Sunday, July 1, 2012

I heart summer!

I love summer. I always have. I don't know if it's because of the School's Out mentality that has just carried over from childhood, or it's because of the lazy days and all the fun outdoor activities we wait and wait for during the winter months. No matter the reason, here is evidence of why I simply love this season....

Evidence #1: Hiking.

Last Sunday we enjoyed some much needed family time after Dave's long training session in Georgia. We decided a hike in the woods at Scharmer's would do the trick. We buckled up in the Kubota and rode up to the top of the hill to walk through the woods, stopping to fill empty mineral holes for the deer (of course). I even attempted to climb into Dave's favorite deer stand, realizing I'm no longer the agile monkey of my youth.
Kubota ride.
Posing for a picture because he can't get away (too far, anyway) like his brother.
I made it up to the deer stand!
Evidence #2: Sandbox fun.

This week Ashton discovered the joy of the sandbox. I thought I'd have to mediate the entire time to keep the sand out of his mouth, but he is more interested in the toys than eating the sand, luckily. That doesn't mean that no sand entered his cute little mouth at all, though.

Evidence #3: Parks & Picnics.

Our summers are jam packed with visits to the parks, and a lot of times those visits include picnics. This week we had a bittersweet park picnic when we said good-bye to some new friends before they moved clear across the country. We wish them the best of luck, but we will definitely miss them. 

We also had a special park visit this week after Ashton hit a very important milestone. He is officially crawling! He has been working on it for a while, but Monday he actually crossed the room. No more denying it, my baby is on the move! This has definitely proved to be a challenge as I am not used to the little guy having access to everything at his eye level. And I do mean everything! Now that he has mastered crawling, Ashton definitely has more fun at the park. He practiced his new skill at the park behind our house, and was ecstatic as he joined his big brother crawling through the tunnel and around the merry-go-round.

Here's a video of Ashton's first real crawl (ok, technically second because I had to run and get the camera after he crawled the first time).

Evidence #4: Pool time.

What kid (and, let's face it, adults, too) doesn't love swimming? We've gotten a lot of use out of our little kiddie pool already this summer. This week was no exception.

Evidence #5: Mississippi River.

And what's more fun than swimming in a kiddie pool? Swimming in the river! Especially when you get to take a boat ride to a sandbar first. We took our little fishing boat out on the river for the first time this week after Dave got off work. It was our first trip with two kids, so Spencer had to retire his place on my lap and take a seat next to Daddy like a big boy. He rode in awe the entire time, but declined the offer to actually drive the boat. Maybe next time... As for Ash, he seemed especially content and cozy on Mommy's lap. So cozy, in fact, that he fell asleep. I tried to snap a picture of it to make an identical one I have of Spencer as a baby, but it's not an easy feat with a chunky SLR camera and one hand. It was much easier with the tiny point and shoot digital camera I used back when Spenc was a baby. Needless to say, I did get a picture, just not a good one.
Spencer's big boy seat next to Daddy.

A little sand for supper won't kill ya.
He hasn't quit crawling since Monday!
I actually captured a smiling Spencer!
Picnic supper on the boat.
Trying to capture Ash sleeping in my arms during the boat ride.
Evidence #6: BBQs and meals on the deck.

We use our grill year round. My dear husband shovels a path on the deck to the grill in the middle of the winter just so we can have some yummy steak, venison, chicken, whatever our hearts desire. If it's too cold, we just move the grill to the garage. But there is something more magical about a summer BBQ, especially when eaten outside on the deck. This week we did just that. We slid Ash's highchair onto the deck and enjoyed our yummy food, which included the best summer BBQ food ever--corn on the cob. Interestingly enough, though, this meal that I speak of did not even include the grill. Dave fried some fish in his electric fry pan on the deck and I boiled the corn on the stove inside, but you get the gist anyway.

Evidence #7: Family vacations.

We don't take extravagant vacations that include flying or days of driving, tons of luggage, week long hotel stays, and a huge amount of money. But we do make a point of taking a few small outings we like to call our mini family vacations. This weekend marked our very first one as a family of four. Saturday we packed up the back of the van with one suitcase (yes, it's possible!), pack 'n plays, stroller, toys and books, potty seat, baby monitor, cooler and the [not so trusty] GPS, and headed to the cities. 
 On the way to the zoo. All tuckered out before the vacation even really began.
First stop of the day: Como Zoo. The GPS (which we nicknamed Claire because the voice sounded like a Claire to me) lead us all over downtown St. Paul, and kept taunting us with her monotone recalculating announcements when we were lead astray over and over again. Finally, we managed to find the zoo! Of course we picked a day that could have quite possibly been one of the hottest and muggiest yet to look at the animals. Not only were we sweaty and uncomfortable and threatening to overheat, but the animals also weren't up to their hospitable, welcoming, entertaining selves. Most hid in the comfort of the shade, much to my toddler's dismay. Once we actually found the lions after quite some searching crouched on an obscure cement slab in a far corner of their pen, Spencer shouted, "Wake up!" The lions were to be the highlight of the trip for him as he practiced his roar for days. Before cutting the zoo visit short because of the heat, we did manage to see quite a few animals, including my personal favorite, the giraffes. Spencer walked away with a new favorite--the seals. To be fair, they did have a huge advantage over the other animals since they stayed cool in the pool and were able to perform for their guests. Spencer especially liked that they have a love of balls in common. 
Eating our packed lunches at the zoo.

