Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Traditions

The Christmas season is making me very nostalgic.  I have been thinking a lot about the traditions we had when I was a kid and the traditions that we are starting with J now. 

As a kid, the first tradition of the season was getting our Christmas tree.  We always had a real tree at our house and my mom was always the judge of which tree to get.  We would don our coats, hats and boots and trudge around a tree farm until we found just the tree she wanted.  She would slowly walk around the tree deciding if it was full enough and had no big holes.  We would cut it down, strap it atop the car and drive it home.  There were a few years that the tree was pretty big and I imagine it was quite comical to see what appeared to be an evergreen on wheels driving down the road.  We would get the tree home and almost always had to cut at least six inches off of the bottom for it to fit it the house.  We never seemed to be able to judge the size of the tree well and it inevitably occupied most of the living room.  My dad even had to create his own homemade tree stand to accommodate the size of our trees. The standard store bought stands weren't cutting it.  Several 2 by 4's and some guide wires later, our tree was up and we were in business. 

Then my mom got out the ornaments.  This was almost ceremonious each year.  Each family member had their own ornaments to add to the tree and unpacking them each year was exciting.  Every ornament had a story or a reason behind it.  Many of those ornaments still hang on our tree today.   Once the tree was nearly done, my dad would put the angel on top and my mom would add the three Wisemen ornaments (ornaments kept from her childhood).  Then the tree was complete and it was time to put the Nativity under it.  I always thought our trees were beautiful.  The ornaments weren't color coordinated or themed.  But, they were our family history. Each Christmas that our family celebrated was represented in ornaments on the tree (including the construction paper ornaments made by my parents for their first Christmas together when they couldn't afford real ones).  When J and I decorate our tree, I tell him the story of each ornament, many of which my mom gave me when I moved out.   I can look and find at least one ornament for each year from the year of my birth to the present.  And just like my parents got an ornament for me each year, I get one for J and when he has his own family and tree one day, he will have those ornaments to share with his family.

One of my other favorite traditions was writing our letters to Santa Claus.  My parents still have our letters and every now and then they pull one out on Christmas and read it.  The ones penned by me and my sister are usually lengthy and quite detailed. We elaborately listed and described each toy that Santa should bring.  Then there are the ones for my brother.  It is clear that for the first few years of his life, mom and dad let my sister and me write his letters too.  Our letters typically read like a thesaurus.  They are full of adjectives and run on for pages.  My brother's letters say things like "Dear Santa, I want a ball."

Then we would mail our letters to the North Pole and a couple weeks later, one would come back to us from Santa, whose handwriting looks a lot like my dad's!  Last year,  we started this same tradition with J.  We wrote a letter and mailed it.  And my dad wrote one back to J from Santa.  This year, J wrote his letter all on his own.   He listed out the items of choice and drew a picture of each one, just in case.

On Christmas Eve, we would start our holiday celebration with dinner at home. We would have spinach and salmon soup (among other things) as those were traditional foods that my mom would have on Christmas as a child. I love spinach soup, but I am certain no one likes salmon soup except my mom and grandpa. After dinner, we would head to church for the Christmas Eve service, which always ended by candle light with the singing of Silent Night.   After church, we would drive around looking at Christmas lights before heading home.  Once there,  we would leave cookies and milk for Santa and we do this with J too. Although we also leave oats and carrots for the reindeer.  After all, they are working had and get might hungry too!

On Christmas morning, we would wake up and run to the tree to see if Santa had come.  Mom and dad always made us sit in front of the Christmas tree for a photo and then we would open our gifts.  Once we had them all unwrapped, we would spend the day assembling new toys, playing new games and watching new movies.  Usually all while wearing new p.j.'s, socks or other clothes.  We even spent a few Christmas mornings standing out in the snowy yard clad only in jammies trying out new toys that couldn't be used indoors. 

All in all, my childhood memories of Christmas are great.  We didn't get every single thing our heart desired, but we always got more than enough.  And I know now that what our gifts were didn't really matter anyway. Because as you can see, what I remember isn't any one gift or toy.  It is the traditions and the time together as a family.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giving & Getting

Once again, Christmas is upon us.  Like every kid, J is super excited.  He has a list for Santa and we will soon be writing a letter to him.  And like every kid, J wants just about everything he sees.  But, he has limited his list to four very manageable items this year.

This year J wants: a Darth Vader, a General Grievous (also a Star Wars character), an excavator and a game for his Mobigo. I have it on good authority that Santa has this one in the bag!

But, with receiving gifts should come giving.  Too often the focus is on what we get and we forget how fortunate we are to get anything at all. As adults, we know there is nothing better than seeing someone open a gift that you have given them and seeing their face light up with excitement. For kids, that is a harder concept to grasp.  And one that has to be taught.  Yes, it is fun to get gifts, but having a giving spirit is important too.  I personally believe that this is an idea that is taught and that too many kids are taught to be greedy, selfish and entitled now days (imagine me talking in my best old curmudgeon voice here).

With that in mind, we have been trying several ways to get J into the giving spirit.  One thing we do annually is Toys for Tots.  Each year we donate a few toys for kids who otherwise might not get any Christmas Gifts.  This year was the toughest so far for J.  He REALLY liked a couple of the toys we were planning to donate.  At first, I thought we were going to have a meltdown of epic proportions over donating the toys, but J pulled it together, put on a brave face and was okay with leaving the donation in the bin. 

Each year I allow J to be in charge of filling his dad's Christmas stocking.  He gets to choose the items for the stocking and we make a card for his dad.  Then on Christmas Eve, we sneak the stuff into the stocking to be ready for Christmas morning.  Last year, J had a blast picking things out. So much so that we overflowed the stocking.  He was so excited that I couldn't tell him to stop!

Also, at J's school they have an annual gift exchange.  Each year I have taken J to the store and let him choose the toy he wants to get for his friend.  I am sure some of the other parents have thought "why did they choose THAT toy for my child?" The answer is simple: by letting J choose, he has to think about the other child, consider their likes and dislikes and choose a gift that HE thinks will make them happy. I think that is important for him.  I could pick it myself, but this way, he is involved and gets to really consider giving a gift.  He is also in charge of wrapping it himself.

But, the most fun project we have done is a new one this year.  J has a love for cutting, pasting, coloring and creating "projects".  This year, I directed that into Christmas Card making.  We took wrapping paper scraps, stickers, ribbon and bows and glued them to construction paper.  I helped, but J did most of the work and he signed each card with various greetings: Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas or Peace, Joy, Noel etc.  He made about 20 cards total.  I then brought the cards to work and contacted family members.  We wanted to sell each card for $1.  The money collected would be sent to St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  The response was overwhelming! People were asking for 5 cards or more each!  The donation hasn't been sent yet, but currently he has made over $50 to send in.  If you ask him, he will tell you that the money if for "sick people".  And he has proudly stuck each donation in the money envelope that I have kept for him.  I hope to do something of this variety annually so that in the season of "getting", J will keep in mind that giving is important too.

