Friday, December 29, 2006

Meeting the neighbors

Shortly after we bought our house, my mother in law asked if the boys had made any friends among the neighbors. I replied that we had a met a few of the adult neighbors, but the kids were only seen on their way to and from school, and from what I could tell most spoke Spanish predominantly.

Really, our social life is busy enough, and the boys have enough friends, that we just hadn't had the opportunity to get to meet the kid neighbors here. Today, that changed -- it's snowing again and the boys spent about an hour outside. They shoveled the driveway and got into a snowball fight with the neighbor kids. With four kids across the street, they formed teams of three and had a great time. Andy told me he'd made a new friend, Alex, who speaks both English and Spanish. I had to run out and get pictures of more snowplay.

You'll notice that in today's pictures, the boys started out dressed for the weather. Okay, Andy is still in shorts, but the socks he chose give full coverage to his legs. And Dan is wearing his snow boots, bought last winter when we had no real snow and a perfect fit this winter.

Here's the whole gang, near the end of the snowball festivities

Dan running across the street to meet up with the rest of the kids

Andy with his teammates in the snowball fight

Andy throwing a snowball across the street at Dan

Dan with a huge snowball, ready to throw it across the street

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mom - Andy won't let me scrub the toilet!

filed in the category of things you never thought you'd hear your kids say.

No -- I want to scrub it more! Mom!! Andy only let me scrub the toilet 5 times! [Part of an actual disagreement between the boys over who would scrub the toilet.]

I don't have any pictures (not even Andy would agree to be photographed scrubbing a toilet!), but wanted to record this moment as my answer to all those folks who say "Kids need to be made to do chores -- they'll never want to clean on their own."

It started when Andy came to the living room and said his toilet needed to be cleaned. I mumbled something like 'mm hmm, later.' Then he jumps up and says "where's the toilet brush?" I tell him where to find it in my bathroom, and go back to watching my TV show. Next thing I hear is the boys fighting over who will get to scrub the toilet more times. I call out 'We have two toilets -- I'm sure the other one could stand a cleaning, too!" and head to the bathroom to sort out the argument. After some negotiation -- who knew cleaning toilets was so desirable? -- we all agree that Andy can clean the hall toilet and Dan will clean mine. Now they decide they need the right cleaner, so we find it under the sink and Dan watches while Andy scrubs the toilet within an inch of its life. When that's done, Dan drags me into my bathroom so I can watch him scrub my toilet.

Once it was all over -- and both the toilets sparkled! -- I said to Gary (who had been happily online all this time) "Can you believe it -- your progeny fighting for the right to clean a toilet?"

Now my answer to the chore question will be that yes, kids will 'learn' -- and even choose -- to clean without being forced to do chores.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas week & Solstice!

Happy Christmas to everyone!

We've had several day of winter/Christmas fun around here, with a few pictures to share.

We had a solstice/yule celebration at Jenny's farm this past Thursday. Lots of food --a delicious vegetarian stew -- and drink and kids playing inside and out. We built a small cave, and at 5:22 pm (our local time solstice) we filled it with candles and a small mother-child figure (made of sparkly gold pipe cleaners for the baby sun). Several of us sang a solstice song for/with the kids. At one point in the evening, someone broke out the guitars and mandolins, along with some other instruments for some wonderful music.

Sometime it seems the more fun we had, the fewer pictures I remember to take!

This is Andy flying his Vectron -- it's a remote controlled hover craft. Both boys received one from their Zayde (my Dad) for Christmas. Right now they're flying them in the house. Maybe later today it will be warm enough for us to fly them at the park.

This one was taken just a millisecond before the hover craft landed at Dan's feet. He'd already stopped sending power to it and was trying to have it land on his head. The RC hover crafts don't have a directional control, only power to go up, and no power to let them drift/fall down. At one point, as Dan was flying his, I heard Andy say "you can't tell it where to go -- it's a free-thinker!" I can't imagine where he'd have heard a phrase like that!

Andy with his Metroplex -- the big gift for Xmas this year.

