April 21, 2013

A Dinosaur Adventure

After Easter, there are just a couple Saturdays that Lucas has free before we enter the wedding season.  And, normally, wedding season isn't that bad, but this year the denomination seems to have scheduled meetings on every free Saturday he would have had.  This Saturday was one of the free ones, and I wanted to make the most of it.  Plus, we were still in a celebrating mood from the night before.

We tossed around a couple of ideas.  The zoo (maybe call up the Indy cousins and see if they were free for a really impromptu zoo trip)?  Too cold.  An aquarium?  None close.  A Children's Museum?  Really expensive.  I was thinking about fun adventures when I was a kid, and I thought about Morrill Hall.  Suddenly, it struck me that most state schools probably have something similar, so I googled it and discovered that I was correct - there were options at both U of M and MI State.  But University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History has the largest dinosaur exhibit in Michigan, so it was instantly obvious where we were going.

The twins were so excited.  They got even more excited when they discovered that the Museum was surrounded by "Go Big Blue."
(Note: Due to the ever changing lighting and the fast movements of my children, it was almost impossible to get a picture where they weren't blurry...)
In front of the Mastodons.  
Ryan dressed for the occasion - dinosaur shirt and shoes (sadly the dinosaur socks and underwear were in the dirty laundry).  The only thing he was hoping to see was a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  One of the first things we saw was this T Rex head.  He kept saying, "I knew it!  I knew they would have my favorite dinosaur!"
He was so happy.  Even happier when I showed him the picture later and he noticed that it looks like the dinosaur is going to eat him!
 Allie's favorite dinosaur is a Triceratops.  Sadly, no Triceratops.  But they did have an Anchiceratops, which is pretty close.  Basically the same to me.  To Allie it was completely different, and not worth her time.  But they did have many Pteranodons and related items - which made her really happy.
Checking out a mini-Pteranodon model.
In awe of the Pteranodon flying overhead.
 Many of the exhibits featured dinosaurs we have seen on Dinosaur Train (I was so thankful because that show is the only reason I could pronounce any of the names!).  The kids really enjoyed making the connections.
Touching the tail club of an Ankylosaurus - otherwise known as "Hank."
 An image of a Pteranodon above the hip bone of a Sauropod.
 Looking at various Sauropod bones and models.
 We were looking at another exhibit when I glanced over and saw this:
 Ryan checking out what mommy's home looked like many, many years ago.
 They do have a giant collection, and we spent a lot of time wandering around - even considering how quickly the twins darted from exhibit to exhibit.  Before we left the dinosaurs, the kids wanted another picture in front of the T Rex head.
Showing me their best T Rex faces.
 The best, least blurry picture of the bunch...and Allie is making this face...
 There were 2 other exhibits: Michigan life (animals and plants), and geology and space.  We enjoyed all of them, although we made our way back to the dinosaurs twice.
Allie's favorite - the owls.  She loves owls...
We ended our time in the Planetarium.  I love planetariums.  When I was in elementary school, they would bring in a traveling planetarium for a week.  It was my favorite week.  It was this giant, inflatable dome, and I thought it was so magical.  I was hoping the kids would enjoy their first visit to the planetarium as much as I always did.  I wasn't sure at first (Allie could NOT sit still), but, when we got home, they got all of their dinosaurs together and put on a planetarium show for them using all of the knowledge they had just gained.  It was so cute!

We let the kids take some money from their banks to buy something at the gift store.
Ryan picked a stuffed T Rex that he has been "waiting his whole life" to have.
 Allie picked a tub of dino bath toys - she loves to play with bath toys in and out of the tub.
 We had such a fun adventure, and enjoyed discovering a new adventure destination - especially for dinosaur adventures!
A parting shot of the U of M Museum of Natural History before we left.

April 20, 2013

Week in Review

You already know how our week started

Wednesday (after a follow up pedi appointment where we discovered Ryan's ears are still filled with fluid...which is why he is constantly saying, "What did you say?  Say it louder!") we met up with the cousins at the Bouncy Castle!
A dozen bouncy castles, and they all want to "play" the arcade games (we don't put in money, so they don't actually play).
 We didn't stay as long as we'd originally planned because the kids all stopped playing and said they were tired.
"We just want to rest here.  We're too tired to bounce."  What?!
 Thursday, we had the warmest day to date!  But we didn't get to enjoy it because we were under a tornado watch the entire day - and the weather was very windy with frequent downpours.  Boo.  We did spend a lot of the day in the basement (I re-organized our storage so that we can walk in without fear of being crushed in an avalanche of plastic storage bins.  Go me!), and the twins put together all of their puzzles to create a puzzle of puzzles (8 puzzled each with 24-60 pieces).  I wanted to get a picture, but they pulled all the puzzles apart pretty about 30 seconds after they finished putting the last one together...