Over the next few weeks, I have big plans for projects: cinnamon tree ornaments, salt dough ornaments and decorative cookies.  Some will be attached to gifts, some will go with J to share at school and others will be shared at work.  Hopefully we are laying the foundation for J to grow into a generous young man.

Monday, October 15, 2012

DId I really say that?

I was reading a blog written by another mom earlier today.  She wrote about the things she has said to her children during their lifetime and how she never thought she would say certain things to them.

I think we all have those "mom" phrases on our list that we vowed never to say, but have had to utter at some point. For example:
"Because I said so."

"Eat all your food, there are starving kids in China!"

"Don't make me pull this car over!"

We have all been there.  Your child is acting up, you are frustrated, tired and the first thing that pops into your head are the tried and true momisms that you hear during your childhood. 

But, raising J has prompted me to say some things that I never would have thought I would say.  Here are a few of my faves:

"Are you kidding me? How did you fit that Ipod in there? Well, we're never getting that back."

"J what is this brown spot on your carpet? Is it dirt? It had better be dirt!"

"You aren't wearing underwear? Why aren't you wearing underwear?" (This one was when the dr. asked me to pull his pants down for shots only for me to discover he was going commando.

"Why am I sticking to the floor?"

"I don't care if your friend "so and so" doesn't have to wear a stocking cap. His mom apparently doesn't care if he catches pneumonia."

"Well, if you didn't drool so much, your chin wouldn't get chapped like that.  So, stop drooling so much."

"You have been chewing that same piece of pork chop for 15 minutes. Just swallow it already!"

"If you are hungry enough for ice cream, you have room to finish your green beans/chicken/potatoes/taco/spaghetti/corn."

"Jackson, you may not start another activity until you pick up the last three that you had out."

"You have a choice. You can do it by yourself. Or, I will count to 3. If I get to 3, and you haven't done it,  I will do it for you. And you won't like that."

"Ugh - don't put that paint brush your mouth!"

"I know you are excited, but you need to calm down a little. You are hopping around here like a monkey on speed."

"Don't growl at people. You are boy, not an animal. Speak with words."

"If you are going to pee outside, Pee downwind and not near where you play."

"Jackson, mommy is not a jungle gym."

I am going to have to start keeping track of some of the more interesting things I say.  I am sure I would have blog material for years to come!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Topsail Island Vacation

Last week was Jackson and my first real vacation together.  We have taken short weekend trips here and there, but this was our first real time away from home (9 days!!!). Unfortunately, Ryan couldn't travel with us due to work. But, that did  not stop us from having a fantastic beach vacation!

Our traveling caravan departed on September 7.  My sister and I drove the kids  (Jackson and cousin Anna, age 2) in our Flex.  My parents and brother hauled all of our junk in their car and led the way!  It was a long drive (20 hours), but for the most part, the kids did really well.  We packed everything but the kitchen sink to keep them occupied and distracted.  Eventually they fell asleep and we decided to drive as far as we could while they slept.  We arrived at the beach on the 8th around 1p.m.

It was really hard waking up to this for a week (HA!)
We weren't able to get into our rental house at that time, but we had access to the beach. We unpacked some sand toys and introduced the kids to the ocean.  J was in awe!  He loves digging in his sandbox, so an entire beach was like heaven to my little boy!  The waves, however, took a little getting used to.  When he first set foot on the beach, he ran right up to the edge of the water to check it out.  He clearly didn't understand how waves work because when the tide came rushing back in at him, he let out a yell and started sprinting up the beach with a wave hot on his heels!  By week's end, he would wade out into the surf and liked to try to jump the waves. 
Our humble abode for the week.
Playing in the waves.

The week started off with visits from two cousins who live in North Carolina.  It was great catching up and visiting with them.  We also spent the first few days just playing on the beach.  We tried boogie boarding, built sand castles, searched for shells and tried to find crabs. We walked to the nearby swimming pool a couple times too.  Jackson liked finding the crab holes on the beach and would often be seen with his face stuck over a crab hole seeing if it was occupied.  Luckily, none were!
J looking for a crab. I suggested he not stick his head in the hole, but
he thought it would work this way!
Trying to boogie board.

On Wednesday, we headed out for some mini golf and dinner. We found a great putt putt place and played 18 holes. J scored about a 176.  We would report our scores to the score keeper and when J was asked, he would claim anywhere from 10-30 strokes per hole.  He apparently didn't grasp that the lower scores are better :)  Afterwards, we decided to drive the go karts.  J loved this! He is definitely a speed freak and loved passing the other go karts.  And since I can be a little (okay a lot) competitive, we cut off a lot of drivers too, which he also thought was hilarious!

On Thursday, we chartered a small boat for a few hours.  Captain Phil took us all over the Intercoastal Waterway in search of dolphins, turtles and gators with no luck. But, he did take us to a small secluded beach crawling with Fiddler Crabs.  We also found a few hermit crabs. After fashioning a make shift box, we were able to tote them back to the house and keep them for a couple days.  My dad braved the water in a kayak at the end of the week in order to return them to the wild.  I am sure they were quite relieved little critters!  J loved the boat ride. He loved checking out the shrimp boats, looking for shells and wading in the water. 

Boating crew with our fearless Captain Phil!
We relaxed for the day on Friday before packing up and heading home on Saturday.  We were sad to leave the house, but I was ready to be home.  When we arrived home, J was super excited to see his dad.  I don't think he left his dad's side for the entire first day we were back!  The next day, J came out of his room dragging a tote bag stuffed with books and toys.  He announced that I needed to load them into the Flex because he and his dad were going back to the beach house for another vacation!

All in all, it was a great week. We were blessed with incredible weather (80's and sunny all week!). We had no major problems traveling and everyone made it there and back in one piece! Sure we had a few bumps in the road: Anna had a tummy ailment and fever for a couple days, we battled biting flies on the beach and we all had cranky moments here and there. But overall, it was a wonderful time.   I think J was the perfect age to really enjoy himself at the beach.  He was big enough to brave the waves, loved digging in the sand and everything was an exciting new adventure for him!  Can't wait for our next vacation adventure!

I think this sums up his feelings on the trip! Two thumbs up!

All smiles on the boat :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jackson's Birth

Jackon's 4th birthday is tomorrow! I feel like I blinked and four years went by. There is nothing that prepares you for how fast life goes. People tell you all the time, but until you are experiencing it, you can't begin to understand.  With J's birthday here, I have been thinking a lot about when he was born.

