Monday, November 26, 2012

Playing Smart

Dear Ian,

I am a toy snob.  I don't know of any other way to say it, so there it is.  I discriminate amongst toys. And I am sorta particular about the toys with which you play.  I'm going to hold my snobbish head up, nose in the air, though and proclaim that my toy-snootery is justified.  After all, you are a child, and a child's work is play.  It only makes sense to me that the tools that you work with enhance you and your learning rather than just be there.  That being said, I work hard to make sure you show appreciation for any gift you receive, therefore keeping my hoity-toity-ness on the Down Low.  But bear in mind that Daddy and I have already conferred with Santa, and we think he's on board with our idea. 

I like to look at toys and hold them against a by-gone era's standards of usability.  Namely this:  If it was around in the 1950's or looks like it could have been from the 1950's, it's probably okay.  I mean, look at this:
I'm actually sort of afraid of this thing.
Holy macaroni.  What in the world is this thing?  According to Google, it's one of the top toys of 2012.  And what in the world DOESN'T it do?  It plays music.  It plays games.  It speaks in multiple languages.  It walks, it talks...  But what does it DO?  What is it's purpose?  To your snobby Mommy, this thing does everything for you.  It does nothing TO you.  It is the perfect toy for passivity, which as the mom of a boy with seemingly limitless energy, goes against my religion.  Sure, you might learn another language.  Sure, you would probably enjoy watching it toddle up and down the floor.  But once it has demonstrated all those things, what's left?  Just a shiny, plastic robot guy who will most likely shout out random things as his batteries die.  Toy Tourrettes. 

So, we compare today's top toy with the top toys of the 1950's.  According to the magic of the internet, the top ten toys from the 1950's were Barbies, Play-doh, Frisbees, Tonka Trucks, Matchbox Cars, Yahtzee, Skateboards, Hula Hoops, Mr. Potato Head and Pez.  Shock!  Gasp!  All those toys are still around today!  They have stood the test of time!  And they are all toys that you have to use to get use out of them.  You actually have to sort of engage your brain or body to enjoy them.  And there are other toys like Legos, that came around later, but have the same sort of "feel" to them that I just love.  Not all today's toys are terrible.  Just a shocking number.  Especially with all the early childhood education experts and such out there.  Those first five years of life are so invaluable.  Then what's with the crappy toys?

They are smart, though, those toy makers.  They know that shiny sells.  Cool is King.  Anything that makes 770 noises in different languages HAS to be awesome!  But I think kids are smarter.  They know what's up.  I have heard more than one parent lament that, after all the batteries, miniscule parts and adult assembly required, their precious pearls dove headfirst into playing with the box their new fabulousness came in rather than play with the toy itself.

I am sure that you will receive in your lifetime toys that make your Daddy and I cringe.  You already have a few.  And we never keep them from you.  Those toys are in your room, on a shelf, asking you to play with them.  But you rarely do.  I think they put you into sensory overload as much as they put me into it.  Which is good.  Proof that you are actually my kid, I guess.  Now, please keep in mind that every parent and every child is different.  I am by no means advocating that every parent out there needs to be a toy b*tch like me.  This is just how I see it, and honestly how I prefer my home.  There's this level of noise that I can tolerate, and for reasons unknown, toy manufacturers theses days just HAVE to push that limit. 

So, yes.  Call me a snob.  Call me a fuddy-duddy.  But my rant is now finished, and I need to go clean up the cardboard box spaceship and building blocks that you left in the living room after playing with them rather than your noisy toys.  Ahem.  I rest my case...

The Toy Snob
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Infestation! Week One

Dear Ian,

Our home has been overtaken!  Thanksgiving has come and gone, so that means that Santa will soon be on his way.  Seeing Christmas magic through your eyes makes this season even more special for your Daddy and me, and I love coming up with new things and ideas to make that magic as real as I can for you.  Enter our new roommate.

At first, I was a little hesitant to let an elf into our home.  I mean, they are busy, often naughty little guys, and I must say, he keeps some late hours.  But, Daddy and I conferred with Santa, and we thought it would be a good idea in the end.  So, on November 17th, our new little friend joined our family.  Our first order of business was coming up with a name for our new elf friend.  You promptly decided on Otter, and just like that, he was welcomed into our home.  We gave him his very own tiny house key, and he's been able to come and go as he pleases.

