Halloween weekend

The weather was lovely on Friday night, so we kicked off the weekend with a family bike ride to check out the neighborhood Halloween decorations.  The forecast for Saturday night looked less than ideal for trick-or-treating, so I wanted to make the most of it, and we did.  All was well, despite the fact that I didn’t realized my rear bike lights weren’t on until four blocks into the ride — oops!

Saturday dawned drizzly and gray, as promised.  We made the most of it by baking bread (Matthew) and making chickpea dumpling soup (me).  My food lab instructor mentioned chickpea flour dumplings last week in class (I was probably the only one in the room who had every actually consumed them), and I realized I’d completely forgotten about that recipe, which is quite tasty.  Fun to bring it back!

After some post-lunch quiet time, Matthew and Gabriel got into full tiger costume.


I’ve got the two cutest tigers in town, and that’s no lion!

After a quick visit to Nana and Papa’s, we returned home for dinner (something nice and healthy before all that candy!).  Despite my fears, the weather mostly cooperated for trick-or-treating.  It was damp when we headed out, but no active precipitation.  We walked a few blocks to a street that is very active in trick-or-treating.  There were some great decorations, including this kid dressed up as a creepy jester who looked like a statue until he jumped at you.  The house with what had been G’s favorite decorations added an animated werewolf for Halloween night, and it was too creepy for my little tiger.  About halfway through, it started spitting, and there was a very light drizzle just as we finished.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared Ellyn Satter’s recommendation for handling Halloween candy, basically putting the child in charge (at least to some degree) to help him/her learn self-regulation.  I really like a lot of Satter’s work (mentioned in my “Avoiding Pitfalls in Raising a Healthy Eater” post), so, despite some qualms about these particular recommendations, I decided to give it a try that first night.

I told G he could pick out what he wanted, and also that if he was hungry for something else (we don’t usually do a snack before bed, because bedtime is so close to dinner, but we were up late and he had done a lot of walking), he could have a piece of the [fresh-baked] bread.  In the end, G picked 4-5 pieces of candy and then asked for a piece of bread.

I’ll admit that after each piece of candy, I was wondering, “Will this piece be the last one?” and I wouldn’t have minded if he’d chosen even less candy (yes, I might have some control issues), but as a “sometimes” thing, this was not at all unreasonable.

We’re now doing a bit more direction with the candy, and I’m not going for the “as much as he wants at snack time” thing.  Mostly I feel like there’s SO MUCH candy for a 4-year-old, and I’m wishing we’d visited fewer houses, as neither Matthew nor I are particularly interested in helping consume the candy stash (we’d prefer our sugar and fat calories from our homemade treats!).  Looking ahead to next year, I think it might be more fun (and lead to less candy) if we host a Halloween party, which would include some trick-or-treating for the kids, but would also include games and Halloween-themed food items.

Saturday’s rain delayed gardening until Sunday (yes, the garden is still alive and kicking!), and my tigers worked in the garden while I stayed home and did homework.  They returned as I was finishing dinner preparations, and G happily munched on some extra kohlrabi before showing me the big ol’ kohlrabi that Matthew had just harvested.

G with kohl rabi
“Make it quick, Mom. This is heavy!”

And that’s a wrap on our weekend!  I have a number of other posts in the works, including one on my no-longer-so-new bike commute, but I also have lots of school-related writing due in the next few weeks, so no promises!


The best birthday in the whole world

We spent a good chunk of the weekend celebrating Gabriel’s fourth birthday with family and friends.  Four is indeed a fun age, as evidenced by his excitement and enthusiasm for [almost] everything.


The first present he opened was a pirate ship.  This was an unplanned gift — less than two weeks before his birthday, I was searching Craigslist for a pirate costume (he specifically wants a Captain Hook costume).  I didn’t find any costumes (not really the right time of year), but I did find someone selling this fabulous wooden pirate ship.


It’s in really good condition, and it was quite a steal.  G is a big fan!


