Sunday, June 28, 2009

Benjamin: A Boy for All Seasons

We all know that Benjamin is a boy of letters and culture--he loves going to the ballet, the theatre, the museum and the library;



he enjoys the arts.



But did you know that Benjamin is also a boy of science? Lately this has become increasingly apparent.

For Ben’s birthday he received various pieces of sporting equipment: golf clubs, a baseball bat (with ball and mitt), and a fishing rod with mechanical fish. We also bought a new kiddie pool for the backyard. What do you think Benjamin uses these items for?

Science experiments.



Even Ben's plastic gardening equipment like rakes and shovels are not used to imitate Daddy's landscaping anymore--Ben wants to attach them to the handles of a wheel barrow and see if he can push it using these tools. He is always thinking, setting things up, and experimenting.



I know some of you have worried about Ben's future--with his pirate obsession, his intense interest in bats, or his plans to attend Santa Claus school (to learn how to be Santa). Now you can rest assured that he has a future in science to fall back on.



He truly is a boy for all seasons :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Bedtime Routine

Sleep always seems to be an issue at homes with young children. It certainly is at our place--whether it be Ben's late nights/early mornings, Janae's antics to try to stay up, my recurring insomnia, or Jason's inability to stay awake, sleep is something we talk about, think about, worry about.

But over the past few months, we have fine-tuned our night-time routine to the point where it runs like clockwork. I'd like to share it in case others can benefit from some of our insights.

 


Each night, Jason and I get Benjamin and Janae to clean up their toys and march upstairs (usually to the tune of "High-ho, high ho, it's up the stairs we go"). Benjamin asks how many stories he can pick, and Jason and I answer in unison . . . except I say 3 and Jason says 1. Ben picks out his three books while Jason brushes Janae's teeth, then I brush Ben's teeth while Janae pulls the rest of the books off of Ben's shelf and then organizes them by size, shape, and color.

Ben and Janae then crawl up into Ben's bed to listen to stories. After the first couple of pages, Janae moves on to some other relaxing activity, like pushing the buttons to hear the music on Benjamin's pirate ship or pulling the cat's tail.

 


Jason then suggests we have family prayer (we have to have at least two prayers due to sibling rivalry)--then he takes Janae into her room. I finish the stories with Ben, then delve into the mysteries of the universe as required by the questions Benjamin chooses to ask: "Why are mean people mean?" "Why do pirates steal gold?" "Why is there fire inside volcanos?"

I then change the subject to something more light-hearted--like funny things Ben said when he was 2. This leads to fits of giggles, and Jason comes in to tell us to be quiet. We then switch--Jason stays with Ben (answering his questions with, "Be quiet." and "Go to sleep."), and I go into Janae's room and sing the songs she requests (she wants to hear each Disney princess's song--and some of them are not easy--you should hear me try to get through "Colors of the Wind"!).

 


After this princess medly, Janae will say, "I want Daddy," so I happily go back to Ben's room and notify Jason that his presence is required. I then lie down with Ben, listen to his CD of Christmas Songs for Bedtime (much more relaxing than my singing!), and drift off to sleep.

I wake up about an hour or two later--probably because it sounds like someone is using a chainsaw in the adjoining room. I go into the bathroom to wash off my make-up, then open Janae's door to wake up my snoring husband--who is sleeping on the floor, using Janae's giant dog as a pillow.

Having no make-up to wash off, Jason simply staggers into bed and continues to sleep until morning.

I, however, am wide awake and take at least two more hours to fall asleep. Just before I do, I usually hear a rustling at Benjamin's door, then our door--before our five-year-old crawls into bed and finds a comfy spot with his arm across my face or his foot against Jason's stomach.

I admit that our routine could still benefit from some minor changes, but I'm 100 percent sure that both children are getting enough sleep (they are both still sleeping now, in fact!).

 


Besides, a pattern this well established will probably last--at least until we add a third child, then I'm not so sure. . . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Goodbye Preschool!

Today was Benjamin's last day of preschool--which we all celebrated with a sports day and a concert.

I told Jason he HAD to attend, because I didn't want to give everyone the spectacle of watching a pregnant lady doing the wheelbarrow race or any of the other relays :) This made for some serious competition, since Ben was matched with another boy whose dad was there. The first race was a wagon pull, which Ben and Jason won, but it was pretty close!

