Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Apple Festival - Sort of

Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather is perfect, the air is clear and cool, and the food is yummy. But another reason why I like fall so much is the abundance of festivals in this area. There's nothing like free entertainment when you have 2 small kids, and festival games, craft booths and festival food are pretty darn exciting, as far as we are concerned.

The Annual Apple Festival is one of our favorites. It is held at the historic settlement of Bethabara, the first settlement in this area. And get this, it was originally settled by women - who walked here all the way from Pennsylvania! Cool, eh?

Unfortunately for us this year, the week prior to the festival was full of rain, and the forecast predicted more of the wet stuff that morning, so the festival was cancelled. This fact was unknown to us, however, until we arrived at the park and found it empty.

Rather than turn the car around and travel home with some seriously disappointed kids, we decided to tour around the historic landmark. These pictures are from that day.

Notice any rain in this photo? Um . . . no. No apples either.

Ben was totally psyched about walking on railroad tracks. He was hoping Thomas was right around the bend.

Down the steps of the original stone basements of the settlement.

In the grape arbor of the garden.

Dear God, thank you for allowing me to be born in an age and time of running water, electricity, and . . . floors. Amen.

I asked her to go stand by the pretty flowers so I could take her picture. Apparently, her idea of "stand" is to twist her body into an awkward pose. Charming.

So, no Apple Festival, but it turned out to be a pretty darn good day anyway.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Random Reflections on Kindergarten

So Claire has been in school for about 3 weeks now, and while it still feels a bit new to me, she is totally in the groove of it all. She LOVES it, has made new friends, walks the entire length of the school to her classroom after I drop her off (by HERSELF!), and has already learned so much. If you ask her what part of kindergarten she likes the most, she says, "all of it."

This makes mama happy.

So, while we both have a few weeks under our academic belts, I thought I would list some of my thoughts and reflections on this journey called kindergarten.

  1. The carpool line. Really, if you have school-age children of your own whom you shuttle to and from school, then you pretty much already know about the beast that is the carpool line. I feel like I spend quite a lot of time waiting to drop off and pick up my child (I started to calculate how much time I would spend in that line this year, but it made me very sad, so I quit.), and I can already see how it has affected our gas bill. I know she could ride the bus, but putting a 5 year old through a nearly 9 hour day just seems cruel to me. But while I am no fan of the carpool line, what I do like about it is how incredibly entertaining it can be. I have spent quite a lot of time watching people who apparently think that their cars are equipped with vision proof glass. Hello, I CAN SEE YOU PICK YOUR NOSE AND WIPE IT ON THE WINDOW!!

  2. Homework. What the???? When I was in kindergarten, we colored, we sang, we drew shapes and played games. I think we may have started to learn our letters, but I most certainly did NOT write a word, read a word or have any homework. Fast forward to today. Claire brings home homework 4 days a week, and while it is simple and easy, she is already reading books, learning sight words and punctuation marks, and has completed her first project, an "all about me" T-shirt. She was supposed to fill her t-shirt with pictures, drawings, cut-outs, etc. of things that would tell about who she is. I think it turned out well.
3. Which brings me to my next point. My daughter and I are WAY too much alike. For every idea I offered about the shirt, my comments were met with, "mom, this is my project." Hello, control freak, meet your daughter, control freak jr. I had to walk out of the room a couple times just so I wouldn't move her pictures so they looked more aligned. But I restrained myself, and she did a great job. (just in case you are wondering, the yellow alien looking thing on the left is her stuffed bunny and the purple rectangle is her purple blanket. They are both beloved.)

4. Packing lunch stinks. I'm not sure what we are going to do when we have more than one lunch to pack each night, but Shawn and I are already playing paper/rock/scissors to see who gets stuck with lunch duty each night. I would have her buy her lunch, but she is SO not interested in that, and school lunches are stinkin' expensive!

