Thursday, March 29, 2007

Have Children Will Travel

So the kids and I are in Miami right now visiting my wonderful parents in their beautiful apartment that literally hangs over Brickell Bay in downtown Miami. It is very hip and trendy and amazing. Picture the opening scenes of CSI: Miami (minus any gruesome crime) and you get the picture. Everything here is clean with modern lines and seemingly in High Definition! :) Inside my parents home it is warm and cozy and wonderful, as always. I commented to Mom and Dad that - despite this being my first time seeing their new place here - it feels SO much like home. I think that is because I pretty much grew up in apartments during the formative years, and our place in Tokyo was an apartment, too. It just feels normal to take an elevator to our front door. ;)

I was SO nervous about getting here, though. Take my adult-onset irrational apprehension of flying and combine it with the nerves of flying with a 3 year old and a 1 year old and I was pretty much a short-tempered mess by the time we boarded the plane. I should have been hoping for the best and not expecting the worst - it was such a waste of my energy to do otherwise! :) Kate and Liam were absolute ANGELS. Now I may be jinxing the trip BACK by saying so, but they really were terrific. To be fair, I had my Mom helping me out - she flew back with me since she was visiting us in Minnesota. She came in extra handy when it came to Liam since he weighs a gagillion pounds!

The kids were so good, though. I was super prepared with snacks and little travel surprises tucked in the carry-on. As their attention span waned on one thing, I was able to whip out, and really "sell" the wonders of, the latest and greatest game of "go-fish alphabet edition", or the most comforting and soothing teething ring ever invented in the history of the world! Ear pressure? How about a nice bottle for Liam and a sucker for Kate? I wondered, when packing, if I was overdoing it, but I really believe that flying in a pressurized tube, with my nerves on edge while sharing the tube with 100+ other passengers is NOT the time to teach kids to entertain themselves with air sickness bags, laminated emergency procedure cards, or a tube of Pringles that costs flippin' FIVE BUCKS from the unreasonable irritable and arrogant Northwest Airlines flight attendant. But that's just me.

So cut to this scene...this acutally happened. My little loves were being sweet, perfect kids. Smiling, being quiet and polite. The passengers that initially gave me glaring looks of death as I seated our gang next to them were smiling and nodding and commenting on the adorable-ness of them. Then the kids even fell asleep, practically causing the other passengers to buy ME a five dollar can of Pringles out of admiration and appreciation. But then someone else's Toddler in 17G woke up. Two rows back. Oh boy.

I feel so bad for that mom. She had three kids with her. And her husband was the fourth. He was NO HELP. He was the kind of guy that kept telling his wife to make "her" son be quiet. The poor little boy was beyond hysterical. He had been sleeping, but had been awoken by the aforementioned arrogant, irritable Flight Attendant who I forgot to mention was unable to control the volume of her voice and spoke VERY LOUDLY. So cranky toddler starts crying, then screaming, then thrashing. The child literally sounded like a strangled goose. Passengers were huffing and glaring and I felt so bad for that mom because he was just beyond being consoled. Sometimes kids just get on a roll and there is nothing you can do. She was practically in tears over this. And her hubby was just an ass. The plane was not full and people were getting up and moving. You know, all extra huffy with extra large movements. Like they could not just unbuckle their seat belt and stand up, it had to be with a dramatic click, throwing the belt so it hits the arm and clangs and then standing up with a giant heaving breath etc.

I sat for a while debating on whether I should offer one of my lollipop suckers. Something like that could either stop the crying immediately or only make it worse. Plus I did not want to offend the parents and imply that they could not handle it. But no one could. This kid was on another planet. It happens. I mean, it could easily be - and has been to some degree in the past - me and my kids!!!!!

