Monday, August 31, 2009

"Let's Go On An Adventure"

A few weeks ago, Noah begged me to take an "adventure". This adventure needed to take place "in a woods, and we have to stay there forever." It also could not involve driving. At All! I wanted to encourage his exploration, but I just couldn't think of a way to appease this desire for an adventure.

But last Saturday at lunch when a lot of the plans we had for the day seemed to falling apart around us, Noah asked once again if he could go on an adventure. I turned to Steve, and I think we thought the same thing at the same time. Yes, let's go on a nature walk through the woods on a trail by our house.

I was familiar with part of the trail that goes a mile and ends up at a park. But I really didn't want to "hike" to the park, knowing that if they play for awhile, I would end up carrying Aaron all the way back. Not an exciting idea.

So Steve mentioned that an off shoot of this path might actually go UNDER the street we live off of and wanted to go investigate.

Noah took great measures to prepare for his adventure. He filled his backpack with all kinds of treasures. The most important "tools" for him were Steve's old cell phone (for taking pictures) and a pencil and pad of paper for "sketches". After arming Aaron with his little cheapo digital camera that Noah got for Christmas last year so he could take pictures too, we were off.

We didn't even get into the woods before Aaron was already excited about taking my picture with his little camera.

Followed shortly thereafter by a LOVELY shot of Daddy's backside.

and we weren't even off the beginning of the boardwalk before both of them were taking pictures of everything they saw.

Aaron decided to name himself Navigator shortly after we got onto the dirt path.

Unfortunately, most of the times, the direction he pointed was not the path we had planned to take.

A little ways in, I stopped to take a picture of a bee on a flower. Unusual for me since I pretty much HATE bees, bugs, or anything that could potentially bite or sting me.

While I was stopping to take the picture, I heard excited hoots and hollers from up above. Steve had found the path under the road to take us to the other side. I got one really great picture of Steve with the boys heading under the bridge, but for some reason, it is the ONLY picture that doesn't seem to want to upload for me. I still got one of the boys crossing under.

After we got under, along the creek a short distance was another bridge under the other road. This one had a much steeper grade and it was the only time I was really nervous about the boys' safety. I kept a pretty tight rein on Aaron during this little stretch.

Noah did a pretty good job being careful on his own.

It was just past the second bridge when Noah decided to start his sketches. Every couple of feet, he stopped, sat down, pulled out his book, and started drawing. He's not the most talented artist, but he makes up for it in spirit and creativity.

While Noah was sketching, Steve and Aaron ran up ahead and found a mini-whirlpool in the creek, where Aaron sat down to try to take a few more pictures of the water.

After awhile, the novelty started wearing off a little, but we kept trucking along. As Steve and Noah walked on ahead, Aaron started slowing down and I held back to be with him. As we were catching back up, Steve was frantically "shushing" us. Several deer were standing there starting right at us. Now, we see deer all the time, both at my dad's house where they come daily to feed, and also all over the roadways (I believe Michigan is ranked in the top three states of deer car accidents). But it was still kind of neat to see it on our hike.

Moving further, we started coming near a clearing where there was a bridge and a parking lot. We really weren't sure where we were, but it seemed like a good place to turn around. It also worked as a great place to stop and get a picture of my handsome boys.

It may end up on our Christmas card this year, as a matter of fact.

On the way back, Aaron was getting quite tired out and started whining a bit to be carried. Steve and I both quickly put an end to that. There was no way that we were going to lug him along. The whining continued until he found a BIG branch. This branch became his best friend for quite a large distance on the hike back.

For a little boy who was complaining about being tired, he seemed to have no trouble lugging that thing along.

Steve finally managed to get him to toss it into the creek in order to watch it float down. The floating never really worked out, but at least the branch had a new home and our pace was able to pick up considerably.

By the time we got back to the car, we were shocked to see that an hour and a half had passed. After getting back into the car, giving the boys a drink, and driving around a little to see if we could find the parking lot (which we did), we were on our way home to rest.

