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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The Scooter Story

A few weeks ago, Elias had a friend over to play after school, and they naturally wanted to play outside. The boys really wanted to ride bikes. Since we don’t have an extra bike that is 7 year old size, the boys had to take turns. While not on the bike, Elias was trying to ride the small scooter he had received as a three year old. It is a scooter with three wheels. The extra wheel is added for stability (much needed for the toddler), but for a seven year old trying to race his friend on his bike…let’s just say the three wheeled scooter is probably slower than a turtle.

I mentioned to Elias that maybe it was time that he got an age appropriate scooter. He had some Christmas money along with some money that he had saved. Later that day we counted his money, and he had about $35. We went to the store to look at different scooters, and the one he wanted was about $45. I’ve never seen a kid do so many extra chores in the hopes of getting a little extra change.

Needless to say, Elias earned the money he needed to make it up to $45. We picked a day the next week and headed to the store. He was so proud to pay for that scooter all by himself!

The weather on the day of Elias’ purchase was iffy. It was one of those northwest days that can turn from sunny and calm to a deluge of rain in an instant. But when we walked out of the store the sun was shining, and according to the boys, I couldn’t drive home fast enough. They wanted to try it out!

Of course when we pulled into the garage, a sprinkle had begun, but I thought I’d let them ride anyway. A little sprinkle won’t hurt anyone. We got the scooter out of the box and the boys started riding around the cul-de-sac. I snapped a couple of pictures.

It started actually raining a bit. I figured they were already a bit wet from the sprinkle so I’d let them stay and play. A little rain never hurt anybody either. We could always change clothes when we got inside if needed.

It started raining harder. Hard enough that I stopped taking pictures and put my phone away in the garage so it wouldn’t get wet. The boys were smiling and laughing and having fun splashing and riding around the neighborhood. “Wow! We are really enjoying the moment! This is the kind of mom I want to be!,” I thought to myself.

It started really really pouring. Some of the hardest rain I’ve seen in a long time. We live on a bit of a slope, and there were torrents of water running down the street. The boys were even nervous to cross it on their bikes/scooters. By now they were so incredulous that I was allowing them to stay out and play. They were also making remarks about flash floods.

Believe it or not, it rained even harder. A neighbor came out and from the safety of his dry porch called to me and asked if I was alright. That made me rethink my decision to let the boys play outside in the rain. But he was just enjoying his newly bought scooter, right? Sometimes kids need to play outside in the rain, right?

It started hailing. At first the kids thought it was fun seeing the white pellets on the street and on their jackets, but before too long, I had Caleb screaming in pain from the pellets hitting his hands. Oops! We stayed out too long.

I picked up Caleb and his bike, ran to the safety of the garage, called the other boys inside, and we started the drying process. I had a mountain of wet clothes and shoes inside the door to the house, and three boys invigorated from the experience. I think next time, though, I’ll have them come in before the hail starts!

Elias has been riding his scooter pretty much every day. I’d say it was $45 well spent, and the scooter will serve him well for years to come. He was so proud of it that he made me bring it to Ama and Baba’s house so he could show them. Here he is showing it off in their cul-de-sac:

He has been very generous, too, with sharing scooter time. Simon, who has extreme scooter jealousy has been taking as many turns as he can get.

And Elias even shares with his littlest bro:

All’s well that ends well I guess, but the next time we make a major outdoor toy purchase, I’ll take a closer look at the forecast!

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The Sewing Project

Ever since Elias started piano lessons he and I have been having a minor battle of wills. I wanted him to transport his books to and from lessons in a bag of some sort. This would keep them in good condition and help them from getting lost or getting left on the seat of the car, etc. Elias always wanted to carry his books. For the first month or so he only had two books so it wasn’t so bad and I let it go. However, as time passed he got more and more books and it got more and more difficult for him to carry them all. Week after week one or more would slip out of his grasp and fall to the ground. Every week I’d tell him it would be easier to carry if he put them in a bag, but he stubbornly refused. One week I even just put them in a bag and handed them to him as we were walking to the car. As soon as his seat belt was buckled he took the piano books out of the bag and set them on his lap, refusing to use it.

Last week, Elias got yet another book, this time full of major scales, triads, inversions, arpeggios and the like. As we walked to the car he dropped them about three times onto the wet, dirty ground (it had been raining). He burst out at me out of frustration. “Mom! How am I supposed to carry all these?” I simply answered that that is why I always tell him it would be easier to bring them in a bag. He seemed to ignore that comment and silently got in the car, buckled his seat belt, and set his piano books next to him. After checking to be sure they were all there, I started the drive home.

About two minutes into the drive home, Elias stated that he wanted to do another sewing project. (For his first project I helped him sew two pillows for Christmas: one for each of his brothers). Now this ain’t my first rodeo, and in seven years I think I can say I’ve become skilled in the motherly art of gentle persuasion/manipulation. I told him that that sounded like an excellent idea. “What fun,” I told him! “Now that you’ve done two pillows, I think the next project to try would be a bag. You can pick the fabric you want for the inside and the outside and we’ll sew it together.” I paused for a while letting him get excited. Then I said, “Hey, maybe you could even keep your piano books in the bag!”

