To Infinity and Beyond
Halloween was fun this year and Benji was so cute in his costume. Admittedly, he was far more excited about getting candy than he was about dressing up in his costume. So it didn't bother him at all that he had to wear a coat over his costume and his wings on the outside. He also got more excited about trick-or-treating when we caught up to the neighbor kids. He ran way ahead of slow mommy, but at least the other moms were keeping up with the kids.
Even though the costume was not the highlight (I mean, what can compete with candy) Benji still thought that Buzz Lightyear was cool. In fact, in the past week he has gotten excited about his Buzz Lightyear jammies (we actually found these cool jammies that looked better than the things being marketed specifically as costumes). He wanted to wear them two nights in a row and was disappointed last night that they were dirty.
Let's make sure everything fits before the big day. I have to give credit where credit is due. My mom is responsible for those great Buzz Lightyear wings!
Off to school!
Trick or treat, Daddy!
Libellés : Benji
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We're about two months into preschool (four-year-old school, as Benji calls it) and Benji is loving it. Class is 2 3/4 hours a day, Monday to Thursday, which seems to be just right. There are 15 kids in his class with one teacher and one teacher's aide. They also have two special classes — music and gym — where the teachers from the big kids' part of the school come down to the preschool. Benji is particularly fond of gym class and gets so excited when he thinks it's gym day (and disappointed when class isn't on the day he expected). I think he also likes music class since he can actually tell you the teacher's name (Mrs. Cantagallo) although he gets very shy when you ask him to sing one of the songs he's learned.
Thankfully Mrs. Snell sends home a weekly newsletter to tell us what the kids have done each week since it can sometimes be difficult to get Benji (or any preschool kid) to tell you about his day. I know they say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and I think they say prayers, but Benji seems to think they don't do prayers and claims there is no cross in the room (admittedly the cross is kind of small). They have Circle Time with a story most days as well as open play most days. They do the Weekly Reader most weeks and a religion leaflet about once a month. They do lots of art projects to practice cutting, coloring in the lines, and drawing. We still don't get many drawings home from Benji, but we do get things he's colored which are getting better. I'm just happy he's apparently coloring without an argument since we all know that he would rather do a maze than color. I think his favorites, though, are the things that require cutting and gluing. I also get the impression he prefers painting to crayons.
I know they've done the basic color mixing with finger paints as well as related books and other activities (one week it was red and yellow, etc.). The newsletter says they did a leaf walk two weeks ago, but Benji doesn't seem to know what I'm talking about. Last week they spent most of the week doing Halloween-themed projects such as a ghost and a pumpkin. Earlier in the year they did projects with the book "Click Clack Moo Cows That Type" and I think they read a lot of Clifford books. The newsletter says they're working on a shapes book, but I haven't seen that yet. They also spent two weeks on apples, including making applesauce from scratch, doing a family tree, and making apple hats.
At the beginning of October they started weekly show-and-tell. They each have a little flannel bag and whatever they bring has to fit in the bad and not be alive. So far Benji has brought the paper fishing game my mom made for Benji's birthday party, the Double Shutter game Matthew's parents gave him for his birthday, and the Bop-It game that Josh and Beth gave him for his birthday. Are we sensing a trend here? The kid really can't get enough of games. Every Sunday we pick something out and do a little bit of practice — what is this? why is it important? how does it work? Benji gets nervous about talking in the group, but I think the practice helps him feel more comfortable and the fact that he's showing off games gives him something built-in to show. I know that he refuses to raise his hand during Circle Time (he claims he's scared) but as far as I know show-and-tell has been successful.
Parent-Teacher conferences are at the end of November, so we'll have to see what his teacher has to say. In the meantime, here are some photos from the first day of school.
Libellés : Benji
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Big waves and big animals
One of my favorite places in San Diego has always been La Jolla, so we certainly couldn't go to California without a stop in La Jolla. It's just so beautiful on the rocky coastline! We had a nice lunch overlooking La Jolla Cove, although our table wasn't on the border of the patio so our view wasn't as fantastic as it was during our last trip a few years ago. It was still a very enjoyable lunch (and the kids' menu came with a little toy called Bendaroos which Benji had never seen before and was very happy playing with).
After lunch we headed down to the coastline to go out on the rocks. We considered going down to the beach, but when we looked down on the Cove it was completely packed and it must have been high tide since the entire beach was under water. It didn't look safe nor fun, so we stayed up on the rocks instead. And since Benji had enjoyed getting splashed at Cabrillo earlier in the trip we thought he would enjoy this as well. He was a bit disappointed with the first set of rocks we climbed on — there wasn't enough splashing.
