Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thankfulness and Playfulness...

"Turkey Lurkey"

This little guy, pictured above, is something we've been working on each Family Night in November. Anna and I made him at the beginning of November, and we've been adding feathers to him since. It's pretty self explanatory, and I love the variety we had in what we were thankful for. We named everything from Daddy to Blocks to Sunbeams (Anna's class at church). As a family we named 50 things we are thankful for and it really helped us have gratitude in our hearts all during the month. We focused on recognizing that all we have been blessed with in our lives comes from God, and that we owe Him thanks for everything. We also talked with Anna a little about Pilgrims and Native Americans, but I think that was pretty much lost on her.

1) Auntie Ash reading Anna and Ben a book. 2) Tumble Time with Uncle Stuart 3) Ethan, Stu, and Becca - sporting some very cute bangs - lounging after the feast.
So, we had lots of visitors this week. Yay! Auntie Ashley and Uncle Joe stopped in on Wednesday on their way down to Indianapolis. They could only stay a couple hours, but we managed to fit in some story time, a little dance session, a walk in the woods, and some playing. Anna was so excited to see both of them, but had some "girl stuff" she only wanted Auntie Ashley to hear. Hehe. And Ben-Ben warmed up to both of them right away, and even started calling Joe by his name. Nice. Before they arrived, Anna had lots of questions for me about Joe. I think she was just trying to figure out what a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship means. So funny. In the end, she thought she should start calling Joe, Uncle Joe. Cute.

Benjamin, James, Beth, Stuart, Rachel, Rebecca, Anna (hiding), and Angela eating dinner at Cracker Barrel.
My sister, Beth, and her family came down to visit from Wednesday night through Thursday. It was so great seeing them. We had some fun game nights, yummy snacks, swimming at their hotel's pool, and a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel. I know I don't need to clarify, BUT: I feel totally comfortable cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I've made all the sides before, and think I could manage it even in my small kitchen. However, I didn't think it sounded appealing AT ALL to try and have all 9 of us eat a thanksgiving meal in our little apartment. (Our table seats four.) So, Cracker Barrel it was. It was good home cooking, seated next to a blazing fire. And it was crowded, but no wait. Perfect. I was surprised that only two people ordered the traditional Thanksgiving meal. A few even had breakfast...weird. After, we came back to our place for pies and a little more snacking. Friday, Beth and fam. took off to visit more down state friends.

1) Benjamin, Seth, and Natalie Jones. (Everyone thinks Seth and Ben-Ben look very similar.) 2) Cousins playing - Tyler, Sam, Ben, Allison, Seth, Griffin, and Sydney...with Linda taking pictures too. 3) Uncle John, Sam, and George making some music.

1) Me with my cousins-in-law Amber and Anna. 2) Natalie, Dan, Anna, Courtney, Cole riding on the golf cart. Allison and Sydney looking on. 3) Harry helping Anna try out the mandolin.
We also took a quick trip down to Fort Wayne to see some Joneses at the Saturday after Thanksgiving get shown above. It was so good to see everyone! It was so fun watching Anna and Benjamin play with their second cousins. We had a delicious Thanksgiving meal...for 30!! (And that is just a fraction of the Jones Clan.) We were able to catch up with family we hadn't seen in awhile. We also enjoyed a nice hike in the woods later in the day. Fun, fun! We are so blessed to have such a wonderful extended family. Thanks so much for having us Harry and Linda!
WELL, I won't go into too much detail, but I am so full of thanks. I recognize so many blessings and good things in my life, and I am grateful. (Just check "Turkey Lurkey" for the specifics. :) This was such a beautiful month full of thanksgiving and happiness. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just Some Randomess...

Tickle Time!

Some close-ups during our tickle war. And a picture of Anna dancing at the Primary Talent Show at church..