Noah is still upset that it wasn't a "real adventure" since we didn't sleep outside. He is going through this really strange phase and has been for a few days. It has me a little worried. He keeps talking about sneaking outside and sneaking away. I don't know if he saw this on TV or in a book, or if it is just his nerves about school starting up next week. It will definitely be something that we will be talking about this week.

But worries aside, I thanked Noah when we got home for such a great idea for a family outing.

And believe it or not, Steve even got a picture of me with the boys too.

I loved this "adventure", but I actually think that every moment raising two spirited little boys is an adventure in itself.

A Few Follow Ups

I had a couple of questions last week about some of my posts. I thought I would answer a couple of them.

I found out why the kitchen utensil is no longer being used. After reading my post about it, Steve told me that it was because it was scraping up the bottom of the tub. Too bad!

Also, there were some question s about the Wordless Wednesday. Yeah, we had to bring all the normal supplies as well, but every year it seems as if the supplies include more and more non-school supplies and it fells like we're shopping to go on a picnic, rather than for school. I guess its the state of the economy. Declining school enrollment creates declining funding, creating more need for parents to help out. I really don't mind, especially in the case of Noah's school, since we benefit from the small class sizes. But it definitely is different than when we were in school.

One more: Noah's cake tasted really good.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thoughts About Blogging

I hope everyone had a great weekend. I have decided this week to take a break from the Weekend Top Five, at least for this week, and maybe for awhile. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that this blog was becoming very "ordinary". I was sticking with a few memes, and not really posting a ton of interesting material.

At the beginning of last week, I made a conscious decision. I need to return to my original blog focus. Fun stories about the kids that hopefully have some kind of actual "ending" to them. SO last week, instead of a Tackle It Tuesday, I posted a story about Noah baking a cake. Instead of a Thursday Thirteen, I posted a story about a kitchen utensil that had a family connection.

You know what I found?

All of a sudden my posts were fun to write again. I discovered a little of the spark that made me excited about blogging in the first place. I no longer focused on what I can get free through blogging or random writing about what was going on. Instead of flipping through my google reader for contests, I started flipping through for interesting posts to read from other mom bloggers. I am still frustrated by what seems to me as so much "greedy blogging" out there, but I am going to make a conscious effort to no longer suffer from that myself.

Awhile back, when my extended family got upset over what I was saying on my blog, I went the other way. I felt terrible that my blog had become a source of anger. So I stopped writing about things that I had strong opinions about. I no longer mentioned family members by name, and I limited the pictures of them. I still believe these are good practices to establish and out of respect for those I love, they will continue.

But it also made me scared of my blog.

Not anymore. Originally, I started blogging: NOT to get free stuff, NOT to make points to people in an indirect way, NOT to offend anyone. Originally I started blogging to try to take the experiences and pictures from my family and to try to write fun stories about them. I used to love writing back in high school, and I find that when I have a focus, I can write a pretty good little story (sorry about the little conceit that's coming through there)

And now that I am focused again, I hope that this blog will return to its early state. Fun lighthearted stories, silly pictures of my little boys, and maybe once in awhile a personal struggle that requires some advice. I'll probably still do a few memes here in there, if they fit the story. I may even end up entering a contest or two (I REALLY need to find a zhu zhu pet for Aaron for Christmas). But my over all goal is to tell a good story.

I hope you have stuck with me through this evolution. And that you will come along with me and let me know if a story was fun to read or if you took something from it. That's my goal.

Has anyone else ever encountered a blog transformation? Has anyone else ever discovered that their blog had become something other than what they had originally intended. I'd love to hear about it. And any words of encouragement you want to send my way, I'd love to hear those to.

Have a great Monday and I'll be visiting you soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ktichen Utensil or Memory Maker?

Ever seen one of these?

Have you ever used one?


Ever tried to find one in a store?

Wondering why I ask?

In the fifteen years that Steve and I have been together, (but especially in the seven that we have been parents), Steve has been searching for one of these contraptions.

