"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our kids these days...

Jaden Timothy -
Age - 3 years, 5 months

*Chatterbox - the boy does not stop talking. Random thoughts enter his mind at random times all day long. Forget listening to morning radio on the way to work/daycare... Jaden will talk your ear off. Once Brandon starts talking, I don't think Cody and I have any hope of getting a word in. Ever.

*Wakes up between 5:30/6:00 every single morning. Yuck. Even on evenings where he stays up later, he wakes up early. And he doesn't wake up quietly. He wakes up singing at the top of his lungs some song that he makes up as he goes along, and he claps as loud as he can right along with his singing. We have had several talks with him about waking up quietly so that he doesn't wake up his younger brother, but he seems to forget those talks when he wakes up in the mornings. We've tried to get him to get out of bed and go to the bathroom by himself in the morning - telling him he is a big boy and doesn't have to ask our permission to get up and use the potty as long as he is quiet... but he refuses to get out of his bed without us telling him it's okay. (When he was two -- this was awesome. Now that he can fend for himself... I wish he would!!) Most of the time after Jaden gets up, Cody will go lay in his bed with him (and Cody falls back asleep in Jaden's bed, while Jaden lies there quietly) -- or sometimes Cody takes him out to the living room and turns on the early morning fishing shows. Jaden really likes to wash the guys fish on TV.

*Never stops moving. Trying to dress him is awful because he can't stand/sit still. He has to be jumping, turning, twisting, running, bouncing all the time. I probably use the word "focus" with Jaden a dozen times a day. He used to have favorite movies that would get him to sit still for periods of time... now those movies don't even work anymore. And there are times where I really wish they still did the trick!

*Doesn't eat quite as well as he used to. He's getting a little pickier, and I think he's finally learned what "full" means -- whereas when he was younger, he shoved food in his mouth like he hadn't eaten in a week. He also doesn't like to take the time to sit for supper... he'd rather be outside playing all night long.

*Has started practicing with his t-ball set and is GOOD at it. He can hit that ball hard and far. But he doesn't have the patience to be "coached" by his daddy or anyone. He is still completely in that stage of "I will figure it out myself! I will do it myself!" This isn't true just for t-ball... it's true for everything.

*Loves vitamins. First thing every morning -- "I want a vitamin!"

*Refuses to try swings -- the ones at the park or the one on our own tree.

*Loves the slides at the park.

*Has retired from taking baths to taking a shower. And he loves it. Cody has tried showering with him a couple of times, but Jaden prefers doing it all by himself.

*Notices the smallest "owie" on anybody.

*Is doing great with going potty in the potty. Accidents still happen but very rarely.

*Is starting to take shorter naps. Jaden has always been a GREAT napper... but now he usually only lasts about an hour. I'm sure naps will be completely done with him in the next year. Darn.

*Can put his shoes on by himself almost all of the time, but shows no interest in learning to dress himself. He can do his underwear and his shorts pretty well - but struggles with shirts. (He has zero patience with things like this -- and can get frustrated very easily).

*Can be wonderfully sweet, but has developed a very strong attitude. Unfortunately we are having to resort to time outs more frequently now. In fact, last night we had to put him to bed early and without bedtime snack because he was being very rude all night long and refused to listen. He's definitely testing boundaries and limits.

*Is very good with Brandon - most of the time. The only time we have problems is when they fight over toys. Most of the rest of the time, Jaden is protective and sweet - always wanting to kiss Brandon good night, patting him on the head, talking kindly to him, etc. He rarely calls him Brandon though -- usually he calls him "baby." ;)

*Starts preschool in two months!!

Brandon Louis
Age - almost 16 months

*Funny. He has a facial expression for every situation and feeling. He sometimes seems wise beyond his years, can be very sly and is quite the jokester.

*Waves bye-bye now without being told to. Blows kisses, gives real kisses (which are really more like head-butts -- exactly how Jaden used to do it), is getting more attached to his blankie, and says Dada way more than he says Mama. (This c-section scar I have from his birth is going to come in real handy for bribery down the road if he continues to show favoritism to his daddy!)

*Isn't really saying any words besides mama or dada but we are seeing more and more how he is trying to communicate. He says "thank you" the same exact way Jaden used to -- by not actually saying a word but repeating the same number of syllables. (I can't even type out how it actually sounds).

*Every animal is called the same thing -- "Ga Ga!!!

*Loves to swing and slide and is already trying to ride our little bike, but his legs aren't long enough to reach the pedals! He is still much much much more daring and adventurous than Jaden ever was or is. He is a delightful handful.

*Will not sit still long enough for me to read to him a single page out of a book.

