Tuesday, February 27, 2007

hair and the dog

It's been off and on rainy lately, more on than off, but no complaints here. We need the water, and all the more incentive to plan another ski weekend sometime soon. This morning the sun was out and the sky was clear but rain was forecast for the afternoon so we thought we'd make the most of the break in the weather by going to the park.

The usual morning crowd at this park is a group of chinese seniors and who I presume to be the grandchildren they care for while their kids are working. One man who is always there brings his little dog and the girls always enjoy visiting with them. For Erin and Allison it's generally a brief visit but Kate rarely wants to participate in anything else once the man with the dog arrives. This is clearly a kid in need of a dog, doomed to a cruel, neglected childhood because of my allergies. I figure one day Kate will coerce Oprah or Extreme Makeover, Home Edition to do a profile on her life of deprivation. As long as she gets a college scholarship or a new house out of the deal I won't mind.

Or maybe we could get a dog and just shave it or shellac it. Hmmmm. But I digress.

Last winter, before Kate could walk, we'd visit this same park and Kate would crawl over to this dog and give him a huge bear hug, then just kind of hang on for dear life as the dog walked around, dragging her along. The mandarin-speaking audience always found that pretty amusing. Now Kate can keep up with him pretty well but still likes giving him big hugs. She'd follow that dog for hours if we let her.

Lately "Darvin's" owner has been letting Kate feed him doggy treats. Kate loves it and this morning Allison joined in for the first time.

After using the jaws of life to pry Kate away from the doggy, we took the girls to get haircuts. Erin especially was overdue. We have a children's hair salon nearby which the girls enjoy visiting because a) they show Dora the Explorer cartoons, b) they get to sit in cool cars while they get their trims, c) they get a lollipop when they're finished, and d) they get a lollipop when they're finished. Candy is such a rare treat that it is definitely the most valuable and memorable part of the outing for them and Erin verifies the deal well before arrival.

"We're going to the place with the lollipops?"
"That's right."
"And I get to HAVE a lollipop after my haircut?"
"That's right."
"Well, ok."

I'm so glad I get that stamp of approval first. Erin, perhaps a Mary Kay top seller, or a pimp, in the making, chose the pink cadillac as usual. Kate got the fire engine and Allison, clearly displaying a taste in cars that I'm going to have to fully reprogram well before her 16th birthday, took the convertible mercedes.

I've wondered why my car isn't among the choices. After all, there is NO sweeter ride than a japanese SUV with three car seats, a ski rack on the roof, and an "Aggie Alumni" license plate frame. What's wrong with these people?

I wanted to wrap up this entry with an "after" photo of the girls, but maybe you can imagine that such an endeavor is always, always like herding cats, and I had dinner on the stove. This is the kind of photo I get 35 of in order to get one photo worthy of putting on a christmas card. This time around it will have to do. A Kodak moment to be sure.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

power lines are broccoli

You'll understand what I mean in a minute.

Thursday was pretty rainy (so nice for a storm to move in, dumping the mountains with lovely fresh snow the day following our departure from there) yet we needed an activity to do, but more specifically a "get out of the house and do something fun but still stay indoors" activity. Those are tough to come up with.

There is a place called "The Jungle" nearby which seemed like a good possibility, and it's aptly named (this also seemed like a good idea to the majority of parents in the metropolitan area apparently, since this week most schools are out). It's a crazy indoor play place with hamster habitrail-type tunnels and climbing structures that are three levels high. Simply gigantic. This photo shows only a small section of the floor to ceiling structure.

On the ground level is a huge bounce house and other smaller things for babies and young toddlers to play on. The one thing that's decidedly lacking is a sound-proof room for the parents so they might attempt to keep their sanity in check while their kids are running all through that mayhem. Apparently running, climbing, bouncing, and SCREAMING and SCREAMING and SCREAMING are inextricably linked.

Well Erin and Kate headed for the habitrails immediately and were never to be seen again (just like a real rainforest!), at least not by me for the next half hour. Danielle managed to follow them through that hellish plastic contraption that's designed to inflict maximum pain and humiliation on any person taller than 48 inches yet stupid enough to enter it. I should know, we've been here before.

Meanwhile, I took Allison to the smaller play area where she stopped to say hello to her cousin painted on the wall.

Allison really loved the large ball pit there and when Kate finally emerged from the depths of the amazonian maze she joined us.

This afternoon the girls played in the backyard for a while. They started up a game of soccer then when the ball was kicked near one of the fences Erin noticed the daffodils growing there so she started picking them. Soon Kate joined in and the soccer game was all but forgotten in favor of forming bouquets of flowers. Whose kids are these anyway?

But soon enough the game was back on, just don't expect the little ladies to put their flowers down while they play!

Also this afternoon the kids were playing with their train set. Allison creatively described some of the pieces:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

snow, ski, spectacular

We're home from our 6th annual family ski trip. John's brother Jeffand nephew Max, girlfriend Donna and son Aidan, John's sister Terri, husband Randy, and son Tim joined us for a few days in the mountains under better than expected conditions.

