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Last night during dinner we were watching the Oscar red carpet shows.  What can I say?  I like the pretty dresses!  Justin Timberlake was being interviewed by Tim Gunn and James looked up at the TV and said “Now that is what I call handsome!”  We all cracked up.  Apparently James thinks JT is a handsome dude.  Good to know!

Sweet and Salty

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My husband is so sweet.  After a very nice performance appraisal and word of a raise taking effect on March 31st for me, he went out and bought me flowers last night.  I do think I’ll keep him.  He is very proud of me and wuvs me.  What more could a girl ask for!

My baby Levi is sweet too.  Even if he shows that sweetness with salty tears.  If he sees me drive into the garage when I arrive home from work he is all smiles.  But if I then go out of his sight (to go in to the house from the garage) or walk away from him (to go get the mail) he turns to a wailing mess.  I routinely walk into the house to a sobbing baby.  I quickly scoop him up each night, smother him with kisses and greet Annika, James and Kris with kisses and hugs too.  It’s great to be so loved by my baby but I hate seeing him so sad too!  He then has to cling to me for a while before he is content to go play again.

Annika is also sweet.  (OK, and a little salty – what with her picking on her middle brother last night.)  I’ve changed our bedtime routine at home.  I used to put Levi to bed at 7pm and then wait until 8pm and then put Annika and James to bed at the same time.  I felt I wasn’t getting enough 1 on 1 time with each child so now I put each of them to bed by themself.  I’ve started reading 1-2 books with Levi after I change his diaper and put on his pajamas.  Then we nurse and rock and I put him in his crib.  Then I go get James, help him put his pajamas on, go potty and brush his teeth.  Then he picks out 1-2 books for us to snuggle and read together.  Then I put him to bed and go get Annika.  We repeat the same process as with James and we talk about her day.  Most nights lately instead of reading books we’ve been reading “books” that she has written.  They’re usually 3-4 pages long and are illustrated by her.  My favorite is “The Easter Egg Hunt.”  Last night we talked about a play she had seen at school yesterday and then about plays in general and finally about the Children’s Theatre and potentially going to see a play.  It was a lovely little conversation.  The theatre is putting on Annie in April.  I think it would be fun to take Annika and James to see it!

James is also sweet.  But last night he was particularly salty.  He was playing on the iPod Touch.  I think he actually beat Kris’s high score on Angry Birds.  Anyway, he was playing a game and something didn’t go right so he let out an exasperated “Damn it!”  Kris, trying not to crack up laughing, admonished him about bad words and things we don’t say.  Last night at bed time I told James it was time to go get pajamas on and he let out another “damn it.”  Then when I caught him not brushing his teeth like he was supposed to be doing and ushered him back to the bathroom for a third time he uttered another “damn it.”  That one cost him a book at bedtime.  After teeth brushing he was ushered to his room and bed and tucked in.  We had another talk about bad words and things we don’t say.  I asked Kris last night where he thought James might have heard that particular phrase (after all, he was using it in the correct context!) and we both agreed it was probably TV.  Of course it was TV.  Then I said that I don’t say that and Kris said that he did.  So of course I teased him that James got it from him, not TV!  Neither of us use swear words very often at all and definitely not in front of the kids so it’s always a shock when they pull one out.  My salty little boy!  Hopefully we can get him to stop saying it.  We don’t need a note home from school!

Conferences and Play Dates

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Last week Tuesday we had Annika’s mid year kindergarten conference.  We’re never too worried when it’s conference time.  We (OK, I) continue to worry a little bit about Annika’s social skills (can at times still be really shy) but I can tell that she’s growing out of that.  The meeting with her teacher confirmed that for us.  She’s seeing “significant growth in social relationships.”  And she’s having “growth in sharing – communicating to group” during their daily special news section.  In the first part of the year Annika either wouldn’t share special news or she’d say something really quietly.  Now she speaks in a loud, clear voice.  She’ll still shut down a bit if the teacher puts individual focus on her but overall she’s doing so well!  She also “continues to take time and pride in work.”  Girl might be a slight perfectionist, just like her mom.  She has “very strong fine motor skills.”  And she received a check mark at each of the skills (like listens attentively, cuts neatly, shows self-control, participates in music and game activities, etc.) that she’s supposed to be doing.  And her academic skills are advanced.  I have to say that Kris and I take pride in this even though I continue to say it’s of little doing on our part.  Annika is naturally bright and picks up on concepts easily.  She has all the kindergarten required academic skills required and so they’re starting her on the first grade curriculum.  She’s continuing to work on the 1st grade sight words.  She’s reading at a D/E level when C is required at the end of kindergarten.  She’s moved beyond the Level 1 and 2 easy reader books (which reminds me that I want to purchase her some level 3 books the next time we’re at the store).  Her teacher wrote this on the bottom of the checklist form: “Currently Annika is working on spelling all sight words in print correctly.  As a reader she works on reading for meaning, pulling out important details.”  Also included in our packet from conferences is the list of 100 1st grade sight words so we can continue to work on those with Annika.  We also received her latest packet of artwork and several worksheets focusing on numbers.  One observation her teacher had was that Annika is very good with numbers (I admit to feeling personally proud about that – as if she maybe gets it from me!) and when she had to fill in a chart with the numbers 1-100 in rows of 10 that instead of writing 1, 2, 3, etc. all the way to 100 she started working down the columns.  What I mean by that is instead of working her way across the rows (31, 32, 33, etc.) she went vertical writing 12, 22, 32, 42, etc.  She picked up that she was basically counting by tens down the columns and filled out her worksheet that way.  Her teacher intimated that very few kids do this at this stage.  Overall we’re just so proud of our daughter.  She’s growing and excelling and learning in every way.

