Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

So, it's the eve of Christmas Eve, and things are starting to take shape. We're in that crunch time moment of wondering if everything is going to get done.

- Presents are about 75% wrapped and under the tree.

- Stocking stuffers are prepared.

- Most of the crafting is done.

- My sister, brother-in-law, and niece have arrived in the state.

- My sister-in-law arrived Monday and has planned an incredible menu for Christmas day.

- The roast beef is thawing in the fridge.

- The weather is perfectly chilly and without snow - just the way I like it.

- Both boys have been singing the snippets of Christmas songs they know.

- I am thoroughly sick of the Made in Oregon radio commercial.

- Max is claiming to need glitter. Tomorrow. Blue and green and white.

- The house is a disaster and I have no time to whip it into shape.

- I'm craving some time to just sit and stare at the Christmas tree.

We're almost there. Hard to believe that in 48 hours it will all be over. Well, until our next Christmas with my family on Sunday....

Here's hoping that all is going well as you move into your celebrations! Merry Christmas Eve's Eve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A minor miracle...

Today the most amazing thing happened.
For over an hour, both boys played independently.
I sewed.
Another Christmas present was finished.

Ta Da!

*Check back in a week for some crafty goodness to share, once things have been gifted to intended recipients!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A rare Sunday night...

Most Sunday nights are a combination of wistful longing for another day of weekend and the mad panic of getting everything ready for the week. They stress me out.

But, not this one. This was the first Sunday of Winter Break. We needed to celebrate.

The first step was dinner. Max wanted pizzas, so we decided to throw our first "Make Your Own Pizza" night. Both boys loved painting their tomato sauce on the Boboli crusts (yeah, next time I'll try homemade) and then piling on the toppings of their choice. Max just wanted lots of everything, and ended up with a 2.5 inch tall pizza. Luke liked to put the toppings on, but then ate them immediately - only about 2 of his pineapple pieces made it to the oven. The results were enjoyed by all, and it was great seeing how much the boys enjoyed the process.

After dinner we piled into the car to go check out Christmas lights. Being new to this area we decided to just stay around here and cruise the neighborhoods. We were well rewarded. Max loved to narrate and point out every house we went by that has any lights. Some were even given the high praise of being "cool". The best were given the "Oh wow! That's awesome!" award. Luke mostly oohed and ahhhed. I took notes on how I want to improve ours for next year. We drove around for about half an hour just enjoying the time together and the energy put into the holidays by our neighbors.

A good time was had by all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A night downtown...

One of the things that we decided that we definitely wanted to do this Christmas season was spend an evening downtown. We knew that it wouldn't happen if it didn't get on the schedule, so Thursday became our "Downtown Evening".

The boys and I picked up Dan at work, and we headed on into town. On the way we stopped at Laurelwood (a brew pub with a play area) for dinner. It was great - the boys played while we waited for our food, we all ate in relative peace, and they we left. It's been a while since a meal out as a family went as smoothly.

Arriving downtown, both boys were instantly captivated by the bucket-drumming street performers. Max even got the chance to do a little drumming himself. It's amazing how much noise someone so small can produce with a stick and a bucket when surrounded by tall concrete sound reflectors! The lights on the trees glittering off the wet pavement, the general sense of excitement in the air, the laughter of the kiddos - all picture perfect.

One of our big reasons for the evening was our visit to the Santa at Macy's. The line was about 30 minutes long, but the decorations and making our list for Santa did a great job of keeping everyone occupied. Even when we were third in line and Santa needed to take a break to go feed his reindeer, Max and Luke hung in there like champs. Right in front of us was a young teen whose parents were paying him to sit on Santa's lap - they all joked about it, but it was a great reminder about how quickly these years will go.

Any time we have asked Luke what he would like for Christmas, all he has said is Santa. That, and "hold Santa's hand". But, as these things often go, the reality of Santa was too much. No lap for him. In fact, he now says, "Santa very nice, Santa scary." He did give Santa a little fist bump before we left.

Max, on the other hand, was totally ready. He hopped right up there, spoke loudly and clearly, and asked for another firetruck. Yes, Santa brought Max a firetruck last year. And we also got another one at a consignment sale. But our dear Max wants yet another. In fact, as he told Santa, he wants, "a noisy one for outside and a quiet one for inside." Santa listened very seriously, and talked with both boys for a few minutes. Overall a great experience.

