Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arrested Development

We've been in California for the past several days. Visiting family and friends, eating a lot, and sleeping not a lot. We'll be headed home tomorrow. Assuming I can break Jason and George out of jail.

Takin' daddy away



Takin' Georgie away



George in charge

Cutest officer I ever did see!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Surviving Christmas Eve

Best Way To Make It Through Christmas Eve. EVER.

Making it through Xmas Eve

Simple instructions: Wrap children "burrito style" in blankets. Place on separate couches. Leave the room. (Just kidding on that last one, I promise!) Feel free to tickle mercilessly.

More crafts.

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Preparations for family gatherings tomorrow.

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Counting the hours until little ones are in bed and Santa can bring the loot (and assemble it).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Better

After a couple of minor skirmishes and sub-sequential time-outs, today has been better. I've also kept it busy. Yes, we always try to stick to a basic routine and I use our activity schedule every day, but.... when the weather has been nasty for weeks, the snow has turned to cold rain, the last round of sniffles is still hanging around, and the stores are filled with CRAZY people... there's just not much to do but get sick of each other!

However, empty days turn into scream-filled days, so today we've done a quick trip to the store for supplies, had two arts & crafts projects available, and a trip to the library is scheduled for this afternoon! Jason is inching his way down the freeway to us. (Literally inching - two hours ago he called when he left Portland, saying he'd call again from Salem, about 30 miles down the road. I haven't heard from him yet.) Hopefully we'll all be together for dinner tonight!

For now, I'll let the kids continue working on their cereal box wreaths and ornaments. I'm going to go make some hot cocoa!

cardboard & sticker wreaths

Monday, December 22, 2008

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

George screamed and tantrumed so much today that when Emma went to bed, she had me turn her reading light off. She said, "I just want to go to sleep so my ears will stop ringing."

Gosh vacation time (i.e. lack of structure and routine) is fun!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Button Trees

The kids and I spent this afternoon working on a fun craft originally shared by our friends, Ali & Simon. Button Christmas trees! When I was gathering supplies for this, my mom unearthed this wonderful box from my grandma's collection. Filled to the brim with old buttons of every kind. I love the old Alka-Seltzer bottle containing decorative buttons and even a couple of fancy clip on earrings!

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Both kids really had fun choosing their buttons and placing them Just So.

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When the kids took a break to get some wiggles out, one of the cats granted me with his presence. Not sure what he thought of it all, he would rather my hands were petting him, I'm sure.

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I think they are each very indicative of our personalities.

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Emma's is colorful, bright, and playful. She sorted through the button box, looking specifically for unusual buttons or fun shapes and chose contrasting pin colors.

Mine clearly displays my OCD tendencies and desire for an elegance that life with two children rarely achieves. Every space is filled, single color used, and a carefully crafted randomness of sizes.

And George's.... well, George's is blue. With blue pins. Lots of blue pins. Just the way he likes it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let's go sledding!

Gracie watched over the madness.
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Wouldn't you know it, we spent a boring weekend, waiting for the snow to come. And then it comes Sunday night! I was up periodically throughout the night, checking for school closings and at 5:30, it was confirmed! No school today!

Good thing, since I can't get our van out of the driveway. We've seen more than one accident this morning on our hill.

Emma was thrilled when she realized there would be no school today. As soon as she started cheering for that, George ran over to his activity schedule to confirm that he, too, would have the day off. We were out sledding and having snow ball fights before breakfast!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

1st Snow of the Season

1st snow of the season

All my kids watching the early morning wet snow.
Poor George didn't understand that the snow wasn't sticking and we wouldn't be able to play in it. His verbal skills deteriorated throughout the morning as he got more and more frustrated. Finally, Jason bundled him up and took him outside. They were back in within fifteen minutes, wet and whining (mostly George). ;)
Jason took George out 4x4ing on a muddy dirt road, which cheered them both up quite a bit. And hopefully, we'll get more snow tonight that's better for playing in!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quick Teacher Gift

George goes to two different preschools. Between them he has eleven teachers, aides, and therapists. While I believe that the teachers in our life deserve Christmas presents, and I want to give them presents, eleven gets to be a bit much. So I decided to do a small handmade, edible present, accompanied by a token gift card.


covered pretzels, before

I was going to do this project with the kids, but circumstances left me with time available only in the evening after they went to bed. It would definitely be a great (and yummy) project for them to help with though. I melted Ghirardelli white chocolate in the microwave and dyed it green with food coloring. After dipping the small stick pretzels into it, I laid them on a cooling rack while the chocolate set. The chocolate hardened very quickly, but as I filled each rack, I placed it into the freezer for about 20 minutes to be sure. I stored them in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.

