Friday, July 30, 2010

The zoo...

I have always loved going to the zoo. Living three hours away as a kid, we didn't go very often, but I adored it every time. Being so close to those animals you usually only read about in books was amazing. As soon as we had Max, Dan and I became big fans of having an annual zoo membership. My mom has given us our membership for Christmas the last couple of years, and we work hard to get good use out of it. It really is a fabulous present for which we are thankful.

One of the best parts of having a membership is the fact that we don't have to see every animal every time, because we know we will be back soon. Each boy gets to choose 2 things that they want to see, and then we just see whatever else we have time for or is on the way to those chosen exhibits. On Tuesday we decided to take advantage of the early morning sunshine and hit the zoo for a couple of hours. It really was the perfect day and the perfect time. When we got there, we were one of 7 cars in the parking lot and were able to have long, personal visits with several of our favorite animal friends. And as we were leaving, the full parking lot and hungry boys confirmed we timed it all just right!

The Sun Bear has always been one of Max's favorites, and he spent a lot of time climbing up and down the log while the boys marveled at his claws.

Visiting my favorite, the orangutans

How could you not just love that face?! He's my favorite guy at the whole zoo.

The cheetah, on his way to check us out.

Luke always loves the goats. Maybe for a city kid, farm animals are just as exciting?!

The new juvenile giraffe - the boys were so excited to see him out.

Then we got to watch this hornbill eat this mouse...

Luke's top choice every time - the polar bears.

There's also an animatronic dinosaur "exhibit" right now - and Max is in love.

Is it any surprise that the Gigantosaurus is his favorite?

A wonderful time was had by all, and we already are trying to figure out how to fit in another visit this summer.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Us unplugged...

For 6 days this last week, our little family went up to my parents' cabin in the Ochoco Mountains. They have about 13 acres that borders National Forest Land and a well-equipped retreat all set up. It's heavenly there - lots of space for the boys to run and get dirty, without too much they could get into trouble with. This combination makes a much more relaxing vacation for Dan and I - we have a lot of freedom to sit on the porch and watch them experience life outside of the city.

For the first few days we were joined by my parents - which made things even easier. If my mom or dad are around, the boys have no interest in their parents whatsoever. They shadow Mema as she waters the flowers and beg Papa for rides on the four-wheeler. I loved the time to just sit back and read, knit, and chat. Dan rode his motorcycle everyday, read, and played guitar. I also got to follow Papa a bit as he and I spent some much-needed daddy-daughter time riding horses and having him teach me how to drive the four-wheeler. What made it extra special was getting to celebrate Papa's 59th birthday before he headed out on a multiple day trail ride.

The last few days we were there on our own. I have to admit that I got a little "homesick" the first day alone. It's always so nice to spend time with my parents that I really felt their absence. But with some walks in the woods, soccer in the carport, and supervising Luke as he "drove" the tractor, we kept busy in our relaxation.

My favorite memories?
- Roasting marshmallows and making s'mores in the new fire pit
- Taking Luke for his first horseback ride
- The view from the top of Mount Pisgah and the ride to get there
- Watching the delight on Max's face during any of the many squirt gun fights
- Luke's constant wear of the ancient orange motorcycle helmet
- Great talks with my mom and dad
- Watching The Wire with Dan after the boys were asleep
- Reading in the hammock
- The beautiful forest land seen from horseback
- Time with my family without the interruptions of daily life

Now, here's a few (ok, more than a few) shots form the week:

We're already trying to plan our next trip back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

House projects

Along with the art fun, we are also working on getting some small projects done around the house these days.

Organizing cupboards and closets happens slowly, but I love when they are done (and yes, I know that it's pitiful to take pictures of our linen closet):

I love staying caught up on the laundry, and drying clothes and sheets outside is just one of those crazy things I adore. It makes me feel all "homey".

And now that the rain has finally stopped and it's warming up, the garden is taking off. We've been enjoying peas and strawberries, and had the first of our tomatoes last night. Everything is running a couple weeks behind where is should be, but the cucumbers, zucchini, and blueberries are all getting closer.

Some strawberries and chives:

One of our 8 tomato plants:

Our sad little bean tee-pee:

There are a million more things on the to-do list, but at least a few of items are moving right along!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Art time...

As I mentioned a few posts ago, making time for art was a big priority for me this summer. While it isn't happening every day, it is happening several times a week, and the boys and I are loving it.