Then we went down to Pioneer Courthouse Square and saw the B-I-G Christmas tree. Both boys loved seeing it, and had just as much fun running up and down the long ramp into the square. Much laughing, chasing, and reveling in the moment.

It was a wonderful evening. I'm so glad that we did it - and it's definitely going back on the agenda for next year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Catching up....

We've been so busy enjoying the season, that I fell a little behind around here. Sorry about that. But really, isn't that the goal of it? Being in the moment?

Wednesday was book club night. Back in July the moms from my playgroup decided we needed to get together as grown-ups more often. Our option of choice? Book club one month, mom's night out the next. This month we were discussing Push of the Sky by a local author, Camille Alexa. But, as always, it's mostly just an excuse to hang out and chat. This time we also had a little cookie exchange.

I am beyond lucky to have these women in my life. Parenting is so much easier with a village, and they are a large part of my village.

So, ladies, if you're reading? Thanks. And I don't care how late the school nights are - it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tuesday List of Randoms:

1. My classroom got heat today for the first time in a week and a half - it was wonderful!

2. Tonight was the night for making buckeyes, my favorite "Christmas" cookie. Yummy.

3. Dan made a delicious chocolate mousse pie.

4. Tonight we were the noisy family in the library. The librarian actually rolled his eyes as I had to chase after Luke while we were at the check-out. I just wanted credit for being there.

5. Book club is tomorrow night and I can't wait to see the girls.

6. Our Twelve Days of Christmas swap continues to be so much fun.

7. I'm praying for improved health (or at least answers) for my sister and brother-in-law.

8. The Blazers won tonight, which makes any night better.

9. Hershey Chocolate Mint Truffle Kisses are amazing.

10. I've got way too much chocolate on the brain and in my house.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right now...

I'm sitting here at the kitchen counter, reading emails and checking Facebook. In the background I'm listening to/watching my favorite Christmas movie of all time, White Christmas. I just finished dipping my first batch of truffles in chocolate, and the boys are asleep in their beds. I'm hoping to head up and do a little sewing upstairs while I finish the movie. After a long day at work, I'm trying to revel in the push that Christmas gives me to do the things I love.

I also need to make a confession. I haven't gotten our Christmas card together yet. I hope to do it tomorrow night, but am also realizing that we may be looking at a New Year's card instead. So, please accept my apology for their lateness and know that we are indeed thinking of all of you. Please don't cut us off your list quite yet!

Merry Monday. And good night.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

You HAVE to check this out!

I know, I know - two posts in a morning? I must have lost my mind! But I have just seen the most amazing, inspiring thing.

I have a dear friend Emily who has a fabulous blog. She is a mama first but also is a professional photographer and fantabulous crafter. This last week (in the midst of a move, by the way) she has provided us with a week of genius crafty tutorials. Singed fabric floral clips, a beautiful banner, a wallet for driving toy cars, reusable snack bags, and the most amazing mailbox ever all grace the pages of her blog.

Seriously? You have to go check her out. And leave her some love - we all need it after a big move. And if you do? You just might win something.

Here she is:
Emily Southerland

This morning...

One game Max really enjoys lately is playing "Bookstore". (Yeah, I know, I know. His dad and I couldn't be more proud.) He gathers a bunch of his books, sets them up in a nice display on our stairs, then invites us to shop. The prices are determined by the value he personally assigns to the book. If it's well loved, it might be sixty dollars and one hundred cents, or even a google. If it's not, a common 55 cent bargain can be found. He's also got the salesman patter down - talking up each book as he lays it out.

But my favorite comment of the morning? Today all books about Jesus are free, "'cause they're so important". Love it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The storm that wasn't...

We were supposed to get a winter storm today. Snow and then freezing rain. That's our usual dreaded combination, and it leaves us stuck in the house. And to be honest, I was looking forward to it this weekend. I figured we could go outside, take a few cute pics, and then curl up on the couch for movies and popcorn.

But it didn't happen. The storm passed us by, and all we got was some misty rain. The roads will be slick in the morning, but that's probably about it.

We had a great day anyway. One filled with time together and lots of playing. Dan and Max made a giant blanket fort - one of the best I've seen. Luke and I went to the fabric store and found the perfect elements for a couple of Christmas presents. I got to cut out a pattern, make a quick gift. Dan bottled his second batch of beer. The boys chased each other all around the house, had a blast with some great skin crayons, and ended their day with a bubble bath.

