March 30, 2012

Determination and Courage

I mentioned before that while Allie was (IS) in love with her camera and taking pictures of EVERYTHING, Ryan really cared more about his bike. The truth it, it took a little while. An afternoon really. I encouraged them to try the bikes (on the carpet, in the basement), and it quickly became apparent that 1) they had trouble getting enough momentum to keep going and not get stuck every 30 seconds and 2) they had always had the option of pedaling backwards to go backwards and now that pedaling backwards applied the brakes it was really confusing and frustrating. So I worked with him (them, but Allie quickly gave up and went to take some pictures instead), and showed him tricks for getting going when stuck. By the end of the afternoon he would get stuck and immediately stick his hand out and say, "Don't help, mommy. I can do it myself." And he did. By the next day he was a pro. So much so that my neighbor's mom (who is in a bike club and goes on a two week bike trip for fun every summer) couldn't believe he had only been riding a bike for 24 hours. His favorite thing to do, now that he has mastered riding, is find ways to get himself stuck. And when he succeeds, that hand comes out and I hear, "No, mommy. I can do it myself." And he does.
I have seen that same determination in other areas, but today was exceptional. We went to this incredible place called the TreeHouse. It basically a gigantic play structure with all kinds of places to climb and slide and crawl through tunnels. The only problem is that the only way to get to the tunnel slides (Ryan's favorite) are to climb up these alternating shelves. Have you seen this on kids' play structures? The shelves alternate back and forth- overlapping a little - and the kids climb from level to level. The twins have always had trouble with these. Once Ryan got stuck in a Chik-Fil-A playplace because he was too terrified to come down after he was up, and we couldn't fit in. We had to enlist an older girl to help him down. These climbing structures are designed for fun, but they are our nemesis. So Ryan is desperate to go up, and asks me to help him. He gets to the second level fine, but panics when he tries to go any higher. Even with my help he couldn't get to the top before he dropped down - flat on his stomach - and begged for me to get him down. So I talked to him about why he was afraid. I showed him all of the things that were there to protect him from falling (the netting on the sides for example). I talked about how it wasn't any different than climbing on the couch. I told him that he was strong and brave and could do anything. He tried again, panicked, and ended up on his stomach on the third level. I told him it was okay to be scared, that I knew he could do it if he wanted, but it was okay to stick to playing on the other things that didn't require him to climb those shelves.

A little later I was sitting at the booth with the other moms. I realized that I didn't see Ryan with the other kids. I scanned the massive play structure and caught sight of him standing in one of the shelf climbing towers. He is on the second level, contemplating climbing to the third. He stands still for a moment and then drops to his stomach...and then climbs down and out. Pretty soon he is back. He stands ready to climb to the third level. He kicks his leg up to take the giant step. And then he drops to his stomach. And then he climbs out. I watch this play over and over - both aching because my son is struggling so much with his fear and proud because he just wouldn't give up. I turned to answer a question and turn back just in time to see a flash of black pants with a white stripe down the side fly over the 4th level. I grab my friend's arm. "I think he made it to the top!" Sure enough, he soon appears at the bottom of the tunnel slide, loops right back to the climbing tower, and goes up again! And again! In fact, I don't think he went back to the other slides after his triumph. It was such a big moment. I was so proud. I wanted to let him know I saw, and affirm his courage and triumph, so when he came over to me I bent down and said, "Buddy, I'm so proud of you. I saw you climb all the way up. You were scared, but you didn't give up! I knew you could do it! You are a brave and strong boy." He looked at me with a confused look and then said, "Mommy, I just have to go potty."

Maybe he didn't think his moment was that big. Maybe he did and he was just playing it cool. It doesn't matter. I thought it was big, and I'm so proud of my little man.