(Side note: I tried to do some in red-dyed chocolate, too, but after the initial melt, it hardened into a clay-like consistency and would NOT remelt! I heated it repeatedly and it was hot to the touch, but still looked like Play-doh! Who ever heard of chocolate that wouldn't melt??? So, the teachers got green pretzels only.)

This morning I put about two dozen into each of these cute little seasoning shakers I found and used ribbon to attach the gift cards. The teachers at his morning school started munching on the pretzels right away and were happy about the fun, reusable packaging.


covered pretzels, finished

This is definitely an idea to remember for next year!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Today, Last Year

I saw this idea on another blog earlier today (I Do...What????) and thought it fun, so here you are.

Go into your picture files, find the pictures you were taking on this date a year ago (or as close to this date as possible).
Post (and I'm adding: share the story behind it!)

Well, when I looked into my files and found a set of photos all featuring this, I couldn't help but play along!

Tangled up in a busy box

This is George.
This is George's busy box.
This is George sitting on his busy box.
And getting completely tangled in every stereo cord Daddy put on there!
He called them his seat belts, criss-crossed them over his body, then spent minutes upon minutes flipping the other switches and pushing buttons as he drove all over his imagination!

What a fun memory, and pictures that I had never used.

Just for fun, I went back to the previous two years. Funnily enough, the photos for December 4th, 2006 & 2005 also concerned George:

For 2006, anyone who knows George would recognize this configuration. Sights like this one were our first clues to what would be diagnosed as Autism. (Official diagnosis occurred Oct. 3, 2006). Things lined up. All sorts of things, all over the place.

Dec 4, 2006

And then, the one from 2005, which completely melts this momma's heart:

Dec 4, 2005

He was always sleeping in strange positions like this one. I have many pictures like this. Oh my god, he was so very cute. Still is, thankfully!

If you play this memory lane game, leave me a link so I can come visit your photos!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

For Jason: Our Escapee

Emma's kitten, Stanley, is as mischievous and curious as any cat that ever appeared in fairy tales and children's stories. We never know where we may find him and he gets into places we think impenetrable. In order to keep the peace between him and our other cat, we have always had him sleep in a basement bedroom (which is being renovated). If the door isn't completely latched, we'll find him on the stairs leading upstairs, meowing in indignation, when we get up in the morning. Today was such a morning. But, when I glanced over at his bedroom door, I realized that it was still closed! The case of the magically escaping cat had begun!

So this afternoon, I went snooping, trying to find the weak point in the seemingly sealed room. My first clue was a few pieces of chewed up insulation laying on the floor. I looked up to the one piece of exposed insulation in the entire room and, lo and behold, there is a small gap next to it:

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Now, let me put this gap into perspective:

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That gap is in the corner of the room at nearly ceiling height! The only way he could have gotten to it would be to scale the built in bookcase on the right side of the room (just outside of camera range), then walk along the very skinny top of that stair-step wall, and up into the hole. Once there, it would be easy for him to leave the room: the panel at the top of that left wall hides a large shelf that runs the width of our basement; the dividing wall of the bedroom does not extend into it.

So, mystery solved! But now? Hoooonnnnneeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy, I need you to fix the waaaaaalllllll!!!!! You know, when you have a spare minute?

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Monday, December 01, 2008

HTBTMMITW - Chapter 34

(How To Be The Meanest Mommy In The World) - Ch. 34:

Everyone knows that your dearest darling child is the sweetest, most honest child ever made. No need to worry about that. After all, you created that child and your family lives in a blissful bubble of happiness. Why ever would there be a need for exaggeration or falsehood? But, on the off chance that the aforementioned child should be under the impression that home is a far better place than the primary color filled land of learning, and is struck by a strange (and floating) ailment, perhaps you will need the following short, but easy to implement, lesson.

