The Swifts

Each season we like to create a Smith Family Bucket List. Sometimes I make an official list that is somehow displayed in our home. Sometimes I just scribble down some ideas in a journal. The bucket lists are ways that we make sure to get out and try new things, spend time together as a family, and just plain have some fun. Some of the things on our bucket list are on there every year, and are things we would probably do anyway. Go to a pumpkin patch is a must. Others are things that I really want to do, but having them on the bucket list makes it easier to be intentional about it such as baking a pie together or going on a hike in the arboretum. Each season we also try to have at least one new thing. Something we’ve never done before. This year one of our new bucket list items was to see the Vaux Swifts at Chapman School in Portland.

Each September, thousands of swifts roost in the chimney at Chapman school. They spend the day eating insects and getting ready for their migration. At sundown, they create quite a spectacular sight as they enter the chimney a few at a time.

image_largeSince September is drawing to a close, we decided to take advantage of our one available night this week. We popped some popcorn, threw the camping chairs in the back of the van, and headed out for a drive.

We were really glad that we went. It really was a spectacular sight. The boys watched through binoculars and with bare eyes and also exclaimed how cool it was.

20160927_190158 20160927_184047Caleb, not to be left out of anything, got to try his first popcorn. We made sure it had no pieces of kernel so he wouldn’t choke. He was quite excited.

20160927_184328Another item checked off of our 2016 fall bucket list, but more importantly, time spent doing something new together.

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Caleb – 10 Months

Caleb turned 10 months old yesterday. Another month gone. Some of it in memory, some into oblivion. I am feeling emotional that my baby is almost not a baby anymore. Nathan wants to be done with the baby phase of our lives. I am holding on tightly to these wonderful days. Yes, I do look forward to the days when I don’t have to get up at 4am with the baby anymore, but there is so much more good than difficult and I am enjoying Caleb’s babyhood so much.

This month Caleb really came into his own as my little trouble maker. He is getting into everything! He loves toilet paper.

20160912_073656He plays with it. Rips it up. Eats it. Drags it around. We have to keep all the bathroom doors closed at all times these days. If one of the older boys leaves it open, he immediately crawls in. When I close him out again, he gives me a disgusted look, and then I can almost physically see the light come on in his head….he crawls straight for the cat food.

On Saturday, Nathan was out of town and the older two boys were hanging out with my parents. It was just Caleb and I for 24 hours or so. I was trying to get a lot of baking done for an event, and Caleb would sit in the kitchen until he knew he had my attention. Then he crawled for the cat food laughing and laughing.

Caleb is an expert mover these days when it comes to crawling. He is trying to pull himself up on everything, but can’t quite get to standing on his own. If I stand him up, though, he can support himself. He likes standing up and watching his brothers at their swimming lessons.

20160919_165502He looks so grown up when he is standing up like this.

This has been a really hard month for us with Elias and Simon starting school. Elias’ kindergarten pick up falls right in the middle of nap time, and trying to adjust Caleb to a new nap time has not been successful. He often ends up asleep in the car, but since we moved him out of the bucket seat, I can no longer just bring the car seat inside. He often wakes up when I try to extract him.

20160920_132041When I do manage to get Caleb a nap, I almost always have to wake him up. Today he got a nap in and I had to wake him up in order to get to Simon’s soccer class. Then after lunch he took another nap, but I had to wake him up to go pick up Elias. I just hate waking this peaceful little guy.

20160920_141318First world problems, I know. I do have some perspective. But that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m sure we’ll get into a new routine eventually.

As far as eating goes, Caleb just loves feeding himself. He wants to be a big boy. A few nights ago he managed to grab one of Elias’ discarded pizza crusts and was happily chewing on it. You would think he had won the lottery. Caleb loves feeding himself, but he’s not very good at it. Most of the food ends up in the pocket of his bib, so we still feed him purees…only after he is done feeding himself.

Most of all Caleb just loves being together. He loves playing with his brothers. He loves “helping” me. He enjoyed our family outing to the Hoyt Arboretum. Thankfully, he is mostly happy in the stroller or ergo.

20160925_151653Caleb is so joy-filled. He is one of the best reminders for me during the day to just be thankful and happy.


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Being Three

Simon, our resident three year old in the house often acts….well….like a three year old. Limitless energy, infectious enthusiasm, amazing curiosity, lots of care and love for his brothers. And then there’s a need for independence, and the inability to deal with not getting his way.

The other night he was having an especially difficult evening. I was nursing Caleb at bedtime, and I could hear him screaming and defying his Daddy outside the door. Later after I had gotten Caleb down I opened the door and found Simon still laying out in the hallway, waiting for me.

I escorted him to his room and talked to him a bit about his behavior. After I finished, he was silent a few seconds, and then said, “Mom?”

Me: “Yeah?”

Simon: “It’s hard being a boy.”

Me: “What’s hard about being a boy?”

Simon: “Well….I get sad a lot.”

