Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

While doing homework tonight, C had to draw the four seasons and an activity he likes during each season. Working on summer, I see that he'd drawn himself and friends in water, swimming. What I could not decipher was the black string coming out of each mouth, so I asked C. His exasperated response:

"MOM! That's my snorkel!" (followed by indignant air bagging)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Life in Pictures

We've got too much going on here right now, so I'm posting a random update via some of our latest photographs...

It's gone! Terrible face, but C was trying to show that his FIRST tooth fell out sometime in the middle of the night, January 17-18. He's still 4, but I'm reminded that his first baby tooth cut through when he was only 2 months, so while not typical, his progression is normal. You can already see the tip of the new tooth coming in!

C as Star Student at school

It's loose! The day after Christmas C started to freak out that he had a tooth wiggling (scared Mommy too), and here it is in mid-January, hanging by a thread!

Rock Star, kitchen style

The new critter adorning the fruit basket.

Making thumbprint cookies

Chef C
(yes, those are cowboy boots)

Yum! Thumbprint jam cookies

Now we know why the dog is such a spaz- sneaking Starbucks!

Ringing in the New Year

C's ginger bread house from school...it figures the one kid who is not allowed to eat candy has the only house in the classroom that looks like a candy factory exploded!

A house fit for Hansel and Gretyl

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Go Out and Do Some GOOD!

Lesson learned- take the picture while it is there to take. We've had utility workers outside the past two days, digging a new gas line, complete with a backhoe parked in the yard. C thought he was in construction heaven! Unfortunately, none of us stopped to get any pics. It's been below freezing here and these guys are on the street by 7:30am and don't leave until after 4pm. Brrrr!

Yesterday I set up a tray in the driveway with a carafe of fresh coffee, with all the accompaniments, and a plate of pannettone. At the end of the day, the bread was gone and there was about 1/4 pot of coffee left. This morning, I was out of coffee, so after taking C to school, I stopped by the local gas station and purchased two 24 oz. coffees, poured those into the carafe and set up the coffee service again this morning. By mid-morning, the carafe was empty, so I refilled it. As I was leaving to volunteer in C's classroom later this morning, one of the workers stopped the backhoe, thanked me for setting up coffee for the crew and said, "Boy, that coffee this morning sure was good. It was REALLY good!" To which I replied, "WaWa!" I guess my own coffee making skills aren't so hot, especially sad since I have a Keurig! How do you screw that up? Anyway...

My point: a simple, simple act, of very little cost, goes a long way. How can you go out and do some GOOD?

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I've been volunteering in C's Kindergarten class this week and heard...

"Hannah Montana is big; she's as tall as corn!"

"I want to marry C- he's going to be my husband some day!"

"Do you like unicorns with rainbows and glitter?"

There were much funnier ones, but my mind's a little slow tonight!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weight Loss

So, I'm working towards less of me in the new year and I am off to a great start...

1/4-1/11: LOST 8 POUNDS!!!

WOO-HOO! (We won't talk about what I gained over the holidays).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

C started asking about a year ago, "where do babies come from?" and we told him that God sends you one, to your belly. Not the most anatomically accurate answer, but I don't see the need for the sex talk yet, so it's the answer that has been perfectly accepted in our home. Once he had that down, C wanted to know when God was going to send us more babies; C thinks we need 4 more! I explained to C what a little miracle he is and he is more than enough, but if God wants us to have another baby, we just need to see if it is part of His plan. After that, bedtime prayers have consistenly ended like this:

"Amen. And God bless Nonna, Poppy, [a whole litany of others]...and please send me a sister AND a brother. Amen!"

Star Student

I like an approach used in C's Kindergarten class- Star Student. Each student gets one week out of the school year that he/she is the star, and this is C's week. "Excited" is an understatement! The star is the leader for all class activities, can bring show-and-tell every day, can bring family members in for Q&A, brings the "cool" snacks and is class celebrity for the week. What shocked me was the amount of homework that went into this week; a huge poster with all kinds of details and photos, a Star Student workbook with photos, and pages for the class scrapbook. According to M, the week is off to a good start: he read to the class today, took Q&A, and stayed for snack time and C was loving every minute of it. They are so adorable together; photo above is from a recent trip to Myrtle Beach.

I thought you might enjoy some of the responses to the questions C had to answer:
  • When I grow up I want to be...Batman

  • My favorite food is...hotdogs

  • My favorite part of school is...playing

  • My favorite color is...red

  • My favorite book is...anything with Spiderman in it

Saturday, January 9, 2010

That's MY Boy!

I don't know about you, but one of the parental duties that I'm not particularly fond of is the attendance of birthday parties. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled about how much fun the kids have, but bring an odd mix of adults together that have to make small talk for 2-3 hours and it can become tedious, all the while trying to keep your own kid from sticking his fingers in the cake, peeking into presents, getting a sugar high, etc.