New info for the week: Just some random things and happenings...
*Brag-y mom alert! Anna had an awesome Parent-Teacher conference a few weeks ago. They only had good things to say about her, and were so positive and complimentary. I tried to stay humble. :) Miss Rita said that Anna is such a good example to the other kids - good manners, listens to instructions, follows directions. They said she is very helpful, loves to learn and is very inquisitive. She catches on quickly to new ideas and projects. Miss Rita said that Anna plays very well with the other kids, stays patient, and shares well. Both teachers said they have never had any problems with Anna, and that she is just such a joy to have in their classroom. You know, pretty much everything a mom wants to hear. I pictured Anna thriving in the classroom setting; she's been so ready for this. Just to keep me humble, Anna does save some "naughty" behavior for when she comes home. Yep, she gets cranky and disagreeable sometimes. She gets impatient with Ben-Ben sometimes. She refuses to help sometimes. But mostly, we get the same helpful, sweet, inquisitive, good manners, etc. from Anna too. Such a sweet pea. Good job Anna!!!
*The second year of Ethan's DPT program is very intense. I'm really proud of how hard he is working. Seriously, just so much studying, papers, group projects, group meetings, more studying, etc. Yet, he still manages enough family time so that we don't feel neglected. Hehe. Even after his long days at school, Ethan comes home and is just so helpful and involved with the kids! It's precious - every day when the kids hear his key turn in the lock, they both immediately start yelling, "Daddy, Daddy, DADDY!!!" and run toward the door. Ethan says that is his favorite part of the day. Ah, so sweet. And I'm managing to stay pretty sane, even though I feel like a single parent sometimes. :) I have some good friends down here, and some good support. I mostly just miss having as much time to talk with my sweetness.

*Benjamin is very interested in learning family member's names lately. He loves looking at pictures of his family, and naming the different people. So far he points out, Daddy, Mommy, Anna, Grandpa (boo-PA), Grandma (maMA), Rorie (rah-REE), Benjamin (be-BEE), and he'll repeat many other family names, but won't point them out unprompted. So sweet. Another Benjamin update; he is a dancing machine! He just loves dancing lately. Every play group we attend ends with a story, then a dance, and Benjamin just looooooves the dancing part. It's pretty funny, and he just gets so into it. I'll have to post a video of it soon. Needless to say, we have music playing pretty often at our house. And the stronger the beat, the better! Ha! Finally for Benjamin - he has learned how to open doors. Noooooo!!! We'll never be safe again. :) Actually, we already put a child proof cover on the bathroom door handle, so we're good.

*Final update - Anna is very much into "girly-ness" lately. Not just frilly-ness, princesses, dressing up, etc., but simply what makes a girl a girl. And she is very much mommy's little girl. *And Ben-Ben is very much Daddy's little boy.* Anyway, Anna wants to be a little mini me, and it's very flattering. She says she wishes she had brunette hair like mine (I taught her the proper term:). I told her she probably will, since my hair was Anna's color when I was little. Anna loves that we both have brown eyes. (Daddy sings her - and me - the Brown Eyed Girl song all the time. Sweet.) She loves that both our favorite color is red. Anna had her hair cut short a few months ago because she wanted it to look like mommy's, and now we're both growing out our hair together. She always wants to sit by me, and go where I go. She often says, "The girls with the girls, and the boys with the boys." Funny. Anna just loves that we're both girls, and that we share many similarities. And I love that we have similar features, complexions, and can bond over being girls. It's fun. *And I think it's sweet that Ben-Ben looks like a mini Ethan.*
I know this obsession with mommy won't last forever, so I am cherishing it. We bond over our "girly-ness" all the time. We have special girl time during Ben-Ben's nap, and other special girl outings. So fun! She often compliments me on how beautiful or pretty I am (brightens my day every time...and so good for a mommy's self esteem :). Anna sometimes asks me if she is beautiful, or "Don't I look pretty today, mom?" or, "Do I look like a beautiful princess?" Considering all of this, I have been thinking a lot about how much I want to teach Anna about being a "beautiful" person...and that it doesn't have to do simply with physical appearance. I want her to understand what's really important in life, and what is not. I want her to be confident in herself, and see her natural beauty no matter what. And I know that can be a rare thing for girls...especially during their teen years. I know Anna is only 4, but I don't believe you can start too young on this topic, and it's something she's already kind of bringing up. So, any suggestions on how to to encourage this? Feel free to pass on any advise. Thanks! :) And have a terrific week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sick-y-ness and Thankfulness...

*Warning: This is one of those, "Boring, but important to me for journaling purposes," entries.*

So every time my kids get sick, I feel so bad for them, but thankful at the same time. I am thankful that they are generally very healthy little kiddies. However, since Anna has started pre-school she's been sick three different times, and it's only November! (Two "quick" colds, and one week long flu.) I'm sure this is typical, especially since she's never been to a daycare/pre-school setting before, but I can't help but feel bad for the work-out her immune system is getting. Luckily, Ben-Ben only caught one of the colds, and it was only minor.

