Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A backhoe birthday

About a week after Finnan's 3rd family birthday gathering at the river farm he started talking about his 4th birthday.  He wanted a real party, at our house with his friends.  Oh, and it should be a backhoe party.  Finnan did not waver for a whole year.  So, I felt obligated to throw him a real backhoe birthday party at our house with his friends.  This past Saturday we had many of Finnan's friends over with their families for an informal backyard gathering.  The kids played in the yard and at the train table while the adults ate and drank.  The backhoe theme was a little difficult, but we did decorate with caution tape and some backhoe colored balloons.  The important thing was that Finnan knew it was a backhoe party (and that there was a backhoe on the birthday cake).  We had a great time at the party.  I always stress about having enough food and drinks at events at my house, but I really love having people over and relaxing in the backyard.  Atticus had a little trouble relaxing this time, constantly surveying all the things in our backyard that could be a danger for many active little boys (tree house, roller coaster, bats, shovels, etc.) and concluded that next time, we may just have to have the party in an open field.  



A backhoe dirt cake in a dump truck.

The cake was a hit, but I had to make a lot of dirt cake to fill the dump truck and we still have quite a lot of dirt cake to go through.  Luckily both Finnan and I are under doctor's orders to gain weight :)

Tired boys after the party.

Finnan thoroughly enjoyed his party.  And was thrilled when Paw-Paw brought him an actual backhoe, complete with a seat for the driver and the backhoe operator!


Jude is quite thrilled it is a two-seater as well!

Bubbles with Paw-Paw on Sunday.




Monday, September 26, 2011

The September 19th boys

Photo courtesy of Rocket's dad.
In Gabriela's play group of only 16 children (spread out over 5 days), three of them have a birthday or September 19th- Finnan, Aidan (a year older than Finnan), and Rocket (born 5 minutes before Finnan).  And what a threesome they are.  Clearly there is something about sharing a birthday.  These three seem to share the same interests and energy.  As pointed out to me by Rocket's father, Finnan and Rocket even seem to move in unison.  Unfortunately, their connection has led them to be exclusive at Gabriela's on occasion (something we are keeping on eye on), but they just can not seem to get enough of swinging, digging, running, and creating together.     

Worn out


Finnan has fallen asleep in some strange places: the benches or the floor of restaurants, at the dinner table while eating pizza, and in the bathtub.  Now, we can add the toilet to this list.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today, you are four.


Dear Finnan,

Today, you are four.  I often comment about how much you have changed in the last couple of months, but as I think about it, I don’t think you have really changed.  You are now sharing your enthusiasm, creativity, and capabilities with more people.  I still feel lucky that I am the one who knows you the best, but I am glad that you are learning to be more comfortable outside my reach.

You are still enthusiastic about almost any “work.”  You take block building or sand box road construction very seriously.  While you enjoy working on real projects with your dad, it is often hard for you to not get too involved or attempt to add your own “better idea.”  You will often ask for our help when making something, then only minutes later say, “No, no, no, I have a better idea.”  While working with tools or shovels is clearly your preference, you also love to help in the kitchen.  Whenever I am cutting vegetables, I always have to set up a cutting board for you at the kitchen table and you will sit with a dinner knife chopping carrots, celery, potatoes, peppers, and okra.  Cleaning and organizing is never enjoyable work for you.  Recently, it takes some convincing for you to shower or bathe.  And given your preferred activities and energy level, that is definitely necessary at least every couple of days. 

You are equally enthusiastic about play.  You love to swing and although you often ask for a “starter push,” you do not need one any more.  You have started to fly on your bicycle.  Keeping up with you is difficult and I am often yelling (while cringing), “Finnan, there is a stop sign!”  So far, you have managed to stop each time, but I often wonder how long it will take for me to trust you.  We have not yet come across a sport that you do not enjoy; though just plain racing across a field with Jude will bring squeals of laughter from both of you.  You have taken to exploring the woods of any playground and will try to master any climbing apparatus.  Over the last couple of months you have come to love art as well, and you can spend hours with play-dough or a pad and some markers or crayons.  Whenever you play with play-dough, you make me a bracelet, ring or necklace.  You love to play Candy Land.    Even if you are not the first one to the Candy Castle, you insist on continuing to play until you “win” too.

