Trip to Cleveland – January 2019

Caleb and I recently returned from a trip to Cleveland to visit my brother and sister-in-law. Our excuse to go was their baby shower. They are expecting their first child, a daughter, in March. However, I love to see them any time I can, and Caleb had only met them twice before this so we were looking forward to just getting to visit. As a bonus, my parents came as well so Caleb had lots of attention from loving family members.

Last week Caleb and I had to wake up frightfully early (before 3am) in order to make it to our flight. The Portland to Vegas leg was a breeze. Caleb loved looking out the window, and focused on his coloring and busy bag activities. He asked a lot of questions for the first twenty or so minutes of the flight, and enjoyed seeing the other planes before take off.

The flight from Vegas to Cleveland was not quite as smooth. He was getting pretty tired by then, having been awake for so long. We let him watch a movie, then I tried to get some food into him before a nap, but it was too late. He cried for a very long time before I was finally able to help him settle into a nap. Then he slept most of the rest of the way there.

Uncle Greg picked us up from the airport, and Caleb was excited to see snow on the ground. At the time there were only about two inches, but Caleb declared, “I’ve never seen so much snow in my life!” This was almost true…but it is definitely true in his memory.

On Friday, I took Caleb out to play in the snow, and Uncle Greg joined us for a bit. Caleb loved having snowball fights, and luckily Uncle Greg is a willing participant.

On Saturday, a huge snow storm hit Cleveland. I took Caleb out in the beginning of the storm before the baby shower. He again had a lot of fun throwing snowballs and walking around in the snow. He also made his first snow angel. It was fun for me to get so much time with Caleb.

After playing in the snow, I had to get ready for the baby shower. Auntie Shaina’s mom and aunties put a lot of hard work into the shower, and it was one of the most well done showers I’ve ever attended. Shaina looked radiant, and when Greg showed up at the end I got a picture of him as well. It’s fun to see how excited they are for their little one to arrive. One of Shaina’s aunts made a little helicopter out of baby supplies because Greg is a pilot. All of the decorations were very cute.

We made it home from the shower even with all the snow and got to relax at Greg and Shaina’s for the rest of the day. Caleb enjoyed lots of attention, and got to enjoy a cookie leftover from the shower as well.

It snowed all through Saturday night into Sunday morning, and by the time we were ready to go out and play again there was over a foot of snow and it was only 14 degrees and dropping outside. This time, all of us headed outside to play (and to shovel the driveway). Caleb had a lot of fun jumping into snow piles with Uncle Greg, and throwing the frisbee for their dog Chesney.

I feel so lucky that we got to go have this extra little trip to spend time with the Ohio Bartles. The time went so fast, and on Monday we had to make our way home. Caleb was exhausted and fell asleep shortly before we boarded our connecting flight in St. Louis.

We can’t wait to go back later this year after baby girl Bartle is born. Next time we’ll bring the whole family!

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Simon’s Growing Up: The Tales of the Tooth and the Playdate

Two things have happened in the last few days that have really made me realize how much Simon is growing and changing. It’s hard for him being the middle child. It seems like a lot of things Elias does get celebration and attention because he is the oldest and always the first to do everything. Caleb is the youngest…my baby…and he’s always the last first…if you know what I mean. Simon’s stuck in the middle.

Now that Simon is in kindergarten I’ve been trying to have him play with friends outside of school because I have seen with Elias that it really helps friendships develop. Plus it’s just fun. Unfortunately because of our schedule and because it just takes a lot of effort to set them up, Simon hasn’t had many play dates. We’ve had a few great ones…but just a few. Meanwhile Elias has a standing play date every week and sometimes more. Poor Simon.

Simon has been begging me for weeks to try to set up a playdate with a little boy in his class. We’ll call him “M.” I was having trouble finding any contact information for “M” because I had never met his parents, and so Simon enjoyed a few other playmates in the mean time. I’ll admit I wasn’t really motivated.

