"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."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Soaking up the last of Fall

This time of year is always busy. Football and basketball seasons start to overlap, the calendar fills up with Fall parties at both preschool and daycare, hunting season is in full swing, the holiday season looms ahead, and it seems like every event our family wants to attend happens between the months of October and December. Throw in one growing preschooler and a very independent toddler, and we are constantly running from one activity to another.

This past weekend was probably one of the last "nice weather" Saturdays we will have for a while. Our football team was on the road (and on TV), our basketball team was home for an exhibition game, it was Halloween weekend, I wanted to complete a paint project I thought up on a whim, and thankfully... the Tampa Bay Bucs had a bye week so we didn't have to fit that game into our already busy schedule. I wasn't able to accomplish everything I had on my mental to-do list... but we did do a good job of soaking up the last few moments of Fall.

Kicking off the weekend was a Friday night devoted to our traditional UNI pumpkin carving. Jaden had already carved pumpkins at his preschool party the day before, and he thought it was "gross" so he decided to sit this one out. But Brandon was ALL about it. Our little one adores pumpkins - real pumpkins - pumpkin stories - pictures of pumpkins - coloring pumpkins - cartoons about pumpkins... you get the idea. So he was over the moon excited when Cody dragged our large pumpkin inside to get ready for the carving.

He even wanted to kiss and cuddle his pumpkin.

And then he spent several minutes trying to find the best way to sit on it.

Once Cody cut the top off, Brandon didn't hesitate to get down and dirty. He dove right in... literally. ;)

He would have done this for hours. I did get a video of it... I hope to upload it soon.

The finished product. We've been doing a UNI pumpkin for a few years now... Cody surprised me by adding the stars and moon. ;)

On Saturday before naps, after I painted a chalkboard on Jaden's wall, and before I headed to Pepper's to watch the Panthers... we enjoyed the perfect Fall weather. We made sure our bird and squirrel friends would be well fed for the week...

...We rolled around in the leaves some more...
...we went for a walk... (Jaden loves riding his bike in the street)...

...and we spent a little more time admiring our beloved pumpkin. ;)

When I told Brandon it was time to go inside for a nap, he ran and hid under his slide and played some peek-a-boo with me. We love our little stinker-butt. ;)

Tonight we're attempting some trick-or-treating with our little Mario and Smurf. ;) Pictures to come, I'm sure. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Through My Kids' Eyes...

One of the coolest things about having young kids is the amount of LIFE that gets put back into your own life. Little things like going to the car wash turns into an adventure because your 3 1/2 year old has been begging to do it for three weeks because he thinks it's fun. A holiday like Halloween... which I've never really been a big fan of... becomes something to truly celebrate because your child is excited to wear his costume and walks around the house saying, "Trick or Treat!" Pumpkin carving is an event that has to be planned for a Friday night to ensure that we all have enough time to gather around said pumpkin, get messy and take lots of pictures without feeling rushed to get the kids to bed on time.

We are rapidly approaching my favorite time of year. Fall is my favorite season, but the months of November and December can't be beat. Listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, people were talking about the high school football playoffs kicking off tonight, and I couldn't believe that the regular season is over already. I'm not ready for the first snow storm of the year or the fact that it is taking us a little longer to get out the door in the mornings while we work on putting on socks, tying shoelaces, and layering with coats and hats. (Although Brandon really does look extra adorable all bundled up like an Eskimo). But I am ready for --

*Pulling out the Thanksgiving and Christmas picture books to read at bedtime... and spending an entire lunch hour at Barnes and Noble picking out one or two... or three new ones to add to our collection.
*Cheering on our Panthers through the playoffs.
*The first basketball game of the season.
*Turning on my Pandora Christmas playlist at work.
*Wrapping Christmas presents and anticipating my kids' faces on Christmas morning.
*Decking the halls of our home in twinkling lights, hanging our stockings with care, carefully placing the nativity scene, filling our tree with blue and silver Christmas ornaments, and lighting Christmas scented candles.
*Swapping out my fall scented Bath and Body Works Wallflowers with the smells of a Winter Wonderland.
*Taking the boys sledding for the first time.
*Finding the perfect Christmas lights display to drive through on a Friday night while letting the boys indulge in sippy cups filled with hot chocolate and a marshmallow or two.
*Thanksgiving food.
*The annual Christmas celebration on Main St. Cedar Falls.
*Long weekends and holiday vacations from work.
*Hanging up our two Advent calendars and letting our boys celebrate counting down the days to Jesus' birth when they wake up every morning.
*Making Jesus' birthday cake on Christmas Eve - a tradition we started last year.
*Hearing Cody grumble about having to put up outdoor lights again... and then watching as he, too, gets into the holiday spirit. ;)
*Seeing our boys have fun with the Christmas train at Papa Bob's house. Jaden has such a good memory. He has told me in the last week that it's almost time for the "choo choo train" at Papa's house!
*Baking Christmas goodies.
*Hearing what Jaden asks Santa for when we place him on his lap at the mall.
*Watching Brandon experience it all for what will seem like the first time. He won't have any memory of last year.
*Singing "O Holy Night" at church -- my favorite Christmas song.
*Starbucks Holiday cups.

