Thursday, March 31, 2016

Oh No You Didn't, Netflix!

I think most people alive today remember Curious George from their childhood.  We have the original Curious George book which was published in 1941. I just looked up the character and apparently the authors, a German husband and wife named Hans and Margret Rey, fled Paris in 1940 (the husband was Jewish) and eventually ended up in New York.  They carried the manuscript for Curious George with them the whole time and had it published in New York City.  The original books from the 1940s are a bit different from the popular PBS TV show that inspires this post.  In the original, the Man with the Yellow Hat is visiting Africa as a scientist and he decides to just put George in a bag and take him home across the ocean.  George is a bit scared, but still curious.  It makes me sad! Once back in New York City, George does some very un-children's book like behavior including smoking and getting arrested and put in prison for calling the fire department even though there was no fire (he was just so CURIOUS!).  He has a happy ending when the Man with the Yellow Hat finds him a new home in the zoo.  Fabulous.

There he is, being detained for pranking the fire department!

I don't remember the viewing that started Ben's and later Tessa's love for the modern animated show Curious George.  It used to be shown on PBS at 7:00 a.m. (now it's at 1 p.m.) which is prime time for desperate moms turning on the TV to distract their kids.  Then I found out it was on Netflix.  Having five season of "George" at our disposal was great.  As far as TV shows for kids go, Curious George is about as benign as they get.  It's right in there with Thomas and Sesame Street.  It teaches a lot of science principles and kids really seem to remember them.  Since it takes place between the "city" apartment of the Man the Yellow Hat (where George also lives instead of the zoo) and his "country" cottage there are endless lessons to be taught about how the world works. And for the adults, there is the unspoken sexual tension between the Man and his colleague and "friend" Professor Wiseman who works at the nature museum. Come on, the go on vacations together and have picnics!  There must be something between them...

I know some people keep their kids away from TV and I don't think that's a bad thing and I admire those people, I think it's cute to see kids relate to a make believe character.  It's soothing to have something familiar to zone out to...kind of like how I always enjoy a rerun of some old show from my youth like "Home Improvement" or "Full House" and how my parents find amusement in "The Brady Bunch" and "Leave it to Beaver".  There is a song lyric that says, "When I look back on the best days of my life, I think I saw them on TV, I am so homesick for someone that I never knew, I am so homesick for some place I will never be" (Time Won't Let Me Go by The Braver).  Not saying I wish I had grown up in a TV show but an old familiar TV show can make you feel at home.

So now George has been a constant presence in the house for almost two years.  Sometimes the kids lose interest in the show for awhile in favor of flashier programming like "Paw Patrol" but they always come back to him.  They both sleep with stuffed Georges and Ben has a George T-shirt. This week has been a "George" week.  Until...two nights I was going to turn it on in the bedroom so they would be out of our hair so we could watch something...anything...that would interest an adult and for a moment I was confused because the Curious George icon is always front and center on our "recently viewed" list wasn't there.  So I went into the search function...and it wasn't there!  WHATTTT?  I frantically searched on the Internet only to learn that HULU (another online TV provider) now owns the rights to Curious George.  We don't have HULU.  What the H3LL Netflix?  What the h3ll PBS?  I guess you only care about MONEY now HUH?  What am I supposed to tell the kids?  It is kind of like how there is a boy that Ben liked to play with at the Y (drop in daycare, not his preschool class) who apparently moved several months ago but Ben still talks about seeing him every time we go.  I have tried to explain that he lives far away now and maybe he will visit (probably not) but Ben still talks about seeing him all the time.  This is going to be hard news to break too and it might not sink in!

Now all I can do is set the DVR to record PBS and 1 p.m. and have to sit through the PBS drivel for the last ten minutes of every episode.

Disclaimer: I know this isn't really that big of a deal and it's a first world problem and having Netflix and a DVR is a privilege.  I'm just being funny.  If you find this through google and don't really know me don't worry.  But I will miss the show being on Netflix. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Christ is risen, he meets our eyes!

