Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas and A Ridiculous Misadventure

In keeping with tradition, we spent Christmas with my family in Washington. It was a long trip but well worth it. Seven years of celebrating Christmas with children of our own and still it warms my little heart to watch their eyes light up when they open a gift they really wanted. Luke was thrilled to find this biker scout Star Wars keychain in his stocking on Christmas eve. 
 Tops on Andy's list was a certain red car in the form of a pillow pet. He always jumps up and down and shouts with glee, "just what I wanted!" Joy like that is infectious.
 Eli was curious about everything and felt he should be allowed to open anything that was wrapped.
 Andy's obsession with angry birds continues. He has worn this shirt almost constantly since he received it.
 When we couldn't stand another minute of being inside the house and the video game playing and sibling squabbles were making us climb the walls (yet the rain poured down) we headed for Burger King and the indoor play place. You can't help but smile when all of your children clamor to wear a paper crown. He is just adorable, if I do say so myself.
 Sisters are a unique gift and I am grateful for mine. We enjoyed our time together although a week flew by much too quickly.
 At last! A cousin picture in front of the tree and no one is crying. But that's because we extracted the crier from the photo shoot. Sorry, Eli. Maybe next year. The cousins enjoyed their time together, playing video games and examining one another's new toys. Cousins share a special bond, I think. You can always pick up right where you left off.

Celebrating Christmas on the other side of the country presents a few logistical dilemmas. When free shipping abounds and I am caught up in the whirlwind of checking items off the pre-holiday to do list, I don't seem to give much thought to how everything will get where it needs to be. I am thankful for a very patient husband who moved a luggage cart piled high with 7 bags and car seats through the airports and parking garages. Did I mention it was a precarious pile of bags and car seats? Precarious piles have a way of tipping. Frequently. As a matter of fact, we made the very poor decision of pushing our precarious pile all the way to our van in the parking garage at 10pm after traveling all day with 3 young children. We have a bad habit of leaving a light on in our van and then deserting the van while we take a long trip. So there we stood, late at night, exhausted, with our luggage spilled all over the parking garage and the battery in our van was dead.
Can I just say that I hate this van? With a passion. I hate driving it, I hate that there is always something wrong with it, I hate the stereotypes associated with it. I am often tempted to leave it running, unlocked, in the middle of a busy parking lot with the hope that someone will take it off my hands.
So we regained our composure and made the long trek (with our precarious pile) back to the front door of the airport. I'm sure the same taxi drivers that watched us depart were still sitting there having a good laugh at our expense. It took two taxis to get us home, which the boys thought was a grand adventure. This was not exactly the ending we had in mind for our trip, but we are thankful for a dear friend who was willing to help us get the van back home the next day. Perhaps we have learned our lesson about leaving our car in airport parking garages.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Counting Down To Christmas

 There's an almost 8 year old boy here who made repeated requests for the Lego Star Wars Advent calendar. However, he is the only one who likes Star Wars and that didn't seem quite fair to his brothers. Not to mention I would be left to deal with the fallout when a certain 5 year old noticed there were only Star Wars Legos in the calendar. Inspired by a decoration I saw online, I decided to make my own version of an Advent countdown. I made a matchboxes out of paper and filled each one with a surprise, usually a note announcing a treat or a special activity. For the first week, I gave them each a handful of mystery Legos every night and they kept them in a bag and tried to guess what they might eventually assemble.
 We had the mystery Lego reveal earlier this week and Andy was delighted that his Lego creation was a fireman driving a small fire truck.
 Luke was a little aggravated at first but finally assembled his Star Wars thingamuhjig all by himself.
 Eli was pretty happy to plaster some new Cars stickers all over Steve's shirt. Where's my easy button?
Finished the evening by watching Veggie Tales St. Nicholas on mom's computer. I thought for sure that would generate a billion questions about the guy in the red suit but not a word was said about jolly old St. Nick.  My grand Advent countdown plans came to a screeching halt this evening when I collapsed in exhaustion (not really) and the boys impatiently pointed out that I had fallen behind. Box 15 was (gasp!) not only missing but I confessed that I hadn't actually built it or filled it yet. Much whining and fussing ensued. Quite frankly, I am fresh out of clever ideas. Hopefully inspiration will strike soon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Little Mister Who Isn't So Little Anymore

 We are celebrating Eli's 2nd birthday today. A few friends came over for brunch and cupcakes this morning   and I am sure we will celebrate a little more when Luke gets home from school. Eli enjoys the Disney television show Little Einsteins, so I decorated the cupcakes with the oh so popular red rocket.
 He enjoyed the singing and I did not expect him to understand the candle in the cupcake concept but he knew exactly what to do. I posted this picture because the birthday boy seems a little distracted,  yet Steve is very excited about the candles on that cupcake. 
 With a little assistance from Dad, he blew those candles out. Hooray for 2!
 It isn't a birthday party without a little frosting, so why not smear it on your face? 
And if 1 cupcake tastes delicious, won't a second one taste even better? 
All cleaned up and sitting at the table like a big boy, drinking from a big boy cup and thinking about eating something nutritious. We can't believe he is 2 already yet we can barely remember life without him. Happy birthday, Eli! You bring so much joy to our family. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Because It Isn't Thanksgiving Without a Pool Party...Right?

