Monday, February 28, 2011

The U.P. 200 . . .

Uncle John, Anna, Benjamin, Grampa Dewey.  Walking downtown to the start of the race.  (Notice all the snow had melted earlier in the week.  They shipped some in for the start of the race, but then had to end early on the following day because the trails didn't have enough snow.  Too bad.  Usually if there's one thing you can count on in the U.P., it's snow in February!) 

1) Uncle Johnny with Ben-Ben and Anna, and his local newspaper.  2)  Anna and Benjamin watching the sled dogs go by.  3)  Anna saw a random "winter princess" and it made her night.  4) Warming up, and snacking on a puppy paw cookie.

Momma with two of her babies - Anna Bean and Benjamin Bear.  This was towards the end, and boy were they cold and tired out by this point.  (Ethan had to work at the clinical in Iron Mountain that he didn't get to enjoy the fun with us.  Boo.  Next year.) 

Two weekends ago, my Uncle John came up from Indiana for the U.P. 200 Sled Dog Race.  (Click for more info...and better pictures. :)  It was so much fun, and great to see John.  The kids LOVED their Uncle Johnny.  Saturday morning we had a big family breakfast at the house, and it was super cute seeing Caleb and Hudson together.  They're growing up so fast.  Adorableness!    What a great weekend, and what great memories! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dome, Dress Up, and Dairy . . .

So, you may have noticed some changes to the ol' blog-a-roo.  If you didn't notice, don't worry, I'm not offended.  Take a second to see what's new, if you're interested.  (Above, and right hand side.)  It makes me happy.  Really happy.  Actually, it's kind of embarassing how happy my blog, and blogging have made me lately.  But, I think there are some good reasons for this - which I will explain later - because I really want to try to keep this post relatively short... by my standards. 

The DOME.  The Superior Dome is part of Northern Michigan University (click on the word for some interesting facts...from wikipedia :).  It used to be the biggest wooden dome in the WHOLE WORLD...but then I heard that Japan made a bigger one.  What can you do?  We like to take the little monkeys there to get out their energy.  It's open to the public for walking/running from 6am-10pm on weekdays.  Perfect.  It's only a few bocks from the house, and we try to take them once a week.  We have Anna and Ben-Ben do races, chase tennis balls, climb the bleachers, etc.  (Seriously, it's like we're walking our dogs...but they're our kids. hehe.)  Anna and Ben have TONS of fun when we go.  Sometimes, something especially entertaining will be at the Dome.  Like bounce houses.  Or a Football game.  Or an RV show.  Or a MOMs play group.  Or a track meet.  Or Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope is a yearly fun day for kids, with all kinds of educational stuff to do.  I took the kids last Saturday, and they had a blast.  I, on the other hand, was completely overwhelmed.  Since Caleb was born, I've thought about a million different times, "I had no idea how easy I had it.  Two kids was a piece of cake!"  But, not on Saturday.  Ethan had to work (internship), so it was just me.  Anna and Ben both wanted to do different things, there were tons of people there, the kiddos were both a little impatient, and Benjamin almost pulled a fire alarm.  A FIRE ALARM.  That would have been awful. *understatement*  He really just didn't know what it was. Still, I told Benjamin Bear if he pulled one, it might sting him, the noisy fire trucks would come, and they would probably put him in jail.

Yep, I lied

But, it worked.

Anyway, the kids did have fun.  But, because of the reasons mentioned above, we didn't stay as long as planned.  Their favorites were the Karate training kids could try out, and a big parachute thing kids and parents played with together, as seen above.     

DRESS UP.  My kiddos love to dress up.  And I love when my kiddos dress up.  And, sometimes, I love to dress up with my kiddos.  Most of our dress-up box has come from rummage sales, past Halloween costumes, older cousin hand me downs, my old costumes, Christmas/birthday presents, or dollar section finds at Target.  (I LOVE Target's dollar section.)

So, I love how creative and hilarious Anna and Ben-Ben can be, especially when they're dressing up.  Their little make-believe world becomes even more detailed and intricate when costumes and props are involved.  It makes me smile.  Above, Anna says she is dressed like a secret agent...she's been BIG into secret agents and spies lately.  *Hat courtesy of Grampa Chuck, glasses courtesy of me - they're fake, and fancy shoes courtesy of a past birthday present.*  Benjamin's costume is pretty self explanatory.  He's really drawn to "girl" costumes, and I'm pretty sure it's because he looks up to his big sister so much.  Well, I hope that's the reason. hehe.

