Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boys' Birthday Party

Yesterday, we celebrated the boys' 3rd and 5th birthdays at a joint birthday party, just as we have done for the past three years.  And, just like the past three years, nothing went exactly as planned :)  Our original party was supposed to be on Saturday in our BFF's backyard, but a gloomy weather forecast convinced us to postpone the party a few days.  Unfortunately, this week turned out to be the chilliest, rainiest late March that we've had since moving to Birmingham, and it was still rainy and cold when the new party day approached.  So we gave up on an outdoor party and were graciously allowed to use our church's facilities instead.  We set up basketball goals, soccer goals & the church's bounce house in the cleared auditorium, and enjoyed pizza and cake in the largest children's classroom.  The kids had fun kicking the soccer balls around, shooting hoops, bouncing, and playing some group games like Duck Duck Goose, Red Light Green Light & Simon Says.

We were very excited to have all the Wagner cousins in town for the birthday party: Chase & Kylie Wagner and Maddie & (newborn) Dallen McGough.  (Extra kudos to my sister-in-law Traci, who braved the trek from Florida to here in the back of Mimi's minivan with her 22-month-old and 3-week-old.)  There were fourteen children in all at the party, including the birthday boys.  Both Caleb and Ethan had a great time with no meltdowns, though Caleb did get a tummy ache from too much juice toward the end and elected not to play one of the running games.  And Caleb (ever the cautious one) did not want to get close enough to the fire on his birthday candles to blow them out alone, so Daddy and I helped him out.  Ethan's favorite part of the night was eating cake, and Caleb's favorite part was opening presents.

 Aunt Traci with 22-month-old cousin Madelyn.
 Cousin Kylie Wagner
 Uncle Mike (Marcus's brother), who I could never catch on film without his iPhone :)
 Caleb, grinning in his superhero-themed T-shirt.
 Singing "Happy Birthday" to Caleb
 Ethan's turn :)
 Some guests: Brian & Ethan, Lena Ann & Mary Grace, Caleb & Ethan, William, Jackson & Addison, Lydia & Matthew
 Ethan's favorite part: the cake.
 Mimi Wagner with Baby Dallen & Aunt Traci
 Playing Simon Says
  Caleb's favorite part: opening presents

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Caleb's 5th Birthday

Well, the long-awaited day finally arrived for Caleb.  He's never cared much about his birthdays in the past, but boy was he excited about this one!  He's been counting down the days until his fifth birthday for more than two months.  It wasn't the birthday party or the presents or even the cake that he was most looking forward to; it was being 5-years-old.  For the past two days, he has initiated every conversation with a stranger like this: "Hi, I'm five."  There is no person too insignificant to be blessed with this news, either...the clerk at the grocery store, the mother strolling her baby by us at the park, the hand-stamping guy at Chuck E. Cheese.  Need I go on?  Apparently, being five has actually usurped his identity, because he no longer introduces himself with his name, just his age :)

Anyway, his birthday was yesterday, and we did a few things to make the day special (since he does have to share his birthday party with his brother every year).  Caleb woke up at 6:15, and instead of sending him back to bed until his permitted wake-up time of 6:30, we all got up and went to Krispy Kreme for a birthday breakfast.  We took his presents with us and he opened them after our donuts and chocolate milk.  He got two new Creator Lego sets from Nanna & Papa, an electronic learning map from Mimi, a Disney movie from cousins Bennett & Jasper and another Disney movie from Mommy & Daddy.  He was excited about all five gifts, and asked to watch one of the movies (Beauty & the Beast) as soon as we got home.

We were home before 8:00 am, Daddy went on to work and I put the movie in for the boys.  Ethan was complaining that his ear hurt, so I made a quick appt with the pediatrician for him.  When the movie was done, I had everything ready to go for our morning at Chuck E. Cheese (Caleb's destination of choice :)  We had to delay things a bit to take Ethan to the doctor & then pick up his antibiotics, but we made it to the kid-casino (our fond name for Chuck E. Cheese) by 11:00 am.  The boys had an exceptionally good time together during the two hours we were there.  Their favorite ride/game is the roller coaster arcade thing, which they rode over and over and over again together.  They also really enjoyed playing a car racing video game (I had to hold the gas pedal down for Ethan because he couldn't reach it) together.  There was nobody but us and one other little boy in there, so it was very easy to keep up with Caleb and Ethan.