Last Thursday we brought dinner of to Krystle and Pierce’s house so Kris and the boys could meet Ayla.  She is such a cute little peanut.  Of course only I held her because I am a baby hog.  I think Kris and James were OK with that.  I asked Annika if she wanted to hold her and she said no.  I was surprised by that but she had just found the doll and was very busy mothering it so I guess I understand.  I haven’t seen Ayla since then.  I might have to stop over there tomorrow night for a quick teeny tiny baby fix!

Last weekend Annika and James went to their friends Elyse and Liam’s house for a play date.  I dropped them off at 11:30pm.  Their mom, Krista, and I didn’t set up a pick up time, deciding instead to play it by ear.  We’re less than 10 minutes away so I told her to call me whenever I should come pick them up.  I then went home and did our taxes (and that ended with a happy surprise!).  I was so engrossed in my activity that it was already almost four hours later when I realized I hadn’t heard from Krista.  I called her only to be told that my kids were being “so good” and playing so well with her kids.  I made arrangements to pick them up at 5:30pm and when I did Krista told me again how well they had behaved and how nicely they had played.  Liam ended up falling asleep right before I dropped them off so James played by himself for most of the afternoon.  I don’t think he minded.  He was free of Annika (bossing him around) and he had tons of new toys to play with.  Annika was in heaven playing with Elyse and didn’t want to go even after being there for four hours.  Krista commented that when James was done playing with Lego’s he picked them all up nicely for her and ten minutes later came running to her with a couple more small pieces he had found.  He told her he tried to put them away but he couldn’t reach the box.  She thought that was so cute.  I reminded her that we’re very vigilant at home about picking up all the tiny Lego pieces since we have a Lego eating baby in the house.  It certainly does change your perspective on cleaning up the toys.  I just love hearing how well behaved my children are for other people.  At least then I know that they save all the awful behavior for at home.  Man, the whining and fighting  and attitude can be unbearable sometimes!  There are many times when I’m carrying a child to their room to calm down and start behaving, only allowing them out when the whining, crying and fighting is over.  Ah, parenting – isn’t it great! :)

Levi has started to transition to making walking his primary mode of transportation instead of crawling.  He can walk a long ways now (almost the length of our house from living room to kitchen) without falling.  He can stop, change directions and go again all without sinking to crawling.  He can crouch, pick something up, stand and continue walking.  He’s a regular walking machine!  However, if he’s walking and stumbles, he’ll continue his journey crawling instead of standing back up.  Sometimes crawling is just faster, you know?  It’s still exciting though every time I see him take these long treks across the house.  I can’t believe how fast he is growing and developing.  My baby!

Sunday was another large snowstorm for our area.  After church we came home and hunkered down for the rest of the day.  And this is a normal week for us with dance and skating lessons tonight.

Ayla Marie

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First, before we get to the rundown of what we’ve been up to, I have to announce the arrival of Ayla Marie!  Krystle had her last Thursday evening at 10:55pm.  Ayla was 6 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 inches long.  She has light brown hair with a hint of strawberry blondness to it.  She has tiny ears and long, slender fingers and toes.  She’s absolutely adorable and has already captured my heart.  I promise to upload some pictures tomorrow night both here and on facebook so everybody can get a peek at the adorableness.  Now, for the rest of her life I have to figure out how to be her favorite aunt.  Heh.  I’m sure spoiling will be involved.  The kids are excited to have their first girl cousin although so far only Annika has met her.  Those other two rugrats are fighting colds (again!) so we’ve kept them away.  As soon as James’ runny nose clears up we’ll have a proper cousin introduction.  This is a big year for cousins.  We started the year with one (the adorable Isak that the kids LOVE) and we’re going to end the year with four!  Auntie Carrie is due in April and Auntie Melanie in August.  What a wonderful year 2011 is going to be!