Toward the end of the day, Ryan kept complaining about being cold.  I discovered he had a fever.  By bedtime, he looked like this:
And Friday he wasn't much better.  The doctor had warned us that it was about to get worse with his ears due to the crazy weather coming.  We just hadn't been prepared for how much worse...

What was better on Friday?  Suspects identified, one down, and an ever closing manhunt for #2.
What was crazy about Friday?  This was all going down in town where we used to live.
We lived in Watertown before moving here.  It was surreal to see the news conferences happening at the mall where I used to shop, the news correspondents set up on corners that were so familiar, and various scenes in places that remind me of home.  They took #2 to the hospital where the twins were born and lived for the first 3 weeks of their life (and where I lived for 3 weeks before they were born).  The most surreal, though, was when they released the video footage of the shootout the night before...and there was suspect #1 in the road...in front of our former Pediatrician's office.  It was so jarring to see something so raw and horrible happening in front of a place that was always a haven of safety and health for me.  After a day glued to the news (partly because I wanted to know what was happening, partly because I was hungry for pictures of "home"), and many ups and downs, they caught suspect #2.  We breathed a sigh of relief for our former community, and celebrated as best we could.
Champagne and ice cream.
Saturday ended up having a special adventure that I was going to include here...until I realized how many pictures I had.  So I'll save that for another time.

And one last crazy Happy Dance For Boston.

April 19, 2013

April Snapshot

Officially 4 for 1 whole month, here is the latest snapshot:
Ryan:
Biggest new accomplishment: Buttons.  He's obsessed with them.  Once he figured out the trick, he was ecstatic.  Where, formerly, he only wanted to wear clothing the sported pictures of his favorite car, now he begs for buttons.  Pajamas with buttons, shirts with buttons, coats with buttons - anything and everything to practice and perfect this new skill (note: Allie would like to do the same, but it turns out we have almost no clothing with buttons for her to use to practice).
Playing outside on a rare, sunny, "Spring" day.
Favorite Phrase: I've been waiting so long!  I've been waiting (insert number here) years!  I mentioned it with the drums, but he has suddenly started saying it about so many things - with a different number of years each time.  Almost always more years than he's been alive.  He got a helicopter toy from the dentist, "I've been waiting 6 years for one!"  He (finally) tried a few bites of a type of chicken that Lucas and I enjoy, "That's my favorite meal ever!  I've been waiting 30 years for you to make it!"  When a new episode of Dinosaur Train (we've now seen almost all of them) comes on, "This is my favorite episode!  I've been waiting 10 years for it!"  Clearly he had a lot of pre-birth aspirations.  It makes me think of this monologue :)
Former dislike turned love (or, at least, tolerable): Milk.  I attribute it to the first 2 years of their life being allergic to dairy products, but Ryan has never developed a taste for them.  He doesn't like cheese or yogurt or milk.  Honestly, ice cream is the only milk-based food he will eat.  He loves soymilk though.  I talked about it with his pediatrician, and she said to use whatever mean necessary (even resorting to chocolate milk) to get more dairy into his diet.  Not wanting to convert to chocolate milk (if I do it for one, the other will want it, and I didn't want to ruin her healthy love of regular milk), I just told him that if he wants to grow big and strong, he has to drink milk.  Now he requests it at least once a day.  He still has a lower than normal quota, but we're getting there.
Favorite pastime: Anything sport related.  If we are outside he wants to play baseball or "racquetball" (where he hits a plastic baseball with a tennis racket), or race.  If we are inside he wants to play basketball, golf, or throw the football.  He is constantly wanting to practice his aim, form, and accuracy.  He reminds me of a mini-Lucas.
They love racing.  Every race started like this (notice the hand holding)
And it's every man for himself!
Allie:
Biggest New Accomplishment: Drawing.  Every day, her drawings look more and more like what she tells us she is drawing.  Her favorite thing to draw lately has been dinosaurs, and we have been so impressed at the details she includes that make it easy for us to tell which dinosaur that she is drawing.  I'm keeping them and plan on making her own little dinosaur book.
This was before we decided it was too cold for just a fleece, and she is "cross-country skiing" with 2 bats...and no skis...
Favorite Phrase: Isn't that amazing?  Her enthusiasm and encouragement overwhelms me often.  I constantly overhear her showing things to Ryan or her "babies" and asking them, "Isn't that amazing?  It is.  It is so, so awesome."  I also often her her encourage others - Ryan, her "babies", and her friends, by saying things like, "You did it! Wasn't it amazing?  I knew you could do it!  Great job!"  It often cracks me up to hear her teaching, encouraging, and motivating others by using the same words, phrases, and intonation I use with her!  
Former dislike turned love (or at least tolerable): Being clean.  The girl loves to make messes.  The messier she can be, the more she loves it.  Sometimes, I'm happy to let her make messes to her heart's content.  Sometime, I encourage the messy play and all of the good things that go along (sensory stimulation, small and large motor development, etc.).  Sometimes, I just need her to stay clean (like when she's wearing nice clothes.  There are some things that even oxiclean can't get out, or get out well).  So we've been working on knowing when it is okay to be messy, and when you need to stay clean.  She doesn't like it, but she seems to at least be getting the point and understanding the importance.
Favorite Pastime: Anything artistic.  She loves creating.  All she needs is some paper and crayons to entertain her for an hour.  Add in some scissors and another medium, and we might not hear from her all afternoon!  She is constantly creating things - beautiful pictures, clothing (she'll get bits of yarn, and is convinced that, one of these times, she will be able to create a beautiful outfit), decorations.  You name it, she's probably tried to create it.  I'm looking forward to trying out some new painting techniques with her once it gets warmer.  She also loves making up her own songs and dances.  The girl is bursting with creativity to share, and I just know she is going to be an artist of some sort someday.
Going 'round the back.  By this point, someone has pulled into the lead...
...and the one behind starts to cry.
Other Random Snapshot Moments:
 - They had their second dentist trip this month.  Once again, they did great.  They absolutely love the dentist and get so excited about going!  I had my appointment later in the week, and they were so sad they couldn't go again with me.  The best part this time was that their appointment was the same day as the big NCAA championship game.  They both were sporting their Michigan gear.  As they were getting dressed they said, "We hope Dr. Ryan (their dentist) likes our shirts.  He loves Go Big Blue, you know."  Suddenly, I was worried he might actually be a State fan.  Not only did he immediately notice their clothing AND comment, but he was wearing his Michigan gear too because he went to school there!  As did our dental hygienist!  I knew we picked a good dentist!
- Their swim lessons have been getting more and more difficult.  Their teacher (who is incredible, by the way) has been challenging them to try doing more and more things on their own - front float, back float, and diving under the floaties (where he will catch them) instead of on top.  They aren't quite there, but each week they get closer.  And, again, their amazing teacher both challenges and encourages them with the best balance.  He has brought them so far so quickly.  I've been so impressed.
The last class of this past session, the teacher had them swim the length of the pool and back on their own (obviously, with the pool noodles under their arms).  They LOVED it.
(Note: Allie is the one with the blue noodles, slightly behind, at the beginning.  Ryan is the one with the yellow noodles, slightly in the lead, when I pan over).
video
- They are getting desperate to go to the beach.  They talk about it every day.  Even they are starting to feel desperate for warmer weather and summer days at our beach.
And every race ended like this...