Last Thursday, Simon came home from school and told me that he had written down my phone number and given it to his friend “M” at school. He just looked so excited and pleased with himself. I have to admit my first instinct was to react in anger. How dare he give out my phone number! Who knows where that piece of paper is going to end up. Kid’s backpacks are like black holes. And I don’t even know these people! But my anger quickly turned to amusement, and maybe even pride. I wasn’t setting up the playdate for him, and he took matters into his own hands. It was pretty cute. The next day there was a note from “M’s” mom in Simon’s backpack with her contact info. I contacted her and set up a time for the boys to play. So…Simon’s idea payed off. It worked! He’ll soon be experiencing the joys and delights of a playdate with “M.”

This whole thing has really made me think about Simon and how he is realizing he can sometimes take his fate into his own hands. He can be proactive and assertive and try to make things happen instead of letting things just happen to him. Way to go, buddy! (Now don’t go giving out my phone number any more!)

And the second thing that happened was that today, Simon lost his first tooth! I arrived in the pick up line, and he ran out proudly with that little plastic tooth necklace.

I was super excited and asking him all sorts of questions and took this picture. I guess I went on too long about it because he very politely told me that I was embarrassing him and could I please stop talking about it.

I just looked at his changed smile all afternoon, and while it’s exciting, I am again mourning the loss of something. He’ll never have that baby tooth smile again. Soon, a huge thing will grow in right in the front of his smile and he’ll be changed for good. Onward and upward I guess, but I’ll cherish this little hole in his smile while it lasts.

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Caleb’s First Day of School!

Caleb’s been dropping off his brothers at school almost since the day he was born. When he was an infant, Elias was in Pre-Kindergarten four days a week, and Caleb came along in the car seat every day. The next year Elias went to Kindergarten and Caleb came every day to drop off and pick up. He also came along to drop Simon off at preschool and as soon as he could walk, he would follow Simon right into the classroom and sit down at the table looking at Simon’s teacher with the “what about me?” look. Last year when we dropped of Simon at pre-K, Caleb would run into the classroom before I could stop him and play with the cars every day. This year when he knew his turn was coming soon, he would insist on wearing his backpack just like his big brothers when we all climbed into the car for drop off. This kid has been ready to go to school for a long time!

In the last few months, though, Caleb has really been going through a clingy phase. At church he’d rather go to the service or to Godly Play in my classroom than go play in the nursery. When friends come over to play he just sits on my lap. I know it’s just a phase and it will pass so it doesn’t worry me, but as the first day of school was approaching and he was still so nervous about being separated from me I have to admit I had some anxiety over the situation.

Today was Caleb’s first day of preschool. He is in a program called “pre-3’s”. It’s actually for three year olds who are the oldest of their year (born between Sept 1st and Dec 31st), and it’s just one day a week. It’s really just a “getting used to school” kind of thing. After months of looking forward to it, Caleb told me this morning that he’s not going to go to school, and asked over and over again if I was staying or not. He was pretty nervous.

However, when I told him it was time to take first day pictures in the backyard he hammed it up as usual.

We got in the car and drove to school and when we arrived in the parking lot he shouted, “My School!” He insisted on putting on his backpack himself even though he usually needs help, and he didn’t even ask me to carry him in…something he usually does. (Although he did consent to hold my hand). We arrived at his classroom and found his coat hook. Again he wanted to be independent and insisted on learning how to hang up his coat and backpack on his own.

When we arrived in the classroom he was pretty clingy, but the teachers had a water color page set out for them to work on first thing, and Caleb got right to it with his trademark one color artistry. His teacher, Mrs. G helped get him started.

After painting he got to have free time and choose whatever toy he wanted. He chose trains.

After about 30 minutes I decided it was time to go and let him be at school by himself. He must have heard me tell the teacher I was going to sneak out because he came running over and grabbed my leg. Luckily Mrs. Manning was there and she helped him get started with play-doh. Then, when I told him I was going to leave he barely blinked an eye!

When I returned for pick up at the end of school I peeked in their door window and saw him singing along happily during their circle time. When he came out the first thing he said was, “Mommy! I had so much fun at school with my new friends!”