The kid does shed a lot of tears. He’s got that right. The thing is, when he is being his typical “threenager,” I usually think of his tears as angry tears or frustrated tears or tired tears. Maybe even manipulative tears. It’s possible he doesn’t have the vocabulary he needs as of yet to accurately explain where his tears are coming from. But I do suspect that at least some of them do come from sadness.

Hearing him say those words to me made me feel so bad. It’s easy to forget that when he is throwing that tantrum because I opened the car door when he wanted to do it himself, or when he throws himself on the floor because I won’t let him have a graham cracker, or whatever else it is, that he may just be experiencing sadness. Maybe he’s not always just out to make my life harder even if it may seem that way sometimes. Maybe he just needs a little bit of love.

I talked with him through his feelings and left his room for the evening. Since then, though, I’ve been trying to show him more love. This evening he started screaming and crying at the pool when I told him he couldn’t have a snack from the vending machine. Instead of trying to reason with him or discipline him, I just picked him up and hugged him. You know what? He quieted almost instantly, and caused no more trouble for the whole ride home. Maybe he was just sad that he didn’t get a snack. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give him one…but I can react differently to his behavior if I frame it in that new way for myself.

Parenting is hard. And ever changing. It’s just another day on the path of life.

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Apple Picking 2016

We made our annual excursion to Hood River this weekend to pick some apples. We figured out it was our 6th year in a row heading to Mountain View Orchards, which is an orchard on the fruit loop.

Our calendar gets filled up quickly these days so I blocked out the time over a month ago. We’ve had so many beautiful days for weeks on end, and of course Saturday morning we woke up to a hard rain. We weren’t discouraged, though. We packed up the rain boots and coats and headed off. It rained a lot of the way through the gorge, but once we got up to Hood River it was dry and dusty. While we didn’t get our blue skies and stunning views of Mt. Hood as we have in other years, it was still a perfect day for apple picking.

We started our time there with a picnic and some play time on the playground. I also made the boys stop and pose for a picture.

20160917_125050Then we suited up for apple picking. It was not muddy, but with all of the dust we still thought the boots were a good idea. The boys were very excited to put their boots on again. It had been a few months since they wore them.

20160917_125640Then we got right to apple picking. When we get to the apple trees the boys get really excited and want to pick every apple they see. We have to reteach them every year how to inspect apples before they pull them off the tree, and to wait for a bit…there is a whole orchard full of trees after all.

20160917_130830But it’s fun to see their excited faces with each apple.

20160917_131149 20160917_131154Each of the boys picked an apple for their teacher at school. Elias also picked one for his music teacher. He delivered his two apples today and was very proud. We picked a bunch of apples to eat, and I told Nathan to pick me some Granny Smiths so I could make him some apple pie. He was quite excited, and would not let the boys help pick those apples.

20160917_131624Caleb couldn’t pick his own apples this year, but he was interested in what we were doing.

20160917_131913After we were finished picking apples we had to make a stop at the back of the orchard to see Carlos the steer and the other animals. We managed a family selfie with Carlos…no easy feat!

20160917_132338We made the short walk back to the fruit stand to purchase our picks, then let the boys dive in to the crisp deliciousness before heading home.

20160917_134601Then it was two hours in the car through torrential downpour to get home. It started raining at the orchard just as we were leaving. Perfect timing!

It was four hours in the car for two hours of family fun, but it was totally worth it! Another fun apple picking outing in the books.

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Tough Adjustments

It’s been a tough week trying to get used to new routines now that school has started. I’ve got two boys at two different schools, and five hours a week I get one on one time with this little goober:

20160913_091637The transition into the new way of things has been a bit rocky for all three boys and for me. Everyone is feeling extra tired. Caleb’s naps are thrown out the window. We have less time together now that Elias is in school all day. And today, everyone is starting to show signs of a cold. Uh Oh!

But in the midst of it all I’ve gotten to play Monopoly with Elias (watch out, he’s cutthroat!), we’ve gone on family walks, watched some Dodger baseball together, and had family meals every night. They’re not all hard times.

But if my kids or I seem out of sorts in the next few days/weeks until we are back in a groove…you’ll know why!


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Brothers by Blood, Friends by Choice

I’m not sure if I got the old saying right in the title of this post, but it is what I have always hoped for my boys. I hope their relationship goes far beyond just gathering a few times for holidays or celebrations. I hope they want to spend time together.

Recently, I started Elias on a journal. It is part of his responsibility chart each day, and the format is easy enough that he can do it independently. (Although he does ask for help sometimes). He just has to answer one question each day. Yesterday my heart was filled to the brim with his journal entry.

20160913_222719I’m not going to make a habit of sharing his journal online for all to see, but I asked if I could share this one because it is so special for me to see. I hope their relationship continues to grow, and that Caleb will eventually find his place as well.

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Simon’s First Day of Preschool

Simon had his first official day of preschool today. Last week he got to attend his open house and see his classroom/meet his teacher, but today he actually did the real thing. He’s been so proud and excited.

