Friday, November 1, 2019

Theo is 9!

Theo is 9!

Theo had his ninth birthday. He couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to do to celebrate this year. His original plan involved Nerf guns (which he adorably calls nerve guns) and a bunch of boys shooting each other. Over the summer we talked about doing that in the park nearby, but then Theo realized with October fast approaching that the weather might not cooperate. So he decided he wanted to do a Pokemon party, Pokemon being one of his current two great loves along with Star Wars Legos. But with less than two weeks to go on the Pokemon plan, he declared that none of his friends will play Pokemon (even if they collect cards) and no one would come. While we discussed and decided that at least one friend does in fact play Pokemon (unlike in previous years, Pokemon is not the hot topic amongst schoolmates any longer apparently), Theo still didn't want to risk it.

So he decided imitation is the best form of flattery and he wanted to do a Magic The Gathering (a card game even I don't understand, and that Theo has some cards but not nearly as many as Pokemon or even baseball cards) draft party. Theo attended a classmate's draft party at a gaming store last month and clearly enjoyed the experience.

So with less than a week to go, we sent out invitations for the boys in his class (plus a few friends who have moved up to the next classroom, and a few friends outside school) to join us for a Magic party.

Perhaps I should've boned up on my Magic understanding but alas, having never played, and having no desire to start, I did not. We did have some fabulous decorations (potions in the five magic colors? A big banner featuring the same!) and popular food, but the game did not go as planned. It turns out when your kid asks multiple times if you have enough basic cards, you should check. In any case, the kids invaded, they played with our weapons stash (turns out we do have enough Nerf guns, swords, and who knows what else to arm ten or more boys, and now that we have a huge house, they can all run around accosting each other, too) for about half hour, settled down to attempt a draft, failed, resorted to entertaining themselves in a myriad of unfortunate ways, ate, went wild again, and finally, counting down the minutes on the adults' part, left. Big sigh of relief.

We had Subway sandwiches for the main course because Theo loves Subway. We also had Cheetos and it turns out he's not the only kid who loves Cheetos. We even fetched cucumbers last minute because we had forgotten them on the grocery run, and Theo almost single handedly devoured both of those with a generous sprinkling of salt. For his cake, he wanted an mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. Luckily, they make those, so I didn't have to craft one myself. (See also Vivian's sixth birthday, when she requested a Neapolitan ice cream cake.)

The kids who survived the party went home with some random assortments of Magic cards, and Theo scored big time in the Magic card department on gifts. He got loads of packs from friends, a deck builder set (if that's even what it's called) from Vivian, and a core box of whatever from Grandma. He also got a Magic mat, with room for not one but two players. His other main theme was Star Wars Legos, which as far as I can tell, are the only items on his Amazon wishlist. He got a small Hoth set from Grandma and Granddaddy, and a tie fighter verses a-wing (or something similar) from Babcia and Dziadzius. Then he got at least five other boxes, including a massive Hoth base set, a Hoth target shooting set, and another shooting set from Xavier. He opened all his gifts in the first 15 minutes of the day, and spent the remainder of the day, until around 3:15, constructing Legos after a nice bout of ripping open Magic card packs to see what was inside.

The end result is a table filled with a Lego battle set on Hoth, with a couple Endor features tossed in for good measure. Vivian and I also spotted a Lego like book light when we went out shopping, so we got that for him to read in bed without having to use a flashlight. I also learned that they make chew toys for kids, so I ordered a pack of five chew toys, three on necklaces and two pencil toppers.

Theo had golf lessons to attend because it was Sunday, though he elected not to take any treats to share there. From there, we let him pick our dinner destination. He did not surprise us with his Mexican selection, but he wanted the local joint to reduce travel time and increase game night time. Plus, they also have a TV with NFL football, which Theo follows avidly. Sadly, they are closed on Sundays, so we went down the hill to his under duress second choice with TVS only in the bar. Luckily, it worked out, and we even got to catch the start of Sunday Night football there after a short wait. Theo ordered and polished off his standard bean and cheese burrito, although alas it did not contain rice because the kids' tortillas are too small for too much stuffing. He had not one but two sides of beans and rice to make up for it, along with loads of chips, cheese dip, and even a mango Nino margarita to wash it all down.

For dessert, he wanted an mint chocolate ice cream cake with no actual cake (can't blame him there). That you cannot buy, at least on only a couple hours notice, so we got two containers of mint ice cream, melted them enough to get them into layers, and Michal added toffee bits and magic shell chocolate sauce on top of the layers. By the time we returned from Mexican, we were able to assemble the layers into a cake like configuration, light some candles, and sing. Sadly, Theo hates toffee and couldn't finish his slice of cake.

At home for game night, he choose to watch the Seahawks play, despite knowing the outcome from catching the score on the bottomline during dinner. He spent the rest of the evening watching them "destroy" the other team and enjoying every minute of it while devouring one of the new chew toys, which he only removed to talk. In less than two days, he's put some sizable dents in that silicone chew, but on the plus side, I haven't found any new shirts with dime sized holes dotting the sleeves.

Theo's solidly into medium size clothes in the boys department, and at the beginning of the school year I removed some of the smaller stuff and added the next size up, which is large listed at 10-12. He still wears nothing but long sleeve shirts, though he will wear a t-shirt over it for a special occasion like a baseball game or cross country race. He wears size three shoes, and still has a pair of the bright yellow Croc boots that have almost become his signature footwear (and make him super easy to spot even from a distance at the park). He also has a new pair of tennis shoes in bright red and blue, after rejecting the bright red pair in his favorite New Balance brand because they had laces instead of Velcro. He loves fleecy pants, but will wear jeans and even a button up shirt for "fancy" occasions like school pictures, which is about as fancy as we get around here.

