Friday, September 28, 2012

Alec John Turns 3!!

My baby is three!  Can you believe that?  Three! And in preschool! And talking! And making eye contact with people!

He's three.  Three years old.

We celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, even though his birthday was actually Monday, but I had not bought him any gifts and was generally thoroughly unprepared. Poor third child. Tuesday was also the day we brought cupcakes in to school, so I figured we could condense it all to one day for less confusion.

I clearly remember bringing cupcakes in for Michaela's first birthday celebration in preschool and how much I fretted about them being perfect.  Ah, how times have changed- I am an old pro at this cupcake thing now.

The Preschool day started with him getting fitted for his yellow  crown.  You can tell he's not sure about this because his shoulders are up around his ears.

 But by snack time, he was ready to have his cupcakes.  Here he is with his teacher.

Later at home, after a quick dinner (one benefit of having a child who barely eats: no complicated Special Dinner requests on his birthday!) we enjoyed some cake and presents.

Here's his big gift: Switch and Go Dino, which is advertised about 27 times every morning on Nickelodeon and every time, Alec pointed to it and said, "I want that for my birrrrrthday.  You can get it at Walllmaaaaaarrrt."  He also got some Legos, the Shake Shake bridge from Thomas, a Thomas DVD, and an Imaginext fighter plane.  Real boy stuff.

 Happy Birthday to Alec John!

 Blowing out that last candle!
Over the weekend, my parents gave Alec his big gift from them: a train table with a complete train playset on top.  It is AMAZING.  My dad and Dan spent the morning putting it together and we moved the changing table out of his room (first time in 11 and a half years that changing table has been out of commission) and made room for the train table.  We closed the door and let him walk in and see it all set up.  He went ballistic with happiness and didn't even notice that the changing table was missing.  Which was great, since he's not one for much change, and I was a little worried that his room being disturbed would set him off a bit.

The train table has been popular with everyone who has seen it: Alec, his sisters, his parents, his grandparents, and even the neighborhood kids who come over to play.

Overall, it was a great birthday for Alec.  But I still can't believe that my cherubic golden boy- who I can still remember being pregnant with like it was yesterday- is already three.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Torture Your Children in Two Easy Steps.

1.  Announce that since today is Saturday, and since your father was wonderful enough to take Friday off and wash all the windows in the house AND mow the lawn, and we are all together, we are going to engage in a Family Activity in the afternoon.
2.  Announce that the Family Activity will consist of attending the 235th Anniversary Re-enactment of the Battle of Saratoga up at the historic Saratoga Battlefield.

(Allow whining, crying, pleading, and bargaining to commence.)

This is what we did to our helpless children a few weekends ago and actually once we got past the whining, crying, pleading, and bargaining, we actually had a great time.  I will tell you that at one point Jenna, who I swear was laying on the kitchen floor moaning and crying about having to go, was so awful that I had this exchange with her:

"Jenna, call your grandmother and see if you can go there for the afternoon if you are so dead set against going to the Battlefield with us."
"NOOOOO!!!! Then we won't be doing this as a FAMILY!!!!!"

That's what I had to deal with.

So we eventually all hopped into the car and drove to the Battlefield.  It was a beautiful early fall day, just a hint of coolness in the air, and Dan and I were excited to go: this was something we've talked about doing for a while but never could find a good weekend to do it.

It is a National Park, so there is a really neat Vistor's Center staffed by super excited Park Rangers (I have secretly loved every Park Ranger I have ever encountered), but we skipped the Center and went right for the gusto: hopped on the road that winds around the park (it would make a beautiful bike ride) and stopped at the place where they were having the reenactment.  And thankfully we were not the only people there, nor where we the biggest dorks there.

We learned all kinds of interesting info about the war, who was funding the Americans (the French provided uniforms and money to the colonial army) and how difficult it is to ride a horse, draw a sword and actually shift your weight while riding to be able to swing at an approaching soldier on horseback.


Alec thought it was pretty neat.  And so did the girls.

This was the inside of a restored tiny farmhouse where the owner of the farm where the battle was fought resided.

I had a long talk with the cook of the encampment and learned all about what they ate and how it was prepared (look at that pork roasting on the left hand side of the fire- brilliant!).  Turns out they used some of the French money to buy local vegetables from other farmers to feed the troops.  Five men to a tent and each tent got a bucket of food each day that they had to prepare and share.  And also a boatload of rum.  "They were happy soldiers," we were told.

Firing the muskets, which had a 10% chance of not firing at all.

After the encampment was over, we headed down to the Visitor's Center and breezed through the exhibits, even though I could have spent hours reading every line of every placard.  It was a fantastic review of the entire fight for Independence.  And even though the girls carried on, I do think they enjoyed seeing the whole reenactment.

