Sunday, January 29, 2012

What's This White Stuff?

It's been a very strange winter here in Minnesota. Fifty degree days in January? Only inches of snow on the ground? I feel like I'm back in South Dakota. Not that I mind, but Max has been itching for some real snow days since before Christmas. Finally, finally, we got enough cumulative snow (in the right consistency) to build a snowman! 

Earlier in the day, before Paul got home, Max wanted to play Peter Pan outside. I fashioned him a cape (apparently Peter Pan needs a cape?) and gave him my winter hat and sent him on his way. While he was outside, truly massive flakes began to fall from the sky. The wind began to blow and our backyard looked like a snow globe! Did that deter Max? Of course not. But he instantly changed his game from "Peter Pan" to "Catch the snowflakes on your tongue". 

That short-lived but prolific snowfall enabled Max and his daddy to build one sweet snowman. Never mind that they had to use just about all the snow in the yard... they didn't let that stop them, no sir! (It may have slowed my dear husband down a little bit by the end of it... that's a lot of rolling). Max was beside himself with excitement when they finished up with a carrot nose and real charcoal eyes. I could see it in his eyes: "Now it's really winter!"

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Two Cute

My little baby boy just turned two! Poor kid, he was sick with a fever on his birthday, but you wouldn't know it from the pictures. I think our simple celebration with my mom was just enough (but not too much) excitement. Grandma came in the afternoon with an armful of presents, and we tore into those before dinner! Max was a very helpful big brother, offering to assist in opening gifts and playing with the new toys. I mean, come on, what two year old can handle this much fun at one time? 


Lucian was interested in every toy but his new sit 'n' spin... as soon as we set him on it, he informed us that he was "all done!" So Max took over the job of breaking it in.

 After presents, we sat down to dinner. Since Lucian has no favorite foods (besides mac 'n' cheese), I made beef stew because I like it. Then Paul made an amazing dessert- a double-layered German pancake with blueberry syrup inside and powdered sugar on top. It ... was... incredible. And the great thing is, it can double as a breakfast food! It has officially been added to the future brunch lineup.

He looks sad, but he was actually just practicing blowing out the candles!
Louie mustered the strength to blow out his candles, then he cuddled in Grandma's arms for the rest of the evening. Even though he was feeling awful, everything was right in the world when snuggling with Grandma! And what a trooper, he stayed awake almost until his normal bedtime even though he could barely move. I guess even when you're sick, you don't want your birthday to end.

Happy birthday, little man. I can't believe it's been two whole years already! On the other hand... I can barely remember life without you. Thank you for bringing me so much joy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Still Partying Like Pirates

Remember Max's birthday last year? Remember that comment at the end where I mentioned that I was ready to retire from the life of a pirate? Well here we are a year later, and First Mate McGraw is still firmly entrenched in the world of pirates, thanks to my dear Captain Max Salty! I gave him all kinds of ideas for birthday party celebrations, but there would be no swaying him: we would again be celebrating in true pirate fashion. The invitations went out, the goodies were bought, the house was decorated and our pirate partying commenced once again!

Having as much practice as I do, the party was pretty easy to put together. For snacks we offered lime-flavored chips, skulls (pretzel crisps) with hummus, hard-tack X's (made from Pillsbury breadstick dough), cannonballs (of the malted milk variety), Pirate's Booty (a brand of puffed popcorn, courtesy of Angela and Lachlan), and chocolate gold coins.

Upon arrival, everyone was asked to choose a pirate name by drawing a word from each one of three bags and putting them together in order. The first bag contained mostly adjectives, the second contained pirate-y articles of clothing or body parts, and the third contained "common" pirate first names. This translated into such names as Blind Eye Deb, Calico Tooth Bruce and Limp Patch Sal! Captain Max Salty, of course, was not required to draw a name, seeing as he's had his for over a year and a half now. He responds to "Salty" just as readily as "Max"!

Then it was time for the treasure hunt! This year, there were even more kids who were old enough to participate in the games, and it was such a riot watching them. Ellie and Max led the charge, followed by Addy, Lachlan and Louie... with Will bringing up the rear. The hunt led them around our main floor, asking them to complete certain activities at different points along the way. They had to hop like bunnies through a doorway, spin in a circle three times, sing "Twinkle, Twinkle", give someone a hug, and jump up and yell "Happy Birthday!" all before they were able to find the treasure chest filled with goodies.