His hair still curls when its long enough, which is frequently as he will only let me cut it and we don't get to that often. He still sleeps with what's left of poor old Jez, as well as his Star Wars sheet, a big blanket he calls Fuzz Fuzz, and more stuffed animals than I care to count. When we moved, we filled up two or three kitchen trash bags with all the stuffed animals, and I didn't do a good job parring the supply down any in transition. As a result, you can barely see Theo in the piles at the top of the bunk beds. Theo needs about 9 hours of sleep a night, though he's happy to keep both his siblings up, so he still has a fairly early bedtime around 7:15/7:30 most nights to accommodate their camaraderie. He falls asleep between 8 and 9 most nights and gets up at 6:30 unless he's "overly excited" - his words, not mine. Things that can make him overly excited include impending birthdays or even a trip.

Theo loves sports and plays football, ultimate frisbee, and soccer at school regularly. He still has tons of energy and needs lots of things to do, preferably with other friends, to stay occupied. He will often cry on school days if he doesn't have a play date, or even worse, if one of his siblings does and he doesn't.

He will eat almost anything we put in front of him, except toffee apparently, and now prefers his food more like grown ups, i.e. burgers need lettuce and tomatoes and he gets really excited about things like steak. He loves soup of almost any kind, and will still pick strawberry milkshakes as his favorite flavor. He drinks milk, and can assemble his own breakfast, though if there's an adult available, he'd rather be hungry than do the work himself. He's lost a lot of interest in his pet hamster, but still loves to get Rocky out of her cage and show her off when friends and visitors show an interest.

If I bothered to dig through his bed, which is rare, its strewn with legos, Pokemon cards, and books. His favorite books to date are the Star Wars visual encyclopedias. He checks out all the versions from the library, though he seems to love the aerial vehicles and space ships the best. He also loves to choose the Pokemon card guides as books for reading material in the evening before bed for us to read out loud to him. He enjoys the funny noises I make for each symbol. He's also started playing some sort of finger game with his dad, which I don't understand the gist or the rules. It involves trying to get the other person to look at a certain hand signal, and getting to slap them if they look. Very amusing if you have a Y chromosome apparently, but it gets crazy quickly.

Theo weighed in at 71 pounds and 13 ounces, putting him in the 76th percentile. He's 55.5 inches tall, in he 88th percentile. which means in about 12 more inches he will be as tall as me! I knew he'd been growing with all that eating. It must be going somewhere. I finally upgraded his clothes to the large size (10-12) from the medium (8-10) in the boys department, though depending on the brand he can still fit into the mediums as well.

Theo has oodles of confidence and still loves his social schedule. He continues to make new friends while maintaining older friendships, and is constantly in the front of any group, as close to any authority figure as he can manage. He's made big strides in reading over the summer, and his poetry is phenomenal, especially for his age. We can't wait to see what he does next!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Xavier at Five

Xavier is half a decade old! I can't believe it's been five years since I had a fat baby to cart around, but he's come so far.

Xavier graduated from his beloved preschool in August, along with eleven of his classmates, ten of whom had been together with the same teachers for two years. It's the end of era for us as well, as we have sent all three kids to the same preschool, and won't be going back again. Boo-hoo!

But that also means Xavier has joined his siblings at the big school, in kindergarten no less. He goes to school every day, which is still somewhat of a mystery to him after two years of alternating school days. He asks most days if it's school day, and cries when the answer is yes. But he runs off to join his class every morning once he arrives without a second glance back, and he's happy to stay and play longer even after 6.5 hours of school each day.

For his birthday, we gave him a choice of a big party or a trip to Tractor Days. So I took him on a trip to see Grandma and Granddaddy and enjoy all the joy of tons of tractors the weekend before his big day. He got to make a rope, grind endless amounts of corn into cornmeal, ride tractors, drive tractors, and even sell a few muscadines here and there. Mostly, he spent his time browsing at the one booth that sold toy tractors, and talking relatives (and attempting to talk to strangers) out of their money so he could enlarge his tractor collection. He also learned to ask the seller to "shorten" the prices so he could afford whatever caught his eye. He came home with at least three more tiny tractors, who knows how many accessories, and a cotton baler which made his day, and a sprayer which made his other day there. He got off the plane and asked to go directly to Tractor Days. Though it was closed for the day, we still made a pit stop to enjoy making the rounds before the crowds the following day, when we spent the entire day there.

We flew home the day before his birthday. His class encourages non-food treats, and he wanted to take jello, but had to settle for rubber cows that squirt water. (Think rubber duckies only in multiple colors and cow shapes.) He enjoyed handing them out to friends and even a few siblings at the end of the day. He had to be reminded by his brother in the all school meeting that he had a birthday this month, though, and still is learning the months of the year and the counting of days, despite counting down to his birthday for at least the better part of the summer.

We spent the afternoon searching for the right cake, after a breakfast of pastries from the local bakery. Xavier, as usual, devoured a chocolate croissant, and we went back to check out their supply of cakes. but didn't find anything. We ended up with a chocolate Seahawks cake for the family, which he enjoyed because the blue frosting turned his teeth and tongue blue (one of his favorite things). For dinner, he choose Mexican, and he picked the one that makes their own tortillas with a machine you can watch (plus it had Mac and cheese for Vivian, which was important to him). We feasted on cheese dip before coming home for cake. He cried because he had to spend a large part of the day at school instead of playing with his new toys.