We decided before I ever got pregnant with J that we would only be having one child. So, when I got that positive pregnancy test, I was overjoyed and determined to remember every second, every experience and to make the most of whatever came my way.  I was blessed with a flawfless pregnancy. I never had morning sickness.  I never had swollen feet or ankles.  I never felt miserable even though I was my most pregnant in July and August.  I gained (to the immense pleasure of my ob/gyn) 33 pounds and on August 22, 2008, I had a perfect 7 pound 6 ounce baby boy.

                             Me at 34 weeks. Yes, the belly grew for 5 more weeks. Yes, it was huge.

On the day J was born, I was still 5 days shy of my due date.  I wasn't planning to have a baby that day. I had things to do. I had to work, had plans with a friend after work and the next morning I had an appointment to get fitted for a bridesmaids dress for my sister's wedding.  There just wasn't time that day to have a baby.  I woke up feeling a little more tired than usual, but chalked it up to having over exterted myself at aerobics the night before.  I called into work and took the morning off.  Then I cleaned my house. Top to bottom (nesting anyone?).  After all, I was going to be gone that weekend and needed to get it done some time!  Then I watched some Olympics (water polo and rowing, if I recall) to relax before I headed to work.

I was having contractions, but nothing stronger or more painful than the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having for over a month. And they were all over the place: three minutes apart, then eleven, then two, then nine etc.  No gross mucas plug moment or water breaking that I had heard so much about and feared would occur while I was in court testifying or at some other mortifying moment.  I finished out the day at work and headed to the park to meet a friend. She had just gotten back from vacation, so her boys played while she showed me vaca pics and we sat in the shade. By then my contractions were stronger, but still not very steady.  And they didn't hurt as much as I had always feared they would, so I couldn't be in labor, right?

After the park, I went home, grabbed a shower and layed down, still convinced I was just tired.  But, by about 8pm, those contractions were coming every three minutes, lasting a minute each time. We called the dr and he told us to head in. I told my hubby that we had better get going. After all, I was sure I wasn't going to be having a baby and I wanted to get to the hospital and get sent home at a decent hour. I had to be up early the next day.

After a harrowing drive (seriously, my husand was a wreck), we arrived at the hospital at around 9p.m.  My exterior calm must have convinced the nurse that I was not an urgent case and we were placed in a triage room.  And then forgotten about.  We seriously sat in that room for what seemed like an eternity before I had to use the restroom and discovered that something serious was going on.  We rang the nurse who came in and hooked me up to a monitor and started asking tons of questions.  She kept stopping her questions each time the monitor registered a contraction and said "you are having contractions every two minutes. Did you know that?"  Um, yes, thank you. I had realized that.  She then decided that maybe checking my dilation would be a good idea.  Now, every woman who has given birth knows having this checked isn't a day at the beach. But, when the nurse starts checking and her eyes get really wide and she says "oh crap", it causes a little panic. She announced that I was over 7cm and we needed to find a room ASAP.  She asked it could walk to which I replied "I walked in here, didn't I?"

So, I waddled down the hall to a birthing room. They got everything hooked up and started getting all of those fun gadgets and tools out (seriously, they need to keep that stuff out of the laboring mom's line of vision).  By the time I got into the bed, she announced that I had almost reached 9cm, but my water was still in tact. She wanted me to rate my pain from one to ten and I told her that it was about a 5. Not the worst, but not fun either.  She said the dr. would arrive soon and break it and we would be on our way. As if we hadn't been on our way up until that point.
                                      Me in the birthing room. Right before they broke my water.

The dr. arrived and broke my water. And it was then that I  deeply regreted not getting an epidural. Up until then, I was doing fine. I wasn't sure what all that fuss about pain was.  The nurse told me that I had arrived too late to have an epidural, which I said was fine.  After all, it really didn't hurt that bad. Boy, denial can be strong, can't it? The post water breaking pain hit me like a mack truck.  I quickly revised my pain scale assessment to 35.  I couldn't hold it in and I started to cry. Like the baby that I was going to birth.  What had I been thinking? I couldn't do this! How on Earth would I be able to manage?  My dr.(probably the nicest man on the planet) rolled around to my bed side on his little stool and said "Hey, its okay. You want to talk about it?" And I laughed. No, I didn't want to talk! He smiled and told me it was time to push.

At this point, the very nice nurse (to whom I took a plate of apology cookies after the fact) asked if I would like to have a mirror to see my baby being born.  I think I said something to the effect of "Who the hell would want to do that?"  Poor gal.  She was the same lady that announced that J's head was out. My ears heard "He's out" and I thought I was all done. She corrected me, but said "Do you want to touch his head?" I said, "Are you crazy? I just want him out. Now!"

After 20 minutes and 8 sets of pushes, Jackson Ryan Bess was born at 11:34p.m.  And, amazingly, I forgot everything. The pain, the fear, all of my big weekend plans. All I could think about was that little boy a few feet from me screaming his newborn head off. 

Every detail (including some choice moments that I omitted for decency's sake) are forever etched into my brain. And even when I am on the precipice of J's 40th birthday, I am sure I will still be able to recall this story. The story of the best day of my life.

                                                              The new love of my life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ryan's 40th

Here is my 40th birthday shout out to my hubby.  I decided to list some of  the wonderful things about him.  I asked J to give me his favorites as well.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. He knows a lot about Star Wars.

2.   He has a great sense of humor. It is just as strange as mine sometimes, which works out well.

3. "My daddy is funny." Good to know J and I are on the same page.

4. He is an incredible woodworker. For those of you who don't know, my hubby builds awesome furniture. Seriously, check it out: www.singularwoodworks.com

5. He is really good at keeping secrets. He doesn't repeat anything he is told and hates to perpetuate gossip.

6. He is a very hard worker. At his job and at home. He is rarely idle.

7. "He's nice." Simply put. J likes to waste no words.

8. He isn't afraid to kill big spiders.

9. He has tons of friends, which I think reflects on what a great person he is.

10. He is ridiculously patient.

11. He's a cat person.  Compatibility would have been an issue if he had liked dogs.  Luckily, he too likes cats.

12. "He takes me to the Kettle for pancakes." Every Saturday, Ryan takes J out for breakfast.

13. He loves to read. Books, magazines, on line articles or forums.  He reads a ton.

14. He's a great dad.  He adores J, and J adores him.

15. He is a movie nut.

15. He is really great with electronics and if you want to know something about a gizmo or gadget, he's the go to guy. He just helped me tackle an email issue.  Very handy guy to have around!

16. He is handsome.

17. "Daddy is tall".

18. He is passionate about music and loves to find new artists to enjoy before they hit it big.

19. He loves cars. He knows a ton about them and can haggle with a car salesman like nobody's business.

20.  He is very knowledgeable about many, many things. Probably from all the reading. 

21. "He watches Bob the Builder with me."  Jackson loves Bob.  Ryan can tolerate Bob.  I cannot.  I usually read a book while J watches Bob.

