Sunday, December 19, 2010

Elves 2010

I'll cut right to the chase -- the elves are here. They arrived exactly a week ago, but somehow it seems much longer than that. While we tried to explain to the kids that Bix, Libby and Colline (f/k/a "Colleen;" Jacob changed the spelling this year) have indispensable jobs at the North Pole and simply cannot be wasting valuable time in these crucial pre-Christmas weeks rolling some random suburban living room with toilet paper, Santa must have heard their pitiful pleas, because he sent the elves almost two full weeks before Christmas. And they did not waste any time wreaking their usual havoc.

They made snow angels in my best King Arthur Flour one night:

You'd think if they were going to nosedive into my flour assortment they'd at least have the courtesy to do it in the Gold Medal.

They made up for it another night though, when they somehow figured out how to play the wii. I love it when the video games keep the little people out of trouble. I think they took turns working the wii remote:

And made miis of themselves. I think the kids will enjoy watching the elves bounce into a wii baseball game or two throughout the year, even if they can't be here with us in the non-virtual world.

They also toasted mini marshmallows and made s'mores one night. I'm going to be honest here. I'm not entirely comfortable with the whole elf/fire mix. Obviously nothing ignited and everything turned out fine, but I'm seeing a kind of increased chutzpah with these elves that worries me a bit.

Bix scorched the bejeezus out of his marshmallow:

If they want to get into food, I much prefer when they stick with a flame-free approach, like the night they went fishing for goldfish:

Another night they went ziplining in our living room - oh yes, they totally did. I couldn't get a shot of the full scene with my 35mm lens (and while I'm all kinds of crazy, obviously, I'm not crazy enough to ask for a wide angle so I could capture full-room shots of elf antics), but you can get the general idea:

One of the best parts of the holiday season every year is receiving Christmas cards from our family and friends and enjoying the beautiful photos of their children on these cards. Bix, Libby and Colleen apparently wanted to get in on the photo card action -- we were SHOCKED to wake up and see Bix attaching an elf Christmas card to our display:

I have no idea when they managed to sneak outside and take these natural light portraits:

The back of the card included the sweetest individual shots -- a little limb chop on the girls, but I think that can be forgiven given that these were taken by 8" tall stuffed elves, don't you? I feel like their personalities totally shine through in these:

I have no idea what these elves are going to do next (no really, I have NO IDEA what these elves are going to do next!) -- there is clearly no limit on the kinds of trouble they can manage to find. The kids love them, though, and somehow they've become part of Christmas around here, so David and I will continue to clean up the flour, take down the zipline, and extricate them from the twist ties until Christmas mercifully gets here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Facing down Santa

We've taken the kids to visit Santa every year since Jacob was 5 months old. The pictures taken at these visits are among my most treasured possessions. In all but a couple of our nine Santa pictures, at least one child is deeply unhappy about the situation. I love the screaming Santa pictures the most (I swear I'm not a sadist. In most of these years, the kid who had been screaming seconds earlier was waving "bye bye Santa" as soon as s/he left the chair and collected the candy cane, so I don't think any permanent damage was done). I just feel like these pictures capture my kids at very specific moments in time as they grow up, and I love them.

But this year was different. Caroline began verbalizing her dread of Santa Claus in September. Any mention of Santa brought tears. Santa ranked right up there with the Chick-Fil-A Cow on her personal stress-o-meter. Jacob and Elizabeth tried to tell her how awesome Santa is and how he brings toys at Christmas, and her response was pretty much "No! I don't want any toys!" That is serious Santaphobia right there. The older kids turned on her at that point in fear that she was going to ruin it for everybody. It got kind of ugly.

In the middle of all this, I began to worry about the annual Santa picture. It's one thing to ambush a one year old with a quick sit-on-Santa-and-snap-a-picture; sure, they may not like it, but they didn't see it coming, it's over really fast, and they recover before they even leave the Santascape. Kind of like getting a shot. It's quite another to force a visit on a three year old who has been telling you for months that she is afraid of Santa. I knew that I couldn't do that to Caroline. If she refused to go near him, I wouldn't force her. But I (and my two other little elves) were going to pull out ALL the stops to convince her that Santa is great!

So as I pondered various technological solutions to the problem (photoshopping Caroline into a picture of Jacob and Elizabeth with Santa?) the big kids and I went to work. First, I mapped out various Santa-seeing opportunities. I figured the more Santas we hit, the better our chances of catching Caroline in a Santa-seeing mood. Of course the mall Santas were always a possibility. I also thought about trying Breakfast with Santa at the zoo -- maybe Caroline would be more open to a visit if waffles were involved? Meanwhile, Jacob and Elizabeth tried to talk to her about the mechanics of a potential visit: ("You don't have to sit ON his lap, okay, Caroline? You can just stand sort of near him. You'll stand near him, right? Santa is NICE!!")

