29 September 2011

Snapshot in Words 2011

Our photos are full of celebrations, vacations, and family adventures. But the memories I find myself already sifting through the past to find are the ones that I didn't think to photograph. I don't ever want to forget the unique texture and tones that make up our family's life from one hour, day, or season to the next.

When our children all grow up and move away I want to remember how our family runs right now, what we do from day-to-day, what we like, and what we don't. What makes us tick. Sure, I write about thoughts and events here, but the day-to-day stuff, not so much.

So, last year, I started a new tradition of writing up a little "snapshot" of life in our family. A synopsis of life as we knew it. After going back through those snippets of information, I couldn't believe how many details have changed in one short year. (Last year's is here.)

Here's my 2011 snapshot of life as it is right now in our family:

Blake always wants to know what the plan for the day is. The first thing he asks me each morning is, "What are we going to do today?" On days when I haven't quite thought through our agenda in advance, he pesters me until I can come up with an concrete hour-by-hour plan. If the plan doesn't include some sort of outing away from home, Blake is utterly disappointed.

We have officially become a two-pizza family. Making homemade pizza is basically a weekly occurrence at our house, and one just isn't enough anymore. I'm already catching a glimpse of what it will be like to feed future teenage boys.

Preschool is in full swing for Blake. We have found our rhythm and it's working for us. He tells me every detail about school on the way home and I love it. I can't believe how much his handwriting has already improved in the first month of school.

I am shocked at how much I can get accomplished during the three hours Blake is at preschool. I love having Nash all to myself, even if he is being dragged from one errand to the next. One morning last week, we ran nine errands in total.

We finally jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for texting plans. I wasn't a fan of the impersonal communication at first, but I have to admit, we are full-fledged texters now. Sometimes it is just easier.

Blake's all-time favorite activity is to pile up all the couch cushions or bed pillows and turn them into some sort of pretend locomotive. He invites Troy and me to ride on his bus/car/train/airplane, buckles us in, and serves us snacks while we await our destination.

Troy is studying for the GMAT. Every time I catch him going over calculus formulas I am so grateful that it isn't me who is doing the studying. It is just not the season in my life right now for intense grammar and mathematics.

Nash is a serious screamer. The blood curdling variety. All day long. Sometimes we think that our ear drums are going to burst.

Blake loves to play on the computer. He can successfully turn it on, type in the password, open the internet, and navigate to Disney Jr. I think children these days are just born with innate technology chips in their brains.

One of my favorite things about Nashy is the sound he makes for a cat. He shakes his head back and forth and moans "meow" as if he is in agony. Sometimes I show him pictures of cats just so I can chuckle about his adorable expression.

Speaking of cats, we have a stray one that likes to hang out in our backyard. Troy and I used to plot ways to get rid of it, until some neighbors told us that he was probably a good mouser, and that's why we've never had a mouse in our house. I now have much more loving thoughts towards that ugly cat.

Blake and Nash's bath time always includes imaginary stories about two heros, Eblakeity and Enashity. They, along with their dog, Scraggamuffin, and their parrot, Rosy, save the day time and time again. The storyteller (me) is frequently challenged to come up with creative plots and opportunities for rescuing people in distress.

I started cutting the boys' hair myself. Sometimes it doesn't turn out quite even, but thankfully, it grows back out. It bothers me when hair starts to grow over their ears, so instead of taking both of them to a salon every 6 weeks, I now take matters into my own hands.

Troy is traveling less this year and we are thankful for that.

Blake has become fluent in a new language. It's called "Whinese."

We do our best to make it to church on time. Troy always has meetings before church, so I am usually frantically scurrying to get myself ready and the boys bathed and dressed in ironed shirts and ties. I set a goal every week to leave our house by 20 minutes to the hour (our church is less than a mile away), but without fail, we never seem to get out the door before 5 minutes to the hour. There is always a shoe that is too tight or a bathroom emergency or hold up on packing the right snacks.

We have a "warm fuzzy jar" that sits on our kitchen counter. Blake adds a fuzzy pom-pom ball to the jar whenever I catch him sharing, saying something kind, demonstrating independence, following directions, etc. He sure loves to please me, and I love to pick out his positive actions. About every three weeks, he fills up the jar with warm fuzzies and earns his idea of the ultimate reward; a redbox rental and candy from the gas station.

Nash has invented his own unique sign language. He uses signs frequently, just not the standard ones that we taught him. We have to go through a little sign language decoding session whenever we have sitter.

