December 31, 2012

Sicker and sicker, part 1

The past month, the holiday season, has been one full of sickness in our house. Particularly for K and I, and most severely for me. Yay! Just kidding. It's been awful. I have not been sick like that since I was a kid.

About two weeks before Thanksgiving, we were getting ready to go to Ohio for the holiday and our family gatherings there. Five days before we were going to leave we got a call that Jim's grandmother (she was 96) had a brain aneurysm, was in hospice and we should come quickly to say our goodbyes. We packed for three days, and shortly after Jim got home we all headed out for Ohio (Stephen was still with us). We knew we wouldn't be able to miss all of the work days between then and Thanksgiving so that's why we packed light. Plus we wanted to pack quickly.

Well, the kids, Stephen and I ended up staying for nine days! Jim's Grammie was strong and held on for much longer than expected. We had plenty of time to say goodbye before she passed away the day before Thanksgiving. Since she wanted to be cremated, there was no hurry for for a funeral or anything so we had our Thanksgiving activities and then went home. It did allow for some fun time with cousins and getting/giving presents:

It was a loooooong time away from home for me, especially since Jim had to leave after the first couple of days. I decided to stay and help if I could and be around for all the stuff we had originally planned to be there for. But I was a single mom for about a week in someone else's very full house. I left quite exhausted.

Almost as soon as we got home, K, S and I got colds. We usually get sick right after our visits or while we are there. That makes it hard because we want to spend time with Jim's family but the sickness makes us a bit wary to go! So, the colds were a bother and caused me to miss some more work and other activities to take care if the kids (baby-sitters can't take care of sick kids and sick kids can't be out and about), but it wasn't debilitating.

The memorial service for Jim's Grammie was December 16th and we planned to go back for it and just spend one night at my in-laws'. K had been sick with a high fever and congestion for the week before, which had come right on the heels of the cold. High spiking fevers (the highest was 104.2!), lethargy, coughing, etc. I was always able to get the fevers down with medicine, lukewarm baths, and cool cloths. I was checking all the websites about when to see a doctor and doing what I could for him all week but it seemed he was still within the ranges of being able to take care of it at home. I'm always wary about going to the doctor. It was exhausting, of course, and I am not a very good nurse. It is not one of my strong points.

I was starting to feel some symptoms by the end of the week, too, but I usually power through and we didn't want to miss the memorial, so we headed out. The 15th we piled into the car with my mom, who wanted to support everyone and attend the service too. S was cranky on the car ride so I was pretty sure he was starting the same symptoms that K and I were going through. In hind sight, I should have stayed home with the kids because S was like this for most of the 3 1/2 hour trip.

 But, I made the wrong choice in going. I spent the whole night we were there feeling sicker and sicker. High fever, choking cough and congestion, body aches. S and K woke up many many times that night too because they were feverish and congested too. I never did sleep because I felt so awful.

Jim took care of the kids in the morning and my mom helped take care of them too. I had to stay at the house and sleep/rest while I fought a raging fever with chills. I was dizzy and miserable but finally got a little sleep. The kids went to the service with my mom and Jim but didn't feel well either. They probably shouldn't have been in public, but they couldn't stay home with me and no one else wanted to miss it. We went home that afternoon and I think it was the longest trip home we've ever had because we all just wanted to be in our own beds!

To be continued...

December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas, Everyone! I hope your holidays are magical and wonderful times with family and friends.

November 2, 2012

Bath rant

I think everyone knows that kids need a good deal of bathing. Between the diaper-area issues, food smeared all over, playing with everything they can find (especially dirty things), etc, kids need a good cleansing. Other than that, there are plenty of variants on when and how to bathe. Some kids get a bath nightly. In some households, the Dad does all the bath stuff. Some baths are quick, some are extended playtimes.

One thing I CANNOT stand is bath toys. Oh my goodness. Whoever came up with all those plastic toys full of holes (to make it squeak and squirt water!) and crevices is my sworn enemy. Within a week or two, anything made specifically for the bath is completely disgusting. Mold comes out when you squeeze the  toy, the suction cups get moldy, the whole thing gets a film on it, even the net or box you use to hold the toys gets gross.

Now, I know I'm not much of a cleaner, but I have tried with the bath stuff. I rub them down with anti-bacterial wipes, I squeeze the water out of the squeaky toys in the sink to try to get the stuff out, I've soaked them in vinegar. But they still just gross me out. I know what my kids do in the bath anyway.

