We took advantage of Mike being home this past weekend, in between his trips to Las Vegas and Chicago. We started the morning off with a visit to the Art Walk on Whyte Ave. There was lots of good stuff there and had I not been pulled away by the little hand in mine, I would have liked to look at at some more closely. But the boys did a great job and we got to talk a little bit about visual art. Some things they told us just were ‘not art’, but trying to explain subjectivity in art to a 3-year old, is, well, futile. If they don’t like it it doesn’t matter if anyone else does. So along we went. Afterwards I asked Brandon if he liked the pictures that were painted better, or the ones taken with a camera. My son came through for me with a resounding, “the camera ones!” Which makes me think that I have not yet jaded them with all the pictures I’ve taken of them.
After our long walk back to the car, the boys slept while we ran some errands. We made it back home with just enough time for me to run to the corner and get some groceries before hitting the LRT and heading downtown to see Wall-e. Anna met us at our place (and her new neighborhood beginning in August!) and we walked to the LRT, took it to City Centre Mall and the Cinema for the boys’ first trip to a real movie theater. I was worried because we were running a little behind, but the theatre wasn’t even half full. So that worked out well for us. We have been practicing for the past few months with movie nights every week or so. We pop some popcorn, curl up on the couch, turn down the lights, and play a movie off of the computer. Not exactly the big screen, but the boys have been working on being quiet when the movie is on and not getting up and down. So this was our big test. Would they make it the whole way through? Would we have to leave early? We found an empty row of seats about halfway down, I sat on the end in case someone needed to get out fast. While Anna, the boys and I were getting our popcorn I found seats that the kids could sit on to make them higher. I remember seeing these a long time ago, but forgot all about them. They seemed to work well for the boys and kept them from squishing up in the seat. They had a hard time sitting during the previews and kept asking “where’s Wall-e?” But once it started they did a great job with minimal talking and fidgeting. The middle of the movie was a bit slow and the robot theme was not something they have much experience with ( I know, I know, we’re working on it ), so about halfway through Bran ended up on Mike’s lap and Drew was having trouble sitting still, alternating between wiggling and laying on my arm. But it picked up again and they were back to watching.
After the movie we walked a block or so to the Spaghetti Factory, where Joel met up with us and we had a great dinner. The boys were telling us all about Wall-e and Eve. Eve was Drew’s favorite and Bran liked Wall-e best. We had trouble keeping them still for dinner and were reminded once again why we don’t go out as a family by ourselves and how glad we are that our friends are willing to take on some responsibility in keeping the boys entertained. Thanks Anna and Joel!
All in all our first trip to the big screen was positive and I think we’ll try again in the fall.
Now we’re off for a weekend of camping in Jasper, which we haven’t done since the boys were a year old. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. They’re way more mobile and they like to run…
Mike went to see the Eye Doctor yesterday for the first time since I’ve known him, which is about 16 years. He’s been having some trouble with one eye in particular getting very itchy and causing him to have trouble seeing, especially when it’s really bright. The doctor thinks that he is developing a sensitivity and should probably start wearing sunglasses. She also somehow knew, by looking under his eyelid that he had had an allergic reaction of some kind, which was what had caused the itchiness. If he wants, he can go on an allergy medication indefinitely or wait and see if it happens more regularly and more severely. They both decided it would be better to wait and see.
It was a regular check up so he also did the whole eye exam thing. It turns out his vision is not 20-20 like he thought, it’s actually 20-15. And if he wanted they could prescribe reading glasses to make it 20-10! So he’s not just perfect, he’s better than perfect! He decided not to go the reading glasses route. Go figure… As someone who’s had glasses since they were 8-years old, this is mystifying to me. I’m in complete awe. I think he just discovered a new superhero power, perfect vision man (or something like that). Anyone have any ideas for a good name? Maybe his one weakness is actually light instead of water?
Friday the boys and I were on campus in the building where Mike works. We were stopped by a woman I didn’t know, asking if the boys were “the Bowling Twins”. I said they were and she told me that she had been joking with some faculty just that day about how interesting it was that their children were all so cute when, well… you know, they weren’t. I agreed saying “yeah it’s funny how cute they turn out when their parents aren’t.” After the woman walked away Brandon turned to me and very seriously asked me, “I’m not cute?” I assured him that he was in fact cute to which he replied, “You’re not cute mommy.”
