Sunday, April 29, 2012

Garden: Week 7


This week's garden post could've easily been subtitled: "The Leaning Tower of Vegetables"

It's been pretty windy with some heavy rains this week, and for a while, most of the corn was at a 60 degree angle.  But I was able to use some extra soil and "prop things up" (a few times), and finally everything seems vertical again.

So instead, this week's subtitle is "Houston, we have flowers!"

That's right (although hard to see), we have several flowers on our cucumber plants, or as I will think of them, delicious soon-to-be cucumbers.  (I was beginning to wonder if we were actually going to get vegetables, or just nice plants.)

There's also a ton of green blooms on the squash plants.  (There better be, because them suckas like liquid almost as much as the boys.)

And we can also see where the corn is going to form.

Many thanks to Gramm-E, who gifted us with a basil plant that has now been "transplanted" (pun-intended) into 2 basil plants.  Hopefully the carrot plants won't eat them, because they're starting to go wild, too.

We also had to transplant one of the green pepper plants (we now have 3, although it took them a long time to start growing), as one of the cucumber plants started to hog all of the sun, which I understand is bad for photosynthesis.

Oh yeah, and the boys are still having fun watching they're garden grow.

All you have to say is "who wants to water the garden?" and there will be rapid shuffling of feet that rivals the speed of response to "who wants a fruit snack?"

Then Bab-E brother waters for about 2 seconds and declares "your turn".  Followed by Little Brother wanting to water the trees (and not the garden).  And finally there's Big Brother, who makes it part-way outside, only to become engrossed in an imaginary Beyblade battle.  "Oh no, Saggitario!"

Have a good week,

Friday, April 27, 2012


What do you get when you have a 7 year old who protests vehemently about his accelerated reading program books and asks every day "how many more days of school are left?", a 4 year old who likes to dress up in superhero costumes and run around the backyard trying to catch a bird with a miniature butterfly net (and insisting that he can and will catch one), and a 2 year old whose new favorite pastime during his nap is to tear pages of books into shreds?

A: Spring fever (although we also would've accepted "A very tired Mom-E and Dad-E", too)

Have a good weekend,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

End Of A Streak

No, this is not a post about Little Brother running around the house naked (though it could've been).

It happens to them all.

After almost 2 years, Big Brother's streak met it's end yesterday.

He came home with a "yellow" for his behavior, after about 340 consecutive days of "green".

The behavior system at his school works like a stoplight: green = good, yellow = caution, and red = bad.  There's also "blue", which last year meant "angelic" but this year seems to mean "pending expulsion".

Anyway, apparently he and several other boys were throwing mulch at recess.  He wasn't the ringleader.  But part of the problem is that while Big Brother said he was aiming at the roof (and I believe him, not that it makes it any less wrong), because they're 1st graders and can't throw super far/high, the mulch apparently hit a teacher's window.


The ironic part of this is that last year, Big Brother earned a small prize, a new Beyblade, for being on "green" every day for the entire school year.

Just the day before, we were talking about how he would earn a similar "prize" for the same accomplishment this year.

And while in the grand scheme, this incident is no big deal, it WAS a big deal to Big Brother, not just because he wanted a new toy, but because he felt genuinely bad about getting into trouble, as evidenced by a lot of crocodile tears.

While he (naturally) "acts-up" in front of Mom-E and I sometimes, he has never gotten into trouble of any kind when we're not around.

And how I responded to Big Brother is most certainly an even BIGGER deal.  Because perhaps the most important thing to come out of this incident is, "If (I mean when) I make mistakes, I need to know that I can come to Mom-E and Dad-E to talk about them."

Having read (okay read most of), the 5 Love Languages of Children, in addition to "Quality Time", "Words of Affirmation" are also really important to him.

So the first things I did were to assure him that he is a good boy, that Mom-E and Dad-E are not angry with him, that we ALL make mistakes, and that he still had an opportunity to earn his "end of the year" reward (probably his most immediate concern).

Then I told him a story about how I apparently got into some kind of scuffle/fight on the playground with a friend when I was in the 2nd grade.  I honestly don't remember it happening - my parents told me about it years later - and otherwise have never been in a physical fight.  (Good thing it happened long ago, or by today's standards I'd've been on "blue".)

After that, I think Big Brother felt much better.  Although he was still obviously concerned, because the rest of the evening, he would make periodic comments like "If I was a bad boy, I would've thrown the mulch at a person, not at the roof."

Hopefully a good learning experience for us all.

And the nice thing about streaks is that after one ends, there's always a chance to start a new one.

See you on Fatherhood Friday,

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Garden: Week 6

Hi there! I hope you had a relaxing weekend.

While we were busy relaxing, our garden was busy growing.

