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Two-Wheelin’ Feelin’!

Yesterday was a big day for Mr. Finnegan Nack – he mastered the art of two-wheeling!

Last weekend, after we got his flat tire fixed at the bike shop, he was eyeing a new “Mike’s Bikes” water bottle, and a new LED tail light for his bike. I told him that if he learned how to ride without his training wheels, he could get the bottle and light. Boy – had I known how well a little incentive was going to work, I would’ve done this ages ago!

We started practicing without his training wheels last weekend before I left for Germany, and spent about an hour going up and down the driveway with Finn pedaling and me holding him upright by the bike seat and handlebars. We had our second and final round of practice yesterday morning at the park down the street – which is perfectly laid out for bike practice! It’s essentially a big circular sidewalk around a playground. Finn rode to the park with the training wheels, and then when we got to the park, we took them off and started practicing.

I could tell it wasn’t going to take long, because I wasn’t really holding on to the seat very hard anyway. I was mainly acting as moral support – coaching a worried, semi-weeping Finny by running alongside and chanting a lot of “I think I can I think I can” (while he thought I was holding the seat). Of course he had a few spills and run-ins with the play equipment, but after catching his breath and wiping off tears, he was back in the saddle. I told Finny that he had to believe that he could do it – because if he didn’t believe in himself, it was going to be really hard to do it. He did not like that messaging, but it must’ve gotten through – because once he forgot to be worried and just focus on pedaling and staying upright, he did great!

The goal we set for earning the water bottle and tail light was two complete laps around the park without stopping. In less than an hour, our boy nailed it! We celebrated with lots of cheering and hugging, and Finny rode his bike all the way home – with many stops and starts, but without the training wheels! (You can see his happy yet exhausted-and-weepy expression in the photo gallery). We then proceeded to go to Manley’s for celebratory doughnuts before a stop at the bikeshop to pick out his prizes.

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Miscellaneous

A Tale of Two Finnys

We can’t say we weren’t warned…

Although Finny is really enjoying his newfound status as a kindergartener, and loving his after school daycare, the transition into the new reality has definitely been a bumpy ride. His days are long, and full of new activities, new kids, a new teacher, and of course, tons and tons of stimuli. As is his nature, he’s a very positive, happy kid. He does really well during the week and is super-enthusiastic about going to school. He’s also very chatty about what he does at school, and is proud of sharing his worksheets and art projects from class.

That said…man, at the end of the day, and especially on the weekends, he goes completely Jekyll and Hyde, and the nuclear meltdowns over minor incidents are intense and numerous. The past two Saturdays have been ROUGH. It seems to take him about a day to completely unwind from the week at school, and during those 24 hours, there is a LOT of complaining, freaking out, and grumpiness. He’s got a hair-trigger, and when Henry runs afoul of him (for instance, by playing with one of Finny’s previously-ignored toys) or when he gets frustrated, he just turns into a crying, screaming wreck. And it takes him a looooong time to work it out of his system.

We’re all doing our best, and John and I both let Finny know that it’s ok to get frustrated or feel tired/sad/angry, but it’s not OK to just let it rip on everyone in your path. And we know that Finny doesn’t enjoy these episodes, either…and that he’ll work his way through them eventually. So goes any transition to a “new normal,” right? Right?!

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Photos

First Day of Kindergarten

Last Thursday was Finny’s official first day of Kindergarten. He was definitely prepared: new backpack and lunchbag (with water bottle!), new school clothes (Willow Glen Elementary is a uniform school, which makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze!), and a very positive attitude. We had visited the school the day before for a 90-minute orientation with the teachers and helpers, so he already knew where to find the classroom, his teacher, and the daycare room.

