Monday, November 26, 2012

Five already?

Once upon a time there was a mama and a daddy and a happy two year old.  All was good and easy in their world.  They could go to the grocery store without fits, they could eat in a restaurant in relative calm, and aside from the squeals of glee and occasional tears, the house was fairly quiet.  So they decided to have another baby.

The house hasn't been quiet for a second since then.

Today is Luke's 5th birthday.  It's nearly impossible to believe that my baby is so big already.  But it is completely impossible to imagine our world without him in it.

I can't help but remember his older brother telling a stranger that "my little brother is the funny one". Luke was all of 18 months old.  But even then, Max was right - Luke is funny.  Seriously funny.  With his own sense of comedic timing and verbal skills beyond his age, he constantly has us cracking up.  Sometimes it is in the serious way he approaches a situation, or his overactive imagination running a storyline we can barely keep up with.  But if he's around, he's got us laughing.  Sometimes it's the only reason we let him stay.

Sometimes it's the outfits.  This kiddo has a serious interest in fashion and costuming.  Lately he has been a fan of "dressing fancy" which includes wearing two dress shirts (one short sleeved, one long sleeved), a tie, a belt, dress pants and church shoes - no matter where he's going.  If he's going to play a sport, the outfit must match the sport.  And if it's 95 degrees, he's perfectly happy in a sleeveless shirt, basketball shorts, a wool stocking cap and snow boots.  Or a cape any day.  Just because.

But beyond being funny, he has a genuine heart that slays me.  He chose his birthday party location so that one of his little friends would be able to attend.  On the way to his party he reminded us that another friend eats gluten-free, so we should stop and pick up a special treat.  And he offers to share any new toy/food/treat with his brother just because he wants Max to be happy. He's a masterful cuddler, and will curl up with anyone sad or lonely.

Ah, this little boy.  My little boy that isn't so little anymore. Our noisy, crazy, funny sweetheart who is helping us to live happily ever after.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging...

I've missed this space. Missed taking the time to sit, focus, and reflect on our lives just a little.  So I'm working my way back.  I can't promise anything earth-shattering or ground-breaking.  No major epiphanies while I was away.  but I do know that if I don't take the time to write things down, then all too quickly it's like they never happened at all.

I'm still feeling thankful, and in that vein, thought I'd celebrate blogging by sharing some moments/experiences from this fall that I am grateful for:

1. The delicious foods of fall. In our area, tomatoes don't hit their prime until September, just as the best apples are coming on.  We love both, and enjoying them at their peak is a treat we have truly come to appreciate. This year we also added a membership to a CSA (Circle of Friends for you locals - they are fabulous!!), and that has made fresh, local, and seasonal even easier for us.

2. Family traditions.  Both boys have really keyed in to the idea of traditions, and often will speak about their favorites.  Visits to the apple orchard and pumpkin patches always rank very highly on their list, and things like carving pumpkins are mainstays we can't imagine doing without.

3. Halloween. Both boys are in full command of their costume choice at this point.  Max knew from the very beginning that he wanted to be a green ninja.  No problem.  Luke, however, had a harder time deciding.  In the weeks leading up to Halloween he debated going as a dead possum, a toucan, or an invisible squirrel.  In the end, though, finding his old mummy costume in the box of decorations was enough to sway him that direction.

4. Soccer season.  Max's love affair with soccer has continued, and this season we ventured into the world of outdoor fall soccer.  He loved every single second of it. He had wonderful coaches who placed high priority on ball handling, skill development, and position play.  He grew a great deal, and still enjoyed scoring goals with consistency. We were lucky to get to share the soccer season with all of his grandparents, and Luke loved the extra cuddle time that brought for him.

5. Luke's birthday party.  Yesterday Luke had his first real birthday party.  He wanted to have it somewhere where "kids could run around and be squirrelly", so we ended up at Precision Elite Gymnastics.  Luke and his 10 friends got to run, jump, twirl, and climb to their hearts' content.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and the birthday boy was thrilled.

7. But perhaps our favorite fall moments have been the ones spent in laughter and fun together.  Whether it's going through a hay maze, gathering acorns and fall leaves, crafting, or drinking hot apple cider, just being together has been wonderful.  The boys are finding more and more ways to enjoy each other, and Dan and I are loving the chance to observe their friendship and independence grow.

It's been a good fall.  There have been some bumps in the road that I may address here at a future point, but this weekend was a great chance to remember just how blessed we are in this life.  Now, off to get the decorations out for the birthday boy tomorrow!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A beautiful fall day...

Sometimes you just get lucky.  A day goes practically perfectly, from beginning to end.  Today was one of those.