And, AND the kids don't even LIKE the bath toys. It doesn't matter if they picked it out at the store, all excited (K with a Yo Gabba Gabba ship and characters) or if they got an elaborate bath play set for a birthday (S), they want to bring some other, non-bath toy into the tub with them. Never fails. The pile of "bath toys" sits in the box next to the tub (or gets dumped, whole sale, into the water then forgotten or thrown on the floor) and they bring a car or plastic bug or something into the water instead.

So, I've been slowly throwing away the bath toys. I'm done. I only bought one bath toy with my own money (the one for K). The rest were baby shower or birthday gifts. Other people seem to love bath toys. As the toys get moldy and hard to clean, I throw them away. The kids have yet to notice.

I know you can do that thing where you hot glue the openings to the squirty toys, but I don't feel like doing that either. And most of the toys were already in the water before I learned that tip. I don't like having the kids' stuff encroach into every area of the house anyway, so my goal is to do away with the bath toy box and they can just bring non-porous toys in and out as desired. No stash of toys cluttering the bath ledge.

Now I should start a campaign to show all new mothers that bath toys are an unnecessary expense and cause more harm than anything else. Maybe we can shut down the bath toy industry!

Then we can move on to the bath "art" toys. Not quite as disgusting as the toys, but just as annoying to deal with.

October 19, 2012


I am now thirty-three! My birthday was on Monday, the 15th. And now I'm another year older. Still not experiencing any age anxiety. So far, I think the 30s are the best age. You are more settled into yourself. For me, I finally feel more my age. I was always too old for my younger self. As a teenager and twenty-something I was constantly frustrated by people my own age, including myself sometimes. As a teenager I would actually think, "I can't wait to grow up and be done thinking and feeling this way!"

Now that I'm in my thirties, I think I'm more what I want to be. I have responsibilities and beliefs and ideas that are well suited to my age and life station. It's nice!

For this birthday, I got to do some great things. I was in a very good mood this year, which doesn't always happen around birthdays. Even though I don't mind getting older, I don't usually like my birthday very much.

Jim arranged a surprise date for us on Sunday. He didn't tell me what we were doing but he arranged for my brother-in-law to baby-sit and I knew we had to leave to go downtown at 1pm. We stayed home from church so the morning wouldn't be rushed and spent some time as a family. It was not too cold and a little rainy, so we went for a walk in the neighborhood to enjoy the autumnal beauty.

S was in a two-year-old mood, so that part wasn't fun. But the other three of us had a great time taking pictures, collecting leaves and acorns and just walking in a rainy fall wonderland.

Years ago I started a tradition of collecting leaves and other natural things in autumn and putting them in a vase to make a pretty centerpiece. K helped me find leaves, a cool seed pod and some acorn tops the day before and then we got a few more during our walk.

After getting S for a nap, we had a little church service for K, Jim and I. Then we got all dressed up to leave. This is not the best picture, but oh, well.

On the way, James told me we were going to Navy Pier and had me guess what we were doing there. He had bought tickets to a play at the Shakespeare Theater! I've always wanted to go there but hadn't gotten around to it yet. They actually had no Shakespearean plays (?) running this season, so we saw one called The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart by a Scottish acting troupe. And it was definitely strange!

The seating was tables and chairs like a restaurant, the actors move all around the room and the whole thing was very interactive. To begin, a few of the actors played and sang some Scottish ballads. Then the other actors came around to tell us all to rip up napkins on our table to throw when given the cue so it would make snow for the setting of the play during a blizzard. Everything was really creative like that: the main actress "drove" to a conference on the shoulders of another actor while more ripped up napkins were thrown at her "windshield". The actors spoke in the round, trading off rhyming lines all around the room. They sat, stood, and laid on tables; I got faux strangled with my scarf in one scene; an old lady pretended to karate chop the actor challenging her during another scene; a guy had one of the actresses sit on his lap for a bit; and one poor guy got a lap dance/dry hump from one actress and two actors!

As a whole, it was a bit more risqué and embarrassment inducing for me than I prefer, but I enjoyed being out and experiencing something new so much that I just suspended the "normal" for a while. It was so well acted, funny and creative. Plus I love Scottish accents, so it was great.

The theater is beautiful, with lots of windows in the hallways and stuff so you can see out over the Pier and the lake.