You are now in four days of school each week: 2 days at Color Wheel and 2 days at Ms. Gabriela’s. You have found your niche at both places and seem to be getting the most of what each has to offer.  Although neither of the schools teach letters, you have started experimenting with your letters and you can write your name and many other letters.  We are trying to work with you on your numbers.  For some reason you usually count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 14.  You also often miss T, U, V in the alphabet.  You still very much enjoy reading with an adult or by yourself.  You will read anything, but some of your favorites right now are still Richard Scarry’s Busytown books, the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Series and compilation story books.  You have become quite the story-teller as well.  Of course you enjoy TV as well, and the Bob the Builder “On Site” series usually tops your list. 

At your 4-year old well visit everything looked good.  You passed both your hearing and eye test. Despite your good (and varied) diet, your BMI dropped to the 3rd percentile (only from the 5th).  The doctor suggested increasing the fat content of your milk and adding olive oil and butter to your foods.  I am not concerned about it though. You are clearly healthy.  You seem to eat almost anything (although not necessarily at a specific time).  Your favorite foods are quesadillas, fish/shrimp (although you really only gets that when we eat out), and of course donuts (which are an after church or Paw-paw specialty).  We typically start off each day with oatmeal and you are always trying to sneak extra sugar into your bowl.     

You still take naps, but not on a daily basis.  When you do nap, you are often up late reading in your room.  However, if you go to many days without a nap, there is a definite difference in your behavior.  In the last month you had two horrible, long, maniacal tantrums after a few days without naps.  While, I still struggle with getting you to use manners on a regular basis and can be tormented by whining, using 1-2-3 Magic has been working for us recently.

You are a good big brother and you are looking forward to your new baby brother.  You and Jude have truly become two peas in a pod.  I actually enjoy waking up in the morning now as I get to hear the two of you talk and play together in your room before deciding to come and crawl in bed with us.  Jude idolizes you and learns so much from you.  This week you asked me to teach you one of the soft baby books so that you could read it to the baby.  You have also made a toy for the baby, which we have stored away.  Every couple of days you ask me to make sure it is still in its place. 

Finnan, you are energetic, silly, focused, and loving.  You love to snuggle up with me and are still a mama’s boy.  You have a smile and laugh that makes my heart sing with joy and a whine that makes my shoulders tense.  You were my first baby and you are consistently challenging me.  I love you for that and for everything that you have become.  Happy 4th Birthday!             

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet Scout


Shortly after having Finnan, I knew that once our two dogs were no longer with us, I would not get another dog while I had young children.  Two weeks after Roux died, Atticus, Finnan and I met Scout (then Cara) at a random RaceTrac off of I-75 in McDonough, GA.    

Apparently Atticus did not share my sentiments.  And, apparently, my convictions were not very strong. Opening petfinder.com is a dangerous thing for me.  Every time I have ever even looked, I have ended up with a pet.  However, this time, my requirements for a dog were high: must be good with kids, dogs, and cats; must be two or older; preferably have had puppies (Atticus is convinced that this makes a better dog); must be short-haired; and housebroken.  There weren't many dogs that fulfilled these requirements, so once we found Scout, we knew we were taking her home before we even met her.

Scout was originally rescued from a shelter in Alabama.  Two days after she was rescued, she had a litter of puppies.  She stayed in Alabama until her puppies could be weaned and then was sent to a foster family on a farm in rural Georgia.  There she lived outside with other dogs, cats and farm animals and interacted with the family's little boy and many of his cousins.  The only requirement that Scout did not fully fulfill was being housebroken.  