So that, folks, is how I won the bag battle. We went to the fabric store together, and Elias picked out two fabrics: green for the inside, and very appropriately, music note pattern for the outside. Then he chose a canvas for the bag handles. We got home, threw the fabric in the wash, and when it came out, we got to work.

Elias really enjoyed the ironing. He got those fabrics really flat with all of the over ironing that happened. But he was having fun and it wasn’t doing any harm so I let him have at it.

Elias needed quite a bit of help using the machine. He used the foot pedal all by himself, and I taught him about how and when to use the reverse. Guiding the fabric, however, was tough and after a few times going crooked, I decided to do a bit more helping. He was able to do enough, though, that he feels like he made the bag, which is a big win.

We finished sewing the bag this afternoon, and Elias was thrilled. He immediately ran with it down the stairs to show his dad and brothers his hard work. Then you know what the first thing he did was after showing off the bag?

He put his piano books in the bag. Mom win!

I had him pose for a few photos to show off his bag to the world. Look at how proud he is!

Showing off the green interior of the bag:

And just because he is so cute with that tooth missing, here’s one more:

Thus ends the piano book/bag saga. Let’s hope this bag serves us well for years to come!

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Growing Up

I know we all get a little older every day. With the kids, I mostly celebrate their growing. It’s fun when they take joy in a new skill, or get a new privilege that comes with being older. Sometimes it just hits me like a punch in the gut, though. I’ll look at them and just wonder where the time has gone.

Elias

Elias lost his first tooth the “normal” way today. He had to get his first one pulled by the dentist a couple of months ago. This tooth has been hanging on by a thread for quite a while, and I was really ready for it to come out. But when he came running in with his toothbrush in his mouth, and his tooth in his hand, I have to admit I was both happy and sad. Soon he’ll have a big honkin’ tooth in the front of his face and every time I look at him I’ll be reminded that his childhood is slipping away a bit each day. He does look pretty cute with a hole in his smile.

Simon

Simon is really enjoying his pre-kindergarten year at Prince of Peace. Each month they have a shape theme, a color theme, letters of focus, a science theme, a Bible theme, and of course, a color theme. One day each month they have a special day to celebrate their color, and they are supposed to wear as much of that color as they can. I always take a picture of him on those days for his end of the year school memory book. Last week he had “happy blue day.” I took his picture as usual, and later that day when I was going back to actually look at the pictures I was just hit with how big he looks. He’s lost a lot of his baby fat, and really has more of a boy build now.

Caleb

Caleb, my baby, is now two. He wants to be super independent. He, of course, wants to do everything his brothers do. Physically, his motor skills are shooting off the charts these days. And finally, he is starting to put some words together when he speaks. I was really hit by how much he is growing up, though, yesterday when we were playing outside after school. He wanted to use the big boy swings instead of the baby swings, and he could do it! He was thrilled with himself, and giggled with joy in the beginning. Then, I could see his pride take over and he was practically beaming. He’s growing so fast!

I know in five years I’ll be reading this post and think about how they all were just babies. It’s all a matter of perspective. I’m trying to enjoy as many minutes as possible (because we all know enjoying every single minute is not). They are such amazing human beings.

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Piano Lessons and the Family Band

Elias began taking piano lessons this summer just before he started 1st grade. I contacted his teacher in August to see if she had any spots open for the fall, and she asked if I wanted to start right away. Why not? He was interested and I wanted to capitalize on that interest. I probably could have taught him myself. While I am no professional musician, I have to say that I’m quite an accomplished pianist. However, sometimes it is just better to have a different person teach your child if you can spare the cash. The clash of personalities is sometimes too great. Now, I get to practice with him almost every day and share in the joy of his growing love for piano, and instead of arguing with him myself, I can say, “remember when your teacher said…x?” It’s quite wonderful.

In his 5 months of piano, Elias has really taken off. He wants to practice every day, and enjoys himself, and it shows. He had his first recital in mid December. He played an English folk song called Oranges and Lemons. The audience was filled with all of the students in his teacher’s studio as well as their families. Elias even got to have all four of his grandparents there along with his parents and brothers. I was amazed that he didn’t seem nervous at all. He even played his song memorized. Great job, Elias!

Here he is before the recital. He was excited!

After the recital I made him sit at the piano again so we could take some posed pictures.

And we got some with his grandparents as well. (Of course I forgot to get one of the five of us. Oh well).

Now that Elias can read music, and has a basic understanding of how things work for piano, he has also showed interest in other instruments. Nathan and I got him a ukulele for Christmas. It came with an electronic tuner, a carrying case, and small booklets with a few instructions for how to play basic chords. He was thrilled, and has gotten it out every day to tune and strum.

A few nights ago, Elias made Nathan’s dreams come true when he asked if I would play the piano while he played his ukulele. Then he asked Nathan to play a guitar. For as long as I can remember Nathan has joked (except he’s kind of not joking) about wanting to form a family band some day when the boys are big enough. Elias knows a minor and c major chords pretty well on the ukulele so we mostly used those to play around. When I got up to take the picture, Simon and Caleb hurriedly took their place tapping away on the piano, and Nathan’s dreams were fulfilled…for one night anyway. So you saw it here first: The Smith Family Band.