So folks…I think it was a success!

It’s difficult as a mother to be constantly pulled in so many directions. I am so happy for him and excited that he is growing up and moving on. He’s got so many exciting things ahead, and the fact that he was able to have a successful first day of school at this age says a lot about him. However, it was also a sad day for me. My youngest is now attending school and I have no more babies. It’s a kind of loss for me as well as a joyous occasion. Nathan just scoffs when I get all sentimental, but I have to admit there is a little piece of my heart that would be happy to freeze him in this little phase forever.

I suppose that is why living in the present is so important. I can’t look back fretting about what is gone, and I shouldn’t look too far ahead to what is coming. I’ll try to live right here, right now so I don’t miss a second of it!

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Crossing Items Off The Bucket List

Each season of the year we have a “bucket list” of things we’d like to do as a family. Some of them are as simple as watching the Charlie Brown Christmas movie. Others are more involved. This year as we entered the last week of winter break I realized we had quite a few things we had not done, and for some of them, it was our last chance!

The first was zoo lights. We’ve been zoo members since Elias was 6 months old and we’ve been to zoo lights every year at least once. I think our record attendance was five times in one season. This year we were in danger of not making it! Wednesday evening after Nathan got home from work we bundled up and headed out to the zoo. We decided to head for the train first since we did not want to wait in line. We walked right on! We got to sit in the monkey car, which Caleb thought was wonderful. No one even got too cold!

After the train and a lot of light viewing, we allowed a treat of elephant ears. Everyone was very excited.

Finally, we made it through the Africa section and the light tunnel. Caleb loved the trees wrapped in lights, and kept forcing me to stop and take pictures of them. “They’re so beautiful!” he kept saying. And they were!

When we got home it was late and close to bed time so instead of a real dinner I informed the boys we’d be having heavy snacks. (Apples and peanut butter, crackers and cheese, etc). You’d think it was the best day of their lives. I’m glad such simple things make them happy.

Another thing that has been left unchecked on our bucket list for years has been ice skating. Luckily this year, my mom was motivated to go as well and so we got a date on the calendar. Caleb stayed with Baba, but Elias, Simon, my mom and I all went ice skating. It was both Elias and Simon’s first time ever. Elias absolutely loved it. Simon was not a fan. Elias fell so many times that his pants were soaked through, but he didn’t let it stop him. I think he would have stayed for hours if he could have. As it was, we stayed for about an hour and twenty minutes.

Finally, I had been wanting to see the King Tut exhibit at OMSI, but we didn’t think all of the kids would be old enough to be interested yet. Yesterday, I took Elias for a little Mommy-son date to see the exhibit. Elias was excited by the idea of the audio guide, and enjoyed the exhibit for about 45 minutes before feeling like he was tired of walking around readingĀ  signs and looking at stuff. The exhibit was amazing!

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Winter Break Is….

The boys have been on winter break for a little over a week now. The break seems extra long this year because we have so much time together after Christmas. It’s a much needed time we have together and a good break from the normal daily routine. We aren’t going on any vacations or even doing a whole lot out of the house. So what is winter break for the Smith fam?

Winter break is ….cold!

We try to bundle up and get outside. Three little boys have too much energy to be contained inside the house. They make little courses to ride on their bikes on our street. Sometimes they’ll put on boots and coats and go dig in the dirt in the backyard. They hit tennis balls around the yard. Soon we’ll get all the baseball gear out again…spring (and little league) will be here before we know it! I think their favorite is bike riding. We’ve ridden bikes in the pouring rain and even in the hail. They’ll ride until their little fingers are frozen. But getting bundled up and out into the cold is an important part of winter break.

Winter Break is….noisy!

