A picture may say 1000 words, but sometimes written word just does the trick in preserving memories. Occasionally I just like to write about small moments or snapshots of our days, because I may not remember them in the years to come, but those small moments are really the fabric of our lives right now.
Here are a few snapshots from our week:
Going on a Leaf Hunt
Nathan always tells me I’m not allowed to purchase books from the preschool book orders because we already have too many books. It’s true. We do have a lot of books. But I don’t think you can ever have too many. It’s one of the few areas where I go against his wishes. In September, I ordered a few dollars worth of books, one of which was Going on a Leaf Hunt.
One afternoon this week, I was reading this book to the boys (who love it by the way), and Elias exclaimed, “Let’s go on a leaf hunt!” We got on our boots and our rain coats and we started tromping down the street looking at all of the leaves. Elias and I definitely have different tastes in leaves. He picked up a lot of brown crumpled up leaves on big long sticks. I tended to pick bright yellows and reds. As we headed up a hill in our neighborhood, Elias yelled, “we’re going up a mountain!”
As we were returning to our house, arms full of leaves (and sticks) I watched some of the passengers in the cars driving by. They were all looking at my boys, wide smiles on their faces. I felt so lucky to be their mommy, and I really cherished the time with them. While having young boys is tough sometimes, they won’t want to go on leaf hunts with me forever.
Since that day we have been on a number of leaf hunts, but none stick in my mind quite as much as that first.
We say a blessing before (or at least at the beginning of) dinner each evening. Usually we let Elias choose who says the blessing. Sometimes he chooses Nathan or myself, but sometimes he chooses himself.
One of Elias’ blessings this week:
“Heavenly Father, I don’t know Lord…..(something I couldn’t understand)…..and please bless help Nana to come here tomorrow and bless Ama and Baba and Uncle Jared and Audrey. Amen.
I thanked Elias for his blessing and told him how nice it was that he was thinking about family members. I also told him that I think about family members a lot too.
“Actually. I’m thinking about the government and the Dodgers.”
Some nights Elias goes through his bed time routine and lays down, closes his eyes, and falls asleep. Many nights however, he has entered the phase of the bed time antics. He gets up and wants a drink of water or lays in the hallway. This evening he had to go to the bathroom. He did his business, and before he left the room said, “I love you toilet.”
I’ve made it no secret that I prefer Nathan not to have a moustache. Moustaches are so prickly and yucky. I always tell him when he gives me a hard time that I am going to put a piece of sand paper on my upper lip and see how much he enjoys kissing me. It’s all a joke between us, but I’ve received a triumph beyond measure in the last couple of days.
You see…Simon is learning all of his body parts. He’s not necessarily saying all the words yet, but he definitely knows them. If you ask him to point to nose or eyes or hair or neck or chin, etc, he can do so. The other day, Nathan was playing the body part game with Simon, and Simon was correctly pointing out Nathan’s ears and eyes. Then, out of nowhere, Simon pointed to Nathan’s upper lip and said, “Owie! owie! owie!”
It was awesome.
I guess I may have taken it too far talking about how Nathan’s moustache hairs are scratchy!
For those of you who haven’t watched Arrested Development, the title of this post is a kind of running joke on the show. All that aside, though, I just want to say that I value my family so much!
This evening we got together for a family celebration of Elias’ 4th birthday. His birthday was actually a couple of weeks ago, but today was the first time we could get everyone together. We actually have quite a large contingent in the northwest now. Fifteen people all together!
This morning when I told Elias that we were going to celebrate his birthday with our family, he was very excited because he thought he was going to turn five. I had to explain that his fifth birthday is actually still a very long time away, and we are really just celebrating his fourth birthday again. I don’t know if I ever convinced him, but he walked around telling people he is four all day so I guess he at least got that part.
I don’t have any pictures of the celebration because my camera was out of batteries, but sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy and make memories rather than standing behind a camera.
My heart was just so full tonight, and it wasn’t because the house was crowded. I am so thankful for the laughter and the conversation and just being together. We went out to dinner, then came back to our house for presents, the annual birthday slideshow, and dessert (homemade apple pie and chocolate cupcakes!). Elias just loved being with everyone. He had the whole night down to a tight schedule, making sure we fit in present opening (first of course) and singing and blowing out birthday candles.