C had a birthday party to attend today and we had two things going for us: 1. it was a pool party and since C can swim by himself, I did not have to don a swimsuit (whew!) and 2. a couple of my very good friends would be there, so we'd have a chance to catch up and visit. Not to be ugly, but each party tends to have "THAT mom" in attendance. You know the one..."my-child-walks-on-water-does-algebra-at-age-3-and-speaks-4-languages!" Sound familiar? If so, picture THAT mom at today's party.

The aquatic center where the party was held has some very strict rules- no kids under 48" in a certain section of the waterpark area and no use of the slide (and they had a huge, waterpark slide). For kids under 48", they had the option to take a swim test, and if they passed, could wear a special bracelet granting them access to the other waterpark areas and slide. C decided, while one of the younger and smaller ones of the group, that he wanted that special bracelet for all-access. He marched himself over to the lifeguards and told them he wanted to take the swim test. I consented, the lifeguards looked skeptical and off the little group went to test.

The three boys ahead of C were at least 1-2 years older than him and a full head taller, just shy of the 48" cutoff, and each one passed the test. The entire time we were waiting C's turn, with my two friends, we heard THAT mom complaining that her daughter had to take the swim test. After all, she is on a swim team (and la-dee-da). The lifeguards continued to explain, no exceptions, all had to take the test. So the daughter (an older 5 and decked out in her goggles and racing suit), much like the mom, carries on and says she wants to do butterfly for her stroke. Lifeguard said no, she requested breaststroke, and again, the lifeguard said no, and reminded all what the test entails: jump in, 1 lap of freestyle in the Olympic size pool, push out of the deep end unassisted, jump back in, and tread water for 1 minute without your head going under, not once. So, as much as mother and daughter were carrying on, we were expecting some impressive swimming. Mom continued to tell us all what an exceptional swimmer her kid is, etc...and the rest of us had the "oh, that's nice" going. When it was the girl's turn, Mom followed daughter as she swam and hovered as she treaded.

C's turn, and he's never swam a full lap in such a large pool, and to top it off, he's never treaded water. I gave him a quick pep talk, tried to explain treading in 10 seconds, and off he went. Honestly, the guards were so strict and the requirements so high for a 4 year old, that I was not expecting C to pass (not that I would ever tell him that). Well, that little fighter proved me wrong! He jumped in, swam his freestyle lap, pulled himself up onto the deck, jumped back in the deep end, and treaded water for the first time ever, for a full minute without going under once. WOW! I stayed in the bleachers for all of this and my friends and I did give a little cheer and high-fives to C when he walked back over with his special access bracelet.

And THAT mom? She walked by grumbling; unfortunately, her daughter did not pass the swim test. Later in the car, C starting talking about the swim test and how hard it was, but how he kept going. The he asked why the girl did not pass, and before I could say a word, he tells me, "I think I know. You had to hang tough- that was a really hard swim. Maybe she couldn't hang tough enough." Not sure where he's even heard "hang tough," but he got the concept down. I did bring the conversation back around to the girl tried her best and that's all we can do, she must have been disappointed, it could have been the same outcome for C, and so on. But I must admit, I was thinking, I'm glad my boy decided to "hang tough!" and reach his goal.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Walking for Fitness

It was going pretty well last year...lost 34 pounds...then gained back 22 of them this fall. UGH! I'm back at it again- eating healthy and this time doing more to add in the exercise. My goal is to walk 3.5-5 miles per day for exercise, in addition to any other steps I take, with the ultimate goal of at least 1,000 fitness miles walked in 2010. So far, so good...10.5 miles down (ticker at the bottom of the blog page) and I felt accomplished walking 3.5 miles this morning in the bitter cold - 18* wind chill.

Now to just keep at it and make it a habit. The photo above is when C was a few weeks old, I'd lost all of the baby weight, and I was in decent shape...not fantastic, but decent. How I'd love to get back to there again as my first goal, and slim down some more from there. I guess it's true...even the longest of journeys begins with a single step in the right direction. Here's to first steps!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Adios Mexico!

My big gift to myself for putting myself through graduate school (beside becoming gainfully employed) was purchasing a time share. The has been an outstanding investment for our family as we love to travel and it has saved us thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years. My parents, who were skeptical of the idea, now own three. We still own our original purchase and continue to enjoy new adventures each year. Since C has come along, we have stayed closer to home, limiting our travel to a day's drive or a direct flight under two hours. In doing so, we've spoiled the child with annual visits to Hilton Head Island and Disney and he seems to expect that is the norm. We need to get moving on requesting our exchange week for this year and C, once again, has voted for Disney or Hilton Head. I voted for Hilton Head, and pulled a 3 bedroom in Sea Pines for Thanksgiving week, but M is not confident he can get that week off- bummer.