Dan with his new toolbox -- a Home Depot model with kid-sized tools (not toys!). He is thrilled with it, tho it's not something he'd asked for specifically. One day last week, Gary said 'I know what Dan could really use -- a tool box! (as he said it, I had the same idea and knew he was going to say toolbox - it was just too perfect).
A week or so ago, when Dan had some money to spend, he chose to buy a power drill. He'd been talking about the power drill for weeks, having seen it at Target some time ago. I was skeptical that he'd be able to use a real drill, but he insisted. I was wrong -- Dan found the perfect drill at Target.
The drill as such a big hit that Dan chose a cordless drill as his Christmas gift to Scotty. Who knew real tools would be such a big hit with a couple of 5 and 6year old boys!
Some music at the Solstice party at Jenny's this past Thursday. To answer the inevitable question -- that's Dan in the lower right corner. I first thought it was Scotty, but on second look realized that's my own kid! It's really amazing to both me and Jenny how much the boys look alike, especially now with longer hair.

The cave we made for the Earth Mother & Sun Child. We lit the candles and filled the cave with them at 5:22 local time, the moment of solstice. Susan made our mother & child figures -- too small to see here -- from two pipe cleaners; yellow for mother and shiny for the sun baby. We sang a solstice song with/for the kids (do I remember the word now? only a few....).
We had a great time at the farm on Thursday. As we left at about 10 pm, one candle was still burning in our solstice cave.
Really a very nice welcome back for the sun. And now the days are longer -- whether or not I can notice the difference, just knowing there was more sunlight today than yesterday is nice. We've spent most of the week at home -- baking, playing with new toys, and just being. The last two months have been busy and transitional, so it's nice to just rest and have fun, while getting ready for Christmas.
Happy solstice -- and Christmas and New Year -- to everyone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow, snow and more snow!

We'd been hearing for several days that a 'major winter storm' was headed our way. Given the sparse snow since we moved here in '98, I expected an inch or two. Or even that we'd be missed altogether. Andy was hoping for a foot or more of snow. The storm split the difference, giving us 6" of snow yesterday.

Early in the day, both boys went out in summer shoes, with Andy in shorts (okay, he stayed in shorts all day) and Dan in a t-shirt (that did change, as you can see in later pix). It was much too cold for that -- I was in pants, a sweater and shoes, and still shivering. Here they're harvesting snow from Gary's car.

Later in the day, making snowballs from the trampoline and throwing them at the house. Both boys are wearing real shoes now, and Dan even has a real coat on. Andy wore his hoodie only because the sleeves worked as gloves since his were left in the car, which was with Gary at work. This morning, he unearthed the gloves in the car, ready for more snow play today.

Andy's snow ball throwing technique. He'd already thrown the snowball, this was purely for demonstration purposes.
Dan with a snow-pie, made early in the day, since he's still wearing a t-shirt, tho he did remember to put on his gloves!

Andy harvesting snow on the tramp, while Dan throws snow balls at the house.

Dan made this snow volcano. I had told the boys I would send some of these photos to Grandma & Grandpa in Hawaii, so they could see our snow. Andy said, "don't they get snow there?" He should know that, but then again he doesn't remember the winter trip we made -- only his summer visits. I replied that they do get snow up on the volcano, Mauna Kea. Next thing I know, Dan's showing me a snow volcano! Pretty cool connections.

Who says a trampoline is only a warm weather diversion? Ours gets use year round -- even in the snow!

Andy with his snow-pie -- much later in the day, given the presence of an actual coat on the boy!
Andy making a snow angel at the edge of the driveway.
On his way home from work, Gary bought a snow shovel - our last one has been MIA for years -- it was last seen as a signpost for the Welcome Home Daniel sign made by Andy and Grandpa in January of 01.
After Gary had cleared the driveway and sidewalk at the street, the boys insisted on shoveling the walk at the front of the house and the steps to the door. After dark, when it was really cold!
A little more snow fell this morning, and boys went outside for a few minutes. Dan came in with a 12-oz plastic cup crammed full of snow and wanted to melt it. I suggested he put it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. He was amazed at how little water was in the cup after the snow melted.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Clan Tynker & good news!

This past Wednesday afternoon -- after a great time hanging out with the tribe at the McNeill's house in Rio Rancho, we all headed over to the new library to see a performance by Clan Tynker which is a fabulous troupe of medieval-renaissance style performers. It was an amazing show and the kids loved it! Here's the whole gang -- Cole, Sorscha, Parker, Andy, Dan (trying to escape the photo!) and Spencer. We managed to talk them (well, Dan was there under protest) into posing for a couple of shots.

