Monday, December 24, 2012

White Christmas

We had a pretty good snowfall yesterday, just a couple days short of sticking around for a white Christmas.  And of course the kids were anxious to get out and play in it.  So we bundled up as a family and trekked across the neighborhood to a nice small hill just perfect for sledding.  Big enough to be fun, small enough for the kids to walk back up without tiring too quickly. And short enough to repeat the process again... and again... and again...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dance Recital

Aubrey had been asking me for MONTHS when she could take a ballet class.  She'd prance around the house, making up her own routines and moves.  I knew she'd be a natural.  It's something I never got to do as a child and I always wished I would have.  I've had dreams of her being an amazing dancer since the moment the ultrasound confirmed she was a girl!  I've never pushed it on her and realistically I know she may eventually decide that it's just not her passion.  But for now this is her heart and soul, and I beam with pride (and giggle a lot too) as I watch her talent grow.

The 3-4 year old girls (and one boy) had just under three months to learn their December recital routine.  Not much was expected of them but of course our little bumble bee shined.  Dressed like busy bees, dancing to "Walking on Sunshine"... the smile really says it all...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Butterfly Birthdays

I could have anticipated the request for butterflies.  If it's not hearts and butterflies, it's princesses and fairies.  She's a stereotypical girl... all ruffles and bows.  And in the last 4 years she's managed to keep me on my toes. For as much as she causes me to want to pull my hair out on a regular basis, the times when she smiles, hugs, kisses, loves, cares, and looks at me begging to snuggle... are the times when my heart bursts with love and I thank God for the gift of my little girl.

While I wish I were the mother who goes all "pinterest" crazy for my children's birthday parties, I realized I just don't have it in me and I need to let it go.  Yes, I saw plenty of fun and cute butterfly themed ideas but for a midweek party, this mommy just didn't have it in me.  I stuck to the traditional birthday banner (in butterflies of course), butterfly cutouts abound, butterfly cupcakes (cherry vanilla almond with cherry buttercream) and wings for party favors.  And while none of it would have impressed even the novice pinterest enthusiast, my girl was happy...  and that's really all that mattered.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not So High

To my children it was only a Ferris Wheel... it didn't occur to them that there would be a single person in the world who would be afraid to step aboard... let alone their own mother.  So I tried to be strong for their sake. Which lasted only until we were seated in our "cage" and I felt the contraption moving.  I'm convinced my fear of heights cannot be overcome.  So it's simple... I just haven't tried to overcome it.

I sat next to Brendan, across from Joe and Aubrey as each car can seat 4 people.  With nothing strapping us in and nothing to hold onto except my son or the wire walls of the "cage", I chose the walls.  I didn't want to terrify my children in the process.  But I needn't have worried.  One look at my reaction and they chose laughter over fear.  When Brendan (seated next to me, mind you) turned around in his seat at the highest point and leaned back, causing the cage to rock, exclaiming "Mommy look!  We're so high!  It looks so cool down there!" I fought back tears and lost my stomach.  Joe, stifling laughter himself, finally said "hey buddy... I don't think Mommy wants to look." To which Brendan found even more amusement and said "oh mommy, it's not that bad... it's like you're being the kid and I'm the parent!"

I thought "sure buddy, I'll be the kid for the next 2 minutes if that's what it takes to get me through this ride alive!"

All I can say is... it's a good thing I didn't opt for ultimate bravery and agree to the "moving" cages that swing along a track while the ride moves, no, ours was "stationary"... I won't lie... I probably would have peed my pants...

Monday, November 12, 2012

California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure park was a huge hit with the kids... possibly more so than the Magic Kingdom itself.  Of course this had plenty to do with the newest portion of the park dedicated to the movie Cars.  Lightning McQueen and Mater have been all time favorites of this household.  Brendan was in heaven.  And while the rest of the park was incredibly enjoyable, I have to say that Cars Land was probable the highlight for all of us.  We ended the day with a 45 minute wait in line for the Radiator Springs Racers ride which was everything we all expected and more.  And to see the look on my sweet boy's face as we "drove" around radiator springs in an animated car then raced to the finish... I would have stopped time if I could...

Disney Days

Right around the time we got back from our California vacation in August (San Francisco and visiting family) I decided to propose the idea of going to Disneyland in the fall to Joe. I researched the airfare, hotels and park tickets and laid it on him.  I was blown away with the fact that he was all for it (what better chance for a memorable family vacation?!) so we booked it for early November.

We arrived late on a Monday, with just enough time to grab a late dinner and pass out in our hotel beds.  But we were up early on Tuesday, taking full advantage of all that Disneyland had to offer.  We were there the minute the gates opened and the kids and I were giddy with excitement.  And after hours of walking, not much waiting in line (fortunately for us!) and a whole lot of Disney fun, we used up every minute and left within minutes of closing time.  The kids far exceeded our expectations, going on even the scariest of rides (sometimes asking to go again!) but their energy levels could only withstand so much and they were asleep before their heads hit their pillows.