Henry and I dropped him off with a big hug and smooch and wished him a great day. I then proceeded with the low-grade, all-day fretting that must be typical of all parents of a freshly minted Kindergartner: “I hope he’s ok, he doesn’t know anyone, I hope he remembers to go to the bathroom and eat his lunch, I hope he’s being polite, etc. etc…”

Well, turns out I had nothing to worry about. When I picked him up from after school care and asked him how his day went, he looked me straight in the eye, pumped his fist, and said “AWESOME!!! I LOVE KINDERGARTEN!” Phew! That couldn’t have gone any better! I remember loving my first day of Kindergarten, too. I guess it runs in the family :).

[We’re lucky that way, as it apparently doesn’t run in every family: Finn’s been telling us about a kid named “Ruffy” (go figure) who keeps getting yellow warning cards to the point he’s been dubbed “Señor Amarillo.” He was sent to the principal’s office on the first day, and according to Finn, “they decapitated him!!” He likes to elaborate that “just the head hopped back into the room,” and that later Ruffy got reassembled. Rough indeed! :-p –J.]

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Photos Videos

Legolords!

Last week’s main event was a 2-day trip to Legoland, which strategically coincided with John’s birthday. I think Dad-O was even more excited than the boys about our visit! We went all out and stayed at the Legoland hotel, which, as you’ll see, was great fun and perfectly suited to families with young kids. Our pirate-themed room came with bunkbeds for the dudes, a bucket of Legos to play with, a treasure chest whose combination we had to determine via a scavenger hunt, and a view of the park entrance. The hotel lobby contained several “Lego pits,” a giant Lego castle to play in, Lego sculptures, and an entrance to the park. The 3 Nack men were in heaven!

The park itself was phenomenal, and perfectly designed for families and kids under 12. While parents stood in line at various rides, there were play areas chock full of Legos for the kids to play with until their turn on the ride was up. There were rides of all sorts – rollercoasters, ride-on vehicles, boats, pedal cars, squirting cannons, firetruck races, and a pirate ship ride with water cannons. We spent an entire day just taking advantage of the water attractions in the pirate area and the Lego water park! [Poor Henry found the “lazy river” not so relaxing as he slipped through my hands, through our double inner tube, and completely under the water! Fortunately he recovered & excitedly joined me in collecting the giant rubber Legos that floated alongside us. –J.]

There were also tons and tons of Lego sculptures of all sorts — life-sized Darth Vader & Chewie, the biggest Lego-model ever created (of a Star Wars X-Wing fighter), tons of miniature scenes from Star Wars movies, and miniature Lego cities like Las Vegas, Washington DC, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Henry enjoyed the miniature cities the most – and returned over and over again to observe all the little moving Lego vehicles, boats, trains, animals, etc.

Here are some vids and a gallery of pictures of all the things we got to see and do!

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Miscellaneous

The “Henry Face”

Our boy Henry has become well known amongst our friends for the “Henry Face.” He’s reliably grumpy about something or another when we’re out having a good time – like at birthday parties, the pool, holiday celebrations, you name it. In fact, our friend Shay’s daughter Tegan started making The Face herself after watching Henry melt down at his brother’s preschool graduation ceremony (“No one is playing with me, Mom-o! No one is paying attention to me!”). Our friends love to snap photos of Henry grumping out at parties. Here’s a prime example:

John always remarks, truthfully, that Henry was born frowning:

We recently had some family photos taken, and as Henry was getting grumpier and more short-tempered about the length of the photo shoot, we decided to go for broke with The Henry Face, family-style. Because when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

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Miscellaneous

Adventures in Railroading

Our overnight trip to Sacramento to visit the Railroad Museum was a big hit with everyone, but especially with birthday boy Henry! The guys loved riding the Amtrak up to Sacramento with Grandma and Grandpa Nack. We got to pass by the mothballed navy fleet in the East Bay, and saw some other interesting sites on our way up, including an old C&H Sugar processing factory outside of Richmond.

Our motel was literally right across the street from the train station on one side, and across the street from the Railroad Museum on the other side! And wow, the Railroad museum was amazing. It is huge! 2 acres of historic engines, passenger cars, memorabilia, a dining car, sleeping car, surveying gear, model trains, a mail car…well worth a visit. It is beautifully maintained and well-presented with lots of docents around and neat exhibits.