After the play, we had amazing soup at a restaurant called Riva. Lobster Bisque for me and Clam Chowder for Jim. Since that restaurant was more expensive that we wanted, we decided to spread our culinary experiences out. After the soups (and bread they give you for free), we went to a Greek place in the food court for gyros, then to the Hagen Daas counter for dessert. It was great to spend the day together and have some different experiences.

The next day, my actual birthday, I went to work for the morning then picked up James and met my parents at a local asian restaurant, Chi Tung, for lunch. They recently added a Hibachi grill and the lunch prices are half the cost of dinner, so we did that. Another new thing for us since we had never done Hibachi. The chef does all kinds of tricks with the food and his tools while cooking your meal. 

See the onion volcano smoking in front of him? The food tasted great and we had a fun time. Since it was my birthday, I also got free ice cream with a candle and a coupon to come eat for free next year.

To cap off another gorgeous fall day, the boys, James and I went outside when we got home to play in the leaves. I raked up all the leaves I could find in our yard (not a lot because our landlord has a lawn service that mows everything up once a week) and we jumped in them for a bit. S was hesitant at first because I don't think he remembered it from last year. But then he got used to it and we all had a blast. 

With 33 starting out like this, I think it's going to be a great year!

October 9, 2012

It's all too much

Sometimes parenting young children just seems impossible. And I don't feel like I've been doing very well lately. Just overwhelmed by everything.

My house shows the signs-it's pretty dirty.

Our meals have shown the signs-I haven't cooked much and we've had some less than fulfilling meals lately. I've realized that most mornings I don't even fully feed S. He grabs cheese sticks from the fridge, takes a few bites of cereal or whatever I'm eating, and maybe some fruit. Part of that is his fault, though. He won't eat while sitting down in the morning for the past few months, and I never know which foods will interest him each day. I just don't have the energy/desire to get him breakfasts that he won't eat.

I went back to work in the middle of August, and that's been great, but it also takes up a lot more of my time than I think it will. It also cuts us down to only one day a week when James and I are both off of work at the same time. And that day is Sunday so we have church and often family or other obligations.

We've all passed around a crazy cold that I've had for three weeks that keeps knocking me down at random times. That's the joy of the changing weather. I'm still SOOO thankful for a healthy family that just gets a few colds, flus and other normal things each year.

Annnnnd S is very much a two-and-a-half-year-old. I almost forgot how annoying/frustrating/challenging this age can be. I remembered the cute parts, and still enjoy those. He's learning new words all the time, learning to show affection more, showing more personality, learning letters and numbers and colors and all that stuff, etc. He makes the cutest faces-propped up with his chin in his hand to watch TV, laughing while playing with his brother. Purposeful hugs and kisses are so sweet after those early years before they know how to really show they love you.

But then there are the tantrums. And S is good at those. He cries, throws himself on the ground, throws things, hits, makes himself throw up sometimes. It's just so exhausting to go through those. Sometimes I'm not sure I have the wherewithal to fight his natural kid tendencies to misbehave for the next year or two. Two and three are such crazy ages. I'm sure I'll rally eventually, but it doesn't feel like it sometimes.

I have a couple of friends who have or are about to have their third kids. The idea of being pregnant and having another kid is completely terrifying to me. I wasn't sure if I would change my mind about having more children, but I don't think so. James is with me. No more babies! We're ready to have older kids who can do things themselves and with us, instead of what we have now: either following them around while they do what they want, or dragging them around while they act crazy while we do what we need to do.

K is definitely more into the easy, doing stuff with us phase. And I LOVE it! However, I don't want to just endure these times with young children, because I know everyone says they go so fast, and I'll miss it when it's gone, and it's such a special time, etc. But it is so overwhelming. And I think I will be glad when it has passed. In the mean time, I'm trying to do more than just stay afloat!

September 25, 2012

Fall is in the air

Finally, after a long, HOT, mostly dry summer, autumn has arrived! Thank God.

My favorite season was highly anticipated by, it seems, the whole country. Pinterest was covered with autumn themed ideas/photos back in July. I assume that was because summer started in March this year and thus threw everything off.

Anyway, this year we celebrated Labor Day with our first ever family movie date.
We're not fans of bringing babies or young children to the movie theater. Probably in part because our children are usually insane. I like to think it's because they are highly intelligent. And boys. But that's probably just denial.

