Monday, July 18, 2011

We have been quite busy around here this summer. I have once again enrolled the kids in swimming lessons. They have started their second session this week. Matthew is doing great and loves every minute of the class. My main concern with Matthew is safety. I worry about him just running and jumping into deep water when no one is around. I was happy to see his instructors go over the "Rules of the Pool" every day and I think he is learning a lot, safety wise.

Here is Matthew volunteering to go first for something.

And here he is practicing "scooping" as they call it.



Embry is whole other story. She is very excited about going to her lesson every day. However, she has pretty much hit a wall as far as learning anything else because, she absolutely refuses to get her face wet at all. So her instructor is pretty limited in what they can do. For the first week of lessons, Embry had an awesome teacher who got her into the deep end of the pool and actually convinced her to let go and swim (doggie-paddle) about 3 feet on her own. But, in the following weeks, she has had instructors who don't push her nearly as hard and just let her hang out in the shallow end where she feels safe. I understand that she is scared, but I also know that she is VERY stubborn. So, I think she really needs someone to push her. Unfortunately, the program, not the parent, chooses the instructor. They do offer private lessons, but they are super expensive. I am starting to consider it, though. I mean, how much is it worth to have a child who can swim safely?

Here is a photo of Embry’s class. Notice how she’s the only one using a noodle? This particular instructor gave up trying to get her to swim on her own, so her gave her a noodle to keep up with the other girls in the class.



Embry and I shared our first mother/daughter pedicure and manicure for my birthday. Embry loved it and we both got cute little designs on our toes. I have painted Embry's toes before, but this was her first time having them professionally done, and her first time ever having her fingernails done. She felt very grown-up.

We had a great 4th of July at the home of Embry's best friend from school. We have become friends with her parents as well, and they invited us to their house for playtime, dinner and to watch the fireworks. There is a great spot for viewing the fireworks about 2 blocks from their house, so we just walked down after it got dark and hung out until the show. The kids had a great time playing on the slip-and-slide all afternoon, and they kept themselves busy with glowsticks and glow-necklaces all night. They were pretty cheap dates that day.

video

Then, on the weekend of my brother's birthday, my Mom, my Dad and I all surprised him by driving all the way to Ohio and visiting. I have not been to visit Nicolas since before Embry was born, so I'm sure it was quite a shock to see me there. His good friend arranged the whole thing including a surprise party with lots of friends, pizza, cake, and presents. It was a lot of time in the car, and not nearly enough time with family, but we had so much fun.



And the weather in Ohio was perfect! Unlike the insane heat wave that we are currently in the middle of right now.

Our projects this week include
1) Ridding our shed of 3-4 very destructive woodchucks (or are they groundhogs?)
2) Getting my dishwasher to actually wash my dishes
3) Keeping the family cool without out going crazy from being indoors all day

Well, some weeks are more exciting than others, right?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Start of Summer Update

Around the House: Well, the kids are out of school for the summer and the three of us are spending our days at home together. I have switched back to nights and weekends only at work. J is doing what he always does. Everyone keeps asking me, if it's a big adjustment having the kids back at home, but really it seems like only yesterday that it was last summer. So, no. No big adjustment here. I have to reserve naptime for getting any work done, of course. But, I really am enjoying having them here with me. We've been finding lots of fun stuff to do.

In the Kitchen: I made this a couple of nights ago. It was very bacony. And even though the heat index was 103 last Friday, I couldn't help myself. I turned on the oven and made oatmeal raisin cookies. I was having company, after all, and you can't have someone over for lunch without some sort of fresh baked good. It's just good manners.

New with Embry: I am trying to prevent the kids from getting summer Brain-Drain. So, I asked Embry if she'd like to learn about money. We collected some loose change from around the house and she has been sorting and counting it ever since. We also signed up for the summer reading club at the library and Embry has read about 7 books so far this week. She loves keeping track of her progress on the chart that they gave her.

New with Matthew: I had almost forgotten what it was like having someone home who needs to be entertained all of the time. Luckily, Matthew has his sister to keep him company. But, when Embry is doing "school-work," Matthew is happy to read a book with me or help me with housework. We are concentrating on improving his speech this summer, so I am basically just trying to engage him in conversation all day long. He's already talking a lot clearer.

I am Grateful For: Time with my children. I know that someday very soon they will be spending their summers somewhere other than home with their Mama.