Be Boring

Take your dearest darling child home from school at the earliest opportunity. Place that child lovingly into his or her bedroom with plenty of books and dolls, but no television. After all, too much television can intensify many strange (and floating) ailments, and we wouldn't want to run that risk. Inform the child that they will not be (a) spending the day at grandma's, (b) laying on the couch eating ice cream, or (c) playing with the home schooled neighbor child. Letting possibly contagious ailments into the public airspace could have disastrous effects! Be sure the child is comfortable in their room, as they will be spending the remainder of the day within.

If done properly, all mysterious ailments are often cured with an unusual rapidity. Your dearest darling child will be ready, and excited for, a return to school the following day. If done extremely well, with plenty of details given to the child as to the dearth of choices, your sweet little angel may even choose to return to his or her class within a couple of hours!

Good luck, future Meanest Mommies in the World! You will prevail!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Here comes Christmas!

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This last picture shows George's section of the tree. It's a tad on the heavy, crowded side, but he likes it!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last Minute Place Cards

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family that may stop by here!

If your turkey is well on its way to completion and the potatoes are mashed, here's a quick way to finish off your table decorations. Best part? After you print, the kids can help assemple and place them!

*Except of my article in the November Digital Scrapbook Place newsletter*



I used Kim Liddiard's "Plenty to be Thankful For" kit series in creating place cards for our table. These are very simple to make, using standard 4 x 6 photo paper, your chosen digital designs, and a bit of glue or tape. In your design program, create a 4 x 6 canvas and cover it with the background of your choice. Any design elements, names, etc. should be kept in the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the canvas. Print and fold: either in half for a tent style place card; or in thirds, using the bottom fold as the base of your place card. Because I used a tape runner adhesive, I actually shaped a very thin forth fold as a lip I could tuck behind the front of the place card.

Remember the kids' table when making your place cards! Use a fun frame element to add a photo to the card, allowing the kids to find their place easily! On this card, I added a coordinating ribbon to the base for increased stability.



You can simply prop these on the table or fill them with napkins, silverware, or seasonal decorations!

And don't forget to give your guests an easy way to share their thoughts with a set of journaling cards like this one!

Align rows of journaling elements on a letter sized canvas, backed by a matching background, and print onto cardstock. Cut the cards apart, use a rounded corner punch, create a small hole in the upper corner of each, and tie them together with a pretty ribbon.

Leave this set of cards on the table with a pen and allow your family and friends to add their notes throughout the meal. You will be left with a wonderful memento of your gathering!

Happy eating, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good Morning to you!

When the kids were transitioning from crib to bed, we worried about whether they would be up at all hours, exploring the house. Luckily, neither one has ever done that. We never told them they couldn't get up, but both seemed to feel that they had to stay in bed until released. Only recently has Emma started getting up on her own on the weekends. And since she loves to have that time to herself (if she actually gets up before us, which is rare), she's incredibly quiet. George stays in his bed playing until we open the door, sometimes for an hour or more, if he's woken up extra early and I make him wait until I've showered and declared it late enough to emerge. But in the last couple of weeks, he's been less inclined to wait for us to come to him.

George's current way of letting me know he's ready to get up consists of one word, yelled repeatedly at a steadily increasing volume. So I thought I'd let you see him first thing this morning. His bed cracks me up as he insists on sleeping with his five foot long stuffed dog on top of him. Good thing our house is pretty cold, because that's got to get hot.

Turn your speakers up for the beginning, it starts quiet. (And I apologize for my loud voice right next to the microphone!)

video

You only heard one, quiet "MOMMY!", but trust me, that gets louder and can go on for a long time! And sorry for the lack of light, I didn't want to blind him; he has blackout curtains, so his room is VERY dark.