March 16, 2012

Party at the Museum

As I mentioned before, I decided to scale down from my usual party madness and just have a small, family party at home. But I still wanted to do something fun with their friends. Since pretty much all of their little friends are part of the moms' group, I kind of thought we would maybe just pick one of the fun places we had been thinking about going as a group and cover admission for that morning. But then we found out another moms' group attendee had a birthday the day after the twins, and we decided to jointly host a moms' group party. We picked the Kids N Stuff Museum (a place the group had been thinking about), and went for the full party plan (a bargain in my mind. The only thing we had to provide was lunch. It was so nice to have someone else do all the planning!). The museum was so great!
They had a huge train table, and it was definitely Ryan's favorite thing.
Allie tended to wander more, and since I followed, I got a lot more pictures of her at different stations. This was in the "glow" room with lots of different lights.
Two of the younger party attendees enjoying the toddler playground.
The water table was a HUGE hit. Such a huge hit that Allie was completely soaked from the waist up! She was especially thrilled with her yellow submarine (seen in her hand here). In fact, if you ask her about the museum, the first thing she says is, "They have a yellow submarine!"
Ryan quickly found a friend and they joined forces to catch fish.
There was a hospital area upstairs, and it was definitely a highlight, but there was a preschool there at the same time and they had it filled. Then they got called for lunch and our group rushed up to take over the hospital. Driving the ambulance was the biggest hit, but because the lighting was so different in the various areas of the museum, this is the only decent picture I got.
There was also an airplane cockpit (the front of the airplane stuck out of the front of the balcony). Here are the birthday kids flying the plane.
There was the giant, stuffed guy...with realistic, stuffed insides that you could pull out and examine. Which was sort of disturbing. All of the sudden we looked over and saw D sitting in his lap!
The music room was another of the twins' favorite. Allie is playing the piano below, but my favorite music room memory was Ryan playing the drums, while another kid danced, and Allie played the cymbals (jumping and kicking out her legs every time she clapped them together).
The grocery store was especially realistic. They even had coupons. Allie spent a lot of time shopping, checking out, putting it back, and shopping again :)
We joked that this was the biggest, coolest playpen. The kids climbed the stairs and ran around. They thought it was great and the parents loved getting to have 5 minutes of conversation knowing exactly where they were :)
Part of the party package was a special room for lunch. The museum provided Capri Suns, and the kids were so excited. These are a treat in our house - reserved for special occasions :)
I have amazing friends. They always check with me before they have parties to double check the twins' allergies and make sure they have food the twins can eat (they go as far as making special egg-free cupcakes for them). One of the moms told me that she was going to make special. egg-free cake pops to bring to the party. They were amazing. SO delicious (I'm going to have to get the recipe and see if I can convert it to cupcakes), and a huge hit. Why is food always more fun when it's on a stick?
The three birthday kids, eating their cake pops, all in a row :)
The twins had a blast. I hope all the other kids who came did as well (there were 10 total). I was so excited that the twins recovered enough from their sickies to go. In fact, they were so active the entire day that I was convinced that we were near the end! Then we had their 3 year checkups the next day and discovered that Ryan's pneumonia was worse and Allie had a nasty ear infection. Sigh.

March 12, 2012

Our Almost Adventures

Every year, we plan something special to do as a family on the twins' birthday. The first year it was Cabella's. Last year it was the Hands On Museum. This year we were going to meet up with friends to do something spectacular, but as we were trying to pick a place they came down with strep and RSV. Lucas and I scaled down the birthday plans (a birthday photoshoot, a trip to a favorite local toy store, a trip to the Humane Society, and a few errands, then home for Daddy's pizza), and commented to each other that all of our friends' kids had been very sick lately (strep, RSV, bronchitis, and pneumonia was abounding), but we had all remained healthy! Go us!

Famous last words. That night Allie started coughing (she had been almost frantically active all evening. She wouldn't listen to a thing I said, and she was practically bouncing off the walls. At first I was really confused by her strange behavior...and then I remembered my brother...who always acted up when he was getting sick. I wasn't surprised when the coughing started...).
At this point Ryan didn't look bad at all. You almost wouldn't have known he was sick!
He was convinced he had to pretend to sleep for the camera...
By Friday morning I had been up all night with a very sick Allie (intense coughing, fever, sore throat), and Ryan was coughing. We decided to schedule appointments with the pediatrician and THEN have our birthday adventures. At this point they were running around the house and wrestling. I considered cancelling the appointment. I discovered later that Tylenol can produce the appearance of health, but as soon as it wears off you have miserable children on our hands once again.
A miserable little girl...
The doctor said she had "influenza eyes"
At the pediatrician's we discovered that there was a nasty strand of influenza going around that involved a lot of coughing, congestion, and 3-5 days of high fevers. Both twins had the influenza, but when the doctor listened to their lungs, she discovered that Ryan had Pneumonia! She was shocked. He looked so healthy compared to Allie. She listened to Allie's lungs again. And then Ryan's. And then said that Allie's lungs were definitely clear, and he definitely had Pneumonia. There is something scary about that word. The kids were already going downhill quickly, but with the diagnosis set, we cancelled all our adventurous plans and went home to rest. Worst birthday ever. Hopefully it will remain the worst birthday ever (since it wasn't that bad, in retrospect).
Watching Chuggingtons, and resting...the only thing they had the energy to do.
It has been a rough couple of days. 3 nights in a row I didn't get more than an hour of un-interrupted sleep (I can't even calculate the cumulative hours of sleep, but I know they are few), and spent most of the night up with one sick kid or the other. During the day they have been listless and clingy. I have enjoyed the cuddling, but it is so opposite of what they are usually like that it has felt a little scary. Last night we finally had a breakthrough with Allie - she slept for several hours without waking. Ryan got hit with the fevers Saturday night, so I was up with him while Allie slept. But I feel the end is near. Today they have had the energy to play quietly, and they have been able to talk without collapsing in coughing fits. They have their other birthday party tomorrow so I need them to at least be healthy-ish soon!

