Thursday, December 27, 2012

Come and Gone

Well, Christmas has come and gone--which sounds easy enough NOW.   Getting ready for the big day seemed to be business as usual.  We decorated ginger bread,

attended the school concert (Janae's first time as an actual student at the school!),

Jason and I celebrated our 10th anniversary on the 19th--as you can see, the dress still fit (by some miracle it is even zipped up at the back . . . I swear, it is!),

and on Christmas Eve we went out to look at lights.

Yes, for the kids it was business as usual. 

For the mom it was a little different.

Early in the season, my three munchkins made their lists.  Ben wanted a certain Lego set, Janae asked for a particular princess dress, and Alaina wanted paper dolls . . . and snow. 

The kids had complete confidence that their wishes would be granted,

and I got to work on the behind-the-scenes magic (aka shopping).  It was still six weeks before Christmas, and I had complete confidence that these gifts would be easy to buy (well . . . everything except the snow).

My first clue that something was wrong came as I went to get the Lego Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle, which had been advertised at a slightly reduced price at our local Walmart.  The set had sold out, so I went to the customer service desk and asked for a rain cheque. 

This was something I'd never done before, and as I asked how the store would contact me when the set came in, the person helping me said, "Oh, we don't usually call--we have so many of these--you just have to keep checking the shelves."  Since Alaina and I visit Walmart from time to time, I thought this would not be a problem.

As the weeks passed, though, and the Lego shelf got more and more empty, rather than full, I thought, "Maybe I'll just order it from ToysRUs."  By this time, though, not only ToysRUs but also the Lego store had sold out of the enormous set of snakes and ninjas.  The estimated date that the set would again be available?  December 28.  (Seriously, who was buying this stuff?!)

Now, anyone who knows our Ben knows that he had been GOOD all year and that if anyone deserved the #1 item on his list it was HIM (and add to this the fact that all of his favorite Lego minifigures had been STOLEN from his backpack at school during this time), but I had no choice but to order his #2 request (a big Star Wars Lego set) and his #3 (a Skylanders game).

Then we come to Janae.  Janae had dressed up as her favorite Disney character, Merida, for Halloween and had the princess's light blue dress.  For Christmas, though, her heart's desire was Merida's OTHER dress--the dark green one from the Disney Store.  Five weeks before Christmas we made our trek out to the only Disney Store within driving distance, and after deliberating back and forth for half an hour or so, I decided to buy the dress. 

But when I went to pick out Janae's size from the display, I found they only had size 2/3.  We needed a 5/6.  When I asked when they would get in more stock, the "cast member" told me she didn't know.  But she handed me a flyer for Disney's Black Friday event and in a confidential whisper, she told me to wait until then because the dress would be on sale. 

I clutched onto my flyer that night as I checked the price of the dress online.  It was the same as at the store, but to ship it to Canada would add $40 to the already high price.  I decided to wait until the Black Friday sale.  This was my second fatal decision of the season.

Two days later, on the Monday before Black Friday, I checked Disney's website again only to find the dress was sold out in Janae's size. 

Anyone ever been to Disneyland? Or a Disney Store for that matter? They have HUNDREDS of dresses--I didn't think it was possible that they could ever sell out.  My plan was to keep checking back--I still had almost five weeks, after all.

But during the two more days it took to decide whether I should just order a size 4 or size 7/8, the dress sold out in both of those sizes as well. 

I made daily calls to our local Disney Store, only to find that they did not get any more Merida dresses in.

At just over three weeks before Christmas I decided to order a knock-off Merida dress from another source.  It wouldn't ship to Canada, so I had it sent to my sister in the US.

When it finally arrived, Anita sent it off, but only a few days before Christmas it still hadn't been delivered.  We were running out of time.

I'd bought a bunch of other Merida and non-Merida stuff for Janae, but it was little comfort as my 5-year-old daughter talked about the dress as if she already owned it. 

There were going to be some disappointments Christmas morning--that much was clear.

Then the unimaginable happened.  Less than a week before Christmas, Walmart CALLED to tell me Ben's Lego set had come in--they wondered if I was still interested. . . .

And two days before Christmas Eve, Anita's package arrived.