There's still a lot to do before we are ready for the holidays. But we are sure taking advantage of any excuse to enjoy the time. Even if it didn't snow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Family viewing...

It's rare for all four of us to gather around the TV to watch the same program. About the only thing that will do it is a playoff Blazer game. But that's exactly where we found ourselves tonight.

Tonight we introduced the boys to one of our very favorite Christmas shows: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The old Boris Karloff one, not the Jim Carey version. It's still just as wonderful as it was when we were little - and the boys were transfixed.

It these kinds of little moments shared together that make the season slow down, help us to appreciate the time.

And the songs get stuck in my head for days. Love 'em.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Starting the clean-out

A few years ago, my family decided to create individual online wishlists for holidays and birthdays. While "off-list" gifts are fabulous and very appreciated, these lists gave people an idea of somewhere to start. A couple of weeks ago I started to work on lists for the boys. And then I ran into a problem.

We've got too much stuff. Trying to find things to put on the boys' lists was really tough. They are both so very fortunate to have a LOT of toys. They also have a mama who is pretty picky about the kinds of things we have in our home (we avoid licenced characters, lots of plastic and electronic toys for the most part). What I realized is that it is time to do some cleaning out of things we are no longer using.

On the way home today Max and I were talking about our excess of toys. We also were discussing the fact that there are lots of children who are much less fortunate. And you know what? He came the conclusion I was hoping he would. Yup. We should give some of our toys to kids that don't have any.

So, after dinner tonight, we decided to get started. We began by tackling the toy box full of stuffed animals. The boys got to choose their favorites and put those back in the box. The "leftovers" were then lined up and we set a number that they thought they would be reasonable for keeping. There was some heavy discussion, negotiations, and trades. But at the end, we had a small bag for donation. The hardest part is letting go of my attachment to some of them.

This weekend we're tackling the playroom. I hope I'm a little better at letting go - because the boys have got the right idea....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

House of Boys....

My sister called tonight. And about three minutes in, I'm sure she wished she hadn't.

You see, I live in a house of monkeys. The screaming and squealing and hooting and hollering is one thing. My delightful brother in law could hear them - and neither the boys nor my brother in law were on the phone. And the noise? Only rivaled by the climbing and rolling and leaping and wrestling. If they aren't monkeys, then they are certainly puppies.

Some days it's more than I can take. But today all I could do was laugh. It's the utter joy and delight that they find in this activity. The laughter that accompanies it wells from a place utterly deep in their bellies. All I can do is watch out for flying limbs and unruly drool.

While the youngest is just starting to grin and proudly announce, "I tooting!", the oldest is now finding great humor in all things potty humor. Especially at the dinner table. And don't tell him I told you, but my dear husband seems to find amusement in this behavior also.

It's a strange planet. But I'm glad I live here. It challenges me to take greater risks, play a little harder, and cheer louder than I thought possible.

And if you need a good scream, you're welcome to my House of Boys any time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8th...

Confession time: I have written and erased three posts tonight. My brain just isn't here. It could have been zapped by the staff development morning followed by the teaching afternoon. Or perhaps it was dragging two boys around the outlet mall for an hour earlier this evening. Maybe it's the weather/mood/shampoo/whatever. But tonight I'm just going with a list of random things I'm thankful for:

1. Heat. There isn't any in my classroom - which makes me all the more appreciative that I have it in my car and my home.

2. Max - this morning he described the Wise Men as "the guys who work with Joseph"

3. Luke - he came and cuddled with me this morning, and tried just have his little face touching as much of my face as possible

4. Dan - he's been great about little surprises lately. Yesterday it was the new Jimmy Buffet album loaded into itunes.

5. Sunshine - hey - it's not raining, which I know I'll really appreciate soon enough

6. Anything chocolate and mint. Enough said.

7. Schedules that allow our little family to have dinner together nearly every single night.

8. Creative energy floating in my head - even if I'm not getting to act on it, I'm glad it's there to keep me going.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful day, and that I have more for you tomorrow. Peace out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7th....

Today was the start of something magical. But it involves a little background. So bear with me - I'll get there, I promise.

