2014 Update

I thought I’d write an update on what the kids are into right now…

What We’re Reading:

I started reading the first Harry Potter book to Jack & Casey in November.  We finished in January and watched the movie.  They loved the movie and I think it helped them visualize the magic of the book.  Now we’re reading the 2nd book and Jack keeps asking me to read more every night because “we just got to an interesting part!”  Jack has been drawing pictures of the characters during his free time at school.
On his own, Jack is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and a Nate the Great book.  On Christmas Eve, he went to church early with Pat and read more than half of the Nate book!  (Thanks for saving us seats!)
Casey is starting to read aloud to me while Jack does his reading.  She does a very good job of sounding things out.  She gets a little frustrated because she is not reading fast enough to comprehend and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to her, but I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s figuring it all out.
What We’re Watching:
For the past several months, it’s been all things Ninja.  It started when we found American Ninja Warrior on TV one night last spring.  Then, this summer they started watching a show called Kickin’ It which is the only non-animated show from Disney I’ve let them watch.  I think they’ve seen every episode of every season at least 3 times.  We met one of the actors this summer at a fair, standing in line for a good hour for her autograph.  And now it’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I walk around with the catchy theme song in my head all day.
What We’re Playing With:
Both Jack and Casey got a Rainbow Loom for Christmas and they make bracelets every day.  I love that the “it” toy was only $16 (plus some extra for more bands) and has provided hours of entertainment, even for me.  I now get requests to make them surprise bracelets while they’re sleeping.
Jack got a Wii for Christmas and has been playing the Lego Star Wars game.  He is still into all things Lego and he keeps finding new kinds…Star Wars, Chima, Hero Factory, and Ninja Turtles.  I keep trying to find ways to organize them better.  Lately it means dismantling sets and putting them in plastic bags although I did find a big plastic bin with dividers in the Christmas section for all his loose Legos.
Casey got an American Girl doll for Christmas, whose name is Casey Junior and she has been taking care of her “twin sister” pretty well.  She’s already been on a couple of plane rides and to downtown Memphis.    
They both still love to “craft” and I don’t understand how they go through so much tape.  They just make things up – paper airplanes, tiny pieces of paper with staples in it, tiny pieces of paper with tape, brown paper bags with strings attached to papers.  They also love when cardboard boxes come in the house.  Right now in our house there is an elf house complete with furniture (leftover from Christmas), a garbage eating robot and another garbage eating robot decorated with Christmas items.  
What We’re Eating:
Since Pat suggested we offer dessert if they eat what’s on their plates without complaint, they have both eaten more variety of vegetables, meat and even some soup.  It’s only a few bites of each, but I count that as success.  And it’s usually not without complaint…I should probably crack down on that.  Offering ice cream for two bites of vegetables goes against every article I’ve ever read about how to deal with picky eaters but it so far it’s working to get them to eat things besides carbs and sometimes they even forget about dessert.  

Kindergarten Graduation and End of Year Show

Last week, Jack’s preschool held their End of Year Show and Kindergarten Graduation.  Both Jack and Casey were very excited about the show.  They each had songs to sing with their classes and had been practicing for weeks.  Jack especially was excited.  When we talked about missing his end of year party a couple weeks ago so we could go to Philly for Mother’s Day Weekend he said he was fine with that, but he wanted to make sure we weren’t going to miss the end of year show.

The day before the show they practiced for the graduation ceremony and had their pictures taken in their caps and gowns.  Jack told me there was a special song that they were going to play and that he was going to smile really big when he heard that song and walk down the aisle.  When I started singing a bit of Pomp & Circumstance for him he was very impressed that I knew the song already.  And just like he said, when he walked down the aisle he had a huge smile on his face.  I couldn’t capture it with the camera or the video because we were too far away, but it was there.  Even his teacher commented on it.

