Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Droids

Its a house full of boys so there are droids and robots EVERYWHERE. We even have droid phones. This year Santa brought Caskey two of his own droids. He had two so he could share with his boys. But surprisingly they haven't been lent out yet. They are under close watch in the off-limits office.

Tonight Alexander and I visited Daddy in his office to say good-night. Daddy and son spent a few minutes playing robots together for a bit. It was pretty cute watching Alexander move the robot around, watch it fall over and then set it up right again. He even caught Daddy's robot once or twice to look at it and then set it back down to let it roll around and bleep. It amazing such a little boy can play robots with his Daddy. They had such a great time together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

G1 better than the iphone

I'm not sure when my Google obsession began. It may have been when their search engine first debuted. Once I found Google I was hooked and I never used Yahoo again. Google just kept expanding their products. I love Google Maps and stopped using other map websites years ago. And Google shopping. I not only use Google shopping when looking for the best price on items, but I also use Google Checkout so I don't need to give my credit card and personal information to a business I have never heard of before. Google Checkout is so easy to use, that I have probably bought more than I needed.

It wasn't hard for me to transition to Gmail and Google Calendar. As a family we started using Google Calendar almost 2 years ago and haven't looked back. Its been a great tool for keeping track of 6 different schedules and coordinating childcare responsibilities with my husband.

So when I heard about the new Google phone I was sold. We had been kicking around the idea of the iphone for a while, because I also love Mac. Our last 5 computer purchases have all been Mac. But iphone contracted with AT&T, a notoriously spotty provider in our neighborhood. So we were in a tough spot, we wanted the newest coolest smart phone, but didn't want to waste money on a phone that was unreliable.

The G1 was contracting with our provider. And the release date was just before my birthday. I even went into the store several times before the release date to play with the phone and make sure it was what we wanted.

I have had my phone for 16 months now. It was initially cheaper than the Iphone ($150) and it has tons of apps, most of which are free. It works great with my gmail, texting, Facebook, and google calendar, etc. I can't tell you how much I love this phone. I am able to surf the web and find addresses and stores very easily. I most often use the search feature when we are traveling to find a restaurant or store.

I have downloaded many apps for my kids; connect four, hangman, math flashcards, coloring, etc. My 6 year old and even the baby have apps they use while we are waiting at the doctors office or trying to keep a toddler quiet at church. I am always able to wash off the sticky fingerprints and still use the touch screen. Last summer the baby put the very first scratch on the screen when he scraped it against a rock on the ground. It still worked.

It has been dropped (or thrown) many times, but today the baby was pissed at me and threw the phone from a shopping cart. It landed just right and the screen cracked.
[caption id="attachment_571" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Cracked, but still working"]Cracked, but still working[/caption]
I began mourning for my friend, my phone, my confidant. The one who has kept me entertained at soccer practice and waiting for school to let out. The one who notified me of a tsunami alert (via weatherbug app) while we were in Hawaii and flash flood warnings here at home, the one who always helps me find the closest Wendy's, the one who ensures I am on time for appointments or at least know that I am late for them, and the one who is a flashlight in hotel rooms.

But after spending $5 at the store on a screen protector I will still be able to use the phone. I purchased it mostly to protect me from any broken glass as it breaks off. I am amazed that the touch screen STILL WORKS. I am honestly in love with this phone. I can't believe how durable it is.

UPDATE: My darling most wonderfully handy husband FIXED my cell phone. He ordered a new screen online ($60) and a set of screwdrivers. I bid farewell to my phone and held my breath as it underwent surgery.

[caption id="attachment_600" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Don\'t Sneeze - the disassebled phone"]Don't Sneeze - the disassebled phone[/caption]

Voila! He fixed it. Good as new. I added a protector case, which is ugly and bulky, but I'm hoping it will add just a tiny bit of protection in the future.

Jesus-Dogs

My mother historically has the kids spend the night several times a year. Once of those times is our anniversary. Although we usually go to dinner and then home afterward it is wonderful to get to spend some alone time and all night long alone time together. There will be no late night requests for water, or a nursing session and no one will be waking us up before dawn for cartoons and breakfast.

Our anniversary is in October so it makes sense to have a Halloween-themed sleepover with the kids. My mother spent time figuring out fun Halloweeny foods and crafts. She made sure the house was decorated before they came over and had a lot of fun with it. She ended up letting the kids make their own croissant hot dogs, but since it was Halloween they called them mummy dogs.

Fast forward to the Advent season when we had more croissant hot dogs. Connor tells me "They can't be called mummy-dogs because it isn't Halloween, so they must be called 'Jesus-Dogs'."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Our First Advent Meal

Yup. We are bad Catholics. Although we attend church regularly and teach our children to sit in the "big" church rather than the cry room, we have ignored some of the family traditions that go along with the Catholic Faith. This year we are doing homestudy for Lainy Ann's religious education as she prepares for her First Holy Communion. As a result we have been looking for more ways to integrate her religious education into our everyday life.

Tonight we ate a meal together and lit the Advent wreaths the children made at church last week. We lit a single candle and talked about how we could remember God in our lives by helping our family. William will help by giving mommy hugs. Connor will help by doing chores. Lainy Ann will help by cleaning the living room. Then we prayed. Lainy Ann asked if she could say the prayer and she choose to say the "Our Father". Connor also wanted to pray. He said, "Dear God. Thank you for the flowers and gardens. Thank you for letting us know about you."

[caption id="attachment_568" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Making Advent Wreaths"]Making Advent Wreaths[/caption]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reagan Library

On Veteran's Day we ventured out to the Reagan Library for a celebration. It was an outing akin to the kind I used to take with my friend when we each only had one or two kids. Now when we go somewhere we take the big van; 2 adults and 7 kids aged 6-15 months.

The main purpose of the event was a ceremony honoring veterans and quite a few speakers and a performance of patriotic songs. Although I would have liked seeing the ceremony I think the audience enjoyed it more without our brood present.

Instead we visited the booths set up outside the library with authentic gear from the Civil War and other wars. There were canons from different times in history, and a sewing demonstration. A C-17 flew 1500 feet over our heads while a Civil War canon was shot to welcome it. Later a helicopter landed on the south lawn throwing dirt and grass in the air. Then the boys climbed in and got to aim the machine gun.

A group of 4 Blackhawk helicopters flew over head in perfect formation.

My favorite part of the day was just before we went home. We visited Reagan's memorial to pay respects to one of our greatest presidents, after all we had a namesake in our presence. Although little Reagan is still too young to know who she was named after, we started her education on that day.

Connor read aloud the words written on Reagan's memorial. "I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life". ~~ Ronald Wilson Reagan

♥ ♥ ♥ There is something truly magical and inspiring about hearing a 5 year old boy speak such wise words. ♥ ♥ ♥

X-Ray Eyes

Connor has x-ray eyes. For weeks he has been telling me he can see all the blood and bones inside of me. I try and trick him and say, "oh yeah, then what did I have for lunch?" knowing full well he say what I ate. He smirks pretty big and pretty proud of himself as he answers me correctly.

Last night Santa visited to give the kids a little encouragement on good behavior for the next few weeks. He left letters, glitter (now being called freezy-eazy snow because it doesn't melt) and a jingle bell. We all marveled about how he got into our house with no one noticing. Then Connor say, "I saw Santa last night". So we asked him questions about Santa so he could play expert and tell us what his super x-ray eyes saw. Then he says, "I can see everything in the whole world". I said, "Really? What is Grandma doing right now?"

Connor replies, "Uh oh. They just shut off. My x-ray eyes aren't working anymore. They do that, turn on and off like that whenever they want."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Adventure

Caskey is always telling me to relax and be more spontaneous. He tells me its not about the destination, but about getting there. I have a hard time with that concept, so I plan everything to the last detail. My spontaneous trips are when the departure time is in a 2 hour window. But even when I plan the littlest detail an adventure can still happen.

Last weekend we set out to attend a Civil War Reenactment in Moorpark at Tierra Rejada Ranch. We planned it for almost 2 weeks, including looking up the schedule online, accounting for snacks, travel time and clothing. We decided to take the Big Van (Monster Van) and go with my mom and step-dad. My step-dad even has some of the reenactment clothing so he was going to bring his gear so he could "play" too.

Everything was according to schedule, well for us, we were 10 minutes late. I pottied everyone before getting in the car and snacked them. But 30 minutes into our drive William tells me he needs to use the restroom. Well, there is no telling a 3 year old bladder to simply hold it. So we started our adventure. We got off the freeway and started looking for a bathroom. We found a Jack-in-the-Box and headed inside where I realized William was just bored riding in the car and did NOT have to potty. *sigh* We were going to be late to the event and the baby had been woken up, all for nothing.

