Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paddle Board Adventure

One final story from our trip to Florida, and then I promise to move on to more current news :)
Marcus and the boys had a little adventure the morning that we went to the Sebastian Inlet Tide Pool that I think deserves a post of its own. Marc's dad met us there and brought one of his paddle boards along. Marcus took the paddle board out for a little spin, and then he let me go out on it. I have never been on a paddle board before, and I thought it was pretty fun. After I came back, Marcus decided to take Caleb out on the board. I was a little nervous, since Caleb did not have a life jacket and he and Marcus were going out into a pretty strong current, but I knew that Marcus is a superb swimmer and experienced life guard, so I held my tongue. They paddled around for a while, and then came back in to give Ethan a turn. I was even less excited about this, since Ethan couldn't even swim alone, but I handed him to Marcus and reached to take Caleb off. Marcus stopped me and said he was going to take them both out. I told him that I thought that was not a good idea and I would rather him just take one at a time. He still wanted to take them both, so I let it go, not wanting to embarrass him with an altercation in front of his dad.
As I watched them go, I bit my lip and prayed that neither boy would fall off the board and everyone would get back safely. Everything went smoothly for the first few minutes, but then I heard my father-in-law (who has the guts to deliberately touch jelly fish and surf amongst sharks), mutter "This is really not a good idea...really quite dangerous..." That was all I needed to hear, so I called out to Marcus and waved my arms toward shore. A moment after he glanced up, someone lost his balance, and all three were dumped off the board and into the water. I dove in and swam out toward them, but (since I am not a superb swimmer) I knew it would be a minute or two before I could get out that far. Marcus had told the boys beforehand that, if they fell in, Caleb was to swim to the board and hold on, and Marcus would go after Ethan. That is exactly how it played out. Caleb surfaced and grabbed the board, and Marcus scooped Ethan out of the water and put him back on the board. By the time I arrived, things were under control. (Other than Ethan repeating, "Daddy, don't ever, ever, ever, ever do dat again.") Marcus wanted to take them back out so they could end on a more positive note, but my nerves had had all they could take, so I vetoed that and we all headed back to shore. If I have anything to do with it, there will be no more boarding ventures into the ocean without life jackets for many years.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time With Family

We arrived in Melbourne (Marcus's hometown) early Monday evening. Our whole trip to Florida was actually planned around being in town for Marcus's mother's 60th birthday. To add to the celebration, we decided to surprise Mimi about our family coming to town. We pulled up at her house, let the boys out of the car, and sent them to ring the door bell by themselves. Mimi was expecting her son-in-law, Josh, and it took her a minute to process that it was really her only two out-of-town grandchildren. When she recovered and realized it was really us, there was much laughing and catching up.

Mimi had a great birthday week, complete with lots of time with her five grandchildren, a home-cooked meal of lasagna, and the best birthday present ever: all the kids worked together to compile a book of photos from her childhood on, as well as letters from all of her children and close friends. Needless to say, she loved it :) And to top it all off, we took all the grandkids for a (semi) professional photo shoot, and now Mimi has a framed picture of her five grandbabies on the wall :)

Other highlights of a our time with family were a morning at the Sebastian inlet tide pool (which the kids LOVED), an afternoon at the Melbourne Zoo lagoon, an adults-only dinner at the Melting Pot (thanks to Mimi both for paying and babysitting!), lots of swimming (both in Mike's pool and Mimi's pool), late night talks at Mike's house, and (for Marcus & Mike), lots and lots of PS3 time :)

All in all, the kids had a great week. They handled all the chaos really well. Caleb made us proud many times with his willingness to share and his cooperative attitude. Ethan made us proud by not having a potty training relapse during the nine days of travel. Even though he's been potty-trained for months, we thought we might have to put him in Pull-ups this week because of all the time in the car and the constantly-changing environments, but he ended up doing great! We did have to make a lot more potty stops than we are used to on the road, but it was totally worth it to get through the whole trip with dry underwear :)

As for the trip home, I will spare you the details. Let's just suffice it to say that I'm glad we don't have another road trip on the calendar until Christmas :)

(Mimi hugging Marcus after our surprise arrival.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pictures From Orlando Weekend

Group picture of the 11 kids (w/o 2-year-old Conner, who was MIA)
Ethan climbing the rope wall...pretty impressive for such a little guy
I enjoyed the water slides almost as much as the boys did :)
We came across a locust while walking to the pool.
The boys enjoyed holding it and letting it crawl on them.
Here is the living area of our condo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Orlando Weekend

To continue the account of our trip... we spent a night in Gainesville with our good friends, Lauren and Danny (and their three children). In the morning, both families loaded up their respective cars and we all drove the 2 1/2 hours to Orlando to join the other two families we would be spending the weekend with. We met them at the Bass Pro Shop on International Drive a little before noon. (Where of course we had to tell everyone about our recent Bass Pro Shop Adventure.) We spent about an hour walking around in there, and then, just as we were about to leave, Marcus stopped to point out something interesting: a representative from Gatorland was standing around with a 4-foot American alligator. The gator's mouth was taped shut with black duct tape, and he was just crawling around on the floor of the Bass Pro Shop. At first, I could hardly believe it, but before I even said anything, the boys (and every other kid around) were petting the gator. We hung around for a while, talking to the guy from Gatorland, and ended up even having a picture taken of the boys holding the gator. (Check back later for a picture.)

