Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bikers Extraordinaire


This was a very exciting week - we have reached arguably the biggest milestone of physical accomplishment since walking: riding a bicycle without training wheels. My very bright but extremely cautious Amy took the plunge and allowed me to remove her training wheels on Thursday night.  I bribed her with a dollar. All I did after that was told her to keep her feet on the ground and glide like she's used to doing on her balance bike.  Down the slight slope of the sidewalk in front of our house she went, and she instinctively put her feet on the pedals. "That's it!" I shouted, "Now just pedal!"  And that was it.  At first she just went ten yards or so and veered off into the grass to stop, but inside of an hour, as the sun set and the day cooled, she was completely comfortable on two wheels, and pedaling furiously up and down our quiet street.  She was over-the-moon with pride, and I could hardly believe she'd done it so easily. I didn't get my camera out the whole time because I didn't want to jinx her, but when we were coming in for the night I did manage a picture. 


We celebrated with ice cream cones though it was already past eight o'clock.  And to make the night completely perfect we even saw a rainbow over the neighbor's house.  


The next day we were planning a trip to Walmart anyway, and we found a kickstand for Amy's bike which she desperately wanted, and decided to get William a very nice and very reasonably priced little 12" Huffy for his very own.  As I think I mentioned, he had been getting really good riding Amy's larger bike, but now that she had reclaimed it it seemed time for him to have pedal-wheels of his own.  It's just perfect for him.  It's called the Rockit and he can make it go really fast.  


I think William could manage without training wheels too if he were just a bit bigger.  The bike still overwhelms him if it doesn't stand up on its own, but his prowess on the small balance bike leads me to know he'll have no trouble without training wheels once he's a little larger. 

I have to add, for anyone who is considering the whole balance bike thing, that I am totally sold on the concept.  Amy in particular gained SO much confidence with her glider and went from never wanting to ride to zooming smoothly along in a matter of an afternoon with a balance bike.  Same for William.  The transition to pedaling without training wheels was easy, and I did not have to do the whole run-behind-holding-the-seat-letting-go routine, because Amy already knew how to balance while it rolled.  The only downside to the balance bikes is the fact that they are separate bikes; additional expense and equipment, but if you come across them I can't say enough good things about that method for learning to ride. 

And to conclude, all I could think about on Thursday night when I was about to burst with pride for my girl who had just conquered a huge, scary new thing, was how much it was just like every other milestone is for little ones.  Just when you think you have them pegged as a "late walker" or figure that they are months away from talking or reading or any of the rest, all the sudden they just do it.  I think I am always expecting these accomplishments to be more gradual, and I suppose the underlying work is.  But for the most part it is an explosion, a sudden leap into complete competence, and it just amazes me every time. I do think that is my favorite thing about being a parent. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Anybody want to Guess?


What's in the bag?  Any guesses?  I was making the kids guess in this picture.  We're wrapping up a visit not-too-far-away at my grandparents' house. That's my cousin on the right, and my aunt taking the picture. 

Anybody, anybody?


A little anole, rescued by moi from the very high air conditioning vent in the kitchen. The picture doesn't do him justice, poor thing was awfully cute. And awfully cold, which was about the only reason I was actually able to pick him up and plunk him in a paper bag.  I am now regarded as a hero in these parts, but frankly it was a highlight of my day, because I've chased these little critters on every vacation for as long as I can remember, and no matter how tame they seem they are always just too fast.  

This guy perked up a bit once out in the warm air and happily scurried away into the bushes.  That was our good deed for the day. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Addition


Well, car shopping is complete, and we are the proud owners (actually, lessees) of a brand-spankin' new Toyota Sienna. I now drive a minivan. Yup. I loved my Subaru and when we bought it just three years ago I figured we'd be driving that car forever. But as time has gone on we have come to realize that "SUV" title aside, it was really quite a small car. Cargo space was sometimes not enough for a big grocery trip, and fitting a 5th person of any size in between the two car seats was near impossible. For me and the kids just running around town it was a terrific, zippy, economical little car. But we live on a military base, and there have been a number of occasions when we've had family visiting and had to play all sorts of car games to be able to go places, on and off base, with our guests. A car for lots of passengers and cargo space for things like road trips - or moving (cats, fish, plants, suitcases, etc) - was starting to sound good. 

