Friday, February 28, 2014

In Memory of Mary

Visiting Mary/Gram during one of our visits to Arkansas (July 2009)

Mary with Liam in July 2008

Mary, Liam, and Myself in July 2008

Mary with Luke and my cousin Julie (far left) and daughter Elizabeth (holding Liam)

Mary with Luke (left) and Liam (right) in July 2008

Luke and Gram at our last Christmas in Arkansas in December 2011.  Note the red shoes with her red sweater!

My grandmother, Mary Julia or "Gram" passed away on February 25, 2014 at the age of 96.  She was a spunky woman who always spoke her mind and loved sports of all kinds.  She was sharp especially for her age, probably due to all the games of bridge and the crossword puzzles she enjoyed working.  My name, "Mary Hannah", came from both my grandmother (Mary Julia) and my Aunt Mary Ann.  All of her grandchildren (except my sister and I) referred to her as Gram, but we called her "Mary."

In July 1943, she went to the hospital to deliver a baby and ended up delivering twins, my dad and his twin sister.  She was so excited when we told her we were having twins.  While we were monitored the entire pregnancy and everything was measured, documented, grandmother never even knew she was having two babies until she delivered them.  I remember she told me that twins are special and they will always have a special bond.

When I was around the age of 10 or so, I remember calling my grandmother and asking her to go to the mall with me almost every weekend.  We didn't really shop for anything in particular, but we both loved going.  She would let me buy a treat and we would have lunch and just walk.  She was always willing to go with me when I asked even if we walked around looking at the same shops.  I remember how excited she was (or at least appeared to be) whenever I called her.  

From the time I was in junior high until I started college, my grandmother always went on vacation with us.  We went to the same spot in Florida and she was not much of a beach person (I am pretty sure she didn't even know how to swim and she was way too fair skinned to sunbathe), but she would sit at the beach or pool with her big sun hat and watch us daily.   She was always along for the ride and enjoyed every minute of it.  She never complained, just made us all laugh with her funny comments and such.  

My grandmother always took a lot of care in making sure she was dressed nicely.  Her clothes were clean, pressed, and she always had some brightly colored shoes to match.  For example, she would wear bright red shoes with her red sweater.  If you complimented her on her outfit, she would say, "oh, I have had this forever..."  I am not sure I ever remember seeing her in the same outfit, however, and her clothes always looked brand new.

My dad took amazing care of my grandmother in her last few years of life.  There is no doubt in my mind that she would have never lived to be 96 years old if she had not been taken such good care of by my dad.  He visited my grandmother every day and I never once heard him complain.  

We will miss you so much, Mary/Gram. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snowmaggedon (Winter 2014)

The path to the ice rink.  We were clearing off all the snow after nearly a foot of new snow.

Just some perspective on how high it really is.  The boards on the ice rink are 4 feet tall.

Luke (left) and Liam (right)


Luke (you can see the snow blowing, it was really windy and cold)

Aiden is really doing well.  He can easily skate without the net, but he still uses it
The backyard hockey team (Luke and Liam on the ends).  This was taken a day or two before our recent storm.  We had some temps in the low to mid 30's and it felt like summer outside!  This week, unfortunately, we are to return to sub zero temps yet again this winter.  

You reach a certain point of desperation when you spend so much time indoors....Aiden was giving Finn  a ride in the clothes basket and Finn thought it was hilarious.

Here we go!

Trying on sunglasses

We have had snow, snow, and then more snow.  In between the polar vortex temps below zero, we have had buckets of snow.  Our biggest storm this season (thus far) occurred last week and we got nearly a foot of new snow which brings us to 17 inches above our average snowfall at this time of year.  Considering the mounds of snow were already piled up taller than I am, we really didn't need any additional snow.  The schools even closed due to the timing and amount of the snow which made any type of travel pretty treacherous.  I think we are all ready for spring to arrive, but it sure doesn't look like it will be here anytime soon.  Here are a few interesting stats from our Minnesota winter 2013-14:
1.  As of Feb. 18th, there have been 45 minimum temperatures at or below zero.  The last time there was more than 50 minimum temps at or below zero was the winter of 1977-78 with 53.  We are, perhaps, on track to break this record.
2.  The winter of 2013-14 has been the coldest in years. So far the average temperature of Meteorological Winter (December-February 19) is 10.0 degrees. If cold weather returns for the rest of February (and so far it has), the winter of 2013-14 would  finish in the top ten coldest winters on record.

Finn is changing a lot right now.  He is really beginning to scoot around on the floor, sit up on his own for short period of time, and try to reach or grab just about anything.  I told the boys that it won't be long before he is trying to get all their toys!  He is babbling, eating some solid foods, and would really like to eat everything that we are eating.  He doesn't have any teeth yet, but they have to be here pretty soon because he has definitely been drooling a lot and has been a little fussy.  He continues to be a relatively easy baby who is very adaptable and not easily bothered by all the noise and craziness at our house.  He even attended his second movie last week when we took the big boys to see the Lego movie.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Aiden learning to skate

We are thankful to report that Finn's tube surgery went well.  He is already showing signs of improvement by responding more to our voices, noticing loud noises (mostly from his brothers!), and sleeping much better at night.  
Finn is watching his brothers skate from the basement

Friends and Relatives (outside Minnesota) often comment that they are not sure how we survive the long winters here.  Sometimes, I am honestly not sure either.  You can only work so many puzzles, build so many legos, play so many games, etc...before you begin to go a little crazy!  Its hard to tell from this picture, but one random evening, Luke, Liam, and Aiden worked 5 different large puzzles because it was too cold to go out and skate.

