Election Eve

***This is a rather abrupt jump back into blogging, but I just need to write when I feel like it.  Hopefully there will be more to come.***

This boy.  He came home and he was very grumpy about doing his homework.  He chose to work on a math program on the computer called IXL and he had to do 20 minutes of it.  He wanted to be done at about 15 minutes.  He tried to out-grump me and then finally sat down to finish it up.  When he was done he ran off to play.

Then I decided it was time to turn the heat on.  I don’t know why I resist this so much.  I have been cold for a couple weeks.  I like to see how long I can go without heat.  And yet the whole time I resist it all I want to do is get in my bed because it’s warm there.  It’s not very productive.

I went upstairs to set the program for the heat and Jack says, “Look Mommy.  It’s Romney and Obama!  I have the O for Obama and the M for Mitt Romney.”  He shows me a Lego creation he has been working on.  It amazed me that he had come up with an idea to build an election scene with his Legos.  I ran to get my camera while was on a search for coffee cups so they would both have one.

I love his creation.  He went on to tell me that people are voting tomorrow and that “both Romney and Obama were born in the 19s!”  I told him I was born in the 19s too.  The one on the left is Obama because he has flatter hair more like the real Obama’s.  I guess that left Romney with a beard and mustache.  I think it looks good on him.

Then he created them each on their own stages.  The red loose pieces are the curtains.  I tried to get him to use blue curtains for Obama but he wasn’t quite grasping the red and blue and different political parties.  “Parties?  What are you talking about?”

I asked him who he would vote for.  He said Romney and when I asked him why, he said he didn’t think Obama had done a very good job of running the country.  He must catch bits and pieces of conservative talk radio in the car when he’s not watching Batman or Star Wars.

Later he asked Casey who she was going to vote for.  She said, “Is there someone that begins with O?  I want to vote for him.”

“Obama?  You’re only saying that because you don’t know anyone else,” Jack claimed.

Casey retorted with, “No, really, that’s who I’d vote for.  I like Obama.”

Jack also came up with a “fun game” wherein he and Casey both run for president and I have to vote and pick the president.  But after his two terms I would get to be president again.

And just before he ran off to play again, he said, “I can’t wait for election day tomorrow. I don’t even know why I like election day so much.”

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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.)
 

Jedi Mind Tricks

I might have mentioned that we have a lot of Legos in this house.  A lot of Star Wars Legos.  And Luke’s helmet went missing!  Or Leia’s hair is gone!  I can’t even count the number of times that Jack has asked me where a certain Lego is and I have no idea.  Usually I know where things are in this house, but the Legos are getting away from me.

First Luke himself was missing for a week or so.  He was found in a box upstairs with a bunch of other Legos – a logical place to look.  Jack supposedly searched his room intensely.  This week Luke’s helmet went missing.  Jack accused me of sucking it up in the vacuum but I knew I hadn’t.  This morning he came running into the bathroom while I was in the shower yelling, “I found it!  I found Luke’s helmet!”  It was stuck in between a couple other Legos on a spaceship that he has been playing with daily.  

The new storage containers are helping with the Legos and other Star Wars gear, but Casey is not.  Casey has decided to play mind games with Jack.  Last week, Jack couldn’t find one of the nerf missiles for his gun.  Casey told him that she knew where it was.  Jack asked her question after question about where it was.  First she told him it was in his bedroom.  Then she said it was in his closet.  He went to look but couldn’t find it.  He made her come up and show him where it was.  She went with him and told him it was on the top shelf in his closet.  Jack called downstairs for one of us to help him.  When asked if he could actually see the nerf missile, he said no.  Then Casey told him it was actually in the playroom.  They went to the playroom and he looked around.  Then she said it was downstairs.

I figured out early on that Casey was just messing with him.  He believed every word she said and when they finally came downstairs he said, “I think Casey’s using the force and Jedi mind tricks to move it around!”  I just laughed.

At first I felt bad that he was so gullible to her stories, but the next day he was pretending to be a baby and he must have sent Casey upstairs about 5 times to fetch him things that he “needed” because he was a baby.  And she went right along with it.  I think that was his way of getting even a little bit.  

Lego Organization

About a year ago, I thought I had come up with a great solution for Lego storage.  It worked for a while but lately it seems that the Legos have exploded again and I was ready for something new.

First I have to show the solution to Lego storage from 25 years ago!  Jenn and I used this box for our Legos when we were little girls.  Jack first started playing with Legos a couple years ago when we were in Maine for a couple weeks and I pulled this box out of the attic.  Now, he has more Legos as a 5 year old than Jenn and I ever did.

As retro as the box looks and as much nostalgia as there is with it, it’s not the greatest storage system.  Even as a girl, I remember digging and digging and digging through that box looking for the right pieces.  Jack’s collection quickly outgrew it so I figured out a new system.  I bought the plastic container with drawers on the right.  The big bins on the left have some “overflow” Legos and other toys.  These drawers kept the toys organized and separated but there was a lot more pulling things out than putting things away on Jack’s part.