*Is getting better at eating and is using a spoon and fork all by himself, although he's better with the spoon than with the fork. And he refuses help. In fact, last night I was trying to just hold the cup of yogurt for him while he fed himself with the spoon so that the yogurt cup wouldn't get pushed off the table -- but that wasn't even acceptable. Every time I so much as put my hand near the yogurt cup, he politely grabbed my hand and moved it away.

*Likes to dance and sway to the music and likes to clap along with Jaden when Jaden sings. ;)

*Is a cuddler.

*He is very protective. Anybody out there with little girls his age -- I may be biased, but I think he'd make a pretty good friend and future husband!

*Is not a good napper. I consider it a good nap if he sleeps an hour to an hour and a half in the afternoon. We rarely get a two hour nap out of him, and sometimes we don't even get an hour out of him. But -- he also sleeps in later than Jaden. Most of the time. In fact, most of the time we have to force him to wake up in the morning to get him ready for daycare. He usually likes to sleep until at least seven - and sometimes close to eight in the morning.

*Is getting a head full of hair -- and the back of his head is all curls.

Our boys are as different as night and day in so many ways... but they are both very loving, sweet and funny. We are having so much fun watching them grow and watching their personalities continue to develop.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Bars

I tried this recipe for the first time for Father's Day... and it is a keeper! In fact, it was a Betty Crocker prize winning recipe in 2006. Super easy... super yummy.

Cookie Base and Topping
1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter (I used creamy)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie base and topping ingredients until soft dough forms. Shape 6 (1-inch) balls of dough. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls 2 inches apart; flatten in crisscross pattern with fork.

2. Press remaining dough in pan. Bake cookies and base 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Reserve cookies for topping.

3. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and butter uncovered on high 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and stirred smooth. Spread evenly over bars. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

4. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and whipping cream with electric mixer on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Spread over chocolate layer.

5. Crush reserved cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese layer. Press in lightly. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Store covered in refrigerator.

You will have trouble eating just one at a time!

Summer Thoughts

It has been a long time since I truly enjoyed the season of summer. For one thing, I don't handle heat well. Once I reach an uncomfortable level of "hot" I immediately get headaches, become drowsy, cranky... and eventually this all leads to a somewhat upset stomach. During my teenage and college years, summer just amounted to boring jobs and boring summer classes. The last time I truly appreciated summer was a long time ago... before the days of earning money, trying to graduate, having to pay my own gas bill...

When I look back at my childhood now, I think of it as something out of a storybook. Living on Maryhill Dr. was about as good as it gets for a kid. Even the street name - Maryhill - just sounds happy. I had my two best friends living right across the street and right next door to me. Both of them were boys, and maybe God was preparing me in His own way for raising two boys myself. We had a UNI football coach a couple houses up the street from us with a couple kids  of his own for me to babysit, my very own in-ground pool and diving board in my backyard, and a neighbor living kitty-corner from us with a pool of their own -- equipped with the most awesome solar blanket that kept their pool at a very comfortable temperature all summer long. A neighbor on the other side of us had a trampoline. Our street was perfect for riding bikes up and down the hill over and over again, and every house around the block knew who we were and allowed us to zip in and out of their driveways over and over again on our bikes for hours on end. Summer days were picture perfect. The lady next door was our "babysitter" -- and every single day was spent at Ray Edward's Pool. Evenings were spent running away from Casey and James as they shot Nerf guns or squirt guns my direction. I can distinctly remember so many times my mom standing on our front steps, telling me it was time to come inside, take a shower and get ready for bed... and how much time I spent pleading with her to let me stay outside just a few more minutes. I wish I had a picture from the night that the conditions were just right for all of the kids to stand in Patty and Kevin's front yard and blow bubbles so much so that the bubbles stuck to the grass without popping, and their entire front yard was nothing but bubbles. Like I said... a scene out of a storybook. These years I loved summer, I adored our pool parties, I adored our neighbors, and life was easy-breezy. But time changes all, and those years seemed to come to an abrupt end. A fatal accident took our friends from next door very far away from us. Later that same year, that best friend from across the street moved a very long 10 hours away... and my parents finally decided it was time to build that nicer house on the other side of town. And then... just like that... it was time to "grow up." I started high school, turned 16, was given the responsibility of my own car and needed a job.