5. Because of said lunch packing and because of the sheer number of plastic Ziploc baggies I was using each night, I quickly realized that I wasn't down with all the landfill filling (landfill filling?) going on. Now, I am not, by any means, what one would call an environmentalist, but the plastic baggies just bugged me for some reason. Not to mention that Claire was having to ask her teacher for help opening them each day. So, I found these:

They are reusable snack sacks. Sounds a little gross, I know, but we've had three for a week now, and so far so good. They are reinforced with nylon on the inside, are machine washable, close with Velcro and are big enough for chips but are also great for fruit! Claire loves the colors and the ease of opening them. There are all sorts of companies who do products like this, but I found mine here.

6. Along the same lines . . . to avoid buying expensive juice boxes or paying $.50 for a box of milk that Claire didn't drink half of, we bought a stainless steel water bottle. It is BPA free and free of all harmful toxins that can be found in other drinking bottles. I totally recommend this. We found ours on Amazon, but they are everywhere right now.

7. And last, but so very not the least, I took this picture yesterday after Claire came home from school.

See the enormous blue paw print sticker? This is what her school handbook says about those stickers: "All staff members who 'catch' students following the ABCs (school rules of good behavior) will give out Wildcat paw prints . . . to wear for the rest of the day recognizing them for a good behavior choice. Each day, a student's name will be drawn from the bin, read over the intercom and he or she will come to the office for a reward."

Claire is the first kindergartner in her class to get a paw print.

We are mighty proud.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ben's Birthday Bonanza

Everyone told me that my kids would grow up before I knew it. When Benjamin was just a few weeks old and was spitting up fire and screaming bloody murder for about 12 hours a day, I had a hard time imagining that he would ever grow up. Indeed, each day felt like an eternity. But, low and behold, time passed; he got better, and now he is 3!

To say that I can't believe my baby is 3 is an understatement. He still has some of those chubby baby cheeks, but he's so tall, so talkative and such an individual. I've definitely been a little sentimental all day. He, on the other hand, has been looking forward to this day since his dad's birthday a month ago. I don't think he remembers his birthday from last year, but he was pretty certain that whatever else happened today, he would for sure be getting some presents. That was draw enough. However, when Shawn got him out of bed this morning, Ben told him that he was a little sad that it was his birthday. He had actually told me the same thing last night. When I asked why he felt a little sad, he said it was because if he got bigger then he wouldn't be my baby anymore.

Well. Ugh.

I swallowed down the boo hoo's and assured him he would always be my baby. No matter what.

(I'm actually thinking that he is more concerned that turning 3 signals the end of his love affair with his bink and the onset of some serious potty training boot camp. He's no dummy. He sees the writing on the wall, and is reminiscent of the halcyon days of yore.)

But then, there's the presents, so . . . bring on that birthday.

We planned to have a small party for him this year and invite a few of his buddies from church for a low key playdate in the park's playground. I invited three of his friends, but only Harper was able to come. Thankfully, Harper has an older sister Claire's age and a newborn sister too, so it still felt like a party.

Here they are posing and modeling their foam craft hats. Does this picture scream "personality" or what?

Blowing out the candle on his Thomas the Train birthday cookie.

Ben and Harper - good buddies. Birthday party playing in the dirt. Right on, man.
And actually, it really wouldn't have mattered if no one had been able to come to the party because, unbeknownst to us until the last minute, the village had planned its annual anniversary celebration in the park that very same day (anniversary of what, I don't know). The celebration included live music, a pirate who was performing magic tricks, a petting zoo, face painting, fire trucks, free snow cones and cotton candy, and even a 4 jet flyover. Everything was free, and all the kids had a fantastic time.

Being the honest, straightforward parents we are, we totally let Ben think it was all planned for him. He was thrilled. This is, no doubt, going to bite us on the butt next year when he goes to Chuckie Cheese and is like, "mom, a big-headed mouse and games? Where's the 4 jet flyover, snow cones and magic producing pirate? I mean, really."
We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Meanwhile, we let him live it up.
Ben loved the petting zoo pen with the bunnies, guinea pigs and hedgehog. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of that. Instead you get a picture of a spiky, hard-shelled tortoise and two ducks. "Ah, soft tortoise."

