Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nick the Rock Star

Nick has been taking drum lessons for almost a year now at a music school near us called School of Rock. He recently switched from a "Rookies" class to a class called "Rock 101." It's pretty intense-a 45-minute drum lesson, 1 on 1 with an instructor every week and a 90-minute band practice with all the kids playing together. Today was Nick's first concert.

Nick's onstage at Q Bar in Darien, IL.

Yup, that's Nick on the drums in front of the "Budweiser Sound Stage." This school rents out local bars that have full stages and regular live music. They even charge a cover charge to listen to the bands, and there are teenage groupies who come sit in front of the stage to cheer the kids on.

For their playlist today, "The Super Rad Rainbow Unicorns" (Yes, that's their band name. They got to pick it themselves.) had on their set list: Wild Thing, Brown-Eyed Girl, Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap by ACDC, and Beverly Hills. Greg dressed Nick up in what we thought was cool rock star attire: a Beatles t-shirt with a button-down checkered shirt over it but unbuttoned. I'm not sure if this is what rock stars wear today, but it sounded good to me, who was a teenager in the 1990s.

Nick wasn't too nervous, all things considered. 

What does this sound like? Well, just imagine what a rock band made up of 7-11 year olds would sound like. That pretty much covers it. I was impressed because I could mostly recognize every song they played. They started out with "Brown-Eyed Girl."

This one is "Wild Thing," of course.

This next one is "Beverly Hills." Nick gets very serious when he's playing the drums. He opens his mouth slightly and really looks like he's concentrating.

I never really thought about the lyrics to "Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap," though I know I heard the song numerous times when I was a child.

Nick had his own fan club in attendance. Henry and Greg and I were all cheering and clapping near the stage, of course. (We took these pictures afterward, outside the bar where the lighting was better.)

Also attending as part of Nick's fan club was my dad and stepmom. Henry, by the way, wanted to be in every picture. I think he may have been a little jealous, though he was very complimentary to Nick after his performance.

Grandma Toni attended, of course, and stood next to Henry and clapped along with the music.

My mom and stepdad came, too, and my mom even loaned Nick her sunglasses so he'd look cool for this picture.

My musical education is practically nonexistent, so I truly have no idea what Nick is learning and practicing. Unlike most of his subjects, I'm utterly useless with his music homework. But I was very proud of Nick today. He was a team player, worked well with the other band members, and did his best. As far as I could tell, he's got some pretty good rhythm.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Buffalo Rock State Park

Today we took Nick and Henry on their first Cub Scout Hike. We went to Buffalo Rock State Park in Ottawa, IL, which is about an hour southwest of us.

During the first leg of our hike, everyone kept finding wooly bear caterpillars, who, by some accounts, can predict the weather by their color. I guess finding a lot of black ones with very little orange means this winter will be bad. Time will tell!

We decided to join Cub Scouts a few weeks ago, when I took the boys to a Community Festival at their school. Cub Scouts were recruiting, and they thought it might be fun. I was a Cub Scout counselor back in the mid-1990s, and I remember how much fun the kids had. For kids as active as mine, I thought something like this would be a great idea. Henry wanted to "wear a suit" like the scouts. So we joined, and they got their own uniforms.

Henry is officially a "Lion Scout," which is a pilot program to get Kindergarten-aged students into Cub Scouts early. Nick is a Wolf Scout because he's in 2nd grade. Doesn't Nick look proud of that fact?

He's not actually that close to the edge--our Cub Scoutmaster kept them all very safe. I was very surprised that this kind of cliff could be found in Illinois--in fact, the topography of this whole area was really gorgeous.

Lest you think that this was some kind of gentle stroll through the woods, check out this picture. We actually climbed down to the bottom and them back up and around to the top of the cliffs.

I was very proud of how well the boys did while climbing and on the hike. All things considered, there was very little whining and a lot of good questions.

Greg was a trooper and carried our lunch and water bottles in the backpack.

My Fitbit tells me I walked 11,120 steps today, and that this hike took us a little over three miles. It feels like more--this was quite the workout! My calves and feet are very sore, and I'm sure Henry's little legs are too, though he didn't complain too much.

I fell asleep in the car on the way back, just like a little kid. I figure I can handle more of these hikes in the future, though, so long as they're designed for Cub Scouts. If a five-year-old can do it, so can I! Henry and Nick were so proud of themselves today, and the best part? There were two stinky buffalo and a playground at the end of our long hike. You'd think they would've been too tired to play, but then you'd be wrong.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Fun Time at School

As I was driving home from work today, Nick insisted that I head towards his school. "There's a fun time there tonight!," he insisted. "I get to go dunk my teacher!" I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about, but I drove over to Nick and Henry's school. We ended up having a really good time at this school/community event.

They're grinning because Nick's teacher just got dunked (by someone else).

Wow--they charged $1 for three tries to dunk a teacher, and they were raking in the dough.

What a fabulous way to raise money! Nick and Henry tried twice, but didn't actually hit the target. Later on, they tried again with another teacher, and Henry cheated just a little bit.


As usual, the blow-up attractions were a hit with Henry and Nick. This one was a race through a maze, and they didn't even mind waiting in line for this one. Nick's the one in the green t-shirt, by the way.