But this year, we figured that S would do OK because he can sit through movies he likes at home on a pretty regular basis. Especially if he has snacks to keep him happy. Kid loves to eat! (I claim credit/blame for that one.) We went to see Brave at a local theater that we already had two free tickets for. S was free, so we only had to pay $7 to get K's ticket! Plus, oh, $50 for one drink and some popcorn. Just kidding, but not by much. We are bad and usually sneak in our own candy, because it's $1 for a movie sized box at Target instead of $3-5 in house. It went pretty well and the movie was decent. I now want to name my imaginary daughter Merida. And I can tell that a great deal of my personality can be traced to my Scottish blood (at least according to the stubborn, independent, brave, sweets-loving characters in the movie).

The other fun fall-y thing we did this year was to go apple picking for the first time. My best friend and her family have gone to a place in Michigan City, IN for a few years called Radke Farms. The apples were only $1 a pound and they don't spray the apples with chemicals. 

The day was absolutely, perfectly beautiful! About 75 degrees, partially sunny, big fluffy clouds, a bit of wind. I couldn't have manufactured a better day.

We used these ingenious little tools to pick the apples out of the trees. It was a recycled 2 liter pop bottle with a hole in the side and a notch at the top attached to some PVC pipe. You caught the apple stem in the notch, then the apple fell into the bottle and you could check it, eat it or put it in your bag. K got very good with his!

S thought it was some kind of toy.

And, of course, I had to tell them repeatedly that the sticks were NOT swords. They occasionally agreed.
Here are my boys with my friend's little girl and her niece. S is not interested in pictures so we barely got one with him standing still. :) 

K's bucket.

Tasting the merchandise. He did a lot of that.

We all had a great time. Only a little bit of attitude from S (he's very two) and some "don't eat that rotten apple!" and "watch out for the tractor!" 

After picking all our apples, we a tractor pulling a wagon gave us a ride back to the store. I ended up with 29 pounds of apples! It was two tote bags and one bucket full and I did not expect it to be 29 pounds!
My best friend, Sarah, and one of her daughters on the tractor wagon ride.

So far I've made apple pie, two kinds of apple crisp, crockpot apple butter, and carmel apple pork chops. As well as eating some. And we still have some left! Definitely worth it.

Funny side note was the port-a-potty at the farm. They were just for us. Ha, ha!

Now, I will leave you with my favorite picture from the day. My darling boy overlooking the orchard on our perfect day. This is now my phone background:


I read Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas about two months ago and it was FANTASTIC! A little dense in places since it's a biography of a very prolific, intense man during a very intense, complicated place and time (World War II Germany). Bonhoeffer's life was very inspiring and I highly recommend the book. I'm now planning to read some of Bonhoeffer's own work. Especially after reading excerpts like this one:

It is only the cynic who claims "to speak the truth" at all times and in all places to all men in the same way, but who, in fact, displays nothing but a lifeless image of the truth....He dons the halo of the fanatical devotee of truth who can make no allowance for human weaknesses; but, in fact, he is destroying the living truth between men. He wounds shame, desecrates mystery, breaks confidence, betrays the community in which he lives, and laughs arrogantly at the devastation he has wrought and at the human weakness which "cannot bear the truth."

                                                                                       ~From Ethics  by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

August 22, 2012

Oh, this crazy summer

Now that summer weather seems to be returning, with temperatures getting back to the 80's and 90's, summer is in many ways almost over. And it was a very full one.

A 40th wedding anniversary party for my parents, week long visit from our Japanese friend and her daughter, two camping trips in two different states, a baby shower, a wedding shower, etc. And on top of all that, we were preparing for my brother-in-law, Stephen, to move in.

After almost two years here (yay for not moving!), we had to take everything out of S's room to clear it out for Stephen. He's 19 and decided to move in with us because there are better job opportunities here than in rural Ohio. He was ready to leave the house, but not interested in college at this point. So we let him know a while back that he was welcome to come here. He told us in the spring that he definitely was going to come. I'm sure the fact that his girlfriend is going to school on the north side had NOTHING to do with his final choice. :)

So, I spent a good part of the summer throwing things away, donating them, consolidating them, reconfiguring our storage space, researching bedding and storage options and more. We ended up getting a bunk bed for the kids since they are sharing a room. S isn't quite ready for the unrestricted-ness of the bottom bunk, so for now the room is quite packed. Two dressers, a bunk bed, a changing table, a crib and their toys all in one room. Thank God the room is a decent size! And we found it very satisfying to buy our kids a new bed just for them. We realized that James and I had never bought a new bed for us or the kids (all used or hand-me-down) and only once had either of us had a new bed before we were married (my sister and I got the most uncomfortable metal futon bunk beds when I was in high school). It was cool to be able to buy something nice for our boys that will last them a while.

