Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Home repairs

Earlier in the summer we had a hail storm come through the area.  It damaged my parent's roof and siding and they had to be replaced (thank goodness for insurance).  The roof was replaced first and it was a major event.  The boys saw the roofers come early in the morning before they left for school and then they were picked up early from school later in the afternoon to watch them finish their work.  Peter kept telling people that he would be a "woofer" when he grew up, until he saw them walking precariously along the eves, then he decided that being a "woofer" was a little too dangerous.  Then, last week, the men came with the siding.  Again the boys watched, starry-eyed, as the old siding was stripped away and the new siding put into place.  Eliot was especially impressed with the calking gun.  The men left some of their scraps for the boys to use in their own building projects and then I took Eliot out to get him his very own calking gun.  He spent the rest of afternoon calking and creating.

It didn't take him long to get the hang of it.  He informed me that the next time the siding needed to be replaced we wouldn't have to call in the professionals because he was ready and willing to do the job himself.  So that's a relief.

Smoothing the calking with his finger just as he had seen the craftsmen doing.  He's a quick learner.

Peter got in the action too.  Though the calking gun required a little more squeezing power than Peter could muster, he got busy with the hammer and drove several nails into the end of a fire log that had been purchased for that very purpose.  I love my little handy-men.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Serb Fest 2015

Here in Wisconsin summer-time means church parking lot carnivals.  I remember Spencer mentioning it once long ago when we were living in Wauwatosa, that every church seemed to have its weekend to hire some carnival rides and games and throw a party in their parking lot.  The Serbian Cultural Center, which is in my parents' old neighborhood on the south side of Milwaukee, also joins in the fun.  We drove down with the boys a couple of weekends ago for Serb Fest.

The cultural hall (which was similar to halls of the same name in our own church, complete with basketball hoops tucked up out of the way and a stage at the far end for theatrical productions) was set up with round tables for people to sit and eat the food purchased from the tables along the wall.  It was delightfully intimate with a dessert table that looked like a bake sale.  Plates of baked goods crowded in together and had that unmistakable made-in-the-kitchen-of-some-goodly-stern-faced-grandmother-who's-love-language-consists-of-discipline-and-good-food look to it.  And indeed, many such grandmothers were seated along the wall behind, over-seeing the proceedings and gossiping together in Serbian.  The food was delicious and our meal was accompanied by a traditional band strumming and singing on the unlit stage.  It was great.

And then came the rides.  Eliot was very shy of the rides at first.  It took three failed attempts to get him onto the ferris wheel.  Once on board he kept giggling and saying how fun it was.  Words belied by the vice-like grip he had on my arm the whole time, flapping his hand away for a milisecond to wave at Rissie and Peter as we went past.  Eventually, however, he softened to it and wanted to go on the ferris wheel again and again.  The Tilt-a-Whirl was another one that he wasn't certain of at first.  He was excited to get on the ride, which helped him last through the long line, but once it came to sitting down inside the shell-like seat and getting clamped in, he balked.  Knowing that he would like it once it got going I pulled him in beside me and pulled down the bar.  Sure enough, as we started to spin and laugh, he had a great time.  The Tilt-a-Whirl was another that he wanted to go on a second time

Standing in line is tough work for little guys.

It's tough work for big-little guys too.

Eliot wasn't too sure about the roller coaster when it was discovered that no adults were allowed.  The attendant was really great about it and boomed, "That's okay!  You go on, I'll still be here when you get your nerve up!"  Peter, however, decided that he was going to ride it even if it meant going alone.  He looked about himself with an expression of happy expectation while the buckling-up was going on.  And then it started to move.

The roller coaster was not wild by any means (attached as it was to an electrical cable that stretched from a pole in the center of the circuit) but there was a lot of rumbling and jolting about.  The expression of happy expectation was immediately replaced by one of fierce concentration, as though Peter was trying, by shear force of will, not to be tossed into the dirt.  As he passed by us we would shout and cheer his name and a self-concious grin would tug at the corners of his mouth, but not enough to break his concentration.  Sometimes he would glance about quickly, but always just too late, and he would wind up catching a glimpse of the people just beyond us.  When the ride finally came to a stop he climbed down from the platform with a big smile on his face and announced that he would be going on the roller coaster only once because, "it was not fun."

What's a carnival without cotton candy?  I was going to get the boys each their own, until I saw the person ahead of me in line handed a wad of blue fluff that was easily twice the size of their head.  Then I decided that we could all share.

The boys did a pretty good job of sharing it too.  They would take turns holding it and tearing chunks off.

The only trouble with cotton candy is that it's terribly sticky, and in the humid summer evening it began to drip a bit and I started finding it stuck to all sorts of strange places: my purse, my hair, my arm.  So after we'd all had our fill, the bit that remained on the stick was made to disappear while I took the boys on one more Tilt a Whirl ride.

At the end of the evening Eliot decided that he wanted to try out the roller coaster after all.  When Peter saw that Eliot was going, he decided that he needed to go as well.

When the roller coaster jerked forward, the same look of concentration came over Peter's face and for a moment I thought that he might be saying to himself, "Oh shoot, what have I done?"  But then Eliot started laughing.  And suddenly all of the jolting and rumbling and going up and down became hilariously fun and both Peter and Eliot thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the ride.  Later, when Peter was asked what his favorite ride was he said it was the roller coaster, "but not the first time, just the second time, because the first time I was not with my friends."  Having your brother by your side can turn even a scary ride into a fun adventure.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Today was Eliot's first day of 1st grade.  It was also the first day that Peter would be in the "Giraffe" class at the YMCA.  He had previously been in the "Koala" class.  As far as I can tell, the greatest difference between the two classes (besides the ages of the children) is their level of security--the Giraffes are evidently now old enough to understand some of their boundaries.

The morning got off to a bit of a rocky start.  I had arranged to go in to work late so that I could drop them off and having me around in the morning threw Peter off his groove a bit.  He was very unhappy to find that we weren't going to spend the whole day eating pancakes and watching Toy Story 2.  Eventually I sent him off to the YMCA with my dad, per their usual routine, and was told later that he went happily to his new class.

Once they'd gone I was able to focus on Eliot a little more who, after all, was going through a greater transition today.  First grade is a big deal.

We snuggled and talked about what school would be like until it was time to go.  When we got to the school we lined up with the other children and parents and waited for the doors to open.  One of the school administrators was out taking pictures for the school year book and as she moved along towards us she called out for people to smile.  The girl standing behind us with her mother mutter, "Well I'm not going to smile."  So we weren't the only ones dealing with some first day jitters.  It turned out that the girl was a 3rd grader whose family had just moved into town.

When the doors finally opened we worked our way in and Eliot started to look interested.  The theme for the year has something to do with building, and all of the decorations had something to do with Lego, including two cubical balloons on either side of the front door.  So far, Eliot was impressed.

We knew where he classroom and locker were because we had attended an open house last week where we had met his new teacher, Mrs. Core.  We got his backpack put away, and got him settled at his desk, all while he held onto my hand as though he were dangling from it over a precipice.  Finally it was time for me to go.  He was distressed to see me go but soon settled in as some of his little friends from Kindergarten gathered in around him.

When I got home from work (later than usual, because I'd gone in late) I found both he and Peter smiling.  "School was great!" Eliot announced, and he can't wait for his second day of 1st grade tomorrow.