I have to admit that he did a great job of following the gist of the conversation!
We had some very important visitors at our house today. An Angel…and…God. First let me say, these were very welcome guests as the day for me wasn’t that great. In fact it was one of those crying days. Those days when you have two small boys who are bouncing off the walls (your own and the public ones, you know, those embarrassing ones). The boys were high energy, high maintenance today. There were lots of time outs, whining, and even a bloody lip. To top it all off, our van ends up in the shop and I’m supposed to go grocery shopping tonight! And…we’re potty training! Ugh!!
So…back to our guests. I was folding the sheets this afternoon when Bran looks up and exclaims, his face beaming, “Mommy! You’re an Angel!” And then he runs over and gives me a big hug. Awww…I felt like a million bucks. Then before I could get too caught up in the moment, he’s grabbing the sheet saying, “I wanna be an angel too!” Of course at this point, Drew runs in and wants to know what sounds like so much fun. After seeing Bran draped in a sheet, he wants to be an angel now too. Here’s how the rest of the dialogue went:
Me:”You want to be an angel too?”
A: “Yep…no…I wanna be God the Father” (Now we have been attending an Anglican church lately, but I was a little shocked).
Me:”You want to be God the Father?” (Just making sure I heard correctly)
A: “Yep…no…I wanna be Jesus!”
Me:”Okay, Bran’s an Angel, you can be Jesus”
So God and an Angel ran around our house this afternoon looking like two misfits at a toga party. But it sure gave me a much needed laugh. Where were they this evening, when I needed them? Maybe they’ll come back tomorrow.
I’m generally not into writing the Christmas letter thing. But since I put my blog address on all my Christmas cards, I thought maybe I should write something about what’s been happening in the Bowling family. Mostly it’s a review since I’ve written about much of our lives in this blog already.
As with most years, this one has been filled with its ups and downs. Drew and Bran have really grown this year and are turning into little boys. As of last January the boys were out of their cribs. At 18 months this wasn’t our ideal situation, but they were climbing out of their cribs so often and so well that they were starting to do dangerous things and getting hurt. So out went the beds. We tried mattresses on the floor for several months, but we just couldn’t keep them in bed. We got to the point where we were actually laying in between with our arms over each one holding them down! It was taking hours to get them to sleep. It takes Bran a while to settle in bed at night and he had a lot of trouble with this. So we tried putting them in their room and letting them run around until they were ready to sleep. This only resulted in a torn up bedroom with destroyed drawers and wallpaper. So back we went to staying beside them until they fell asleep. Around their 2nd birthday they got toddler beds which actually helped a lot. But we still have to stay in the room with them. Bedtime has gone down to 15-20 minutes most nights and 1 hour on really bad nights. Drew really likes to be patted on his back and it’s often best to leave Bran alone to roll around, chew his soother and settle down. We’re still working on being able to leave them alone and having them not get up and follow us out. But it will come.
In April the boys spent a week in Ohio with their Grandma Scott, and Nana and Papa Bowling while we went on a vacation (a belated trip for our 10th anniversary. We had our 11th one this September!). It was really nice to get away and nice for the boys to have some one-on-one time with their grandparents. We also threw a little early birthday party for them while we were there, which was lots of fun for the family.
Since we were back home in April we decided not to go back over the summer, so Mike’s parents came out in June and my brother and sister-in-law, Jeffery and Holly came out that month as well. My mom came out during her summer vacation in July. We didn’t do a lot of traveling because it was so hard with the boys sleeping. This was really hard on us because we had been so used to taking them everywhere. But we decided to try one weekend away in Calgary in August. We spent one day at the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum, stayed overnight in a hotel in Calgary and spent the next day at the Calgary Zoo. The boys did great! Our hotel had a pool which the boys absolutely loved! There was a waterslide and every time someone went down it splashed water everywhere. I thought this would especially freak Drew out but he just giggled and giggled every time he got splashed. The boys even slept well. So it was a great trip.
