Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Five Firday Cake!"


You can never get enough of the dude, at least not when you're turning 5 and he's your favorite superhero.

Okay, so he's the only superhero you've learned about yet, but still....

A picture of what Jesse adoringly called his "five firday cake" (his five birthday cake), although pretty much the whole day was referred to as his "five firday cake." Somehow food and fun kinda intermingled. Guess there's nothing wrong with that.

I know the picture is a little small here, but if you could see the look on his face!!! He is just thrilled to pieces to be listening to everyone singing "happy birthday, Jesse!" and then blowing the candles out by himself. A huge grin split his face, and he was so excited he started clapping along with everyone else.

Feeling a little overwhelmed by the day:

Ronin enjoying the festivities

Speaking of favorite beasties, you may note that one is conspicuously absent in these pictures from the party. That's right, you the discriminating bloggie will catch not a single hide nor hair of your favorite felonious feline. The great outdoors once again beckoned, and Jim the Cat made fast his escape upon the arrival of unsuspecting guests who lingered a millisecond too long at the open front door....

A Mouse and a Five Year Old

Jesse turned 5 this weekend!

It was the first-ever birthday that Jesse has officially celebrated, which made it incredibly awesome for him, and for Jason and me. To see the delight on his face as his birthday was talked about and made a big deal of was wonderful. He knows he is loved, that he is special and important, and it is amazing to see the way he blossoms under the warmth of that knowledge! He literally doesn't stop grinning! (or talking!)

I did the whole "calendar countdown" with him (well, we started on Wednesday to keep myself sane....keep reading) to give him an idea of what to anticipate. From what we told him, all Jesse could really figure out was that he was going to a place called Chuck E. Cheese where he would get "lots of coins to play lots of fun games that he would like a lot." Jesse knows all about the magical property of coins courtesy of gumball machines, so I figured I could latch on to that particular affinity and exploit it to get him excited about his special event.

I need to retrace my steps a minute here and explain something that I have recently come to learn the hard way. When you have a kiddo who is anticipating an important event that he has never experienced before (Trick-or-Treat, Christmas or an upcoming birthday for instance), you quickly learn to keep it simple when detailing what's going to happen at said event. Why? Because it is inevitable that whatever you've told him initially will -- I guarantee you -- quickly be captured in the child's photographic memory word for word.

In fact, as a parent it may be best to scratch it all down on paper, edit it, pare it down, and then memorize it right then and there, because you will definitely have it verbatim long before the event is on the horizon (unless you wait until, say, the Wednesday right before the event). And you can be assured that any permutation, deviation or omission, however minor, of any of the slated events will be instantaneously corrected.

So when -- in one of my various recitations of Jesse's birthday events -- I mentioned that Jesse would get coins to play the games at Chuck E. Cheese, he quickly interjected his correction: "LOTS of coins, Mama!" because that's what I originally said. No one's gonna pull a fast one on this kid, I tell you.

I described Chuck E. Cheese to him. I told him there were lots of games to play, including a Bob the Builder ride and that it was going to be a lot of fun. It was obvious he had no idea what was going to happen at this mysterious entity known as Chuck E. Cheese, but he was pretty sure it was going to be a blast, so he knew enough to be excited despite his curiosity about the unknown.

He was quite overwhelmed when we got there: all the flashing lights and bright colors and game after game after game. How to choose? Where to start? But he got into the swing of things, especially when he discovered the Monster Truck, something he's been quite enamored with lately thanks to Sanford Goodall Library's children's video selection.

The Monster Truck ride was definitely Jesse's favorite part of Chuck E. Cheese. He was fascinated with how it was getting off the ground and rocking back and forth. He spent a good chunk of the two hours we were there just feeding coins into the machine.

It was fun watching little five-year-old fingers pushing coin after coin into the slot, a huge grin on his face. One coin, then another, then another. Those little shiny coins just kept right on coming.

Hey, I keep my promises.

Analyzing how Bob the Builder works:

Jesse's FAVORITE!!!! The Monster Truck!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Better than a favorite stuffed animal

When Jesse goes down for his nap, he usually chooses one of his stuffed animals to snuggle with. I don't always see which one he chooses because he often snags one of the ones scattered on his bed or lined up in the cubbies of his headboard, and it's usually after I've already gone downstairs. Then, half the time he wakes up from his nap and comes down on his own, so I don't know what he chose to sleep with that day.

But the other Saturday afternoon Jesse was sleeping late and I decided I should probably wake him up so we would all get a decent night's sleep that night. ;) I tip-toed up the stairs and pushed the door to his room fully open. I quietly walked in, ready to enjoy the always adorable sight (on so many levels) of a sleeping child.

There he was, completely sacked out, his little hand clutching something.

It didn't take two seconds to see that what he had chosen as his special snuggle item wasn't from the myriad of favorite stuffed animals. It was not one of his plastic dinosaurs, or even just a handful of his Noah's Ark blanket.

I drew in a small breath and stood in quiet stillness, the gentle rhthym of his breathing the only small sound in the room. I felt a hot pricking behind my eyelids, and maybe swiped a hand across some wetness on my face.

In his hands was a picture of our little family.

Winter Fun!

I was going to titled this post "Winter of Our Discontent," but actually the only part of our discontent is this never-ending blanket of white that keeps dumping and dumping and dumping on us. Here in the Northeast, we're feeling rather....smothered.

We were buried under 15" of snow this morning. That's not much of a novelty since this is on top of the gargantuan mountains of white stuff we've already accumulated thus far this winter. We are going a bit stir-crazy. Cabin Fever. The whole bit.