March 09, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ryan!

Happy Birthday, Little Man!
At age 3 you are:
Enthusiastic - You say everything in exclamations, and you're most common phrases are "Yay!" "Oh, yeah!" "Woohoo!" and "Let's go!"
Focused - when you have your mind on a task or activity, nothing can preoccupy you. You became an expert at riding your new bike in about an hour - practicing over and over and saying, "Mommy, I can do it myself," anytime you got stuck and I tried to help you. I've also seen you practice shooting baskets for extended periods of time. Trying over and over until you get a shot, and then taking a step farther back and practicing until you make it from there.
Imaginative - You are always pretending you are a race car. You frequently set up imaginative
games for you and your sister/friends to play. Quite frequently they involve being chased by someone (a big bad wolf, a giant, silly people...). While I wish your pretend play was more positive, I know that big imaginations usually lead to big fears, and that you are able to take control of those fears through pretend play.
Active and Adventurous - You love to run, bike, play games with balls. Every day you ask, "What special adventure will we have today?"
Curious - I hear "Why, mommy?" about a million times a day. You want to know about everything.
Funny - You love to make people laugh, and will keep doing anything that gets your crowd going. You recently discovered that a particular funny face you make (you call it the "poopy nose" because it's the face you make when something smells) always makes me laugh and you do
it every now and then just for my response!
Some of your favorite things:
Bumble, Bach (no joke. You even can pick out Bach songs, imitate his music on the piano, and recognize the letters of his name when flipping through the books to find a Bach piece), "Help" by the Beatles, "Wonder Pets," Playing basketball, riding bike, anything related to cars, swinging, peas, chicken, being silly with daddy, reading (you're currently into "The Cat in the Hat" and any in the "Give a _____ a _____" series).
Funny things you say:
"It's not my problem!" - not sure where you heard it, but you say it at the funniest moments. Usually it doesn't fit to the question I ask, which is why it's funny and not obnoxious.
"There are no other choices!" - I say this to you when you want something that we don't have (like cinnamon graham crackers when we have none). You say this to me when you want to do something and I say "no."
"I don't know." - you say this with your hands in the air and an innocent face. You almost always say this when I ask who made a mess or broke something. You almost always are the culprit when you say this.
My favorite recent stories:
When we were up north, we all slept in the same room. The first morning you woke up and told us you couldn't get out of bed until Bumble woke up. Suddenly Bumble's head popped up and he turned to look at us. You were moving his head just like a puppet! You do this a lot and it's really funny.

You like things just so. You like repetition and routine. You like things to be repeated day after day. There are two recent situations in which this has become very apparent. You have a cd that you like to listen to during morning quiet time (Bach), and you are very insistent that it always
start at the very beginning. If I accidentally skip the 15 second opening, you get really upset. We were playing a game, and I had to set it up just right each time. If it wasn't set exactly the same you wouldn't play. You kept saying, "No, mommy. It's not right. Try again!" The good news is that you are very good with putting things away because you know the right place for everything!

You don't like any picture with a face that looks surprised or angry. If you find them in books (and we're talking 1 face our of 100 in a search and find book), you won't look at that page. But you will show me every time. You will hold the book on the page before and say, "See, mommy. See the next page." Then you will quickly flip the page, hold the book up to me (upside-down), ask me to take the book and cover your eyes. Or you put one hand over your eyes while you quickly turn the pages with your other hand so you can skip that page.
You are a sweet little guy. You bring so much laughter to our days. Your sister adores you and calls you her best friend. Daddy is thrilled you love sports and enjoys sharing that with you. Mommy loves your hugs and enthusiasm and thanks God each day for the joy you bring. Happy Birthday, Buddy! We love you!

Happy Birthday, Allie!