 In my piano playing days, after the first few years of beginner's lesson and theory books, I took a liking to playing hymns out of church hymnals.  Hymn playing was an event in the festival we competed in each year in addition to solos and duets and even if they hadn't been hymn playing was how many students have been taught to play piano through the years.  My own grandmother taught herself to play from a hymnal since not many families could afford lessons in the 1930s.  Hymns are arguably pretty easy compared to the complicated classical compositions and choir accompaniments I played as a more advanced student in high school but something about being able to just open up the book and play any of the hundreds of songs by sight in the straightforward four part chords was fun.  They had their own challenge because you were supposed to play them for people to sing along which meant playing an introduction, adding subtle pauses at the end of lines for people to breathe and keeping the tempo steady and not getting carried away with the relatively easy notes and going too fast.  I had the chance to actually practice these requirements because I played at the church services at the town's nursing home in the summer.
Between my own piano playing and regular church attendance I ended up being familiar with a large repertoire of hymns and the Lent and Easter section became very familiar because there was so much church during those weeks!  So much church... The verses and tunes still run through my head, and like with Christmas music, I like the less known second, third and fourth verses of the songs because they really contain the message and meaning of Easter and Christianity.  I had one of my favorites, the very beautiful "Go to Dark Gethsemane" running through my head all weekend and I just looked up the verses to use a line in my title and sure enough...
Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.
Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.
Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

Turn not from grief away? Shun not suffering, shame or loss, learn of Christ to bear the cross? Savior teach us how to rise? Well...I guess, now that I am reminded, those words do sound like everything a Christian should remember when struggling through life and suffering loss summarized in one line.  It doesn't make it easy but...thanks for the reminder, church music.

Well, now that I just seem to have authored a bible study for a Lutheran women's circle meeting I suppose I should get on with pictures of the kids on Easter.  We spent it in Grand Forks with Justin's parents and Tessa and Milo and I went to Fargo on Saturday for my cousin's bridal shower.  When we arrived on Friday afternoon Justin's mom took the kids to pick out their own egg dying kids.  Tessa chose Frozen and Ben chose Paw Patrol.  Shocking development, I know. 

I finally got to share my love of shrink wrapping with the kids. 
Tessa loved hers so much she carried them up to show me when I was fixing my hair on Saturday morning and dropped all three in the empty bath tub.  The shrink wrap kept the cracked shells intact.  I sneakily threw them all in the garbage yesterday.  I even managed to do it while they were awake!

The shower was fun.  There are seven girl cousins on my dad's side so since I got married in 2007 there has been a steady stream of wedding and baby showers.  There are three more weddings coming up in the next year which means there will probably be babies after that!  So it continues. 

One was missing!

Here is me and Tessa with my grandma. 

Here we are on Easter morning after church!  Lots of squinting going on!

Milo in his church clothes! Yes, it's denim overalls but he's wearing a plaid shirt, so...the kids were amazingly good in church.  I couldn't believe it.
 Here's a picture of the kids with their grandparents.  Milo is on outfit two.  You know what that means. 
The kids had an egg hunt after church. 
FYI, that blue tape is ben's "road" for his lego in-laws don't normally have painter's tape on their floor!

This was my attempt at taking a picture of Tessa's cute dress!  It was on my phone camera and she's just to fast!
Now I am just trying to find the time to put all the plastic Easter eggs away.  The problem is I keep finding halves all over the house and I am trying to put them in one place but they keep ending up all over the house!  Children, children...


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dying Eggs, 2016 Edition

When I unpacked the Easter decorations this year I realized something.  I have a problem with buying egg dying kits on clearance.  I had two traditional PAAs kits and a tie-dye kit and also the leftover stickers and accessories from last year's kits.  The price on the box is $1.75 so I probably paid $.50 for these kits but, although dying eggs with little kids is risking your clothing and furniture getting a vinegar scented dye job, I boiled up twelve eggs (which ended up being 11 after one broke during the boil) last night and after a lot of pestering from Ben this morning I mixed up the dye for the annual Easter tradition. 

Even though this is a huge mess I would never take it away from the kids.  I loved dying eggs as a kid and still do.  Not that I got to choose what was done with any of these but if I was a more selfish mother I would have made some lovely creations.  FYI...if you have two kids, eleven eggs is not NEARLY ENOUGH! 

It was pretty fun. Ben helped drop the little tablets in the cups and pour the vinegar.  He is now able to understand that the eggs need to be lowered into the cups gently and not dropped from six inches above the cup (ahem, TESSA) and that only one egg goes in a cup at a time (again, listen up TESSA!) and that one should remove the eggs from the cup with the included wire dipper or a spoon and not their hands (TESSA!). 

One of Tessa's eggs matched her shirt!

Oh, he loves his eggs!  As I am writing this he is standing by me with the six eggs left in the fridge that I need for baking and eating purposes wanting to "paint" them.  I guess I will be buying some more eggs tonight. 

If it were up to me, I would have left a few eggs white and one the shrink wrap technique.  It is so satisfying to see them hug the eggs when dipped in the boiling water!  Maybe tonight when the kids are sleeping I will do my own batch of eggs...hehehe...