For his birthday, in addition to all the new tractors he acquired, he got a Playmobil rocket set from Babcia and Dziadzius. Vivian gave him a Playmobil dump truck, and Theo scored with a popular present of a Brio cargo helicopter big enough for wooden trains or tiny vehicles, another one of Xavier's loves. He also got a off brand play doh pasta maker set, which was high on his wish list, and a sand and water table meant for 18 month olds that has a crane and wave make and has been a huge hit with all three of our kids. Our sitter got him a Lego combiner (combine harvester) and trailer set, which he put together and played with extensively.

Then we had a small party with his friends from preschool as well as new neighbor and a couple other friends. We had everyone over at the new house, where we treated them to bagels, fruit, and a tractor cake with the field plowed into the number 5 and let them run wild with toys new and old. 

Xavier also miraculously remembered a box that showed up marked as a present for him more than a month ago on our old porch. It got forgotten in the big move, but with his reminder/interrogation, I managed to locate it for him. It's a set of bath pipes you stick on the walls with suction cups and can reconfigure at will, which he also loves.

Xavier needs more sleep than he gets,  because he stays up talking with his siblings every night. He no longer naps except on long car or stroller rides, and has mostly outgrown the stroller though he still loves to ride in it and will request it especially later in the afternoons when we walk places. Between the move, starting school full time, and multiple fall birthdays, he's gotten nowhere near the amount of sleep he likes. He would fall asleep by 7:30 most nights if left to his own devices, which rarely happens. And he is often the last to get up.

He still loves his fuzzy blankets, and sleeps in underwear so he can better enjoy the fleece fluffy feeling of his favorite blankets directly against his skin. He still sleeps with his head tilted back to avoid the sleep apnea, but generally has little trouble. He loves favorite lovie, although he can sleep without him in a pinch, it makes life tougher without. He loves to pile favorite belongings into his bed and overflowing onto the shelves next to his bed to keep them close. He took his birthday presents to school one at a time in ascending size order starting on the actual day.

Xavier loves Mexican food and can eat his entire plate of quesadilla or bean and cheese burritos and all the rice and beans on the table. He drinks in copious amounts, and prefer to have two or three types of drinks at his disposal at any one time. He is the only child who helps prepare meals voluntarily, because he loves kitchen gadgets and cooking utensils so much. We got him a tiny secondhand ice cream maker, and he adores mixing up his own batches, usually in fruit flavors like strawberry or blueberry. For dessert, he will almost always choose strawberry, and for his cake, we got marble with strawberry filling only because they didn't make strawberry cake.

Xavier wears size five with size 11 shoes, and now outweighs his sister by at least two pounds. She's still got an inch or two on him in height, but we gotten the "are they twins?" questions multiple times. while he's never been small for his age, and he isn't about to start shrinking, he still has some trouble managing when given direct orders or if things don't go his way. His favorite form of resistance is to throw things, and getting less sleep hasn't improved this behavior. But overall he's a happy guy who talks almost non stop given the opportunity and uses very advanced language for his age. Strangers often remark on his extensive vocabulary and phrasing.

At his check up, he tipped the scales at 43 pounds and 3 ounces, which puts him in the 65th percentile. He is 44.8 inches tall, in the 82nd percentile, and more importantly, only about 3 inches from the magical four foot mark which means he won't have to pass the swim test to go down the big slide at the community pool.

With his love for kitchen items, tools, gardening, farm stuff, and tiny vehicles, Xavier has come into his own personality. Or as he puts it, he loves anything with "moving parts." We love you and Xavier and look forward to all the joy the next years will bring!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


I landed in the hospital in less than 24 hours with some sort of raging infection that caused horrid headaches paired with a fever and pain so intense I felt nauseous anytime I tried to move my head. I spent 19 hours in the ER before getting upgraded to a regular hospital room, mostly because they were very concerned I had bacterial meningitis which requires an isolation room. Isolation rooms apparently aren’t widely on hand waiting to go, or if they are, the hospital had filled them during my tenure.

I entered the ER around 7:00 p.m. the night before. LINK I got my hospital room around 1 p.m. the following day, after the infectious disease specialist decided that it was unlikely I had bacterial meningitis. She took me off all the IV meds except one antibiotic and let me remove my mask, so she moved right on up in my esteem.

Then they moved me up. That didn’t go nearly as well. I’ve no idea what I had (and neither does the hospital or team of doctors), but because I’d already been upgraded to a cushy hospital bed form the ER cot, they wheeled me on out and up.

I don’t think it had anything to do with the bed. I still had a headache but compared to the excruciating nauseating pain, the headache was completely bearable and I was downright chatty before the move. Then came the elevator ride. Two of them. I went from a chatty happy patient looking forward to a real room to a sniveling ball of nauseous pain.

I get motion sick. Not as much anymore as I used to as a kid, but a curvy mountain road in the backseat of a vehicle can still do me in. This sickness was like that, in the way where a lion is like a kitten. I thought I might expire on the spot from the intensity of the nausea, which only caused my headache to come roaring back as well.

I held on until they wheeled me into the room, trying deep breathing and any other silly exercises I learned to manage labor pains. There, I figured, they could hook me up with some more anti-nausea meds, which I’d had earlier when they worked like a charm.

Only no, first I had to run the gauntlet of hospital admission, even though I’d been there 19 hours and waiting for a room since 5:30 a.m., seven and half hours earlier. The nurses had to ask me a slough of questions, such as did I have cancer (I don’t know. I’m in a hospital. Aren’t you supposed to be telling me that?), do I have an UD (what’s an UD? It took at least three times for me to understand they wanted to know about an ultimate directive), who has my UD, (why are we talking about UDs? Am I dying? I feel like I’m dying!!! Please give me medicine!), what belongings I have (clothing, what kind of clothing? The kind you wear.), what’s in my purse, what’s in my wallet, please count your cash for me (I can’t count, I can’t formulate sentences Medicine!!!).