Blake rarely wears pants or underwear for the hours we are at home. It helps tremendously to allow him to be successful at potty training (and keeps me from ripping my hair out). But whenever the doorbell rings, I make a mad dash up the stairs for his underwear drawer, because no one really wants to see that.

I'm convinced that Nash is going to be potty trained before Blake. He is already showing interest. Sometimes I think I'd rather wait until he is six though.

Our house has become a major money pit. Just when I think one more thing couldn't possibly break down, it does. This year alone, we have had three flooding issues in our basement. A burst pipe, a sewage back-up, and a leaking dishwasher. Then there's the furnace that has broken down 4 separate times and the A/C compressor that had to be replaced. We have spent many nights either without heat or without air conditioning. We have been forced to replace the garbage disposal, garage door motor and belt, and dishwasher. And like every other summer, we have had sprinkler system repairs to deal with. That doesn't even include the myriad of issues our vehicles have visited the mechanic for. So, when the transmission went out on our lawn mower last week, it didn't even phase us.

Hide-and-seek is Blake's favorite game. Without fail, he copies every place that I previously hid in when it is his turn to hide. Then, he announces where he is hiding while I am searching, despite my efforts to teach him about the suspense element.

Some of my friends started a book club and I have cultivated a new found love for novels. The majority of the books sitting on my nightstand in the past were parenting books or how-to books. I have really enjoyed expanding my horizons. And I feel so refreshed after a night out socializing with book club friends.

Sometimes I cheat and read the last few pages of a book so that I don't have to completely put my life on hold to find out what happens (I did this for the third Hunger Games book). Troy can't believe that I skip ahead; he thinks that completely ruins the book. I've just never really been one for surprises. When I know what is going to happen in the end, I can finish the book at my own pace without staying up into all hours of the night because the suspense is killing me.

Troy gets really animated during college football games. It always makes me smile when I find that he has set six football games to record each Saturday. He gets through them quickly by fast forwarding through all of the commercials and time-outs.

Blake's naps have become few and far between. He naps maybe once or twice a week now, and I have a feeling that his last nap is not too far off into the future.

Speaking of "lasts," if you want to read a heartwrenching children's book about savoring the often-fleeting "lasts" (because parents so often focus on the milestones that make up childrens' "firsts"), check out Let Me Hold You Longer. I just cannot get through that book without tears welling up. The poignancy touches me deeply.

Blake and Nash are going to welcome their first cousin in March! We are thrilled for Troy's sister Tricia and her husband Jacob to enter into the world of parenting.

Life is good.

28 September 2011

Under the Weather

It feels like we have been living in a sea of everything breaking down and waiting around in doctor's offices for the last week.

After sorting through some of Blake's issues with professionals (who are completely as stumped as I am), Nash's weekend long fever took a turn for the worse. I'm always hesitant about bringing the boys to the doctor for fevers and sniffles, but this time, he seemed absolutely miserable. 

Nash was so out of it (from very little sleep last night) that he decided he wasn't going to keep his eyes open for anything. He fell asleep standing up for a good fifteen minutes. He was all the rage of the patients in the waiting room.

Two hours later, we walked out of the pediatrician's office with a terrible ear infection diagnosis. I'm glad my mother's intuition to bring him in was right this time around. And I never mind the extra snuggling and rocking time I get with my groggy babies when they are sick.

22 September 2011

City Lights

A year and a half ago I purchased a new camera.

I felt like I had sufficiently outgrown the one I had and I was ready to take the leap to the beautiful DSLR camera I had deliberated over and saved up for.

With my purchase came some high expectations.

I envisioned the images that the new camera would produce: they would be breathtaking, just like the ones I saw from my photographer friends.

When the new camera finally arrived, I immediately started shooting with confidence. In my mind, there was no effort involved in producing beautiful pictures. I was confident that the new technology would produce out of this world photography.

To my surprise, the first pictures I downloaded weren't anything fancy. The second batch wasn't so hot either...nor was the twentieth. 

For some reason the crisp clarity wasn't miraculously making it's debut. 

I gradually realized that I was going to have to really work with this camera.

Since I loved my new found hobby so much, I was willing to put in the hours it took to get on the right path. I learned how to work the bells and whistles and shoot exclusively in manual mode. I watched tutorials, I asked other photographers questions, and I read books to help build on the base I had. 

I'm still climbing the learning curve every time I take my camera out. I rarely get shots that I "love." I am the most critical of my own work, and I know I have a long way to go before I am consistently producing  images that I am proud of. There is always something new to reach for and it is overwhelming at times, but I don't mind because I am gradually growing into my expectations.

