Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jack update

The whole purpose of this blog is for me to record memories for when Steve and I get too old to remember anything accurately. Since that could be at any moment, I figure I better start recording the cool stuff before I forget that it happened.

Monday night was a big night for Jack. He read his first book all by himself. He knows about 8 or 9 sight words and can sound out simple three or four letter words. It's pretty darn cool to watch. So he read a book called Oswald Adds, which is from the SuperKids reading program at his school. The first time through, he struggled a little to sound out "adds" and "Sal", but the smile on his face when he was successful was amazing. And he was so proud of himself at the end of the book. "I read the book, Mom!" Yes, yes you did, kiddo. And as soon as Dad got home and came up to say good night, Jack asked to read it again for him. So cool.

As if reading wasn't a big enough accomplishment for one night, he also finally tied shoes all by himself. This is one of the benchmarks for first quarter at school, so we've been practicing for quite a while. Tying shoes is no easy task, especially if you have small fingers. But on Monday night, Jack finally got it. And again, he was super proud of himself. He came running out of his room to show me the shoelace puzzle that we use to practice. Then he wanted to do it again to show me. 

I don't think there's a more proud parent moment than watching your child accomplish something by himself and be proud of himself for doing it. I think that's why I want to make sure I remember this. Tying shoes and reading books will eventually become second nature to Jack. But for right now, it's a huge accomplishment and a symbol of his ability to accomplish a goal (or two) on his own.

Kindergarten is a lot of work for Jack. He gets homework every week. He's memorizing prayers and his phone number. I often feel like there's constantly something for him to be working on. So in order to keep perspective and to do something fun just for us, we are reading Harry Potter. 

Lately, Friday nights have become pizza and movie nights at our house. We put a couple of beach towels on the living room floor, order a pizza, and pick out a movie from Netflix or Amazon. Then we all huddle on the floor together eating and watching movies. One Friday night, we decided to try Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Jack loved it. So the next week they watched the second movie. That one was a bit too scary. So to keep the love of Harry Potter going without giving our children nightmares, we decided to read the first book instead. And it's going over very well.

Jack will lay in bed listening to me read a chapter for the full 20 or 30 minutes it takes to read. He'll stop me when he recognizes a scene from the movie or makes some other connection that he just has to tell me about right then. And truth be told, I'm really enjoying reading the books too. Although I've seen many of the movies, I've never picked up the books to read. It's kind of nice to be reading them for the first time with Jack.

So that's what's new with Jack.


Monday, October 21, 2013


I only have about 15 minutes to write this post, and that's because I procrastinated for a good hour today. Of course, I've been trying to write a post for this blog for at least 2 weeks. But whenever I had time, I either didn't feel inspired to write or I was too tired, another form of procrastinating.

I'm a serial projecter see. I love to start a project, and I'm usually really enthusiastic about it at the beginning. Just look at the early entries on this blog for an example. Or the quilting projects I did last winter/spring. Or my photography.

Then my enthusiasm wanes, and I procrastinate because I'm just not inspired at the moment. That would be why I haven't posted here in a season. And why my sewing machine is sitting in the office in its case. And why there are lots of pictures on my camera and in my folders that you haven't seen.

So today I am making myself write even though I'm not particularly inspired. I've had great ideas for a post about my serial projecting over the last few weeks, but I can't think of them right now. I'm hoping that if I keep typing, one of them will hit me and make this post a little more readable.

Nope, it's not coming. So instead, maybe I'll just post a few cute pictures of our goings-on lately.

The haunted house scene our family created for Jack's class

Working on the haunted house

The only 2 pumpkins we carved on Saturday. That is Harry Potter on the left and Sonic on the right, in case you were wondering.

The fun scary teeth lollipops Auntie Bubbles brought to the party on Saturday

The only "good" photo I got of Steve after he ran the Chicago Marathon.

And I'm out of time.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jack starts kindergarten


Jack is officially a kindergartner! And I think he likes it. When I picked him up today, he started telling me about his day before I had a chance to ask him.

Here are a few of the details so we don't forget:
He was very excited to use his scissors to make a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom hat. He met a new friend named Sophia. He bumped his head while playing with her, and she suggested he ask to get ice cream after school to make it better (we did). He met Sister Liz. Ms. Mary, Cathal, Kilian, and Ronan all said hi to him this morning in the cafeteria. The class said prayers, but he didn't know them and didn't want to repeat the words. He had a hard time figuring out who his friend Charlie is since all of the boys wear the same clothes.