So that was a sampling of our morning. He calls, I come in. He prompts me with what he wants me to say: "Were you calling me?", I repeat the question so he can answer. Our "good mornings"; it's a new, HUGE step that he's taken recently in using the name of whomever he's talking to. A variety of gibberish from whatever video he was acting out before I came in. And then, today, the "CHEESE" in reaction to the camera. The school photographer had to work hard this year because every time George smiles for the camera these days, he throws his hands up to his face like he did here.

That's my silly guy! Hope you got a chuckle out of our morning!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beans!

What to do when the irregular holiday school schedule leaves kids bored, cranky, and less than darling? Give 'em beans!

Beans!

Notice the important bits of this activity:

Equal amounts of each kind.
Equal tools to use.
Equal containers available (deviled egg carriers are GREAT craft helpers!)
In case you can't tell, I can't stress the whole equal idea enough.
Also, big baking sheet to help keep the beans off the floor (in theory).

Emma is very carefully measuring and counting. George started carefully, then transitioned to the "let's see how many beans I can get into each scoop" method.

And the house was quiet.

(Be sure to look closely enough to see the tear stains on George's cheek. Because just prior to this activity, I was the Worst Mommy Ever. I am now somewhere in between the Best Mommy Ever and the Kinda Fun At Times Mommy.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

My life is so glamorous

You know what's fun?
Searching for and cleaning up dog *ahem* doo in the fall.
In an un-landscaped yard.
Under an apple tree.
"Doo" from a dog who likes to stroll as she, um, "does".
Because, though she can't see an adult human standing in front of her if there is also a ball within 10 feet, she can, apparently, multi-task as she does her business.

Bet you want to come visit now, huh?

Bet you're glad there aren't any pictures to go with this post, huh?

Only because the batteries are dead and I refuse to keep feeding my camera cheap batteries that it inhales and I forgot to get the lithium-titanium-platinum-gold plated rechargeable batteries at the store today.

Be grateful for small things, I say.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What did people do before the Internet?

George doesn't have school on Fridays, so we generally spend it together running errands, cleaning, and playing outside. Today he woke up with a suspiciously stuffy nose and a bit of a glaze over his eyes. So we did all our usual activities, but we've also spent an amazing amount of time on the computer.

One of George's favorite finds is Google Videos. Our search key words:
Steam trains
Black steam engines
Thomas the Tank Engine (I know, shocking!)
John Deere tractors
Model railroad

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
(Taken with the web cam as Thomas comes into view)

See that smile? I suppose it's worth the brain numbing repetition of steam trains (whistling! wheels! train signals!), overloud narration by excited moms & dads at Day Out With Thomas events (Look! There he is! And here's the gift shop!), and poorly filmed extreme close-ups of model trains (somehow always located in dark basements, hmmmmm, we've got one of those...).

While he watches and points to each one he wants to see (and believe me, he knows his way around the various menus), I blog-hop, look through photos, and, today, got sucked into Facebook. I'm not sure what the purpose of this site is, other than seeing updated photos of friends from long ago. But it certainly does kill time nicely. And hey! I was able to chat with my brother, my best friend from high school (who I had exchanged emails with this morning), and about a dozen people from DSP who I... chat with... everyday. Um. Hmm.

Yeah, I'm really not sure it's the most useful thing I've ever seen, but at least I had something to do while trains chugged across my other monitor!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Veteran

iraq downtime

The long separations lately are due to, and in preparation for, a future deployment. Sometime next spring I'll be seeing pictures like this one in my email box, and our communication skills will really be put to the test. But I count my blessings. This deployment will be different.

  • He's with a different unit, one further away from the front lines.
  • Last time, he was deployed ahead of any technology. Just getting mail was iffy, there was no email option available and phone calls were rare and difficult. (He had to travel quite a distance to call me the day we found out George was a boy, it was a quick and scratchy call, but we were incredibly grateful for it.)
  • I'm near family, not on a base across the country.
  • We know how to do this, we've done it before.

Take a moment today to remember and thank any veterans who have touched your life. And though most of us have "moved on" and the war is not a daily thought, it goes on still and the soldiers continue in their duty. Forget politics, remember the men and women who believe in this country of ours enough to fight for it, no matter where they are sent or why.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cleaning house

And my brain, while I'm at it.

