Thursday, December 9, 2010

Party in Pink

Being surrounded by friends who seem to go "all out" for their children's birthday parties, I decided I needed to step it up for this girl this year. Especially while I still have all the decision-making capabilities. It won't last forever. And I have to admit... it was actually a ton of fun. Two very good friends helped me pick a theme ("cupcakes" and "PINK PINK PINK"), helped plan the food (a Saturday mid-morning brunch) and stayed up late the night before helping decorate. And with the added help of my sweet loving mom who rode the train up from Sacramento to be here for the event, I couldn't have done it without any of them.

I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, me or Aubrey. But she was more than thrilled to be the star of the show. The sweet tutu that my close friend made as a gift came in as a close second to being the highlight of her special day (cake and presents took first place.) She donned the tutu before guests arrived and promptly began spinning in circles, giggling with glee.

The brunch menu consisted of three different quiches, a hash brown casserole (made by the same sweet friend who created the tutu), a platter of fruit kabobs with dip (made by the other sweet friend), and the yummiest pumpkin cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting (orange flavored but pink tinted!) She was surrounded by amazing friends and family and enjoyed every loving moment.

Her mommy on the other hand, fought back tears as I realized how fast my sweet baby is growing up. If only time could stop for a moment... that moment when she calls for her mommy and I hold her in my arms... when she wraps her arms around me and melts into my core... when telling her the words "mommy is here... it's OK..." makes everything better.... if only...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Yes, I realize it is now the end of November and I've finally come around to blogging about Halloween. That's how behind I've gotten...
Originally I had planned to "match" their costumes. You know, come up with a theme and plan accordingly. Because, let's face it, how much longer will I be able to influence their costume choices?? How cute would it have been for me to be Bo Peep and for my kids to be my sheep? Adorable right? Well I challenge you to find an appropriate adult sized Bo Peep costume that doesn't consist of a short short skirt, high heels, sheer stockings and a bustier! Impossible, I assure you. And when Brendan commented on his desire to be a cowboy I immediately tried thinking of possibilities for Aubrey. A horse? A cowgirl? I finally gave up and bought the pre-made lady bug and resigned to the fact that there would be no theme...
But you have to admit they were pretty cute anyway :)


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby

You make me smile...


To finish the story (again, remember although I'm blogging now, our trip was actually October 15th-24th... I've been slacking, I know...) from Charleston we drove up to Charlotte before heading back to Rock Hill to spend our last couple nights with family. Charlotte is the home of the newly built and recently opened Nascar Hall of Fame. None of us have ever been the Nascar type but Brendan is a race car lover who was thrilled beyond belief by the sites at this place. We spent a good couple of hours touring the facility and learning everything we never wanted to know about NASCAR but the kids had a blast. Then it was back to Rock Hill and eventually the flight back home.
And although there were numerous meltdowns, tantrums and minor setbacks we left with nothing but positive thoughts and memories and the desire to return. I have a feeling we'll be seeing the South again in the future...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A term I've never heard before but I'm almost certain is probably used to describe the folks of Charleston, South Carolina. The next stop on our itinerary.

First stop as we headed into Charleston was Folly Beach. Middle of Fall, 75 degrees, sunny and only slightly windy. It was the perfect day for a beach walk and the perfect opportunity to let the kids run wild after being strapped in the car for the 3 hour drive from Savannah. But our short timeline and various sightseeing desires only left us a minimal amount of beach-roaming time.

From there we navigated our way through the city to the USS Yorktown which sits in the Charleston harbor. It was an interesting piece of history to see but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Brendan and Joe... the military/airplane enthusiasts. And after a long (and relatively napless) day of driving and touring, it should have come as no surprise that both children began to unravel.

This is the "you've GOT to be kidding me" look that seems permanently plastered to my face when I've had enough crying whining and fit-throwing.

But we eventually got it all together and ventured into historic downtown and were pleasantly amazed by the beautiful architecture and design. So much history in this beautiful city. A tour of the sites, a traditional southern meal and a night in a hotel on the river as day 8 would take us back up to Charlotte and closer to our trip back home...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Trolley Tour and More

The next day of our trip found us navigating the beautiful streets of historic downtown Savannah in search of this famed Southern restaurant. The Lady and Sons, owned by Food Network star, Paula Deen, is known as much for its food as it is for its atmosphere. It was on top of my "must see" (or "eat at") list and required a bit of planning. Doors open at 9:30am for same-day lunch and dinner reservations. So I took it upon myself to drag Joe and the kids along for support. We stood in line no longer than 20 minutes or so before we were on the list and on our way.