The next place we went was the Ginn Reunion Resort, which is where we stayed for our annual reunion with a group of friends from our years in Gainesville, FL. Through the six years that we have done this trip, our families have grown significantly. Now, the kids outnumber the adults! Everyone but us has three kids, so there were eleven kids and eight adults. Add to that the fact that eight of the eleven kids are boys, and you can imagine the mayhem in the condos we rented :)

Nevertheless, we all had a great time visiting, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the resort's water park. One day, Ethan even took a nap in my arms while we floated the lazy river in an inner tube. And even with three days in a row in the sun, nobody got a sunburn. When the weekend was over, we piled back into our loaded-up car and headed to the east coast for some time with Marcus's family.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Caleb & Chase

I will continue blogging about our trip tomorrow, but, for today, here is a funny conversation between 4-year-old Caleb and his 5-year-old cousin, Chase.

Chase loves Transformers, and he was busy arranging 15+ of his Transformers in an army on his side of the play room. Caleb came over and asked Chase if he could have a Transformer to play with. Chase picked up one and told Caleb its name and what it does. Then he started to hand it to Caleb, but reconsidered and replaced it in the army. Then he picked up another one and repeated the same routine. When Chase was holding and talking about the third Transformer, Caleb got tired of waiting, picked up the nearest toy, and began playing. This is where it got funny:

Chase: Hey! That's my Transformer! You can't take it!
Chase: (matching Caleb's decibel) NO IT DOESN'T! MY MOMMY AND DADDY BOUGHT THESE FOR ME!
Caleb: (one notch louder) GOD GAVE THEM THE MONEY!

I laughed so hard! (And Chase let Caleb play with the Transformer :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Road Trip

We recently made the 12-hour road trip from Birmingham to Melbourne, Florida to visit Marcus's family. Based on our experience of a 6-hour drive on Memorial Day weekend, I decided it would be wisest to expect the worst. I guess because of this, I remained unperturbed by the six potty stops we had to make during the first four hours of the trip. Unfortunately for my optimistic husband, his head almost popped off each time he heard "I have to go pee-pee!" from the back seat.

We had decided to break the trip into three parts, and boy were we glad after the end of that first leg. We would have lost our minds had we attempted to drive the whole thing at once. Instead, the longest leg was the first five hours, from Birmingham to Marianna, Florida. We spent about four hours in Marianna, first at the Florida Caverns State Park and then for dinner at McDonald's. It was storming when we arrived at the State Park, and it looked like our plans for a hike were not going to work out. But the rain slowed down to a drizzle and Marcus decided to take the boys on a short hike in the rain after all. Then we all spent some time looking at the (indoor) nature exhibits while we waited for our tour of the caverns to begin.

The caverns were pretty cool. I've been to Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas, and on a tour of some huge caverns in southern China, but I think I liked these caves the best. (This may have been because there was such a pronounced difference between the heat outside and the cool interior of the cave.) As we walked down the path into the first cave, Caleb kept exclaiming excitedly, "We're under the ground! We're under the ground!" A few minutes into the tour, he asked us, "So if we are under the ground, what is under us?" The guide answered his question, explaining that there was another cave filled with water underneath. Caleb just grinned a huge grin, and I could see the little wheels in his head turning as he imagined never-ending layers of caves under his feet.

After the cave tour and a quick dinner at McDonald's, we got back on the road around 6:00 pm, this time just 3 1/2 hours from our destination: a friend's house in Gainesville, Florida. More about our trek tomorrow :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bad Choices

We are always talking about good and bad choices around here. Caleb and Ethan are very good at differentiating between the two. When I pick them up from one thing or another, I ask them if they made good choices in their class, etc. Usually Caleb assures me that he made all good choices, or he'll tell me about "just one bad choice" and tell me what it was. Ethan usually has to count his bad choices on his hand. "Ummm... I made 1...2...3...4... I made 4 bad choices." Last week, I picked Ethan up at the Rec Center play room, and here is how our conversation went:

Mommy: Did you make good choices in the play room with Miss Margaret today?
Ethan: No. I made bad choices. 1...2...3...4....5. I made five bad choices. I sit in time-out 2 times.
Mommy: Well, I am sad to hear that, Ethan. I wish you had made better choices. Did you do anything fun at the rec center today?
Ethan: Yes! I just tell you that! I made 5 bad choices!

