Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back to School 2014

Kids around here start back to school really early. In fact, we got back from our vacation in Wisconsin Dells (more about that later), and the very next morning the boys started school. This year Nick was off to Kindergarten, and Henry started his first year of Preschool.

Do they look excited? Mostly, they were, though they were pretty tired. None of us is used to waking up before 7 a.m. yet.

Nick really wanted to wear his clown nose from Circus World Museum, but I told him no.

Though I posed them together, Henry actually starts school much earlier than Nicholas. The bus picks him up around 7:30. Last year, Henry was very jealous of Nick, because he wasn't big enough to start school. He peeked out from the window, pouting. See?

First day of school 2013

Since Henry got to go to school first this year, Nick peeked out from the window while Henry posed.

I asked Henry what he thought about starting school, and he was kind of noncommittal about the whole thing. He was generally happy, but not too sure about what would happen.


Henry will attend a five-day morning preschool program at our school district's preschool. He will receive lots and lots of speech help, in addition to the normal benefits of preschool. This is the same place Nick went to preschool, so Henry is familiar with the building (and the playground) from attending school events.

I think Henry looks a lot like his daddy in this picture. 

We wondered if Henry would be nervous when we left him on the bus, but he just grinned and waved goodbye to us with no tears or trepidation.

Nick starts school much later this year, and we live close enough that he can walk to school. Since my school doesn't start for another week, I was able to go with and see Nick off to his first day of Kindergarten.


It is pretty neat to be the parent dropping off my kid. I'm used to working the front door as a staff member (albeit at a different school), watching all the other parents take pictures in front of the school sign. Until my first day of teacher institute next Thursday, I get to walk to school with Nick every day.  :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Getting Ready for Back-to-School

Alas, summer vacation is almost over. After one last hurrah at the beginning of next week, the boys will start school on Friday. This year, both of my babies will be headed off to academia: Nick will be going to Kindergarten, and Henry will be starting preschool. The first order of business? Haircuts for these formerly shaggy gentlemen.

Nick loved sitting in the Lightning McQueen car.

Even though both of my sons are technically blonde, their hair is wildly different. Nick's hair, which used to be curly, has turned a very dark shade of blonde and gotten mostly straight in the last two years. His hair is very thick with a major cowlick in the back.

Nick really hated the feel of the smock around his neck. He kept trying to rip it off.

Henry, on the other hand, has coarse, fuzzy hair that is much lighter and has been turned almost white from being in the sunshine so much this summer.

 While it is being cut, the little pieces of Henry hair fly around and get everywhere.

Henry rocked the faux-hawk once again. 

After their haircuts, we headed to Target for school supply shopping. Both boys needed new sneakers, and I had two school supply lists to fulfill. Our cart soon filled with supplies. I let them each pick out their own take-home folder and they chose Angry Birds Holographic ones.

After all the school supplies, it was time to find backpacks. Nick found one that he said looked like "outer space." I was just glad it came with matching headphones, which his school supply list said he needed for Kindergarten.

Henry found an R2D2 backpack that actually makes noises. He was thrilled beyond belief at his good fortune.

Because I'm a teacher myself, I understand the specificity requested for school supplies, but I guess I'm not used to having two kids in school. I believe our total was around $150 for school supplies, backpacks, and two pairs of on-sale shoes. Yeesh.

You can see Nick's backpack in the background. 

Both boys wore their new backpacks around the store, but Henry continued to wear his all around the house. He even performed some happy dances about going to school. Then, before heading to bed last night, Henry sat and practiced writing his letters on the ipad for easily 45 minutes. I think he's ready for preschool!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Kenosha Beach on Lake Michigan

The last thing we did on our camping trip before heading back to Illinois was a trip to the beach on Lake Michigan. They were very excited and didn't mind too much that the water was freezing.

The best (and worst) part of the beach is the sand. It's the best part because the kids can play in it and build with it. Henry kept picking up handfuls of sand and flinging them in the ocean. Since he was in an area by himself we let him.

Sand can also be the worst part of the beach because it gets on everything. Even now, weeks later, I'm still finding sand in my washing machine.

What a mess!

We didn't bring buckets or shovels or anything like that, but Nick and Aidan made use of plastic bags that I had used to carry sandwiches and cucumbers in the cooler.

I think they were trying to build a river.

This guy ate the remains of my sandwich and wouldn't leave me alone. He stalked me for over an hour, and even throwing rocks at him wouldn't make him leave.

He finally left after Henry chased him and came pretty close to catching him.

Some older boys let Nick and Aidan and Henry help them build their giant hole in the ground, and then they left and our guys continued working on it.

I could have stayed longer at the beach, but it was getting late, and we had a long drive ahead of us.

We said goodbye to Wisconsin on that beach.

Or rather, I dragged my boys kicking and screaming to our blanket to change and then to the car.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Kenosha Electric Streetcar and Public Museum

One of the highlights of our trip, especially for Henry, was riding the Electric Streetcar in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Whizzing along on the tracks and looking out the windows, the kids had a blast.