Next stop, breakfast and boarding the trolley. We've never been huge fans of guided tours. Joe hates being on a timed schedule at all, let alone someone else's. But the Savannah trolley tour came to us as a trusted suggestion and we couldn't have asked for a better experience. Our guide was humorous and knowledgeable and we were able to see so much more than we could have on our own. An added advantage? Aubrey fell asleep on Joe's lap and was, therefore, extremely well behaved the entire tour! We completely fell in love with the beauty and history of this amazing Southern town. The two days we spent there were not nearly enough and I find myself longing to return. But fear not, there was so much more to our trip and so the story continues...

Shower Time??

In remembering our fabulous vacation, I tend to block out some of the "not-so-fun" moments... but there are those memories that seem so hilarious after the fact, that you can't seem to forget them and upon blogging about Savannah this one came to me...

The hotel was not easy to find... especially in the dark... and with a GPS that only lasted 2 hours (when you're packing for 4 people for 10 days you tend to forget a few things and the "car charger" for the GPS was not at the top of my list.) So with the help of Joe's Blackberry we were on a late night search for our destination. Should it come as a surprise that after a few wrong turns and an "I think you've gone too far..." we were stressed and exhausted beyond belief when we finally arrived. The doorman wheeled our belongings to our room as the valet parked the car and I checked us in. In 10 minutes flat we were unpacking and relaxing. Joe retreated to his laptop to check in at work as I scouted out the room amenities. Kids needed baths and jammies... mommy needed a stiff drink. Turns out none of us were in luck.

I peeked into the bathroom which consisted of tile. Floor, all four walls and ceiling. And for good measure. Because one one side sat the toilet. On the other side was a shower with nothing more than a flimsy curtain to shield the water from the rest of the room. No... bath... tub...

I eyed the hand-held showering device and decided it would have to do the trick. Stinky, sticky, tired kids do NOT make for a good bedtime routine.

I stripped Brendan and ran the water. I laid down a towel to kneel on and silently cursed the hotel staff for such unsafe conditions (not even a skid-free mat??) as I checked the water temperature. Good to go. Stood Brendan in the stall and sprayed him off. As thrilled as he was to be "tickled" by the water, this was less than appealing as a means to wash my child. Within seconds he was screaming "TOO HOT!!"

Sure enough the temp had risen and it took another minute (while Brendan now shivered) to get it back. I reached for the soap and paused mid-reach. How would I wash this wet, writhing boy with one hand while still holding the shower head? I contemplated only for a second and then slowly let the shower head fall. HUGE mistake. You know that picture of a garden hose full blast, slithering like a snake and spraying full force? Yup, that was the shower head. As Brendan squealed with delight at my unfortunate mistake, I screamed and grabbed for the head. Now, not only were we both soaked (me in my clothes, socks and shoes) but so were the toilet, the walls and the ceiling. So one-handed it was. I soaped him up and rinsed him off then attempted to dry us both.

Joe was oblivious to the commotion and still working, seemingly uninterrupted, at his laptop. I left Brendan to dress himself and grabbed the girl for a second round of shower time. Having already experienced what I thought was the worst, I figured I was prepared to tackle a second round. But my miscalculation of the fact that the shower (and entire bathroom) was now WET from our previous endeavor resulted in chaos. It is apparently (and all too obviously) the sound of his daughter's cries that will make my husband come running. How could I have believed that telling a two-year-old to "stay" standing on a tiny bath towel would result in her listening?? One foot off the towel onto the wet slippery floor and she went flying face first into the slimy tile. After assessing any apparent damage (and kisses from her daddy) I concluded that this child would need 4 hands to bathe her. Two to hold her upright (her daddy's) and two to spray and wash.

Jammies, clean teeth, story time, eyes closed... kids were out. I let out a huge sigh of relief as my head hit the pillow... we would survive to laugh about it later...

Monday, November 22, 2010


A term used frequently in the book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." A story set in Savannah, Georgia that gives an interesting (and eventful) glimpse into the heart of the Southern town. A book I had wanted to finish before our trip but ended up finishing just 3 days ago. But maybe having been there gave me a realistic picture in my mind as I read.

We headed south from Rock Hill and enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way (this is a slightly sarcastic remark... I-95 is much of the same tree-lined scenery that sort of gets boring after awhile...)

We headed straight to Tybee Island, a fun and slightly touristy place located just outside Savannah. We arrived at Ft. Pulaski with just enough time to tour the facility before they closed. A beautiful Civil War historical site with so much tragic history to tell. I was awestruck and amazed.

It was a huge disappointment when we drove up to the Tybee Lighthouse just after they had closed to visitors. It would have been an enjoyable experience to have seen it from the inside.

At that point it was nearing dinnertime anyway so we opted to find ourselves some grub. Attempting to immerse ourselves, fully, into our Southern experience, we hunted down this fun (suggested by a trusted source) restaurant that had nothing but Southern Seafood written all over it. The Crab Shack was a crazy fun place that looked exactly like it's name suggests... a shack. Tables with garbage cans in the middle, equipped with an entire roll of paper towels. It was an experience we'll never forget. Sharing a platter of crab legs, shrimp, muscles, crawfish, corn, sausage and potatoes, we left the restaurant with smiles and full bellies.

