10 things about my kids

A list of 10 things about my life with my kids lately, just because I'm in the mood...

Ella, 2 yrs 4 mths:
1. In the last couple weeks, Ella has grown up by about a year. She started refusing her booster seat/tray table at the dinner table, she potty trained, and she is no longer in a crib. I did NOT intend to tackle all these things at once - she suddenly became too cool for a booster seat at the same time that I realized that I must potty train her NOW (our life will be turned upside down in a couple months between long-term traveling, having a baby, and then an international move...so I felt it was now or never). At which time she started trying to climb out of her crib for the first time ever and it became a matter of safety to turn it into a toddler bed.
So suddenly there was a circus act to deal with getting her to stay in her seat at meal times, stay in bed at bedtime, and getting her to use the potty - all at once. Fun times.

2. She will pull her pants down to her ankles as soon as she realizes she wants to go pee - then waddle like that across the house to get to the bathroom. So cute. She also keeps putting her head into the toilet when she watches it flush. Gross. I'm having a hard time convincing her to change her ways.

3. Long story short - I got an unexpected ring on the doorbell last week. Someone was calling for me from over our fence (our whole property is fenced in to the sidewalk), asking if this was my little girl. I opened to the front gate to find Ella waddling around the sidewalk next to the busy street - WITH HER PANTS DOWN AROUND HER ANKLES. Oh. My! I was so grateful for that stranger (and grateful it was a stranger...if you know what I mean). Ella was happy as a lark and said she just wanted to go look at our friend's car. Neither of my kids has ever even flirted with going out our front gate until that day, so I was utterly surprised. Now it is on lock-down from the inside, too.

4. When she decided she had to pee while we were at the park, she just started running waaaaaaaaaay out in the distance to the bathroom all by herself, until she was quite far away and I realized what was going on and ran over to her. She is such an independent, free spirit.

5. I stepped on something sharp at the beach and let out a yelp when it got stuck in my toe. Ella was immediately by my side, hugging me and sweetly telling me everything was going to be okay and that "in five minutes it will be all better". She was so concerned and so nurturing. She stroked my face and made everything peaceful like she's a mom herself.

6.  When I show the slightest sign of irritation, she says "But mom, why are you furious?". I have no idea where she came up with that choice of words. Tonight I was irritated that she came out of her room after we'd put her to bed, and she said "Mom, but why are you infurious? It'll all be okay. Oooooh, you should just be happy. It's all alright.", as she gently stroked my arm, making me wonder how in the world such a sweet creature could ever cause me frustration.

7. She is learning stalling techniques at bedtime. She calls us back into her room for questions like "What do animals eat?" and "What is Willy Wonka doing right now?" and "Mommy, are you mommy?". 

8. She loves to go grocery shopping with me and is the most perfectly behaved little angel every second we are in the store. Shopping used to be the activity I did solo on the weekend while Rob watched the kids, until she started requesting to come. It's like she instinctively knows it is a special privilege not to be messed with, so she is perfection in the store.

9. Every time I put her in bed, she barrages me with a chorus of "Goodnight mommy, I love you, I love you three, I love you infinity, I love you, good night..." - the whole script repeated like a broken record anywhere from two to ten times in her squeaky sweet voice. Even though it is utterly adorable, sometimes I have a hard time listening to it ten times before I am allowed to shut the door when it happens to be after a middle of the night visit.

10. She is my imaginative child, and almost always caught up in her world of make-believe. She designates new favorite friends often, and it can be a cat puzzle piece or an elephant magnet just as easily as a stuffed animal or doll. Her bed is often full of puzzle pieces, pictures, magnets, dolls and stuffed animals.

Michael, 4 yrs 2 mths:
1. He still has the compulsion to get completely nude - socks off and all - whenever he has to do his business. (Is that mean to blog? It's just kind of funny.)

2. He loves games. He wants games, games, games, all the time. He eats up all the math games I make up for him and I revel in the way he lights up and asks for more. I love sharing my love of numbers and my love of games with him. When I was a kid, I used to love making up games and making my little brother play them with me. So I love that he loves games also. (Unless it is Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, in which case I want to hide when he pulls them out. I pretty much always cheat with arranging the cards so that we pick some good ones early on and get it over with faster.)

3. In the last month he is starting to show initiative with helping out around the house more, loving to help set the table, dust, sweep, etc. Which is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. It isn't always easy to let kids "help" when it takes so much more time and energy than doing it myself. I have to paste a smile on my face when I am sweeping and he goes to grab his own broom. At the same time, he is getting better and better and it is absolutely astonishing to think that my baby will soon truly be contributing to an orderly house. Nah...could that really be?

4. He loves to perform. We had a primary program in sacrament meeting at church last month and he was a ham, clearing his throat and reading some of his lines in a silly way. He asks every week now when he will get to perform again. Not a shy bone in his body.

5. He likes to rate everything on a scale of one to ten. He handed out an 11 for the first time to a friend's house who has an arcade. He told me that I should build one for him, and said "if I had one then I would play it every minute of every day. Can we get one, please?" Poor kid put the nail in his own coffin with that statement. He obviously hasn't yet learned the subtle art of negotiation.

6. He still goes wild when we go to the beach and rolls around in the sand like a madman.

7. He loves us to read chapter books to him before nap and bedtime, which has made reading to him so much more fun. We recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory twice because as soon as we were done the first time, he immediately wanted to read it again. It was so much fun to reread this childhood favorite with him and watch the movie together. It is so much more fun to be the mother of a four year old than a baby. I think I would have been better off when Michael was a baby if I'd had four-year-old Michael with me then also.

8. He still sucks his fingers, snuggles his bearsuit, and wears a diaper at night. There is a pretty stark contrast of how old he acts in some ways compared to things that haven't changed since he was a baby. I've tried a lot of different things with the night peeing and haven't had much success. I haven't even begun to try to get him to stop the finger sucking at night because it feels impossible and I dread it.

9. When he dances, he is all over the floor like a break dancer.

10. He is fearless on his bike. There was a high curb with a little chip in it, which he decided to treat like a ramp (not even close) and tried to ram his bike right up it. Of course he crashed, but he didn't really seem all that deterred. He is going to be a blast to take mountain biking in a couple years.



November Rain

Rain is so much more fun when it can run down your bare skin and feel good. I so love our warm climate. My kids love playing in their rain boots and were so stoked for actual rain to play in with them. These pictures remind me so much of my own childhood in southern California.

Nothing to do with this post. Fairy Ella.


Dancing Robot

I'm pretty sure it was nearly a year ago that Michael saw a picture of Rob and I in robot costumes and decided he wanted to be a robot for Halloween. Month after month he has kept this idea in his mind and not wavered an iota in his desire to be a robot - which is fascinating to me considering how whimsical and fleeting most ideas from 3 and 4 year olds tend to be.
Naturally, Ella wanted to be a robot, too. She also wanted to be a butterfly. And the beauty of homemade costumes is that I could make that happen.
The costumes are semi-complete because I didn't think the kids would fare to well in a bulky headpiece. My favorite thing about Ella's costume was that once we added the light to the control panel up front, it lit up a green circle on the ground about a foot in front of her. She kept trying to step on it as we walked around, and it really kept her moving! I think that is the fastest, most decisive walking she has ever done. So I'm now considering taping it to her shirt anytime we walk somewhere.

Michael got his dance button pressed a lot this night, and he performed almost every time. It was awesome!

Sideways video....ooops. I thought I could rotate it but can't figure it out. Ella's tagline as a robot is "I am a robot, you have pretty eyes!". She got it from a book about a kid who dresses up as a robot. I think she's got the robot voice nailed.

Showing off his rocket boosters


Girls With Guns

We took a road trip to the Golan Heights, at Israel's northern boarder, to check out Banias Falls
and Nimrod's Fortress.
My sneak photos of girls with guns
The hike was beautiful and fun, and exploring the tremendous Nimrod's fortress (from the 1200's) brought out our inner Indiana Jones. But the most memorable part was all the young adults (although 18 yr olds look like kids to me now) casually hiking around with rifles. Big groups, all dressed casually in civilian clothes, texting on their phones, listening to ipods and playing around...with huge weapons hanging from some of their shoulders like a mere accessory. We asked someone why they would carry rifles on a casual outing to the waterfall, but his vague response was sort of like, why wouldn't they? The obvious guess is that they were kids young adults in the military...but it still seemed funny for a just-for-kicks trip to a nature reserve. (At least the guns were not loaded.) The area is right on the boarder of Lebanon and Syria, and at times during our trip we could hear loud blasts echo through the canyon from beyond the boarder, just a few miles away. It was a surreal reminder of what is other people's reality, day-in, day-out, just on the other side of the mountain. And a peek into the crazy things to which people right there where we were are accustomed.