Our motel had a pool, which was great because it was 109 both days! I forgot to pack my suit, but the guys all got in the pool Monday night. Afterwards, we hung their trunks on the balcony rail to dry overnight, but when we awoke in the morning, they had disappeared! The motel housekeepers claimed not to have seen them, nor the front desk, and we looked on the balconies below and in the bushes. Not a suit to be found – and we had planned on enjoying the pool until our noon train ride!

But – the silver lining: there was a Macy’s 1 block away on the *third* side of the motel. Finny and I headed over there at 10am Tuesday, found 2 clearance sale suits for him and Henry ($4.50 each! what a bargain!), and I picked up a clearance swimsuit for myself because I was HOT. We spent the rest of the morning in the pool, then dried off and headed for the train station.

Our original train was having engine trouble, so they moved us to a back-up train further down the platform. Then that one had no fuel, so we had to wait for the fuel truck, and while we were waiting, the first train’s engine got repaired, so we shuffled back to that one and finally took off around 2 hours late. The boys were fine with their iPad & movies, and the snack car. Henry was wiped out from all the fun, and finally crashed out on the train ride home for about an hour – a sign of a great adventure!

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Videos

¡Piojos!

This past Memorial Day weekend, we discovered that the dudes’ heads were once again infested with lice. We had treated them several weeks ago, and done mountains of laundry, and tried to be as vigilant as possible to prevent their return, but those little buggers are tenacious! Sadly, we had to cancel our big Memorial Day BBQ because we didn’t want to spread it around to any of the families who’d be coming over.

Finny helpfully told us that the Spanish word for lice is “piojos” (pronounced pee-oh’-hoes), which sounds a little more lighthearted than “lice.” So, we spent Sunday evening and Monday combing out piojos, washing them out of all the bedding (again), and quarantining stuffed animals. On Tuesday I decided to call in the professionals – of which there are suprisingly many! – to come in and do a far more thorough job of nitpicking than I could do. They checked all of us for piojos, and luckily John, the nanny and I were clean. The boys, however, still had a ton of nits in their hair, which the “lice ladies” calmly and gently picked their way through (while Yvonne and I did yet more laundry).

They came back yesterday for another double-check and comb through, and happily the guys were piojos-free. Of course, in the meantime, I purchased lice-repellant shampoo and conditioner and better nit combs because I’m sure we’ll be dealing with this for the next few years as the guys go through school.

Update: Here’s Finn’s homegrown solution for depriving one of lice (and limb!):

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Camping Photos

S’more Camping Photos

Here’s a little gallery of photos from last weekend’s camping trip with our Pasitos amigos, including banana slugs, hiking, tent hijinks, and s’mores around the campfire.

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Photos

Headbangers Bawl

Yesterday morning certainly started off with a bang…and by that I mean Finny slamming his head into the edge of the car door as we were leaving for school. I had opened the car doors so all the boys had to do was come down the back steps, walk into the car, and buckle themselves in. Finny came bounding down the stairs, and ran for the car – not realizing the open door was pointed right at him. He ran straight into the edge of the door and then crumpled to the ground shrieking and gushing blood.

I was standing on the other side of the car when it happened, ran over to him, and picked him up. He was holding his forehead and his face was covered in blood. I shouted at John to grab some towels, and mopped Finny off enough to see the big, deep cut on his forehead. We jumped into action – all piling in the car with me pressing a giant wad of paper towels onto Finny’s head. John got behind the wheel and drove us to the urgent care clinic just down the street (thank God!), while I tried to calm my panicked, crying, hyperventilating child (while his poor little brother looked on…). He dropped us off and we made our way into the clinic. John then proceeded to take Henry to school so he wouldn’t have to witness all the chaos.