Andy spent most of the hour long show just like this -- totally enraptured. He clapped and laughed and danced and played air drums. He was just in heaven with the whole show.

Elijah -- who acted as MC for the show -- contact juggling with small crystal balls. Here he's working with 3 -- on his way up to 5!

Rebekah with the Polynesian Poi Balls. Later in the performance, she (and Marigold) had both balls by cords in one hand -- spinning in opposite directions!

Elijah juggling balls -- he started with three, then moved up to seven. When it was time to add one more, he announced he'd now juggle eight balls -- and came out with three billiard 8-balls! The kids loved that one!

Juggling pins -- they did this singly and in pairs, even switching back and forth with pins in mid-air -- they did the same with balls, too.

The finale was sword-swallowing -- with two different swords. The first was a finer blade, like a fencing sword. The one in this picture had a flatter, thicker blade like a small broadsword.

It was just an amazing day all around -- we left the library to find a text message from Gary telling me he'd been offered the job he really wanted, and could say no to other offer he'd not been really happy about. So, the lay-off leads to an even better job --and 4 wks of double pay with the severance package.

Some recent random photos

In posting here I came across some photos I really wanted to share, but hadn't posted in any other stories. So here they are.

Dan loves to help me cook, especially cutting anything. Here's he's chopping up potatoes for soup. He's tried to work with a 'safer' butter knife but found it too frustrating so now he uses a real knife. He's careful and very precise in his chopping methods.

Dan & Gary reading at night. Most nights Gary reads to each boy in turn. Generally it's from a Garfield or some other comics collection book, and sound of laughter -- from both Dad & boy -- fills the house. What a lovely way to end a day.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the boys flew paper airplanes and played on the monkey bars -- when they weren't on the swings or chasing each other!

Andy on the Monkey bars. He's almost too tall for those bars at what's been our favorite playground since he was 3.

Dan on the monkey bars

Dan with his helicopter -- he's a little frustrated that it won't fly exactly the way he imagined it would.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

bubbles, bubbles everywhere!

On Tuesday morning, the boys called me into their bathroom to see what they had going on. I'll admit I'd been wondering at the reason for all the excited shouts coming from there! Thinking then again, maybe I don't want to know what two young boys are excited about doing together in the bathroom!

They had put two squirts of liquid handsoap into a plastic jar, added water and made bubbles using a hollow staff from a Halloween staff.

Both boys had to show me their technique. Dan has to improvise to reach the sink with the big 'straw' they used.

We talked about how the bubbles got bigger when they added air, and died down if left alone for a few minutes.

Then I said, "guess what happens if you put some shampoo and water in the garden tub and turn on the jacuzzi jets?" They couldn't wait to find out, so I grabbed camera and told them to head to my bathroom, that I'd join them in a minute. I wanted to let them get started on their own.

Here's the tub filled, before the jets came on.
First, tho they realized they'd seen a hair clip fall in the water so they fished it out, worried it would get caught up in the jets. Hey, they know how the jets circulate and to watch out for stuff being sucked in!

The bubbles cresting after the jets were turned on. It took only a few minutes to reach this point, and the excitement was building.

Dan watching it spill over moments later....

The final results -- well, actually there were more bubbles everywhere, which meant I had to abandon my camera in favor of towels.

Later, drain the water, leaving behind lotsa bubbles. Add two boys in swim trunks, some bubble artwork on the mirror and now I have the cleanest kids in town!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Andy's reading habit

Andy & Dan, taking a break from both reading and playing, enjoying each other's company. We marvel every day at how close they really are. Sure, they bicker some days (like an old married couple) but overall they are great friends, and wonderful brothers.

Okay, so Andy has become a voracious reader. Yes, he didn't really read until he was 8 (and a few months), and only recently began to read alone silently -- most of his reading is aloud, choral style, with Gary at bedtime -- but he's really taken off recently. Over the summer, he discovered manga books. They're basically graphic novels, based on anime cartoons he sees on TV. There's a huge genre of them. We're at the library at least once a week, and it seems there's a steady stream of manga books for Andy to choose from. So far, he's read some yuyu hakusho, and some yugioh. Today at the library, he found a DragonballZ one. Last week, it was six yugioh books.

