Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Coloring Together

They sure can trash a room, but it's worth it to see them like this.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dropping Max off at School

I (James) drive Max to school every morning. We listen to the radio, sometimes NPR and sometimes Bohemian Rhapsody. He asks questions; "Daddy, if the brain controls everything, and the brain is made of neurons, what controls the neurons? Can you ask Google?"
He doesn't like it when I drop him off by the middle schoolers,"Daddy, they laugh at me like I'm a baby". He seems genuinely upset. I make sure we don't drop him there anymore.

I've said multiple times how he is growing up, but it's what usually happens when I drop him off that lets me hold on to my little guy. He will let himself out of the car, and sometimes give a "See you later Alligator". I respond as expected and tell him to have a good day. He says "I love you Daddy" and closes the car door. I watch him through the window as he walks the first few steps toward the school and then skips the rest of the way.

I wanted to make sure that I wrote this down. I don't ever want to forget it.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


From Lily and Darth Turkey!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Working in the yard

Bobbie Jo took Max to the Dr to get him checked for strep throat (he's got it), and Lily and I worked in the yard.

We put on her new, too big, hat


and slid down the slide a few hundred times


I mowed the lawn and she helped in the garage.


Once the garage was swept, she hit a few balls off the tee


Saturday, October 26, 2013

25 Pounds

I have no idea what Lily weighs. Probably somewhere around 25 pounds.

For the last few months Bobbie Jo has been on Weight Watchers. I found this in her car today.


Congratulations to my always beautiful wife on your outstanding success. We are so proud of you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Tigers end their season

Lily was not happy when I told her of the Tiger's disappointing loss last night.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Imagination

Lily has found her imagination. And she's been very busy showing it to us in the last few days.

Yesterday, Lily brought Bobbie Jo a plastic baby that somehow found it's way into our house. It never had any clothes, and its back was scribbled on with an orange crayon a few weeks prior. She wanted the baby wrapped in a blanket that she carried with her. She cuddled the newly swaddled newborn, kissed it on the head, put it on the floor, waved goodbye, and walked up the stairs. She must have been going to work.

The day before, Bobbie Jo found her 'washing things'. She had a piece of turkey "lunch meat" (a round piece of felt from Max's sandwich making set) was dipping it in the cat's water, wiping down the wall, the table, and the floor. While initially disgusted, it was quite impressive.

Last night she brought me a small empty pot from her kitchen. She reached in, grabbed some invisible morsel, and crammed it in her mouth. We added some salt, and some bananas, and played for quite awhile.

I know that Max had, and still has, an amazing imagination. It awesome seeing it present itself again with Lily.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

3 years of Boy Days

As we have been doing for the past 3 years, the first Saturday of the month is always Home Depot Kids Workshop. Our first time was exactly three years ago. It's always easy to remember because it was Fire Safety Day, which is always in October.

Here is the post from that first day: Boy Day

And here we are this morning


With one pin every month, you can see we've built a lot of stuff (and it's all in a giant box in the basement if anyone wants to buy poorly constructed wooden toys).


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sleeping Monster

This one fell asleep on the couch, woke up and ate an entire can of cold raviolis.
She's definitely mine.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

(Second) First Day of School

Since Max's "First Day of School" pictures ended up in the bottom of the river, it worked out well that we decided to move him to a new school; thus giving us another chance to take his picture.

Max is now attending Knapp Charter Academy, and we've been extremely pleased with the few interactions that we've had with the school. We will really miss Max's teacher from Ridge Park, but are confident that this move will be the best for him in the long run.


Monday, September 30, 2013

A Tough Decision

When we were applying to schools for Max, we applied to quite a few of them. While we are happy with Max's teacher, the school was not our first choice. On Friday morning our first choice school called to let us know there was a spot for Max. We would need to let them know by Monday, today, if we wanted it.