I bought little containers (at the dollar store) to hold different types of Legos and I divided them all up – wheels, angled pieces, windows, doors, other special pieces in this drawer.

Army guys, minifigures, flat pieces and very small pieces.

Instructions, long bricks and bigger block-shaped bricks.

Creations that were small enough to fit in the drawer

Extra boxes.  I used old wipe containers to keep certain sets together and for when we were travelling and I need to throw a bunch in a box.

But, like I said, the Legos were exploding all over the house again.  Jack has been building up his Star Wars Legos collection and the house has turned into a galaxy with different pieces of furniture as planets and the floor as space.  I did a little Google search and found a blog where she used fishing tackle boxes for Lego storage.  I envisioned the typical tackle box that folds out and thought that would be great for Jack’s Star Wars Legos – a big area of the bottom for the spaceships and smaller compartments for the little pieces.  We left the house that afternoon to find one.  I got this big one.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but it was what Jack wanted.  The good guys have a shelf, the bad guys have a shelf and the spaceships live on the bottom.  (It’s a little empty right now…I think there’s a battle going on in the dining room.)
 

I also saw some plastic boxes that looked like they would work and when Casey and I made a trip to Walmart last week, I found exactly what I was looking for:  plastic boxes with dividers and handles.  These two are for Casey’s Legos.

While waiting three hours for new tires last week, I put one of these boxes in my bag and we had instant entertainment.  I’m hoping they will play with them in the car next week when we have a long car ride to Maine.  I would love to glue one of the flat base boards to the top of them, but the boxes are not quite flat on the top.

I got Jack a bigger one and one the same size as Casey’s.  I love that the Legos all have their own spaces and they stay in their spaces when you pick them up.  For all the Legos they hold, they are pretty compact.  These two hold most of Jack’s Legos (that aren’t being used) but I just bought him another big one because they don’t all fit in here.  But it still takes up less space than the drawers.  Now he can pull out one of these boxes and drag it to wherever he is working and when he’s done he can just close the lid and put it away.
  

In the end, it’s really only me who is excited about these containers.  And me who organized them all into different sections.  And me who will reorganize them when they get messed up. But it makes me happy.

Star Wars Birthday Party

We had a birthday party for Jack on the 3rd and invited all of our friends.  My goal was for a simple but mostly homemade party.  A lot of the work I wanted to get done a couple weeks before the party didn’t happen because I was sick and then we went on vacation.  Thankfully, my goal of simple allowed us to get everything done on Saturday and Sunday morning.  
Jack originally asked for a Darth Vader cake.  I was going to buy the Wilton cake mold but I procrastinated.  Every cake I looked at on the internet looked so elaborate and I really didn’t want to put a lot of effort into the decorating.  While I was looking around the blog world one day, Jack saw some Star Wars cupcakes that had little plastic toppers.  I was going to order some but then I found some free printables (at Skip to my Lou) and as soon as he said he liked them, I printed them out and cut out the circles.

Jack asked for strawberry cake with chocolate frosting so I found some recipes.  They both turned out pretty to be pretty tasty!

I made lightsabers out of foam pool noodles and some duct tape.  Actually, Pat made the lightsabers.  I envisioned a big lightsaber battle in the back yard but mostly there were occasional duels.  These were also the parting gifts for all the kids along with some Lego shaped candy that I found at a candy store.  You can build with it and then eat it!

Lightsaber Arsenal

 A couple hours before party, I texted everyone to bring bathing suits.  It was really hot so we set up the slip’n’slide.

The boys were having fun with Jack’s car wash

Pat worked the grill to cook burgers and dogs.  I picked up some fresh corn on the cob from the farmers market, made a broccoli salad, sliced up a watermelon and made some lemonade to complete dinner.  Simple, easy and delicious.  Especially since Pat did the grilling.

 We also had a pinata.  I wish I could capture how Jack says it.  It’s very enunciated – pin – yata.  I guess I have no pictures of it.  Jack wanted a Death Star.  My original plan was to find a soccer ball pinata and paint the white spots grey.  But the party store had a disco ball that happened to look like a Death Star…maybe just a little bit shinier!  Pat filled it with Star Wars fruit snacks and the kids took turns pulling strings until it spilled its goodies.  (I originally had no idea that you have to fill your own pinata.)

We sang a little happy birthday tune and Jack blew out all his candles.

He then proceeded to eat his cake like it was his first birthday instead of his fifth!  He said it was too crumbly and that’s how he had to eat it.

And I couldn’t not post this picture of Casey and her beautiful smile as she gets ready to eat her cupcake.

I was tired (and so was Jack) by the end of it but I told Pat it was my favorite birthday party that we’d had.  The next morning Jack said, “I’m really lucky that all my friends got me such great presents!  We’ll have to send them thank you notes.”

Jack is 5!

It’s been a whirlwind of 5 days since Jack turned 5!  (And a little bit of a whirlwind before that too.)  When Jack woke up this morning, he said pretty emphatically, “Mommy, I’m 5 now!”  The parties are over and the presents are all unwrapped and I think he finally realizes that he is 5.  Or “a whole hand” as he told his Nana.