But the second set sure didn't disappoint on that front. At first just Benji and Daddy went out further on the rocks to scope things out. They got some nice gentle splashes and were able to jump out of the way before getting too wet. So they decided it was safe for me to come out and join them. I think I was out there for exactly one spash — the giant one that got all of us soaked! That was definitely not the amount of splashing that Benji was looking for so it was time to head back to the car. On the way, though, we stopped for some ice cream at Cold Stone which sure put Benji into a better mood despite still being pretty wet.
Today was our day to drive up to Anaheim, so we ended our stint in San Diego with a stop at the Wild Animal Park on our way out of town. It's amazing how much hotter it is out at the Wild Animal Park than it was on the coast. If we weren't dry yet from the big wave, a few minutes out in the desert was all it took to finish drying off. On our way walking out to the tram ride "Journey into Africa" we saw one of those new giant tethered ballons. Benji was intrigued by the idea so we watched for a while while Mommy rested and had a cold drink. Benji's pressed penny radar also found his souvenir for this destination.
When we got out to the tram, Benji was disappointed that this wasn't a real ride (i.e. a roller coaster), but I had brought with his kids' digital camera so he quickly enjoyed himself being a little photographer. It was so cute to watch him trying to take pictures of the animals, some of which were pretty far away. He also tried to match some of the animals to the pictures on the inside of the tram.
After the tram ride, we went over to one of the special shows they had — the bubble show. This one didn't have any animals so I'm not sure why it was at the Wild Animal Park, but Benji and the other kids enjoyed it. He loved trying to catch the bubbles that floated out over the audience and he even went down to the front at the end when they had the bubble machines spewing out tons of bubbles.
By this time it was getting pretty close to closing so we didn't really have the time to see any other major exhibits. We looked at animals on our way back to the front and then we saw a very nice outdoor seating area. There were several sofas with cushions like you'd find on an indoor patio, and they were so comfy! We sat there for a long time, just enjoying the peacefulness and each other. Benji had a Goldfish and peanut butter snack and we had fun doing silly things with the Goldfish crackers. Funny how you need to go on vacation to a different state to enjoy such a simple pleasure.
But then it was time to really go and was starting to get dark. The last exhibit we saw was the nursery. There were two or three baby leopards or cheetahs (something like that) and Benji loved them. He decided they were "so cute!" We looked at the toys they had and talked about how we had to be quiet for the babies so they could sleep. At that time he didn't yet know about the baby in Mommy's belly, but his interest in the baby animals was quite encouraging.
And then it was time to finish our drive to Anaheim. I wonder what the next day of trip-o-logue will hold?
Benji enjoyed the rocky California coastline.
Splashes! Can't pose for a photo for Mommy when there are big splashes to watch.
Here's the second part of the rocks we visited. Daddy and Benji spent a long time out there enjoying the waves and splashes before they invited me out there.
While I was watching my guys, I also saw a dolphin and a sea lion in the water. This picture really doesn't do it justics and I don't even remember which one is in this photo.
A little rest from the splashes.
Mommy needs some pictures with my guys' faces.
Mommy and Benji with a big splash, but this was not the splash that got us all wet. Notice how wet my overalls are in the picture.
I really like this close-up and how happy Benji looks.
On our way back to the car Benji wanted to sit down on a bench and rest a bit. While resting he made a new game of the big waves. Also notice how very wet his hair is here.
Our little photographer is trying to figure out his camera.
I think Benji was practicing his photography in the station while we waited for the tram to depart.
Benji tries to find the animals on the guide in the tram.
I wonder what animals we saw.
The giraffes were my favorites on this ride.
Picture of Mommy!
Lions sleeping on top of an SUV. How silly!
Benji loved trying to catch bubbles at the bubble show. He was a bit disappointed that he couldn't get to the very front row to catch the most bubbles.
After seeing a cool bubble show, Benji had no interest whatsoever in the elephants. But I still thought this was a nice photo.
On one of the paths we saw some sort of deer, which we were worried had somehow escaped the habitat. After it wandered away an employee came over looking for it. She figured out it was actually a native deer and not "one of ours". Still, a little weird to see it wandering around.
Benji really loved the baby animals. I wish we had found the nursery earlier in our visit.
Libellés : Benji, vacation
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Super early Christmas list.
Because I know there are people who will be a little busy closer to Christmas.
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This dulcitone library (in Kontakt).
This piano library (standard version; in Kontakt).
This circle bells library.
Kore Soundtrack Pop Drums (in Kore Player).
