Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day!!

Winter Wonderland at the Baldwin rental

As I've said before, we have never lived in a state where all four seasons are apparent and therefore, have never had the opportunity to take the boys sledding. After suffering a two week period of the weather channel's false predictions, yesterday it finally came true. The downpour began around 7 am and ended at about 2pm or so. We got about 3 inches after all was said and done. I bundled up the boys and we all went out around 9am as there was plenty by then to play in.

They were going strong for an hour and a half and we were making a very small snowman when Ethan bursts out wailing and flailing his arms, unintelligible sounds coming from his mouth. "What, ET, what is it?" I ask taking hold of his arms, afraid he'll hurt himself, or worse yet, me. "I'm ccccccooooooollllllldddd!!" he's finally able to blubber out, drool spilling off his almost blue bottom lip.

With soothing promises of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, I lead my snow-caked children inside. Nostalgia and memories of my own childhood hit me as I strip their wet pants off revealing piles of hidden snow between their reddened thighs.

I remember vividly when we lived in Utah we looked forward to snow and would play in it for hours. My mom tells me all (7 of us at the time-8 and 9 came later) of us would tromp in and out of the house every 20 minutes or so trading our wet gloves and hats for dry ones. Eventually we ran out of gloves and hats and just settled for socks on our hands which we all know don't last long in wet snow. My mother would be so frustrated by the piles of wet socks in the laundry room, but eventually would throw up her hands in surrender. Yes, we used all our socks up for the next week, BUT ALL 7 of us were occupied and happy if just for a little while. We would come home soaked to the bone and freezing for dinner, but still aching for one last time down the toboggan. The ride was exhilarating. Our blinded eyes watering and stinging from the bitter cold wind as we tipped left, then right, steering our coaster in and out of obstacles the gully set before us. It was awesome. The gully beyond our backyard was full of endless things for kids to do: hide and seek (in the dark was especially fun) watching hot air balloons land, snow sledding, mud sledding, daring a brother to stunt jump a big hole with his bike while the younger one does it instead resulting in a broken elbow, watching the Ku Klux Klan make a bon fire and gather at night while we slept on the trampoline, and of course, burying your brother up to his chest in the dirt while he sported your best tutu. Ahhh, the memories. I still can't believe my mother is mostly sane today and all my brothers and sisters are all very much alive and intact.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cake Pop Crazy!

I'm making cake pops for the boys' Valentine's Day parties and I wanted to do a dry run. I'm also doing some for the Spirit Day bake sale and I wanted to do them in blue and yellow, the school colors. Since their t-shirts are tye-dyed I was trying to make the pops two-toned. I think they came out looking like Elvis with blue hair, but Mason loved them. I will probably stick with plain yellow and blue.
All they need are some eyes, a nose and a mouth. How about some blue suede shoes?

The hearts and flowers I made with strawberry cake and cut them out with cookie cutters and then dipped them. I put m & ms on the front of the flowers and they turned out really cute. I tried to write on the hearts to make them conversation hearts, but I think my food writers are too fine so they just cut into the chocolate instead of marking on it. I'll have another go next weekend.
I got the cake pop idea from Bakerella (her site is on my blog) and I put my own twists on it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The power of one little imagination

Ethan and Mason got this Playmobil castle for Christmas and ET and I assembled it when Mason was as school. It took the better part of the morning and when we were finished Ethan really wanted to play in it. I mean, he really wanted to play in it. He kept trying to crawl in the doors which are obviously just large enough for the over-accessorized dragon-slaying knights that accompany the castle. When the thing kept falling off his back and parts started popping off, he conceded to eat his cereal just outside the door, watching the knights while they drank their spirits and ate their drumsticks just inside, "kinda like a giant, Mom."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Our little reader

We are so impressed with Mason's reading. Here's a video of him reading Nemo. Watch for Frau's appearance in the movie. I had to turn the camera off I was laughing so hard!

The best part of waking up...