Here's an updated look:

Just look at the difference a week makes:

And to think that in 2 more weeks, we're going to hit the garden with another round of fertilizer!

Now all we need is for some actual vegetables to start growing. The leaves are great and everything, but not very tasty (so I've heard).

Also this week, my work was giving away free "trees" for Earth Day.

I use the word "trees" in quotes because they make Charlie Brown's Christmas tree look pretty bountiful.

But nonetheless, we planted two trees. They have some decent roots, so maybe they'll actually grow. We'll keep you posted on them from time to time.

Dogwood. I know the leaves are brown, but I assure you the tree is alive.

Crepe Myrtle (sans leaves). I know it looks like a stick in the ground, but I also assure you it's alive.

Have a good week,

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Breakfast Games

Okay, so Mom-E and I actually saw this movie while she was resting up for the Boston Marathon (we haven’t read the book), but I came up with this title before seeing the film.

My thinking is “the best way to put the odds in your favor, is to STACK THE DECK.”

While I haven’t read the Hunger Games, I am reading a book called “The 5 Love Languages of Children.” It’s basically about how we, as parents, can most effectively communicate love to our children.

One of the love languages is “Quality Time”, and this is most definitely one of Big Brother’s main languages. Kinda makes sense as the oldest child that his “love currency” would be one-on-one time with Mom-E or I.

As you can imagine, with 3 small boys, school, piano, Cub Scouts, gymnastics, laundry, dishes, yard work, a need for exercise, and a career, that can be a real challenge, but nonetheless a very important challenge.

And so, as strange as it may sound, at least 3 mornings a week, Big Brother and I are up and awake at about 6:15am playing various board games (and occasionally reading books, and very occasionally playing Nintendo) for about 45 minutes before I go to the gym/other children wake up/it’s time to get ready for school.

And you how much it means to him to think that a 7 year-old eagerly and quickly pops out of bed at 6:15am to play games, but he does.

Because that’s his “love language”.

Big Brother often remarks about how cool it is that “we’re the only ones who are awake.” We have fun selecting the game the night before.

Usually, I make his breakfast for him, while he sets up the game board of choice, and then we play. We have a lot of fun just playing and talking. Most of the time I play “full tilt”, although sometimes I help increase his chances of winning.

(Secretly, I hope that in the future this will provide him with a venue to discuss his hopes and dreams and fears.)

And we’ve seen some other fruits of this time together. He’s usually so happy that we’ve been playing that he eagerly gets dressed for school, brushes teeth, etc because he’s busy talking about something related to our game.

And when I get home from work, I think that he’s generally happier and more tolerant of the fact that my attention is divided between the 3 boys. Although at age 7 with two younger brothers, it’s still natural that he “lets his guard down” and vents frustration at home (especially when he’s tired and/or hungry) by yelling and acting out for more attention.

But I’m so glad that he seems to cherish this morning time together.

I know I do.

Have a good weekend,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Marathon Mom-E

You may have noticed that I signed Monday’s post “Happy Patriots' Day!”

Why, you might ask, was I so keenly aware of this occasion? That’s because Mom-E and I were in Boston, where Mom-E kicked @$$ despite the near record-setting heat (temps reached the upper 80's) of the Boston Marathon!

I’m so happy for her and proud of her on this tremendous accomplishment! She did great!

It’s been a long road of training, injury, prayer, and healing.

Mom-E qualified for Boston about a year ago. Then, following another (much shorter) race about a month later, she started having some knee problems.

A break from running didn’t help.

Then started the long trail of physical therapy, doctors visits, injections, electrostim treatments, more injections, lots of exercises/ice/foam rolling/ibuprofen, etc., etc., etc.

And still a lot of knee pain with running.

As late as January, Mom-E wasn’t sure whether she’d be able to compete, and potentially even facing the possibility of surgery.

Thankfully, after the combination of all of the above treatments, time, and a lot of prayer, I truly believe that a miracle occurred and God’s will was that her knee would heal.

And it did. And she was able to train. And return to her “running form” rapidly ensued.

Mom-E generally works out during the week at the gym – treadmill, spin classes, lifting, and then does a long run on the weekend.

And by long run, I mean 10 – 20 miles every weekend for about 2 months before race day.

As a result, Saturday mornings are both a nice time for Mom-E to get away from the chaos of home (we admit that it might sound strange that a 20 mile run, with only your music and your thoughts, could be relaxing, but it kinda is for her), and a fun time for the boys and I to hang out.

I’ve watched BeyBlade: Metal Masters every Saturday at 8am for the past few months. It’s fun to hang out, watch some cartoons, play around in pj’s (and not shower until the afternoon).