If you live anywhere around us, and are looking for a fun afternoon activity, I would highly recommend the Park.  Even if you didn't care about the history aspect, the Park's scenery is beautiful and easy to enjoy, with beautiful vistas of the southern Adirondacks.  And keep an eye out for our children, who may be there being tortured once again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Day of School: Preschool Edition!

After Michaela, and then Jenna, got on the bus last Wednesday and drove off to school, Alec turned to me and said, "Well, you can drop me off at school now."  And I had to crush his little heart and tell him he wasn't going anywhere until Thursday.
Last Thursday was his orientation- 20 minutes of checking out the classroom, picking out a cubbie, decorating a folder- and he loved it.  Yesterday was a half-class: half the kids for an hour but no Mommy there.  We've been talking over and over about school and the teachers and the toys and how much fun it will be, and I finally broke the news to him that I will be dropping him off and leaving, but coming back soon to pick him up.  His response was a very dismissive, "No you won't!!"  Not sure if he doesn't believe I would drop him off and leave or actually come back to pick him up.
He was super excited, bounded up the stairs, ready to go, and I had exactly 3 seconds to beg him to stay still for a picture to capture the moment. 
Here he is at his cubby, which is right next to his classmate Alex.  In the interest of making it easier for the teachers and kids, I suggested that he be called Alec John at school, because the Alec/Alex thing is tough to wrap your tongue around.
So I snapped the picture, and it was like releasing racehorses from the starting gate.  No wave, no goodbye, no kiss, and certainly no screaming, crying and peeling off of Mom as it had been with the girls.  And let me tell you: this kind of goodbye is way, way, WAY better. 
He headed straight for the train table.
When we were choosing the name for our little baby boy, I have to tell you that I thought long and hard about how it would look on this very cubby when he started preschool.  I love it.
Tuesday is his real first full day and I am deliciously planning what I am going to do with myself for two and a half kid-free hours.  So many options! So many delicious options!!  And I am so happy knowing that he is happy and in a great place to learn and grow.

Friday, September 7, 2012

This was the summer...

This was the summer of Phineas and Ferb, the delightfully clever and fun and cheerful cartoon that all three kids watched every morning at 8am as they eased into the day.

This was the summer of a playground playgroup sponsored by our town that Alec went to every Tuesday for 6 weeks.  And this program was what gave me the reassurance that Alec would be just fine in preschool.  He interacted with the kids, waved at the teacher, participated in the activities and generally tamped down my deepest anxieties about his ability to socially interact with the world around him.

This is was the summer of my 20th high school reunion, which I chose not to attend.  Thank you, Facebook, for allowing me to see how everyone turned out.

This was the summer we finally started using our firepit outside and roasted marshmallows, ate s'mores, drank a few adult beverages, and marvelled at how gorgeous the kids look in firelight.

This was the summer I gave up watching baseball.  I simply cannot stand the pace of games anymore.

This was the summer I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy with great gusto and simultaneous embarrassment.  I liked the second book the best.  Dan picked up Fifty Shades Freed one day, skimmed two pages and seeing his shocked reaction was worth all the hours I spent reading them.

This was the summer that I wrote in my head a terrific parody of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, minus the smut, of course, but decided it wasn't worth my time.  Let's just say there was a lot of lip biting by Ana and smirking by Christian.  And the main plot was that Ana and Christian are watching television one night and Ana wants to change the channel, which sets Christian off into a tirade about how stubborn and sexy she is.  Ana, in response, flies off the handle, smashes the television to bits, and just when it seems Christian is going to storm out, she bites her lip and brushes her backside up against him.   He shakes his head as if to clear his mind of how angry he is, smirks, and whiskes her off to bed.  (And for those of you who have not read the book, that's the gist of it.  I've just saved you about 900 pages of reading.)

This was the summer we gave Michaela much more freedom than my stomach was able to handle.  But still no cell phone.

This was the summer we went to the Cohoes Falls and the Erie Canal Locks, both local sightseeing landmarks that I have not seen in my 38 years of living here.

This was the summer we refinanced our mortgage to get a better rate.  I did all the research for it and it was my project.  I knew how much Dan truly trusted and loved me when he showed up to the attorney's office for the closing,  asked me if this was all good, and then signed each paper without hesitation.

This was the summer I didn't go into our hot tub once.

This was the summer the girls tried twice to camp outside overnight and didn't make it either time.

This was the summer filled with therapy and trips to the grocery store and to the playground and neighborhood kids coming in and out and driving the girls to playdates.  It seemed like we didn't do too much but for some reason every day was filled.