On the plus side, once I jumped through all the question hoops, they gave me medicine. Right after I dry heaved all over the irritating nurse who wasn’t allowed to go through my belongings (I passed caring at some point in elevator one) they hooked me up with the good stuff and I rolled over and passed out.

When I woke up, I felt better, in that way where I still had a headache but wasn’t likely to vomit all over anything or anyone. My condition improved from there, so much so that by the next day, they’d decided to release me. Despite the doctor saying at 10 a.m.  it would likely be a few more days, by noon I was up for dismissal. That was quick, but who am I to complain, at least until tomorrow when I have a vicious headache again?

They don’t know what hit me. The tests and jury are still out. It seems plain I had viral meningitis (better than bacterial, which is a three week sentence) but it was a secondary infection. Since no one in our household was even vaguely sick, not even a sniffle, it remains unclear what caused the virus that then migrated into my brain, but at least they’ve ruled out the scariest suspects. I’ll take no answer and good drugs over some of the possibilities they had on the table.

Better luck next time.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Where the Week Went

Well, I’d say I don’t know where the week went, but it turns out, I do. Not working on blog posts, obviously. Nope, instead I got unexpectedly ill, not that I ever get sick on purpose or even any time it’s convenient. And because I’m the mom, things came to a crashing, screeching halt. If you’re like me and don’t take enough breaks (guilty!) and do everything yourself (guilty!) because otherwise no one gets fed and hangry people do not make for a happy healthy household, then learn from my hard lesson.

I was fine on Sunday afternoon, even after my kid’s birthday extravaganza fun with variable weather conditions at best and entertaining 40 folks, 20 of whom were under the age of 10.

Then, I wasn’t fine. I had such a bad headache I not only couldn’t stand, I couldn’t move. I managed to make it to the medicine cabinet for over the counter help, which….helped. It didn’t go away but people needed dinner and school stuff had to get reviewed and well, every parent knows the chaos of a Sunday evening during the school year.

I ate dinner, waited to take more meds until bedtime, and passed out…for maybe 3 hours. Then nothing would help the headache. I couldn’t turn my head without blinding spasms of head pain. Then I couldn’t swallow without blinding spasms of head pain. But because I’m me, I didn’t want to bother my husband or drag my kids out of bed and there was NO way I was driving myself anywhere and have you SEEN how much ambulance rides costs? I did not get out of bed, I did not pass go, I did not go. Not in the night, not in the morning, not even when I heard my youngest son’s cries, which always act like a siren call for help.

My husband made me the first available appointment with the doctor at noon because I couldn’t handle a telephone much less talking. I took more over the counter pain relief which kicked in after two hours and didn’t provide much in the relief category, but got me to the office courtesy of my shuttle driver also known as my husband. There, they couldn’t figure out the cause of the intense head pain (not a migraine, not a sinus infection, what else is there?) but gave me a shot of serious pain relief and sent me off with a prescription for pain meds and nausea relief. (The pain was so intense it made me feel like vomiting.)

If you’ve read my other recent prescription trials and errors, you know this probably isn’t going to end well. Sure enough, the first drugstore didn’t have that pain relief and said it wasn’t manufactured anymore. Huh? So we tried a second with the same result, though I had to come home first because even sitting in the car proved excruciatingly agonizing. 

We (ha ha, my husband - there is no we, there is no I, there is only a fetal ball of pain moaning ) spent the remainder of the day trying to reach the doctor to get a new prescription that could actually be filled. The doctor had warned me to take the first dose within four hours of receiving the shot of pain meds.

That did not happen. By the time the doctor called back around 6 p.m. (my appointment was at noon, remember), I had spiked a fever around 100.7. Not bad, but turns out it’s enough for serious concern. We went straight to the ER, in that way where the kids needed dinner first.

At the ER, we told them of the suspected meningitis which earned me an immediate mask (I wouldn’t get to take that off until the next morning around 11 a.m.) and a “fast” track through the cumbersome ER channels. We checked in at 6:50, got called back around 7:30, saw the nurse at 8:00, and the doctor came by around 9:30 to kick off the real fun after the kids went home.

It took two doses of morphine and another shot of even more pain relief to put a dent in my skull of agony. At some point, I could no longer move my eyes without setting off the throbbing fireworks of sparkling pain around my temples and down the sides of my face, much less the ever present band of murderous intent that was now my constant companion.

I took more tests, and they ran more labs, and finally by 5:30 a.m. they got very concerned with the lack of results in either pain relief or cause and started giving me everything they had. 

Guess what? I perked up around 11, after five physicians and many more nurses, all of whom went above and beyond to help me. I waited for a bed to open in the hospital starting at 5:30 when we both knew they weren’t about to send me home, but it had to be isolation which takes time to prepare. Until I got to the end of line (yay for daylight hours and the upper echelons of healthcare professionals) and ran into the infectious disease specialist and some test results. I got to take the mask off, which was nice because I was no longer so cold (my fever had risen to over 102 by the time we got to the ER) and my breath fogged up my glasses and they cleared over and over again when wearing the mask which is not the best condition for clear heads under normal circumstances. And we are so far from normal we were in Wonderland somewhere, but I had no trouble saying adieu to that mask.

So that perked me up, as did my first meal in well over 24 hours and actual pain relief and my temperature hovering closer to 100 and other vitals starting to feel reasonable as well. At this point I got upgraded to the only ER patient room with an actual attached bathroom (out of 22), and the morning nurse felt sorry for me being stuck in the emergency bed for almost 19 hours so she upgraded me to a real bed. That, the fluids, food, and proper meds had me pretty much beaming.

And then this happened.