Touche, little guy :)

Monday, June 21, 2010


I recently talked to my dad about the years he spent in the Navy during Vietnam, and I now I want to record some of the details here for posterity. And what more fitting time than the week after Father's Day to write about my Dad's military career :)

A few days before my dad turned eighteen, he enlisted in the Navy. The U.S. was in the midst of the Vietnam War, and Dad wanted to serve his country but did not want to be drafted in the Army. He was also keenly interested in traveling and seeing the world. For these reasons the Navy was very attractive. When he enlisted, he really wanted to go through submarine training school and serve on a nuclear powered submarine, but sub school required a six year commitment and he wasn't ready to commit that many years. So he signed up for 3 years and headed off for three months of boot camp in San Diego. After boot camp, he spent approximately six months in electronics tech school in San Francisco.

After his tour in San Francisco, Dad was assigned to the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Midway. (Interestingly, the U.S.S. Midway is now a popular museum destination docked in downtown San Diego.) After enlisting, Dad flew from Travis Air Force Base to Hawaii and stayed in Hawaii for about a month awaiting a flight to the Philippines. The plane flight from Hawaii to the Philippines took about 11 hours. From Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, dad boarded an old bus that traveled along a jungle road for several hours. When he arriving at the Subic Bay Naval Base, he first laid eyes on the U.S.S. Midway, the ship that would be his home for almost a year.

The Midway was stationed just off the coast of Vietnam. He remembers the ship being terribly hot, due to the fact that there was no air conditioning. Duty was 12 hours on, 12 hours off; 60 days at sea and then 7 days at port. Water was rationed, so showers were cold and short. The food was decent, but Dad was particular about what he would eat, always declining anything that was powered (milk, eggs, etc). His food preferences and a very bad heat rash resulted in him losing 55 pounds during his first tour of duty in the Gulf of Tonkin. During the Vietnam tour, the Midway was given permission to visit the city of Hong Kong for seven days. The Midway anchored several miles from the port and the sailors were transported by local ferries to Hong Kong. Everything was cheap in Hong Kong and the sailors spent a lot of money on clothes, electronics, etc.

On the Midway’s return voyage to San Francisco, stops were made in Japan and Hawaii. The Midway was decommissioned and put in dry dock at Mare Island Naval Shipyard for a five year renovation. Dad's next assignment was on the U.S.S. Fox, a brand new guided missile cruiser which was just being completed in Long Beach, CA. During his three years in the Navy, Dad participated in something that few sailors ever experienced: he was part of both decommissioning a ship and commissioning one. When he was assigned to the U.S.S Fox, it was still under construction in dry dock in Long Beach. Once it was officially commissioned, it was assigned to three months of trials in the waters around Seattle, WA.

The remainder of Dad’s time in the service was aboard the U.S.S. Fox. After the completion of sea trials, the Fox was sent to Vietnam. During the Pacific crossing, the Fox stopped in Hawaii for several weeks, and then made its way to the Philippines. After several more months of duty in the Gulf of Tonkin, Dad was temporarily stationed in Subic Bay, awaiting a flight back to the States. A couple of weeks before his 21st birthday and the end of his 3-year commitment, he was honorably discharged at Travis Air Force base near San Francisco. He got married about two weeks later, and the rest is history :)

Friday, June 18, 2010


Caleb and Ethan are so funny first thing in the morning. Caleb wakes up ravenously hungry (since he rarely eats any dinner). He sits in his chair and eagerly requests cereal, oatmeal, some fruit and a cup of milk. I fix his giant breakfast and put it all in front of him. Ethan asks for all the same things that Caleb is getting. But since I know that Ethan doesn't wake up with much of an appetite, I fix him much smaller portions. Usually, Caleb gobbles down everything I fix while Ethan arranges his bowls and cup in a neat little cluster and talks happily about how yummy everything looks, without taking a bite. Ethan is often sitting in front of his untouched food when Caleb finishes his feast and heads downstairs to play. Now Ethan's dilemma is this: desert the food that he has been given (which goes against his very nature), or miss out on minutes playing with his brother downstairs. Usually, he solves the problem like this: "Mommy, I going downstairs to play with Bubba. You NOT take my food away, okay? I eat it in a little bit, okay?" He is always hungry about an hour later, and from then on he out-eats his brother all day long :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dinner Conversations

Here is a sampler of how dinner conversations tend to go around here:

Daddy (to Caleb): What did you do today, Caleb?
Caleb: Nothing.
Daddy: Nothing? Really? You just sat still and did nothing and saw nothing all day?
Caleb: (grinning) Yep!
Daddy: Well, Ethan, what did you do?
Ethan: Hmmm...I don't know!
Mommy: Well, we went swimming at John and Ava's pool, and we went to the store...
Ethan: And I got a COOKIE!
Mommy: Yes, you both got a cookie at Publix.
Caleb: May I be excused?
Mommy: You haven't eaten anything, Caleb.
Caleb: I don't like to eat dinner.
Mommy: Alright, but you know that if you don't eat your dinner, you don't get anything else to eat until morning.
Caleb: I know that, Mommy. Can I be excused?
Daddy: If you will tell me three things that you did or learned today, you can be excused.
Caleb: Hmmm... I went swimming at John and Ava's pool, I got a cookie at the store, and, hmmmm... I t'ink I watched a TV while Ethan was sleeping.
Mommy: Yes, you did.
Ethan: Me, too! Me, too! I watched a TV, too!
Mommy: Ethan you didn't watch TV today because you were sleeping.
Daddy: Caleb, you can be excused now. Go down the play room, please.

And so it goes :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Caleb started gymnastics last Monday. We were really blessed in that there is only one other child in his "class", making it more of a semi-private lesson for the price of a class. (The normal capacity is six preschoolers.) Since it has just been the two of them this week and last week, the instructor spends more of the lesson on the main floor of the gym, rather than in the scaled-down preschool room upstairs.

Caleb LOVED every minute of the first lesson, and despite all the distractions of VBS, he asked me almost every day the whole next week when he could "go back to 'nastics class." He did very well in the second lesson as well. He was so poised on the balance beam that the instructor stopped spotting him and let him go across on his own. On the second lesson, she showed him how to walk the balance beam backwards. He was able to do that about as well as I could as an adult. His favorite part of the lesson is the square trampoline. He says it lets him jump "as high as the birds in the sky." My favorite part is watching him on the bar. I remember from gymnastics as a child how challenging I found the different bar moves to be, and it makes me so proud to see his little face concentrating on doing it just like the teacher.

Now at home, he keeps telling Ethan that "you can go to 'nastics when you are bigger like me."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Caleb's Dreams

Caleb has always been a bit of an old soul. He takes everything in, processes it silently, and comes up with some of the deepest thoughts. The other day he told me that he wishes he could go straight to heaven right now instead of living a long time here. Another time, he told me that when he is quiet, he is thinking about "all the things that happened all of the other days before," which I took to mean he plays conversations and experiences over again in his head (like I do).

He has also remembered and talked about his dreams since he was able to talk. He had a dream about flying over a year ago, and he can still recount it to the smallest detail whenever it comes up. He tells me about a new dream about once a week. Considering his age, one might think that he is just making up stories and not recounting an actual dream, but I'm convinced they are memories and not stories. One reason for that is that he tells about the dream using the same sentences in the same order, no matter how long it has been since he woke up. He also includes descriptions/words that are generally only a part of his receptive vocabulary. A couple of days ago, he told me about this dream, and then repeated it to his dad a couple of days later:

[paraphrased] "I dreamed that Ethan dropped his star down where a scary bad guy lived, and we had to go down and get it. The scary bad guy looked like Venom from my superhero [coloring] book. He was very, very strong. Not stronger than Daddy, but Daddy wasn't there, so we had to go by ourselves and get Ethan's star back. I wasn't strong enough to fight him, so I sang a lullaby song and that made him go to sleep. There were two ways to go, one up and one down, and I had to decide which way to go. I 'cided to go up cause I saw Ethan's star the up way. After I got Ethan's star, I 'cided to go down, too, to see what was down there. The scary bad guy didn't wake up."

When I ask him what happened next, he always says "nothing," which further convinces me he is not making up a story, in which case it would be easy for him to fill in more imaginary details. Here is another dream that I thought was cute.

"I dreamed I was at the beach at nighttime with a silly woman. She was being very silly like she was in the circus. But then she disappeared. I looked around and nobody was there. I was a little scared and I wanted to go back to my home, so I closed my eyes and I disappeared back to my home."

I remember having (and remembering) very vivid dreams from a young age, so he comes by this naturally. But I do hope that he is not destined to go through life with the almost incessant thinking and reflecting that has always plagued me :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Weekend

Every now and then, I like to chronicle our days/weekends, etc, just so I can remember what we were up to when I'm reading this in years hence :) So here is our weekend: Friday night, we had a nice dinner of salmon, green beans & homemade italian bread. The boys accommodated us by eating their dinner and then playing peacefully with their train set for a long time after dinner so we could talk. We had good intentions about watching our Netflix movie after we put the boys to bed, but I was just too beat from the week of VBS and I fell asleep around 9:00 pm.