Matt has been at work/school from dawn til dusk these days and so I'm left with 3 meals a day, baths, transportation, entertainment, and chores for myself and 2 boys. What's different, you ask? Routine. Because Matt has been able to come home by dinner since we've been here in VA, it's thrown us all out of sorts and I've come to count on him to take off some of the burden of, say a bath or reading time for the boys. December came with the busy times of the holidays, school vacation, Matt's longer hours, illness, and then, inevitably, our routine disappeared. I put my foot down last weekend when in the very cold degrees of winter I was reluctantly pulling up my multiple layers of clothing to pull on my bright yellow dish washing gloves to do the nightly dishes. The cold air seeping in through the kitchen window sent chills of resentment and determination up my bunched sleeves. I made up mind. I was going to have Mason and Ethan start doing chores. Yep. I did it as a kid so why shouldn't they? I needed some help and doing all the cleaning while they were snug as bugs in their bed wasn't working. The next night we put my plan into action. They both love the kitchen (it's their favorite place to play too, unfortunately) so they grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the counter to help make dinner. After eating, I set about cleaning up and pulled on my gloves. Mason immediately took the sponge from me and started wiping down the table while Ethan put the leftovers in a tupperware. They set about loading the dishwasher and putting things in the fridges and wiping down the counters. It was awesome! Only once did we get all crazy and that's only because Matt made a surprise appearance halfway through. The boys forget whatever they're doing and greet Dad and jump up and down and want to show him things and tell him about their day. Fair enough. I just told him next time, he needs to sneak in! It is day 5 now and they know the routine. It is not a chore because we make it fun. On day 4, Mason asked if he could make the coffee for the morning. Sure!! Maybe on the 7th day, he could make a macchiato.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who has the biggest cheese?

Ethan's class had a gingerbread house decorating party the week after Mason's which was perfect because that way I could go to both without feeling the crunch of time that I normally do running back and forth between their schools on Thursdays. Since I'm room mom for Mason's class I'm deemed "Party Mom" and therefore responsible for all parties in their entirety. My posse of moms and I had decided to do a cookie decorating center which turned into a gingerbread house decorating center. Of course that means I have to assemble 23 houses out of graham crackers and chocolate. Fair enough. Becoming fabulous at delegating, if I do say so myself, I tasked the other parents with bringing candy, decorating supplies, snacks, and supervising the game and craft centers. Two days before the party two of the moms and I were supposed to get together and assemble the houses. I had to cancel because Mason got sick and I didn't want to contaminate anyone or anything. They asked if they could take them home and do it there. OK, if you don' know me that well, you don't know how much I NEED to have control over a project I have been put in charge of. I didn't ask to be room mom. It wasn't something I jumped up and down with my hand up in the air shouting "Pick me! Pick me!" for. Somehow I was nominated. Don't ask me. I'm new here. They asked and I said yes. So I'm learning to delegate, but I'm not a supervisor yet and I like to do some things for myself. But...Matt knows me...and he convinced me that maybe I need to let go of even more things. So I made a kit for each mom with very detailed instructions (numbered and pictured) on how to make these houses. 8 for each of them. 14 for me. I assembled mine the night before plus 5 extra in 1 hour. I had the car packed and ready to go before I went to bed. When I got to the classroom everyone was looking at me very expectantly. I put my things down and asked "What?" They stared laughing and said, nudging each other in the ribs, "See, I told you hers would be perfect!" gesturing to my perfectly square houses. I glanced over at the cookie sheets that held the 16, plus 4 extra, other mommy dilapidated shacks and involuntarily cringed. Recovering, I said, "They're great!" They laughed and launched into the story about how their husbands really wanted to help and how they ended up in a chocolate fight and it was so gooey and so on and so forth. So Mason's teacher comes up and whispers, "So how did you make those houses? They are so cute. Yours, not theirs." I felt bad because I cancelled on them but I felt even worse for the kids who got the ghetto houses that fell apart as soon as they touched them because a volunteer thought it was more important to be goofy instead of making this an important fun day for the kids. Ethan's teacher then asked if I could make the needed 23 houses for their classes as she ran out of time. Thank heaven gingerbread houses are a once-a-season novelty!Mason's smile always threatens to break our camera lens!

Singing is one of Mason's favorite things, but he is still shy to do it when I'm there. He hasn't been one for an audience since about 3 1/2. He'll entertain in many other ways for a crowd just no singing. Ethan will sing for anybody if he can remember the words.

Nana & Papa visit

I have lots of backlogged pictures and stories I want to share and I realize my entries are going to be somewhat out of order but I suppose I'm better late than never. Nana and Papa Zink came to visit for Thanksgiving and we decided to take them to Washington DC for the day since it had been several years since their last visit. It was cold and windy, but we took it all in stride. The boys always love to go to the city and check out the museums and sights so they don't ever get bored. I talked my mom into getting that coat. It was via a phone conversation and she was on the fence. I reasoned that a coat is like a pair of sunglasses or a purse. They are accessories that we can afford to go wild with. I'm so glad she bought it. It looks beautiful on her!
Our fine Thanksgiving feast-and this is the only picture we got!Nightly wrestling with Papa. Nobody does it better!Nightly reading with Nana. We got lots more of that since she decided to stay with us an extra week and a half. Yeah!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

New York, New York!

