Tuesday, December 11, 2012


What comes after three?  Before five?  FOUR!  And we are there.  Easton turned four on November 21st and we partied in style; a monster truck birthday bash it was!  Daddy pulled out his best artistic skillz to create this bad boy:

And we had ourselves a spectacular time, just as you should at a birthday party for a four-year-old boy, right?

First of all, on his birthday wish list?

1)      A grape harvester

2)      A feller buncher

3)      A telehandler

I don’t make this stuff up (And either does he…go ahead, google it.  That stuff really exists!).  I’m also not making it up when I tell you he got all of those wishes granted.  Every. Stinking. One.  He’s put many miles (or hours?) on each one.  He spends hours playing in his room and his imagination cannot be harnessed.  He is so, so full of life and I love him all the more for it.

Now onto the yearly birthday interview!  Remember back to last year when I did the same interview?  SO fun to look back and compare.  I also added a few questions this year that a) he didn’t have a clue how to answer last year or b) just plain didn’t apply.  I so look forward to doing these every year and watching, on paper and with my own eyes, this little guy continue to grow and turn into the amazing person I just know God is planning for him to be.


Also, too funny not to mention: At the end of what must have seemed like a million interview questions Easton says, “Mom, I don’t want to do so many words.”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Steadfast: Faith and Family

From Dana:

I sat down to write a post about Easton…his birthday, how awesome he is, and his latest birthday interview.  That’ll come, I promise.  And I’m excited to put into words how much awesome he injects into our lives.  But right now my heart is too heavy and my mind is too full to write the carefree, fun post that needs to be.

Our family has changed a lot in the past two years; I have gained two sister-in-laws and a sweet, snuggly niece.  It’s great to finally have some girl power in our family (prior to said sister-in-laws and niece my mom and I were the only female figures)!  Family get-togethers and holidays have reached a new level of awesome with each new Van Zanten. J

Last week we were deep into preparations for Easton’s monster truck birthday bash.  We were nearly certain my brother and his wife, Katie, wouldn’t be attending as Katie had been struggling with a migraine for a number of days and was struggling to get a handle on it.  Two hours before party time my mom called.  They were headed to the ER to meet Andy and Katie.  After this phone call, came a series of phone calls from the ER including one which I will never forget.  It was my dad and I listened as he said, “Andy and Katie didn’t get very good news.  They found something in Katie’s brain.”  My response:  “No!”  Many of you probably know the feeling that followed.  Your heart sinks and your stomach falls to the floor.  I told David the news and remember telling him with tears in my eyes, “I’m just so scared for them.”

The minutes, hours, and days that followed were a huge emotional and spiritual roller coaster for me.  I went through times when I was completely convinced that God would, without a doubt, remove the tumor from Katie’s brain.  Other times I was scared and almost downright fearful for what the future might hold.  I reached for the Bible more times than I can count and hoped beyond hope that a verse would jump off the page and give me reassurance that everything would be fine.  I tuned Pandora to the Christian music station and yearned for the perfect song to play.  When I think back it seems sort of silly, but I was grasping for hope.  I know any number of uplifting verses in scripture and can list more than a few songs that bring peace to my soul, but I wanted God to throw it in my face instead of having to find it on my own.

One particular evening during what seemed to be a never-ending week, I crashed.  I crashed hard.  I was exhausted and couldn’t find the energy to do the most menial tasks.  At 8:30pm my husband picked me up off the floor, told the kids to tell me goodnight, and pushed me down the hall to bed.  I was tired, but there was no way I was going to sleep.  I pulled out my Kindle and started reading scripture; this time with meaning and purpose.  When I came across a moving verse, I’d YouTube a song that correlated.  And I cried.   I emptied my soul until there were no more tears to cry.  All those walls that I had built up behind me for support came crumbling down.  But slowly, one by one, I put the bricks back up.  But this time, God was the mortar that was holding it together.  No more hoping for the right song to play.  No more wishing a meaningful verse would jump off the page.  I know my God and I know He’s always there for me.  I didn’t need those things for proof.

My brother and his wife are insanely incredible.  They have not wavered from the very beginning.  They have not lost faith.  They have, in fact, done the complete opposite.  They are soaring high and finding ways to praise and thank God for his goodness.  My brother called to give me Katie’s preliminary diagnosis and the final words of his phone call were, “So send up a few prayers of thanksgiving.”  In a time when they could have crumbled, they held strong and clung to their loving Father.  They are admirable and I just know this story will have an awesome ending because of their faith and love for God.