Besides the race, it was really fun for Mom-E and I to have just a few days for the two of us (we couldn’t remember the last time we’d flown on an airplane without a stroller, diaper bag, and fussy-hungry-thirsty boys.

Many (and BIG!) thanks to Gramm-E and Grampap for hanging out with the boys during our absence. No doubt you’re ready for a vacation now after the chaos of chasing after the boys for a few days!

Again, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of Mom-E on her accomplishment. And a strong reminder of the power of faith and prayer, that saw her though this.

Race day itself was amazing. By arriving early that morning, I was able to secure a spot in the front row about 2oo yards from the finish (even if it did mean having to stand in one spot for 6 hours - man did I have to pee - but I wouldn't have done it differently for the world).

Of course, there were runners dressed as hamburgers, the American Flag, and Minnie Mouse, and runners in tu-tu's.

But there were also service-men and -women dressed in full fatigues with backpacks, amazing wheelchair and hand-bike racers, and other inspiring stories like Team Hoyt (Google it).

And then there was just the tremendous camaraderie that exists among runners. 300 yards from the finish, I saw a man who’s legs cramped up so badly that he could barely stand anymore. Two fellow runners – apparently complete strangers – took him under their arms and walked with him to the finish. Amazing!

And then there was this guy, pictured below, who collapsed a mere 200 yards from the finish. Unfortunately, he never made it across the finish line, having to be carted away on a golf cart to a medical tent.

Mom-E has many stories about the tremendous support from the race fans, under the extreme conditions. People truly went out of their way to help the runners. Kids wanting to splash runner with buckets of water, and people hosing off the racers with sprinklers. People handing out extra water, Kleenex, ice, sponges dipped in water, extra food, tongue depressors with vaseline for chapped lips, and TONS and TONS of high 5’s and cheers.

And here's Mom-E at the finish (she's the really cute lady in the light pink top on the left)!

The atmosphere was truly Patriotic!

God Bless America!

See you on Fatherhood Friday,

Monday, April 16, 2012

Garden: Week 5

Another week, and another garden picture. I’m sure once we get to harvest, it will be neat to go back review these pictures in “rapid fire succession” to see the dramatic change.

I can honestly say in my 3+ years of blogging, that I’ve never given commentary on vegetables before, but hey, why not.

Overall, we’re quite pleased and excited with the growth. Everything is still alive!

And the Sevin that we sprayed on the leaves appears to have taken care of last week’s caterpillar problem.

The corn is just going crazy. Hearty-looking, and lots of it. The fastest growing corn plant (which I think needs a name) is about 18 inches tall!

And the two squash plants are also growing really well, and look very green and lush. I can’t wait to make some squash casserole with the squash from our garden.

It’s hard to see in the picture, but next to the squash we have two very tiny plants that we believe to be green pepper plants. At least that’s what we planted there, and they don’t look like weeds! It’s surprising that it’s taken them quite a bit longer than the other plants to spring up. This will make the boys very happy, since they LOVE LOVE LOVE them some green pepper!

And not to be outdone by the veggies, we have herbs, too! Of course, the chives we transplanted look pretty good. But we also have some clusters of cilantro (one in particular) that are starting to look hearty! Mmm…cilantro (mumbled with a cursory attempt at a Spanish accent)!

In particular this week, I’m also pleased that the carrot tops seem to have really perked up and look heartier than they have in weeks past.

And that brings us to the “class clown” of the garden: the cucumbers. We’re definitely concerned that some of the leaves are looking a little white/yellow and crispy. I’ve read everything from “that’s normal” to “you’re cucumber plants are going to end up burnt and crispy”, so we’ll see. I figure pretty much everything else in the garden is doing well, so hopefully the cucumbers won’t buck this trend, because they’re #1 on Little Brother’s “Most Likely to Eat From the Garden” list.

The boys are still as excited as ever about watering the garden. It’s also one of their favorite pastimes to just go out onto our porch, which overlooks the garden, to “inspect”.

The jury’s still out, however, about what they will and won’t eat when we harvest.

Have a good week.

Happy Patriots' Day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Superhero Bedroom

So now that Big Brother and Little Brother are sharing a room, Mom-E and I decided that it was time for some redecorating.

Given the boys' indecisiveness when we discussed possibile themes, we figured that casting a broad net with "superheroes" might be a good way to go.

So far so good.

Being blessed with some creative juices and do-it-yourself desire (sometimes to the point of frustration), Mom-E and I embarked on making some superhero wall hangings.

For 3 nights in a row, we had a little "paint and pour" after the boys went to bed. Mom-E found a great deal on some canvases and paint (<$20). Throw in a bottle of wine (~$10), and voila, wall decorations.

We made about 2 per night (1 each). Mom-E made 4, I made 3 and did the hanging.