Notice the Ninjago set on the floor behind him!  It WAS the first one he started building :)

Now, we all know that Christmas doesn't come from a store, and that perhaps it means a little bit more--which brings us to Alaina.  She woke up Christmas morning and before she could even stand up she said, "Santa has already come!!"  She woke up Ben and Janae, ran into the living room, and opened her presents.  Still, we knew what she was thinking--where was the snow?

Before they'd finished opening their presents, though, it had started to snow--lightly at first, but then it picked up a bit and became a full-out snowfall.  We walked IN THE SNOW--Janae in her Merida dress (and hair, as you can see), and Ben leaving behind a half-built dragon--to grandma and grandpa's house for Christmas dinner with our kids' cousins, aunts and uncles.

It's so nice when everything works out, isn't it? 

We hope all of you had the Christmas you were dreaming of, too!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ben's Egg Dropped . . . But Did It Break?

This morning when I took Ben and Janae to school, we noticed that the kids from Ben's class were carrying their egg structures.  About a month ago they'd been assigned this project--one that is well-known to the grade 3s at our school--to make a structure that would keep an egg from cracking when dropped from the (very high) school roof.

Ben came home and worked on his right away.  He had it almost finished, then kind of put it aside and didn't think much about it.

Thinking the project was due tomorrow (Tuesday), I asked Ben yesterday (Sunday) if he wanted to test his structure.  We dropped it from a chair in the kitchen, and the egg broke.  Ben padded the egg a little more (a new egg, of course!) and added a few more balloons to the bottom.  Then he dropped it again, and the egg survived.

When we realized the eggs would be dropped today, I raced home to grab Ben's creation.  An egg from home had to be inside, so I wrapped one in some Kleenexes, put it in, and used an elastic band to close the lid (Ben and I hadn't discussed how we would secure the structure so the egg wouldn't simply fall out on the way down).

On the way up the steps to the school, I realized I could still see the egg through the top of the clear plastic container--it wasn't very well padded at all.  But I had tied the elastic band around the lid and knew if I tampered with it I would have no way to close the structure securely.

So, I dropped it off at the office and hoped for the best. 

Anybody else ever prayed for an egg?

We were at the school for lunch, then stayed for the drop.  The principal stood on top of the school and let each structure fall.

Before the drop:

During the drop:

After the drop:

Yes, that is an UNBROKEN EGG, a HAPPY Ben, and a very GRATEFUL mother (behind the camera)!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our Happy (But Soggy) Halloween

Halloween and kids go well together. 

(especially Halloween and MY kids!)

Halloween and pouring rain are not such a good match.

(We had to bring our pumpkins up onto the porch because they were filling up with water on the steps!)

But, of course, the rain couldn't stop all our fun.

Our annual ghost-topped pie was still a hit . . .

as was trick or treating at Grandma and Grandpa's--and the few minutes out of the soggy weather even made a few group pictures possible.  As you might be able to see behind the jackets, we had two Meridas, a frog, Iron Man, a bottle of ketchup, a Jedi, a werewolf, and a 50s girl :)

 Janae and Alaina were the first to call it a night, followed by a few of their well-drenched cousins.  

Ben was once again crowned "King of Halloween"--he kept trick-or-treating a full hour and a half after everybody else and got a mountain of candy to show for it.

I think they all got more than enough sugar, though (as can be ascertained by Janae's photo shoot of herself that I found on the camera--I'm not sure how well the chocolate on her cheeks shows up in the picture . . .).

It was the soggiest Halloween we've had in a long time, but it really was a happy one!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Janae's Big Brother

My sisters and I grew up happily with no boys in our family (besides our dad) . . . although I'm sure each of us wondered at times what it would have been like to have a brother.  An older brother to watch out for us, or a cute little brother to dress up--either one would have been interesting, and might have helped us learn a bit more about boys and all that they entail.

Anyway, when Ben was born, and then Janae, I wasn't sure what to expect from their relationship.

We all know that sisters have close bonds . . .

but a brother and a sister?  I really didn't have much to go on.

Ben, of course, has turned out to be a wonderful big brother.

He puts up with a lot,

but he is always willing to play with his little sisters, teach them what he knows, and comfort them when they are sad or scared.