I think that's it. There might have been more. He's been telling me little bits and pieces all afternoon. I couldn't have dreamed of a better reaction to his first day of school.


I'll be honest. I was a little worried, on many levels, about how today would go. Would he enjoy school or hate it? Would I be a blubbering fool walking him to the door? Would he be too nervous to go in, or worse, cry? The fog that hung over our area this morning was a little too symbolic for me.

But the fog lifted as we drove to school, a good sign for the rest of the day. First worry, not an issue. Definitely liked school. Blubbering fool? Nope. I did get a little choked up in the car on the way, but no tears. This was in part because of the way he reacted to going to school. He didn't want me to walk him all the way in. He wanted to walk in by himself. So Reid and I walked him to the edge of the sidewalk that led to the cafeteria and then he was off. It happened so fast, I didn't get a chance to snap a picture!

In the grand scheme of things, this day probably won't mean much to Jack. I certainly don't remember my first day of kindergarten. The day has a much bigger significance to Steve and me. It's a symbol of Jack's growing independence. We know what lies in ahead for Jack - 13 years of school, then hopefully college. He has started outgrowing us, and that's a little scary and exciting at the same time.

When Jack was born, Steve and I used to talk about what kind of person we hoped Jack would be. We hoped he would be adventurous, enthusiastic, and independent. And it's been fun to watch him develop into that adventurous, enthusiastic, independent boy (even though we questioned our wishes during his toddler years).

But the fact is we can no longer feed his curiosity as quickly as he would like. I no longer have the energy to keep him engaged all day every day. He needs his peers and his teachers to push him forward.

This is not to say that we have nothing left to offer as parents. That would just be silly. I still plan to teach him how to tie his shoes and how to cook and bake. Steve has many more Star Wars and other general manly things to teach him. We will still explore the world together. But the separation has started.

I can see why some parents become helicopter parents. At this point, we could definitely hold on tight and keep close tabs on what's going on. There are lots of opportunities for us to volunteer and be a part of school. I even asked Jack how much he would like me to help out at school; and he said a lot. But I'm pretty proud of these characteristics Jack is developing and who he is becoming. I don't want to ruin it. So while I'm excited to volunteer and see him at school (and I will be doing these things!), I know I'm going to have to work hard to keep my distance and let this be Jack's experience. We are so excited to see what he does with it.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Knock Knock

So we still have a week of summer left before school starts for the Barrett household. We are doing our best to enjoy it despite most of our friends being back at school already and the pools closing during the week.

To keep ourselves entertained, we like to tell jokes. Jack is getting pretty good at remembering a number of knock knock jokes. He loves the Owl's who, cow's moo one. He's also a big fan of the banana, banana, orange one. (Although he sometimes forgets the rule of threes).

And we've learned in the past week or so, Reid is getting the joke-telling bug too.

Reid started retelling this joke after hearing Jack and Dad tell it a lot.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Interrupting Chicken
Interrupting Chicken who?
Bawk! (or in Reid's case... No!)

He told it to Aunt Susie when she and the boys came to play on Sunday. He tells me, Steve, and Jack any time we'll listen. And tonight at bedtime, he got on a roll. He told me the joke about half a dozen times, cracking me up each time since he is now making the chicken noise instead of saying no. I finally had to cut him off.

Our boys definitely like to be funny and to make others laugh. I love it when I'm the one giggling with them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A perfect summer day

I wish I had pictures of today to share with you. But I was a little too busy enjoying myself to snap any.

Today was a perfect summer day for us. We got up, ate breakfast, and got our morning chores done. All four of us were together this morning, which is fairly unusual lately (unfortunately!).

Then, the HVAC guys came over to replace our furnace, so the boys and I took off for a Starbuck's stop and the library. Of course, not before Jack got to watch our HVAC guy work a little bit. There were way too many tools and cool equipment to just walk out the door.

It was a little touch and go at the library. There may or may not have been some Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino spilled on the floor while Reid screamed his little head off. It's amazing what a wipe can clean up. We got both boys signed up for the Passport to Reading summer reading program though. The Lego Millenium Falcon and an overnight pack definitely incentivized my 5-year-old. And after some trains and reading, we were ready to head back home for the next part of our day. And we left with several really good books to read at home.