So that’s it.  This is not the end.  This is the beginning.  This is the beginning of something we have no control over and don’t need to try to control.  God has this.  He has Andy & Katie in the palm of His hand and they are clinging to him as a child should cling to their Father in a time of need.  They are not ignorant, but they are not fearful.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13.  Andy & Katie…they are living out this verse.  Christ has given them the strength to handle this situation and they are making Him so, so proud.

If you’d like to pray for Andy & Katie and follow her story you can visit her Caring Bridge site here: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katievanzanten

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Celebrating Roy

 As we flipped the calendar into October, we left the terrible two's behind as Max turned three years old on October 2. The transition from toddler to little boy hasn't been 100% smooth, but we cherish these years of innocence while exploring independence and the evolution of Max. His sweet cheeks insist on being called Roy Rogers most of the time, he wears his cowboys boots every day and prefers blue jeans and button up shirts to sweatpants and tees. It came as no surprise when he requested a "Woy Wogers" themed birthday party.

He was thrilled about his horse cake, made with love from Grandma Koreen. He could barely contain his excitement at the first glance.
But honestly, can you blame him? Grandma did such a great job! The horse on top belonged to Koreen when she was a youngster. A week or two before Max's party, Koreen was able to visit the house she grew up in and brought back some treasures for Roy, including the horse. 
It took a little help to get that third finger to pop up. Hehe!

 Roy requested a ride on the ponies at the party. His belt buckle is his initial, "M", but this particular day we got the belt on upside down. I went to turn it around and realized the W was probably more fitting as his little boy language is still working on pronouncing R correctly so Roy becomes Woy. I love this phase.

While I don't think we know Trigger's exact birthday (you guessed it...Max named her), we know she is close in age to Max. As a young three year old, their personalities are similar. There are a few trust issues to overcome, and most of the time they're a lot of fun. But then, out of the blue, they just explode and have a little tantrum. I've no doubt that the two of them will be great buds, but for now, we keep Trigger on a close lead and Jack primarily rides her. She is so calm when the boys are around and off her back, but this was the first time I really caught a bond between her and Max. Such a cool moment in time. Hopefully many more to come!

 Sally, on the other hand is a big pet all of the time. Gage spent quite a bit of time on her this summer, but this was Max's first solo ride. He took the reins and has been doing great learning on her! Both kiddos have come so far in six months. Mom too - I hardly freak out at all anymore. ;)

He is kind of leader-of-the-barnyard. So thankful we were able to have all of our parents here to celebrate his big day!

We celebrated Max's birthday on Sunday, September 30th. When he refers to it now, he'll say "fake birthday" as in, "I had a really cool horse cake at my fake birthday party."

This face of innocence? He was so shy and timid while we sang to him and as we finished up, he head came up and he gave the best belly laugh. I could just bottle him up.

I found this great barn at the Grand River Museum in Lemmon. It was built by a local guy who uses scraps from other projects to put these together. No two are alike and they are super affordable. Max was really pumped to have a barn to play with. It has been used every day since.
We were able to celebrate again on October 2nd, with leftover cake and a few more presents. I let Max go to daycare in his superhero costume and PJs that day. He was so shy again during the Birthday Song - love it!!
Happy Birthday Maxwell James. Your old soul, big heart and compassionate personality are a true joy. While we still have plenty of disagreements and attitude adjustments, I wouldn't change you for the world. PS, you could totally pass for a Roy. Love you dude.

“If I could teach the kids to identify and appreciate their natural environment, then they will have a sense of place and care about [home].” -Roy Rogers

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


The number of miles between Dana and I seems endless at times. There never seems like enough time to talk on the phone, chat on the computer or text one more funny photo. When we do get together these days, we generally spend more time serving up snacks, dragging out toys and snuggling babies than catching up on the latest trends in fashion and painting our nails.

It does not mean we are not connected. It funny how, when chatting, we type the answer a question before it even comes out, or say almost the same thing simultaneously. We like a lot of the same things, and (at least in my case) "Dana" is always in my head. "What would you do?" "How would you handle this?" "Do you like this?" She almost always answers exactly how I want and agrees with me. :)

Last night we opened a few gifts with Max for his third birthday. Dana always has a way of nailing the perfect gift for the boys and this year was no exception. When Max pulled out a pair of leather work gloves, my jaw dropped. Over the river and through the hills, and Dana and I picked out the exact same pair of gloves for Max.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ember Lee Turns 1!

Here's a little ditty from Dana!
It happened.  Ember turned one.  It happened two months ago and I’m just now getting around to posting this (maybe I’ve been in denial?).  It’s one of those things that you know is coming, yet it still manages to sneak up on you.  Having said that, I am LOVIN’ this one y ear old!