But he was equally elated about the little things, proclaiming, “I LOVE banana chips” as he opened this [bandana-wrapped] present.

After gifts and breakfast, Matthew and Gabriel headed out to the garden for the day, leaving me time to prepare for Sunday’s party.  (I was pleasantly surprised at how easily G separated from his new gifts.)

We met up that night for dinner at Papa and Nana’s house.


We enjoyed a delicious birthday meal of spanikopita, Caprese salad, and fruit salad.  Then is was time for the main event . . .

Seeing the birthday cake for the first time

. . . a homemade (by my FIL) black forest cake!


The above picture was a little fuzzy, but I loved his pose.


Spontaneous joy at turning four!  After eating his piece of cake, G declared it, “the best birthday cake I have ever had in the whole world!”

After dinner, we headed over to the fireworks show at Sublette Park.  The display is usually closer to the 4th of July, but they also always choose a Saturday night, and I’m guessing they didn’t want to compete with the fireworks on the actual 4th.  It worked out well for us though — fireworks on your birthday, what could be better?


Well, a lot of things, as it turned out.  The above photo was taken at the very beginning.  A few moments later, I looked down to see G with his hands over his eyes.  He was wearing earplugs, but it was still quite loud, and we had front row seats, and I think it was just too much sensory input.  (This was also WAY past his bedtime — the first time we’ve ever kept him up for something.)

I tried to help by covering his ears, but he just didn’t look like he was having a good time.  I finally asked him if he wanted to stay or leave, and he said leave.  We were parked a couple of blocks away (parking was a mess, and we regretted not biking, but we didn’t have time to go home for the bikes after dinner), and as I carried him to the car, he was able to look back and see some of the show.  He seemed much happier in that position.

Once we were a block-and-a-half away, I paused to look back with him, and a woman sitting out on her front steps invited us to sit with her.  My arms needed a break, and Gabriel was game, so we sat.  She then offered Gabriel a popsicle.  I temporarily shushed the “corn syrup and food dye” monologue in my head, and said yes.  It was his birthday after all, and I wanted to end the note on a good night.  (When people asked him on Sunday what he thought about the fireworks, he simply responded, “Good.”  I think we’ll skip a few years before trying that again.)

Sunday was “friend party” day.  We rented a pavilion at a local park.  Gabriel and I made a piñata, and I brought musical instruments so the kids could have a parade.  Otherwise, we kept things fairly simple (though I wouldn’t mind simplifying further for future years!).


My MIL made angel food cake (“the best angel food cake in the world”), which was G’s special request.  After cake, came the piñata.


He did have a breakdown when it came time to let his friends have a swing at the piñata, proving that turning four is not a magic pill for such issues, but he recovered fairly quickly.


As the party ended, he declared it “the best birthday party in the whole world!”

G at Three

My days of being able to write a post titled “G at Three” are numbered!  I first started drafting this post almost a year ago, with a collection of cute words and phrases from my little guy:

  • “I not mind about it” (wishing this attitude hung around for a little longer, though it may be making a bit of a resurgence)
  • “Maybe yes, maybe no”
  • “Mommy Teapot, wake uuuuuuupppp” (his morning greeting, which he still uses; ideally we do not hear it until after 6am!)
  • Bo-nanas (for “banana;” also pronouncing the name of one of his teachers as Mo-donna, instead of Madonna)

There is no doubt that Gabriel is no longer a baby, nor a toddler, but a little boy.  A little boy with a mind of his own.  Lately, he likes telling us all about his “plans,” and heaven help us if his plan is not actually what is going to happen!


While there were challenging moments, we made it through the “terrible two’s” without much of the terrible.  The first few months of the three’s were similar, and then the bottom dropped out.  My easy-going little guy turned into a completely irrational creature who would melt-down and be inconsolable over THE most ridiculous things:

  • I used the wrong knife to put the peanut butter in his oatmeal
  • I gave him a spoon when there was already a spoon on the table

I’m sure there are many other examples, but those were two that happened with some frequency.

