Second Tree Blog

Semi-regularly updated musings from the Tim, Julie, Benton, Carson, and Alana Wilsons.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

[Julie] Football for Alana

Wednesday night is swim lesson time for all three kids. It is a night that requires advanced planning as dinner needs to be early, towels and PJ's packed up, and bathing suits put on. In my attempt to make sure we were not late, I had Alana head up to get her bathing suit on early. This worked great -- swim diaper on, bathing suit on, sweats pants on.... more or less ready to go. What I did not anticipate was that the extra time would allow Alana to decide that she needed to squeeze pink striped tights over her sweat pants before putting on her boots when it was time to leave. Apparently, socks would not do. This made for an interesting outfit when the sweat pants got bunched up above her knees, making them look a little like football pads.

Here is the fashion diva in her "football" pants.

Alana and I had a conversation on Monday about sports. We talked about Carson's Tae Kwon Do class and also about baseball. Alana then announced to me that when she gets bigger, she is going to play football. Given that she likes to play a tackling-like game with Carson that they aptly call "Take Down," I suppose football would be something she might like. I just don't think the team will go for pink uniforms.


[Julie] Underpants

At 2-1/2, Alana is a girl's girl, with an extreme fondness for: anything pink, princesses, did I say anything pink?, and, of course, princess underpants. The rule has been that she gets to wear princess underpants whenever she is successful at using the toilet. Until this week, this was intermittent, but the underpants look like they're accelerating her potty training (Tim has noted that, outside of a very brief window in between Carson and Alana, this will be the first time in almost nine years that our monthly diaper expense will be trending downward!).

So, what happens when grandparents come for a visit while you are getting to wear your princess underpants? The same thing that happens if you have a new hat, a new doll, or a new book: you show them off!

Imagine my surprise, though, when Alana wandered into the kitchen and very articulately asked to see Boppa's (Grandpa Larry's) blue underpants so she could look at the pictures? Not only did she know the color of his boxers, but she also knew they had pictures. Hmmmm.....

We were quickly able to ferret out the details that led to the request:
  1. Alana was in the basement with J (Grandma Jane), showing off and prattling on about her princess underpants
  2. It suddenly occurred to Alana that J might have princess underpants on, too, so she asked to see them!
  3. J, being a doting grandmother, obliged (albeit without the full-on gusto with which Alana likes to show off her underpants)
  4. Alana was disappointed with the result -- not pink, no princesses
  5. J saw the consternation on Alana's face and, as she is prone to do when interacting with her grandkids, blurted out a thought without thinking through the possible consequences: "Boppa has pictures on his underpants!"
  6. Enter innocent, unsuspecting, equally doting grandfather
  7. "Boppa, can I see the pictures on your underpants?"

The rest is history.


[Julie] The Crib is Gone

As Tim reported earlier, Alana slept in her big girl bed for the first time on Tuesday night. This is the bed that was my mother's when she was a little girl, which Alana refers to as "Grandma's bed" simply because Grandma Marilyn slept in it while she was in her crib the first few nights we were at our new house. Alana has not grasped the concept that is really is "Grandma's bed", but for a different reason.

Since I have only one bed-rail for the bed, Benton got to sleep with Alana on Tuesday, to ensure that she did not fall out. Here is a picture of the sleeping duo a few hours after they headed to bed.

On Wednesday, she was going to sleep with Carson. This did not work out so well as "playing with Carson" was more descriptive. I ended up having to send Carson to his bed. It turned out that Alana did just fine with only one rail. This is surprising considering all the different directions she would sleep in when in her crib.

Today, I suggested that we could move her crib out and make more room for her Kitchen. She liked that idea and wanted to go tell Dad immediately. With Tim working from home, it was easy for Alana to make the request and get assurances that he would move the crib out this evening.

So, as of tonight, Alana has only her big girl bed in her room. This might explain why this was the HARDEST night to get her to go to bed. On the previous nights, I was able to convince her to cooperate in her big girl bed or else she would have to go back into her crib. Without the crib-option, she took full advantage, claiming at various times "I need to go potty" (three separate times), "I need to change my sheets", and "I have to have Sara" (one of her 6 baby dolls).

This same week, Alana has been making great progress on the toilet training. I am not going to get too excited just yet, but Wed. and Thurs. were days of big girl panties with no white-carpet-staining incidents. We shall see. At the rate she is growing up, I expect she should start losing her baby teeth by this summer and will want to drive my car by Christmas.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Everything BUT "The Dog Ate My Blog"

It's been two weeks since our last post. Excuses galore:
  • My parents were in town (we kept them busy)
  • Tim headed to Austin for a week
  • Our digital camera has gone missing
The last point is the real kicker. It's got two or three sets of pictures that prompted Julie to exclaim, "I'm definitely going to blog THAT!" (she tends to use "I" in a very broad sense). At this point, we're pretty sure we know where the camera disappeared, and we're pretty sure that we'll never see it again, so we need to get rolling with a replacement.