Visiting Santa at Santaland at Macy's in NYC is unbelievable!! The work that is put into the displays and the coordination all the elves have to have with one another must take a whole season. I had read somewhere, probably on some random person's blog as I tend to eavesdrop now and again, that Macy's had an elaborate maze set-up with several rooms with different Santas in them so they could have a higher turn-over rate. I simply had to know if this was true. Plus, the kids had to see Santa and what better place than the Big Apple. So, we get to the massive department store which still, to this day, boasts it is the biggest "in the world." I'm not sure as I've been to Harrods in London. Both at Christmas time. Macy's is by far, full of the rudest people! I digress. We climb to the 8th floor. I say climb because the last 4 escalators are out of commission and I could see why. They looked like they might have been the original escalators and the railings and sides were made of wood. Coming up to the 8th floor you are bombarded with a circus-themed toyland which you have to circle around to get to the beginning of the Santa line. We are greeted by a very festively dressed elf who points us down a cordoned off area. Walking down the dingy gray hallway I asked Matt why we were put in the boiler room. He chuckles and points to the multiple pictures on the wall depicting the growth of Macy's and its various parades and such and says "Boiler rooms don't have elves!" The cheerful elf in front of us claps her hands and says "Yea! You're almost there to see Santa!" "How long is the wait?" Matt asks her, eyeing the crowd in front of us warily. "Oh, only 45 minutes." We groan inwardly and think about the late 3:30pm time. Bad time. ET badly needs a nap, we need dinner soon and it's getting warm under our layered attire. But somehow the little elf cheered me up. The boys were happy and content to stand in line looking at the gray walls so I let it be. Shuffling our feet little by little we came upon the displays and oohed and aaahed at the trains and lights. A few more cheerleading elves later and we were at the end of our wait. It went by very quickly and the line had grown to a 2 1/2 hour wait behind us! Just before we were taken to see the Big Man, another elf took the boys by the hands and led them through dozens of lit trees talking to them and keeping their eyes on her. She led them to their special room where Santa was waiting. Ethan and Mason's eyes lit up; both with surprise and apprehension, but mostly a whole lot of happiness. Mason went straight to his lap where ET dragged his feet a bit and kept looking at me then back at him. He finally went and sat on his lap and another two elves took their picture while they shouted out "Star Wars!" "Transformers" and everything else they wanted as if he was going to forget to ask them or they were going to forget what they were going to tell him. We were then led out of the room and led to the exit. I craned my neck and nodded appreciatively. There were indeed multiple rooms with multiple bearded men, but no kid would be the wiser unless their parent or much older sibling thought it necessary to pass the secret. Fantastic! Since the boys are not yet old enough to take to a Broadway show we found a marrionnette playhouse in Central Park to take them to instead. They are performing Peter Pan for the next year or so at the Swedish Cottage and is right across from the Museum of Natural History in the park. The performance itself was interesting but the boys enjoyed it. There was a bit of a modern spin on it that Mason clued into like why Tiger Lily wears a sari and not suede fringe. Or why Wendy and Peter Pan are the Lost Boys parents...yeah. The walk through the park was really nice and only mom complained about the 20 degree weather and snow. The boys ran and jumped and skated and just plain loved it all. We fed the squirrels peanuts and took in all the beautiful pure white scenery.
I had to explain to Ethan that we weren't smoking, but just blowing "smoke." Hmmm... the boys have been on a nebulizer the past couple weeks or so before going to NY and they nicknamed it the "smoker" so anything that blows smoke, steam, etc smokes. Fair enough. I was teaching Ethan how to make shapes with our breath. I don't think they'd ever seen their breath for so long before. Virginia gets cold, but 20 degrees is COLD!!!! Besides, VA is the coldest the boys have EVER been so they are clueless. It was so much fun just walking down the street in such a big city too with them. They had a blast and just babbled and asked questions and never complained.
Ahhh, yes! The "BIG" piano. You know, the one in the movie "Big." They had so much fun on this and if it wasn't $20,000 I'd have brought it home!
On the last day we were able to go see Rockefeller Center and see the iceskaters and the big tree. It was raining though so there weren't any skaters so we snapped a few photos and went to FAO Schwartz.