After Chuck E. Cheese, we went home for Ethan's nap.  He wasn't feeling well, so I let him sleep a little longer than the hour I usually allow him. Caleb and I started one of his new Lego sets while Ethan was asleep.  Caleb was pretty tired himself, but he almost never naps and I decided not to suggest it since it was his birthday.  When Ethan woke up, the two of them played together for a while and the three of us ate an early dinner. Then we went to pick up Daddy at work on our way to the next birthday outing: The Treetop Family Adventure.  Most of the activities at this place are geared toward children a little older than our boys, but they still enjoyed a spirited game of (adapted) miniature golf with Daddy, and then spent a long time enjoying the two indoor playground areas.  By 7:00 pm, both boys were pretty worn out and ready to head home.

Caleb was still very happy about his birthday and about being five when he fell asleep last night, and I was very happy that he enjoyed his birthday so much :)  And I think we might have to make the birthday-breakfast-before-Daddy-goes-to-work a tradition.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LifeWalk Camping Weekend

In true Cross Bridge Church style, the idea of a group campout sort of evolved "organically" in our small group.  We have talked about it on-and-off since our campout two years ago, but then, at our last gathering, some dates were thrown around and a weekend in March began to look like it would work for everyone.  As the date approached and the weather looked like it was going to cooperate, we decided to invite our "sister" small group as well.  As the emails started coming in, I was amazed to see that almost every family from both groups was going to be able to make it out to Oak Mountain State park to enjoy some or all of our camp out. 

Originally, Marcus had planned to take that Friday off so he could help me with the kids & setting up the campsites, but we had a last-minute change in plans, so I ended up being at the campsite at 8:30 am on my own with the kids and all our stuff :)  Add to that the fact that I had gotten very little sleep the night before due to a double-bed-wetting-and-double-bad-dream night at our house.  Thankfully, one of the men from small group called me and offered to come over and help me set up, which was very much appreciated.  The boys and I spent the rest of the morning enjoying the beautiful weather at Oak Mountain, and then headed home for Ethan's nap and to pick up the food and other items that didn't make it into the first load.  (Normally, we sort of hover around "set" in the "ready, set, go" trajectory of going camping all spring and all fall, so it is not that hard to get everything in the car and out to the campsite.  But this time, since there were so many first-time campers joining us, I packed a lot of extra essentials to share, and that made for a lot more stuff.)

The kids and I made it back to the campsite around 3:30 and were joined shortly after that by Marcus.  Other families trickled in over the next couple of hours.   Marcus got a great campfire going, and we took turns cooking hot dogs on my new Coleman propane skillet.  Soon after, we brought out the marshmallow roasting forks and the kids and adults all enjoyed some well-scorched dessert :).  The two families that just came out for the evening headed home when the kids got tired, and the three who were camping out started putting their kids down.  I was totally exhausted at this point, and, when Ethan fought bedtime and appeared interested in everything but going to sleep, I happily volunteered to take him back home for the night.  Ethan and I were home and in bed by 9:30 and we slept soundly until he woke up at 5:45.  Feeling much refreshed, we jumped back in the car and headed back to camp to cook breakfast for all of us.

After a sumptuous meal of bacon, eggs, toast & orange juice, and a few more roasted marshmallows around the campfire, everyone started getting ready for our morning hike.  Three more non-camping families came out that morning to join us, so there were six families (including ten preschoolers) on this adventure.  Marcus played the part of trek guide and took us on a combination of the red and yellow trails, to total about a 2.5 mile hike.  We went pretty slow, with lots of stops for exploring, collecting "treasures," and throwing things in the fast-flowing stream that flanked most of our hike.  The highlight was a long stop at Maggie's Glen, where there was a little bridge, lots of sunshine, and plenty of rocks and sticks to throw in the water.  The low point of the morning was hiking up the sloped trail out of Maggie's Glen, especially since we were all already tired.  but we made it back to the cars and then the campsite.

After lunch, the the three families that just came for the morning headed back home to let their kids nap, while the three of us who were camping took our kids down to the camp beach to play in the sand.  It had warmed up to the mid-70's, so our boys put their swim shorts on and enjoyed a little wading and water play as well, though the water was still pretty cold.  After an hour or so at the camp beach, the idea of driving up to the top of Oak Mountain (so the kids could take a little car nap) and then hiking down to Peavine Falls was proposed.  I was pretty beat from the morning hike, but I figured I could go for the ride and see how I felt at the top.

Less than a quarter of a mile into the hike, I hit a wall.  We sat down on a cluster of benches, and I seriously doubted whether or not I could get back up.  I'd been having Braxton Hicks contractions all afternoon, and I started to worry that I was going to push myself into early labor at 35 weeks.  So, anyway, long story shortened, we decided to drive back down the mountain, pick up the food from our campsite, and head home for an evening of rejuvenation and sleep in our own beds.  We have never "bailed" like this in the eight campouts we have enjoyed as a family, if that gives you any idea how utterly exhausted I was.  We got home a little before 6:00 pm, took baths, ate carry-out pizza, and watched Toy Story 2 with the kids (the promise of this treat is how we coaxed them  home from the campsite).  I was asleep by 8:00 pm (Marcus finished the movie with the boys & put them to bed), and I slept straight through to 6:00 am (minus one hour for Daylight Savings).  At 6:00 am on-the-dot, the boys simultaneously woke up, clamoring to get back to the campsite.