The long day really wore the kids out so it was no surprise that after baths and stories, the kids were out within seconds. Much needed rest for our continuing adventure...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Southern Hospitality

So let me begin by apologizing for being lazy with the blog lately. I seem to have gone through a lapse in motivation for blogging and will be trying to catch up rather haphazardly! Our trip to the South was a month ago now but sharing late is better than not sharing at all :)

For a better understanding of our decision for a "Southern" vacation I will preface the story with the fact that Joe's brother, in a very fortunate career move, took a position with his job that entailed moving his wife and (then) 5 children to Rock Hill, South Carolina 2 years ago. So in an attempt to do some reconnecting, visiting, bonding and adventuring, I convinced my husband to take some time off to visit the South.

The flight from Portland to Charlotte was fairly (and quite surprisingly) uneventful albeit long and exhausting. But it was worth the exhaustion when we stepped off the plane into the beautiful, warm, sunny, fall air of North Carolina. The only shock was the calculation that appeared to be going through Joe's head as he took a mental inventory of our possessions and eyed his brother's company Mercedes hoping we'd all fit to make the trip. Squeezing between the middle of my children's carseats with purse and backpack in hand was no small feat. But had I been 10 pounds heavier it would have been nearly impossible.

We were welcomed with love and excitement and shouldn't have expected anything less.

Alex and Katie were the most gracious of hosts, taking us to places we absolutely enjoyed and helping make memories we'll never forget. Days 1-4 of our trip consisted of an exciting tour of a historic cotton plantation in the heart of the Carolinas, babysitters for 8 kids that allowed an adults' night out, a local peach farm version of a hayride/pumpkin patch and a hike along an old canal trail. If our goal was to see and experience as much as possible then they were helping us attain it.

The kids were so well behaved and got along so well. By about day 3 Brendan was referring to his cousins as his "friends" and didn't want to leave.

But day 5 took us on another adventure as Joe and the kids and I drove a borrowed Ford Explorer down to Savannah, Georgia for a look beyond the Carolinas. And that's where the story continues...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

This year's pumpkin patch excursion was a spur of the moment "this may be the only chance we get since we're going on vacation" trip that left me waking the kids up from naps on a Friday afternoon, rushing them out the door, and forgetting to bring Joe a change of clothes (and shoes) as we picked him up from work on the way. It felt only slightly rushed as we wandered in search of the perfect pumpkin, made the most of several photo ops, and perused the on-site market. After all, the itinerary that followed included dropping Joe off at his office so he could run and get a hair cut, run home, grab a bite to eat, pack his bags and leave for Albany (for Guard duty) at a decent hour. But as stressful as that all may sound, I couldn't risk the chance of missing out on our yearly p-patch trip and so we made the most of it. My sweet little pumpkins searching for pumpkins... it doesn't get much cuter than this.

Fire Station Fun

One of the benefits of having Brendan in preschool is the opportunity for me to chaperone all the fun-filled 4-year-old field trips. It's the kind of mom I always dreamed of being. The one who volunteers to drive, to load the van up with chatty kids, to cart them off, help keep track and watch the priceless smiles as they laugh, love and learn. So when Brendan's teacher asked if I could drive for the Fire Station field trip three weeks ago I jumped at the chance. Three 4-year-old boys talking non stop on the 5 minute drive who lit up with excitement through the entire presentation. The hats stayed on and the smiles continued on the 5 minute drive back to school. Priceless memories in the making... I think I may have had more fun than even Brendan.

Oh, and another benefiit of chaperoning? I get to put faces to names that I hear about in our "how was school" talks... namely a cute little blonde named Brooke who happens to be the current love of his life... I may need to keep an eye on this one :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Hand to Hold

She'll be Daddy's girl forever I'm sure. She sits next to the door on the front bench seat of Daddy's truck. And even though it's me who sits by her side, it's Daddy's hand she wants to hold. And really... how could he resist?
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Long Distance Friendship

OK, so not really LONG distance. Though the drive from Portland to Bend can be treacherous at best through the winter months, the mileage is really not so far. The problem is, that all the hopes and dreams Sarah and I had of having children who grew up together, living just down the street from each other and seeing each other several times each week diminished in the moment we drove away, moving our possessions and our lives through the mountains to sunny central Oregon. But we've vowed to keep in touch and our friendship has never faltered. The boys still remember each other and it seems they pick up right where they last left off. And even if it's only one visit a year, there are priceless memories made in what feels like too short a visit.