A night with loving family can sure wash away all the stresses and worries of life.
I first heard of Awana when I was in college. One of my good friends, Erin, loved Awana growing up, and I believe she is still involved as a leader today. In case you’ve never heard of it, you can find out more here, but basically it is a non denominational Bible club for little kids in which they memorize verses, sing songs, hear stories, puppet shows, do crafts, and make friends. I always thought it would be cool for my kids to do something like that. Although I read the Bible, and had Bible stories and verses read to me growing up, I never memorized verses, and decided it was something I wanted my kids to learn how to do.
I tried on my own to help Elias memorize verses, but I never knew how to make them toddler friendly enough. That project faded into nothing along with many other of my ideas.
One day last spring I was driving home from the vet and saw a big sign hanging on a church in Bethany about Awana. I was immediately interested and started looking into it. There are ten or so churches in the Beaverton/Hillsboro area that offer the club. Unfortunately, it was something we’d have to wait to the start of the school year for. In July, I registered Elias for Awana at the nearest club at Harvest Community Church in Hillsboro. He’s gone three times (tonight will be his fourth) and he really likes it.
The first night he was really nervous because it was a new place with new kids, and he cried pretty hard when I dropped him off. But the leaders were very helpful and comforted him, and when I came to pick him up he was very happy and wanted to go back. The next two times he went we had no problems.
Elias has memorized three verses and the cubbies motto so far. He is one proud boy. I’m glad that he has another community now which will help him grow in faith and life.
Today was Elias’ 4th birthday. For some reason, four doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. But the thought that I will have a five year old on my hands only one year from now really freaks me out!
It is amazing to think how much Elias has changed in the last year. He really has grown and matured a lot. One year ago he was still in diapers. He was not able to express himself nearly as well. He cried almost every time I forced him to interact with other kids his age. He had hardly even touched Simon. He had so many issues that worried me. Now he is potty trained, his language is amazing, and he is a confident little boy who loves school and his friends (and his brother I might add!) It is times like this I just have to stop and be so thankful for everything that is going so well, and embrace what is not because I love this little boy for who he is and not who I want him to be.
This morning when I started to hear Elias stirring, I went into his room and found him laying in his rocking chair as normal. I leaned over and gave him a birthday hug and kiss. I told him happy birthday and that I love him and that he is four now. He smiled and stretched and said, “Is it time for school yet?” I was looking for more of an “I love you too” or a “yeah I’m four!” but “Is it time for school yet” will do. I’m so glad he loves it!
We got ready for preschool. I snapped a picture of Elias before we left. Simon kept yelling “cheese! cheese!” in the background so I let him be in the picture too.
Because it was Elias’ birthday, he got to be snack boy and bring a special treat. He also got to be the special helper. Mrs. Kimball gave him a special hat to wear. Simon and I left him at school knowing he was in good hands. When we got home, I took a picture of him in his special hat.
From there we had just a normal afternoon at home. We had lunch. We did quiet time. I let Elias watch a little bit of Toy Story 3. Then Daddy got home a little bit early because he had worked late yesterday. We decided to let Elias open his presents from us and from his Aunt and Uncle as well as his teacher!
After he opened his presents, we told him he had time to play with one before we had to leave for our birthday activities. He chose the tennis racket. Elias kept trying to use it like a baseball bat so we’ll have to let him watch some tennis or take him to the tennis courts. But he had fun just experimenting!
Next we hurried off to the swimming pool. We arrived a bit late due to late afternoon traffic so the front desk lady even let us in for free! What a birthday treat! Elias absolutely loves swimming and had a blast.
After swimming, we took Elias out to Red Robin. He had his standard: grilled cheese and apples.
Simon is such a ham. As I was trying to take pictures of the birthday boy, he kept saying “cheese!” so I had to get one of him too.
The people at Red Robin sang to Elias. He seemed a little nervous about all the attention.
Elias doesn’t actually like ice cream…or whipped cream…and I’m sure he would have liked the chocolate sauce but he refused to try any. So Nathan, Simon, and I ate the sundae, and Elias ate some M&M’s I had in the diaper bag.
