Thursday, November 22, 2007

Halloween Hooligans

For Halloween, Sophia decided to be the tweener-rock-Disney-princess Hannah Montana, who she adores. Go figure.

*is puzzled*

Benjamin, on the other hand, went in the other direction and decided to be a ninja.

These costume choices turned out to be happily painless, in both the logistics and the price tag, which made for a happy Mama.

For the Hannah Montana costume, we just picked random clothing already in Sophia's closet -you know, stuff with sparklies on it, and a denim jacket because apparently there is a picture of the ever-advertised icon in which she is wearing just that- bought a wig for $4, gave her some metallic blue eyeshadow, and stuffed a black sock onto a wooden spoon, applied electrical tape, and lo there was a microphone.

(That was Clint's addition, Mr. Crafty would like it known.)

Benjamin got a black fleece outfit from Old Navy, which has gotten a ton of wear on its own, and we picked up the black ski mask and mittens for about $3. His numchucks (I'm not sure if that's the correct spelling for numchucks, but I don't quite care enough to look it up) were made of paper towel rolls stuffed with grocery bags and then shoved into black dress socks, then more electrical tape was added. The transformation was then complete, and he became...Ninjamin!

Really, I didn't realize I had married MacGyver until the Halloween accessories had begun in earnest.

We ended up going to the party thrown by the USO here on post, for a few reasons. We weren't feeling the door-to-door this year because Benjamin was just a little ill and we didn't know the neighborhoods. We also knew a few people going to the USO thing, so we went and it was really well done. There were adults sitting around for the kids to go trick-or-treat, and they gave us cookies and popcorn and sodas. There were two movies playing, coloring tables set up, and it was all free and safe and warm and, well...contained.

It's like my parenting tip to a tired mom...take your kid to Barnes & Noble and let them play with the trains and look around, because the entire section is enclosed by a wall, with only one gap you have to monitor. Entrapment. That's the key to a successful day of parenting sometimes.

This last picture is here simply because it cracks me up so much. Hannah Montana has no idea, but she about to be attacked by that lurking Ninja with all his fancy kung-fu moves!

If that happened on the Disney show, I might watch it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Great Pumpkin Outing

Yes, I know I have neglected this blog terribly. I don't have a good excuse. But look! Look at the picture! Pay no mind to the witless, lazy woman who finally posted it!

Last month (hangs head) we went in search of the perfect pumpkins at Meyer's Tree and Berry Farm, where they had a pumpkin patch, corn maze, ubiquitous big bouncy thing for kids, animals to pet, and pumpkin butter.

Ok, maybe the pumpkin butter was for me.

As a side note, when we parked and were getting out of the car, I asked Clint what had happened to the $20 bill he'd had the day before. He had $9 left, and when further queried on what he'd done with the other $11, he admitted he had spent it in the snack machine at work. Half impressed, half horrified, I exclaimed, "How do you spend $11 in a snack machine?!" And Benjamin, my four-year-old sweetheart, said, "Yeah, Dad, that's bullshit."

Oh eat your heart out, Martha Stewart! I win the parenting award!

In any case, my sailor-mouthed children enjoyed petting goats, climbing a huge bale of hay, sitting in a feed trough filled with grain, and operating these old water pumps.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games, because we did come to hunt down and capture the elusive Perfect Pumpkin (tm).

So a short hay ride later, we approached the hunting grounds, which were refered to as "the pumpkin patch" by everyone else. Naive fools.

Here you can see Benjamin running away after he has skillfully snatched what might be his Perfect Pumpkin from the small boy who had his eye on it.

I think all that time spent besotted with Dora and learning the art of being sneaky from Swiper the Fox has paid off.

Sophia was also satisfyingly successful, as you can see by her big, cheesy grin.

Oh, the joy of beating all the smaller, slower kids to grab the best gourds from the thinning "pumpkin patch"!!!

So, flushed with the success of our pumpkin hunt, we felt sufficiently awesome enough to attempt the Corn Maze.

It was tough. The kids had to wrestle several times for dominance in leading the mission, or in other words, who got to walk in front with the tall orange flag, and once or twice I thought I saw them sizing me up for a food possibility if we should find ourselves stranded in the winding labyrinth for days on end, but we made it.



So when we returned home, the only thing left to do was carve the prize(s). The kids settled on "scary Halloween faces, please" while I went a little crazy and tried my hand at a cat. Clint scooped, if you were wondering.

Mission complete.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Puppy of Doom

She's also known as the "beastly Bess," and if I tell you that when I see this particular picture of her or even simply think of the dog in context with the house in general, I hear that particular theme from horror movies --you know the one, the triple, high-pitched string notes when a sea creature is about to attack or someone is about to be stabbed violently-- well, if I tell you this perhaps you will have an inkling of the last few weeks here.