Why you ask? Or maybe you don't ask...that's okay. I'm gonna tell you anyway :)

Steve grew up living a couple of blocks away from his grandparents. By the time he and I were together, his grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer's and I never got to know who she was. But through the years, and after attending the funerals for both her and her husband (Steve's grandfather), I learned more and more about this woman. Steve tells me stories about going to their house on weekends with a cousin for a sleep over or going to their house after school. Every time I am spraying and cleaning fingerprints off the window, I remember what Steve's sister says that their grandma used to do. Rather than washing fingerprints off, she would give them soap to draw around them and turn them into masterpieces.

And one other memory he has is of the contraption above. They didn't use it for baking though.

They used it in the bathtub at grandma's house.

So Steve in turn has been searching for one for our kids for the tub.

And searching and searching and searching. Every Christmas for 15 years I have searched for one to put in his stocking. They just don't have them in the stores anymore.

But the other day when my MIL showed up for a visit with the kids, she came bearing a gift. She had found one in an old antique shop. And they wanted $10 for it. After talking them down quite a ways, she managed to snag it.

Steve was very excited.

But equally excited was our four year old Water Maniac.

Immediately, Steve began to fill a dish bucket with water and soap, and set Aaron to work.

For three days straight, it was pretty much all Aaron wanted to with "Daddy's Toy" in the water.

And then came the night when Steve actually let Aaron take it into the tub with him. I am not sure of the details. I am not sure what kind of craziness transpired.

But as beloved and for as long as this item was searched for, the mixer has not been seen since.

I wonder if Steve just wanted to keep it for himself in the bathtub.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tackle It Tuesday: Got Cake?

I mentioned yesterday that Noah wanted to make a cake.

All. By. Himself.
He was determined to not have any help, and since we had absolutely nothing going on for the day on Saturday, I decided to go ahead and let him.

Now I have to admit, I generally buy the mixes myself when I make a cake, so this was definitely a first for both of us I think.

Disclaimer: Please remember yesterday's post when you see Noah's incredibly nasty hair. It was clean, but sweaty from bowling :)

What I was reminded of during this venture is of how often we as adults go about tasks without realizing how many steps are involved that we perform automatically, without thinking about them. Once we got started, it was amazing how many small steps needed to actually be TAUGHT.

For example:

1. How To Read A Recipe
As adults, we are used to scanning through recipes and preparing whatever our item is. For a seven year old, they not only have to READ the recipe, but also have to translate sentence by sentence.

It's amazing how confusing a sentence such as ""Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean" can be to a seven year old.

He also had trouble remembering where in the recipe he left off and needed help getting back on track again. Just as difficult was looking back up at the ingredients for measurement amounts after reading down in the paragraph what to add next.

2. Softened butter
To us it seems like a non-step to soften butter. But to a first time recipe reader, this becomes a major task. To take out a stick of butter, learn HOW to use the lines on the side to measure, and then place it into a container to microwave, guessing how long to leave it in.

3. Stirring
Not much to be said, other than this: A seven year old boy does not want to patient enough to stir SLOWLY, yet that is what is required of this task.

4. Mixers
Another non-step to us: inserting mixing spoons into the mixer. The spoons had to be turned just right in order to fit in.

Another part that took some understanding: The mixers need to be all the way down at the bottom of the bowl or ingredients from the bowl will indeed fly everywhere.

5. Eggs
This was one thing in which I stepped in to help with. After trying a couple of times to teach him how to crack an egg, he got frustarted and I decided that for the sake of not having shells in the cake, I would take this task over. He didn't mind and I think he was relieved.

And the cake is finally ready to go into the oven.

Time to clean up. How?

By licking the mixers of course!

Aaron FINALLY gets a chance to participate.

But wait!

We have A TON of batter left and the cake went into the oven. Let's make cupcakes.

More learning ahead.

6. How to fill cupcake cups

To an adult, it seems like such an easy task: spoon the batter in using your other finger to push It off the spoon. Noah really struggled with this task, wanting to lick his finger after each spoonful. After about the fifth time sent to the bathroom to wash his hands after licking, I did help out with this one as well. (He was actually pretty tired out by this point anyway)

Aaron, who had been patiently watching this entire time, finally got his chance to help when I let him have his chance to fill cupcake holders as well.