She is saucy, fun-loving, energetic, and living life to the fullest.

She is perfect.

Introducing…Ember Lee Neu…Age ONE!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What Makes Them Mine

Tonight at bedtime we read the book Wings, a cute story about a little boy who is different and a little girl who finds the courage to stand up for him. At the end of the story is a little blip about the book, and how the author wrote it to encourage kids to embrace what makes them unique.
Upon completion of the story I asked the boys a simple question: "What makes you different from other kids?"
Gage's answer: "I can see in the dark and nobody else can."
Max: "Lots of ducks like to sit on my head."

I treasure moments like these. The honesty and imagination of two little boys who bring us joy. Creative play, childhood happiness, wholesome spirits.

Perkins County Summer: Fishing

When Jack's good friend Dan called to see if he could take the boys fishing, we made it happen. Dan and his sister Anna are great to introduce the boys to all sorts of fun. We had a near perfect day to fish and Anna, being an amazing science teacher, is always great at explaining all the processes and reasons to Gage - spot on.
They were even good sports about baiting hooks for the boys. ;)

Gage's first catch! He was thrilled!

We didn't catch anything big enough to keep and take home to eat, but we caught a lot. Gage reeled in probably close to 20 fish on his line alone. They were all about this size. The water was even clear enough that we could see into the water and watch them bite the line. It was great!

Dan got the boys fishing poles. At the 4th of July Block Party, Anna lined up weights and play fish to put in the yard and let the boys practice casting.
Max found a comfy place to land.
A fun afternoon skipping naps and catching fish instead - thanks Blocks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Perkins County Summer: Trailing

We have stayed on our toes all summer with various activities in and around Perkins County. Without planning so much as a weekend getaway with the kiddos, we founds plenty of fun close to home. Stay tuned as I attempt to post a series of summer updates, along with some news from the first few weeks of school!

In April we bought ponies for the boys and they've been a great project. We started with leading the boys around the yard and two months later they were (mostly) ready to trail cattle. Most of these pictures are from early June when Gage was still learning the little black pony's (Sally's) language. Once they got on the same page they have had a blast. Jack actually rides the second pony (Trigger), who is much younger and needs a lot more training to be ready to lead a kid around.

He's really excited at the mention of riding, and even more so when it entails trailing.
 Headed out to round up Grandpa's girls! Participating on this trail ride was Gage with Sally, Uncle Rick with Jake, Grandpa Chuck with Rusty, Jack with Trigger and Max with Grandma Koreen and Dusty.

Coming back to the starting point to turn a corner toward a new pasture. Grandpa Chuck uses a grazing systems that involves smaller pastures with numerous cross fences. This means cattle need to be moved frequently to control the length of grazing per pasture. We were able to get in on quite of few of the trails. (Some can be taken care of with the pickup, others are a bit more labor intensive.

Gage on Sally. This was her first trail (as far as we know). They've made so much progress since this point even. A bit that works better, reins that work better for Gage and motivation to move in the form of a little whip he can tap her with. As his comfort level and confidence has risen, her performance has also increased. It has been so much fun to watch.

Sally needed a little help rejoining the rest of the group. We've also learned that at some point in her life, she was probably foundered. No green grass for this little lady.
 Grandma and Max get along really well on Dusty. Trigger isn't ready for a 2nd passenger, and even when I ride its safest for Max to be with Grandma. I'm still learning too!
 There's a lot to be learned on the back of a horse.

Hiya cuties. Thanks for letting us spend part of our summer with you.

This was a ride from later in the summer and a pic taken on my phone. At one point in this ride, Max had gotten down to ride in the pickup with Great Grandpa Jim and Great Grandma Nora. He insisted it was time to ride horse again...5 minutes before he fell asleep. I guess its a rite of passage.

The girls, headed home.

Come back tomorrow to hear about fishing!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Economic Development

This afternoon, a much anticipated event: cashing in the aluminum cans Gage and Max have tirelessly worked to crush and collect with Grandma Koreen.

Ok, they didn't work tirelessly. But it was several moments of fun and Gage's obsessive self picking squished cans up out of parking lots, alleys and street corners.  And then at the last moment, our pal Travis sent his collection along also.

We had been asking Gage how much money he expected to earn, with guesses being between $5 and "A THOUSAND DOLLARS!". They had just under 2 garbage bags full, and yielded $4.50 for their efforts - it divided perfectly between two hands.

After The Great Aluminum Can Cash In of 2012, they boys hung out at the office until it was time to go home. We did things like: count money, roll up dollar bills and stuff them into our pocket, have a snack, trade crumpled up dollar bills for flat crispy ones, and trade dollars. In trying to get some work done, I overheard Gage working his little brother over:

Gage: "Let's have a race. If I win, I get your dollars and if you win, I get to keep mine."