In fact, I would go as far as saying that Ben is the PERFECT big brother.

On Friday something happened to confirm this point of view.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, part of our new routine--the part that gets Janae into kindergarten most mornings--is visiting the school grounds at lunch time.  In the morning as Janae walks through her classroom door she asks, "Are you coming at lunch," and I say, "Yes, I will be here." 

As we were completing this ritual Friday morning, Janae's teacher--who I think feels a little sorry for me because of how many times I drive back and forth to the school every day--said, "We are having an assembly right after lunch, and you are more than welcome to attend.  It will be a fun one!"

I said Alaina and I would love to come, and planned on arriving at the very end of lunch and then just going into the assembly. 

As it turned out, I waited too long and got to the school after the end-of-lunch bell had already gone.  I saw Janae's class lining up outside the kindergarten door, then realized Ben was there, too, with his arms around Janae.  Janae was crying because lunch was over and I hadn't shown up.  Ben had noticed this and gone over to Janae's line, even though his class was also already lined up.

Ben hates being late, and it might have been a little hard to go over to his sister when his whole class was watching, but he was there anyway, comforting Janae.

It brought tears to my eyes to see the love Ben had for his little sister.

In all my imagining about what a big brother would have been like I don't think I ever could have come up with a brother as loving and kind as Benjamin. 

And I'm pretty lucky he is Janae's big brother, otherwise my tardiness at lunch on Friday would have made me feel even worse :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not Afraid of School

Does this look like a girl who's afraid to go to school?

Since the second day of kindergarten, Janae has had a difficult time with school.  When she is at home in the evening, she sings the songs she has learned, talks excitedly about her activities in the classroom, and shows us work she has completed.  She has nothing but good to say about her day at school and has even come home saying she's had "the BEST DAY EVER." 

The mornings have been different.  We get out Janae's school clothes, and she starts to cry, argue, and refuse to go.  One painful step at a time, we get her ready and drive her to school--while she tells us how much she hates school, her teacher, and all the kids.  Janae then clings to me (or Jason--we tried that!), cries, and finally either gets peeled off by her teacher or walks into the classroom with the saddest, most heart-breaking look on her scared little face.  Her teacher has--kindly--been calling me during the lunch hour to let me know that Janae has recovered quickly and been participating happily in class.

A few days ago, though, I agreed to meet Janae at the school at lunch.  Janae had asked before, but I'd been reluctant to try this (and Janae's teacher had discouraged it), thinking it would mean two tearful goodbyes in a day instead of one.  I had been told daily that Janae did well as soon as I had left, and I didn't want Janae to have a set-back halfway through the day.  But then I thought maybe the day was just too long for Janae (we are not fans of all-day kindergarten!) and that a visit during lunch might help.

It did.  When I told Janae I would come at noon, she went into her class quite happily.  When I saw her on the playground, she was laughing and playing with friends.  When the bell rang, Janae ran to line up with her class.  She asked for one more hug (which I was happy to give!), then waved goodbye and went inside with the group.

This worked well for two days, and other moms were complimenting us on what was obvious progress.

Then last night we went up to the school for a meet-the-teacher barbecue . . . and I wondered what had happened to that little girl who was afraid of school.

In addition to the scene pictured above (Janae has always been pretty fearless on all the playground equipment), we witnessed our daughter making up new games outside with girls and boys from both kindergarten classes, running into her classroom to show us everything there, and even sitting in her teacher's chair and announcing, "I'm Mrs. P!!"

I started to wonder if it was possible for a girl to be a little too comfortable at school.

This morning Janae went to school without any problem at all, even knowing that we wouldn't be joining her for lunch (they are having a special event at the school later in the day that we are planning to attend).

We have often thought our middle child had somewhat of a dual nature--but this "night and day" experience has been dramatic even for her . . . and a little bit much for me to keep up with emotionally.

But hopefully this will be the beginning of better mornings for all of us and happier times for Janae when it comes to school.

Now we just have to find a way to get Alaina not to be afraid of climbing down this tree outside the kindergarten door . . . with all the time we have spent at the school lately she is certainly not afraid of climbing up it--but I have to admit that I am still a little scared when I climb up to get her down :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Gremlins Here?