The final picture above is Caleb, lounging on the couch with his Grampa Dew.  I didn't want the babers to feel left out of this post.  And, I wanted to show his most FAVORITE hang out spot.  Seriously, he loves hanging out on the couch.  I think it makes him feel grown up, and just one of the fam, instead of "the baby."  I could be wrong.        

DAIRY.  Jilbert's Dairy, that is.  In my last post, I mentioned Good Behavior Charts.  That is the first one Benjamin filled up.  And that is him at Jilbert's Dairy enjoying his chosen reward.  Besides the ice cream, which both kids of course devoured, the Viewing Area was also a big hit.  There are large windows so you can observe the "assembly line" for the different types of milk.  I had to pull them away after about 10 minutes, but they were in AWE.  It made me feel good, because:  Giving my kids ice cream...not the healthiest thing (although it was the junior $1 size).  BUT, giving my kids an educational experience that they still talk about...very good thing.  *Anna filled her chart, and chose to have a spa party with me.  I'll post about that later.*     

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh, Just Some Randomness. . .

Life is busy, but good. I keep thinking of things during the day that I want to journal about, and then when the time comes, I forget, or just don't take the time in the first place. But here are some pictures from the past couple weeks. . .

My Grandma LaJoice came over to meet baby Caleb. It was a good visit, and nice for another family member to meet the baby, since he's still kept pretty secluded. We feel like this increases his popularity. haha.

There were some bounce houses at the Superior Dome last week, as part of a fundraiser/soft ball game thing. We went two different days. The kids had so much fun, it was inexpensive, and it was a perfect way for my two little monkeys to get some excercise during these cold winter months. They got so overheated, as you can see from their pink cheeks, and they had a blast! I love finding fun stuff for the kids to do, and love it even more when it just makes their day. :)

The first two pictures show Benjamin showing off his puzzling skillz. This is his new favorite puzzle, recently given to us by a family friend. I think Ben-Ben has put it together at least once a day since we got it. Sometimes more. The last two pictures show a play group we had at the Dome as part of the MOMs Club. They had all kinds of cool stuff they brought out for the kids. Ben-Ben was pretty inseparable from a Diego bike and the bouncy ball with handle. Again, it was such a perfect opportunity for Benjamin to get some exercise and just get out of the house. Like I previously mentioned, I think we are all pretty anxious for spring to arrive.