So no blog posts for you, my friends, Only this cautionary tale of woe.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Xavier Turns Three

Xavier had a his third birthday, and boy was it a doozie! We celebrated on Saturday with a big party at a local park and playground where they have live animals, including chickens, and an actual red truck to play in.

Since we won the party at a silent auction, we had no limit on the number of attendees. So we got to invite Xavier's entire class and all of our friends and both the older kids' friends.

We had a blast! We lucked into beautiful weather (though we had indoor space just in case) and got to play in the water feature there to boot. Xavier ordered a "Mis" cake, which is his name (it's Polish) for Pooh Bear, with balls. The bakery neglected to add any balls so they stuck a few football rings in at pick up. Xavier did not seem to mind. He's such a sweet, easy going boy most of the time, and the cake had plenty of blue icing. His favorite color is blue, and he will wear his bright blue fleece pants over any other. Sadly, I had to retire them (they were size 18 months!) after the end of summer when capri length pants seemed less of a good idea.

We went crazy and had the party catered by a local Mexican restaurant since Xavier loves quesadillas and beans. We had the usual few last minute cancellations but had only orders food for adults plus a tray of (extremely popular) mini burritos. We ended up with TONS of food. We managed to send several meals' worth home with four different families and still had a fridge full.

Xavier loved opening presents from his friends. One parent even drew him a custom card with some of his favorite things - a fire engine with a chicken tossing different kinds of balls!

Xavier loves any kind of sports ball. Or any ball really. Tennis, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, golf, ping pong. You name it and he loves it. He can smack the baseball off his plastic tee pretty far now, though he still often hits the tee too. That's probably for the best as otherwise the balls would be going in neighbors' yards or down the alley each time.

Xavier got to pick the movie that night for family movie night. He choose the ever popular Chicken Run, which we've watched several times.

The next day we woke up to the usual birthday balloons and present pile. Xavier had no idea what was happening but the other two sure knew. As far as Xavier was concerned, his birthday fun had concluded the previous day. Little did he know the fun was just beginning.

He opened all his presents to great acclaim, with several "this was just what I wanted!" remarks. He got a scented donut pillow that he still sleeps with every night, a night light with three removable balls that can change color (they stay blue one hundred percent of the time), a blue bike helmet, four new super wing transforming toys, a farm train set, a garbage truck matchbox car launcher (from Theo), three plastic chickens and Popsicle stick house built by Vivian, a set of pets and houses and food (also from Vivian), a flat bed trailer with a roller and skid steer, a record player, a new fire engine that lights up and makes noise, a Shine book, a poke a dot book, a reusable sticker transportation activity book, and a Star Wars speeder. I've probably forgotten a thing or two, but it was a very good birthday. He slept with many of the things he loved so much.

For his birthday dinner, he selected the ever popular conveyor belt sushi restaurant. We took him to the fanciest location complete with a train that delivers orders. He likes the blue plates best. (Plates are color coded to indicate price.) His favorite, besides the edamame, edamame paste and chips, fresh fruit, and potato katsu, is the salmon on rice. He even eats the salmon from it dipped in soy sauce on occasion. He definitely ate his fill and then some.

I know because he got to pick a birthday treat afterwards. He went with ice cream, and barely managed to put a dent in his huge cone.

We came home exhausted and worn out. The bigger kids had a cross country event that day they attended during Xavier's nap. He still naps most days, though he can power through in a pinch and remain fairly pleasant. He heads to bed by 7:15 most nights, and gets up with his brother no later than 7. He's often awake earlier and has surprised me a couple time by being the first one awake. He's very good at staying quiet and not waking anyone else up.

Instead he hauls his favorite Taggie lovie, his super plush personalized blue blanket, and his donut pillow into bed with me. At just shy of 35 pounds, I'm having trouble lifting him up.

For nap, he's going to sleep around 1:15 and getting up by 2:30 on a non school day. Since Xavier attends school on Tuesday and Thursday each week from 9-2, he naps later on those days. Other days he has to be awake in time to pick up his siblings at three, though he could last longer if he was subject to others' schedules.

He loves school! He started two days over the summer right around June. Now that he's in a class with the same kids each day, he's really coming out of his shell. He knows his friends by name and requests play dates. When I go to pick him up after five hours, he comes running to give me the best hug. But then he asks for more time to play. He often accuses me for picking him up because he didn't get to play in the garden, which is obviously one of his favorite places, though I have zero control over his school activities.

He crashes hard after a busy day at school. He hates going in the morning and has a mini meltdown each time but trots off without any actual physical demonstrations.

He loves this supper soft and fluffy red fleece patterned with skis and other winter themed things. I lucked into it on sale last year in March on a ski trip at the Hatley store and snatched it up in a size 3T. He wears it every day it isn't filthy. We used to roll the sleeves up a bit but that's no longer required.

He's solidly in 3T clothes. His head is often the issue with shirts. He can still wear some 2T pants depending on the brand and type, but much like his brother, prefers only "soft" fleece pants. He sleeps in his sister's hand me down polka dot pink nightgown almost every night. We're still propping up the mattress on one side to help with his sleep apnea. He has a contoured pillow, too, that I wouldn't dream of sleeping without. He sleeps in such s big pile of stuff in his converted toddler bed it is often difficult to spot him. Chika has taken to sneaking into bed with him as well, and they both love it. I usually remove her very much against her will before I retire for the night.

Xavier's favorite foods are quesadilla, Mac and cheese, and pizza. He loves juice and chocolate milk and pretty much anything food related. He often makes off with my kitchen implements, like tongs, measuring spoons, and funnels. He prefers to keep them in his own kitchen. He loves to "help" cook and it isn't a good idea to get between him and food.

