Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our happy place...

The boys and I have been so lucky this summer to find our very own "happy place".  That spot where we can go and play and feel at home out in nature. A place we've returned to so often that we relax the moment we arrive. We sit in the sand, dig big holes, splash in the river. I knit, they scream and splash. Sometimes we meet friends, sometimes it's just the three of us.

On our most recent visit we watched the tiny fry (baby fish) and tadpoles swim in the shallow river's edge.  The time before that, there was a crawfish. There are always geese and ducks and deer.  And if we get there early enough, we have the whole space to ourselves to breathe and listen to the sound of the river. It feels just right.

While we are sad that our summer visits to our happy place are drawing to a close, we are getting excited to see how beautiful the trees look in the fall.  And the boys want to visit in the winter to see what the river looks like then.  And when the mountain snow begins to melt, we can't wait to see what happens to the river banks. Before we know it, we'll be back to summer and our favorite spot.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brother time...

Some days I would like to sell my children.  Even pay someone to take them. We have more than our fair share of whining, fighting, and the most awful SCREAMING that happens in this house.  I'm afraid to know what the neighbors think...

But most days?  They are really great.  At 3.5 and 6, there is so much they can do without my assistance.  We've had hours upon hours of Legos and car races. Our couches have been transformed into pirate ships, dog kennels, race cars and hospitals. Yesterday they even played together for 2 hours - without me! And yeah, ok, I probably should have intervened when I saw the baby doll had a jump rope tied around it's neck and was being used as "shark bait".  (Moms of boys, I know you know what I'm talking about.) But they were playing together!  On the same team!

And as I looked back through a lot of our summer pictures, I noticed just how many great times there have been like that this summer. We've spent many hours each week just hanging out at home, and they have filled those hours with laughter and imaginary characters.  The dress up box has been well used. I finally figured out that boys don't need Barbies because they have Lego minifigures. And there is always some song being sung, and more often than not, they are even singing it together.

Here are some of those images of daily life from our summer.  And for those of you with little tiny ones, take  heart - your time will come! Because while all this good stuff was going on, I got to be sewing, reading, online, or on the phone.  By myself.

Guitar Concerts

Reading together

Board Games

Reading on the lawn

Art time

Sprinklers and Snacking

Chess time

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beach week...

For the last two years, we have spent a week at the beginning of August on the beautiful Oregon Coast with my husband's family.  This year we joined his parents, sister, and grandmother at a beautiful rental home just north of Depoe Bay.  It was an amazing place - just a couple blocks from the beach, a park and playground a block away, and plenty of room for everyone.  The goal?  Spending time and relaxing. And, well, mission accomplished!

We followed a pretty predictable routine almost every day there - wake up, go to the playground, have breakfast, go to the beach and dig a big hole, go home and have lunch. This was followed by a few hours of naptime and reading (for both kids and adults).  Of course, then there was another playground or park visit, and the day wrapped up with a yummy dinner and game or puzzle time for the adults, while the boys went to bed. For four days, that was our heaven.  With so many kind adults around, ready and willing to take turns taking the boys to the playground, play card games with them, or read them stories, it was a true vacation for Dan and I. The boys loved time with their family and dug some serious holes.  I read two books. The weather was beautiful and sunny.

Basically, it was perfect.

Side note: While we were there, we accidentally swapped cameras with my sister-in-law - the benefit being that we had her card of images (and she's an amazing photographer!).  So, many of the following pictures were taken by her.  Hope you enjoy!

The little one's fashion choices always make me smile!

It was a DEEP hole!

Uno on the porch

Monday, August 15, 2011

In Praise of Pinterest...

As I mentioned in my previous post, we recently had a birthday party for the big one's 6th birthday. What you should know is that I really don't enjoy birthday parties - attending or throwing.  But my kiddos want parties. In order to help us all get what we want, we are on an every-other-year schedule. The big one gets parties during years when he turns an even age.  The little one gets them when he turns an odd age. This rotation means I throw one a year, and on the years when they don't have a big party, we get to enjoy quiet, simple family celebrations. It's just one of those little ways we are maintaining a balance that works for our family.

Summer birthdays are great for birthday parties - the ability to celebrate outside allows for some fun ideas.  The birthday boy wanted a "summer fun" party, and we were lucky enough to be able to hold it at my father-in-law's church (he's the pastor).  The parking lot was a perfect bike riding area, and the grassy areas were great for baseball, soccer, and football games.  Really, it was all very simple.

