out some Monets, some decorative European arts, and a few other rooms, before the kids started to get a bit antsy. So, my mom and I took the kids to the Touch Gallery. We've been there before, but it still held the kid's attention for a while. They love anything they can touch. When we entered the room, Jared ran for the cut-out kight costume, the kind you can put your head into and take a picture. Right away, an uptight older lady says, "Please supervise your children." Come on. If they can't get excited and move around in this room, that's pretty sad. Don't you want to encourage children to love coming to art museums?

Well, besides that the kids enjoyed a little drawing, looking at the knight's armour, trying on the gauntlet, and a quick stop in the minature room.

They wanted to go to the Ryan Education Center before we left so, we headed across the museum. The kids really love building things with the mat cushions. They remembered last time how they made "sandwiches" out of themselves and the mats, so that's the first thing they did.

Then another set of twins, 3 year old girls, came in, and they quickly started a game of running across the top cushions and jumping off. This lasted for a little time, until the girls left, and the woman that worked in the room, kept nagging them about not running. I tried to say Jared really needed to move around. If he doesn't, watch out!

So, the kids started to build something. I think it was a house, or cave, but they really were cooperating pretty well.

Well, Jared started to get really excited, so he started running across the room to get more mats. And both kids started singing and humming a little loudly, but nothing obnoxious, at least I didn't think so. There was another woman in there with a little boy, and they were working on the computer. She started to turn around and give dirty looks when the kids started to get louder. Please. If you want it really quiet, don't come to a room with lots of playthings to do quiet work. I let myself feel pressured into telling the kids to be quieter. Alexa came to me right away, but by now, Jared was too excited and worked up about his project, and he wouldn't come by me. Every time I tried to bend down to tell him something, he dashed away from me. I caught up to him and picked him up, and that's when all hell broke loose.

He started screaming his head off. I quickly carried him into the bathroom, where we spent close to 15 minutes of him trying to swing and kick at me. I tried very hard to tell him if he would be quiet and listen we could go back to the room, but he was beside himself. People started coming in, so I carried him into a stall with me, and finally, finally he started crying softly, and I picked him up and held him tight. He said he had a headache, and I tried to explain that's what happens when you cry hard for a long time. It really was the most intense tantrum he's ever had before. It wasn't the longest, but the intensity was really scary.  I really can't describe it fully, but it was really bad.

We left shortly after that, and he fell asleep in the car. He was much more calm that afternoon, making up a game with Alexa where they'd turn over the garbage can and pretend it was a ship. I love, love, love his creative energy, how he's a fantastic builder, and makes up marvelous stories, but it is very, very difficult to raise such an intense child. Can anyone else relate?

Navy Pier & Chicago Children's Museum

We started out the day, May 19th, with jumping. Well, actually flippping. The kids have a little routine down where they climb onto one couch, run across it, stand on the end table, jump and then do a flip. Alexa is actually quite good.

With all that energy oozing out of the kids, I was glad we went with Steve downtown that day. I knew his conference was downtown, but for some reason I assumed it was at McCormick Place. Turns out it was at Navy Pier. So,we hitched a ride, since the parking was paid for through Steve's work, and we went to the Chicago Children's Museum in the morning while Steve was at his conference. That was free, too, since we have a membership.

The kids didn't really want to stay at one thing that day. We've been there three times before, but I'd never been there by myself with the kids. Since our stop to the bathroom before going into the museum hadn't gone so well, (Jared wouldn't stop kicking the stall next to us, and both kids were looking underneath the stall at the person inside), I was not feeling too good about how well they, particularly Jared, would stay near me. Thank God, the morning was pretty sucessful. Just two crying sessions and two times of trying to run away. Not great, but I can live with it. For now, anyways.

So, like I said, they did a lot of flitting from one thing to the next (I think they were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place), so be forewarned, there's a lot of pictures!

The first stop is always the firestation since it's closest to the enterance. Jared loves, loves, loves dressing up in any type of costume, so this was perfect for him.

I wish I would have taken another picture of Jared near the top of this rope tunnel, but I have great video coverage. The ladder goes up two stories. The first time Jared climbed this with Steve he was 21 months old. This was the first year he climbed on his own. Alexa didn't want to climb, which was no surprise.

Somehow they found this bench funny and facinating.

The museum puts up new exhibits about four times a year, so we headed towards the new exhibit, Dinosaur Exibition. It really was well done. The kids could put on vests if they wanted, and take large brushes to use to brush off their newly dug-up dinosaur bones buried beneath the rubber chips. They also had a few full-sized, small dinosaur skeletons.

This was a cute interactive exhibit. You get your picture taken, and then it's placed on the insect's head on the screen. Then you pick up the stuffed insect in front of you and fly him across the screen. The screen had images of Navy Pier so it looks like the insects are flying all around Navy Pier.

More dressing up...

....and game playing. I loved this large chess set. I really think Jared will love this game in a few years. They also had a large...

...bowling ball set. This went over big until Jared came over and kicked over Alexa's pins after she had spent forever setting them up. AGGGGHHHH!

So we went over to the large tic-tac-toe game, where, thankfully, there was much better cooperation.

They also liked the large hopscotch game.

