Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting Ready for Henry's Birthday Party!

This year, Henry was old enough to help us get ready for his birthday party. It's a lot of work to get ready for a party, and the kids helped with just about every aspect this year. Henry got a real kick out of getting to pick out decorations and, of course, a birthday hat.

Even though his birthday was a few weeks ago, Henry seemed to understand that the party was for him because he turned three. Well, at least he understands the language of cupcakes.

Nick and Henry helped me pick out the cupcakes for the party. Note to self: Next year, get more chocolate. Those ones were the best.

Henry had very particular requirements when it came to cupcakes. "All the cupcakes," he said. "I eat all the cupcakes." Well, then. He was satisfied with one, though he did eat the entire thing all by himself.

I let the boys help me decorate our windows with window markers, because this was a very classy party. The kind of party where children's drawings on the window are worthy of praise rather than a lecture. My part turned out kind of cheesy, but I thought Henry and Nick did a great job with the lower window.

Nick did the flowers along the top of the bottom window, and Henry is responsible for the squiggles across the whole area. I drew the little cat, and Nick drew his own kitty next to mine.

Did I mention the balloons? The boys had an excellent time helping me pick out balloons, but what they really liked was watching the lady at the Party City fill them up with helium. They didn't stop asking questions the whole time.

Henry really liked his monkey balloon.

We hung decorations all over the house, and the boys either hung them themselves or told me where to put them.

Henry even helped me clean the windows and baseboards. He can be such a good little helper (when he wants to be).

Finally, we were ready for the party. To be continued. . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nick and Henry Meet Baby Sophie!

Last week, we were extremely excited to be able to go and meet Sophie, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jay's new daughter. She was born on Henry's birthday, so she'll always be exactly three years younger than him. Since her birth, the boys asked every single day, "Do we get to meet the baby yet?" Then, in the van on the way there, they asked, "Are we there yet?" Finally, we arrived, and Sophie was just as cute as the pictures we'd seen!

Nick got to be the first to hold his cousin, and he did a pretty good job. In fact, he didn't want to let her go--I think he probably would've sat there all night snuggling her if everyone hadn't wanted a turn.

Nick isn't usually a gentle kid, but he was very gentle while holding Sophie. He couldn't believe how tiny her hands and feet are, and he was perfectly content with his arm around his cousin.

Henry was excited, too, but a little unsure when he was holding little Sophie. He liked touching her little feet. He also loved playing with her toys!

We had BBQ takeout for dinner, but Sophie didn't get to have any. She didn't seem too disappointed, though. I think she has a lot of hair for a newborn.

To me, Sophie seems like a quiet baby--even when she cries it seems quieter than either of my boys were at that age. Although I have to say, maybe a lack of sleep had made their cries seem sharper at the time. Newborns are adorable and oh-so-snuggly, but when they belong to you, they take away all of your sleep for so long everything gets a little warped. At least in my experience.

Sophie likes to be swaddled, just like Nick and Henry did at that age. Here's Greg holding his little niece while Nick tried to find hidden toys in the background.

For a newborn, little Sophie had her eyes open a lot. She was checking everyone out, and probably liked the noise and movement. Later on, Henry wanted to know "when Sophie play with me?" We told him it'd be a little while. Soon, though, Sophie will want to play with and copy Henry and Nick, and probably get into trouble with them as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Ball Factory

Last week, I took my boys to the coolest play place. It's called The Ball Factory, and the boys had an amazing time. I can use this place as a reward for almost anything, it's so much fun.

Check out Henry dancing on this cool "fish tank."

Almost all of my pictures from that day ended up blurry. I'm not sure why. 

So, why, you ask, is it called The Ball Factory? Check out this room right here. . .

Picture a room with shooters facing one another, foam balls flying past your face, and little kids shrieking with joy as they bombard one another with flying missiles.

Besides the ball room, there's also an area for little kids (under 4), which Henry checked out for awhile. The best part of this place is that there's only one way out, so even if you temporarily lose track of your kids (it's hard not to if you have more than one), there's only one way in and out and it's easy to find them.

Can you see Henry climbing on the squishy furniture? He loved it! He also loved the "Bug-Eyed" Yogurt with marshmallows for eyes.