This fall the boys started in a playschool. They go every Wednesday from 9:15-11:45. It took Bran a few weeks to get used to it, but now he’s doing great. In January they will move up to the next class and may go 2 days a week. It’s been a big help to me. I’ve been able to get some much needed cleaning done around the house and run some errands. It’s become really difficult to run errands with the boys. Grocery shopping has become a nightmare, unless it’s a quick trip, and you can forget about going anywhere else. So this gives me time to do much of that.
Many Fridays the boys have been going to a drop-in gymnastics program. It’s really great. It’s a big room filled with gymnastics equipment, all at toddler height. And they can run around and use any of the equipment that they want. It really helps them burn off some energy. The boys also had their 2nd set of swimming lessons this fall. They were in the Duck class. They love swimming! By the end they were doing really well floating, blowing bubbles, and even putting their heads under from time to time. The boys really like to try and swim with their arms and legs going. But aren’t so keen on putting their heads under more than once a class. We went to a new facility this time which was great for the boys. Our class was in a shallow teaching pool where the water was up to the boys’ chest. It’s great for them because they can move around without us having to hold on to them. They enjoy having the freedom to move on their own. Our classes have ended and we have decided to wait a bit for the next class (Sea Turtle). We would like to have our Saturday mornings back for a little while.
The boys in general are doing really well. They’re ornery, they’re tiring, they make us angrier than we ever thought we could be. But they also make us laugh, and they’re great snugglers, and it’s so much fun to watch them grow and learn. They say the funniest things which I’ll write more about later. Bran is going through a separation anxiety phase which is really hard for our extroverted child. He always wants to be in the middle of things but he wants one of us to be there with him. He is very creative and often keeps himself entertained with make believe scenarios using dinosaurs, banana peel rockets, styrofoam cups, etc. He’s also talks with authority and likes to tell us what to do, “come here, no talking, no singing, move over…” Drew is more introverted, although he’s quite happy to jump into new activities without much fear. He’s definitely an intense child. One minute he’s smiling and giggling and as cute as can be, the next he’s whining, crying and generally an unhappy boy. We enjoy the giggling Drew better. Drew loves music; listening to it, playing his recorder, guitar, piano or drums. We often also find him dancing to the music we’re listening to.
One of the things that we have started to enjoy doing with the boys is playing games. Finally! Our favorite game until recently has been Carcassonne. Before you think we’ve got geniuses or something…we play a very simple version. Here are our rules. 1. You have to take turns drawing a tile. 2. You have to place a tile on the table next to another tile. 3. You may not pick up any pieces from the table. Very simple. Drew is starting to understand that roads can touch roads and cities are part of bigger cities, so soon we will add another rule which is that the tiles must touch appropriately. The boys are getting several games for Christmas from family members so I’ll have more to write about games later.
Mike decided to do some consulting work this summer. He’ll have to tell you more about what he’s doing. It made his summer a little more busy, but manageable. It really got rough though in September when he started teaching two classes. He dropped his consulting back by half after that. It’s definitely been nice having the extra income (it helps with the cost of bringing us all home ). Mike taught 2 classes this term, a robotics class for graduate students and an undergraduate class on computer game development. I think he really liked both classes, but they’re a lot of work. He’s also been busy writing papers and advising his students. But he does a great job of being home for the boys in the evening and putting them to bed every night. We even spend some time together every night, and then he’s back on the computer doing the work he couldn’t get done at school.
I’ve been playing with a new camera that Mike got for me, it’s the new Canon 40D. I’m really enjoying the better pics I’m getting of the boys. I’ve even been out with some friends and learning from those better than I am. I mostly enjoy taking pictures of kids, especially non-posed shots. If anyone is interested in having me take some photos of their family, it would be a free way to get some pictures and give me some practice. I’ve taken a few courses and am hoping to take another one this Spring.
A friend and I are also hoping to start a mom’s play group at our local community centre, for neighborhood moms. I’m really excited about this and hope we can get it going by mid-January. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m climbing out of hibernation. I have more energy and feel more able to take the lead on some activities. Previously I’ve just been so tired by the time the boys go to bed that I don’t get much done. I’m looking forward to getting some projects done this winter. But we’ll see what happens as the months roll along.