It may seem early to be talking about all of this, but the holiday season always seems to go by so fast once Halloween has come and gone. And part of the fun of it is the anticipation of it. (I will admit that I got really excited when I saw a commercial the other night for Kleenex... and it was centered around a Christmas tree). It is never too early to get in the spirit. :) So instead of focusing on the fact that it's getting colder outside and the nights are getting shorter, focus on the joy ahead. What are you looking forward to? What are some traditions that your family celebrates with every year?

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.  ~Larry Wilde

Tradition: sit with husband in a room lit only by tree lights and remember that our blessings outnumber the lights.  Happy Christmas to all. ~Betsy Ca├▒as Garmon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Fall Ya'll!

"Woah, that's a big pile of leaves..."

He kept trying to give the leaf back to its tree.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventures of Homecoming

This past Saturday was THE perfect weather day for UNI Homecoming. And boy did we soak it up. (Maybe a little too much, in my case. More on that later...)

After taking the boys to a park right away in the morning since it was so gorgeous out, we headed up to College Hill. We made a quick pit stop at the UNI Bookstore (very quick -- the place was packed) -- before we headed to the "Virtual Parade." As we were leaving the bookstore, we were greeted with a pretty sweet treat. The Panther Marching Band was marching down the sidewalk right in front of us. Nothing like hearing our Panther drummers to get us pumped up to watch our second-rated Panthers take on the 17th ranked team in the nation.

We followed the band across 23rd Street to join in on the festivities... and our two little boys were in heaven. There was lots of people, there was music, there was drums, there were big inflatables... and there was TC! I think they would have stayed here all day had we let them.

Jaden at the top...

...And Jaden at the bottom.

At one point, we were standing around with friends watching the band when my friend said, "Nicole, Jaden's sprinting away!" Sure enough, Jaden had spotted TC and had gone RUNNING in front of the crowd to the other side of the park to catch up with TC. I was holding Brandon and had to chase after Jaden who had caught up to TC and was in the process of giving him hugs and kisses and getting his pictures taken by the UNI public relations photographer... who later asked me to sign a release form so that they could use Jaden's pictures for marketing, etc. Jaden was so happy and just kept saying over and over again, "I LOVE TC!!" Brandon is pretty taken by him, too... we went right up to TC and instead of being afraid, Brandon started waving at him and touching his nose. :)

It was a great morning celebrating our Panthers.

...And luckily the game also had a good outcome because my night took a quick turn for the worse. At the start of the fourth quarter, I started feeling a migraine coming on. I do not get migraines. I've had a couple in the past, but they were both when I was pregnant with Brandon. It's not something that happens to me in my normal every-day life. By the time the game was over, my head hurt so bad and my stomach was so nauseated that I could barely walk out of the Dome. By the time we got home, I was so bad off that my dad told Cody to take me to the emergency room. By the time we got to the hospital, I could barely answer any of the nurses or doctor's questions because I was in so much pain I literally couldn't focus on what they were asking me. Cody kept having to talk for me. He told me later that the answers I was giving them didn't even make sense. I couldn't open my eyes, and I remember repeatedly saying, "I would rather be in labor right now." It was the worst headache coupled with the most nauseated stomach that I'd ever felt. They ran some tests and after Cody told them we'd been outside most of the day and then inside a very very hot Dome for several hours, the doctor asked me if I had drank any water at all throughout the day. I told her that all I'd had was a few sips of pop, so she then determined I was suffering from dehydration. They had to give me two shots of something that was supposed to hydrate me quickly. I was so confused at that point that I kept having to ask the nurse what she was doing to me. She just kept telling me to wiggle my toes repeatedly while she gave me the shots. This just confused me even more as to why I had to do that... but Cody told me later that it was because the needles on the shots were so long that she wanted me to wiggle my toes so that I wouldn't tense up my arms when she was giving me the shots. She then hooked me up to an IV filled with pain meds, and the last thing I remember was her sticking the IV in my hand. Cody said I passed out 30 seconds later. They released me about an hour after that, and I slept through the night at home. I had some lingering effects of a headache all day Sunday and Monday morning, but then finally felt like myself again Monday afternoon.

