Monday, November 2, 2009

A Week of Halloween

Halloween - does it get any better? Sure, Easter's great with its candy eggs and chocolate bunnies, but Easter comes with all the heaviness of death and resurrection. Not Halloween -- all the blood and gore in this holiday is just for fun. No big spiritual message or life lesson to this Hallmark holiday. So…without further ado…let the fun begin!

We got into the spirit early with a surprise package from Mimi & Bubba. 

Glow in the dark Pez, light up pens and Boo pony-tail holders -- all a big hit!

We pretty much partied it up all week.  Festivities started on Thursday with the party at 'school' (Infinite Bounds), continuted into Friday with school party #2 for Jake (at Teddy Bear Junction) and Scare on the Square in Old Town McKinney.  We definitely got our money's worth out of this year's costumes.  Lila was Lady Bug Girl...

Jake, following through on the Birthday racing theme, was Dale Earnhart Jr.

We still hadn't had enough of the fun and games (or the candy) when Halloween actually rolled around.  The evening got off to a creepy crawly start with an unexpected visitor.  I wanted to put him in my cauldron and serve up some eye-of-newt soup.  The kids wanted to keep him as a pet.  The final decision was to set him free in the front yard where, hopefully, he'll enjoy dining on all the mosquitoes.

Next we carved our pumpkin.  The weather can be pretty warm and often damp in Dallas this time of year, a carved pumpkin can get really scarey really fast around here.  So we usually hold off on carving until Halloween afternoon/evening.  I think this fellow has quite a charming smile, don't you?

We invited a few friends over for some pre trick-or-treating snacks and then the kiddos hit the neighborhood with a vengance.

While the kiddos terrorized the neighborhood, 'Aunt' Karin and I hung out by a cozy fire (and a bottle of bubbley) to hand out treats.  Duke built us a great fire.  We were very happy campers.

I think everybody had a great time.  The kids are all hopped up on sugar -- and I'm pretty sure they will be through the end of the year.  Jake's taking a cue from the squirrels and stashing his in corners, under beds, etc.  I'm pretty sure I'll be finding sweet stuff hidden around the house for many days to come.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jake's 5th Birthday

It’s official! Jake’s 5. And true to form, we ushered in the start of his 5th year in style…racing style!

I started asking Jake how he wanted to celebrate his 5th birthday shortly after his 4th birthday party. He said he wanted a “Race Car” birthday. OK, great! How on earth do you throw a “Race Car” party?! I didn’t stress about it too much. I figured he’d change his mind several times in throughout the year, so I had nothing to worry about. Well, guess what…he didn’t change his mind. By mid-summer, it was pretty obvious we were going to have to find a way to throw Jake a race car bash. So while I struggled with ways of throwing a racing-themed party at home, Duke came up with the brilliant idea of go-kart racing! After a few phone calls, it was all set up. We were Speed Zone bound!

It was a great day for a party. The weather was warm & dry. Most of Jake’s pals were able to come. Everybody had a great time zooming around the track. Judging by the pictures, it’s hard to tell who was having more fun – the boys or the dads. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a kid’s birthday party where it was mostly dads. Usually party-duty falls on the mom’s to-do list.

After an hour of racing, we had a little fun with video games and then went into the party room for pizza, cake & ice cream. Of course, the cake had to be about racing too. Jake & I scoured the metroplex looking for racing props to put on his cake. We finally (and I do mean FINALLY) found these tiny NASCARS. (I’ve got to give Walmart credit here – I hate going to that place, but I usually find pretty good stuff there.)

After cake, there was time for a few more turns around the track.

We actually celebrated Jake’s birthday the weekend before his special day this year. That meant we still had to find a way to make Jake’s actual birthday special. So, we started the day off with a Birthday Waffle Sundae – complete with candle. Then Jake went off to school.

Jake attends two schools this year – Teddy Bear Junction (TBJ) on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays; Infinite Bounds (IB) on Tuesdays & Thursdays. It was Wednesday, so that meant he would be at TBJ - a ridiculously rigid, nut-free, home-baked-goods-free school. They gave me an “approved list” of compliant snacks that I could send in with Jake to share with his class mates. I’m sorry, there’s just something wrong about sending your kid to school on his birthday with a box of Fruit Gushers instead of a cake. But I’ll blog about that some other time. Suffice it to say, that I prefer the anything-goes atmosphere at IB much better than the restrictive style of TBJ.

