The New Year

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late. Middle age is when you’re forced to.” ~Bill Vaughn

New Year’s weekend was exciting, fun, and very, very different. (Also, CAUTION, this is one of the longest blogs I’ve ever written.)

My friend Niki and her 3-year-old son, Finn, were coming to town. As we don’t get to see them often enough, we try to get people together for a visit. As it fell over NYE, I figured I’d throw a shindig. Well, the sentiment was right, the execution? Not so much.
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The party dwindled daily, until it was just our core group. Then, Frodo couldn’t make it. Things were not going well. In preparation for Finn, I had talked to Mindy. She and Tom were out of town, but they were looking for a home for the boys. I volunteered to take them, during the party, so that they could keep Finn company. I’m so brave. Turned out, having them there was the life of the party. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the first time, Niki and Finn were staying the weekend with me. Usually they just stay one night. They arrived Friday night about 9pm. Finn fell asleep in the car, so Niki carried him in the house and up to bed. Then, because so many couldn’t make it on Saturday night, we had our friends over on Friday night. This was mostly an excuse for us to see Frodo. We stayed up and talked and chatted.

We were in the garage for a bit and the girls were making great use of the one man we had on hand.
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That picture just about sums up my friends. So comfortable with each other. Poor Frodo, the only guy left in the bunch, but we love him and I think he loves the attention.

Then, Niki wanted some pics, and we are a group that does not often do pictures.
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First, we had Frodo take one of just the girls. Then I said that my phone has a timer and we aimed for the four of us. We sat on the couch, did the timer, and…

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Seriously? That is a terrible picture. After several tries at this, it occurred to me that the flash wouldn’t reach that far. Finally, we stood up and moved closer. We got this.
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It’s still not the best, but it’s pretty good. It is also the only decent picture in existence of me with those three friends, so that makes it very special.

When I was sharing it with them, Frodo said, “am I really that much taller than you guys?” And, yes, he is, but it made me a little sad, because it always used to be him and Peter with us girls and Pete was so tall that Frodo never seemed tall when he was next to him. Without him, Frodo is now the giant of this group.

Of course, as these things tend to go. We were up until about 4am, drinking. We crashed, hard, and everyone slept at my house. The next morning was hard, but it was fun to see Finn. At three, he is just darling and so creative. We played and played and played while Niki dozed on the couch. They left at lunchtime to go visit some friends of theirs. Finn didn’t want to leave me, he was having too much fun. Niki said he talked about coming back and playing with Olivia.

Then, of course, the real fun began. Tom’s mom, Teri, brought Clay and Lew over to my house. Surprisingly, this was the first time they have spent the night at my place. They were so excited. Plus, it was New Year’s and I had promised them they could stay up as late as they wanted to.

We let the boys play for a bit, but they were a little squirrelly. Finally, to wake up me and Niki, we went outside to play. It was over 40° outside that day, which is unheard of for nearly January in Minnesota. No snow on the ground. We played outside with the boys running, then we did a couple games of hide-n-seek. Finally, Niki decided we should explore my woods. My idea of a good time.

We hiked into the woods, found sticks to carry, made trails, followed trails and generally just explored. We found a pond and some guy yelled at us, “that’s private property!” I apologized, we really didn’t know, and we started to leave. Then he yelled, “they can play, I don’t mind” except, you already yelled at us, so clearly you DO mind. We left.

We found a huge hill and the boys ran to the top to “get a good start”.

The race results?

#1
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Clayton. You can see the little boys WAY behind him at the top of the hill. He’s very fast.

#2
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Lewie. Apparently that year makes a lot of difference.

#3
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Finn. These boys were so cute running and running. Being hungover and tired, Niki and I were just fine watching.

Eventually, we made it up to the park where we played all sorts of silly games that only kids can play. Something called Alligator that Clay and Lew swear their mother made up. If that’s true, Min, I’d like to hear the “rules” not the crazy rules the kids make up and change to suit themselves.

I wanted a cute shot of the boys to commemorate their first night staying at my house. As always, they were good to me.
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Eventually we walked back to my house and we were only gone for less than 90 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were gone for HOURS.

The boys played for a bit in the basement (careful of the bookshelves!) and then Niki left to go to the grocery and get dinner for us. I said I didn’t want to cook. So she cooked. Niki is a very good cook. She and Pete had me over for dinner a few times and I was always very impressed. While she was gone, I entertained three boys. We played “Sea Monster”, they met my puppet Louie for the first time (Louie was purchased by me when I was 15 years old. He’s one-of-a-kind and I was nervous to let them play with him. But they LOVED him. Lewie loved that Louie has the same name as him. So did Clay he kept asking me, “Can I play with Louie?” which is so funny).
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That’s the two little boys playing “sea monster” I’m not too sure on the rules, but they sure loved it. They were loud and entertained and paying no attention to Clay, except when they would randomly attack him and throw pillows at him. I think they were considering him the sea monster. Eventually, Clay got frustrated and yelled at them. This was the only “fight” of the weekend. I knelt down by Clay and he was struggling to stay in control. I told him it is often hard to be the oldest. Then I asked him how old he was. Seven. I asked him how old Lewie is. Four. And Finn? Three. “Well, if you add up their ages, how old does that make them?”