Saturday morning, the boys were up at 6:00 am sharp, so I took them downstairs so Marcus could catch up on some of his sleep. When Marcus got up, I took the boys to the gym with me so he could get some stuff done at home. The boys and I got home around 11:30, and I made a double batch of waffles and fed them lunch while Marcus mowed the yard. After Marcus came in and showered, he was very frustrated to discover that our antenae wasn't picking up ABC, so he couldn't watch the US/England World Cup Match. It wasn't until about an hour into the game that he finally got it to come up on one of our computers. By then, it was 2:00 pm and time for the boys to nap. Unfortunately, I had waited too long to put them down, because Ethan fell asleep in my arms while I was blogging, and Caleb fell asleep on his floor during a time-out in his room :) During nap time, I caught up with some housework and blogging while Marcus watched the World Cup game on his computer. Just before Caleb woke at 3:30, Marcus headed out to meet a friend for some compound bow target practice. (They had been talking about doing this for a couple of months, and it finally worked out this weekend.)

The boys got up and I gave them baths and dressed them and myself for our evening outing: the end-of-the-year residents' party. Marcus called me around 5:00 (the time that the party started), and asked that I meet him just off the interstate so we could get to the party a little less late. We made it there around 5:30, and had a surprisingly enjoyable evening. I say surprisingly because we were going to the home of a childless couple, and that is usually more challenging than fun. But, thankfully, the host had kid-proofed his fenced back yard, and all five kids had a great time running around and playing imaginative games all evening. The only casualty of the evening was Ethan getting bitten up by mosquitoes...he has about ten bites on his legs. We didn't even realize there were any mosquitoes out there because neither the adults nor the other kids were getting bit. But as I've said before, if there is a mosquito anywhere around, it will find Ethan and bite him until it collapses.

Sunday, I was up early again with the boys, this time because I had to cook for the church potluck. Our church always has a combined service and a big potluck on the Sunday after VBS, with the intent of meeting some of the visitors whose kids came to VBS. It was nice having church a little later than usual (we typically go to first service) because we had time to get ready a little more leisurely. The church service went really well, and we were happy to see that Caleb was willing to go up on stage with the other kids and perform the songs they all learned during the week. He got pretty into the hand motions (more so than he had all week at VBS). In between songs, he called to Ethan who was sitting with us on the second row, and beckoned for Ethan to join him on stage. Ethan ran up there before we had time to dissuade him, and thankfully an adult on stage held his hand and kept him still through the rest of the performance.

We stayed for the potluck after church, and that went better than it usually does. The question is always: do we split up, one of us with the kids and the other in the food line, or do we go through the line together with the kids? There are downsides to both options (#1 can't carry enough plates, #2 the kids are difficult to control in line), but we took the kids through with us and were able to all eat together. We hung around church for a while chatting with friends and didn't get home until almost 1:00. The boys napped for a couple of hours, and before we knew it they were up. We cleaned up the play room together and then took them to the library to get some new books. We intended to also take them to the pet store to look at all the animals (a favorite outing for them). Unfortunately, the pet store was closed (everything around here seems to close around 6:00 pm on Sunday nights). We consoled the disappointed boys with the promise of watching a movie together when we got home, since they hadn't watched any TV all weekend. The boys picked Wall-E out of the line-up of options Marcus gave them. Marcus and I knew that Ethan would only watch the movie for about ten minutes (which turned out to be right on the money).

When Ethan got bored, I took him down to the play room and folded laundry and edited pictures on the computer while Marcus and Caleb watched the movie. After the movie, Marcus gave Caleb a little math lesson using the Chuck E. Cheese money that is still floating around our play room. Caleb really enjoys numbers, and he is getting better at basic adding. A good friend called me around 9:00, so Marcus put the boys down on his own while I caught up with her. Now it is about 10:00 pm on Sunday night, and I am ready to post this thing and go to bed :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pictures From VBS

Preschool Games (with Mr. Al) Serving the World (with Miss Jenny)
Miss Alyssa's Crew (part of): William, Jackson & Addison
Caleb with his crew.
Miss Rachel's Crew: Lily (5), Laura (3), Ethan (3), Jack (5), Daniel (5)
Bible Story Time (with Miss Lora)
Miss Pam's Crew: Matthew, Tabitha, Mary Grace, John Paul, Ella & Seth
Caleb dancing with friends in the auditorium.
Ethan running from...well, the auditorium.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The kids and I have been at Vacation Bible School at our church all week. I'm wondering about the origin of the it supposed to be a vacation for the parents or for the kids? And, if so, at what point did that stop being true? Because it is definitely not a vacation for anybody now. I have always been a morning person, and my kids are early risers, but it is still tough to have us all dressed, fed, packed for the day, and out the door by 8:00 am every morning.