The Weather Outside: The crazy weather continues around here. About 8 days ago it was 40 degrees out, and this week the temps are in the upper nineties. It seems we have been violently shoved into summer. Something else to look forward to... the 13 year locusts. They are slowly making their way north and soon we won't be able to hear ourselves talk when we're outside. Yay.

I am Obsessed With: Unfortunately for my family, I have become hooked on yet another video game. It's one of the seek and find games that you usually have to pay for, but I found a free version on Facebook. Like I need another reason to be on Facebook. Sheesh. But I need something to keep me busy until the next Harry Potter Lego game out this fall. :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Matthew and Soccer

One of the many new things that Matthew has been exposed to this spring, since starting school full time, is team soccer. He is, of course familiar with the concept. He's been kicking a soccer ball around the yard since he could walk. And he would come with me to watch his sister's soccer practice every week for the last two years. He would always grab one of the extra balls and kick it around while Embry practiced. And every couple of minutes I would have to pull him back off the field because he wanted so badly to join in.

So, when the opportunity came, we signed him right up. Here's some footage from the first after school practice. Because a lot of the kids have never played before, they are doing very basic stuff like dribbling the ball without using their hands. They are playing on the tennis courts because the it had just rained a whole lot that afternoon and the grassy field was a muddy mess.

Also, all of the kids ages 3 through 6 are playing together for the first practice. The coaches do this so they can sort them out according to ability and split them up into two groups for all of the following sessions.


video

So, as you can see, Matthew is engaged and seems really excited to finally be included.

Around the 3rd or 4th session, I started to notice a difference. When I would arrive to watch Matthew was no longer engaged with the other kids following instructions. He was sitting on the ground off to the side of the field... playing in the dirt. I would get his attention and tell him to go back to the group. He would reluctantly go back to the soccer, but after about 5 minutes, he would return to the dirt.

You see, Matthew has befriended another boy in his class. And together... they... are... trouble. And not just at soccer practice. Apparently, neither one of the cares too much about doing what everyone else is doing. Now to be clear, if the coach addresses them specifically, they'll grab their ball and return to the group. But, the two of them get bored real quick and spend most of the hour playing in the dirt, watching the older kids' group, and playing hide-and-seek.

Matthew's teacher has told me that the two of them continue this behavior in the classroom. She has much less patience than the soccer coaches, though. She constantly has to separate them to keep them from doing their own thing during group activities. Unlike Embry, who has always been concerned with being part of the group, Matthew (and his friend) don't seem to care.

We're talking to Matthew about listening to his teacher and not disrupting the rest of the class. But, I say, if he wants to be an individual, then go for it! Bill Gates is an individual, and I'm sure that Mark Zuckerburg was never the teacher's favorite.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Transition

*This post is brought to you by UPS*

Why UPS? Well, there are two things that I should be doing right now. One is grocery shopping, and the other is sleeping. But, because I am awaiting the delivery of my shiny new vacuum cleaner, and because I know that UPS will not leave it here without a signature... I have to stay home and I have to stay awake. Technically, there is a third thing that I could be doing and that is working on my grilling class for Sunday. But, I've got 3 more days to put that off!

ANYWAY, because it has been months since my last post, I decided to focus on the biggest change around here since my last post. After being a stay-at-home Mom since February of 2005, I have started working (some) days again because my baby boy is now attending school full time. That's right. I am now without children all day, all week.

Yes, it has been 4 months since this change, but I am still not used to it. When I'm out and about during the day I always feel like I'm forgetting something, like I should be holding onto something with my free hand. Or I'll remember that I didn't pack a snack and then realize that I didn't need to pack one for just me. The absence of kids in my day to day life still seems huge.

In the beginning, everyone kept telling me that, OK, I'd miss them at first, but then I'd find all this free time. And after a while I'd realize how nice it actually is to have both kids in school. But, even now, I still miss them a ton and somehow, I have no free time during the day at all. Because my schedule at work has opened up, I have more responsibilities. It seems that conference calls, errands, and class organizing has sucked up any free time that I might have otherwise had.

However, I am still only working part-time. And now that I can do more work during the day, I can spend more evenings with my family. Before, I would get to eat dinner with J and the kids maybe twice a week. But now it's more like four or five times a week. So, although I'm spending much less time with Matthew, I'm spending more time with the entire family.