Scarbee Pre-Bass sample library.
A 1 Terabyte (or bigger) hard drive.
This desktop memory.
Wii Mario Cart
Tiger Woods 2009
New Super Mario Bros.
Etchings by Mary Lou Hess.
Paintings by John Singer Sargent.
An Iowa State Anna Prins jersey.
An awesome handbell shirt (under the perhaps incorrect assumption that one exists).
Who cares about Shamu when there's a bounce house?
Instead of getting tickets to just Disneyland for our California trip, we got a combo pass called a City Pass. For less than $50 more than the 3-day Disneyland pass, we also got admission to Sea World, San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park, and Universal Hollywood. There's no way I'd pay the $65 gate price for Sea World (especially since none of us could ride the new big rides), but it's a nice place to go if the price is right. So that was our main destination for Day 2 of the trip.
Benji's favorite part of Sea World was the rides — of course. The last time I was at Sea World (probably 20 years ago) it was all about the animals, but now they have several large roller coasters (Benji didn't meet the height minimum so we didn't go check them out) and Elmo's Bay of Play. He was quite fond of Elmo's Flying Fish (basically the Dumbo ride shaped like Elmo; strangely their policy was that I couldn't ride, but really, how dangerous could this possibly be?).
But his favorite "ride" was the bounce room. This was no standard bounce house where they cram 10 kids into a tiny inflatable. No, safety-minded Sea World lets 6 kids in at a time and the room was huge (maybe 15 feet x 15 feet). With so few kids in such a large area I could feel safe letting Benji run around in there. The first time in, he kept trying to stand up and run around like the bigger kids but kept falling down before he could even take a step. So he crawled over to the edge and complained at me that he couldn't do it. A bit of tough love was appropriate here so I just sent him back to the middle and told him to keep practicing. (Lately he's been getting overly frustrated when he can't do something perfectly the first time. Therefore we're working on the idea of practicing to get better.) He certainly didn't master it on that session, but it looked like so much fun and he knew that smaller bounce houses were fun so he asked to go back in many times. Very quickly he was running around like a pro! Later that evening we couldn't even get him out of the bounce room willingly to watch fireworks. It must be pretty fun in order to rate higher than fireworks in Benji's mind!
We did, of course, also go to the big shows — Shamu, the sea lions, and the dolphins. Benji didn't really like the dolphin show, due more to the fact that it had pyrotechnics including fire. We had to cover his eyes for about half the show. Admittedly it was quite hot when the fire was on and the show certainly would have been better with less fire and more dolphins. Perhaps we should have sit further back. We sat in the very last row of the "splash zone" which concerned Benji. He did not like those Splash Zone signs so we had to convince him that even if we did get splashed it would be a very little splash (we stayed completely dry). For Shamu we had to sit way back in the stadium even though we were still 15 minutes early for the show and I thought Benji was rather unimpressed by the whole thing. However, days and weeks later he's referred to seeing Shamu the whale. I guess you never know what information and experiences they're soaking in.
The other favorite part of Sea World was touching animals. They don't let you touch nearly as much as they used to (no more petting the sea lions or walruses and touching the dolphins costs a pretty penny) but they still have a tank to touch rays and a tidepool to touch starfish and crabs. We tried the rays, but they didn't come close enough to the edge of the tank for Benji to reach and he refused to let Daddy hold him up higher. (He still asks us why they didn't want him to touch them.) They starfish were much more successful. The tidepool was much shorter and had fake rocks to climb on so Benji could get up over the edge to touch things much more easily. There were lots of starfish in there, so we went around the whole tidepool touching various starfish. He also liked picking them up. There was a sign that said not to take the animals out of the water (which he read, of course) so we told him he could pick up the animals (gently) as long as they stayed under the water. He liked feeling the bumpy starfish and looking at the underside. There was one crab in a very large shell that apparently was quite heavy and impressed him.
Prior to the Sea World part of the day, we did the "Mommy & Daddy" part of the day with a trip over to Balboa Park. Since we were unsuccessful with Balboa Park and its artist galleries on Sunday, we decided to try again. As we were parking we heard the organ playing, which was quite surprising. Of course we had to check it out. It turns out that there would be a performance that evening for an organ festival they were hosting, so some folks were rehearsing. So while Matthew missed the real concert the afternoon before, he ended up with his own private concert with a front-row seat. I'm so happy for this serendipitous finding. In fact, it was so lucky that by the time we walked past later in the afternoon it was all done.
Organ rehearsal at Balboa Park.