But things were much worse than that. The Monster Van chose that exit to blow a fuse. Our car no longer started. Connor kept trying to suggest ways to fix the car, God love him. Thanks goodness for Google Phone because I was able to find a local dealership and ask him why it wouldn't start. Thanks goodness for grandparents because they could entertain the kids while Caskey fiddled under the hood and I read the manual. So there we were stuck at Jack-in-the-Box until we could fix the problem or even figure out the problem to fix.

While we waited the boys got their haircut, professionally, and even got a lollipop afterward. Since we were stranded we ended up walking to 3 different hair salons ranging in price from $12 to $40 for a simple haircut. The kids played in the outdoor seating area while we waited for the other grandma to drive out an extra key and try to save us. The extra key didn't work either, so it was time to call in the big guns, AAA. The kids got to see the Monster Van lifted and towed away. The boys (all 5 of them - Caskey and Tom) were fascinated. Then we got to drive 3 miles all squished into the little van to drop the car at the dealership.

Eventually we headed on our way to the Civil War Reenactment. We were a few hours late, but had fun nonetheless. We saw tents and campfires, rifles and cannons, ladies in period dress and horses ready for battle. We listened to President Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg address. We watched a cannon demonstration and saw the Wilderness, Day 2 Battle. Papa fought for the North and won. Then we ended the evening with dinner out.

But at the end of the day we asked the kids what their favorite part of the day was. It was a toss up between tow truck and cannons.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Science Lesson

Connor loves me. A lot. He must tell me about 20 times a day how much he loves me. He tells me many different ways too. "I love you the most, mommy" "I love you more than any other person in this family" "I love you more than Daddy."

But my favorite is, "I love you more than the whole Universe. What is a Universe anyway?"

Mommy's Little Girl

My planner girl. Boy do I love her. A few weeks ago I lost my Driver's License at Disneyland. We spent a bit of time retracing our steps and visiting lost and found. Ultimately we threw in the towel and just headed home. We had many discussion about the importance of having my driver's license and how it was required to drive.

Bright and early Monday morning Lainy Ann tells me her plan. If I get pulled over while driving her to school I should leave the cell phone in the car. That way if I am arrested she can call Daddy to come pick up her and her brothers. But if that doesn't work she will be sure to walk them home for me. *giggle*

She is such a sweet innocent child, always planning and taking care of the family. I assured her that I wouldn't be arrested for simply not having my license, but if I was pulled over it was possible I would get a ticket for not having it. I also assured her that she would not have to walk her brother's home. But I certainly am proud of her for planning and problem solving, even before the need arises. She certainly is her mommy's little girl.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why I don't pay for Private School?

We have decided NOT to pay for private elementary school. Instead we are saving our money for private school for high school. Also we did some research and number crunching. I don't believe St. James is $6000/year better than Monte Vista. It might be $1000 better, but not $6000 better. Instead we can spend that $6000 (times 4 kids) on educating our children ourselves by introducing them to new experiences. Research has shown that one of the major differences between the really smart kids and average kids is that the smart kids are exposed to more so then can put the things they learn into context. This year alone we took the kids to Phoenix, AZ and talked all about desert climate, Hawaii and talked about tropical climate, saw a real live sea turtle, walked on lava walks and talked about how islands are formed from volcanoes, and we went to the USS Midway last week so the kids could be on a real live aircraft carrier and learn about war and the Navy and boats. We are planing a HUGE trip for next summer to do ALL of CA; Alcatraz, the golden gate bridge, Sacramento, Redwood forest, Yosemite, Angel Island (the Ellis Island of SF), etc. We are planning on spending 3 weeks in our van just driving and touring all over the state. Those experiences will be priceless and there is just no way that spending money on school tuition at Catholic School could ever compete with that. Does that make sense?

UPDATE: Instead of touring CA this summer we have gone to Florida to see a Space Shuttle launch, we went to Disneyworld and stuck to the educational parks like Animal Kingdon and Epcot. We also went to Oregon and visited the OMSI museum and toured a retired submarine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

15 oz canned pumpkin
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar (brown or white)
1 c oil (I use olive oil)
--
3 cups flour (you can use whole wheat flour)
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

*nuts, raisins, cranberries are optional
*I also usually add about 1/2 cup of flax seed

Mix wet ingredients together, mix in dry ingredients.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes
Makes 2 dozen

I often double this recipe and just use the large can of pumpkin.
You can freeze the muffins for a treat in the summer without using the oven.
Add a tad of cream cheese frosting for a 'cupcake'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trip Around California (in progress)

I was born and raised in California, but even so I don't think I know all about California. I can tell you quite a bit about Disneyland though. And I think the same is true for our children. So next summer (2010) we will be taking an extended trip around California. We will be visiting everything north of Santa Barbara. We are saving anything within 3 hours of our home for extended weekend trips or even day trips.

I will be using this blog to gather ideas, destinations, points of interests, hotels, routes, etc over the next several months. I am hoping you will add to it so we can plan a great trip for our kids.

1. Bodie, CA - a ghost town with 200 building standing and no tourist traps

2. San Francisco; Alcatraz, Angel Island, Golden Gate Bridge, Yerba Gardens, Trolley Cars

Hilton Hotel in Oakland - very family friendly including a game room

Monday, September 28, 2009

Family Day

Family Day is officially a holiday in our house now, celebrated on September 22nd of every year. The kids get the day off from school and my husband takes a personal day from work. I think we finally have the celebratory tradition finalized. In the morning we drop off goodies and a gift at the hospital. I do that by myself in case I need a good cry. I thank all the nurses for being so kind to me when I delivered all 6 of my children and I leave a gift for 2 other unfortunate mothers who will walk in the same shoes that I do. We go to the florist where we get baby-blue balloons, four of them so each child can give a balloon, and 4 flowers. I let each child choose their flower. I really like to involve them in the process. We go to the Cemetery where I cry and hug my husband and the kids run through the large expanse of grass and enjoy their breakfast, this year we had blueberry muffins. I may need to rethink the balloons though. Although the kids love them and I think they look great in the pictures, each year so far they have blown in the wind and popped on the grass. The game that follows is 'collect the broken balloon pieces and throw them away'.


Friday, September 25, 2009

An Example of a Fine Government Employee

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been pretty unhappy with our elected officials as of late and I have been pretty vocal about it. I have mostly emailed my representatives. I have had some very good feedback from David Drier. But really horrible feedback from Diane Feinstein. A few months ago I sent a long detailed email explaining why I was against the Stimulus Packages and the current health care bill because of the state of our economy. I got an obvious automated reply that said, "Thank you for taking the time to email me. You are right. We do need these Stimulus Bills and this Health Care plan." I will be voting Diane Feinstein out of office the first chance I get, because if she can't reply to an email properly, then how on earth can she do her job as my representative.

Jack O'Connell, however, is excellent at his job. A friend recently emailed me an article called "Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold: In focus on proficiency, bright kids lose" by Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold in the Sacramento Bee. It spoke of 2 easy ways to challenge bright and exceptional students; by grouping children based on ability and allowing them to go into another classroom during instruction time. I felt the article was well written and decided to share it with those in the educational system. On my list was Jack O'Connell the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I found his email address on the state education website and sent an email detailing the highlights of the article and the link to the article. I explained to him that these simple, non-budget altering policies would help exceptional students to be challenged and continue to grow.

I got a well thought out reply from Mr. O'Connell (or one of his assistants/interns). But it was a stark comparison to the email I received back from Ms. Feinstein. I have posted the email below for comparison and also to exhibit a new policy change which will affect our exceptional students negatively.

----
Dear Ms. Dickson:

Thank you for contacting the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding the Gifted and Talented Education program (GATE).

I appreciate you sharing your concerns and suggestions with me, including the Sacramento Bee opinion article. I am also gravely concerned about the impact of California’s budget deficit on public education. Reduced funding for education has resulted in school districts having to make difficult decisions such as closing schools, issuing layoff notices to teachers and other school personnel, and making cuts to programs. I am worried that these devastating cuts will interrupt our process in improving student achievement.

Please be aware that the jurisdiction of the CDE is limited to enforcing federal and state education law and regulations; and for continuing to reform and improve public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and child care programs. Policies regarding day-to-day operations, including implementation of GATE programs, are the responsibility of the local school district administration. In allocating their resources among the schools of the district, school district governing boards and district administrators must follow the law, but they also have the additional tough job of setting the educational priorities for their schools and weighing the importance and urgency of all of their educational needs.

The State Board of Education (SBE) is the governing and policy-making body of the CDE. The SBE sets K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability, as well as adopts regulations to implement legislation. However, because California is a local control state, each district determines the types of services they will provide for gifted students. For this reason, I suggest you contact your local school district to discuss your concerns regarding policies that effect gifted students. In addition, due to the Flexibility provisions of Senate Bill X3 4 enacted in February 2009, school districts may determine whether they will implement any or all of the GATE program and funding requirements.