In looking at all of the properties we can pull, it reminded me of how our travels have changed, not just with the addition of a child, but with socio-politcal developments as well. We had booked the Pueblo Bonita Sunset Beach in Cabo San Lucas in 2006, and despite assurance from fellow travelers that our little man would do great there at 18 months, I had a sense of forboding about it and did some research. Did you know that more Americans are kidnapped in Mexico than any other nation (besides the US)? We had a fantastic week planned, but gave it away to my parents and another couple they are friends with, and we've never had a regret about that decision. In 2008 we decided to give Mexico another shot, but without C in tow, so he went to Nonna and Poppy's for 9 days while we went to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Xcaret. The trip was fantastic and the diving was amazing, but we noticed we were hearing more and more stories from travelers who experienced trouble while traveling in Mexico- police expecting bribes at toll road crossings, passports illegally held, trumped up charges/fines/jail time, increased violent crime, etc. No strangers to Mexico, we've also made a few visits to Cozumel (2001-2004) and one to Costa Maya in 2003 (which was one of our better Mexico visits- jungle tours and a remote beach). When you get down to it though, they are still a 3rd world country, becoming even more criminal and dangerous as drug cartels and opportunists continue to attack.

So, as we discussed where to visit this year, Mexico was removed for the list, likely for a very long time. It's not enough that the US lacks borders, language, and culture when it comes to immigration, but the violence from Mexico is now spilling over into US streets, and not just in border towns such as San Diego and Laredo...major crimes are now tracked back to Mexican cartels in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Atlanta...when will it end? Did you catch this recent episode of 48 Hours? Powerful! Amazing the family lives to tell, but all too familiar that our own government lacks any type of leverage and that the Mexican authorities did nothing to investigate the crimes. I spent time living and serving in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, and I saw the much seedier and desperate side of life that you do not see while neatly tucked away in your resort compound- I'd expect this type of crime there, but it's been eye-opening to watch the developments in Mexico since we started traveling there back in 2000.

In a related note, we hear that crime is up in St. Maarten, and our neighbors were recently mugged there. My brother-in-law reports that Nassau continues to go downhill. He lives on Paradise Island and it's so bad now that the crime is spilling over onto the once immune resort island. We typically travel down there for long weekends, but even that option has become much more guarded and carefully planned. Cruise ships are diverting from that port and we're told that tourists should not book any shore excursions while in port. Passengers with both Disney and Royal Caribbean were recently attacked while on a shore excursion tour. A NJ police officer was also shot at the very popular Cable Beach. We recall the days when, even recently, we could stroll around the streets of Nassau with very little fear. Now, you take your life in your hands when you do so, and sadly, in a country that used to boast a fairly safe crime rate. When will these countries realize the harsh lesson Aruba has had to learn, if you cannot protect the tourists, they will find another island? It's likely a matter of time before our jaunts to the Bahamas will come to an end, at least until it's a safer venture.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

"Mom, the grocery store was out of Kung-Fu!"

C helped daddy do the grocery shopping this weekend and evidently they were out of tofu!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Modified Monopoly for Kids

C loves the Scooby Doo Monopoly game I received at Christmas a few years ago, but when we tried to play it last year, it was too much for him...all of the rules, the money, going bankrupt, etc. He's been begging to play it again recently with the additional clause of "I won't cry!" I thought there's still got to be a way to make this easier, so we made up our own rules this morning. I'm pleased to report the version we created was tear-free, easy for C to play, full of teachable moments (money, counting, logic, etc.) and after one game, C was pleased to complete a game, but he was also ready to put the game away, so we did not have to play endless rounds.

Our rules:
  • Each player gets $500 to start, and $200 in the middle for the Free Parking jackpot

  • Players still get $200 each time they pass go

  • Shuffle the deed cards and deal 3 to each player. If any players have the same color cards, for example, one gets Park Place and the other gets Boardwalk, return to the pile and deal two new cards. The goal is after dealing that no players share colors or railroads.

  • First player to collect a colored set of deeds wins (Ex: Park Place and Boardwalk, or all 4 rail roads, etc.). So, if I have a yellow deed, green deed, and blue deed, and I land on another yellow deed, I am going to buy it. I will have one yellow deed left to land on to buy and win the game. Other players may thwart me by purchasing the remaining yellow deed if they land on it before I do, but we played a friendly game and did not do that.

  • If you land on a space someone owns, you still pay rent

  • No buildings/hotels

  • Jail/doubles rules still apply

  • Utilities and tax rules still apply, so if a player lands on a utility, he/she would likely want to buy it. Even though the utility will not be used to win the game, it generates income for the owner of the utility.

Our game took about 30 minutes to play and C enjoyed playing such a "big boy" game!