22. He's a Bears fan. That automatically makes him awesome.

23. He is ultra competitive.  Maybe just with me, but he loves to win!

24. He uses good grammar.

25. He has nice teeth. Teeth are a big deal to me. Kind of a deal breaker, if you will. His dental hygiene is impeccable.

26. "I like to play with him"- Obviously from Jackson.

27. He is unflappable. I try to maintain a steady calm most of the time, but some things do get me wound up. Nothing gets Ryan wound up.  Ever.

28. He is a big thinker.  Ryan doesn't have small ideas.  A simple project usually turns into a massive undertaking.  He aims high in all that he does.

29. He eats my cooking. Usually with few to no complaints. That nearly qualifies him for sainthood. 

So there they are. Just a few of the many great things about the hubster.  Happy 40th Ryan!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Grandma Juanita

On July 4th, my Grandma Juanita passed away.  As the passing of a loved one often does, this has made me stop and think a lot about her and the memories I have of her. It is hard to select just a few good memories of my grandma.  Since my grandma lived just three doors up the street from my for my entire childhood, I saw her nearly every day.  She was a fixture in my daily life, so there are few memories of important times in my life that she isn't a part of.  

The most prevalent quality I recall about my grandma is that she was a "motherer". She wanted to take care of everyone and make them happy.  The main way she showed this was food.  My cousins, brother and sister will understand exactly what I mean by this.  My grandma loved to feed us.  Upon arrival, we were offered a snack. If we declined, we were asked every 15 minutes or so if we were hungry until we ate.  She kept on hand what each one of us liked and if there was something she didn't have, you just had to ask and she was sure to have it when you visited next. Also, she always had cases of pop stashed in the closets (usually many of them as she loved a good sale and would stock up) and, since it was grandma's house, you could have as many as you wanted! 

And speaking of food, she was also one heck of a cook.  I remember many holiday meals where food just covered the kitchen counter tops.  There were countless containers of cookies, pies, fluff salads and brownies just to name a few. At Thanksgiving, us kids always got our own little pumpkin pie baked in a pot pie tin.  One year during clean up, I recall my sister being amazed by the size of the turkey bones.  My grandma told her they were elephant bones and promptly popped them in the oven to dry them so that my sister could take them to school for show and tell.  My grandma also used to make delicious Sunday lunches.  My typical Sunday afternoon started upon my return from church. I would go to grandma's and watch the Bears play football with my grandpa while grandma cooked lunch for us. 

Grandma also made tons of homemade goodies. Homemade noodles, all kinds of canned goods and every year, she, my mom and my aunt would cut and freeze bag after bag of sweet corn. I recall gathering at grandma's and sneaking bites of the sweet corn while they were bagging it.  My cousins and I always ate it until we had a stomach ache and were sticky from head to toe with sweet corn.  Grandma was also a pretty good seamstress. She could always be counted on to fix a seam or patch a hole in our jeans. She tried to show me how to sew on her sewing machine a few times. I wish now I had paid closer attention!

I also spent many nights sleeping over at her house.  On many occasions, I would be woken up at the wee hours of the morning and drug off to have breakfast.  I was allowed to stay up late, eat after dinner mint ice cream and watch horror movies. The last time I slept over at my grandma's was the night before my wedding.  Grandma's house was a place you could go to eat, play or watch t.v. And her house had air conditioning! Growing up we didn't have it in our home and we spent many hot afternoons soaking up grandma's a.c.

My grandma loved animals and one of our favorite things for many years was her rabbit, E.B.  Grandma loved dogs and cats and fed every stray animal that crossed her path.  She was a hard worker and always took pride in her flowers.  She was often found working in her yard.  Even when she was told to ease up on her activity, she was often out tedning to her flowers, cutting weeds or hanging precariously over the bluff at the back of her house to trim tree limbs.

Granmdma was also probably her grandkids' biggest cheerleader.  She always came to our school events (and drove my cousins and I to school each day for several years). She attended sports games, concerts, church programs and graduations.  You name it, she was there.  She was there for my wedding day and one of the first people to meet J when he was born.

There are so many more stories and memories that come to mind when I think of my Grandma.  I know how lucky I am to have each and every one of them. Although I am sad to have lost my grandma, I am so thankful to have had her in my life.  She was what every grandma should be.  Someone who spoils you. Someone who shares your secrets. Someone who lets you get away with murder and dotes on you and loves you no matter what.  I know I am who I am today because I had her in my life.  Rest in Peace, Grandma. 

Monday, June 25, 2012


Summer is officially here! This is without a doubt my favorite time of year.  I love hot, hot, hot days. The hotter the better. I love summer thunderstorms, swimming, grilling and eating outside and warm evenings sitting on the porch.  So far, this summer has been a busy one for our family. 

J has always been a kid that likes being outside.  As soon as the weather warms up, we are outdoors doing anything we can find to keep busy.  It isn't uncommon for us to be up, dressed, fed and out the door by 6:30a.m.  This summer's big project has been redoing our pond.  This has brought many big machines to our house.  J views them as his personal jungle gyms and never tires of climbing all over them.  Recently, we had a mini excavator at the house. J showed some pretty good coordination in handling the machine.

                                                     Future heavy equipment operator?

When he isn't excavating, J loves riding his bike and tractor.  The tractor is one that he received as a Christmas gift from his grandma Jill. It had been Ryan's toy when he was a child and he had it refurbished for J.

                                                           Ryan's old Ford pedal tractor.

We have also spent a lot of time this summer digging in the sand box, playing baseball, riding on the ranger and swimming.  J loves the water and we have waged huge water gun battles many times this year.  Usually, these battles result in Jackson and his dad teaming up on mom.  I am usually given one water gun full of water.  They get the hose, the rest of the guns, the water balloon and the huge bucket.  Once I am out of water, I am essentially target practice for the boys. 

                                               Pants on backwards, crocs on the wrong feet
                                         and the goggles he wore for about three days straight.

Jackson also enjoys spending time in his "Fortress of Solitude". Construction began last summer on J's playhouse.  What started out as a simple idea grew into a massive project that is only now being finished. J will often ask to go to his playhouse after we arrive home.  He will take a snack and some toys and is quite content being in his playhouse.

                                          The club house is now sided, has a rail around the deck
                                                            and a big slide down the side.

We have also been busy creating many "projects" this summer to pass the time (thank you Pinterest). We have made lava lamps, planted and grown veggie plants from seeds, experimented with vinegar and baking soda, baked countless cookies, cupcakes and brownies. We have gone on nature scavenger hunts, picked raspberries and had picnics. We have gone through tons of paint, popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue! J likes to make "presents" for people and can often be found amid a pile of ribbon, stickers and colorful pom pons concetrating on his latest creation. 

                          Despite how it looks, some of the raspberries did make it IN his mouth!