To read detailed summaries of February 2009 and July 2009 actions on the 2008-09 state education budget, including frequently asked questions on implementation, please visit the CDE Action on the 2008 and 2009 Budget Acts Web page located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fr/eb/yr09budgetacts.asp.

For information and resources related to the implementation of GATE programs in California, please visit the CDE Gifted & Talented Education Web site located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/gt/.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact George Olive, Consultant, Elementary Education Office, at 916-323-8901 or by e-mail at golive@cde.ca.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting the CDE.

Sincerely,

JACK O'CONNELL
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

JO:mb
2009-06909

Yogurt Yummies aka: Baby Crack

Buy Gerber Yogurt Melts. They are fabulous. They are a little expensive, but when you are bribing your screeching toddler during church, dinner at a restaurant, or a long car ride there is nothing better. In fact, after our last road trip the baby became trained in the proper eating of these yogurt yummies, as I like to call them. He gets one kiss-shaped morsel for each tiny fist and one for his mouth. When all three have been consumed he begins screaming, until he has been refilled. He also screams if he even sees the package.

These things are so yummy that my older children will actually sneak them from him.

Day 365

And the countdown begins to September 22, 2010. I am already thinking ahead and planning, what we will do for Family Day, what will the "gift" be? But honestly today is the best day I will have all year, in terms of grief. Its like the counter just starts over. And as the number gets smaller; 364, 363, 362; my grief and emotions grow stronger. September 1st marks the hardest 22 days, a roller coaster of emotions as the kids start school, marking their inevitable growing up. September 11th comes and reminds me, and all of us, about the tragedy and fear we all had that day. Following those sad days are my sons birthday. A day where I work hard to be excited for him, yet in the back of my mind I remember his first birthday, when I was pregnant with twins. A family friend told me she couldn't believe I was pregnant with twins I was so small. I know she meant it as a compliment and I highly doubt she will even remember such a small passing comment. But those words have echoed in my head a million times, telling myself that maybe I am making it all up. Maybe the twins never did exist. No one outside of our hospital room ever saw them. Maybe other people think I am making it up too.

The last week is the hardest. I review our Family Day plans, try to find any excuse to do more spending and buying; new outfits for Family Day, more things for the 'gift', maybe just an evening out for dinner so I don't have to cook. September 21st is the worse day. I remember going to our mid-morning appointment, finding out about their death and then getting squeezed in for a lunch appointment with our regular OB. I remember dreading calling my mom and mother-in-law. I remember it all.

But on September 23rd its better. Its day 365 and I have moved past the grief for the year. Today is the best day of the year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Attraction disease

I think my family is diseased, or maybe its the opposite of diseased, if there is such a thing. We spent the day (Family Day) touring the USS Midway in San Diego. As we got there is was fairly empty, just the way we like it. But shortly after that a bus full of Chinese tourists arrived. I attempted to keep my kids a tad quieter and possibly move ahead of the group so as to not bother them. But first I had to pose the kids on a really BIG chain.

That's when I noticed 3 ladies trying to take a picture in the same direction I was. So I moved my kids out of the way. Then she followed. It became apparent she was trying to photograph my kids, MY KIDS! I started to panic in this world of Stranger-Danger. But I decided to play it cool thinking these ladies would eventually leave us alone. NOPE. They started to pose with Alexander. They would encourage him to walk, giggle at his toddling and then take another picture. Eventually I wrangled my children away from these crazy people, but they followed us into the next room. As I asked my kids to pose and smile into the camera one of the other camera-wielding lady sidled up next to me to take pictures of my kids.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loyalty

Connor loves his sister with a passion. This past summer they were playing in the pool and she got mad and pushed him under the water. He comes up spluttering because he couldn't breathe and she goes into a timeout. One minute into the timeout he pleads with me, "Can Lainy Ann come play with me again?" And so the story goes, hundreds of incidents just like this. She hurts him or treats him with an injustice and he pleads her case. Once she threw a rock at him and he needed 11 stitches in his lip. When we asked him what happened he told us the rock hurt him, not Lainy Ann, but the rock.

She sets him up to ask for a treat so she doesn't get in trouble and he just follows blindly along. I remember one incident when he chose to follow Lainy Ann's instructions instead of mine, even though they contradicted what I had asked him to do. Its getting harder as she gets older and does more girly stuff and leaves him at home. Just last week he was pretty upset when I told him he couldn't go with her to Girl Scouts.

I understand how he feels though. I feel that way about my husband. He truly is my best friend. I would like to think that we have demonstrated that love and adoration for them. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the two friends.

[caption id="attachment_491" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Lainy Ann showing off her new baby brother, Connor"]Lainy Ann showing off her new baby brother, Connor[/caption]

2-by-2

One of the things I miss most about not having my twin sons is not getting to buy cute little matching outfits. I don't get to buy 2 backpacks for them to start school, or 2 bikes for Christmas. Even with 4 children in our house I don't ever buy 2 of the exact same thing since the kids are different ages and sizes.

But 'tis the season for twin buying for me. The twins anniversary is coming up. This year I decided to finally make those quilts I have promised myself since the first year they died. About 3 months ago I found a new quilt pattern that seemed fun and would make use of fabrics I already owned. I was able to cut all the pieces and take my sewing machine with me on vacation to Arizona, which was bittersweet. I remember being pregnant with the twins four years ago in Arizona, eating tons of sausage and drinking protein drinks to gain weight, and watching the Hurricane Katrina fallout. I guess it was fitting that here it is four years later and I was listening to the news talk about the anniversary of Katrina while I sewed the two quilts.

A Puddle

On the second day of kindergarten Miss N pulls me aside and shows me the picture that Connor painted. As we walk to the table of paintings I am trying to guess which was his; the rainbow, the car, or the people in the sunshine? This was a free painting activity, but surely the all blue one can't be in. The one picture that is painted entirely blue. Connor has shown more artistic ability and creativity than covering an entire sheet of paper with blue paint. But Miss N whispers that the blue one is his and giggles. She mentions that he must love the color blue.

On our drive home from school we do our "tell me 3 things that happened today" talk. I ask Connor if he painted and he says yes (the picture was left at school and he didn't see me looking at it). I ask him about his painting. He tells me that at first he drew a sun, then it started to rain and the puddle got all over the paper. Now that makes far more sense than just painting it blue. So here is my sons first painting in kindergarten, its a puddle. [caption id="attachment_482" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Connor proudly showing off his painting"]Connor proudly showing off his painting[/caption]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Yell or To Play

It was Connor's birthday The weapons were a paper airplane, a nerf gun without ammo, and a curling iron. I could hear the whispering in the other room while I was frosting the cake. Then Lainy Ann yelled "go". William was in the lead and rushed in the kitchen from around the corner to poke me in the butt with the paper airplane. In that moment I had a choice, holler and tell them to get out of the kitchen because we were having a party in an hour or play with them.

I chose the latter. I roared and tackled William and tickled him until Connor came at me for the second wave of attacks. Apparently the proper usage of a nerf gun without ammo is to repeatedly poke mom in the back. So I grabbed Connor and roared and put him on the tickle pile. It was so easy to pin them both to the ground and tickle them. Then the 3rd wave came at me, Alexander had an unplugged curling iron. He started poking and roaring too. As I turned to grab him and include him in our play Lainy Ann reached in and grabbed her brother's and pulled them to safety.

They would regroup around the corner and whisper. Then the attacking would start over again. We spent a bunch of time running around the house, tickling, laughing and poking mommy.

It was great seeing how the kids fit into their roles in the game. William wanted to be in the lead and Lainy Ann, who was unarmed, stayed in the rear, the brains of the operation and the one who rescued the boys from mommy-the tickle monster. Even Alexander was part of the team, toddling in with the curling iron - snap, snap, snap.

Connor is 5

I feel badly for Connor. I really do. His birthday falls at such a bad time, its 2 days after September 11th and 9 days before the twins anniversary. Add that to the fact that I am just about partied out after nearly 8 weeks of birthdays in a row; William's birthday is July 29th, then mine, Alexander's, Caskey and Connor. Whew! I end up forgetting about his birthday. I'm just glad I am an early planner so it was all organized and planned by the middle of August. I am also eternally thankful that he doesn't seem to notice.

Its hard to believe he is 5 now, but at the same time its hard to believe he is only 5. With an older sister who is his best friend, he is always trying to keep up with her. Last year as I quizzed Lainy Ann on her math facts, he would work hard to try and get the answer before her and about half the time he would succeed.

