Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nick!

Nick turned 32 on May 23rd, and we celebrated with a little family gathering with cake, and then Nick and I went out to dinner by ourselves. Luxury! hehe.

When you read the next post below, you'll see we also went to "A Day Out with Thomas" on May 23rd. Of course, this was just coincidence, but Ben was convinced that Nick picked to do that as his special birthday activity. "Daddy's gonna have a Thomas birthday today!" Oh my, very funny.

I got Nick a reel mower for his birthday. Now here's my bit about our family's efforts to be a little "green". Our lawn mower is about to bite the dust, so I started looking for a new one, and was blown away by how terrible they are for the environment. Nick has always mentioned to me he'd love to have a reel mower (think old-fashioned, without a motor, just blades that spin with human-power pushing).

Here's the facts folks: if you want to put as many hydrocarbons into the atmosphere in one hour as an ancient SUV does in about 2 years, go ahead and mow your lawn. Yeah. That's crazy. So I got on the green bus, bought one of these gems, and its awesome. We're sold. No gas, no maintenance, easy to push, beautiful grass, safe, clean. Go to www.ecomowers.com to find out more. Ok, now I must be careful not to trip as I step down off my soapbox that's, ahem, green. For those of you who know me well, you know I'm quite clumsy. ;-)

Oh, and in all my preaching, I've forgotten the most obvious -- Happy Birthday, Nick, we love you! - XO!

Day Out with Thomas!

On May 23rd we "made tracks to a great destination", as Thomas the #1 Tank Engine would say. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, about 30 min from us, was hosting "A Day Out with Thomas", and boy, was it a hit with Xavier and Ben.

Bennett looked forward to this day with great anticipation for a couple of weeks. I told him several times that we were all going to ride a train pulled by Thomas, and he kept saying, "Mommy, you and Daddy are way too big! Its only for kids like me and Xavier!" He was thinking it was a little train, like the kind they have at the mall during Christmastime. I had to keep reassuring him, that indeed, this was a very real, very big train, that even grown ups could ride on. He was a little dumbfounded by that.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Ben caught a glimpse of Thomas coming into the station, and he was awestruck. "THERE'S THOMAS! HOLY COW!" Nick and I were actually impressed too, it was for certain a convincing Thomas, not just a regular engine with a "makeover." Very cool.

Here's Ben waiting patiently as Sir Topham Hatt (the owner of the Railway on the Island of Sodor, where Thomas works) always advises.

Finally, Ben's favorite character pulled into the station.

Xavier had a great time on the trainride. He loved the motion of the train, and sat proudly by himself. After awhile, he wanted Nick and I to hold him up, so he could look out the window.

This is one of my all-time favorite photos I've shot of Ben. I think (if I do say so myself) it so perfectly captures his quiet thoughtfulness.

What's that? You think Xavier might need a haircut? Huh?! No, he couldn't possibly! HA! I love that you can almost feel how connected Nick and Xavier are by looking at this one:

The day may have begun with a trainride, but it certainly didn't end there. We visited a gift shop, storytelling, and tons of model train layouts. There were also lots of Thomas themed tracks for kids to play with and a giant Lego Thomas. Both boys got temporary tatoos. Xavier LOVES going to things like this. It always surprises us, how favorably he tolerates and even enjoys all the noise and commotion.

Xavier and Ben were especially fond of a train bell that was set low so that kids could ring it themselves. Let me tell you, this must have been a real train bell, because it was earsplitting loud, and I had to laugh at how both Ben and Xavier thought it was so awesome, because they have issues with loud noises at times. Whatever floats your boats boys! They both took turns pulling the cord and Ben really got some muscle into it at the end!

To top it off, there was a small petting zoo. I'll spare you all the pictures of the boys looking at all the usual animals, but I thought this one was so cute. I love when small kids bend over to get a closer look at things, for some reason, it just makes me smile.

Ben fell asleep within 2 minutes of driving off..obviously deeply content, wearing his new Thomas hat and clutching his new Thomas freight cars from the gift shop.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last week of school

May 19th through the 22nd was the boys' last week of school. Bennett had been counting down the days on his fingers since there were 8 left (the last 2 weeks, they go Monday through Thursday). It was a good lesson in counting backwards and time passing by.

The week started off on Monday with a program in the evening for parents. The kids sang 6 songs with props and hand motions. Nick and I were so proud of both boys! Ben did about 1/2 the hand motions and Xavier tried very hard to imitate what the other kids were doing too. His wonderful teacher's assistant, Dianne, sat right next to him and helped him out. Bennett is in the red shirt with white sleeves in the middle of the photo, and Xavier is on the far left in black and white stripes. The kids are pretending to brush their teeth in this part of the song.