It's funny, when I'm in the middle of taking care of either of my sweetie's colds/flus/aches/runny noses/throw-up/fevers/wrestless nights/coughs/crankiness/etc. it seems NEVER ENDING. When I'm lacking sleep, time ticks by very slowly! And when I don't get to leave the house for days on end because I'm home taking care of sick babies, time ticks by even more slowly! It's easy for my mind to play tricks on me, and I start to feel like they've been sick forever and that they'll be sick for the rest of their lives! Dramatic, I know. So I thought I'd take a second to journal the realistic health history of my two little monkeys. That way, I can look back and remember how fortunate we are to have some very healthy babies. (I'm pretty sure I'm jinxing myself right now. :)

ANNA - Ethan and I remember being amazed at how rarely Anna got sick her first year. We felt very blessed that all she encountered were a couple minor things. The few times she was sick, we thought, "Wow, this is what it's like. Other parents have mentioned this." Hehe.

Then, when Anna was 14 months old she developed herpetic gingivostomatitis (cold sores) which comes on very severly when you get them at a young age. We're not sure how she caught them, since Ethan and I have never had a cold sore, but it happened. It was very sad, and took awhile to diagnose. She was physically wiped out for a good few weeks. Her immune system must have been weakened because for her whole second year, she caught something major or minor every other month or so. Sad for poor little sweet cheeks. (She hardly gets cold sores anymore - I can't remember the last time - and it was nothing like the first few times when they were all over the outside and inside of her mouth. :(

Anna had "typical health" for her third and fourth year. She caught a few things, but not much. Now she's in pre-school and she's been sick three times already. Her teachers say this is very typical for children entering school for the first time. I hope it works itself out soon, because no one likes to see their children suffer...and honestly, it can be very draining taking care of sick kiddies. Again, overall, I am just very thankful that she has mostly been healthy her whole life. She eats a very balanced diet, loves being active, and sleeps from 8pm to 8-9am every night. I'm just hoping that Anna is getting all the sickness out of the way now, and she won't be sick the rest of the season. Not likely, I'm sure, but one can hope.

Benjamin - During Ben-Ben's first year, he was sick a bit more often than Anna. It makes sense, since he had an older sibling going out into the world, and coming home and touching him all the time. :) I'd say he's pretty healthy, pretty sturdy overall. Since Anna has been more often sick since being in pre-school, Ben only caught her stuff once, and that was to a minor degree. It is especially overwhelming when they are both sick, so I am thankful Anna is not passing on most of this. And as with Anna Bean, Benjamin eats a well balanced diet, is very active, and sleeps very well. (He's regularly sleeping in until 7am-7:30 am - that is very good for him. Yay!) He also takes a 2 - 2 1/2 hour nap every day. Nice.

On a similar note, both kids were recently weighed and measured in October. I think it's interesting to see the differences. Both of my babies started out needing weight checks, because they took awhile to start keeping weight on. By one or two months, things had changed. Anna was always 20-30% for height, and 80-90% for weight...a very squishy, adorably chub-tastic combination. :) Over the last year she's balanced out to about 50% for weight, and in October her height was at 50% too. Ben-Ben took a little longer to gain his chubbiness, and never quite got to Anna's level. :) He was always about 50% for height and 70-80% for weight. In October he was 65% for height and 75% for weight. He is a big boy. I know percentages don't indicate anything concrete for their future, adult selves, but I still find it interesting.

Most importantly, I am just very thankful that so far, I've had very healthy kids...even if they get sick every so often. :) I am thankful for an especially helpful husband who helps me keep my sanity when the kids are down and out. I am thankful for modern medicine and decent health knowledge. I'm thankful for the Internet that allows us to find answers to medical questions in seconds. I'm thankful for a very informed sister and mother-in-law who have answered numerous health questions for us. I am very thankful for my kid's health, for the joy they bring me, and for the blessing it is to witness their growth and development.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Simple Things...

We go to the park all the time...nothing out of the ordinary. These pictures were from some time in October. It. Was. Hilarious. There were lots of dry leaves on the ground. We got into a leaf throwing fight, and Ben-Ben laughed his little head off! He thought the falling leaves were the funniest thing. Random.

We also found some sticks that of course turned into swords, and then sword fighting.