When we first brought Scout home, she was very nervous.  For about two weeks she preferred to be in her kennel.  I did not even feel like we had a dog.  All I would have to do was to coax her outside a few times a day (she was housebroken immediately).  I was worried that this was not going to work out.  But slowly she has emerged from her kennel and now even sleeps in the boy's bedroom.  She is just a good dog.  I have never heard her bark, although she did go through a phase when she would howl when we left (luckily that was only about a week).  She does not jump.  She is submissive, which often makes her seem afraid of my loud and fast children, but she has gotten used to them.  She even has let them cover her in stickers.  She is good on a leash and loves to go for walks.  While she does not get excited about being with other dogs, she is good with them.  She has never made a move towards a cat.  She is so good, we have not even had to train her in basic commands- like sit, stay and come.  Although, now that she feels part of the family, we will work on those things.  

Around the corner, there is an area that has been clear-cut for a failed development and we often take her there and let her off leash to run around.  One time she just ran off.  Oops, apparently we should have trained her before doing that.  But, do you know where she ran?  Straight to our house.  She was waiting on the front porch for us to come home.

Welcome to the family, Scout.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School

Riding to the first day of Ms. Gabriela's play group
Finnan and Jude have been in school for quite a while now.  Finnan started Tuesdays and Thursdays at Color Wheel August 2nd and both boys started Mondays and Wednesdays at Ms. Gabriela's play group August 15th.  This should have been a quick blog post the day they started.  However, I feel like there has been nothing quick about my decisions for their "schooling."  Atticus and my best friends know how much I agonized over number of days and where they should go.  Now, more than a month in, I can say that they are where they are supposed to be.  What a relief.

At the beginning of the summer, I had both boys signed up for only 2 days a week at Ms. Gabriela's.  I was looking forward to having many free days for trips to the zoo, walks to the park, etc.  A few weeks into summer, I realized, 2 days was not going to be enough for Finnan.  Something changed in Finnan in June.  He was no longer as shy and his confidence increased drastically.  It was hard enough for me to find enough outlets for his energy and enthusiasm while pregnant, how would I do it with a newborn as well.  Since I wanted to keep Finnan at Gabriela's two days a week with Jude, I started looked for something else for one more day a week.  Nothing.  Then I came across Color Wheel which had a two day a week program for 3-5 year olds.  It is an art-based pre-school in Decatur which follows pre-K standards (although is not certified).  When I went and visited, I was sold.  It is located in an old house with every room open to the others.  The mixed age group of kids works together for parts of the day and then they split up for certain activities.  The have "units" where they focus on certain things throughout all of their activities (now they are doing sea life), but the kids still have flexibility.  I have never seen a more enthusiastic group of teachers.  They all clearly love their job.  Finnan seemed to take to it right away.  He talks about his "art school friends" and, much to my surprise, the teachers describe him as very outgoing.  And I love the art he brings home.  We already have a stack of paintings (finger, tempura, water colors, even ice painting) and drawings.  I am always most amused by the titles he gives each piece (which the teachers write on the art): "Eyes on you," "Alligators in the pond," "Marla the funny animal," "Shark tooth," and "Blue and yellow" (for a purple painting) to name a few.

And of course, there is Ms. Gabriela, who I hope will always be in my life and the lives of my children.  At one point this summer, Atticus' company bought a house a couple of streets over with a bigger lot and he was considering moving.  I could not even consider it because I do not want to be more than two blocks away from Ms. Gabriela.  Both Finnan and Jude have been loving play group this year.  Finnan is now one of the older kids which I think has also been good for his confidence.  He has a core group of friends at play group- Rocket, Aidan and as a bonus this year, Christian is there as well.  I love watching and hearing about how these boys interact.  One example- When I came to pick up the boys, all of the children were sitting on a blanket outside eating the bread they had made.  Finnan and Aidan were sitting on the edge of the blanket building a boat together.  They had two pieces of wood pressed up against each other and both of them were hammering nails into the wood.  Since they were so close they had to take turns hammering.  They managed this task flawlessly.  While they were hammering they discussed what type of boat it was, how they should build the motor, what their next steps should be, etc.  It was idyllic.  While Jude has not yet developed these types of relationships, he is thrilled to be at Gabriela's.  He has not once shown any hesitation in being dropped off and happily (and loudly) says "Good-bye!" every time I leave.  He has confessed to me though, "I love Addy (a girl about his age)." "Addy is my best friend."  I am also very thankful for my two days a week with just Jude.  