Now these are the latest fun toy in the house.  The inevitable has happened and two have been dropped and cracked already.  Ben really howled and cried real tears over this although he shows no remorse when he hits or pushes Tessa.  Shaking my head...shaking my head...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Farewell to the Pac (pacifier)

The The week of Easter is upon us.  I admit that my Lenten observances have been minimal during the years since I went to college.  When I was growing up we regularly went to church twice a week during lent and partook in the Wednesday evening soup dinners before church.  Or were they after?  I can't remember.  What I do remember is the big solid hunks of dough that made the church lady dumplings which I find to be delicious.  So delicious that I made some of my own last week. 

Don't worry, there was more to the soup than what you see here!  Also, Palm Sunday was yesterday which always meant Sunday school kids parading around the church with palm branches.  I seem to recall that I was the leader of the processional one long ago year.  It was probably in 3rd grade since that was the year the Sunday school was split between primary and secondary.  The secondary kids got a reduction in church singing dates since that was about the time we got embarrassed about doing it and also the time when we stopped being cute and people didn't want to look at us anymore.  I don't know why...I know I love seeing 6th and 7th graders, especially the boys, singing "Give Me Oil In My Lamp" in front of a church congregation!  I read an article about Palm Sunday facts and it said that in the old days of the settlers congregations would not always be able to get palms from their local florists (because they didn't have florists, of course!) so they would use whatever branches they had growing in the area.  That would have been cottonwoods or elms for my church and for the really early days I suppose they would have used prairie grasses.  I have had the hymn, "All Glory, Laud and Honor" running through my head since yesterday.  It is a favorite piano song of mine so I just researched it and learned that it is old.  Like OLD as in been around since the year 820 old. 
We had a busy weekend because we had our nephews staying with us for the weekend.  They are 8 and 11.  Although older, they really play well with Ben.  They gave him a Paw Patrol Tent for his birthday and he and Blake, the 8 year old, slept it in together in the basement on Saturday night.  Five was a lot of dishes, a lot of snacks eaten and a lot of fighting over the internet and video games.  I often look ahead to the years beyond the toddler days because it gets really tiring doing everything for the kids but I do not look forward to the inevitable screen time battles that are a standard part of childhood now.  Especially since I am a fiend for the Internet myself.  If anyone ever asked me what my favorite obsolete technology was I would say the Ethernet cord from my college days without hesitation.  That fast Internet was like a dream come true! 
Once the screens were put away the fun started.  Dylan even made Ben Paw Patrol Easter eggs out of Playdoh. 

I was impressed by this.  It really was labor intensive! Playdoh really is fun for all ages.  Even age 32! The weather was bad and snowy (of course the weekend before was like summer so we told them we would do all sorts of fun outdoor activities that didn't happen) but we went to the Heritage Center and Justin took them and Ben to a movie.
What else is happening...Milo is in what I consider the prime cuteness months for babies.  Nothing can match a six-ish month old for cuteness.  They are interactive, they think they can talk and they start being interested in toys. 

Whenever Milo is crying because Justin is holding him and not me, Justin talks for him and says, "Mama, why won't you hold me?  Don't you think I'm cute enough?"  Well, jeez, that will do the trick to get me to hold him!
Big news in Tessa's world...what you see is an image that won't be replicated.  We took away her pacifier.  She has been chewing holes in them for awhile and we just got sick of it.  The first days were hard.  At one point I was holding her while she convulsed in my arms screaming, "My PAAAAAAAC!" It's been about two weeks and she still mentions her "pac" every once in awhile or says, out of the blue, "pac's are for babies, I a big girl" so I know she thinks about them which make me sad but she really needed to break the habit, mostly because she was ruining them so quickly and it was getting ridiculous to buy them so often. 
Now the problem is getting her to sleep.  Napping is a struggle but she still needs one otherwise she falls asleep wherever she sits at around 4 p.m. which makes the rest of the night a disaster.  Here is a late afternoon sequence from St. Patrick's Day:

Poor little girl.

Here is Ben's Paw Patrol tent still in the custom wrapping from his cousins. 

We should start customizing presents this way.  It's fun and cute. 
Finally, this has nothing to do with anything else in this post but I saw it on Buzzfeed and I did a double take. 

Apparently, Allan has a twin out there who is an advertisement model.  He wishes he had a bed like this. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Now He Really Lives Here...

Back in 2012 when Ben was a baby I somehow found the motivation to go to Hobby Lobby and buy some cardboard letters and coordinating scrapbook paper and create his name to hang on his wall.  I loved the look of it hanging on the aqua blue wall above his crib. 