Max didn't fall for his tricks and we put the brake on his plan before it went any farther. I was equally impressed and horrified at the experience.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chipmunks Like Doritos

I left the boys in the van with a bag of Doritos today while I ran inside to pick up pizzas for lunch. (Judgement free zone on the quality of my Sunday dinner.)

When I came back outside, they were (naturally) chowing down. Up the block a ways Gage dropped a bombshell, "The bag is open on both ends."

Super. So Doritos all over his lap and the back seat of the freshly vacuumed van. I wasn't all too surprised or upset, but told him to sit still until we arrived at our destination and I could help out. At this point Max starts giving the real story, "We held the bag and then it just popped!"

I knew the answer, but asked anyway, "Gage, how did you open the bag of chips?"

He replied, "We just held it up and popped it, but it opened on both ends."

(Insert crickets chirping.)

Then his justification, "You know, like Alvin does on the first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie."

Of course, blame it on the naughty chipmunk.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Athletic Activity

Gage started soccer today. We hyped him up all weekend for the big day. There was the purchase of shin guards last week. And then the search for soccer socks, which we could not find and eventually settled on a pair of small men's socks that fit more like pants. And then the explanation of the sport.

When Gage found out who is coaching his team, he was ecstatic. A boy from church who Gage once rode as a donkey. He immediately set out to gather things for "Coach Colton": score cards, number cards, the front page of a random newspaper, and Gage's Soccer Rules. They are as follows:
#1 Have fun
#2 Be nice to your friends
#3 Get it in the goal

Yep, that's pretty much all I know too.

I was trying to explain to Gage that he might not be the person who always kicks the ball into the net, and that's ok. I tried associating it with basketball passes, baseball positions and volleyball players who all work together. He was really confused about volleyball.

"So what does volleyball look like? Do they play it inside or outside?"

Jack pitched in to field the question, "You know what Gage? The Olympics start next week. How about we sit down together and watch all kinds of volleyball on TV?"

Let the games begin!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Monkey Town Bakery

I am not a baker. There is one kind of pie that I've yet to screw up (Caramel Apple) but beyond that I do not have the patience or finesse in the kitchen to perfect a pan of bars or frost and decorate anything that looks and tastes good. Even my Grandma (who can cook and bake blindfolded with her hands tied behind to back) wised up to this phenomenon a few years ago and gifted me some gear for the kitchen, including an oven thermometer. She was certain the only explanation for my floppity baked good was that my oven was baking at the wrong temperature. (She was right, but it didn't make a bit of difference in the end.) I feel this admission is pertinent to the discovery I made this morning.

Fifteen bananas.

I found fifteen frozen bananas in the freezer waiting for someone to bake them into deliciousness. I used to throw bananas away when they got brown, but then someone told me you could put them in the freezer until you were ready to use them. It turns out you still have you use them. If you don't use them, you wake up one morning and find yourself one frozen banana away from an episode of Hoarders.

There are now fifteen bananas thawing in the kitchen sink, waiting for me to screw up a bag of flour and sugar trying to bake something.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

20 Questions Would be a Vacation

Something has changed.

Since Gage finished up with preschool a few weeks ago, something has definitely changed. I am beginning to think normal, everyday life in the lap of luxury playing whatever he wants at daycare does not stimulate his brain. Or perhaps he yearns for structure like the program he participated in four days a week for nine months. But in the last three weeks, I have answered no fewer than 12,000 questions.

I try.
I try really hard not to discourage the conversation because Lord knows that soon enough, he will want nothing to do with me.
I try to encourage him to think for himself, answer what questions he can using common sense.
I try to allow him the freedom to choose for himself whenever possible.

Somehow, we have been derailed and demoted to simple questions that fly out of his mouth faster than my brain can process.

Here's a sample from this morning:

When are Grandma and Grandpa coming?
How many days are they staying?
When are they leaving?
How many days do I get to be with them?
Are you coming to pick me up?
What should I wear at Grandma and Grandpa's house?
Can I take books?
Can I take sweatpants?
Will they know what to feed me?
What can I wear today?
What's for breakfast?
How much do I have to eat?
Do I need a jacket?
Does Max need a jacket?
Where are my socks?
Can I sit at the counter?
Is Max going outside?
Are you going to put Wrangler away?
Who is going to be at daycare today?
Are you listening to me?
Why did you change your shirt?
Why did you close the door?
Can I wear this shirt?

It. Never. Ends.