When given the choice between cake and another game, the kids chose to play another game! Can you believe it? So we played "Musical Islands"- identical in every way to Musical Chairs, except that the chairs are replaced by islands (pillows) and the person who gets out has to walk the plank! I don't think anyone minded getting out when that was the "punishment".

Waiting for the music to stop...
Louie walks the plank
Captain Salty swords himself off the plank
Addy jumps off the plank, assisted by Salty's cutlass

After a round of Musical Islands, we brought out the cake. I must say, I'm much happier with my decorating job this year than last, and it helped that I decided against trying to frost any words on the cake... just a plain old Jolly Roger. I did have a near nervous breakdown when I went to frost the cake (which was still a little soft) with chocolate frosting (which was still a little hard). The cake began to come off in chunks, and the frosting would not frost! I called Paul in a panic, and as usual he calmly told me how to deal with it. I heated up the frosting for a few seconds and it spread like a dream. Crisis averted.

We sang "Happy Birthday", and all the kids leaned in to blow out the candles together. Then, without warning, Max took his plastic cutlass and chopped the cake in half! I couldn't have planned that pirate moment. We served the cake with root beer floats, and I unapologetically sent the kids home nicely sugar-buzzed!

We had a swashbuckling good time, and I hope all of our guests did too. Here's looking to next year on the Pirate Ship Scallywagg with Captain Max Salty and crew!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Go Wild!

Last month, my dad called to see if Paul might be interested in bringing Max to a Wild game at the Xcel Center- he has a friend with season tickets who couldn't use them one day and had offered them to my dad. After much hemming and hawing (ha, yeah right), Paul took him up on the offer and prepared to take Max to his very first hockey game!

He did some prep work ahead of time, explaining the basics of the game, the gear, and the players. Max was super excited about the whole thing, but he hit a turning point when he realized that the game was played on ICE! And the players were going to wear SKATES!

The game was on a Tuesday night at 6:30, a good time for Max. I figured they could stay for awhile and if he got tired they could always duck out early. Little did I expect my night owl to make it til the end of the game, but I shouldn't have been surprised. At 10:30 they finally rolled in; I was upstairs and heard the door open, followed by excited chattering in a sweet little high-pitched voice. I came downstairs to find Max decked out in a new Wild hat- very stylish. I got the lowdown from both of my boys about the awesome game they witnessed. After overtime and a shootout, the Wild were victorious! Even if Max had been falling asleep, I doubt Paul would have been able to tear himself away. But luckily his son seems to have a place in his heart for hockey as well, because he was pretty engaged the whole night.

The highlights of the night from Max's perspective were pretty clear: The light show at the beginning of the game, the Zamboni, the shootout and the snacks. No hockey game would be complete without an ice cream cookie sandwich and cheese curds. I think he might want to go back again someday...

Sacraments and Ice Cream Shakes

We just returned from a long weekend in Rapid City to celebrate Patrick's Confirmation! We left Friday morning and after a fairly uneventful drive (minus one emergency potty stop at a no-name fireworks shop/convenience store), we arrived in time to share a pizza dinner with the family. The kids were glad to be out of the car and set out exploring Grandma and Grandpa's house right away, but we were so bummed to find Maureen laid up on the couch with a bad back! She is such a trooper; even though she was in incredible pain she made us feel right at home and even got up off of the couch to give us hugs when we came in. We are all praying for a quick recovery!!

On Saturday morning we attended the Baptism of our newest Goddaughter, Gemma Anastasia Daniel. What a beautiful little girl, and what a beautiful family! We were so honored to be asked to be Godparents- our only disappointment is that we will see her so rarely. If only the Twin Cities and Rapid City weren't 600 miles apart! The baptism was wonderful, and we all went to the Daniels house afterward for a yummy lunch and great conversation. Later in the afternoon, Glenn and Monica arrived from Chicago, so we headed back to the Yantes abode to spend time with them.

Sunday started out with a pancake breakfast at Cathedral, followed by Mass. Maureen's friend Lisa decided to take Lucian back to her house so we could attend Mass with only one kid... and I was amazed that Louie just took her hand, turned around and said, "Bye, bye, Mama!" and proceeded to follow a near-stranger home! Maybe our little introvert is coming out of his shell a bit?

