Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kendall reads her first book

For the past several weeks, Kendall has been bringing home a series of two-page "stories" from school.  They have repetitive phrases like "I am little" or "My cat is..."  Essentially, it's teaching her to recognize words to ease into reading.  When Emily did it, her class called them "sight words."

It's working, because last night Kendall read me a book for the first time.

She'd picked out a little "Step Into Reading" book featuring the Disney princesses at the library, and she asked me to read it to her.  I suggested instead that she try to read it to me.

We sat on the couch going over each page.  It was another system of repetitive phrases centered around "What is a princess?" and "A princess is..."  I tried to provide as little help as possible, only giving her more difficult words like "through."  The rest she either recognized or we sounded out together.  After we finished, she was quite proud of her accomplishment, and she wanted to practice it again.

The second time around, it was clear that she'd memorized some passages, but I'd expected that.  I was more impressed that she needed much less help in sounding out words this time.

It was also interesting to notice which words she recognized and which words she read.  Almost every time she came to the word "is," she said "the" instead.  I could tell it was a word she recognized, and her brain processed it as "this is a small word I know" instead of reading each sound.  Then for the princesses names, she'd read the first letter or two and make the intuitive leap to "Cinderella" or "Jasmine," since she could see the princess pictured on the page.

After dinner, Kendall read the book again for Misty, and her reading was smoother still.  Misty was, of course, proud, but not so much as Kendall, I think.

This morning, I heard Kendall downstairs reading the book again to Emily.  Then the two of them got out a couple other "Step Into Reading" books and started working on them together.  Not just reading, but getting along -- two things that make me a happy father.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A difficult subject with kids

Kendall bluntly asked me today at breakfast, "Daddy, when are you going to get a job?"

"As soon as possible," I told her.  "I'm trying."

"Why don't you just go back to work for," she asked.

As my mind spun trying to figure out how to answer, Emily chimed in.  "They probably already hired somebody to do the job he did," Emily suggested.

"Well, not really," I said.  "It's more like they don't just have that position anymore."

"So, they don't do the stuff you did there anymore?," Emily asked.

"No, that's not exactly it either," I said as I wondered how to give any sort of answers that would make sense to a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old.

Apparently, it was good enough for Kendall though, as he moved on to a new angle.  "Are we going to be poor if you don't get a job?," she asked.

How do you tell a 5-year-old that it's nothing she needs to worry about without being condescending, and without having to explain severance packages or the interview process?  I promise her that our family is going to be fine, but she still sees that her dad has been at home for two months.  And she knows her dad is supposed to be going to work.

This is the reason I kept my employment situation private for as long as possible.  I didn't want my girls to worry.  Little kids shouldn't have to worry about stuff like this!  They should be concerned with playing and singing and decorating for Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving thanks for ice cream and cheap movies

We capped off the Thanksgiving break with another trip to the movies -- this time to see "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" at the $1.50 theater.  Emily's been reading the books and has really enjoyed them.  I wondered if it would be difficult to follow the sequel having not seen the first movie, but we had no problems.  It was a cute family comedy, and we had fun.  Also, it turns out that it was actually the third movie in the series.  I had no idea.

Afterward Misty surprised us by swinging into Brewster's for ice cream cones.  Emily had birthday cake ice cream, Kendall had mint chocolate chip, Misty had Chocolate Lover's Trash, and I had almond chocolate coconut.  We were surprised by how many other kids also ordered mint chocolate chip.  Four or five kids in line after Kendall picked the same thing, and she was convinced they were copying her.  I think it's more likely just a popular flavor, but again, I had no idea.

It was almost the perfect end to our weekend, but on the way out of the parking lot, Emily made the mistake of taking a small sip from a water bottle that her sister thought should have been hers, and something snapped inside of Kendall.  What resulted was an outpouring of tears and rage that lasted the rest of the way home.  A less experienced parent might have assumed that she needed a nap, but if you've spent extended time with a five-year-old, you'll know that they are not tired!  And how dare you suggest such a thing?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas time is here

The decorations are set up. The trees are trimmed. The lights are hung.