Santa -- Take 1. We went to a Santa brunch with David's brother's family. The brunch was in a huge ballroom, and Santa was on a stage on the exact opposite end of where we were sitting; i.e., we could not have been any farther away from Santa. Yet Caroline was still completely freaked out. We had to sit her so that her back was to him. She calmed down and ended up enjoying her lunch, but every once in a while she'd remember that he was in the room and tense up while her little eyes darted around the room trying to spot Santa and reassure herself that he was still far away. Of course, we didn't even attempt to talk her into a visit that day, and I left feeling very pessimistic about . . .

Santa -- Take 2. I signed the kids up for Painting with Santa at a local paint-your-own-pottery place. We've painted there for years, but we've never tried the annual Painting with Santa event before. I decided to sign the kids up when I realized that we were going to have problems getting the Santa picture this year. I thought that if Caroline could see Santa from a safe distance while she was doing something she loves (painting), maybe she'd warm up to the idea of getting near him. She cried the whole car ride to the pottery place. I assured her that she would not have to see Santa if she didn't want to, that she could just paint if that's all she wanted to do -- but the big kids wanted to see Santa, so they should get to see him, and I would hold onto her the whole time if that is what she wanted.

We got in there and she spotted Santa Claus, and she clung onto me for dear life. But she actually calmed down a little as we approached him. There was no way she would let go of me and walk up to him herself, but she stopped crying and seemed more curious than anything. At that point I asked if we could walk to stand near him while Jacob and Elizabeth visited with him, and she agreed. And then we got the annual Santa picture:

Sure, I would have rather had just the kids in the picture like we have for the past eight years, but believe me, this is way more than I expected to get this year, so I'll take it.

Strangely enough, as soon as the picture was taken (but before we left the Santa room), Caroline got down and actually seemed to be warming up to Santa a bit. He talked to her a bit, and she answered his questions and waved goodbye to him.

It's a little sad to think that this might be the last year of such extreme Santa drama for us. Caroline will be 4 next year, and in all likelihood, much more enthusiastic about visiting with Santa. She certainly concluded her "Santa terror" years with a bang, though. Thanks for letting mommy get her picture, honey.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's good to be three

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I bribed her with candy.

Well, actually it was Fruit by the Foot (which I believe is technically worse than candy).

Thanks, Fruit by the Foot.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pictures of 2/3ds of my kids

Something weird happened today - I took about 50 pictures of the kids playing out in the backyard, and at least 35 of them were in focus (defined as: if I zoom in well past 100%, I can count their eyelashes). You'd think that after a year with this camera, two real life classes, and numerous online seminars and workshops, getting pictures in focus wouldn't be so difficult, but sadly you'd be wrong. I am so used to taking pictures that look okay on my tiny in-camera monitor, but are soft at any larger size, that getting such a high proportion of in-focus pictures was quite a shock. I hope it wasn't just a fluke. I have to give a shout out to my models, who were willing to sit generally still and pose for me for 45 seconds. Caroline (a.k.a. "Mini Sean Penn") was not similarly inclined and spent the time digging dead mint out of a container. I'll bribe her with candy work on her later.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Mikey shenanigans

We took a ride to the pumpkin patch with Mikey this morning (please excuse the text on some of these pictures - that's for the school project). Elizabeth was careful to buckle Mikey in:

We got to the pumpkin patch and went right for the requisite "kids in front of fallscape" photos:

We took Mikey on the hayride to the pumpkin patch.

There have traditionally been scary things along the side of the trail on this particular hayride: skeletons, tombstones, etc.; in addition to the occasional random character (like Betty Boop), which makes the ride a little more fun -- but this year, we noticed that the ghouls, goblins, and cartoon bimbos have taken sponsors (i.e., it's no longer just a scarecrow, but the RealtySouth scarecrow). It's not quite as disillusioning as when the Cotton Bowl became the AT&T Cotton Bowl, but it's close.

The kids and Mikey hunted for the perfect pumpkin. Here's Mikey with his:

After that we had fun in the hay maze, and we took turns jumping off a huge pile of hay. It was a blast.





I took a lot of pictures of the kids today, but it's after 11 p.m. and here I am blogging about a stuffed monkey, so I'm going to call it a night and hopefully get to these other pictures sometime before Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mikey's big friday night

Mikey started out the weekend the same way we start out most weekends -- watching Jacob's soccer game:

The girls don't have a great attention span, so I usually end up having to take them to the playground at some point during the game, and tonight was no exception. Mikey is a natural on the monkey bars:

Another place where we spend a lot of time at soccer games is in the ladies' room, because the girls cannot seem to synchronize their bathroom needs, and each girl is adamant that she does not have to go when the other is going.