The crying and moaning and shrieking continued as I tried to fill out the required paperwork at the clinic. Thank God for the mom who was waiting there with her sick 6 year-old son. She came over and continued to press the towels to Finny’s head while I filled out the seemingly endless paperwork on the clipboard. She took the clipboard back, and we were soon ushered into the exam room. I managed to keep Finny calm by just talking and talking and talking to him about whatever I could think of. As long as I was talking, he was ok. I explained everything the nurse and doctors were doing while he got his vitals taken and they examined the cut. Luckily, it was just shallow enough to avoid stitches (Finny worriedly asking “Will they put my head under a sewing machine?!”).

John reappeared with the Leomarans just as the doctor was about to patch Finny up. Finny squeezed them (and Dad-o’s hand) tight while the doctor cleaned up the wound, squeezed the edges together, and put Dermabond (superglue for skin!) on it. Within a couple minutes, the glue was dry, he had a fresh bandaid on his head, and we were ready to go. The little boy and his mom who helped us out in the waiting room peeked in to see how Finny was doing, and I gave the mom a GIANT hug, thanking her for her help.

We went home and I kept an eye on my boy just to make sure he didn’t show any signs of a concussion. We watched a movie and went to the grocery store and car wash, and I kept wondering why we were getting all these strange, empathetic looks from people around us. I mean, Finny just had a bandaid on, it’s not like his entire head was wrapped in gauze! It was only as we were standing in line at the grocery checkout that I realized we both still had our bloody clothes on! No wonder we were getting weird looks!

After a long afternoon nap, Finny seemed to be feeling much better, despite the big knot on his head. I think the only thing that’s really damaged is his vanity…he was very emphatic that he did not want to go back to school because he didn’t want Magdalena to see him with the bandaid on his head! And he didn’t want to go out for sushi and have the sushi ladies asking about what happened, either. I told him he could disguise it with a hat, and he’d be fine. We did go out for sushi, and he’ll be seeing Magdalena and his other amigos at school tomorrow.

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Camping Photos

Acampar Con Mi Mejor Amiga

This weekend marked our first camping trip of the season – and unlike last last summer’s all-dude foray, all four of us went. We even got ourselves our own tent and sleeping bags (last year we borrowed everything). This trip was with a bunch of families from our preschool, Pasitos, so the guys were surrounded by their school amigos, and we got to know some of the parents a little better.

The boys had been anticipating the camping trip for weeks & were ready to hit the road as soon as they woke up Saturday morning. They couldn’t wait to sleep in the tent, have a campfire, and make s’mores. And our Finny couldn’t wait to hang out with his best friend Magdalena. He reported that Magdalena’s family had a huge tent so there would be plenty of room for him to sleep in there with them, and that he and Magdalena had already worked out the details.

When we arrived on Saturday morning, we were just in time to join the gang on an easy hike in the woods. We were surrounded by huge, beautiful redwoods, steep ravines, and a clear blue sky. We encountered five banana slugs, saw (and ate) teeny tiny wild strawberries, and saw some neat hollowed out redwood stumps that looked like little houses. Finny and Magdalena held hands for almost the entire mile-long hike – Magdalena tugging Finny along when she wanted to get up to the head of the pack. Finny even dubbed Magdalena’s dad, David, the “hike chief” since he was the one leading the way.

The boys spent rest of the afternoon running around the campground and playing with their buddies, and helping us get our tent and sleeping bags set up – right next to Magdalena’s, of course. They also participated in a little scavenger hunt with Dad-o (find a spiky plant, touch some rotting wood, listen for a bird). In the evening, there was a cookout, a campfire, and s’mores.

We cleared the Finny/Magdalena sleepover with Magdalena’s parents, and all the kids got in their PJs. David read the kids a story in their tent, then they all came to our tent where John entertained them with some campground T.A.L.B. And to top it off, Finny offered to let Magdalena sleep with Leo! Now that is a true act of friendship. She did indeed sleep with the #1 buddy, while Finny slept with Big Lion, Cuddly Buddy, and the Leomarans. Hen slept in our tent. After some best friend chittychat, everyone fell asleep.