Christmas time has arrived at the Cuthbert household.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Boys are gross

Traie, Emily and Kendall's 7-year-old cousin, came home with us after Thanksgiving dinner to visit for a couple days. Living in an otherwise all-female household, I forget how little boys can be.

As Traie was getting dressed to go out and play, I heard him making a noise in the bathroom, but I wasn't sure whether it was crying or laughing. "Are you OK in there, Traie?," I asked through the door.

"I accidentally dropped my underwear in the toilet," he answered.  At least by now though, I could tell he was laughing.

Afraid of what was about to come next, I asked him, "Why is the toilet lid open?"

"I don't know," he replied. The classic kid answer.

At this point, I knew I had to check, so I opened the door. I found Traie stuffing a sopping wet pair of briefs into his bag of clean clothes. "Did you just go to the bathroom a minute ago?," I asked.


"Did you flush?"

"Oh. Whoops."

I looked to confirm, and the water in the toilet was indeed yellow.  So actually he was stuffing a pair of briefs sopping wet with urine back into his bag of clean clothes.

"Well, that mystery's solved," I said. "Let's not put those in with your clean clothes. Why don't I just wash them instead?"

I got a load of laundry started, and Traie headed toward the door.  His pants were noticeably sagging, and I immediately saw that something was missing.

"Traie, you forgot your underwear," I said. "You need to put on one of the other pairs you have with you."

"Oh. Whoops."

Thank you, God, for my little girls (who never do anything gross ever).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving traditions (with a few changes)

Keeping with our Thanksgiving tradition, we spent today in Cullman with Misty's family.  With all the family tree branches and various friends, there were 31 people there (plus three dogs, a cat, two donkeys, and a bunch of cows).

To make room for the seemingly ever-growing crowd, the feast was moved to Kristen's house this year instead of Cathy and Jackie's.  Jackie happy informed me that this was enough to cement the change as a permanent tradition, and that hosting duties had been officially passed to his daughter.

With most guests bringing multiple dishes to share, there was a boatload of food, and we stuffed ourselves with as much as we could cram on our plates.  The niftiest desserts were little turkey's Misty's mom made out of Oreos, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, candy corn, and Whoppers.  I don't know how they tasted though, because the kids ate them all.

Emily always looks forward to playing in the leaves at Thanksgiving because, unlike at our own house, there are enough to rake into a pile.  Kristen and Kevin were more than happy to let her rake them.

And just in case you didn't believe me about the donkeys (they keep the coyotes away)...

Barbie can be so difficult sometimes

As we were getting ready for today's Thanksgiving meal, I came upstairs and heard Kendall fussing...

"No! I didn't get that out for you! I got it out for myself!"

I poked my head in the playroom hoping to diffuse the argument before the situation escalated, but I didn't see Emily. Kendall was sitting in there alone, playing with her Barbies. The kid was actually incorporating pretend bickering into her playtime.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving break commences

With the girls out of school and Misty off from work (and me too, obviously) we kicked off the Thanksgiving holiday with a trip to the movies to see Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph."  I'd been enthused about this movie ever since I first saw the trailer for it back in June, and I was not disappointed.  It was fun catching all the old video game references scattered throughout what was a really sweet story, too.

The girls loved the movie too, and it came as no surprise that they were fans of the character Vanellope von Schweets.  In fact, Vanellope played a much bigger role than I'd realized, helping make the movie very girl-friendly.  She's currently scheduled for character meet-and-greets (alongside Ralph) at Disney World, so I hope she'll still around by the next time we make it there.  It's too bad Disney made her a full-bodied, masked costume though.  She'd have been a fun character to hear talk, considering her personality.  Actually, Misty remarked that a Vanellope costume wouldn't be too difficult to put together for next Halloween.  I'm not sure if she was thinking of it for the girls or herself, though.

After the movie, Misty went to check out the new Charming Charlie store in McCalla.  Emily and Kendall think that place is just the greatest -- so much fancy stuff, they can barely contain themselves.  They found a section of tiaras, and they were in heaven.

Later on, Kendall helped Misty bake pumpkin bars for tomorrow's Thanksgiving meal while Emily helped me bake a chocolate chip walnut pie.

