posts tagged with 'zion'

Zion's baseball party

Zion and his baseball cake

birthday boy in his new cap

Now that the kids are school age it's harder to schedule the birthday parties. Everybody has so much going on—and we want to make sure the important friends can come! So we waited a little for Zion's big 6-year-old baseball party. Saturday was the big day, and it was lovely.

The day was cool and overcast but the rain stayed away, and it wasn't so chilly that we worried about having the whole thing outdoors. Of course, nothing was going to stop the baseball game part of the affair. We played two and a half innings, and Zion loved the whole thing—even if he is a little more enthusiastic about batting than fielding.

Zion sitting in the grass in front of his birthday banner on the fence

relaxed outfielder

All seven friends that he invited made it for at least a couple minutes, which was great. We moved up the cake-eating a little bit to make sure one early-departing guest could have his portion, which was fine with everyone.

Zion taking a deep breath to blow out his candle

ready to blow

I actually made two cakes, because I was halfway through a chocolate layer cake when I suddenly remembered Zion had asked for a yellow cake. Oh well, this way we could cater to all tastes. Plus there was vanilla ice cream from Bedford Farms, so nobody went hungry.

some of the kids eating cake at the picnic tables

having cake and eating it

We actually ended up with a ton of food left over, because the adult attendance was lower than expected. And several of the kids barely touched the lunch proper—hot dogs and cole slaw—because they filled up on Zion's special request, Doritos, in the hour before lunch.

With the baseball and the cake out of the way we couldn't hold Zion off from his presents. So the last part of the party was playing with them: first a big game of wild catch with a new big fabric throwing disc, and then—what the birthday boy had been waiting for all day—with the new legos.

Zion and Nathan building legos on the schoolroom rug

finally

Zion reports complete satisfaction with the day; he has now been fully celebrated!

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happy birthday Zion

Zion turned 6 today. It seems crazy that he's so big, but it also seems like forever ago that he was born (and celebrated with a double rainbow). We had a party with the grandparents on Saturday, then celebrated some more with our "Bible Study" friends Tuesday, then again with Grandma Judy and Grandpa David yesterday (where, after two days of cakes, not counting leftovers, he chose a popsicle for desert). So today didn't see any extravagant observances; instead Leah took Zion and his brothers on his birthday outing to Old Sturbridge Village. The big party with his friends is next weekend, and we hope the weather may be fine: he has a baseball theme planned. Who would have thought it. Happy birthday, Zion!

Zion playing in the sprinkler

last sprinkler playing as a 5-year-old

work-beach balance

Our outing on Monday was wonderful and educational and great exercise. And it was productive for the work of our household, because Leah was home using her bigger computer to do hours of work and appreciated not being interrupted. That's why, after exhausting the possibilities of the pond, we finished up the trip with a stop at Whole Foods and the play space. Yesterday the weather was even hotter, so we needed—really needed!—to go to the swimming pond. But Leah was away at the office, and there were things that needed doing at home. So how was I to justify spending three hours at the beach?! (besides, of course, the fact that the beach is really awesome).

the boys at the edge of the pond, Zion jumping

jump right in!

We sure enjoyed it. The water was super cold, but with the air hitting hot-for-summer levels there were lots of people there in swimsuits, even if it was only preschoolers and college kids that showed any real interest in playing in it for long. After about two hours in the sun I finally got hot enough to brave full immersion, and it almost stopped my heart. Sure made the air feel a whole lot nicer afterwards, though!

Lijah smiling with this towel over him

warm and happy

With no ropes and no lifeguards, the boys were free to roam and play to their heart's content, and they did. Harvey and Zion headed off right away; Lijah was a little slower to get started, but after a bit of sand-piling with me he too was off to join the fun.

three boys playing far away along the beach

independent play

So I read a book. It was delightful, but I couldn't help thinking of all the other things I could be doing while my children were playing independently, if I could be somewhere else. One problem of modern parenting is the need to constantly provide our kids with entertainment. When I read the Little House books I don't see Pa trying desperately to interest his girls in one thing or another so that he can have ten minutes together to plow the field!

Still, if I had been off cutting wood or whatever I wouldn't have been there to help when Zion tripped and fell headlong into the deep water. As it was I was right where I needed to be to yell at Harvey to go bring him a towel (delegation is the best parenting).

Zion holding his towel to his face

cuddle towel

I was also there to hear Zion's pride, which he was ready to share as soon as he got the water out of his eyes. "I swam!!" he exclaimed (he can't properly swim yet). "I flapped my hands like this and I flapped my head out of the water! Like a fish! Maybe my totem animal is a fish!"

"Great!" I told him. "You'll have lots more chances to swim this summer." Too bad there's no swimming holes they can walk to by themselves. Oh well, the work will all get done somehow...

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happy birrrrthday, Zion!