And I have no idea where he gets it from - this incessant need to talk all the time. I have tried asking Jack 100 times, in 100 different ways, but I am not sure he is listening.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Best of Intentions

I don't think our fridge has been wiped down since I was pregnant with Max. I took care of it when I was nesting and the next thing I knew there was a baby, and then a toddler, and then preschool for the toddler's brother and then an unknown substance of a color not found in nature spilling down the interior wall on the second shelf. In an effort to ease the shock of this experience I started planning ahead and purging outdated things ahead of time. Next, I went on a grocery buying ban. And for the last week, we have searched a bare bones fridge full of grossness for something to eat while putting off restocking until it was cleaned.

Last night I finally mustered the courage to tackle the job. I cooked extra sloppy joes so the boys would eat their fill while I labroed away and leave plenty of leftovers for lunch today. I started grabbing things from shelves to rest on the counter and found a few more mysterious pieces to add to the garbage can. In an effort to prevent freezing of the kitchen, I turned off the fridge's cooling so I could clean to my heart's content. And boy is it clean.

I delicately placed the jelly and other condiments on the shelves and in the door so we could read the labels, reorganzied the produce drawer and packed up the leftover sloppy joes to ready them for transport to the office in the morning.

At this point in the evening, its fair to mention that I gave Max a bath, Gage a shower, took something for my headache, hauled too big/too small clothes upstairs to restock the boys' drawers, put the kids to bed and sorted said clothes. Then I went to bed.

This morning, Jack kindly reminded me that next time I turned off the fridge, to turn it back on when I am finished.

Note to self: pick up perishables on the way home. Your fridge is empty.

Looks like frozen pizza for lunch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ten On Tuesday, Solo Kim

Back with a Ten on Tuesday after a break. These are actually older questions, that I answered a while back and filed. I figured I might as well post them since the work is already done!

1. What’s your variety of apple?
Braeburn, or as Gage calls them “the red AND green ones”. They had a unit on apple varieties at preschool examining colors, textures and taste so now he’s an expert. Duh.

2. Do you prefer Long-English or Field cucumbers?
Umm, burpless?

3. Tomatoes – Delicious or disgusting?
Delicious, all forms, varieties, canned, sauced, etc. My Grandma grows loads of tomatoes every year, and has my entire life. When I was a wee little girl and helped in her garden (Grandma, are there any pictures of this?) she taught me how to eat fresh tomatoes: pick, polish, bite, spit out that bite, suck out all the juice, pitch the remaining fleshy part over the white washed fence, repeat.

4. What’s one fruit or vegetable that you can’t stand and why is that?
Do mushrooms count? My tastebuds have grown up enough to embrace everything but mushrooms. (It took about 25 years for them to enjoy peppers.)

5. What’s your favourite way to prepare veggies? (Grilled, boiled, roasted, sautéed, etc.)
Grilled on almost everything. Not lettuce. And potatoes…probably mashed.

6. Sweet potato pie: Love it or hate it?
I love sweet potatoes.

7. What’s your favourite “style” of French fry? Wedges, shoelace, curly, crinkle-cut or other?
Thin and crispy.

8. What’s your favourite fruit-pie filling?
Strawberry (served cold). Or peach (served warm a la mode). One more story: my Dad begged my sister and I ride along to an auction sale when we were in high school. It was an hour away and we weren’t real excited about it. But we tagged along because it meant we didn’t have to stay home and clean/mow/scrape out hog pens for the day. When we got there and discovered they had an entire building filled with every type of pie imaginable we were hooked. We kept dragging him back for more pie. So much that we missed the sale of the one thing he actually wanted at the auction. We went back with him again another year to the “pie sale”.

9. When you were a kid did your parents make you sit at the table until all your veggies were eaten off your plate?
I don’t remember, so probably not. Honestly, I don’t remember pitching fits about eating. My kids? It’s a constant battle to get them to eat something (sometimes ANYTHING) at a meal. Help me?

10. Do you drink veggie & fruit juice blends (such as V8, etc.) or make them yourself?
I like to make my own fruit smoothies, but haven’t done anything with veggies. Also, I bring my own gravy (it’s a MONK pun...)

Monday, May 14, 2012

What They Hear

A few things about Gage.

1. He fights getting dressed almost every day and has since the minute he started breathing. Either his clothes aren't right, or he'd rather be naked, or the wind is blowing too hard, or a squirrel farted it threw off his entire morning.

2. Gage has always had a funny way of interpreting a song, story or movie. I suspect he only listens to what interests him. The same can be said of his desire to listen to my voice. He has impeccable memory, and yet the listening skills leave room for improvement.