J is also proving to be a tireless worker.  He helps out with whatever project we have going on around the house. He has pulled his wagon around the yard picking up the weeds I have pulled. He has helped sweep the garage, spray weeds and regularly helps his dad mow.  Most recently, J assisted his dad and I in splitting and stacking firewood.  He gathered up the debris and filled his wagon before hauling it to the wood pile.  When he eventually tires of working, he can usually be found digging in the dirt somewhere with his many tractor toys.

Even J's daycare is taking full advantage of the summer weather.  They walk to the town pool each day, make frequent trips to the library and had a field to trip to a local tree farm.  They have attended the first of three Magic Owl plays at Timber Lake Playhouse and spent last week at Bible School each morning. 

                                                      J's class at Johnson's Tree Farm. 

Yes, we love summer around here. Even the rainy days (which have been few this summer so far!).  You know it have been a great summer so far when three bottle of sunscreen have been used, everyone has those weird V shaped tan lines from their flip flops and you fall into bed exhausted every night! Hope you are all having an equally fantastic summer!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Today it is back to work after a great Memorial Day weekend. If you are from Mt. Carroll, this weekend is synonymous with Mayfest. I love Mayfest. Always have. My hubby isn't that into it, but I am trying to make Mayfest an exciting, highly anticipated event for J as well. 

I talked up Mayfest for the whole week before it so that J would be into going and festing with me. I kicked off my Mayfest with the walk/run on Saturday morning. Afterwards, J and I headed over to check things out. J was bubbling with excitement. This year, one of the featured kids activities was a Big Machine section complete with a fire truck, ambulance, tractors, backhoes and mowers.  There was also a dune buggy. Luckily, we were the only people there for the first hour or so and J got to have his run of the place. He fell in love with the dune buggy and told me at one point "get in mommy, I am driving this home."  I was able to bribe J to leave the dune buggy with the promise of a train ride and lunch.

The train was a rickety, three car train that was driven by a young man with no concept of the fact that he shouldn't drive over curbs or bumps at high rates of speed. I was terrified. J loved it.  We then ventured to the food tent where I was faced with the impossible task of deciding with traditional Mayfest food to enjoy: A pork chop sandwich from the pork producers? Corn on the cob from the Lions? Or a Baptist Men's funnel cake? Tough call. J opted for a hot dog and the corn (which he refused to share with me) and I took a pork chop sandwich. It was a great choice. 

Once our bellies were full we continued our circuit of the Campbell Center grounds. One booth offered face painting and temporary tattoos. J would never go for a painted face, but a tattoo sounded good to him. The board outside the booth displayed the design options. I suggested a green frog or Batman emblem. J requested a red devil tattoo that would only have fit across his chest or back. We passed on the tattoo as I figured 3 was a little too young for him to have satan emblazoned on his body. Maybe next year though ;)

We returned later that evening for music and dancing. J cut a rug with his buddies and my dad played with the band. After sending J home with grandma, I got to have some time to catch up with old friends. This is hands down the best part of Mayfest to me. I love how we can all come together each year and easily fall back into conversation with one another as though we never left off. Many laughs were had and my stomach muscles hurt the next day from all of the riotous laughter we shared.  It was also fun to see every one's growing families.  I really can't believe we all have kids! I remember being a kid and going to Mayfest myself.  Wandering around the campus, going to the teen dance,  working in the booths for various clubs and school groups, doing the Maypole dance.  Now, we all have little ones to bring along and share the fun with. 

This Mayfest was one of the best ones I can recall. We had very un-Mayfest like weather. Hot, sunny and NO RAIN! The weekend was capped by celebrating Memorial Day and the folks that guaranteed our freedom to be here today to enjoy ourselves.  363 days until next year!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Anni

Today (May 10, 2012) is my ninth wedding anniversary. Wow. 9 years. That seems like an eternity! What is even crazier is that my hubby and I have been together for 13 years (our first date was also this week in 1999).

I texted my husband earlier this week to point out that we had been together for 13 wonderful (mostly) years. He responded that first date anniversaries were not recognized as actual anniversaries and therefore he was not obliged to provide any sort of gift or card. I told him I wasn't expecting anything for the first date anni, just that I wanted to point it out that we have been madly in love for 13 years now.  To which he replied, "13? I am now weeping." Hands off ladies, he's all mine.

Thirteen years ago I was working part time at a local grocery store while I attended college. My future hubby frequented that store and despite my grubby work clothes and pulled back, messy pony tail, he asked me out. Or more accurately, asked me out after he had sought the advice of one of my co workers as to whether or not I would go on a date with one of HIS friends. My co worker asked why he didn't just ask me out.  She must have assured him that on a "regular" day I wore clean clothes and actually brushed my hair, so he took a leap and asked.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Our first date was a romantic dinner for two at a local bistro called....Sievert's. That's right, Sievert's.  Maybe he didn't want to drive out of town in case dinner bombed and he had to rush me home. But, dinner went well and I was invited back to his house to watch a movie. We arrived at his house and after I was attacked by his cat, we put a movie in, but got distracted by an intense game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. (Yes, I see now why he may have still been single.) I still say that the game was a test and that my knowledge of Star Wars must have been impressive enough to warrant a second date because couple days later, he asked me out again and he have been together ever since.

At that time, I had two years of college to finish and lived between the dorms at NIU and home with my p's and made lots of weekend trips home to see Ryan and to work. After college graduation in May 2001, I got my own cute little apartment and lived there while construction of our dream home started that fall. Our engagement came that Christmas and we moved into our new home in March 2002 . Our wedding followed in May 2003.  The four years leading up to our wedding seem like a blur now (although back that I never thought the big day would arrive!).

Ryan and I lived as a family of two (well, 3 if you count our rotten cat, Max) for the next five plus years. We adjusted to each other's habits and settled into a good groove as a married couple.  Our lives were again changed by welcoming Jackson in August 2008.  Hard to believe we have been a family of three for nearly four years.

As I look back over 13 years, so much has happened! College, marriage, starting my career, Ryan starting his dream business, having a child, building a home. It is really a bit overwhelming. We have both changed so much in that time. I barely recognize the kids that went on a first date 13 years ago! I have seen Ryan turn into a wonderful father and seen him achieve so much over the years. And I know I am much diffrent now too. But, even though we have changed, we are lucky that we have changed together. That the people we have become are as compatible as the two dorks who both loved playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit.

As any married couple, have had our ups and downs. But, I think we have a good thing going.  No one knows me better than Ryan and there is no one I have ever known better than him. When I have news to share, he is the first person I want to tell. I know he will support anything I do and will be honest with me no matter what. He is, at times, my voice of reason (whether I want to hear it or not), but he is also always my ally.  And most importantly, he can put up with me.  That in itself makes him a keeper.  We may drive each other mad from time to time, but each day there is no one I want to be with more.