Day 2... California Adventure!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cinderella and her Bomber Pilot

Gone are the days where I can get these two to agree on some type of matching costumes...

And so Cinderella stepped out with her bomber pilot instead of prince charming this Halloween...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Carving Time

Bessman family pumpkin carving goes a little like this...

Kids get excited and then grossed out by the pumpkin "guts" and turn the process over to the parents.

Aubrey becomes Daddy's helper and Brendan complains that he can't handle pumpkin guts by himself.

Mommy stays upbeat and cheery through the entire process because she truly enjoys this tradition.

Daddy ditches complicated patterns for something more simple as he gets frustrated with the mess then claims that his carving is superior to Mommy's and anyone else's involved.

Mommy chooses a pattern that is moderately difficult but turns out great and proceeds to carve the pattern that Brendan has chosen.

Daddy still brags that his pumpkin is the best and positions it just right for the photo op...

And they all live happily ever after.

(P.S.  while this is pretty much EXACTLY how things happened LAST year, I have to give Joe credit in that after carving his superior angry pumpkin there in the middle, HE proceeded to carve Brendan's spider web pattern of choice... go daddy ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Field Trip!

I... LOVE... field trips.  It's a little known fact about me.  I always wanted to be the mom who volunteered in the classroom, joined the PTA and chaperoned every field trip.  But while my younger child prevents me from being in the classroom and my lack of motivation has prevented me from joining the PTA, I jump at any chance I get to chaperone the occasional field trip.  I went on every single one he had in preschool... I was the mom who could not only chaperone, but shuttle up to 4 extra kids (a perk of driving the not-so-flattering mini van)! Then kindergarten came and went... an entire year without a single trip.  Brendan didn't seem to notice or care much but I was devastated.  So as soon as the notice came out for his first grade trip to the pumpkin patch I was emailing his teacher within hours.  He was thrilled to have me there and I was ecstatic to be involved.

And I'm proud to say that while being in charge of 4 first grade boys in a group of nearly 100 without losing one is something short of a miracle, I presented them all back at the bus safe and sound (so one may have been missing a coat that took several more adults to track down... I didn't say I was perfect...)

Brendan and his "girl" friend Gracie... inseparable :) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family P-Patch Day

I love fall time in Central Oregon.  Well, fall in general really.  The crisp cold air, the pumpkins, the apple cider, the changing leaves.  It's a beautiful season and I look forward to it every year.

Our yearly pumpkin patch trip is always much anticipated despite the chilly temperatures and need for heavy coats and winter hats.  The kids enjoy picking out their very own pumpkins, trekking around the pumpkin fields, taking a ride on the zoo train and climbing on the hay bales.  Memories in the making...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 2

I cried.

He had a great first day.  It was a zoo trying to get to him when I picked him up and I had to drag him outside, beyond the buzz of the crowd, to hear all about his day.  He was full of excitement with so much to tell.

"THREE recesses!" he exclaimed.  "And we did music, and I get to do PE, and we eat lunch in our classroom, and Mrs. Fitz gave us a snack... and we got THREE recesses!"  The highlight of first grade.

He was exhausted, going straight from his first long day of school to swim lessons then home.  He barely made it through dinner and refrained from complaining when I announced an early bedtime.  By 7:15 he was tucked in bed, by 7:45 he was out.

Joe was in Medford yesterday and missed the whole "first day" routine so he promised he'd be there for day 2 so we could do it all over again.  We parked and walked in and his teacher gave us a "we'll let it slide" look as she explained that from now on Brendan would need to play outside in the mornings until the bell rings.  She gave Joe a complimentary look at the classroom and explained how to get to the playground.  We took him through the steps... "this is how to get there, this is where you'll play, we'll wait with you today till the bell rings and show you where to go..." but he looked terrified.  And what first grader wouldn't, given that the playground was bustling with so many kids?  The bell finally rang and the crowd rushed for the doors.  "Don't go there" we told him, and the confusion consumed him. "But where do I go?" he asked as we guided him toward the "first graders" entrance.  "Here, buddy... where all of your pals and your classmates are go in there and you'll see your classroom..."  We gave him a gentle nudge as his look of terror worsened.  We walked him to the entrance and pointed to his classroom, "right there sweetheart," I said.  But his fingers shot to his mouth and his eyes darted downward, a nervous habit that signals he's trying not to cry, "I don't know which one is mine" he said sadly to me as I knelt down and pointed in the right direction (the room was less than 10 yards away but a mile in the eyes of a 6-year-old.)  "Walk him there" Joe whispered and I stood to grab his hand.  By this time the tears were streaming down his face so I knelt to give him a hug and whispered "I'll take you there."  He hugged me back and I struggled to let him go.  His teacher walked out and he finally had some recognition.  "Right there..."  I said and he finally walked away.  "It'll get better" she smiled sadly with a sense of understanding.

