31 August 2011

Splash

I am in love with splash pads. 

I tried taking the boys to the local pool once this summer, and it was absolute chaos trying to keep them both afloat in the midst of a crazy crowd. It about gave me a heart attack. Splash pads, however, give them the freedom to run around and get soaking wet without being submerged in water.

It has been so hot here lately that if we go outside, we have to stay wet. I know my mom is rolling her eyes because it is 117 degrees where she lives in the desert, but it has been hot enough that regular parks are out of the question. The brand new modern splash pad we stumbled upon a few weeks ago has become our new weekly outing.






29 August 2011

The Dark Cloud

{photo taken at Lake Michigan}

This summer has been amazing. For real. We have been able to do so many amazing things and go to so many beautiful places.

But there is a dark cloud that has been hanging over any ounce of fun we have had over the last year. After 10 months of persistence, Blake is still not even close to being potty trained. And it is something that as his mom, I literally deal with every hour of every day.

I know that parenting wasn’t designed to be easy. But in my short four years of parenting, this issue has definitely been my biggest struggle. Getting a newborn to sleep through the night seems like cake now, and that was hard work.

We have tried everything to try to motivate Blake to use the potty. Making a big deal of it vs. not making a big deal of it. We've tried sticker charts, potty training books and dvds, potty training parties, new underwear, toy prizes, putting coins in a piggy bank, and working towards fun outings. We've tried consequences for accidents; time-outs, lectures, yelling (unfortunately), having him clean his underwear, and loss of so many privileges. We've had him wear a timer around his neck that beeped to remind him to go. We've let him run around with nothing on (only at home) to encourage potty use. I've read three books on the matter and about a hundred online articles. Neither rewards nor consequences have motivated him. Nothing, I mean nothing has worked.

Blake is almost four years old; too old to still be having constant accidents. He is so smart and advanced in every other area of development. But he is making very little progress unless I make him go to the bathroom every couple of hours (to which he fights me tooth and nail). And when we’re away from home, forget about it.

I’m starting to feel like a failure as a parent. For centuries, parents have been teaching their children to use the bathroom. Where have I gone wrong?

It’s to the point now (after almost a year) that every time Blake has an accident (which is several times a day if I’m not on him every minute), I get disgusted, angry, and frustrated. Then I feel guilty about my disgust, anger, and frustration. Sometimes I have to put myself in a time out. I have to work really hard to enjoy other moments with Blake because I’m so fed up with his accidents so much of the time.

There have been a lot of tears and a lot of desperate prayers on my part. So many friends have tried to understand and offer advice, but they mostly scratch their heads because they have children who “just went” (at two).

Sometimes the only solace I feel after a particularly challenging day is sneaking into Blake’s room late at night when he is asleep. I linger over his bed and watch him breathe in and out. There is something magical about watching his eyelashes rest on his sweet cheeks. It makes my heart fill up with gratitude for my precious boy instead of feeling like the end of the world is on its way.

I’m sure that this frustration and heartbreak are more common than I suspect and I’m not alone with these issues. I know we will make it through eventually. I just need to breathe…and venting helps a little too :)


25 August 2011

The Next Best Thing

After playing our hearts out at the sandy shores of Lake Michigan for a few weeks, we went through some sand withdrawals once we came home. We succumbed to the next best thing; a manmade beach in the mountains.

The short stretch of rocky sand was nothing like the silky smooth Lake Michigan beaches. I'm still on a little bit of a Michigan high, so I was thrilled when Michigan was named The Most Beautiful Place in America on Good Morning America last week. There really are some beautiful beaches in Michigan, and not many people know about them. Go Michigan!

Even though the manmade beach paled in comparison, the mountains did add a dazzling backdrop. And the difference in sand texture didn't seem to affect the boys' ability to play hard.







{Rock Tasting}



24 August 2011

Mischief

This is what Blake does instead of napping these days:
He builds elaborate parachutes for George.

And this is what Nash obtains when he climbs (yes, climbs) up the shelves in the pantry:



They think they are so clever.


23 August 2011

Older

On Sunday, Troy turned older.

It probably didn't go down as the most memorable birthday ever, considering he had to attend a 6:30am church meeting and a bunch more meetings spread throughout the day. To top it all off, he was asked to sing a solo in church (which was kind of my fault to begin with). He did a great job, but being nervous all morning until the performance was over wasn't his favorite way to celebrate. And the boys and I barely made it through the solo because we were all really sick.

I tried to make it up to him by baking some fall-off-the-bone ribs (a definite first), a gazillion homemade rolls, and a cake (that he termed "dainty"). He has never really been a fan of birthdays anyway, and clearly, another year older did not equate to more maturity. 

Yep, he was the one who was chucking throw pillows at me while I was brushing my teeth last night.

I'm so glad he's still young and fun.


22 August 2011

Girl Crazy

...and he's only 3.


19 August 2011

Twentieth

We hit our twentieth park of the summer last week.

We saved a good one for the big 2-0 (although now we've been to 21 after stumbling upon a great modern splash pad the other day). The park is right downtown, and it always feels a little bit like Central Park to me in terms of its location and features. It may not be quite as large as Central Park, but it still spans over several blocks.

The best part of the park is the water canyons. There are little streams and waterfalls that replicate a topographical map of the rivers that run through our valley. The water is only a few inches deep and is perfect for wading.







We also did some serious swinging to celebrate the twentieth park mark.