So after 30 minutes or so, I stood up like I was going to walk to the back of the plane. The other passengers who had noted my well behaved children looked at me with wild frustration as if trying to get me to agree that this kid was the Devil himself riding in 17G. I had tucked a sucker discreetly in my hand and when I noticed that the Dad of the Toddler Terror caught my eye, I sort of flashed it like a drug deal or something and mouthed the words "would he want a sucker"? Really just sweet and laid back like I was not in the least bothered. All the adult passengers saw this and watched the whole exchange with great hope. The dad -who by the way, TOTALLY had highlights in his hair and was uber-tan and all gelled while poor mom was rockin' the tired ponytail, jeans and a sweatshirt...when does SHE get a spa day, buddy? - anyway, the dad looks at me and practically yells at me "NO! NO SUCKER FOR HIM. HE HAS TO LEARN"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Passengers literally threw up their hands. Did the kid have to learn NOW?!

So, despite my angel babies, we all listened to the kid in 17G "learn" for NINETY MINUTES until he cried himself to sleep. I should have just passed my bag of suckers around the whole plane.

More Miami tales to come! Nick arrives tonight and we are looking forward to pool time with the kids, the Miami Sea-quarium and many more sunny adventures.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fairies and Firetrucks

Kate is very much into fairies, princesses, and fairy princesses. Most moments you can find her involved in imaginative play as one of those. As often as you see Kate playing fairy princess, you find Liam pushing around his toy firetruck, or a car or truck of any kind. He just loves pushing them around the floor. It is so cute. I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching their little minds put toys and props and imagination into action. Today Kate told me this:

"Mom, I have a lot of homework, but when I am done, I am going to set up for the fairy party. You have two choices. You can come to it, or you can not come. What do you choose?"

Now I love dissecting this on so many levels.
One. I don't know where she got the homework thing. She obviously does not have homework at preschool. But she kept talking about homework all day as if it was a great "big girl" privilege.
Two. Set up for the party. My little "martha" too cute.
Three. The comment about choices. We are always giving her choices. They are set up to make her feel empowered and in control but really are not much of a choice. For instance, "kate you have two choices. You can clean up your mess like we asked or you can go to time out - which will it be". So the choice thing is having an impact as she gave me choices today.

There really is no point to this - I just find her three year old mind fascinating.

She is also becoming more assertive and tricky! Tonight she was playing fairy - complete with fairy wings and fairy crown. She was doing "fairy dances and twirls" all over the house and even the simple task of picking up a toy just HAD to be done with a great fairy flourish. I told Kate to set the table because it was time for dinner. She informed me in a tone that suggested that I was completely inept, "MOOOOM, Fairies. Don't. Eat. Dinner." (insert eye roll from the 3-year-old". I just casually disagreed "No, I am pretty sure that they do! They need energy through food otherwise they run out of fairy dust! In fact, I know for a fact that Elena (her favorite fairy) absolutely loves to eat buttercups and dewdrop tea". Kate was a bit put off, I could tell. She was frustrated that I was besting her in fairy knowledge.

So she inserted a classic kid-ism. "Nuh-uuuhh", she protested.

I told her, "Kate, I promise you that fairies do, indeed, eat dinner."

Kate, standing her ground in her purple and pink wings, fairie crown askew, arms crossed and hip jutting out a-la the famous fairy Tinkerbell, says to me (and I forgive her grammer considering her age), "WELL THIS FAIRY DON'T"!!!!!

Needless to say "this fairy" ate a full dinner. And liked it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

He Walks! He Talks! He's got Rhythym!

Well, Liam is walking! Though his main mode of transport still is crawling, or walking while holding onto things, he has taken those groups of 5 steps at a time from a short point A to B. It is wonderful! I was bursting with pride and, admittedly, even got a little teary because he is such a big boy now and it is bittersweet! :) He also LOVES to boogie. Just put music on and he bops away. And to the beat. Best of all is his communication, though. He is really making himself understood and has all kinds of fun words and actions that melt our hearts. Here is a list of some of his words and "party tricks".....

"Tee-too" - means Thank You
"Wooow" - quite simply, the word "Wow" (he says it in this really deep voice, it is so funny)
"Kah" - "Kate"
Mama, Dada - duh
"ta-dah" - "Touchdown"....he says this while making the touchdown gesture with both arms in the air
"bee boo" - Peekaboo, complete with gestures
"Ahh Duhhhh" - "all done" after eating
"Ha-woo" - hello
And, of course, the famous:
"NO"!!!!!!!! - no means no, you know.

He is also great at blowing kisses with a big "mmmwwwooh" sound. And lately he imitates everything NIck does. If Nick is "Purelling" his hands, Liam will rub his own hands together. If Nick sneezes Liam will pretend to sneeze. If Nick is on the phone Liam will put his hand up to his ear and babble like he is on the phone. It is priceless. And speaking of the little man, I have to run. He is getting into some things - as usual! So curious!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Only in Minnesota....

Living here is so interesting. Minnesotans are very unique and tough and loyal.

Unique: You don't cook casseroles here. You make "hot dish". Not "A" hot dish. Just hot dish. Also, the letter "A" is not pronounced as in most areas of the USA. If the letter "A" is in a word, you say it just like the letter (as in a long "a") instead of ever using the "short a". For instance, my name is not Maggie. It is MAY-GEE. I do not carry a Bag. I carry a BAYG. Also, the word cute is pronounced - Cue-eh-et. Say it real fast, you will get the idea.

Tough: I saw a quote from Talk Radio Star Garrison Keeler that sums it up pretty well....."Minnesota is a place that seriously tries to kill you and if winter doesn't get you, March makes sure you know what a hangover feels like even if you dont drink." That is so darn true. Just a perfect description. And I am toughening up. I remember when I lived in Hong Kong and it would get down to about 50 or 60 degrees F and we would all be wearing giant puffy coats and hats and gloves. soon as it hits 32 after a long winter, I am running around without a coat at all.

Loyal: I was out and NCAA March Madness Basketball was on the TV. Awesome! I love it! Well....someone switched it. To U of MN Gopher Hockey. And people cheered. Now, I have been to Gopher games and they are awesome. I think it may be some sort of tourney or playoff for the Golden Gophers, even. But wow it just highlights the fact that people here LOOOOOVE them some Minnesota!!!! Sometimes I feel like Nick and I, along with a small circle of friends, are the only people that did not grow up here and go to college somewhere in this state.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Things We Do For Love....

Tonight was possibly one of the greatest nights of Kate's life to-date. Tonight we attended "Disney Princesses on Ice"!!! Kate was in absolute heaven and I honestly cannot think of the last time that I smiled so much - my cheeks hurt! - just from observing her sheer joy. It was so fun. And as you can see, I am not above making a fool of myself to get a laugh out of her - and out of all of you. So enjoy a chuckle at my choice of chapeau.

We started off the evening with our friends the Dunns. We surprised the girls (Kate and Maggie D.) with the whole "big girls night out" and a "big girl" dinner. Kate, ever the social butterfly, even ran into some other friends from school at the restaurant. It was such a fun night out with the Dunns and Nia. Then we all proceeded to the MAIN EVENT. The show was actually pretty spectacular with all the major princesses, some pretty incredible pair skating and some super fun effects and sets. Even actual fireworks that exploded out of the top of Cinderella's coach. We had seats right on the ice, so Kate got lots of waves and winks from the cast as she proudly wore her twinkle crown and waved like crazy to all the "princesses". It was quite grand.

Kate's favorite - of course - was Ariel the mermaid, who as you probably know wishes for human legs so she can marry Prince Eric. When Kate got home, we had to move all the furniture so she could "ice skate" around the living room. We were treated to all kinds of swirls and slides and "weaps" as she calls leaps. With lots of "pah-tend faiwy dust". You could see her hit the figurative wall of exhaustion after so much excitement and the meltdown ensued as we carried her up to bed while she sobbed - in full Ariel mode - "oh noooo. I have human legs!!!! I have human leeeegggssss. Ooohhh noooooo". Poor little mermaid.

I cannot wait for tomorrow. I am sure our lives will be princess-centric for a while now.

Note to those of you considering going to a Disney Ice Event - you may want to consider taking a second mortgage out on your home to pay for the various wares for sale there - sparkling magic wand? 25 dollars. Princess coloring book that you could get for free by printing pages at home off the internet? 20 dollars. Picture taken with a fake plastic Cinderella? 18 dollars. Memory of Kate twirling on "ice" in the living room while wearing her favorite party dress and 15 dollar sparkle crown? Priceless.

PS - The Flounder hat came with the cotton candy! 2-for-1!! I am always looking for a bargain!

Disclaimer - no, I have not lost my mind. Those were merely listings of items for sale. No, I did not buy each and every one of them. Sheesh!

Some of the skating spectacular-ness.

Smiling with Dad in a post-show burst of energy.

Showing Mom and Dad the program and explaining all her favorite moments from the show.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Liam is ONE!!!!

Happy Birthday, Dear Liam! Happy Birthday to You!!!

Well, I cannot believe our baby boy is one! He woke up on his birthday with a terribly runny nose but was his usual happy, smiling, sweet self. It was almost like he knew that today was "his day". He was just an angel face all day long and Kate was a super sweet big sister - singing "Happy Birthday" to Liam at regular intervals and just being so loving and fun. She helped me make Liam's Birthday Cake and was a big big help! We still had some snow come down today and all the kids in the Twin Cities had a snow day from school so it was fun to hear the squeals and giggles of the kids on the block as snowballs flew and giant snow sculptures were made. With well over two feet of snow on the ground, there was plenty to work with. Kate and Liam watched the college-age neighbors build a giant sculpture of a "snow mouse" complete with icicle whiskers that they grabbed off of the eaves.

Tonight we had a little birthday celebration for Liam. It was great to celebrate the day he came into this world which also just happens to be the day that I lost 30 pounds in one day! :) tee hee So, Nick, Kate, Patrick, Ryan (my good friend from college that lives here in St Paul now!) and I had a casual night in with Pizza and beer and soda (and milk for Kate!). We watched Liam open his presents and had cake and Kate got to watch 'Mulan'. It was a great family evening. Liam loved it all! Despite his red nose and a bruise of unknown origin on his face, he lights up in the pics. After some hesitation at first, he dug into his cake and then spent the rest of the night climbing on everything he could - including the "garage" he got for a gift. Such a big boy.

He is just joy and sweetness wrapped up in 27 pounds of adorable. We love him so.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March: In like a.....Polar Bear?

So for the second time in a week, we are bundled up and cozy in our teeny toasty house while mountains of the white stuff pile up against our house outside! We already had about 13 inches of snow on the ground. We are expected to get another 12-18 inches right now, so you do the math! There will be mile high drifts with this wind, too. I guess most people are not shocked to hear that, given that we live where we live. And, frankly, this is the kind of weather we expected when we moved to Minnesota - it is just that this is the first winter of any that we have lived here that we have actually experienced this kind of snow. And in MARCH! In fact, the Twin Cities have not seen this much snow in one week in over 25 years!!! In case you don't know - I am a major weather nerd and am fascinated by it.

But it is gorgeous. And fun. Kate and I baked cookies while the wind blew SHEETS of snow past our kitchen window. We bundled up and trudged through the drifts and delivered several batches to neighbors as "Thank Yous" for helping to shovel us out. It is so nice how everyone just pitches in with each other here. Our next door neighbor just took his snowblower and did the sidewalk up the whole block. So kind. And I was just outside - up to my knees in snow - in the dark and the cold during one of the light snow bands and I love how the snow mutes everything. There is no traffic because it is beyond impossible to drive right now, the air is crisp but it is not bitterly cold. And the snow just sparkles at night - before all the kids tear it up and dogs do their business on it and before the plow churns up oil and asphalt into the drifts. Right now it is gorgeous.

I really like it here in Minnesota!

PS - Nick heard the funniest comment on NPR today. Due to the terrible storm, NPR was running through a litany of cancellation notices. Here is NIck's fave "The Seminar at the UBS Center in downtown St. Paul on The Burden of Global Warming is cancelled due to the Blizzard"