Monday, March 28, 2011

Prepare for Takeoff

If I may pat myself on the back for a moment, I'm pretty proud of our latest project around here. We checked out a book from the library called Captain Bob Takes Flight by Roni Schotter. In the story, a little boy named Bob goes on an adventure in his cardboard box airplane. After reading, I saw a vacuum cleaner box in the corner that I had been saving for just such an occasion... We got out the scissors and markers and created a super cool flying machine for Captain Max himself.

Max packs the trunk for the big trip

Lucian promptly unpacks the trunk

"No pictures, please" says the celebrity pilot

It's amazing the hours of fun that can be had using only a cardboard box!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Word Up, week 1

I have decided to start keeping my eye (or ear) open for new and interesting words, and share them with you here. I am hoping to make this a "Word of the Week", but I think we can all be honest with ourselves and know that my track record is not exactly great with schedules and planning. So whenever a new word rolls around you'll hear about it, but it may be a week or a month... or a season between words.

I will also take suggestions! If you hear a great word in conversation or read a new word in a book, I want to know. (Monica, I have you in mind especially...) But for this week, I've got one.

Drum roll please... Aaaaand the word is...


(ˈäb-fə-ˌskāt) v. Confuse. To be evasive, unclear or confusing.

I heard Click and Clack use this word on Car Talk on Sunday, and I've been trying to drop it into conversations ever since. (Unsuccessfully, I might add. It's a tough one!) So I thought I'd throw the challenge out there- use the word Obfuscate in a conversation, and let me know how it went! What was the context? Did it take pre-planning, or did it just roll off your tongue? And most importantly, what was the reaction of the listener?? (I'm envisioning, "What the... did she really just say that...?")

So there you go, and happy word hunting!

*Pronunciation guide and definition from Merriam Webster Online. I don't know how to get my computer to do those cool symbols and stuff*

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chugga Chugga

My dad recently introduced us to the Model Railroad Museum at Bandana Square in St. Paul. Another great way to while away the hours before we can play outside, the Model Train Museum is free for kids under 5 and $5 for adults. We were all fascinated by the detailed miniature landscapes and towns, and Max squealed with delight each time a model train chugged around the corner. Louie, for his part, was pretty awestruck.

Miniature Twins Pro Shop and Mickey's Diner

After wandering the main model train room, we visited the children's building, where the kids got to drive Thomas the Train and push buttons to make the displays light up and move. My favorite was the county fair display. The train itself was almost an afterthought, as every ride could be controlled by the push of a button: the ferris wheel, rollercoaster, scrambler, and even a mini-golf course!

When deep in concentration, he can't keep that tongue in

Bandana Square used to be a central hub in the St. Paul area, and entering the beautiful old railroad buildings makes me feel nostalgic for a time I never even experienced! Now the buildings are mostly offices or empty spaces, but I'll hold out hope that eventually the area will be revived. It's a shame that such an historic spot is so rarely visited. We'll definitely make our way back there soon, as long as the Train Museum keeps its doors open!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Got Milk?

It's official: my second-born son is a milkoholic. No doubt about it-- if that kid is more than three feet away from his bottle at any given moment, it's not a pretty sight. If Baby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Our family has never been much for milk consumption; mostly we use it for cereal and cooking. Even though I always tried to make sure Max got his share of milk for strong bones, we used to have trouble getting through a gallon before it expired. Near the expiration date, we would begin to eat lots of cookies just so that we could dip them in milk, and we would sometimes even find ourselves dumping the last cup down the drain when it started to smell like sour cream. No more, my friends, no more! Since I've begun weaning Lucian, he has taken to the bottle like I never dreamed. Now we have three, count 'em, THREE gallons of milk in our fridge! Between the four of us, we went through a half-gallon in ONE DAY. This is new territory for me! How can one kid down that much liquid without expanding like a water balloon?

So the plus side is that we are down to only nursing once every 24 hours, in the middle of the night. Things are looking good for my planned trips away from my babe this summer! But we may have to take out a second mortgage to afford the milk that he is consuming instead.