Not bad, eh? Can you guess which ones I made?

And then, because Mom-E is, well, Mom-E, she was just getting started.

Over the next week, she stayed up until about 1 am every night and made a set of 2 curtains to match the wall hangings (plus an additional 5 minutes of help by me hanging the wall posts).

I admit to being biased and a bit prideful, but frankly these are awesome (as is Mom-E). And the boys love their "new" room.

Have a SUPER weekend,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Garden: Week 4

Watch our garden evolve: Week 0, 1, 2, 3

You may notice a large plant of chives that wasn't there last week. The chives are the one thing that haven't done so well. So we opted to just buy some potted chives and "transplant" them into the garden.

Although you can't tell from the picture, it appears that some caterpillars are attempting to fatten up on the fruits of our labor.

If you eat the leaves of our veggie plants, you goin' down!

Have a good week,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roller Skating

I hope you had a Happy Easter!

So the other weekend, Big Brother was invited to a roller skating party, his first time roller skating.

I'll admit that I was slightly apprehensive, given our experience a while back with ice skating.

(We haven't been ice skating again since.)

But, to my pleasant surprise, things went quite well. Big Brother really enjoyed himself.

The first time around, he clung to the rails for dear life.

Then snack break.

The next time around, we held hands.

Then another snack break.

By the third time, he wanted to try to fly solo.

It was slow, and it wasn't pretty, and he stumbled and fell a few times, but he made it!

(Then, you guessed it, another snack break.)

I had a great time, too. Brought back fond childhood memories of elementary school skating parties, where being able to skate backwards got you your pick of girls for the slow songs (I couldn't skate backwards to save my life), playing classic video games like Gauntlet (apparently all skating rinks are required to have vintage games), and drinking "suicides" (a little bit of every kind of soda pop from the fountain).

I also couldn't help but think that learning to roller skate was a microcosm of the early years of parenthood: helpless at first (cling to the rails), then wanting help (holding hands), then a desire for independence (I'll do it myself, Dad-E).

No doubt, in just another lap or two, he's going to ask me for my car keys.

Great job, Big Brother! Here's to more skating.

Have a good week,

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

When I was building our garden, I managed to substitute my fingernail for a regular nail with the hammer, which left the mark shown below.

And let me tell you did it smart. I can't remember the last time I'd had the same degree of physical pain.

Fortunately, with the help of ice and about an hour, although still quite tender for a few days, I was able to go finish building the garden.

But this Easter season, my finger is a powerful reminder of how infinitessimally minor my pain and suffering was compared to our Lord.

Happy Easter,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where's My Bed?

So after a several-month battle with Little Brother spending most nights sleeping on the floor of Big Brother's room, we opted for compromise:

Big Brother was okay with sharing sleeping quarters with Little Brothers more permanently, so we bought Little Brother a bed to match Big Brother's.

And so now they both sleep in one room, and the "other" room is more play space (and houses Little Brother's clothes.)

Fortunately, Little Brother has been more than enthusiastic about sleeping in his new bed (although he does sleep on top of the covers).

That first night, he made the funniest comment. "My sheets are so comfy and my mattress is so comfy. It's like I'm sleeping in a hotel room!"

No, Little Brother, it's just called "Sleeping in a bed. No need to get a hotel room involved. Most people sleep in beds because they're way more comfortable than the floor."

Big Brother has done well with his new roommate.

The only problem he's had is remembering WHERE his bed is located (we moved it closer to the wall to accommodate Little Brother's bed) after he gets up to go potty (BY HIMSELF! YAY! N-O-C-T-U-R-N-A-L C-O-N-T-I-N-E-N-C-E! GO (IN THE POTTY)!)

So far we've found him in 3 different places:
1. In Little Brother's new bed (with hind end still exposed).
2. The floor in Little Brother's "old" room.
3. And the best one (photo evidence below), was the closet in Little Brother's "old" room.

The funny part about ending up in the closet is that night we had a really severe thunderstorm/wind/hail/etc. The weatherman came on with an advisory to move away from windows. When we went into the boys' room, we couldn't find Big Brother. Apparently, even in his semi-comatose state after going potty, his "Spider Sense" guided him to safety. Way to go (potty)!

Stay tuned for future posts about the boys' new superhero-themed room.

See you on Fatherhood Friday,

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Garden: Week 3

All I can say is "wow".

Mom-E and I are bucking our track records with green things.

The garden continues to grow (compare to last week), despite an attack from an hour-long torrential storm (colored in the yellow-orange range per Weather Channel).

(Apparently it took all that water, and the sunshine that followed, and got all photosynthesis-happy.)

And it continues to garner the excitement of the boys.

Here it is:

Have a good week,