Star Wars in my Kitchen, or How Jude Turned Eleven

Well, the last two weeks have been very busy, not least of all because Jude turned 11 last Sunday. To celebrate, we had a Star Wars-themed birthday party for him last Saturday, which was extremely fun--both to plan and to implement. He only had two of his best buddies over, but we went all-out anyway.

Star Wars characters

Of course, in somewhat typical fashion, I didn't start planning it until the Tuesday before--but decided to go BIG anyway. Well, BIG--but with shortcuts. I bought the awesome Star Wars Digital Printable Birthday Pack from SimoneMadeIt on Etsy to help me get started, spent some time trolling the 'net for other people's Star Wars Birthday ideas, and even decided that making Jedi robes for the men-folk of the family wouldn't be too much to tackle, with the help of an online tutorial to save me a bunch of the brain work. (Okay, there was still some involved--four robes in four sizes? I had to come up with my own pattern-drafting formula. Yay! Geometry! But that's okay, still saved me a ton of research. And for those of you who can count, Levi gets to be an Ewok, not a Jedi.)

Star Wars birthday balloons

Star Wars party food 3

Star Wars party food

Star Wars party food 2

Jedi birthday cake

I wasn't the only parent getting in on the fun. Jason planned an extremely elaborate--and difficult--obstacle course for the young Jedi-wannabes. And made them light sabres out of plumbing foam pipe insulators and coloured duct tape. They had to undergo training, then they got their meal, and as the "instructional video" section of the party, we watched the original, first Star Wars movie. (Episode IV. Yes, it's confusing. If you don't know why, I'm not explaining it here.)

Just part of the Jedi training

This was actually the boys' first time watching Star Wars, although they have played the Wii game, read the Encyclopedia, and are fairly familiar with the "world".

Star Wars characters gone crazy!
Putting their crazy faces on!

Okay, okay... I didn't get it all done. Jude's robe was mostly done--enough for him to wear, anyway. Last week, I finished Noah's, and am currently 1/4 of the hem away from finishing Jabin's. Jason's may have to wait for some other projects I have to finish up... but that's okay. There are six movies, after all, and as of this weekend, we are only finished two of them. :-)

My progress was severely slowed by a very nasty cold that I caught from Levi halfway through last week. I am well on the road to recovery, now, and thankfully, Levi was over the worst of it before I succumbed, but I guess I got what I deserved for all those late nights trying to finish robes on time for a party I didn't plan until the last minute!

I keep telling myself that I won't do the same thing for Jabin's party in two weeks...

I hope I'm right!

Where's a Genie When You Need One?

This afternoon, I overheard my kids indulging in some wishful thinking. It was the, "If you could have three wishes, what would they be?" discussion.

Jude wanted ten billion dollars, to be faster than the speed of sound, and to know everything there was to know about everything. (Not omniscience, just to have all of humanity's accumulated knowledge in his head.)

Noah wanted to have the power of invisibility, to have all the video games in the world (except monster and zombie games), and that everyone would do whatever he said. (He initially expressed this as "That everyone would believe me." Questioning produced clarification.)

Jabin wanted a trillion dollars, super strength, and all the video games in the world (except zombie games, "because of Noah.")

Jude asked Levi what he would wish for. His response was "Aaaah, baah, bah, bah..." He sounded pretty happy just the way he was. :-)

I guess, as an adult, I have become kind of boring. I was thinking about what I, in my heart of hearts, wanted most at 3:00 this afternoon when this discussion was taking place. My top three things were:

1. a nap
2. that all my books and taxes would be finished and filed
3. that my husband and kids would be fulfilled, happy, and blessed.

Is this all I want? No. Don't I have bigger dreams than naps and completed paperwork? Of course I do.

But at 3 p.m., those sounded like the best things to me. Just like a good night's sleep sounds pretty good right now.

So, off I go... because I have a feeling that being well-rested may let my mind ponder those bigger dreams again for a while.

Settling In

The last two weeks have had their ups and downs, but fortunately, there have been more ups than downs.

Levi is starting to feel more at home, both with us and with the actual house. This was evidenced by how he kept pushing boundaries as much as possible beginning two weeks ago. While this is completely normal for a child that has just learned to walk--since the horizon is suddenly three feet higher--there is even more of this here, since he hadn't had any previous boundaries established at crawling height to start from. Not only that, he is still early in the process of attaching to us as parents, so he is also pushing against our boundaries.