Just like on Day 1, Benji continued covering his face for photos and laughing.
Styling in his sunglasses.
Doesn't Daddy look good in the Elmo fish ride?
And to think this was considered too dangerous for me to ride.
I loved the view of the bay from the sea lion and otter show.
Oh yeah, there were sea lions at the show, too.
Back to the Elmo ride. Better than Shamu, right?
Benji's favorite ride, the bounce room.
Benji was a little upset that the triangle music station was missing its stick, so we had to show him you could hit the triangles together. There were similar hands-on activities at Disneyland, and he enjoyed those too.
He waited and waited to play the giant xylophone.
It's hard to touch a ray when your hands only go 2 inches into the water.
Did you know that starfish are bumpy?
Benji touched so many starfish! We went around the entire tidepool touching every starfish he could reach.
I think this is Benji picking up the crab in a large shell.
He also loved turning them over and looking a the bottom. I'm happy to say he was very respectful of the animals.
Back to the bounce room for some wild fun! Late at night the line was super short so he got tons of play time (although it was too dark for good photos).
Libellés : Benji, vacation
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Our California adventure begins
The highlight of our first day was definitely Cabrillo National Park. We didn't even end up making it up to the lighthouse, but that's OK. Because they closed earlier in the day, we decided to start by driving down to the tidepools right down on the water. We were approaching low tide so we could go quite far out onto the rocks. Benji just loved the waves. He would get all excited when a wave would come in and he'd wait for the splash, yet he would also hold both hands up "to protect [himself] from the splashes." Apparently even low tide was too high today to see much sealife in the tidepools (or at least that's what the sign said) but that didn't matter. We still saw two small crabs, which was apparently enough for Benji (and he'll see plenty more tomorrow at Sea World).
After we climbed back up to slightly higher ground, Benji enjoyed looking around for big rocks to sit on. We also watched the surfers and talked about how hard that must be. Then when it was time to get back in the car so we could go up by the lighthouse he thought we were going so far. We had to show him the lighthouse on the top of the hill and asked if we wanted climb all the way up there. He decided that no, we didn't want to climb that mountain. I don't think Uncle Dave would agree with Benji's definition of a mountain!
Back at the top, we spent a bit of time in the gift shop, where we all got our National Parks Passports stamped. Although we had started a book for Benji back in Richmond, he didn't remember that at all. I think, however, when I talked about getting our books stamped that he thought we were getting his "book map" stamped at the library and that we were getting a prize. I suppose he did get a prize of sorts, though, since he picked out a souveneir all by himself — a small book of mazes in the shapes of sea shells. Still, no coloring books for this kid. But mazes, yes! We also did a pressed penny at his request and he even turned the crank most of the way (with a bit of help from Daddy; note that this clip is VERY long so it may not be worthwhile with a slow connection).
Other places we went today included Old Town (our favorite art gallery/co-op that had been there since my family had gone to San Diego 20 years ago was gone — big disappointment) and a failed attempt to see the organ concert at Balboa park (drove forever and still couldn't find a parking spot). We also had a nice dinner at Seaport Village. The restaurant wasn't just on the water's edge, but was literally on the water — on stilts. Matthew and I both enjoyed the seafood (I even got the three-fish platter — yummy) while Benji ate every last noodle of his macaroni and cheese. Benji also really enjoyed watching one particular seagull walk around outside our window. There was a small walkway around the perimeter and the seagull walked back and forth the whole meal, with Benji getting excited every time his bird friend walked past our table. After dinner we strolled around the shops and shared a piece of fudge.
So Cabrillo wins today. It's especially nice because it's somewhere that Matthew and I would have gone to without Benji yet it was fabulous to see it through his fresh eyes.
When we first got there I stayed behind a bit since I didn't want to fall. After scoping things out and seeing how much Benji loved it, Matthew came back to get me and help me down onto the rocks.
From a distance I couldn't figure out what Benji was doing, but it turns out the upturned hand was his attempt to stop the waves.
Since these are tidepools, Matthew is trying to point out a crab (I think).
Oooh! Big splash!
Wait! Someone other than Benji as a focal point in a photo? Isn't he good looking, too?
Family self-portrait off-center.
Benji started an odd habit on this vacation. He thought it was totally hilarious and silly to put his hands in front of his face for photos so we had to get creative to get decent photos.
Ah, finally the whole family!
Benji got tired of my taking photos and started blowing up his cheeks and popping them. Another view into his growing sense of humor as silly preschooler.
Which one will be our new computer wallpaper?
The "bored teenager" look.
After we finished with the tidepools themselves we walked a bit around the overlook.