Aiden learning to skate with Daddy
Luke on the ice

Practicing with Daddy and his brothers

It took a lot of coaxing and work with Daddy, but Aiden did very well!

Liam skating backwards
View from the Deck  

A picture of Aiden taken by his brother Liam

When John first mentioned building an ice rink last winter, I honestly thought he was crazy.  It still seems a little crazy to me, but I will admit that the biggest bonus to the rink is that it burns a lot A LOT of energy during the long MN winters.  It is much easier to walk out in your backyard and skate for an hour or two than it is to pack everyone up with all that gear and drive somewhere to skate.  Last winter, Luke and Liam were barely even standing with skates on the ice and this year they are skating backwards, forewords, turning, skating on one foot, etc...It is crazy how much they have improved in just a year.  The best part is that they enjoy it and are asking to go out and skate all the time.

Aiden has never really shown much interest in skating, but we keep reminding ourselves that Luke and Liam were never really interested at his age either.  This weekend, however, John bribed convinced him to get out and try to skate.  It definitely wasn't easy.  Aiden is fine once he tries something new, but getting him to actually try it is another story.  It takes a lot of coaxing and convincing.   But, by the end of the day, Aiden was scooting all over the ice on his skates.  He made a tremendous amount of progress.  John said he convinced Aiden to try to skate by telling him that he could be better than Luke and Liam because they didn't know how to skate when they were four years old.  Ultimately, its always about competition for the boys.  It is a strong motivator for them right now!  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Luke, Finn, and 100 Days Smarter

Luke and Finn

Finn thinks Luke is pretty funny.  This one is Luke's favorite picture with Finn.

And Luke loves Finn!

100th Day of Kindergarten and 100 days smarter!!

Luke loves Finn and Finn definitely loves Luke.  Finn will smile and laugh when he sees Luke and he loves it when Luke entertains him.  Although Luke can be a little rough and perhaps a bit overwhelming at times, he really loves Finn.  He always wants to hold him, play with him, help out when he is crying, etc...Finn also loves Liam and Aiden, but he definitely lights up when he sees Luke.  
Luke and Liam had their 100th day of kindergarten this week and came home saying they were 100 days smarter.  They enjoyed a few special 100 day activities and made some special hats to commemorate the big day.  Luke thought he would be moving up to first grade now, but I explained to him that we will have to wait a little longer before that happens.

Luke, Liam, and Aiden all had their 6 year and 4 year well visits recently and we are thankful that all looks good.  If it appears like they are getting bigger, they definitely are.  Luke has grown 4 inches and gained 7 lbs since last year.  He already weighs half of what I weigh!  Liam has grown 3 inches and gained 5 lbs. and is more in the average percentile for height and weight (Luke is above the 97th percentile).  Aiden continues to follow an almost identical growth curve as Luke.  He grew 3 inches and gained 6 lbs in one year.  For comparison, Luke and Aiden both weighed the exact same thing at each of their 4 year visits (45 lbs); however, Luke was taller by one inch.  

With Valentine's Day coming up, the boys and I have been working on their cards for school.  Since Montessori has large classrooms with children ages 3-6, we always have to start early to get all the cards done in time.  I still maintain that perhaps we shouldn't exchange cards until the kids are old enough to do them on their own, but I have never stood by that idea.  So, we are making 150 Valentine's for school (50 per child) next week.  Luke and Aiden picked Star Wars and Liam picked Ninja turtles.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Our week in review

The hockey rink was used a lot over the weekend!  We had neighbors, parents, kids, etc...skating for most of the day!  This picture was taken from our neighbor's screened in porch where they have a heater and music playing on the speakers.

Luke lost his first top tooth this week.  

Finn isn't sure what this green stuff is.  We are at the indoor soccer dome trying to burn off some of his brother's energy!  We love the cute winter hat, Ms. Jane!  

The boys and their best buddies playing at the Dome

Liam is counting out 100 nerds (candy) for the 100th day of school project

We had another polor vortex last week so we spent a bit more time indoors.  However, the temps finally got above zero late in the week and the boys were able to get out and skate.  As I mentioned in the last post, the ice rink is in great shape for skating.  This year, Luke and Liam are actually asking (and sometimes begging) to go out and skate.  They really enjoy it and it has been an amazing energy burner for them!  The love for skating has not quite caught on for Aiden yet, but that was also true for Luke and Liam at his age.  He would rather stay inside and run around than go out in the cold to skate.   The word has also spread in the neighborhood so we have lots of friends and neighbors that are joining us to skate.  It has been a fun winter activity for everyone.

Luke lost his first top tooth this week and was so excited about it.  Liam also has a top tooth that is loose so it won't be very long for him.  Luke and Liam are excited to celebrate their 100th day of kindergarten this week.  They were asked to bring 100 of something in a bag to school.  We discussed a million different ideas, but finally came up with two.  Luke counted out 100 jelly beans and Liam counted out 100 nerds.  Pretty sure there was some incentive to counting out pieces of candy as opposed to something like cereal or paper clips (two items that we mentioned).

Lastly, Finn will be having tubes put in his ears on Monday, Feb. 10th.  Although they generally do no put tubes in until around a year of age, his brothers paved the way for early surgery with a total of 8 surgeries among the three of them.  We are on a first name basis with the ENT and he was willing to work us in quickly.  In fact, he told me that he has seen very few families with ear issues to the extent of ours in not one, or two, or three, but FOUR of their children.  Poor Finn has had 8 ear infections in barely six months and has fluid in his ears that just won't go away.  It has contributed to a lack of sleep for all of us and we are very ready for his surgery in hopes that he will feel much better very soon.