It finally felt like summer at 84 degrees, so as we headed off to swim lessons, I also packed up a lunch so we could go to the other pool right after. Swim lessons were a hit for both boys today. Reid blew bubbles, sang songs, jumped off the side with some help, and even put his whole face in by himself. Jack practiced the back stroke, dove for rings, and basically dove off the side (instead of jumping). The hardest part here was getting them into the car to go to a different pool.

So we made it to Dolphin's Cove and met our friend Ethan and his mom Erin. Jack and Ethan had a blast swimming around the pool and playing in the sand area. Reid loved the little dolphin slide and the sand as well. And when Reid finally started to show signs of extreme exhaustion two hours later, we left for home. Reid fell asleep in the car, and for the first time ever, I was able to transfer him to his bed without waking him up. And he continued to sleep for 2 1/2 hours.

While Reid slept, Jack and I read books. For the summer reading program, he needs to read 50 minutes a week. We read for 30 minutes this afternoon, then another 10 at dinner and another 10 at bedtime. So he's set for this week in one day. Reid got 20 minutes in today. It was fantastic.

Finally, we played around the house a bit and then I made dinner. For the first time ever, Jack asked to read a book at dinner. So I ate my pork chop and cauliflower quickly and got to reading some Mercer Mayer bedtime stories. It definitely made dinner go smoothly. I should have known this was a good idea. My friend Abby wrote about how she reads to her kids at meals on her blog Picture Book House a while ago. Sometimes you just have to learn by experience.

And now both boys are asleep. It's still almost 80 degrees outside, but our A/C is working again. And I had a few minutes to write.

I wonder what tomorrow will have in store for us!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Too many words and time for kindergarten

I'm pretty sure Reid grew into a kid this weekend. He is definitely not a baby anymore.

Between Friday and Monday, I think he added at least 10 new words to his vocabulary. He now calls his Pepere by name. It's very sweet. He also can make the sounds for almost 10 different animals. Do those sounds count as words?

If that wasn't enough, Jack finished preschool... forever. He'll never go to preschool again. That's crazy!

Thank goodness we left for a weekend getaway. I thought I might have a complete emotional breakdown last Thursday when I realized what was happening with our boys.

Reid spent our weekend in Michigan playing with the "big" kids. He chased his cousins, Sophia, Matthew and Emmett, all over the place. He ran around a children's museum with reckless abandon. This kid usually hangs pretty close to me at play dates and parks. Not any more. He was mister independent on our trip. Well, except when he wanted Daddy.

I also couldn't believe how much he was talking and communicating. He didn't have any trouble getting what he wanted whether that was something to eat or drink, a new diaper, or playtime with the kids. I guess 18 months means he's a kid now.

And Jack... well he's definitely a big kid. All weekend long he wanted nothing to do with me or Steve. He just wanted to play with Billy or Grandma Sue or Emmett or anyone else. It took a little getting used to seeing him just take off and play without hesitation.

I didn't see him much at the children's museum. When I tried, he ran away. When we were at the house, he was heading down to the beach or to fly a kite or just downstairs to the other condo to play. I did get to read him a book Saturday night. That was nice.

In the end, it has been very gratifying to see our boys come in to their own over the last week or so. They are both pretty amazing kids.



Jack's first day of preschool

Jack's last day of preschool

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is Spiderman real?

Lately, Jack has been trying to determine what is real and what isn't. He focuses mostly on people.

At first, I found his questions unsettling. Is Curious George real? Well, no. But do I ruin his innocence in a great story? I did tell the truth.

He's been asking the "Is ... real?" for about a month or so. And now I'm really enjoying watching the learning process. I think I might be learning a little myself, too.

Is Elmo real? Well, yes and no. How do you explain the reality of a puppet by the fictionalization of a character? That lead to a wonderful discussion about creating stories.

Jack was very disappointed to learn that Bill, the country kid friend of Curious George on the cartoon show, was not real. "I really like him." I tried to reassure him that he could still really like Bill, he is a pretty great character.

Today's question - is Spiderman real? That was a toughy. I didn't want to destroy his belief in super heroes. The picture of Spiderman that he was looking at was of an actor's portrayal, not a cartoon, making it a little more difficult. At first I tried to defer and say I wasn't sure. But that felt like a lie. So I went back to the character explanation.