This being a holiday week we needed to book this rental home at the slopes last summer and could only hope for good conditions, but it's been dry this year-- VERY dry. So unlike last year, and the year before, and the year before...we didn't have powder up to our knees and fresh snow falling every day. What snow there was had been packed down pretty good, but it was still fun, and very fast, skiing. The usual bumps and chunks that develop when the snow is plentiful didn't exist, so what we had for the most part was smooth steep slopes which made it easy and so tempting to pick up speed and just fly downhill. Tim and I just may have had a tendency to test that out once. Or twice. These conditions are probably John's favorite and he seemed thrilled, but if I could choose I'd take the deeper stuff.

During last year's trips Kate was petrified by the snow. In fact she wouldn't walk on it at all, wouldn't take a single step, ever. She had only learned to walk about 3 weeks before our first trip up so I suppose the thought of keeping balanced on that strange stuff was too much for her. If I left her standing alone she got a miserable look on her face and just whimpered until I removed her from that awful circumstance. This year when she encountered snow the first day she started yelling and kicking at it with strong, waist high kicks. Exorcising past demons I figured.

Erin skied with John and me last year but this time I signed her up for two full days of ski school. A full day was barely more expensive than a half day and I really had no idea how she'd take to it or for how long. The first day she seemed a little hesitant when I dropped her off, but she went. I stopped by mid-day and watched her in her lesson and she was doing very well, but when she saw me and realized she had a sympathetic audience she started crying. The teacher said the kids were getting tired and hungry and they would be going in for lunch and some rest now, and that was what Erin was asking for, so she went with them. At the end of the day she had a glowing report of the experience and was looking forward to going back.

The next day I took the kids to the village to play in some more plentiful snow there while John skied the morning. Kate was definitely fully recovered from her last year's snow fears. All the girls liked making, tasting, and destroying snow balls and sliding down tiny hills.

Then we stopped by a village coffee shop for time to see and be seen (or see and be heard, much to the annoyance of the too-cool-for-the-room twenty-somethings who were hanging out there) and to enjoy an apres snow play milkshake.

Monday was Erin's next day in ski school. She was completely enthusiastic about going and gave me a quick wave and a "see ya later" as she went in. But after lunch I got a call from the school, Erin was tired and though she skied the morning and had lunch, she wasn't interested in starting the afternoon session. So I skied down to the village to get her. While I was waiting I met another parent who had also been called to get her daughter. "They don't try very hard," she noted. "If a kid cries and doesn't want to ski they are on the phone to us to come get them.""How old is your daughter?" I asked of Ms. Type-A Nutbar. "Three." THREE? And she is wondering why the kid doesn't want to ski all day? I told her that I was glad they called me because I want skiing to be a positive experience for Erin more than anything, and if she is always pushed past the point that she's enjoying it I don't know that she'd want to participate the next time. And besides all that, crazy lady, she's ONLY FOUR.

Since Terri and Randy offered to stay in during the afternoon, I brought Erin in to join her sisters in a much-needed nap and went back out to ski the rest of the day with Tim and John.

On our final full day John and Erin skied together in the morning. We all went to the village, along with Terri and Randy, and after Erin and John got on the lift we walked up the slope they'd be coming down until we reached a good vantage point because I wanted to get some pictures and video of Erin on skis this year. The twins played a bit and had a snack while we waited, then we saw them...here are the last few seconds near the bottom of a very long run (the audio got screwed up, it's the twins chattering, I don't know what happened and I can't fix it)....

It was a great trip. The girls enjoyed annoying...er, playing with their big cousins and visiting with their aunt and uncles and I got assurance that I wasn't the worst ski parent ever. Erin says skiing was great and she skis "super, SUPER fast". I hope we get back up there just once more this season. Or twice. Okay, three, tops.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

the bo-bo monkeys

Erin had a dentist appointment early this morning--her third check-up. She lets them accomplish a little more work each time but they still couldn't get a great set of x-rays. Today was her first fluoride treatment and as always she was thrilled with her "new NEW toothbrush! I love that!" at the end of the visit.

Then it was off to get the twins and head to their weekly gymnastics class, which they love. They say humans and chimps have 98% common DNA but in Kate and Allison's case I'm pretty sure the overlap is more like 99.5%. John and I (and sometimes Erin) call them the bo-bo monkeys, which are a pair of trouble-making monkey twins on a cartoon show they sometimes watch. To get the monkeys to stop their mayhem the other characters shout, "Freeze, bo-bos!" Now and again we'll hear Erin shouting the same thing to her sisters, but unfortunately it doesn't work as well as it does on TV.

K&A are the loudest, fastest, most aggressive and enthusiastic kids in the class, and they are natural climbers. And the bananas I buy disappear at an alarming rate. Luckily they are talking and walking upright, so the critical differences are there. I guess you can draw your own conclusion.