It seems that I can never escape the noise these days. Feet thumping and running around. Voices shouting phrases like “activate creature powers!” and “ninjago!”. Music blasting from boomboxes. Screaming and crying…it’s not all flowers and rainbows around here. Nerf guns shooting. The extremely loud tones of the floor piano we got Caleb for Christmas. It’s all very noisy around here. Sometimes after the boys go to bed and I get a couple of hours to myself I just sit and revel in the silence for awhile. Not all noises are bad. Elias has been practicing piano a lot this break. His newest task is a little piece called “Atacama Desert.” He plays it over and over again and has improved quite a bit in the last week and a half or so. He’s gotten to the point where I can’t actually sight read his pieces perfectly anymore…at least at the tempo they’re supposed to go. It’s fun hearing him progress and have fun with it. Notice his characteristic backward shirt in the picture below.

Another fun noise around here is laughter. Simon and Caleb love grabbing on to Nathan’s legs when he is home and holding on for dear life. Here they are hugging Daddy as he is trying to help prepare their dinner. Laughter is fun…but it’s loud.

Winter Break is….special treats!

The boys have gotten a lot of special treats this winter break. For example, Elias fell in love with the Hawaiian Sun juices when we visited Maui earlier this fall. We told him they weren’t sold on the mainland (because we thought they weren’t) so that he had to enjoy them while it lasted back in November. Baba came to the rescue, however, and found them (for quite a pretty penny) and Uwajimaya. So when we finished church early yesterday due to no children’s choir and no coffee hour, we headed to Uwajimaya for a special treat. Elias was thrilled to be reunited with his favorite (pineapple orange) and try a new flavor to boot!

Another example is today with the luncheable saga. I had to take all three boys with me to Winco to do our grocery shopping…a task a normally avoid like the plague. Even during the summer I would attempt to time the grocery shopping while the older boys were at a camp or something! But, we really needed groceries and I can’t leave anyone home so to Winco I went dragging the little ones along. Really I’m making the story more dramatic because the boys were awesome at the store (this time). Simon was my list manager and was able to read most of the items himself. (Yay Imlay Kindergarten!) Caleb didn’t complain even once at having to sit in the front of the cart instead of the big part (we needed too much). Elias helped retrieve items from shelves and make decisions about purchases. They did get me with the luncheables, though. I’ve never actually purchased them before, and I never intended to. It’s not because I think we’re too good for them…I just never really liked them…they’re kind of gross. I’ve tried to tell the boys this over the years, but I guess seeing too many of their peers with them has been a powerful persuader. The boys really wanted to try the luncheables and since it was winter break and they deserved a treat….and also because I sometimes think the best way to convince them is to let them see for themselves…I caved. I texted Nathan something to the effect of…”stab me now I just bought the boys luncheables.” My gamble paid off. Caleb wouldn’t eat more than one bit, and Elias decided they weren’t tasty either. The only one who enjoyed it was Simon. Most likely, I won’t have to buy them again for a long time if ever!

Winter Break Is….Pajama Days!

I have to admit that most days of winter break the boys have remained in their pajamas for much of the day. I love the leisurely mornings when the boys play happily together and there is nothing important pressing on our time except to just be together. Here is Caleb painting in his pajamas:

Painting is something the boys love. Look at the range of styles we get to enjoy in our house:

All of Caleb’s paintings are completely black, and all of Simon’s have as many colors as he can fit.

Winter Break is…Chess!

Here’s a tip: If you want to get on Elias’ good side, talk to him about chess. I think he’s always got at least one little strand of thought running continuously on chess these days. He started playing a few months ago, and has gotten quite good for his age with a lot of practice. He can beat me…but that’s not saying much since I’ve only played a few games in my life and have never studied any strategy. He does well against Nathan, and plays games against other people online in which he wins some and loses some. Simon humors him and plays like a good little brother should do.

Elias has no mercy and takes pieces left and right. Simon’s no slouch, though, and takes many of his own. I don’t think Simon has ever beaten Elias, but has forced many stalemates.

Elias still gets excited every time he gets a checkmate, and wants me to come look. Since I had the camera out anyway, I took a picture to please him.

Winter Break is…New Year’s Eve Balloon Battles!

This evening before we put Caleb to bed the boys had a balloon battle. I’m not really sure what the rules of balloon battle are, and there seemed to be some disagreement amongst the ranks as to said rules as well. However, much fun was still had.