It seems like an easy decision when comparing the two schools. And on paper it was a no-brainer. Max's feelings, however, were going to be a whole different thing. Max LOVES school, and he perceives that love as love for his current school; he can't imagine anywhere else. All of us love his teacher and think she's been outstanding.

We don't know what the next few years will bring, but this move will help us guarantee a good education for Max, one that challenges him, and prepares him for his future. Bobbie Jo and I are not looking forward to telling him about it. Today when I get home from work we will tell him that tomorrow he starts at a new school. In a few weeks we're sure he'll be fine, but tonight is going to be tough.

Max-when you read this someday you probably won't even remember the old school. We hope you know that we are always doing what (we hope) is in your best interest whether you understand it or not.

Updated 5:30 pm
Looks like our fears were unwarranted. He's excited for the 3 recesses. Looks like we agonized for 3 days over nothing.

Tomorrow is his (second) first day of school!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Kids

If I had known they would stand still for a picture I would have dressed them better.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Parent Teacher Conferences

Last night Bobbie Jo and I met with Max's teacher for our first Parent Teacher Conference. We know that Max is an easily excitable kid, and that he frequently comes home on "yellow" (the class has a Green/Yellow/Red behavior chart). We know he's smart, but didn't really have any idea how he was doing at school. We pretty much just drop him off and pick him up every day.
We got to spend almost 30 minutes with his teacher as our 15 minute slot was the last of the day. She showed us Max's work, some of his informal tests, and told us all about him.

  • Max is a 'brilliant kid', and his desire for learning is contagious. The other kids want to finish their work first to "be like Max"
  • Max's bad behavior is never mean-spirited or malicious. He likes to help other kids and gets a bit too excited at times. Sometimes he will get so excited the teacher will have him sit in his seat for a few minutes to settle down (sound familiar?).
  • Max is in a small group with other kids like him and the group gets along real well. It sounds like Max gets along with all of his classmates, his teacher, and the aides.
Both Bobbie Jo and I are overjoyed. We both felt close to tears hearing such great things about our kid. I couldn't wait to get home and tell him how proud we were of him.

It's so awesome to have someone else objectively tell you how special your kid is. It's great to hear, even though we already knew it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum

The morning we had planned on going to the Detroit Zoo, the rain was coming down and the radar didn't look good. Bobbie Jo convinced me to take an additional day off, which would let us hit the zoo the next day.
I stumbled onto a place called "Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum" which looked to have a bunch of pinball and arcade games as well as one of the best collections of old fortune telling machines and other games of skill. After bribing Max and buying him earplugs, he and I hopped in the car to make the 30 minute drive to Farmington Hills. Bobbie Jo, Lily, and Gagi headed to Ikea and Trader Joes.

Max (and I) had a blast at Marvins. Even though I didn't get to play many games myself I did toss a few quarters into a brand new Wizard of Oz machine that I had only heard about.




Playing Pac-Man


Max's first pinball machine



The contents of my pockets

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lily's Animal Sounds

I've been amazed at how much I just love watching Lily do stuff. She's so determined, and it's obvious she always has a plan. I've been trying to record as much as I can so we can look back on it.

Last night I was recording her reading a book and thought I'd ask her some animal sounds (knowing she doesn't really know any of them). The below video is worth watching just to see her responses. If you don't laugh out loud, I'll mail you a dollar*.


After I recorded this I wanted to check back and see Max's video of his animal sounds. Amazingly enough his was recorded on August 21, 2009, which is basically the exact same age (minus two days) that Lily is in this video. What a huge difference between the two.

*Offer only applies to people that I actually know in the real world. Facebook friends and random blog readers do not qualify.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lily

Lily hasn't had that many blog posts about her. I guess it's probably because most of the stuff we are experiencing with her, we are experiencing for the second time. It doesn't mean we are less excited, it just falls between the cracks when it comes to blogging it.
Also, having two of them running around makes it hard to find time to sit down and blog.

Lily is a few days short of 18 months, and she's an absolute hoot! Did I just use that expression?