When we got home, Elias had some mail waiting for him! He received cards from Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina, Great Grandma Smith, and Nana!
Elias had been asking about blowing out birthday candles all day. So just before bath and bed time, we got out the candles. I didn’t make any cupcakes or anything because he had some at his party with his friends, but I thought he should get something a little special. I stuck four candles in a piece of bread just so they would stay, and got him two hershey kisses. He enjoyed our birthday serenade and happily blew out the candles.
After a day and a half at California Adventure, we needed some rest and some time to get ready for our next adventure…Mickey’s Halloween Party! Simon napped, and then we all went swimming together for a few minutes to cool off. Then we packed up and headed off to Disneyland for the party.
Here we are in the Magic Kingdom! Walking down Main Street is always so much fun!
We headed straight for fantasy land because Elias has been talking about riding tea cups and dumbo for months now. Both the boys had a blast riding those two rides.
Then we tried a new ride for our family…the Casey Junior Train! Look at these monkeys:
Then, we decided to try the Thunder Mountain Railroad. I thought Elias might really like it, but it turns out I was wrong. I had forgotten how loud everything is at Disneyland. Elias has always been wary of loud and sudden noises, and even though he was thrilled by the train ride, he was screaming in tears from the whole experience. I felt bad that I had put him through it, but sometimes I think he would never try anything new if it was just up to him. So…I told him he had to try it once and if he didn’t like it I would never make him do it again. He didn’t like it at all. You can seem him here after the ride…his poor little eyes red from crying.
After Thunder Mountain, we realized that it was almost 7 p.m. The party was about to start, and we hadn’t even eaten dinner yet! After a little bit of a struggle finding a place to eat, we sat down to a yummy dinner and then changed the boys into their costumes for the party.
Let me tell you! Disney really knows how to throw a party. The park is closed to everyone except for those who have purchased special admission to the party so it is slightly less crowded. (Although it still seemed pretty crowded to me!) The lights come on and the costumes come out. They had set up many many stations through out the park where you could trick-or-treat. Elias was thrilled about getting some of his favorite…plain M&M’s. Look how wide he is holding open his bag!
After trick-or-treating in a few different places, we decided to go on another ride. Pirates of the Caribbean it was! Elias, entranced by the party and the lights and the beautiful music, decided that he had had enough of rides and wanted to stay outside and trick-or-treat. I told him he could have some M&M’s if he got in line. That did the trick! We all enjoyed the first half of Pirates of the Caribbean together. Elias, though, fell asleep on the ride! To be fair, it was probably almost 9:00 p.m. (two or so hours past his normal bedtime) at the time he fell asleep and he hadn’t had a nap. I wasn’t sure if he was out for the count or if he would wake up to party some more. We put him in the stroller, and he ended up staying asleep in the stroller the entire rest of the party!
Simon stayed awake for awhile longer. He enjoyed this beautiful singing group floating on the water with me.
And we did a little more trick-or-treating. But then we lost Simon too! It is hard to go on rides with two sleeping boys on your hands. I wished so much for my double bob stroller! My parents traded off with Nathan and I, and we got to ride Space Mountain while the boys were asleep. After a bit more party fun, we decided to turn in and get the boys into a real bed, especially since we were going to have another early morning the next day! The party was supposed to go until midnight, and we lasted until almost 11 so I’d say we got our money’s worth.
We got in a family picture while Elias was conked out in the stroller. Poor little guy!
We were exhausted from our day at two different parks and a late Halloween party. The Mickey’s Halloween party was really cool, but I’d say I would recommend it mostly to families with older kids. It was just too hard for the boys when the party didn’t start until their normal bed time. The day was so fun and magical and so tiring at the same time! We still had one day left, which I’ll write about soon in part four!
The second day of our Disneyland Adventure was a big one! We woke up bright and early to head back to California Adventure for the morning. It would be our last chance to explore that park and we had a few things we still wanted to see…or to do again!
Our hotel had a free breakfast with great choices each morning. Elias was very relieved when he realized he could still have his toast and banana each morning. He is very particular about his breakfasts!