And the five hours we spend at the church each day, though definitely fun and educational, are also extremely draining. Just like last year, I am working as a crew leader. A crew leader takes the 5-6 preschoolers assigned to him/her and takes them through the different activities throughout the day. The challenge is this: maintaining cooperation and decent behavior from preschoolers (whose families you may or may not know), while doing your best to make sure they have a good time. (And you're also supposed to keep them from getting hurt or lost.) Despite the challenges, the kids are all having a really good time, and they are learning a little about the Bible to boot :) And as an added bonus, my kids are BEAT by the time we get in the car to go home. Caleb hasn't even attempted to skip a nap all week!

Thankfully, I learned from last year that the trick to a good VBS week is to go grocery shopping the Sunday night before and to have very low expectations for household maintenance during the week. Even with these adjustments, I am finding myself collapsing into bed shortly after the kids go to sleep each night, but at least I'm not waking up frustrated from all of the things that I couldn't get done the day before.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"How Do You Work This Thing?"

Most of you who know me pretty well know that I am not a techy person. I'm adequate in working with computers and computer programs, but other technology does not come naturally to me. I usually give up trying to make someone else's TV/DVD player work after the first try.

Despite my own technological shortcomings, Marcus and I gave my parents a hard time over Memorial Day weekend about their "new" combo DVD player. Apparently, when they upgraded to a flat screen TV and satellite service a couple of years ago, they learned how to use the remote to work the satellite channels, but couldn't figure out how to use it for the DVD player. Since my dad is the complete opposite of techy, they ended up letting their DVDs collect dust for over a year before enlisting my brother's help. Michael was in town for a visit, so he figured out how it worked and even wrote out the three steps needed to switch from satellite to the DVD player for my parents to refer to when he was gone. Despite his efforts, what he taught did not stick and my parents found themselves staring blankly at the remote once again.

While we were in town for Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to play a DVD for Caleb and Ethan, and was incredulous to hear that neither of them had any idea how to use their DVD player. My mom tracked down my brother's written instructions, but try as she might, she couldn't get it to work. Marcus was sleeping at the time, but when he woke up, it took him about two minutes to start The Jungle Book. Mom asked me to write down what he did, so I started to do so. While I was writing it out, I noticed the paper my brother had written on sitting out on a TV tray. I laughed out loud to see that he had written down the exact same words that I was writing for the steps. Clearly, written instruction was not the best way to assure that my parents could use their DVD player after we left. Instead, Marcus showed them how to do it and had them both practice a few times.

The reason I'm blogging about this today is that I spoke to my mom last night and she reported happily that both she and my dad know how to watch DVDs in their living room now! My dad has a large collection of his favorite old TV shows on DVD that he has not watched for more than two years, and he says he has really missed them. They are both very happy to be able to use their DVD player again :)

In case you think I'm making merciless fun of my poor parents, my mom thinks the whole thing is even funnier than I do, and she's the one who suggested I blog about it. And, no offense, Mom, but this saga has motivated me to try a little harder the next time I need to use an unfamiliar television :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bass Pro Shop Adventure

A couple of nights ago, a friend called Marcus and invited him and the boys for a play date at the Bass Pro Shop (where they optimistically believed that the four little boys would enjoy looking at guns and compound bows as much as they did). While they were gone, I took advantage of the couple of hours alone to tackle some cleaning and make a big stock-up trip to the grocery store. I got home from the store just in time to get dinner started before Marcus and the boys got home. Caleb rushed in the house first, with Marcus and a whiney Ethan right behind him. I turned away from my cooking to greet Caleb and ask if he had a good time, and this was the very first thing out of his mouth:

"Ethan got lost in the store, but I found him." I raised my eyebrows and looked at Marcus, more than a little eager to hear that story!

Apparently, Ethan had darted down an aisle away from Marcus and turned at the end. Marcus didn't follow immediately, assuming that Ethan would go around the corner and come back. When he didn't, and couldn't be seen in either direction at the end of the aisle, a high-energy search ensued. During the first minute, Tim's five-year-old son stopped a Bass Pro Shop employee and said, "Ethan is lost!" (Marcus had already spoken with another employee and had a Code Adam broadcast.) Soon everybody around was looking for a 2-year-old boy. Marcus was a little uncertain (i.e. evasive) as to how long the whole search took, but Caleb estimated it to be "about 30 minutes." (In a defensive counter of Caleb's exaggerated figure, Marcus said it was probably about 5 minutes.) Regardless of the actual amount of time, it was long enough to raise Marcus's ever-steady heart rate a few notches.