We spent quite some time in the art room, finger painting. They like the different items there to run through the paint like the velcro hair curler and the combs. They basically just globbed on a bunch of paint at the end, and had a blast squishing their fingers in its gooiness.

We then visited the water room where Jared was glued to the levers and pullys.

Alexa loved playing bus driver....

...and working the car wash, while Jared...


...worked on changing the tires on the car.

By this time I was getting tired, and really welcomed Steve's call to meet him for lunch. We ate at Charlie's Ale House.

Jared really wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel, but Alexa wasn't having any of that. I'm afraid she inherited my fear of heights. So, us girls went on a fun caurosel ride, and the boys had a wonderful view of downtown Chicago fromn the top of the Ferris wheel.

After our rides, we took a walk along the pier, mainly looking at hundreds of school kids boarding boats for, I assume, 8th grade parties. At one of the boats, they were passing out cookies. One of the workers must have head Jared say he wanted a cookie, because he ran after us and offered us a cookie, too. Along the way, we stopped by the fun mirrors. I was surprised at how much the kids got a kick out of them.

On the drive home, the kids fell asleep in the car, and woke up to ice cream sundaes at home. Steve' job can be very stressful, and we really hate it when he travels, but days like today do make up somewhat for those rough days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Weekend of Pretend Play, Naps and Movies

This will be a quick (well, probably not that quick!) recap of our weekend, yesterday and today.

No, I don't really tie my kids up! As you know, Jared loves Batman and all his villains right now. So, lately I've had to be Poison Ivy. He actually wants me to tie him up, drag him up the stairs to my "greenhouse," and then on Saturday, I picked herbs and other plants from my greenhouse, boiled them up, and then cooked up Batman for a Batman stew. Afterwards, we laid together and I told him a story of how I (Poison Ivy) became Poison Ivy, which I'm sure was quite different from the story made up in the comics.

So, Saturday, for the most part was a really nice lazy day. Steve made bacon and pancakes, the kids watched a Scooby Doo movie, Steve got caught with the budget, and I was able to do some reading. Steve took a nap and I feed the kids lunch, we read some more Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and then we played doctor. Alexa loved playing in the traditional way, taking temperatures, blood pressures, giving shots, and listening to heartbeats with her doctor set....

...while Jared played a little more unconventionally (he's using the injection needle as a missile below).

Later that afternoon, Steve took the kids to order storm windows for the upstairs while I took a much needed nap. For the past month, we've been constantly on the go on the weekends with family stuff, so it's been so nice this weekend to just do nothing scheduled. Later that evening we picked up some movies and a pizza, and watched Mulan. I was surprised at how much I liked it. I'm not a big animation fan at all, but it really was pretty good. Later that evening Steve and I watched The Young Victoria. Lately, I've been falling asleep in the middle of movies, but I stayed awake for this one.

Sunday was once again satisfyingly lazy. After coming home from church, we ate and took more naps (the adults, anyways!) I honestly can't remember much more that we did other than the kids watched Mulan again, and we picked up a chicken dinner from Jewel so I didn't have to cook.

Monday was a wonderful stay at home day. We didn't go anywhere. It was marvelous! I've forgotten how important it is for me to have days like this, frequent days like this, to feel sane. The kids excelled in pretend play this day.

First thing in the morning, the kids went upstairs to play music together, Jared on his drum set and Alexa on the guitar.

They haven't made concoctions lately, but Jared said he just had to make a new recipe today, so that's what he did. Here were some of the ingredients: turkey meat, water, juice, a very ripe banana, cereal, a little donut, chocolate sauce, and tied up Batman and Spiderman.

Jared's new villain costume. He calls this the Wizzar.

There was riding bikes in the sprinkling rain....

....hiding in their "cave" the sandbox...

...tracing letters (I bought her a Kumon My Alphabet Games book. She's also told me yesterday that she wants a maze book, too)

...showing me his rock collection...

...jumping on the bed...

...and giving their stuffed dog, which they named Bono, a bath.

Steve stopped home briefly to take a quick shower (he'd been playing golf all day with clients) and brought some co-workers with him. The kids were so hyper-talkative, it was funny. They usually are shy around strangers, so I don't know what brought this on. At one point, one of the men asked Alexa how old she was. "Four," she says. "Oh," he says, "so you'll be going to kindergarten next year then, right?" She thinks about this for a minute. "I don't think so," she says. "When I get older, I'm going to heaven. Heaven is a wonderful place because that's where Jesus is." 

I can't believe we did this, but we watched two movies in a row - Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword, and the Wizard of Oz.

Today was our Junior Farmers program. We had a lot of baby holding from chicks, to ducks to bunnies.

And before we left, they asked to run up the stairs and across the bridge.

When we got home, we had lunch and I read two more chapters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Violet just turned into a blueberry. I checked some e-mails and blogs while I ate, and the kids got into a lot of mess. I thought they were just giving their pretend dog a bath again, which they were doing at first, and used a half bottle of conditioner to do it, but then they drifted into my bedroom, quickly got my nail polish and mascara and painted "masks" all over their bodies. While I cleaned them off and the mess in the bathroom, they watched a little of Arthur and Word Girl on PBS.

After that they painted two water color pictures a piece. Alexa is now using the hair dryer to dry her dog, and Jared is lining up all his weapons on his bed. And I need to sign out because I'm being called to play the Joker.