This morning, Finn and Magdalena woke up and totally entertained each other for quite awhile before the rest of us were ready to wake up. The two of them were pretty inseparable the entire time – it was totally adorable. Finny was actually really broken up about leaving the campsite today and missing his best friend (even though he will see her at school tomorrow!) – already asking when we can have her over for a playdate or go camping with her family again. This is the first really good buddy Finny has ever had – and he is already talking about how much he’ll miss her when kindergarten starts next fall (she is going to a different school). It was really fun to see the guys enjoy camping so much, and to see Finny hang out with his best buddy.

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Miscellaneous

Was Lost, But Now Am Found (The Leo Story)

Given that Finny is over 5 years old, it’s sort of surprising that until last night, he’d never spent the night without his constant companion, Leo. As you know, we’ve spent those 5 years working diligently to ensure that Leo never got lost, which, in fact, worked a little too well and now Finny has 3 Leos in action: the Original Leo, and the two Leomarans, each of which magically appeared at some point.

Even so, there have still been many many cumulative hours logged looking for the various “lost” buddies – at home, in the car, in the basement, at preschool, etc. To prevent buds from being left behind, we’ve developed a standing rule for ourselves when buddies come with us on outings, which goes a little somethin’ like this: “Buds in the car, buds in the car. Lookin’ like a FOOL with your buds in the car!”

Well, yesterday, the boys flaunted the “buds in the car” law, and Leo was mistakenly left behind at our nanny’s four year-old granddaughter’s house. We did not discover his absence until it was almost bedtime, so after Finny had a brief meltdown (but I can’t sleep without him! I’ve never gone to sleep without sucking on his tail!!!), Yvonne called Jessie’s mom, who committed to bringing Leo back this morning before we left for school. I told Finny that Jessie would take good care of him, and Leo would get to enjoy his first sleepover, which is pretty exciting when you think about it!

I think Finny was so tired from a big exciting day with Yvonne that he fell asleep as soon as I turned out the light, snuggled amongst his other buddies. I didn’t hear a peep about Leo at all! And, as promised, Leo was delivered, well-rested and happy, to his ecstatic and grateful human companion, this morning at 8 a.m.

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Miscellaneous

Just Keep Swimming

When we were in cold and snowy Leadville for Finny’s birthday, the four of us spent a lovely afternoon at the (very warm!) indoor pool just down the street from my folks’ place. We took our pool noodles with us and splashed around for quite some time. Finny was really going for it! With a couple noodles wrapped under his chest, and a supportive Mom-o or Dad-o hand underneath, that kid did lap after lap up and down the pool. We decided that it’d be perfect timing to sign him and Henry up for swim lessons, so that they could get really comfortable with the water and start learning how to swim in time for summer.

Thanks to our friends the Wiggins, we found a good deal on individual swim lessons at the San Jose State campus aquatic center. We go every Saturday morning, and each guy has a half-our, one-on-one lesson with an instructor. Finny’s instructor is Jess (who has a small, terrific dinosaur skeleton tattoo on her arm), and Henry’s is Kiyomi. Finny is having a ball and has already made really good progress. He’s practicing “torpedo arms” and kicking, putting his face in the water, holding his breath, and floating. Henry is a little more hesitant, and a little less cooperative – he likes to hang out in a little closed-off area called “the cave” on the side of the pool, but Kiyomi does a great job cajoling him further out into the big pool for practice. He floats and half-heartedly kicks, but mostly he lets Kiyomi haul him and his noodle around the pool.

The real game-changer for both guys has been goggles! Finn spent a lot of time wiping water out of his face during the first lesson, and Henry’s not a big fan of anything in his eyes, either. John ran out and got a 3-pack of goggles before their second lesson and both guys were much happier with them on. We’ll keep doing the lessons until the guys are feeling comfortable splashing around and nailing some of the swimming basics, and we plan on visiting our neighborhood pool a lot this summer!

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Miscellaneous

Mas Espanol!

