Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Kid Turns 6

Hey buddy.


So a couple weeks ago you turned 6.  Can you believe it?  I can't!  No, I really can't.  File that away with many other things I can't believe, like that you are a school kid now, that every day your dad drops you off in a parking lot full of little children dressed in navy and white and just drives away as you run off to greet and hug your "best friend".

I'll say that again, he just drops you off in a parking lot.  And drives away from you.

That takes a lot of faith, kiddo, it's a big giant leap of faith that we have had to start making. Everyday.  To put you out in that big scary world on your own, to leave you to it, to go forth and live a portion of your life that is wholly independent of us, the two people who have been your constant for the last six years.





I mean, this is scary stuff for a mom and dad.  This is the first go around for us, so we're going to need a lot of grace here.  

We are so proud of you.  Three weeks into this new life it's already not as scary.  I'm sure there will be times when things are not great, but right now, it's pretty awesome.  You have friends.  You are learning.  You have stories and experiences and you share them with us generously every day.  Just keep talking, buddy.  When you get quiet, when you have no stories, that's when I wonder, that's when mama gets nervous, that's when my mind wanders and makes problems where there might be none.  Keep talking, we'll keep listening.  We're always listening.

Right before your birthday you had your last official day of daycare.  You said goodbye to this place and these women and these friends that have been such a huge part of your life for the past two years.  And you did it with a touch of sadness, some nostalgia, but also courage and excitement about the future, about KINDERGARTEN!

Oh and with donuts, you did it with donuts. You brought big giant messy donuts with frosting and sprinkles to share with your daycare friends on your last day. In this family, we celebrate with donuts and cake, and we also mourn and commiserate with donuts and cake.  It's a good way to live.

Your birthday was so fun.  We partied with your cousins and aunts and uncles at grandma's house a couple weeks early, because the end of summer is so crazy and there are a lot of people's schedules to consider in that big wonderful family.  Then a week before your birthday you invited a few daycare buddies and a friend from preschool to go to a really cool arcade.  You all played video games and wack-a-mole and won tickets and used them to buy junky toys, and then you ran around in a little playground and did an obstacle course and came out sweaty and exhausted.  Back home we had cupcakes and pizza (and blue Gatorade!), and you all played Star Wars and Rescue Bots and reveled so much in each others' company that I wished we could do things like this more often.  On your actual birthday we spent the day as a family, in the morning you opened your gifts from your dad and me and you and Louie played hard all morning long.  You're pretty obsessed with Mario right now, and I had found you some great Mario toys online and you hugged me so hard and said over and over again how happy you were and how thankful you were for these new toys.  It felt good to get something so right, because that is not always the case.












We decided to go to the Children's Museum that afternoon, and then when we were all tired we walked a few blocks through the city to find dinner.  Chicken fingers and fries and lemonade, a huge free birthday brownie dessert.  What a great day.  Just us.  I think dad and I both had moments throughout the day during which we were both struck by how grateful we are for everything you and your brother and sister have given us.  You kids mean so much to us, and sometimes everyday life wears on us, and it can be difficult to be in the moment, to entirely focus on and just enjoy this family.  That day we did though, we had so much fun spending time with you three.  The next day we celebrated with more family, my family, and you blew out candles for the third or fourth time I think, and you were showered with more love and gifts and continued to be gracious and thankful.  I was very proud of you.











So from that recap it is clear, that per usual, the festivities did seem to drag on for many many weeks, which is something I think your little brother started to resent towards the end.  We've got to be careful with that little guy's heart you know, not only is he a little brother, but now he's also a big brother.  That's not an easy role to play and he's going to need a lot of grace from all of us as well.  Especially from you, Gus, he looks up to you so much and this new life that we all started at the beginning of the month is hard for him too.  He has always had his big brother at his side, and now HE'S the big kid at daycare, you're off making new friends at a new school and he's still at Debbie's house.  He misses you buddy, he might even feel a little left behind.  So when he's being extra annoying, when he's stubbornly arguing with you over something that doesn't seem to really matter, try to remember that.  


You are strong, little boy, and you are courageous, and you are affectionate. You are passionate and loud and intense, but you also notice things and surprise me everyday with your astute observations.  You work hard, and you play hard, and then you crash hard.  You frustrate easily and feel things strongly, but you also make me so proud with how well you are able to communicate your needs and feelings and frustrations.

You are so precious to me sweetheart.  

You have come a long way.  So long.  We have worked hard, you and I, along with your dad and many caring teachers and family members and friends, to figure you out and figure out how to help you be the very best YOU.  Because we celebrate you and ALL the things that make you you.