We walked through the exit and I finally allowed my own tears to fall.  "How can I leave him like that?" I cried, "he's terrified and so am I!"  It's a big scary world and he's still so small... but why does it have to hurt  sometimes, just to watch them grow?

First Day of School
(author unknown)

He started school this morning,
And he seemed so very small.
As I walked there beside him
In the Kindergarten hall.

And as he took his place beside
the others in the class,
I realized how all too soon
Those first few years can pass.

Remembering, I saw him as
He first learned how to walk.
The words that we alone made out
When he began to talk.

This little boy so much absorbed
In learning how to write.
It seems as though he must have grown
To boyhood overnight.

My eyes were blurred but hastily
I brushed the tears away
Lest by some word or sign of mine
I mar his first big day

Oh how I longed to stay with him
And keep him by the hand
To lead him through the places
That he couldn't understand.

And something closely kin to fear
Was mingled with my pride.
I knew he would no longer be
A baby by my side.

But he must have his chance to live,
To work his problems out,
The privilege to grow and learn
What life is all about.

And I must share my little boy
With friends and work and play;
He's not a baby anymore --
He's in First Grade today.

*borrowed and adapted from a friend's post on Facebook

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Grade

He's been looking forward to this day for weeks.  The countdown has been intense.  The day has finally arrived and he's off...

I spent most of last night making muffins for breakfast, homemade granola bars for his snack and preparing and packing his lunch.  He woke up with excitement and that sweet, so memorable grin.  Smoothies and muffins for breakfast, comb his hair, brush his teeth, pack his backpack, take some photos and make the short trip that I've so easily come to know by heart.

We pulled into the parking lot, I peered at him in the rear view mirror and winked.  He smiled huge and said "ooohh.... I'm so excited!!"  Aubrey and I walked him in, found his classroom, and helped him get settled.  The anxiety was all mine as I turned to tell him we were going only to find him telling stories to a new friend.  He gave me a quick hug and dismissed me in his sweet 6-year-old way. He didn't need me.  He was fine...  

And first grade has begun...  

Monday, August 27, 2012

California Here We Come

I have long been anticipating our 10th wedding anniversary.  It's emotional for me... an entire decade and I'd never want to spend it with anyone else.  I wanted to do something special.  In my mind that meant something huge... Italy? Greece? France?... but we decided that, while 10 years is something to celebrate, we're not at a time in our lives when the cost of such a trip would be feasible.  The last few years we've done "staycations", leaving the kids with my parents and staying at a local resort, enjoying alone time more than anything (and celebrating our marriage, each year an accomplishment.)   So we figured we'd just stay... and we had no regrets about that.  But when my grandparents offered to take our kids AND let us have 4 nights in their San Francisco timeshare we were thrilled.  Little did we know we were leaving 80 degree sunny skies for 60 degrees, cloudy and windy.  But the time we shared together was priceless.  We logged at least 15 miles of walking, took BART across the bay to Oakland to visit my brother and sister-in-law (twice!), ate a whole lot of amazing food and spent countless hours being "alone", just talking, laughing and remembering why we love each other so much.  The kids had a blast with "Gezzi and Papa Amos", no doubt making priceless memories.  And while my grandparents may have been questioning their sanity, they'll never know exactly how much it all truly meant to us...

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Decade

Ten years ago I never could have imagined that time would fly by so quickly.  An entire decade married to this man and I find myself loving him more every day.  I chose this picture because it personifies our marriage.  I love our smiles because that's what life is about for us.  We laugh... we joke... we're sarcastic and fun.  We let go of the small things and cherish the big things.  We love unconditionally and would move mountains to make each other smile.  Our marriage is a journey... a lifetime commitment that will continue to challenge and surprise us.  Looking back, I thank God for the path He has chosen... because at the end of the day, there's nowhere else I'd rather be....

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being Married To This Man (in no particular order)

- He makes me feel beautiful, sexy, strong and desired on a regular basis, without fail.  To him, there is no woman more beautiful than me.  

- He loves me despite my brief moments of craziness and sees past all my flaws.

- He is my rock.  The one who keeps me strong.  The one I can rely on to pick me back up when I feel broken and weak.

- I fit perfectly into his amazingly strong arms and it's the only place I truly feel safe.

- I know, without a doubt, that he would never ever leave me.

- He has seen me through some amazingly hard times and only seems to love me even more.

- He's the one I want to hold me when it feels like life is conspiring against me.

- He never hangs up the phone without saying "I love you" and it makes me smile every time.

- He has contributed in creating two of the most beautiful children in the world and loves them with a fierceness that makes me proud.