Happy 9th to my hubby!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Public Parent Embarassment

Well, it happened. J's first public melt down. Until last weekend, he had always been a cooperative, happy shopping companion. And I totally took that for granted.

The instance in question occurred last weekend during a routine shopping trip. The day started poorly. At 5.a.m, I might add. J was in a mood. Not his normal self, to be sure. He was grouchy, whiny and just plain foul at points. Before 8am, he had served two times outs accompanied by tantrums.  I will admit, I probably should have abandonded the idea of grocery shopping given how the day started. But, my time is limited due to work and I just didn't know when else I would get it done. So, I forged ahead.

The trip to the store and shopping went well until the point that we checked out.  I had the groceries loaded onto the checkout counter and that is when it happened.  J spotted a Hot Wheels car that he absolutely must have. He asked if he could have it and I told him "no."  As I explained to him that his behavior so far that day had not been good enough for him to deserve a toy from the store, the pouty lip popped out and the tears welled up in his big brown eyes.  I knew what was coming. I felt like I was witnessing a car wreck. I could see it happening, but could do nothing to prevent it.

J started to scream. An ear piercing "I WANT THE CAR!" wail that he repeated over and over. My own mantra for him was "I said no, and this is why. When does a fit get you what you want? Never." I will admit that I was probably repeating my mantra a little too loudly. Mostly for the benefit of the passers by who I am sure thought some sort of abuse was occurring due to the volume of J's wailing. 

Then it happened. As if it wasn't bad enough to be weathering my first public melt down, the cashier decided she would "help" me. She looked at J and said, "honey, if you stop crying, your mommy might buy you that toy."  Um, what? I couldn't believe it! Had she really just said that? No, I must be mistaken. But then , sure enough, she said it again. I told her that I didn't intend to buy the toy, especially now that J was pitching a fit. She said "Well, I said you MIGHT buy the toy for him." Oh, sure, because an inconsolable 3 year old really heard the MIGHT in that statement!  As patiently as I could, I explained that I didn't believe in rewarding a tantrum with a toy.  I thought that would put the issue to rest.

Oh, how wrong I was. J stopped crying so twice more this cashier said to J "See how good you are being? I am almost done and your mommy is going to buy that toy for you!" Then she gives me a conspiritorial smile and says "I have four kids." I think I was too dumbfounded to speak. Which is good because all I could think of was a sarcastic "yeah, and I bet they're awesome!" I turned away so as not to loose it and finally the cashier announced my total as well as "All done! Now, should I ring up that toy mom?"  I again said no and I didn't appreciate being put on the spot that way. To which she replied "Geez, if I had a dollar, I would just buy it FOR him."  Yeah, because that was the point, lady! 

There are two things of note that came from this experience.  1.) I have way more self control that I ever imagined.  I kept my cool with the 3 year old whose head was spinning around like the girl from the Exorcist AND I managed not to flip out on the cashier. It was ah-may-zing on my part, I think. And 2.) No one should intervene when you are dealing with your kids. (With the exception of someone who is being abusive, of course). I have personally never done this to another parent and never will.  I was embarassed by the tantrum, but became mortified by this woman who essentially accused me of not handling the situation right.  How about a little support instead of ridicule? How about a  supportive "your mommy is right, crying never gets you anything buddy!" Would that have been so hard? I was standing my ground. I was not being mean or abusive to him. He was not hurt in some way, he was being a stinker. And I was NOT going to be the parent that says no and then sheepishly gives in and buys the toy. This is why: because if I give in once, J will learn that having a hissy fit gets him his way. And it doesn't. Ever. Did I want him stop crying? Yes! More than anything! But I really believe that if I had given in, it would have been the beginning of the end.

So there it is. My first public tantrum situation.  And I survived it! Barely! So for all the moms reading this, hopefully you will feel better about your own embarassing moments. You are not alone. I am now in your ranks and will never take my usually good natured, happy boy for granted.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012

Another Easter is in the books. I thought we had our weekend mapped out, but everything got turned a little upside down. Plans fell through and others were made. But in the end, it turned out to be one of my favorite Easters ever.

Jackson and I dyed Easter eggs on Good Friday. We also kept busy making M&M/frosting/pretzel flowers. Well, I made flowers, J ate M&M's. It was a good partnership. We needed the pretty, bright colored M&M's for the "petals" but not the brown ones. J was free to consume as many of those as he wanted. Our eggs turned out great and he was really into coloring them this year.  We had great weather and took the eggs and dye onto the porch for coloring. We had a few splashes (when eggs are dropped into a cup of dye, it tends slosh onto the table). We had a few cracked eggs. And we learned that vinegar not only smells bad, it tastes bad too (I swear this child tastes EVERYTHING!).

                                                  Materpieces! The flowers were delicious!

We spent Saturday morning at a  kids event held at a local church. There were crafts, a bouncy house, egg hunts and even lunch! J hung out with one of his buddies from daycare and declared on the way home that "I'm tired. That wore me out." So, we napped! Hooray! Nap time was followed up with church and pizza dinner.

                                        All lined up to hunt eggs. I turned around and saw this.
                                                             He just loves Miss Maddie!

But Sunday was the highlight of the weekend for me. Our plans were changing continually for the days leading up to Easter. Ultimately, we decided to take a laid back approach to the day.  J rose early (as usual) excited to see if the Easter Bunny had come. He found a couple eggs before spying his basket. The Easter Bunny had been inspired by something he read. It said that a good gift for a child consists of: something they want, something they need, something they wear and something to read.  Based on this, J's basket held a Hiro train (from his favorite Thomas video), a new frisbee (to replace our old one that broke), a short and t-shirt set and some books to help learn sight words.  But, Easter Bunny could have saved a bunch of money and just bought the train. J was ELATED with Hiro. He played with that train all day, slept with it that night and took it to daycare the next day. Even when he was hunting the rest of his eggs, his mind is still on Hiro:

                                                                   "I got a Hiro!"

                                                             All smiles posing with Hiro.

After the eggs were found (all 18 - no one was free to go until they were all located. No stinky eggs for us!), we let J pick our activites for the morning. He chose playing at the park followed by throwing rocks into the Mississippi.  We slid, climbed and swang. We skipped stones and even got to see a train go by while we were down by the river.  Mostly though, we ran around and laughed and were silly:

                                         Not thrilled about him calling me by my first name.                             
                                        Also, notice his dad doing nothing to discourage him :)

                                                                    My Boys :)
                                                                     All smiles.
                                                     Tossin' rocks into the Mississippi
                                                   We don't toss no stinking puny rocks.

After rock tossing and explaining to J why he couldn't go swimming about 50 times, we returned home for lunch. We had chicken nuggets and mac and cheese - I may have dropped the ball a little on Easter dinner! But, that was what J wanted, so that is what we had. The rest of the day was spent taking a nap (bonus - two in one weekend!), playing outside and playing games.