Henry wants me to save my pennies and buy him his own bouncy house. I told him to keep wishing.

There was a little boat race, where the boys got to use a straw to blow a little boat across a tiny river. They did great, although again, Henry gave himself a little "help."

The boys have already been asleep for an hour now--they pretty much came home and crashed. Nice way to end their first week of school.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Henry is in Kindergarten!

Yesterday was Henry's first day in Kindergarten. He has the same teacher Nick had two years ago, and he was so eager to go that he kept asking over and over again when it would be time to leave for school. (He is in afternoon Kindergarten.) Here he is on the first day of school.

I'm not very good at saving papers, so instead I like to snap pictures of their school work so I'll always have it--since it's date/time stamped I have a prompt to help me remember when the picture is from, too. Here's one from his first day of school.

Today Henry posed with his picture.
Henry is very "into" the original Ghostbusters movie lately.

So you may be wondering about the random red chunks on the back of our front door. I wondered the same thing and asked Henry. "What is that red stuff." He replied, "Um. . . you know the good cheese? Well, it has red stuff on the outside that's really squishy then pictures stick." Yes, that's right. My son took the wax from a Babybel cheese and smeared it all over our front door. I must really not be a details person since I only noticed it in a photograph.

When I initially asked Henry this evening what his favorite part of Kindergarten was so far, he said, "Um. When I go home." I, of course, asked him to elaborate. "Because when I sit on the carpet it boring. No toys to play with." Poor Henry goes to a half-day Kindergarten, which means that there's no time for play. I didn't give up there, though. I asked him again about five minutes later, and here is his response:

Would you like to see the schoolbus he is talking about? Well, here it is:

Henry also did a math worksheet today. I was rather proud that he did it correctly, but of course I don't know if he had assistance at any point. I know he sure corrects me if I promise him six candies and only give him five, though, so the kid has some number sense.

My boy is getting so big. I'm not one to get all teary-eyed, but I do get just a little sniffle when Henry's baby pictures pop up and I think of that little baby in grade school.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

All about Nicholas

Nicholas is 7 1/2 years old and going into the second grade. This post is all about my enthusiastic, energetic, extremely opinionated boy with a soft spot for animals and babies.

He'll be the first to tell you that he's not seven, he's seven and a half, and he gets really mad when kids tell him he's short or assume he is younger. He wears adult-sized shoes (he's a 1) for goodness sakes--he's not a little kid! (Nick also speaks in italics--you can hear the emphasis in his voice all the time. When I find him new shoes, he gets really excited--he must get that from me.

He loves riding his bike (yes, with training wheels), swimming (but not in the deep end), and reading with his "reading glasses". Nick will tell you that he needs glasses. He told that to the optometrist, too, but the optometrist said that Nicholas had 20/20 vision, which made him cry. Anyone who is anyone wears glasses, don't you know? (Harry Potter, for example.)

We found him some clear glasses at the Saver's, so at least he isn't ruining his 20/20 vision.

Nick can be a good helper, depending on his mood. This summer, he's helped me with weeding, watering, and laundry. He's big on "fairness," so when makes a mistake, I often have him make "reparations." Once he did a whole load of Henry's laundry after smacking him. I'm sure his future spouse will thank me for the laundy skills. Nick enjoys working in the garden with me, and he can already recognize many different plants. He's smart enough to recognize the weeds, too, and on one particularly hot day I paid him $2 to pull all the weeds from the garden in the corner of our yard. He did it, too!

Art and music are very important to Nick. Right now he takes individual drum lessons and plays with a kid band every week at Rock 101, an introductory class at School of Rock. He pretends to play all kinds of instruments, though, and can play a little bit of piano and guitar as well.

This summer Nick went to art camp and did lots of drawing and painting. He loves looking up "how to draw" videos on YouTube and following the directions. Unfortunately, he goes through a lot of paper because he insists on drawing with a "Sharpie" just like the people in the videos, and you can't erase permanent marker.

He loves animals, especially our cat Molly and my mom's dog Rusty.

Nick will even go outside and pick catnip especially for Molly. Once he figured out catnip was the main joy of her life, he started regularly sneaking out to get some.

Today we went to the pet store (we're thinking of getting some fish), and there was a customer there who brought in his snakes. Nick happily stroked this five-foot long blood python that was as thick around as my upper arm.

Nick is extremely creative in his play, and he'll often have elaborate play scenarios with Henry that really surprise me. Once, they set up their bunkbed as the Starbucks Drive-Thru and had me and Greg order drinks and snacks. Nick was able to quote my regular order, and he even remembered to ask for my phone and scan it to pay.

Nick can be very strong-willed, but he always knows what he wants and goes for it. He also has an excellent sense of direction. Today we took a little walk in the woods, and were temporarily turned around a bit. Okay, we were lost. I was distracted by the mosquitoes and the mud. It happens.

Nick was able to recognize both the general direction we'd come from, and the way the road should be. I asked two teenagers (each with bloodshot eyes and carrying a huge bags of chip--must've had the munchies) which direction the dog park was and they pointed. Nick insisted (and kept insisting) that they were wrong and we were going the wrong way! He turned out to be right, as verified by the lady jogging who explained (in a far more clear-eyed way) which path to take.

Finally, Nick is a very good big brother. I would say that about 90% of the time he's protecting Henry, helping with his seatbelt, pulling him in the wagon, or getting him a snack. The other 10% of the time they're fighting, as brothers are wont to do. Nick will not tolerate anyone else messing with his brother, though--Henry is his brother to tease.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Henry's Speaking and Technology Troubleshooting Skills

Henry's speaking has been improving a lot lately. He can even be understood by most people. Yesterday morning, he had to get a blood draw, and he proudly told the nurse, "I don't mind when you stick me. Go ahead." He didn't even cry. Later, we made a trip to Meatheads for a post-gardening lunch. Henry brought out this coin to show the cashier. I had to tell him that pirate coins don't count as legal tender, though I appreciated the gesture.

Since he was eager to go to the counter, I sent him to go get us boxes for our leftover burgers. Henry is so short he had to raise his hand in order to be seen over the register!

He was able to explain that we needed three boxes. A shout out and a special thank you to the really patient and good natured people who work at Meatheads--they made Henry feel "almost like a big guy." A little over a year ago Henry was mostly unintelligible to strangers. Now he's eager to communicate and ask for what he wants. After being born with a cleft palate and then developing a seizure disorder, Henry is doing very well for himself.

The nice lady at the counter listened carefully and had her co-worker go get him the boxes. Later, he also asked for a bag and a lid for my cup of cheese. . . because what good are spicy fries without cheese for dipping?

Henry was so proud of himself! "I a big boy!" he said when he sat down. (He's still not using the word "am," but he'll get there.)

Besides strides in speaking, Henry has become quite the little techie. In the last few months, Henry has downloaded nearly 100 iPad apps, including a Flux Capacitor app.

Can you see Henry's Flux Capacitor?

He figured out how to search for webpages (again, using Siri), and then share them on his daddy's Facebook. He put nearly three grand worth of Octonauts toys into an cart (thank goodness he doesn't know the password). It was at that point when I set up every parental control I could find.

Thank goodness I don't sign in to on my iPad!

Henry has also taken many screenshots, played lots of garage band, and taken apart our dvd player. Last week he accidentally asked Siri for a synopsis of "The Crying Game," and created this little gem using the selfie camera on our iPad.

Henry also knows how to make FaceTime calls, so everyone beware!

I'm a little afraid this guy is going to be a hacker. He even figured out how to put apps into folders, and to hide them several pages back. Henry used the voice feature on Siri to name the iPad folders. He set up one that actually read, "When Mommy says no." (Yes, really. Ask his daddy if you don't believe me.) A few weeks ago, I set up an app that lets me shut down screen time after a set period of time. Less than an hour later, Henry was somewhere deep in the settings menu, methodically going through each menu item trying to figure out how to override the screentime limits. My little guy has done all of this despite not being able to read and only recognizing a few numerals. Henry has quite a bright future in front of him, I think, so long as he uses technology for good rather than evil.

P.S. Nick will get his own post sometime really soon.  :)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Our 4th of July Celebrations

We actually celebrated the 4th over two days, and this year the weather was cool and lovely. On the 3rd, we went to the Lisle Eyes to the Skies Festival. This particular event has gotten more and more crowded over the years, so we wanted to get there early enough to get a seat for the fireworks.

The spot we chose gave us a great view, although we were on a hill and kept sliding down into those bushes you see there behind Henry. A poor sad margarita was lost to those bushes. On our way to the park, much whining ensued, mostly because we had to carry blankets and chairs. 

Henry got so tired he had to rest while we were waiting in line. Good thing he brought his own chair. 

We all wore jeans due to the cool weather, but did you know mosquitoes can still bite you through jeans? Me either. 

Grandma Toni joined us for the day, and we walked up and down that darned hill a thousand times--easily enough to work off all the ice cream, drinks, and fattening foods we ate!

The bouncy houses were a hit with Henry and Nick, though the price was NOT right--roughly $1 per minute of bouncing. 

Though we didn't see many balloons due to high winds. . . 

There were plenty of mac-n-cheese nuggets. Yes, apparently those are a thing. They went over very well, seeing as Nick and Henry ate them all!

There were so many people at this festival that we didn't get home until well after 11 p.m.

Our actual 4th of July celebration was much more low key, and we ended up staying home the whole day.

Our neighborhood tends to have multiple, ahem, explosive (if not strickly legal) celebrations, so there was plenty to see and hear. Oh, and Greg and I had a fire in our fire pit as well. Here's what Henry and Nick had to say about that:

Yeah, I know it kind of sounds like a war zone in the backyard. The mosquitoes won the war, that's for sure. Despite wearing long sleeves and pants, I was covered in bites. We had s'mores and enjoyed the show until pretty late.

I can't remember if they were cheering for fireworks or s'mores.

Nick didn't make it too long, as you can see. He got sleepy and passed out in his chair. He reminds me of that one guy who'd always pass out early at college parties.

Cheers to a great 4th of July!