He loves the super wings airplanes and anything else that transforms fascinates him. He's still obsessed with all vehicles, including but not limited to car transporters, trains, fire engines, garbage trucks, and construction vehicles. He will play by himself a home quite happily for hours on end with a constant chatter of running commentary.

He can climb with the best of them and at age three, has finally been allowed on the ladders to his siblings' loft beds. He's delighted with himself though he's had the skills for quite some time. He thinks he can do anything his bigger brother and sister can do, and most of the time, he's right. He loves to imitate people and he speaks in fully thought out sentences. When he gets super excited, he can't get the words out fast enough. It's extremely adorable. He made up a movie name the other week a joy chickens called Bockarella. He's extremely imaginative and clever and remembers and can apply information. He asks questions like "where does rain come from?" usually when I'm driving or otherwise distracted. His main form of complaint is shrieking, almost always due to sibling interaction. He loves watching his kindle though he rarely get much opportunity.

He measured 34.8 pounds at his most recent checkup and is 39.? inches tall. They don't bother to measure head circumference anymore, but I know it's big because of how often it gets stuck in shirts.

Xavier is a pure delight to spend time with and around and we are thrilled to watch him grow.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Theo's Journal

Theo has moved up to the "Big Room" this year which contains the second and third grade classes. I suppose that makes him a second grader although I never internalized him as being in first grade last year, so this comes as a surprise to me.

The big room writes in their journals. Every day, it seems like.

Here are Theo's entries for this week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Vivian Turns 5!

Vivian celebrated her fifth birthday in style - with a party at the swimming pool for the third year in a row! She loves swimming and water. She's very coordinated and just learned to ride her bike without training wheels in early May during bike to school month. Guess all the extra practice paid off!


She invited her entire class of four other kids as well as pretty much every kid from her preschool to party with her. We had a great gathering although Vivian was disappointed none of her teachers could make it. We scheduled her party for the weekend after her birthday, so she'd already had lots of birthday excitement.

She picked the spaghetti factory for her birthday meal out, but sadly the one she prefers had closed. The other one we tried was also closed, so we went to Panera across the street instead and came back later in the week. 

Vivian got an assortment of pink and green shiny balloons, all of which are her favorite color. She loves horses and hockey, even though she hasn't gotten to play since fall due to scheduling conflicts with ski lessons. She's very good at anything athletic and has a great start on reading as well. Her artwork has jumped by leaps and bounds. The school had to institute a two pieces of easel art per day rule due to Vivian's high production levels. They've existed for more than 12 years and never needed an art limit before she arrived. She goes to school for half a day (three hours to Theo's six) but comes home with four or five times as much art in her portfolio. She's really developed a knack for it, too.

Vivian also loves clothes, so those featured largely in her gifts this year. She likes to wear matching outfits, so I managed to score a few similar if not exactly identical items for us to wear together. She also got several dresses I thought she might like, and boy was I right.

The other main theme in her gifts was horses. Theo picked out the same set of horses Xavier did for her, so instead he got her a sparkly tiara craft set. She loved both those presents best. She also got a backpack with a camelbak she had been eyeing since November from REI, as well as a camp chair in "rainbow." To celebrate the actual day, we went biking at a local park with a beach where the kids enjoyed digging in the sand when not riding bikes.

Vivian is also a great caretaker. She's bonded with the new chihuahua mix dog, Chika, and takes excellent care of her. She's very attentive and helpful with both Xavier and Theo and me as well. I can count on her to give me a hand anytime something needs to get done. She loves babies and couldn't get enough of her newest cousin. She's content to just watch him but also loves to help in any way with babies.

She has several baby dolls now, including a new one that makes noise and came with a complete wardrobe crafted by grandma. Her favorite doll by far doesn't even belong to her. It's a hard plastic doll that looks like a newborn with movable arms and legs that lives at school - when it's not at our house as a reward for good behavior.

Vivian wanted to go shopping for her birthday so we took her to the mall. She spent all her money on three candy bottles (with sugar powder inside), an assortment of Godiva chocolates, and a blanket and pillow set from build a bear. She really wanted a horse bag she saw at the very first shop but it costs all her money and we convinced her to at least look at her other options before blowing her savings. She'd like to go back for more shopping. 

Vivian's favorite foods are pasta and bagels with cream cheese. She likes to decorate her bagel with berries or fruit or peas and carrots. She barely drinks anything at all despite my efforts and sometimes gets what we suspect is heartburn as a result.

She's growing, though she's still definitely petite. She rang in at 41 inches at her five year check up, tipping the scales at 34 lbs, which lands her pretty squarely in the 11th percentile for weight no matter which scale you use. She wears the same size shoes as Xavier, who's almost 2.5 years younger. She can still wear 3T clothes but has cleaned them all out because she isn't three anymore. Boys 4T fit her well and she wears 4 or 5T in girls' sizes. She loves outfits and puts together the best combinations that it would never occur to me to combine. When we get bags of clothes, she's first in line and everything fits regardless of size. That's how she has so many pairs of rain boots and rain coats and other outerwear. She wears it all so well I can't really complain. Her pajamas drawer is overflowing with options, and she likes to sleep in swim clothes more often than not. 

She's a night owl. Left up her own devices when's she's not sharing a room with Theo - aka the energizer bunny - she will fall asleep around 8 something and get up around 8 or later the following morning. She no longer needs naps but occasionally falls asleep in the car. If she naps more than one day in a row, she has a flesh eating infection from refusing to wear socks and rubbing a blister on her ankle.  Or phytophotosynthesis, both of which happened recently.