On Saturday, we finally finished up celebrating Zion's birthday with a party for his friends. It was our first ever themed party.

the presents harvey and I wrapped for Zion, and a treasure map

embracing the theme

Since we'd never done one before, our friends weren't sure how we'd manage; and their concern was warranted, since especially in our destroyed-by-tiredness state we weren't really on the ball with forward preparations. For example, I had no idea what I was going to do for a cake until Friday morning. But in the end I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

a cake: blue sea with island, sea monster, and pirate ship

it looked bigger in real life

Of course, not everything had to be pirate-oriented. Rather than jerked meat we had plain old hot dogs, along with mac-and-cheese and chips. General kid food.

hot dogs cooking on the fiery grill

think it'll be enough?

Not being used to themed parties, the kids were all happy running around after lunch, like they would any other time—the only difference is that lots of them were in pirate hats. I really had to work to get their attention for the planned activities. First they painted telescopes and treasure chests.

the kids, many in pirate hats, sitting on the grass painting

do pirates concentrate on their work?

Next up was a treasure hunt—two treasure hunts, actually, since I didn't want the older siblings to take over all the thinking for the birthday boy and the three other kids he actually invited to the party (there were ten kids total). So the older kids had a picture-based scavenger hunt, while the five-year-olds got to do a real treasure hunt with digging and everything! They only hit each other with the shovels twice (by accident!).

Zion and friends digging by the shed

collaborative digging

The treasure was bead necklaces and chocolate—those Hershey miniatures that look like gold bars. That was Leah's idea, and it was a great one. Finding the treasure stirred up Zion's acquisitiveness, so then we went inside so he could open his presents.

Zion opening presents with friends watching

what is it?!

There was some good stuff, including a stomp rocket that occupied the crowd for the next half hour.

Zion airborne about to land on the stomp rocket

ready, go!

Then his new lego sets took over Zion's attention; lego-building is less communal, but they made it work.

Zion assembling a lego set on the front porch with a crowd around him

riveting

Some of the kids—like Harvey—really really wanted to help, but Zion wanted to do it all himself, and we managed to make it happen. He also blew out the candles himself (in three puffs). But we all could share the cake!

Zion blowing out the candles

mid-blow

And also the apple pie that I made on Zion's request, only to have him say, at the table, "actually I meant pumpkin". Oh well.

The party started at noon and was still going pretty strong at 5:00, when we packed up and moved venues—rather than making dinner we thought we'd just head over to another party we were invited to. We brought what was left of the cake and stayed until almost 8:00. So I trust Zion now feels properly celebrated, and can start acting like a five-year-old!

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happy birthday Zion

Zion turns five today! Seems like just yesterday we were meeting him for the first time. No wait, no it doesn't! Zion, you're pretty awesome; we're lucky to have you in the family.

Zion at a picnic table holding a carrot

our intense, silly boy

formal "T"

Zion's language is vastly more conventional than it was when he was two—as you'd expect! Except when he's using his cutesy baby voice (which isn't more than half the time) his speech pretty much follows the normal patterns of American English (since we're in Boston he doesn't lose points for dropping his Rs). As he adapts to conventional language, it's interesting to notice examples of hypercorrection he makes—most notably his use of /t/ to replace /d/ when he wants to sound official. "Here comes Spiterman!", as he pronounced very distinctly in his announcer voice this morning.

It makes perfect sense as a replacement. Clearly, he's noticed that our dialect effectively has a /d/ /t/ merger in many cases: in an intervocalic position the two sound exactly the same. He knows when we say "butter" it sounds like there's a D in the middle of the word, but also that it's really a T: a T that one might pronounce when one was being particularly formal. His "Spiterman" T replaces an identical sound—one that just happens to be spelled with a D.

If I were to draw a larger point from his little mix-up, its that we sometimes give kids too little credit: we point out all the things they do "wrong" without very often noticing why they're making a particular mistake—or realizing the tremendous amount of processing and development they're doing in order to come up with a way to systematize the craziness around them.

But never mind that, the real point is that Zion is awesome and I wish I could record everything he says to enjoy later. The things he says when he's not whining, that is.

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"yion? yion?"

Leah sometimes feels that she has to go about her daily work with Lijah permanently attached to her—probably because often she does. That's why they call it attachment parenting, I suppose? But as he approaches two years old, he appreciates his brothers more and more. This evening he was delighted when Zion came home from watching video games at a friend's house full of energy and ready to run and wrestle with his little brother; but disappointed when Zion moved on to other things, like eating dinner, looking at a book, and using the bathroom.

"Yion? Yion?!" he asked, with increasing urgency. Zion was happy enough to bolt his food and leave the table—he does it enough on his own anyways—but a little more frustrated when Lijah tried to pull him off the couch as he looked at a book (ok, the new American Girl doll catalog). I'm not sure how he felt about his little brother yelling and banging on the door of the bathroom, but I bet that Leah was thrilled to see someone other than her getting that treatment! Especially as she sat at the dinner table enjoying a civilized conversation with her husband and charming eldest son.