And so I started shopping, knowing that later summer is typically a good time to buy a car. What I neglected to remember is that once setting foot in a dealership, it is really hard to make the process go slowly. I had done my research and Consumer-Reported till I was cross-eyed, but really needed to touch and feel a few cars to decide for sure if it was a minivan I wanted or a SUV with a third row. To make a long story short(er), I had almost decided to go the SUV route but then realized that such a car would be too much of a lateral move, and if we were going to go spending money, we might as well get something with as much space as possible.  And when the Toyota folks told me they would happily get me the van in the blue color I wanted, well, I knew it was all done but the haggling.  

To explain the financial end briefly, just so you don't think we are rolling in money: We decided to lease because we were able to get a relatively large sum of money back for our Subaru, and by taking a check and rolling only a small part of it into the lease we will be able to pay off other debt and get back on track with our savings. Yes, in three years we will still have to pay off the car, but being able to save for it now is better than paying interest on our existing debt. And between our excellent credit scores and my negotiating abilities I can feel confident in saying that we got a good deal all around. 

William literally passed out after an agonizing three hours in the dealership over lunch time on Saturday (and that doesn't count all the other time I spent over the last two weeks getting the Subaru appraised, test driving, crunching numbers, etc). But otherwise the kids were thrilled. We were all sad to say goodbye to our (not so) old car, but now we are falling deeper in love with our new wheels with every passing day.  


It is a good fit. And even more so considering the other big reason for needing a larger car.......

We are expecting another baby at Christmastime! Oh my! Not a Surprise or an Oops but definitely an Oh My, and I'll admit it has taken me a few months to wrap my head around this situation, despite all the reasons we had for going into it. I'll write more about all my cogitation in another post perhaps, but right now there are tiny little baby kicks and a big shiny new car that are making me very excited about our growing family. Eek! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In a Nutshell

That's such a lie, this is hardly going to be a nutshell - more like the whole bin of loose mixed nuts.  Ready for the collection of things on my mind tonight?  Okay, good.

For dinner tonight I made up a box of Target's Archer Farms "Homestyle" macaroni and cheese and it was good. Slightly pricey, but the ingredient list is respectable, and since the kids seem to have sadly (happily?) lost their taste for the Kraft stuff this is a lovely alternative for nights when it's just us and I don't feel like making anything more exciting.  Tonight I served it with some leftover chili and it seriously hit the spot.

I am in love with the kids' new haircuts.  We went last week for some summer dos - Amy has been asking for shorter hair again and William was, frankly, in need of a shearing (he got my thick hair).  Amy's new bob makes her look about ten years old, and William suddenly (and heartbreakingly) looks like a real big boy with his buzzed hair.

William has taken to riding Amy's 14" two-wheeler-training-wheel bike lately.  She never rides it, preferring her balance bike, so it is usually free.  William mastered the tricycle at age 2, and his own smaller balance bike well before his third birthday, so he's been seeking a new challenge and manages it pretty well.  My money is on him riding without training wheels before Amy does.

Amy continues to dazzle me with her reading proficiency.  She read to me the first three pages of a new chapter of Little House on the Prairie the other night, only stumbling over the word "anxious".  I don't know what her kindergarten teacher is going to do with her next year.

This morning after watching Dinosaur Train and their "Dinosaurs A to Z" bit, Amy set out to alphabetize her stuffed animals.  We did pretty well until the end, when we had to settle for a Q-uacking duck, a Y-ellow duck, a dragon who was deemed magical enough to represent the letter X, and a turtle who was suddenly named Zip. I think that was all we fudged.  We have too many stuffed animals.

I'm considering getting more pretzel rods after the rapid disappearance of the chocolate ones.  I need other snack ideas too - I've been relying too heavily on things in wrappers because they are so handy, but yeesh, these munchkins are hungry and we've been blowing through even the healthy-ish snack foods. Thoughts?