At one point we couldn't find Janae--she'd been playing on the "forbidden playground" (which had always been gated whenever we'd picked up Ben from preschool), then all of a sudden she went missing. We soon found she was trying to get into one of the wagons for the next race! So the dads had a rematch, this time pulling their pre-preschool-aged daughters.

 


Jason and Ben also won the dress-up race--I guess all that practice at home paid off. . . .

 


After the races, we went inside for snacks, then the kids lined up and sang their little hearts out. They ended with a song about how excited they are to go to kindergarten--I was worried about being able to keep it together (since I've broken down and cried every time I've heard Ben sing this song at home), but I did okay. I think it helped that I was videotaping!

 


It was so sweet to see Ben giving all his friends and his teacher hugs at the end--the two girls who "married" him every class seemed especially sad to see Ben go . . . but I have to admit, I'm glad to have him back :)

Everyone got certificates and medals, and then we went our separate ways. I'm going to miss that little school. Hopefully they'll be ready for Janae in a couple of years. . . .

 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Day Out with Thomas? Next Time, We'll Pass!

For a couple of years now Benjamin has wanted to go to an event called A Day Out with Thomas--which is advertised as a day of family fun where children get to meet the Hero of the Rails, Thomas the Tank Engine, as well as the director of the railway, Sir Topham Hatt.

I had been reluctant to give in to this request, mostly because of the cost (tickets for our family would cost almost $100--even little Janae needed a ticket!), and the event was so far away (about a 2-hour drive from here). But this year the Day Out was scheduled for the weekends surrounding Benjamin's birthday, and Ben had seen a brochure at the library, so I thought maybe it would be a good birthday present for the little guy--who is growing up quickly and may not be interested in things like Thomas for too much longer.

The drive up went well--the kids were excited, and the ocean and mountain scenery was more beautiful than I could have imagined. The new highway was really nice to drive on, we had lots of good snacks, and the anticipation of seeing Thomas was building.

 


Unfortunately, the drive was the best part of the trip (unless you count the dinner and visit we had with our friends on the way home afterwards!).

Although the brochure says, "I spent a day out with Thomas . . . and Thomas spent a day out with me," THIS is as close as we got to the blue engine. Yes, we had a "ride" in one of his passenger cars (we actually just backed up and pulled forward through a gravel parking lot two or three times), but we were loaded onto the car at the back, far away from the actual engine. I don't think Janae even realized we were supposed to be on Thomas, especially since the inside of the passenger car looked (and smelled) strangely similar to an old, run-down Greyhound bus!

 


This was Ben's reaction at the end of the ride:

 


He said, "THEY TOLD US A LIE," explaining that we'd been told we were going to join Thomas on an adventure, and I guess pulling back and forth was not my 5-year-old boy's idea of an adventure at all! No tunnels, no bridges, no acceleration, and none of Thomas's friends--what a disappointment.

Janae and I were both about ready to pass out from heat stroke, but we thought we'd wait in one last line to meet Sir Topham Hatt. Although the children tried to wave and talk to him, he was most unresponsive--and Ben let me know on the way home that he wasn't fooled--that was definitely NOT the real Sir Topham Hatt.

 


After meeting the impostor, we went into the big tent, also known as the Imagination Station, where Ben played with trains on a Thomas table (which the tables set up at Toys R Us put to shame). Janae couldn't take anymore of the Day Out with Thomas, so Jason took her for a quick trip to pick up some more overpriced bottled water, then we all walked back to the car--over a hundred dollars poorer.

The saddest part to me was that it all could have been SO much better! I guess we won't be doing that again. . . .

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where's Janae?

With all my talk about Benjamin lately, you might be wondering what Janae has been up to--or whether she is being neglected or forgotten.

Well, Janae actually has a new hobby--and it's one that keeps her very busy and very quiet--sometimes for up to half an hour at a time.

In the past when Janae has been quiet for more than a few minutes she's been either getting into Ben's stuff, taking all Grandma's pins out of the pincushion, wetting her pants, or changing her clothes.

But her new pastime is nothing like that . . . well, actually it does involve changing clothes (just not her own).

 


Some of you might remember a Polly Pocket-style Cinderella doll that I put on Janae's birthday cake a few months ago. Even though the doll was for children ages 3 and up, I thought Janae might like to play with it once in a while (I used to love playing with Barbies, and have watched my nieces play Barbies/Polly Pockets, so I guess I was a bit eager to start this phase!).