- He's slow to anger, quick to love and I can't imagine my life without him

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Portland Zoo

I love living in Bend.  I truly do.  I don't miss much about Portland but I do miss my friends.  I'll admit I don't make friends easily... it's a flaw that is sometimes a nightmare on my self esteem.  So after 4 years living in Bend, I still don't have quite the close-knit group of friends that I had and was developing in Portland.  I do have friends, let me make that clear. Just not as many "close" friends that I can get together with, confide in, and feel loved by.  And so, when, out of the blue, I got a call from a good friend in Portland asking if I wanted to come visit, I was incredibly touched and wouldn't have imagined turning her down.  The kids and I packed up alone, leaving Joe at home and had an adventurous 3-day trip that included the Portland Zoo, the outlet mall, a birthday party, lots of backyard swimming and a mommies night out for ice cream :)  And while I left feeling sad that we can't do it more often, I also felt grateful for the really great moments I got to share with a good friend.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Smith Rock Adventure Saturday

Joe decided that, since we had so much fun dragging Shawna on an adventure weekend, we needed to make the most of the summertime we have left and head out on our own family adventure.  Smith Rock State Park is an attraction we've long been wanting to see since we moved to Central Oregon 4 years ago so we figured what better excuse than adventure Saturday?  The weather was supposed to hit the mid 90s so we got out early before the sun got too hot.  We went as far as the kids would go and enjoyed all the beauty the park had to offer.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Adventure Sunday

It came as no surprise that Joe was true to his word and would make up, in one weekend, what I had failed to do throughout the week... make Shawna feel as though Bend is a place of fun and exploration (I admit that it is... I love this beautiful place we live in... but I will also admit that these "adventures" seem arduous on a weekday-ly basis to a mother of two young children whose routine involves cleaning, laundry, naps and meal planning.)  And so adventure Saturday was followed by adventure Sunday and we spent an entire weekend enjoying the outdoors.

We managed to squeeze in a scenic drive out to the Metolius River recreational area where we navigated our way out to a trailhead whose 6 mile loop would take us to the Wizard Falls fish hatchery and back.  But after traversing about a mile of narrow dirt path along the river, we opted to turn back and make the drive to to the hatchery instead.  A good move considering the kids were walking at an ever slowing pace and Aubrey continuously wavered between walking and wanting to be carried by Joe.  So we enjoyed a short hike, drove to the hatchery where we fed and learned about the fish and made a quick stop on the way back at the infamous "Head of the Metolius" where the river simply "starts" from water flowing out of the hills (much more exciting in anticipation than reality...)

And so ended our weekend of adventure... our attempt to entertain a teenager.  And when asked "so if someone asked you if you had fun doing all these things... what would you say?" her slight smile and lack of response was enough for me.  Who wants to admit, at 15, that adventure weekend with extended family could actually be fun? ;)

Hosmer Lake Kayaking

When we got the idea to bring my 15-year-old niece here for two weeks this summer, I had no idea how challenging it would be to entertain a teenager.  My life is all 3 and 6-year-old entertainment... coloring, swimming, naps and playgrounds.  I felt like a failure on the weekdays when my response to "what are we doing today?" brought a look of apparent indignation.  So it was Joe's mission on the weekend to make her life in Bend adventurous and so deemed Saturday "ADVENTURE Saturday!" a term he used with enthusiasm several times throughout the day.  Though it may not have been her idea of fun, it was better than sitting in front of the TV and an experience she may never have had otherwise.  And despite the act she put on of being "forced" to come along, when the beautiful 2-hour kayak adventure had come to an end she turned to me sweetly and said "thank you."

Never having been to Hosmer Lake, it was a new experience for all of us.  The Cascade Lakes offer so much beauty and serenity... it's hard to believe we've been in central Oregon for 4 years without taking full advantage of all there is to see.  It just makes me think there are so many new adventures still yet to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kindergarten is Over

My sweet boy finished his first year of "real" school last month and admittedly, his last day was probably just as hard for me as his first.  I just kept thinking "first grade? SERIOUSLY?!" As I looked at the little first graders heading out on their last day of school I realized that, if these emotions continue to haunt me through every transition, we're in for an exciting mental roller coaster.  When is a mother ever really ready to let go?

He flourished this year and it was an exciting transformation to watch as a a mom.  His desire and passion for learning made me proud.  God blessed us with an incredibly bright, compassionate and intelligent little man and while I cringe at the speed with which he seems to be growing before my eyes, I look forward to the new developments first grade will bring.  But for now... let's just enjoy the summer :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Grassick Family Camping 2012

We tried to choose a location more central to all family campers this year and had tossed around Shasta as an idea after last year's trip but needed a place with full hookup for the Grassick 5th wheel (which the state parks in and around that area are apparently lacking.)  So we ended up choosing Mt. Lassen and finding (rather late in the planning process this year) a KOA kampground that would accommodate us all.  July 4th-8th (Jill and her kids, and our Bessman family choosing to show up a day late on the 5th.)  A whole lot of dirt, not a lot of sleep, but a ton of laughter, bonding and memories.  Too many photos to choose from so I created a few collages that summarize the highlights... 