Before Max was concieved, I found myself a member of Babycenter, a website/store/community centered on all things baby. First as a member of a "Trying to Conceive" board, then a Clomid Support board, and finally a birth board - August '05. On the birth board I became a part of close group of women from around the country (and the UK).

When I got pregnant with Luke, I didn't think I would join another birth board - a "been there, done that" feeling, if you will. But somewhere during the first trimester I was really wanting to connect with others who were having the same joy of expecting that I was. So I ventured over to the November '07 board. And the rest, they say, is history. I became part of another very special group of women from around the country.

One thing that we had in common was a love of all things crafty. Last Christmas, many of the women decided to do a gift exchange with crafts and treasures and sharing of traditions. I didn't join - I was far too intimidated. But once the gifts started to be opened and shared, I realized I needed to man up - and there was no way I would miss another one. Since then there have been a couple of other swaps - Valentines, Mother's Day, and and Artist Trading Card swap.

But today began our Twelve (Thirteen) Days of Christmas Swap. There are two teams of women who each made 13 gifts and sent them around the country to their team. Each day for the next thirteen days I have a little gift to open. Today I got to open a perfect little package containing lip balm and soap. Tomorrow's had to be refrigerated - curiosity is piqued!

It's these little bits of magic...the surprises...the thought that a friend I've never met from halfway across the country sent me a perfect gift. Can you beat it?!

(Oh - and here's the blog if you want to follow along with our Twelve days of Christmas)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas Day...

And what a gift it was....

Every once in a while we are all given a day where things just go right. I swear it's to help you through all those days that just, well, don't. (Greg Oden, anyone?!) And today has been one of those blessed days for me.

After getting to sleep until almost seven, Max and I got up and put the ornaments on the tree. He was a great helper - I don't even need to secretly rearrange his once he goes to bed. While Dan went to visit his mom, the boys and I headed to mass - Luke in the nursery and Max with me. We came home to finish the tree, eat lunch, and nap (for the boys). While both boys rested, I was able to put up the rest of the decorations. When Max got up he went outside with Dan to put the lights up. We rounded out the evening with a fire in the fireplace (Thanks for the wood, Mom and Dad!) and soup with homemade biscuits.

We also started a new tradition to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Max and I talked about how St. Nicholas is known for his generosity and helping people in need, and how important it is for us to do the same. To honor this day, we tried to help those who need it (this year we stayed small for today - helping others in our family when needed). And as a fun bonus? "St. Nicholas" gifted Max and Luke with their very own hot cocoa mugs. While I may never remember to leave the shoes out on the right night, I hope to remember to encourage our family to give to others in need each holiday season, in the spirit of St. Nicholas.

I hope that your day was wonderful and joyous too! What fun holiday traditions are you enjoying this season?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy December!

December is my favorite month of the year. I'm totally a summer person, but there is nothing that beats the magic of this holiday season. The intense push to enjoy each moment and make every day special and celebrated really jives with my desire to live intentionally.

Ali Edwards does a great December Dailies Album, and Jessica Sprague has a great holiday class (Holidays in Hand). Every year I have wanted to try some sort of daily documentation of this month. I am trying my best to be realistic - a beautiful album isn't in the cards for me this year. But blogging? I can do that.

So, starting today, I am going to do my best to document something every day for the next few weeks.

Why start today? Because Christmas officially came to our house today.

Hands down, my favorite holiday decoration is the Christmas tree. And living in the middle of about 1000 Christmas tree farms, they are plentiful. Today we went to a new tree farm to continue our holiday tradition of cutting our own tree.

[Sidenote: Growing up, our family had a wonderful tradition of going out to the woods to cut our Christmas tree every year. While the trees often left a little to be desired, the time to play out in the snow as a family was wonderful. Mom's chili, roasting marshmallows, running around in the snow, and falling asleep in the car on the way home - heaven. But once Dan and I got married, and my sister was in college, tradition had to change. Dan and I found that tree farms still gave us an "event" to celebrate getting our tree without the guilt of killing a poor tree from the forest]

The weather today was perfect - sunny but cold. Christmas weather without being soggy. Both boys chased each other through the dense field of trees, and we even got in a little hide-and-seek amongst the grand and noble fir trees. After discussion of what kind of tree would need, we (Dan always is kind enough to just let me choose the one that I want) found our tree. It is a giant (9-10 ft) noble fir with its own fair share of personality. This tree farm was full service - once we chose our tree, one of their guys came out and cut it down and tied it on our car for us while we enjoyed some cider on the porch next to a roaring fire. Max even got to make a little ornament while we were hanging out. We will definitely return next year!