We hadn't even taken the food bin and cooler out of the car, so we just drove straight back to the campsite and went ahead with our planned breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast & OJ.  One of the other families from church had stayed a second night, so they walked over to enjoy our campfire and share breakfast with us.  The weather on Sunday was just as beautiful (if not more) than Saturday had been.  After a short church service around the morning campfire with just our two families and another mother and her daughter who we'd met that weekend, we all walked down to the camp beach for some more water fun.  (The two dads stayed back to break down camp.)  After the cars were loaded up, we drove over to the petting farm near the entrance of Oak Mountain, and Ethan took a much-needed nap in the car.  We ate another picnic lunch after the petting farm, and decided to make one final effort to hike down to Peavine Falls with our friends.

It probably would have been better to call it a day and skip this last hike, but we couldn't resist seeing what all the recent rain had done to the falls.  The hike down was very steep, and we took it very slow, letting our friends go on ahead.  It was a bit scary at points, since my balance is off (being 8-months-pregnant) and Caleb and Ethan are pretty young for such a steep hike, but we made it to the bottom unharmed, and the boys had a lot of fun playing in a shallow pool near the base of the waterfall.  Marcus found a different trail back up, which turned out to be a much easier hike than the way down had been.  We got back to the cars to head home around 4:30 pm, at which point I let Caleb play a game on my phone for the 20-minute drive so he wouldn't fall asleep and mess up our early-bedtime potential :)

All-in-all, the weekend was a success because the kids got to spend three days outside and we all enjoyed a lot of time with some of our best friends.  I do admit that I bit off a little more than I could chew though, considering my current condition.  It's just that, when I'm feeling good, I forget that I'm pregnant and that my gas tank is going to run out much faster than usual.  Also, in my defense, I started out on an empty tank as far as sleep and as far as Marc's work plans for Friday changing at the last minute.  It's Wednesday now, and I am feeling completely recovered (and out-of-the-woods as far as accidentally inducing myself :)

I almost forgot my very favorite thing about the weekend!!  While we were all sitting around the campfire Sunday morning, Marcus surprised me by telling me that he was ready to settle on the baby name we've been talking about for weeks!!  I'm going to wait to announce it on the blog until she is born, but now I can put her name up on the wall in the nursery and enjoy calling her by name over the next few weeks!  Thank you for this surprise, dear hubby :)

Our fearless trek leader (Marcus) at Maggie's Glen.
 Warming up by the fire on Saturday morning.
 The kids enjoying the sandy camp beach.
 Ethan never feels complete outdoors without  a stick in his hand.
 Caleb and his friend Mary Grace.
 Most of the kids who were there this weekend (4 weren't around for this picture).
 The kids playing on the little bridge in Maggie's Glen.
 The other brave pregnant mommy who joined us for the hike.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Getting Ready For Baby

I have been in all-out nesting mode for weeks now!  I am a nester even when I'm not pregnant, so my nesting instinct goes a little off the chart toward the end of each pregnancy.

It started back in January when my BFF offered to come over and paint my nursery for me.  She and I and another friend browsed pictures of little girl nurseries online, and they helped me come up with something that would go with the used bedding I'd bought (and stay within my very tight budget).  The third weekend in January, she and her hubby came over and turned Ethan's old room pink!  I did all the prep & painting during the day on Friday, so Marcus, Al & Quenta were able to start and finish the two-toned pink walls on Friday night.  I painted the white border stripe over the next week.

The rest of the decorating I did bit by bit, as I had time, and I'm pleased that I spent right around $200 on the whole project.  I bought a crib bedding set second-hand from Craig's List  for only $50 (it's a Caden Lane set that still retails for $450), and then just picked up little things here and there that went with the bedding.  Sheer white curtains were $30 at Target, a white lampshade (on a base I already had) was $5, a pink basket for diapers was $8, name letters were about $12 and the polka-dot baskets were $20.  The most expensive part was the painting & supplies, but since a good friend lent me a lot of painting supplies, even that only totaled about $85.  It is not my dream nursery for a little girl (that would have required all white furniture and a bedding set with accessories from Pottery Barn Kids), but, for the price, I am very happy with it.