Here's a list of some of the more notable things that I want to get written down:

  • She has me wrapped around her finger. When I get angry at her she will bat her eyes at me. Where did she learn that? Is it natural?
  • She is not a cuddler. She will give us hugs when we ask for them (or when she knows something she doesn't like is about to happen). She gives us kisses the same way.
  • She's a nightmare to put to bed. We didn't do a very good job with this one. Her bedroom is downstairs next to the tv room. So, when she cries we can't watch tv. We generally go through the same routine every night; put her to bed at 9:30, get her out of bed at 9:45 to watch tv with us, put her back to bed between 10 and 11. She sleeps until 10 am though.
  • She eats ANYTHING! A few months ago Bobbie Jo was cutting up an onion and Lily was pointing at it like she wanted it. She was being very persistent, so Bobbie Jo thought she would teach Lily a lesson. Lily ate the entire slice of white onion, and wanted more. She's currently eating most of what we eat, or whatever else is in the house. Max, however, is still only eating Mac & Cheese, nuggets, and PB&J.
  • She loves going outside. When she wants to go outside she will bring us her shoes. When we bring her in, she screams.
  • She's calmer than Max ever was. She will sit on the floor and 'read' a book for 20 minutes. Max is just starting to be able to concentrate on something that long.
  • She's always running. Everywhere. Ever since she started walking, she's never walked. One of our friends referred to it as her 'hustle'.
  • She LOVES her big brother. I've never seen anything like the two of them together. They have their fights, but generally the two of them are as close as I could imagine. She worships him. She thinks he's funny. She tries to wrestle him. Max has generally been very good when Lily tries to play with the toys he had just spent 20 minutes arranging.
  • She still doesn't talk. She has gone through her phases, saying "dada", "mama', 'kitty'; but all that has stopped. It's weird having this little thing running around, understanding everything we say to her, yet all she does is point at things and say "tssth". We're confident that when she talks it won't be words, but sentences. And at that point she will never stop.
  • She likes to help. She helps us pick up things around the house. She will put the pieces of cat food back in the bowl, put some toys away, and help us arrange the couch pillows. She likes to clap when she's being helpful.
  • She's a clown. She likes to steal her jammies so we can't put them on her for bed. She will then run around in circles, daring us to catch her.
  • She loves having her books read to her. She will bring books over to anyone she can, and sit on any available lap for story time. When we read the books that we used to help her touch, she now takes our hand and helps us touch all of the same areas.
She's absolutely awesome! I can't imagine what our lives would be like without both her and Max in them. We are so lucky.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Max Helps

To keep her from crying, he gave her some of her friends.


Monday, August 12, 2013

So long Rizzo

Today Bobbie Jo's cat Rizzo (aka 'Fuzzy') left this world. She was a part of Bobbie Jo's life even before I was.
So long fuzzy. You were really dumb, but very loved. We'll miss you.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

He can read

For some strange reason Max has absolutely no interest in learning new things. That isn't to say that he doesn't like to learn, but rather he doesn't want to learn new skills.

He has been very vocal about not wanting to learn how; to tie his shoes, ride a two-wheel bike, or read. We know he's smart, and have thought that he might be able to read for a long time, it was well over a year ago that I wrote out three-letter words for him and he ready every one. We've never been able to get him to actually read something though.

Today, as we were signing a birthday card for a birthday party he was going to, he read the entire card out loud. There were a lot of words, and pretty long ones too. It was obvious he wasn't reading from memory based on how he had trouble with a few of the words and the mistakes he made.

I told him how proud I was of him and told him we could try to start reading some of his Early Reader Star Wars books. I think he was a little interested.

He then asked if he could have a 'surprise' since I was so proud of him.

"Making your dad proud should be reward enough", I said.

I don't think that's what he had in mind.

Max's first day of Kindergarten

Living in Grand Rapids, we don't exactly have the best options for public school. We have been applying to many charter schools and were accepted in to Ridge Park Academy, a school run by National Heritage Academies. NHA has a stellar reputation (and also happens to be a client of mine).