The worst casualties of this experimentation are our school bulletin boards in the hallway, since there was really no place to relocate those things that they would still be useful to us. Several centuries of history have been obliterated from the timelines, and key figures from the early stages of humanity have been demolished. Has anyone you know winked out of existence, lately? If so, my sincerest apologies. ;-)

This week, despite several interrupted nights that have made for long, tiring days for all members of our family (the paper-thin walls, hollow doors, and ankle-high gaps under them in our trailer don't do much to slow down the transference of sound between parts of our house), Levi seems to be fitting in more and more as a family member instead of a guest. Last weekend, Jason and I were discussing how we still felt like the babysitters... this week, I started to feel more like his mom. He would do cute things to get our attention, he would play and wrestle with the boys more, and he would be more easily comforted by Jason and I. He has become less clingy (a sign of a more secure attachment).

We have also seen Levi's natural happy-go-lucky, laid-back personality start to re-emerge, which has made him much more pleasant to be around. The sudden changes in caregivers, diet, and environment combined with teething meant that the first few weeks were mostly spent carrying around a fussy, insecure baby. The shift has been encouraging.

We have also managed to get his diet figured out a little better. We are back in the groove of creating baby food, keeping regular feeding schedules, and have started to work out just how much lactose this baby boy can handle. (Not much. Too much lactose=unpleasant diaper changing experiences.)
Rubber bands--pshaw!! Rules were meant to be broken, right?

Beets=fun baby photos.

Speaking of diapers, I began my adventures in cloth diapering this week. So far, I haven't made Jason deal with any of the cloth ones (oops, except a wet one he took off as he was prepping Levi for bed one night), as there was about a two-month supply of disposables that came along with him we need to use up (so they stop "using up" space in our house!), so he's been in disposables at night. However, cloth diapering is way easier than I thought it would be, and I still haven't even gotten any of those flush-able paper liners for them--although I am looking forward to having them!

I got started fairly cheaply, buying most of what I needed from a friend who is past the baby stage. She had sewn the diapers herself from a kit she bought on Etsy, but had several purchased covers and other accessories that came with the package--all in all, it would have cost well over $350 to buy all that new, and she gave me a super deal at only $50. The diapers are similar to these. So, I only had to buy a few things like new fasteners (bye-bye, diaper pins! Check out the coolness of modern diaper fasteners!) and some boy-themed and slightly larger diaper covers, as the smaller pink hearts she had for her little girl aren't so stylin' on our little man. :-) I was glad to find a SAHM in Grande Prairie with a "local" online business that I could support to fill in the gaps. (www.ClothDiaperKids.com)

Cloth diapering, even only during the day for the last three days, has already had the desired effect--less garbage going out. We went from throwing away a half-to-one 22-L bag of garbage a week B.L ("Before Levi"), to a full (stinky!) one every 2-3 days after we got him, especially when we were working through the teething and lactose issues, to now going back to pretty much what we were at before. We don't have a dumpster or a burn barrel, so disposing of garbage for us is kind of an inconvenience--we have to take it to the local dump for our area, but there are only two time blocks a week that it is open, and it is about 20 minutes away in a direction we rarely travel. We prefer to save it in a couple of garbage bins until they are full, and make the trip every few months. Thank goodness, we won't be filling those up once every two weeks anymore!

Thankfully, we didn't have to sink any money into buying any disposable diapers before I got going on this. A quick trip down the baby aisle at the grocery store reminded me how outrageously priced they are, all to wrap your baby in chemical-laden plastic and paper that is inconvenient to dispose of and harmful for both the baby and the environment! I wish I would have taken the time and energy to figure out cloth with my older three boys. Oh, well... never too late to start, I guess. :-)

Enough about diapers...

In the last two weeks, Levi's preferred form of transportation has gradually morphed from crawling with a few occasional steps to walking full-time. He's getting faster and more stable, but still trips and goes "kerplunk" on his butt fairly frequently. Good thing those cloth diapers offer extra padding! (Okay, last time with the diapers. I promise.)

While most of the excitement in our home has centred on our most recent addition lately, Jude did get to go to his buddy Ethan's birthday party last Saturday. The activity for the party was that Ethan's dad (an accomplished career carpenter) helped the boys create medieval weapons from plywood.

Jude designed a rather menacing-looking sword. And posed with it.

Jude, April 2013 (Age 10)

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

Jude, July 2006 (Age 3)

Bulking Up

This winter, Jason has been doing some training, as he is planning to enter the Spartan Race in Edmonton this July. There is a kid's version of the race, too, and the boys are stoked that Daddy let them enter it. Thus, they have been diligently doing karate, swimming lessons, walks or Nike Plus (Fitness XBox Kinect program) on non-class days, and with the nice weather lately, they have added "trampolining" to the regimen.

All that hard work has really been paying off.

Honest, we don't let our kids use steroids, or anything! Maybe there was a radioactive spider around the place, somewhere...


Levi: Week Two

The second week with Levi in our family has seen some significant changes, not the least of which was the little man turning one!

Before last weekend, we had not yet had even one whole day home together as a family. However, thanks to a four-day weekend that Jason got over Easter, that was rectified. At the beginning of the weekend, Levi was still ultra-clingy to me, exclusively. However, by Monday, he had decided that this "Dad" guy was okay to be with, too.