Classic art ideas are where we've started. Crayon rubbings have been fun - Luke loves to peel the paper, and Max enjoys seeing what different impressions will give us.

Sometimes scribbles are a great foundation for art. Max will choose a starting point, make big loops and lines, and end back at his starting point. Then he just colors in the sections - ta da! Easy-peasy. But great practice for small motor skills, and developing ideas about color.

Finally, at the beginning of summer I made some purchases to make art time easier. I had always thought the paint cups were a luxury - but now I know they are a necessity. We are able to pull the easel and washable tempera paints out at a moment's notice, and the only clean-up I have to do is rinsing the brushes. Each kiddo gets a side, we tape paper on, and away they go!

(And yes, there are googley eyes on this one...)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cannot believe I forgot...

Ack! I was just checking back a few posts and realized I missed a major event!

So, here's the back story. With both pregnancies, I joined message boards on to talk with people due the same month that I was due. From Max's birth board I connected with a wonderful group of ladies that later formed a private Google group and that I still keep in touch with, 5 years later. Well, with Luke I decided to give it another shot. Same thing happened - I was fortunate enough to connect with a wonderful group of women that eventually moved to a private board. It's been a wonderful support network, and a source of inspiration and entertainment.

One of the women from Luke's birth board is the divine Emily Southerland, a professional mama and photographer from St. Louis. As long as I have known her, I have drooled over her work, and prayed that someday, somehow, I would get to have her photograph my family. Well, as luck would have it, another event brought her to Oregon, and Memorial Day weekend she stayed with us and took the most amazing family pictures.

So, here's your chance to check them out. Click here. Select "Clients" from the menu at the bottom, and our password is "lukenmax".

I still can't believe how well she captured our family. It's gotta be a combination of amazing talent, hard work, and the ability to make people feel truly comfortable just being themselves. Hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ottawa Visit...

At the end of May, my beautiful little sister had a baby. But May is the end of the school year, so I had to wait until the end of June to go meet my new nephew, Asher. Since the intention of the visit was to go out and be helpful, it was clear that only one of my children should come with me - Max would be great at playing with my niece, Savannah, and I would have more flexibility to assist Erin and Alex. Luke stayed home with Daddy, and got to spend quality time with Grandma (Dan's mom) and Mema (my mom).

Well, it turns out that by the time we got there, they had life under control and sailing smoothly. My niece adores her little brother and takes great care of him, my nephew is eating like a champ, and sleeps pretty decently, and Erin and Alex are dealing with their new addition with grace. So Max and I got to just come and play!

From the pirate adventure to seeing the dinosaurs at the natural history museum, we had a great time. If you ask Max what the best part of the visit was, no doubt he will tell you it was seeing his new cousin and Lego building with Uncle Alex.

My favorite part? Well, of course smelling Asher's head, taking Savannah to the park, and eating amazing food was all fabulous. But the best was just hanging out with Erin and Alex. They are such an amazing couple, and watching them become parents has been inspiring. I loved gossiping about the Bachelorette and watching the World Cup. Just being there was more than I could have asked for - and now I just want to go back.

Thanks...and an update

I certainly didn't mean to post and run last week - but thank you so much for all of your kind comments. You helped me feel like I was in good company with parenting challenges, and your support and encouragement meant the world. I didn't want to post too soon, but, I think we are starting to get it figured out (sometimes).

The key to the last several days has been planning. Not minute by minute, but having a general idea of what the day should hold. I've picked out an art project (and we've worked on them!), chosen a chore (and gotten it done), played with the boys and had some time for me. The balance is helpful and when I add in an errand or playdate our days feel full, but not overwhelming.

And the weather...oh, the weather. For those of you who don't know, we have had an incredibly wet and cold May and June. The one week of nice sun and warm temperatures happened to be while I was in Ottawa - and participating in their cool/rainy spell. But TODAY is glorious. Right now it's in the mid 80's, we're wearing shorts and the boys played in the wading pool this afternoon. Perfect weather. And it's supposed to be even warmer for the next couple of days. It is amazing how much a difference that can make in my mood.

Tonight I'll do a few catch-up posts - our trip to Ottawa, our anniversary, Fourth of July weekend. Lots of great stuff going on around here. Hope you are all enjoying your day, and that things are going smoothly in your world.