We met up with Al and Bridget after Mass and the whole crew went downtown to check out the new shops, including Dakota Soda, a burger-fry-soda-shake joint. Oh yum. And what an adventure. The four of us, Al and Bridget and their three kids, Monica and Glenn, Paul Sr, Patrick and Liam all crowded into a corner booth and table to enjoy our lunch. I wouldn't say it was relaxing, but it sure was fun! Then while some went to check out the outdoor ice rink, the rest of us had to peek at the new toy store and book store in the same building. Why was this area not built until I moved away? Why?

That evening after dinner, we had a mini Christmas celebration. Max got an awesome dinosaur egg with bones inside that he has to excavate, but the poor kid hasn't been allowed to do it yet even though he has asked me every day. (Mean mom! I'm just afraid of the mess. Tomorrow, I think I'll brave the dino egg dust for his sake...) But the crowning jewel of gift opening was Monica's crocheting. She made hats and scarves for a whole bunch of us, and they looked store-bought! That woman has talent, let me tell you.

Monday was pretty chill until we got ready for Confirmation in the evening. Monica and I even managed to sneak away for some girl time at Dakota Soda in the afternoon for some more of their yummy shakes! The only rule was that we had to bring one back for Paul, Glenn and Maureen. Then Paul's grandparents came into town and we prepared for the Confirmation celebration. I'm really bummed I didn't get a picture of Patrick with the boys that day- he looked awesome, and SO grown up. Yikes, I can't believe he's almost 18!! Quit growing, will you please, Patrick? The boys did great during Mass, and they managed to stay up until almost ten at the reception!

We packed up Tuesday while Patrick ran Max over to school to see the skeleton in his anatomy classroom. Max's latest interest is bones, and he had spent over an hour learning about skeletal anatomy with his uncle earlier in the weekend! His favorite, of course, is the "Maxilla" (one of the bones in your face). So he couldn't pass up the chance to see a life-sized skeleton! Unfortunately the classroom was locked, but he got a look in the window. Now I have a new goal: Find a skeleton for Max to see!

The drive back was pretty quick and painless. We only stopped twice- the kids are such troopers! They both had good long naps, and we arrived home in time for a late dinner before bed. Next trip we make to Rapid will be with three kids, so we'll see how that goes!

Thanks for having us, Paul and Maureen. And congratulations Patrick! St. James, Pray for us!!

Max with Patrick and Joey Trask 

Monica's works of art
New camera for Lucian
Magnetic letter board... this one's a keeper!
Learning about the spine with Uncle Peej

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sorry this post has been delayed, as I was knocked down with a bout of the stomach flu the morning after my birthday! However horrible it was, at least it had the decency to stay away until my birthday was officially over. Now that I've regained my health, I'm just praying it doesn't make its way through the rest of the family. We don't have time for this stuff!

Anyways, back to happier times... Monday morning started out perfectly, with Paul letting me sleep in until 9:45! He did an amazing job at keeping the kids down in the living room, which is quite a feat around these parts if Mom is upstairs. At about 9:15, he came in to tell me he had set the boys up with a video and was running to Panera (YUM!) to pick up breakfast. Thus the 9:45 wake up call- the instant the video was over, I suddenly had two crazy boys climbing all over me! Honestly, a perfect way to start the conscious part of my day. Max's greeting of choice on Mom's birthday was, "Good morning! Will you get up and make a birthday cake for myself and you?" He's got his priorities straight, no doubt.

We went downstairs and met Paul coming in with a delicious Panera coffee cake and a dozen gorgeous roses! Happy birthday me! We settled in at the table and waited... and waited... and waited for Paul to come in with the coffee cake. When he came out of the kitchen, I realized what had taken him so long: he had lit twenty-seven candles on that cake!! Max helped me blow them out before the house burned down, and we got all but two on the first try. Go us! Wow, that was a powerful visual aid to demonstrate that yes, I am getting older.

We spent the rest of the morning in our pajamas, lazing around the house. Eventually we got ourselves moving and got ready to go to Burnsville for my birthday dinner, cooked by my very favorite Top Chef, Mom. After we had all successfully stuffed ourselves with lasagna, it was present time! I got two awesome cook books  (One containing 30-minute meals, the other all-vegetarian to expand my Friday options), a CD, and some gorgeous handmade jewelry (can you guess who made it?). On top of it all, Max and I get to go on a Paint-Your-Plate excursion with my mom sometime of my choosing. How fun!

Dessert was served to me by the two cutest kiddos I know, and it was delicious. Salted caramel cheesecake, anyone? Jealous much? Then after a game of 500, we packed up the gifts, kids, and leftovers (not necessarily in that order) and went home. It was exactly the way I wanted to spend my birthday!