I am always up for new challenges in photography. My friend and I ventured downtown to experiment with some night time images. The shots I loved most are far from professional, but I was on cloud nine playing with city lights and movement (and non-wiggly children).

I could have photographed the gumball machines all night.

Favorite of the night.

Stop and go.

16 September 2011

I Love My Children

My heart always spills over with love for our children. But it's no secret that I've been having a hard time liking some of their actions lately. Sometimes, in the most tense moments, I have to repeat over and over in my head, "I love my children, I love my children, I love my children."

As a result of the rough times we've been having, I am aching to be reminded of their little personality details that I love so much. It's therapeutic in a way, to take moment and focus on all of the good traits that have been put on the backburner in the midst of the war in our household.

Five Reasons I Adore Blake:
1. His memory and attention to detail blow my mind. He can recall a location that we visited two years ago by seeing the parking lot.

2. The way he scrunches up his nose when he gets really animated about telling a story.

3. He can focus on one task for great lengths of time and he'll sit on my lap and read stacks and stacks of books with me.

4. He gets Nash to laugh hysterically in the moments when I don't know how to distract him.

5. He absorbs knowledge like a sponge. It fascinates me to hear him sound out words. He wrote his name all by himself for the very first time this week (after working with his disinterest all summer, he decided to write it on his own).

Five Reasons I Adore Nash:
1. From the minute his feet hit the ground each morning, he runs. I love how quickly his little legs move trying to keep up with his brother, and how he waddles from side to side in the process.

2. He delivers pairs of shoes to the right people when I announce that it's time to leave.

3. He talks. A lot. And he says the cutest words. Bate=Blake. Bup=Book. Syuck=Stuck. Yucka=Sucker. I could go on and on. Man it's cute.

4. He only likes books that have flaps on each page for him to flip open. He tosses the less "hands-on" books aside.

5. I could kiss those cheeks all day long.

14 September 2011

How to Use Leftover Window Screening

Our screen door leading to the backyard was punched through a few too many times thanks to our littles.

I finally got around to replacing it. When I was finished, there was about a foot of leftover window screening.

I decided that my summer long crafting hiatus had come to an end, so I repurposed the extra screening into an earring holder. I also solved the issue of having to dig through my overflowing jewelry box from 7th grade to find each earring's match. Win, win.

If your earrings are scattered all throughout the house like mine were, here is an easy tutorial on how to make this earring holder.

You'll need:
  • Window screening (it comes on a roll in the windows section at your local hardware store). 
  • A picture frame. I used oval but you could use any shape.
  • A hot glue gun or staple gun.

Take the glass out of the picture frame. Use the glass as a pattern to cut the shape out of your window screening. Hot glue the screening onto the back of the frame (You may want to use a pencil eraser to push it it place so you don't burn your fingers on the glue that comes through the screening - I learned that one the hard way). You could use a staple gun as well if the wood in your frame is thicker. Hang your earrings and you are done!

I keep my earring holder resting on the counter in the bathroom, but it would look awesome hanging on the wall as well.

12 September 2011

Boating Run Down

Boating ranks #1 on our list of summer activities.

The only problem is that the lake takes months to warm up to a bearable temperature, so we always feel like we are cramming in boating trips at the end of the summer instead of spacing them out.

We have casually invited many families to come boating with us over the last few years, but vacations and weddings and reunions and other outings have always seemed to get in the way of following through with those invitations.

So, this year, we made plans with friends in advance and we didn't let anything else take precedence on our calendar. We went boating four out of the last five weekends. We had so much fun that we are itching to get back out on that water, even if the temperature is rapidly dropping. We wish we could have invited everyone that we know and love, but time just plain ran out on us.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest (and I apologize if you get a little carpal tunnel in your fingertips from scrolling through).

Blake was really into tubing all by himself this year. We were impressed with the risks he took. Troy is longing to get Blake up on the surfboard with his new found bravery.

I want these two babies to hook up someday:

Can you imagine the possibilities with the deep blue eyes they both possess?

Todd schemed about jumping off the back of the boat to knock Troy off the surf board.

He got pretty close, and Troy was really shocked. Brothers are the best.


Our final day of boating revealed the smoothest water we have ever seen on this lake. Our friends impressed us with their slalom skills.

Our last day was also the first day that Nash actually fell asleep on the boat. I savored that rare moment while I could.

One of the best parts about having friends with us was that our boys never got bored.

It seemed like everyone stepped in to entertain them, even if it meant poking a straw into a juicebox a million times to produce nonstop giggling.

As if the entertainment wasn't enough, luring Nash into a second nap of the day was a miracle.

Until next year...