He has been more and more settled as the week has gone on. Also, I think the tooth that has been bothering him has gone up a little. That irks me, since I know we'll have to go through all those symptoms of teething (including clinginess) again, but it has given us some temporary relief from the Cry Baby.

The rest of us, too, seem to be finding our new groove with a baby in the house. It has been helpful that for the most part, he has been sleeping through the night for the last week. He goes to bed at about 8-8:30, and has begun sleeping until 6:30-7:15. That's exactly what we were hoping for.

Sleep training during the day is not going so well. He still wants to be held or rocked to sleep, and as soon as he is put down, wakes up and fights it. As many of you know, I don't have time to hold a baby (nor the strength to hold a 26-lb. bundle!) for an hour and a half so he can sleep. One day, he had three short naps of 20-30 minutes each. Yesterday, he slept for five minutes, and refused to sleep any more. That cherubic photo at the beginning of this post was taken in his carseat on Wednesday, when he fell asleep in town and had a rare, 1 1/2-hour nap.

So, he is still learning how to self-soothe. However, as long as he is sleeping at night (so the rest of us can sleep, too!), handling a fussy, tired baby during the day becomes a lot easier to do.

All in all, after two weeks, I feel like we are beginning to discover what the "new normal" is. Even though our lives remain full, as I did not have time to do the normal "weeding-out" of activities that would have happened had I been having a baby the traditional way, he has begun to fit right into it like he has been there all along.

In other news, Jude is taking a belt test for karate today, going for his yellow belt. Unfortunately, it is in Grande Prairie, and the weather is not that great. Jason is supposed to let me know what the roads are like when he gets to work--I'm not sure whether I hope he says that they are fine to travel, or I should stay home! At least if we go, Levi should get a nap! ;-)

Happy Friday, friends!

Bring on the Comic Books!

Some people "poo-poo" comic books for their children. I don't--chosen appropriately by the parents, I think they are a wonderful motivational and--dare I say it?--educational tool.

This epiphany came the first time I purchased a comic book for my boys to read. It was Sonic the Hedgehog. My two oldest, who usually did nothing but bicker with each other, sat quietly in a chair and read the whole thing. Together. And again. And did I say "quietly?"

As they got older, they discovered Jason's and my "Calvin and Hobbes" books. We only had a few at the time, but they devoured them--to the point that I need to have one of them rebound. Despite the fact that most of the humour is over the head of an actual six-year-old, I loved that they loved them. I mean, C'mon! Calvin sometimes uses words that I have to look up! Eventually, we got the entire collection (which we doled out on special occasions and birthdays for at least a year).

The obsession with Garfield is one that Jason and I have been less fond of--we haven't purchased any, but they borrow them from the library. Jason and I both find Garfield to be kind of a negative jerk. Oh, well. None of the characters wear spandex, or have unrealistically-proportioned body parts, or is shown mostly naked, or--oh, wait. Yes they do. But in a funny way, not the give-you-nightmares-or-make-you-horny way. Could be worse.

Sonic comics have continued to be motivational to my children. After reading 10 books aloud to me (or 5 chapter books with book reports as they get older), they get a Sonic comic. It's a reward that is easy on the pocket book, and we thus reward reading with... Surprise! More reading!! What surprises me is that they haven't just figured out that they can buy the comics themselves with their "spend" money... but I'm glad!

The latest comic obsession has had a result that I didn't expect. My kids are devouring the "Bone" books by Jeff Smith as quickly as we can buy them or borrow them from the library. So far, we own the first four.

Apparently, one of the characters likes quiche. So there's vocabulary and culinary expansion right there--after I corrected their pronunciation, and explained what it is, they said, "That sounds good!" I said, "It is! I've made it, but it's been a while. I'll make it again soon." "Okay!" Yay! for getting them to want to try new things! :-)

Apparently also, one of the characters is obsessed with the book "Moby Dick." So, after a search through our Penguin Classics came up null, and then finding it among the books on our Aurora eReader, guess what Jude started reading last night?

He's already on chapter six, or something.

"The way they write the English takes a little getting used to," was his comment to me this afternoon.

After all my years trying to get my children interested in reading the classics--and trust me, I own and have available nearly every age-appropriate classic I can find, and have tried repeatedly to get them interested in them via reading aloud to them--who knew that a comic book would be the trigger that got them started on it?

So, yep, I like comic books. No one can tell me they aren't educational!!

The Wonder of Wire

Last week for History we were studying ancient Greek art and architecture. As a project to go along with it, I had the boys make a wire-frame sculpture. They did a pretty awesome job, I have to say.

Jabin's ("He looks like Junior Asparagus," I commented.):

DSC06674 adj.psd

Jude's (He ended up having to add a support and a wire for the sword. It kept "wilting."):


Noah's (like an egghead ninja!):



Extra Something-or-other

As Jabin was working on the good copy for his English writing assignment a few minutes ago, he remarked, "I need a new paper."

