Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hello, Belated Minnesota Spring!

Minnesota's idea of Spring in March.
While most of the country shed their big winter jackets and traded them for lighter ones, we were still smothered by the weight of our bulky layers. While others were basking in warmer temperatures and enjoying green landscapes, we were staring at muddy snow drifts and planning our outdoor escapes. But finally--oh my gosh, FINALLY--Minnesota showed signs of the highly anticipated season's change. After spending months in near hibernation, we Minnesotans rushed outside this week to enjoy the early signs of Spring. Our Easter was a big soggy, muddy mess this year, but we were happy to be outside nonetheless. (Look for the Easter post early in the week.)

Hello, belated Minnesota Spring!

We took our first walk of the season on Friday, when the temperature reached nearly 50 degrees. Spencer insisted on riding his bike and when he got tired, "Daddy could carry it." I laughed and laughed at this idea because I could visualize it clearly in my mind. Spencer pedaled and pedaled his little legs and made it nearly halfway around the lake, which is farther than we thought. As we watched our big Little Man make his way on the path, we realized that it's definitely time to retire the Radio Flyer trike and graduate to an actual Big Boy bike.
When we were within eyesight of the truck, we decided to let Ashton out to walk the remainder of the way. Except he had other ideas in mind. Snow! He could not be steered away from the brown snow for anything. Instead of a leisurely stroll hand-in-hand with my toddler as I envisioned, I carried a thrashing, screaming baby to the truck.


In preparation for the holiday, we did one final Easter project. We drew on eggs by dipping chalk in water. Ashton mostly ate the chalk as a yummy snack, but Spencer really enjoyed the activity.

We also visited the infamous Bunny. Every year we make the trip to the mall with our good buddies. Last year Spencer finally overcame his fear of the funny life-sized creature in a furry costume and a Baby Ashton was oblivious. This year it was Ashton's turn to fear It. While my friend's kids ran right up to the Easter bunny and eagerly jumped into his arms for a big hug, mine kept a safe distance. I had to prod Spenc onto the bench next to the bunny and place a screaming Ashton on his lap. I quickly took a few pictures--snap, snap--and rescued my terrified kid. But all was right with the world soon enough when the kids were romping around the mall play area, the traumatic experience long erased from the little guy's memory.
Posing in their Easter outfits.

Once the official business of the bunny pictures were out of the way, the kids played and then we ate.

This weekend we participated in the community egg hunt, which really is less of a hunt and more of a mad dash to snatch up the eggs placed on the ground in sections by age. Ashton was very excited, trying to sneak some eggs before it was time, until he saw It. Once the Bunny appeared within eye sight, poor, traumatized Ash just wanted out.


Just because Spring has sprung, don't be fooled into believing the cold and flu season has melted away with the snow. Oh no. No, no, no. In fact, it hit our house again this week. Wednesday claimed Victim #1--me. It was the day we were supposed to go on a school class field trip. Ride a school bus! Visit a children's museum! Eat at the mall! I couldn't let my kids down, yet I'm pretty sure school buses aren't equipped with bathrooms, unless that has changed since I was a kid. Daddy to the rescue! Dave left work for a few hours to sit in for me on the field trip. I met them at the mall for lunch and was able to see them get off the bus. (In case you were wondering, Victim #2 got hit harder than me. Much harder. Poor Daddy.)
Can you spot Spencer's little head peeking out of the window in the top photo?


Some randomness from our week:

On a day filled with errands, I decided to forgo our  normal fast food lunch and do packed lunches in the van. This was a big hit! Spencer gobbled up every single bite of his sandwich, which is a huge feat! Who knew a pretend picnic in the back of a van could be so thrilling?
We were missing our sandbox, which is buried under snow, so we improvised with homemade sand. (Flour mixed with a little oil. I added cinnamon to give it an authentic brown color.) Ash gobbled it right up, of course.
Snuggling with my biggest Little one afternoon after naps.

Here's to more wagon days to come!!
Rainy day fun.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

10 Year Iraqiversary

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of Dave's accident in Iraq. He's a tweenager! Since this is such a big year, I wanted to celebrate it in a way that Dave would understand the magnitude of love, appreciation, and respect we all feel for him and for his time served in the United States Army.
He's just a baby in this picture.

