Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Letterboxing First

It's been pouring rain for the better part of the week. A couple of days, I managed to get the kids out of the house and go letterboxing. I considered it a necessity to get out and they happily obliged with the promise of adventures in new, but not too far, locations. Four new stamps for our book. Nifty.

Today, I decided the time had come to try planting our very own letterbox. So, after much cajoling and time spent in rooms and time eating lunch, we zipped out of the house between downpours. Unfortunately, it was only the zipping that happened between downpours. It rained most of the way to our destination and rained intermittently, but we were prepared with raincoats and the kids in their rain boots. The photos give the entirely wrong impression that we were out on a beautiful sunny day. We weren't.

It took a little time, but we found the perfect spot to hide our very first letterbox.

I could tell you all about the place we hid it, but then I'd have to track you down and kill you.'ll just have to find it for yourself! The kids were a lot of help, obviously...

And when you find it, this is what it looks like...

Got it? Excellent.

After a trip to Starbucks to warm ourselves up and one to the library because we're insane and like to be with the huddled masses who live in the library during rainstorms, we went home and I entered our clue on the two letterboxing sites we use. They usefully cross-reference each other, so that was easy.

In case you're up for some introductory letterboxing, clues can be found at Letterboxing North America and at AtlasQuest. You can find our clue (hopefully soon to be more than one) under the trail name WyndRyders. Happy hunting!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My son is a freakin' genius!

We'd all like our kids to communicate a little better though, wouldn't we? My son is in kindergarten. He can read (a little), he can write and now he can communicate his innermost thoughts...on beautifully constructed sentences with perfect spelling. Can I tell you how AWESOME I think this is??? I'm so proud.


I mentioned briefly that my sister came to visit for Smunch's birthday, bringing her adorable (and very loud) little munchkin, Spencer, with her. Spencer is almost two. He slept through almost all of Smunch's 2-4pm birthday party...and wasn't overly happy about the free-for-all in the backyard when he woke up. But all-in-all, the kids were thrilled to be together again, as evidenced by an earsplitting "SPENCE!!!!!!" at 6:30 Saturday morning when they all rediscovered they were in the same house. The enthusiasm was really something to see.

Here they are posing on the sandbox at Gram's house.
Wearing matching jerseys while playing the piano (lovely!)
Mam's best attempt at getting her cousin to laugh.
Spencer checking with his broker.
Inspecting a gummy worm from Mam's "Cup of Dirt" at Friday's

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Birthday of the birthdays. Birthday season 2008 has officially started in our house. My father-in-law has the distinction of the first birthday of the year. His wife threw a big party in Fresno, as you may remember. My very low profile birthday was next, but it's rapidly followed by Smunch's birthday, which is far more exciting for everyone in the family.

We started the celebration by having Gram and Grandpa pick Aunt Karen and Spencer up at the airport, so they could join in the fun. They arrived on Friday while Smunch was at school, but Aunt Karen made a surprise guest appearance in the kindergarten room as the storytime reader for Friday. Smunch wasn't sure what to make of that exactly, but he seemed happy and the kids liked the book she brought.

The party continued on the real big day, Saturday, with breakfast at the restaurant of Smunch's choice. He chose a nearby coffee shop-style place that worked well for everyone. Karen, Spencer, Gram and Grandpa joined us. Grandpa even brought a candle and matches for Smuch's waffle. Cute!
The birthday party didn't start until afternoon, so all the kids went over to Gram and Grandpa's to play while Daddy, Karen and I set up for the party. Fruit salad, check. Cheese cubes, check, Balloons, check. Green table cloth with soccer field markings in masking tape, check. Hidden treasures in the yard, check. Spoons and plastic eggs, check. Pinata filled with candy and such, check. Yikes. These are a bunch of kindergarteners!

In a way, this was a strange birthday a good way, I guess. It's the first time I felt like Smuch really created the guest list. He had some definite opinions. I had some opinions too, like I didn't want to spend a bucketload of money and rent out a big place to invite everyone he knows. So, the guest list was limited to a number I was comfortable having in my house. It meant that a lot of kids I really like weren't invited. It also meant I invited kids I don't really like a whole lot. I didn't necessarily know their parents and for the first time, most of the parents didn't stick around.