You are going to be a good man some day, I already know this.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there is a lot more of being a kid in store for you.  I want for you and wish for you to be a kid for as long as possible.  Enjoy your childhood.  Keep chasing and tackling your dad and brother in the backyard.  Work at those monkey bars until you get it, it will feel so good when you finally get all the way across on your own.  Play pretend, you're not too old for it and I will always have time to listen to your weird little boy stories about transformers and inventions and shrink-rays.  Revel in your victories, like beating Bowser at the end of each level of Mario.  Make friends, have inside jokes, giggle inappropriately, even if every once in a while it gets you stern looks from adults.  Enjoy learning, find what interests you and ask questions, seek out answers 

Happy Birthday Gus.  It's going to be a great year!  Be brave.  Be kind.  Have fun!  Work hard.  Keep being ours.  We will forever be yours.

I love you so much,

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

MN State Fair 2015

I'm a pretty big lover of the MN State Fair but I also struggle with the very real issue of the build-up and anticipation being almost always the best part of the experience.  Walking through the fairground entrance at 9:00 am, now THAT is my favorite part of the fair.  A little bit of a morning nip is still in the air, the crowds are thin, there's that delectable aroma of pronto pups and mini donuts wafting in the slight breeze, and a noticeable buzz of energy.  THAT's the part I love.  Unfortunately, a few hours later we usually find ourselves on the other side of the fairgrounds, by the dreaded Midway and the smelly barns, sweaty, dirty, dusty, tired, crabby, puffy, hungry while at the same time overwhelmed as to what we should eat, and at this point super annoyed with the constant corralling of  our own small children and the multiple other family members we are with amidst insane crowds of people.

After this year, I am kind of thinking that if we're going to bring the kids, maybe we should just go on our own without my parents and brother and his family.  And it's not as if they were at all annoying or bad company or anything like that, but it's just too many people's needs and desires and appetites to manage and worry about in such a huge overwhelming place.  Throw into the mix two nursing babies and the complications that arise when there are such varied interests in one group... the logistics become annoying.  Texts like, "We're headed to X spot, we'll meet you there in a half hour, and if we're not there, we'll head to X after that..." were shared back and forth.  Harried conversations consisting of:

"What do you want to eat?  What is that by?"

"When do you think Harris will have to nurse?"

"How many ride tickets do you have left?"

"We're running out of cash and will need to find an ATM if we're going to buy any more food."

"We need to find shade and rest somewhere because Olive is going nuts in this carrier."

"We need to find water, we're out."

"Where is the ice cream you want again?  Is the Giant Slide on the way there?  Should we split up?  Please feel free to ditch us if there is something else you want to do."


It didn't help that Dan was sick this year.  I didn't realize he was feeling quite as crappy as he was until we were in the thick of it and he was just clearly mega crabby.  Like BEYOND.  And while we were there it made me reeeeeallly angry and bummed, because he was just unbearable and we were all on tip toes around him.  Well except me, I kept snapping at him and he kept snapping right back at me.  Poor guy already hates the fair and the crowds so then throw on top of that a horrible cold and possible sinus infection...  Well let's just say it wasn't fun for him and the rest of us sort of paid a little bit (or a lot) of the price.

Despite all that, somehow we stayed until after 4:00.  How?  I don't even know.  But we did do most of the "kid" stuff that I had hoped to do, and I ate deep-fried pickles and a pronto pup, which are my two musts.  (I had to stop Louie from eating my pickles when I saw that he was taking the pickles out and only eating the breading.  Child, NO.  Give those to me.)  And I do know the kids had a lot of fun, especially on the rides, and they definitely enjoyed exploring everything there was to do in Baldwin park for families at the end of the day.  Olive was a major trooper, when she got tired she just laid her head down on my shoulder and fell asleep in the pouch.  And for a girl who is notorious for not being able to nurse with distractions, she nursed in the hot blaring sun on the bench right at the bottom of the big giant slide because she was hungry and tired and that was the first chance I had to stop and do it.  It sucked, because I was literally surrounded by people, an elderly lady came and asked me to scootch over so she could sit down next to me (like right on top of me).  Good times.

I need to temper my expectations and not try to do so much with the kids next year.  It was fun, but also, I left the fair STARVING (that just ain't right), really sweaty from carrying Olive around all day, and pretty frustrated with Dan and worried that our snippiness with each other had made the rest of my family have a crappy day.

Louie fell asleep in the stroller on the walk back to to the car and somehow I was successfully able to transfer him (at over 45 pounds) from the stroller to his car seat, still asleep, and he didn't wake up until we pulled in the driveway.   Amazing.


We always enter the fair via the north entrance, so we make a point to hit up the Little Farm Hands exhibit before it gets busy.  The kids love it.  Gus, true to form, still always refuses to wear the apron.  Such a bizarre aversion, but so very Gus.


Louie is SO CUTE and enthusiastic with the whole thing, diligently doing every step, taking everything very seriously.

Pretty sure both kids would have done the interactive computer environmental/farming games at the end of this exhibit for an hour, but my family was waiting and we didn't come to the state fair to play with what are essentially iPads... so we scooted them out of there after about 15 minutes.


No wonder I was tired at the end of the day.  Olive is huge.  Poor Harris.  Ready for the lactation station I think.


The Lactation Station at the MyTalk 107.1 booth is amazing.  Diapers in all sizes, wipes, sunscreen, gliders, fans, carpet, SO AWESOME.

After nursing the babies we bought some pronto pups and caught a quick performance in Baldwin Park by a clown/mime type guy.  But without the make-up, so the creepy factor was way toned down. The kids thought it was fun, and it was nice to sit while eating for a few minutes. Then it was off to the Kidway.


Loudest ride ever.  Both kids said they liked it, but they looked like they hated it.  Ha.


Gus loved these swings so so so so much.  We came back at the end of the day for him to ride it again. 


And Louie LOVES the carousel more than any other ride.  He's definitely not a thrill-seeker kind of kid, but he's game for anything with animals or pretend animals.  So carousel it is. 


After the Kidway, we headed toward the food.  Specifically, the big buckets of french fries & deep-fried pickles. 


I managed to take a cute photo of Ben and his family, but NOTHING of my own family!  Lame. 


We always sit in the shade on the grass and eat our fries in this spot behind the grandstand.  We happened upon a random ice-skating competition that Louie really enjoyed, ha.  Only at the MN State Fair.


Then things get a bit hazy.  Louie wanted so badly to go to the barns and see animals, but Gus did NOT.  We went through the Horse barn and there was a fun hands-on exhibit there to check out, but then we tried to enter another barn and Gus stopped in his tracks.  "YUCK!  I am not going in another barn!  It stinks so bad!  Yuck!"

Blergh.  We did make it to the cluster that is the Miracle of Birth barn.  It's notoriously crowded, but Louie loves it soooooooooo much.  I had to drag him away from this tiny baby pig.  "He's so soft mom!  Come pet him, he's so soft!  I never want to stop petting him."  What a little sweetheart.  I wonder how long this animal obsession will last?  We're going on nearly 3 years now.

While Gus and Dan found some sort of video game thing in the corner of the building (he sniffs them out), Louie and I watched a video of a mama pig giving birth to a bunch of babies from earlier in the day.  He kept exclaiming, "She laid another one of them mom, she laid another baby pig!"  Like she was laying eggs.  Too funny.  The topic of me birthing Olive in a similar fashion did actually come up and he was all, "Say wha?! Huh? Whatchootalkingbout?"

Then we split up from my family so they could get ice cream in the dairy building.  While I wouldn't have minded ice cream, I kind of anticipated insane lines in there and we had promised the boys they could each pick out ONE overpriced souvenir.  (I know.)

So after purchasing a sword and a stuffed horse on a leash, Dan did the Giant Slide with the boys while I fed Olive again, and then we started walking back towards Machinery Hill and the Kidway and Baldwin Park.


Alphabet park provided a nice photo op.  :)  The boys also made banner necklaces.  It was a relief to just be away from the dust and sweaty hoards of people on the other side of the fair. 


Then my family met up with us again and the boys all played for quite a while in the great big sandbox.  So nice and shady in this part of the fairgrounds.  Olive enjoyed crawling around on a blanket under a tree eating puffs. Dan finally ate something.  A granola bar that we had brought from home.  Exciting stuff.


So random.  The kids wanted to walk through this Children's Hospital safety exhibit and do all of the activities so they could spin a wheel at the end and win a prize.  (We took home a water bottle and a slap bracelet, woo hoo!)

By the way, those glasses are now used at home for a lot of pretend play that revolves around how to handle yourself around strangers.

Gus:  "Hey little boy, do you want to come with me and pet my cute puppy?"
Louie: "NO!" (Running away screaming.)

Louie: "Hey kid, do you want to come play video games in my van with me?"
Gus: "NO!" (Running away screaming.)

Yeah, pretty creepy.  I think this was a discussion Dan had with them.  OMG.


Math on a Stick was also great, and the kids were surprisingly interested in hanging out here for a really long time.  The rest of the fairgrounds are just so over-stimulating, I think they welcomed how quiet and peaceful all of these learning activities were.  Score!


Finally, on our way out we were luck enough to see a State Patrol helicopter take off.  Pretty cool experience, which capped off a really good, probably too long day at the fair.  And Dan and I were crabbier than our kids, so that's saying something.  ;)