Summer during high school was spent working eight hours a day every single day at the UNI campus book store. A job I appreciated during the school year but detested during the summer. While my friends spent their days playing sand volleyball at George Wyth, I spent hours and hours standing behind a cash register bored to tears because a campus bookstore when school is not in session is not exactly a busy store. (Understatement). In college, my summers were spent missing my friends that had left for the long break, working more boring jobs that couldn't compare to the job that I loved to spend time at during the school year... and taking numerous summer classes. When they try to cram in a semester's worth of class work into four weeks, that unfortunately means you get to spend 2 1/2 hours every single day listening to your professor talk... and talk... and talk.... while the hands on the clock never seem to move. I much preferred the excitement that came with the start of a new school year. Life was never dull from September to May.

And in the four years since graduating from UNI, I have spent two of those summers in my first trimester of pregnancy and not feeling super hot... and the other two summers with small babies that hindered our activities somewhat.

But now... times are changing again. And as I sat in our backyard this afternoon, reading my Nook by the kids' pool while they took their naps, I couldn't help but spend a lot of time dwelling on summer's past, and the summer we are now trying to create for our kiddos. I'm not exactly sure when it happened or how... but I'm kind of starting to like this idea of summer again. It might have something to do with the fact that our yard is completely shaded by big mature trees... so much so that even when it's hot outside, we can keep somewhat cool by never having to stand or sit in direct sunlight.... a definite plus for someone who hates standing in direct sunlight. That might have something to do with it. But I think the biggest reason for my change in attitude is...

...These boys LOVE summer. They love water play, toying around in the sand box, swinging, visiting different parks, going for walks, sitting on our deck steps blowing bubbles, driving their John Deere tractor around the yard, learning to ride their trike... everything about being outside is an exciting and new experience for them. When I tell them it's time to put shoes on and go outside, Brandon races for the door, and Jaden doesn't even like to finish supper when he knows we get to play outside after supper is over.

My kids now rely on Cody and me to help them create memories. And if the memories I have as a kid in the summer mean this much to me now... I owe it to my two sweet boys to help create lasting memories for them, too. Hopefully when they're grown up they will look back on their years as young boys with a lot of happiness and a lot of cool stories to tell. And maybe... if I do this mommy thing right... they'll also look back on these years with a hint of sadness at the fact that these years are over.

One of the cool things about being a parent is that you kind of get to be a kid again yourself. I get to experience things again for the first time through the eyes of my boys. I can't wait for our mini-vacation in July, our first trip to my parent's boat on Clear Lake and their first experience with 4th of July fireworks. This weekend we'll be visiting the Sturgis Falls celebration... and memories I hold close to my heart will be re-created as brand new memories for my little ones. That's a pretty cool thing. And it's one of many reasons that I want to raise my family in the same town I grew up in. 

"...And when I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever. And if I had the choice... yea, I'd always wanna be there. Those were the best days of my life..."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Work Trip, a Camping Trip and a Trip to the Petting Zoo...

Sorry it has been a while since my last update. Life has been crazy the past couple of weeks. It seems like we have been running from one trip, to one meeting, to one appointment, to one thing after another after another after another. So here it goes...

A week and a half ago I had to leave town for three days to attend a conference in Kansas City. Three days was the longest I've ever left both of the boys. I had anxiety about it. On Thursday morning I had to be at the Waterloo Airport at 5:30 in the morning... didn't get to Kansas City until 11:30... had to go straight to the exhibit site and set up our booth... got a break late afternoon for lunch... and then had to work our booth until 9:00 at night. We weren't able to eat supper Thursday night due to work so I ordered room service that didn't arrive at my room until 10:00. I was exhausted. Friday we had to work the exhibit until 6:00 in the evening... and then everyone insisted we had to have barbeque. Go anywhere in Kansas City on a Friday night without reservations? Good luck. We also didn't have our own transportation, and there was an hour long wait for a cab... so we walked to the restaurant. Let me not forget to mention it was a sunny 93 degrees. We got to the restaurant and had to wait two hours to even be seated. I got my food shortly before 9:00. I was exhausted again. Saturday morning we had to work the booth until noon... then take the booth down and pack up and ship everything. My flight didn't leave Kansas City until 5:00 in the afternoon, but my ride to the airport got me there at 1:00. So I got to sit and wait four hours in the airport... and finally arrived home (after a slight layover in Minneapolis) -- at about 8:30 Saturday night. I was missing my boys terribly. Thank goodness they were waiting for me at the airport to greet me - in their pajamas - up past their bedtimes - but very happy to see their mommy.

Jaden was such a big helper and asked to wheel Mommy's luggage out to the car for me. What a big boy!

The week after I got home we were able to enjoy some time outside... one of their new favorite activities is to drive the tractor. Jaden gets to drive... Brandon gets to ride... and they're both happy!

How handsome is our boy??