Overall, Vivian is a complete joy and I've loved our special time together doing projects and other activities in the afternoons.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Theo at 6.5

Theo is officially six and a half and boy is he excited to join the half club in our house. (Both Vivian and Xavier have reached their half birthday marks already.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017: a total solar eclipse passing through just south of Portland, Oregon. A mere 4 hour drive south of Seattle. Naturally we went: due to forecast traffic we drove to Vancouver, WA on Saturday morning, spent one night there, then Sunday night at 2am woke up and drove down to Weathers Street Park in Salem. We didn't want to take any chances and miss the "totality": being in the path of the total eclipse. Traffic was light for both drives. It took about an hour to get to Salem, where the city had opened all of the city parks to free tent camping. We didn't know this when we formulated the plan -- we planned to do this all along. We set up a tent and threw the kids in, set up a cot and a hammock and slept under the stars. Amazingly everyone went back to sleep and slept until the usual wake up time of 7am.

The eclipse started just after 9am, with the total eclipse lasting one minute and fifty two seconds. I set up my digital SLR on a tripod taking a photo every minute then every 2 seconds, then every 5 seconds. I wasn't confident of the sun's path, and I knew I didn't want a big wide-angle shot since I wanted more of a closeup of the sun, so I had to periodically go back and re-adjust. I stitched these images together into a video which turned out really rather nicely especially given how little I paid attention to the setup.

About 15 minutes prior to the totality I also kicked off a live stream on Facebook from my iPad which was viewed live by 44 people, with more subsequent views. In the chaos that followed I neglected to upload nor save locally the HD version of the video -- a missed opportunity but I think the video is actually most interesting for the reaction of the crowd when the sun is completely eclipsed.

Finally I used my iPhone to record a very short (about 44 second) video during the midst of the totality. It truly was frantic: I wanted to capture the kids' reactions, and capture the birds, and the sky, and the crowd, all the while also trying to take in the experience myself. This XKCD comic puts it best: a total solar eclipse is so, so, so much more amazing that a partial eclipse.

I shared a lot of stuff on Facebook already; there's a collection of all the content on Google Photos as usual. For this event, however, I went a step further: I assembled all three videos linked above into a single video. The DSLR stitched photos isn't actually real time -- it's sped up dramatically then I repeat the same couple bits over and over until the end of the totality where it speeds up dramatically again -- but I got pretty close to syncing the start of the total eclipse with the Facebook live feed video. The live feed video plus the 44 second clip both have audio which made it possible to play both videos in sync with each other. So I assembled a montage of all three videos: you can see what the sun is doing at the same time as you hear the crowd, then you get a glimpse of on-the-ground action in the middle of it all.

A couple of quick notes: the FB live stream video has been trimmed significantly for the clip from its original length, and when the short clip swings over to the left you can see the DSLR that's taking the photos, and to its right you can see a pillar supporting the roof of the picnic area -- you might be able to just barely make out the iPad leaning up against it (in case you wanted an idea of where each video originates).


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Xavier at 2.5 years

Xavier loves chickens. He can distinguish between a rooster, a hen, and a chick. He loves picking up the eggs from our chickens and can carry them in and put them in the container in the fridge.

Xavier also loves balls. Any kind of ball will do. He sleeps with his favorite basketball but also with a wide selection of other balls. He really enjoys hitting the plastic baseballs off his tee with his bat. And he's good at it. He's happy to just hold and snuggle a ball but likes to play catch and see pictures of balls and read about them as well. 

He sleeps with his lovie which is a little Taggie blanket he's been loving since he was old enough to have items in his crib. It's the one thing that he needs to sleep though he often requests something to drink as well.

Xavier loves reading books. Because he's seen his siblings reading to me, he has several of his favorite books memorized and can "read" them to me. We read 6-10 books every morning, usually after his brother and sister have gone to school and I'm having breakfast. 

Xavier loves to eat. He will refuse something based on the wrong person (i.e. not mama) bringing it to him or because he has the wrong color spoon. But when it comes to actual food, he likes to eat. He spends most of the morning grazing after his breakfast at 7 something. He likes to have a bit of whatever I'm packing in the big kids' lunches. Then he usually has a snack and juice while we are out on our walk or running errands. He eats lunch around 11:15 because otherwise we don't have time for him to sit for 20-30 minutes eating because he needs to nap between 12 and 3 (pick up times for his sister and brother respectively). 

He sometimes has an afternoon snack, but eating really slows down after nap. He's generally good to go for dinner around 6 regardless of any afternoon snacks though. 

 His favorite most requested foods are cheese quesadillas and macaroni and cheese. At restaurants he almost always pick macaroni and cheese if that's an option. He loves chocolate milk but generally prefers juice of any kind or even water to milk. And he adores hot cocoa, which he's had plenty of this winter with our abnormally cold and snowy weather.

Xavier naps about an hour each day, though once a week or so he has a longer nap, around 2 or 2.5 hours. He goes to sleep around 7:30 or 8 most nights because the kids spend half an hour or more after their 7 pm bedtime playing and talking. He will wake up about 11.5 hours after he goes to sleep when left to his own schedule, but often his older brother or sister wake him up when they get up. 

Xavier is wearing underwear which is big news! He's been sitting on the potty since last August and able to pee or poop every time he sits down but he was also still going in his diapers or pull ups. I finally bit the bullet in February and switched him to underwear. He's almost 1.5 years younger than when either of his siblings started using the potty so he's definitely had more accidents. But it's rare. Most days he goes when he wakes up, around noon, once in the afternoon, and at bedtime. He will tell you he needs to go any other times and can hold it until we get there. But I still have him in a diaper at night, mostly because I'm lazy. He wakes up with a dry diaper nine days out of ten but the tenth day he just can't make it and it's a lot of pee! He also has most of his accidents during his nap (see this weekend), so he's still figuring that part out.