Thus began the stressful planning of the surprise party. I almost told him a bazillion times because I wanted to share every little detail like I normally would. Guess who's coming? Should I order a big ass cake? I finally finished the video! Luckily, I kept those comments to myself, but I did almost ruin the surprise at the last minute when a text meant for his mom (who was holding down the fort with all the guests while we ate dinner with some friends and then checked into our hotel) ended up being sent to him instead:

Me: We are checking in and will start walking soon.
Dave: Yep I know that.
Me (after slapping myself in my stupid head for sending the text to him instead of his mom and trying to backtrack in order to save the surprise): So hurry it up!!
Dave: I'm trying.

So maybe he was slightly suspicious, but we did still end up surprising him in the end. A lot of family and friends (and even some out-of-towners we haven't seen in years) showed up to celebrate the decade since Dave was injured in Iraq. Thank you to everyone who came and helped make the night special for our favorite soldier!

Here are some highlights from the party:

David has been asking for a new bow for quite a while, and I always tell him to save up for it. Little did he know that I was working with his good buddy, Jeff, to give him one for his anniversary. Jeff went above and beyond and customized every little detail. 

We couldn't just give him the bow. Oh no. We had to trick him. First he opened a gift from me--a handmade camoflauge blanket for his bow case. I asked him if he'd like a new bow to go with that. Out came Jeff with a big, long box. Inside was a handmade stick bow with the company name Strother on it. Dave chuckled, thinking we're a bunch of smart asses. Then I handed him the real gift...and he almost pooped himself.

I made a video that explains David's journey and showed it at the party. It left a lot of us weepy. Check it out on my YouTube channel It's a bit long, but well worth the time.

Here are some of the many guests who came out to celebrate with us.

Last Year I made a video with a series of interview clips where David explains his experience in his own words. Check that out here.


Today--March 28--on Dave's actual anniversary, we celebrated with an informal dinner at a local pizza joint. The boys gave him a card they made.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bye-bye Boobies; Hello 17 Months

Upon entering his 17 month on this earth, Ashton said good-bye to breast feeding. This has been a long time coming as I had been milking the weaning process since his first birthday back in October. He was only nursing twice a day at the end, once before his afternoon nap and again at bedtime. I thought it'd be a tougher transition because he was quite fond of my breasts. Oftentimes he'd pull at my shirt and say, "boo, boo." But, honestly, it went rather smoothly. It was probably harder for me than Ashton.
17 months.
You see, I was determined to make breast feeding work this time around. I struggled nursing a newborn Spencer. Since I hadn't educated myself beforehand nor did I have a support system to help me, I gave up very quickly. Spencer survived--and thrived--off formula. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with formula feeding. But, for me, I really wanted to nurse my babies.

Once I became pregnant with Ashton, I researched and read everything I could get my hands on to prepare myself this time around. I was also lucky enough to have a support system of close breastfeeding mom friends to lend their help, too. I scribbled something on a pink post-it note that became my mantra: I will succeed at breastfeeding. It's still sticking on my desk, a reminder of a goal I set for myself...and accomplished.

I really didn't have an end point in mind, but I knew we had to stop sooner or later. Since I was taking a trip back home by myself, I designated that weekend as our end. I knew it'd be easier to transition if I was gone. Dave took over and retaught Ashton how to fall asleep without the boob.

Here are the random thoughts I jotted down after each last nursing session:

Last nap -

teary, taking in the way he fit in my lap, his mouth, his little tongue, remembering how tiny he looked at the breast as a newborn. Thanking lord for giving me this time with my son, for the easy journey, incredible bond.

Last bedtime - 

he nursed to sleep which is quite amazing since its my favorite part of nursing, so precious. His mouth mindlessly suck suck sucking while the rest of his body heavy in my arms. Snoring. Little hand gripping his blankie. Body curled up on my lap. It made me think back to our first weeks of nursing in the middle of the night where I'd try everything to keep him awake long enough to fill his belly but the rhythmic comfort of the sucking lulled him to sleep and couldn't be prodded awake for anything.

I stayed in that rocking chair longer than I normally would, my baby fast asleep at the boob, peering down at not only the boy he's become but the boy he was. Our breast feeding journey may have come to an end, but its not the end of our ever-growing bond. A new chapter begins at the end of every old one.