This was the summer we celebrated Dan's dad's 70th birthday by helping to throw a surprise party for him that he loved.

This was the summer that I instituted a six-inch perimeter of personal space for when Michaela is talking to me.  She tends to enjoy speaking directly to my right cheek with lots of enthusiasm and energy.

This was the summer I started to ride my bike again after 4 years of neglect.

This was the summer we went on vacation again.  We hit the Cape for a week in August and loved every minute of it.  We stayed in a house in Harwich we loved.  We loved most of the places we ate, the beaches we went to, and the activities we did.  Our secret: don't go to the beach every single day.  We mixed it up and the kids loved it.

This was the summer that I stood on the bow of a boat in Hyannis Harbor, looking out onto an unbroken horizon of sea, and felt more peace than I have in months.  I memorized the moment in my head.

This was the summer I saw my first nephew by baptized by his father, who is my little brother, who also was involved in each of my own children's baptisms.

This was the summer Alec finally started sleeping in past 5:30am.

This was the summer that Jenna sat on me, leaned on me, and laid on top of me until I had enough and told her, "Jenna, I am not a chair."

This was the summer Michaela realized she shouldn't have to go to bed at the same time as her 7-year-old sister.

This was the summer Alec got evaluated by an OT and confirmed our suspicions that he "processes sensory information differently than a typical child", but did not qualify for OT services, which was a big relief.  I did not need another therapist coming into the house.  It would put me over the edge for sure.

This was the summer I read Crusoe's Daughter, A State of Wonder, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Fifth Witness, The Big House,and a few other books I can't remember.  Most were very good.

This was the summer the girls went to Girl Scout camp with very mixed results and one angry phone call to the camp director.

This was the summer Jenna thought she didn't want to go to quilt camp with her sister, but ended up going for four days.  And they both made beautiful quilts.

This was the summer I went back to yoga class and had my butt regularly kicked by my trainer.

This was the summer that Alec went to the dentist for the first time, a feat I thought would certainly be impossible six months ago.  Not only impossible but ludicrous, ridiculous, and laughable.

This was the summer of watching the Olympics with the girls, especially the gymnastics.

This was the summer Michaela graduated from camper to helper at the Vacation Bible School she's attended since she was four.  She loved every minute of it, and the director of the camp declared her "a rock star".


This was the summer I had 20 or so projects planned to do around the house, and I accomplished exactly two: cleaned out Michaela's closet and made Jenna a headband holder.

This was the summer I asked Alec if his speech therapist was nice, and he answered, "Yes... and beautiful."

This was the summer that we decided that 13 and a half years was a good run for our incontinent, howling, sleeps-all-the-time kitty Kiki, and said a very sad goodbye to her.  We miss her more than we thought we would.  We're more sad than we thought we would be.  And when an actual pawprint of hers showed up in a lovely card sent from the vet a few days later, we crumbled.

This was the summer that my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

This was the summer my family did what I knew we would do: all grasped hands and faced this devastating news together.

This was the summer I learned more than I ever wanted to know about ports, chemo drugs, tumors, and cancer care centers.

This was the summer my family found out how wonderfully supportive our friends and family and church family can be.

This was the summer I prayed and prayed and prayed.

This was the summer I searched for God and found Him there all along.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of School: Second Grade Edition.

Jenna is a second grader!
Showing off the new backpack

Rocking the new kicks

 Getting silly
Alec wanted his picture taken, too...
(Don't worry, my boy, you'll be BLIND from the flashes on your first day of preschool )

 Jenna is ready to start the year with her teacher, Mrs. Davies
(who, though they share the same name and profession, is in fact, not my mother)
(Still having a hard time saying her name and not giggling afterwards)

Jenna and her Daddy
Off she goes!

First Day of School: Middle School Edition!

So here is our baby, who clearly was born just a few short years ago, all dolled up in her One Direction-inspired new outfit, with the cami and hoop earrings and messenger bag, ready to hit the first day of 6th grade.  She's a middle schooler now.  And she looked great.
She was excited and nervous... came downstairs last night at 10pm for a final pep talk, and was up at 5:45am this morning.  She's practiced her lock combinations, walked her schedule, and has her zippered binder (the 21st century version of a Trapper Keeper) all set to be filled.


You can tell by her slightly wide-eyed smile that she is telling me to hurry the heck up and take these pics already, Mom, because I have a world to go out and conquer.

Along with moving up to middle school comes a new bus stop- no more pickup in our front yard.  So here she is with our neighbor Isabel, a seasoned seventh grader, walking all the way down the street,  taking a left, and walking up a block to catch the bus at 7:50am.

After all the worrying and prepping and pep talking, we are so happy that today is finally here.  And we know she'll do awesome.