OK, now let’s talk about all the things my family has been up to.  In January we received Annika’s very first report card.  Instead of A, B, C, etc. or even E, S, N like when I was in elementary school, we now have M (Meets grade level expectations), P (Progressing toward grade level expectations), NP (Not Progressing toward grade level expectations).  Kris and I were very pleased to see that Annika has M’s on every single category graded except for one where Annika received a P.  So far, she is mastering kindergarten like a pro.  The one P came in “Recognizes basic two and three dimensional shapes.”  I guess we need to work more on cubes, cones, cylinders, etc.  Along with the report card we received her language arts testing sheet.  By the end of kindergarten she is supposed to know all her upper case letters, lower case letters, sounds, 25 sight words and numbers 1-31.  She has mastered everything on the list and the school year is only half way over!  Granted, she was close to having all this done at the end of the first quarter too.  Her teacher is pushing her forward and has her working on the first grade list of 100 sight words.  According to the sheet, at the end of the second quarter/first semester, she knows 43 of the 100 sight words.  And she’s learning more and more every day.  She now reads Level 1 and 2 books to us with minimal help.  We’re so proud of our smart girl!  I’ve started introducing the concepts of adding two sets of two digit numbers.  It’s starting to click a little bit.

The boys are also both doing well.  James turned 4 on the 5th.  I can’t believe my little boy is already four!  It’s like I can see him growing up before my eyes.  His arms and legs are little boy arms and legs now.  He’s so tall and slender.  There’s almost no baby fat left on him!  According to his four year stats, he is 37.4 pounds (63%), 39.9 inches (41%) which gives us a 16.52 BMI (76%).  He can write his name and loves preschool.  He’s not letting Annika get away with bossing him around so much anymore.  He has his own ideas and games he wants to play and if he’s tired of playing by Annika’s rules he’ll tell her he’s done playing and go off on his own.  I think it’s been a bit of an adjustment for Annika.  Her little brother doesn’t let her boss him around as much anymore!  Sunday Annika was a ball of energy.  So was James.  So Kris told them to wrestle.  They immediately put up their fists.  Kris stepped in and said “No, no punching.  We’re not boxing.  Let’s wrestle.”  Then he got on the floor with them and wrestled and pinned them to the ground.  Then he let them wrestle with each other.  Mathias was over at the time and he and I sat on the couch and laughed hysterically.  It was so funny!  Annika would get James on the ground and then sit off to the side.  Kris would tell her to lay on top of him and pin him so she would.  Then James would get up and try to swipe at Annika’s leg to take her down.  I know we shouldn’t be teaching them this but it did wear them out which was Kris’s intention.  Fighting is not allowed in our house, of course.  But play fighting and wrestling and rough-housing are I guess.  At least when adult supervision is involved.  Hilarious!

Levi had his 9 month check up at the end of January.  He was 19 pounds, 13 ounces (~40%) and 30 inches tall (93%).  He is a tall, skinny baby!  And his head circumference had dropped to the 4th percentile, down from the 12th at his six month check up.  He has a tiny head!  Oh well.  I guess he’ll never be mistaken for a bobble head!  Levi is finally over his cold and illnesses.  His top four teeth have also all broken through.  Coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.   He’s pretty adorable though – and taking steps!  He took his first steps at the Target portrait studio when we were having his 9 month and James’ 4 year pictures taken.  We were lucky too that the photographer captured it for us!  Since then he’s getting brave and taking 2-4 steps at a time before falling and continuing his journey via crawling.  It won’t be long now before he’s walking fully!  Each time he takes a few steps Annika exclaims “He’s walking!”  Last night she declared him a kid now instead of a baby after he took 3 or 4 steps towards her.  According to her babies crawl and kids walk.  Can’t argue with her really.  She adores her brother so.  Even James gets in on the brotherly love.  Two weeks ago after Levi did something cute James pronounced “Oh, he’s so adorable.”  Of course last night when Levi was trying to get at Annika’s Barbies she didn’t think he was so great.  In fact she told me to “Get him out of here!”  Ah, siblings.  Feel the love.

Last week Annika started ice skating lessons.  I tried to get James enrolled too but our community education class was full for the level 1 class.  I’ll enroll him in the next session that starts in April.  Annika is in the level 2 class.  The level 1 class teaches them how to fall and get back up.  It’s pretty basic but then so is James’ skill level!  Annika is pretty good though.  I think that’s because of all her roller skating experience.  She’s one of the better kids in her level 2 class.  Unfortunately they aren’t offering the level 3 class in the later class time (7:15pm on Wednesdays) during the next session.  She’ll have to wait for the level 3 class until next winter.  Annika loves her skating class though and my valentine yesterday that she made me was basically a thank you note for taking her to skating lessons.  She is too cute sometimes.  As for James, we’ll have to just work with him on our own during the remaining months of winter.

Mathias was home for a visit the last week.  He and his girlfriend Martha and her daughter Ava flew in on Saturday the 5th.  The girls flew home last Wednesday and Mathias flew home yesterday.  The past week has been so great.  I got to see a ton of all my family, especially Mathias.  He even came over Sunday afternoon and spent a few hours with just us.  Martha seems like a great woman and her daughter Ava (just turned 2 in January) is absolutely precious.  Annika is in LOVE with Ava and made her a special valentine at school.  We gave that to Mathias on Sunday to take back home for her.  It was very sweet to see Annika play with Ava.  At one point last weekend the two of them were cuddled up together on a chair at Dad’s house.

And that pretty much brings us up to today.  Tomorrow is dance and skating.  Friday is movie night at church.  Saturday is a potential play date and maybe Chuck E Cheese.  Sunday is a baby shower.  The fun never stops!