The transition hasn't been easy for the boys. K loves the bunk bed but S (who has been my good sleeper) hasn't adjusted well and often keeps K awake as a result. There is more light in this room than S's old one. He is also right by the door, which opens onto a small hallway that leads to both the bathroom and kitchen. So lots more noise and activity to keep him up at night, and nap time. Not to mention the fact that Stephen's bedroom can only be reached through the boys' bedroom. S is used to being in the back room so all the coming and going, lights and noises, and easy access to the toy box next to his crib and the bottom bunk has made sleeping harder. We never know when he'll start throwing things on K's bed or pile all the toys he can reach in his crib with him.

It's been 2 1/2 weeks so I'm hoping that it calms down and we all get used to the changes soon.

Now on to our busy fall!

August 11, 2012

Camping, Part Du Ex Machina (sort of)

For years and years now, James and I have been traveling from Illinois to Ohio to visit his family. That is, of course, when we and/or his family have lived close enough. When we were in Colorado or they were in New York, then we didn't see each other as much. In the close times, though, its only about a three hour drive. Not super close or cheap (lots of tolls and high gas prices) but very, very doable.

Twice a year, James's sister and her family come in from New York to visit. We always make sure to be there at those times so we can see them. And we all stay at my in-laws' house. It is a decent sized farm house that they rent in the country, but the families keep growing, as families are wont to do. Last Christmas the four of us, the now five of James's sister's family, the other four of James's family (parents and two brothers), James's 96-year-old grandmother (who lives with his parents most of each year) and a friend of the family who was living there for a while were all in the house at the same time! For the math averse, that's 15 people aged nine months to 96 living together for a few days in the Ohio winter! Two babies, three young kids, two teenagers, five twenty to thirty-somthings, two middle agers and one senior. Whew.

Needless to say, it was crazy. We were sleeping on all kinds of surfaces and all sharing one bathroom. It's always fun to have the kids together since they keep each other busy. The grown-ups enjoy hanging out in the evenings to watch movies or play games or talk. The grandparents have all their grandkids under one roof to lavish with love and playtime. But it was crazy! We love seeing everyone, but there is NO alone time and NO break from all the noise and busy-ness.

This summer, due to the fullness but also to make this family trip more of a vacation, we decided to camp at a nearby campground at a place called Sauder Village. James used to work at the Sauder Heritage Inn when we lived in Ohio a couple of years ago. We love to go to the Historic Village and were planning to make a visit this time around. So we booked a campsite.

The campground was beautiful! Right on a little lake. So we got to go to sleep to this:
And wake up to this:
Now this picture is a bit deceiving because it was the last day and no one else was around anymore. However, the first night the campground was totally full and the sites are pretty close to each other. The fire pits you see above were one per site and the one James and K are standing by was for the next site over from us. That was the scene of the trouble our first night.

It was more challenging with young kids to be camping at night, especially to try to get them in bed at a decent time. I came back to the tent about seven the first night to get the kids ready since they were tired. After all our preparations: pjs, snacks, teeth brushing, arranging the tent, reading, etc. It was still super bright outside and there were people talking all around. I spent a couple of hours trying to help the kids wind down and shut out the noises. Both almost fell asleep only to wake up again. K almost fell asleep while we were reading at 8, then ended up awake until after 10. James was hanging out with his brother and I thought maybe I'd get a little time alone while the kids slept. No dice.

The group next to us was a bunch of guys. The campground quiet time wasn't until 11pm (which seemed later than normal to me) and the guys took the eleven very seriously. They talked and played games until eleven exactly. Then they left, which was nice. Around when they left, the family on the other side (who seemed odious, based on the way they talked and interacted with each other) came back to get ready for bed. They left their car on, with headlights blaring into our tent for over twenty minutes while they got ready. ARG! After they settled down, James came back.