The search came to an end when Caleb pointed to a clothes rack about ten feet from Ethan's original departure point and said, "I think Ethan is hiding in there." Sure enough, Ethan was standing on the base of the circular clothes rack, even his feet invisible to the observer. He couldn't be seen until an employee moved the clothes to the side and he poked his head out. Marcus was looking elsewhere at the time, and was immensely relieved to hear an employee say that Ethan had been found. He immediately made his way back to Tim and all four boys. Ethan's pants were wet, so we think he probably wet himself and then ran off and hid because he didn't want to get in trouble.

Later on, Marcus asked Caleb what made him think that Ethan was in the clothes rack. He said something like, "I just thought that Ethan would like to hide in there." I guess he knows his brother pretty well :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Today is Ethan's 26-month-old update! Now, Ethan has been a little charmer since he could walk, but he has really amped up the charm lately. He's got Wendi wrapped around his little finger because he is always noticing when she is wearing new shoes or jewelry or a pretty dress and complimenting her on them. He notices when I have lipstick on and tells me I have "vewy petty wips." At least once a day (and usually more often), Ethan dishes out a very sincere and appropriate compliment. Yesterday I was tickling him in my bed and he says, "Stop! Stop!" He puts his little hands on my cheeks, turns my face toward him and says, "Momma, Momma, wook at me!" He pauses while I look at him, then busts out with, "You have so petty eyes, Momma." If I even paint my toe nails a different color, he notices and tells me how "boo-tee-ful" they look. I'm not sure there is anything as sweet to the ears as a child's guileless admiration. Even though I know this will change soon, I'm soaking up the days in which he thinks I am the most beautiful woman in the world :)

Ethan has also gotten more and more into his brother's imaginative play this month. His little people/cars/animals get into longer conversations and go on more detailed adventures than ever before. He and Caleb are really into superheroes right now, particularly Batman, Superman and Spiderman (even though they've never seen a video of any of the three). Nanna bought them these three superhero figurines when we saw her last, and they have been the center of every imagination since then. Caleb leads the play, but Ethan fits right in and holds up his part of the dialogue, even throwing in a few ideas of his own once in a while.

Ethan recognizes about 75% of his capital letters now, and he knows the phonetic sound for almost all of the letters. (Thanks to, he learned the phonetic sound before learning the name of the letter.) He can also consistenly count to 10. When counting objects, he frequently makes it into the teens, but usually skips one or two numbers before giving up at 20. Ethan does not enjoy being read to as much as Caleb did at this age, but I think that has more to do with his higher activity level than his overall interest in books. It may also have something to do with the fact that he ends up listening to a lot of books that are geared toward older children (i.e. his brother), which Caleb was never expected to do at age two.

That's all I can think of in Ethan-land right now, so I guess I'll sign off until tomorrow :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Governor William Bradford

When we were in Searcy this weekend, my mom introduced me to her latest hobby, which is researching our family history on Ancestry allows the (paying) user to search through scanned-in census records, draft cards, and other historical documents from the present all the way back to pre-Revolution days. She has built this massive family tree online that includes her ancestry and dad's ancestry, and she's even starting to trace the ancestry of Marcus and my brother's wife (so she can give the grandkids a family tree poster). I have to admit, after I saw the scanned-in immigration record of one of my great, great, great grandparents and realized that this was legit and not the guesswork I'd assumed, I was hooked.

In all of Mom's research, the coolest thing she has found about my biological heritage is that I am a direct descendant of the wife of Governor William Bradford (the famous governor of the original Plymouth Colony). Governor Bradford arrived on the continent in 1620 on the Mayflower. His first wife, Dorothy, died on the ship, and he was left the single father of a young son. Three years later, after being elected governor of the colony, Bradford married Alice Carpenter Southworth, a widow with two young sons (Constant, age 6 and Thomas, age 5). Alice arrived at Plymouth on the Anne in July of 1923. Alice and Bradford went on to have three more children and raised a blended family of six. My mother and I are direct descendants of Constant Southworth, the oldest stepson of Governor Bradford.

I think Governor Bradford is the coolest thing Mom's found, but Marcus was more excited to see the service papers of one of my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary war. That means that our sons are eligible to join the group Sons of the Revolution and potentially get $2,000 a year in college scholarships. (I just wish I'd know about this before college and I could have applied for a Daughters of the Revolution scholarship :)

Well, there is your random history lesson for the day...hope you enjoyed it :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I posted back in the fall about Caleb starting an MDO/preschool program. The school year came to a close last week, and now seems like a good time to do an overview of this experience. As you may remember from a much earlier post, I wasn't too sure about the whole MDO/preschool thing that was is so much a part of the culture here. We decided to try it because Caleb was acting anti-social at times (as a 3 1/2 year old), and because he started becoming very resistant to some of the homeschooling activities we were doing at home. He started in mid-October going Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. For the first few weeks, he really enjoyed it, and he started acting better at home as well.