Now Caleb is fast asleep, and we are allowing the older two to make an attempt at staying up until midnight. This is the first time we’ve allowed this special privilege, and there has been much excitement about it all week. Currently Nathan is downstairs playing Mario with the boys. Video games late a night? What? The only problem with telling your kids that they can attempt to stay up until midnight is that you have to try as well…something Nathan and I have not done since we had Elias eight years ago. So…wish us luck…and a Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas 2018!

Merry Christmas from the Smithfam!

It’s been a really long time since I wrote on the blog. I could make some excuses like I’ve been busy (I have), or that there are other interests and hobbies that took up my time (there were), but honestly I just lost interest in writing for a year or so. However, I’ve really been missing being able to look back over my posts, and I’ve had a few family members who live out of town comment on missing them as well. When I look back at the last posts, I can’t believe how young the kids look, and I can’t help but wonder what has faded from my memory since I didn’t write it down. Many times over the last two or three months I’ve wanted to get started again, but just didn’t. Then, Nathan got me a camera for Christmas so that I don’t have to just take pictures with my phone, and the nicer pictures inspired me to get started again.

This year in Elias’ class at school, they wrote a mini book about our family’s Christmas traditions. He wrote about some of the decorations we put up and some of the foods we eat. He also included that Nathan always puts fruit in my stocking, and I thought it was funny he thought it important enough to include in his book. Then again, our children always notice more than we give them credit for, and this was just another reminder of that. On the last page of the book Elias said his favorite part of Christmas is going to visit family because we get to be together. If that doesn’t melt your heart nothing will!

This year we got to have a lot of different celebrations with family. Nana left for Spokane before Christmas, so we celebrated with her weeks ago! Then a couple of days before Christmas, Grandpa came to stay with us for a few days so that we could spend some quality time together. Our church Christmas pageant was moved to the Sunday before Christmas so that left us with a lot of family time for just the five of us on Christmas eve! We made a spaghetti dinner and lit the advent candles.

Elias after he got to blow out the advent candles on Christmas eve.

Our trusty advent wreath made before the kids were born from a kit Nana gave us.

On Christmas morning we opened our stockings. Afterward, the enjoyed the new Dogman book Simon received.

Then we went over to my parents’ house to enjoy time with cousins and more. The kids enjoyed snacks first when we got there…even before presents!

This year the boys had a gift to give to everyone. Elias sewed pillowcases for everyone (with some help from mom), Simon made stained glass ornaments, and Caleb painted wooden ornaments. They were excited to give the gifts, but understandably, wanted me to do all the work of wrapping.

Even though the “big day” is over, Christmas goes on for more than another week until Epiphany. I’m trying this year to bring the joy of the incarnation into the boys’ lives throughout the Christmas season so that it is what lasts. I don’t know if we’ll actually leave the tree and other decorations up through Epiphany…but it’s nice to look at it while it’s here.

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This Is Better Than Any Treat

The sun this evening brought the Smith Fam some excellent family fun. One of the boys’ favorite things to do is go to a nearby elementary school and practice baseball. The school has six or so ball fields and some nice playgrounds. We like to go and have the boys practice batting and fielding, and with Elias who is developmentally ready, we are really perfecting the art of playing catch.

After school, I let the boys play for 45 minutes or so in the sun. Caleb got to try some new skills…such as hanging and holding his own body weight.

The older two were playing some sort of imaginary pirate game. I just missed a moment where they were walking out in the field with their arms around each other. This one is pretty cute too:

I’ll look back at that picture and remember how much fun they had playing together the next time I am annoyed by their arguing.

After the playground, we were off to piano lessons, and home for dinner. Then finally it was time to go play baseball! It was such a perfect night and the boys had a blast. I only got pictures of Caleb because when they other boys are batting I am too busy in the field. Caleb is getting the hang of hitting. Start ’em early!

Fielding was fun too. I got to play first base!