Then I did the same for Tessa!  Her name seemed like a piece of cake compared to the 8 letters of Benjamin! 
Both names still hang on their walls.  I could not stand the thought of poor Milo not getting his name on the wall too.  We don't have much wall space left in either of the kid designated rooms.  Maybe one day I will live in a manor house with a "children's floor" or "wing".  It sounds quite excessive but it really wasn't.  The house I grew up in had the master bedroom downstairs and the rest of the rooms upstairs.  I heard a few people who visited the house over the years express surprise that we slept upstairs quite far away from our parents.  It never bothered me or anyone else I don't think.  Also, my mom didn't have to look at the piles of folded clothes we tended to leave in the hallway outside our doors instead of putting them away or the spare bedroom turned playroom that was always so strewn with toys that you could rarely see the floor. 
Back to Milo...Fortunately his name is shortest of all!  So about three months ago I bought the supplies to make his name.  I finally painted them two weeks ago and last weekend I FINALLY finished them.  I am ashamed to admit that I could not find my mod podge anywhere so we had to buy a new bottle.  I was sure it would turn up after the purchase but it hasn't so maybe it really is lost!
Here are his letters! 

I took these pictures in the evening last weekend when it was warm out and the sun was just starting to go down.  I didn't want Milo to be squinting in the sun and the inside of the house was a complete dump so I thought this was the best option but they look kind of dark with a blue cast.  Oh well, I will try again later.  And I can get a picture of them on the wall when we finally hang them which probably will happen in four months. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kites, Chaos and Hugnry Hippos

This weekend was one like any other.  We didn't really have plans besides Justin playing darts and the weather was unseasonably warm.  Here are the highlights.  The always fascinating highlights...

On Friday afternoon we headed outside.  The kids wanted the basketball hoop so I brought it up from the basement.  It started with our standard version of backyard basketball, which entails shooting the ball from the middle tier of our backyard. 

The kids got sunglasses from my aunt when we were in the mountains (Paw Patrol themed, of course) and to my delight they actually enjoy wearing them and keeping them on their faces.  Shocking. 

I should have known that a simple game of basketball would evolve into something else entirely and it escalated quickly into this. 

Oh jeeze.  I knew this day might come.  For reference, that wall is up to my shoulders so close to five feet tall.  There is a big rock they like to jump from at the end (the second highest one you can see down there.  It has a flat top.) but of course that wouldn't be satisfying for long.  After Ben realized he was comfortable with that jump the afternoon spiraled downward into a WWF wrestling match (sadly I know something about this since my classmates went through a big phase of watching it in the late 90's.)

Tessa tries to keep up but playing with Ben gets kind of crazy. 
To distract them I suggested rolling down the hill like logs which devolved into climbing has high as possible and sliding down the hill repeatedly like a mudslide with no mud. 

I fantasize about a standard "family" backyard with a fence and a swingset. 
On Saturday morning we knew of a large indoor rummage sale hosted by a boy scout troop so we decided to check it out.  There wasn't a lot of merchandise for younger kids and we were there an hour after it opened which means everything good was already gone.  But Tessa did score this bag of "treasures" which seem to be gems that a person might put in a vase to decorate for Christmas possibly?  I'm not sure.  But she likes them. 

Then we looked in the classified ads and saw that there was one other indoor sale in town.  We headed there and at first didn't except much but I will say that we found one of the luckiest rummage sale finds of my life. 
When we were cleaning that attic at my parents' house pre-tear down we unearthed our old Hungry Hungry Hippos game which I (regretfully now) introduced to Ben.  He loved it and still loves it and wants to play as soon as we get to the farm.  It is loud and tedious to everyone but him.  At the sale, at the last booth before we left the building there was a box of junk toys that cost a dime each.  I wouldn't have even looked in it but Ben and Tessa were in it before I could stop them.  And what was in there but an old travel sized Hungry Hippos!  For $.10! 

I looked a bit dingy but it just needed to be wiped off.  This game brought back a wave of nostalgic thoughts.  Remember when every popular board game came in a travel version?  Every year at Christmas they were advertised as the premier stocking stuffer.  My family had a few.  I remember playing yahtzee the most.  Add them to the list of things that are now obsolete relics because of technology. 
There was a table at the second sale that had other items that inspired nostalgia.  They had piles of zip lock bags with sets of happy meal toys from the 80's and 90's.  Justin and I both remembered most of them.  My family didn't eat a lot of fast food.  My mom cooked most of our meals and after 1990 we lived in a country without a McDonalds and then a small town that was 40 miles from the nearest McDonalds but still we had the toys.  Tessa (I) picked a $2.00 bag of Garfield toys because Garfield, in all it's sarcastic and not educational at all glory, was one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons (also a relic now because kids can get cartoons whenever they want now). 