Lesson learned. Take care of your kids... but also take care of yourself! Looking back, I realize how stupid it was that I didn't take even a moment to grab myself a drink of water all day. The thing I was most upset about on Sunday was the fact that I wasn't able to fully celebrate the fact that the Panthers won a very big game. Here's to hoping they keep this Panther train rolling... all the way to the number one spot. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Picture Perfect

...So I may not have gotten as many pictures from last night as I would have liked to. I was busy trying to keep my kids from wandering off the Hartman Reserve trails into the woods... and the darkness crept in pretty quickly, which my camera didn't like too well. But the snap shots in our minds -- picture perfect.

Last night we decided to return to the same stomping grounds I use to frequent with my Nanny and Poppop. Hartman Reserve and the streets, homes and neighborhoods surrounding it are what I consider to be Cedar Falls' best kept secret. Tucked away in its own little peaceful world with lots of trees, small winding roads, unique houses -- and a whole lot of pretty. In fact, when my boss from Minneapolis went exploring here a couple of years ago, he came to work the next morning and said, "Wow - I didn't know THAT was in Cedar Falls. It's gorgeous back there!" It's where Cody would love to find a home someday a few years down the road. And we discovered last night that Fall is the perfect time to explore the trails...

...and one of the best parts about the walk? Every single step was met with a "crunch crunch crunch" beneath our feet. The simple sound of Autumn.

Brandon purposely shuffled his feet the entire way -- being sure to make as much noise as possible with the leaves.

At one point, he decided he wanted to help Daddy push the stroller, but he's too short. So... he found another way to help push...

Towards the end of our walk, I realized that most of my pictures were being taken from behind... so when I made a quick sprint to get ahead of the group, Brandon took that as a signal to chase me. If there was sound to go along with this picture, it would be high pitched baby squeals of delight...

When the walk was over and the sun was setting, we stepped out from beneath the cover of  the trees... and saw this.

I said, "Jaden! Look how pretty the sky is right now!" To which he replied, "God made that!"

Before heading home, we packed back into the car, rolled all four windows down, and drove through as many nooks and crannies surrounding the Reserve as possible. With a slight breeze and a setting sun, we drove by a park where families were gathering to watch their little boys play flag football, and we envisioned the days ahead when we'll be doing the same thing. It really was the perfect night. (Complete with Cody telling Jaden that "Just because it's flag football doesn't mean you can't hit anybody.") ---Sounds just like my husband, doesn't it?? ;)

Fall... stick around for a while longer, okay?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Patch, 2011

This weekend we took our annual trip to the Heartland Farms Pumpkin Patch. We have visited this same patch every single year since Jaden was a baby, and it's a fun tradition that allows us to see each year how much the kids grow and change from one year to the next. I wish we would have had more time to spend there this year because the kids loved it. As a mommy, there's nothing better than seeing your kids' faces light up and hear their excited giggles.

The first thing the kids wanted to do was to see the animals. Brandon's favorite were the goats - a mommy and her two babies. Every time he'd walk away from the goats to see another animal, he would eventually make his way back to the goats. He just loved them!

Even with the bruising and bug bites on his forehead... this face makes me melt every single time. He's perfect.

Jaden really liked the chickens.

This year, Heartland Farms added one of those giant jumping pillows. Wow... those things are BOUNCY. I didn't realize how much fun those were until I got on it to help Brandon navigate his way around. I could barely keep my footing -- let alone help Brandon keep his! But again... the kids LOVED it!

The kids also had a blast on the slides. That's a hit ever year - those slides are extra high, extra steep, and extra fast!

I have to post this next picture. It was the end of our visit, and Brandon was tired of getting his picture taken. Before Brandon turned around, I asked Jaden to put his arm around Brandon -- which he did willingly -- but then Brandon turned around and wanted to get down, and Jaden wouldn't let go of him and got frustrated because Brandon wouldn't cooperate. It looks kind of like Jaden's trying to give Brandon a choke hold... but he was just following Mommy's instructions!

One thing we didn't get pictures of was my turn at the PUNKINATOR. I wasn't paying any attention to what was going on because I was busy watching the kids, but all of the sudden I heard people shouting my direction. The guy that was operating the Punkinator (a giant pumpkin gun that shoots pumpkins into cars -- or in this case a banged up school bus) -- was calling me out of the people in the crowd to be the one who would get to shoot the pumpkin. He told me he picked me out because I was the only young blonde one. I guess blondes really do have more fun...? ;)

It was another great day at the Pumpkin Patch. The weather was perfect, and Jaden already says he can't wait to go back next year. Another reason why we just love FALL!