While Jake & friends were enjoying their fruit gushers, I hatched a plan to surprise him by inviting some of his IB buddies over for an afternoon of fun. So with Lila as my faithful sidekick, I loaded Brody & Finn into the car and headed to TBJ. My partners in crime hid quietly outside the classroom door and yelled HAPPY BIRTHDAY, when Jake walked out. It was a lot of fun. As fun as Speed Zone? Probably not, but at least it made a middle-of-the-week birthday a little more interesting than just hanging with Mom, Dad & Sister.

So, what will next year bring? Who knows. I haven’t asked yet, but I’m sure Jake’s got something in mind. Until then, we'll see ya around the track!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fancy Pants

Well, further proving that Delila will do what she wants when she wants, our little Ladybug decided it was time to tackle the potty…with absolutely NO encouragement from Mommy and Daddy whatsoever. OK, maybe we’d put her on the potty right before bath time – so she wouldn’t go in the tub – but that’s really about as far as our involvement went. She’s the one who started telling us before bed that she wanted to use the potty. Then she started telling us again in the morning as we were changing into a fresh diaper. I decided on Labor Day to take the plunge. So I asked her if she’d like to wear her “Fancy Pants” without a diaper. In that Lila way – that I wish I could bottle and save for a rainy day – she said “Yeah!” (I’ve got to remember to record her enthusiastic little “Yeah”s, before they’re gone forever. One of those is all I need to turn around the worst of days.)

So on went the Hello Kitty fancy pants she’d had to have on a trip to Target a several months ago. She did great! Not a single accident. Of course, she was back in a diaper for nap, and later that night at bedtime. But the day went great. No problems at all. The next day, I sent her off to school with no diaper and again, things went just fine. Well, there was a little accident. Her skirt fell in the toilet, but the underpants were dry!

“She was ready.” That’s the response I hear from so many moms. And I guess they’re right, but let me tell ya, I wasn’t ready. Potty training with Jake was such a battle. Ugh! It’s really something I hope he doesn’t remember – it could just scar him for life. I wasn’t ready to go down that road with Delila.

Now everybody knows what a great kid Jake is. How easy he’s been on us. For the most part, he’s pretty flawless. Well not when it came to potty training! He expressed no interest in it at all. By the time he was 3 ½ I was starting to feel the pressure. All our other little friends were in underpants, but we were still walking around in a pullup. For those of you who haven’t had to deal with diapers in a decade or so, Pullups are under-wear style diapers. They’re supposed to help with potty training. You can pull them down to use the toilet and then pull them right back up again. If you ask me, they’re just more expensive version of diapers that are a little tougher to get on. Pullups cost $.27 each…at COSTCO!! You go through about 5 a day. That’s $1.35 a day. OK, so that doesn’t seem like that much, but it’s almost $500 a year!! That’s a car payment! In diapers!!

But I digress, back to feeling pressured. I was bound and determined to get Jake out of those diapers before he turned 4. So, we started having “underpants time” every day after nap. Underpants time went fine – he just held it until I put a diaper on him. Then he’d flood the thing. Grrrr…pee-pee on my floor! He’d wake up dry in the morning. I’d rush him into the bathroom, plunk him down on the toilet, and read a book or two…or three…or four. The thought here was that he HAD to go…if we just sat there long enough he’d have no choice but to go in the potty, right? Not this kid. Geeze Louise, he had an iron will…and an iron clad bladder! He’d be screaming in pain, but he would not go in the toilet. So, after an hour or so, I’d put him back in a pull-up…which he’d flood. Grrrrmore pee-pee on my floor!

I was really at the end of my wits with the whole thing. Then it happened. The straw that broke the camel’s back. My worst parenting moment (to date). The thing I pray that Jake doesn’t remember.

It was a Friday. We were having our post-nap underpants time. Duke was out of town, but was due to arrive home around 8:00 that night. We got an invitation from our good friends, the Pittmans, to go check out the latest gourmet hamburger joint. I thought “Perfect! Jake will wear his underpants. With the positive influence of Colin and ‘Uncle Bob’ and a full bladder he’s bound to use the toilet.” No deal. He held it the whole time. On the way home, I was a little concerned. The entire drive I kept asking him if he had to go, saying we could pull over into the grass if needed. “No mommy, I’m fine. I don’t need to go.” OK.