Embry still complains regularly that I work too much, which hurts every time she says it. I just calmly try to explain to her that, "Mama has to work so that you can go to school." She loves school, so this explanation seems to satisfy her... until the next day when she complains again. (I don't know where she get this constant complaining stuff from. It must have skipped a generation.)

So, despite feeling like I've had my children ripped from my arms at way too young an age, I know that these changes are good for everyone. More responsibility at work means that despite being one of the newest people there, I won't be the first one fired if they have to cut payroll. Matthew loves school (more details about this in a separate post), and is making great strides socially and with his speech delay. And I'm sure that J is thrilled that he doesn't have to make dinner and put the kids to bed by himself every night. Winners all around!

(But I still miss my babies.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Memories

Last week I wrote about taking down my tree and all of the memories that it brought back. So, I'd like to share a few of my favorite ornaments and what I love about them.

Every year I get an ornament for the tree that has the date somewhere on it. Fortunately, Hallmark and various other stores sell tons of dated ornaments, so the hard part is usually picking out just one. This year, my mom and I baked like maniacs for 3 days straight, so this ornament seemed most appropriate.

I just love the teeny tiny pastry bag with "2010" on it!

Another addition to the tree this year was this tiny copper skillet. I told J that I bought it to commemorate my going back to work at Williams-Sonoma, but the truth is that I just couldn't resist the cuteness of an actual skillet that was so small.

Last Christmas, I volunteered to teach the kids in Embry's class how to make a few basic origami forms. After they mastered the basics I taught them how to how to make this candy cane. Embry became totally obsessed with making these and completely covered our Christmas tree with paper candy canes. When putting away the tree last year I threw these in with the other decorations, and when I took them out this year, Embry was thrilled to put them on our tree again.


Another contribution from Embry is this beautiful glass ornament that I use as our dated one for last year. A student at Embry's school has parents who are glass artists, and as a special treat, they allowed any student who wanted, to blow their own glass ornament! The kids picked their colors and blew into a long tube to form the hollow glass ball. I'm so glad that we let Embry make one. You can't see in this picture, but it has her name and the date engraved on the top.


Some of our dated ornaments signify an important event that occurred that year. For example, Embry and Matthew each have their own ornament for the year they were born. This one is dated 2003 and was picked out to celebrate mine and J's first Christmas after we got married. (You can tell I really like ornaments with tiny food on them). Little champagne glasses and little chocolate covered strawberries. So cute!


This next one takes tiny cuteness to a whole new level! On the outside it appears to be a simple painted matchbox. But when you open it up...


...it's actually a tiny nativity scene! I left my hand in the frame on purpose to show how adorably small this one is. The characters inside are three dimensional figurines painted with amazing detail. My brother gave this one to me several years ago, and it is still one of my favorites.

This one was given to me this year by my Mom. There's no date on it, but I do specifically remember making it when I was little. I love that stuff like this has survived. Both of the kids were so fascinated by the idea that I was once small and made stuff like that.



Although it doesn't go on the tree, this next decoration is one of my most precious. It's an angel that was given to me by a little girl who lived down the street from me when I was about 5 or 6 years old. At the time, we lived in the middle of nowhere and I didn't have a lot of playmates. I have no idea what happened to her (we moved away the next year), but I have always loved this angel and I put it out every year.

Finally, this red plastic bell came into my possession earlier this year. It belonged to my great-grandmother. There were bells of several different colors and each one bore the name of a great-grandchild (my cousins).


The bells were hung on the Christmas tree at my grandparent's house every year, even long after my great-grandmother passed away. One of my fondest childhood memories was of my brother and I arriving at Grandma's house on Christmas morning and finding our bells on the tree. We would always argue over who's bell was in the most optimum position. Higher on the tree and more towards the front obviously meant that Grandma loved me more.




*Notice the red bell near the top... that one is mine ;)

These are just a few of my favorites. Almost every ornament that goes on the tree has a memory or a person associated with it. That must be why I cherish so much putting up the tree every year, and why it makes me sad to take it down. Maybe some day, when I'm rich and I live in a big fancy house (that someone else cleans), I'll have a second "Martha Stewart" tree that gets all of the color coordinated bows and ornaments in concentric circles. But for now, I am very content with my hodgepodge tree full of memories.