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Christmas Memories

I’ve been thinking a lot this advent season (and now into the Christmas season) about what my boys will remember. When they reach my age, what will still be sticking in their minds? If I had to guess, I’d say that they won’t remember specific gifts. They won’t remember that we had the perfect tree in 2017. They may not remember being angels in the church Christmas pageant. They certainly won’t remember the delicious meal Nathan and I cooked since they hardly ate any of it! Rather than creating perfect details, perfect gifts, or joy-filled frenzies of wrapping paper ripping, I wanted to create lasting traditions. Because while they may not remember our perfect tree, I’m hoping they remember that every year we went to the farm together to choose our tree. And while they may not remember a delicious meal, I’m hoping they do remember that each year we gathered with family and extended family to give thanks to God and enjoy each other’s company. While they may not remember ever even having those perfect presents, I hope they learn the true gift given us in the incarnation.

After seven years, you’d think I’d have learned a thing or two about parenting. But every year I still hope for a magical Christmas for myself and for my children. Christmas is never magical. There are lots of tears. The routine is upset. Everything is overwhelming. But Christmas is always joyful in the aggregate. There is a big difference between magical and joyful!

So here are some family memories from our advent/Christmas 2017 season:

We drove out into the country to find our Christmas tree. We stomped around in the mud looking for the tree that was right for us. We found a lot of huge trees, and a lot of tiny trees, and it took awhile to find our just right tree. My parents came along and helped us. Caleb mostly liked stomping in mud puddles. Simon was mostly interested in the chocolates that Ama brought as a treat for him. Elias found something wonderful about every tree. Here we are posed in front of the tree we eventually chose (Caleb with chocolate staining his mouth).

And a close up of the boys:

I think the boys would go anywhere as long as Ama and Baba were there. They are so lucky to be Ama and Baba’s grandchildren.

We’ve been a part of the St. Bartholomew’s Christmas pageant for seven years now. The kids get together, dress up, and tell the Christmas story with the help of some musicians, and a singing congregation. Every year there is one rehearsal, and then it’s the real deal. The fact that it comes off well every year is its own Christmas miracle. This year, Elias wanted to be the donkey, and Simon and Caleb were angels.

Caleb was not too thrilled about the angel business. But we are thankful for our friend and awesome fellow church-attender, Nick, who took charge of the little cherubs so that Nathan and I could watch the cuteness. Caleb eventually warmed up to Nick. While Caleb didn’t sing, do his motions, or even walk up himself, he sat in front and looked cute. Simon sang and participated like a champ.

Auntie Erin, Uncle Jared, cousins Audrey and Sonya, and Nana were able to join us at the pageant and Eucharist on Christmas eve. We took our annual family Christmas photo with them after the service.

On Christmas Eve we went to my parents’ house, and were joined by my brother and his family. We even had snow! We let the boys take a  break from planned activities to go outside and play. They were overjoyed at the fresh air and the spontaneity.

Uncle Scott even got in on the snowball fight, which thrilled Elias and Simon who promptly pelted him with as many snowballs as they could. Scott is such a sport considering he was in a lot of pain at the time from a stone in his saliva gland.

And this…this may be my favorite picture of all time. Just the sheer realness of it. And it just fits each of their personalities to a “T.” I hope they recreate it for me some day when they are in their twenties or thirties. This is what Christmas is really like, people. The highs. The lows. All of it.

We got to spend Christmas Day at our house with Nathan’s side of the family as our guests. The boys are thrilled to be able to play with their cousins. It’s good for them to be able to play with some girls, too. I can’t count on my hands the number of times Elias has said “I love you” to his cousins. It’s really touching. This year, Caleb is even entering the fray a bit. It’s fun to watch their relationships grow and change.

This year Grandpa and Great Grandma got to come as well. Audrey, Sonya, and Elias, who are all studying piano, got to play some songs for great grandma. Today, Grandpa bravely involved himself in their nerf gun fight, and I suspect, really enjoyed shooting darts and getting shot. Here is our four generations picture:

So in the end, I’m not sure what they will remember from Christmas 2017. But I hope they take away the feeling of being loved.

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Here We Go, Hops!

Each summer since 2013 when the Hops came to Hillsboro, we’ve enjoyed at least a few games as a family. Sometimes with friends too! This year is no different. We’ve been to three games this summer so far. Elias was thrilled to be on the big screen at one of the games, and the boys got to run the bases after the game one evening.

This year we were lucky enough to be there for Star Wars Night. Simon had fallen asleep on the way to the stadium and missed out on the first few pictures while waking up in my arms, but when he saw Darth Vader it was like the “awake” switch flipped on in his brain and he wouldn’t miss meeting him for anything.

Caleb, unfortunately, was scared of the characters, and hugged Daddy with a death grip. He recovered just fine, though, and tried his first ice cream cone. We had tried feeding him ice cream in a dish many times and he never seemed to be into it. However, when he saw the cone he was more than excited. He said “mmmmm” after every single lick.

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