The setting was perfect, two campsites just close enough that, had we been strangers, would have been WAY too close.  Perfect for family ;)  One site held the 5th wheel and the Grassick #1 tent (housing Joey, Lindsay and 3-year-old Sevvy.) While the other site held Grassick tent #2 (with Jill, Shawna, Josh and Molly), the Bessman tent (Me, Joe, Brendan and Aubrey) and the campfire that we gathered around each day.  Two fold-up camping gazebos allowed us to push two tables together for a much nicer covered group dining area.

The KOA provided a number of possible activities including a swimming pool, movie night, and rent-able pedal karts.  Jill opted to rent Josh a kart for a half hour one night which turned into loads of fun (and arguments) for the adults (you pedal BACKWARDS to brake!!)

The family was split (in decisions, opinions and activities...) one day as we tried to decide who would be going with Dad on the 5 mile, arduous round-trip hike to the peak of Mt. Lassen.  The decision may not have been fair (and I admit I felt rather guilty) but it was I who made the trip with the men-folk as Jill, Lindsay and Nadine stayed behind with the kids (opting for the kid-friendly cave exploration.)  Despite the 10,400 ft elevation at the top and the chilly winds throughout, the view was beautiful and the experience one I won't soon forget.  My brother, my dad and my husband.  I love those men... all three of them... 

Our last day of adventure took us on a hike to the boiling mud pools of Bumpass Hell.  And the theme tended to be "we're going on a 3 mile hike?  I thought this was just a look-out!" as we drug all 5 small children (and Shawna) along the snow lined narrow foot-path.  But the pools were amazing (albeit incredibly sulfurous-ly stinky) and well worth the "misery."

Things I learned on this trip:
- Shawna can build an awesome campfire
- Reese's peanut butter cups have got to be the best idea ever for a s'more
- Deer in the Headlights will need to accompany every camp trip from here on out
- "Tampons... they're like duct tape for girls..."
- I will never get over the excitement of being with my brother, my sister, and my dad all at the same time
- Dad can get downright (hilariously) vengeful when it comes to card games
- I will never stop looking forward to these trips, as long as they stay a tradition...

Until next year...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Foodie at Heart

Joe found her like this one Saturday morning after I had left my Good Housekeeping cookbook lying on the couch. It wasn't until he heard her sweet exclamation "daddy!! can we make this?!" that he realized why she had been so quiet. She is a future foodie at heart.  And with any luck, those books will be as much a passion of hers as they are of mine.    

Brotherly Love

He loves her.  More than he'll probably ever admit.  Wait, no... I take that back.  At the sweet and tender age of 6 he'd admit it to anyone willing to listen.  It's when he reaches the teenage years that I'll likely have to dig this photo out as a reminder.  Or possibly laminate it and give them each a copy to look back on... to remember the bond that a mother can only hope will last a lifetime. My heart aches with love for these two beautiful little people. Despite all my faults at least they'll always have that...

Yours, not Mine

My husband has taken up kayaking.  To those of you who know us well, this is an incredible understatement.  At any given time we probably have at least 6 kayaks hanging in our garage (and occupying my parking space.)  But we rotate supply as this current hobby involves buying, restoring and reselling these precious boats.  The problem lies in the fact that Joe has fallen in love.  With the river and the serenity it has to offer.  And with the boats he originally intended on selling.  He tries to reason with me.

"I want to keep a tandem... and a single... and maybe a second single for taking someone out with me... and then the super fast one that I still need to learn to use... but the rest of them can go..."  Or so he says, until he falls in love all over again.

The problem lies in the fact that it's not so much my passion as it is his.  Although he wishes this weren't the case.  The above photo occurred on one of the handful of days that he coaxed me out to practice for the Pole Pedal Paddle, the relay race here in Bend for which I chose the kayak leg for my women's team.  Yes, I needed the practice.  But no, it wasn't high on my list of desired things to do.

Of course men deserve their hobbies and I'm resigned to the fact that this is his.

Oh, and because of him I ROCKED that kayak leg...

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Is What We Found

My good friend Sarah and her boys made the trip out here from Portland to spend a few days with us this past week.  She had planned on coming out last week for Brendan's birthday party but knew that I would be on my own from the 16th to the 30th since Joe would be leaving for annual training.  After thinking it over she asked if I would rather she come for one night for the party or the following week for 4 days.  I opted for the latter... 4 days with our best buddies?  Nothing sounded better.

We had a blast cooking, playing, swimming.  And at the end of the day when the kids were in bed we wound down in front of the TV and talked for hours.  It was therapeutic for me... much better than feeling lonely without Joe.

At one point during the day we found ourselves wrapped up in conversation and realized that silence had ensued.  The boys had been slightly rambunctious, playing dress up, swords and legos so the silence was slightly alarming.  But when we went to investigate and this is what we found, we both stifled a laugh and stood in awe.  These boys are so good for each other...