Afterwards there were snacks and an openhouse in the classroom. Nick and Xavier hung out after having cookies and punch.

We also got to pick up projects the boys have been working on at the openhouse- an alphabet book, the life cycle of a butterfly, and other various projects.

Here's Xavier, exhausted after we came home from school the last day. It could have also been because he woke up at 4:15am (who knows why, he's always been an early riser.) He fell asleep drinking his milk before lunch (that's why he's covered with towels/washclothes...we've long since given up on bibs - he's way too big for that, and he looks so silly in them!)

On the way home, Ben had said, with one finger left on his hand for the count down, "We had our last day, this morning there was 1, and now," (putting the finger down, and showing just his closed fist, "there are none! Its summertime!"

Now, to figure out how to keep the little turkeys busy all summer...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What do you get...

when you combine about 30 kids with a giant inflatable playground? Chaos, wet/muddy socks (it had been raining earlier), and fun of course!

Our friends celebrated their son Gabe's first communion last weekend with a big party. Ben had an awesome time climbing, jumping, and sliding with lots of friends. He was exhausted that night and slept like a rock, love it! hehe

Practice makes perfect

Here's Xavier, practicing no-hands sitting, AND lifting a toy at the same time -- way to multitask, buddy! ;-)

Xavier's new seat

Xavier is growing so big, and has long since outgrown his baby highchair. But we've been making do with it because we weren't sure what kind of seat to graduate him to, and also because the cost of special needs seating is extraordinary.

We decided to take the plunge and investigate options, and came up with this wonderful alternative to highchair type seating. Its made of a soft, squishy dense foam material, which is essential for Xavier's bony little body :-). The seat can be tilted at any angle on the base (it has heavy-duty velcro to hold it in place) or it can be detached and then hooked to any regular dining room chair. That means Xavier can sit right up to the table with us, which was an important deciding factor. We love that he's on the same level as the rest of the family, and can tell that he does too.

Here he is, the first time sitting in his new seat, obviously pleased with it!

Checking it out:

Ben had a ball playing with the box it came in...

It frees up both Xavier's hands and arms to play:

And can easily be taken with us when we go out to eat:

(Xavier and I when we went out to eat at a favorite restaurant for Mother's Day)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Making tracks

Ben is becoming quite proficient at laying his Thomas the Train wooden tracks into impressive forms. He usually compares his layouts to different shaped objects, like potatoes, pears, circles, trees, etc. Today I asked him what this track was shaped like, and he said, "Oh Mommy, this track is tricky. Its quite curvy." Where does he get this stuff?!

And here's Bennett's first try at taking a photo. He wanted to take a picture of me after I took a picture of him with his "tricky track". I had to lean a little to get my head in the picture, but Ben was quite pleased with the result. He said, "I'm such a big kid, Mommy! Now I'm taking pictures of you!"

Who knew...

that laying on concrete could be so delightful? Here are my boys, laying on the mat outside our back door (the only part of our yard with shade that time of day) enjoying summer-like weather.

Only at lunchtime did I notice that both boys were wearing "Someone who loves me..." t-shirts. Ben picks out and puts on his own clothes, so I really wasn't paying attention until I took this photo. Someone who went to London (Aunt Court!) loves Ben, and Someone (Mommy and Daddy) who loves Xavier went to Navy Pier in Chicago. :-)

"A beach?! At the park?!"

Last Saturday, it was beautiful out, and we had a picnic in our local park/playground. Ben could barely contain himself long enough to eat his lunch before we let him loose to swing, slide, and climb his little heart out. Xavier was loving being out in the sunshine, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with Nick while Ben and I played.

The big hit of the afternoon? The sand volleyball court. Not to play volleyball in, of course. No, when Ben saw it, he said, "Whoa! Holy cow! A beach?! At the park?!" He and Xavier were thrilled sitting in the sand, and another little boy joined in the fun too. He and Ben were building, as Ben put it, "A big tall sand castle! Up to the sky, up into the clouds!" Predictably, it never made it past about a foot tall, because Ben and his new buddy couldn't resist jumping on it. :-) What was also funny, was the boys would run 30 ft away to gather up sand for their pile, as if the yards of sand they were on top of were not enough. Cute.

Xavier was having a ball watching the boys building the castle (which was actually just a lump of sand...) and squishing the sand between his fingers.