It's hard to believe that almost a third of the year has already passed!  We're looking forward to the warmer weather that is coming...we hope.  Right now, I'm typing this during a downpour while we wait for the tornado watch we are in to pass...so we can go back to cold weather.  Sigh.

April 17, 2013

Love and Prayers for Boston

There is a holiday I had never heard about until we moved to Massachusetts - Patriot's Day.  I was surprised, our first year there, to discover what a big holiday it was.  Everyone gets the day off, schools close, it was amazing.  My employees used to complain that we didn't get the day off, and I would tell them that it was because our company was based in Maryland.  "Why would that matter?" they would ask.  "Because no one outside of Massachusetts celebrates Patriot's Day," I would respond.  They were just as shocked by that as I was about a holiday of which I had never heard. 

One of the big "celebrations" that happens in conjunction with this holiday is Marathon Monday - the day of the Boston Marathon.  I have many happy marathon memories:
- Participating in the "mini-marathon" (1 mi.), at the retirement community where I worked, by pushing a resident in a wheelchair.  We won.
- Meeting friends, who were in town to run the marathon, post-race for dinner and a fun evening celebrating their accomplishment and catching up.
- Watching the marathon on tv with my newborns...who were due to be born that day even though they were already 6 weeks old and 3 weeks home.  It was like a second birthday.