 A few weeks ago Alaina got a new pair of running shoes.

They were perfect for running around at the school, at the park, at the zoo . . . everywhere a girl needs to go.  Unfortunately, though, they went missing.

I looked all through the house, under couches and beds, through the closets, and behind anything I could think of.  My girls have a history of hiding special toys and stuffies in small places (and then forgetting where they are), but shoes are more difficult to hide, so I ran out of places to look pretty quickly.

To make the situation even more odd, we also couldn't find Alaina's sparkly dress shoes.

I went through the van--the trunk, under the seats, etc., then searched the backyard. 

The frustration of not being able to find something turned into a fear that I was losing my mind . . . and then a lost-mind kind of fear that maybe someone had been in our house . . . maybe one of those little gremlins that we'd read about in stories who like to play tricks on humans. . . .

It was in this state of mind that I declared to my three children: "Anyone who finds Alaina's shoes will get a PRIZE!"

The kids had seen me looking for the shoes over the past three days, and I'd asked them to help  many times.  I assumed if they'd had any information about the shoes' whereabouts they'd have come forward earlier.

Janae, however, perked up immediately when I said "prize."

"Could I have the Merida doll if I find them?" she asked.

Janae has been having a hard time staying at kindergarten, and her teacher had suggested a sticker chart leading up to inexpensive prizes Janae had chosen herself.

When I'd taken Janae to pick out some inexpensive prizes, the only thing she'd wanted was a somewhat expensive Barbie version of her current favorite princess.

In the end, I'd decided to just buy the doll and set up the chart. 

Anyway, desperate enough to throw the sticker chart to the wind, I said, "Yes . . . if you can find the shoes, you can have the doll."

Janae: "The shoes are in Alaina's Penny the Pig box."

Me: "What?  How come you didn't tell me earlier?"

Janae: "Can I have the Merida doll?"

Of course.

Later, after we'd confirmed that both pairs of shoes were--in fact--in Alaina's box, Janae claimed she hadn't known what shoes we were looking for until that point.

Still, the entire episode has left me a little unsettled. . . .

Saturday, September 15, 2012

If You Want to See Me Really Mad, Try Buying Me an iPhone. . . .

Jason found this out earlier in the week.

I'd mentioned that--despite my well-known hatred of mobile devices--I was thinking maybe I should get a cell phone (something I have never owned!) so the school could get ahold of me if Janae was having trouble at kindergarten.  She'd been having a rough week, and I was a little nervous about being away from a phone for too long.

Anyway, I told Jason that it was just a thought and warned him NOT TO DO ANYTHING until we'd discussed the idea further.

The next thing I knew, there was a little white box on the kitchen counter that said iphone 4 S.

Apparently this had been in the works for quite some time.

My first reaction was rage.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't like spending money on anything but kids clothes/shoes/books (I felt guilty about buying myself a new toothbrush last week!), and I despise technology-obsession.

Was such an extravagance really necessary?  And could I be the one person on earth who would NOT become obsessed with his or her phone? 

I didn't know, and was kind of afraid to find out. 

I handled the iphone as I would the compost that was about to be taken out.  I didn't really want to hold it or to admit that it was mine.  I even wrapped it in Alaina's emergency change of clothing when I put it in my purse the next morning--deciding I should take it with me while we were away from home for ballet class, but still in denial that I was carrying such a thing.

Then at the ballet studio I noticed something interesting.  EVERY one of the other moms had her phone out and was taking pictures of her adorable little girl on the first day of class.

I looked into my purse, knowing that the phone was in there somewhere.

I rooted around for it, pulled it out, and joined the rest of the people in the decade.

And realized if I hadn't had a mobile device, I wouldn't have had this:

It's a little blurry, so apparently I need practice . . . which means I probably will become obsessed with the phone just like everybody else. 

But it's enough to make me wonder if maybe having an iphone at my disposal won't be ALL bad. . . .  :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back-to-School Transformation

Well, we have survived the first week of school!  It was a challenge to get these two ready:

(picture taken the day before school started),

But they ended up looking pretty studious by the time we headed out on the first day.  It's amazing what a school uniform can do :)

The biggest change has been for Janae, who has just started kindergarten.  Not only has this meant trading in her free-spirited style for a white polo shirt and navy skort/dress,

but it's also meant getting used to a desk and routine, being around lots of other kids, having snacks and lunches at school, and learning from a teacher instead of mommy.