Claire and her buddy Mary-Brannen

As still as a statue.

One happy little man.

And what's a birthday party without a stinkin' huge red tractor? YeeHaw!

Arguable the highlight of Ben's day was getting to climb all over this.

And today, his actual birthday, we had a small celebration with just our family and this cake.
Okay, so it's not a masterpiece, but Ben was a happy with it (and yes, I totally swiped and reused the Thomas from his cookie cake on Saturday).

Big breath in and blow!

Opening cards and gifts from family.

He has been asking for the "new Thomas movie." This is one happy boy. I wish I would have had the video running when he first opened it. As soon as he realized what it was, he let out a big whoop, ran around the room and jumped on the couch.
The video below was taken right after that. He's still pretty excited.

We really weren't able to tell which of his present were his favorite though, the Thomas movie or this:

Trying out that new "big boy bike."

He's a little speed demon on his red radio flyer tricycle but was a little timid on this bike at first. However, after about 5 minutes, he was riding like a pro.

It was a good day - 3 years ago AND today.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day For All (just not mom)

Though summer officially has about a week to go and school has already been in session for over a week, Labor Day does mark the end of the pool season. So, for our family, Labor Day signifies the end of the summer.

Speaking of Labor Day. Ever Curious Claire (you know, like Curious George) asked me the other day what we were supposed to be celebrating on Labor Day. She's all about the holidays, especially after recently learning that they generally mean she gets the day off school. After giving her an explanation of the holiday, she responded with:

"So, Daddy gets a break from his work, and I get a break from all (all???) the work I do at school, right."

I replied in the affirmative.

Then she said, "Well, mom, I guess this holiday isn't one for you since you don't do any work to get a break from."


I decided to just end that conversation lest I grow horns and start throwing things.

Anyway, back to our weekend.

Thankfully, ol' Mother Nature got back on track after a week of freaky fall-like weather the week before (because temperatures in the 70's really is freaky at this time of year in our neck of the woods), and the Labor Day weekend warmed back up into the mid 80's. The weather was beautiful; the water was freezing (due to the aforementioned freaky fall temperatures the week before). This was no deterrent for my kids, however.

Claire modeling her favorite pool look. She's ready for the runway.

There's nothing like some pool noodle horseback riding. Notice Claire's hair is still dry. The water was actually really cold, and it took awhile for her to get up enough nerve to go under.

But she did.

Bathing Beauties

Claire has had a love/hate relationship with water for pretty much all her life. I posted here about the lessons she took at the beginning of summer and how amazed I was that she was finally able to put her head under and swim with only the aid of a float belt.

I'd say this video does a good job displaying how much she has grown as a swimmer since then.

Watch out, Michael Phelps.

And, while swimming in the pool is fun, eating a picnic lunch poolside may be the highlight of the day, especially when your parents dig around in the car and scrounge up enough money for an ice cream sandwich. Pure kid bliss.

And, now, just to give evidence that my hard-working husband does indeed get a break every now and again. I present the following picture.

Precious, ain't it?
There are no pictures of me because, well, seeing as how I do no work, it wasn't my holiday to observe, remember?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

This One Made me Smile

Because I blog, I like to read other people's blogs, not just to show them support, but, man oh man, are there ever some funny people out there.

Shawn has yet to figure out why in the world I am at all interested in the lives of people I have never met. Really, I'm not quite sure myself, but it sure is entertaining. One blog in particular is on my list of "must reads" each day. Melanie or "Big Mama" blogs about her life but does so in such a way as to make me wish I knew her or, at the very least, that my life was nearly as hilarious as hers.

Today's post made me smile. And laugh. And chuckle.

It also made me wonder if buying Claire a pink gun might be a good idea.

I'm considering.

You can read/view it here.