Now that I have been researching parks all summer, I feel like we have only scratched the surface of the parks in our area. Maybe we'll have to double our goal. 

I feel so thankful that I get to spend every single day with these two little boys and that I am the one who takes them on field trips. I really don't want this summer to end. I am grasping on to these last few weeks of freedom and warmth with all my might.


17 August 2011

Another Nie-Night

I didn't think that anyone could love his nie-night and thumb more than Blake.

I'm not sure how the term "nie-night" was even coined to represent the loveys in our household.

But somehow it caught on, because Nash might be even more attached to his beloved nie-night and thumb than Blake. Thankfully, Nash's little yellow chick is more normal-looking to carry around than Blake's raggedy, cut up bumper pad. The chick even has Nash's name embroidered on the body in case there is ever a question of who it belongs to (it was the best baby gift).


Nash's nie-night rarely leaves our house (I have to set some boundaries), but when we are home, it seldom leaves his hands. Even when he is getting into mischief.

I dread the day that it becomes shabby and worn out, but right now, I am so thankful for that soft yellow chick that lures Nash to sleep. Of course, when I was flying alone with both boys, he didn't drift off until the wheels were coming out for us to land, but that thumb and nie-night sure saved us from what would have been a lot more ear-piercing screams.

You would think that Nash had died and gone to heaven by the way he lights up each time he is reunited with his nie-night. When we were on the beach one evening in Michigan, Nash saw a light yellow towel sticking out of someone's bag in the distance. He sprinted through the sand as fast as his little legs would carry him, shouting, "Nie-night! Nie-night!" He was pretty disappointed when he got close enough to realize that the towel wasn't the genuine article.

I'm beginning to think that we may need a back-up in case the real deal is ever lost. I don't know how either of us would survive without the nie-night.


16 August 2011

Imagination With a Receipt

I love the imaginations of preschool aged children.

I think that is why I always gravitated towards the young ones back in my teaching days.

But I don't think I grasped back then just how fulfilling it would be to have my very own creative sidekick who constantly invents pretend scenarios.

He built an elaborate car wash made of blocks completely by himself. He asked me to be the first customer. As I drove my matchbox car into the structure, he about gave me a heart attack when he stopped me and exclaimed, "Wait! Would you like a receipt? Yes or No?" What was I thinking when I rushed in to get my car scrubbed without first taking care of important receipt decision?


Then, he stacked up all of the couch cushions into a fort turned restaurant kitchen. He took my order, swiped my "card," prepared healthy meals like cookies, french fries, and ice cream, deliberated over the ingredients, and vanished and reappeared as he concentrated on each task.


Troy came home late from a work dinner tonight to the remains of our day of play. He reminded me that Blake isn't always going to be so eager to include us in his pretend scenarios.

That struck a chord with me because no matter how much I am trying to be right down on his level, I am often multitasking with meals, dishes, cleaning, bills, email, or church assignments, and giving him the "I'll be there in a minute" line over my shoulder.

When I put away the empty fort after I put Blake in bed, I found myself longing for the little boy that enthusiastically filled the cushions all day. Because Troy was right; he won't want to include us in every detail of his life forever.

Blake's deliberation in all of the tiny details of his imagination makes me want to be more deliberate in my mothering. I can't ignore every distraction, but I don't want to let disruptions that are postponable get in the way of this favorite age of mine.

I receive a receipt of affection, forgiveness, and trust on a daily basis from Blake, whether I deserve it or not. I may be the teacher, but I have a lot to learn from him. I hope that his imagination continues to inspire the rest of us.


12 August 2011

Michigan | 2011 Edition

I promise, this is it. But thanks to my brother, I saved a good one for last.



11 August 2011

Michiganders

The scenery and gorgeous beaches were a huge perk on our Michigan trip. But there is nothing that beats visiting with family and friends that we have waited over two years to see.

I spent an afternoon with Abby, my best friend from high school. I wish it could have been much longer. We were joined at the hip back in our younger years and I still don't think we could ever run out of things to talk about. (That is Nash's hand on my leg. He was not happy when I put him down for a split second.)

She became a mom since the last time I saw her and I've been dying to meet her little boy. Blake obviously adored Austin as well.



I met up with my friend Katie (in addition to our Chicago trip) a few times so that our children could befriend each other.

Blake was smitten by her sweet baby girl.

He might love babies almost as much as I do.

Blake was just as fond of Katie's twin boys, a switch from all of the twin girls that he plays with at home.



We spent a day with Mari-Beth, who was basically my second mom growing up. She has taught every grade in elementary school and preschool, so the boys were naturally drawn to her teacher-like qualities. 

My aunt arranged a big family gathering on my mom's side of the family in honor of us being in town. I don't know if there is anyone that can entertain children more than my Uncle Jim. He nailed "horseshoes" into Blake's feet and had everyone cracking up.

After playing several rounds of Cribbage (which was almost a daily occurrence throughout our entire trip), we sorted through hundreds of old family photos at the gathering. I loved seeing aged photos of my grandma and hearing stories about our ancestors.

My dad's side of the family held several gatherings as well, in addition to the official family reunion. Right before we left town, we had a big picnic at the park. Six of my dad's eight siblings were in attendance with all of their local children and grandchildren.

Naturally, there were more cousins to meet.

And more memories to be made.

And of course, more sand.

We wish we could bottle up all of these dear friends and family members and take them home with us. Because even though Michigan is beautiful in the summer, it is the people that really make it feel like home.