While I still worry occasionally that I did not follow a more conventional pre-school path and my children are not being formally taught their letter and numbers or how to write, I know they are learning how to imagine, explore, and interact with kids of all ages.  I know that the time to be able to run around and explore in the woods and to be in the same learning environment as your brother is short and I don't want to miss any of it.  



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Okra


This was our summer of okra.  I have been overwhelmed by okra from the garden for the past three months.  While today's bounty (above) was the biggest so far, each week I would bring home at least half of that.  We have been pickling, frying, roasting and giving it away.  Luckily, my children love okra.  Jude will serve himself spoonfuls of roasted okra at each dinner and as you can see, Finnan will even occasionally eat it raw.  My guess is we only have a couple of more weeks of okra.  While I will be happy to have a little more variety in my diet again, I know we will be craving it come next summer!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The oven


The oven is done!  At New Year's I deemed this the "Year of Cob" for us and boy did it turn out to be true.  The boys started playing around with cob January 1st and the oven was completed mid-August.  Based on our weekend activities since the completion of the oven, I think the rest of the year may be spent perfecting cooking in it.

The cob oven was sold to me as a project that would take a couple of weekends.  That statement clearly needs to be revised- it would take a couple of weekends for an army.  Atticus, however, worked almost solely by himself along with his two little helpers, Finnan and Jude.  Truly, I think he only had help for one day out of the whole process (from his dad).  This oven involved thousands of pounds of materials (almost all free from our yard, including the concrete block base- that was old driveway material that was left in our yard before we moved in 8 years ago).  Mid-oven Atticus paid for all the lifting and he herniated a disc in his back leaving him unable to move (literally) for over a day and barely moving for a couple days after.  His recovery from his back injury put the oven on a complete hold for about 2 months.  This injury did not encourage goodwill from me toward the oven (especially since it happened the Saturday night before Mother's Day!).  But once we got going again on the oven it moved smoothly enough and I am quite impressed with the finished product.

We have fired up the oven twice now.  The first evening we did pizzas with our friends Tim, Kate and James.  We also threw in a calzone with the leftover dough and ingredients at the end.  Both the pizza and the calzone were done with a live fire.  All turned out great.  This past weekend we did small venison roasts and roasted okra for our meal.  Then as the oven cooled a bit we slow-cooked black beans overnight in the oven.  Shockingly that worked as well.  Then, the next day I tried to do yogurt in the oven.  However, the oven ended up being at a higher temperature than we needed so it did not quite work.  All of this food is done after the fire is put out and then the cob oven just holds the heat for quite a long time.

I feel like cooking with the oven has so far been a little bit hectic, mostly because of lack of planning on our part.  We have planned the beginnings of each meal (i.e. pizza and the roast), but then are scramble through our pantry, thinking, hmmm...what else can we throw together so we can make the most of this firing.   This past weekend we also got some supplies so that we will be able to cook hamburgers, hot dogs and whole chickens in there as well.  And, we plan on cooking our Thanksgiving turkey in there (fingers crossed)!    

I still can not believe all the effort that went involved in making this oven, but Atticus definitely has something to be proud of.  (The boys too...although they always considered working on the oven as playing in the mud)

Here are some pictures of the last bit of building and the first firings...










Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dinosaur feet


"Wanna see my dinosaur feet, Finnan?"

These were the first words I heard from the boys room this morning.  They also happen to be the last words I heard from their room last night.  And, as you can imagine, I heard that question a few times before and after.

For the past two weeks, Jude has asked to wear dinosaur pajamas every night.  But, he simply did not have any.  And, every night I would hear him fuss, "I don't like these pajamas!"  Goodness.  Yesterday, some pre-mature nesting got into me and I started to organize their old clothes and toys.  There they were...size 2T fleece, footed dinosaur pajamas.  So, it did not matter that the high was in the mid-90s yesterday, Jude wore dinosaur pajamas.  I have a feeling we may be seeing these pajamas again tonight.