3. We have taken Gage to several events in large venues with loud music, flashing lights and excitement. Being a male an adrenaline junkie, he's caught on to some of that music and made it his favorite. One of our favorite activities as a family is to relive the opening sequences in our living room (with minimal pyrotechnics as an obvious fire hazard). These experiences include flashlights, light sabers, lasers and music.

Let me share what happens if you combine these three Gage Effects and share with you how he sing a popular song by Queen.

We Will Rock You
Originally recorded by Queen
Interpreted by Gage

Mud on your face
Ya big disgrace
Kicking your can all over the place
We will
We will
Rock you.
Boom boom chh
Boom boom chh

He actually hollers, "Put your pants on" at the beginning of the song. I assume when he initially sang the song I barked that common order and it married itself to the song lyrics in his brain forever.

These quirks that belong to Gage, make me love him all the more. He adds so much adventure and humor to our lives with his active personality.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to you all. Whether you are my mother, someone else's mother, want to become a mother, or had a mother you deserve to be celebrated.

I know it sounds Gouda Cheesy, but it is true. (A dairy foods pun for my former students.)

As I begin my 6th year of motherhood, and have permanently moved out of the challenging infant phase, I find myself reflective in the people who have impacted me as a mother themselves, or influenced my role as a mother.

So thank you.

Thank you for guiding me. Teaching me to nurture. Teaching me responsibility. Showing me how to be vulnerable and encouraging me to learn.

Thank you for listening. And then telling me that my children are normal. Telling me that their habit of sorting things doesn't make them weird. Encouraging me by thinking my children are interesting. And funny. And bright.

Thank you for your consultation. Peeking at a strange rash on the back of his leg when I see you in the grocery store? Pouring over sleep remedies when you run into me buying paint? Answering seemingly obvious questions when I find you online? Offering the suggestion of your favorite drink after a particularly challenging day? Those things matter.

Thank you for sharing. Your insight and experiences are a goldmine. Even if you do not have children, I'm fairly certain you used to be one and that means you hold information that could potentially be helpful in my quest to not screw up these children. I appreciate you telling me how you did not eat the food off your plate either, and still grew up healthy.

Hundreds of miles may separate us, or I might see you nearly everyday in our hometown but our interactions are important.

A special thanks to my kiddos - without them, I would celebrate Mother's Day by sleeping in. Instead I will celebrate by getting up way too early to enjoy another day as "Mommy! Mommy! Mommmmmmmy!"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Perfectly Different: On Losing Things

Ever since Gage was old enough to communicate we have noticed some quirks. He remembers things. Pretty much everything. Combine this with his quirk to sort and hide things all over the house and its made for some pretty entertaining episodes.

"Hey Mom, remember that blue bouncy ball I got at Pizza Hut when we went to visit your friend Dana? I put it in the red bag under my bed with the ball the Easter Bunny brought me when I was two."

Kid's toys knowingly come with dozens of pieces. Some children (Max) actually play with these toys. Gage? He spends "play time" looking for the 1 or 2 pieces that have seemingly grown legs and walked away.

"I cannot find the little sheep. Not this little sheep. I'm looking for the little sheep that has paint missing on one of its feet."

I used to think it was so annoying. We have spent hours looking for things he KNOWS are missing. If he cannot find them, its because I have moved them or his brother has moved them. Because obviously, if he put it somewhere he knows exactly where he left it.

"Mom, we have to go back to the park. Last week, I left a green crayon under the silver slide."

Now I think Gage's "Find It" superpower is pretty much the coolest thing ever. I no longer need to keep track of a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. Lost my wallet? Just ask Gage. Can't find the remote? Just ask Gage. Misplace a paper bag we used that Sunday we learned about David and Goliath at church? He will know where I left it.

And then there's Max.

I'm convinced Max doesn't give a crap about locating anything. His personality is so much more laid back than Gage's was at this age. Also, his brother retrieves misplaced toys and food before Max even knows they're gone. I swear I could ask the kid where his face is and he'd smile and say, "I don't know." Tonight he was looking for "two army guys and cowboy fighter" toy figurines while he was sitting in his bed. I literally picked up the blanket covering his legs and they were right there.

Two and a half years separates these two cuties in age. Their interests and personalities separate them even further. Thankfully, for us, they are the perfect compliment to each other.

If you missed previous installments of Perfectly Different, check them out below!

Perfectly Different
Perfectly Different: Sock Fetish

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birthday #5: Bullseye!

We celebrated Gage's birthday the weekend of Easter this year. He turned five on Good Friday and we spent the day playing at the office, and then attending church service with family. His party took place on Saturday after an Easter Egg Hunt, sponsored by his preschool.