In another first, Smunch's NICU buddy, Austin, wasn't able to join us this year since his family recently moved to Alabama (Alabama?!?!), but Austin called on the phone to wish Smunch a happy birthday. It probably didn't come through on the other end, but he was really thrilled with his first phone call from a friend.

We got lucky with a really beautiful, sunny February day. Smunch wanted a soccer party...or just a sports party. I was unclear, so it was a sports party with a soccer emphasis. And, as usual, I put most of my effort into making a cake I thought was really cool. It was almost exactly what I'd set out to create, so I was very pleased.

The kids arrived in their own sports jerseys (as requested) or approximations of them. I wore one of Daddy's old orange jerseys from some college reunion. It wasn't pretty, but it was festive. I borrowed a real whistle from my dad and taught the kids that when they heard the whistle, it was time to "huddle" and receive instructions.

We had the kids hunt for hidden treasure (different types of sports balls - pencil sharpeners, erasers, bouncy balls, soccer player figurines, chocolate soccer balls, etc.) in the backyard as our first activity. Mam screamed and cried through much of this since most of the kids were bigger and faster than she is and she wanted all the treasure for herself, of course.

We sat them down for cheese, fruit salad and drinks.

We did the pinata...definitely a hit.
We attempted an egg and spoon race, but it turned out that Daddy and I didn't know what the heck we were doing and we were all confused. There were no winners. There were no prizes regardless. However, picking up the ropes Daddy had used as a finish line turned into an excellent excuse for an impromptu game of tug-of-war and all the kids pitched in. Pretty hysterical. Daddy was pretty surprised at just how strong 10 kindergarteners and one Mam can be!

We did cake.
And I realized there was still about half an hour of the party left. Yikes. Clearly I need to plan a lot more games for future parties. But the kids seemed anxious for some free play in the yard, so I let them do that for a bit. And then I took the unusual step of having Smunch open his presents. We usually wait 'til the party's over, but I have to admit that the kids were enthralled with Smunch opening his presents right there and then. And the ones who weren't enthralled could still play.

The party over, we wrapped up the big day with dinner at Smunch's favorite restaurant, TGI Fridays. Because, somehow, plain spaghetti with no sauce always tastes better when it costs $6 and has a side of canned mandarin oranges. He got a birthday song and one last birthday candle to blow out on top of his "Cup of Dirt".

Even Smunch agreed at the end of the day that it was a good birthday. "I think it was the greatest one," he said. Better be even greater next year, huh?

Friday, February 15, 2008

She's So Shy

Mam has largely recovered from her ear infection. Back to sleeping through the night and enjoying time away from Mommy. Thank goodness. Of course, Typhoid Mam gave her disease to both Daddy and me, so I haven't been quite up to par this week.

On Wednesday, in the wake of my newfound (well, not really) inability to get motivated to cook, we went on over to our favorite downtown pizza spot for dinner. Daddy and I love this place. Mam professes not to like it, but always eats dinner, which is an improvement over eating at home. Smunch loves it because they always have sports on the TVs in there. Wednesday's match-up was college basketball between Texas Tech and Kansas State. And yeah, I had to look up the final score for him the next day. It's that important.

Anyway, both kids know that this pizza place includes a tiny glass-fronted freezer full of ice cream sandwiches. They both did a great job of eating dinner and they also know they can have an ice cream sandwich if they do. Smunch was still eating (and glued to the TV) when Mam declared herself done, walked over to our side of the table and loudly announced

"I want an ice cream sandwich!"

shortly followed by:

"I want the money!"

Yikes. Trying not to laugh, Daddy handed her $5 to take up to the counter. Naturally, she dragged her big brother with her and made him order, which was no mean feat since he couldn't get the first word (which was 'two') out due to the stuttering. So, he stood there in front of the puzzled, but gamely patient clerk, struggling with the 'T' until the whole sentence came tumbling out..."Ttttttttwo! Ice cream sandwiches, please" (OMG, he was totally polite!).
I wonder how long it's going to be before he realizes his sister is not too shy to demand money and doesn't stutter, so should be forced to order the ice cream for him, not the other way around!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Oh, the screaming...