Ridge Park has a year round schedule, though still has a 180 day year. We will have longer breaks, a shorter summer, and started earlier than most kids on Wednesday, August 7th.

Our camera, and the pictures taken the morning of his first day, looking snappy in his new uniform, was unfortunately lost in the bottom of a river yesterday. I was able to take a few pictures on my phone at the end of the first day (luckily my phone keeps itself backed up as it is full of water and completely dead).

Look which lucky kid got to hold the teacher's hand!

He loved his first week and we think that this school is going to be a great fit. We're proud of our little kindergartner.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Orange "Eagles"

It isn't easy to take a decent picture of a t-ball team of 4 & 5 year olds looking towards the sun. Here they are after their last game of the season.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Max's Schedule (May 2009)

I found the following on the computer today. It was dated 5/20/2009.

Max goes to bed between 8:30 and 9:00.
Wakes up between 7:45 and 9:00am
Give him his pacifier for naps and at night

Full bowl of Oatmeal when he gets up put enough milk in for right consistency he can eat it either cold or warm (20 sec in microwave for warm). He'll probably want more food after oatmeal is done, baby food fruit is fine.

He usually takes an 1.5 hour nap at 10:30. (I get him to sleep by rocking him and giving him a 6 oz bottle of milk (warm or cold) which he may eat the whole thing or only a little).  About 30 min after he gets up from this nap give him 2 foods (baby food, veggies, fruit, yogurt)

I put him down for another nap 3 hours after he woke up from the last one (put him down the same way as earlier).  This nap varies, it could be an hour or it could be 3hours.

When he gets up from this nap,after about 30 min, feed him another 2 or 3foods.


I usually will put him to sleep at night by giving him another bottle while rocking.
His usual schedule (times approximate)
8:30      Wake Up
9:00       breakfast
10:30     Nap
Noon     Lunch
3:00       Nap
6:00       dinner
8:30       bed
You can give him cheerios, crackers, or cookies when he wants them. Try to give more cheerios than crackers or cookies.
For meals, feel free to try any foods you'd like. Make sure they're cut small.

His favorite books are:
Foot Book
Elmo Loves you
Brown bear
At the Zoo
Corduroy

Give him Motrin if he has a fever or seems to be in teething pain (1.875 on the dropper every 8 hours)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ladder Climber

Look who climbed the ladder to Max's top bunk all by herself


Friday, July 5, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To parents of small children: Let me be the one who says it out loud (Repost)

The following was originally posted at The Actual Pastor. I thought it was one of the few things written by someone else that deserved to be reposted here. -James

"I am in a season of my life right now where I feel bone tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes burning exhausted.
I have three boys ages 5 and under. I’m not complaining about that. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I know that there are people who would give anything for a house full of laughter & chaos. I was that person for years and years; the pain of infertility is stabbing and throbbing and constant. I remember allowing hope to rise and then seeing it crash all around me, month after month, for seven years. I am working on another post about infertility that will come at a later date.
But right now, in my actual life, I have three boys ages five and under. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week when Isaac told my sister-in-law that “My daddy has hair all over.” Or when Elijah put a green washcloth over his chin and cheeks, and proudly declared, “Daddy! I have a beard just like you!” Or when Ben sneaks downstairs in the morning before the other boys do, smiles at me, and says, “Daddy and Ben time.”
But there are also many moments when I have no idea how I’m going to make it until their bedtime. The constant demands, the needs, and the fighting are fingernails across the chalkboard every single day.  
One of my children is for sure going to be the next Steve Jobs. I now have immense empathy for his parents. He has a precise vision of what he wants — exactly that way and no other way. Sometimes it’s the way his plate needs to be centered exactly to his chair, or how his socks go on, or exactly how the picture of the pink dolphin needs to look – with brave eyes, not sad eyes, daddy! He is a laser beam, and he is not satisfied until it’s exactly right.
I have to confess that sometimes the sound of his screaming drives me to hide in the pantry. And I will neither confirm nor deny that while in there, I compulsively eat chips and/or dark chocolate. 
There are people who say this to me:
“You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”
I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold those people under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.
If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown – please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.
We know it’s true that they grow up too fast. But feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now, that list is way too long. Not every moment is enjoyable as a parent; it wasn’t for you, and it isn’t for me. You just have obviously forgotten. I can forgive you for that. But if you tell me to enjoy every moment one more time, I will need to break up with you.
If you are a parent of small children, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can’t believe you get to be around these little people. But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do. She’s obviously using a bizarre and probably illegal form of hypnotism.
You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.
You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.
You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.
You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.
You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.
You’re not a terrible parent.
You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.
One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.
So maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next President who knows how to read when she’s three and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.
So the next time you see your friends with small children with that foggy and desperate look in their eyes, order them a pizza and send it to their house that night. Volunteer to take their kids for a few hours so they can be alone in their own house and have sex when they’re not so tired, for heaven’s sake. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they’re doing a good job. Just don’t freak out if they start weeping uncontrollably. Most of the time, we feel like we’re botching the whole deal and our kids will turn into horrible criminals who hate us and will never want to be around us when they’re older.
You’re bone tired. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that you lost it in a way that surprised even yourself.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
You’re not alone."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The perfect opportunity for teaching...