In very recent news, Alana woke up yesterday morning with a dry diaper. She removed it and then headed to her room to get dressed. We probably should have sent her to go potty first! We aren't all that fond of the carpet upstairs, any way...

Alana also spent last night in her big girl bed. With Benton. The bed is Julie's childhood bed -- a four-poster that is rather high. We only have one railing/guard for it, so Benton was the railing on the other side. We'll see if her nights in that bed stick, which will allow us to get rid of her crib!

With luck, Julie will find the time to tell a couple of other recent stories here soon.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Because I'm Not Allowed to Include the Benton Picture

Sunday was a chilly (~40 degrees F), drizzly day. But, given my lack of success with the home tetherball installation, Benton pestered us into heading to his school to play tetherball. In and amongst getting ready to go for that, Alana's Princess Big Wheel made its way from the basement to the first floor.

All the kids took turns riding it. When I surprised Benton by snapping a picture of him rounding the corner of the island in the kitchen, he immediately blurted out, "Don't put that on the internet!" The little bugger is a fast learner (still recovering from the trauma of the dogs putting a picture of him without a shirt on in their holiday missive).

Alana had no such qualms (give it time...):

On the recreation court at the boys' school, with a steady drizzle coming down, I took a quick break from Benton's and my tetherball matches to catch Alana tooling across the pavement on her Princess Hog:

Carson decided that slick concrete was perfect for skateboarding. He only took one or two spills:

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

And Christmas Continues...

I am beginning to believe my parents have a truly sadistic streak. Perhaps, this is the result of a grudge held since Kim's and my youth -- some Christmas Eve where they were up into the wee hours installing a jungle gym or putting together some other assembly-required toy, perhaps?

All I know is that, this year, in the name of being overly-doting grandparents:
  • Alana received a deluxe kitchen set -- at least 40 pieces of laminated particle board that I assembled a couple of days before Christmas
  • A 5-in-1 game table that had enough completely busted parts or missing parts when I began putting it together on Christmas Eve that I gave up; ultimately, it turned out that the specs Julie provided were unreasonable, and we exchanged it for a larger 2-in-1 (air hockey and pool) table that Greg Phelps and I assembled over New Years
  • A tetherball set
The first two gifts have been huge hits with the kids.

The tetherball set continues to dog me. It came with a pole that is in 4 pieces that snap/compression fit together. The instructions are extremely vague as to how to secure it in the ground. But, it sounded like the bottom piece of the pole could be mounted in concrete flush to the ground, and the rest of the pole could then be snapped in/out. I figured I could mount the bottom section an inch below ground level, put the concrete in to 3-4" below that, and, when we get tired of the thing, I'd just dig out some dirt, remove the top of the pole, and cover it back up.

We started with poor concrete technique on my part. I picked up a couple of 50-lb. bags of the stuff that can be "mixed in the post hole." Unfortunately, either due to the chilly weather or the hole configuration, this didn't work out -- we wound up with concrete that never really set. It didn't help that Benton and his friend started playing tetherball on it 4 hours after it was poured (it was quick set -- in theory, this wouldn't be a problem, but I'd planned on checking it out first). They actually had a blast and demonstrated that our tetherball court will be a mud pit when played on in damp weather. But, the game they played involved the top of the pole moving at least 3 feet as they hit the ball -- it was extremely wobbly.

I dug out the concrete, altered my technique a bit, and re-poured. This time, things set a lot better. But, as I was looking at it this morning, I realized that the joint connecting the in-ground piece to the next section of the pole is ridiculously loose. By design. I gave the instructions another read and realized that they could be interpreted as needing to set the entire joint in the concrete. So much for my "easy future removal" plan. But, I'm now out of concrete, so need to pick up some more before I continue the fun.

All this for a fairly flimsy setup. If Lowe's carries an 8' metal fence post...I'm going to be sorely tempted to install that instead, with the plan to just mount a bird feeder on top of it if/when the kids tire of tetherball. I WILL find a way to give our tetherball junkie a nice setup...for cheap. I promise to blog the results.


Monday, January 7, 2008

And We Also Made Time for the Arts

Carson got a great book on fingerprint drawing (and requisite inkpads, pen, and pad) for Christmas from Cheryl and Bruce Bone. He was wayyyyy into it.

With pretty nifty results!