So far, things with Otter have been fairly quiet.  Maybe he's just settling into a routine.  Maybe he's being nice to Mommy, since I just had surgery and all.  But regardless, Otter has brought some good, clean elvish fun into our house.  And he's actually been kinda helpful. 

On his first night at our house, he returned from his nightly visit to the North Pole to check in with Santa and decided to leave you a little note.  You were so excited to see that Otter had written your name.  And he had used your crayons!

The next night, Otter realized that you were having some trouble with one of your toys.  Since elves help Santa make a lot of the toys for Christmas, it's only fitting that he helped put your crane back together.  Here Mommy snapped a picture of Otter using your toy drill to reassemble the lifting arm on your toy crane.

The next couple of nights, Mommy was up at the hospital having surgery and recovering, so Daddy and I let Otter know where you'd be.  The first night you spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa Brooks, so Otter showed up there with a little chocolate treat.  And then, when you went to stay with Grandma and Papa Davis, he brought you and Payton a chocolate chip cookie, even though the two of you got into a secret stash of Skittles.  Wonder what Santa thought of that...

Anyhoo.  Now we are all back at home, and last night, I heard a bit of a ruckus after we had all gone to bed.  Turns out, Otter is getting a little more... comfortable... in our house.  He talked a few of your stuffed friends into a late night board game.

Here's a picture of Piglet, Tigger, Donald and Otter playing a round of The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game.  You got such a kick out of this.  It's so funny to see your reaction every morning as we got on an Otter hunt.

So, tonight, Otter is off again to the North Pole to let Santa know how you've been doing.  We'll look forward to seeing what he's up to tomorrow and sharing more magic.

I love you, Bear.
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Exercise in Thankfulness

Dear Ian,

Happy Thanksgiving!  I know the last post could have seemed a little depressing, so I split our Thanksgiving posts in two this year.

Now that you are a big three year old guy, you are grasping concepts that are a little more advanced.  This year, we decided to tackle the understanding of Thanksgiving and the meaning of thankfulness.  Mommy and Daddy sat you down and gave you the definition of thankfulness as something that makes your heart so happy that you have or something that you are able to do.  To make it more personal and tangible in your little brain, we planted a Thankful Tree in our dining room.  Well not really.  Sorta...

Mommy made a brown construction paper tree trunk, and every day we added a leaf or two to our tree.  On each leaf, we wrote down something for which we were thankful and added it to our tree.  It turned out really cute.

Here's our tree on Thanksgiving day.  As you can see, we had a lot to be thankful for.  Some of the things that you listed were... creative, but they are things that make your heart happy, so therefore they are valid. 
Some of them really make me laugh.  Especially the one where you said you were thankful for Golden Corral.  Lord.  That restaurant has become your all-time favorite.  It almost seems like it deserves a post of its own.  Note to self...  Anyhoo.  You were thankful for Daddy a couple of times, and I am thankful that I made the list of things you appreciate as well.  It was really neat to watch you really think about what you wanted to put on a leaf for the day.  Daddy and I also got into the fun and filled out a leaf or two.  You would decide every morning which of us would get the privilege, and it was good for us, too to think about for what we are grateful. 

We spent our holiday today out at Grandma and Papa's farm with them and Uncle Gary and Aunt Megan and Payton and Taylor.  I am recovering from the surgery I mentioned in the last post, so it was so very helpful of them to host us.  I did make corn casserole to take out, so I didn't feel like too much of a slacker.  We ate a ton of food, you and Daddy got to go on a hayride (no bumpy rides for Mommy for a while) and you got to practice shooting your BB gun that you got for your very first Christmas.  You actually did really well and hit the target a few times.  Daddy also took a good long while explaining safety and rules.  After it got dark, we all sat around the fire pit and roasted marshmallows, too.  It was a really nice day.
You and your paper plate target.  Four of the holes are yours!  One was Daddy's

We will get to have Thanksgiving Part Two this Sunday when Uncle Brian and Aunt Maggie come down, and we will need to do something special with Grandma and Grandpa Brooks, too.  Mommy is just moving slow as I heal, so I'm having to break up all of our Thanksgiving festivities.  We are so lucky to have such a close and loving family.  And it's one of the things for which I am most thankful.