 This was a new one for us...we haven't enjoyed too many pool parties during our Thanksgiving celebrations in years past. In fact, this might just be the first time we ever swam outdoors in November. We are thankful that our extended family was willing to share their new pool and hot tub AND they even heated it for us. There weren't any adults brave enough to take the plunge regardless of the toasty warm water temperature. That left more space for the 16 and under crowd to have a great time together. Luke and his numerous cousins loved throwing and retrieving these torpedoes.
 Steve with his dad and brother on deck
 Andy loves the water as long as he wears a 'floatie'. 
 Hmmm...what's this waterfall all about, anyway? I think he was tempted to descend it a time or two but it isn't a slide and broken bones were not in our holiday plans. 
 Eli slept through the first pool party but when he woke up we plunked him in the pool in his awesome lady bug flotation device. He also loved the torpedoes and spent most of his time throwing them under and waiting for his cousins to retrieve them. I don't understand why kids never seem to tire of that game.
Yet another boy with his prized collection of torpedo pool toys. 
Thank you, dear cousins for sharing your pool and your home with us. We had a great time!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

So Confused

 The weather sure keeps us on our toes around here. One minute the leaves are changing and it is fall everywhere you look...
 The next minute, it is 78 degrees and sticky and we are digging our shorts out from under our sweatpants.
 Eli loves to explore the neighborhood and is quite proud of his walking skills. We spend a lot of time going up and down the driveway, in and out of the garage, all over the front porch. 
 We aren't the only ones confused. What the heck is this and why is it blooming in November??
We have put a lot of miles on the infamous yellow jeep. I didn't think it would survive to see the third child but Andy seems like he's ready to turn over ownership to his little brother. We are still negotiating.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Little on the Soggy Side

 I'm glad we stretched Halloween into a 4 day event because the real deal was a little damp. Today's forecast called for rain, rain and more rain. Someone at Andy's preschool took this clever picture of him marching in the 'parade' on Friday morning. I just love it and had to share.
 We convinced Eli to try on his costume a few times so that he might actually wear it tonight. He is just about the cutest Mr. Fix It I have ever seen!
Well, 66% of my little posse was ready and raring to go. Poor Finn McMissile. We went to the indoor bouncy place this morning to pass some time and he started looking pretty pathetic. He could barely put on his costume and he collected candy from about 5 houses before he was begging to go home. Luke and Eli, on the other hand, had a grand old time and came home with a load of goodies. Eli came in the door, pulled out a butterfinger, opened it and took a bite. He doesn't miss a thing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Costumes and Rides and Ice Cream, oh my!

 We kicked off our weekend with a dress rehearsal for Halloween. Actually the mail man delivered the costumes so we simply had to try them on. I have a partially dressed construction worker, Finn McMissile and Commander Cody this year. The youngest wasn't sure what to make of all of this but he doesn't mind posing for a picture.
 We threw caution to the wind on Saturday afternoon and went to the fair...along with 9,467,233 of our closest friends. OH, THE PEOPLE. Crowds and crowds as far as the eye could see. And they were not happy with me and my jogging stroller that kept squashing their toes and nipping at their ankles. However, we threw elbows and arm wrestled our way to the kiddie rides. Luke and Andy loved the roller coaster.
 We walked and walked in search of the game that involves shooting bb guns at star shaped targets. Luke is apparently quite proud of his results.
 We were just about out of steam and headed for the exit when we spotted another favorite: the giant slide. They went back again and again. The look on Andy's face makes the hassle and inconvenience of a long line absolutely worth it.
 We had high hopes for the ferris wheel as our grand finale but settled for the carousel instead. Andy had the women next to me laughing hysterically as he entertained us with his crazy antics. Each time he went around he dazzled us with a funny face or amusing gesture. What a ham.
Face paint and a giant ice cream cone. Who could ask for anything more, right? This ice cream was, for the record, the most disgusting thing I have tasted in a long while. I didn't protest for a second when he tossed in the trash. As the sun was setting we slogged our way back to the car, drove home and tucked 3 exhausted little boys into bed. So long, state fair. I'm not sure we'll miss you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Little Mister Hits the Pumpkin Patch