Then around midnight, the guys came back. I figured they'd go to sleep then, since it was after quiet time and they'd already been talking and doing stuff FOREVER. Sorry guys next door, but I don't care how much you run, camp and fish. You are stupid. SHUT UP!

But they did not. They started over. Rebuilt the fire, got out more food, continued talking at normal volume right next to our tent. One guy outright said he had no intention of going to bed until 1:30. 

I passive aggressively flashed my flashlight at them and shushed them for a while. I wanted to go talk to them, point out that they were breaking the rules and I was prepared to break their legs (I get angry when sleep deprived) but they were drinking and there were other campers trying to sleep too so I didn't want to escalate things. James finally called security at the hotel and they came about 1:15 or so. The guys then spent FORTY-FIVE minutes getting ready for bed. Putting out the fire, putting away the food, etc. All while STILL talking. Then they got into the tent and giggled and talked like Junior High girls before finally going to sleep after two in the morning. Of course, it took another hour or so for James and I to sleep. Annnnnnd, K woke up at 5:30. I really wanted to send him to the neighbors' tent, but I didn't.

Not such a fun night of camping.

The second night was nice. Only two other people were still there on Sunday night, and they were quieter than before. And it was only hot, not scorching. We actually slept for most of the night.

The third night was scorching. I checked my phone at 2:30 in the morning, while James and I lay there not sleeping a wink, and the temperature was still 85 degrees. Outside. We got up and took the top (the rain cover) off the tent for even a hint of a breeze. The tent was also full of ants, so that wasn't fun to have them crawling all over us. I later realized that there is a cord flap on the side of the tent if you want to hook up electrical devices through the tent that we didn't zip shut. And the kids had gotten crumbs all over, so it was ant city. At least they didn't bite. But we still didn't get much sleep. And woke at six to rain in the tent. At least the rain was cooling. 

We kept dreaming of camping in the fall. To wear sweaters and have a fire going. To be chilly in the morning and pile together for warmth. That sounded a lot more fun. This summer is proving once and for all that we are not summer people. I hate being hot. It makes me angry. If I'm cold, I just get quiet, pile on the clothes and blankets and get some hot tea. Much better than angry.

So, I'm not sure if it was the answer to our overcrowding at the house to camp. It was more work and more inconvenience, despite the beauty and novelty. And having a nice, large bathroom we didn't have to wait in line to use. Back to the drawing board, I guess!

July 27, 2012

A-camping we will go!

A couple of years ago, when James and I discussed some things we wanted for our family, we talked about camping. It was something I did occasionally with my family and with my youth group at church. James didn't do much camping at all. We thought it sounded like something that would be good and fun for us and our two boys and really liked the idea of getting good at it.

That first summer we went camping once. It was before S was born, it was cool for August, it rained, the campground was great and had a private beach on Lake Michigan, and we borrowed my sister's tent. We all had fun, despite some of the downsides and the fact that I was just starting my "all day sickness" at the beginning of my pregnancy so the campfire smell (which I usually love) got turned into a nausea inducing smell that I'm just now coming out of. Amazing how those things linger. It was a decent beginning to our camping career.

Last year, we borrowed our friends' tent and camped near Niagara Falls on our way to Maine. We planned to camp more of the time, but a few different problems interfered so it was only the one day. We had fun again, and learned a little more about the process. Namely, have some food ready to eat when you get to the campground because it is hard to set up a tent, start a fire and cook your food while wrangling little boys!

This year, we made the jump and bought our own tent. Target had a sale on a six person Coleman tent: $69 down from $101. With our Target card we saved 5%, with my Mypoints membership we got free shipping so the total was only $69 and some change with tax! Since it had good reviews and it was such a good sale, we bought it and it was at our door within two days! I set it up before we used it to make sure it was all there and working before we needed it to provide shelter. The boys helped me test it by running around inside and around the outside.

Our first camping trip of this year was to the place we went on our first camping trip three years ago, to Covert Park and Campground in Michigan. We were planning a beach day with my family on Monday, so we decided to camp Sunday night and meet at the beach on Monday. Then I convinced (without too much work) my family to stay at the campground too. The place has these two campsites up on a big dune hill that are secluded from the rest of the sites. There are a lot of stairs to get up there:
Not fun for hauling up all our stuff, but very cool otherwise.

My sisters, nephew and my family had those two sites on the hill. My parents declared that they were too old to sleep on the ground, so they rented one of the cabins available. It had beds with mattresses, a table and chairs and electricity. Plus it was closer to the bathrooms.