The Falkner clan arrived late on Friday September 17th carrying two sweet sleeping boys through the door and up the stairs. All was quiet as they laid them down to sleep when breaking the silence, Sarah's cell phone GPS informed us all "GPS... YOU HAVE ARRIVED." We all stifled a laugh and I whispered loudly from downstairs "YUP! THIS IS THE PLACE!"

We visited until the wee hours of Friday night, spent Saturday playing and relaxing, watched a movie after the kids went to bed and said a sad good-bye on Sunday afternoon. And as I watched them pull away I had a longing to be back in Portland, if only to be closer to the friends who mean so much to me. But Bend is my beautiful home. And if keeping in touch means fun, relaxing visits then so be it...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

School Boy

It feels like forever since I've updated the blog so I apologize tremendously. So much has been going on these past couple of months, it may be hard to catch up on it all..

I struggled for quite some time over the decision to put Brendan in preschool. Was it necessary? Was the cost worth it? Could I handle the influences that would result? Could HE? You only get one chance at doing the best job possible as a parent and I wanted to make the best decision. I knew if he struggled with it I wouldn't push the issue. But as it turns out, he absolutely loves it. He's growing and learning so much already. Just look at that smile... the picture says it all.
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Clean Up

OK, so it's not as if I'm in the habit of allowing my children to eat food off the floor. But if you know how crazy my husband is about keeping those floors clean (fortunatley for me, the floors are his job...) you'd know it's not that big of a deal. So when I found my sweet girl on her hands and knees snacking on those runaway Cheerios I grabbed the camera.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tears and Tantrums

It's a phase.

I have to tell myself that in order to get through it without suffering a nervous breakdown and committing myself.

My 21-month-old daughter has entered a phase wherein she feels it is absolutely necessary to scream horrifically when placed in the seat of a shopping cart. This is not the end of the world, you say... but when nearly 50% of our outings consist of the need for a shopping cart, it darn near FEELS like the end of the world.

Attempt #1... JoAnn Fabrics. I come to the realization that not only does the NEW location not open till October 1st, but the current location has been in the midst of a closeout sale for the good part of two months. The likelihood of finding what I'm looking for is slim yet I still attempt a quick look. The screaming begins (my daughter's... not mine) and all 10 patrons quickly glare my way. Thirty seconds in and I'm already approaching insanity. I grab my girl whispering intense motherly reasons why her behavior is NOT acceptable and drag Brendan nearly running full speed to the car.

Attempt #1... FAIL

Attempt #2... I get a text from a friend to meet in a half hour at a nearby kids recreation facility. Good idea... JoAnn's was a bust. And just enough time to stop by Fred Meyer for a few small items on my list. Hop Brendan into the cart basket and Aubrey into the seat and this time the blood curdling scream is accompanied by kicking and thrashing. "I will conquer" I think to myself... "I can do this, I will ignore and will not be defeated." But humiliation sets in as, with each step, the tirade increases. I grab Brendan and pull crazy screaming child from the cart and attempt to quickly leave the store with my dignity intact.

Attempt #2... FAIL

So as if one could possibly find the idea of a third attempt even remotely a good idea...

Day 2, attempt #3... Drop Brendan off at preschool and prep myself for what will be a MUCH better stroll through Fred Meyer...


Screaming begins the second I lift her into place, legs kicking, arms thrashing. This time I have the energy. I can do it. I will ignore her obvious efforts to take control of this situation and I will persevere. The glares from fellow shoppers quickly wear me down. "HELLO?? If you just move a little faster, I can make this quicker for all of us" I think. She is unrelenting and louder by the second. An old man shoots me a look. "YUP!" I want to shout, "if you think it's hurting YOUR ears, imagine how it sounds from just six inches away from the amplified source!" I can't hear anything other than the shrill cries of my child. Her mouth seems permanently fixed in the open and screaming position, every ounce of saliva mixing with tears and snot to produce a disgusting mess that slowly drips from her face. I am focused on the task at hand and my attempts at comforting her only seem to fuel her angry outburst. I hear a lady say softly to her husband "I think she may be hurt" and I want to shout "she WILL be if I have to endure this much longer!!" And finally, in what had to have been the longest 10 minutes of my life, I was out of the store with my head hung in horror, shame, guilt and anger. I strapped her in her car seat and released an unnecessary furious outburst. Then I closed the doors and laid my head on the steering wheel and began to cry with my daughter. Me, for being the type of mother I never wanted to be... for not knowing how to fix my child... for letting anger take hold of me... for feeling banned from public places that require shopping carts... for using unkind words directed at this tiny person who fills my heart with so much love.

Her, for reasons I will never know.