This hasn't been easy, but fortunately we are gradually working up to the full-day schedule--and Janae is getting used to it little by little. 

On Friday Janae had picked a pink rose during the morning, and she decided to put it into a jar with water, decorate the jar with paper she had cut, and give the flower to her teacher as a gift.  I think this helped Janae get past her separation anxiety, since she was so excited to give the present! 

And I think being the creative, intelligent, and spunky girl that she is, Janae will soon be very comfortable in kindergarten.

Not to mention that if her big brother could do it, I'm sure she can, too. . . .

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nothing "2" About This Girl!

Our little Alaina turned three today . . . only she thought it was yesterday!

We celebrated a day early, since Jason wouldn't be home tonight.  This was actually not as easy as it sounds, because even though Alaina was only turning three, she'd known for quite some time that her birthday was September 6 . . . but we managed to get away with it :)

She started off yesterday morning with a very special gift: a "twin" for her favorite Cinderella baby that she'd been wanting every time we'd been to the store. 

(You might notice the huge bruise/goose egg on Laina's head in the pictures--she fell down a steep hill at Ben and Janae's school the day before and hit her head on a metal bike rack. . . .)

Alaina had a few other special requests for her birthday--she wanted to go to a nearby apple/pumpkin farm that has a petting zoo, hayride, and play area with slides, swings, a bouncy pillow, etc.

Our almost-three-year-old's favorite thing there was the bunny pen, where she could NOT stop breaking the rule about picking up bunnies :) 

Alaina also enjoyed leading us through a corn maze . . . with a little help from Daddy towards the end.

Another one of Alaina's birthday wishes was to have a "Dorothy cake" (meaning Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz).  This part of the celebration was also not as easy as it sounds. 

Although Alaina had been asking for a "Dorothy birthday" since last October (when one of her favorite cousins dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween and Alaina became obsessed with the character), I'd kept thinking she would probably change her mind before the party.  So when I'd seen Wizard of Oz stuff, I'd thought, "That would be fun for Alaina's party," then stopped myself from buying it.

Of course a few weeks ago when I realized that we actually would--in fact--be having a Dorothy party, I started looking and couldn't find anything with that theme.

I was lucky to come across some "good witch/bad witch" napkins at Hallmark, but what Alaina really wanted was DOROTHY.

So . . . after a few phone calls, a trip across the border, and a swipe of the Mastercard, we ended up with this strange-looking (but recognizably Dorothy) knick-knack that worked okay as a cake topper (well, it kind of sank down into the cake, but luckily it didn't have to stay on there too long!).

Alaina decided at the last minute that she wanted M&Ms on the cake, too, sprinkled on by none other than herself, the birthday girl!

I think everyone else liked it, too :)

Alaina got some more fun gifts that evening.  Grandma had found a little "Tin Man" doll and made a Dorothy dress for a little girl doll (so adorable!).

And Alaina's last wish came true with a mama "Penny the Pig" from Auntie Tina.

When Alaina went to sleep that night, I had to say I thought she still looked like my little two-year-old baby, but then again she still was!

I think she was dreaming about the bunnies :)

Today, though, she is ALL THREE!!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

How Jason Became Known As "Mr. McGregor"

Tonight Ben and Janae were being a little too crazy with Ben's hamster, so Jason put the hamster back in its cage and told the kids he was going to put Fluffy "up high."

Janae went to her room and started crying as only a hysterical 5-year-old girl can. 

When Ben went in to talk to Janae, she told him, "I am not going to eat one bite of that pie!"


It turns out that Janae thought Jason said he was going to put Fluffy "in a pie."

I don't think I would have eaten a bite of it either!

But the rest of the night I couldn't help calling my husband "Mr. McGregor"--even though technically it was Mrs. McGregor who put Peter Rabbit's father into a pie :)

Fluffy watched the whole thing from "up high" on the TV stand.  I wonder what he thought. . . .