Step 1. A fall soccer game in which Max scores three goals.  He played his hardest and had a great time.  

Step 2. A fun Saturday morning Zumba class - I'd missed it this week because of meetings, and it felt so good to be back. (Yeah, it surprises me as much as you that I feel that way about an exercise class!)

Step 3. Lunch at Best Burgers - we'd been wanting to try this burger cart for a while and today was the day.  The food was yummy - especially the garlic fries.

Step 4. The apple orchard - We've been going to Kiyokawa Orchard for several years now, and it never disappoints.  Today was a spectacular visit - blue skies, ripe honeycrisps, and a hayride.

Step 5. A first time visit to Draper Girls Farm to buy raw cider - Dan started  fermenting cider last year and is looking forward to giving it another go.

Step 6. Pizza Dinner and a movie - since the boys both slept on the way home, we knew they wouldn't be ready for their regular bedtime.  We decided that a rare pizza and family movie night was in order.

Seriously.  How lucky are we?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to the routine...

Hydrangeas from  our yard, plums from the neighbor
In a house where all four individuals work at or attend four different schools, the start of the school year is more than a little hectic.  Between first days and open houses, Parent Association meetings, and school picnics, our evenings have been filled with events. Add to that soccer practices, CSA farm visits, library trips, and 4-5  gym visits a week, and that is where the time has gone.

But today was the day I've been waiting for.  The day when all the "beginning of school"-ness is over and our new daily routine feels like that - just our routine.  Today wasn't any less busy.  But instead of feeling like I need to have my eyes on the calendar and the clock at all times, we are able to flow from one thing to the next. 
The boys helping to wind yarn for Max's class
Getting up and out of the house has been going smoothly for a couple of weeks now.  Luke and I are back in our lunchtime/quiet time/chore routine.  Picking up Max from school is a highlight of the afternoon, and is often accompanied by a stop at the farm stand for fresh fruit.  We have snacks, we head to the gym.  Making a healthy meal isn't such a challenge, and the house doesn't always look like a tornado just touched down.

One thing that has made our evenings easier this week was the removal of screen time for the boys.  Usually they get 30 minutes a day, but as a consequence for some poor choices last weekend, it was taken away for the week.  It's amazing how much more we are able to fit in that 30 minutes - we've played games, had mini-music concerts, and lots of Lego building has been occurring.  The arguments between the two boys have decreased, also.  It is really causing us to question why we should ever add it back into our evenings.

All I can say is that today was the day.  The day when the world felt manageable again. And it's looking like tomorrow will be the same. There's soccer practice, meetings at work, tomatoes to finish canning, and a camping trip for which we need to pack.  But we've got this.  It's just part of the routine.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bucket List Update...

It's been over a month since I last posted.  It's been a month full of summer fun and the beginning of the new school year. The time is rushing past us faster than we can believe, and the time to document it all has been lost to new routines and squeezing the best out of every drop of sunshine we have right now.

But it's time.  Time to catch up and make note of some of the fabulous moments that we have had together.  I figure there's no better time to do that than now, while we are knocking on the door of Fall's beginning.  And the place to start that is our Summer Bucket List.  But a warning: this could be long one!

1. Sleep under the stars
        For a summer with relatively little camping, we still managed to spend many nights out under the stars.  Max, in particular discovered a love of sleeping outside, and spent some of the last nights of summer vacation sleeping alone on our back deck. We also managed a backyard campout, and several nights on the deck at Mema and Papa's house. We have another camping trip coming in a couple of weeks, and are finally at the stage where sleeping out with the boys is much easier than it had been in the past.

2. Ride the motorcycle (Dan only!)
         There's never enough time for all the riding that Dan would like to do, but most weekends Dan has managed to get out for at least a short ride out in the country.  With so many rain-free days, it has been easy to just hop on and go, although he's very conscious about not taking too much time away from family time. He did have one opportunity to ride over to Central Oregon, and enjoyed that, as always.

3. Build a sand castle
          Sand castles were built both river-side and ocean-side.  There were also fortresses, sand sculptures, and giant pits.  As in previous years, the sand and water have a very calming effect on us all, so we gravitate to those areas when we need a break from the hustle of the rest of life. We also had a chance to build in the
sand with Aunt Carrie, and loved the new sand toys that Max received for his birthday.

4. Play in the river
      Ah, the river.  This summer, we played on the shores of both the Sandy and  Willamette, with friends and
alone.  Lots of time just relaxing and enjoying each other.  We were there often enough that the shovels and buckets never left the trunk of the car, and we perfected our 5 minute picnic packing routine.