Attempt #3... FAIL FAIL FAIL

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oregon Coast Camping

Having camped on the Oregon coast nearly every summer of my childhood, I should have expected the ever present and infamous wind and cold. However, I purposely scheduled our annual family camp trip (insert my parents, their fifth-wheel and all accompanying camp gear i.e. espresso machine) on the last weekend of August to attempt for a bit of warmth and sunshine. I failed on at least one count. Sunshine be darned, the wind on the beach made sand castle building almost unbearable... almost... Little did Brendan know, his grandpa is a die-hard when it comes to sandcastles and has survived 5 unrelenting children who would freeze their butts off before leaving an unfinished sculpture.

Beverly Beach was our site of choice this year, a site where many of my childhood camping memories were made. Lots of fun times, food, biking, food, nature walks, food, playing in the sand, food and more food. We come prepared to feed an army so what else is there to do?? And who says you can't have s'mores in the middle of the afternoon? Where there's a fire, there's a s'more! As far as Aubrey was concerned, forget roasting, the marshmallow was fine as is (less mess factor for me!)

More importantly, lots of smiles and laughs, and despite the long drive home, lots of good old memories made...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Six Minus One

Out of the six of my parents' grandchildren the only one missing is my brother's son, Sevvy. We missed him dearly and the picture could only be complete with him in it, but times are limited when all six are ever together.

We decided not to humiliate the 13 year old by asking for another bathtub picture this year... I think she was grateful although I really can't tell... she looks as though we've asked her to stick her finger in a light socket. I believe this is just the perpetual expression of a teenager

(left to right: Brendan (4), Josh (6), Shawna (13), Aubrey (20m), Molly (2))


Sometimes it's good to be reminded that you still have a goofy, silly giggly side, even at the age of thirty.

My sister and I have never had the extremely close kind of relationship that I always wished we had. It's difficult to develop that once we've chosen the alternative most of our lives. But I'd like to believe we've given it a better try these past few years and despite our differences, we'll be sisters for life.

I was honored when she asked if she could pack up her three kids and make the 8 hour drive to come and stay a few days. They provided some much needed company on one of my lonely "guard duty" weekends and I welcomed the change.

We took the kids swimming, we watched movies, went for walks, rolled down the grassy hills with the kids, stayed up late, talked, giggled, and took ourselves back to the carefree times of our childhood at a moment when we both needed it the most.

My sister gasped as we involved ourselves in "cleanup" time with the kids. I could only imagine what it was she had found in the toy box. My mind was reeling... a bug? moldy food? a days old sippy cup???

"LOOK!" she exclaimed, having velcroed half of a toy corn cob to half of a toy hot dog, "IT'S A CORN DOG!"

And we both nearly fell to the floor in hysterics. It was one of those moments where you know it's not even all that funny which makes even that much FUNNIER. And seeing as how the children whose ages in succession were 20 months, 2 years, 4 years, 6 years and 13 years, we were obviously the ONLY ones who found this so hilarious. But all of these facts combined had us laughing till we cried. And after a fun-filled "sister-date" to Target and Fred Meyer where we giggled, laughed and nearly made fools of ourselves (when you ask a sales clerk a question, you are expected to pay attention and listen... you are NOT supposed to try on a crazy pair of sunglasses so that your sister explodes in hysterical laughter in front of said sales clerk...) every so often one of us mentioned the "corn-dog" and the uncontrollable giggling ensued.

They only stayed a short while but I couldn't have asked for a better visit. I will forever cherish the priceless memories that were created this weekend, the kind that make me smile and remember just how much I love my sister...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Happens

To the untrained eye, these two seem like the best of friends.

OK, in all honesty, the love that these two show for each other is one of the greatest rewards of motherhood. Of course they argue and fight on a regular, daily basis... they are (almost) 2 and 4 years old and that piece of siblinghood is merely unavoidable. But the sharing, the helping, the comforting, the hugs and the love... those are what make these two the most precious pieces of my life.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

When God Speaks

You open your heart and listen.

A 76-year-old man sat down on the bike next to mine at the gym this morning. He struck up a conversation that started with "you're going too fast, you're making me look bad..." And we soon found ourselves keeping good company as our exercise time flew by. He flattered me sweetly when he asked if I was in highschool or college and when I told him I was 8 years out of college and married with 2 children he began to dole out some advice. Married for almost 55 years to his highschool sweetheart, I figured he had a thing or two worth listening to.

"I don't know what it is," he said "but still, after 54 years, there's nothing better than coming home to her... she's still the love of my life."

I didn't want to be so stereotypical and ask the obvious "how did you do it?" and fortunately he went there anyway...

"Some people ask me... what's your secret? How did you stay with just one woman for so many years? And I tell them... I pray. That's right, no matter how things were going in my marriage, all I had to do was pray that they would get better and they did. That right there is how you make it work."

He had the sweetest smile and I'm sure I did too as I stepped off my bike and thanked him for the conversation (which lasted a good 20 minutes and included so much more.)