Mam's been a little under the weather this week. And if I'd been paying more attention, I would have known what was going on tonight without having to agonize about it. Today went well. I sent her back to school. Her cough sounds awful, but she was happy. No fever. She was happy when I picked her up. But by dinner (a nice dinner out with Gram and Grandpa at an Afghan place), she was starting to drag. She kept saying she was tired. By the time we got home, she was crying and complaining about the canker sores that have been dogging her this week. Pretty soon, it was time for cake, but she had started screaming. She ate a few bites and then Daddy took her to bed.

Only she didn't stay asleep. Half an hour later, there was more hysterical screaming. Daddy dealt with that too, but after a time, I couldn't take it anymore. She was clearly inconsolable. I went in there to relieve him. She was screaming, thrashing around, pulling the sheets off the bed, kicking the walls and finally...grabbing her ear. Oh. Of course. That nasty cough is just the kind of thing that goes with an ear infection and this is classic ear infection behavior for Mam.

Smunch has had very few ear infections and they hurt and he complained. Mam gets one (just one) every year. You'd think someone was amputating her legs or that she's suddenly gone completely mad. It's truly freakish. And it's the kind of thing that makes you wonder how any pediatrician can deny a child antibiotics in a situation like this. She's clearly in pain and her parents are losing their minds. And yeah, I was a genetics major in college. I know all about antibiotic resistance. It's really, really hard to care about the health of humankind with a small child screaming at 4am and nothing you can do to help her.

Happy birthday to me...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Introduction to Public Speaking

I don't think Smuch truly appreciated what a momentous 'first' today was for him. How is it that as little kids, we can't wait to get up in front of the class and share our lives with our classmates, but as adults, it becomes an anxiety producing experience?

This week, Smunch is "Star of the Week" in his kindergarten class. That meant that we had to produce a poster about him for class yesterday and he got to bring his five favorite least five things he likes that fit in a paper bag.

He had a great time up there, stumbling through an explanation of his poster. He asked me to come, so I did. And of course, I videotaped. I still have to see whether there's any point in editing his presentation down to post it. I suspect there's not. It's hard to hear. I was just using my regular ol' camera and it picked up more other chatter in the room than it did Smunch talking.

Anyway, I was super proud of the little guy. He was very cute sitting up there in front of the class with his mud-stained jeans, calling on his classmates to ask questions and figure out what he'd brought in the bag. (No, I don't send him to school in mud-stained jeans, but the boys play soccer before the bell rings for school every day and Smunch always plays goalie. Hence the muddy pants.)

These are the items he found important to bring: (watch me work some more bullet magic here)

  1. A 2007 Little League trophy

  2. A 2007 AYSO soccer trophy

  3. The dragon with the shiny blue "scales" that he got for Christmas

  4. The kids' camera he got for Christmas

  5. His brand new bike helmet that we bought over the weekend ("It's a really cool helmet!")

Monday, February 4, 2008

This just in...

Mam has just informed me that one of her preschool teachers likes to get hugs. Cute. But this is far more worrisome...

Mam: I'm almost out of hugs.

Me: You run out of hugs?

Mam: Yes. I only have 10 left and that's it! When I give a lot, it makes me run out of hugs.

Yikes, guess I'd better get mine in before school today.


I'm not generally a big fan of embedding video in my blog posts. Videos just have too much potential for making a hassle out of blog-reading. But, sometimes a picture really isn't worth a thousand words. This one never would have made a good still photo. 

Here's a little background for you. Smunch has inexplicably become a sports fiend. I don't know how this happened. Daddy isn't much of a sports nut. Grandpa made sure Smunch knew how to throw a ball. We signed him up for T-ball and AYSO soccer, but we're not a family that sits around whooping it up over the "big game" of the moment.

This is going to change. I can feel it. Smunch decided to root for the NY Giants in Superbowl XLII. And there was no stopping him. I wish I'd caught the game-winning touchdown, but I'll have to settle for this unadulterated glee at the touchdown that put the Giants ahead for the first time...with "still 11 minutes to go."

A Cherished Pastime

In our house, the Superbowl halftime show far outshines the game itself. Fortunately, no one crashed and burned this year...unlike last year when Daddy spent the second half of the game in the ER getting Mam's head stitched up.