Carson being Carson, it wasn't too long after the above picture was completed that he began freestyling. So, we went from innocuous happy soldiers!

We made time for literature. Grandma Pam helped Alana catch up on her set of princess novellas:

And, to round things out, there were some music appreciate sessions. What Meg is thinking here: "I hope Aunt Julie and Uncle Tim regularly have these boys clean their ears!"

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Flora, Fauna, and Ice

Good conditions for some pretty interesting ice formations, such as all of the trees being "decorated:"

I snuck down to the pond at one point, and it was frozen over, although I'm not sure how thick it was:

So the "fauna" shot is a bit of a stretch! There were a flock of 20+ blue jays that swarmed the bird feeder next to the farmhouse each morning, Carson and I saw a couple of red-tailed hawks circling up by the farmhouse, and 7 or 8 deer came up to eat corn every evening. But, Old Man Elwyn was the only critter who moved slowly enough for me to catch him:

And...the view from the cabin. You can see the farmhouse and the barn in the distance.

I've actually managed to get to a satellite image of the property, but it's so rural that the pictures are fairly low resolution. The green arrow is the farmhouse, and the picture above was taken from pretty close to the north end of that cleared area that the farmhouse is in.

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Snow + Hills = Hours and Hours of Fun

When we arrived Thursday late afternoon, the temperature was hovering around 20 degrees. I got everything turned on, and we thought we were in good shape. It wasn't until after dark that we realized that there was no hot water -- although the gas was on, it had really low pressure, which was enough to turn on the flames on the water heater (it's a tankless system -- when you turn on hot water in the house, the flames come on in the heater and it heats the water as it passes from the pump to the faucets), but not enough to turn them on high enough to actually heat the water. Fortunately, Bob had shown me where "they occasionally shut off the flow of gas to the house to build up pressure on the one well -- happens maybe once a year" (there are two gas wells that he's tapped off of, and one of them was open to the house, but the other was not). Unfortunately, I wasn't paying quite as much attention as I should have when he showed me which well that was. The only ATV available was the older one, which is 2-wheel drive and not all that great on the snow. Nonetheless, I headed out to see if the well had indeed been closed off. I overshot the turnoff to the well I needed to go to and went to a different well. THAT didn't look familiar! I backtracked, got stuck a couple of times, but ultimately found the well, turned it on, and we were in business. Well. Sort of. It was too late for the heater to catch up with the dropping temperatures, so we didn't top 65 degrees in the farmhouse that night!

The forecast was for the weather to warm up into the 40s by late Friday (it wound up being more like Saturday), so both boys headed out in the dark on Thursday night to satiate their need for speed. And, on Friday, we were surprised by the arrival of their cousins, who stayed for the weekend.

There was sledding on various hills (below are the second set of hills they hit -- that's Uncle Brett at the top of the hill about to take a brief spin as a "kid" before heading back home):

I swear Benton would spend more time describing what he'd done or was going to do than he would actually doing something if there was an adult within a half-mile:

I learned to both keep my distance and to heavily advocate for the light saucers, lest I be comandeered as the equipment lift:

And even Alana got into the action. This quickly progressed from me pulling her up/down some gentle slopes to me running down some steeper slopes trying to keep up with her and hoping like crazy that I didn't break a limb.

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Fire-Fanning Gadgetry Misapplied

A couple of years ago, I tracked down a hand-cranked bellows sold by Campmor. This was shortly after Benton had gotten going with coaxing campfires back from glowing embers when he woke up in the morning. Frankly, I was a little concerned that he would hyperventilate some day, as using his lungs to fan the flames always held more appeal than wandering around and collecting an adequate supply of tinder.

This is a nifty little device -- it looks like a fishing reel, and when you turn the crank, it blows air. It was so popular that, with the first one, Benton managed to give himself a blister from blowing it on flames long after a fire was going. wore out after a few months. So, we got another one shortly after we moved to Ohio, which we left at Bob's farm in West Virginia.

The question is: does Benton really know how to use it?

Hmmmm. THIS flame is already too big!


Thanks to the distraction of sleddable snow and a couple of cousins, Benton did not spend the entire weekend: 1) blowing on fires that were long past needing fanning, and 2) experimenting with how much powdery snow he could displace by blowing on it.
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Sunday, January 6, 2008

As if Elwyn's Beard Wasn't Gray Enough Already...

(more to come in the coming days from our weekend in West Virginia...)
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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Company Round 2 Part 3: Yet More...

We had several episodes of rampant, gleeful chaos in the basement and family room. Suspiciously, these tended to start when Greg was the sole adult around, but you'll just have to draw your own conclusions. That's Benton's hand in the lower right corner.