Unfortunately, somewhere in mid-November, he and his teacher started misunderstanding each other. Caleb is slow to transition and also processes directions more slowly than many children. This was causing him a problem at school because he would respond/transition slowly and the teacher would get frustrated with him. Eventually, he got it fixed in his head that the teacher couldn't be pleased, and he quit trying to cooperate. I didn't realize that all this was going on, because Caleb just stopped talking about school. Caleb is not a talkative child, and I chalked up his silence about school to his normal reticence about many things. Then, in January, I spoke to his teacher about another matter, and she told me that he had been acting out in class since mid-November. (That sounds like a really long time, but we are only talking about 6 or 7 half-days in school, since he was only going twice a week). Nevertheless, I was chagrinned to be hearing that this had been an ongoing problem, one I wished I'd had the opportunity to address when it first started. That day in January, I spoke with Caleb about his behavior at school. Through our conversation, I began to understand what had happened in his relationship with his teacher. He told me that she tells him to do too many things too fast and he can't remember them, and then she gets mad at him. He also kept repeating that she didn't like him because he wasn't a good boy like Shep or Matthew or whoever. He was absolutely convinced that he was incapable of pleasing her.

In an ultimately successful attempt to turn this train around, I had a long phone conversation with his teacher. I shared with her that Caleb processes things a little more slowly than some other kids, and that, as a result, he had gotten it into his head that she didn't like him. We collaborated on a plan to change his perception. Every day at school, his teacher made an extra effort to be sure he understood each instruction that was given, as well as to praise him for his successes. Then she filled out a little check sheet that I made, indicating to me that he was cooperative, positive, and helpful each day. When he brought home a check sheet full of "yes's" to me, he received a reward. Within two weeks (four days of school), his behavior had completely changed. His teacher called me with a glowing report of a what a bright, helpful, cooperative child he was. We soon abandoned the check sheets, and he started chatting cheerfully about school once again.

For the remainder of the school year, I called his teacher every few weeks to make sure everything was still going well. She continued to give me glowing reports. I do very much regret that Caleb spent almost two months feeling like a "bad kid" at school before I realized what was going on, and I will take from this experience that silence about school is a bad thing, and not calling the teacher because I don't want to bother her is not doing anybody any favors.

Caleb finished out the school year a few weeks ago, and he still asks me several times a week when school will start again. And, thanks to the generosity of his Nanna and Papa, I can tell him that he will be able to go back to school in the fall to attend K4 four mornings a week!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

For the long weekend, the four of us drove to Searcy to visit my parents. We hadn't been on a road trip with the kids since Christmas, and two new road trip "hazards" have entered the arena since then. The first is arguing in the car. Now that Ethan can talk so well, the boys get into lengthy and exasperating arguments in the car.

Caleb: I saw a big truck in my window.
Ethan: I saw it, too. It was a yellow truck.
Caleb: No, it was gray.
Ethan: No, it was yellow.
Mommy: That's enough boys, you've both stated your opinion, now drop it and talk about something else.
(15 seconds later)
Ethan: I saw the biggest truck ever in my window.
Caleb: No you didn't. The gray truck was the biggest truck ever.
Ethan: NO IT WASN'T!!
Mommy: ENOUGH!

The other hazard is potty breaks. It was not a piece of cake dealing with Caleb's potty breaks on the way to Texas at Christmas, but having two kids going potty all the time was MUCH less fun. We stopped to go potty so many times. A couple of times with Ethan, we would stop for #1 and then 20 minutes later for #2. It was almost enough for me to want to put him back in diapers for our trip to Florida this summer (but that would require me buying diapers, which I refuse to do, so that course of action is highly unlikely).

Other than the road trip challenges, we had a very relaxing visit. Ethan had a low-grade fever and a cough most of the weekend, so we didn't attempt to do much outside of hanging around the house and a couple of trips to nearby parks, but the kids still had a great time with Papa and Nanna. A few years ago, my parents made their den into a play room, and the boys entertained themselves very well with Nanna & Papa's toys (of course, taking many breaks from the toys to read books with Nanna).

And here is one funny story to go with the pictures before I wrap up: At one point in the weekend, Ethan was in time out in the Pack-N-Play, which was set up in the apartment that adjoins my parents house (where we were all sleeping). The four adults were all chatting in the living room, a good distance from the Pack-N-Play, and, to be completely honest, I forgot about Ethan and left him in time-out for about ten minutes. All of the sudden, that little warning bell that says it's been too quiet for too long went off in my head, and I went in search of Caleb. I found him inside the Pack-N-Play with Ethan. He had carried two or three loads of toys all the way from the play room to the apartment living room (quite a distance). When the Pack-N-Play was full enough with toys, Caleb climbed in himself, and the two of them were happily playing together in Ethan's time-out prison :)