He would've happily stayed on the streetcar all day.

For only a few dollars we rode around in circles for an hour, seeing the sights and enjoying the ride. Of course, you can use the streetcar to actually get places, but we just sat back and watched out the windows.

We also visited the Kenosha Public Museum, a small (and free) museum with an interesting history of Wisconsin. Nick really liked the mammoth skeleton (a reproduction), and I had to yell at him to get down before he tried to climb it. Henry, on the other hand, thought it was another dinosaur and didn't want to go near it.

Compared to the museums in Chicago, this one was pretty small, but the exhibits were well-done and the information on the walls very interesting, especially for someone like me who loves science and history. This guy coming from the ceiling, though? He was creepy.

This museum had a kids hands-on area with puppets and binoculars and all kinds of fun things to play with.

Nick and Henry liked looking at the birds but hated that the binoculars were tied to the table.

Nick loved this totem pole, so I tried to take a picture of the whole thing, and I almost succeeded.

This sculpture fascinated Henry. "Why is the poop red, Mommy?" he asked seriously. He must be getting easier to understand, because someone walking down the hallway snorted with laughter when he said it. I have to say, this sculpture does look rather like bowels.

The second floor of this building has a great view of Lake Michigan, and these viewfinders so you can look really closely out at the sights. Henry was a little short, but he managed.

Nick was the photographer at this fountain outside the museum, and I think his picture-taking skills are improving.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Dinosaur Museum in Kenosha

For our last day in Wisconsin, we decided to see the free museums in Kenosha. We heard about a dinosaur museum and a public museum in one of the travel brochures, and since you can't beat the price of free, we decided to give them a try. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum was our first stop in Kenosha.

Yup. This was the best picture in the bunch. It's hard to get us all looking at the camera at the same time.

It's neat how when kids get a little bigger they can stand still and smile. 

I was thinking that the kids would absolutely love seeing dinosaur bones. Well, Nick and Aidan enjoyed checking them out. This was a very small museum, with basically one big room full of dinosaur bones, but the one room was pretty cool.

Henry was a little less enthusiastic. Looking around a little bit, he was at first unsure and then, after looking up, terrified. He attached himself to my leg for the duration.

Henry kept repeating, "I do not like the dinosaur museum." "Too scary." "I want to go home. I hate the dinosaur museum!" "I need to get out of here!" "Get out of here Mommy!"

I actually would've stayed longer had Henry not been so petrified. This museum had great information about different kinds of dinosaurs, and some cool evidence of the link between dinosaurs and birds. All Henry could see were the scary bones, though.

Nicholas had no such dinosaur fears, even if it did look like this big guy was going to eat him. I think Nick would've been in some danger had he lived during times when wild animals ate little boys. Since he never sits still and is never quiet, he'd be easy to catch and eat. Good thing these dinosaurs are just fossils!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lake Andrea Beach in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Every summer vacation should include a beach, right? That's what Lynn and I figured, too, and we actually visited two beaches during our camping trip. The first one was definitely the nicest: Lake Andrea Beach in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

Yup. this was my view of the lake from a lounge chair. I love vacations.

It's a small, well-maintained beach on a little lake, but the kids had an absolute ball. Since the weather was so cold (Maybe 70 degrees, if that), the lifeguard let us in for free, even though there's usually a $7 per person fee.

Poor Henry looks a bit chilly, doesn't he?

Originally, we were just going to walk along the beach, because we had neither bathing suits nor towels and we thought the lake would be freezing. The boys decided very quickly that swimming was going to happen, however, and we acquiesced because we weren't the ones getting cold and wet. I discovered when I dipped my toes in that the water temperature was actually warmer than the air!

No, the boys couldn't go on the climbing and sliding equipment. You had to pass a swim test.

Since the beach was deserted (or nearly so) for most of the time we were there, the benefits were enormous. One lifeguard was pretty much staring at our kids the entire time, plus the lifeguard showed the boys where all the abandoned beach toys were, so they had something to use for digging and dumping. The adults? We were free to relax on these lounge chairs and watch the boys playing.

I brought with sandwiches, cucumbers, carrots, muffins, etc. in an attempt to save money. It worked really well for Nick and Henry, because every time they said they were hungry, I could just whip out some carrots or a leftover piece of sandwich.

Henry says that swimming makes him really hungry. 

The one downfall to playing on the beach is sand. It gets everywhere, makes a huge mess, and is very hard to scrub from the hair of young children. Ahh, but the fun they had. . .

We didn't know we would be going to the beach, so we hadn't brought towels or swimsuits. The boys just swam in their shorts. There were no towels, either, except for this one that a lifeguard left behind for Henry to use. He must've looked cold.

Nick didn't sit down for more than a moment or two. He just kept swimming and jumping and digging and running.

Yup. He's using an old McDonald's cup to pour and carry water. Whatever works, I guess. 

Unplanned though it was, this beach trip turned into something the kids will never forget. I think I'll have to take them to more beaches. The experience was well worth the sand damage.