We're so blessed, and we love you,
Mommy and Daddy

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Time to Give Thanks

Dear Ian,

Today is Thanksgiving 2012, and as always during this special time of year, we take the time to reflect on all the things for which we are thankful.  And as always, that list is started off by giving thanks for our family, you, and the friends that surround us. 

This year threw us a little bit of a curve ball health-wise, so I have to add to the list of things for which I am thankful: medical professionals and their abilities.  As far as health goes, we have had a crazy year.  It was kicked off by you being at the doctor more often than being out of it.  Your frequent, scary bouts of coughing and high fevers had us running crazy.  ER trips for croup, enough Vicks products to keep them in business for a long time and sleepless nights finally drove us to an asthma and allergy specialist, where lo and behold, we discovered your asthma.  Since we started you on medicines to help with your breathing, life around here has been so much better.  Less frequent attacks and quicker recovery time with colds are now the norm around here, and for that, I am so very thankful.  I wish that some of the meds didn't make you quite so psychotic, but at least you're able to breathe during the bouts of psycho.

Then there was Mommy.  In February I wound up in the hospital with a mad crazy headache and scary symptoms like numbness down the left side of my body and face and spotty vision.  I quite honestly thought I was having a stroke.  Thankfully, it turned out to be a migraine, but it scared the daylights out of me and your Daddy.  I was so thankful and lucky that it was all I was experiencing, but I could not shake the feeling of fear that had it been something worse, where would that have left you?  And then less than a month later, I was back in the hospital to have my appendix removed in emergency surgery.  What in the world was going on with me?!  Again, thankfully, the situation was not as bad as it could have been, and I was able to heal quickly and get back to my life taking care of you and Daddy.  And I will admit, all those scary events prompted me to make some major changes in my life.  Daddy and I started exercising more, we ate better, and in general, we tried to make our life less stressful and frantic.  But then I did it again...

In late August, I was exercising with Daddy, and we think I pulled too much weight or something, and I ended up herniating the disc between my fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae in my neck.  I didn't realize it at first; I figured I just pulled a muscle pretty badly.  So I dealt with it for a few months.  Yes, months.  Then during a routine blood sugar doctor's visit, I mentioned to my doctor that I was having this pain and nothing seemed to be helping.  He recommended an MRI, and then less than two weeks later, I was meeting with a neurosurgeon.  Apparently, I had one of the worst herniated discs he had seen in a long time.  It was so bad, that had my  "spinal column been any more narrow" the right strain or activity could have paralyzed me from the neck down.  That realization knocked the breath right out of me.  For the past two months or so, I had still been running with my class, twirling with my twirling students and picking you up and playing with you.  Yes, all that hurt, but I didn't realize what a time bomb I had become.  At first I felt irresponsible; how could I have been so clueless?  How could I have let it get to this point and jeopardize my ability to be the wife and mother that you and Daddy need me to be?  Then came the fear.  I was terrified to move.  My doctor scheduled my surgery 20 days after that first visit, and from that point on, I had to cut everything physical from my life.  No running, jumping, lifting, turning, twirling or anything else that had any kind of risk of fall or hard jolt.  And for someone like me who feels the need to be active ALL THE TIME, this was really hard.  But I knew I had to do it for you.

And so that leads us to today.  Thanksgiving day.  And two days post-surgery for me.  I am sore, but I am healing, and already I feel so much better than I have since August.  I still have a ways to go to be fully recovered, probably about a month or so, but I am so thankful to Doctor Lee and all of the other doctors that helped me get to this point.  I now have a titanium plate in my neck, so I should never have this problem again, and for that I am REALLY thankful.  But the first time I get to pick you up and snuggle you again is going to be the best. 

We are a lucky family.  Lucky to have each other, lucky to be able to get things we need taken care of addressed and lucky to have friends and family surrounding us and supporting us as we take care of all our issues.  It's very easy to be thankful, but this year is something special.

Love always,
Your now-bionic Mommy

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Fun

Dear Ian,

This autumn time of year brings out some super fun stuff for us to do as a family.  Football games, pumpkin patches, Mommy's birthday...  The opportunities for us to have a blast together seem limitless.  One of my favorites, other than my birthday, is the North Florida Fair.  And this year did not disappoint.  We took you on the night of the fall Daylight Savings Time change, in hopes that keeping you up way past your normal bedtime would help you sleep longer and adjust more quickly to the time change.  It did not, but we still had a really good time.