I was overcome with sadness when they packed up to leave.  She asked me if I wanted them to stay another night and I told her no.  She needed to go home to her husband and I needed to survive on my own.  But as she drove away and tears fell down my cheeks I knew I should have asked her to stay.  One more night would've been great...

I miss my friend...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birthday Breakfast

Every child deserves a day to call their own.  Birthdays are so much fun when you're young and I intend to make the most of it for my offspring!  So I spent Sunday evening asking Brendan what he wanted to eat for his Birthday breakfast lunch and dinner.  The one day where (almost) anything goes...

With only a little coaxing and suggestion he chose chocolate chip pancakes with strawberries and whip cream for his breakfast, peanut butter and jelly with carrots and apples for lunch, and bbq steak with baked potatoes and broccoli for dinner.  The boy knows what he likes and I aim to make it all about him.

So here he sits, yesterday morning, all smiles in front of his chocolate chip pancakes... quickly devoured and enjoyed :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Brendan

Six years ago he entered this world.  Six... years... ago... Every year that goes by it gets harder to believe how fast he's growing before our eyes.  I try to hold onto every moment to make it last.  He rarely asks to snuggle at bedtime anymore... when he does, I jump at the chance.  He still calls me mommy which I know won't last forever.  He still hugs me like he'll never let go and believes that his parents know the answers to everything. He's caring and sensitive, intelligent and kind and I'm proud to call him mine.

His love for Legos made the theme so appropriate for this year's party.  The boy can follow directions to put together even the most intricate of sets.  He can stay busy for hours, letting his imagination take over.  And when asked what he wanted for his special day this year, his one and only answer was "Legos!"

While my perfectionism felt that the cake left much to be desired (not realizing the difficulty level would be so high) the lego loving birthday boy proclaimed it as absolutely perfect.  Dinner and cake, games and presents... happy birthday sweet boy... till next year :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Home Depot Workshop

We frequent Home Depot.  It's the "big boy toy store" that offers a generous 10% military discount often accompanied by a genuine "thank you so much for your service" that I truly admire.  But it's Joe's haven... not mine.  I sometimes even stay in the truck (or drift on over to Michael's next door) when it's on Joe's list of stops.  It's the mindless wandering that bores me.  My patience can't handle standing in an aisle sifting through boxes looking for that "one part" that must be misplaced...

When the sweet checker mentioned the Kid's Workshop coming up and we connected the date with the fact that Joe would be gone for guard duty, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to get us out of the house.  The kids were ecstatic, they had a blast.  And their sweet energetic smiles were reward enough for entering this store with 2 small children on my own.

I look at their beautiful faces and I can't imagine a better way to have spent my Saturday morning...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Heavenly Reading

It often seems that wherever I am in the house, my children are not.  If I'm downstairs making dinner, they're upstairs playing in the playroom.  If I'm upstairs folding laundry, they're downstairs coloring at the table.  And then of course there are the times when we all make sure we're together, baking cookies, playing games, doing puzzles... This, however, was one of the former times.

Our living room is furnished with two identical sets of bookshelves that line the walls beside our fireplace.  Reading is a passion of mine and the shelves are full to capacity.  Mostly novels of all kinds but a few random others here and there.  I love books and I've apparently passed that on to my children.

I came downstairs to make dinner and found three random books sitting on the couch.  At first I was slightly upset, wondering why the kids had been pulling books from the shelves (the "kids" books are in their rooms.)  So I asked Aubrey who, at this point, was at the table coloring, "honey, why are mommy's books on the couch?" To which she replied "I was reading those" quite matter-of-factly.  Then upon closer inspection I read the three titles and beamed my proud smile at her.  Although I knew she couldn't have known what she had chosen, I was filled with a mixture of pride and amusement regardless.

Some moments later as I was preparing dinner I glanced over and she had returned to her "reading" as captured in this photo.  Her main title of choice?  My Women's Daily Devotional Bible (NIV), the one she's flipping through here.  The two runners up that sit by her side?  Shepherding a Child's Heart and The Fulfilled Family.

There could be much worse things...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Easter Best

I adore them.  

Hunting for Eggs

We've sworn off organized Easter egg hunts.  You know, the kind where parents are running wild with the kids, "finding" the eggs for them?  Where 12-year-olds end up with 20 eggs and the 3-year-olds end up with none?  No... we did that the first year we moved here and vowed never to do it again.  It took all the fun out of the event and it was heartbreaking as parents.  So it's become a sort of tradition to join a few other families at a local park in town, fill and bring our own eggs (you bring 12 eggs for each child you bring... each child gets to find 12 eggs... no tears shed.)  And afterward we toss down a blanket (weather permitting... year before last it was snowing...) and sit while the kids inspect their loot and listen to the story of the resurrection of Christ.  No tears, no frustration and a reminder that the eggs and candy aren't what it's all about :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Moments Like These