While we were at the tree farm, I started to see just how special this Christmas is going to be. This year Max is four and Luke is two. Are there any ages more perfect for experiencing the pure joy of all the best the season has to offer? Their eyes light up at any sight of a Santa or Christmas lights. Max is really starting to be interested in the Christmas story (although tonight he asked if Jesus was a girl - think there are some serious holes in his catechism. And upon finding out the Jesus was a boy, the reply? "That's what I was hoping. What a good idea of God's."). While they aren't ready for The Best Christmas Pagent Ever yet, the Polar Express and many other stories are at the ready for encouraging blissful dreams. And they want to believe in all that is good and joyous.

And I'm going to do my best to help them find it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fire Station

Since Max was about two years old, he has had a deep and enduring love of firetrucks. He adores anything "fireman" - including his ever-present fireman rain coat and boots. His favorite outfit is a Paul Frank fireman-monkey t-shirt, the aforementioned jacket and boots, and his red plastic fireman's hat. And nothing thrills him more than when some stranger calls him "fire chief".

Luke seems to be following in those same footsteps. Whether it is just because it is what his big brother does or a well cultivated interest of his own, he loves to race firetrucks up and down the playroom and read any of the plethora of fireman books on hand. He wears Max's old fireman boots all around the house, and grabs the precious jacket the second Max lets it go.

So it was a no-brainer that a visit to a fire station was in order. Yesterday the Belmont Fire Station (a historic firestation in SE Portland) was hosting one of its Safety Saturdays, and our morning was open. We decided to surprise the boys with the visit (a lesson learned when plans have gone awry and children became inconsolable about something that they couldn't have/do), and just opened the doors to the station without a word. Both boys stared in amazement. We were in a REAL.LIVE.FIRE.STATION.

It's a cool little museum with an old fire hose cart and truck, a pole the the kids can slide down, and lots of buttons and levers to push and pull. The best part is a front half of a firetruck that they have set up as a simulation vehicle. You get in, put on your seatbelt, and on the front windshield is a video of the truck going to an actual call - vibrating seats and all, it feels like you are really going out with engine number nine. Max and I went twice.

It was perfect adventure for my two little firemen-in-training, and a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. For all of you locals, I couldn't recommend it more! You can't beat a great free and dry activity for a wet fall morning when your child can't do anything but gaze in awe at the heaven that surrounds him:

Parent-teacher conferences

This last week I got to sit on the "other" side of the parent-teacher conference table. While I have been doing the teacher side of things for 10 years, the parent side is a totally new gig. And believe me, I was nervous!

Ok, I see his teacher and talk with her 3-4 times a week when I go to pick Max up from school. I assume that if there were major issues she would have told me. But still...what was she going to say?

We had been to an open house there the week before. Max took Dan and I around his classroom and showed us some of the lessons he has been working on. We got to see dropper work (complete with the clean-up routine when a little spilled), cylinder sorting, matching color tiles, and sandpaper letters. He could have stayed there all night showing us all of the things he spends his time on every day. It was the first time he's ever really talked about the work side of things of his school day - usually we just hear the social side.

So, sitting down at conferences, we knew a little about his days. But we were very pleasantly surprised at just how well things are going for him there. He has several really strong skill areas, and socially is tied in well. The behaviors that are most challenging for him at home (temper eruptions and the need to win/be first) aren't happening at school. It was all really good.

Of course, Dan and I are proud of Max. And of course our family loves him. But it was the first validation from a totally neutral party that we have lucked out. We've got a great kid on our hands. Hopefully parent-teacher conferences always go this well!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A couple of great reads....

Just popping in to share a couple of quick things that have brightened my days lately:

1.Giving Thanks for Pirates - This one was sent to me by a mom friend the other day - it's from a local columnist, and was a great and humorous reminder about my life as a mom (especially a mom of two boys!)

2.The entry, as good as it gets* - This one is from a blog that I read regularly, and is a great reminder to slow down and enjoy now.

Will be back soon with a Halloween picture share.....

Thursday, October 29, 2009

End of an era....

We knew it was coming. He had been getting closer and closer, but yesterday it happened.

Luke called his brother Max.