Hmph! The reason Jake didn’t need me to pull over on the ride home is because he’d already gone…in his car seat. I discovered this as I was unbuckling him. The Pittmans, who had followed us home for a little Friday night fun in the drive way, pulled into the driveway as I made this discovery – just in time to witness the ugliness that followed. When my hand came up soaking wet, well, I just lost it. I yanked Jake out of the car, removed his car seat, set it up at the garage entrance and strapped Jake back into it…all the while screaming at him about what a baby he was…how I was going to get him a baby bottle full of milk…how he was going to sit in that wet car seat until I put the crib back in his room. He was screaming, I was screaming. The Pittmans were horrified I’m sure. And then Duke got home and dove into the mix by trying to get me to back off. And then ‘Uncle Bob’ got into the mix telling Duke he needed to let me do what I needed to do. (I’ll have Bob’s back forever for that one!)

It was not my proudest moment, but guess what…it WORKED! The next day, Jake was out of diapers and I was apologizing for my bad behavior. Things went very easily from that point forward. No mad rushes to the restroom – after all, we knew he could hold it for hours if he needed to. In the end, it was all just fine. So, when it came to Lila, I just figured I’d wait. I was really kind of dreading the whole thing with her. I mean, come on! Jake’s the ‘easy kid’ – what was it going to be like with feisty little Delila?!?!? I was in no rush to find out! But that’s our Ladybug for ya, full of surprises. Just when I start thinking she’s more than I can manage, she goes and makes it easy on me. Gotta love her!

Lots & Lots of Fancy Pants

(compliments of Mimi & Bubba and a $15 Target card)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Summer Vacation - A Jake's-Eye View

Well, summer's pretty much over. It was a great one...even if it was gone in the blink of an eye. Of course, it's not really gone here in Texas. We still have several weeks of summer weather left, but school's back in session and we're returning to our routines. That's really the definition of the end of summer, isn't it?

Anyway, as an Ode to Summer, I thought I'd share a Jake's-eye view of how we spent our summer vacation. All these pictures were taken by Jake and I swear I didn't altar them in any way other than to reduce their size so they were suitable for sharing on the web. Am I just a proud Momma, or does this kid have talent?

Berry picking on the way from Monterey to Santa Cruz. Even Denise (who doesn't eat fruit at all) thought they tasted pretty good.

Santa Cruz was like a little bit of heaven -- even if the hills were burning. Surfers...



games of chance.

A beach bag...

a bucket...

and a surf-side sweetie.


...and old friends at Gilroy Gardens. (Sorry Disney, this is truly the "happiest place on earth".)

Blue from a distance...

Zoe up close and personal.

Dining al fresco in Jack London Square.

Colorful windows...

...and walls in Capitola.

Breakfast with friends at a new location of an old South Bay institution (Flames).

On a final note...those of you who might be looking for birthday ideas for Jake, does this post give you any hints? Let's see...anything related to skateboards, surfing, biking, photography (I'm thinking this is the year for a decent camera for him.) Of course, the old favorites are still in play too, so you can't go wrong with football, race cars or the color yellow.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

It was a great evening. Hot, but not too hot to handle. Especially since we were hanging out with our friends, Kurt & Karen, at their new kinda-country home. A few acres of grass and some trees can help a lot with the summer heat. We'd taken turns riding the tractor. We'd eaten a scrumptious dinner of barbecued ribs, grilled tri-tip, and homemade potato salad. The kiddos had been excused and were having fun with the doggies and watching a little TV. The big people were waiting on the coffee. And then...thump! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM!

Lila screaming...that's nothing new. Lila laying face down on the floor kicking...a fairly regular occurrence. Roll Lila over...Lila covered in blood? Well, this is new. A closer look...big bloody gash on lip, dangling tooth. Gotta go!!!

We dashed off to the emergency room because it was pretty obvious the lip was going to need stitches. We tried calling the dentist on the way, but of course we couldn't find the number. We called a friend, but she couldn't find it either. Now I know what you're 411! Well, pediatric dentist's aren't always known by their full names, Genius! Ours is "Dr. Lisi" -- but that's short for something...something a traumatized mother can't possibly remember. But praise be to Dr. Lisi! She actually has a 411 listing under, of all things "Dr. Lisi"! And she answers the phone at 9:45 on a Sunday night! Love her! (By the way, her full name is Dr. Elisabeth Rowold-Garciamendez -- try remembering that one when your little girl is screaming and bleeding all over the backseat!) But I digress....