Anyway, I didn't dare traverse the miles between home and work this morning in the whiteout conditions and since I was shut-in for the day, I decided to do some catching up on dishes, laundry, general house stuff, and of course The Blog.

Welcome back, readers!

The three of us Hendricksons (plus Ronin and Jim the Cat) are doing very well. Ronin is busy recovering from some sort of skin allergy that's been dogging him (hartie har har) all winter. Maybe it's a reaction to the dry heat of our pellet stove, I don't know.

Jim the Cat has been promoted to Officer James Hendrickson:

Aaaaand.......Jesse is turning 5 this weekend!!!! Amazing! We are so excited to be celebrating his first birthday as a family! wooot!

Jesse is doing FANTASTIC! He went on a growth spurt a couple months ago, and has sprouted out of all his size 4 clothes (after eating us out of house and home). Now he appears to be on a verbal/academic spurt. His language is dramatically improving. More and more "outsiders" can understand what he's saying (or at least catch the drift). At home he talks non-stop. Pretty much from the moment he wakes up until he lays his wee head down on his pillow, he's a continual stream of verbiage.

One thing Jason and I have both noticed is how incredibly HAPPY Jesse is, and you have no idea what a joy that brings to our hearts. It's like we're watching redemption in action.

Jesse pretty much smiles all the time. This from the kid that wouldn't smile for orphanage pictures if his life depended on it.

HE LOVES LIFE! He loves having a family, he loves his extended family, he loves the people at church, he loves going to school..... His life has done a 180 from 10 months ago. And he knows it.

Jason is doing very well at his position at the county jail. The job itself is a CRAZY sort of job, which can sometimes be challenging for him. But he has the ability to compartmentalize this aspect of life from the rest of his life, so he does pretty well overall. The hours are difficult on family life; since he works second shift he's gone from 1:30 in the afternoon until about midnight, and he has to work weekends. It's difficult for Jason since he has limited time with family (and friends), and I can tell Jesse misses him. I certainly miss all the opportunities for conversation and socializing that I used to have with my best friend/hubby when he worked a "normal" shift. We do the best we can, though, and it certainly causes us to appreciate each moment we spend together!

But we're thankful to God for the fact that Jason has a good job with all the benefits, and even has some opportunity for overtime! In these crazy economic times, we are VERY grateful for God's continued provision for our needs every single day.

I'm still working about 40 hours between piano lessons, church responsibilities and my administrative job......hence the conspicuous lack of blogging entries.

One nice thing about our schedules is that we all have Wednesdays off, so we try to make the most of our so-called "Saturday" together. A couple weeks ago we took Jesse on his first sledding experience. There's a great park right around the corner from us (where Ronin and I usually go jogging when it's not buried until five feet of snow).

Tea....or turd?

When we were in China, we purchased several varieties of tea, because, hey, we were in China! We went to a tea house and got to sample lots of awesome brews. We brought home several different kinds: lots of green tea, especially jasmine green tea (yum!), and some kind of "pearl" green tea, some black tea (I think it was oolong) and "others that I can't recall the names of."

Well, the jasmine green tea is our favorite, hands-down. It comes in a snazzy canister that looks like this, so how could you go wrong, right?

Each little jasmine flower is meticulously tied into a green tea ball, so each "serving" looks like this:

After you boil the water and let it cool for a minute, you pour it over the tea ball and wait for the jasmine flower to open. Not only does it smell incredibly aromatic, but the flower is mostly edible (except for the string that ties it into the ball, although I suppose if you were hard up for fiber you could give it a try).

I don't actually eat the flower, but occasionally a petal or a green leaf floats loose and I drink it unintentionally. My sister finds the rather.....errr......"organic" nature of this experience repulsive, but it's not as gross as it probably sounds to some of you.

Especially considering some of the things we ingested while in China. Need I say more?

Somewhere I have better pictures, but this will give you an idea of what it looks like:

"One of the other teas I can't remember the name of"
I can't honestly believe we actually tasted this tea in China before we bought it, but we must have, because I know we only bought stuff we sampled. But somehow either we were duped by the zealous sales lady or our palate was tricked. Somehow this "hay and barnyard" variety slipped through the cracks.

Now, the box it came in is brilliantly stunning. Deceptively so. I mean, check out the beautiful Chinese calligraphy on the rice paper holding the "wheel" of black tea. Pretty sweet.

When I unwrapped the parcel of tea and looked at it, I immediately thought to myself, "Hmmm."

Closer look:

Let's be forthright, shall we?

It looks like a reconstituted mass of straw and dung.

"Check this out!" I jokingly said to my sister and her husband as I broke into it. I started giggling. "A cow pie."

I sniffed it.

You gotta be kidding!

Smelled pretty much like a cow pie.

I frowned down at it for a minute, thinking "I have a HUGE wheel of crap. I sure hope it tastes better than it looks and smells."

Well, before I went any further, I really should have thought about my dad's old joke. You know, the one where the guy walking along sees a pile of what looks like dog poop on the sidewalk and goes over to check it out:

(peers intently) "Sure looks like poop."
(sniff sniff) "Sure smells like poop."
(gingerly pokes it) "Sure feels like poop."

(nibble nibble) "Sure tastes like poop."
(breathes a sigh of relief and says...) "Good thing I didn't step in it!"

Sure enough, the tea tasted like a cow barn. I didn't think it was possible to reproduce the barnyard scent and texture in liquid form, but somehow the Chinese did it. I think I accidentally flossed my teeth with a piece of hay just drinking the stuff.

And the box looked so pretty, darnit! I guess someone really has finally mastered the art of polishing a turd.