I guess I'll write about two other things that have been on my mind lately - good behavior charts for the kids, and clothes for the kids. Not too exciting, but I'm a mommy of three little ones, so there's not much that is especially exciting going on in my life right now. :)
* So, since last fall, Benjamin would occasionally tell us that he needed to go potty, and we would let him try. He'd go sometimes, but it's not something we really focused on, mostly 'cause I just wasn't up for it. And I'm still not. My plan has always been to wait until this summer to potty train Ben-Ben. Apparently, Benjamin has plans of his own. Early last week, for two whole days, he told me he needed to go potty every time he felt the urge...with hardly any accidents. Even if I told him he needed to wait until I was done feeding the baby or whatever, he would hold it and go when I could help him. Well, this made me think that maybe now is the time, and I shouldn't stifle it. I'm still not ready to fully commit to this, so Ben-Ben wears pull-ups (when we trained Anna, it was straight to panties, with no in between...cold turkey). He's still only about 50/50 with the whole #2 thing, but peeing almost always goes in the potty. AND no matter where we are, he will tell me if he has to, library, store, restaurant, anywhere. It's nice because we always had to ask Anna or remind her to try, but Benjamin seems to be pretty in tune with everything. I still think I'll wait until this summer to get rid of diapers/pull-ups completely. Oh, and I heard it was harder, or messier, with boys, but so far so good. Although, we haven't tried to show him the ropes of standing and peeing yet. So, I'm feeling a little like I just didn't want to deal with this until summer, but at the same time, I can't help but be so excited and happy for him. We're so close to having only one in diapers! Oh, not to mention the cost saved. Yay!!!
Because of this, we have started a Good Behavior Chart for both the kids. I didn't want to call it a potty chart because I decided to do one for Ben and one for Anna, and, well, Anna is already potty trained. Every time Benjamin goes potty he gets to put a sticker on the chart. Also, usually a couple times a day, I will praise good behavior I see, and tell him he can put a sticker on his chart. With Anna, she gets stickers for her morning routine...getting herself ready without being constantly reminded, and then again when I want to recognize her good behavior throughout the day. Oh, and if they ask before or after if they can have a sticker for something good they were doing, they automatically won't get has to be random. :) When their chart is full, then they get to choose one fun thing to do. Benjamin has already filled up his first 4o square chart ('cause he goes potty a lot during the day), and chose to go to Jilbert's Dairy. Anna is one sticker away, and wants to either do a spa party with me, or have a sleep over in the living room. Many of the options are things they get to do anyway; it's just the excitement of choosing it themselves, I think. I really didn't want to do treats (candy) or buy a toy for them, because, well, this is cheaper (and healthier), it works well, and it encourages family fun. Okay, I keep asking myself, "Why have I never thought of this before?!" Not the whole potty/getting ready for the day part, but the rewarding good behavior part. I think the answer is, not to sound too lame, that both kids are pretty well behaved already, so it's just not something I've thought much about. There are certain behaviors that are never okay, and that result in a time out, but recognizing their good behavior has been such a rewarding experience for everyone. Since we've started this last week, I have noticed an improvement in sharing, helpfulness, kindness, and loviness...and again, they were pretty good at these things already. I don't think it's just the sticker either, because they get them so sporadically. I think it's because of the charts that I remember to find opportunities to praise their good behavior throughout the day, and they thrive off of that positive feedback. It goes along with everything I learned in my education classes about improving behavior in children. Anyway, enough about that. . . I just HIGHLY recommend doing this. Even if you have well behaved kids already, you will see improvements.
* Okay, that went on a little too long, so I'll try to keep the clothing tangent short. First, Benjamin. He wears size 3T, and has for a while. Well, his clothes fit well enough around his body, but some of his clothes have recently started to look a little short. I know he's tall for his age, but seriously? Clothes that are a little baggy on little kids look cute, but clothes that are a little too short just look silly. I guess I'm just sad that we have to move on from this size soon, because he has so many handsome clothes. At least Caleb will some day be able to wear everything. Also, I think it happened sooner that I expected, which is a little annoying because I always like to buy ahead when clothes are on clearance for the next season, or at rummage sales. Oh well, hopefully we will have some good finds this summer, when the garage sale season is here. And, for the record, Anna was wearing this same size at this age, I'm sure, but it wasn't because she was tall for her age. hehe. She was just our squishiest little bean. :)
But all good things do come to an end. Anna has evened out, and has been a size 5 for a while now. Size 6 is still a little too big for her, but it just depends. Here is my problem with clothes for Anna: now that she is out of the little girl's section (it only goes through size 5), the clothing options are kind of ridiculous. The next section, girl's size 6-12, looks like they are just mimicking the teen/young adult clothing styles, which I personally think looks silly and "off" on little girls. I mean, I think a lot of times it looks like the parents are trying too hard, especially when their kids are too young to know the difference. Anna's only five; I don't want her wearing clothes that look like they're made for teenagers. Yuck. Not to mention, I'm hoping she just develops her own style without ever feeling like she needs to wear certain things/styles because everybody else is...but that's a whole additional topic. For my own kids, I like to go for a classic (and maybe a little preppy :), young (adorable) look, because THEY ARE YOUNG. Nicer stores (Gap, Gymboree, Kohl's, etc.) have pretty good options for this, even in bigger sizes, but general (and less expensive) department stores do not. So, sorry for complaining, but this has been bothering me lately. I see all the cute, adorable options in the little girl section, and I think, "Why, can't they have this in Anna's size...she's only FIVE!" And I'm not saying they should get rid of the other, more teen-agey stuff, because...whatever...parents - and kids - have different ideas about what looks good at what ages, and what's "cool." That's fine...I just want OPTIONS...perferably of the adorable, girly, sweet variety. Anyway, enough ranting. We're making it work. And, good grief, none of this really matters in the big scheme of things...for kids or adults. :)
And I guess I shouldn't leave out little Caleb. He is wearing size 3-6 months, but some of these are getting a little snug. Looks like it's about time for a trip to the storage unit. I left Ben-Ben's baby clothes toward the front, for easy access. Caleb rarely spits up (because he has to eat so SLOWLY), which is super nice for avioding tons of laundry and having to change outfits. I don't like putting clothes on little baby fun. It's also keeping the clothes he has nicer, longer. Some of them are hand-me-downs from Benjamin, gifts, or a few things I picked up before he was born. Oh, and I LOVE looking for matching things for Caleb and Benjamin. I'm sure it's a little more fun with girls, but I still think it's so adorable to have the boys in matching clothes.
Okay. I'm done now. Seriously. Ciao!