"It was all my pleasure" he said with genuine sincerity. And I walked away looking upward and whispering a soft prayer of thanks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Little Girl

She's the reason I question my sanity on a frequent basis. But she also reminds me what being a mom is all about. The trials and tribulations can melt away when she wraps her tiny arms around my neck and says "I yuv you mama..."

Almost 20 months old, rapidly approaching the age of 2. I've quickly come to realize that the "terrible twos" has nothing to do with actual age and everything to do with entering the phase of independence. Whoever created the term simply had a child who accomplished that at age 2. For us? It started at 18 months. She's got a temper, an attitude, and a strong opinion and she's not afraid to express them on a regular basis. But that smile comes out and it melts your heart. It's impossible not to love that sweet face.

Signs Point To...


As in left handed.

As in the hand she chooses for the two main life tasks that generally require handedness. Eating and writing (and occasional nose picking.)

Is this something to be worried about? Of course not. Is it remarkable? Hardly. Would I have posted if we realized she was right handed? Nope. Is it possible that she will change from left to right? Sure.

Just taking a moment to treasure a child's uniqueness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Year Goes By

(Summer 2009)

(Summer 2010)

*Just realized while posting this how similar the poses are in both pictures... totally unplanned!

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Boy and His Teddy

Teddy has been a very special part of this family for nearly three years now. Brendan was skeptical about him when we first brought him home but the soft and cuddly bear became his constant companion and there wasn't a night he would close his eyes without Teddy by his side. He tested a few other options... Geoffrey his stuffed giraffe... Tessa his other smaller bear... Freddy the frog... but no one compared to Teddy. This bear was so loved that the stuffing in his neck began to wear thin as a result of a little boy's hugs. His soft velvetty coat turned into a lovingly worn type of comfort. Brendan talked to him, played with him, slept with him and loved him as if he were truly his most cherished friend. So as silly as it sounds, his disappearance came with a huge sense of sadness and loss for all of us.

My search efforts were unsuccessful as I promised my sweet boy that I would continue to look as I tucked him in for bed. I opened cupboards and drawers, looked in closets and under beds and came up empty handed. As I kissed him sweetly on the cheek before I went to bed, he opened his eyes and whispered softly "did you find him mama?" and my heart began to break. "No sweetheart, but I'll keep looking..." as he replied a sweet "OK" and closed his eyes. I would not be going to bed... I would spend the next half hour searching in places I hadn't covered and would still be unsuccessful...

In the morning I felt a soft tapping on my shoulder.

"Mommy? I really love Teddy but I just can't find him" as he fought back tears. I HAD to figure this out. So we searched together and failed yet again. I pondered all the places he could be, feeling 99% sure that he never left the house. And as I reassured my boy that maybe Daddy would be more successful once he got home, I knew in my heart that Teddy may be gone forever. So I had to break it to him gently.

At the breakfast table I said "sweetheart, I think Teddy may be... gone..."

"Gone?!" he cried with a terrified look of horror and sadness that was quickly being accompanied by tears. "But mommy... Teddy is crying and he misses me... he needs me to find him."

And there it was... my heart was broken. I couldn't bring his teddy back.

Joe was sure that I just wasn't looking in the right places. But after a couple days of his return and hard searching we were baffled as to where he may have gone. So I took the last resort and ordered a brand new Teddy. I felt a strong sense of sadness as I knew he would never be the same. How would Brendan feel about replacing his very best friend? So the day he was being delivered I wondered "is it wrong to tell a tiny lie?"... I had an idea...

"Hey buddy" I said that morning, "I think I know where Teddy went."

"You do?!"

"I think he's not missing, he just went to get washed up for you and he's coming home today!"

"He is?! Silly Teddy, we thought he was missing but he wasn't! I'm so excited!!"

That afternoon as we began our trek upstairs for naptime, the doorbell rang and I sensed Brendan's excitement.

"Mama... I'll bet that's Teddy! Do you think that's Teddy?! Oh I hope that's Teddy!!" as he jumped up and down.

"Teddy?! Are you in there Teddy?! Teddy... come out!" I cried in semi-mock excitement as I ripped open the box.

Brendan grabbed him from my hands and wrapped his arms tightly around the bear's neck crying "oh Teddy... I missed you so much, please don't ever leave me again!"

And when I watched him fall asleep, clutching Teddy with a smile on his face I thought "no harm done in telling a tiny lie..."

We love you Teddy and we're so glad you're back :)

Green Peter Camping

We were invited by some friends to join a larger group of friends for a weekend of camping at Green Peter Reservoir last month. It happened to fall on the last weekend of Joe's annual training which created a situation in which I packed up all the gear and the children (while slowly coming down with what would be a bad case of laryngitis) by myself, drove 2 hours to the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, met with the group, unpacked and set up camp, made dinner and got the kids to sleep while trying to keep it all together. There were more than a few moments when I questioned my sanity. Had it not been for the several other husbands present and willing to help me pitch my gigantic 3-room tent, I may have tossed in the towel and driven to Albany to sleep in the comforts of my parents home. But by the time the kids were asleep in the tent, the adults were crowded around the campfire and I had a roasting stick in hand (s'mores were on the horizon...) I felt the stress of the day release and was glad I had made the decision to go.