This year I decided to bring the boys back to the States earlier than usual. I have some friends that I haven’t seen in awhile that I wanted to visit and the holidays are just too hectic to fit a trip in. Plus Mike has a week-long conference every December and then there’s the end of the semester, which is always busy. My mother-in-law came up to celebrate Second Thanksgiving with us, a.k.a. American Thanksgiving. She helped us with the boys and getting the food ready, which was such a great help. Then on the 28th of November she boarded a plane with the boys and I and headed back to Ohio. The boys did a great job! It helps now that they have their own seats. It gives us so much more room. A day after getting into Ohio and visiting with their Papa and also Grandma Scott, we went to Pittsburgh and spent part of the day with Jodi Walsh and her 2 kids. Then our friend Toby drove with the boys and I out to central Pennsylvania to see the Groshes in Mount Joy and the Brandts in Manheim. It was so great to connect with old friends again and see how their kids are growing. It’s was good to reminisce about our days in the ‘Burgh when we met 10 years ago!
Mike came in on the 18th and we’ve now been spending our days with family. The boys have been playing in the snow, building snowmen, visiting great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. And the grandparents are getting lots of one-on-one time with the boys. The boys have been changing so much in the time we have been away. They are talking so much more and are becoming very articulate. It’s neat to watch how the boys interact with their extended family and to have all the extra hands around. It will definitely be a hard adjustment getting back to just the four of us and Mike going back to work. But I’m also looking forward to getting back in touch with Edmonton friends and our normal routines, as well spending quality time with puppy again.
That’s about all the non-exciting happenings in our life these days. I’m hoping that in this next year we will be out of church flux and have decided on a place of worship. I also anticipate getting our garden going again and doing some more clean up of the backyard. My other big project is to get our desk cleaned and organized and throw things out! It’s actually a very big job! We’re really thankful for the ability we have to travel home and spend quality time with family and friends. It’s sometimes hard to be so far away, but it’s nice to have the freedom to come home for so long.
We hope that anyone who is reading this has gotten a little glimpse into our crazy lives. We hope that you have a joyful holiday season and blessed 2008.
Mike was recently promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure. Congrats honey!
Congratulations to Vadim Bulitko and Greg Kondrak for also being promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, as well as, Janelle Harms, Mike MacGregor, Ioanis Nikolaidis, and Eleni Stroulia for being promoted to Full Professor.
Being an American that is.
A couple of weeks ago, I was going through immigration at the Edmonton Airport with my mother-in-law and the boys. The immigration agent was very gruff, as he asked how long we were going to be in the States for, until he found out that we were US citizens. He said,”oh, you’re American”, at which point he basically just stamped us through. Even my mother-in-law who is a Canadian Citizen, was stamped through without any questions.
On the flip side, Drew had to have stitches the other day. We had no problems with our insurance (our Canadian supplemental insurance covers us anywhere around the world) at the ER. But when I called my old Dr.’s office to make an appointment to have Drew’s stitches taken out we ran into some trouble. First my mother-in-law called and apparently it was taking me too long to get our card because the nurse told her to have me call them back and then hung up on her! She seemed pleasant enough when I called back but then we ran into the insurance issue. First she couldn’t put our address in the system because it wouldn’t take Canadian addresses (I’m guessing she just didn’t know how to change it). Then she asked me for my insurance info. We both knew it was out of country insurance, so I assumed she wanted it to contact the company. Instead she told me, in not so nice a way, that the office didn’t accept that insurance. No, really? I thought that was a given. The issue was how to get my insurance to cover it. I explained to her that my insurance would cover everything in full and then she got snotty with me and told me I had to call another number to get it approved. It would seem that we have to get approved before they will see Drew. I understand that the office itself probably doesn’t deal with billing and that there is another office to deal with that. But was the attitude really necessary? Last I checked I was still a human being even though I choose to reside outside of this country.
I was once again reminded how good we have it in Alberta…and how messed up the US system is. It’s actually not good enough just to have insurance, you have to have the right insurance. It’s just another way that the wealthy get better care. The better insurance you can afford or the better job you have (which provides better insurance to its employers), the better care you will get.
(Hey Toby and Chloe, let’s talk about this one when I visit!)
