Thursday, April 10, 2014

Note to Self: For When I'm Older

Dear Self:

I pray that when you are older, when your nest is empty, that you will remember the hard days.  The days of raising young boys and toddlers and babies.  The tired and busy days that accompany mothering the small ones.  So that when you go to Wal-Mart, and you see the stressed, pregnant mother, the one with two small boys in the cart that looks too heavy to push, that you smile and offer kindness.

Especially if the two-year-old is screaming and standing in the cart, throwing things out of the cart, tears streaming down his little chubby-cheeked face.  Remember that she is doing the best that she can.  That, though she is smiling and looks to be ignoring the distressed toddler, that may be the very thing that this two-year-old and his mother need.  You may not be aware of the stress of her day, that she is not even supposed to be picking up anything over 20 pounds (that includes toddlers), and that to stop and pick up her child not only worsens the screaming, but could put her unborn child at risk as well.  Realize that if she is still at the store with a crying babe, that she must really need to get those items in her cart.

Remember that half of the store has already given her dirty looks, shaken their heads.  That one shopper may have even offered praise to the four year old for behaving, only to turn and, in a nasty, passive-aggressive manner, let the mother know that she hopes the "other one" learns to control his temper and learn from his brother.  Remember, oh, how hard those days were.

Then I hope you choose to be another woman, the one who remembers.   I hope you turn and smile at that beautiful mother, the one who wears a smile to hide the embarrassment and worry, and be one of the ones who tell her, "I've been there, too!  Hang in there.  It gets better.  You're doing the most important work."  Offer to help her, talk sweetly to her children, wipe a tear-stained face.  Love her without judging her, because she needs that.  Remember, and smile, because you were there too.  And there were so many good moments before and after that hard, ugly one, that made mothering a joy.  The time to sit and read a story, the tucking in and kisses goodnight.  The "I love you's" and the laughter.  It is there too.  It's just so hard to see in the middle of Wal-Mart with a screaming child.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mr. Two Turns Six

At the beginning of December, Mr. Two turned six.  How did he go from that cute curly haired baby to a kindergartener so quickly?

Here are his birthday requests:

hot dogs and chocolate cake for dinner
a fish/ocean party with just a few friends
a remake of his third birthday fish cake
lots of ninjas and Legos

Not too challenging of a list, except for the tiny detail: that it is quite difficult (thankfully not impossible) to find ocean themed party supplies in December...

After scouring too many stores to remember, looking for suitable offerings, I think we were able to pull off a fun, but not over the top party for my six year old cutie.

He loved opening gifts at Grammy and Grandpa's house after his hot dog dinner.

The other Mr.'s were all too willing to help him build his golden Ninjago dragon.

Just look at that big smile.  He was very excited to get a wizard's tower to go with his castle set.

Mr. Two is not one for big crowds, or lots of activity.  I knew that for this to be a good party for him, it needed to be small and low key.  He only invited five friends, two of which could not make it, as well as his brothers.  That number was just right for him.  I kept the activities simple and let them spend time just playing in the yard for a good portion of the time.  That worked out well with this group.  I borrowed a few ideas from this super fun party at Delia Creates.

For his party, I filled the water table with water beads and an assortment of plastic ocean animals and colored gems.  It was a good open-ended, easy activity to start with.  This was a big hit at the party, especially with Mr. Four!

We made ocean "snow" globes for part of the activities, as well as a take home favor.  The boys loved choosing their animals and shells, then adding the glitter.  Mr. Two and Mr. Three had lots of fun playing in the colored water afterwards as well...

We played "Don't Eat Pete" with the ocean animal printable from the Delia Creates party.  The boys loved that!

Another birthday request was that Uncle Zach come to his party.  Zach was so sweet to come and play a round or two of Go Fish with the boys and enjoy some cake.  It really made the party special for Mr. Two.

Here he is blowing out the candles on his fish cake!  This year I added chocolate rocks ("aquarium gravel") to the cake, along with the graham cracker goldfish and the fruit roll up seaweed.  Such a fun cake!

We also had jello oceans along with the cake, with gummy sharks swimming inside.

Opening presents with his friends.  I cannot say how wonderful it is to have a nice back yard with a big covered porch right now!  The weather was so nice and it was so much better to have the party outside, with all these active little boys!

I sent the boys home with a little sand bucket and shovel, some chocolate fish, gummy fish, Goldfish crackers, and bubbles, along with their ocean globes.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Two, my quiet, creative little boy.  I hope your birthday was as unique and fun as you are!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thanksgiving 2013

In the days before Thanksgiving, I was in the kitchen with my little helpers baking for the big day.  I was in charge of the rolls (I love this recipe) and pecan pies.  My house smelled like heaven!

As my home was filled with the smells of baking rolls and pies,I began to wax nostalgic.  I remember when I was little, my mom would take the leftover pie crust pieces, sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, and bake them for a little treat for us.  I have fond memories of eating those bits of flaky, sugar crust pieces in the kitchen with her.  I thought that I could pass on this little tradition in my own home, all the while thinking that my kids would just love them.