When we got through the gate at California Adventure, we immediately saw the bright red trolley car. We had planned to head straight to the Hollywood Tower of Terror, but Elias had been requesting to ride the trolley the day before and we had never got the chance. It was just our luck that the trolley was heading to the Tower of Terror anyway. So…we jumped aboard!
The ride was a lot of fun. We got off in front of the Tower of Terror. Baba took the boys to Bugs Land again while we rode since they had so much fun there the day before. Afterward, we joined the boys once again. Simon was again fixated on Flik’s Fliers. He doesn’t look like he is having fun in this picture, but he absolutely loved this ride. He kept asking for more and more.
We had a few other things we wanted to do, though, so we headed again to Paradise Pier. We got to enjoy California Screamin’, Toy Story Mania, and the boys got to win some stuffed animals on the boardwalk carnival games. Then, we discovered that even at Disneyland, boys will be boys. They wanted to climb all over the railings and walkways.
We waited in line to see Woody, one of Elias’ absolute favorite characters! What luck!
Next we rode the golden zephyr ride. Both Elias and Simon had a lot of fun.
Simon wanted to ride it again really bad, but it was approaching lunch time, and we still had a few things we wanted to see before it was time to go back to the hotel for nap time! We headed to the Wilderness Explorer Area where the boys got to climb and slide and run around having fun.
Our last stop at California Adventure was the Turtle Talk Show! Elias loves Finding Nemo and was excited to actually talk to Crush. While we were waiting for the show to start, Simon was having a hard time staying still. He kept running off and giggling. In fact, on this trip we discovered that Simon is quite possibly the most impatient line waiter ever. When we came two years ago, and Elias was about Simon’s age, it was pretty easy to keep him entertained while we waited. Simon, though, is an entirely different story. He arched his back, tried to run away, yelled, screamed, cried, and more. When we got on the ride, Simon was happy and had the time of his life. When it was time to wait, though, he thoroughly tried our patience! Here is Daddy entertaining Simon with his hat!
After turtle talk, it was time to say goodbye to California Adventure. Despite a few hang-ups, we absolutely loved the first half of our adventure! We needed to go back to the hotel and get some rest before our evening. Friday evening we had tickets to Mickey’s Halloween Party, which I’ll write about in Part 3!
Nathan and I are very careful budgeters. Well…I am a very careful budgeter and Nathan fully supports me and helps me and mostly participates in keeping the budget. Each year, though, we don’t include my summer school teaching income in the budget so that we can spend it on something special for our family. This year, I treated the fam to a three day Disneyland adventure.
My Mom is a huge Disney fan (and so am I to tell the truth) so Elias knows a lot about it. Since Disney is a whole lot of fun and really really really really tiring, we were happy that Ama and Baba wanted to come along with us. Four adults on two kids was a huge help to me and Nathan.
We flew down to California on Wednesday afternoon. Even the short plane ride exhausted Simon, as he fell asleep on the way to the hotel from the airport. He was tired before we even started! We stayed in the Best Western Park Place which is literally right across the street from the Disneyland Entrance. I highly recommend it! We woke up bright and early on Thursday morning, and headed off to California Adventure to start our fun!
Ama and Elias walking down the street toward Disneyland on our first morning!
The first thing we did when we got there was hurry off to Radiator Springs Racers. Since everyone wants to ride it, one of the best ways to get on it without a long wait is to go straight there in the morning. We had a bit of a nail biter, since riders have to be at least 40 inches tall. With shoes and a baseball cap, Elias is currently about 40 and a quarter inches. He just made it! It turns out all the anxiety was for nothing, though, because Elias didn’t really like any of the rides with the height restrictions. He preferred others. But that is another story.
Here is Elias waiting in line for his first ride!
After only about 10 minutes of waiting, we got on our first ride! I loved it. Elias claims he liked it too, but he has always been bothered by loud and sudden noises, and there are quite a few of those on this ride. When asked if he wanted to go again with Baba for the rider swap (the system used so that families don’t have to wait in line twice when they have children too small to ride), Elias refused.
Here is Elias getting buckled in!