 It's a big day in the life of the third child: Eli's first trip to the pumpkin patch without a sibling OR a stroller. That's right: he hit the patch completely unrestrained for the first time in his short life. He clung to my leg in trepidation at first and I was a bit discouraged. I figured out he's afraid of the motor that keeps the bouncy house inflated. So we hung out with our buddies at the duck race. My friend stood at 1 end and pumped the water so the ducks would race toward Eli. He was so excited, yelling and shaking with delight.
 Next we took a hay ride out to the actual pumpkin patch and got to choose our very own pumpkin. Eli is quite pleased with his selection.
 Holding it close with great pride, just so everyone knows that this is his pumpkin. He is such a hoot. He didn't have much to say about the actual ride. We also rode the cow cars, which looks like barrels tipped sideways on wheels and painted like cows. The whole chain of cars is pulled by a tractor. I rode in a barrel and held on to Eli. He was speechless the whole time until we went down a small hill and I heard one very quiet little, "weee!"
 We strolled through the corn maze. He followed after his little friends, very curious to see where the path might lead.
Not the least bit interested in hanging out with John Deere. Just as soon as I plopped him in the seat, he tried to get down. He kept heading for the gate, I suppose he had seen and heard enough for one morning. It is a lot to take in when you are used to seeing it from the safety of a stroller. Proud of you, little mister! We sure had fun.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Bee Sees the World

Steve just returned from 2 weeks in China.
Here he is riding a bike along the city wall in Xi'An, a city of great historical significance. 
Steve attempting to mimic the exhibit behind him.
Steve, 2 other men and 7 women from his HR team left Beijing and rode on a train for 12 hours through the night to see the city of Xi'An. In America, I suppose we would call this a team-building exercise? I still can't imagine inviting 10 colleagues from another country to visit the states and then whisking them away to Manhattan or DC to see the sights. We hoped and prayed for a job that would give Steve the much-coveted global HR experience. Be careful what you pray for , right? I am so proud of Steve for bravely embarking on this adventure as the only American in the group. I think I just might have flipped out. 
A big highlight of the trip to Xi'An was the Terracotta Warriors. Basically in 600 AD this chinese emperor convinces that he needs an army to protect him in the afterlife.  So he commissions 700,000 people to build this elaborate tomb with about 1000 statues of warriors.  Buries the whole shebang 15 feet underground.  In 1974 this peasant farmer is digging for water in his pasture.  His shovel hits the head of one of the figures.  Then from there they go on to find acres and acres of these things.
This totally blows my mind. Not only the attention to detail and the massive number of warriors, but also the fact that 700,000 people would devote themselves to a task for one man's protection in the after life that from my perspective won't be anything like what he anticipated. 
A view of the city from a pagoda

Although it was challenging for the boys and I to be without Steve  for 2 weeks, I think the trip stretched all of us and helped us gain a little more confidence in ourselves. We had a great visit with Steve's parents and his mother spent a whole week with us, getting to know her grandsons and helping me hold everything together. Steve was able to see another part of China: not just in terms of a geographical location but also the history, cultural and social expectations that drive the people of this huge nation. We were well cared-for here at home by new friends and new neighbors that we didn't know the last time Steve traveled. I wouldn't sign us up for regular international travel at this point, but I would call this latest adventure a success. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Birthday Boy and His No Party Clause

High-energy. Spirited. Emotional. These are just some of the words one might use to describe this child of ours. I do believe that a birthday brings out all of his personality traits and magnifies them exponentially. I am usually the entertainment coordinator around here and have tried to keep the festivities 'fair' when celebrating major milestones. It has taken me 4 years to figure out that what is fun for the firstborn is a nightmare for the middle child. I think in an effort to make his feelings known, Andy declared this birthday would be "no friends and no parties". Say what? I didn't put up a fight since he was cutting my workload considerably, but part of me was very afraid that he would be disappointed with the lack of birthday hoopla.
I think I was mistaken. He looks like he is having a pretty good time. We celebrated a little early last weekend but took his no party request very seriously and only served brownies, decorated with 1 tea light. It was a very un-birthday thing to do. He totally melted my heart with his wish: closing his eyes he declared, "I love Luke!" So sweet.
I saved 2 presents for today because it is his real birthday. Since we didn't have to wait for a party or any friends to attend, he opened his gifts at 6:03 am. It was lovely.
Grandma made her legendary chocolate cake and all he wanted to do was play in the frosting with his Lightning McQueen toys. Don't you love the crown? They made a big fuss over him at pre-school today (he didn't complain about that one bit) and the crown was his to keep.
Just prior to blowing out the candles he yelled, "I love my toys! I love my family!" Glad he has his priorities straight. Although some days he tests me at every turn and I was more than ready to put him to bed tonight, I am grateful for his adorable smile and infectious laughter that brings such joy to our family. Happy birthday, dear Andy.