We got there right around dinner time, so we had a delicious (ugh) feast of fair food, complete with deep fried Oreos for dessert.  Please know that I will never again eat this "delicacy."  Nasty.  Then we wandered through the petting zoo, agricultural and community exhibits.  I dont know why, but those are my favorite. 

We played a few midway games, which culminated in you winning a goldfish, which we added to our little habitat here at the house.  And you got to ride some rides.  Sadly, since Mommy is broken (more on that later) I didn't get to ride any rides with you, but it was so much fun watching you have a blast.

 Here you are with a few animals from the petting zoo.  Above are some pygmy goats that
you really liked.  And below is a sheep.  You were so excited to pet all the animals. 
 Oh my gosh.  This thing in the pictures below.  It was like a bungee-trampoline-ey- I dont know what.  It terrified me, but MAN did you have a good time.  The weight minimum on it was 30 pounds, and fully dressed at Publix you've been hitting that milestone, so Daddy let you go on this ride.  You had so much fun bouncing away on it!
 Weeee!  So much fun!
 Daddy looking on longingly.  He really wanted to do it too, but there was a weight maximum as well as a minimum, so we watched from the sidelines.
 Again, I was hesitant to let you bounce in that "apparatus," but your smile afterwards made it all worth it.
 Here you are on one of the kids rides.  Tractors, of course.  The poor man running this ride was a saint.  Each tractor had a horn on it, so all 20 or so kids on it kept mashing the horn button.  It was enough to make a deaf person crazy.  Somehow he managed to keep it together and you had fun.
 You were very intent on driving.  And since the ride turned to the left, you kept that steering wheel trained to the left.  It was hilarious.
Getting ready to take off on the airplane ride.  You had so much fun!

You were a little disappointed that you didn't get to go on the Ferris Wheel this go 'round, but I did hear your Daddy mention something about going back again this weekend.  So, maybe, little dude.  We'll keep our fingers crossed, and Mommy will bring the camera.

Love you,

Works of Art #39

Once again, I am wicked behind when it comes to your art.  Thankfully, I remembered to photograph it all before it ended up in the bottomless pile of everything, so I was at least halfway to posting them...

 The art projects above and below I know you did in art with Miss Lynn.  The painting above is inspired by the work of naturalist John James Audubon.  He created famous paintings of birds and animals in the wild, and this is your work based on his.  See the three birds on the autumn branch? 
This composition is based on Leo Lionni's book A Busy Year.  It features Winnie and Willie, two mice, and their friend Woody, the tree.  Here you have Winnie and Willie picking apples off of Woody the tree with a beautiful sun in the background.  
 These next two pieces are from your classroom and the unit you did on nocturnal animals.  Above is a paper plate owl you did.  I love this little guy!
And here is a raccoon you created.  I think he's super cute!  You learned a lot during your nocturnal animals unit, and you're happy to educate anyone who will listen!
This colorful little guy is a shape dinosaur that overlapped two units:  shapes and dinosaurs, obviously.  I had him hanging in my little spot in my classroom for a bit, because I really liked him!  You were very proud of him, too.
 Moving on to fall and autumn artwork, we have the next couple of pieces.  Above is a great tree that you decorated with fall leaves.  I am pretty sure you made the leaves with your fingerprints.  You could not be bothered during your play to be asked about it. 
And here is a great tissue paper pumpkin you made, too!  I love this time of year, and the art is a big part of that!
 Finally, we wrap up this Works of Art post with some art you created for Halloween.  Above is a spider that I can actually tolerate, and to be honest, I think is really cute! 
Mmmm.  Candy corn!  One of my favorite fall things!  And this piece of artwork is no exception. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trick Or Treat!

Dear Ian,

I have to be honest and say that I am not entirely certain who had more fun this Halloween: you or me.  Our Halloween festivities kicked off after the dust from your birthday party settled, and from that day on, we were all Halloween, all the time.
Pumpkin patch!