Anybody own a cow that we can rent?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our Little Carnivore

Recently at the dinner table, I commented to Paul about the rising cost of meat. "We may need to become vegetarians!" I jokingly mentioned.

"What's a vegetarian?" Max asked.

"A vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat," we explained.

"Are vegetarians people?"

"Yes, they're people. They just choose not to eat meat."

Incredulously, he responded, "Do they don't have mouths?"

Our meat loving son could not fathom someone choosing to forgo hamburger, chicken and pork. The only possible explanation was that these people were physically incapable of eating!

It's fun to stay at the...

Check-in sticker: proof we were there!

Well, it wasn't a complete disaster, but I wouldn't call it a resounding success either. Today was my first attempt at dropping the boys off at the YMCA while I went to work out. I've been stalling, putting off the day when I would bring them with me because I thought it would be tough. Scratch that, I knew it would be tough. The only other time I left them was when we took our tour on the day we signed up to be members. Lucian "had a tough time" (i.e. screamed for 45 minutes), Max had a melt-down when it was time to leave. I mean full-blown melt down, the worst I've ever seen from him.

So with those memories fresh in my mind, I decided (against all common sense) to try for take-two... sans Paul. When I told Max in the morning that he got to go to the "Magic Play Room" (that's what our tour guide had called it), he lit up like a Christmas tree and started bouncing off the walls. I got us all packed up and opened the back door... and walked into a hailstorm. I stood on the porch thinking, "This is a sign. This is a sign. We're not supposed to go." But reason lost out again to brute stubbornness, and I packed the boys into the car.

Thankfully, the weather calmed to a sprinkle within minutes, so getting into the building was not a problem. I brought the boys into the playroom and filled out all the paperwork. Max practically hurled himself over the gate to get to the toys, and Lucian sat quietly on the floor watching his brother. So far so good. I took a pager in case of a meltdown, left them with Louie's bottle and paci, and off I went to jog on the treadmill.

All went well for about 15 minutes... then I felt a buzzzz in my pocket. Bummer. I left the treadmill and started walking toward the playroom. When I hit the lobby, I could already hear the screams. I came in and rescued a red-eyed, howling Louie and brought him with me to gather our things. When I returned to check the boys out, Max made it good and clear that he was NOT ready to go. Thankfully, this time he didn't reach the point of throwing himself on the floor, but there was plenty of back-arching and several inhuman screeches.

Finally everyone settled down enough to head to the car and head home. I bet those childcare workers are hoping we take our time coming back...

But in spite of it all, I feel kind of proud that I did it. I feel like we accomplished something, even if we may have burst a few eardrums in the process. Hopefully next time will be better... and hopefully I am able to gear myself up for a "next time" before next winter. We'll see.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Read all about it


Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the Westcott Library has gone and outdone itself. It may have just become my favorite place in the Twin Cities to bring my kids, and I think they would agree with me. I have to plan for at least two hours for a trip there, or Max will not have time to make the rounds!

Let me explain myself: you probably thought that libraries were a place to read and check out books, maybe do some homework or research. Well, yes, but the public library in Eagan has taken that simple purpose and expanded it to become just about the happiest place on Earth. They have a huge selection of children's books, CDs and DVDs of all kinds, separated by a wall from the rest of the library-- score! Within the children's section are several different play stations and a separate area for quiet reading complete with a huge (and I mean chair-sized!) teddy bear. On arrival to the library, Max beelines it to the airplane cockpit for a quick fly to California, then meanders through the stacks of colorful picture books to maybe do a puzzle or two. Then it's off to don his mail carrier's hat and bag, delivering mail and loading foam blocks into the mail truck. He might then cast his magnetic fishing line from the boat to catch alphabet fish or pretend to jump off the dock into (onto) the "water". Does this sound like your everyday library, kids?