First night I [was home and] didn't put him to bed - 

still wanted cuddle time. Read to him and rocked him standing up so he couldn't ask for boobies and break my heart when I refused him or caved in and nurse him. Sang to him and kissed him and handed him over to Dave. Could hear him crying for me. Confused lil guy.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

One of those weeks

We had one of those weeks where I just could not wait until all things were done and it was finally the weekend. And not just because I love weekends (because who doesn't?), but because of all the things crammed into one week was daunting, to say the least. Since I am a champion procrastinator, I had a lot of last minute things I was scrambling to get done (special present for my mom, party arrangements for my husband, clean house for a guest, etc) and such little time to do it since our schedule was so full (preschool party, hospital visits, ECFE, etc). But I survived it and now the weekend is winding down.

Here are some glimpses into our week, excluding the specifics on the hospital visits and my husband's party. Those will come in later posts.

In the coming weeks I want to focus on number recognition and counting with Spencer, so we started with a simple color sorting/counting activity with a number worksheet. I colored some water bottles to match the colored pom poms. The number on the bottle determined how many pom poms of that specific color went in the bottle. Spencer also had to locate the matching number from the bottle onto the worksheet and circle it. Then he had to trace the number to practice writing it. He has very little interest in identifying numbers and letters, so I am trying to find interesting ways to engage him instead of drilling the information into his head. Mostly he just wanted to play with the little pom poms like his brother got to, but he did cooperate and do the numbers lesson with me first.

Ashton really enjoyed this activity as well. I turned it into a fine motor skills one for him and he had fun sorting the pom poms and dropping them into the bottles and assortment of containers I gave him.

We also did another Easter project. I'm trying to incorporate the Biblical meaning of the holiday, and not only focus on the silly side of it, but I'm struggling trying to explain the significance of it without delving into the heavy subject of death and Heaven. How do you explain to little ones the story of Jesus' death and resurrection without having to also divulge the gloomy truth about death? I explained it the best I could while making our collage cross "sandwiches" as Spencer described them.

First Spenc cut up strips of scrap paper. Ashton was not thrilled to be left out of the cutting process, so I tried to improvise and gave him a playdoh scissors. He's too smart for that trickery and wanted nothing of the fake scissors. I ended up making most of Ashton's cross since the whole scissors debacle upset him immensely, but Spencer did the majority of his on his own. He called it a sandwich because after we glued on all the scraps, we put another piece of paper with a cut-out cross on top of it, like the layers of a sandwich.

More random moments from our busy week:

Teething baby puts more things than usual in his mouth.
Upon discovering something gooey on the window, Spencer informed me "somebody" smeared yogurt on there but he didn't know who. Hmmmm....sound suspicious to you? So everyone helped me clean it.
Carousel ride.

Long car ride.

A day spent with Daddy. He makes them clean, too.

Enjoying Dave's Iraqiversary.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Wee Bit of Family

Every winter my sisters, cousins, and high school friend plan a rollerskating trip. Normally I bring the boys and they stay at my brothers while we skate, but this year they stayed at home with Daddy. This allowed me a much needed weekend off; and, oh, how I loved every minute of it. After skating until our feet were good and blistered up, we made a quick stop at my Grandma Faye's for coffee and cinnamon rolls and conversation. Then we hit up the small town bar, where we closed the joint down and made quite obnoxious fools of ourselves. We ended our night at my mom's house, staying up till the crack of dawn talking and laughing. Admittedly, I feel a little poopy today, but it was worth every second of my time back home with my family.
My sisters and I doing the limbo. (Left to right: Sheila, Hope and me.)

Participating in the St. Patty's Day spirit.

Left: My mom and I. Right: My sisters, Sheila and Hope, and me.


This week the boys and I spent the majority of our time hunkered down at home, attempting to will the snow to melt and the grass to turn green and the sun to warm the temperature. Since the weather had other plans--namely a bunch more snow--we did more Easter activities and embraced the extended winter outdoors.
Dying Easter eggs using shaving cream and food coloring.

More Easter egg fun with Kool-Aid dye.

Making cookies.

We made Easter Bunnies with their feet and hand prints.


Random Moments:
It was a puzzle kind of week.

Waking up to Daddy Saturday afternoon.

Who says swinging is just a summer past time?

Top left: Some Mommy/Baby bonding time while Spenc naps.
Top right: Mommy date while Spenc is at preschool.
Bottom left: Mr. Sneaky trying to steal a snack from the Lazy Susan.
Bottom right: Ashton didn't like the concept of sitting still during storytime at the library, so he made himself comfy at the computer instead.