I just spent the last few days perusing the pictures of Connor as he has grown up in the last 5 years. Its amazing to see that he has always been Connor, even when he was just 2 years old. He is my even tempered child, easy going, sympathetic, and loving. I have actually had to reprimand him for giving too many hugs, most famously he will sneak up behind me and wrap his arms around my hip, usually as I am about to turn or walk in the other direction. The poor guy ends up clocked in the head, but it hasn't deterred him from sneaking up and giving me hugs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Education in Hawaii

I am on a never ending quest to find the best for my kids. Most times it is simply checking prices and ingredient lists at the grocery store, sometimes its hunting via online and in store for the cutest (in my opinion) matching Easter clothes, but every once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet about their education. Although we bought our house based on the school district, there are a few areas where I feel the school is lacking. There are many many more areas that make me beyond happy with their school, but occasionally I start the hunt for a better school. My poor husband stands by and allows me to spin my wheels, gather information, talk to parents and usually go on a school tour - mostly because stopping me would just annoy me. In the end we always come to the same conclusion. Most of the schools in the area are approximately $5,000 per year. It comes down to a simple question, does this new school provide $5,000 of education that the public school doesn't provide? Can we spend that $5,000 in a way that would educate/benefit our children and their educational future? The answer is always the same for $5,000 we can take a fabulous vacation and expose the children to hundreds of new experiences which would very much benefit their education and be tons of fun.

So this year we did exactly that. On a last minute whim we decided to go to Hawaii, specifically Kihei on the island of Maui for you island hopping buffs. We spent 6 glorious days in the tropics while our mountain back home burned (Station Fire of 2009). Writing about all the fabulous things the children did and saw would take multiple blog posts, and I may get around to it in the coming days. But I want to quickly touch on the highlights.

The Hmph Gene

I'm kind of stubborn and I love being right, so at the end of an argument with my hubby my line is usually, "fine *hmph*!" Which obviously means, its *not* fine. LOL Well, my darling daughter has also picked this up, which I though was merely by habit. When being lectured as to why she shouldn't do something that is morally wrong, she conceded with 'fine' followed by *hmph*.

So why is it that last night at 3 am my darling little son who was being taught to sleep in his own bed via cry it out (CIO) settled down in my arms, rested his head on my shoulder and uttered 'hmph'?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marriage

My husband showed me a great article last week. I am posting it here to remind myself of what I want my marriage to be like. We have been together for 15 years; married for 7. We have been through death, life and taxes. We have survived. But times will get tougher and I hope this article reminds me what is truly important in marriage.


---------

Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear

By LAURA A. MUNSON
Published: July 31, 2009

Originally published in The New York Times

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going Green

Lainy Ann received one of those Fisher-price digital cameras for kids a few Christmases ago. It did not have the desired effect of keeping her from using my camera. In fact, after a few weeks it was quickly discarded under a bed, only to be found a few months later and deposited to the bottom of the toy drawer. The kids weren't fooled by this less than stellar camera or its bright pink and rounded dimensions. Nope, they wanted *my* camera.

But we made good use of it. Once afternoon daddy performed surgery on the camera. He gathered all the children at the table and dissected it. He explained the buttons, the battery, the lens, etc. I'm not sure, but I think the kids may have had more fun taking it apart than using it. Rest assured the camera is still floating around here somewhere. I think Lainy Ann is using it as a case to store her barrettes.






[caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Dismantling the pink camera"]Dismantling the pink camera[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_417" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Examining the different parts"]Examining the different parts[/caption]

Thanks, Mom.

A few times a year my mother volunteers to watch the kids overnight. Its quite a to-do at her house. The kids get to sleep on the sofa-sleeper, eat popcorn in bed and stay up late watching movies. Then in the morning she makes them Mickey Mouse pancakes and they take a walk and get a smoothie. She brings them home around naptime and they often sleep for 2 or more hours. She really wears them out.

This is a three-fold treat for me. First of all I get a kid-free night and morning where I can sleep through the night AND sleep as late as I want in the morning. Honestly, this only happens about 3 times a year, so it is a welcome event.

Second, she brings the kids home EXHAUSTED. They have had so much fun and excitement that they take a long nap, so although technically they are in my home around noon, they sleep so long that Caskey and I can stretch our free-time into another movie or even a nap for ourselves.

But the sweetest aspect of my mother's generosity is intangible. My mother is exhausted. My mom will spend the next several days, up to a week even, talking about how worn out she is and how much work it is to parent 4 kids. She tells me stories that she thinks will astound and shock me, nope, that's just a day in the life of being a mom to 4 kids. She tells me the kids didn't go to sleep until 10 pm, but they got up at 5 am. Yup. I know. She tells me about trying to corral the children on a walk up the hill, across, the street and then trying to convince the 3 older kids to share a smoothie. uh huh, been there. Then she tells me how messy her house is and it will take her days to get things in order. Yes, mom. That's why my house looks the way it does. I have to clean while the kids are still here.

So, thanks mom for taking the kids for me. It was great sleeping in until 10:30, putting a glass of water down and not having someone else spill it or drink it. It was nice being able to shower without someone banging on the door. But the understanding of my everyday life is the best gift of all. Mom, next time I snap at you or the kids, remember those 20 hours you had with the kids. *That* is why I am a bit frazzled and why taking a long shower is so decadent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Train Trip - SUCCESS

Over 2 years ago my best friend and I set off to go on a train trip to celebrate the twin's anniversary. It was a total bust. I still wanted desperately to take the children on a quick train trip. Today we made another go at it.

I looked at the dozens of stops all over Southern California, looking at minute maps and trying to figure out where would be the best stop that would allow us plenty of activities that were within walking distance. We ended up choosing Camarillo, CA. It would allow us about an hour on the train (going through several tunnels and right next to the airport).

I was able to easily purchase the tickets online at www.amtrak.com. Glendale has a metrolink ticket station that automatically prints out the tickets for you. I was pleased to see that because it saved me $15 in shipping fees.

We arrived early to print our tickets and ensure we didn't miss the train. Just as we were getting ready to get on the platform a freight train came roaring through the station. There is no more appropriate word than 'roaring'. I could feel the vibrations in my chest and felt like a child myself as I heard the whooo whoooing of the horn. It was amazing. But short lived as I realized Alexander was visibly shaking out of fear and William was trying to hide behind the stroller. It all backfired as our much quieter passenger train arrived. William only saw similarities between the two trains and I had to literally drag him kicking and screaming onto the train. 30 minutes into the train he would still cry if I wasn't physically touching him. *sigh* I always feel like such a horrible mother because I force him to do things he is obviously scared of, but at the end of the day he only remembers what a great time he had on our newest adventure.

We departed from Glendale, CA and traveled north on the Pacific Surfliner line. There were stops about every 15 minutes as we headed north which kept the children from getting too bored. Fortunately, my mom partner in crime, P, had the foresight to bring crayons. The kids stayed busy with snacks and coloring. They mostly switched seats and ooohed and aaahed out the window.

We arrived in Camarillo about 30 minutes later than planned. The train platform is in the middle of a quaint town. Its a really nice area. We walked the 4 blocks to Dizdar Park (be aware there are no bathroom facilities at this park, either use the train before departure or stop in at one of the many storefronts along the way). This park was very nice, with lots of shade and a nice play structure for the kids. Alexander crawled around in the sand, while the boys dug in the dirt in the hopes of digging so deep that the 60 foot tree would fall over.

For lunch we walked a few more blocks down Ventura Boulevard to Olas Mex Grill. It was very yummy and the perfect family environment for a group of 2 moms, 6 kids and 2 strollers. There were many restaurants along the way including Bandits Grill and a Mongolian BBQ. I also noticed quite a few restaurants across the 101 freeway as well, so there was lots to choose from.

We managed to get back to the train platform on time. The train was on time too - an extra bonus! The train stewards were the same ones who rode up with us and they were happy to listen to our stories of travel and how our day turned out. They were also very helpful and accommodating in getting the strollers on and off the train and even the children. One of the men even remarked that he was happy to see that William seemed to be enjoying the trip a lot more as we headed southbound.

I would highly recommend this as a day trip for the preschool-group who loves trains so much. We had a really great time and I would say it is far less taxing than a trip to Disneyland.

[caption id="attachment_397" align="alignnone" width="306" caption="In front of the train in Camarillo"]In front of the train in Camarillo[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_399" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="William is still a bit apprehensive"]William is still a bit apprehensive[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_400" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Enjoying the tunnels"]Enjoying the tunnels[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_403" align="alignnone" width="270" caption="William zonked out on the way back. Who can blame him, he walked about 20 blocks and played hard at the park."]William zonked out on the way back.  Who can blame him, he walked about 20 blocks and played hard at the park.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_404" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Alexander spent his time \'reading\' on the floor or walking (not cruising) back and forth between the seats."]Alexander spent his time 'reading' on the floor or walking (not cruising) back and forth between the seats.[/caption]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Speech

Today was our very last Speech Therapy session. As I teared up thinking about how much we have been through in the last 18 months I was reminded about some of the naivety of friends and family in connection to William's speech delay. I thought this might be a good opportunity to clear it up.