The verdict?  Gross Mom!

Sigh.  So much for that.  I'll stick to the "real" cookies from now on.

We got to California late Wednesday night and spent Thanksgiving day with family, playing outside, watching movies, getting dinner ready...

We had some snacks and appetizers to tide us over until the big meal.  Does this snack look familiar to any Peanuts fans?  I couldn't resist!

We waited all day for our yummy dinner.  Sadly, the wait for Mr. Three was just too long...

The rest of the crew enjoyed the turkey and all the trimmings.  Don't worry, Mr. Three had his fill after a long nap.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we decided to have some fun having a Nerf gun war.  Everyone wanted in on the action, even the little ones.

Then, we played a little something we like to call "Tron Ultimate Frisbee."  We stacked on glow sticks, different colors for the opposing teams, chose teams, turned up the Daft Punk, turned off the lights, and used Mike's LED lighted frisbee to play.  We kept the little ones on the sidelines for this part of the game playing.  Luckily, they were too happy playing with the glow sticks to care about being left out.  It was a great way to burn some extra dinner calories.  In fact, we were having so much fun that it got very late into the evening before we called it quits.

On Friday, the sisters and sister in laws went out Black Friday shopping and spent several hours at Old Navy, trying on clothes, bargain hunting and then standing in a ridiculously long line that wrapped around the store.  The entire store was 50% off, so there was a huge crowd.  We got some great deals and had fun visiting while we waited, and waited, and waited... 

We also went to Target and found a few more deals, but the best part of Target was seeing Santa doing a little shopping there, too.  He was dressed in his Santa pants and a tee that said "Believe."  There was a little lady with Down Syndrome there and she walked up and just gave him the biggest hug, and he smiled and talked to her for a bit.  It was a big dose of Christmas cheer amidst the shopping frenzy.

After the shopping, the teenagers watched the boys so we could go to the Redlands Temple with Mike's siblings and parents to do some temple work with the adults for some family names that Mike's father had researched.  He had spent some time Thanksgiving day telling me how he discovered these family members and a little of their stories, so I was excited to help them do this important work.  After the temple, we went to Denny's for a late night dinner.  I had the most fantastic sweet potato praline pancakes and shared a pumpkin pie shake with Mike.  I want to recreate those pancakes some day, they were so delicious!

On Saturday, we took a "little hike" up Sugarloaf near Riverside, where Mike's family used to live.  It was supposed to be an easy hike, perfect for the kids and adults alike.  Well, it wasn't easy.  It was steep and slippery and hot.  The kids and the rest of the adults enjoyed it anyways. 

I eventually quit and sat and waited for the rest of them to finish, too worried about carrying an 18 month old up an increasingly steep hill. 

Everyone else climbed to the summit and enjoyed the view and ate some lunch.  Eventually, we all gratefully climbed down with no major injuries.  Next year, I will let the real outdoors lovers enjoy that experience and I'll stay home with the babies.  We also had a cousins dinner that night with Mike's cousins that were in town and stayed up visiting, eating and playing games.

We went to church together on Sunday, ate lunch, then headed back to Arizona, grateful for a fun weekend and lots of good memories.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Put a Lid On It

This past weekend, we had lots and lots of cold, stormy, rainy weather.  A pure delight for us Arizonans.  If only there was no school and other obligations to attend to, so that we could have indulged in a lazy day with pj's, hot cocoa, movies and blankets.  I was loving the rain, but my littles were sorely disappointed that play day at the park, or even in the yard, was cancelled.  What to do with two house-bound kiddos?

I had a bit of cooking to do during the day, and I tried to enlist their help.  They typically love helping to measure and dump things into the mixer.  This time, they lost interest quickly.  Mr. Three went and found some cars and motorcycles to run along the walls and floor while Mr. Four managed to pull out a opened container of oats to keep himself entertained.  Luckily, it was only about 1/4 full, so it didn't bother me too much when it quickly ended up spilled onto the kitchen floor.  Mr. Three was all too willing to help clean up (and by clean up I mean mostly spread around) the mess.  It was actually a nice activity to keep them busy while I finished up my dinner preparations.

After cleaning up the kitchen mess, I had a light bulb moment.  The oatmeal container would make a great toy.  Mr. Three and Mr. Four are really interested in sorting and pouring all sorts of items.  Good thing I have been saving(hoarding) the lids off of the squeeze baby food pouches for some time.  All I did was cut a rectangle in the oatmeal container lid just big enough to push a squeeze pouch lid through, popped the lid on, gave the boys the container of squeeze pouch lids and let them play.  Best rainy-day-free toy ever!

Besides filling the oatmeal canister with lids, they also poured the lids back and forth between the containers.  I had Mr. Three tell me the color names as he pushed each lid through the hole.  We counted lids and then discovered that they are stackable and make great towers to knock down (Mr. Four loved the destruction aspect.).