We celebrated his actual birthday in Ocean City with his Nana and Pop Pop.  He had some very specific requests for his big day.  He wanted us to get up before him and be in the living room ready to surprise him.  Since he’s been getting up at 6am lately, it was a pretty early morning, but we were happy to oblige the birthday boy.  I guess it was a lot like Christmas because we woke up early, opened presents and spent the rest of the morning putting Legos together.

Lightsaber pen

More pieces for his nano/hex bug toy.  Casey got her own bug too.

Darth Jack

 Jack didn’t want to leave the house much because he had new toys but he also requested mini golf so we headed to the one he had picked out.  It was the prettiest mini golf course I’ve seen.  The hibiscus were gorgeous.  Jack and Casey played 18 and then we had some ice cream and listened to some stories about miraculous frog rescues from the course caretaker.  (Some got stuck in the pipes and they survived.)

Jack dined surrounded by his new Legos at lunchtime.

Nana made Jack a very special Star Wars cake with Darth Vader and Luke figures with lightsabers.  He also had his dinner of choice – pasta with pesto.  Because every really picky 5 year old loves pesto.

The cake was delicious, then we spent a little bit of time at the beach and then Jack fell asleep with his new Legos in hand.

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

We had a great Memorial Day Weekend in our nation’s capitol and surrounding areas!  There were lots of “firsts” for all of us I think!

We stayed with Mitch and Jenny; Jack and Casey had a great time with their cousins Charlotte and Chase.  However, it was definitely the first time that Jack and Casey have fought over who gets to sleep in the master bedroom closet, on the floor.  Jack slept there last time we visited so he naturally assumed that’s where he should sleep.  But Casey didn’t want to miss out on any fun and she wanted to sleep there too.  There was room for both of them but Jack didn’t want Casey there and eventually she was enough of a bugger that we moved her downstairs to a futon…with her dad for most of one night.

On Sunday morning, we headed into Washington, DC and the kids got their first metro/subway ride!  Jack loved it and Casey enjoyed it too.

While switching trains, Jack and Casey had pretend lightsaber battles to pass the time.

We took the metro to the Smithsonian stop at the mall and made our way to the Air and Space Museum. On the way, we saw the Washington Monument aka The Big Pencil, the Smithsonian Castle and the Capitol Building.  Pat told Jack that the Capitol Building was where all the Senators worked.  He responded with, “Oh, like Padme Amidala?”  He’s not only learning to wield a lightsaber but he’s learning important lessons on government from Star Wars.

We also literally stopped to smell the roses.

I asked Jack to pick between the dinosaur museum and the air & space so this was his choice.  It was also his choice to blow through there in under an hour.  It’s the first time I’ve gone to a museum and learned nothing.  I just followed Jack around.  There was a lot to take in at the Air & Space museum and I think he was just a bit young for it so he just wandered through.  If you ask him what his favorite part of it was, he’ll probably tell you it was the french fries that we had for lunch!

Our second stop of the day was the National Building Museum.  A friend had sent some information along about a Lego display there and I thought Jack would enjoy it.  After the crowded Air & Space museum the National Building Museum was quiet, beautiful and fun for the kids.  The Lego display was pretty interesting but after looking at the “professional” Legos, there was a whole area for kids to create their own masterpiece.

And this is what they came up with…I didn’t even know they were familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright.

After the Lego room, there was another room for kids.  This time the Lego bricks were life sized bricks and the kids had a lot of fun building a tower taller than Daddy.

Even the outside of the National Building Museum was fun…

After our day in the city, we headed back to Mitch & Jenny’s for a barbeque with their friends and neighbors.  Pat volunteered to work the grill, which is another first…first time in a few years I would say.  And then he told me he enjoys grilling!  I had no idea.

On Monday we had big afternoon plans, but the morning involved train rides and carousel rides, so it wasn’t too shabby either.

While waiting for the train, I tried to take some picture of the dads and their kids…not a one where they are all looking and smiling but I love what I got instead…

 
The grand finale of the trip required us to go separate ways.  Pat and Jack went to Jack’s first Phillies baseball game (at Nationals Stadium) and Casey and I went on our first shopping excursion to Ikea.  The whole time they were at the game, we were at Ikea.  We spent about 3 1/2 hours there somehow.  Casey played around all the furniture displays and then I dropped her off in a child care area and did some more shopping.  We loaded up my purchases in the car and Casey wanted ice cream so I decided we might as well go back into Ikea for it.  It was a good choice…only $1 for a cone.  Casey spent at least 30 minutes eating this ice cream cone and required 8 napkins.  But it was apparent that she was enjoying herself.

 
Pat and Jack had a great time at the game too.  It was so hot that Pat didn’t think they’d stay very long but their seats were in the shade and they watched most of the game.  Jack also got a ride in a rickshaw and another subway ride.  In the end though, if you ask both of them what the favorite part of their afternoons was, they both said, “The ice cream!”