So I was excited, this year, when my children were as into the race as I.
Watching the pre-race coverage.  I couldn't drag them away.  I love how much my kids love running!
After much anticipation, it finally started.  They LOVED watching the wheelchair start (they hadn't been expecting anyone on wheels.  Ryan is pretty determined that he wants to be a wheelchair racer someday...I haven't had the heart to tell me that he - hopefully - won't be eligible).  They were excited about the women's start.  Then they decided to run their own marathon, so the lined up with the men and took off when they started.
They're off!  
Note: Allie isn't wearing pants because she wanted to look more like the other girl runners.
We had such a fun morning.  The marathon was on all morning.  Sometimes the twins raced.  Sometimes (because they weren't feeling super well and got tired) they would bring some toys out and play while they watched.  We got out a map and talked about where they would have to run to in order to run the same distance as the runners (even farther than the Toy Store - which was shocking to them).
"I'm winning!"
We even had a picnic lunch in front of the tv since lunch was the perfect time to watch the finish of the Elite runners.  Each time, they would pick one of the front runners to be themselves, and then would cheer, "Go, Ryan!  Go, Allie!" respectively.   We cheered and laughed and had so much fun.
"No, I'm winning!"
Then the coverage ended on the only station we could find covering the marathon.  So we sighed, turned off the tv, and Lucas and I talked about how much fun everyone there was having.  We were a little homesick.  We knew what a big day it was and how the whole city would be celebrating.  We wished we were there.  Instead, Lucas (who was working from home because I was sick) picked up a book and I took a nap.
We love running!
I was in the process of waking up - those lovely, warm and cozy first, foggy moments when your eyes could open (and might open for a second or two before closing again), and you are sort of aware of your surroundings, but you are still enjoying your final moments of sleep - when Lucas yelled, "Kim, there were 2 explosions in Boston!"  In my half-asleep state, I assumed something like a house explosion, and was thinking that was so sad for the families involved.  Lucas turned on the tv, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  You've seen the footage.  You know the story.  The wonderful celebration that is Marathon Monday encountered a very tragic turn.

We did have friends at the race.  Thankfully, none of them were at that spot.  We did have a few who were one their way there, who would have been right there when the blast went off had something not deterred them.  For one it was a feeling that she should turn around and not go to the spot she had gone every year to watch the finish.  For another it was a large crowd in the way - at the time frustrating in the delay.  It was a relief to get one facebook and see them check in, one-by-one, that they were okay.  At the same time, my heart aches for the family and friends for whom that was not so.

They have been very much on my mind - the friends who live so close that they are encountering (in their daily life) the realities of this tragedy, the friends and family of the injured and deceased who are working through an unimaginable grief, the doctors and nurses who saw the aftermath first hand and are dealing with their own emotional fallout while caring for those in pain, for the officials working tirelessly to put the pieces together and bring about justice, for the workers who will clean up the broken pieces and make everything look fresh and new, for the city of my heart - the only city this small-town girl has ever loved.  And while part of me says I should be relieved I wasn't there, another part of me wishes I was there - working in a tangible way to help.  Since I'm not, I will pray.
This is a picture taken (and edited) by a former co-worker and friend while on a hike.
(photo credit Hiking Hearts)

April 13, 2013

April Showers

We've been having a lot of rain lately.  I know I shouldn't be surprised.  The phrase "April showers" is cliche for a reason.  But so many rainy days in a row makes it difficult to keep us all from going crazy.  If the temperatures were warmer, we would be playing in the rain.  But it has been fairly frigid, so we stay in.  Here are some of the things that have been keeping us busy.
Baking.
The twins love to help in the kitchen, and I had several small amounts of random fruit that I needed to use up.  So we made something that we named "Appleberry Crisp."
Cutting the apples - I gave the twins butter knives (very blunt ones) and let them cut the apples into small bits themselves.  They thought it was the coolest thing ever!
It turned out really well -considering that we threw in so many random fruits and only loosely followed a recipe.  I wanted the fruity part to be really gooey, so we drizzled it with honey.  I also wanted lots of cinnamon...which turned into a LOT when I let Ryan shake it in, and he ended up dumping it.  Allie also dumped in some extra oats for the topping (my mistake for leaving the open container of oats within her arm reach).  But it turned out that crisps are as flexible as I hoped.
 I couldn't actually eat any, but the twins and Lucas finished the entire pan in less than 24 hours!  We are looking forward to the next time we have random fruit that needs to be used! 
Our butterflies have also been keeping us busy.
Moving them to new digs - once they are all in cocoons, you move them into the butterfly house.  You can see them pinned to the top.
Note:  For anyone who has done this before, you will know that you are actually supposed to pin them to the side, a few inches from the bottom.  Somehow, I missed that until after I had them transferred, and I "disturbed" a few of the cocoons during transfer (one got so mad that it swung back and forth violently, and I was afraid it would have a little caterpillar coronary), so I left them and hoped for the best.