But that got me thinking too. Can't characters be real? I mean, can't they come to life in their stories? I can't count the number of books that I have read where I feel like I have a relationship with the characters. And now that we read to the boys so often, we share those feelings about the characters in their picture books too.

These characters become a part of our reality. We talk about what they do, what they look like, what they experience just as much as the "real" people we know. Jack tells me about the things George does at least three times a day.

So how do we decide what is real?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Take me out to the ballgame!

This afternoon and evening, Steve, Cathy, and I got to witness an amazing transformation in Jack. He's definitely become an independent kid.

We have new neighbors up the hill/next door, and they have friends who have kids close to Jack's age. We introduced ourselves a couple of weekends ago, and ever since, Jack has been looking for the kids to come back and play.

Tonight, he saw "his buddies" outside. He immediately ran up the hill to ask them to play. And they came and played. They ran around the swing set for a while; then ran around the yard. Then they seemed to get bored (Jack tried to invite them inside the house). So I offered to get some balls and sports stuff.

That's when Cathy and I started to have a good time. After they each had a turn or two to hit the ball off of the tee, and Jack got a ball to the face, we decided we would try to teach them how to hit the ball and run bases. We split them up into two teams (boys vs girls), and then the craziness ensued.

We tried simple instructions first. Hit the ball, run to the pinecone (first base). Sounds good. Except no one dropped the bat and there might have been a few swings at the other players. They also needed clarification on which pinecone to run to. Okay, hit the ball, drop the bat, run to the pinecone where Auntie Bubbles is standing. Good.

Next how to field. Catch the ball, tag the runner. Unfortunately, they didn't quite understand this was a two-step process, so first they tried to split the tasks ("you catch the ball, I'll tag the girls"). Once we cleared that up; wait, we never got that cleared up. So instead, we moved on. It just got more confusing. The batter would hit the ball, drop the bat, run to get the ball, and try to tag someone. Yep, that was all one kid.

After about 4 innings, Cathy and I were ecstatic that we got every kid to hit the ball, drop the bat, and run to the base without trying to pick up the ball first. Jack even got into sliding into the bases. Of course, he liked sliding so much, he slid when he was playing outfield (into a base, not trying to catch the ball). We eventually got the girls to run to second base and third base. The boys never really got past second (which is a good thing, in my book).

We finally broke for dinner, but we did return outside for a second game, a bonfire, and some Yonanas (that's a story for another blog post). While Auntie Bubbles made a great effort to get the kids to play again by themselves, it was really just chaos. So instead, they started to play tag and then we made dessert.

It was pretty dark by that time, so of course, Steve suggested hide and seek. If you thought our T-ball story was good, hide and seek was better. All four kids hid together and managed to be quiet for about a millisecond after Steve finished counting. Then the screamed. And when Steve found them, they screamed again. Then it was Steve's turn to hide, and the kids counted. The rule was to count to 30, and despite a dislike of the number 16, they managed it pretty well. The seeking was pretty funny as they narrated the search. "Let's look up here. Okay, how about in the tire swing. Maybe back here. How about this side." Steve can stay pretty quiet, so it took them a few minutes, but they eventually found him, and then yes, screamed.

I think the best quote of the night was during monster tag. It was from Jack, of course. "I tagged myself, so now I'm it."

Oh, to be five again.

And now for a few pictures:





Thursday, April 25, 2013

"I liked this homework"

I got myself on another obsessive binge yesterday and today. This time, it's about picture books. I've been writing for a friend's picture book blog, and I'm loving it. It's really opened my eyes to the amazing books that are out there. This binge, though, it's about an old favorite.

I love Mo Willems. I'm not sure which book we read first, but I can tell you we have never read a book by him that we didn't enjoy to at least some extent. The best laugh you will ever hear from Jack (aside from when Steve tickles him) is when he laughs at Trixie trying to talk in Knuffle Bunny. Or when he laughs at Piggie announcing that he is "not a happy pig" in the rain. Or when the pigeon has a fit because he can't drive the bus.

So yesterday and today, Jack and I have been browsing and playing on Willems' websites. There are cool games to play and fun things to download. Best of all, there are all kinds of materials for teachers and parents to print out that go with the books.

I downloaded the activity kits for Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and The Duckling Gets a Cookie. These are the two newest Willems books in our house (both entered in the last week).