Seven. Just a moments pause and he said, “so even if you add them up, they’re only almost as old as me?” (He’ll be 8 in April). I said that was exactly right. “And he said, so since they’re so little, I should be more patient?” And that was it. He was calm and patient and didn’t get frustrated again. He also called them “the little boys” for the rest of the time, which I found funny. I sure do love that kid and how his brain works.

Finally, I couldn’t take the noise anymore so I declared it was movie time. I set the three boys on my bed and headed down to grab a movie. I have precisely two movies that children of this age can watch. Cheaper By The Dozen, which most of the children who visit me have seen and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I knew they wouldn’t be entranced by either, so I gave my collection some serious thought. Suddenly, my eyes alighted upon The Princess Bride. It’s PG, it has action comedy and a little boy just about Clay’s age. I thought, why not? I presented it to them and, predictably, they were none to thrilled to watch a movie with “princess” in the title. But I told them it was a movie about pirates and there were sword fights and a giant and oversized rats and it’s all to rescue the princess. They were hooked.

I started their dinner while they started the movie and, even though they swore they were starving, they would not tear themselves away from the movie to eat. Even Finn, who is only 3, loved it. I finally set up the laptop on the dining room table so they could watch while they eat. It worked and Niki and I got some more peace and quiet.

Muffy showed up soon after and the three of us were set to have “grown up” dinner. Niki did all the cooking and preparation, which should have been weird since it was my house, but I guess she’s stayed there often enough! The boys settled in to watch Rudolph while we ate. Of course, that is a short movie and they were over it fast enough. Then it was “play with us, play with us!”

We managed to hold them off long enough for us to eat. Not too long after dinner, Niki put Finn to bed, it was 9pm! Clay and Lew were still holding strong, though their parents said they’d never last.

They wanted some entertainment, so Niki suggested we play a game. Clay chose Monopoly. No surprise there, that boy LOVES that game. However, Monopoly is a bit involved to start at 9:30 pm and it is a bit much for Lewie. I remember a game that was given to my nephew as a gift and I keep it at my house. We’d never even opened the box. I asked Clay to get it. He was a bit pouty and said he didn’t want to play that game. I said his options were play this game or sit quietly. He chose the game.

The game is called Caterpillar Scramble. We set it up, put in the batteries and read the rules. Four players. Clay, Lew, Niki, and Muffy.

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You have to use tiny plastic tongs to pick up tiny plastic marbles and place them in tiny plastic cups (the caterpillar’s hands) and you have to do it while the caterpillar is moving. It was strangely fun and addicting. We played a game and Niki won. Clay was a very close second. After the first round, Clay leaned over by me and said, “sorry I didn’t want to play this, it’s very fun.” I love how he will freely admit that he was wrong about something.

We played this game several times over. Niki and Clay won every game. Those two have very steady hands. Lew finally started gaining momentum. I think, at four, he was at a distinct disadvantage, but he played every game and tried his best. By the end he was one or two marbles away from winning.

After a while, we all got a little bored with it and I suggested we play cards. Niki and Muffy were chatting and Lew was playing on my phone. My phone got an intense workout. All three boys played multiple games throughout the weekend. Lew finally saw it sitting, unattended, and figured it was his chance to play, uninterrupted. He was quietly playing for about 2 minutes when Clay wanted to play with it. I said no, it was Lewie’s turn and Clay was just going to have to play with me.

We played a couple games of Crazy 8s. I won. I do not let him win. He handled it very well, (he’s super-competitive) but after I beat him two games in a row, he didn’t want to play that anymore. So we switched to War. I dislike this game. It is not challenging and goes on forever. I offered to teach Clay some new games (I know a TON of card games) but he wanted War. So we started. He was killing me. Fine, the faster he wins, the faster it is over.

Then, suddenly, Lewie wanted to play. Clay got bored so they switched. Now I was playing War with Lew and Clay was on my phone. This is a terrific game for kids who are working on numbers. Not only does he have to recognize all the numbers, but he has to know what beats what. He and I had a lot of fun warring back and forth. Of course, inevitably, he got bored and we quit that game.