I went ahead and made up the frosting, since by this point the boys were off playing robots again, but when it came time to frost the cake, Noah was right there again. This is a very difficult task, even for myself at times. It was very hard for him to spread the frosting evenly and he once again asked for a little help.

And here is the proud boy with his masterpiece.

Like I said, never mind the hair

Do you need to ask if it was good?

P.S. This was the most fun I've had writing a blog post in awhile. I hope you enjoyed reading it too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Top Five 7/24/09

Like happens so often on the weekends, our plans changed a few times. We were planning to go spend the day with my MIL and some of the cousins, but it got cancelled first thing in the morning when one of my nieces ended up with strep throat. Unfortunately, It left Aaron asking ALL DAY why we weren't going to his grandparent's house.

The weekend was unseasonably cold, which was a welcome change for me. I was ready for cooler weather to tell you the truth.

Here's what kept us busy this weekend.

5. Robot Boy
Like I mentioned above, we were supposed to go north for the day on Friday. When that got cancelled, we were kind of scrounging for something fun to do. Noah figured out something in his own anyway.

Earlier in the week I had to buy a new booster seat, since my MIL drive back home with ours in her car when she visited. The box had been hanging around in the car ever since. Noah went out to bring it in to turn it into a robot.

Sometimes this kid amazes me. He found scissors and all by himself, cut out arms and face. He spent all day Friday, and most of the rest of the weekend "modifying" it, to include silver duct tape, extra holes in front and side to pass things through, drawings for buttons, and trying to figure out a way to attach a paper tube to the top for an antenna.

He even took legos and duct tape to make a mask.

The funniest part was that he was determined to have Aaron play with him. So I went and found another box in the basement in order to make one for Aaron. Although Aaron played a little bit, he really wasn't nearly as Gung Ho and Noah spent much of his weekend BEGGING Aaron to put his robot on and play.

Even when they weren't being worn, much of the weekend was spent in the boys speaking "robot talk"

4. Bowling
We got a flyer on our door advertising $1.00 bowling this weekend and 50 cent food and shoe rental at a local alley. So Saturday we decided to go.

I like bowling, but I can't stand bowling alleys most of the time because of the cigarette smoke. I end up feeling so gross when I leave, both from the smell and the general icky feeling. (I'm sorry for offending any of you out's just a personal opinion) That's the reason we usually don't go. But I decided that maybe if we got there right when they opened, it might be okay. Which is what we did.

It ended up being a pretty nice little place. We bowled the first game with all four of us having our own game.

After stopping in the middle for some hot dogs to eat, we decided that the kids weren't up for another full four game set, so we teamed up the second time around.

Aaron and I played one and Steve and Noah played the other. Kids threw the first ball of each frame and parents threw the second. I think it was the most fun bowling we have ever had with the kids. The game went MUCH faster and the kids got to throw balls much more often. Definitely the way we'll play from now on.

Side Note: After playing Wii bowling so often, the real thing seemed much harder than it used to.

3. Baking a Cake
I will be writing an entire post about this later this week because it was very memorable. But in short, when we got home from the bowling alley, Noah decided that he wanted to bake a cake "all by himself". After sending Steve to the store for a couple of ingredients, we spent the majority of the day mixing, measuring, pouring, baking, frosting, and finally eating the cake. That which takes me about 20 minutes was an all day affair, but I think it was a great learning experience for Noah (and actually Aaron and myself as well)

As I sit here writing, there is still a lot of cake left and also about ten pounds of frosting in the refrigerator that I don't know what to do with. I guess we'll deal with that "problem" later :)

2. Hair Cuts
I have never known two little boys to LOVE hair cut as much as my two do. If you look at the picture above of Noah with the cake, you can see just how badly they were needed. I had been holding off since Noah's school pictures aren't until the end of September and I wanted to be sure it didn't grow back. But by the time we put them to bed Saturday night, I knew I wasn't going to make it. So after church on Sunday, we headed out to get the cuts before coming home for the afternoon.