Day one of Thanksgiving break is an official success.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Awesomely modest

As I walked into our bathroom this morning, I found Misty standing in front of the mirror flexing her arm muscles.

Misty: "Look at this. I'm kind of awesome."

Me: "Just 'kind of'?"

Misty: "Well, I don't want to sound arrogant."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roller skating party

Kendall attended her first birthday party from one of her classmates this afternoon at Roller Motion Skate Center near our house.  Since it was a party for a boy, she was very concerned that there would be other girls there.  It was hard to get her enthused about going (despite her admission that Max is one of the nice boys in her class), but she perked up as soon as she saw her friend Shelby there.  The two of them hung out skating together nearly the entire time.

We'd only taken Kendall roller skating one before, so she was still not used to having wheels attached to her feet.  She fell down more times than I could count, but she never once cried or gave up.  She'd pop right back up and keep skating (which was really more like shuffling her feet, but she had fun).  What a great attitude!

I was pleased to learn that since the family had rented out the whole skating rink, parents could join in.  One of the other dads commented to me that we were going to be sore tomorrow, but it was well worth it to have so much fun with my little girl.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Talking to spiders

Kendall got some plastic spiders for Halloween, and she's been having fun placing them around the house in an attempt to "scare" the rest of us.  She put one on my shoulder while giving me a hug, and a couple days ago I found one of them waiting for me on my pillow.

We had a pest control visit scheduled for today, and this morning I heard Kendall talking to her spiders.  "Don't worry," she told them.  "He's just going to spray for bugs, and you're not bugs, so you'll be safe."

Before you get too impressed that she knows spiders aren't insects, I should also mention that a few days earlier Kendall said to me, "Spiders lay eggs, so they must be mammals, right?"

At least she's right that her plastic arachnid friends are safe from the bug spray guy.  I'm not so sure about the real spiders around here, though.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Vulcan Run offers a nice tour of iconic Birmingham spots

Misty and I did the Vulcan Run today -- my first 10k in 20 years! I finished with time of 1:05:43 (better than I'd expected), but more importantly, I had a fun time doing it.

The weather was pleasant, and the race offered a nice tour of Birmingham.  Starting near Boutwell Auditorium, our route took us by (or at least where we had a good view of) the buildings downtown; Pepper Place; the Vulcan statue; Highland Park Golf Course; Rushton, Rhodes, and Caldwell Parks; Quinlan Castle; Five Points South with "The Storyteller" fountain, the statue of Brother Bryan, and the giant Blazer logo on the street; historic Morris Avenue; and Linn Park.

Less than a month ago I had trouble completing a 5k, but today's 10k was no problem.  It made such a difference in running at my own pace and not trying to keep up with Misty.  And since she finished 10 minutes earlier, it was nice to have her there at the finish line cheering for me.

I don't think I'll wait another 20 years before my next 10k (my last one was the 1992 Peachtree Road Race).  I'd do the Vulcan Run again next year, or even another 10k event.  But I'm definitely not up for Misty's suggestion of, "Do you want to do the Mercedes Half Marathon next?"

Not yet, anyway.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Preserving the Halloween tradition

This is why we love trick-or-treating at The Preserve.  I've always said that their neighborhood reminds me of Disney's Main Street USA, so October 31 feels a bit like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (minus the parade and fireworks).  While the house pictured here goes above and beyond the rest of the neighborhood (and you're only getting a small glimpse of it here), it's this sort of embrace of the holiday that lends to a festive atmosphere all around.

I feel guilty abandoning our own neighborhood -- leaving a bucket of candy on the porch that's sure to be empty within 15 minutes, despite the sign asking people to limit themselves to two pieces -- but The Preserve is just too much fun to pass up.  I suppose that's why the crowds there have continued to grow over the past three years.

In other Halloween news, Misty's light-up wig was a huge hit.  Nearly everyone we passed commented on it, a number of kids had to touch it, and several people wanted to know where Misty found it (I think that's her favorite part, because she gets to say "").

Also, since the weather had warmed up and Kendall was feeling better from her medicine, she got to go trick-or-treating after all.  Thank goodness we didn't have to worry about an even number of candy pieces.