I never thought that Max was a tough name to say, but Luke clearly thought differently. Over the last year, he has addressed his brother in a number of ways.

First, Max was "My" (or Mai, perhaps). Max was so thrilled to be having Luke finally call him anything that he answered. Even delighted in being called My. Luke was so proud that he could get his big brother's attention that we all started to call Max "My" whenever we talked to Luke.

About 4 months ago, things shifted. Luke decided to give Max's names another shot. This time he got an actual name - "Mike". In fact, he says Mike so clearly that other people think that's Max's real name. The daycare lady even says, "Goodbye, Mike" every day when we pick up Luke. Again, Dan and I have often found ourselves calling our oldest child "Mike".

But yesterday as the boys are chasing each other around the house, I hear it.

"Max! Max!" Luke actually called him by his name. And clearly enough that Max turned around, stopped still, and stared.

"What did you call me?"


And that was it. The end of "My" and "Mike". I'll miss them.

I can't believe my baby is getting so big.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wishing for different....

Oh my. Tonight was one of those "fall down the rabbit hole" kinds of nights. The kind where I start out reading my favorite friendly blogs, and end up feeling woefully inadequate and desperate for a life realignment.

It starts so simply. I head over to The Artful Parent - a spot full of great manageable ideas for playing at art with young children. And today she has shared a delightful interview that introduced me to Quince and Quire. A poet and crafter and mother - oh holy triumvirate! Seriously? Can one person have so much wonderful talent and delight in their days? Wow. And that she talks about one of my student's father's books? Very cool.

Then it's a hop from there to cloth napkin tutorials and Sew, Mama, Sew's month of stash busting and delightful tutorials. Drool. Bookmark. Drool. Repeat.

Ok, back to blog reading. Sew Liberated's delightful Montessori ways and SouleMama's knitting. All amazing.

And here I sit. Frustrated.

I'm wishing for a life full of days with my children crafting and learning and sharing the world in a way that seems true and authentic. I wonder how they all manage to make it work and I can't. Or won't. Truth be told, they are all incredibly talented women who are capitalizing on their talents to provide(or supplement) for their families. I'm sure there are things about their lifestyles that wouldn't agree with me. But days filled with art and beauty and togetherness all shown through the lenses of talented photographers sure are appealing.

Now, believe me, I know I've got it good. A job that I really enjoy, fantastic kiddos, an amazing husband, and a house that is beginning to feel like home. But I have my nights when living on an acre backing up to a beautiful forest or ocean shore where I spend my days making art with the boys sounds like the most amazing bliss.

What can I do? Carve out a few rows of knitting here as a reward for a stack of graded papers. Make tissue paper pumpkins and "crayon stained glass" leaves with the boys in the 30 minutes between dinner and bed. Day trips to the beach, and weekends where we try our best to take advantage of the seasons. Most of the time, it's enough.

But then there are nights like tonight....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sick kiddo....

Add us to the list. The list that everyone I know with kids has been on. That's right - the SICK LIST.

At this point we are hopefully on the tail-end of it, but it's been a rough couple of weeks. A couple of weeks ago I had a little cold. Then while we were at the coast crabbing with my parents, both Max and Luke came down with it. For Max, it was a couple of days of not feeling good - low fever, coughing, one throw-up.

For Luke it has been another thing entirely. He has now been sick for most of two weeks. He stayed home for a whole week, felt better over the weekend, and then was down and out again by the end of this week. It's the fever that was the most concerning - 105 degrees for a day or two. Dan took him into the pediatrician's office where he was swabbed for H1N1. The test came back negative and the conclusion was that it was just a bad bug. Now he's got the runny nose and hacking cough.

It's so tough when little ones are under the weather. All you want to do is make it better. And seriously - more than an hour and a half of consecutive sleep sounds pretty good, too. But I can't complain. There are so many out there feeling so much worse. I hope you all aren't among them!

Every time one of the boys gets sick and need to stay home, Dan and I have to have the "Who will stay home" discussion. Work loads are weighed, meetings compared, and sick leave evaluated. And one of us stays. But I can't tell you how thankful we are to both work in jobs that provide us with some paid sick leave. Because the one thing we don't have to discuss is how we will afford to stay home with our sick child. We don't have to dip into our savings, or push the kids to go to school ill. It is something I wish for everyone and has become one of my personal political crusades. Because we are all healthier when parents can keep sick kids home.