The dog has been on a chewing rampage. If there was a twelve step program for dogs with a chewing addiction, I would enroll dear Bess. Unfortunately, there's not (or, I haven't found one) and I know, oh I know, that this is A Puppy Thing. So we'll take all our lessons and put things away properly and protect others with plastic or steel or something very, very durable.

The first casualty was underwear. Lots and lots of underwear. Which she will climb into the big plastic hamper just to get, and maul. Then it was a variety of small toys, such as finding Benjamin's small Papo knight incapacitated and...dare I say, stripped of his manhood?...with three quarters of his jousting spear gnawed off.

Well, this IS a puppy we're talking about, right? This is completely normal, absolutely to be expected. This small being is a bundle of explodable energy, a tiny tornado of unquenchable enthusiasm for everything, including the taste of knights and underpants. Yes, yes of course, so when I found tooth marks in the tip of a wooden knitting needle, I reminded myself of this very thing, and cleansed myself of irritation and resentment.

But then...the real carnage began. My glasses, left on the night table, were stealthily stolen and the leg, the part that rests above the ear, was reduced to an unsightly mass of plastic. The lenses were undamaged though, and the munched part was hidden when I put them on! So I got over it, and put my glasses in the hall closet at night. Then the real blow, the sucker-punch to an internet-addicted stomach. A tiny tooth puncture, probably unintentional (you'd better hope so, Bess!) rendered the power adaptor to my laptop useless. And, since I have a MacBook, this power adaptor could not be found in a store anywhere near here. In fact, even the Apple store in St. Louis did not have any in stock. This power adaptor is apparently the only crappy thing Apple does! So I had to order one and was without The Internets for about a week.

Well, I survived obviously. And we really love this dog. As she chases a tennis ball around the back yard or latches on to Benjamin's pants leg for a good wrassle we can laugh about the Trouble she is. When her entire body convulses in wiggles of excitement as she greets us returning home or she burrows under the quilt against me in the early morning, only a small, wet, black nose poking out, I can almost...almost...say with total sincerity that I am over the cost of a new power adaptor.

I guess that's a sign another family member has cemented themselves into our household.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Fabulous Destiny of a New Reader

Sophia is actually reading now. It takes a lot of effort and she still needs to spend a lot of time sounding words out (because her list of sight words is pretty small when you think of all the different words that make up a story!) but she's doing it. It's exhilarating and exciting to watch her discover this new world all for herself. We've always done a lot of reading around here, but there is really a huge difference between only knowing books from being read to, and being able to explore them all on your own. She's not quite there yet, but she's so close we can both taste it.

I've also started reading bigger chapter books to the kids, and with Autumn approaching it puts all of us in the mood to cuddle up and read. I love that; the DVD player goes off and the Leapsters are put away and I know that those quiet hours are the ones that will stay with them like a shadow as they progress through their own adventures with knowledge and learning and the entire wide world that is open to them.

On a different tangent, what do you suppose the walls of a house would look like when the family who lives there brought next to nothing to it while they lived there? Would you think they would be bare? Well, not our walls! We are sporting our own, very special art gallery here. The artists are quite young, but very promising. Might be collector pieces one day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Adventures in a Different Epoch; or otherwise entitled, This One's For You, Allison!

A few weeks ago we traveled to Kansas City to spend a day at the Renaissance Festival. Clint and I went to a festival near Charlotte years ago, and we were very pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't measure up to the one near Kansas City.

When we went in Charlotte, we were basically in an open field area with stalls and shops set up in groups, and entertainment in a few central locations. This festival's setting was clearly a permanent undertaking, with buildings and an intricate web of paths winding around the shops and eateries, all sprinkled with stages and spots where shows were going on or characters would accost festival-goers with random Antiquated English conjectures and conversations. (I say "antiquated" because they were not actually using Middle English, even if the beer stalls were labeled "Chaucer's Ale"...I've read Chaucer in Middle English, thank you, and a few thees and thous don't mean you're speaking Middle English!)

Ahem. Sorry.

We really enjoyed the performances we saw, which ranged from simple acapella singing to a full-blown joust. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the performance Clint and I enjoyed the most, called "The Wench Show," but I do have a jousting picture. We were on the side routing for Sir Geoffrey, the black and silver knight.

A particular highlight for the kids was the "ride" where they got to try their hand at slaying a dragon. They sat on a wooden horse which was lowered and sent flying along a rope toward the dragon. The object was to get the lance they were given through a ring where the dragon was smoking from the mouth.

Benjamin, receiving a bit of help (shhh, don't tell him that, ever) did indeed "slay the dragon."

Preparing for battle.

The approach.

Being knighted.

