Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's been a while since we've had some O and N speak...

O: "Oh, I can't reach it! I wish I had magnet hands!"

N: "Mommy, you make my heart super happy!" (Later I learned this came from Kai-Lan. I'm going to choose to ignore that and pretend it was spontaneous and earned...)

N: "O. Do you know why you do not have some bracelets? Because you are not a girl. So you are not so happy, betuz you do not have any jewelry."

O: (looking at a picture in the newspaper) "Are those striped pajamas, or is he in jail?"

N., after looking at her book That's Not My Fairy: "I will be that fairy someday. And I will have that most sparkly wand, and I will be able to do things so beautiful."

N, waking up with a start from the floor in our room: "I fink I felled out of you bed! I hokay."

O: "I want to take a shower. But keep the plug in. So it is kind of like a bath and a shower, and I can sit down and play if I want."

O., advising N. on cooking technique: "Oh, N., I don't think you want to try to stir this. It is really tight. Like trying to turn a key in a really hard base."

N., giving me some illness sympathy: "Mommy, you have a cough. Do you think you will maybe throw up? I think you need to see a doctor. Do you have so hard muscles from dat coughing?"

O, to N.'s yelling: "Silence!!"

O: "Farewell, my ladies."

O: "Have you ever heard of a game called spin the bottle?"

N., wearing her princess dress, correcting her well-meaning cousin: "I is not cool. I is pretty!"

N: "At J's wedding, I am dunna be the princess. I will wear my beautiful dress, O. will be the ring carrier and I will be the princess."

O., at the park, after running around with a group of kids: "Mommy, those girls were being so mean. They took one of my shoes, and then they called us the worst name ever: 'Purpleboys'!"
His friend pipes up that the name was actually 'Poopieboys.'
O: "Oh, okay. But she took my shoe!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

We Gotta Get Out of This Place

I've always thought of myself as an "outside" type of person. Not "outdoorsy," mind you. That would seem to entail hiking, biking, and the sorts of things that would make people move to Colorado. Not exactly me. I do, however, enjoy puttering around in the yard and basking by a pool. Bugs don't really bother me that much, I'd much rather have windows and doors open than the air conditioning on, and I've always been a fan of alfresco dining.

That is why I've spent a lot of time lately frustrated with the small amount of time my family and I have actually spent outdoors. I always seem to forget that in addition to that awful stretch from January through March, there's also a second wave of annual cabin fever when you live in southwestern Ohio. It comes just when you think you should be out there enjoying a gorgeous end of summer.

I guess I have these idyllic images of my kids running around in the sprinkler on an August afternoon, happily slurping up popsicles on lawn chairs. I picture my husband and I relaxing after a family walk while sitting out on the driveway or on the deck sipping a summer cocktail. The kids chase fireflies and join other neighborhood children in games of tag, Red Rover and the like, and we all retire well after dark, everyone so tired from all the sunshine that they just collapse on their pillows.

Instead, most days seem to involve me coaxing or cajoling someone or another to PLEASE come outside with me so that I can PLEASE just water my flowers before they all shrivel up and die.

N. is usually willing to go along, but must first make at least one wardrobe change, usually insisting on a bathing suit or a nightgown. O. actively and vocally objects.

"I don't WANT to go outside. I HATE to go outside!! There is NOTHING to do out there! It's so BORING! NOOOOOOO." And he flops himself onto floor or couch, yowling and squirming as if I am actually attempting to pull his toenails out.

I shove both them out the door anyway. I haul out first the bubbles, then the chalk. Show O. his various riding vehicles, and help him put on his helmet and walk his bike down to the end of the driveway. I get out balls, jump ropes, and buckets. I open up the sandbox, wipe spiderwebs off the swing set, and supervise a few runs down the slide. I referee fights over the baseball tee, and throw a few pitches. I scoop the poop out of the traffic areas. I show them the vegetables that have grown in the garden, and line them up to go in the house. And, just as I've unreeled the hose to actually start watering the plants, I look up and one or both children have disappeared into the house and are standing inside the window waving at me.

"I had to go potty!" one says, pants clearly showing she didn't head in quite soon enough.

"I'm not coming back out!" says the other.

And I'm left, 3. 7 minutes after we first set foot on the front lawn, alone in a mess of plastic toys and flowers that are still parched.

I tried a lot of different approaches to improve this situation all summer. Bribed them with water play as much as possible: water balloons, buckets and sponges, you name it. Set up tents and forts and beach towels. Offered lots of snacks to be enjoyed on the lawn. I even started to believe O. that maybe our outside toys just weren't cutting it, and gave them free reign to bring anything outside that they wanted to, hoping to replicate a more "living room" feel outdoors. No strategy worked for any length of time. Mostly, what they want is to torment each other with the hose, fight over any toy that there is only one of, eat an entire box of popsicles in one sitting before lunch, and to pee on the grass.

If the truth be told, lately I don't really want to drag my heavy old self out there in the oven-like temperatures anyway. By the time I convince the kids to turn the TV off and put clothes on in the morning, it already feels, to borrow a phrase from my husband "like you're sucking on a hair dryer." It doesn't let up most days until well into the evening. I'm always suggesting an after dinner family walk, but as you can tell from J's favored phraseology, he's not exactly all that comfortable outside when its hot. He makes pointed vocal protestations when he sees people drinking Starbucks on a July afternoon, and is threatening to wear seersucker to my cousin's upcoming outdoor wedding ceremony.

It's also not as if we live in a neighborhood full of children gathering to play, and our children are also young enough that they require a lot of entertainment and supervision. I'm aware of that, and have high hopes that someday most of this will change.

So, I'd basically given up for this summer, stopped ranting and fighting, and dragging the kids along on "walks" that were more a parade of me alternating catching a tricycle before it swerved out into the path of an oncoming car and begging my big kid with the training wheels to just try to pedal up that little incline so I don't have to push you this time, all at a top speed of 2.2 mph.

We get outside, but it's more for trips to the pool or the park or other planned outings with friends. And we spend a lot of time indoors coloring, their latest obsession. We've filled an entire ream of copy paper, and stacks and stacks of coloring books in the last couple of weeks. I've gotten pretty good at sitting in the air conditioning, and my flowers are hanging on by the threads of a few spotty showers and my very occasional watering.

Then, last week when we were outside for one of those watering sessions on a morning that wasn't so scorching, lo and behold, a little boy from down the street started doing slow circles on his bike around our driveway. Clearly hanging around trying to check out whether O. might be of interest to play with. O. was kind of oblivious, even though he's pretty much constantly desperate to have a friend over to play with. I pointed the boy out, sent O. down on his big wheel to chat, and soon the little boy was exploring our swing set with O.

And suddenly O. has a new best friend. Guess who now wants to be outside all. the. time.?

We're still at that awkward, hanging around hoping the other will come out to play stage, though J. and I have now met both of the other boy's parents. I still haven't decided how I feel about letting O. out of sight to go play at his house. He's one of a large family of children, and of course rely on the supervision of the older kids quite a lot. Luckily, this also means the other boy isn't shy, so he isn't above coming to ring our doorbell to see if O. can come out.

So, the summer's basically over (the friend headed back to school today), and we're finally learning to be outside. The temperatures dropped into the lower eighties today, and O. initiated putting together an obstacle course for himself in our driveway. And both O. and N. participated in a lengthy round of Simon Says after dinner.

But it's not all carefree play and catching fireflies before bed. No, N. overheard a conversation between O. and the friend about a report of an aggressive dog loose in our neighborhood, something I hadn't brought up with the kids. We've had enough drama around dogs, and we're never outside anyway, RIGHT?

Five minutes later, N's pulling on my shorts, her lip quivering as it does when she's trying to keep from crying when someone has hurt her feelings. Like when her uncle suggests it might not be a good idea for her to spill an entire bag of pretzels on the coffee table.

I asked her what was the matter, and she pulled me toward the house, saying "I want to go inside!!"

I tried to get her to tell me what was bothering her, but she wouldn't.

Finally she says, "Let's go up in my room and talk about it."

So we did. Sure enough she wanted to know "What were they saying about a mean dog, Mommy?" And now, anytime in the last three days I have suggested going outside to N., I get a very worried expression and a conversation about police, and fences, and dogs not escaping.

And another kid that doesn't want to be outside, peering out at me from the window.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


We're getting really anxious for New Baby to arrive. He's due in a little under six weeks now, which alternates between seeming interminable and way too soon. Still lots to do, but too soon to do much of it.

It's been about a month since I posted a picture of me and all my kids together, so here's another. This was at Kings Island two weeks ago, at the end of a hot sticky day full of more fun than O. and N. had imagined possible, even if we did have to wait for some of it in line.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hold the Peanuts and Crackerjacks, please...

J. is in St. Louis this week, and will be attending a Cardinals game with customers today. He asked me this morning whether or not he should wear his Reds hat to the game, and I was all "Oh, St. Louis people are really nice. Even though they're competing for first place, I don't think you'll get any abuse."

Then he reminded me of that big bench clearing fight at the Cardinals/Reds game last week, and I said "Oh yeah, maybe you should just not."

Anyway, here in Cincinnati, the Redlegs are doing well, and that's a good thing for the city. We love our baseball around here anyway (Opening Day is practically a holiday, parade and all), but it's always more fun to have a winning team. We didn't make it to a game at all last year, so it was on our list of things to do for this summer for sure.

We took the kids to a game in July. I uploaded these pictures back then, but never got around to writing anything to go with them, so here we are!

When I was a elementary aged kid, there was a program called "Straight-A tickets" and for good grades (I don't think it actually required all A's), you got a voucher from the Reds organization for four free tickets to a game. I was always good for a set of these each year. The family story is that we'd all go to the Reds game "my treat" and I'd sit in the red seats reading a book throughout the whole game.

I don't take a book to the game anymore, though I admit I still think it is not a bad idea. Baseball is not exactly the fastest paced event in the world.

Taking two small children to a sold out baseball game on bobble head night pretty much precludes fitting in any chapters, though, and there were a few times I wished we had planned this outing as a date, rather than a family.

Things I don't enjoy about baseball games?
  • Teenagers camped out in your seats because they waited too long to buy tickets together, and really want you to sit in someone else's seats so they can sit together.
  • Having to stand up and suck your unsuck-in-able pregnant belly every time someone wants to get up and go visit the hot dog line
  • Having to hoist your children up over the row of people who think they can just move their knees to let you by when both kids need to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW, just when Daddy has left on a snack run.
  • Cute ponytailed 20 somethings who sneak into the family bathroom right in front of you when you have both children that need to go to the bathroom at once RIGHT NOW.
  • The fact that the ladies room runs out of toilet paper in the SECOND INNING and the grandma types are pointing you to the paper towels before you enter the stall.
  • Forgetting to find a spot for your purse that is not on the ground, and spending the rest of the game wondering what exactly the liquid is that it is now soaking your lap.
  • Trying to juggle bobble head boxes for each member of the family before someone finally offers to buy one of them off of you.

  • Kids that are a little bit sad that they don't have something sugary right in front of them the ENTIRE game.
  • Yup, my brother was right when he once called it "Boring Ball."
  • The people sitting behind you eating peanuts in the shell right on top of your allergic daughter, and who then OFFER her one after she's been eyeing them warily. Thankfully, I'd already pointed them out all over the ground and told her to stay away, so she politely declined.
But it was certainly not all bad. There are many things I DO love about being taken out to the ballgame.
  • Singing said ballgame song, one of O's favorites at bedtime until pretty recently.
  • Teaching the kids to yell "CHARGE!" after the organ intro.
  • Following all the cheesy games and gimmicks on the JumboTron. (J. and I were once featured on the Kiss Cam while we were dating. We got recognized while waiting out a rain delay under a canopy later in the game. "Hey, weren't you on the Kiss Cam?" Blush.)
  • Fireworks and cheering after THREE home runs!
  • People watching, especially trying to figure out the dynamics of new Hall of Fame inductee Chris Sabo's family mingling in our section and the people who swarmed over for autographs.

  • Watching my kids delight in snacks. Blue and red snowcones, big salty soft pretzels (though I was sad they weren't warm), and cotton candy!

  • Sibling love inspired by a sugar-spun high.
  • One last twilight treat overlooking the Ohio River before walking to our car halfway through the sixth inning.
How about you? What do you love (and not love) about going to the ballpark?

Monday, August 2, 2010

August Advent

It's August, and at our house, that we're celebrating the last days of summer with a bit of countdown.
The idea for this project started as a concrete way for N. to understand how long it will be until the next big event in our lives, a visit from our St. Louis cousins. Ever since the plans were put into place for this visit, N. has been on practically an hour by hour questioning about "my cousins coming now?"
O. has a calendar in his room, and enjoys marking off days the way he did in preschool, but for N., it's still very abstract. I thought maybe if she could see each day as a concrete symbol as we do as Christmas approaches, it might make it more real.
We have other major events coming up, such as my cousin's wedding, N.'s birthday, and New Baby's arrival, so I decided to make a countdown for the whole month of August. Eventually it will also include the first few days of September up to N.'s birthday, but I ran out of room for hanging for now. Basically, it's an envelope for each day of the month, each stuffed with a little surprise for the kids.

I got this idea from a collection of advent ideas here. There lots of cute images and ways to do this sort of project. This one just happened to match supplies I already mostly had around the house, though I did have to get some clothespins.
This is the spot I hang a Happy Birthday banner for everyone's birthday, so when we're done opening envelopes, I'll replace it with the banner for N.'s birthday.

School doesn't start for us until after Labor Day, so we're lucky to have the whole month of August to enjoy. I always get a little melancholy about the end of summer -- it's my favorite season. Since I've usually been either a student or a teacher, back to school is always a mixed blessing. This year, the school supply inserts in the paper have made me really queasy, perhaps bringing up all of my new baby/new family anxieties.
I didn't want this countdown to turn into a wishing away of these last few weeks of unstructured time together. It's getting easier and easier for me to blame the heat and my belly for not doing much of anything. I want to make sure we have a chance to do some really fun things that we won't necessarily be able to do once school starts, O. is in kindergarten every weekday, and we're working around the needs of a newborn.
This past Christmas, I took an idea from Family Fun magazine and incorporated Christmas activities into our advent calendar. Every day of the month of December, there was a slip of paper with a Christmas activity written on it for us to do as a family. Some were big events we always do, like visit the live nativity or get our picture taken with Santa. Others were little things like "Help Mommy with Christmas cards," or "Sing Christmas carols after dinner." It was a big hit, so I've added that idea into our End of Summer Celebration.
Some of the envelopes have an idea for a fun thing for the kids and I to do together, like go to the water playground, or play at the park and get ice cream afterwards. Others have bigger events we've already planned, like going to Kings Island with Grandma and Grandpa, and heading out of town for the big wedding.
The other envelopes just have little surprises in them, like packs of fruit snacks, a sleeve of Pez, a sheet of stickers, or a glow bracelet. I've marked the big dates with stars so they can see how many more days until they approach.
We've only opened two days worth, and so far it seems to be a bigger hit with N. than O. He wasn't too impressed with the sucker and fruit snack surprises so far. Perhaps when we get to a pack of Silly Banz he'll be a little happier, though I hope he gets on board with the "what fun thing are we doing today" aspect soon.
What do you do to "countdown" to big events at your house? What are you doing with the last days of summertime?