5. Splash in the wading pool
      Alas, the wading pool only came out once this summer - on the day before Max's birthday.  But we may bring it out today - the warm temperatures we are having still make it possible, an we aren't giving up quite yet!

6. Hang out at the water park 
      The number one reason we didn't spend more time with the wading pool this summer was the water park at my gym.  This was the best surprise highlight of the summer.  Both boys absolutely fell in love with being in the big pool - swimming, splashing, sliding.  It took us a while to get there - a cool June and early July weren't helpful.  But since then, we have been there often and for several hours each time. Max learned to swim across the width of the shallow end by himself, and both boys found a comfort and joy in the water that neither had ever had.  Dan joined us on a few weekends, and we even brought Mema and Papa along for the last trip of the summer (Friday after Max got out of school).

7. Eat watermelon
      Yup.  We did. We kept trying to convince Max that the rind was not for eating, but he seemed to revel in proving us wrong. 

8. Read.  Read a lot.
        With an average of 45 books out from the library all summer, and completion of the summer reading program in near-record time, this was not a challenge at all.  Both boys continue to love books and devour them constantly, with Max currently loving graphic novels, and Luke really starting to read on his own.  Dan and I each had time to read also, as the boys continue to be more independent. Next summer we'll have to keep a tally of just how many books we read - I think the number would surprise us!

9. Try camps (vacation bible school for both boys, Lego camp for Max, and basketball camp for Luke)
          Camps were a mixed bag for us this summer.  Both boys enjoyed Vacation Bible School more than they expected, and  I really enjoyed having some time at the beginning of summer alone to get projects done.  Lego camp was a huge hit with Max, and several kids from his school were there, helping him to build more friendships.  Basketball camp was not such a hit with Luke.  The height of the hoop was very discouraging, the small size (only 4 kids) led to little energy, and overall it was not his favorite summer experience.

10. Roast marshmallows
           For the first time in my life, we had enough opportunities to roast marshmallows that we actually finished a WHOLE bag  - none leftover to go stale and remind us of missed opportunities.  One of our best purchases of the summer was a small fire pit for the backyard, and we enjoyed the time just sitting around together.  Sometimes there was music (guitar played by Dan or Luke, or a "Rockstar" dance party), sometimes silly jokes, always chances to talk.  And plenty of marshmallows.

11. Swim in a lake
           We had the chance to swim in two lakes this summer - Walton Lake when we went up to the cabin, and Lake Billy Chinook during the family reunion.  Max also used the ski trainer again, and rode with Papa in the inner tube.

12. Learn to kayak
        Dan and I took a beginning kayaking class with Alder Creek Kayaks.  I had wanted to do this for years, and then purchased the class at Luke's school auction in February.  With Grandpa and Grandma willing to watch the boys, we were finally able to make it happen.  I loved it, and would like to do it again!

13. Have a sleepover with the grandparents
         Our lucky kiddos have amazing grandparents.  They both got to have one-on-one sleepovers, as well as spend overnight time with them this summer.  The boys loved it, the grandparents loved it (we think), and Dan and I loved getting to have a little time alone.

14. Make ice cream and popsicles
         This was another one of those things that didn't happen as much as we thought.  I did make Dan his favorite - Salted Caramel Ice Cream - for his birthday, and we had popsicles on a few occasions.  So, mission accomplished, but not to our satisfaction.

15. Enjoy playdates with friends
          We had a great time playing with lots of our friends this summer.  From planned outings to spur of the moment park visits, we all got to spend time with people we enjoy.

16. Take a nap in a hammock
       It only happened once (during our cabin visit), but it was SOOOO worth it.

17. Dine outdoors
          We finally got a picnic table for the back deck, and since then we have had many of our lunches and dinners outside.  We also enjoyed many barbeques, picnics, and farmer's market meals. Food outside just tastes better.

18. Tackle home projects - the boys' bathroom and the deck are the main priorities
           Both are done!  We have a beautiful new deck and a nice new bathroom floor.  We also had a small garden, cleaned out the house with a successful garage sale, and reorganized the playroom.

19. Cuddle.  Cuddle a lot.
         Check!  Slower mornings led to cuddling on  the couch with books, vacation time led to cuddling in a hammock, later evenings led to more bedtime stories and songs. Good stuff.


20. Spend time strengthening relationships - with each other, our families, and our friends
           And a final, happy, satisfied yes.  Old friendships were rekindled, time was spent with family we hadn't seen in years, and we focused on doing things together as a family.  We loved our time with our "village" and feel so fortunate to have so many wonderful people in our lives.

It's been amazing. And that there were so many great things that happened that weren't on our list.  I may highlight a few of these soon.  But for now, that was our summer. 

Bucket list 2012? Check!