This sighting is not unusual.  My children love to read.  It was the timing that had me baffled (and elated) as this occurred while I was making dinner one night.  I barely even knew she was there.  My dinner-making routine usually involves both children running around wildly upstairs, knowing I'm deeply involved in my culinary efforts.   So as I turned from the fridge and spotted her sitting so sweetly, I grabbed the camera and hid around the corner.  There she sat quietly, "reading" one of Brendan's books from school, completely engrossed and unaware.  My heart warmed and chills ran down my spine.  I wanted to sit and watch for hours.  But these moments are fleeting and she was gone within a few minutes.  My sweet and beautiful book loving daughter :)


Kindergarten has been a new adventure for all of us.  It's been amazing to see the progress this boy has made in the 8 quick months that he's been an elementary school student.  He loves school.  Absolutely LOVES it and this fills me with happiness.  He can read, he can write, and he's learning so much more than I ever thought possible for such a small little guy.  So can you blame a mommy for finding a certain amount of joy in watching my son do his homework?  Just look at him... all hard work, focus and concentration.  I love him to pieces.

The Storybook Train

I love this man for so many reasons.  But one of the ones that tops my list is that he's possibly the best daddy in the world.  His children adore him and, to me, that speaks volumes.  His relationship with them is so different from mine, I find myself sometimes envying the enthusiasm that they have for him. But the envy dissipates into awe as I realize I wouldn't want it any other way.

Bedtime is for Daddy.  He's always taken charge of this routine and whether it's for my benefit or his own, I generally welcome the reprieve.  The kids are bathed, jammies donned, teeth brushed and the "Storybook Train" arrives.  They each climb on, the train does a couple laps and then pulls in to the story station where the three of them climb into Brendan's full size bed and the bedtime routine commences.  A story from Daddy, a story from Brendan, a story from the Bible and a bedtime prayer.  On the best of days I sit listening, unseen to the three of them, overwhelmed in my feelings of love and blessedness for my sweet little family.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Learning the Game


Joe has offered, more times than I can count, to give me lessons... teach me the game. But at some point I reached the decision that the part of me that wanted to learn for him was overruled by the part of me that really had no desire at all. Although I enjoy watching him play, I would never enjoy actually playing myself.

I didn't learn at a young age like he did. If I had, maybe things would be different. But the fact that he did makes his desire to teach our son all that more meaningful. And our assessment that Brendan would be the perfect child to learn this thought-provoking, problem solving game was affirmed during our trip to California.

Joe got out the Chess board to play with my stepdad, Paul, who was (and still is) recovering from spinal surgery related to the cancer he has been fighting for nearly a decade. Paul welcomed the chance to be out of bed with something to do and Brendan was thrilled with the chance to be with Daddy and Papa.

So, as Joe began the game, he also calmly explained every move to Brendan along the way. Five minutes in was where he would've completely lost me, but Brendan hung on every word. And just when I thought he was only halfway listening he would ask an appropriate question that would put me in my place.

Paul got tired quickly and had to put the game on pause for later. And Brendan was nearing the end of his 5-year-old focus limit. I watched him sweetly tell Joe "Daddy, I think I'm going to go play with cars now..." But as I turned away I heard Joe say "OK Buddy, just let me show you one more thing..." And 15 minutes later I realized he had gotten sucked back in. But the smile on his face let me know it was by choice. By the end he was naming each piece with confidence. I'm not sure whether that final smile was for a new love of the game or for his special time with Daddy. Either way... that boy is amazing :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The coffee was brewing, breakfast was baking, cameras were set and I tiptoed upstairs to get Joe and the kids out of bed. I had heard them stirring and knew that the anticipation was likely too much to bear. They rushed downstairs with pure excitement and began their fury of unwrapping. My sweet little Kindergartner read each tag and made sure each gift made it into the right hands. He even paused his unwrapping efforts to give his sister the special gift he picked out for her... all by himself. They were both overjoyed and ultimately pleased. We ate our special breakfast and opened the new toys. Hours of entertainment made for such an amazing day. The lack of crying, whining and tantrums... and their cooperation in sitting for the "Christmas Morning Jammies" picture was better than any gift I could have asked for.

But it wouldn't have been Christmas without reminding our sweet offspring of the reason for the celebration. And so it was with great praise that we shouted a joyous "happy birthday Jesus!!" and thanked God for this special day. "For a child is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year

Now I'm blogging out of order. I know. I haven't even posted Christmas. But if I don't post my "year in review" now then I just might never get around to it. Or it will get so late that it will seem irrelevant. Whatever... here's 2011 in the life of the Bessmans.

The beginning of the year brought nothing much extraordinary. In February I got the chance to leave Joe and the kids for a long girls weekend in Hawaii. It was a difficult task convincing Joe to actually let me go but I truly believe we all benefited in the end. I got some much needed rest and relaxation and spent some good quality time getting to know some really great girls.