The boys and I are back in the States visiting family for the holidays. Saturday night the boys were running around their Nana and Papa’s house (Mike’s parents) when Drew tripped and fell into the corner of a wall. He bit the inside of his lip and the wall cut the outside. We ended up taking him to the ER where he got 2 stitches. I was very impressed with the new Alliance hospital and they got us in right away. We were in and out in about an hour! And Drewie was such a trooper. He’s also done a great job of not picking at the stitches. We’re supposed to get them out on Friday, but that’s a story for another post.
Excerpt from a grocery trip conversation between Brandon and I.
Me:”What do you have to do in the store?”
Bran: “Hold onto the cart”
Me: “That’s right, you get an “A”"
Bran: “Andrew’s name starts with ‘A’”
The boys now don’t like to ride in the stroller, nor do they like to ride in the cart. I was lucky actually. They were willing to do both for a long time. But now it’s made life a bit more difficult. So the rule is, they have to hold onto the cart. Today, Drew had to ride because he repeatedly refused to hold on when I asked him to. Although he didn’t seem too upset about it, so it worked out fine for all of us. Now that they are walking around the store lots more things get put into the cart than what I’m planning to buy, so I am learning to maneuver strategically and find good places to dump off their loot! The boys have also figured out how to work the conveyor belt at the end of the checkout and so have been getting my grocery bags stuck under it at the end. It’s the kind of button where one side turns it on and you have to flip it the other way to turn it off. Unfortunately they’re not as fast as we would like them to be at flipping the switch. Although they are as fast as they want to be. At first the cashiers thought they were cute, now I’m not so sure they think that! Another week until we go again!
I have to say though, it’s alot of fun to see what interests them in the store (like whole grain crackers, who can say ‘no’ to that?) and to have conversations like the one above. It’s just hard to weigh those against the work it is to get through the store with all the groceries on the list, no extra snacks, and no tears from any of us! Happy shopping everyone!
I was just about to write a post about how the boys were playing quietly in their room. And it was true for about 15 minutes. Now toys are sailing down the stairs. But calmness seems to be settling once again. I know I’ve been way behind on my posts and I promise they are coming soon. Right now the boys are using their tool set to take apart a gate. I’m not too worried about the screw drivers, but I think their plastic hammer could actually do some damage to it!
Last night we took the boys trick or treating. It’s was lots of fun. We went around the block. All the neighbors oooh’d and ahhh’d over them and they got lots of candy. One house had spooky music playing and when they opened the door, smoke came out. Bran stopped halfway up their sidewalk and didn’t want to go any further. Drew just trudged right on, taking the older brother role and going first. It actually took us a long time to get down our street and up the one behind us. The boys stopped between every house to look at all the pumpkins and stare at other kids dressed up.
After our walk around the block we decided to drive to the Tanner’s and surprise them. As soon as we got out of the car the boys were called over to a house to play some Halloween games and earn their candy. They played a hole of croquet and then had to throw bones into a box. The boys loved this part. They like throwing anything! We got to the Tanner’s, had our surprise and hung out for awhile. The boys dumped their loot and we convinced them to eat tortilla chips instead of their chocolate. We did want them to actually go to sleep! They had the most fun helping to pass out the candy. They would get so excited every time the door bell rang and they ran to the candy pile (the candy was neatly organized in bowls, but when the boys were done, they were covering the stairs instead!). They alternated between giving out only one piece and gathering up whole armfuls to put in the kid’s pillowcases. It was quite hilarious.
Bran also spent a lot of time shushing the Tanner’s dog, Scooter. It was one of those moments where you hear back what they hear you saying at home. We’ve had several service people in the house for various things this week and Noah was shushed a lot. Bran would run up to the gate that Scooter was barking behind and say, “you be quiet!”, “stop barking”, and “shush!”
I think the boys had much more fun there than going door to door for candy. So next year we already have our plan in place. Once around the block and then, go to the Tanners! Hope you don’t mind us inviting ourselves! (We don’t get enough kids at our place to make passing it out nearly as exciting.)
The best part of the evening for us? Besides the cuteness of our little guys, was them falling asleep in the car on the way home.
Well, I have to stop now. Those ‘quiet’ boys have now taken a knob off of a closet door and are going through the wrapping paper!
More Halloween pics are now up on the Gallery.