It's our tradition to get a picture every year on this (scorching hot!!) turtle.
(Note the boys in their matching tye-dye shirts.)
This heat calls for something too cool us down. Cheers!
Second stop: the hotel. Claire didn't steer us wrong this time, but I did manage to miss the turn all on my own. That was kind of the theme for the whole weekend. We drove around. A lot. In fact, I think we were in the car more than out of it. At least my baby got some much needed nap-time anyway. Once we got to the hotel, we discovered it was under construction. And when I say construction, I mean heavy renovations! To put it in the eyes of a kid--the pool was closed. Luckily, the hotel was kind (and smart?) enough to offer alternative swimming destinations free of charge to their patrons, and once we were settled in our room and changed into our suits, we took them up on one. We swam in the neighboring hotel's pool. Both my boys are water bugs. They could probably live in water. It was a lot of fun to cool off and wind down in the pool after a hot afternoon in the sun.

Third stop: eat. This consisted of a lot more driving, peeing on a chair in the restaurant (Spencer, not Dave tee hee), eating the yummiest burger ever and some desserts to go. For some reason, Spencer struggles with potty training when we're away from home. He had quite a few accidents this weekend. The one in the restaurant wasn't the first or the last (or even the worst). I anticipated this and packed a lot of extra undies and shorts!

Last stop of the day: the hotel, again. After a long day, the boys were definitely ready for bed. I had booked a two room suite, so we didn't have to go to bed as early as Spencer and Ashton. I fashioned a teepee made out of a sheet over Ashton's pack 'n play to block everything out since he is easily distracted, and then it was bedtime for the kids. Dave and I enjoyed a nice competitive game of Phase 10 while closed up in our part of the suite. (Just for the record, I kicked my husband's butt!!)
Playing before bedtime.
First stop on Sunday: the Mall of America. What trip to the Twins Cities is complete without stopping at the mega mall? And what trip to the Mall of America is complete without visiting the underwater aquarium? We have walked through that thing several times in Spencer's life already, but it never ceases to amaze him. Ashton was supposed to be napping in the back of the double stroller, but even he couldn't help but be in awe of the sea life swimming over and around us as we walked through the "tunnel" as Spencer calls it. After admiring the sharks (Spencer's favorite), the turtles (wait, nevermind, that's his favorite), and "Nemos" (OK, that's definitely his favorite), Dave and I made the mistake of thinking we'd actually be able to shop. You know, for ourselves. The kind of shopping that includes browsing through stores and trying on clothes. Ha, what were we thinking?! We should know better. Dave made it into one dressing room before I had to pull him out of the store because Spencer decided to have his worst potty accident of the trip. There's a puddle on some floor in the mall to prove it. Just try finding a bathroom in that big mall. After stripping Spencer of his soiled clothes right there in the middle of a congested hall and changing him into dry ones, we decided we should just call it a day. One day we will enjoy the joys of shopping again. Maybe.

Last stop: home, sweet, home. Isn't your house the best thing after a trip? Especially if you weren't too lazy to clean it before you left. I love vacations, but I definitely enjoy coming home, too.

I'm excited to find more evidence of why I love summer as the weeks go by! 

Besides reveling in our love of summer, we also did a few letter projects this week. I am eager to retire our alphabet projects, only to resurrect them when Ashton is of age. I love doing projects with Spencer, but I'm excited to pick out random ideas not pertaining to a certain letter. We are so very close to the end, though.

The letter this week was U. We practiced writing Us and tracing a U puzzle piece on paper with crayons. I used this drawing to create the Uu flashcard. We also made a picture of umbrellas using popsicle sticks, muffin cups, and (Spencer's favorite) glitter. The glitter was supposed to be the rain, in case it doesn't speak for itself.

Ashton also got his third haircut this week. Underneath all that dark hair was some blonde just waiting to come out. With the shorter, lighter hair, Ash looks a lot like his older brother. I never saw the resemblance until after his haircut.
Do you see the resemblance, too?

And, finally, more random pictures from our week:

Discovering all the hidden toys in Spencer's closet, oh my!
Wrestling: Ashton's surprisingly strong! I have a cute video, but I'm unable to upload it for some reason.
Low rider.
Ashton is riding like a big boy on a Target trip, playing with their dollar aisle treasures.

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