Joe joined us on Saturday and we were fortunate enough to experience a tour of the lake guided by our good friends and their boat. The weather was beautiful and the water a bit chilly but that didn't stop me from throwing caution to the wind and jumping in full force. Who needs a wetsuit?! I donned my bikini and a life jacket with my feet strapped to a wakeboard as I attempted something I assumed looked easier than it really was. I had no idea what I was in for as I failed each attempt with a face full of water. So after 6 attempts and 1 ALMOST success, the teeth chattering chill was more than I could bear. I headed back to camp feeling defeated but not for lack of trying.

After 2 days and nights without showers or baths we packed it all up and made the trek back home. The van was unloaded in record time and everything was unpacked, put away and laundered in just a couple of short hours. The kids were bathed, the adults were showered and we all slept well in our beds with wonderful memories of a fantastic weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lessons Learned

We've always thought our son must have been born with a love of books. From the age of just one year, he would sit contentedly flipping through books for what felt like hours on end. At 18 months we would leave a board book or two in his crib for him to "read" himself to sleep. This habit continued to the present time where he now surrounds himself with at least 2 or 3. It is not unusual to find half of the contents of his bookshelves buried in his covers.

So it should come as no surprise that the library is one of his most favorite places to visit. We visit less often in the summer months than in the winter simply because we can't pass up the opportunity to be outside. But it doesn't stop his amazement at the prospect of "borrowing" books... enjoying them for awhile and then trading them in for more. And every trip involves a walk down the "truck book" aisle where we've probably checked out every single book on the subject at least two or three times (garbage trucks, fire trucks, diggers, dumpers, loaders, monster trucks... they've got it all.)

And this love for books has given me the greatest opportunity to teach him about caring for the things we enjoy. He knows what it means to destroy property, especially property that doesn't belong to us. There are consequences that come with ripping the pages... ultimately at least one night without the comfort of his page turning obsession. So when I found the remnants of a hardcover book about firetrucks I was deservedly upset. A small part of me felt like I had failed at getting through to him and I wondered why he would have done such a thing. The pieces of binding and torn pages were hidden beneath his bed while what remained of the book was shoved beneath the mattress. Evidence of a young boy who knew what he did was wrong.

I explained that the book didn't belong to us, a fact he already knew. The librarian would surely be sad and we would have to pay for her to buy a new one so that other kids could continue to enjoy it. And so we headed off to the library. I prepped him once, telling him that he needed to apologize and explain what he had done and we set off to face the consequences. As I stepped up to the counter I explained, rather ashamed, "we need to pay for this book... and this little guy has something to tell you..." I lifted him up to her level...

He made eye contact but spoke softly "I ripped this book and I'm very sorry..."

The look she gave instantly put me at peace. She smiled kindly and said "I hope that you're able to enjoy many more books here without ripping any more... how does that sound?" While she looked at me and whispered "we don't get that very often... so wonderfully said... good job" and she smiled again.

We paid $12 for the book and my job was done. Will he ever rip a library book again? I can only hope not. But as for a lesson, I think he truly learned...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Birthday Party: Take Two

Who says small parties can't be fun? Two friends along with their baby sisters and parents joined Brendan (along with his baby sister, parents and grandparents) to celebrate his 4th birthday this weekend. Pin the tail on the donkey, fun party favors, good food and good company made for the best 4-year-old party I've ever seen. Joe was even able to arrange an "off" day from his army training in order to make it home for just one night which was probably the one and only thing Brendan really wanted in order to make this party perfect...

Birthday Party: Take One

It seems it has become a tradition for us to travel to my hometown of Grass Valley right around this time each year. Joe's two-week summer training for the army (that happens to fall during the SAME two weeks every year) leaves me with an inherent desire to be with my mom. What better excuse to visit. So we packed it all up and made the LONG drive to Grass Valley once again.

It should come as no surprise that Brendan would cherish this as a tradition since it results in his receiving the first of 2 birthday parties each year. So just 2 days after we got into town, we gathered at a local park and had ourselves a party. After a prolonged cloudy/rainy season in the Northwest (you NWers know exactly what I'm talking about...) the 80 degree sunny days were a very warm welcome. And a perfect backdrop for a party in the park.