They're all three of them changing all the time. I wonder what next week will bring?

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stepping out

Harvey and Zion bowling on neighboring lanes

first time at the lanes

Ollie's birthday was yesterday, and for his party Saturday he invited us to join him for bowling. The boys had never been before, and, while they were excited to be there, they were super nervous at first when it came time to actually roll a ball down the lane. As I expected they would be!

They're generally nervous of new things, both of them, and they may a fear of bowling birthdays in their blood; I still cringe when I remember forgetting, not once but twice, to wait for the machine to clear the pins fully before sending another ball down. I was 10 or 11 and bowling big balls—being away from New England at the time—and it turns out that if the ball hits the sweeping mechanism it stops, and gets stuck down there at the end of the lane. Someone needs to go get it, and the whole thing is very embarrassing.

Of course it's also embarrassing, as a father, to have both your older boys seize up and refuse to take part in a party where they're the only guests. So I encouraged them a little, and I'm proud to report that they both rose nobly to the occasion (much better than I would have done at their age, I'm sure!). Harvey took just one hands-on lesson before he saw that the thing was neither complicated nor particularly scary and he was launched on his own as a competitor in the kids' game. Zion, who as the youngest of the six kids present had to play with the adults, took a little longer to warm up to the proceedings; but after three frames of a substitute bowling for him (twice me and then once Harvey) he had it figured out, and took over for himself. Being Zion, he quickly developed his own way of doing things.

Zion lying down to watch his ball hitting the pins

interesting technique

And not only did they manage to participate, they did surprisingly well! In his first game Zion managed to finish ahead of Bridget—despite rolling his ball so slowly that once it reversed course two thirds of the way down the lane and slowly, slowly made its way back to him (all the other times we saw that when a candlepin ball hits the pins at such a slow speed it bounces sideways among them, potentially doing a great deal of damage). And Harvey won the second of his two games with a score of 92, which was also tied for the highest score of the day by anyone (tied with me, natch; clearly lucky bowling results are also in his blood).

After the bowling and some ice cream we were back at the Stevenses for the birthday dinner, where again the boys impressed. They didn't eat much 45 minutes after giant ice cream cones, but how polite they were!

Harvey sitting next to Ollie and Eliot at the birthday dinner table

birthday buddies

Bowling was the top moment of the day for Zion when I asked at bedtime. Harvey had different choice: playing King of Tokyo with the kids downstairs after the birthday dinner. But he liked the bowling too, and he's asking when we can go again.

And then yesterday morning was the big Kids Church Christmas performance. I don't have any photos because I was busy being in charge of the whole thing, but I can report that Harvey played a pivotal role. He didn't want to act (nor yet sing, under his father the musical director) but he jumped right into his job as set crew, designing sets and painting backdrops under the direction of non-family adults and then volunteering to be a part of the stage crew proper, bringing props on and off stage (ok, a prop; it was a short play). Yesterday evening the play—specifically, painting stars—was his day's highlight, and as he went to bed he asked—again—when he could do it again.

And it seems unbelievable to me, but for next year he's even thinking about pushing himself a little further. "Maybe I can be an actor next year," he told me. "Because I'll be a year older!"

Absolutely! And he's already braver today then he was two days ago; just imagine what he'll be managing to accomplish in 363 more!

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this moment

Zion smiling, Lijah moving too fast for the camera, in front of the light blue wall

lighting test

A moment from the week.

the patience of stubbornness

The boys have a hard time resisting the cheap-toy dispensers by the doors of the Burlington Market Basket. We now have a fair collection of tiny plastic dinosaurs, so a few weeks ago Zion switched it up and opted for a blue lobster that grows when you put it in water. You know the type.

I was dismissive, and after a couple hours of soaking produced maybe a ten percent increase in size I was ready to call myself right. "It's only a little bigger," Zion noted. "Maybe it needs more water. Maybe the water needs to be higher."

"I think that's as big as it's going to get," I told him. "You can't expect much for 25 cents."

He wouldn't listen, though, and he wouldn't give up. He added more water to the tupperware where Crabby was soaking (despite living all their lives in New England neither Harvey nor Zion have ever managed to acknowledge the existence of lobsters as distinct from crabs) and left him sitting there on the kitchen table for one day, and then two.

And Crabby kept growing. Twice, and then even three times his original size, his bulk pushed at the sides of his container as he continued his slow, steady growth. I watched in wonder; Zion was merely quietly content. He knew that was going to happen.

I don't know what made him decide at some point to take Crabby out of the water. He sat for a few days on the table: large (well, two inches or so), bulbous, and damp-looking. We had some thoughts that he might shrink again out of the water, but he didn't to any noticeable degree. I only wish I had taken a picture—or better, a pair of before-and-after shots. Zion didn't play much with the post-transformation Crabby, but I suppose he didn't need to: the entertainment we got from him was already worth well more than 25 cents. Zion, you were right!

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