The benefit of staying overnight was that we got to swim until the sun set, then wake up and go to the beach for the sunrise! As soon as the kids woke up, we headed down. 

The sun rose on the opposite side of the lake, but that didn't make it any less beautiful!

James is the photographer of the family, so I try to take his picture to make sure we have evidence that he does come with us on these adventures!

Cousins hanging out on the beach in their pj's.

My handsome boy.

After morning beaching, we went back up for a campfire breakfast. Then it was more beach! We were too busy swimming for pictures. When S wanted a snack break, we broke out the granola bars and juice boxes.

He was so tired from a late night and early morning, that he actually fell asleep in my arms on the beach. He hasn't done that in a while, so it was nice to get those moments with him.

Meanwhile, James started helping K with a sand castle, then got really into it. K wandered to a different place, but James kept working.

It was a great mini vacation, and the only negatives were a bunch of bug bites (for James), and sunburns (for K and James). Not too shabby.

Back with our second camping adventure soon!

July 11, 2012

Book Review: Riven

I am a Christian, yet most categorically "Christian" things annoy me. Christian fiction definitely included. I usually avoid most of the stuff at the Christian bookstore (in the rare occasions I've actually even gone into that store). The way people pander to a demographic just to sell things like books and music is SO frustrating. And usually false. Reading a book that supposedly reflects my views, but with a shiny cover and oddly phrased language makes me want to burn books. And I LOVE books. Needless to say, I don't read very much so-called Christian fiction.

That said, I was excited when our church came out with a recommended reading list for the summer. Not required, just some books that some of the leaders are familiar with and knew would be encouraging and interesting reads. I love my church and the fact that they don't often fall into the stereotypes of what most of the world thinks of when they hear the word Christian. I trust our leaders and learn a lot there, which is why we make a forty-five minute drive every week to attend!

The first book I got from the list was Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins. I read all 500+ pages over about three days and was completely blown away. This is a wonderful book that I'm now going to recommend to everyone I know!

The story follows two characters and switches back and forth between them throughout the book. One is a middle aged pastor who hasn't been treated very well by the different small churches he has pastored and ends up working as the chaplain in a supermax prison. As a result of years of struggle and obstacles (family drama, work disappointments, the depressing nature of the prison, watching a death row inmate die) he's not feeling very loved or taken care of by God. He keeps his faith, but has to face his doubts and fears. The other character is a boy from the trailer park, literally. He grew up rough and though he gets a few chances from a few sympathetic people over the years, he's constantly fighting against poverty, addiction and his own poor choices until he ultimately ends up on death row himself. Then the two characters encounter each other and God and miraculous things happen.

Though very entertaining, Riven is also very real, encouraging, and convicting. Never did I feel the Christian characters were one dimensional or over simplified. The view of poverty, crime, addiction, and sin wasn't heavy handed or didactic. The whole thing was just right. I've met these people before. I've faced some similar situations (though this book wasn't much about relating for me). I cried through the last couple of chapters (and I'm not much of a crier) and when I finished reading, I was different because of it.

I can't say enough about this book. It was more than worth the read and I'm really looking forward to more similarly impacting reads!

July 10, 2012

Lego/Angry Birds Birthday

After a loooong procrastination on my part, here is the info on K's 6th birthday party. I didn't take any photos that day (too busy!) and put off getting them from James's phone so I could post them. And, I forgot to ask him to take specific pictures of some of the stuff we did to decorate with the theme. Oh, well.

K decided on a Lego theme a few months before his birthday. However, we didn't find a lot of good stuff for decorating for that, and he saw some Angry Birds plates and napkins that he liked, so we merged the two ideas into a Lego/Angry Birds party! He does love both. And a lot of aspects merge together, as you will see in some of the pictures.

Once again, I got a lot of ideas from Pinterest. Thus, the day before the party I was making a Lego piñata in the dining room! (Note the open laptop next to me for reference.) Got the idea here and here.

And, once again, I was very grateful for an artistic husband who was willing and able to make these cool gift bags.