First order of business was our pumpkins.  You had two pumpkins this year.  First, you and I headed off to the pumpkin patch at Faith Presbyterian Church, because you needed a small pumpkin for an event at your school.  After a few minutes of browsing, you settled on a midsized cutie.  We took it to your school and you decorated it with paint and stickers.  The end result had it looking like a vampire, and it was really cute.  Advent always does a great job with their school events, and this was no exception.  After decorating your pumpkin, we played a few carnival games, like the fishing booth and a duck pond, and then we even got to ride on a  hayride through the cemetery next door.  I think the hayride was your very favorite part.  With that small pumpkin decorated, it was time to move on to the next thing.

Both of your pumpkins, side by side.
Our house pumpkin this year was something to behold.  Every Fall, Grandma and Papa make their pilgrimage up to Cohocton, New York, and this year when they headed up, they asked you what you wanted them to bring home.  Your answer:  a humongous pumpkin.  And man, did they deliver.  They brought you home the world's hugest pumpkin.  It was as tall as you are when you sit down.  Photographic evidence below...  We did it justice by carving a great jack-o-lantern face in it.  To determine what your giant pumpkin would look like, I had you choose facial features.  I gave you a few options for eyes, the nose and the mouth, and you picked your favorite.  Last year when we did this,  you chose a typical pumpkin face.  This year, you thought outside the gourd and came up with something completely unique.  And it turned out really cool.  

Here are a few more pictures from our pumpkin carving:
 You and me out in the front yard carving out our pumpkin.  You were collecting the seeds.  We're planning on planting them next spring and trying to grow our own pumpkins.  We'll see how that works out...
 My little pumpkin and the humongous pumpkin.  Both too cute!
 Here's our final pumpkin product all lit up.  I think it turned out great.

You, on Halloween morning
When it came to your actual Halloween costume for this year, you sorta threw me for a loop and ended up giving me a huge challenge.  When I asked you one day what you wanted to be for Halloween, you promptly and decisively responded, "A tractor."  Hmm.  Since I have this thing about making you costumes (read this), I was not quite sure how I was going to pull this one off.  But thanks to Pinterest, our obsession with Amazon and their boxes, and a little creative thinking, we managed to pull it off.  I wrapped a box in green bulletin board paper and then added little cardstock details.  You painted a paper towel tube black for the smokestack, and we used the magic of Google images to print off the John Deere logo.  And it turned out ADORABLE!!  You claimed to be a John Deere 40, just like Papa's tractor, and to make it realistic, you pop-popped around in your little tractor.  

And you got to wear your costume twice!  Halloween morning, your school had a costume parade around the courtyard.  I sorta expected you to be a little reticent in front of all of those moms and dads, but you paraded with the best of 'em.  I have never seen you so confident and outgoing.  It was great!  Below are a few pictures from your school event:

 You and Daddy in your classroom just before your turn to parade around the courtyard.
 Here you come around the corner!  You were so excited! 
 My little tractor boy.  Grandma and Papa Davis gave you the John Deere hat for your birthday.  Worked out perfect with your costume!

After all that excitement, we finally made it to Halloween night.  Uncle Gary, Aunt Megan, Payton and Taylor, as well as Grandma and Grandpa Brooks and Grandma and Papa Davis came over to join in the fun.  Poor Daddy had to go out of town right after your school parade, so he didn't get to see you trick or treat, but of course, Mommy took a ton of pictures.  You and Pay were so cute!  You both really got into trick or treating this year, and you got a TON of candy.  I'm hoping to do some "science experiments" with it, but as of right now, you usually get to much a piece a day.  Anyhoo, without any further ado, here are the pictures from Halloween night.
 Here are you and Payton, just before we starting trick or treating.  You managed to make it all the way down and back up the main street, plus our cul-de-sac. 
 My little John Deere
 So excited about trick or treating!  Can we get going, Mommy!
 Papa and your little cousin, Taylor, are ready to go!
 You and Payton making progress down the street.  You had to sort of "parallel park" at each door in order to knock or ring the doorbell.  Your tractor was cute, but it could occasionally be a challenge to steer.
My little tractor man is running out of gas.

It was a great night and a great end to a fun day.  Even now, you keep telling me how much you enjoyed it and how you cant wait until next Halloween.  I am a little worried about what you're going to ask me to create next year, but whatever you ask of me, I will try my best to work it out.  

You're my little treat,
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