The most common comment I get from people is "my cousin's child (or some other distantly known child) didn't speak until she was 4 and she is fine". While I am very happy for this unknown child, therapists and doctors are learning more every day about speech delays. Did you know that 25% of all children have a speech delay with no known cause/reason? But early intervention is imperative, which is probably why there is an entire state run department called "Early Intervention". If caught early children can make a full recovery before school starts. If left undiagnosed it can affect other areas including social development and academic success.

I have also heard, "Einstein didn't speak until he was 5 and he just started in sentences". This is completely unconfirmed. Just for kicks let's assume that its true. Then that's really fabulous for Einstein. But Einstein was a genius. While I like to believe my children are brilliant I do not believe they are genuises. Even so, why would I sit by knowing he isn't developing on target and just hope and wish he will catch up. There are services available for all children who need help. It hurts nothing to have a simple evaluation done.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Palm Springs

I know most people think we make rash decisions and are crazy. But who cares! I have fun and so do the kids. Well, a few weeks ago we decided to take an impromptu day trip to Palm Springs to try out our new 'Big Van'. Since it was 110* in the heat of July we took the Aerial Tram to the top of the mountain where it was a cool 75*. The kids hiked and explored, then we had dinner and headed home.

[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The interior of the Big Van"]The interior of the Big Van[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_384" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Posing in front of the old tram cars"]Posing in front of the old tram cars[/caption]

Sports

If you know my family at all you know we don't 'do' sports. We don't have a team we root for. We don't buy the NFL package in the fall. Honestly, half the time I can't even remember what season it is. I follow local sports just so I know if there will be some sort of parade that will affect traffic and our commute.

I have enrolled the kids in sports-type activities mostly to keep them active. Lainy Ann has taken swim, gymnastics and ballet. Connor has taken a sports class that teaches skills for lots of different sports in a non-competitive way. But now that William is part of our family and has an opinion on things, well, its been a big change.

William loves sports. I don't know where he got this love from since he wasn't really exposed to organized sports. Instead of sleeping with a stuffed animal he sleeps with a soccer ball or racquet. At the store he begs for a new ball. When the boys need a new shirt he begs for a 'soccer-shirt' which is defined as any shirt with numbers on it. He will spend 30 minutes in the kitchen kicking his foam soccer ball into a goal. With each goal he makes he yells, "score!" He has a cheap plastic tennis racquet that he will use to hit a ball over and over and over again. He has some good skills for a child so young.

So I set off to find a class for a 2 year old. I finally found one for 3-4 year olds and asked them to let William in the class even though he wasn't quite 3 yet. I was afraid he would be left behind since he was the youngest child there. But he sat with rapt attention and was on task each time. He is, admittedly, the slowest child in the group, which makes sense because his legs are the shortest, but he can really hold his own.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sleep-Monster

To some degree all my children have hated to sleep. I blame my husband and his "sleep-disease" as he likes to call it. I figure it just an excuse to stay up late and sleep in every morning. But nonetheless, Alexander is the newest child to fight the sleep-monster. It actually looks like he is wrestling with an imaginary monster. For the last 6 weeks he has refused to nap. He hasn't given up his naps, he desperately needs those, he has refused to sleep. I have tried all the tricks; CIO, nursing, keeping it quiet, dark, giving him a pacifier, toys, etc.

The only thing that works is driving him around. But even then he yells and fights sleep to the very end. Its actually quiet comical as he yells and screams and suddenly its quiet. He will crash mid-scream. Of course once he is asleep in his car seat he won't transfer to his crib. So I am relegated to sitting in the car reading a book while he gets his nap. Its a good thing I like to listen to talk radio.

At night it is slightly better, he will often nurse to sleep and then transfer to the crib. But about 3 nights a week he will refuse to sleep at night too. Since the other children are already sleeping in bed my stand-by trick of driving him around in the car isn't an option. I do a combination of letting him cry in the crib and wear himself out and letting him play in the living room. He crawls and crawls and plays, then stops to rest his head for about 10 seconds and then he gets up and crawls some more. Eventually he tires out and falls asleep in random places on the floor. Most recently he has fallen asleep on my feet, at the top of the stairs, and once on the bed while his head hung off the side, he was safe though, I had a hold of his ankle.

[caption id="attachment_364" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Notice the remote, he was playing with it shortly before he crashed. He is also sleeping next to the gate so I can\'t go anywhere."]Notice the remote, he was playing with it shortly before he crashed.  He is also sleeping next to the gate so I can't go anywhere.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_365" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Another victim of the sleep-monster"]Another victim of the sleep-monster[/caption]

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

William is 3

I am sure I have written this before, but I truly believe a child is born with their personality. William was my subsequent-pregnancy. I got pregnant with him a mere 8 weeks after loosing the twins. Unlike previous pregnancies I was not excited about his, not because he wasn't wanted but because I was resentful of having to go through morning sickness again and terrified he wouldn't be born alive. It was a very conflicting time in my life. I denied his pregnancy until I was 20 weeks along and I still didn't celebrate his life until he was safe in my arms.

The last few weeks were the hardest. I was still convinced he would die in utero. As the end neared he was getting bigger and moving less. I made one panicked trip the L&D because he wasn't moving. I started canceling plans so I could stay home drink a Pepsi and do kick counts. I was a mess.

On July 28th at 39 weeks we decided to induce him. Since it was my 4th delivery and just 11 months since my last delivery I figured it would be fast. Boy, was I wrong. And William hasn't ceased to surprise me since then. I was in labor for 29-hours. My stubborn little man had his own agenda and it didn't match mine in the least. He was named for his Great-Grandfather on my husband's side. We told everyone that there would be no nicknames and that he would go by William, but my father started referring to him as Wild Bill and honestly I can't think of a more fitting nickname.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Road Trip Car

I'm so excited. As our family has expanded our car has shrunk. Although we have a 7-passenger minivan, it only seats 6 with the car seats in it. And with relatives who live in town we often have to take 2 cars to go to the zoo or out to lunch. But no more! We now have an 11-passenger van. A diesel Mercedes engine Sprinter.

This opens up so many possibilities for us. We can road trip with family. Or go with friends to the Aquarium. I no longer have to say no if a friend asks me to carpool or take another child home from school. I am free.pic outside

A New Necklace

My dear friend Nic designed the image for the twins' headstone. She did a fabulous job capturing our feelings and emotions. But I can't very well take their headstone with me in my daily life. So we set out to find a nice necklace that would symbolize their short life. But after a few years we realized that a pendant would have to be made. Caskey and I worked with the jeweler and the picture from the headstone. The image is supposed to be Jesus holding 2 babies in His arms. I hope you like it.

pics pendant

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Scootering Technique

This shouldn't even be my post. I should have my husband write this as a guest author. But we all know that won't happen. If you want to read his works be prepared with a technical dictionary and go to Paralipsis, his blog. So you are stuck with my account of the day my kids learned to ride their bikes sans training wheels.

I think I need to start off the story when Lainy Ann was still a wee baby. Caskey started researching how to teach kids to ride bikes. He spent hours reading different blogs and finally settled on the right strategy for teaching her. She was 1. Ever since then when I say its time to help Lainy Ann ride with 2 wheels, he replied with, "its easy, remove the pedals". Since tools fall under his category it hasn't happened. But this summer I had a few goals for the kids; one of which was riding bikes without training wheels.

Since its a holiday weekend and we have NO plans (and I like it that way) and I don't want to go anywhere and fight the crowds I figured it was the perfect weekend to commit the time to this. I figured it would take most of the 3-day weekend. The hardest part of the process was ferrying the bikes one at a time up to our house in the trunk of my car. Then Caskey set to removing the pedals and training wheels and fitting the kids for the right bike (we had 3 to choose from).

There is a school of thought that thinks the skills should be broken down into smaller pieces. My kids have been able to effectively pedal for a long time, but the balance was the main issue. However, by giving them a bike without pedals (seat lowered to the bottom setting so their legs will comfortably rest on the ground, an undersized bike works well for this) they are able to scooter around and work on balance without worrying and the starting and stopping or the pedaling. We had a nice collection of new and old bikes to choose from so the kids were adequately fitted for their bikes.

This is such a popular theory that companies now sell bikes for the explicit purpose, but save your money, simply removing the pedals is a much less expensive solution. However, if you like to shop (like I do) check out the Step2 and Kettler versions of this training bike. Or if you are really fancy there is a European version too from One Step Ahead (I love their catalog!)

All of the above bikes make promises of children learning faster. Its really true. We spent a total of 2 hours teaching the kids to ride their bikes. That includes all the tinkering required to move seats and removed pedals. There were only 2 falls and no band-aids. It was a very painless experience that I wish we had done 12 months ago.

This endeavor has been so successful I am seriously considering teaching William to ride a 2-wheeled bike next week.

Enjoying the view from the shade.

No Pedals and ready to learn to balance and steer.

There is a small hill in front of our house.  
The children had to "scooter" 30 times before they got their pedals back.


