Almost Summer 2009

Last week i was reminded why the park by our house is really one of the best. Sure it has some bigger kids that can get out of hand on weekdays, but it has shade, lots and lots of shade. The bigger park we've been going to lately without the big kids and with a huge sandbox is lovely when it's 70. Last week when it was 82 i took the kids on the way home from work and after about 15 minutes Henry was asking to go home. They had spent a long day at the park at daycare and the water for the drinking fountain hasn't yet been turned on. So we played a bit, picked up sticks under the few trees at the park and called it a day. It was a good reminder to keep a bag packed in the trunk in the summer with sunscreen, hats, and water bottles (well those have to be filled fresh).

Today was day 2 of our 3 days of Memorial weekend BBQs. This one was at our house and very small. Even with just 3 families of us there were kids a plenty but they had fun, played well together and we didn't freeze even though by the early evening it was definitely cold enough for jackets. Henry and i sneaked out to a local carnival while Silas napped today and Henry had a blast! It was really the first time he's been on rides that i can think of (other than an odd carousel here or there). Some things were a little scary for him but in general he loved it and at the end of the day he said his favorite was the one he kept saying "was too scary for me!" It was a nice impromptu visit that we shoehorned into a busy and fun day.

One last vignette from the weekend-- unfortunately without any pictures. I've talked in the past about it being more of an "organized equipment rental" rather than a "class" but this time was totally different. There was a new coach and he actually led them in a class. He started out by hitting them balls, alternating where they went so that the kids got into the rhythm of waiting for a ball to come in there area rather than all running after the same ball. This was crucial for Henry. Previously he had hated "fielding" because he never gets to the ball first and this oftentimes prompts him to throw his glove and storm off the field (something we're clearly working on.) Next up was hitting until the coach realized the kids really needed to figure out the bases. So he made them line up and run the bases several times. Then back to hitting but he had everyone in the outfield and each child come up one at a time. He helped them with their stance and how to hold the bat. Really-- was this so much to ask from a class? I'm just hoping that guy is there next week. If we can keep him for the last few weeks of the class, i think Henry will really get something out of it. Next up are swim lessons that start in the middle of June. I've decided my philosophy right now is to try to have him try as many different activities as possible. I figure this way it broadens his skills and also lets him decide later what he really likes and wants to focus on.


Pirate Party

We hosted an (ill-timed) pirate party for our 4 and 2 year old sons and i wanted to share our party preparations back with the internet. Many of my initial ideas came from various web pages i saw so i felt like i'd like to both a) give back and b) show off a bit; isn't that what the web is all about?

I used the suggestion you'll see most everywhere to tea-dye paper and write the invitations on this paper. We found what worked best through some trial and error. It turns out regular old lipton definitely work best. Green tea and mugicha are just too light. Tear the paper when it's too wet. I soaked two sheets at a time in a baking sheet and then put them on wire racks to dry. My 4-year old helped with this process and had a ball. I made some extra sheets for invite mishaps and to write the treasure hunt clues.

Pirate Costumes:
I had some scarves left over from an international trip. I didn't have enough for everyone so i split the scarves in half and sewed up the edges. The kids tied the sashes around their waist. I made some eye patches out of felt, used an ice pick to poke a hole in the sides and tied some skinny elastic in the holes. I really made the elastic too tight but figured the kids would just tuck them in their sashes or wear them around their neck-- which they did. My mother-in-law found a treasure trove of old beaded necklaces and i gave each child two necklaces. The remaining "booty" we used to decorate the table. I also made pirate hats from this pattern (http://www.kidscraftweekly.com/pirates2_issue.html) and added feathers to the hats.

I had all the parts of the costumes lined-up and as the kids arrived i let them pick a scarf with all the rest of the costume. I measured the child's head and stapled the hat band-- voila! They were off to my my mother-in-law for the crafts table.

In advance i made some spy glasses. I collected paper towel tubes and toilet paper tubes. For the toilet paper tubes i used two and rolled-up thick paper inside both of the toilet paper tubes. I cut-out squares of cellophane, covered the ends of the tubes, and put rubber bands around the cellophane. Then i covered the tubes with brown construction paper. These were all pre-made and on the table. We also had jeweled stickers, other stickers, etc for the kids to decorate the spy glasses. I had planned to print out some coloring sheets but just ran out of time.


