Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

My boys are currently playing on summer baseball teams, which for me basically means 3 hours of futilely attempting to shield my already sun-damaged skin from the oppressive bully known as Colorado sunshine.  At a mile high, we really are closer to it, and its presence does not go unnoticed, believe me.  I get to repeat this process three days later at the games.  I'm now rethinking this whole, give your child an appreciation for being outside, active, and healthy, parenting strategy--raising couch potatoes would certainly be easier on my skin!

This face is one sweet distraction from watching the boys' practices...

And this belly...I honestly have to resist the constant urge to squeeze his stout little body.

Anyway, we've all got baseball on the brain around here, and the universe smiled upon us when the Boston Red Sox (my mother's obsession) scheduled a few games against the Colorado Rockies.  My mother (a.k.a SuperNana) flew in for a couple days with the sole purpose of taking the two older boys to a game.  Kenyon scored some one-on-one time with us, a rarity when you're the youngest of three.  When you take one Red Sox game, one beloved Nana, staying up way past bedtime, and having access to hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, nachos--a virtual motherlode of foods that are not normally consumed in our household--you've got a recipe for two boys that are beside themselves with anticipation.
The Red Sox didn't win that night, but that's a detail that will fade away into lost memory as the boys grow older.  What will stick with them is the love they feel from their Nana, who doesn't mind sleeping in their bottom bunk, who takes the time to teach them and experience the joys of life with them.  Thanks, Mom, for being the SuperNana you are.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Love

This week's Girl Talk Thursday Topic: Favorite Books, then and now...

I have always loved books--let's face it, as a daughter of a mother with a master's in Education and a journalist father, I don't think I had much choice in the matter.  We didn't go to toy stores much as a child, but I could always count on getting a new book if I tagged along with my dad to the local mall's B. Dalton.

Following suit, our kids would be very happy if we read them books from sunup til sundown. I'm happy about it and everything, but for real, sometimes I get hoarse. Sam and I regularly get books on tape from the library so we can catch a break once in a while.  Anyway, if I'm going to be reading books over and over (and over) again, they damn well better be good ones. Some of these are classics from my or my husband's childhood (he's 8 years older than me, so there are some definite differences...), and some of these we've either gotten as gifts from my father-in-law who always scopes out the amazingly-illustrated ones or happened upon from friends. Any of these would make great gifts for a wide range of ages--we read these to our 2-year old as well as our 5 and 7 year olds.

Looking for Atlantis: There is so much in these amazingly detailed drawings that you'll see something new each time as you read about a boy's journey of discovery with his grandfather's trunk. Mark my words--I will someday own all of Colin Thompson's books.

Flotsam: A Caldecott winner for illustration, this wordless book is a captivating story about a boy who finds an underwater camera washed up on the beach. This is currently on the top of my list for gift-giving. LOVE it.

Drummer Hoff: One of my husband's favorites. This one also won a Caldecott award for its amazing woodcut illustrations. It's a simple story, but kids like to participate because of the repetitions.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go: Richard Scarry is the quintessential author of my childhood, and this book is extra wonderful because that crafty little Goldbug is hidden on every page. It's crazy how young kids can memorize where he is, and it's always a crowd pleaser to have your infant who can't even talk yet beat his grandparents in finding Goldbug every time.

In the Night Kitchen: A Maurice Sendak classic but lesser known than Where the Wild Things Are. This one is banned in many places because of (gasp!) child nudity. If you are opposed to child nudity, avert your eyes from the evils of this story. And while you're at it, please don't come over to my house because you will likely be exposed to the double whammy horror of a naked child running around with a book on evolutionary theory.

Wonder Bear: I'm obviously a one-trick pony here. I love the whimsical illustrations in this wordless story about two children's dream fantasy adventure with a bear who grows from a seed. Wordless stories are so fun because even very little ones are so familiar with what's happening that they like to 'read' it to you.

I think you can never go wrong with anything by Dr. Seuss (flows nicely, and stories like Sneetches, Horton Hears a Who, and Oh! The Places You'll Go have great life lessons), Shel Silverstein (pure awesomeness).  I hate Winnie the Pooh--sorry A.A. Milne, you have cute drawings but your stories are cumbersome and boring to read out loud.  Our oldest is now reading some fun bigger-kid books, like the Ramona Quimby series, A Cricket in Times Square, and Spiderwick Chronicles.  We got through the first five books of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events before it just all became too depressing--those kids never catch a break! 

--I had links to these books on Amazon, but Blogger keeps messing up for some reason so I took them out.  The books are easily found with a Google search, and buy a few copies of each so birthday presents and holidays will be taken care of for the foreseeable future in one fell swoop.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Old House

This week's Girl Talk Thursday topic is about Home Projects...Renovations, Requests for Help/Ideas

Did somebody say home projects?  Because my ears just pricked up, and maybe I even just started drooling a little.  You’d think that between working and raising three young boys (and let’s face it, a husband), I would jump at the chance on the weekends between soccer games, planning meals, grocery shopping, and cleaning the house to maybe…relax? (Nah.) Exercise? (hah!)

It seems that in those spare moments during the crazy boyfest that is my life, what I truly hunger for is…home improvement. Maybe it’s because our first house was a shithole (and I mean that as affectionately as possible).  Let's face it, a teacher and a law student amassing large student loan debt deciding to get married aren't exactly positioned to purchase their dream home.  In 2002, we bought a one-story Victorian 'fixer-upper' in an 'up-and-coming' neighborhood near downtown Denver.  Who needs a neighborhood coffee shop?  We had a neighborhood prostitute (an amenity that the realtor conveniently failed to mention).  To get an idea of what shape the house was in, our entire backyard was asphalt, thanks to a prior owner's 'home improvement'.  Aptly named--a shithole.

We knew that buying a house built in 1886 (with the original roof!) would necessitate a crash course in home improvement--we refinished and partially replaced hardwood floors, painted walls, exposed transom windows, plumbed and drywalled a shower, replaced countertops, laid tile, and built a deck and raised flower beds.  Because Sam's meager teacher salary represented our combined income, we qualified for a 1% loan through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority that funded our new roof (whew!), new double-paned windows, and lead abatement (standard for all households with young children, and since I was pregnant almost immediately after getting married we had a kid running around by now.  And since we are crazy, I was pregnant with the second).

We were all about living in the 'hood, but once you've got a couple kids of your own running around, broken glass on the sidewalk grates on your nerves a bit more.  And our 1100 sq ft. house with one teeny bathroom was seeming more cramped than quaint.  Four years ago, we moved just 7 streets over to a house with a bit more size.  This house is relatively new in comparison, built in 1905.  It was completely livable right from the start, but a hundred-year old home always needs a little sumpin' sumpin'.  Last summer we put in a new kitchen (blogged about often, but the recap is here) and we just finished a main floor powder room.

I have been known to wake Sam up early on a Saturday morning with some fabulous home improvement idea to improve our lives--we just started one last weekend, in fact.  Our backyard is somewhat of a dead zone since we spend so much time out front, so I want to create a secondary decked area in the back corner of our yard--something nice enough for the adult contingency to eventually use but for the foreseeable future it will be the fort/club/secret hideout area for the boys.  We spent last weekend's pre-planning phase trimming the plum tree and clearing out the white-trashiness extravaganza that had accumulated--notice there is no before before picture, because I am too mortified to show anyone what it looked like back there, but here is where we're starting from now.

We'll have to rebuild the back fence, too, since it is barely hanging on for dear life.  I'm keeping an eye on craigslist for free deck wood that someone wants to get rid of (pat on the back for eco- and wallet-friendliness).

For the record--Sam is a trooper, since he would theoretically like to spend his moments of free time on the weekends napping.  I think he knows that if we lived only by his methods we'd still have lawn chairs and cardboard boxes for furniture, so he musters up the worker bee mentality when necessary.  Stay tuned--I'm sure I'll have questions/ideas as we proceed, and if anyone in the Denver area is looking to remove their deck, I would be glad to take it off your hands. :)