This one is a favorite of mine!
Benji's seagull friend at dinner.
Libellés : Benji, vacation
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Mother's Day with the Cubs
If you had asked me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day I have to admit that a Cubs game would not have come to mind as a first choice. However, it turns out to have been a fantastic way to spend Mother's Day. The game was up at Miller Park and that park is so family friendly! They have a nice kids' area underneath the stands, they have more between-inning entertainment than at Wrigley, and they let the kids run the bases after the game. Throughout the game Benji repeatedly told me "I love you Mommy!" and "You're the best!" Who could beat that for Mother's Day?
Traffic was lighter than expected, so we got to the game well before it started. So we spent some time in the kids' area, which included a replica of the slide the mascot goes down when the Brewers hit a home run, a pitching cage, a running game where you race a cutout of a Brewers player, and balloon animal clowns.
Here you pedal to race cutouts of the sausages. Unfortunately, Benji couldn't reach the pedals so he was kind of sad he couldn't quite do the race.
But the running game was one he could definitely do.
Chilling out with Daddy.
The mascot slides down when a home run is scored, but for Benji it was just a fun slide.
We didn't dare try the batting cage, but we thought the pitching cage would be good. Benji didn't come anywhere near the catcher but he enjoyed himself.
After playing, we still arrived at our seats well in advance of the game. As we were settling in, an employee came up and asked Benji if he had ever caught a ball at a game. I thought he was just chit chatting, but it turns out he had a ball from batting practice and gave it to Benji. How special!
Benji's game ball. He enjoyed looking at it and holding it during the game.
After the game we waited in the VERY long line to run the bases. Those few minutes were probably the highlight of Benji's game. Every so often he still talks about it so we have to remind him that it's only at that stadium that we get to run the bases.
Libellés : Benji
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Art is something you create
So we were watching the Saturday morning news last weekend and they talked about the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute and how admission would be free this week. Although we weren't sure if the crowds would be overwhelming, we decided to take advantage of the free admission (it's now $18 per person) and see what Benji thinks of art museums.
It turns out that while the museum was busy, it wasn't overwhelmingly crowded. And the older parts (which we prefer anyway) weren't crowded at all. As a pleasant surprise, Benji fell asleep right before we parked the car so we popped him in the stroller and had a bit of a "date" walking through the galleries without arguing with or chasing him. After he woke up, we had lunch in the courtyard (the area used to be a sit-down restaurant but with the new Modern Wing they converted that to seating for the cafeteria). During lunch, Matthew and Benji had a conversation about art. Matthew said that art is "taking a look at pictures and photos that people had created." Benji told Matthew that "art is also something you create."
So after lunch we went to the family galleries where they had several rooms with different projects for the kids. In the first room Target gave every kid an apron to wear (and bring home) while making their art. The project in that room was a watercolor painting. While Benji didn't really paint the pictures provided, he did spend a lot of time on his project. He liked mixing the colors together to see what they would make. He also liked arranging the "paintbrush" Q-Tips into different shapes after he used them. In the second room you got to make your own art tote bag with fabric markers. Benji drew a pattern of circles and squares. Then he actually colored the two circles and did quite a nice job of staying inside the lines. He generally doesn't color things because he is super-critical of himself and coloring in the lines but I was pleasantly surprised that not only did he want to color the shapes but he was also quite good. He also decided to make up a story while he was making his artwork, something about a boy who dropped the marker. Matthew and I also got to make a tote bag in that room. I traced the whole family's handprints on mine!
After two art projects, we thought maybe Benji could stand to see a little bit of the real art so we took him through the second floor of the Modern Wing. He was not impressed, but, then again, neither were we. We did have a few art learning moments, though. Benji looked at one of the sculptures and asked what it was. Being modern art, we had no idea so we asked him what he thought it was. At first he wouldn't answer but after both Daddy and Mommy gave answers (a STOP sign and a lollipop), he gave a suggestion, too (a tree). We asked him that question on a few other works and discussed art a bit. Of course it was a simple discussion, but it was nice to get Benji thinking about art.
We went back to do one more art project and then the museum was closed. So we walked around Millennium Park a bit, including a stop at the "bean" which Benji got a big kick out of. He also enjoyed rearranging the family in different orders when we sat down on a bench and later on some steps.
I'm so glad we took a chance on free admission day. It could have been super crowded, but it was just right. Enough people that that you felt you were at something special and lots of special activities for Benji while also some time to look at art while he slept. A nice spur-of-the-moment Saturday afternoon!
Libellés : Benji
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