Lew’s cough was getting worse and worse and it was getting close to bed for him. Niki suggested I give him honey. Even though I hate honey, I needed it for a recipe and had some on hand. I gave Lew a spoonful of honey and within minutes, it actually helped his cough. I never knew that before!

About 11 pm, Lew was done for. I walked him downstairs and he wanted a cup of water. I grabbed a cup and stepped into the bathroom to fill it up. I was five steps away from him and gone for 20 seconds, max. He was asleep by the time I got back to him. He was so tired. Sweet boy. (And in case you were wondering, he DID take his shirt off).

Muffy left and then it was just Niki, Clay and me. The three of us were sitting in the living room, just talking. Clay was semi-playing with my phone, but we were chatting. We learned about school and his friends and what he’d been doing on break and what his favorite Christmas presents were. We also talked about the ball drop. Never having lasted until midnight, Clay was unfamiliar with this tradition. At about 5 minutes to midnight, we went into my bedroom. We turned on the tv and found that only one channel was broadcasting the ball drop. Isn’t that weird? Of course, it was channel 5, which never gets a clear picture at my house. But, we saw enough. And just turned it on in time…they started counting seconds after I turned it on. I guess my clocks are slow.

We said Happy New Year and Niki and I had champagne. I gave Clay a sip. He didn’t love it. But he liked trying it.

Then we went into the kitchen and I waited until the clock said midnight in order to get this:
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He climbed up onto the counter to do that for me. I’m glad we have photographic proof that he lasted until midnight. He really liked that picture and asked me to send it to his parents. I did and Mindy wrote back: “I can’t believe he made it!”.

He did, but he was so very tired. Right after I sent that photo, he hopped off the counter, said “goodnight Olivia” and walked downstairs. I didn’t tell him to go to bed. He was just so tired. Five minutes later, he was back upstairs. I asked him what was wrong and he looked at me and said, “I’m kind of scared.”

It was so sweet. This was the first time he’s ever slept at my house. I know it is hard to sleep somewhere new. I asked if he wanted me to come downstairs with him and he did. I sat next to him and talked to him and he looked over my shoulder and said, “what’s Ferdinand?”

It is an oversized children’s book I purchased, “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. It’s a really cute story about a bull. Clay didn’t know it. He said, “will you read it to me?” And my heart just melted. I’ve read to him since he was born and every single time I’m at his house at bedtime he asks. I love reading to him. We read the story and then, the best part of kids getting bigger, we talked about it. He told me what he liked about it and what he thought it meant. Even with all the fun we’d had, that was, hands down, my favorite part of the weekend.

Finally, I told him I was going to go into the hall to pick up all the coats and shoes and that I’d be right back to check on him. He said that was fine. I left the room for three minutes and when I came back, he was out like a light. So sound asleep I was able to take this, with flash:
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Both boys, sleeping sound in front of my new bookshelves.

The story (long though it is) should end there. But it did not. Lew woke up coughing at 4:30 am. He woke up Clay and said he couldn’t sleep. Clay said to go get me. Lew said “I don’t want her to get mad”. Which cracked me up when Clay told me, because neither of these boys have EVER seen me get mad and certainly not at them. Eventually, Lew came and woke me up. I gave him a glass of water and two spoonfuls of honey. During this, Clay came upstairs. He said to me, “I don’t know why we always wake up so early.”

I laughed and told him that they are going back to bed, 4:30 is too early for anyone to be up. Plus, Clay had only slept 4 hours at that point! I walked them downstairs and it was C-O-L-D down there. So cold, in fact, that I worried my furnace had gone out. As I shivered, Clay, who was tucked in bed, said, “how come the door was open?” I thought he was dreaming something, but he said that when Lew woke up he got up and shut the door.

The door to the outside.

Damn! When we went outside to play, we didn’t come back in that way and so the door didn’t get locked. That door doesn’t shut tight unless it is locked. It has popped open before. Naturally, it popped open in the middle of the night, on the one night it SNOWED. These poor boys were sleeping in front of an open door in 20° weather. Yep, I’m a helluva babysitter!

I felt so bad. But, I just tucked them back into bed, grabbed an extra blanket and locked the damn door.

The next day, they got up about 8:30 am and came into my room. We’d made a plan the night before. They were to come into my room and watch cartoons. Clay knew how to turn on the tv. I heard them come in and said good morning, but then I went back to sleep. I drifted in and out until 10:30. Finn had gotten up at some point and come in there to hang with his buddies, so Niki got to sleep in as well.

It was an amazing weekend. Very different that I had planned or expected, but oh-so-much fun. Before leaving, we managed to get this, a shot of the three little boys who kept us on our toes.
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Happy 2012! Hope yours was as loving, fun, creative, and event filled as mine.

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