Exploring a tower of Nimrod's Fortress


Sensory Table

A couple months ago, I found a good deal on a tall coffee table from Ikea and decided to make it into a sensory table. I finally had a good excuse to use our round power saw (is that what it is even called?) and I'd say that cutting up a table with a power tool was definitely the most fun I've ever had doing a project. Happily, the kids have also had hours and hours of fun with the result. Even without the sensory bins inside, a table with two holes has been fun for the kids all on its own. I can't thing of any other toy or activity that has captivated them for such long stretches of time that require ZERO help or attention from me.
Table + bins: $31
Hours of cooking dinner uninterupted: priceless

Black sand and a pretty collection of colorful rocks

This last picture is with water marbles, which even I can't get enough of running my hands through.
We've also tried rice (colored and scented with Kool-Aid) and seashells.
I got a little kitchen scale, also on the cheap, and hopefully someone, sometime, will learn something about measuring and weighing from it. But if so, it will be on their own, because this is one activity that I revel in doing nothing. (Besides clean up...which is actually far from nothing.)


Family Visitors

We love, love, loved having Rob's sister Andrea + husband Isaac come to visit us last week. One love for the fun of their company, another love for the attention they heaped on the kids, and an extra love for the pictures they took with their super nice camera. (All pics below are courtesy of Andrea and Isaac.)
Rob and Andrea in Capernum (Sea of Galilee behind them)
Rob, Isaac, Andrea eating fish caught (by someone else) from the Sea of Galilee
Ella, Herzliya Beach
Michael, Herzliya Beach
Isaac, Ella
The Mediterranean Sea at sunset (again...picture credit to Andrea!)
Michael posing as a statue at Caesarea
Copy-cat Ella, also posing as a statue
Andrea and Isaac at Caesarea


Michael's 4th Birthday

For Michael's 4th birthday, we went bowling and ate dinner at the Seven Stars Mall. After we sang "Happy Birthday", a girl approached our table. She was an 8 or 9 year old cutie, prettied up from head to toe and wearing a classic pink ballerina outfit and skirt. She handed Michael a balloon from McDonald's and, using excellent English,  wished him a happy birthday. He looked at her in awe, with big eyes but little comment, not sure what to make of her. (She was just another kid eating at the mall who decided to do something nice at random.)
At home that night, out of the blue he asked, "Mom, why did a beautiful princess come give me a balloon today?"
He asked about the beautiful princess again this morning.
I wish I had a picture of her and I hope he always remembers that sweet, beautiful ballerina!
In his new Liverpool jersey from Rob.  He was bursting with exuberance all birthday long, from the second he woke up till he went back to bed. 
His options were bowling with one or two friends, or a party at our house with all of his friends. Lucky me he loves bowling, because I'm way too tired right now for the latter option.
Random quote from this morning: "Mom, why do we have two hands?" How many does he wish he had? Nine.


Conversations with Smalls

Today's conversation with Michael:

Mom, I don't like your uterus.
Why not?
Because that is where the baby is growing.
And why don't you like that?
Because, babies take a lot of time and work, you know?

Michael: Ella, will you tell me the story again about the umbilical cord?
Ella: Sure. Once upon a time, there was a little baby Michael and he had an umbilical cord. Then he had to get a shot and he cried and he cried. Then he grew and he grew into his normal.

I think we've been watching one too many videos from babycenter.com. I showed them one once (it's computer graphics of a baby in the womb at different stages of development), and they have begged for more and more. My kids are fascinated by them and it cracks me up to now hear them referencing my uterus, placenta, and the umbilical cord. Nearly everyday Michael examines my belly and announces, yep, it's growing.

The videos have given my kids an unrealistic view of what can be filmed, however.  Michael has also made requests for a video of the baby coming down from heaven and going into my belly, as well as a look inside of a cocoon to see how it turns into a butterfly.

I am overjoyed about having baby #3! But I will definitely feel more overjoyed again once it feels more like a baby and less like a parasite making me sick all the time.

The top two reasons I am excited for another child:
I was taking some pictures of something else when Ella grabbed the magnifying glass and walked up to the camera just like this. Too perfect!

Copy cat picture with the other cutie.


Orderly Ella

 A few months ago I started finding washcloths around the house, only to discover that my baby Ella likes to get them out to clean. I thought it was just a phase, but she's kept up with it for so long and so often that I'd say it's shaping up to be a full blown personality trait. My girl loves to clean.

It was especially charming on this day, when the kids were outside making giant bubbles with some friends. Everyone was going nuts over the bubbles, when in ran Ella, babbling to herself, "It's dripping all over, we gotta clean it up", as she headed straight for the drawer with the washcloths. Then she ran back and dutifully wiped up the drips as the other kids made the bubbles.
How did we ever get a child like this in our family?!
And how does the same girl make such a blissful, almost artful mess of food all over herself and the surrounding region every time we sit down to eat?

On a related note, nearly every other night for the last few months, Ella will start to cry within a few minutes of me leaving the room as she goes to sleep. As soon as I come in, she calms down and says in her most proper voice, "Mommy, my blanket has been messed up." It cracks me up. The way she delivers it feels to my ears like the equivalent of "mother dearest, I would like to bring it to your attention that my blanket is not in its proper position."