Earlier in the week, with the cub scouts, we had taken the lids and tried to flick them off the side of our hands into a box, as a simple gathering activity.  The scouts and my little boys loved this game.  Here's a video, if you want a (not so great) demonstration, with a little motorcycle action thrown in for interest.

I have also pinned some other great uses for these squeeze pouch lids that we may have to try soon.  So, if you have been saving (hoarding) these lids like me, here are several good reasons to keep them in your stash of useful stuff.  You're welcome!

It would be fun to make bugs on a sticky table.

I found these rolling truck and car toys.  This could be a fun cub scout activity as well as something for the preschool set.

This build a bug busy bag is on my to do list for the spring.

I love this color wheel matching game, and you could easily use the squeeze pouch lids in place of the wooden wheels.

In case that's not enough, a few more ideas:
use them to make patterns
count the lids
stack and compare towers
graph with them
make a batch of playdough and use the lids as stamps, monster eyes, wheels, etc.

Loads of rainy day (or any day) fun!

If you're still reading, here's the boys playing with their toy, adding their own great sound effects.  Anyone with little boys knows that sound effects are mandatory for pretty much any activity.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween 2013

The Mr.'s decided to go with a theme again this year for Halloween costumes.  I was all too happy to oblige.  You know I can't resist matching people...

I was also a bit relieved that they wanted to do something other than Star Wars.  This year, it was all about the ninjas, Lego Ninjago Ninjas, to be exact.

I drafted the patterns for their costumes using their jeans and a Sunday shirt as my pattern starters, and I have to say, they turned out pretty nice.  I used this tutorial for the pants, and just figured out the wrap top on my own.  I also made the shoulder armor and pinned them to the shirts so that the rest of the costume could be thrown in the wash.  Want to know the trick for the cool head covers?  All I did was buy a matching t shirt from the craft store and sewed the crest on the inside back of the tee, then you tie it on like this (scroll down the post for the picture how-to).  Super easy!  Thanks to our Kalanui cousins for tipping us off to this easy ninja mask trick a few years ago.

It was really hard to get a good pic of all of the boys standing together, they all wanted to pose with their sweet ninja moves and some of them just wanted to go dig in the dirt.  I think I got a few good shots, though.

 Who knew measuring spoons and squirt guns were ninja weapons of choice?

The Sunday before Halloween, we had our traditional spooky Halloween dinner with my family. 

On the menu was pepperoni-fried mushrooms (not Halloweenish, but the mushroom lovers were so happy), monster fingers (chicken strips), ghost mashed potatoes, brie and crackers (the knife added a little Halloween element), red jello with candy eyes, veggies and dip in a jack-o-lantern bell pepper, and pumpkin cookies and eyeball pudding (tapioca) for dessert.  We had to have our kool-aid in our dry ice-filled cauldron as well.  I love themed holiday dinners.  It is a fun tradition that I hope we never stop doing.

On Halloween night, we went trick or treating with my brother's three kiddos.  It was akin to herding cats to keep them together, let alone get them to stand still and look at the camera for a picture!  I think the action shot is quite fun, though.  It captures the real moment, you know, with two of them play fighting, one on the floor, one trying to run away...  We met up with all the family in town for pizza and candy, then down a few streets in my parents' neighborhood to trick or treat.  They had a blast.

Mr. Four was happy to join in, as long as it involved having a sucker in his mouth for the festivities.  Who can say no to that face?  I don't even want to think about how many suckers he ate that night...


Just for fun, here are two art projects that Mr. Two made in school that I thought would be easy to make at home, too.  The mummy is made with masking tape.  Why didn't I think of that?!  So clever.

It was another memory-and-candy-filled Halloween.  Now, on to Thanksgiving trimmings, gratitude and some fun fall projects to finish up!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Changes

Things have been changing around here, but I guess that all started in the late summer...

We moved into a new home the weekend before Labor Day.  We are in the same neighborhood, but we changed wards.  It was bittersweet to leave so many friends, we were there for almost 9 years.  I can't say that I wasn't a little grateful to have Mike released from the bishopric, however. :)  It was a blessing to have him serve, but we are excited to have him home on Sundays again.

Our new home has beautifully landscaped yards, front and back.  There is a square of dirt, perfect for a little garden.  I am unsure if we will get to plant one, because the boys have taken it over as their personal digging pit.  Oh the joys of mud and dirt for little boys!

In the midst of settling into a new place, we are trying to rent out our condo.  We have a few minor finishing touches, but the big stuff is done (like Mike rebuilding the master bath shower, from the studs out...) and still looking for someone to rent it.  So stressful!

On top of this, Mike is changing jobs today and that will be a new challenge for us, as well.

Oh, and did I mention I have started a little business of my own?  Yes, I have made a few custom little boy's ties and I am also making busy bags and quiet books.  I am excited and worried about balancing all of this.  Still working on getting a site set up for this and possibly starting an etsy shop...

Then Halloween is coming up and my boys have decided that they want to be Ninjago Ninjas, so yards and yards of colored cotton broadcloth, pleather and fabric paint, here I come!

Oh, life is full and busy and a little stressful, but it is good.  So good.