Sophia seemed particularly enamored with the fairies, as well as the very loud and gifted Queen, who paraded through the streets with a royal entourage. They each picked out one souvenir; Benjamin came away with a tshirt that says "Dragons Fear Me" (very appropriate, and he's really proud of his prowess), and Sophia picked out an ocarina. Besides my oh-I-cannot-resist-it! hooded Canterbury U sweatshirt, Clint and I got matching medallion necklaces from the Quick Silver Mint booth, where you pick out the engravings you want and they print the medallions out for you, and literally in front of you, by raising a 150 lb hammer nine feet in the air and dropping it onto the mold and medallion beneath. So, we each picked something out from the impressive catalogue of designs, and the necklaces were our anniverary gifts to ourselves.

We had a great day, and although the drive was pretty lengthy (about four hours each way), it was well worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Places and Faces

We have set up and settled in to our temporary home in Missouri. Ft. Leonard Wood Housing provided us with a two bedroom house in an excellent location, and with a great big yard with trees to make us happy. We have no furniture beyond our mattresses, a folding card table and chairs in the kitchen, some camping chairs and bean bags for the kids. A strange part of me enjoys that fact. I've always had the half-hearted dream to abandon my belongings and live more simplistically, and now I am doing it for a few months, at the end of which I get my Stuff back. We have ended up buying some kitchen equipment we found we couldn't do without (but don't worry, I brought my coffee pot with me...everyone here is thankful for my foresight!) Otherwise, no one is having any major problems with the lack of Stuff. Oh, the kids sometimes wish for a certain toy or book that is packed up, and occassionally I have the pressing urge to look something up only to realize I don't have the book with me, but overall it's kind of amazing how little most of our possessions mean to us in the daily routine of things.
(I'll still be happy to see a lot of my Stuff when we move.)

Sophia started 1st grade here, and is doing very well. She is especially pleased because her school's mascot is a horse, which is her favorite animal, and because the school is close enough to our house that we can walk there. She has had three spelling tests so far and wishes everyone to know that she has earned perfect scores on them all. My daughter is sometimes so ambitious and competitive that it baffles me. She informed me that she now wants to be a Doctor-Farmer-Illustrator when she grows up.

Benjamin goes to the Part Day Preschool offered by the base childcare facility. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning he spends time with a fantastic teacher named Miss Ulla, who is from Germany, and they paint, sing, count, prepare snack, read, take nature walks, play on the playground, do self-portraits, and organize themselves into stations for pretend and hands-on play. I only wish Miss Ulla had him more than 6 hours a week...not because I don't want him with me, but because I'd like to hang out with her myself.

We have managed to acquire a puppy since coming here. Her name is Bess, and she is about 10 weeks old now. The kids adore her, Clint is twisted around her paw, and all I have to say is I forgot how much work puppies are. The cat was not pleased, but lately she has taken to allowing the puppy near enough to attempt a tussle with her, then flat-out slapping the dog around with what can only be called evil satisfaction.

Last month Clint had to have his appendix removed and was put on convalescent leave for two weeks, which meant that he had to leave the class he was in and enter the class behind him when he recovered. His new graduation date is the day before Thanksgiving, so our frame for moving to NY is now the beginning to mid December. We will be looking for a place in Syracuse.

The base itself is nice as far as military bases go; it isn't too large, and it's well-maintained with lots of parks and walking paths. We live in a nice area that's convenient to all the places we need. There happens to be a whole lot of Nothing right around the base, though. I found this disheartening since Clint's branch (Engineer Corp) guanrantees we'll be back here in about three years for another course, but as with a lot of things I've found it's all about attitude and being willing to actually look for things to do and see and enjoy. St. Louis is a little under two hours east of us, and we spent a day at The Magic House a few weeks ago, a hands-on Children's Museum where the kids had fun dressing up in the castle exhibit, experimenting with water gadgets, treking through the wilderness like Lewis & Clarke, and shopping in the grocery store. We're panning a trip to the St. Louis Zoo in October.

Springfield is only an hour from us, and last Sunday we went to The Skinny Improv and saw their performance of Sleeping Beauty, interactive theater for kids. It was an amazing place and the kids were absolutely enthralled with it. They helped color some of the sets before the performance, and at a ticket price of $5 per person (less than a movie, and with free popcorn) I don't think you could possibly beat this for entertainment.

So there are things nearby, and we are taking advantage of them. Thankfully, my kids are awesome roadtrippers.
I'm really glad we decided to come down here while Clint completed this course. It's funny, but after more than three years living on opposite sides of the world from my husband, I nearly forgot what it was like to live with another adult. I won't lie and say it doesn't take some small adjustments in thinking and practice, but really, it's good for me to have to share my computer time and I guess I'l survive being asked to cook some meat for dinner once and awhile. Because overwhelmingly, it all feels pretty damn good.