Five Step Process to Eat Your Dinner

Before I forget... Last week Michael and Ella were painting in their underwear out back. He wanted to take off his undies and I told him no. My kids are no strangers to running around naked and I couldn't come up with a particular reason why I cared, but this time it just struck me as a bad idea.
Soon after I went inside to help get dinner on, Michael ran inside naked and crying that his bum hurt. Turns out, he took off his undies and almost immediately sat down on a brand-new colony of stinging ants. OUCH! His poor bum was covered in red stings. Every remedy I tried to help reduce the sting just made him scream harder, and the one thing that finally helped was stuffing an ice-pack into his undies. Ella got one sting as well and together they created quite the cacophony.
Now, if only this type of experience would produce perfectly obedient children. Unfortunately they forget quickly. But mothers don't. I will definitely be referencing back to this.
We ate dinner rather late that night after the kids finally settled down. But dinner is often a little interesting in our house, as it is always a task to figure out how to get Michael to put his food in his mouth and chew. I am in utter disbelief that I have produced offspring that actually eats more slowly than I do. SLOWER THAN ME! It is hard to fathom. He actually eats a decently good variety of food and is even willing to try new food. But the time it takes for him to put it in his mouth!!! We have tried all sorts of tactics - but ultimately there is no forcing with food and we usually end up clearing the table and having the dishes done before he finally announces "I think I can finish this in just ten more minutes!".

Anyway, Michael really likes signs and step-by-step processes, so somehow this night we came up with the 5-Step Process to Eat Your Dinner (and repeat). He loved it so much he turned it into a song, and he did actually end up finishing his one slice of pizza sometime before bed. At which time, Michael insisted on sleeping with the ice-pack in his diaper.
I guess the humor of it all just made it a really amusing night, the kind that makes me just love having a family. Here are a couple random videos I took as I tried to soak in my goofy kids.


Ella Turns 2

Some bits about Ella as she turns two:
She is a messy eater and refuses a bib - so she always eats topless.
She is so very good at self-entertaining. She is very easy going with a pretty long fuse before she gets frustrated. If she does get upset or hurt, she settles down pretty quickly. She has a long attention span. Basically, the stuff that makes her a pretty easy kid. She is a make-believe queen. Her favorite make-believe games almost always involve food. Her favorite books revolve around food, too. She loves an odd book I never really intended for her; it's called "It's Addition" and it has little rhymes about adding things like scoops of ice-cream and lollipops. But she's asked me to read it probably 50 times. So she often will say things like, "Mom, I have equals two pillows". Or "I want two plus equals three spoons" and other nonsense.
Last month she entered the "Don't look at me" and "Go away" stage. So funny. I could hardly believe it when one morning she even told Michael to stop smiling at her! I thought I still had a couple years before a kid might start with that stuff.
She's always begging me to play crack-the-whip with her in the backyard. I always feel like it is a rough game for her little body but she loves it and likes to be whipped around till she falls over.
She is as silly as can be. She teases me by pretending to offer something and then taking it away. She changes lyrics to songs in silly ways and then laughs her little head off. Like, "Ring around the Rosies, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all... climb on Mommy's back!", as she climbs up my back, laughs, and then demands a horsey ride.
She mixes up words in the cute ways that kids do. Spaghetti is said "spasgetti" and I love the stereotypicalness of it. She calls sunscreen "scumscreem", which always lightens my mood as she yells "BUT I DON'T WANT SCUMSCREEM!".
Bumper cars on her birthday. One of the great things about living in Israel is that they had no qualms about letting her on.
As she's finally outgrown her fierce attachment to mommy-only, it's cute to see the ways she bonds with dad. She has always been pretty resistant to letting anyone fix her hair, but last month she finally let Rob start putting in pony tails. So he is usually the one to fix her hair before church. It looks the way you might expect from a guy, but still totally cute and totally sweet that she likes him to do her hair.
"Look mom, I'm Papa in the Pail!" Her rendition of that picture in Dr. Suess's ABC book. (Related, if you know the book, Ella and Michael both call scissors "zizzors" because of the Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz.

She is silly and sweet, cautious and confident, independent but still loves to snuggle. Her nicknames, Peaches and The Sweetness, suit her perfectly!

She pretends to be a bird and calls Michael's football container her nest.
p.s. It cracked me up on the morning of her birthday when Michael was so confused that she hadn't grown up over night. The first thing he said when he saw her in the morning was "But mom, she's still a baby!" and then a steady flow of things like "why isn't she bigger now?", "why didn't she grow?", etc.


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