Gage has really been into hunting lately. For Christmas, Jack got a coyote call, so besides heading out for deer and pheasant seasons, he went coyote hunting several times. The boys also enjoy playing hunting games on the Xbox, so they have been living and breathing hunting adventures.

Birthday boy enjoying lunch!

Grandma Koreen made the hunting cake, suitable for even the gluten free members of the family. Gage and Grandma had picked their favorite design online and Grandma delivered. This cake was delicious and oh so cool!

My favorite detail of the cake was the inside. She actually "marbled" and dyed the cakes to make it look camouflage! So so cool!

Because of the additional commitments of Easter weekend, we had just a couple of friends over, but it ended up being the perfect amount for the costumes we have on hand. Always a hit.

After present opening, the boys headed outside to enjoy a little hunting experience. We had grabbed some weaponry, ammunition and this fabulous inflatable deer target. The kids (big and little!) had a great time playing and taking turns at each weapon.

Thanks to Grandpa Chuck, Jack, Uncle Nathan and Uncle Adam for their help!

I think they had a good time. :)

So far year five has definitely had its ups and downs. It seems like the highs are a big higher but the lows are lower as well. Judging from his massive appetite and impressive sleep schedule (good for a change!) I'm certain he's in the midst of another growth spurt. I'm going to blame his volatile attitude on that until I come up with something better.

At any rate, we are crazy in love with Gage and everything he brings to our life. He is amazing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A study in sleeplessness.

D: Ember doesn't sleep anyway, so we wouldn't be out anything. Easton will...he's a champ. :)
K: Still not sleeping good huh? Is it possible she just needs less that the experts say? I have one like that ;)

D: That's not the problem. She was up 7 times last night, no joke.
And only napped for 1.5 hours TOTAL all day yesterday.

K: Oh wow. The up-lots-of-times-at-night thing sucks big time. When Gage was little like that, I'd sometimes just turn on the TV for him so I could sleep on the couch.
Is she upset when she's awake? Or just wants to be awake?

D:  She's tired. She goes back to sleep. Sometimes within 2 minutes, sometimes within 12 minutes. She just keeps. waking. up.
K: She looks so alert and curious, I just wonder if she's too excited about exploring and playing to sleep.

D: She cries. She's tired.
She hates David between 9pm and 7 am.

K: And she needs you to put her back to sleep.
Ouch, yeah Gage only wanted me at night too. Because Jack didn't mess around - he'd make him go back to sleep. It usually helped him sleep better though.

D: Mostly, yes. Last night she did let him comfort her twice.
Me the other 5 times.

K: And she won't put herself back to sleep? We did let Gage 'cry it out' a few times. After 3-4 days it worked really well and he'd sleep fine. For 3-4 days.
D: I did a trial "cry it out" at naptime on Wednesday. Fail fail fail.

It took me twice as long to get her calmed down as it would've otherwise taken me to just put her to sleep.

K: Right. Gage too when he was little like that. :(
D: Going to sleep isn't usually the problem...rock for a few minutes + pacifier and she's asleep (as long as she's tired and ready for nap).

K: I really have no good advice. We struggled with Gage for a really long time. I thought it was us. I really thought we'd screwed him up for life (and I suppose the jury is still out on that...) and we were awful parents. It really made us think twice about wanting more kids.

Max is SO different. He has been from day 1.

I truly think its more about their wiring and internal clocks. The baby sleep experts just have good sleepers to raise. ;)

D: I agree. I'm not even going to pick up a book or google more ideas. I've tried what I think will work and I guess we'll just have to tough it out in the meantime. I'm going to try a few things over the weekend, but I'm not going to ruin my life over it.

We'll get there.

K: We messed with every variable: light, sound, temperature, sleep atmosphere, nighttime routine, you name it. The only thing that worked: turning 4.
If you need a break, Koreen swears she's being honest when she tells me that he has ALWAYS slept perfectly there. He might get up once, but usually just sleeps right on through the night. And later in the morning than he EVER has for me.

Maybe your mom would be interested in trying her for a night, even if just to give you a break and the chance at a good night's sleep. I always felt bad asking her to watch him, but she says even when he was little he's slept so good there.

D: I might have Mom come a night and use a bottle if she has to. I'm not certain it's not the nursing she wants. The most I'll feed her during the night is twice, and it's usually when I can't stand the thought of getting up again. She'll typically sleep 3 hours after I feed her.
K: If I was there, I'd take her. We'd get along just fine :) I think maybe she's just wired with a personality like mine. Lucky YOU!