The kids then started to play outside and then we moved on to the "planned" activities. First i did the treasure hunt. I made a treasure-chest by painting a shoe-box with a hinged top all black-- just with acrylic paint. Once it dried i "painted" the shape of a lock on the front of the box and coated it with gold glitter. I made little envelopes out of blue construction paper, put gold coins inside each envelope, wrote each child's name on the envelopes, sealed them with gold wax, and put them in the treasure box.

I wrote out three clues for the treasure hunt (the kids were aged 2-6, although it was mostly 3-6 year olds doing the treasure hunt.) The first one said something along the lines of "as any good pirate should know, this is where the tomatoes grow." The next clue was in the raised-bed and said something about the clue being by the front gate. The last clue took them to the pirate box. I wish i had done several more clues-- probably about 6-8 total. The treasure hunt was the kids' favorite part of the party and i should have dragged it out longer.

Afterwards i attempted a "walk the plank" game but my plank wasn't really balanced and this didn't work out so well. I should have had a longer plank and some concrete blocks or something-- for some reason i used paint cans-- but the little ones. I covered everything with a blue sheet.


I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing from the Kings Arthur cookbook. I highly recommend the cake recipe (which also works as cupcakes) although like all icing, i found the icing too sweet. I basically used the Betty Crocker pirate template which uses 8 and 9 inch cake pans (http://www.bettycrocker.com/Recipes/Recipe.aspx?recipeId=40763) It turned out great and was delicious too. Although we were worried that for 10 kids and 17 adults the cake wasn't big enough and we supplemented with a double-batch of cupcakes-- just one would have sufficed.


I bought two black sheets from the thrift store. One i folded over and painted Happy Birthday Henry and Silas in big white letters. I printed out the letters on my printer, big enough to be basically one to a page-- cut each one out and traced around it on the black sheet with my sons' white crayon. Then i painted in the ouline using white acrylic paint. This took two evenings worth of time so i decided to not put any kind of temporary decorations on the banner so that i can re-use each year-- simply adding whatever the theme is to the banner. This year i made little pirates out of felt and pinned them on to the corners. I hung the banner on the window behind the table where the boys blew their candles out.

I used the second table cloth to cover the dining room table. We covered the table with gold coins, the extra necklaces, the treasure box, and a toy pirate ship the boys have (draped with necklaces). The food was here early in the party and this is where we did cake as well. We did black and red cups, plates, napkins and utensils mixed-in with some pirate cake plates.

Goodie Bags:

I made little gift bags out of a pirate-print exclusive to Jo-Ann. This was the least cost-effective thing i did but it was fun to make them and they were super-cute. Basically they were receptacles for the costumes and the spy glasses the kids used at the party. We also sent them home with a balloon, some stickers and a tattoo.

Really the party was a huge success. Thankfully my boys share a party for now because it was quite a bit of work!

Preschool Update

From April 2009

Around the last time that i posted i had almost figured out Henry's preschool for the fall. And then i went to register him and things started to unravel again. The temporary plan i had for Henry to have quiet time while i finished my work-day after his preschool session somewhat fell apart when the preschool aide that was registering me asked what i would do when i traveled. Hmm, what would i do when i traveled?

At this point i started reconsidering everything-- including Henry and Silas' daycare. I was feeling absolutely terrible and thank goodness finally got around to calling Brenda to talk about the situation. Again she proved she's the best daycare provider ever. She listened and pretty much immediately agreed to take Henry back and forth to school every day. What more could i ask for? So crisis averted and now come fall we're planning to apply for both kindergarten and preschool for Henry and Silas so that hopefully we have a few more options.

So now Henry is enrolled in the afternoon session of preschool and if there is an opening we'll get moved up to the morning session. He's excited about his new school and he'll get a chance to ramp-up his social skills which are okay but not amazing.

We had his 4 year appointment last week and i also realized that it took awhile but we really love our pediatrician. My two concerns with Henry were his social skills and his physical development. We got a recommendation for a Pediatric therapist to have him assessed. Socially she thought he sounded like a normal but shy kid. We're going to work on prepping him for more difficult social situations and if we don't see some improvement, especially after he starts preschool we'll see about getting him assessed in that department too.


Just a small whine

I really love being an adult. No really. I was never one of those people that wished for the good old days of high school or even college. The central thing i argued with my parents about when i still lived at home was responsibility (and independence of course) and i've never thought-- gee, i wish i was back to having someone take care of me.

And then Friday happened and i found myself secretly wanting to say-- "but no one TOLD me," or "how was i supposed to know!" WAAAAH.