This past Saturday (after what turned out to be a pretty stressful week) -- we were invited to go camping at Prairie Bridges in Ackley with two other couples - Logan and Kimberly - and Wade and Shannon. Cody, Logan and Wade all work together and get along great. It's so fun to have those three together. Cody's grandparent's have a pretty good sized camper equipped with a bathroom, a bed, a couch and a table. We decided to go for it (I had NEVER been camping) -- and left the boys over night with Tim and Deanne. I'm glad we did it because we had a lot of fun. We ate some food, played some bags and sat around a good old fashioned campfire making s'mores. Cody said to me the next day that he even felt closer to me since I agreed to go camping with him. (He is a huge outdoorsy person -- so this was a huge deal to him that I not only went along on the trip -- but actually enjoyed "roughing" it). ;) When we woke up Sunday morning, we grabbed the boys from Aplington and brought them back out to the camp site for just a little bit so that they could explore, too.

The third little boy in this picture is Wade's son Zach. He and Jaden hit it off pretty well right away. I wish I would have gotten a picture of Cody and Wade together. It is seriously crazy how much they act alike, dress alike and look alike!

After we got home from the camping trip we decided to make our annual trek to the petting zoo in Waterloo. It was perfect weather for it. The first thing we saw when we got there was this turkey!

Brandon checking out the kitties...

Every time Brandon saw the bunnies, he giggled.

The boys both got to feed the animals. They were in heaven!

Eating out of Brandon's little hand... so sweet!

This llama was quite a character. I wish I would have gotten a picture of him and my dad. My dad had the guts to get right in his face to talk to him, and the llama responded by spitting at him! MOST of the spit went right over top of my dad's face... but he did get a few crumbs on his cheek. If that llama would have been just a little bit shorter, my dad would have gotten quite the present!

Jaden absolutely loved sitting by the kitties. He probably would have been pretty happy if we could have taken one home with us.

We are loving summer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jaden Riding His Tractor!

New Video of Brandon

Picture Recap

Here's some of what we've been up to lately...

Ella celebrated her fifth birthday with a party at the new "bouncy park" in Cedar Falls. If you have kids and haven't visited, you should. It's a great rainy day activity, and it so very inexpensive!! Jaden and Brandon both had a blast. There were some really big "bouncy" slides and jumpers -- and also some smaller stuff just perfect for Brandon. Plus, they had toys there for Brandon to run around with. We WILL be going back!

Brandon loved riding around in this car and spent lots of time sitting back while Cody leisurely pushed him around...
The birthday girl checking in on her youngest cousin...
This was the main attraction...
I realize this picture is blurry, but I just love how you can see Jaden's mouth wide open. Not only was this slide big, but it was FAST. Those kids just flew down that thing, and Jaden couldn't stop smiling and laughing once he worked up the nerve to try it out. ;)

One of Brandon's new favorite activities is to try on other people's shoes and then walk around in them. Here he is attempting Jaden's shoes. He can spend 20 minutes just trying on shoes and taking them off over and over again.
He also LOVES talking on the phone. If he finds one of our phones lying around, he brings it over to us and we immediately have to call somebody so he can "talk" to them.
How handsome is this little boy??
We celebrated Deanne's birthday with a night of family bowling. I didn't get to stay for very long because Brandon didn't like that he was not allowed to run up and down the bowling lanes. ;) But Cody and Jaden stayed the whole time, and Jaden loved it. He could have bowled all night long if we had let him.

Poor little guy doesn't understand that these balls are a little too heavy to throw around...

Look at how big his eyes are here!
I just love this picture...!

Giving it a little push...

Brandon has been able to climb up the steps for months... since before he could walk. But he has been refusing to learn the proper way of going back down the steps. He's finally understanding that he either has to crawl down backwards... or scoot down on his butt. Now that he has figured it out, he loves to "practice" over and over again. And he loves to do it after his bath when he's half naked. ;) This happens almost nightly.

For Memorial Day we grilled out at Tim and Deanne's. It was hot and windy, but they have a lot of shade in their backyard so the boys got to spend some time outside.

We capped off the holiday by spending some time outside with our water table at home. Brandon likes to drink the water out of it. It can be an issue... we're working on it. ;)
Brandon still gets a small bottle before bed every night. This particular evening I was cleaning up in the kitchen, and Cody told me to hurry into the living room. Jaden had grabbed his own cup of milk and was lying down next to Brandon. The two hung out together watching a movie before going "night-night."

I love the ages of these two little boys, and I can't wait for what the summer has in store for us... fireworks, swimming pools, petting zoos, parks and picnics and cookouts... a little two-day getaway with a trip to the zoo... etc. etc. etc.

Happy Summer!!