My uncle passed away on New Year's Eve 2010 and I travelled with the kids to California in early February for his memorial service. The meeting hall at the local fairgrounds was filled to standing room only as people came from all over to pay their respects. It was incredibly touching and eye-opening to realize just how many lives he had touched. We then travelled back to California (with Joe this time) in April for the family's first Easter without him. Beyond the rain and clouds and somber disposition we were still able to find joy and happiness in just being together.

Preschool graduation kicked off the start of our summer which involved travelling to California (while Joe did is annual army training), our big family camping trip at Harris Beach, soccer camp, swimming lessons and lots of friends and family time. Then Brendan started Kindergarten in the fall and life for this mommy changed drastically. Our every day lives now revolve around school... getting him there, picking him up and everything before, after and in between. I joined the PTA but have yet to make it to a single meeting.

We spent one of our best Thanksgivings here in Bend with my parents. My dad and stepmom made the journey through the mountains with turkey and fixings in hand. The food was delicious, the company outstanding and our stress-free holiday left us feeling joyful and blessed. Christmas was wonderful, just our family of four. Then we travelled (yet again) to California in an attempt at more family togetherness.

Joe continues to enjoy the work he does for Kittelson & Associates and I'm continually grateful for his ever-growing career and the opportunity it gives me to be at home with the kids. His army career brought changes this year as he retired his position as Company Commander of the 224 Engineers and moved on to be with the Battalion. A huge role change for him, as his new position involves none of the "fun" and camaraderie of his role as commander. A lot more sitting and "planning" and not a whole lot of doing. He enjoyed being in the more "active" role but has made the decision to just stick it out for now.

I still work an average of one 12-hour night shift per week at the hospital. I enjoy the people I work with and feel like I've become part of a "family." But my main focus is still on being a wife and mother and those are the things I plan on strengthening this year.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Card Sentiment

Before Joe and I got married 9 years ago I had never understood the magnitude of a Christmas card list. You know... those lucky (or unlucky) people in your address book who are fortunate enough to receive that yearly mailing you put so much effort into. There are the ones you send them to because you always have and you enjoy it... whether they send one to you or not. The family... the ones who probably enjoy them the most. And then the ones you bought the extras for... the ones you send them to simply because they sent one to you. Whether you want to admit it or not, you know this is true.

Regardless, once I started receiving "photo" cards I realized how much more sentimental they were and made it a tradition of my own. The first "photo" year we posed with a 6-month-old Brendan in front of the fireplace in our Vancouver home, photography courtesy of my father-in-law. Second year we had professional photos taken with an 18-month-old Brendan between our two smiling faces. Third year we had just had Aubrey and opted to send out birth announcements instead of Christmas cards. Fourth year we went back to the same professional photographer and ended up with a beautiful family photo and repeated the scenario with a new photographer for the fifth year (last year.) But as the time crept by this year and we made the decision not to spend the money on photos, I realized we would either have to forgo the family photo and try for one of just the kids, or... do it ourselves. How hard can a tripod and remote really be? (and now you're laughing because you know this wasn't my thought at all...) Fortunately for us, rather than pressing the timer button and waiting, I just had to keep pressing the remote... hoping for the best.

Take One: Seriously children? Aubrey, for the love of Peet, sit STILL... and who am I? The Nanny? Why doesn't anyone want to sit with ME??? Let's try this again...

Take Two: OK, getting closer... if I sit close enough to Joe she doesn't realize she's sitting on my lap instead of his... but seriously kids... FACES?! We are a HAPPY FAMILY!

Brendan, I said "happy" not forced enthusiasm... Aubrey please leave your sock on and wipe the goofy look off your face...Forget it... this one will have to do. Here's hoping for better in 2012...

Kindergarten Christmas

There is nothing at all like watching 20-some Kindergartners trying to sing and dance along to beloved traditional holiday music. They'd been practicing for weeks. Brendan would come home singing Rudolph and Jingle Bells, telling me all about how excited he was for his coming debut. A tiny classroom filled with tiny chairs for... well... large parents. I opted for a spot by the wall with a clear filming view while Joe and Aubrey sat stiffly in the audience. And as the crowd applauded and the kids took their bows, my sweet son's beaming smile was all it took to melt my heart.

Visiting Santa

It took three tries. Santa was busy this year. Who knew it would be an hour long wait just to see the jolly guy? But the Christmas season couldn't go by without letting the kids delight in this all time tradition. Of course, as parents, we'd been asking for weeks... "what do you want to ask Santa for?" but the question yielded various, ever-changing results. A slight difficulty when trying to finish gift shopping... So we knew our lists would have to wait until they could tell the big guy himself. For Brendan? Legos and cars and trucks!! For Aubrey? A princess Barbie and a baby doll! Though we had no idea that her three-year-old perception of "asking Santa" for something involved him handing it to her on the spot. Explaining that he would bring it to her on Christmas was lost on her three-year-old sense of time. Fortunately the tears were soothed and by the time she sat on his lap, she was thrilled to just be in his presence.