Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cookie Day 2016

Yes, today was indeed Cookie Day 2016. Each year I take the boys to my mom's house to bake, decorate, and eat lots and lots of cookies. In honor of this special occasion, Nick and Henry wore their new gingerbread man shirts. They read: Ninja-Bread Warrior.

In the prelude to cookie day, I spent hours and hours arguing with (and, admittedly, yelling at) my cookie press as I made butter cookies. Some cookies are made with love, but I'm afraid my butter cookies were made with anger. Sweet, delicious anger.

Does this snowman show evidence of his maker's fury?

The butter cookies were still yummy, though. Also, since I didn't get angry enough to actually throw the cookie press out the window, and I eventually made two full batches, I'd call it a win.

There was far less anger and more fun when Nick and Henry made gingerbread cookies with my mom. They loved rolling out and cutting the cookies. 

They made some, ahem, interesting cookie shapes. Notice Henry's custom-made cookie. 

It's a Target cookie, as in the store. Yup. I know what it looks like. Henry loves the Target because I let him pick something out from the dollar spot.

Anyway, the boys made awesome gingerbread houses as well. 

They worked so hard on them--with a little help from G.G. As for Nick, he hardly asked for help at all, and he did an excellent job with roof construction, especially considering he was using white chocolate for cement. He did, however, sneak one piece of candy in his mouth for every piece he added to his gingerbread house!

They really loved making the gingerbread houses--I haven't done this with real gingerbread (the kind you'd want to eat) since I was a little girl. I hope we can do this every year.

Here's Henry showing off his masterpiece.

We concluded cookie day 2016 with a thrilling ride through some pretty nasty traffic as the snowstorm started. It took us over an hour and a half to get home. The gingerbread houses made it safely, though! 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nick's 8th Birthday Party

Nick had his 8th birthday party today, on our last day of Thanksgiving break.

November parties are normally difficult, because it's too cold to hang out in the backyard, and our house is very small. They year, however, Nick received some outdoor gifts, so he was very definitely outside. His favorite gift?

Auntie Mandy and her boyfriend Andy split the cost of a set of junior drums with Greg and me. I guess they're just like a full adult set of drums, only smaller. So Nick spent a lot of time showing off his drumming skills to various visitors. Auntie Mandy even decorated Nick's drum head, and it turned out really cool.

Personalized drumsticks? Nick has those, now, too.  I'm anticipating Nick spending a lot of time in the basement with his drumset this winter. Perhaps Henry will accompany him on his favorite instrument--the microphone. My mom gave us an older karaoke machine so that my boys can make as much noise as possible.  ;)
They say, "Nick's Sticks."

Nick also lucked into getting an awesome skateboard with a super-cool green helmet and pads. Of course, he wanted to try it out right away.

He's still working with just one foot on the board, but he sure was excited! I'm hoping the weather isn't too cold this week, so that he can spend some more time working on his skateboarding moves.

I bet he'll be a great skateboarder someday, but for now I'm sure glad he's got a supercool helmet and pads.

Something tells me there will be a few bumps and bruises along the way.

It was a Harry Potter-themed birthday, so Nick ended up with these cool mini-cupcakes from Smallcakes. I made sure they got some more wear out of their Griffindor ties from Halloween. He also got a magic set that looks messy but really fun, just the thing for a cold winter night.

His Grandma Toni also got him the illustrated version of the first Harry Potter book. Nick actually ended up with a whole stack of new books he's eager to start reading.

According to Nick, it was the best birthday ever.

What better way for his birthday party to end than with a hug from his cousin Sophie?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nicholas is 8!

Today Nick turned 8 years old. Amazingly, he now weighs 56 pounds, can read and write, and does mental math better than his mommy. Not too bad for a second grader!

In celebration of this momentous occasion (come on, you don't turn 8 everyday!), I let Nick pick whatever he wanted for dinner. He picked. . . . Meatheads burgers and cheese fries. Nick has a bigger present coming after Thanksgiving, but for now he got a new book and a Hexbug gym.

What, you ask, is a Hexbug gym? Well, Hexbugs are these creepy little fellows that can move and climb once they're switched on. You have to be super-careful not to let them escape, because they'll get under the furniture and make an annoying buzzing sound. They won't stop moving until their batteries die!

These particular Hexbugs come with a system of sidewalks, ramps, and tubes where they can climb up. There's also a platform that you can put the Hexbugs on and try to fling them towards the open end of the tubes. It didn't occur to me until long after I'd bought them, but these persistent little creatures remind me of little mice, scurrying around and causing trouble, but (thank goodness) NOT leaving presents behind. I don't suppose actual mice would appreciate the catapulting gym much, either.

The Hexbugs didn't seem to mind being flung around, though. The Hexbugs, I expect, will get a lot of action over the next few weeks.

There's another Nick birthday on the books. I sure hope that 8 is a great year for Nick!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016!

Happy Halloween from everyone's favorite wizards. Who says Harry Potter should always have top billing? This time, Ron Weasley and his cool orange hair get to be first.

Greg advised the boys to use Aldi bags, since they won't break. He was right!

Henry was quite scared by many of the Halloween decorations. In fact, he refused to go ring the doorbell at more than ten houses. There were another four or five where I had to hold his hand and walk him up to the door. Something tells me Henry will be like me and not like horror movies when he gets older.

Even this jack o'lantern gave Henry a bit of a scare.

Harry Potter (a.k.a. Nick) was so busy running from house to house that you mostly see him and his friends in a blur in all the pictures. Not as noble as seeking horcruxes, but hey, Nick had a mission.

I think this is the only picture Greg got him to pose for--I guess Nick only stops for death.

Henry wanted to tell me all about his Kindergarten Halloween Party. Here's what he had to say:

Henry also made this cool paper plate pumpkin. Let him tell you all about it!

Nick had a class party, too, and from his descriptions, it was hopping. I'm not going to post the video where he describes, in excruciating detail, the Doritos, candy, and juice that they had. This one is about the games!

That last video ended when a trick-or-treater came to the door. Nick and Henry made out pretty well, and they filled their bags about halfway--not bad for their age and small legs. And me? Well, I ended up walking 13,766 steps today. Probably enough to make up for all the snack-sized candy I pilfered from their bags.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Carving Green Pumpkins and a Halloween Party with the Cub Scouts

So why, you ask, do we have green pumpkins this year? I suppose that's what happens when you wait until October 30th to go and get pumpkins. These are the best that Greg could find. Good thing green is Henry's favorite color!  :)

Happily, carving green pumpkins is actually less messy than carving their riper brothers. Nick was actually disappointed that there wasn't as much "gook" as usual--running his hands through that stuff is one of his favorite parts of pumpkin carving.

I think their green spooky pumpkins turned out pretty cool, thanks to Greg's superior carving skills. They look pretty scary!

I think Nick was trying to look scary in the above picture.

On Saturday the boys attended their first Cub Scout Halloween Party. Decorating pumpkins was on the agenda--with glue, felt, and glitter!

Glitter is a favorite of Henry's. Me? Not so much. That stuff lasts forever and gets everywhere!

Henry was especially excited about his finished pumpkin.

Look behind Nick and his pumpkin with many eyes--do you see the fortress of cups? They had such a good time building with them that I bought a whole new set of plastic cups for building at home.

They also used nerf guns to shoot down some styrofoam pumpkins. Sounds like the perfect Cub Scout activity for a Halloween Party!


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.