It reminds me of a conversation i remember having with my dad when i was little about how "i didn't know" is not a valid defense when you're breaking the law (strangely enough i've had a similar conversation with Henry without any prompting of my own). At the time i was stupefied about the implication. Imagine that you're on a road trip and you have to know the laws of all the states you're driving through-- what an insane obligation! How on earth did adults do it?

Friday i found out that I had seriously underestimated the preschool registration process at our neighborhood elementary and the only slot that we had managed to land (by the hair on our chinny chin chin) is for afternoon preschool. I started with feelings of shock and denial and got stuck in pain and guilt for much of the weekend. I hope that i'm jumping over some of the more "rock bottom" stages of grief straight ahead to "reconstruction."

Our (only) plan has always been to send Henry to the preschool at our local elementary. They offer a very good half-day preschool M-F and Brenda agreed to pick him up after the morning session and bring him back to daycare. Ideal. I knew that registration was in April last year and that last year the slots didn't fill up until summer because the school is generally considered "undiscovered"-- especially compared to some of the high-profile public schools in the nearby very wealthy neighborhood.

Although i had been watching the marquis and had called the school once or twice i didn't get concrete information on when registration had started until it had been going for two and a half weeks. Fast forward to Friday when i got a call from the teacher who said that indeed there was a slot for Henry but it was in the "afternoon" session which runs from 11:45 to 2:45. The teacher was good enough to strongly recommend i register for the afternoon session and put Henry on the waiting list for the morning, which i will do on Monday.

After i got off the phone however, i was shell shocked and continued to feel worse and worse about the situation as the day and the weekend wore on. How did i miss this? HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? How much is one person supposed to be on top of at one time? I messed up big-time and i was angry at myself and mad that i was the only one mad-- how is it that Mom's are the one's that automatically have this responsibility?

JT was helpful in talking the situation through and trying to brainstorm what we could do about it-- look into registering at some other schools, looking into some local private schools, working something out with the afternoon schedule, etc. That night i sat down to research application processes at other nearby schools and found out that for most public schools the registration deadline is December 19th the year PRIOR to enrollment. Woops. Not even any other options. I emailed a couple of schools to find out if i could get on their waiting list and one preschool teacher emailed me back to let me know that i could be added to the waiting list but that they had 200 families on the list already and our chances of getting in were slim (you think!)

I think there is a realistic chance that Henry will get into the morning class. I'll find out tomorrow just how far down the list we'll be but i think we're close to the top. The office ladies were joking about how you'd be surprised at how many parents pulled their kids out once it got cold. If he doesn't get into the morning class i think we're going to have to try out a situation that isn't ideal. I'll take Henry and Silas to daycare in the morning at 8 instead of 8:45. Brenda will take Henry to school at 11:45. I'll pick Henry up at 2:45 and he'll come home and have "quiet time" until 4:15 when we leave to pick up Silas. Again, really not ideal but i think it's workable-- especially as i've had time to come to grips with this.

The only upshot to this whole situation is that now i know how the system works for kindergarten and when it comes time to register Silas for preschool. From now on, i'm camping out for everything...


What to expect from parks district t-ball

I can't say all parks district' 3-4 year old t-ball works like the class Henry is enrolled in, but Welles Park in Chicago seems to have the loosest interpretation of a class this side of the river. We missed class last week due to a baby shower and JT's meat pick up (another score for the Mazda 5--20 chickens and a 1/4 cow fit in the way back.)

This week we made it to class although it was held in the gym due to very soggy fields. The class really doesn't have an instructor-- the guy was at the front desk when we walked in but never came into the gym. The parks district provides the equipment and since it's a "parent/child" class, i think the idea is that the parents largely control the experience.

For $20 for 2 months of classes i can't really complain and the loose nature of the class fits Henry pretty well. He loves hitting and is getting pretty good at hitting the ball and not the tee. He also likes scooping up grounders with his glove. He is not so good at trying to catch balls in the outfield. Along with most of the other kids, he gets discombobulated if he goes after the ball and someone else beats him to it.

There's a large playground at the park which we've started hitting on our way out. Henry has gotten much more adventurous at playgrounds in the last month or so-- walking up steep slides, climbing up chain link ladders, jumping on the suspension bridges-- stuff that even at the start of the spring he was hesitant to do.

We managed to get some yard work done today and Henry and A got to play together some more. I'm hoping that she comes over frequently this summer. They play great together and Henry will stay outside and play much longer with a playmate.

I hope to download pictures from the camera soon but thought i would post an update when i had the time.