Friday, July 3, 2009

$0.11

We have doing a lot of learning about the value of money lately. I usually compare a purchase to the price of everyone eating at Mc Donald's. So when they ask for a toy I compare the cost of it to the cost of other things we do or will be doing. Just recently the children had to earn back their scooters by doing chores at $0.10/ea. Now they have connected hard work with payment and money, which you can then buy things with.

So when Connor heard that his good buddy was coming over to play he knew he would need his bike at our house, instead of at Grandma's where it usually is. The problem is it doesn't fit in my car. I told Connor that we weren't going to be able to bring it home. He came up with the idea that Papa should bring it in his truck. So he dug all his money out of his piggy bank and put it in a ziploc bag, safe for the travels to Grandma's house.

When we got there he shoved all the money into Papa's hands. Papa was quite surprised as he wasn't sure why he was being given money. So we talked Connor through the process of asking Papa for a favor. Papa told him that delivery of a bike was cheap, only 11 cents. Connor counted it out for Papa and the following day we had the delivery of a bike.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Any Takers?

Lainy Ann has informed us that she is running away from home. She doesn't want to, but she has to. Apparently she was done tickling yesterday and the game continued. So, since we don't listen to her she will have to leave.

So I set down the ground rules which led to another outburst of tears.
1. She can't cross the street.
2. She has to live with someone we already know.
3. She can't take any of her belongings that I have purchased.

So are there any takers on our block? Remember, she can't cross the street.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stitches - Take 2

There are many types of screams. The one I hear most often is the my-sibling-is-bugging-me-Mo-om. There is the frustrated-scream, which is usually high pitched and annoys me as early as 10 am which prompts a no-more-talking-for-the-rest-of-the-day-rule. But on Saturday it was a we-are-going-to-the-hospital-scream. I was in the shower when I heard Caskey yell, "Leslie come here". So, here I came, dripping wet and left the water running in the shower. One look and I new it was time to go to the ER. Connor and Lainy Ann were so helpful in gathering things for the diaper bag, cleaning the water off the floor, and cleaning up the front yard as we got ready at a break-neck speed. No shower for me though.



Then I started the phone calls. I wanted someone to watch Lainy Ann and Connor so they wouldn't have to wait with us at the ER. Unfortunately my most frequently used babysitters were out of town. So I started on the 2nd tier. The ones who will help, but I hate to intrude on their family life. Score! I found someone who wasn't doing something on a Saturday night. And the bonus, she is on the way to the hospital.

We recount the story to the ER folks. William had his helmet on and ready to go outside to ride his scooter. He tripped on the front rug as he was heading out the door and landed on our shoe rack/shelf. The kicker? Its the same shoe shelf that got him in the temple nearly 18 months ago and prompted his first set of stitches. *sigh*

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sean!

Or is it Shawn? Lainy Ann starts screaming out a warning or in fear, "Sean"! Who is Sean you ask? Our pet Roly Poly.

We are having some yard work done and poor Sean has had a bad day. First he was dug up and his home of ivy was destroyed. Then he was man-handled, um, kid-handled. He has a house of bricks and they gave him some food of berries and sticks. No dirt. I don't know how well he will do living in his new home But they have been entertained most of the afternoon; gathering, collecting, and building. As the workmen got ready to leave they first used a leaf blower to get rid of the extra dirt on the driveway. Poor Sean was caught in his own roly-poly-tornado.

UPDATE: He was found and has been returned to his rightful place; a brick house in the driveway. Poor Sean will be squished later when I decide to move my car . . . . .

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Educational Things-to-do

A friend and I were chatting about how lucky we are to live in an area where there are so many educational opportunities for children. I am planning on visiting a lot of them this summer. But for now I want to get the list together. Please be patient as its a work in progress.

Kidspace Museum
This one is the most obvious. We have been dozens of times and they have lots of special events too. If you can afford it a season pass is worth it.

Skirball Center
Located at 2701 North Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049
They are currently having a hands-on Noah's Ark exhibit. Also, Thursdays are free admission.

La Brea Tar Pits
Located: Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits 5801 Wilshire Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 934-PAGE (7243)
Its a smaller museum so you can easily get through it in half a day. It is very stroller friendly, however expect to pay for parking. You can also have a child's birthday party at the museum.


Huntington Library

1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108 (626) 405-2100
This is more than a Library. It is acres of gardens, a library, a children's garden which includes a water play area, and even a brunch or tea on special occasions. It is a real treat. Please check before going, but I believe third Thursday of the month is free admission.

Discovery Science Center
We visited the Discovery Science Center for the 3rd anniversary of the twins death. You can read about how much fun we had, and see pictures, here.

Planes of Fame
7000 Merrill Ave., #17
Chino, CA 91710
(909) 597-3722


Descanso Gardens

Griffith Observatory/Park

Griffith Travel Town

Petersen Auto Museum

Dodger Game

Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 644-4200
A must have season pass for the stay-at-home mom. A season pass pays for itself in just 2 visits. There are many special events through out the year as well as day camp for kids in the summer. They have been steadily renovating the zoo for the last few years. A new gorilla enclosure opened up in 2008, a new elephant enclosure is underway, and a new reptile and insect house is also in the works. The zoo is on a mountain. For those with difficulty walking take the zoo tram to the top of the hill, have lunch at the newer playground area for kids, and have a leisurely walk down the hill.

Miracle Mile - Many Museums

Getty Center

California Science Center
Exposition Park
700 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Click here to see about our adventure to the California Science Center.

Alvera Street

Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels
555 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2707

China Town


Adventure City (Anaheim)

Franklin Canyon Park
Website


Eaton Canyon Park

Pismo Beach

Angels Flight
Bunker Hill
Los Angeles, CA

Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center Rancho Sombra del Roble
Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument # 31
23600 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park, CA 91304
http://www.laparks.org/dos/horticulture/orcuttranch.htm

Los Angeles River Center & Gardens
The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is located at the former site of the Lawry’s California Center, near the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco, close to Elysian Park and downtown Los Angeles.
http://www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=32

Point Vicente Lighthouse
31550 Palos Verdes Drive West
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA


Museum of Flying
3100 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA
Phone: 310-398-2500

Riley Farm Oak Glen, CA
Activities year round including horses, fruit picking


Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802


San Diego:

Wild Animal Park

San Diego Zoo

Sea World

Old Town San Diego

Legoland

USS Midway
We spent a half day on the USS Midway for the twins 4 year anniversary. I would love to go back or even attend a private event on board. Its a lot of walking, so be prepared. Read all about it and see pictures here. TSNY Los Angeles Trapeze School in Santa Monica Good idea for a birthday party! Zimmer Museum Zimmer Children's Museum Check calendar, unusual days they are open and closed. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., #100 Los Angeles, CA 90048

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The 'Lasts'

This last month has been a busy one. And since my blog is down you all got spared the multitude of entries detailing these tiny accomplishments. As we near the end of the school year, and in our house, a bunch of summer birthdays I am reminded that although my kids are growing up and doing new things and having "firsts" that means they have had "lasts" too.

Alexander no longer does laps around the coffee table. A hundred times a day I would put toys on the coffee table just so he could cruise over to them and toss them to the floor. Round and round he would go, only left, around the coffee table. I could put things out of reach and not worry about him making a mess or hurting himself. But that is all over now. He has recently learned to crawl, roll over, get into a sitting position, pull to standing (sometimes), and flop down and crawl away from the coffee table. He still however, only cruises left. Now we are concerned with keeping doors and gates closed so he doesn't play in the toilet or fall down the stairs. I can't even remember the last time he only went left around the table . . . .

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Creative punishment

Lainy Ann and Connor got their very own scooters

So the kids have been riding their scooters in the driveway and street lately, but they will just drop them and leave them on the curb next to the street. These are razors. Some teenager will walk by and just swipe it. For 2 weeks we have been reminding them to put them away and often times putting them away myself.

On Saturday night they left them by the curb with their helmets - that's at least $150 of gear! Caskey "took" them and hid them in my car. It took 24 hours until they noticed they were gone. We let them stew for a bit and cry for a bit about them being "stolen", then we told them the truth. So their punishment is they have to do chores around the house to earn $5 to buy back their scooters.

They have already earned $1 after spending an hour helping me fold and put away 6 loads of laundry. They will spend the rest of the week earning a dime or a quarter at a time doing chores.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Smarty-Pants

If you peruse my blog you will see stories of my too-smart-for-their-britches kids. I love them to pieces, but their intelligence can be maddening sometimes. My husband likes to joke that with four kids in the family they will be able to out-smart me before I know it.

Well, it seems Alexander is taking after his siblings in the smarty-pants department. The other day I was putting a blanket over his head and playing peek-a-boo with him, but after about 3 turns I began talking with Caskey. Well, that wasn't good enough. He pulled the blanket over his own head and began to giggle. Sure enough, when I said "Where's Alexander?" he pulled the blanket down. We had to repeat the game several more times with him putting the blanket over his head.