Te Quiero Muchisimo . . .

Oh, Valentine's Day. I'll admit it...I think it's fun, even if it is just a Hallmark holiday. Ethan and I pretty regularly share what we appreciate and love about each other, but it's still nice to have a day specifically for that purpose, 'cause you really can't do that enough. And then, there's the kids. Every holiday is that much more special with little kids. See the following pictures. . .

We gave the kids their little Valentine gifts on Sunday night, so Ethan could be there too. They were pretty surprised and excited, as you can see.

Ben was super excited about his Wonder Pets coloring book...even though he's never watched the show. (He's only seen a commercial. :) It's been our tradition to make Valentine cupcakes every year and share them with friends and neighbors. Well, this year it just didn't happen. I blame the baby. hehe. But, my mom made brownies with the kids that they then frosted with pink icing and sprinkled with cuteness. (You can see part of Ben's brownie on his tray above.) We didn't share them though. Next year.

Anna got flowers from Grampa Dewey. So special! And so nice to have fresh flowers in the middle of winter. Anna had so much fun looking through the Valentine's notes she got from her classmates and was such a sweetie about sharing some of the treats with Ben-Ben. Sweetness. Oh, and Benjamin made a Valentine craft at a play group we went to, and then decided to give it to Anna. So thoughtful! The kids had a lot of fun with the holiday...
Ethan and I got each other a little something, but more importantly, we got to have a much needed date night. My parent's watched the kids on Saturday evening, and Ethan and I went to dinner. It was so nice to have a little alone time. And we splurged and got two desserts that were so yummy! Death by chocolate and a raspberry cheesecake. Ah, the memories. After dinner, we did some grocery shopping. We thought about going to a movie. We haven't seen a movie in the theater since Toy Story 3 at the dollar theater in Clio. Every time, we talk ourselves out of it because it's just so expensive...some day. :) The movie we considered going to was True Grit, which we heard was good, but isn't very Valentine-y anyway. Grocery shopping was actually really fun, because we weren't in a hurry and it was just the two of us. . . no kids! Hope you all had a Valentine's filled with love!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baby Caleb's Blessing . . .

Such a beautiful day! Caleb was blessed at Chuck and Melissa's house last Saturday. He still shouldn't go out, so we didn't do it at church. We would have loved to invite more people, but know you're loved. It was very last minute, and we tried to keep the group small.
Caleb was being so cute and smiley during a little photo shoot before the blessing. Loved all the pictures, but only posted a few. I was reflecting a lot that day about how much I LOVE my little family. Seriously, I'm so blessed. I was also reflecting about how much has happened in Caleb's short life so far. I'm sad he had such a rough start, and I try to make up for that with lots of snuggles and love. I'm happy that he is doing so much better, and is thriving. We are so blessed to have Caleb in our family. He completes us. :)


Caleb Jones

Benjamin Parr

Anna Ellene

Just Some Random Thoughts From This Mommy:

  • Caleb loves having his breathing treatments. He is almost always super happy and smiley during them, as you can see above. It's nice, because he needs them twice a day. It really seems to be doing the trick, as his breathing has improved greatly since starting. I LOVE his bright, blue eyes in those pictures. :)
  • I've just realized that we have hardly been sick at all this season. Yay! I think we're typically a pretty healthy bunch, and we've been especially focused on it since Caleb has come home. We're doing all the stuff they advised - washing/sanitizing hands all the time, avoiding people/places with either lots of people, or any sick people at all, and all that jazz. Benjamin and Anna have gotten one or two colds since the fall, but nothing much. Even with plenty of sickness going around our extended family and Anna going to her germ infested school every day :), we've managed to steer clear. It's something that I was super stressed about - keeping Caleb from getting sick - but so far, so good. (Hope I'm not jinxing myself.)
  • Anna cut her hair this week. I thought I was past this possibility with her since she's 5 1/2, and a pretty well behaved little girl. Well, my mom was babysitting while I had a doctor's appointment, and while my mom was feeding the baby, Anna and Benjamin quietly shut themselves in the bathroom to make themselves "fancy." Make-up was everywhere, and Anna cut the front of her hair. It all had to come off to even it out. . . four or five inches! I think it turned out pretty adorable though, and it reminds me of the character from the Madeline books. It suits little Anna Belle. And how it frames her face, accenting the cheeks perhaps, I think just looks too precious. (See pictures above with the pink headband.) So, it turned out perfect in the end. :)
  • I was being a little impatient and hurried during a bedtime routine earlier this week. I think I was trying to be quick because I knew the baby would be hungry soon. And when Caleb is hungry, he acts as if he's starving to death! Anyway, my rushing (and maybe snapping) was not okay with Benjamin, because when I told him, "Good night Ben-Ben. I love you." He replied, "I love daddy and Grampa." Well...leave it to kids to put you in your place!
  • Anna and I got to go see a youth theater production of Alice in Wonderland. She LOVED it, and it was such a special mommy/daughter date. Anna wanted us to get all fancy for the you can see above. Sweetie got so many compliments from complete strangers about how adorable and sophisticated she looked. Anna thought so too. :) Ethan and Benjamin went to lunch together so Ben-Ben wouldn't feel left out. Ben thought their Daddy/Son outing was so special and fun...and he chose Quiznos. Huh. :)
  • Caleb has been having almost weekly appointments with his doctor since he's been home from the NICU. They wanted to keep a close eye on his breathing issues. Well, his appointment on Monday went so well, that he won't need to be seen until his regular four month check up (unless I become concerned with something). Yay!!! However, he'll still be having an appointment with the ENT to have his tongue clipped soon, and he still needs to go down to Grand Rapids to be evaluated by the specialists there. Oh, not to mention his monthly synagis shots to protect against RSV. But still, no more weekly appointments with his doctor!
  • Benjamin loves Kentucky Fried Chicken. He'd never had it before this week, but he's a fan. Just thought I'd throw that on here. He kept calling it "chicken fry."
  • We blessed Caleb this past Saturday. It was kind of last minute on timing, and we tried to keep it to a small group for the sake of his health. However, I couldn't help but thinking after the blessing, that there were so many other people I would have loved to share that with. Just know you're loved...and enjoy the pictures I'll post soon. :) And, WOW, Caleb is a few weeks shy of is three month mark, but so much has happened in his little life already. I was reflecting on that a lot on Saturday during his blessing. I love him so much, and feel so bad that he's had to have a rough start in life. I try to make it up to him with snuggle time, and plenty of love.
  • I kept forgetting to write this, but the first day back to school after Christmas break, Anna's class was assigned to write a sentence and draw a picture about their favorite Christmas present. Anna chose, "My baby brother, Caleb, coming home from the hospital." So. Perfectly. Sweet. When she asked me what I thought she chose, I guessed it was the pillow pet. When she told me what she actually chose, it just melted my heart. Love sweet moments like that.
  • At church today, my mom was sharing her testimony, and got a little emotional. Benjamin happened to notice, and wanted to give her a hug. Sweetie pie! Well, while she was walking back to her seat, Benjamin ran up to her, hugged her, and said, "Good job Gramma!" pretty loudly. :)

You know, it really is all about the little things lately. Taking care of three babies all day everyday, can get busy, hectic, hurried, routine. I've really been trying to focus on the little joys in life. The everyday, tender moments. It helps me remember what a sacred responsibility and opportunity I've been given in raising my three, precious children. I feel like my journal (blog) has kind of turned in to recording these little joys in life. It's good for me. And I hope you enjoy reading them too. :) Have a beautiful week!