My mom rode with my Dad for the rider swap, and we decided to take the boys to explore Cars Land a bit. Look who we saw!
Then we rode Luigi’s flying tires, another great ride!
Unfortunately, Simon was a bit off on this morning. Maybe it was the travel, or the early wake time. Maybe he was just overwhelmed and didn’t know what in the world was going on…but he was very grumpy.
No amount of snacks, songs, bounces, rides, or anything could stop these tears. I think at this point I turned to Nathan and muttered under my breath, “this is turning out to be something distinctly less than magical!”
Don’t worry, though! Our Disneyland Adventure was absolutely wonderful.
After we finished exploring Cars Land, we decided that maybe a change of scenery would be good for Simon. We went to Bugs Land! Simon really cheered up when we let him explore the scenery.
Both boys really loved Heimlich’s chew chew train and Flik’s Fliers. Simon kept pointing to it and saying “sky. sky! more. more!” Here are Elias and Ama and Baba enjoying the ride while Simon, Nathan and I were right next to them in a different car.
Next, I decided to let Simon run around a bit while Elias and Nathan rode some bumper cars in bugs land. They have a great fountain area, and since it was 90 degrees, I didn’t mind letting Simon get a bit wet. He really cheered up and had the time of his life running around in the fountains and playing with another little boy he met there.
Just when things started to go really well, this happened:
Ouch! Actually….I must confess this happened twice! What you just watched was his second fall. He fell the first time just like that, but on the other side of his face. He got two bright red marks…one on his forehead, and one on his right cheek. But after a few tears, he wanted to get right back in there. I tried to stop him from running because it was pretty slippery in there, but it just could not be done. So…he fell again. Poor Simon! This fall left a pretty nasty mark on his left cheek. After the second fall, he cried a lot. (If an adult had taken that fall they’d be hospitalized!) However, he again wanted to get right back in there and play. I wouldn’t let him, though, the mean mommy that I was. He had an absolute royal fit about it and resumed his grumpiness from earlier in the morning, but I couldn’t let him continue to get hurt!
After the falls we decided to move again. We left bugs land and headed over to paradise pier. We waited for Toystory Mania, which is a great ride, and I believe it is one of Elias’ favorite, if not the favorite of our little almost four year old!
Guess who we saw after we rode the ride?
Jessie! We actually saw Buzz too. The boys got to give him high fives, but we actually got to pose for pictures with Jessie. Simon absolutely loved her.
After saying goodbye to Jessie, we decided it was time to grab some lunch. It felt great to sit down and be in the shade for a bit since it was getting very hot outside! Then, we decided to take Simon back to the hotel for a much needed nap. He fell asleep on Nathan before we even got out of the park. We made it back to the hotel room, and he was dead to the world for a good long while.
While Simon napped, Nathan took Elias swimming. We were lucky enough that the window of our room looked right out onto the pool so I could stay with Simon, but still witness the fun that was being had. I felt like an absolute creep filming a pool out of my hotel room window, but I did it anyway to capture some of Elias’ joy.
After a good nap, and cooling off in the pool, we headed back to California Adventure for more fun. Everyone rode Soaring Over California, and I stayed out with Simon who is not tall enough. I took him to get a special balloon since he loves those. As I approached the balloon guy, I wondered how much it would cost. Being Disney, I assumed it would be a lot, but I was not quite prepared for the actual sticker price on those babies. The balloons are $14! Granted, they are like a balloon within balloons that glow in the dark and do flashy light shows and all sorts of cool stuff. But $14? For a balloon? There I was standing under the enormous balloon bouquet, with Simon (finally happy after a nap) looking up in his balloon ecstasy shouting and pointing “balloon!” What was I to do? Every part of me wanted to walk away from that ridiculous balloon, and taking that $14 out of my wallet was a hard thing to swallow, but I did it. When in Rome, right? Besides, it was my special treat to the family for working over the summer.
Simon was happily playing with his balloon in the stroller, and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves while waiting for the rest of the family and….the outer part of the balloon popped. The $14 balloon popped after about two minutes! All that was left was the white inner balloon with a shell hanging off like a beacon making me look like a fool. Simon lost interest in the balloon at that point, but had fun pushing the stroller around.