A friend suggested Susan Stiffelman’s Parenting Without Power Struggles.  It was a useful book — I took a lot from it, and will likely revisit it.  One of the main themes was “coming alongside your child,” rather than fighting them, by acknowledging their emotions, and while it makes sense in theory, finding the patience to empathize with Gabriel feeling really sad that his favorite knife wasn’t clean (for the hundredth time) was challenging.

I often thought, and sometimes said, “That isn’t even a thing.  Who cares what knife I used for the peanut butter?  You cannot be upset about that because it isn’t even a thing.  Be thankful that you have peanut butter!”

The good news is that, after several trying months (Tyrannical Threes?) things do seem to be getting better in the ridiculous breakdown department.  And, looking back, even at its worst, these were only moments within days that were mostly good.

In the last few months, we’ve moved into the “why” stage.  For some reason, I was thinking that happened earlier, and we just got lucky and missed it, but no.  Sometimes it is fun explaining, but it can get old quickly.  This too shall pass!

Other highlights of three:

  • G loved his Montessori preschool (and who wouldn’t, with Grandma as a teacher?)
  • He continued to received speech therapy, and make good progress
  • He loves his “green bike” (the Burley Piccolo tag-a-long), and we’re going for longer rides
  • He does not like riding Lightning (his two-wheeled bike with training wheels), much to my dismay and frustration
  • He’s continued to be quite the little foodie, and he’s a pretty good kitchen helper
  • When he’s in the mood, he’s also a good helper at the garden
  • He tells these amazing stories, often centered on his toy cats (Mama Emily, Little Emily, Meow, Watermelon, Flower Hiding, and Knocking Crane (a stuffed tiger cub, who is the latest addition to the crew))
  • He’s also very into art projects and loves making things for people
  • He loves books, but is not reading yet (I know it’s technically early, but I have friends whose kids were reading by four, and while I enjoy reading to/with him, I’m looking forward to this sometimes being an independent activity).
  • He also likes dressing up; favorites include his tiger and Peter Pan costumes, and, most recently, “Super Cape,” a made-up costume using a beautiful scarf made by Matthew’s great aunt

Gabriel loves parties and celebrations, and I’m looking forward to celebrating with him on the upcoming fourth anniversary of his birth and to seeing what this next year will bring!



Blueberry boy

So, I did it.  I sucked it up and went blueberry picking with my toddler.

The night before, I posted this to Facebook:

Torn about taking G blueberry picking tomorrow. It would be easier w/o him, and I wouldn’t have to worry about nap timing if I leave him behind. Someone tell me it will be okay if I take him?

I was really on the fence.  I liked the idea of sharing the experience with him, but I was fairly sure I would accomplish more without him, and I really don’t like messing with nap time.  Some things are sacrosanct, and nap and bed times fall into that category around here!  And I could always take him next summer, right?

But I was going to have my MIL along to help, so I went for it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t plan well, so Tuesday morning found me madly running around the house, trying to get our lunch packed, self dressed, potty and some toys packed . . . . I really almost called the whole thing off then and there, and the first five minutes in the car, on the way to meet my MIL were no better.  Whiny toddler, still-stressed and frazzled mama — not a pretty picture.  I forced myself to take a few deep breaths and just drive.

Anyway, my game plan was to start early and tire the little Pookle out enough during the morning that he would nap in the car on the way back (car napping = often not his strong suit).

The blueberry patch was already hopping by the time we arrived (and unfortunately, already fairly picked over — there were, technically, plenty of blueberries out there, but at this stage, it took longer to pick a given amount).

As expected, Gabriel went right to work, picking and eating blueberries.  I love that my not-quite 3-year-old totally knows how to identify ripe berries.

[Note: if the video is not working, try a different browser or adjusted settings.]

My goals for the morning were to pick 5-6 gallons of blueberries and keep G from turning into a blueberry, a la Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka.

Turns out the second was more of a success than the first.  After about twenty minutes of Sir eating everything he picked (and asking for contributions from us), I stumbled across “construction site blueberry picking.”

My big bucket was the dump truck, and Sir’s little bucket was the backhoe scoop.  His mission was to fill the backhoe scoop with berries, and dump them into the dump truck.  This game yielded almost an hour of picking and [mostly] not eating!


In the end, given the not-so-great picking conditions, my MIL and I, combined, only picked about 4.5 gallons of berries.  She’s planning a trip to Wisconsin and hopes to find more berries there, so she very generously gave all her pickings to us.  Still short of my goal, but not bad!

My nap plan sort-of worked: within 5 minutes of leaving the blueberry farm, G was snoring in the backseat.  However, I made my plan thinking that the farm was about 90 minutes from home, instead of the 50 minutes it actually is (I was aware of the corrected driving time, and thus reduced nap time, going into it).  I knew he would almost certainly wake up when we exited the interstate, but I wasn’t willing to drive extra just to extend the nap.  A 35-minute nap is NOT ideal, but better than nothing!

Sir goes to school

Sir’s normal caregiver is on vacation for two weeks, so he is a guest student at “Baba’s school,” i.e., the Montessori preschool where my MIL teaches, this week and next.  He will be an official student there starting this fall, so this serves as a trial run for all of us.

I, of course, had a basketful of worries heading into these two not-our-usual-routine weeks: would he nap at school; should I pack his lunch or let him eat the school lunch; would getting him to/from school impact my work time; et cetera; et cetera.

As of Day 1, my worries were mostly unfounded.  I decided it would be easier to pack his lunch the first day, and make a different decision about later days, if desired, than letting him eat the school lunch and then expecting him to go back to eating what I packed.  He ate fairly well (for whatever reason, lunch is often his lightest meal of the day).

Sir is used to napping on a cot, and having nap time with other kids, but not as many kids as are at the preschool.  Despite my worries, this part of the day went fine, too.

G at FPM

As for transportation, we’re trying a variety of modes and transporters this week.

  • Monday: Baba picks up in the morning on her way to school.
  • Tuesday: Matthew takes Sir to school by bike, using the trailer.
  • Wednesday: I take Sir to school on “our” bike (i.e., BUB + IBert).


On all days, at least this first week, my MIL is hanging out with Sir for a couple of hours after nap time, outside of school (her workday usually ends around 1pm, when the kids go down for their naps), and dropping him off at home in time for dinner.

The Tuesday morning trailer trip was a bit interesting, due to a known problem with the rear drop-out on Matthew’s newer bike, where it just doesn’t hold the axle well.  The result is that sometimes, especially under load, the rear wheel shifts out of place.  If not immediately caught and corrected, this is a very dangerous situation (i.e., his rear wheel could come off, causing a crash).

[Bike tech note: The bike has semi-horizontal dropouts, which are useful for fixed gear conversions and allowing adjustable wheel bases, but don’t work well with the newer external cam quick releases.  The older standard internal cam quick releases work better, particularly ones that are either steel, or have steel “teeth”. ]


The issue was made better by swapping to a different axle a couple of months ago, but he’d never ridden this bike with the trailer-specific axle before, and pulling trailer plus Sir definitely equals a heavy load.  It did not go well — over the course of the 4-mile trip, he had to stop five times to adjust the rear axle/wheel.  But they made it there safely.

Sir enjoyed pointing out construction equipment and trucks along the way, and Matthew enjoyed dropping The Dude off at Baba’s school.  The other kids definitely seemed to think Sir arrived in style (he was in a Chariot, after all).

We’ve planned these two weeks for over a month now, and I was really hoping that we would get to trial our new bike for the school run.  We don’t have it yet, but there’s a chance that we WILL have it for next Tuesday or Wednesday!  (The frame and parts shipped late last week, and our LBS told us 4/28 or 4/29 as an estimated completion date.)  I don’t know how the Edgerunner will compare to riding with the IBert, but it should be much easier than pulling a trailer!  We are ready!