I can remember, as a child, playing outside or in the basement for hours on end with only occasional checks with my parents. I actually think this kind of unstructured playtime is critical for kids, but I often have to curtail it (and supervise) because of the excessive amount of mess and/or danger my sons can find in five minutes flat. There were no such worries here--I could play with my boys for a bit, one at a time, and then go sit and get some work done.

Henry liked this area with the pedal tractors a whole lot. 

Grandma Toni and I were able to work on information for her cruise, and I was able to grade lots of papers for my graduate school students, all while the boys had the time of their lives.

I couldn't get any non-blurry pictures of Henry here, because he was excited and wiggling.

The boys ate a yummy lunch of yogurt and a giant fruit cup, then ran off to climb and play some more.

Nick loved this place so much he didn't want to take off his wristband. I told him he'd have to get a new wristband anyway when we went again, but he didn't believe me and left it on just in case.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Rocket, A Horse-Drawn Wagon, and A Duck Race: Old Canal Days in Lockport

Last Saturday my friend Lynn and I took the boys to Old Canal Days in Lockport. Saturdays are the day that I always try to take the boys out to do something fun, and what's more fun than a festival?

We saw this rocket, which the boys thought was cool until they realized they couldn't climb it or ride on it. I believe it was an artist's display, just like this set of gears along the I & M Canal.

We took a horse-drawn wagon ride along the tow path of the I & M Canal, and learned a little about the history of the area. There was a Steam punk theme to the festival, so the costumes were really interesting.

The weather was gorgeous, and the clop-clop of the horses' hooves was neat. Can you see Nick trying to sneak a peek at the horses?

It was fascinating to think about mule boys helping to pull boats down this canal so long ago. I think the boys were trying to see if they saw any fish, though, rather than contemplating the historical significance of the area.

We were able to check out the transportation exhibition, and we saw model railroads and ships as well as real, life-sized cars from long, long ago. Henry was a little ticked off that he couldn't stand on the ships.

We also experienced our first "Duck Race" last Saturday at the Old Canal Days. Basically, you bet on a rubber duck (we bet on two) and then they dump them all in the canal and see which one wins.

Henry had a blue duck swimming in the race, and Nick had a yellow duck.

Henry was devastated when no blue ducks won at all. This was his sad face. 

Later that day, I made sure to buy the boys some rubber duckies so that they could have their own duck races in the water table. Those were less disappointing. Anyhow, we had a great time and the boys had a nice, long nap when we got home.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day 2014

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! We tried to make today special for Greg. He got to go on a three-hour bike ride this morning, and then we let him take an afternoon nap while we went shopping for his presents. Greg deserved some rest on his special day.

I couldn't get a photo with all three of my guys smiling at once, but two out of three isn't bad.

The boys picked out Star Wars t-shirts for their daddy so they could all match. Oh, and some new shoes for when Greg goes hiking and biking.

Can you tell these two are related? 

I made homemade chicken pot pie for dinner, and some yummy brie strawberry bites. All in all, not too shabby of a day. My boys are lucky enough to have one daddy and three grandpas. So, Happy Father's Day, too to Grandpa Mike (my dad),. . . .

Grandpa Jay (Greg's dad), . . .

and Grandpa Ray (my stepdad). . .

Happy Father's Day to some great fathers and grandfathers!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Star Wars Day 2014

Last Saturday, I took a break from the crazy amount of work I had to do in order to take my boys to Star Wars Day in Joliet. I'm so glad that I did!

Star Wars Day is a crazy event, filled with costumed participants, demonstrations, and special games and events just for kids.

Where else can you find a reenactment of the trash compactor scene in the middle of the library. . . .?

. . . or go bowling with a giant ball?

. . . or chase R2D2 all around the lobby?

. . . or grab some lemonade at the canteen. . . no droids allowed!

The boys got all dressed up in their Star Wars gear, and they got special passes to wear as necklaces. (Yes, Henry's wearing a Yoda T-shirt. It says, "Awesome is my auntie." It can count for both his Aunt Sarah and his Aunt Mandy. The boys both got to bang this big guy's arm off with a big stick, too.

Henry found this nice lady dressed as Yoda, and he ran up and kept hugging her. She was very nice and let Henry feel her ears.

Nick really wanted this guy's light saber.

Henry thought this guy was just his size. Nick was a little afraid at first.

Last Saturday was really fun, and I'm pretty sure we'll be going again next year.