One of the funniest parts of class (which I tried but didn't capture well here) is when Coach turns around backwards and asks the children to "walk this way" to go to the next room (next phase of the class). Allison and Kate are always first, right next to him and, intent on following directions, when he starts walking they turn around backwards so they can "walk this way." Most of the other kids then mimic Kate and Allison, and it cracks me up every time (and reminds me of that scene in Young Frankenstein). In the photo, Allison had already turned back around, but Kate is still in backward-walking mode.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Elmo, be mine

At about 7am John and I heard the twins running up and down the hallway. I had my back to the bedroom door but soon it sounded like the door was opening. A second later was a "SHHHHHHHHHHHH!" as loud as a 2 year-old could possibly muster, followed by an equally loud "SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" in a slightly different voice, and another "SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" in the first voice. The irony was irresistible and we started giggling. Our playing dead now rendered useless, I turned around to see Allison and Kate, shoulder to shoulder, on my side of the bed. "Hi, Mama!" Allison cheered, and the day was unavoidably underway.

Following last night's rain it was wet outside this morning so we moved the planned valentine's get-together with our friends from the park to our house. Valentine's Day used to be a grown-up occasion with hard to get dinner reservations and such. I'd like to be able to take John out for dinner and a movie, which we have the opportunity to do far too rarely these days, (or rather, these years), but this isn't a good week for that. Friday we leave for several days of skiing and John has a lot of work to finish up before we go. And Wednesdays I always work late. Maybe next year. So at this point VDay really feels like it's fallen into the "kid holiday" category, like Easter, which we participate in to a very minimal degree for the sake of the kids' enjoyment.

For our little party, everyone brought a snack to share and cards to give out. Last night Erin and I wrote out and decorated a set of blank cards as our snack contribution (valentine's cookies) baked. Erin had a great time getting to choose and apply the stickers and she signed each card. Her crayonmanship is definitely above par for a 4 year-old.

We all like having guests over. I think everyone had fun, and everyone certainly had an appetite. The kids gorged themselves on cookies, peanut butter crackers, pineapple, and cheese & pear snack wraps and somehow they had room for lunch about a half an hour later. Funny how 3 bites of vegetables fills Erin up but after 4 cookies she is still asking for more. Cookies must shrink in the stomach. Amazingly, the mess created after 7 kids (and two infants) play for a couple of hours really doesn't differ much from what our own 3 create in that same amount of time on a daily basis, which says a lot about the girls' redecorating skills.

By the way, Elmo makes a fine valentine, just ask miss Allison. "I like Elmo! Elmo's red!" And there you have it. Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 9, 2007

"cruel and unusual" is subjective, ya know

One of Erin's preschool classmates had a birthday party at school today. The instructions on the invitation were to dress up as a favorite superhero. Ok, um, several problems here. One, Erin doesn't know what superheros are so doesn't have a favorite. Two, it's February, where the hell am I gonna find a costume? Three, assuming I can find one, I don't feel like buying a costume for her to wear for an hour or two.

Steadfastly planted in rock-solid reason, I suggested that Erin wear the chicken costume she wore the Halloween before last and call herself "Super Chicken" if anyone asks about it. It sounded great to Erin and encouraged by her enthusiasm, I was at peace when I took her to school this morning, chicken costume in hand.Well today at work I shared this brilliant party rule circumvention with a colleague and she joked that making Erin dress like a chicken sounded like "cruel and unusual punishment".

Oh, c'mon now. She should see the stuff that goes on around here. It's certainly not that unusual.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

kindergarten: it's official

Today started with a little stroll with Erin, or I strolled while she biked, to the local school to enroll her in kindergarten for the fall.

I had to bring a small collection of specific documents and I traded them for a gigantic set of tedious forms requiring a depth of personal information that I wasn't prepared to provide. For example, I didn't have our dentist's address and phone number handy, I didn't know how to assess Erin's study skills, or what to list as her hobbies (do other 4 year-olds really have study skills? Do they really have hobbies?). They asked me to describe how our family spends our time together (um, I mentioned back on page 52 that we have 2 year-old twins...but I concluded that they weren't genuinely interested in our reality of diapers, grocery shopping, laundry, and trying to keep ahead of the toy tornado that passes through the house at least hourly). I started to anticipate a section where I'd have to interpret ink blots.

So I did my best to answer thoughtfully and creatively, and most importantly, succinctly, because Erin reminded me every minute or two of the 45 minutes we were there that, yes, this was REALLY boring and I wanted to go home too.

This is step one of our kindergarten registration process. We had to register at our designated local school but next week we will apply for the lottery for a spot at one of our district's four magnet/alternative public elementary schools. Winning a space is a long shot but John and I really liked one particular school that emphasizes a science and technology curriculum and it has a multi-classroom grouping that we think will be especially great for the twins. If Erin gets in the twins will be accepted automatically when their time comes. So please join us in crossing fingers next month.

After that therapeutic paperwork experience we gathered the twins and Danielle and met a bunch of friends at the park.

The girls had a good time with chalk drawing and the playground, and the kids invented a game of "throw the ball against the wall and then it's someone else's turn". Though everyone needed some help remembering that second part.

Then it was lunch time and I was feeling lazy so I suggested going to the local burger king with a play area and fortunately most of the park gang decided to join us. The enclosed play structure there is tall and has a steep slide to return to the bottom. The speed going down really took Kate by surprise. The bigger kids enjoyed piling down the slide together.