3C566A59-2E53-405A-AF35-26A8214B3CF8Xavier is quite happy to play on his own at home when his siblings are at school. He enjoys vehicles, especially his matchbox type cars, as well as trains and his dump truck. He cooks in the play kitchen regularly and often pretends to be a puppy dog. He likes to play with his baby doll but does that less on his own than when his sister is around. He loves to play with both siblings and is super excited when Vivian comes home. He almost always gives her big hugs and they now sit beside each other rear facing in the third row of the car because they like to be together. Vivian holds his hand walking up the stairs and they play together for the few minutes he has after she comes home before he has to go for his nap. 

He likes imitating Theo as well and wants to do or eat or say whatever the other two are doing, eating, or saying. He's a great climber and has already mastered most of our child locks with his dexterity. He can even open the baby gate if there's enough room to squeeze his finger in. 

Xavier has the frustrations of a two year old who wants to do everything for himself combined with the vocabulary of a six year old. It's not the best combination though it's nice he has so many words to use. Luckily we seem to be over the worst of the "I hate you!" phase, so I no longer hear that twenty times a day. He's picked up the phrase "so much" as in I hate you so much or I like that so much. He also says things like "that's weird" (and they are) and "it's spooky" when the lights are off and it's dark in his room. I find myself shaking my head in wonder at some of his adult phrases especially because he uses them correctly.

Xavier keeps a running monologue going pretty much constantly but doesn't require responses. He gets fewer words and more frustration when his siblings are home. 

"Don't say that!! DON'T SAY THAT!" Or "Don't put your hands in the air." followed immediately by "3..2..1..Hands in the air!"
We love him so much and are excited to see him grow and learn even more.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Vivian's FOURTH Birthday

I wrote down a nice summary of Vivian at four years old, but clearly failed to ever post it. So now, almost a year later, here's the update. (Might as well make way for me to get the five year update done late, too, right?)
Vivian has hit the big four-oh - four years and zero months that is. I'm in denial, as usual, that our sweet little girl is already four years old. Where does the time go?!?

Vivian loves her baby brother and her baby doll pretty much in that order. Here's what I wrote on this year's birthday party invitation: Vivian loves diggers, horses, biking, and the colors pink and green. That pretty much sums her up nicely.

She choose to have a pool party at the community pool again this year and invited all her friends. The local spray park also opened right around her birthday, so we spent some of her birthday weekend there. Neither Theo nor Vivian seemed to mind playing in cool water while wearing fleeces because it was only 60 something degrees outside.

In the biggest news, Vivian finally potty trained back in November. I can't remember if that was before or after her half year update, but it's big news around here. We are down to one child in diapers. And boy how she loves diapers. She loves to help change her brother and all the kids at school. Speaking of school, she is enrolled in her last summer session at her preschool and will graduate in August. During the summer, kids are mixed ages, unlike the stricter age range during the school year. So the kids range from brand new two year olds to the over four almost graduates like herself. She loves the you get kids wearing diapers ("we changed nine diapers today!").

She not only loves to help change diapers, but loves being a big helper in just about anyway. If you ask for a helper, she's first in line. I can also frame things so that she's helping me and she gets right to it. Otherwise, though, she hates being told what to do. She also hates Theo's commands, which are a regular occurrence in our house.

She loves, however, playing school and bed and time out. Her favorite activity during Katie's month long visit with us was to put her in jail. Katie didn't seem to mind, especially if she had a book. I personally prefer the bed game, though it never lasts nearly long enough.

Vivian also likes to speak "in Polish", ie she makes up words and says she's talking in Polish. I find that irresistably cute.

At her four year check up, Vivian measured 30 lbs and 8 ounces, which means she topped 30 pounds for the first time! Way to grow Vivian! That puts her solidly in the 13th percentile for weight, whether you ask the WHO or CDC for stats. She is 39 inches tall (34th percentile for CDC, 19th for WHO) and they don't measure her head anymore. She got several vaccines, but remained completely stoic for that experience, which is a pleasant change from her sibling's drama.

Vivian likes "reading", where she finds words she recognizes and reads them to me. I pay a penny per word, which started as part of Theo's school read-a-thon, but of course Vivian is the one who's completely taken to it. She also loves spending her money. She took her Easter money and bought a pink stuffed rabbit (on clearance after the fact) called Easter buns, a Helly Kitty toothbrush that came with a keychain, and a small bumpy pink light up ball, plus a lollipop for her older brother so he wouldn't "be sad."

Her favorite foods are shells and cheese or any pasta really. For her birthday lunch, we took her to the
Spaghetti factory.

At her birthday party, she had a cake with ponies, ponies, and more ponies, and they featured prominently in her balloons as well. We got her a pink backpack which she adores.

In the last few weeks, she's dropped her nap. She's definitely not a morning person, which she comes by naturally. If we are at home, she has quiet time in the afternoons followed by half an hour with her Kindle. At night, she's in bed around 7:30 most nights. For her birthday, she got her very own "big boy" bed, which is a loft bed built custom (it had to be, to fit in the room with Theo's). She got to the choose the paint colors and went with pink for the bed with a green ladder. That also freed up a crib for Xavier to move into the kids' room, which Vivian mostly loves. She's not a huge fan of the crying but loves having him close by otherwise.

Vivian's gotten very good at riding her bike, both the balance bike and her new bike with training wheels, which she won as the grand prize at the Easter egg hunt at our local grocery store. She's so pleased with it, and can really go. She writes very nicely for her age, and enjoys any and all art projects, like writing, coloring, and dot to dots.

Overall, she's a sweet fun loving girl and we couldn't be happier with her! For all the photos, go here.