When my family came back, I related my sad balloon story. Nathan and I used the rider swap, and got to ride Soaring over California, and my parents took the boys for some fun. My mom decided to ask the nice balloon person to exchange the balloon since it hardly lasted at all, and in good Disney style, they did! It is the happiest place on earth after all. So…we got a fresh $14 balloon at no extra charge, and this second balloon lasted the whole rest of our trip! We got flashy light shows all night long. We even whacked a good number of people in the face with that thing by accident when it was tied to our stroller. You may even have considered us a menace to society when you think about how many faces we whacked and how many people we disturbed by Simon’s tantrums and tears earlier in the day. But despite all that, we were having an absolute wonderful time. I promise! When Nathan and I got off the ride, we found the boys happily enjoying snacks my parents had bought for them.
Elias really wanted to ride Toy Story Mania again, but Simon did not. I stayed back with Simon while everyone else went on the ride. I took Simon on the carousel, and he loved it so much that we rode it twelve…yes count them….twelve times in a row! During this time, Simon learned a few new words. “Whale. Seal. Fishy.” The carousel was an under the sea theme, and Simon was correctly pointing out and identifying which figures he wanted to ride with words. I think Simon would have ridden that carousel all day if I would have let him!
After a few more fun rides, we decided it was time to leave for the day and go eat dinner. On the way out, we got to enjoy a parade!
Simon was entranced by all of the floats, dancers, music, and spectacle.
After we got out of the park, we went to the Rainforest Cafe where we had dinner reservations. Simon really loved all of the decorations in there. Here are the boys in their fun dinner hats.
After dinner, we decided it had been a magical day, but it was time to go back to the hotel and get as much rest as possible before our next adventure! You can read all about it in part two coming soon!
Each fall we try to make it out to the fruit loop to go apple picking. There are lots of orchards closer, but nothing beats the beauty out there on the fruit loop. A few years ago, I was researching orchards out there and discovered Mountain View Orchards. We’ve been almost every year, and we love it there.
This year, we invited my cousin and his family to come along with us since they’ve never had the opportunity to go apple picking before. We headed out to the orchard on Sunday after church.
Both Elias and Simon had a lot of fun. Here is Simon, proudly strutting down the orchard rows with his aunties.
It is hard to say no to these boys. They loved picking the apples, and had more than we needed in the wagon before I could say “apple pie.”
You can see Simon up above with a Granny Smith. There are going to be some tasty apple pies in our future. The weather was beautiful and warm, but since it has been so dry it was very dusty. The boys, of course, reveled in that fact and got as dirty as possible.
One of the great things about Mountain View Orchards is that they have a hayride. Every other year we’ve gone we went on a Saturday. This time on a Sunday, the hayride wasn’t running. I asked anyway, though, and they were nice enough to fire up the tractor for us! The hayride stops at a barn at the back of the orchard, and we got a chance to feed Carlos, their longhorn steer. We also got to see a big pig, two alpacas, and some chickens. Simon kept saying “Sheep! Sheep! Baa” and pointing to the alpacas. Hey… he was pretty close since he has only seen them in books before this!
This morning as I was getting ready for the day, the boys were playing in Simon’s room. They were playing happily together so I wasn’t really thinking about them very much other than to smile happily at something I overheard every once in awhile.
All of a sudden, they both came running in the bathroom and shouting about some stuffed animals they were holding. Elias shouted, “Mommy look! I have a turtle and Simon has a flamingo!” I smiled and said something like “Wow!” until I noticed that Simon was holding an octopus, not a flamingo. I commented on this fact to Elias, and he laughed, clearly joking and said, “No! It’s a flamingo!”
Meanwhile, Simon was shouting “Famigo. Famigo. Famigo!” over and over again. Eventually, Elias ran out into the other room. Simon looked at me, held out his octopus, and shouted, “Famigo!”
I told Simon that what he was holding was actually an octopus. He looked at me. He looked at Elias in the other room, and looked back at me again. He started giggling really hard, and shouted “Famigo!” before running off to play with Elias again.
Simon is only 19 months old, and already his brother has more influence over him than I do!