Happy Birthday, Peanut!
At 3 you are:
An exuberant Ball of Energy - rarely ceasing motion except to sleep.
Enthusiastic and Adventurous
Caring and Mothering - you will stop playing to care for a friend's baby sibling. You are sincerely moved by stories of children who have less. You look out for the feelings of those around you.
Sensitive - you cry when people are angry (anyone around you. Raised voices from anywhere in the vicinity elicit a response) and your feelings are hurt easily.
A Stickler for Rules - often yourself. always with others. I frequently hear my words in your voice "Choose your attitude," "That is not something we say," "We need to show each other
Jesus' love."
Creative - you love to draw, paint, build, decorate, and, since your party where you received your camera, take pictures. You have an eye for the beauty in the world around you.
Thoughtful, and Always Thinking - you are already an expert at thinking through a situation and/or negotiating. We recently spent a weekend with a director of a preschool and she said you would get an A+ in your reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Loving - If anyone is sad, you will give them a hug. If anyone is sick or tired, you try to care for them. You frequently give spontaneous hugs and kisses and say, "I love you so much!"
Some of your favorite things:
Seahorse, "Come Together" by the Beatles, Little Einsteins, any fruit, anything princesses (Cinderella is your absolute favorite), the color blue (it's Cinderella's color), dancing like a ballerina, playing with cars, taking pictures with your camera, wrestling (you frequently tackle your brother or daddy), reading (your most requested book right now is "Lost!")
Funny things you say:
"Anyfing." - you use this interchangeably to mean "Nothing" or "Everything."
Potentially TMI** You like to describe your bowel movements. It cracks me up to find you in the bathroom saying things like "It's 2 poopies! A mama and a baby!" or "it's blueberry poopies" or "it's a snake poopy!"
My favorite recent stories:
We were up north for the youth retreat and you wanted me to lay down in your room until you fell asleep. You threw a huge tantrum. I told you that if you stopped screaming and crying I would give you a favorite book to read until you fell asleep, but if you kept it up I would take the book away. You stopped for a moment, thought about it, handed me the book, and said, "You take it. I want to keep throwing a tantrum." Thus the A+ on reasoning skills!

When we were doing the shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, I told you that there are some children that don't get special surprises or presents. You were so sad for these children. You thoughtfully shopped for the things you thought they might like. I thought you would forget, but every now and then you mention the kids who don't get special surprises. We talked recently about the siblings we are going to adopt. You responded, "Are they the children who don't get special surprises? They will get special surprises when they live with us."

Shortly after you opened your camera, you got very upset when your cousin wanted to play with it. We went in the bedroom to have a talk about sharing, treating each other with love and respect, and not justifying unacceptable behavior just because our feelings are hurt. The next day you took your camera to church and another girl picked up your camera to take pictures. I could see you weren't happy, but you simply played with something else until she was finished. I was so proud of you for listening so well and responding with love when faced with the same situation.
You are a bundle of joy. Your sweet heart and unending energy brighten every day. Buddy calls you his "little" Sis and best friend, and he loves both being cared for by you and saving and protecting you. Daddy loves his little girl and you melt his heart often. Mommy can't get enough of your hugs, thoughtfulness, and sweetness. Happy Birthday, Sis! We love you!

March 05, 2012

Party Time!

I think I've clearly established that I like to throw parties. I like themes, festive decorations, fitting food, the whole works. I even have a folder where I've been stashing birthday party theme inspirations and ideas all year. Then we threw theme parties for potty training. Then I threw a Valentine's party for the moms' group. Then we were in the midst of our home study and trying to finish it quickly. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, this would be a good year to go easy on myself. So I asked the twins to pick a color, and that would be the theme of the party, and that party would be just family. I asked. Allie picked yellow. Ryan absolutely refused yellow. He wanted red. Allie said she liked red. Red it was. A week later, after I had made red decorations and purchased red plates and napkins (hello post-Valentine's sales!), Ryan informed me that he wanted a yellow party. Thankfully he wasn't disappointed when I informed him that it was too late. Red it was!
Some of the decorations.
Ultimately, there are only 3 things that I care about having for the party. 1) the birthday banners, 2) the characters with their faces (the dinosaurs below...which will make more sense in about a week), and 3) the birthday outfits. In past years I have made themed shirts. This year, I could NOT find red shirts. So I made my own outfits. It was easier than I thought. I love the outfits. And now I have all sorts of ideas of other things I would like to try making for them!

We had a morning party, and went with a brunch for the menu. It wasn't until after I picked this that I realized I would need to come up with an egg-less breakfast menu. Thanks to some help from the internet we had a full menu (including this yummy breakfast casserole!).
Enjoying the food!

After we ate, they opened presents. I love the cousins helping :) SO hard, at this age, to just watch presents being opened.

After the present opening they all played with the presents. There wasn't a single present that wasn't a hit. In fact, they are still playing with their new things all day long. Ryan has a stronger affinity for the bike and has completely mastered pedaling. He has spent every waking moment we will allow riding his bike. Allie loves her camera, and we have downloaded another 200 photos. Separate hobbies are officially developing!

I asked him to smile...
D was having a bit of a rough morning. I had used a hole puncher to turn some of the leftover paper from the decorations into confetti. I figured there would be some point at the party that it would come in handy. I was right! She loved it! Morning saved.
We did muffins instead of cupcakes. Ryan wasn't a fan of the cranberries, and tried to eat around them. Allie loved them and swiped 3!
D was also a fan - eating them from the top down!
It was a fun morning. Relaxing and enjoyable. The twins were perfectly thrilled (which should make them even more excited for the birthday fun to follow). And I'm just trying to get over the fact that somehow three years have already passed!
Happy 3rd birthday, Twinners! We love you!!