Right after the required running with the lights Alex took us over to the Butterfly Garden.
Did you know that some butterfly have wings that are toxic to birds? Apparently Alex does. It's really weird when your kid tells you things you didn't already know.
Alex and I spent a while at the skull identification table. The computer asked yes or no questions and using that program we figured out to which animal each skull belonged.
One of the main things we learned from the computer is that predators have eyes in the front of their heads and prey have eyes on the side. I looked at Alex and asked him "Are we predators or prey?"
You could see the revelation in his eyes as he said "Predators."
This was the view of the Charles as we walked across the bridge to the green wing.
We stopped for the traditional Space Ice Cream. This year I mixed things up and had French Vanilla yogurt. Alex insisted I try his ice cream so I made him a deal that I'd try his if he tried the yogurt. Following the taste test we shook off our respective looks of disgust and decided to stick with our original choices.
After Ice Cream we saw a live show called the Amazing Nano Brothers Juggling Show. I highly recommend this show for anyone 6 and up. These guys pack a lot of education in around some very impressive juggling. We laughed a lot and as soon as it ended Alex yelled "That was the best show I ever saw!"
After 4 hours Alex and I were beat. We took the T back to Alewife and then went to Johnny Rockets for dinner. It was a lot of fun spending the day alone with Alex.
Just one more thing. Alex is a funny guy. The entire time he was standing in front of this Earth he kept saying EARF... EARF... in a funny voice. Right after I took the picture he said, "Get it? I'm an alien... EARF..."
You had to be there. But I guess that was the best part of the day. It was just me and Alex.
For the last week Conner and I have been building a Star Wars Lego AT-AT. It's a lot like this one Christine and I stumbled on before we got married except smaller and with more pieces.
Conner's focus was nothing short of amazing. He'd put in 2 hours at a time building the AT-AT as long as I worked with him. But even though I was there, he did most of the work.
We started by sorting all the pieces.
Alex helped out at the beginning by building one of the legs and a few side panels but this was really Conner's baby.
He worked on it every free moment. Most of the time that meant after I got home from work, but one morning, he was so excited he started building the head before I got out of bed.
Half way through I realized he wasn't really reading the instructions. He was simply looking at the last picture and figuring out how to recreate it. We talked through one page of steps and now he reads through the instructions left to right and top to bottom when his "just figure it out" approach doesn't work. Man do kids learn fast!
Instructions or not, he seems to have a natural talent for figuring out puzzles.
One amazing thing about Conner is he never stops playing. Even with all the focus it took to build this set it was just a game to him. He played with almost every piece he built.
The completion of the AT-AT was a big surprise. I left the room for a few minutes to help Allison with something and when I returned Conner had finished it.
As I walked back into the room he said "Daddy, I think I'm done." And he was. The kid is amazing.
Needless to say I'm extremely proud of Conner. He's shown an amazing ability to focus, build and have a lot of fun. I had a blast working on this AT-AT with him and we both can't seem to wait to start another project.
I just started writing a post about the gluttonous amount of stuff the kids got for Christmas and it sounded familiar. Turns our I wrote and never published something very similar a long time ago. Here's the original post from December 2007.
Birthday season just passed for the Russell boys and Alex and Conner received about as many toys and you find in your average retail toy store.
I was a little surprised to find that while they have a powerful desire for more and more toys, those toys don't actually make them happier. Don't get me wrong, they had a blast opening them and Conner carries a one of the smaller back-hoes around with him everywhere. But as the days pass after opening all the gifts I noticed that most of the time the boys were happier when they were playing together (without toys) than when they played with the toys.
Put them in a room with a bunch of toys and within 30 seconds someone is crying. But...
Put them in a room with nothing but a couch and some pillows and they entertain each other jumping off the couch onto the pillows nearly indefinitely (at least by 4 year old standards). And all the while they are laughing so hard and smiling so big that to watch them you'd swear that jumping off a couch was the secret to life and happiness.
That last paragraph really needed a picture and I searched a long time for a picture the boys playing, but I couldn't find one. Most of the time when they're playing we're having too much fun to bother with pictures. The ones we do have all pretty much look like the one above. It's a picture of Alex tackling his Grandfather. The boys seem happiest when they're moving around.
I read this great Dear Santa letter and it got me thinking about Christmas gifts for the boys. As a parent my favorite part of Christmas is watching how much fun the kids have. (That and I'd really like to sleep in just once...) In years past we were extremely focused on filling the bottom of the tree with wrapped boxes. Christmas morning was a frenzy and the boys couldn't keep track of all the things they got and wanted to stop and play while more presents were pushed on them.
This year we've spoken with Santa and are going for a different approach. Instead of volume we're going for a few toys that encourage the boys to play together and with the family. I have a hunch this will be their happiest Christmas yet.
So that's what I wrote in 2007. Things have changed a bit, but not much. More on that in the next post.