And now, to put the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae, they have opened a library coffee shop!! Pretty much all of my favorite things have suddenly converged in one location. And believe it or not, the coffee shop has a kids corner whose centerpiece is... you'll never guess... a toy pirate ship! So I can enjoy coffee and a muffin while Max blasts cannonballs at a stuffed snake.

We always leave the library in a great mood, weighed down with an enormous stack of books. The only thing that will make a trip to Westcott even better is when Max can carry his own load to the car!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why my parents are awesome

No, your eyes do not deceive you: After staying overnight at my parents' house on Friday, Max was treated to pirate pancakes!! Check out that ship- my dad is truly a pancake artist.

But really, the pancake picture is just the visual aid to show you how cool my parents are. They watched the boys for all of Friday afternoon and evening, and though we picked up Lucian at night, we didn't see Max until Saturday after lunch! And still he was not even CLOSE to ready to leave. I really think he would be ok not seeing me for weeks if he had Grandma around.

They watched the boys so that we could go out to celebrate Paul's birthday with my brother and his girlfriend... and it was a blast! Dinner was at Eli's -- according to Ben, they serve the best sandwiches you'll ever eat, and after our dinner there I am inclined to agree! Then back at Ben's place, we played Carrom (a game Ben learned in Sri Lanka, something like a tabletop version of pool mixed with shuffleboard), drank some beer, and had a super fun time.

I really do love being so close to my family- it's awesome that Ben and I get to hang out again. And, like I said at the beginning, I have awesome parents who adore their grandkids... I couldn't ask for anything more!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Break from Winter

Last Saturday, the boys and I met up with Grandma and Grandpa R at the Como Conservatory to see the beautiful spring flower display. If you're looking for a free (donations accepted) way to kill an afternoon with your kids, Como is the place, year round! In nice weather, we wander outside to see the gorillas, polar bears, seals and giraffes, but I discovered that there is plenty to do indoors as well.

Talk about a photo-friendly setting! Bright flowers, natural lighting... I just couldn't stop snapping away. Max smelled every flower that he encountered, and even Lucian thought the plants were pretty cool.

Close encounter with a flower... note the pollen on his nose

There's something about water that seems to draw kids in. Max couldn't keep his hands out of the pond in the Flower Room, he had to throw a coin into the fountain, and he could have sat staring into the fish pond for hours!

The conservatory had an entire room devoted to ferns. It felt like a rainforest, humid and hot... I can't do that type of weather for long, but boy was it a nice change from Minnesota winter!

This was the best shot out of about six attempts

We also spent a good chunk of time in the Como kids' room, feeding plastic fish to seals, making it rain, planting a garden, and sorting plastic fruit into bins (or, in Louie's case, throwing plastic fruit on the ground...)

"AH!" (Up!)

"Dahhhh...." (Down...)

Grandma and Grandpa treated the boys (and me!) to a snack at the end of the day: smoothies, french fries, a muffin and gummy bears. Everything a body needs. We ended the trip by visiting the tropical animals... Max's favorite stop was, of all things, the ants. He was fascinated! I'm starting to pray now that his next big fixation is NOT bugs.

Max at the anthill... he could watch them carry leaves through a tunnel back to their home.

What a fun way to spend a Saturday!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Naomh Padraig, guigh orainn!

(St. Patrick, pray for us!)

Ever since visiting Ireland two years ago, I've had a special place in my heart for that beautiful country. There is something mysterious, almost magical, about the foggy green countryside that took my breath away. I wonder if that's how St. Patrick felt when he was called back to spread the good news of salvation to the people of Ireland? He must have had a deep love for the Emerald Isle and the Irish to be willing to return to the land of his enslavement.

Above our bed, we have a framed copy of St. Patrick's breastplate prayer. These beautiful words give me chills whenever I stop to read them, and they are the perfect way to begin each day. While for many, this holy day has become little else than an excuse to drink green beer (which is fun, I'll admit!), I want to make sure to remember the man that we are celebrating, the man that was not afraid to call on all of the power of God to help him on his journey.

St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me.
God's host to save me

From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and souls,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation

Happy St. Patrick's Day!