4 years and 2 days ago

I gave birth to this sweet bundle of joy. A joyous experience as we so badly wanted him in our lives. I had no idea what my life would be like with him in it, and now I can't imagine it without him. He's charming and sweet and can be more than a handful at times. His mind is constantly thinking which makes him incredibly inquisitive. He's smart and he's mischievous but can stop me in my tracks when he looks at me out of the blue and says "mommy... I love you so much!" It's hard to believe he's 4 years old. It seems time flies way too fast. But no matter the age, he'll be the first to tell you that he'll be my baby boy forever... I love you sweet child, you light up my life.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Picnic in the Park

During a short glimpse of summer weather a few weeks ago, a friend and her kids invited us to picnic with them in the park. Kim packed a lunch and we met at her house, walking the few blocks to this beautiful park. The boys ran around and rode their bikes (hard to get them to sit long for lunch) and the girls (just 7 weeks apart in age) had fun pushing the wagon and stroller. We were lucky to get in about a half hour of picnicking before the man we deemed the "picnic wrecker" came to tell us he needed to mow the very large field that we happened to be sitting in the middle of. He was "kind" enough to start at the end furthest from us but made it obvious that we would need to move quickly. Oh well... the time was well spent and much enjoyed anyway!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Partners in Crime

Why oh why does it seem that two innocent children, when left individually, can be so well behaved. Yet, together can get into more mischief than a child should ever be able to achieve?? It's not that I intentionally leave my children unattended. The simple fact of the matter is... that no mother can keep a constant eye on her children every second of every minute of every hour of every day (at least not with her sanity intact.) And so in a moment of desperate downtime I sat to chat with a long lost friend on the computer. Four tiny feet tiptoed up the stairs and into Mommy's bathroom (unnoticed as I was engrossed in my much needed friend time.) After what couldn't have been more than 10 minutes, my mommy radar noticed silence (never a good thing with two small children.) So I left the computer to investigate. It was the moment the older child heard my footsteps and I saw him run past me in a blur shouting "Aubrey did it!!" that I knew I was in for some trouble. In an already fragile emotional state, I let out what could only be interpreted as a blood curdling, murderous scream (looking back I see this was an obvious overreaction.) And my childrens' eyes widened in horror as I processed the mess before me. Aubrey is a curious child, but while she loves to open cupboards and "reorganize" things, she hasn't yet mastered the task of unscrewing caps.

This is where her co-conspirator comes into play. In what can only be considered speculation (because I've learned that a 3-year-old can not TELL you what he was thinking when he knowingly committed such behavior) her brother saw her curiosity as an opportunity for learning. "We're not supposed to be getting into mommy's makeup Aubrey, but here, while you're at it, let me show you how much more fun this can be..." Unscrewing the lids to several containers of Bare Minerals powder makeup and tossing the powder freely around my tile bathroom. Shower gel?? Oh that lid comes off too... and if you tip the bottle upside down, this fun gooey sticky stuff comes out... here, let me put some in your hair...

Necessary punishment, stripping of clothes, wiping the floors with a towel and some tears, a hysterical call to my mom who can reassure and calm me like no one else can, bath for the baby, LONG timeout for the one who knew better, and a scream of horror when the final punishment was dealt (Teddy was tossed to the top shelf of the closet, only to be returned for good behavior...)

Round one goes to the kids, those sneaky little partners in crime. But I truly believed that the hell we had been through was teaching at least Brendan that what they had done was wrong. And so we carried on with the rest of our day. Soccer for Brendan, lunch and naptime for all. As I rested my weary mind, I believed (and prayed) that the evening would bring peace. However, it seems, for me, that bad days only get worse.

The children were banished from upstairs (deservedly so) and within full view until I retreated to the den in search of that night's dinner recipe. It only takes minutes to notice silence but these tyrants are quick! I entered the kitchen with a gasp and shouted words I don't even remember. The smell was confusing... Indian food? Mexican food? Italian??? Several bottles of spices (curry, chili powder, Italian seasoning, celery salt, and cardamom to name a FEW) had either been combined or emptied onto the kitchen and pantry floor. A second round of clothes removal and cleanup. Fortunately for me, our Dyson hand-vac sucks wonders and did a tremendous job. UN-fortunately for me, the person who last used it (*ahem* HE shall be unnamed) didn't latch the canister tightly. So as I tapped the side to redistribute the fine powder from the filters, the bottom opened and spilled the contents back onto the floor. I contemplated walking out the front door and never coming back (and in a nanosecond of insanity thought about how wonderful that would be.) Instead I slammed the canister shut extra hard for good measure and sucked it all up a second time. This did not, however, do anything for the fact that the curry was now winning the race for the strongest spice in the mix. My laundry room wreaked of strange Indian food (I don't believe they mix chili powder, celery salt and cardamom into those curry dishes...)

And just in case you were wondering... Bare Minerals makeup does NOT stain tiny white socks, but curry and turmeric do...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tumalo State Park

Throwing rocks in the river... no young boy can resist this!

Me and my kiddos

The sun was deceiving. It was actually pretty freakin' cold but still beautiful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010