He has also followed in William's footsteps and discovered how very yummy the power cord to my laptop is. William rusted out 2 power cords and my goal this time, aside from the obvious - to avoid electrocution - is to not have to buy a new one at all. He has started his mini-tantrums when we take the power cord or other deliciously dangerous item away from him. But now he is hiding his vice. I discovered him under the coffee table. He had pulled the cord under the table so he could suck on it in peace and out of sight. Now that I have secured the cord out of reach he is hiding under the table with other items. I have caught him with a rock, a pencil, and lots of carpet lint all in his mouth.

He is copying now too. If I jiggle him and sing and then stop, he will then bounce and babble. Its absolutely adorable. And I know that all other babies do the same thing. But this is my baby doing it. So I find it much much more adorable.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Last Domain

If you know me at all you know that I can be a little controlling. Nothing makes me happier than being in charge of my environment and "keeping house". Every time we stay at a hotel I spend the first 10 minutes rearranging things and sometimes furniture. Its really no wonder I became a teacher.

I promised myself that no matter what our bedroom would still remain a sanctuary. So I decorated our room with our prized possessions. Then we had Lainy Ann, she moved into our room - her clothes, her baby bathtub, her bassinet.

And so it went. We added baby gates, moved breakables up higher, moved the tupperware drawer lower, and baby locks on everything. Then we moved. I didn't even bother unpacking the breakables this time. Our bedroom became the storage room piled high with too-small clothes and a dusty bassinet. But at least my yard was still nice.

Then they got old enough to play outside by themselves. Once again I gave up. The kids had taken over my yard - but I was proud of them as they dug my boxes out of the trash and created robots and forts and dinosaurs. Most of the time my yard is trashed, literally. There are boxes and broken toys all over the yard and if I dare throw them away, well, you can imagine the uproar.

But this weekend I lost my last spot - my driveway. The kids spent the weekend dismantling our brick drainage system, you know, the one that keeps my garage from flooding, and rearranging the bricks as an obstacle course in the driveway for their scooters. They dug MORE boxes out of the trash and placed them strategically as well. I had to park on the street. At least the grass is green, somewhere under all that stuff.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Big Man

Mother's Day becomes so much more special when you are the mother. It got even better once the kids started school and I got popsicle stick picture frames and pasta necklaces and a bouquet of paper flowers. I even get to spend some one-on-one time celebrating with my child at the preschool. The last few years they have hosted a Mother's Day tea with mini muffins and apple juice in tiny cups. We sit in tiny chairs, make a craft, share a snack and take a pictures. We wear too-big hats and feather boas and have "tea". Its fun to play dress up with your child for a little bit.

This year the school hosted a Mother's Day shopping spree. We went to the 'food court' for our snack. In the pet store we glued paper fish onto paper fish bowls. At the show store we stuck jewels and buttons onto paper shoes. At the flower store we used dot markers to decorate our coffee-filter-flowers. And the jewelry store had all the supplies for beaded necklaces.

I try to do all the stations first with one child and then the other. After all, its the perfect opportunity to spend one-on-one time. Its at the preschool, so there are plenty of activities for the other child to do while he waits. First William and I visited all of our 'stores', took a picture and I opened my popsicle picture frame gift. I had asked Connor to play with his friends and wait for me. But when I got to his room to start shopping with him he looked at me like I had 2 heads.

Me: Okay Connor, Let's shop!
C: Now? (exasperated)
Me: yes! (excited to play with him)
C: really? (in a bored voice)
Me: well, not really. We are going to pretend shop at the preschool.
C: Do I have to?
I started to say no, but then I realized "Yes, you do"

So he hung in for barely 2 stores. He kept asking to go back and play with his friends. I can't believe he is growing up so quickly and loving his friends so much. My husband says its only a matter of time before its his girlfriend, instead of his friends, that are the priority. At least I still get to kiss and hug him in the morning, sometimes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

6

My baby girl turned 6 this year and I failed to mark it with a blog post. So here it goes.

She has changed so much over the year. In the last 2 months especially. Recently she needed a pair of jeans for school, so she and I went shopping while the boys were in preschool. First I bought her her first pair of jeans in over 2 years. Then she asked me to buy her some summer shorts. I also bought her a bathing suit, her color choice was blue (not the usual everything-must-be-pink preference). After that we headed to drive-thru where she proclaimed she would want chicken nuggets, 6 of them, rather than her usual cheeseburger, no onions and no pickles.

Honestly, she is changing right before my eyes. And she is so responsible too. She got her own room in the last few months and I am letting her keep it the way she wants, as much as it pains me. She has her own organizational system and she will spend quite a bit of time rearranging her belongings.

She has taken charge of almost everything she does these days; showers, meals, choosing her clothing. She even does her homework by herself. She really doesn't need me much these days, but its nice that she still wants me around - sometimes.

She is doing fabulous in first grade, even after her rocky start. And as we near the end of the school year I am allowing her to start walking to school. I don't worry about someone stealing her. Because she is so opinionated that she wouldn't dare get into their car without a booster. I do worry about her being so busy thinking in her head that she will step in front of a car while crossing the street. So for now she only walks part way, no crossing the street. I am hoping that by September I will be able to help her cross the first street and she can walk the rest of the way by herself. She will be so pleased.

Caskey says we are throwing gasoline on a fire by giving her responsibilities. It might be true. No. Its definitely true. But she is so happy being in charge and she is good at it too. She knows the rules, she follows them and she is a born leader. In the morning when the boys wake up they go into her room and play. She keeps them all organized and quiet. She will even come to my room and ask what she should get for breakfast.

I'm proud of my baby girl. I really am. I feel like I can look at her and know what her future holds. I'm not worried. She is a leader and a survivor. I just have to survive her childhood.



Instead of painting, Lainy Ann organized the girls into playing with her new dress-up Minnie Mouse. She told all the girls which outfit they could hold. Lainy Ann held Minnie Mouse.

Happy Mother's Day to Me (In Pictures)

My gifts:


Each hand print was taken at the same age:


We went to the park in the morning






Then the kids enjoyed their new bikes






Tea Party

It was a three-generational tea party. Although we did not don gloves and hats. There was no tea or tiny pastries. Instead we stood outside of City Hall and protested the raising of the sales tax and other taxes.

I hadn't realized this but this was my mother's first protest. As a girl I remember looking through pictures of my mom before she was married and had kids. She was a hippie. Long hair and flowing dresses. In fact she got married in yellow carrying a bunch of wildflowers. I just assumed she had also been burning her bra and sitting-in.

We were able to go on my mother's lunch break. It wasn't initially my plan to take Lainy Ann, but there is nothing wrong with teaching my child to think for herself and even more importantly to stand up for herself. Regardless of which side of the aisle she is on.

It was very heartwarming being there. There were quite a few senior citizens there with a cane in one hand and a sign in the other. There was a mother pushing a double-stroller. She then got out the picnic lunch for her 4 kids while the organizer spoke of lowering taxes and writing our senators.

I'm not sure how much of a difference we made that day. But I know I can rest assured that I have taught my daughter that our government is of the people and for the people.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do you like my new server?

It might be Mother's Day, but honestly, I wouldn't be a good mother without a fabulous husband. He makes it all possible and worthwhile.

So I want to thank him for being a good provider, role model and friend. Most importantly he is the best server provider ever! Our 9 year old server bit the dust two-weeks ago. He worked many long nights at work a launch date on the horizon and then came home and tried to fix the server. In the end he bought a new server and then spent many hours looking for data, including a recent copy of my blog.

He found it and I am back. I have lots of new pictures and things to say. So stay tuned.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Academic brag

******* This is your only warning. If you don't want to hear me brag about my kids, then leave this post now. ********

Today is Easter and we got done with our religious and familial festivities early in the day. By the afternoon we were searching for things to do, so we ended up driving all over town looking for stores that were open that we wanted to buy. The kids were pretty mellow playing their math games and quizzing each other on addition. Yup, you read that right. Lainy Ann would quiz Connor, "What's 1,000 + 100?" "16 +16?" All of a sudden a disagreement erupts from the back row? "Daddy, are crocodiles born out of eggs?" Yes "Well, Connor wanted me to guess which is born from eggs; birds or crocodiles?" I picked birds. But Connor was thinking crocodiles. That's not fair." Yup, my 4 and 6 year old were discussing how crocodiles and birds are born.