I spent $60 at Target the day before the show so that Jack would have a nice outfit.  I was tired of him not really having any dress clothes.  At first I just went to get him a new shirt.  Then I decided he needed pants that matched better than the others I had already bought him.  I went to get in line and realized that he had no dress shoes and this was not an occasion where his crocs would do.  Oh, and I suppose he needs dress socks and a belt to go with that.  I bought them all in a size 6 and the outfit was a bit too big for him.  But I hemmed up the pants.  Actually, I taped them up with masking tape.  We cinched in the waist and he looked good!  And, since it’s a little big, he can wear this outfit for every dress up occasion for the next 3 years…and totally justify the money spent 🙂

Casey sang two songs with her class and did a really great job.  You could tell she was having fun and excited to sing the song for everyone.

Jack’s class joined the group and they sang a few songs with the rest of the school.  (Good thing he was in a few numbers without the cap & gown so everyone I could appreciate his nice outfit.)

Then Casey sat with her class and the kindergarten class got ready to graduate.

They all marched in and took their places on the stage.

There was a little bit of time for silliness.

They sang their special kindergarten songs.  I am so proud of Jack because I know I could hear his voice when he was singing.  That’s a big deal for a little guy who wouldn’t do any singing with his class two years ago.

Then they got their diplomas.  Jack thought he had been tricked because there was nothing actually written on the paper they got.

Jack and his teachers…

And we got one bad family picture 🙂  Doesn’t Pat look nice in pink though?

Jack was very excited to graduate from kindergarten.  He had a great year with his teacher and friends.  They showed a video of the kindergarten students at the end of the program.  They asked each one what they favorite part of kindergarten was and what they were going to miss next year.  Jack said his favorite part was playing on the playground and that he was going to miss his friends Jon and TJ.  One little boy said, “I’m going to miss my friends…some of my friends!”

I thought I was going to cry through the whole thing but once the show started and I was trying to capture everything on camera and video while still enjoying the show I was distracted enough to forget the tears.  I’m so proud of the wonderful year that both Jack and Casey had at school.  They learned so much and grew so much.  On the last day of school when we went to pick them up, I really did tear up.  We’re going to miss this school next year!

Lego City

I may have mentioned that we have a few Legos lying around the house (here).  Christmas added a few items to the collection and I was getting tired of all the houses, spaceships, starfighters, ninjas and pizza shops sitting on the built-in bookshelves.  It added a cluttered feel to the living room.  When they were all lined up neatly it didn’t look too bad, but when I moved them all off the shelf during Christmas decorating I realized how much better it looks without them.

I decided that the kids needed a Lego table.  They were setting up cities in the middle of the living room floor and it was getting dangerous to walk into the living room in bare feet.  I’ve probably already invested more time thinking about, planning and executing my Lego storage solutions than most people but I did some more internet research and thinking about the best way to make a Lego table.

All my plans revolved around some surface onto which I could glue a bunch of Lego base boards.  I have an extra coffee table but I decided that wasn’t big enough.  I thought about buying an unfinished table top at Lowe’s and gluing the boards on that.  It could be shoved under Jack’s bed to move it out of the way or it could just be placed on top of an existing table.  I looked into buying a used (bigger) coffee table on Craigs List.  I thought about gluing boards onto their train table too.  I searched Pinterest for “lego table” and saw all kinds of cute solutions.

I thought about all this for a good week.  Then the Legos all over the living room got to me one day and I tentatively asked, “Do you guys want to turn your train table into a Lego table instead?”  It was an enthusiastic response from both of them and we got to work.  Actually, I got to work and they got to playing.

The train table is upstairs in our playroom and it’s not really used all that often as a playroom.  I was somewhat afraid that if I put all the Legos up there, they wouldn’t play with them.  But I reminded myself that we could always move them back downstairs if that was the case.  Nothing was permanent.

The best part about this train table is that we bought it for $25 off Craigs List 2 1/2 years ago and that’s a bargain for a train table that’s held up as well as it has.  Now that it is living it’s second life as a Lego table it makes it even more of a bargain.  I think Pat is no longer cursing me for sending him 30 minutes away to the “country” to buy it.

The original owners of the train table told us that train table had two sides to the top surface but that the one with roads, water and land was a little beat up.  We’ve had it on the plain green side since we’ve owned it.  We decided to flip the boards back over and the kids immediately arranged their buildings and space centers and cars within their new city.

It’s been almost two weeks since we created our own Lego City up their and the kids have loved playing up there.  Of course it requires that I spend a little more time up there too but that’s actually been good for our laundry since the laundry room is beside the playroom.  I fold and they do city things.

Oh, and it turns out it’s totally not necessary to glue any Lego base boards down onto the table.  Their bigger sets already come with bases and they enjoy just having a flat surface on which to drive the their cars.

There is also a big bookshelf in the playroom and it has more than enough storage for the sets that are rotating out of “city” duty, the Star Wars Legos that occasionally attack the city, their extra blocks and instructions.

So, here are some pictures…

Minutes after I put all these boxes back on the shelf the kids had pulled them out to create something else.  I looked around the room that night and said, “Wow, this place is a disaster.  We need to clean it up.”  Jack said, “No it’s not…it’s the Lego room!  It’s supposed to be like this.”

They are both really happy up there.  Jack continues to amaze me with how well he can follow the directions to put things together and his creativity in designing his own structures.  Today he created his own castle complete with a drawbridge.  Sometimes Jack likes to brag a little bit about how great he is at following the directions and how he can put anything together, but I put him in his place by reminding him that I am the only one who can put that X-wing back together when it falls apart again after 3 seconds of play.  😉

Casey is also starting to create her own structures and a few days ago she put something together all by herself by following the directions.  I was very impressed.

Hopefully the newness doesn’t wear off anytime soon, but I think this playroom will get a lot of use for the last few months that we have left in this house before our next move.  (It has a future life as a man-cave for Pat, but that is years down the road when we return.)
 

Christmas Day 2011

Once again, I woke first on Christmas morning.  I was pretty thankful that Jack and Casey weren’t up at the crazy hour of 4:45am like they were the weekend before in Ocean City.  They woke up around 6:45.  After that it was pure torture for Jack to wait for Daddy to check and see if Santa came and for Auntie and Wally to show up even though it was only a few minutes.  In the days preceding Christmas he kept asking if Daddy really needed to make sure Santa came…couldn’t he just go downstairs and see everything himself?

Jack’s big present from Santa was a rod hockey game and Casey’s was a princess castle.  They both loved these gifts and if you ask them what their favorite present is, they’ll say hockey game and castle.  These gifts were both Daddy Santa’s ideas and then there were several other gifts that Mommy Santa procured.  I probably put a little too much thought into all these gifts, but I like to get something that they want, something they’ve never even thought about but that I’m sure they’ll like and a game.

Casey spent the morning playing with her princess castle, dressing her paper dolls from Auntie Mary, playing the flute, pushing her babies around in her new double stroller from Auntie Jenn and watching me build her Lego bus and pizza place from Grampie & Grammie.  She dressed in her new grey polka dot tutu skirt and a pretty princess shirt.

Jack challenged anyone and everyone to a game of rod hockey while wearing his prison-suit-orange Flyers sweatsuit and his Flyers jersey.  He set Pat to work building his Lego jet plane and later his Lego Space Shuttle Launching Station from Grampie & Grammie.  He also spent a lot of time with his Action Agent Spy Train and Battleship.  Auntie got him some Legos from Cars 2 and Jack intently put all those together himself.  (Yes, the house is being taken over by Legos.)

I kind of just wanted to sit and play with the toys, or at least just sit, all afternoon, but Jenn and I got to work preparing our Christmas feast – pancetta wrapped beef tenderloin, delmonico potatoes, green beans and honey glazed carrots.  It was all delicious but whatever I make next year is going to be super simple so I can just sit and relax on Christmas day.  Oh and I tried a cranberry cream pie that was a big failure…most likely due to my attempt to substitute some flavored jello for a packet of plain gelatin.  It tasted all right but it never set and was more of a cranberry cream soup.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas shopping was helping the kids pick out gifts for each other.  Casey got Jack a Boba Fett helmet (Star Wars character) and a Lightning McQueen color changer.  Jack got Casey her very own nerf gun and some Hello Kitty Legos.  Just before bedtime, there was an intense Star Wars battle throughout the house.  Casey was Princess Leia which she mentioned YELLED a few dozen times.  Jack was Boba Fett and Daddy and Auntie were taking aim at anyone that moved with their nerf guns.  It was a good way to work off the pie (and the dinner)!

It was really a great Christmas.  The kids were both really excited and they still like and play with everything they received.  Plus, it was awesome to have both my parents and my sister and her fiancee here to watch it all unfold.

We also got this great family picture and somehow even Tugger is looking at the camera and smiling!

     

The Christmas Play

Everyone else in blog land is talking about their new year’s goals and resolutions but since I’m a slacker and haven’t written much here since before Christmas, I’m going to back up a little bit and write about Christmas.  Maybe I’ll get to writing down some of my goals for 2012 on another post.

One of my favorite parts about Christmas and what I was most excited about was the Christmas play in which Jack and Casey sang.  Practice started for this play during the last few weeks of summer vacation.  It was called drama camp and a couple mornings a week, I dropped the kids off at church for 2 hours.  I didn’t realize at first that I could just drop them off so it was an unexpected, very pleasant surprise when I realized I had a couple hours to myself.  I think I spent them all at Walmart though, preparing for the hurricane.

Starting in November there were practices between the masses on Sunday mornings and practices on Wednesday nights and then some big ones on a couple of Saturday mornings.  At first I didn’t understand the play.  It wasn’t the traditional Christmas story that I expected.  It was about a group of kids practicing for their Christmas play and they were a little rebellious and didn’t want to play the traditional roles of shepherds, sheep and snowflakes.  (Although I didn’t realize there were a lot of snowflakes in the Christmas story.)  They all wanted to be Christmas presents.  Eventually it gets sorted out and the true gift of Christmas is all the children and people.

As I watched all these practices and saw the play coming together, I really started to like it.  It was a very cute play and all the kids worked so hard.  Even when Jack and Casey were sick for the beginning of December, they still practiced singing their song.  By the end of all these practices, they knew all of the parts of the play.  They can sing (and still do even weeks after) all of the other parts.  There were days when the songs were stuck in my head all day.

So, the play was at 3:30pm on Christmas Eve before the 4pm mass.  My main goal was to get there early enough to get a good seat to see the kids perform.  Last year, we got to church at 3:15 for the 4pm mass and were seated in the lobby so I knew it had to be earlier than that.  I talked to the music director and she suggested being there by 2:45 to get parking even though the kids didn’t need to get there until 3 for practice.  So we got there at 2:40…the parking lot was pretty empty and we got second row seats.

And then I endured wise-cracks, jokes, and sarcastic comments galore about how early we were at church, mostly from my husband.  I expected it, especially after we were early for a light show the previous weekend, and I didn’t care because I just wanted a  good seat to see my kids sing their hearts out in the Christmas show!

The play was really great and the kids were so good and I was so proud of them.  Jack sang and did all his choreography and didn’t even look too afraid.  And Casey was a ham every time she saw us watching her or taking pictures.  Hearing the whole church full of people clapping for them was really nice.  They all got a great round of applause for delivering a beautiful Christmas play.

Walking around bit before the show

Watching the other group sing and getting ready for their part

Jack in the show

Snowflake Casey

Not a great picture but I love the expression I captured on Casey as she was being a ham!

Casey’s Christmas hair bling

Casey pretending to be asleep while they placed a bow on her to turn her into a present.

 

2011 Pumpkin Patch Adventures

Yesterday was a busy day!  We started with soccer pictures, soccer game and then headed to the pumpkin patch.  This was our fifth annual trip to the pumpkin patch with the kids and our third to this farm, although it’s set up a little differently every year.

We met up with our friend Michelle and Little J and Little P.

We started by searching for the perfect pumpkins to bring home.  The farm a wheelbarrow we borrowed for our many pounds of pumpkin and the kids had fun searching and pushing the wheelbarrow.  Casey was the first to find hers.  But Jack was really looking for the perfect pumpkin.  His standards are pretty high.  It has to be taller than Casey’s but still nice and round and perfectly orange.  And he doesn’t really want anyone else finding it for him.  He wants one that he found so he can decide on its perfection.

Little J supervises as Pat cuts his pumpkin from the vine

I think we arrived at peak pumpkin picking time because there was a little bit of a wait to weigh and purchase our pumpkins.  While we were waiting, the kids got to shell and jar their own popcorn with a 100 year old shelling machine.  They were very serious about their work!  Jack got to carry the jar and he was not interested in letting Daddy take it to the car before the hayride.  We haven’t tried the popcorn yet but I think that’s in the plan for this week.

Our last adventure was a horse-drawn hayride.  The horses were Belgian work horses and they are the strongest breed (of 128) horses in the world.  It was a nice ride.  Michelle stayed back with Little P and was afraid that J might be a little shy and scared on the hayride.  It turns out that he was very interested in asking the driver questions and had no problem piping up with an, “Excuse me!!  Why did the horses just run?” or “Excuse me!!  Why do the horses have bells on them?”  He was so funny and cute.

Great picture except the sun and the camera weren’t getting along

It was a gorgeous day to get pumpkins and the kids are proud to see their pumpkins on the front steps.  Now they’re trying to figure out how to carve some sort of Star Wars picture into the pumpkins.

Tomorrow we have the school field trip…more pumpkin adventures to come!

Easter Weekend

We loaded up the car and headed to Ocean City to join Pat’s family for Easter weekend.  When we went in February, I packed based on the temperature and failed to factor in the wind and it was so cold there!  The fleece wasn’t enough – I needed my down jacket.  This time, I thought I packed enough warm clothes, adding a cardigan or sweatshirt with every outfit and I was still freezing.  I missed my fleece.  When I took the kids to the playground on Friday, I had to resort to using the rock climbing wall as a wind break to stay warm.  By Sunday it finally warmed up and everyone was asking each other if they had thought to bring sandals or flip flops or shorts.

Thankfully the Easter Bunny knew to look for us in Ocean City.  He brought a very Star Wars themed bag of goodies for Jack and some Star Wars and Princess themed items for Casey.  I slept awful the night before Easter…kind of reminded me of when I was little and would listen for the Easter bunny or keep waking up and wondering if it was time to get up yet.  This time I was worried because I didn’t tell Jack and Casey to yell from their bedroom when they were awake.  I didn’t want them to come out and see their baskets before I could catch their reactions.  I also wanted to make sure we were all up early enough to play with toys, eat breakfast and get dressed before Mass at 8:30.  So I woke up three times in the night to check the time and then we ended up having to wake Jack and Casey anyway.

Jack was hilarious when he woke up.  He was still a little groggy from sleep but so excited because he knew that it was Easter morning.  The first thing he said was “I bet the Easter bunny hid something in Brady’s stroller for us to find!”  Hmmm, the Easter bunny didn’t think that that was the first place the kids might look or even think of as a good hiding place.

We all had a wonderful weekend together with delicious food, great company and the entertainment of watching 5 cousins, all under the age of 5 play and interact with each other.  It seemed like a pretty relaxing weekend at the time, but when I think about everything we did, it seems it was quite a busy weekend.  We went to the playground, got Jack a haircut, snooped around the hardware store, tried to teach Nana about Star Wars, drew a Star Wars character guide for Nana, colored in our new coloring books, went to a children’s craft fair, said hi to the Easter bunny a few times, played baseball & soccer, shot discs in the air with our new toys, played with new toys, played with the babies, went to church and sat nicely, went swimming in the pool, played at the beach, rode bikes around the neighborhood, went to an egg hunt, took part in an egg/spoon race, walked around the neighborhood, fought lightsaber battles with Jedi Bob (who apparently knows Yoda), played with bubbles, watched a little tv, watched the Flyers lose and win, cleaned the beach house for the next renters, played hide-and-seek, red light green light, and Simon Says and ate a lot of animal crackers and “dirt”.  And there was more but I think that pretty much captures the weekend pretty well.