After we were done on the fields, we let the boys play on the playground for a bit. When I gave them a five minute warning, I told the boys that when we got home I had a treat for them, then it would be time for baths and bed. They were all swinging and yelling about how fun and amazing everything was. Then Elias shouted, “This is better than any treat! This is the treat!”

If my evening wasn’t good enough already, that certainly made it!

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Snow

We had a bit of snow yesterday. When I say a bit, I really do mean a bit. I didn’t think we’d actually go outside and “play” in it. There just wasn’t enough. But the kids remember last year when we had tons of the stuff, and they wanted to play. Even though there wasn’t much on the ground, there were huge white flakes falling heavily from the sky and it just looked so inviting. I spent the 20 minutes getting everyone (including myself) suited up for the snow. Then we headed outside.

I endured about 7 minutes of scenes like this:

That’s right. They basically only wanted to throw snowballs at me. After seven minutes they wanted to go inside. Seven minutes! It took us longer than that to get ready. I forced them to play for longer and enjoy it while they could.

Needless to say it was a bit disappointing for them. But when it snows so rarely, you’ve just got to get outside and touch it for a bit when it comes, right? We still plan to try to get up to the mountain sometime this winter so that they can do some real snow play. First we need to all be healthy!

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Simon’s 5th Birthday

Simon turned five last week. For some reason, five just seems so much older than four. Five is the age he’ll be when he starts kindergarten so maybe that’s it. Or maybe it’s that at five they start to become so much more independent with tying shoes, learning to read, etc. I still can’t believe he really is five.

Simon had already gotten a pre-birthday celebration the weekend before his birthday. Every February my side of the family has a big celebration for Simon, Baba, and cousin James, who all have birthdays within a week of each other. We ate dinner, and went back to Ama and Baba’s for some dessert.

On the morning of his birthday, Simon woke up happy. We had left five balloons downstairs for him to find, and he happily played with one while sitting on the heater to warm up a bit. I snapped the first picture of him at five.

At school, Simon got to bring snack and be the friend of the day. He brought show and tell and got to be the line leader. He also got a birthday crown and sticker. When he got home from school, we ate lunch and then I let him eat a birthday cupcake.

Simon’s birthday happened to be one of Elias’ regular play date days so after picking up Elias and his friend from school, the boys all rode bikes in the sun. Simon enjoyed playing with the big boys.

This year, Simon’s birthday happened to fall on shrove Tuesday. We went to church for a big pancake supper. Simon loved the pancakes and said he could eat 1000 of them. He doused them in syrup and stopped after three.

I offered to take the boys to Menchie’s after the supper for a birthday treat, but Simon wanted to get home and open his presents before bedtime. I was surprised he refused the frozen yogurt, but was just as happy to go straight home. We got Simon a robot toy, a scooter, and a dot-to-dot pad. Elias got him a watch. He was thrilled.

This week we had his 5 year well check, and he seems to be a healthy boy! Happy birthday, Simon!

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Valentines

I’ve always got lots of crafty ideas. I’ve also got lots of opinions. Especially about crafty stuff. Every time Valentines Day rolls around I always get excited because I’ve got so many fun ideas for Valentines.

A week or so ago I started to spout off my great Valentine ideas to Elias. I assumed he’d pick one and we’d get to making them. He looked at me and said, “Cool! Or we could….” Of course he had a lot of ideas of his own. He wasn’t interested in doing my ideas.

In the end, I know it’s better if he designs his own Valentines. I have to admit, though, that I was a little sad he didn’t want any of my ideas.

In Elias’ class, they read the books, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” and “How Full Is Your Bucket?” They are great books about how our actions affect others, and how one kind deed can go a long way. Elias decided he wanted bucket themed Valentines. He designed them all on his own. I did help him cut out some of the buckets, but other than that he did everything himself. He even chose colors he thought each of his classmates like.

I was proud of him for designing and creating his Valentines all on his own. Even better, he was proud of himself!

It took two work sessions for all of the Valentines to get completed. I had him pose with the finished cards. This is the face of a kid who has just done a lot of work!

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