I never got around to taking pictures of the cuts after we got home. So I decided that I still needed them for illustration, so the poor kids got subjected to pictures after they fell asleep. At least they're cute when they're sleeping :)

Can you believe how much my handsome little boys look alike when they sleep?

1. Game Night
It was so funny how all week long, the kids couldn't stop talking about Game Night. They actually looked forward to it all week.

While Deb and I were out wandering through stores on Friday night, I picked up a couple more games, as well as the one I had gotten through amazon with a gift card, resulting in three new games for Game Night Week 2.

Noah and I really like Apples To Apples. It was recommended by Deb and her family, and it is a great game. The only problem was that Aaron can't play it since he can't read, and Steve kept getting frustrated because he couldn't make good connections.

I also bought another game of Chutes and Ladders. I was sure we had it already, but couldn't find it anywhere and Noah had been asking for it.

The favorite of the night was an I Spy game I found at Meijers. This game is right up Aaron's alley. Each player gets an I Spy board and a card and has to find things from the card on the board. Surprisingly enough, a four year old, seven year, a mom and a dad seemed to be extremely evenly matched. Aaron actually beat all the rest of us in a lot of the rounds.

Yup, I'd say Game night Week 2 was a rousing success.

The Week Ahead
Steve is badly in need of some vacation time. So he has taken Thursday, Friday and Saturday off from work this week. We are hoping to figure out a way to get away for an overnight as a last hurrah for the summer. I guess I will have to let you know if that actually materializes or not. Other than that, only two weeks left until school starts, so we'll try to make the most of it. I started a new incentive chart, to keep the boys helping around the house, and to keep Steve and me more honest about keeping up with allowance. I hope it works.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Noah's Alphabet

Tackle It Tuesday: School Clothes

I think it was about this time last year that I posted a similar post. The "fun" of trying on pants with little boys.

Knowing that we were going for a school clothes shopping trip with Grandma on Wednesday, I bit the bullet and searched through the house and pulled out every pair of shorts and pants I could find. I put them all into two piles: Noah potentials and Aaron potentials.

The very minute it began, so did the protests.

"No I don't want to"
"Do I have to"
"They all fit already"

and so on....

So I laid down a few ground rules.

A. Noah gets to go first, since anything too small automatically goes into Aaron's potential pile.

B. After several years of forcing pants with button holes, I decided it isn't worth the fight and anything with buttons automatically went into the give away pile. Noah will actually NOT use the bathroom at school if he has to deal with buttons instead of snaps. I'd rather he be comfortable and take care of business at school.

C. As long as you keep the pants going, you can watch TV as we progress through this "torture"

Noah's went better than usual. We ended up with four pairs of blue jeans and one pair of black. Plenty. Woo Hoo! His khaki's for church are really close to being too short, but I think they'll work to get started.

Aaron was another story. Unlike past years, his pile of try ones was absolutely huge. He started off strong, but after about five pairs, he decided to throw a MAJOR temper tantrum, resulting in numerous time outs before the affair was over.

It used to be that when I was doing laundry, I could glance at the size and know whose pants belonged to whom. That is no longer the case. Between shorts and pants, Noah wears anything from a 6 to an 8, and Aaron wears both 6 and 7, depending on each pair's fit. So I had to break down and initial all of the pants this time. I know I will have to later this a little when Noah's pants become Aaron's but I'll worry about that next year.

So when I was done, I ended up with four piles:
N for Noah's pants
A for Aaron's pants
X for pants that are too big for them right now and need to be stored
a separate pile for give away.

Now, as we head into school clothes shopping tomorrow, I am much more prepared for what the boys need. Noah will be thrilled to know that he doesn't have to try any pants on. Aaron will not :(

Although he gets all of Noah's hand me downs, not a single pair of Noah's denim jeans seems to have survived. I do a lot of my clothes shopping at a local resale shop, so by the time Aaron gets jeans, they have not only been worn out by his big brother, but by someone else who had them before Noah. He has a TON of sweat pants and other kind of "play" pants, but we will definitely need to revisit this FUN tomorrow in dressing rooms in order to get Aaron some jeans for school.