The staff at Centennial Medical Center were great. They put us in the Kid Room which is blue and painted with sea creatures. The big "Shamus" on the wall next to the bed were a big comfort to Lila. The doctor stitched her lip (4 stitches) and tried to reposition the tooth. And sent us on our way.

We were at Dr. Lisi's office before they opened on Monday. A quick look determined that the tooth had to go. But the procedure had to be done under anaesthesia so we would have to come back the next day. We booked an appointment for Tuesday morning. Once Lila was under, it was easier to make a more thorough evaluation. Both front teeth would have to be extracted. Additionally, Delila had broken the maxillary bone and the health of the permanent teeth would be a "wait and see" kind of thing. Heartbreaking news to say the least -- in spite of the fact that Lila seems to be carrying on a family tradition. (I knocked a baby tooth out on a friend's head a little ahead of schedule, I broke a front tooth in a bike wreck at age 7 and broke the other front tooth on the arm of a chair when I was 14. My grandmother knocked her front teeth out in a playground incident.)

So, Ladybug's got a toothless grin. When she saw her teeth in the little pink box Dr. Lisi gave us she asked me, "I put them back in now, Mommy?" And now when needs to jump on the sofa, she takes all the cushions off and stacks them up against the coffee table, "so I don't knock teeth anyMORE!" (She says these things with such enthusiasm it's impossible not to smile...and cringe at the same time.) The missing teeth don't really seem to bother her. She stopped sucking her thumb for a while - which I was hoping would be the silver lining to this parenting nightmare - but I saw her taking the thumb for a test drive yesterday. She was very excited that it, "doesn't hurt my boo-boo anyMORE!" I guess I'll have to look for some other silver lining.

And just how did this whole thing happen? I'm not exactly sure. According to Jake -- who was the only one to witness it -- Lila was trying to jump onto the couch. She slid off or miscalculated and hit the coffee table on the way down. And there you have it...the childhood injury from which there is no full recovery. The one that leaves a mark.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hey Baby, It's the 4th of July!

OK. I know I'm pathetic. I don't need to be reminded. Seriously. Remember? I started this blog because I haven't gotten around to doing the "baby books". So my patheticness shouldn't come as a surprise. That said, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!

Now here in North Dallas, we start celebrating 4th of July a little early. It's not at all unusual to see fireworks displays the week leading up to the 4th. This is weird for the Washingtonian in me, but it happens every year...without fail. I don't know if it's because of the whole Texas-as-its-own-republic-thing or what, but they really aren't all that concerned about celebrating the 4th on the 4th around here.

Our festivities actually began with the neighborhood bike parade which took place on June 27th. (No comments on how this makes my blog post even more delinquent than it already is, thank you very much.) There's nothing like getting in the spirit a week early. Oh! And don't wait to buy your decorations until then, because there will be nothing left! Fortunately, we had plenty of patriotic trappings left from last year, so we rode in style.

We planned a pool-side get together for the 4th. One of the fun pre-party activities was making juicicles. Using a 1:1 orange juice to cranberry juice ratio with a couple of gummy worms dropped into each cicle. Yummy, sweet-n-sticky summer fun! We had plenty of qualified helpers. Too late for warnings now, but apparently, I forgot to have Jake wash his hands before we got started. Ick! Oh well, all's well that ends death by juicicle claims were reported. Whew!

Just a few friends hanging around the pool. Adults were outnumbered by kids. WOW, how the parties have changed! We wore our patriotic best -- although Lila was not all that thrilled with her Stars & Bars bathing suit (what a surprise!)We walked up to the golf course to watched the fireworks -- no traffic or parking fiascoes for the grown-ups, and no big booms for the kiddos (i.e., Jake). Gladly the course sprinklers held off until the show was over -- but there was a moment there when we thought we might get wet. All said and done, I still miss 4th of July on the Mall, but it was a great way to spend a Saturday night in the suburbs.
Credit where credit is due: That fantastic firework photo at the beginning of this post is by New Jersey photographer Paul Michael Kane. He has a great "photo of the day" blog where he gives you the details of how he creates each beautiful shot. Click here to check out his photography. It's really spectacular stuff!