We are really happy to announce that Finnegan is enrolled in the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion program at our neighborhood elementary school, Willow Glen Elementary. He already knows and understands a ton of Spanish thanks to his 2 years at Pasitos bilingual preschool, and is very excited about continuing to learn and speak Spanish in kindergarten. He can stay in the bilingual program through 5th grade at Willow Glen, and there are middle- and high school options for continuing in the bilingual program until graduation.

The bilingual programs are very popular where we live, and you have to be chosen by a lottery system to get a slot. The ratio of children in the programs is always 50% native English speakers to 50% native Spanish speakers – so even though there may be 60 slots available, only 30 of them will go to your native language group. And the competition for slots is fierce, making us all the more excited that Finny actually got selected. His preschool teachers (maestras) were also thrilled to hear that he got in, and they know he will do extremely well in the program. He’s a pretty verbal kid (suprise, surprise) in both languages!

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Miscellaneous Videos

Now Delighting Preschool Audiences

May we introduce our very own Dancing Robot!

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Birthdays Milestones Photos

Fantastic Five!

On Saturday my Finny turned five. I can hardly believe it’s been five years since this dimpled, smiling, blond little person made us a family. Before we tucked in for the night on Friday, all four of us shouted “Adios, four!”, and when we awoke on the big day, we all said “Hello, five!” before wishing our guy a happy birthday.

Then it was off to breakfast in the hotel for a much-anticipated birthday waffle (seriously, he’d been talking about it for weeks!), followed by a very slow, traffic-jammy drive up the mountains for an afternoon of snowball fights and snow tubing. The combination of all that partying and the high altitude wore us all out, so we saved cake and presents for Sunday.

Here are some photos from our adventure so far. Happy birthday, Finny! We love you to bits!

[Note the triumphal unveiling of the giant Lego Unimog. 🙂 Finny went tearing around the room yelling “Iloveit Iloveit Ilove it” before doing “donkey kicks” of joy on the stairs. Now, if we can just finish building the thing before he’s eligible to vote, the success will be complete! –J.]

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Miscellaneous

Girls and Boys

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to leave for work, the boys and I were chatting by the back door. A propos of nothing, Finny asked, “Mom-o, how do you tell girl and boy babies apart?”

I knew he already knew the (anatomical) answer, so, Jeopardy-style, I phrased my answer in the form of a question: “Well, Finny, girls and boys look different, don’t they? How would you tell them apart?”

F: “Boys have hair like this (pointing to his hair), and girls have curly hair like you!”

M: “Well, sometimes that’s true, but that’s not the only way to tell. What else is different?”

F: “Boys wear velcro shoes (pointing to his sneakers), and girls don’t (pointing to my flats).”

M: “True. What about their bodies? Do their bodies look different?”

Henry: “Girls wear lipstick!”

Dad-o: {now chuckling audibly offstage, in the TV room}

M: “Well…yes…but there’s one definite way to tell when you look at a naked girl baby or a naked boy baby, right? How do you go to the bathroom?”

F: “Oh! Yeah! Girls don’t have one of these! (pointing to his underpants…)

aaaaand, SCENE.

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Photos

Gone Baby Gone!

Without any forewarning and without any fanfare whatsoever, Finny lost two of his lower incisors today while biting into a Rice Krispie Treat at a birthday party! Check it out below!

[I had no warning from Finny (no mentions of teeth wiggling, pain, etc.), so I was quite shocked at the party. In retrospect, I’d noticed earlier in the day that one of his teeth seemed to be turned, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. (I mean, how much does one stare into other people’s mouths, anyway?) The teeth were utterly gone, leading me to think that Finn had simply eaten them, but later he reported, “I though they were hard Krispies, so I threw them into the grass!” Yeesh.

Now we have to figure out the going rate for teeth these days. (Half dollars like my parents got me are hard to come by at 9pm on a Sunday night.) We just don’t want to overpay lest the boys get any terrible ideas!

Oh, and Finn’s kinda fascinated by his new relationship with Leo, the lion blankie who’s always clenched his mouth. “You know what’s weird, Mom-O? Now that my teeth are gone, I can just pull Leo out of my mouth without opening it! He comes right through the hole!” –J.]