Cleaning the counter

This is that counter space. You know, the one right by the entry way, the horizontal surface that is oh-so convenient, otherwise known as the junk pile? I swear that as the pile grows, so does the tension in my shoulders. When the pile buries the phone in its charger, a new wrinkle shows up on my forehead. Every time I drop the day's pallet load of school papers on top of the heap, the pressure in my head increases.

Yeah, I know... a tad on the dramatic side. But really, when my house is out of control, it usually signifies an imbalance in my life. Don't get me wrong, I have two kids, two cats, a dog, and a husband that all pass through here. My house is far from spotless. And I don't want it to be spotless, I want it to look like people live here, play here, and get messy here. But its the spaces like this one, where things are left and not reclaimed, that drive me crazy. Because I know each thing in that space needs to go somewhere else, I need to do something with each one, attention must be paid. And if the pile is as big as it was this morning when I started, I haven't been paying attention in quite a while.

So, as part of my plan to work on the little things that contribute to my mood swings, this morning I attacked that pile. I don't have a before picture. Trust me when I say that the phone was not visible and I could not have crammed a single new piece of paper into the mail holder thingie. All that lovely space in front? Haven't seen it in months.

Today I touched, sorted, and moved every item in the holder and the pile beside it. I now have a full recycle bin and two boxes with papers that need to be filed; sorted into kid stuff and non-kid stuff, already carried downstairs and left in front of the new file cabinet. The saddest part of this adventure is that it took me less than 90 minutes. There were papers and pictures in that pile from last spring that have added to my tension since last spring! How ridiculous!! While my kids played in mud puddles outside, I stood in the open doorway, sorting and enjoying the fresh air.

I have no doubt that that pile will renew itself. Just adding one piece of paper to it today after the mail was delivered made me grit my teeth, but I put it there because it requires action that can't be completed during the weekend. Will it get covered by others? Yup, probably. But if I can remember how much easier it is, somehow, to breathe with it gone, maybe it won't get too bad.

Really though? I just posted this photo to prove to Jason while he's away that there is a counter in that corner.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The comfort of home

Every morning, when he first awakens, George looks out his window.
This is his favorite view.

George's favorite view
Two vehicles in the driveway = Daddy is home.

Jason's schedule has been highly erratic for the last couple of weeks and will continue to be so through November. He's working most weekends, traveling all over the state, so he takes random weekdays off to compensate. While we had gotten fairly used to him being away, this irregular schedule has been hard. The kids miss him. I miss him.

He and I pride ourselves on our communication skills. So much of our relationship has been long distance, that I suppose we feel like we've mastered it. But when you have a very busy husband, doing all kinds of big and varied things; and you are a very busy mom, doing all kinds of little (but important!) and varied things; it seems it's easy to lose our common ground. Which was becoming obvious this week as we spoke on the phone, and even more so when he came home last night for a 36 hour visit.

So, how to find it again?

You can be like me, and go the passive aggressive route. Slump around the house with tightly controlled emotions and use as few words as possible. Answer questions politely, but without affection. Say, "I'm fine", "Everything's fine", "I'm just busy/tired/thinking/distracted", in response to every inquiry. Wait for the visit to be over so you can get back to being grumpy about him being gone again.

Or, you can be like Jason, and force the issue. Say the dreaded words, "We need to talk", triggering flashbacks to drama-filled high school days. Ask, "What's wrong", and don't accept a generic (i.e. false) answer. Pull out the details and share your own. Find the common ground. Hug.

I'm glad you're home, J, even if it is only for one day. This house isn't home without you in it.

Me reflected by you

Monday, November 03, 2008

Now this is the Oregon I know!

Fall in Oregon.
Wet leaves in the rain.
my favorite bench

Looking for bugs in the rain.
looking for bugs

Running in the rain.
I call him Running with Leaf

Good thing we happen to love the rain!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Pictures!

The predicted, and traditional, Halloween rain came down early in the day, leaving the afternoon and evening gorgeous and even a bit warmer than we would have liked! It was a stroke of genius on the school district's part to give the kids the day off (parent/teacher conferences instead), so we were able to enjoy the day and relax; rather than the usual tightly scheduled and stressful lead-up to trick-or-treating.