Here are his pics:

20160913_083101 20160913_083217He looks so grown up!

Simon completed his first “homework” to tell his teacher about himself. He chose to draw his family, a zigzag, a tiger, two baseball bats, a butterfly, and write his name. See if you can find them all!

20160913_083718As we were loading his school bag, he told me that he really wanted to bring the book “Please, Mr. Panda” because he wanted Mrs. Lydon to teach him how to read it. This kid has got some high expectations for school!

When we arrived at school, and I tried to hold his hand as we walked in the parking lot, he said to me, “Mom! I can’t hold your hand! I’m holding my school bag.” I may have inwardly shed a few tears at that statement, but I’m thrilled that he is feeling so confident and excited.

When we got to his classroom, Simon told his teacher, “My mom is leaving today!” He did give me the kiss I requested before I left, but I can take a hint! He is growing up too fast!

It sounds like everything went well for him during his first day.

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First Words

Caleb babbles a lot these days, and occasionally says “Dada” and “Mama”. Sometimes it even seems like he means what he is saying rather than plain babble. Nathan told me he said “Mama” once when he wanted milk. And he says Dada pretty frequently when he sees Nathan. That’s about it so far on the speaking front.

However, yesterday Caleb was playing on the floor with some of his foam letters. Mostly he just chews on them. I was making dinner, and asked Nathan to go change Caleb before we ate. I happened to look up after everyone was gone and saw where Caleb had been playing. Here is what I found:

20160906_173256I chuckled and took a picture. Let’s hope this isn’t his first word!

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The First Day

Today was a big day for both Elias and Simon. Elias had his first day of Kindergarten, and Simon had his preschool open house where he got to see his classroom and meet his teacher. (His first day will be Tuesday).

We had everything ready last night with outfits set out and lunches packed so the morning went really smoothly. I got some pictures of my big boys out in the front yard. They were both very excited for the day.

20160908_074701 20160908_074740Then we headed off for Imlay. We had to wait in the gym for a few minutes before we were dismissed for the classrooms. Did he have a little excited/nervous energy, you think?

20160908_080230We made it to the classroom and followed a short list of morning jobs. Then he got to look at books until school started. He decided to read a Pete the Cat book to his brother.

20160908_081345Elias on his first day of kindergarten with his teacher.

20160908_082257A few minutes after school started we were ever so subtly kicked out. I mean… invited to attend coffee with the principal in the cafeteria. It was just as well because we had to get to Simon’s open house.

Simon will be attending two days a week for 3’s at Prince of Peace. He was very excited to find his very own coat hook.

20160908_090123He completed a scavenger hunt around his classroom, which ended with some playing. He wanted to read a book, and then settled on the construction vehicles.

20160908_093021Simon kept saying things like, “That used to be Eli’s playground, but now it’s my playground!” It was very cute!

After the open house we came home and got a chance to see what our new routine will be like. For years the boys have had nap time/quiet time in the afternoon. Now we will have to get in the car or on the bike and go pick up Elias from school right in the middle of that. Today it went alright, but I’m not sure what is going to happen long term. Eventually we’ll settle into a routine.

Our house seemed so quiet without Elias. I did get a lot of one on one time with Simon, though, so I’ll be looking forward to that!

Finally, we went to pick up Elias from his first day. He was smiling pretty big when he came out the school doors so I think it was a success!


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Kindergarten, Here We Come!

Elias will begin his public school journey one week from today with his first day of Kindergarten. He’ll be attending Imlay Elementary, our neighborhood school.

Earlier this evening we went to Imlay for an ice cream social. We got to drop off his school supplies, meet his teacher, and see his classroom. He couldn’t have been more excited or proud, and he asked all day if it was time to go yet.

20160901_172215Being a former teacher myself, I have a lot of faith in the public school system, but sending my firstborn off to school for the first time is no easy task. After meeting the kindergarten teachers, music teacher, speech language pathologist, and a few other staff I couldn’t be more thrilled. My boy will be in good hands.

As much as I am excited for Elias and all the fun and learning that is in store for him, I also worry. I’m a mom. It’s what I do. He’ll have a whole life out there where I can’t insulate him from the hurts of the world. Where I can’t watch over him. There is so much good out there for him to experience, and a lot of bad as well. I want to push him out the door and hold his hand at the same time. It’s all so confusing.

Yesterday when we were at his kindergarten conference, Nathan and I had to fill out some forms while the three teachers talked with Elias. While filling out the form about our family and Elias’ strengths and weaknesses, I was trying to discuss with Nathan what to write down, and he basically told me to relax and to stop being such a high maintenance parent. Ugh. I guess we balance each other out nicely.

This evening after meeting his teacher, as Elias ate his ice cream and walked with me around the playground, he said to me, “I’m ready for kindergarten!” Knowing that he feels confident makes me feel better than probably anything else could. Go gettum’ Elias!


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