I was very blessed to be given a baby shower by my church, even though this is my third baby and I thought my baby shower days were over.  I got a lot of beautiful and useful things, and had a lot of fun washing everything and putting it all away.  I have to admit I had a bit of a surreal moment when I opened the dryer and saw a full load of pink baby clothes.  I think it hit me anew that this girl thing is going to be a whole new adventure.  I enjoyed washing and putting away the few little baby bottles, pacifiers, and other things and carving out a little cabinet shelf for "baby stuff" again.  Over the past few weeks, I've dragged the stroller, baby car seat, swing, and bouncy seat out of attic and cleaned each one thoroughly.  The boys get excited about each new baby thing that appears.

I made myself wait until after the baby shower to buy any clothes for this baby.  Since I have known that she is a girl for seventeen weeks, that has been a monumental exercise in self-control.  I have browsed and fingered and wished, but all without spending a dime on clothes until this week.  I'm glad I didn't buy anything before, because between my Mom's shopping spree back in November, hand-me-downs from two friends at church, and the baby shower, I really hardly need anything.  The only two things left to buy were a little bathing suit for the summer and an Easter dress.  I decided to choose between the two, and went with the bathing suit since she will wear that more.  Besides, she will only be a week or two old on Easter and will likely not even make it out of her swaddling blanket at church :)  So the first outfit I bought for my daughter was a SUPER cute little bathing suit with a matching hat from Gymboree..  I'm sure there will be pictures of her in it on the blog eventually :)

My nesting has definitely expanded outside the home into a frenzy of appointment-making.  I just looked at the calendar and counted FIFTEEN appointments for Caleb, Ethan and me during the next five weeks before my due date (e.g. hair cuts for all three of us, maternity pictures, prenatal visits, carpet cleaning, AC maintenance, spring pictures of boys, hearing evaluation for Ethan, an optometry appt, and annual well visits for the boys!)  Add to that the fact that Marcus's brother and his family, as well as Marc's Mom (Mimi) will be coming to spend the week with us for their Spring Break, and you can see that we will be keeping ourselves busy between now and Baby Sister's arrival!

I have to put the finishing touches on the nursery (including hanging the name letters, now that we have finally settled on a name), and then I will take and post some pictures.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Ethan is one month shy of his third birthday now!  A new development in Ethan's world is a recent obsession with shorts.  He was so excited when he put his first pair of shorts on after six months of pants.  He really does not like pants, shoes or socks.  When forced to wear pants because it is cold outside, he insists on having them rolled two or three times so they don't even touch his ankles, and he is usually barefoot in the house (even though the tile floors are FREEZING in winter).  

Since the first day that I let him wear shorts several weeks ago, his first question every morning is "Can I put some shorts on, Mommy?"  Sometimes I have to say no because we are going somewhere and the high is barely going to be 60, but most of the time I say yes and am duly rewarded with a huge grin.  Since shorts came into the picture, Ethan is usually fully dressed within five minutes of waking up.  Today he even dug out a pair of Caleb's old sandals from the shoe bin and wore them all day long, calling them "my flip-flopping shoes, cuz they go flip, flop, flip, flop when I walk."

Ethan is just hilarious when he gets into trouble (which is a frequent occurrence).  He is so good at distracting the scolding parent or teacher (or brother) from what he just did, or at least making us smile while we dole out the consequences.  Here is a classic, almost formulaic example:

Mommy:  Ethan, did you just throw that car at Caleb?
Ethan:  Sorry, it was an accident and not on purpose (it was definitely on purpose).  But I didn't throw the space ship at his head! (in a tone of, "Look at the bright side, Mom!")  Mommy, are you wearing lipstick on your lips?  You look kind of like a princess right now." (I haven't even showered yet, let alone put on make-up)

And so he goes, talking nonstop with excuses, alternative perspectives and even flattery until the hearer smiles and Ethan knows that whatever consequence is coming has at least been mitigated.  At the same time that I see the humor of all this, I also know how destructive such a gift can be and I work extra hard not to fall under his spell.  But, as I teach him to use his quick tongue and quick mind to bless others and not to use them, I'm going to continue to enjoy seeing him in action :)

In the discipline arena, Ethan has been a little on the rambunctious / mischievous / limit-pushing side lately.  I think he is dealing with a little angst about Mommy's growing tummy.  He does not like that my lap is not as available (purely because of space) as it used to be, and he really does not like that I will rarely carry him anywhere anymore.  He doesn't seem to mind all the new baby things emerging from closets and coming home from baby showers, though, and he is very excited about meeting his baby sister.  He puts his ear on my tummy sometimes and tells me what she is saying.  His eyes lit up like stars when we explained that he was soon going to be a big brother to her just like Caleb is a big brother to him.  I'm very much looking forward to observing and being a part of this new brother/sister relationship.

That's all I can think of in Ethan-land this month.  Just six more weeks (or less!) until we become a family of five.  I'm getting more and more excited every day!!!!!