My little cat and mouse were, quite simply, the cutest trick-or-treaters in Oregon. I'm sorry if you think yours were cuter, you're wrong. I mean really, look at them!

My favorite cat & mouse

See?!!

That mouse costume is almost better from behind:
Itchy costume!
Though I think it may have been a bit uncomfortable, there was a lot of tail adjusting going on!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Practice Trick or Treating

Even when George's vocabulary could be counted on two hands, "Trick or Treat" came easy. There is something to be said for immediate rewards. But for some kids at his special needs preschool, the idea of going to strange houses and speaking is extremely stressful. So they do practice trick or treating in the classroom with the parents and teachers.

practice trick or treating

Truly a precious sight to see some of these little ones trouping around the classroom in their costumes (George removed his cowboy outfit before the party began). Their eyes revealed their nervousness as they approached, but they carefully shaped their mouths around the magic words, accepted the candy going into their decorated bags, then quickly whispered or signed "thank you" as they scooted off to the next parent.

George had none of that nervousness, but had to be reminded after each stop to continue on. He was much more interested in exploring the contents of his bag!

Mmmmmm, candy

George's other favorite part of yesterday's party was his classmate's angel costume. He has always loved soft fabrics and textures and he couldn't resist the feathery outline of her wings.

soft angel wings

The entire time they were at their circle time, singing songs and doing show & tell, his hand was running along the edges of her wings. This is a stimming activity for him, but a non-invasive one that the other child didn't mind and that didn't keep him from participating in the class activities. It was wonderful to see him sitting with a group, singing, making verbal choices, and enjoying his classmates and teachers. Once again, the choice of this school is reinforced and I'm excited for the upcoming months and the changes they will bring.

George saw the trick or treating picture on his activity schedule this morning and has been carrying around his pumpkin ever since. Tonight will be fun as my little mouse goes door to door with his sister cat. (Can it get any cuter?) Pictures to come tomorrow, I'm sure!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homemade Burglar Alarm

My friends and I talk about how we have a hard time sleeping when our husbands are gone, waking at every noise. Looking out my window at deer running down our steeply sloped gravel driveway, I see why I'm awake a lot.

But really, my friends and I agree that, should an univited visitor actually make it into our tightly locked houses, he would have a tough time.

There are the animals to contend with. In my case, a dog that would maybe growl a bit and then glue her nose to the visitor's shoes. And the cat....
Well no, the cat would just look irritated at being woken up, no real threat there.

This house is pretty old, it makes a lot of noise. So unless the visitor knew the exact hopskotch pattern that gets you through the hallway without squeaks and groaning wood, I'd hear him coming.

And then there is the ultimate burglar deterant in which my friends and I all seem to have invested.

Thomas tracks/mess
I dare anyone to get through my hallway at night without tripping/bleeding/stepping on a small, noise-making, smiling train.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

We were brave

We took George with us to the pumpkin patch, after all.

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Bought our tickets for the horse-drawn hayride and some hot apple cider.

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Enjoyed the ride out to the pumpkins, joking with others on the ride and identifying all the John Deere tractors.

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Headed out to the pumpkins.

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And then George and Daddy rapidly got back on the wagon to head back to the barn. Emma and I stayed out a while longer to choose the pumpkins, George had no interest in it and wasn't about to wait for us. (He wasn't about to let Daddy out of his sight, either.)

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So, we dealt with screaming, but we divided and conquered, allowing Emma to do all the activities she wanted. She chose a big pumpkin, I chose a smaller, weird shaped one. She carried my pumpkin, I carried hers. She tried to feed an apple to a very disinterested donkey. She got us lost in a corn maze. She talked me into donuts for lunch as we left the farm's market.

Not the most successful day ever, and she probably would have liked us to leave George with a sitter. But this is the family we have, the brother she has. And little by little, he's learning how we do things and that he has to participate as best he can.

We'll see how pumpkin carving (and dealing with the guts!) goes tomorrow.