It was definitely a break from tradition for us this year, but it was one of the best Easters I can remember having. We slowed down. We played. We laughed A LOT. We enjoyed the gorgeous day we were given and I felt like this might have been one of the few Easters that we really did right. It is fun to have egg hunts and Easter baskets. To see family and friends and spend time together. And we did those things. But Easter day was more about just being together enjoying the life we can have because Jesus died on the cross for us and forgave our sins. I think that is more the point than peeps and jelly beans (although I do love me some peeps!).

Happy Easter Everyone!!!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lately I am noticing little aspects of J's personality emerging.  I see him do things and they make me so proud of who he is and confident in the person he will become.  At least, I hope what I am seeing is the foundation of the good hearted, kind person I hope he is as a man.

One thing I noticed recently is that J is very kind to smaller kids.  He ADORES his cousin Anna (age 18 months) and has always been very patient, considerate, gentle and kind with her. He has recently started calling her his "sister" and asks about her every day.  I have always been impressed with how he treats her (because patient, kind and gentle aren't often words that can describe three year old boys).  But, recently, I saw him around another child of the same age. J was so sweet to this little girl.  There were many children playing and jumping around, but J made sure to look after her.  The kids were taking turns jumping off a ledge onto a huge beanbag.  J helped this little girl onto the ledge, took her by the hand and then they jumped onto the bean bag together. When bigger kids came around, he made sure they weren't going to land on her and that she had room to jump.  He shared his toys with her and they got along exceptionally well. I hope this is a trait he never loses. I hope he always looks out for the little guy. I hope he always makes sure that people who are littler, slower, younger or whatever are watched out for. Because to me, a big part of a person's character is how they treat "the little guy".

                                                        Jackson and "sister" Anna
I have also noticed recently that J has the tendency to be a daredevil. He likes to try things that make my heart leap into my throat when I see them. He doesn't see things as too hard or seem to be intimidated out of trying them.  But, I also noticed that he doesn't throw caution to the wind and just dive into dangerous things either.  He is very methodical about testing the limits of what he can do.  Again, I hope this translates to the rest of his life. I hope he always has the desire to try things that might be intimidating or daunting to him, but that he does so responsibly. I also hope that he never looks at something and thinks, "That looks hard or risky, so I won't try it." Instead, I hope he says, "That looks hard, but I think I can do it. I won't know until I try."

                                           Downhill racing. We don't have a bike helmet yet, so this
                                                                           Was J's solution (lol).  

                                                 The next Evel Kneivel? Maybe if he grows a little.

Also, J has recently started being able to sympathize with people and will apologize without us making him.  That may seem silly to a lot of people, but that is important to me. A good example of this was a few weeks ago. J dropped something on his dad's foot and it very obviously hurt his dad.  Ryan left the room to let off the steam and J was visibly upset that he had hurt his dad. I have told him before that it is up to him whether or not he says sorry, but that when we hurt someone (no matter why) we should say sorry. This time I didn't say a thing.   His dad returned and with no prompting, J said ,"sorry daddy" and gave his dad a big hug. Why does that matter to me? Because it shows empathy. And because it was sincere. J could understand that his actions hurt someone. It also shows an understanding that an apology isn't just for wrongs we MEAN to do, but for those that are accidental too.  I want J to always to admit when he made a mistake be quick to offer a sincere apology.  Too many people don't value empathy and sincerity anymore. It is a small example, but I hope it is the first stop on the path to a man who does value those qualities.

The last trait I see emerging in J is gratitude. I love to hear him thank people for things. Especially when I don't have to prompt him. Obviously, it is good manners, but I hope it goes deeper than that. I hope he realizes that people are being generous to him and that he appreciates it.  And I hope he in turn will be generous to other people.  A while back J received an unexpected gift. It wasn't a big, over the top gift, but J loved it.  Upon receiving it, he said to me, "mom, these cars are awesome, I need to write a thank you note." Hallelujah! All those cards we have written may be sinking in! I hope that J is always thrilled by any gift given to him, no matter the size. I hope the surprise of someone acting kindly to him never goes away and that any time someone is kind to him, he continues to say, "thank you, thank you, thank you!" with that smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.  And I hope he only continues to grow in his desire to give to others. I love it when we are at the store and he sees an item and says, "you know who would like that? Daddy. Let's get it for him!" I want giving to be as exciting as receiving for my son. When J gets a new toy, we have a rule  that he has to pick one toy to give away.  The last time he got a new toy, I reminded him to pick one out to donate.  Without a single complaint, he said, "yeah, because some kids don't have toys and they might like playing with one of mine". 

                                                 This is the smile and the eye twinkle I was referring to!

Kids are obviously works in progress. Adults are too. We all need to learn and grow and be reminded to be kinder, more understanding and more generous.  Seeing J start to "get" these concepts helps  me to be mindful of these things too. And it reinforces to me to keep on him about those things because he does get it. Even when I think he doesn't.  Hopefully, he continues to impress me!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things No One Tells You (Part I)

I have been thinking lately about the things no one tells you when you embark upon parenthood.  I am titleing this part I because, let's face it, J is only 3.  I am certain there are going to be infinitely more things that I encounter that will make me think "How come no one told me about that?" Because clearly these are things that every parent knows. When you talk to friends and tell them of a recent experience, they shake their head in a sympathetic way because they have been there too. Yet, they don't warn you.  Well, I am putting it all down here. Whoever reads this will have fair warning!

The first thing that no one tells you is that not all children sleep through the night.  To hear other moms tell it, their babies reached 6 or 8 weeks of age and began sleeping from 7pm to 7am with not even a whimper in between.  But, there are other moms that don't tell you that you could get a kid like J. (Maybe they don't share this one because they don't want to send frazzled new mothers into a tailspin .) J is the world's wost sleeper. I always said he was a happy baby and easy going to make up for the fact that he never slept.  That was the trade off. Happy baby, bad sleeper.  He was one before he made it for an all night stretch.  It is not uncommon for him to have nights where he wakes up 4-5 times (always for such incredibly important reasons such as "my socks hurt" or "I want toast".) And in an everage week, if he sleeps all night 4 of the 7 nights, I am happy. I am also happy if he stays in bed until 6a.m. That is the rule. Now that he knows numbers, he isn't allowed to get up until he sees 6:00 on the clock (although, this morning, he laid awake whispering loudly: 5:44, 5:45, 5:47 so the 6:00 rule didn't really pay off there!).