Janae was very interested in her new toy right away, but it's only been over the past few weeks that she's learned to dress and undress the doll on her own.

 


Grandma gave Janae another similar doll, this one The Little Mermaid, providing Janae with even more dresses and accessories to work with. She lines up the dresses like Ben used to line up his cars, and then she focuses all of her concentration on getting the dresses on and then off. It is quite something to watch!

 


Ben and Janae will play side by side, Janae with her Princesses and Ben with his Lego or pirate ship. This is really cute . . . until the pirates decide to kidnap the mermaid and take her onto their ship--then I usually have to intervene. It's lots of fun, though--I love the way they are both so focused.

 


I guess we'll have lots of little toys to pick up when baby #3 starts to crawl, but in the mean time, it's a great way to keep Janae out of too much trouble :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Some of Us Are All Pirated Out . . .

Yesterday was the big day--the one we'd been planning for over a month. I'd collected every affordable, non-scary pirate item I could find--it had got to the point where whenever I put Janae in the car she asked, "Are we going to get something for Ben's party?"

We rented our complex's hall (by far the best money spent in all of this!) and decorated with black, red, and white balloons, a pirate ship, a treasure chest, maps, lots of hand-painted signs (with cheerful statements like "Walk the Plank" and "Beware Pirates"), silver and gold--you know, pirate stuff.

We directed the kids to the hall with a balloon trail and an X that marked the spot.

 


Grandma made great little pirate costumes for Ben and Janae--have you ever seen cuter pirates?

 


Jason and I dressed up, too, even sharing a pair of gold earrings :)

 


Then we waited for the guests to arrive. . . .

 

. . . Others Can't Get Enough!

Jason led the kids in all their swashbuckling fun. They walked the plank, played pass the monkey and pin the patch on the pirate, and made pirate flags. The kids wore eye patches and bandanas--at least for a few minutes (I think the eye patches were a little itchy!). The kids got gummy sharks, chocolate coins, and a barrel of monkeys for prizes.

 


We had a pirate cake with a Lego ship and pirates. (I came up with this brilliant idea after trying to make a 3-D pirate ship out of cake a few weeks earlier. This not only saved me from a nervous breakdown, it also doubled as a little gift for Benjamin--he loves Lego!). Notice my tough-looking shark tattoo, by the way :)

 


I had big dreams of getting a group shot of all the little pirates sitting/standing together and looking at the camera. Ha ha ha ha ha. . . . This was as close as I could get.

 


We had 14 little ones all together--and wow, could they ever shout "ARRGH!"

The party ended with a treasure hunt to find a chest filled with goody-bags (also made by Grandma!). It was hilarious to watch the kids looking for the clues and then the chest--Ben's cousin Jillian uncovered the loot, and then they all went to the playground to climb, slide, and chase each other.

I knew it was a pretty good party when I overheard a couple of the kids asking their moms if they could have pirate parties for their birthdays (my apologies to their mothers, by the way!).

 


Ben was very happy with all his treasure. And as for me--well, I hope to never see another pirate again. . . .

We've Got Roses!

Over the past couple of days, ALL of our roses decided to bloom!

We went from this

 


to this

 


to this--in only a few weeks.

 


I can't even count them all!

 


I know they won't last long in the hot weather, but I think they're so beautiful. I've always wanted to grow roses :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Five Years of Benjamin . . . Well, Almost!

Benjamin turned five at 3 a.m. today . . . he was really excited last night that he would already be five when he woke up! I think this is actually the first year that he didn't ring in his birthday by being up at the exact time he was born--he slept all night in his bed, which is still quite a novelty at our house :)

Unfortunately, we didn't get our digital camera until Ben was almost two--and all of the newborn pictures we took turned out a little blurry. Here's one of the better ones.



We don't have any good pictures Ben's first birthday--can you believe it? I really wish we'd bought a camera earlier--what were we thinking?

Ben at age two--already a chocolate-only type (just like Daddy!).



Ben on his third birthday--it was one of the hottest days ever, but Ben still had fun.


Ben turning four--we went to the zoo and then had a Curious George cake.



Ben before preschool this morning--he knows how to hold up five fingers--we've obviously taught him well :) Seriously, though, what a great little guy--I feel so lucky to have him as my son.