But the thing that made it even easier?  One of my favorite new addictions - Pinterest. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here's what it is.  Remember when you used to flip through magazines and tear out pages of recipes/decorating ideas/quotes/crafts that you wanted to remember? And when you first started to use the internet you used to print out the ideas that you found? And then you found that you had an overwhelming list of bookmarks for all of those great things, but could never quite remember which bookmark led you to which tutorial or photograph? This is the answer.  It's like online corkboards, where you can "pin" all those great ideas. You see a tutorial you like, "pin" it, and sort your pins into boards according to theme.  Then you can go to your board, see all of your ideas, and follow those ideas back to their original source on the web.

I used Pinterest to gather my ideas for the birthday party.  In fact, here's my board. And here's the same ideas at the actual party:

 We had a great time - the weather was perfect, we were joined by amazing friends and family, and the birthday boy loved it all.  Our "goody bags" of a monster and CD of favorite music were well received. The pulled pork sandwiches and picnic food were delicious, and a good friend's cupcake recipe (thanks, Mel!) was perfect.

But the best part? Because of the pre-planning/organizing using Pinterest, I was actually able to sit back and enjoy the party.  The preparations still took time, but we were able to do things the way we wanted (little expense or waste, lots of activity and creativity) without any last-minute stress.  I can't recommend it enough!  I've still got a few invites left, so if you are interested in signing up, just let me know in the comments. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Recent crafties...

It's been a wonderful summer for crafting - with the boys being a little more independent, I can actually sit and play during the day.  While they are immersed in a "Search and Rescue Mission" (thanks, Papa!) with Legos and dollhouse firefighters, I can be cutting out a pattern or knitting away. I'm still able to be involved in their play, without getting in the way.

There have been a couple of crafting project that have filled more hours than the others.  Each was my favorite kind of crafting to do - crafting for gifts.  Now that they have been gifted to their respective recipients, I thought I'd share a little of what I've been up to:

Project 1.
This one was truly a group effort. Back in May, I asked some of the people nearest and dearest to my dad to send favorite stories/memories, and pictures to me.  I then got to put all of these memories together in a scrapbook.  I used a digital template set by Cathy Zielske and a digital paper pack, and we ended up with a 45 page album full of love for my dad on his 60th birthday.  I felt so lucky to get to put it together - to get to really spend  time with all of these wonderful thoughts and stories of my dad.  Each one triggered my own memories, and realize what an amazing  family and community my Dad created for us. Here's a shot of the cover:
And just a sample of the inside pages:

 Project 2:
Ok, this undertaking was a little silly/crazy.  A few months ago I saw an adorable "gift basket" on pinterest that I desperately wanted to recreate for my oldest's birthday party. Which then meant I needed to knit a monster for every child coming to the party.  And his party was the week after my Dad's - and thus the finish date for the scrapbook. So, I knew that I would officially have 9 days to knit 12-13 monsters. They'd have to be small and simple, and I'd need to knit my fingers off!  When I saw these, I knew they were the ones! Using only scrap yarn, I got them done (the night before!), and they were happily adopted out the next day. We did end up having a family unable to make it, so a few of the little guys came home with us, and they are well loved (and thrown around) our home!

While crafting with a timeline in mind isn't always my favorite, both of these projects were great fun.  I loved seeing the funny little personalities each monster took on as the ends were sewn and feet were attached. But I'm not sure much will top the reaction that my Dad's scrapbook got from him. That was the best.

I have completed a few other little projects along the way - hopefully I'll get around to sharing those before too long! But if not, it's because I'm renewing my friendship with my sewing machine...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cousin Time...

A couple of weeks ago, we spent a week vacationing with my family (at my parents' home). The main purpose was to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday. He's an amazing guy, and deserved to be celebrated in a big and fabulous way. For this big event, my sister and her family came in from Ottawa, and the boys and I were determined to spend as much time with them as possible.

It's tough having my sister live on the other side of the continent.  But she and I have no trouble talking for long extended hours each week - the phone makes the distance seem much smaller.  What the phone doesn't do is allow me the time to hug and cuddle and watch my niece and nephew grow up. So these moments together are HUGE. 

I grew up in a big family - there are 9 cousins on each side.  We spent a LOT of time with our cousins growing up - and have the awkward 80's pictures to prove it.  And I am so lucky that as an adult, I am still close with my cousins, and have the opportunity (thanks, facebook!) to keep up with their lives on a regular basis. In fact, here's a pic of just a few us and our children at my dad's party:

I want that same thing for my boys. But when your only cousins live so far away, it's tough. So we do our best to make the best of the situation, and the kids play together every second of our time together.

My oldest, by nature of his age, and, well, his bossy nature, is usually the ringleader.  He chooses the activity, and gets the "littles" going. My youngest is 5 months older than his cousin, my sister's oldest.  Up until this visit, they have had a very adversarial relationship. But for the first time, this visit they spent extended times playing together, off in their own imaginary world. And the baby?  Well, right now he's best at just being cute.  Both of my boys adore him and are very protective of him, and my youngest just can't wait until he's old enough to join in the games.  (Secretly, I think he's just hoping that the baby will be the one person he gets to be the "boss" of.)