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Miscellaneous

Brotherly Negotiations

The guys continue to negotiate the finer points of sharing their toys with each other. Most of the time, sharing is still a pretty contentious topic with lots of grabbing, pointing fingers, pint-sized threats, and pouting.

However, there are a few golden moments when they are being super nice and polite to each other, saying please and thank you, happily exchanging toys. In those moments, I think what we’re trying to teach them is actually sinking in.

I also like to imagine Finn and Henry singing a little song like this: {sung to the tune of “Happy Together” by the Turtles}

Imagine me and you, I do
We share our toys day and night, and night and day
We play with matchbox cars, and Thomas too
We’re sharing together

Cars and blocks, and trucks and tools
We share together so nicely
The only pal for me is you, and you for me
We’re sharing together

I can’t see me sharing with no-one but you
yeah all our toys
When we’re playing, brother i’ll be so nice to you
yeah all our toys

Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba
Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba

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Miscellaneous

Of Prides and Parliaments

The boys rooms are slowly turning into wildlife refuge areas (of the faux-fur, stuffed variety, that is). As you know, our man Finny is a big lion fan. He has amassed several leonine amigos, in addition to his standbys Leo and Leomaran. Friends and family have cottoned on to his love of all things lion. His growing pride now consists of those two, plus Cuttely Buttey, Whiskery Fellow, Rar Rar, Tiny Lion, and Lion Pillow.

Henry is doing his part to build an avian sanctuary. His love for owls started with his little blankie buddies Ollie and Catamaran, and has now expanded to include Blanca, Watchful Owl, Hoo Hoo, Big Owl, Roy, an owl-to-be-named later given to him by his grandma, and Owl Pillow. Having heard that his brother’s group of lions is called a “pride,” he asked what a group of owls is called. So, we looked it up and found out that groups of owls are referred to as “parliaments.” I think this must make Henry the Minister of Strigidae.

[While Googling just now for an appropriate illustration, I came across the story of a lady with an 18,000-item collection of owl paraphernalia. Yeesh—I think G-Man may be on his way to becoming a Crazy Owl Lady! –J.]

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Big G Christmas Photos

Chicago Adventures

We spent the first couple of days of our holiday travels in Chicago – to do a little sightseeing, and visit with family before heading west towards “Big G” (Galena, IL) to visit John’s folks. We managed to pack in quite a bit in under 48 hours!

We started with an L train ride from Lincoln Park out to Skokie (past Wrigley field, among other things) – a big hit with our train-loving dudes. In Skokie, we got to hang out and visit with several of John’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids (gotta love the Irish, cocktails and beer available at 11:30 a.m.!). Poor Henry was feverish with a cold, and conked out in one of aunt Jane’s bedrooms, but managed to rally enough to be strolled around downtown Chicago. We got to see the famous “bean,” and the beautiful lions at the Art Institute, both of which they’d read about in the I Love Chicago board book Grandma Nack sent us before the trip. We even caught a glimpse of the Zamboni on the ice before the skaters hit the rink!

And last but not least, after triangulating and re-triangulating our location and the time of day with the CTA Holiday Lights Train schedule, and then waiting and waiting at the station for the famous Holiday L train that was running about 30 minutes late, we saw, boarded, and rode the Holiday Lights Train! The guys were beside themselves – and the train was fantastic – decorated and lit inside and out, with Christmas music on the P.A., an elfish conductor handing out candy canes, and Santa himself in his sleigh, riding on a decorated flatbed car. It was worth the wait and all the effort John put in to figure out where we needed to be and when in order to catch it.

Before we headed west, we went to Lincoln Park Zoo and saw lions, red pandas, owls, sea lions, wolves, bears, and pumas. The lioness roared and roared for quite some time, which was a big thrill for Mr. Finny, our resident lion enthusiast. It was a totally great way to start our trip – and here’s the requisite gallery illustrating our adventures.