A typical exchange:

Caroline: I ha' go potty.
Mom: Okay, let's go. We need to walk there, you've got to hold it in until we get there. Okay? You can do it, you're a big girl! Come on Elizabeth, we need to go to the potty.
Elizabeth: I don't HAVE to go potty!
Mom: You need to come with us. Daddy is coaching and I can't leave you alone. You should try.
Elizabeth: I don't need to.
(in stall with Caroline and Elizabeth (and Mikey)
Mom: Okay Caroline, good girl. Now pull up your pants. All the way. There you go. Hang on one second and we'll wash hands. Elizabeth? Please try.
Elizabeth: No!
Caroline: The potty is too LOUD!!
Mom: Cover your ears. It won't be too loud. Cover those ears. See? That wasn't too loud!
Mom: Okay, let's go wash hands. Elizabeth, you too. Okay ready, let's make bubbles. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles! No, that's not the hot water. It's cold, see? That was just one hand - rub BOTH hands together. Rub rub rub. Good! (reaching for paper towel)
Mom (lifting Elizabeth): Okay, just put your hands under the red light and it will come out itself. Okay, just once - let's not waste the paper. (getting paper for Caroline)
Caroline: I wan do it MYSELF!!!
Mom: (lifting Caroline)
Caroline: Noooooooo I do it MYSELF!
Mom: Caroline, you can do it yourself! I'm just lifting you so you could reach.
Mom: Okay, throw the paper towels away. Please don't touch the garbage can. Yucky.

[Eight minute walk back to field. Mom sits in chair. Elizabeth and Caroline run up and down hill three times, and then . . .]

Elizabeth: Mom? I need to go to the potty.

After the game we took Mikey to Jacob's end of the season party.

Then we came home and had a little birthday party. It was extra fun with Mikey around!

It was nearly 10 when the kids and Mikey finally crashed. And we are going to do it all over again tomorrow - is November yet?

Mikey is in the house!

Elizabeth's kindergarten class has a mascot, Mikey the Monkey. Each child gets a chance to be Monkey of the Week, and it's Elizabeth's turn next week, so Mikey gets to visit us this weekend. Her job is to keep a journal of his adventures to share with her class on Monday. She has a BIG weekend planned for Mikey, and we will chronicle it here all weekend long.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Notes to Dad

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, David is a very involved and present dad. But even though David spends a lot of time with the kids, they seem to need to tell him things when he's not here rather frequently, and when that happens (and I don't think it's something that merits disturbing him at work), they write him notes.

This one is from Elizabeth. She wrote some of it, and when she got tired, I took dictation for her:

The problem with a note is is that it doesn't really convey the level of whine with which it was written. Still, a note like this gives David a good general idea of how things were going while he was gone.

But notes aren't only used in this house to share the ways in which we've been wronged. No, we also write notes to David when we need help with our projects/hobbies. This one from Jacob is a nice example:

{Dad, I want to make a list of Olympians. What should I add for each na - god? - Roman name, name - Photo - God of - Children -,other?- symbol - spouse - tempale (sic)-}.

When David comes up the stairs, the kids will sometimes forget to say hello, and will simultaneously launch into the subject matter of their notes (and anything else that may have happened in the time since the notes were written) before he has the chance to take off his jacket. I always laugh when I read the Good Wife's Guide about minimizing noise and encouraging the children to be quiet when dad gets home so that dad could unwind in a peaceful haven. I'm not sure how the 50s housewife pulled that off without medication all around. Oh well, we are nothing if not exuberant, and I think David appreciates that even more than peace. Right? Right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We saw Rock City.

The big kids had fall break last weekend, and we decided to take a road trip to Chattanooga. It's an easy drive, and a really fun city for kids. Family vacations are what I remember most about my childhood, and I am so excited that we can finally take trips like this with our kids! We were really happy to learn that Caroline is a natural road tripper:

Rock City is a major tourist trap here in the Southeast, and sort of a punchline, when you get right down to it, but it was really kind of neat, and fun for the kids. How can a destination that combines cleverly named rock formations (e.g., "Fat Man Squeeze") with colorful dioramas of nursery rhymes be wrong?

It was Rocktoberfest, which gave the whole experience that little extra something:

I was not afraid of heights until I watched my kids running around the edges of cliffs, skipping across swinging bridges, etc.

Mushroom rock:


Caroline spent a lot of time anticipating loud noises that generally did not materialize:

After Rock City we headed to the Tennessee Aquarium, which was really cool and the perfect size for young kids. You could really see the whole thing in a couple of hours, which suited our attention span just perfectly. There is a great butterfly garden there, even though butterflies are not technically marine animals:

We were all big fans of the penguins:


After we left the aquarium, we decided to take a horse and carriage ride around the city like the self-respecting tourists that we were.

This carriage came with both a horse, Eli, and dalmatian, Jasper.


After our carriage ride, we followed in the footsteps of many tourists before us as we wandered from restaurant to restaurant in search of one that did not have a 45 minute wait for a table, and after 45 minutes of wandering, settled in line for a 45 minute wait at TGIFridays. Our kids generally held it together, which was a miracle, given the long (but fun!) day we'd had.

The next day we road the Incline Railway:

And the Duck Boats:

Drove the Duck Boats:

Dashed over to Ruby Falls:

And then hustled home for a fun 10/10/10 birthday party.

It was a great weekend - we had the best time watching the kids having fun. We're ready for the next road trip!