Here are just a few pictures of their week together:

Group puzzle assembly

Chess with Aunt Erin

Puzzle time

Digging in the dirt

Watching for fish in the stream
Anyone who knows my kiddos knows just how much they adore their grandparents.  And when it came time to leave, and the oldest was upstairs wailing and gnashing his teeth about going home, I thought that was leaving them that was so hard. But it wasn't.  "But, mama, it will be months until I get to play with my cousins again! That is just too long.  I love them soooooo much!" While I hated to see him hurting, I was so glad to hear how much he enjoyed his time with them. We made promises of more-regular iChats, gave big hugs, and have already talked on the phone several times.  And still, on a daily basis,  my boys talk about the great time they had on vacation with their cousins.
Gotta love the cousin time!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A day at the lake...

My aunt and uncle have some property down on the lake where I grew up. It's a large reservoir, and they've worked hard to build a great place to spend the day in total relaxation. Recently, we were fortunate enough to be invited to come down and hang out with them for the day.  My cousin, who currently lives in North Dakota, was going to be there with her two children, and it was the perfect opportunity to get out on the lake and spend the day with people we adore.

While the boys have been taking swimming lessons, they are both still a little nervous around the water.  I figured that they would mostly hang out on the dock and in the shallow water's edge.  So when both agreed right away to hop into the canoe with my cousin's children, I was pleasantly surprised.  The water is one of my favorite places to be.  The kids had fun paddling around a little, and then it was time for Uncle Mike to bring out the big guns - the ski boat.

After watching their cousin (a strong and confident 7 year old) take a spin on the new ski trainer, my big one decided that maybe being pulled behind the boat looked like a pretty good time.  So, the two of them hopped into the dually - a double inner tube - and off we went.

(Confession time - He wanted out at the last minute.  Papa told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to try it, and I agreed.  At the same time, I was terrified that if it was a bad experience, we were in trouble.  The kid never forgets!)

Well, let me just say that the dually was amazing.  The peer pressure of having his cousin there with him, me in the boat watching out for him, and my uncle taking it easy, making sure the ride was great all worked together.  He had a blast.  We went slow, we went fast, we spun in circles giving them some great wake bumps.  The grin never left his face. And as soon as we got back?  My little one hops in with my cousin's little one. Oh my goodness - those two tiny little boys (3 and 4 years old) out there in the middle of the reservoir looked so far away.  And so very little.  And were having such a fantastic time! It was wonderful.

And through the afternoon, the fun continued.  They played in the shallows, the little one jumped into the lake all by himself (although it was far too cold for his taste), and the big one even gave the ski trainer a shot all by himself.

Then both boys got to watch their papa water ski.  It was his 60th birthday that day, and he wanted to prove to himself that he could still do it. And honestly, he was amazing.  He has always been one of the best skiers I know, and the years haven't changed that.  For a few moments, I was the little 7 year old in the boat, cheering on my daddy, watching him make it all look so easy. And my boys were thrilled at the cool new trick Papa had shown them.

It was a day that the boys and I won't soon forget.  My aunt, uncle, and cousin were such wonderful hosts, and the kids had so much fun playing together. I'm so glad we went down, and eagerly look forward to a time when we can do it all again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flying by...

Wow. I can't believe how quickly this summer is just flying by.  It probably isn't helped by the fact that we've only had a couple of weeks of summer weather.  But beyond that, the days and weeks are just disappearing before our eyes.   I've got lots to post about - we've had two birthday parties, a week with my sister and her amazing family, time at the lake, lots of playing outside, and a new roof. It's all been good.

This last week, the boys and I took a little break from all the party planning and connected crafting to head down to the river. It was a little cool when we got there, but we had the beach to ourselves.  We unloaded shovels and buckets and sifters and knitting, each set about our work. The oldest promptly began digging.  First it was the river's edge.  Later it was a deep tunnel under a log.  He was in heaven.  The little one made sand angels, threw rocks into the river, and searched for buried treasure.  There was constant narration for all the activity.

I got to sit and knit while the boys were playing.  We've entered a delightful stage this summer where both boys are better able to entertain themselves for extended periods of time.  They are both careful about safety, no one is eating the sand, and they will happily join together or with other children to create new worlds while I watch form a distance.  It is heavenly to be able to have a little "me time" without having to be away form them.

As the morning drifted towards lunch, we pulled out the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the boys made before we left home.  With a bag of carrots, peas, and cherries, we had some serious fine dining, and the little one even believes it all tastes better with a fine coating of sand. We saw crawdads and tadpoles, watched boats float past, and felt the warm sunshine on our bodies. It felt like summer.

We can't wait to go again!