I've been car shopping.... gag me... always seems like it's going to be fun until remembering that, well, it's not.  More on that in another post... might not act on anything right now anyway, or they might make me an offer I can't refuse.  I hate car shopping.

Speaking of Little House on the Prairie - oh my, is Amy smitten!  We read through Little House in the Big Woods over the winter, a bit slowly, but after finishing it I bought the unabridged audio version and that has been both kids' favorite going-to-sleep listening for months now.  The night we went camping (oh, another post I have to write!) I brought along Prairie and Amy was hooked from the first chapter.  William listens closely too, and most nights that has been all we read.  I have read the whole series myself at least a dozen times, but had forgotten just how much action happens in this second book.  Amy now has all sorts of material on Indians, malaria, digging wells, and camping on the high prairie and her world has exploded with all sorts of pioneering games.  Looks like we'll finish the book tomorrow night, less than two weeks after starting it. I won't hide my glee over my children loving my all-time favorite books, too.

I have a secret I'm dying to share... but not quite yet.  Next week I think.  That's a tease, I know. Sorry.

Someone left a glow-in-the-dark slinky on my desk tonight. It is distracting me. I'm ready to wrap this up and head downstairs for some R&R before it gets too late.

I am enjoying the summer routine way more than I thought I might.  When preschool ended I had a tiny fear that our weeks would be too empty without that twice-weekly routine of "school"... but surprisingly, none of us have missed it.  Even Amy, who was at the peak of her school-loving glory when it ended has not mentioned it since.  The only part I miss is the chance to have some quiet time with William, focusing on just him.  Amy talks loudly and plentifully, and sometimes it is hard for him to get a word in edgewise.  Otherwise, I have no problem with the leisurely pace of the mornings, the abundant time at home for us all to do whatever, the feeling of openness in the schedule, and the general lack of stress.  Kindergarten will be a great opportunity for Amy but it would be untrue to say I haven't been thinking a lot again about homeschooling. I'm already dreading the early mornings and the relentlessness of the school calendar.  But that's what we signed up for, after no shortage of thought on the subject.  Anyway, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Realized I'm just over 250 posts on this here blog. I don't think that's a terribly impressive number, spread over 4 years, but I must pat myself on the back for sticking with this project, and thank you all for reading my thoughts all these years.  It is an unexpected joy to practice my writing and share a bit of myself, and to read the work of others out there who are doing the same thing.

Aaaaaand I think that's all I've got.  For now.  Glad we could talk, look forward to doing it again soon!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pretzel Power


Yesterday morning, in one of those rare moments when I think of a project and actually act on it right then and there, the kids and I made chocolate covered pretzels. While everyone likes small pretzels plenty, turns out no one was all that excited about pretzel rods, and the better part of an open package was lingering and threatening to get quite stale. So without thinking too hard about it I melted chocolate in the microwave and had my two handy helpers apply sprinkles to their hearts' content.  

But the best part was discovering the magical energizing powers of chocolate covered pretzels.  We had a whole day ahead of us but Don and I didn't quite know what to do withourselves, until we took our pretzels out to the garage and talked about how we might reorganize the whole space. Four hours later we were still going strong, and the kids stuck with us with a surprising lack of whine.  All of us running on pretzel power, Don and I sorted through all kinds of stuff and generated enough giveaways and trash to free up two whole shelves.  Amy used the hose to "wash" things, a project that kept her busy for hours. William, who had been tired and bored earlier in the morning, happily rode his bike, stopping only here and there to snatch another pretzel.  We all stopped for lunch in the middle, and William took a break to watch some Bob the Builder, but otherwise it was a full day of family cleaning fun and it was awesome. 

We capped off the afternoon with a rather redneck pool party.... featuring two of the biggest plastic totes cleaned out by our reorganization, filled with water, to make personal dipping pools for each munchkin. 


I truly love the days when the planets align, tempers cooperate, and we can all have so much fun getting a HUGE project accomplished.  Nothing like some chocolate to set the right mood.