But I think a reward of ice cream may in the cards for the "torture" that the boys were put through.

Does anyone else have this struggle, especially with their boys each year?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekend Top Five

Here it is, Monday again. Only three weeks left to play before school starts. The pressure!

Here are the top five from the weekend:

5. Cousin F
un at Playworld
My sister in law brought her three kids to my parents for a few days to visit while my brother was out of town. We added in two more of my nieces, as well as another nephew, and had a great time doing several activities.

On Thursday, we took 8(out of 11, soon to be 12) to Playworld. For two and a half hours, the cousins all ran, jumped, slid, ate, and played to their hearts content.

One of our favorite moments was when all of the kids (minus the littlest) managed to organize a "mass slide" to include all of them together.

We were laughing saying that if we had tried to get them to do it, it would never have happened. But while my step mom, sister in law, and I were sitting talking, they worked it out all on their own, over and over again. After awhile, a few more kids that they didn't even know joined into the crowd.

4. More Cousin Fun at the Beach
We set out Friday morning to the Lake Michigan beach by my parents' house. Everyone had a great time playing together. The most brave adult award has to go to my dad who spent at least forty five minutes out in the water, playing with the kids.

Afterward, my sister in law and I took the boys for a drive and (just happened to) end up at the ice cream store. Noah has recently discovered the joys of cookie dough ice cream, and Aaron and my nephew decided to try it as well. Yummy!

3. Frustrating School News
On Friday when I got home, I checked the mail and noticed that Noah had received a letter. He gets a letter from his new teacher every year about this time, with a personal greeting and also containing his supply list for the year. The thing I was the most surprised about was his teacher mentioning in the letter to Noah that they have 17 KIDS in their class this year. He had 8 in his kindergarten and 12 in first grade.

Noah's class last year in first grade

Word must be getting out about this school. The moms in his class last year all discussed how we believed that this school was the best kept secret in West Michigan. I'm thinking that maybe the secret is out. I know its not 30 like most of the schools around, but I am still pretty concerned. The whole reason I chose this school was the small class sizes and individual attention. I hope that this turns out for the better, but for now I am quite worried. At the open house in a few weeks, I will take a look at the incoming class list and hopefully get a better idea of what's to come.

2. Movie Saturday
With our original plan for the day busted, (city pool closed earlier than we thought) we decided to see what movies were playing at the second run theater ($3.99 all shows). We found that Up was playing and everyone had wanted to see it, so we surprised the boys and took them. They both really liked the movie, although every so often we needed to refill Aaron's popcorn bucket to battle the wigglies. Cute movie.

Then, later that night, we let them watch Aladdin on network television before bed. We learned a lesson too...movies on television with commercials really aren't any fun to watch. We will stick with recordings from now on.

1.Sunday Game Night
We did NOTHING on Sunday. Didn't even leave the house. It was hot outside and the kids were grumpy. I put Aaron back to bed around noon for a nap and things were better when he got up. Steve went and rented a movie for them in the afternoon and then we tried our first "Game Night". It was actually kind of fun. We made it through Sequence Jr., Yahtzee Jr, Guess Who and then Noah wanted to try Scrabble. I knew he was too young for it but he really wanted to try. He made a good attempt and I was proud of him for trying. I wonder if I can find a Junior edition of it.

I do think we may keep Sunday night game nights though. It may be a fun tradition to start. But I think we need to invest in some more games.

The Week Ahead
I am REALLY hoping to hear about that job I applied for a few weeks ago. I called the school last Wednesday and left a message, but my hope is definitely starting to fade. I also have a parent's meeting at the school at which I am sending Aaron this year. It will be the first time to see what the school is all about, and maybe meet his teacher. I also need to get my rear in gear and find a pediatrician for the boys since our moved away and Noah hasn't even had his seven year check up.