So I had to print these bad boys out, but we don't have a printer at home. Not to get off on too big of a tangent, but I have lamented the lack of a printer since I stopped teaching almost a year and a half ago. I still haven't done anything to remedy that. Normally I just don't print. But I was determined, so we needed to hit the library to print. And we did.

$9 or $10 later, we have two packets and several beginning word writing worksheets. Tonight, while I gave Reid a bath, Jack got to do some of the Duckling activities and to practice writing "an" words.

It was amazing. Reid played nicely in the bathtub. Jack sat in the hallway right outside of the bathroom completely engaged. And we did this for a full 15 minutes. No crying, no drenching mommy, no yelling. It was bliss.

Jack found the five differences in the pigeon and duckling pictures. He completed the maze so the pigeon could get his cookie. He counted the cookies and wrote numbers. He did these things all by himself. He asked questions, but he did not insist I do it for him or sit over him while he worked or say that it was too hard. I was so proud of him.

And it continued. I got Jack a coloring page and an "invent a cookie" sheet. While I read to Reid and put him to bed, Jack traced his "an" words and then wrote them on his own. He then colored the pigeon a beautiful blue and the duckling black. He drew about a dozen chocolate chip cookies. And he didn't once yell for me. He was still working when I came out of Reid's room.

I asked him what he thought of the activities. And that's when he said, "I liked this homework. We should do it again." I never mentioned homework. That was all him. I hope he always likes being challenged like this.

We then continued the normal routine of shower, books, song, bed.

Tonight's bedtime was nothing short of perfect. So now I need to go find some more author websites and fun printables. Look out library printer, you're going to get a workout.

Since I'm a proud mom, here is a selection of the work from tonight.




Play, Play, Play

Every day when I pick up Jack from school, I ask him what he did that day. And every day he gives me the same answer, "play, play, play." And right now, that's how I answer anyone who asks me what we've been up to lately.

Despite the random snow and the seemingly ceaseless rain around here, the boys and I have been trying to take advantage of every partly sunny/sunny moment to get outside (even if it means bundling up).

Turns out, my guys like to dig. So we go outside, find the old planting pots we abandoned in springs and summers past, and dig through them to get them ready to plant this spring. They also like to dig just about anywhere, so if I can keep them digging in the woods and not the mulch, I count that as a win. Jack also likes to hunt for worms. He finds them, then places them in a new cool, dark place together (so they can have friends).

Reid likes to do whatever Jack is doing. That means chasing Jack around the lawn with a shovel or down the driveway on his bike. When Jack is at school, Reid and I play cars, or tools, or climb the furniture. He also loves to color. And this morning, we tried out playing with shaving cream. He liked it enough to play for about 10 minutes, which I think is a long time for a 17-month-old.

If we aren't digging or playing cars, then it seems like we are cooking. We love to bake, especially chocolate chip cookies. But we also like to try out something new every once in a while. Below, you can see Jack putting together our pineapple bacon wraps. They were pretty yummy, but not as yummy as we thought they would be.

So here are some pictures of our two cuties as they play, play, play lately. Enjoy!








Easter 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jacob P - another newborn baby photo shoot!

My sister Susie and her husband are best friends with Brent and Dawna. Brent and Dawna have just recently become parents to a gorgeous little baby boy, Jacob. Thanks to my sister's connections, I got to take Jacob's newborn pictures today. It was so fun!

As you will see in the photos, Brent and Dawna are such caring parents. Jacob obviously gets his easy-going attitude from them. He barely fussed the entire hour and a half it took me to take all of the pictures. I probably could have taken more, but we all needed a lunch break!

But enough writing about this cutie and his great parents; let's get to the pictures!










Saturday, March 30, 2013

Photo recap of the last two months

I finally downloaded a ton of photos from the Nikon tonight. We've done some pretty fun stuff in February and March. And we've got the photos to prove it. We had a photo scavenger hunt in which Jack got to take some pictures. Jack and Dad fixed the Altima. We escaped the snow and cold with a visit to the Chicago Botanical Gardens. We colored and painted and played. And now that the spring weather has arrived, we even got to celebrate Easter outside today. So enjoy the pics :)

Reid waking up from a nap - Photo by Jack

What starts with B? Barretts - Photo by Jack

What starts with C? Car - Photo by Jack

Fixing the car

Botanical Gardens