The old "Garfield and Friends" from Saturday morning is available on Amazon Prime streaming but I haven't been able to get the kids interested which is a shame because I want to watch it.  She likes these "kittens" so maybe there is still hope.
On Saturday afternoon, while the other kids were napping,  Ben flew a kite for the first time.  Justin got him a $1.00 kite and he has been asking to fly it.  I hadn't flown a kite since probably 1990.  It happened at the farm when my grandparents still lived there and I think we bought the kites at the Hardware Hank in town.  There is a picture of the event somewhere.   Justin thought it had been almost as long since he flew a kite.  Fortunately, it isn't very hard. 

He was pretty intrigued.  Of course, the inevitable happened and he let go of the string and it ended up on the roof of our neighbor's house.  He was outside doing yard work so Justin got a ladder and the neighbor climbed up from his backyard deck and we saved it. 
Later that evening, we made the inaugural visit to the neighborhood park.  I was not looking forward to this because I was worried about the certainty of tantrums when we had to leave (they lost their minds over coming in from the backyard so the potential for meltdowns over leaving the park was high) and the bathrooms aren't open yet.  We had Jello setting in the fridge so I had that to hang over their heads and the visit ended smoothly. 

Tessa was a brave girl on the swings! 
And Allan did this all weekend.  Open windows really get him wound up so I guess he crashed. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ben's 4th Birthday

Ben's birthday is now behind us and it's already the 10th, which is the day we brought him home from the hospital.  It was a strange year and that day it was 70 degrees outside which is very unseasonably warm for March.  We took pictures out side in front of the house and noticed that the tulip bulbs were popping up already.  The weather this week is just like that week.  Yesterday the kids played outside without jackets and I just looked at our weather station and it said 68 degrees.  I love it.  
Oh, look upon the pristine floors of our old house...

Allan as a young man, not realizing that his life would never be the same!

I've shared this picture many times because it is one of my favorites!
Ben celebrated his birthday at school on Monday by being the teacher's special helper at school.  He chose that from a list of options in a brochure that didn't involve any treats or junk food.  This is the world we live in now.  He didn't say much about it but he did come out wearing a birthday hat so I know they celebrated.
That evening we went to the "Buffalo Restaurant" which is what he calls Buffalo Wild Wings.  It was his choice.  Then we had cake and opened presents. 
You can see that is a store bought cake.  And it's not from just any old grocery's from Wal-Mart!  I couldn't face making a cake so I bought this sprinkly one and put a "B" on it with M&M's.  He was happy so I am happy.  There are many years to make cakes ahead of us.  Good think I spent the time baking a shape cake for his first birthday when he had no idea what was going on and will have no memory of it!  Oh well.  That cake was amazing. 


Yes, that's an Allan cake! 

He got a Lego garbage truck set (I don't get why this would be fun either but kids must be interested in garbage trucks!) and a Lightening McQueen (from the movie CARS) fishing pole and some pajamas with Blaze and the Monster Machines characters on them.  Yes, we are a TV watching consumerist family here. 

He doesn't really understand why we can't just go immediately and try out his fishing pole.  Soon, soon. 
So now the toddler years are over for him.  I am not feeling especially nostalgic about this since I have lots of years of toddler BS ahead of me still.  I found the age of 3 to be challenging with the loss of napping, intensified fits over increasingly bizarre things, an increased awareness of his surroundings (no more inappropriate TV shows and movies with him in the room or music with bad words in the car) and a constant need for me to play with him (goodbye productive afternoons).  However, I have had small glimpses of future independence.  The most thrilling happened a few days ago when, as I was trying to wrangle Tessa and Milo down the stairs to the garage, he announced he was ready and had put on his own shoes and coat and...even zipped his own coat!  Oh my GAWD!  This tedium will not last forever, it really won't. 
In less significant news, Milo is now 5 months old as of Ben's birthday.  He had previously rolled over from his back a few times but it hasn't been regular enough for me to say he is mobile but this week he has become a real roller.  He can move himself several feet.  If he is anything like the other two (so far he is exactly like them as far as milestones) this means that there will be a very quick progression into crawling and furniture cruising in the next two months.  It will be crazy having him getting into things and I will have to be very vigilant about choking hazards (they are all over the house) but it will be nice to get some of the more cumbersome baby gear out of the way.  Now, the big challenge...what day should I list in his baby book for his first roll...what day was that again?  Which week?  Where is the baby book?