Ok, better go. There are noses that need wiping.....again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weekend fun....

With Dan and I back at work, we have been working really hard at making our weekends count. This has meant one day of work/errands/housecleaning, and one day of playing as a family. We've been working hard at taking advantage of the fun seasonal activities happening around us. So here are just a few shots from the last couple of weeks.

1. Oktoberfest at Mt. Angel
For years I have heard about the great Oktoberfest celebration in Mt. Angel. But for one reason or another, I always seem to miss it. This year we were all over it. We went on Sunday and loved eating our way around the different booths and hanging out in the beer hall listening to a great polka band. Both boys had a great time, and the weather was perfect. It made me miss Salzburg in a way that I haven't in a while, but if I couldn't be in Munich for the real Oktoberfest, Mt. Angel was a pretty decent substitute.

2. Apple Orchards and Waterfalls
This last weekend we went to Kiyokawa Orchards for our "annual" apple picking trip. Dan and I first went picking 5 years ago when we were visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Ottawa. We had so much fun with them that we wanted to go again. Last year we took the boys up to Parkdale and enjoyed picking about 20 lbs. of apples. While the weather didn't cooperate quite as well this year, and the variety we wanted most were pretty picked over, we still had a good time. On the way home we took the historic highway along the gorge so we could see the waterfalls. The boys loved it, and we enjoyed the time together.

This weekend we are headed to the coast for a weekend of crabbing with my parents! It should be a great time - and you know I'll report back with lots of pics. (Maybe by the swelling in Max's nose will be mostly gone - he's already way past it. Thanks for your concern!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We knew it was coming...

Our first ER trip, that is.

Let's face it. I've got two very active boys who play hard all the time, and don't have the common sense to know what will hurt them. So far we've gotten away with scrapes, cuts, goose eggs and bruises too numerous to count, and one bad fall out of a camper. Many times I've worried that someone is ready to report us at any time for the abuse these two appear to have suffered. But so far, none of it neede more than, time, love, and a band-aid.

Until this morning.

I was washing the sheets to our bed, so all of the covers were in a pile next to the footboard. Dan and I were getting ready to take food to a friend with a new baby, and Max and Luke were playing on the bed. All was proceeding as normal until a blood-curdling scream erupted from my oldest child. Even that is not unusual in the slightest. What was unusual was the a large amount of swelling right between his eyes. It turns out that he was trying to climb up on the bed using the comforter as a step stool. He slipped, and crashed face-first on the foot board of the bed. Within seconds of his fall, the deep blue swelling appeared and my heart lurched. It was hard to tell where it all was starting, and I feared a broken nose. (Although, looking back, I realize that that would have been accompanied by a large amount of bleeding, most likely.)

Dan and I did the thing that all parents do - one held Max while the other hopped on Google while dialing the pediatrician. Both suggested that an ER trip was in order, so off we went.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, Max was acting as perky as ever, and said that it didn't hurt that bad. We decided to have him seen anyway, just to make sure. With the help of very kind Nurse Chris and fantastic Dr. Trueworthy (seriously his name!), Max got the all clear. The verdict? A badly bruised frontal head bone. An inch lower and we would have had a majorly broken nose, but we lucked out. Since he had no loss of consciousness, no nausea, no alteration of his personality (other than the fact that he was sweeter than usual), we were free to go without any further treatment.

Over the next few days Max will have some swelling, and more bruising. The poor little bridge of his nose resembles a Klingon, and I'm sure we'll see a lovely rainbow of colors as the bruising heals. But in about the smoothest way possible, he broke us into the world of the ER.

Hopefully it's a world we don't become too familiar with over the next few years. That's one frequent flier card I don't want.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Entering a new Era...

When Dan and I decide to sell our previous house, one of the things I hoped to find in a new place was a neighborhood with kids for Max and Luke to play with. I remembered fondly playing with the neighbors across the street and across the commons area of the house I grew up in, and wanted my boys to have that same opportunity. The knock on the door with the "Can ____ come and play?" followed by squeals of laughter from neighboring backyards and shouts of "See you tomorrow!" at the day's end.

But I wasn't ready for it quite yet.