"Daddy, two of my sea monkeys are stuck together!"
"Hmm, that's strange. There must be some sort of logical explanation."
"What does 'logical explanation' mean?"
[Start of conversation about 'logical explanation']
[Original inquiry averted]

Monday, May 27, 2013

Max seems so grown up

Max is 5.
He seems so grown up. Most of the time he doesn't seem like my "little" guy anymore. Gone is Sesame Street and Elmo. The baby toys are all in the basement waiting for Lily to play with them. He's more interested in Star Wars than anything else. He's hardly played with his Car Buddies in months. He plays games on his iPad, not 'Learning Games' but actual games; Angry Birds, Pac Man, Friut Ninja. He watches cartoons with superheroes and Transformers in them. The days of him only being interested in what we want him to watch are gone.

He still likes some of the things he's always liked; his Birds, his giraffe blanket, Caillou. But sometimes he seems so 'old'.

I relish the times that he still runs up to me and tells me I'm "the best daddy in the world". I love watching him play with his sister. I love it when (on the weekends when I sleep on the couch), he comes down to sleep with me "just for fun".

A couple of days ago I caught him on the couch playing his iPad. He wasn't playing any of the games, but was playing his Sesame Street app and loudly singing along with whatever song went with the letter H. It made me smile more than I have in a long time. He does still have lots of little kid in him.

Don't grow up to fast buddy. Not only will you miss it when it's gone, but you're going to break your Daddy's heart.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Max's Last day of Preschool

Today we celebrated Max's last day of preschool.
KINDERGARTEN HERE WE COME!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

What a beauty

The black eye and the mess, still the most beautiful little girl ever.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

A little video I put together for Bobbie Jo:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Team #9

Max's 2013 GR Rec Soccer Team (Coach James took the photo)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

She called me "Dada"

Lily doesn't really talk much. She grunts, and says "Kitty Kitty". But we'd be hard pressed to say that she has actually called us "mama" or "dada".
I was in New Orleans with work for the better part of a week. My first morning back, Bobbie Jo brought Lily into our room. She set Lily in the bed, where Lily said "dada" and climbed over to me.
It was pretty sweet!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Disney World - Day 7: A great tip comes to an end

It had been a very long and busy week. We were looking forward to getting home and seeing the goat. Not willing to let a potential day in the park get missed, we packed up our luggage and went back to the Magic Kingdom for one last hurrah (and probably one more tour of the treehouse).

This was the first full day of Spring Break. We had seen many people arrive at the hotel the night before and the bus and the park were absolutely packed. In addition to the weather (this day was cold and windy) we were glad this was our last day here.