It turns out it only takes 7-10 days for them to go from caterpillars hanging upside-down to butterflies.  Isn't that crazy?  So few days for such a huge transformation!  It wasn't long before we had 1 butterfly, and then 2, and then 4.  We were hoping to see one come out, but it always took us by surprise - we'd look and suddenly realized that another cocoon was empty!  We currently have 9.  It appears that 1 didn't make it, but we are going to give it one more day before we call it.
One of our "painted ladies" - the type of butterfly we have.
A few of the gang.
The twins are so excited about all of the "pets" we have in the house.
Drumming.
You will think I'm crazy, but I was excited to see a certain package arrive in the mail.  A drum set! One would think it would drive me crazy, but it was the perfect new form of entertainment on another rainy day.  We took turns doing drum solos, practicing the badum-ching at the end of our favorite jokes, and playing along with some Beach Boys.  It was a blast!
Ry-guy enjoying the drums.
 He told me he was so excited because he had been waiting SIXTEEN YEARS for one!
 A short video.
video
Allie playing.
 My favorite moment was hearing Allie say, "Take it away!" before she started in on a drum solo!
Allie's video.
video
Today, I had big plans for our rainy day - we were going to catch up on some baking, go to the library, and maybe even work on an art project or two.  But somehow, I hurt my back.  And then I ignored it, and it wasn't long before the pain was so terrible I couldn't move.  So, instead of a fun, productive day, I was laid up in the recliner trying to entertain the twins.  One of their favorite things, when someone is sick and has to spend time resting, is to play some of the Hoyle card games on my computer.  We all pile on together and play an awesomely animated Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Memory Match, and Go Fish.
Go Fish - when an opponent tells you to "Go Fish" you have to actually catch one of the swimming fish on the screen by clicking on it.  It's our favorite part!
 I snapped a quick picture of the kids and I playing cards.  They are such hams!
We are looking forward to sunshine.  We have hope that we will see a little, here and there, soon.  Until then, we will keep finding ways to fill our rainy days.

April 12, 2013

At the Zoo!

Note for Nana: This post contains no pictures of the animal whose name I will not even mention. In fact, I purposely didn't even take pictures of that animal because I intended to not ever mention it.  But I know that you know it was there, so I wanted to reassure you that this post is safe to view!

If you have read the blog over any of the last 3 summers, you would know that I love zoos.  So, when I was putting together the spring playgroup schedule, I knew that I wanted to try to get a group visit to the zoo.  I was so excited when I called and found out that not only was it possible to get a private presentation personalized for our group, but the cost was incredibly reasonable (a deal since it actually included admission at a rate cheaper than normal admission!).  I've been so excited!  Sadly, I forgot to check my camera battery the night before, and it died about 2 minutes into the presentation.  Apologies in advance for the sad phone pictures that will have to suffice.
We got there a little late, but, thankfully, the program before ours ran over.  Here is the group checking out the animals near the presentation building before going inside.  You can see the program director pointing us in for our program to start!
 Everyone waiting for the program to begin (do you see the cousins?  They joined us!)
The program was about the different coverings each animal has (fur, feathers, etc.).  This is Allie and D waiting for their turn to pet the box turtle.
D made friends with one of the babies in the group.  He loved playing with the ruffles on her shirt, and by the end they were giving each other kisses!  It was so cute.
 My least favorite, the Hissing Cockroach (which they did not let the kids touch).  The docent tried to convince us that they are good creatures because they clean up after us.  I was not convinced...
 Another look-but-don't-touch animal was the dove.  She cooed the entire program, and the kids got all excited every time they heard her.
 Ryan petting the ferret.  The twins had just watched a show about pets the day before and one of the kids had a pet ferret.  So he was pretty excited to see one in person.
 Allie petting the rabbit.  It made me think about (and miss) my days in the activity department when we had animal visits!
After the program, we planned on seeing the zoo.  Unfortunately, as the program was ending it started to rain.  We did stick it out long enough to see the indoor exhibits, but it was seriously pouring by the end.  Honestly, I love the rain, and it was a pretty warm day, so if we had been there alone, I probably would have still tried to see the whole zoo :)  But I needed to get the group to a warm, dry place.  So we headed to the mall for lunch at the food court and some playtime at the play place (for the kids to work out the energy they didn't get to run off at the zoo).
There were half a dozen coin operated "rides" near the play place that the kids were desperate to try.  All of us held out as long as we could, and then we caved and let everyone have a turn on this roller coaster.  It actually showed a real time, real life video of one of two roller coasters at Cedar Point while the seat moved accordingly.  It was pretty cool...
The kids definitely slept on the way home.  Even with the rain, it was still a fun day, and a new and memorable trip to the zoo!