On Thursday, while I was out, two of our neighbor children came by to see if Max could come and play. Dan was a little unsure about the whole thing, so he wisely agreed, but he went also. They ended up jumping on the trampoline in a backyard a just across the culdesac, while Dan watched on with the mother of the home. Both Luke and Max loved it - and were so excited to have new friends that lived so close. When I got home and heard about the evening's events, I was happy for the boys, and thought that it was sweet that the neighbor kids thought to include them.

On Friday, the kids were back ringing the doorbell. This time I followed along, and watched the kids play together. Both neighbors (one girl and one boy) are 6 years old, and in first grade. And boy, did they seem A LOT older than my tiny 4 year old. I stood there, in the neighbor's backyard watching them play, and wondered if we were doing the right thing by letting Max play with them.

Saturday they came by a couple times, but both times Max wasn't able to go out. This didn't sit well with Max, and I started to see how this could be a problem. Was I going to have to go with him every time he wanted to play? If I was, then he wasn't going to be able to go very often, because I have other things to get done at home. The other parents' weren't always right there - just like I won't always be once my kiddos hit that age, but at what point is Max able to go play on his own a couple of houses away? And how much do I need to know about the neighbors to feel comfortable with him at their homes?

Today they were back. Three times. The third time I went to the father of one child, and asked about the "policy" for kiddos coming to his house. He said that Max was welcome any time, and that they all just keep an eye out. They shot baskets in his driveway for a while, and then Max invited them to come over here and play. They all played upstairs and in the backyard for a while, and then asked to go to the other neighbor's home. I decided to try and relax a little, and give it a shot. I told all three kids that Max needed to be home in 10 minutes, and could the big kids walk him back, please? Sure enough, in 10-15 minutes, they all came back across the street to drop Max off for the day.

Max appeared to have a good time, and can't wait to play again. And if the pattern holds true, I bet we'll hear the doorbell tomorrow night sometime.

Now Dan and I just have to figure out the rules for this kind of thing. How often, where, when, and how long? Any suggestions? Because, really, we weren't ready for this....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's done....

About 5 years ago my mom took her first quilting class. And soon thereafter, I followed her into my first quilting store. It didn't take long before I fell in love with the idea of quilting. You mean I too could purchase lots of little bits of gorgeous fabrics, put them all together, and end up with something? Sign me up.

So shortly after Max was born I took my first quilting class. It was a Bento Box pattern, and I chose the most child-friendly combination of colors I could find. And I had a blast making the top of this quilt.

But I didn't know how to do the backing, binding, or quilting. I didn't want to waste all the effort I had just put into the top on messing up the rest of it. So I decided to do some practice baby quilts, and use those to learn a little more. Over the next three years, I made a few simple block quilts for the boys and as baby gifts. But still the bento box top sat in the closet.

As the summer began and I started to set some goals for my free time, the quilt top kept coming to mind. This was the summer I was going to finish it. When August 23 rolled around I an still saw it sitting there, I knew it was time. Now or never. And in the next three days I sewed the backing, made my "quilt sandwich" ( top, batting, backing all safety pinned a zillion times together), quilted, and bound the entire thing.

It was done.

There are still plenty of mistakes and things I have learned for next time. But on the back of my couch lies this quilt. And truth be told, I'm really proud of it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Starting preschool....

The first week is done. Thank goodness. I want to thank you for all the comments about my last post. Your support and encouragement buoyed my spirits more than you can know. And I survived.

But Max thrived......

Seriously. I am so proud of him. Starting preschool is a big deal - all new people, new place, nothing familiar. For my highly emotional, intense little guy, this had all the hallmarks of disaster. We knew it was going to be either a nightmare or the best thing that ever happened to him.

And it was the best. No tears at drop off, and upon coming for pick-up, he looked up at me from a game of duck-duck-goose, turned back around, and said "I don't want to go. I want to stay forever."

We got into the car, and upon being asked how the day was, Max replied, "It was wonderful. I loved everything about it." And when Mema (my mom) asked about the day he energetically told her that school was like one big party. He was glowing.

Day two? More of the same. Day three? "Does it have to be the weekend?"

Now, we don't know a lot about the details of all the greatness. Mostly we hear about playing outside. We've heard a few names - Max B., Eli, Roxy, and Hannah. And he finally took a nap there on Friday (which made for a much nicer evening at home!). But all that matters is that he's happy.

All along, I have said that my only goal for preschool is that Max comes away from it with a good feeling about school. It looks like we are well on our way, and I couldn't be happier. And neither could Max.