D: Then we should get along great for the rest of our lives. ;)
K: Well that is interesting. She can't possibly be hungry ALL night long.

Max did eat every 2 hours, but I stopped  that when he was 6 months old. Was I freaking nuts or what? lol

D: Last night I nursed her @ 8:00, fed her cereal at 8:30 (a big bowl), and let her drink a bottle at 8:45 (she drank almost 4 oz.). There's no WAY she's hungry.
K: She eating good at daycare? The boys both cluster fed...I felt like sometimes all I did between pickup and bedtime was feed them. Gage was even worse.  

D: Her 9 month appointment is Monday. I'll talk to Dr. Jeanne about it. She'll ask if I can let her cry it out. When I say no, she'll smile and say she couldn't do it either. Then she'll make sure there's nothing medically wrong, tell me I'm a good mom, and send me home with hopeful thoughts.
K: OMG, this is great birth control. Ask me more questions about raising newborns. lol

D: She usually drinks 4 or 5 oz. bottles there. That's pretty normal for her.
;)Just don't spend the day with her. You'll want 6 of her. You must stay past 10pm. ;)

K: How's this mystery fever?
or warm body I guess?

D: I think it was the thermometer. I bought a different one and she hasn't had a fever at all...although I'm wondering if that one will EVER read a fever. Ha! I know I had a fever with my last cold and it read normal. Oh well. On the ear thermometer Ember's normal temp. reads 99.2, so I just figure it out from there if she has a fever or not. That's my theory anyway. :)
Go Dr. D.!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nine Months

A post from Dana!


Ember Lee turned 9 months old last week.  Crazy?  I know.  And it sure gets a Mama to thinking!

In nine short months you experience the transformation from looking like this…

 to looking at this...

That’s where we’re at.  We have a beautiful, smiley, crawling, standing-up-by-everything little girl.  I’ve done this before, but it’s still just incredibly amazing to me how life changes so quickly.

Perhaps equally as amazing is the transition from a cute toddler to a little boy SO ready for preschool.

+ 9 months =

I can’t wait to see what the next 9 months will bring (think birthdays, walking, preschool, and more!) for my kids and my family.  I’m planning to just hang on and enjoy the ride. J

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Perfectly Different: Sock Fetish

These children are most peculiar. We covered a few examples of how they're different but here's one similarity: sock fetish.

Max's sock fetish is still developing, but it goes something like this: the only acceptable time for socks to not be touching his feet are while he's bathing. Socks to bed are one of my biggest pet peeves, so I've never put socks on my kids to sleep. Now that he's old enough to choose for himself, socks are the first thing he puts on at night. And if you help him get undressed to use the toilet, be careful not to touch his sock because if they move in the slightest or get off kilter on his foot he throws a holy tantrum.

Onto Gage

I'm not sure when his sock obsession started. To be perfectly honest, I hardly ever put socks on him. Until I figured out the kind of socks that actually stay on a baby (as opposed to flying off at the first kick) he just sort of existed without them. I remember little old ladies at church scolding me and telling me he needed socks on all the time. I just smiled. I remember seeing other babies wear socks underneath their footed sleepers, thinking their parents had lost their mind. Somewhere between 24 and 30 months, when his language centers exploded and his free play time increased exponentially, the kid started doing things with socks.

He'd wad them up and stuff them in the most unusual places (under his pillow, behind the doors). He played with them. Taking all the socks out of his drawer, unfolding them, wadding them up and stashing them away became one of his favorite games.

Sometimes he'd put 3 or 4 socks on each foot before he declared himself ready for the day. When I picked him up from daycare in the evening, still wearing 8 socks, the sitter would tell me he did fine with the socks all day. (but probably didn't eat his lunch and most likely went to time out for intentionally somersaulting off the couch.)

Here are a few other sock stories of Gage's, pulled from my Facebook archive:

February 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm
Me: Go sit down and find something quiet to play with.
Gage: Ok, I will go and play with my socks. (hello weirdness)

February 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm
Tonight, his socks will "sleep" in the window. We're not yet certain where Gage will sleep...he's nomadic when the sun goes down.

(Please excuse the "in progress" construction picture)

June 11, 2010 at 7:40 am
Me: What would you like to use to make a project for Grandpa Chuck's birthday?
Gage: Ummmm, I think I'll use my socks.

September 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm
Last week Gage was afraid to touch an earthworm and didn't want to get too close to butterflies. Last night he said "Dammit" and this morning he put a screwdriver in his sock and told me he was "taking a knife to daycare". Time to call a therapist?

As you can see, the sock fetish runs deep in the boys' blood. It makes me giggle and is (hopefully) a harmless obsession.