Anna loves playing on this school bus. It's on springs so it bounces around alot. There is always someone or something that is attacking the bus, and she's trying to speed away. I know Anna is sooooo excited and anxious for the day she gets to ride a real school bus all by herself, but for now, this is good.

I love the first picture of Daddy and son swinging. The second one is amusing because the sun is perfectly illuminating Ben's "Mohawk." His hair has always been longer on top, but the sides and back are finally starting to catch up. And the last picture shows that the little things can be so entertaining. Benjamin loves parks, and playing, and sliding, and swinging. But sometimes he finds additional ways to entertain himself. Like putting handfuls of little pebbles through the holes of the park bench. Look at that concentration. Good times. Ha.

Some high lights from the week:
1) Benjamin started to randomly laugh, deep, big belly laughs, in the middle of the night. A few nights ago, he'd been asleep for a few hours, and just started laughing and laughing, like the funniest thing in the world was happening. The crazy thing; he was half asleep! It was on and off for about an hour. It was hilarious, bizarre, adorable. Crazy kid.
2) Anna performed in the primary talent show this past Wednesday. (I was in charge of the event and it turned out great - so fun, cute decorations, so many talents shared.) Anna decided she wanted to do a dance. She got all dressed up in tutu and frilly-ness, and she did a dance she made up to a short instrumental song. She wasn't shy one bit. So proud of her. Did I ever mention that Anna also did a great job for her part in the primary program at church? This was back in September. Usually kids her age are asked to give a small part, a sentence or phrase. Anna was asked to give a 1-2 minute talk about the importance of families. She spoke loudly, clearly, and knew what she wanted to say. This was in front of the whole congregation, so I wasn't sure if all those faces would make her nervous. Nope. Sweet, special moments for a parent to witness.
3) Benjamin is not taking to Nursery as well as we thought he would. His first Sunday went pretty well. Every time we've taken him since then, he is so sad and nervous and cries and screams. He's a tad shy, although he's been growing out of that lately. The time he is supposed to be in nursery is from 12pm-2pm...his normal nap time. That can't help. And there's been a different nursery teacher every week, which I'm sure doesn't help whatever anxiety he is feeling. Oh well. We'll keep working with him and encouraging him. (We are excited to visit the Marquette Ward a few Sundays during Christmas break because then Grandma Melissa and Auntie Ashley will be able to make Ben-Ben feel right at home in their nursery.)
4) We've all enjoyed some outside time this week with temperatures reaching 70 degrees one day and 60s a few others. Beautiful. We haven't had any snow yet, just a little frost on a few mornings. And it hasn't been too cold either. It's just dark out so dang early. It really gets in the way of outdoor fun. But, we've been starting to got on "night time walks." It's not really that late, 6 or 6:30-ish, but it's already dark so Anna calls them night time walks. They are different and fun. It feels more adventurous for the kids since it's dark out. Anna LOVES looking at the stars.
5) I finished all my Christmas shopping this week. It's a good feeling. I love getting things done. We always try to keep present giving pretty simple, nothing too extravagant. Of course this year is no different, especially with the whole "crunch time" thing. Hehe. That probably makes it a lot easier to finish the shopping early - when you're not buying much in the first place.
Well, I'll save the other things I've been thinking of mentioning until next awesome Parent/Teacher conference at Anna's preschool, Ethan's hard work, girly-ness, and funny things Ben-Ben is doing and saying. But, you'll just have to wait 'til next week. Have a beautiful week!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One More Time...

We tried for another corn maze experience when my parents visited last weekend. Again, it was quite the adventure.

We headed into the maze a bit apprehensive, given the warning that it was VERY muddy. That seemed like an understatement once we saw what they were talking about. Just trying to get in the entrance, one of my shoes was pulled off in the mud. It wasn't pretty. I quickly decided to just go with it, and not worry about the laundry/scrubbing/cleaning that would have to happen when we got home. (Thanks mom, for doing most of the scrubbing while I got dinner ready!)

The kids LOVED it. Benjamin was oblivious to the point of a corn maze, and just loved running around in the fresh air, dirt, mud and corn. Anna pretended to follow the map and lead us around. We had to take so many detours around the pools of mud, that we couldn't really follow the map anyway.