Jude, who was finished his morning work and was goofing off in the living room, exclaimed, "You need a new finger?!"

"NO! Paper!" Jabin corrected him. After a moment, he added, "If I had another finger, I'd be an alien!"

Hee hee.

November, already?

The last week or so has been a bit of a blur. I decided on the Friday before last that I would enter a craft fair on December the 9th, and figured it was a perfect opportunity to knit up a few dozen things and move some older yarn out of my stash. Ergo, I have been knitting. And designing. And knitting. A lot.

Which is perfectly fine, because for the duration of that time, it was snowing. A lot. The sun finally came out a few days ago, sparkling off a new-fallen foot of snow. And me with the summer tires, still.

During that time, I managed to finish the first sweater I've ever made for my darling husband. He has a strong dislike for the effects of wool on his skin, so it took me this long to convince him that there was wool that was less itchy, and that it didn't have to touch his skin. Since it has been finished, he has worn it a gratifying amount of times. I'm not sure if he really likes it, or is just trying to make me feel better. Either way, it looks great on him.

Also during that time--on Saturday, to be precise--Jude managed, through no fault of his own, to turn 10 years old. I managed not to cry about it--but I did succumb to nostalgia and picture the little bundle of joy we brought home from the hospital that catapulted Jason and I from the world of normal adults into that wonderful and scary job category of "parents."

Jude is now not even a little boy--I am starting to see the man he will become, both in his features, and his person. He has helped me grow up--and it is a joy watching him grow up.

I love you, little man! And though the prospect of what the next ten years may hold has me a little nervous, I look forward to entering this next stage of the adventure with you!

Pillow Fight

When Jude was born, one of his baby gifts was a child-size body pillow covered in flannel decorated with ducklings and cutesy ladybugs. It soon became one of his favourite possessions.

This pillow has gotten a lot of use over the years.

As moral support when learning to put on socks:

As a dance mat, before Wii was invented (Daddy's shoes make it even better):

As a surface long enough to accommodate a brotherly moment of bonding:

When Jabin got old enough, he became quite attached to the pillow, too. (Noah, not liking confrontation, chose to stay mum on the subject.)

The mutual attachment soon became a source of constant friction--both between the two boys, and on Mom's and Dad's nerves. Finally, after years of this, and various "systems" to try and get the boys to share it peacefully that all failed miserably, I had had enough. I went to the fabric store, bought some flannel and quilt batting, and using some muslin I had at home made not one, but two more body pillows, plus pillowcases for all three. (No sense leaving Noah out--when the prospect of having one of his own arose, he was duly thrilled.)

Finally, a truce. And we are ALL happy about it. :-)

Change of Season, Change of Pace

This past week, our Indian Summer made the full transition into Early Winter with freezing temperatures and two days of snow. This weekend, the mercury has hit +10 again, melting away most of the white stuff, but I know it is only a very temporary reprieve before winter begins in earnest.

... a reprieve that we are making full use of to finish our yard clean-up and other last-minute outside chores to prep for winter.

Jude has been driving us crazy for the last few months with comments of, "I can't wait for it to snow!" and "I wish it was winter already!" Given the brevity of our Northern summers, this has irked Jason and I, and we usually retort with, "Six months a year isn't enough for you?"

On Friday, as the kids and I were driving away from home in a snowstorm, Jabin said, "When it's summer, I want it to be colder. When it's winter, I want it to be warmer."

"Do you know what the secret to happiness is, buddy?" I asked him.


"Being content in whatever circumstances you are in." Then I explained what "contentment" is.

"Oh," he said, in that "clear as mud" tone of voice.

I guess that's a lesson we all have to learn in our own way. Sometimes, we re-learn it over, and over, and over.

Yesterday, I was surprised by a restless feeling.

"If we were in Red Deer," I commented to Jason, "this is the kind of day where I'd say 'Let's go to the mall and people-watch and have coffee.'" I think I just wanted to get out of the house, see something different, feel the crispness of the air and the bustle of a busier place. However, after seven years in Peace River, I don't get the yen for that much anymore--I'm out of the habit, I guess.

Well, since that wasn't an option, and since we wouldn't pile into the van for a two-hour trip to Grande Prairie just to have coffee at the mall, I did some digital scrapbooking instead. I managed to complete six layouts, working backwards from the present. That, plus the ones I've already completed in the last few weeks (I've been going through a miniature "scrapbooking phase") means that I have done all the photos back to mid-August already. You never know--maybe I'll actually get a whole year done digitally and print a photobook when Shutterfly has their year-end sales. That would be different. :-)

Well, I better go tackle those afore-mentioned outside chores. Here are the layouts I did yesterday: