Friday, November 11, 2011

When It's All Worth It!

Whoever said three is harder than two had it right. James is either making me crazy or making my heart melt. Here was one of the better moments...

Eric and Anna were at swimming lessons. James and I stayed home to play until it was time for his. We had a good time and were leaving the house to go. As we walked down the steps he reached out for my hand and said, "Mommy. It's nice to be with you."

Can you beat that!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More Fall Fun

James has enjoyed playing in the fallen leaves this autumn. Fortunately, we live in a neighborhood with no shortage of this fact, if we hadn't raked the yard 59 times already, we'd be digging tunnels to get out the door (which James would probably enjoy). We had fun playing in a pile in the backyard last week-end!

James and I have also enjoyed a good deal of hockey lately. It's the sport I grew up with -- both playing and listening to the Buffalo Sabres. James has watched a few games with me on TV (of course getting treated to a later bed time if the game ran late) and we went to an ISU game a few weeks back. It was a happy moment to sit on the cold bleachers, sipping hot chocolate, smelling the ice (or whatever that ice rink smell is), and enjoying the game with my son. When we got there, the first thing he asked was, "Where are the Sabres?" The video is him playing goalie with Becky -- notice that he says that he's the "Buffaloes" (=Buffalo Sabres) and Becky is "the bad guys" (which is how I describe whoever Buffalo happens to be playing).

11.11.07 -- James Plays in Leaves

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Fun!

There was no doubt in Jamie's mind that he wanted to be a firefighter for Halloween this year. Given his usual meandering toddler proclivities, this unwavering determination was impressive. So, to complement his choice, we decided that Anna would make the perfect dalmatian companion. Becky completed the picture by turning the wagon into a fire truck!

11.10.31 -- Halloween

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Toddler Logic

James, Anna and I were late getting home today - the reason being a toy car left behind. I figured Eric would make it home ahead of us but when we got home he wasn't there yet. I said to James,
"Dad is a slow poke." To this he replied, "We are fast pokes."

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Illogic of English and the Logic of Toddlers

James' language has exploded recently, especially his use of expressions and idioms. He surprised me a few weeks ago when, after I asked him if he wanted to do something with me (probably go to the park or eat ice cream), he replied, "Heck yeah, daddy!"

What's been fascinating to watch is how he applies very logical rules to create new constructs. For example, we often play a game that involves me saying something like, "OK, who wants to go to the park (or eat ice cream, or play cars)?" I look around and say, "I guess nobody wants to go to the park with me..." Recently, James interjected with, "Yesbody!" Of course, yesbody should be the opposite of nobody.

Earlier this week we were returning from the park, where James had ridden on his tricycle. We took the short route home, which involves a few flights of stairs up the embankment. Since he can't ride his bike up the steps, I was carrying him and one arm and his bike in the other arm. I told him to encourage me (it was hot and he's getting heavy), so he exclaimed, "Go daddy! You can do it! I'm cheering you on!" Then, as James likes to do to be funny, he started the opposite, "No daddy, you CAN'T do it." I stopped and said, "What!?" to which he replied, laughing, "Ha ha! I'm cheering you off."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Fun at the Farm!

Earlier today, we made the most of this amazing Iowan fall weather and went to the Center Grove Orchard, kind of like a fall-themed amusement park for kids. There was a corn maze, a corn pool, and various other farm- and autumn-related activities. Sitting in a GIANT pool of corn (just the kernels, not the cobs), probably about a foot deep but the size of a swimming pool, it struck me that we really did live in Iowa. James had lots of fun running around with his buddy Felix. Through a mutual friend, we were connected with Amy & Fernando, whose son is just a few months older than James and shares all the same passions -- trains, race cars, and goofiness. They have really hit it off and we are most grateful for the friendship. Some fun photos of the kiddos are here:

11.10.08 -- Center Grove Orchard

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Portraits of Anna & James!

Before we left Denver, our friend Kayln took some portraits of the kids on a beautiful sunny day in the park! While it was hard to get them to sit still, she did a great job capturing their energy. You can see more of Kayln's work here:

The photos of Anna & James are here:

(Please notice in the only photo of James and Anna that James is actually letting his sister topple over. He thought this was hilarious. We tried to discourage him while stifling our own laughter.)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Me: I have the song from Caillou stuck in my head.

James (grabbing my head): Let me see it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kids & Snakes

This August, I will start my PhD program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Iowa State University. Mostly, I will be studying garter snakes -- the same animal that I chased, caught, and admired in my youth. Actually, I will be fortunate enough to have a job as adult doing basically the same thing I did when I was 9 years old: running around beautiful places looking for, and catching, snakes. Of course, every parent hopes to share their passions with their kids. I'm pleased to say that in recent weeks, this has undoubtedly been the case.

James has had a great deal of fun playing with his toy rubber snake lately. The other day, he even fell asleep for his nap clutching the snake's neck, in a hold that would make his grandmother proud:

Anna, too, clearly loves her snakes:

And today, James and I caught a little garter snake on our hike:

James was an amazing field assistant, helping me to handle the snake and even weigh the little guy! I could want for nothing else this Father's Day. For more photos of James the field assistant, see here:
Jamie the Field Assistant

Best Buddies

James and Benton are best buddies. While other toddlers can play next to each other at best, these two have been pals since they were both a little over one year old. While they share toys amazingly well and seldom, if ever, argue, the best thing about their friendship is the way they can make each other laugh. Benton can say one small, goofy thing and James virtually explodes with belly laughter. Of course, once a joke is successful, it needs to be used again -- and, if you're a toddler, over and over and over again, eliciting the same uncontrollable laughter each time.

This past Saturday, Benton spent the day with us. The first thing that they did upon Benton's arrival was to throw each of Jamie's Thomas the Tank Engine toys across the living room. Then each of the pieces of track. And the station. Then, they dumped two large bins of cars, trucks, and trains and chucked those. It was mayhem. But, as we always tell James, "It's OK to make a mess, as long as you clean it up." We told the boys that they needed to pick every one up before we could go swimming. Switching from destructive mode to cooperative mode, they put every piece back.

The boys had a lovely time in the Puddle Jumper pool near our house on this beautiful, hot summer morning. They spent a solid 30 minutes playing "dunk" -- Bention would count, "One-two-three!" and put his head in the water, holding his breath for a surprisingly long time. James would follow with his count: "Eight-nine-ten-forty!" and dunk his head. Back and forth this went.

After the pool, we brought the boys home for nap time. This is a precarious proposition on any day, but with these two together we were quite certain that, though it might be fun, it would not result in any sleep. Much to our surprise, it did.

To make our dinner date with friends, we had to wake the boys up from their nap. This was followed by a long, sleepy drive. They had worn themselves out.

We are so grateful that James has such wonderful friends (and their families!) -- next week, James will spend two days and a night with Benton's family while Becky & I try to buy ourselves a new house in Iowa.

For all the photos of these adventures (including a couple of little baby sister in her swim gear), see here:
11.06.18 -- James & Benton

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Broccoli and Noodles Together

Tonight James came home, half asleep on Eric's shoulder, after a long day of playing hard with his best friend Benton. As Eric carried him to his room he lifted his head and said, with a sleepy smile on his face and in his voice, "Mom I ate broccoli and noodles together." He was obviously very proud of himself.

I laughed to myself and thought how he sounded a bit like a drunk coming home at after a long binge and realized that he probably was sleep drunk after such an exciting day.

NOTE FROM DAD: It turns out that this was actually not even true. James did NOT have broccoli and noodles together. He had some noodles, but didn't touch the broccoli.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fun with Grandma & Grandpa!

Last week, Grandma and Grandpa visited! We had so much fun and Grandpa took some amazing photos!

Fun with Grandma & Grandpa!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Best Big Brother

When people ask me how things are going, now that we have two kids, I usually respond that they've been great. Then I go on to tell the highlight of the past couple months: seeing James in the role of the big brother. He's been exceptionally sweet and accepting of little Anna, in ways that continue to surprise me. For example, this afternoon Anna was taking a nap on our bed while James and I played racecars in the living room. Over the monitor, we heard that Anna was upset -- I got up and told Jamie to keep driving his racecars and that I'd be right back. Before I could finish, he dashed past me, down the hallway, and climbed onto the bed to pat Anna's head and say, in his very hi-pitched "baby" voice, "It's OK baby sister."

Later this afternoon, he had a splinter in his thumb that was causing some pain. He was very upset and in this moment only wanted baby sister to kiss it to make it feel better. She, of course, obliged.

James loves to snuggle his baby sister:

He loves to play with her:

And occasionally use her as a runway:

He is one cool dude!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Compassion for Snakes

Lately we've had to dissuade James from stomping on bugs. I'm not sure where he learned this, but he's been intentionally trying to step on roly-polies and other little critters around the yard. Becky said that yesterday he intentionally tromped on a moth then, after she asked him not to, did it again. He also shows a great curiosity toward these critters, picking them up and examining them. He spent the better part of the morning playing with a little zoophoba worm (that we feed the turtles) in the magnifying-cup that his Aunt Lissy brought him. While I'm glad that James is not afraid of these bugs, it has been a bit of a struggle to see him show so little understanding for the damage to their lives he can cause with a single footfall. Any doubts I may have had about his compassion for animals was quickly put to rest this afternoon.

Yesterday, I brought a garter snake home from one of my research sites, with the intention of attaching a radiotransmitter and returning him home the next day. This morning, James was my trusty assistant as I weighed, measured, and attached the transmitter to the snake. He even held the snake, all by himself, for a while -- and did so perfectly:
11.05.22 -- James with Snake

The final step in processesing the snake involves clipping a couple of his belly scales in order to identify the snake if he's caught again and to collect a small bit of tissue for DNA analysis. While this does hurt a bit, it heals quickly and does not cause the snake any long-term injury. James watched me make the first clip and became very upset, saying repeatedly, "No, Daddy. Leave him alone!" I tried to explain to him that it was OK, but the sight of me hurting the snake was just too much -- he repeated again and again, "Leave him alone!" His compassion for this creature left me incredulous -- he was adamantly and forcefully protecting the snake from harm. Of course, I stopped my work and let us all take a break. As he was defending the snake so ardently, I looked at my boy in the eyes and felt what was not only pride but admiration. And here I thought I would be the one teaching him about snakes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fantasy is Better than Reality

Yesterday Home Depot had their NASCAR race car here at the local store. Seeing how much James loves the movie Cars and pretending to be a race car, I thought going to see it would be a fun adventure for us to have.

It was a rainy day but the car was safely tucked under an overhang so we could see it without getting wet. He was very excited (mostly about getting his own small model) and wandered around the car looking, touching, pointing out parts he liked, and asking questions.

When it was time for them to leave they opened up the back of trailer they hauled the car in. This led to more excitement because it was "just like Mac" in the movie Cars. We then received a warning that they were going to start the car and it would be loud - Antoinette was with us and they didn't want to damage her ears. We moved inside the building to what I thought was a safe distance and they started the car. They weren't kidding - it was loud.

James was lingering somewhere between me and the car because he was very curious to see them load it up. Then they stepped on the gas the car let out an intense roar that I really didn't know was possible from a car. Jamie's eyes got wide and he started to bawl(Anna hardly flinched - maybe I should worry about her hearing or maybe she's just used to living with a loud toddler). I picked him up and comforted him and eventually we were able to return outside to see the car and truck drive away.

Although I think he will remember seeing the race car with I imagine he will mostly remember that it was "really loud" and that his model car is, as he says, "not loud".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What Toddlers Notice

James has always been a keen observer of the world. Any jet plane passing overhead or train whistle in the distance immediately draws his attention, usually with a "Look look! A plane!" At times, however, he simply does not notice things right in front of him which he is looking for. On Easter, we hid plastic eggs filled with candy around the living room and invited James to find them. He loved the game and enthusiastically searched for the eggs. And when I say we "hid" them, I mean that we set them on the table, couch, and floor in places where, were we to forget the game mid-action, we would either sit or step on them the following day. James found some, but often needed some direction in finding those that were right in front of him. Fortunately, his excitement in locating each egg was diminished in no way by these hints. What a joyous way to be.

The culminating example of this contrast between astute senses and obliviousness came earlier today when, while pushing him on a swing, he looked at me and said, as if it were a revelation, "Hey! You have a beard!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unclear on the Concept

We've been talking to James a lot lately about going to the bathroom on the "big boy potty". To this end we've also been giving him so diaper free time to encourage him to use it. For the past several days he's gotten excited and said, "I need to make a poopy." We then go quickly to the bathroom where he proceeds to sit on the potty, get up and say, "I made a poopy." However, when we look there is nothing there.

Today I decided to get him some "big boy" underwear to futher encourage his efforts. When he got home he was very excited, but after trying on one pair decided he prefered to wear nothing on his bottom half. We again made a few false starts on the potty and then went about our business. Suddenly he said, "I need to make a poopy" and sat down on the potty. This time there was a difference - he actually made his poop face. We knew this was it. Sure enough he made a large poop right in the potty. Needeless to say we were very excited and cheered his accomplishment.

After some clean up, interrupted by Anna's poonami, he decided he did want to put on some of his new underwear and some pants. A short time later we were eating dinner when he said, "I peepeed." At first we took this to mean he need to pee but, alas, that was not the case, as made clear by the wet spot on his pants. We then changed him into another pair of underwear and pants and continued our meal.

After dinner he was playing when we heard him say with pride, "I pooped in my underwear." Sure enough, he had gone again and right in his underwear. At this point we explained that underwear were different than diapers - you didn't pee and poop in them, but rather went to use the potty when you knew you needed to poop or pee. Clearly he didn't quite have the concept of underwear down.

We will try again tomorrow!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fun Week with Grandma!

While Grandma has been out the past couple weeks mainly for Baby Sister, there has been no shortage of fun with James! He's had a great time squirting himself in the face, playing his drum, and of course at gymnastics class with Daddy...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Goof & the Ring-Leader

Two of Jamie's favorite activities of late have been to squirt himself in the face with a water bottle and to get everyone to play marching band, with him in the lead of course.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daddy Milk

This afternoon, I brought James back to the hospital after "schooly" (as we call his day care). He was very excited to visit with mommy, baby sister, and of course grandma. When we came in, Becky was breastfeeding Baby Antoinette skin-to-skin to help soothe the little girl. Of course, we've been talking to James a great deal about how baby eats "mommy milk." The little one was asleep, so Becky wanted to get up and play with James. Taking my turn, I held Antoinette, took a seat on the bed, and started to pull up my shirt a bit so she could rest skin-to-skin with me as well. When James saw me doing this, he was quick to ask, "Baby sister get daddy milk?" He's a pretty astute kid, but we've got a little bit of work to do in the biology department.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting Out!

It was unseasonably warm today (at one point my thermometer said 82F) when only 48hours ago it was snowing! Jamie's grandmother and I took him to the playground for a little afternoon sun and James, of course, found a few cute poses.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

James at the Art Museum

Last Saturday, James & I met our friends Erin and Luis at the Denver Art Museum. I believe this was James' first time visiting...he had a great time running around pretending to be a racecar, which is what I usually like to do in art museums. Luis took a couple great photos of James:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

James Plays and Sings

With the exception of "ABC," these are all original compositions!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This Boy is No Fool

We had a lovely family evening at home today. The family cuddled up on the couch and watched the documentary Babies, which follows the birth and early months of four children from across the world. The film is without narration or speech, with the exception of some baby-babble. James loved the film and didn't even want to take a break to eat dinner. Of course, when we offered him dumplings he changed his tune a bit. We talked a lot about babies and how to treat babies and what babies do and don't do. Hopefully this will make a difference when he has a new baby sister, which could be any minute now.

After the movie, James was being his usual goofy self, climbing on the couch to point to the turtle drawings we have framed on the wall. He very endearingly tried to pronounce Glyptemys insculpta, the scientific name of the wood turtle. Then, much to our surprise, correctly answered my question "What's Colaptes auratus?" by responding, "A birdie!"

Unfortunately, James tripped and crashed faced-first into the telephone next to the couch, prompting some crying and sobbing. Becky was holding him, rocking him, soothing him. After a short while, he was able to muster the strength through his tears to declare in a shaky voice, "I want chocolate!" As he was upset, Becky indulged. The panacea worked! Within seconds, he was back to his usual goofy self. I'm sure that his great-grandma will be proud to read this!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bath Time, Sweet Boy, Not-so Sweet Boy, Mommy's Glasses

James and I took a bath together tonight, as we do a few times each week. Today, he was very involved with dumping water on various parts of my body and "combing" my hair with a little toy. Each time, he would pause, admire his work, and say, "So pretty." A few times, he even tried to get enough of my hair (from my head) and tie it in a bow. He had no luck with this, as you can imagine, but still declared, "So pretty." I was thinking what a sweet boy he was, until we started to rinse off to get out.

As I was dumping water on myself to rinse off the soap, James was standing behind me. I felt a trickle of warm water on my back that was not coming from the same source as the rest of the water. I turned around and he laughingly said, "I pee on daddy!" It was a little gross, but at least we were already in the bathtub.

As we were drying off, he grabbed Becky's glasses and put them on, running around the house. He looks like a very scholarly boy with these on his face!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Feeling to Inhabit

James fell asleep just as the song "Are We Family" came on the car stereo, the first line of which is "It's only human to want to inhabit every feeling you've got." The sun shone brilliantly on the right side of his face and body, illuminating tiny hairs and casting toddler-sized shadows. With my window cracked, I could hear the soft splash of each puddle we traversed as the snow banks became slush, then water. He looked older today, more articulate in his speech and deliberate in his actions, but as gentle as ever in this slumber. I thought of afternoon naps in the golden sun, of snow melting, of the uncharted dreams of children. Are we family, or what?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quote from tonight...

James: Daddy, lay down.

Eric: Why?

James: I want to give you butt face.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Action-Packed Christmas

We've finally uploaded some photos from our lovely Christmas in Charleston!
Christmas In Charleston

As you can see, it was an action-packed Christmas with Jamie's cousins Caleb and Cecilia. He enjoyed playing soccer, swinging, splish-splashing in the bathtub, driving electric cars, playing in golf course sandtraps, and generally running around like a madman. Our first morning back in Denver, James woke up and the first words out of his mouth were, "Where's Caleb and Cici?" He sure misses his cousins!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stock Show!

On Saturday morning, we took James to the National Western Stock Show, an annual event held here in Denver that is a combination of a state fair, a rodeo, and a farmer's auction. We met some of our good friends and two of Jamie's best buddies: Iris and Adelaide. They had a great time, though their main interests were a pile of gravel used to create traction on snowy pavement and the plywood ramp that led up to one of the official doors. We probably could've saved the ticket price and just hung out by the dumpsters of a Home Depot for the morning, but somehow that doesn't seem like good parenting.

Our friend Ann, Iris's mom, took some great photos of the outing:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fun in the Snow! Well, kind of...

Last Sunday James & I set out to ring in the new year with a bit of sledding. He was very excited to play in the snow and was bundled up nicely in his new winter coat, courtesy of his cousin Caleb:
In the snow!

We hopped in the wagon and walked down the street to the levee at our favorite wetlands spot (where we look for snakes in summer). We mounted the hill and, thinking that there wasn't all that much snow and that our sled wasn't all that good, I was skeptical that we would move at all. James eagerly climbed in my lap and I pushed off...and quickly realized that we were wrong. We zoomed down the hill at an out-of-control speed, caught an edge, wiped out, and rolled at least three times. It was scary for both of us -- I cradled James and protected him from injury, but didn't guard my head well enough to avoid getting a nasty bump. James got a face full of snow and was terrified, but was otherwise OK. We returned home after this one run, James eager for the comfort of mommy's arms, some warm milk, and snuggling with his blanky while watching "Cars" for the 1,523rd time. And I felt like a dunce, thankful that James was unharmed but fearing that he'll never want to go sledding with daddy again.