Alana was thrilled to have another princess to play with.

We could not have envisioned a visit going any better!
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Company Round 2 Part 2: Andrew Bonds with...

Well, Andrew Phelps bonded with everyone. There are no pictures of Julie bonding with Andrew because, dammit, we're STOPPING AT THREE KIDS!

Carson was a big fan of Andrew and played with him off and on throughout the visit. Andrew was a big fan of Elwyn. And, Elwyn isn't mobile enough to get away, so he just hangs out as a furry playscape -- occasionally giving kisses to get his own enjoyment out of the experience.

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Company Round 2 Part 1: Carson Bonds with Meredith

On the same day that Paul and Patti departed, the Phelps Clan arrived from Chicago. Greg and Josie are Julie's and my "First Couple", and their move from Brooklyn to Chicago, combined with our move from Austin to Columbus, set us up for getting back to seeing them with some more frequency. The question was how well the kids would entertain each other

They arrived Saturday evening, and, by 9:00 that night, Carson and Meredith had fallen asleep together on Carson's bed (Meredith was asleep, but opened her eyes just before I snapped this picture

They played together happily for the next 2.5 days. And, on the second morning, Carson announced that he was going to marry Meredith. This means that he is no longer going to "marry a boy," which was his proclamation a couple of months ago.

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Post-Christmas Company Round 1

Julie's brother and his wife, Patti, came down for a few days after Christmas. As always, they were a hit with the kids.

They brought their dog, Petey (or "Petey the Flatulent" as he will be known henceforth and forthwith -- an unfortunate side effect of some antibiotics he was on). Petey is part cat, in that he enthusiastically chased the boys' laser pointers across the carpet. Overall, all three dogs did well, although there was one minor scuffle between Molly and Elwyn shortly before they departed. Molly was rewarded with 6 hours in her crate and subsequent ignoring by Alpha (Julie) for several hours after she was released.

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A Camouflage Christmas Runs Late into the Night

Benton and Carson both got full camouflage fleece ensembles -- pants, sweatshirts, and gloves. I think they've taken them off once or twice since Christmas day.

Julie decreed that we go on a Christmas afternoon death march. The picture below was the most positive that the three kids were about the outing...and this was before we loaded up the car to drive over to the trail. Alana had a meltdown prior to the walk, and Benton opted to hang back and quietly mope most of the time.

By the evening, all three kids were back in a good mood. Sufficiently fine spirits that, when Alana and Carson wound up on Benton's bed, Julie let herself be talked into letting all three of them camp out in Benton's room. She was talked into this a good 1.5 hours after their bedtime, so you may be able to guess whether this arrangement actually stuck.

45 minutes after the above photo was taken, all kids were sent back to their respective beds. It was a doomed plan from the get-go.
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A Pink Princess Christmas

Our family room on Christmas morning was a festive medley of red and green...and pink! Not shown in the pictures below is the pink princess Big Wheel. And the Cinderella fleece blanket is not really done justice. And the fact that the book in the second picture is actually personalized for Alana (she and her brothers appear as characters in the stories) is not apparent. There were multiple self-initiated wardrobe changes throughout the morning.

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Pre-Break Projects

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Julie's aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin's two sons drove down from Cleveland/Wadsworth to make buckeyes (peanut butter and chocolate) and Christmas cookies. Alana really got into "painting" the cookies:

At school, Benton had a multi-week "heritage" project. He chose Poland and did quite a bit of research, which resulted in the following display:

On the same day that Benton's class presented their projects, Carson's class made gingerbread houses.

As for me, I spent some time straightening up my home office over the holidays, which resulted in a clean, flat work surface. Approximately 30 seconds after said straightening was completed, Benton's and Carson's projects appeared on it to fill it up. I think Julie finds me more attractive when my face is red and there is a bulging vein on my forehead.
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A Bit More of the Snow...

Doing a bit of catching up here. It hasn't actually snowed for a few weeks, with the exception of a light dusting we got last night. But, I finally got around to getting pictures downloaded from the camera after the past couple of weeks of semi-chaos.

Snow in our driveway -- even Alana got into the action:

We walked down to a little hill near the end of our street and did some snow saucering (I'm not entirely sure where Carson dug up that hat, but he wears it quite a bit. I'm not proud).

And, by "we," I mean that Benton and Carson did a lot, Julie did a little...and I did it once.

Word to the wise: if you weigh 50+ pounds more than your spouse, and she says, "Don't worry about that little patch at the bottom of the hill where the snow is melted next to the lip of the asphalt walkway -- it's just a little bump!" you should be prepared to mildly bruise your tailbone and then relegate yourself to the roll of action photographer.
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