You also don't get told that everyone will judge how you parent. Yup, everyone.  And it is super frustrating! Although, I have concluded that this one is all about karma. Because before you had kids, who hasn't thought, "Man, that kid is acting up, seriously can't you control them?" or "Seriously, get that screaming kid out of here!".  And then you have your own kids and karma gets ya!  No one warns you of the extreme embarassment you will experience. But, they also don't tell that you that EVERYONE'S kids have meltdowns. Mine is no exception. And eventually, they all do it in public.  And when it happens, the young women look at you like you are the worst parent on Earth because they don't have kids yet and haven't been through it. The moms with older or grown kids do the same because that same hormone that makes you forget how painful labor is apparently also makes you forget what little nincompoops your kids can be. The only ones who understand are the other moms who are abandoning their full grocery carts in the middle of the store to take a screaming kid out to the car. 

And to follow that one up, no one tells you just how hard this parenting thing is!  Sure, you hear people say it is hard. But, no one tells you the nitty gritty, down and dirty truth. It is ridiculously hard.  You juggle your job, your child, what passes for your social life, your home, your marriage.  You function on the already mentioned lack of sleep and cram more into one day than you ever though possible. You will be tired, stressed and overwhelmed.  Your heart will break when you have to discipline your child or take them to get their shots.  You will be sad when their feelings are hurt or they are mistreated. You will be frustrated because, darn it, this kid just won't behave! But the flip side of this reality is that when that child hugs you and says, "I love you mommy" or crawls in your lap and says, "I'm cold, warm me up", you will know happiness and contentment that you could never imagine.  The truth is also that you will have moments that take your breath away. You will experience happiness, pride and love like you never thought possible.  So, I guess the basic warning should have two parts: you will be closer to losing your mind than you ever have been before, but you will be so in love with that child that you won't care.  I think that sums it up!

Also on the list of top secret mommy info is the fact that you will never feel like you are doing a good enough job with your child. You don't get a nice pamphlet entitled: Mommy guilt: You Are Not Alone.  No one tells you that you will lay awake in bed  debating whether or not to run your sick child  to the ER, which formula to use, which diapers to buy, did you give them enough time, love attention etc.? Or that you will agonize over whether or not to send them to Kindergarten or wait a year. Or that you will obsess about just about everything they do all the time.  I don't know if there is an adequate warning for this.  But here it is: WARNING: You will lay down to sleep each night and think, "was I a good enough mom today? Could I have done more or been better? Do I have everything ready for tomorrow?"  Honestly though, the fact that you are thinking that, means you are one darn good mom.

And to end on a light note (since this got heavier than I thought it would!), no one ever tells you that boys are gross (maybe some girls too!). It is as simple as that. They are nasty :)  They think fart and poop jokes are funny from the moment they learn to laugh.  It is hard wired. They will touch things that make you cringe. They will run around in dirty, smelly clothes and not care one bit.  They will eat things off the ground and wipe their noses on you. They just can't help it. It is a DNA thing.

There you have it. Installment number one of "Things No One Tells You." Stay tuned.  This kid is full of good material :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dells

This past weekend, our family ventured to the North for a short get away. I had never been to the Dells, but have heard that it is a must-do for families.  J likes the water and swimming, so we figured this would be right up his alley. After, packing enough stuff for a trek to the South Pole (seriously, I over pack so badly it is ridiculous!), we headed out on Sunday for some water park fun.

The ride to the Dells was much quicker and smoother than expected. Anticipating boredom, I packed everything I could think of to occupy J during the 2 1/2 hour ride (crayons, books, tractors, trains, my ipod stocked with new games and enough snacks to feed a small nation). Turns out, we really didn't need much of that stuff. J was a car-riding rock star! He was happy playing "I Spy" type games and commenting on things we passed. Or he amused himself with silly made up games like "Hiding under my greenies". He did ask "Are we there yet?" every time we slowed down or stopped along the way (Roughly 732 times, I would guess).  And he commented that the ride was "long" and that "I am waiting forever and ever to get there!". But, that was the worst of it. Upon arriving, he once again asked if we were there. Ryan and I happily said"YES!" to which J replied, "Oh.... well, that didn't take very long."

Our hotel was the Wilderness Territroy, which I highly recommend. It has three attached water parks and a huge 4 story play area for kids. There is an arcade, indoor mini golf, laser tag, pottery making and all kinds of outdoors stuff we couldn't try on this trip, but will certainly try in the future (To the Wildernss Hotel group- you know where to send payment for this endorsement).  Plenty to keep an active 3 year old and his parents very busy.

We checked in and I pack muled our stuff to the room (husbands and kids mysteriously disappear when there is heavy lifting to be done). We quickly donned swimsuits and were off to the water park. Our first stop was the Water Dome. A huge glass covered area where the main attraction was a huge wave pool. I didn't think J would be into the idea of a wave pool, but I was so wrong! He LOVED it! And not just gently riding the waves. He preferred to have waves breaking in his face, submerging him. He laughed his hilarious little laugh the whole time.


 We stayed for a couple hours before J got too cold and we headed back to our room.  We ordered pizza and hung out before we turned in.

The next morning, we were up, suited and waiting for the water parks to open (my only complaint is that nothing opened before 9a.m. and that is a lot of time to kill when you are up at 6!).  We started out at the wave pool again, but this time, the glass dome ceiling filtered in a ton of sunshine and it felt like a day at the beach.  After we stopped for a snack, we mosied over to the Klondike Cavern Water Park. 

Once there we set a new world record for longest time spent floating on a lazy river (okay, Guinness hasn't confirmed this, but I suspect it is true!).  J loves to people watch (just like me!) and was satisfied floating around watching people on the slides and seeing the 1,000 gallon bucket dump water all over.  We rode the river until lunch.  We followed that up with a family nap (hooray!) before hitting the third water park, the Wild West Town.  This was a lot more J's speed. More geared towards little people with smaller slides.  After that we cleanedup, put on respectable clothes (no swim suits for dinner out!) and hit the town for supper.  We all fell into bed exhausted, but happy.

On our final day, we opted to spend the morning in the 4 story play area.  We figured more water park would mean a soggy, uncomfortable ride home. J was okay with this arrangement as he had a blast in the play area.  It was equipped with every kind of slide, crawl space and climbing apparatus you can imagine.  It also had air cannons that shot nerf balls.  J was more into gathering up "ammo" in the totes provided that he was shooting them, which worked out well because his dad was waging war on some 8 year olds and needed a steady supply of nerf projectiles.  There is something so wrong about seing a 39 year old trying to snipe a kid using a gun shaped like a rodent.

Once I tore Ryan away from the guns, we crawled around with J for a couple hours.  (Coincidentally, it was that long before Ryan could walk totally upright again following all that crawling around.) 

The play area wore us out and did J in too.  We got in the car and he promptly fell asleep for part of our ride home.

It was a very nice break from reality for all of us.  I got to be "off duty" for two whole days (no cooking, no cleaning, no work!!!), J got lots of fun time with mom and dad and a good time was had by all.  I must also say that J was nothing short of angelic the whole time.  He really made the trip enjoyable and I appreciated his good humor each time we encountered a child in a nuclear melt down.  We will most definitely be returning to the Dells!