One thing that is really hard with kids, and in this case parties for kids, is that they want to help. K gets into helping get ready, which is great. I want him to help and be involved in his own day. However, us adults have to try not to get mad at the kids for messing stuff up when we are trying so  hard to make it look good! James made these great bags and then K wanted to add his own art and write the names on the bags. You can see some of K's additions here, but before the party he had completely covered some of the bags with scribbles. We didn't get angry at him, but man is it is hard to bite your tongue after you've worked so hard to make it cool and then it ends up just looking messy!

This is almost the entire group of kids at present time. They were very good and no one tried to open any of K's presents! I love it when kids grow up! (And a look through most of our photos reveals this scene over and over: me surrounded by children!)

The merging of Lego and Angry Birds was best seen here, in our live action Angry Birds game.

My sister had this big set of plastic Legos. They open up to put things in and stack together with the little holes and dents, just like real Legos. So I came up with the idea to stack the plastic Legos, put K's one Angry Bird pig toy into the stack and have the kids throw his Angry Bird stuffed toys (and some other stuffed birds we have) at the whole thing. (For those not acquainted with the AB game, that is the basic idea. Pigs try to hide in "castles" made different materials and then the birds get tossed at the structures until all the pigs are knocked down.) They loved it! Other than some squabbles over position in line, it was great! (The original idea was to do this but this way I got to use Legos too.)

The day was very hot, about 95 degrees, so we were inside and outside the whole time, so there were times to cool off. This next picture shows one of the few shots of the decorative stuff. K and I made utensil and napkin holders out of his Legos. (Look at the front of the picnic table.)

We didn't get any shots of the balloons, though. My sister has helium at her work, so she blew up a bunch of green balloons that James then drew Angry Birds' pigs on and Lego faces. I filled Mason jars with assorted Legos and tied the balloon to them. It was windy that day, so it wasn't too successful outside, but still a good idea!

The finished piñata, I made it pull string because we had a mix of little kids (2-3 year-olds) and bigger kids (6-7 year-olds). It actually worked out that the last string was the one that opened the piñata, so everyone got a turn!

Since the fake tattoos were so popular for S's party, when I found a package of 200 Angry Birds tattoos at Target, I snapped it up! Most of the kids had full tattoo sleeves by the end of the party. :)

I also made another foray into a theme cake. I made two cakes in bread loaf pans, put half a large marshmallow on a toothpick and frosted. My sister was big into Legos years ago and had this big Lego board I was able to use as a platter. Perfect! The colors got a bit blown out in this photo, but I was able to get pretty close to the primary colors of Lego bricks. These were the colors K chose. (The idea for the marshmallows was from a friend, but I came up with the rest myself.)

A little easier to see here. I had to keep the candles in the doorway so the wind didn't blow them out before K could!

Other party fun: 
I spy the Lego Guy. James made a few Lego guy heads out of cardboard that I taped around the house and had the kids run around to find. 
Guess how many Legos in a jar.
We were going to do a Lego building contest, but ran out of time and energy.

Another party note, for anyone else looking for ideas-since we did a piñata, at K's request, we made the goody bags for the kids to fill with piñata goodies and didn't try to get extra stuff. I put goody bag stuff in the piñata, like Lego erasers, candy from the Dollar Store (but the chocolate melted in the heat!), bouncy balls and other little gifts from the Dollar Store and dollar section of Target.

This party was fun, but I think I tried too many ideas at once. The 7th birthday might need to be toned down a bit!

May 26, 2012

Age ain't nothin' but a number

And that number is six! K turned six yesterday! I can't say "I can't believe I have a six-year-old" because I can believe it. I think I've felt every one of those years. And he certainly acts and looks so much older.

From age four to five he made the transition from baby to little boy. He went from this:
To this:
Hard to believe there is only a one year difference between these photos, isn't it?!?! I felt like I was literally watching him grow up. It seemed like I could actually see a day to day difference in him. Most of that baby fat was gone and he became mostly arms and legs.

From five to six, it has been a process of little boy to all boy. The all arms and legs thing was joined with a shooting up and thinning out that would almost be alarming if I didn't know that that's what happens when you grow up. I was quite the bean pole in my day, too. K is SO skinny now, and almost all of that plumpness of cheek is gone. I can't find any good recent pictures right now to evidence theses changes, but I'll have plenty after his birthday party on Monday.

So, after six years, three states, five different homes, one broken arm, one minor surgery, one cavity, countless testings of our patience, and countless more instances of his sweetness and intelligence, our little boy is healthy, fun and growing into the boy he's supposed to be! Happy Birthday to my eldest!