He sat down and started reading immediately, while Dan and I looked for more books. As we walked out to the car Andy asked if it was okay if he read while he walked. I smiled and said sure, reminding him to look out for cars. We're ready to cross the parking lane to our car, and I see a van coming. Dan & I stop, Andy keeps walking, head down, reading his book. I call out to him to stop, by which time the driver sees what's going on and waves us across. I'm so excited -- my boy who was never taught to read by anyone, who learned on his own, has fallen so in love with books that he reads while he walks!

Reading sitting down here, at the park before others kids showed up for playgroup -- halfway thru a book he'd checked out that morning.

Amazing playgroup day!

We had an amazing day at Wells Park today! Four new families showed up, and the community center really was amazing -- the staff were welcoming, there's a great playground, a gameroom, a big grassy field, a stage the kids loved.

The boys & I arrived at 12:30, just to get some questions answered -- since both Crystal & Beth were away (Beth found this center for us!) I wanted to be sure we didn't have any misunderstandings. I asked which room we could use and was offered the game room or some tables in the entrance area. The gym had been booked by another group today (more on that later) and the big back room had no heat, but is being repaired today. I asked if we were on time limit -- would we have to leave when the after-school kids showed up? The gal at the desk looked genuinely perplexed. I asked if it would be okay if our kids were still on the playground with the after school kids. Again, she looked a bit surprised and said "Sure, that's okay." She showed us where to sign in. We chose the game room which, it turned out, had two tabletop soccer games, two covered pool tables (those we were asked not to play with, no problem complying there) and two rows of long table with chairs. From the game room you can see the playground, which is fully enclosed.

How many kids does it take to build a train set? Is it possible to have too many builders?

Dan playing with Scotty's Nintendo DS - guess what tops his Christmas wish list this year?

Andy & Garrett, over yugioh cards.

Playing Hot Hoops, or maybe just talking about it

As the day went on, it got even better -- we had kids in the game room, and kids on the playground. Not always the same kids, in fact rarely the same kids. 19 kids and they played together in everchanging combinations -- yugioh cards, board games, tabletop soccer, freeze tag, hide & seek, playset slides, swings, scooters and a bike. Later in the afternoon -- about 3:30 or so -- I took the games I'd brought out to my car while there was a lull in the game room (the weather was so nice after all that most of the kids were outside). Just as I put the last stack of games in the trunk, a man comes up to me and says "you don't need to bring your own games -- we have a closet full of games. You can use any games you'd like." We introduced ourselves -- he was Jess, the manager of the center. He went on to say that the gym had been used today by a school group practicing for a holiday program, but that next week it would be available for us, too. That really most days the center is empty until the after school program starts, and they were happy to have us there. I told him that in the 5 years I've been homeschooling in Albuquerque, I've been to meetings at six other city centers, and today he and his staff had already treated us better than any other center in my experience. I explained that the other centers had seemed to not know what to do with us, that we'd been required to leave when other groups showed up. He shook his head, looked sad and said, "but that's why we're here, for families and kids to come and spend time."

I told Jenny we'd been offered the game closet, and a few minutes later I found the closet open (it is locked, but just ask the receptionist to open it). In there are several each of Monopoly, Sorry, Battleship, Clue, and more games I didn't catch the names of. Jenny found a wooden train set, and basketballs. After playing with the games and train set -- and putting it all away, we took basketballs over to the gym and spent most of an hour shooting (at) hoops with the kids.

Finally, at 5:15 the last of us headed out. Thank you, Beth, for finding this place for us -- I can't tell you what a great day we had there!

Scotty, putting the chain back on the gear on Conor's bike -- with the whole gang watching

Dan & Scotty heading out with a buddy to play hide & seek

Holly and crew coming down the slide as a train. The slide was Holly's idea. Jenny asked if she could take their picture. Holly said sure -- do you want a picture on the slide? Jenny said it was up to Holly, who jumped up, ran up to the slide and called out "I get engine!"

I just love tribe play days and our magnificent children!