Grandpa Dewey lifted Anna up into a tree so she could point us in the right direction. We decided that the only way to do a corn maze is at night, if you really want to feel like you're "lost." With trees and other land marks, and with the corn shorter in some areas, we always knew where we were. The kids didn't though, and we pretended like we had no idea how to get out of the maze. Fun, fun.
Ethan and Benjamin walking back to the you a glimpse of the cleaning that needed to happen when we got home. Ethan got covered all over, not just his shoes and pants, because he had to carry Benjamin a few times. I love this picture of Ben-Ben's little, muddy bum.
So, I think when the kids are older, we may try this again. Until then, I think we could find woods anywhere (like right behind our apartments), draw a home-made map, and go on an adventure. They wouldn't know the difference.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallows Eve...

Some Preparation for the Festivities:

Anna, proud of her design, and showing off the finished product. She gave the pumpkin a kiss right after this was taken. Sweet.

We almost didn't carve a pumpkin this year, but changed our minds at the last minute. I'm so glad we did. The kids LOVED it! Anna got out her magna-doodle and tried out a couple different carving options before settling on a more classic look. (She drew it on the pumpkin herself...which is why it's a bit crooked, but I love it even more because Anna did it herself.) Benjamin even got in on the action, and we discovered he is a little scared of jack-o-lanterns. I like the first picture - Anna pretending to feed Ethan the pumpkin guts, and Ethan pretending to throw them up. Nice. It's been fun lighting our jack-o-lantern every night since then...spooky!

Dressing Up for the Church Trunk-or-Treat Party:
Beautiful Princess Anna. Handsome Pirate Benjamin.

Anna came up with this costume all on her own. When I asked her if she wanted to be a lady-bug for Halloween (because we already have the costume), she said, "No. I want to be a princess." Not wanting to have to buy a costume, I asked her what she would wear. And she came up with the above. (Red is her favorite color right now.) This is her "fancy" Christmas dress from last year, and a super hero cape my mom made her earlier this year - combined to make an Anastasia type princess. We already had all the accessories too - Yay! Benjamin's pirate costume was stuff we already had too - Yippee! His stripe-y shirt was a little too short, and it reminded me of Mr. Smee from Peter Pan, always having to pull it down. hehe.

Anna - spinning and showing off her bling. Benjamin - "But mom, I don't wanna be a pirate! Waaaaahhhhh!!!" What a sad, little face! I think Ben-Ben just needed a little time getting used to the clip-on earring, the anchor tattoo and facial hair, and the bandanna. It was all a bit much for him. Once we gave him his toy sword, he was okay again. The last two pictures show my lame attempt at "dressing up."

My parents were in town for the weekend - an added bit of fun and specialness for everyone. Benjamin kept stealing my dad's clown nose, poor grandpa. The last two pictures show some of the other kiddos at the church party. (The piggy's brother - house of straw piggy- was in the bathroom during this picture, and Anna was excited to see Bailey in a matching princess crown.) It was raining so we had to do the trunk-or-treating in the church, but the kids still had fun.

Checkin' Out The Goods:

Between our play group, the church Halloween party, and trick-or-treating on the 31st, we had tons o' candy! Way too much candy. (Thank goodness my mom and Ethan ate so much of it during our euchre game. hehe.) The first picture shows candy flying through the air. Ethan kept throwing it to rain down on all of us. Anna and Ben-Ben picked out a couple pieces to eat that night, and the rest we have put away to dole out over the next few...months. I must clarify the last picture: I'm pushing the candy back into a big pile, as opposed to stealing my kiddie's treats.
This year was Ben's first true experience trick-or-treating (not being pushed around in the stroller). He got into it, and it was so adorable. At the door Ben-Ben would say, "Tih-ta-tee" and then, "Peeeeeee! Peeeeeee!" (For please.) He was desperately trying to keep all the candy in his little hands, because he was just positive that putting it in the bucket meant that daddy got it. hehe.

A Little Preview:

Note - These are the costumes my kids are going to wear next year for Halloween. We went to our play group Halloween party on Thursday, and I was in a rush, so I threw these easier costumes on them. It was just an hour long play group, so I don't count them as having officially dressed up in these costumes. Not that there is anything wrong with wearing a costume more than once. My mom actually got the costumes above at a yard sale two summers ago. We're getting plenty of use out of them (Anna was a pumpkin last year). So you will see the kids in these one year from now, sorry to ruin the surprise. I love the picture of Anna and Ben-Ben eating snacks. Anna is taking a huge bite of her pumpkin shaped rice krispy treat, and Benjamin is so into it, he's eating part of his costume. Ha.