Then later this afternoon my son read his very first entire book to me. My 4 year old read Hot Dog by Molly Coxe, a level one reader. Can you believe it? The only word he had trouble with was 'chilly'. He didn't even have to sound out the words. I think he is a better reader than Lainy Ann was at this age. Wow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No, I'm Mad

Lainy Ann has been having a hard time lately remembering her responsibilities to her family. She hasn't wanted to help out with family chores; when the kids are asked to clean she throws a tantrum or refuses. Most recently she stopped off to her room and refused because she was mad. It has been very frustrating. I decided to get creative with punishment. It seems the time outs and the lecturers weren't doing the job. So she got grounded for 24 hours, not the typical grounding where she wasn't allowed to use electronics. I explained to her that she was going to get the same treatment she was giving the family. If she asked for help at all in 24 hours I was going to say, "no, I'm mad". I told her that I wouldn't be making her dinner, helping her with homework, turning on her bath water for 24 hours. She would be on her own without family to support and help her.

So this morning at 7:30 am I am making 3 sandwiches, one for each child. She says, "Its not 8 o'clock, mommy". I tell her I know. She says, "you can't make my sandwich yet because I am still grounded." The text is not conveying the tone in which these words were spoken. She was upset that I was making her sandwich. She wanted to make the sandwich. ugh! I think she enjoyed the 24 hours where she was able to do it all herself and act like a grown-up. So much for creative punishments.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

GENIUS!

My husband is a genius. He installed a drinking fountain outside to eliminate the endless trips in the house for a drink of water. No more air conditioning leaking out of the house, no more muddy floors and no more cups left outside. I'm giddy with excitement.

If I were good at this kind of thing I would include a parts list and step-by-step instructions. But I'm not. So instead I will include some pictures and a website link. If you are truly curious I suggest you email my husband who is the owner of the website Paralipsis linked on the right.

Under-5

I'm not very sports-minded and never have been. I can't even tell you what sport is in season; my guess is basketball or baseball, but honestly I have no idea. I think my dad cured me of that. When I was growing up every single weekend there was sports on the television; football, basketball, baseball even golf. Fortunately we got our own television in our bedroom when we were pre-teens. We were even drug along to Lakers basketball games in the 80's, the time of Kareem and Magic. I look back on it now as being pretty cool and part of something nifty, but back then I was bored to death and exhausted by the time we got home.

I have been avoiding competitive sports for some time now. The kids are plenty active in gymnastics and swimming classes. Connor has recently started taking a sports skills class that is a combination of teaching the very basics of sports and also tumbling. He really enjoys it but a lot of his friends are in T-ball or soccer.

So we took the plunge and pre-registered him for fall soccer, in April. That's right the season doesn't begin for 4 months. I have been very hesitant and nervous about enrolling him in soccer. The commitment scares me. I have heard stories of extreme parents and committing every Saturday, rain or shine, is not really my idea of fun. As a result I have poured over the AYSO website, reading every aspect of it to know what to expect. I pre-pre-registered him 2 months ago and then had to walk the paperwork in this weekend.

We were turned away because we didn't have his birth certificate with us. Can you believe it? I have signed him up for the Under-5 division; no scores, no practices, and no goal keepers, but I still need proof of his age. Ridiculous! Honestly, who would lie to get their 6-year-old into the Under-5 division just so the child has an advantage 3 years from now. I don't think I am cut out for this sports-thing.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Moms of Boys Unite!

There is a conspiracy in the fashion world. Its almost sexism. Girls clothes are preferred over boys clothes. All the girls clothes gets special treatment. They are in the fashionable colors. They get priority placement at the cash register. The boy clothes are hidden in the back corner and have far fewer choices.

My littlest dude is ready for shoes. Not real ones from Stride Rite. No the soft soled ones that are sort-of shoes, but not really. He is starting to stand and before the month is out he will be needing shoes for when we are out and about so he can stand on the filthy floor at McD's. In the past I have purchased the Robeez. This time we are going to try out the Pedipeds.

I typed in www.pediped.com ready to find lots of cute little boy 'shoes' to choose from. The three pics on the home page is a large one of 8 little girls sitting in their Easter Finest on a garden bench swinging their pediped-clad feet back and forth. The next picture is a close up of those adorable white buckled shoes and the 3rd picture is the same shoes in the soft soled variety.

Yes! I get it. Boys aren't cute. Girls clothes are cuter. But my not-cute boy will one day grow up to squish a spider for that squealing girl in her Mary Janes or he will take out the trash for the same little girl so her dress doesn't get ruined. So please don't ignore the boys moms, um, I mean the boys.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gone

They are all gone. All that is left is a few pairs of underwear that are as big as a circus tent and just as brightly colored and 2 bathing suits. There are no more maternity clothes in this house. Wow. I might actually cry. Well, the only thing that will keep me from crying is that I gave them to a good friend with the stipulation that she give them back "just in case". Its given me an out. I can have them back if I want them or if I need them. I love having the safety net of getting rid of things and no intentions of having more babies, but I can still change my mind or have it changed for me.

I can't believe that I have been doing the baby/pregnant thing for 7 years now. Some days it feel longer, but on nights like this where everyone is sleeping and quiet it seems like yesterday when I first started shopping for my tent shirts and had to learn how maternity pants worked. *sniff* Yeah, I'm gonna need those clothes back. At least for the memories.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wubzzy

Lainy Ann walks up to Caskey this weekend and says, "Daddy you are just like Wubzzy." A look of confusion crosses Caskey face. Is it the crooked tail or the bouncyness or how everything is "wow, wow"?

"You don't like to do your chores either." Busted! I guess its time to step up the chores Caskey. LOL

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thank you, Walt!

I went through a time in my life where I thought Disneyland was boring. I was a teen. I thought I was too cool for everything. Magic Mountain was cheaper and closer and the rides were faster.

But now that I have 4 little kids nothing beats Disneyland. NOTHING. We have season passes, so often times we head down during nap time (the kiddos nap in the car) and then spend 5 hours on our 5 favorite rides and then stop for dinner on our way home. The whole trip only costs us $50. That's a pretty good deal for a family of 6.

But a few weeks ago we had a true Disney weekend. My sister came out to visit and my husband decided it was time to have a boys-weekend. So I packed up the kiddos and we went to Disneyland for the weekend. It was a warm February and we took bathing suits and shorts. Honestly, the weekend was as perfect as could be.

We stayed at the new Grand Californian hotel. It was fabulous. We got adjoining rooms for our group of 8 (me, my kids, grandparents and sis). Our room had a queen, bunk bed with a trundle. We had a view of the monorail and the kids were content to watch the 'train' drive by every 10 minutes. While I checked in, double-checked our rooms, negotiated payment and generally did the housekeeping part of the weekend the kids sat in tiny kid-sized chairs and watched Disney cartoons. It was such an easy check-in process with no one pulling on my leg or wanting to know what I was doing.



Since we were kind of celebrating Lainy Ann's birthday they had a special surprise for her; balloons, a button and a signed picture of Alice in Wonderland. Disney certainly know how to make a gal feel special. The rest of the weekend she was greeted with "Happy Birthday, Princess" by every single employee - at the restaurant, the doorman, the attendants at the rides, everyone. She was in absolute heaven.

disney LA balloons

In the interest of packing lightly I left the swim vests at home, but knew we had a 1:1 ratio of kids to grown ups, so they weren't really needed. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that Disney provided swim vests in 4 different sizes. Connor and William opted for vests, but William still tried to drown as he tripped down the stairs. Then they made us of the 3 pools, jacuzzi and 2 water slides. One of the pools was only a few inches deep so William could walk around and splash in it.

swim vests

We had dinner at the Storybook Cafe which was okay food. The portions were large enough that we were able to only order 4 meals for 8 of us. That really helped keep costs down. Then we went to the gift shop where each child bought a toy with their very own money. Yup. I'm counting it as a math lesson. It also gave them a brand new toy to play with while we were in the hotel room. They were so proud of their purchases.

That night Papa stayed with the sleeping children as my mom, sis and I (and Alexander) walked Downtown Disney and eventually bought matching t-shirts to wear to Disney the next day. It was just shopping, but it was so much more. I have really missed my sister being so far away and it was fun to just hang out and talk. Don't we look stylish in our matching clothes?



In the morning we rushed over to Disneyland at 7 am. Did you know you get in an hour early if you stay at the hotel? We went on 5 rides in just 2 hours. There were absolutely no lines and everything was clean and freshly hosed down. It was like the park was open just for us.

We got hungry and headed back to the Storybook Cafe for a character breakfast with cake to celebrate Lainy Ann's birthday. William was terrified of the characters and spent most of the time screaming and crying in my mother's lap. I felt really bad for him. But the rest of use had a great time and the food was really terrific.



Did I mention that It's a Small World has been revamped? They cleaned and repainted everything. I heard rumor that they added some of the Disney characters to the ride and I thought that was blasphemous. But, in true Walt-form, it was done very tastefully.



We had a fabulous time at Disney. It was even better because of the good company, great deal we got, and the warm weather. The kids were well behaved and had a blast with everyone. I can't wait until my sis can come visit again.



And because everyone loves a picture of a baby in a too-big hat: