Posted by: Nikki | May 8, 2011

Carkeek Park

So it seems fitting that now that I’m blogging again and in a new area with so much to explore, that I should write about it, so this will hopefully be my first post of many more to come.

Today on mother’s day we were running too late for church, thanks to Matt’s yummy pancakes. We decided to find God somewhere else. The weather was cloudy and seemed like it could go either way, but the weather channel said 30% chance of rain, so outdoors it was. We chose a spot out of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles and headed out, wasting little time packing, knowing we had the essentials in the van. Carkeek is located in Northwest Seattle on Puget Sound, north of Golden Gardens. We had a great experience – I’d give it 4.5 stars.

We arrived near a grassy field and could see lots and lots of picnic tables (this would be a great spot for a birthday party!) with grills. Sam was intrigued by the families playing soccer, so we got our ball out and played our own game, which he loved! We then headed to the playground, which was designed to represent the sound. Sam loved climbing into the mouth of the salmon slide and sliding down.

We then headed onto the North Ridge trail. It was a nice wooded trail with many interesting tree trunks, ferns, and a decent incline. There were several lookout points from which you could look through the treeline onto the train tracks way down below which run along the Puget sound beach. Luckily, we had a clear day and the views were great while the trails were mostly quiet. Sam was able to hike them easily.

There were many spurs off of the trail, but we stuck to the main path which took us all the way up to a grassy meadow, seemingly in someone’s backyard, where Sam enjoyed resting and blowing dandelion seeds. We descended down another path and back toward the playground, from which we headed to the beach.

Across the parking lot was a bridge to the beach which crossed the railroad tracks. We watched as a train went right below us, a large freight train. We were right in the thick of of it’s loud whistle and smoke, looking down onto the tops of its many cars. We then descended to the beach. There was a makeshift giant see-saw made by a large driftwood tree trunk. The beach was a cross between a rocky beach and a sandy beach, but not well representative of either. It is possible to walk the entire shore, all the way to Golden Gardens, which woud be fun to try someday. The boats were out today, but at a distance. Bainbridge was directly across, but the Olympics were hiding in distant clouds. Once across the bridge, the beach was pretty evenly and gradually sloped toward the water which was at low tide.

I hadn’t experienced low tide, or payed much attention to the tides, in my beach experiences yet, so this was my first chance to explore tide pools. Apparently at times you can see anemone, starfish, and other sea life in these tide pools. What we were able to see today were clam shells, seaweed, and tiny little crabs. There were also, in Matt’s words, a couple of mysterious jets of water shooting from from the sand. It would have been a fantastic trip for rain boots and magnifying glasses. The paths that the tide water created through the sand were interesting to me. It was definitely more of a look at little creatures beach than throw rocks in the water beach, but great fun, and something we hadn’t seen yet. I like low tide. In fact, I’m going to have to explore and see if there’s an app for tides.

Anyway, after passing some time on the beach, we decided it was time for lunch, which we didn’t pack, and we headed to the van. We watched another train go by, this time from half-way up the steps to the bridge, pretty much at eye-level. At the meadow by the van was a guy set up and putting on bubble demonstrations. We sat on my new mother’s day gift, a waterproof picnic blanket, and watched the biggest bubble we’ve ever seen float up to the tops of evergreens.

After that we packed it up and headed home happy. This park had a lot to offer – open field, picnic and grilling space, an interesting playground, hiking, trains, and a beach for exploring plants and little creatures. It also had a trail by Piper creek that we didn’t explore, but it looked very nice as well. I think this would be a great variety or compromise park – has a lot of options. Great for an indecisive day!

Posted by: Nikki | May 6, 2011

Beyond The Gloom

So, as I try to think about where to begin blogging again, I look outside my window.  I see green leaves, flowers, birds, and gray.  Lots and lots of gray.  The most common question my friends and family ask me since the move is always about the weather.  Is it really as bad as they say?  Here’s MY unofficial (and true to form, wordy) answer to the common question about Seattle’s winter.

We moved here at the end of summer.  I wore my t-shirts a few times and my flip flops for quick trips outside to the van.  The first thing I discovered.  Things.  Never.  Dry.  I don’t notice that as much anymore, but I definitely remember feeling that way early on.  Maybe I’ve adapted?  Maybe it was the season.  Don’t know.  Anyway…

On moving in day, I asked one of the moving guys when the rain starts.  He said “right about now.  you just missed summer.”  And it was cold that day and I wore a fleece and sipped my latte while they unloaded my stuff.  But in the next two months I continued to ask that same question.  The usual answer was that “winter” starts in November.  When locals say winter, they mean rain.  And gray skies.  I’ve noticed that it’s really more about the gray skies.  And the October weather was hit and miss, but mainly pretty nice.  We had lots of good outings, trips to the zoo, and maybe half of the time, a rainy day.  I probably wore long sleeves and a sweatshirt jacket for October, nothing unusual.  The one thing I remember about October was dreading November.  It just kept looming there, the beginning of “winter.”

So it got here.  And it rained.  Some.  But more than the rain, it’s the GRAY!  It may rain an hour or so each day.  It may drizzle, spit sometimes, or be more of a mist.  There may be a rain shower (but I actually like these, when you can actually HEAR the rain it seems more peaceful and relaxing).  I only recall ONE day the whole month of November where people used umbrellas.  One downpour.  That’s it.  The rest of the time it was generally cool and humid, but always GRAY!  Now, this makes it easy to sleep in, keeps the coffee businesses going (and going, and going, and going…does it make sense now?  THAT’s why there’s so much coffee here!), and you get kind of used to it.  At least I did.  That is, until one day, you see the sun!  And THEN you realize what you’ve been missing.  You drop absolutely everything, head outside, realize that it’s still really too cool to be outside, but you get in the car and drive (cause those darn evergreens in your backyard make it hard to see anything else!) to find a mountain, a lake, anything sparkling in the sun!  You find a boost of energy and suddenly your house is clean.  You send your kid outside to play in the backyard, without rain boots!  You even begin to wonder if it’s necessary to give the baby his daily supplement of Vitamin D.  And then you realize how deprived you’ve been.  Just in time for the gray to come back.

But the perk of the winter:  there’s still lots of green!  The grass, the hills, the evergreens, are all still green.  We got to sail on a Christmas boat because the lakes don’t freeze.  I never felt COLD in less than a sweatshirt and jacket.  In fact, I never pulled out my old winter coat.  We had a really cold snap around the New Year.  I do remember being cold then, but that’s about my only recollection.  I occasionally put the liner in my 2-in-1, but not often.  It felt so mild in comparison to what I was used to.  And consistent.  The temps never seemed to change.  Mid-upper 40s.  And the mountains got a pretty white coat for the winter.  I will actually miss the pretty snow-covered mountains when summer starts.  (If summer starts.)  We got a couple of snows in the low-lands (and THAT is for a completely different post!) but they didn’t stick around.

So it stayed that way.  November.  December.  In January I started to see some green coming out of the ground, and the tiniest buds on a bush.  February.  March.  By now it was in the 50s.  The rain tapered off some, but the gray stuck around.  In April we hit the road and headed to MO.  We come back to daffodils, tulips, bleeding hearts, and more and more buds on the trees.  More and more sunbreaks, too.  And our sunny days are now in the mid-60s.  I’ll take that!  Now it’s May, and those green bits of flowers that started peeking through in January are still trying to bloom.  The trees are getting their green on, the azaleas are blooming everywhere and seem to really love the climate here, and the flowering trees are in full bloom.  The only word to describe the surroundings right now is LUSH!  But still GRAY!  Not always, mind you.  It’s never always.  But those sunny days are becoming such a tease!  I’m still in long sleeves and a jacket, except for those few days when the sun comes out.  I’m still drinking the morning coffee and checking the forecast, planning my week entirely around when it might be sunny, but still finding that we can go an entire week without a sun on the 7-day forecast.  I’m shopping for sandals and making sure I have all of the outdoor gear my family needs.  I have online shopping carts with items that I think we need for this summer, but can’t quite bring myself to hit the “buy now” button.  It feels like summer should be just around the corner.  But is it?

So, I think, in a way, you get used to it.  You get through the winter expecting a pay-off in the summer.  What I’m not so sure about is when, year after year, summer comes to a close, and the gloom awaits.  THAT’s what worries me.  But between now and then I have some summer months to enjoy.  Sometime.  Soon?  But one thing’s certain.  I WILL enjoy those July and August days when it’s sunny and in the mid-70s.  And when the midwest is in the 90s, I WILL gloat!  After all, I’ve earned it!

Posted by: Nikki | May 5, 2011

It’s still here!

I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to log on to this old thing. I lost the email account that was associate with this blog, but it looks like I’m still here.  That’s pretty nice! So, I’m hoping to get back into the habit here. Since facebook entered my life I haven’t spent much time detailing my family in a lasting way. Now that we live a distance away from our relatives, it’s great to have a way to tell the same story to a lot of people at once and stay connected. Facebook, you have been great for that. But I’ve also learned that the more diverse my facebook friends become, the more I dislike the experience. So I’m going to give this a try for awhile. My own little corner of the internet. A little more quiet, private, with more room for my thoughts and the thoughts of my closest friends. Will be back with more later…my crazy life awaits!

Posted by: Nikki | February 8, 2010

Sam’s Birthday Present, Already on Order.

First of all, thank you to Matt’s Aunt Marilyn for getting me back in this saddle again.  I sat down last night (in between super-bowl commercials) and wrote a nice post.  Hit some random button, and it was all gone!  Frustrating, to say the least, but it got me going!  I forgot how much I enjoy the writing, and thanks to Marilyn’s nudge I will hopefully have more posts to read as the days go by and I can remember what today feels like…’cause it’s great!! 

So….here goes!  When I sat down to write last night, I thought about writing a summary of all that’s happened between now and my last post.  That seemed crazy daunting, so it went something like this instead…

In the better part of a year, we’ve been so busy having fun!  It’s been nothing but blessings, starting with Sam’s second birthday, which he loved!  He enjoyed saying “Happy Too” and lit up like a Christmas light when everyone sang.  So much that we sang to him twice!  We celebrated on the actual day with the annual birthday breakfast pancake at the Original Pancake House.  Since then, I’ve had a wonderful school year and enjoyed trick-or-treating with my scarecrow (he was SOOOO cute!!).  And the holidays were just pure magic.  Sam enjoyed every last second and we enjoyed watching it all through his eyes.  His language has exploded and he’s a stinking riot!  Oh, yes, and we’ve potty trained, too.  In many ways, since my last post, those last few glimpses of his babyhood are starting to fade.  So bittersweet…  

But there you have it, our life since July 2009.  Let’s jump ahead to July 2010.  Sam’s 3rd birthday!  (WOW!  He’s old enough to be one of my preschoolers!!)  First of all, let me just say how much trouble he’s in for the next three years, being the age that mom’s an “expert” in!  Second of all, I’m already hoping that he likes his big gift.  Matt and I worked hard on this one, needing a lot of patience while we waited to make sure we could get it.  I deeply feel that it’s the greatest gift I can ever give him.  So, I hope he’s happy with…his sibling!!

Last night when I sat down to write this blog I thought I’d spend the rest of this entry talking about this pregnancy so far (we’re already 1/3 of the way there!!)  But that’s not what happened, and I liked the direction that it went in, so I think I’ll stay on that track…more on my first trimester to come (I hope!).  

Matt and I had to try longer than we hoped, and let me tell you, this tested my patience more than I’ve ever been tested before, not to mention that everyone I know was popping up pregnant while I waited and waited.  When we found out we were pregnant we were ecstatic.  Matt and I, and Sam, too, had been praying for this for some time.  And here we were with a new little one due in July.  July!?

Now, my Sam was due August 6 and born July 24th.  And guess when little number two is due?  Right smack dab in between…July 31st.  Making things even more interesting, the doctor is planning another C-section, and doesn’t want me to go into labor.  So, I’m thinking it’ll for sure be July, assuring me another ruby.  :)  Since I’m BFF with my OB (thanks to placenta #1), I also know that her surgery days are Tuesday.  The Tuesday’s before July 31st are the 20th and the 27th.  The experts (aka: grandmas) will tell you that it WILL be July 2oth, but either way, we’re talking DAYS apart from my Sam’s birthday.  What can I say?  I’m consistent!  (Well, I guess Matt and I both are, but you don’t want to get into THAT!!)

So what do most people say when they realize how close these two birthdays will be!?  Some notice my consistency, some point out how lucky I am that my maternity clothes are the right season (and this is true!), and, should we have another boy, those close are also the right season, too!  But most are very happy to point out that I’ll only have to throw one birthday party!  How did I feel when it first hit me that I’d have two July babies?  I had to let it settle.  In fact, it’s still settling.  I’m grieving the yearly birthday party that I won’t get to throw.  I LOVE birthdays, and these last two birthdays of Sam’s have taught me that I LOVE throwing KID birthday parties!  With two kids, I was looking forward to double the parties.  I suppose now we’ll have to have one party with double the fun!! 

With that spin on things, I think I’ll be okay with it, but I must admit, the stress isn’t gone.  My first thoughts were worry that these two would resent having to share their celebrations.  Which I tell myself is silly.  I mean, I’ve been sharing a birthday celebration with Matt since we started dating; but, then again, we were old enough to not care so much.  Matt tells me he never minded sharing birthdays with Rachel.  That’s just how it was.  But then there’s the completely impractical side of me that thinks, well, what if these two have completely different interests!?  Do I send one invitation with two different themes,  because two seems silly!?  Do I force them to agree, even if it means a party that neither one is particularly psyched about?  Or do I hang up my party-planning hat and just go with generic birthday.  One cake or two?  Seriously…I think about these things!!

Then there’s how to take care of this year.  If this baby IS born on the 20th via C-section, we’ll come home ON Sam’s 3rd birthday.  I’m already planning on two balloon bouqets and signs (alas, the joint birthday celebrations begin!), and don’t put it past me…I may even try to sneak in a birthday pancake at the Original Pancake House!  I worry about making sure that Sam feels special on this birthday, and these thoughts pop up pretty often (like during yesterday’s sermon).  I think about how every July 24th I sit back and think back to 2007, about how big my baby boy is getting, and how quicky the time goes by.  Do you think I’ll still think of July 2007, or will my thoughts automatially flee to July 2010 as I get the house ready for the annual joint birthay party?  I want to have the time to feel nostalgic for both of my babies births.  It’s my right as a mom!  I suppose these are just some of the joys and stresses of being a parent of two…

 Only time will tell, and as time goes by, the big July celebration will simply become tradition in our house.  We’ll be adding a 2nd restauraunt each year, the same week as our trip to the Original Pancake House (which we’ll start out doing to ease mom’s guilt, I’m sure).  Eventually, it’ll just be how we do it.  Period.  Maybe they can have separate small parties for their friends, with a big bash with family.  Who knows!?  What I do know is that every year when the end of July rolls around, I’ll have two amazing people to celebrate and be thankful for.  Double the blessings, double the joy.  And each year we’ll be sure to remind them that their big gift is still each other.  And in thinking of that gift that we’re giving them, how can I feel anything but happy about the way things are working out!?  It brings tears to my eyes.  So, here’s hoping that Sam’s as thrilled with his big 3rd birthday present as I am to give it.  If nothing else, it will be one to remember!  

So, I suppose I’m coming around to the idea of two July birthdays.  Be prepared for big parties with double the fun!  (And I’ll be prepared with extra birth control come the end of October!)

Posted by: Nikki | June 30, 2009

My Vacation Oximoron

A couple of weeks ago our family took it’s first official vacation together to Branson, MO.  Just Matt, me, and Sam.  I can’t tell you how nice it was to be away from home with the two people I love the most.  We were relaxed, happy, and together.  Matt doesn’t have a ton of vacation days with being still somewhat low on the totem pole, so we opted for a short and simple get-away.  We took off on a Thursday night for the hills of the Ozarks.  We stopped in Rolla on the way and met up with a college friend and family.  It’s a strange feeling, being in Rolla.  It always reminds me of dating Matt and the beginnings of our life together.  We arrived at our condo, rented from a friend of mine, late Thursday night.

We awoke on Friday, had a little breakfast and then got ready for a day at Silver Dollar City.  Matt checked the weather and told us it would be the perfect day!  We got there extremely quickly considering parts of the Silver Dollar City parking lot are farther from the park than our condo (we could see the coasters from our windows.)  We unloaded and with Matt’s regards to the forecast, left the umbrella in the car.  We wouldn’t need it.  The park was busy, but not too busy.  Our first stop was the glass blower.  Matt and I enjoyed it.  Sam enjoyed the rest of the audience and kids. 

We then went on the train ride.  It was hilarious!  It’s early in the season and apparently the “actors” on the train ride are still new to their job.  The conductor got the day wrong and was corrected by the other performers, totally throwing him into laughter, which was funny to watch.  And that was only the beginning.  So, audience participation is what Silver Dollar City is all about, but apparently they don’t train their “actors” for what might happen when those audience members don’t respond in the expected fashion.  So, these two men were looking for their mom (who’s clearly dead as marked by the gravesite behind them) in a way to convince the conductor that they weren’t trying to steal from the train.  The conductor asks this sweet woman on the train if she’s the mother of these two idiots.  Now, there are two responses to a yes/no question.  Clearly they want her to say No, but she goes for the comical route, and says Yes, she’s the mother of these boys.  Apparently they don’t get many sarcastic/jokesters in Southern MO, so why bother preparing for this situation?  The three newbie actors had no clue what to do!!  They did their best to ad lib, but in the end gave up and sent our train on it’s merry way, without much of a plot or story, but with lots of laughter and memories.  It’s hard to describe, but believe me, it was hysterical! 

Sam knew no stranger on this trip.  He was happy to talk to anyone who bothered to stop and chat.  He high-fived the robbers on the train, etc.  His favorite part of the park was probably the kids foam area.  It’s so cool!  He wasn’t too into the water excitement surrounding the kids area, so we took him into the foam area.  It is covered with three or four stories of foam balls, with vaccuums and cannons and 100 other different ways to send the foam balls traveling around in this giant structure.  It was a bit overwhelming for Sam (which was a little disappointing for me.  I could’ve had a blast in there!), so we took him into a smaller section for younger kiddos, and he had his blast!  There was a wheel he could spin to send the foam balls tumbling around, and I think he would have played with that all day!

He didn’t get the chance, though, because the “beautiful forecast” started to spit on us.  Then sprikle.  Then pour.  We made our way to lunch before the big rain hit and enjoyed some BBQ under a big umbrella.  Sam, of course, loved the corn on the cob.  Then, we decided to walk around a little in the rain to see how we could pass the time.  We ended up at the Tintype Saloon just in time!  While waiting inside to get Sam’s portrait taken as a cowboy, it poured and blew something crazy outside!  Apparently there were severe weather warnings and what-not, but we were safe in a long line waiting for old-fashioned portraits.  Of course, we avoided the rain, but there was no avoiding the nap-time crankiness around this time of day.  The plan was to go back to the condo to nap, but the weather had other ideas completely.  Yet we made it through the long line of saloon girls, civil war soldiers and prairie girls, and got a nice picture of our little cowboy, barefoot. =)  By the time we were done, the rains were just behind us, and there was no longer a line for the photos. 

Matt and I got Sam to settle for a nap in the stroller instead while we did a little shopping: father’s day gifts, candy at the fudge shoppe, taffy, and a little T-shirt for our buddy.  When he woke up there was a little time left, which we spent going through the fun-house, which he enjoyed, the animal-petting area, and a little wooden train.  We had the amazing skillets for supper and then headed to the closing show.  We headed back to the condo as very happy vacationers, who made out very well in the “beautiful weather.” 

The next day we spent in Branson doing the tourist thing.  We started at the Landing, a wonderful outdoor shopping area.  We enjoyed the stores, and the fire and water fountains.  Sam took a little snooze while Matt and I enjoyed an outdoor lunch and beers at a yummy Irish pub.  After Sam woke up, he had a blast watching a man make him a balloon animal, and happily played with his frog on the way to the car.  We then went to the strip and rode the ducks.  I’d never been, and had always wondered about them, so Matt thought we should go.  If you like cheezy humor (which you must if you’re willing to take a trip to Branson!) then you’ll love the ducks.  If you tuned out the driver, then the drive is quite nice.  It was a beautiful day to be floating on the lake as well.  The ducks were a bit anti-climactic for my taste, but we enjoyed them nontheless.

We had to high-tail it off of the duck in order to make our reservations at Dixie Stampede.  We got there just in time!  Our seats were amazing.  Front row!  Right at the height of a horse’s rear!  The show was great.  It really kept Sam’s interest.  The performers can do some amazing things on horseback!  The food was just as awesome.  Sam was free as long as he sat on our laps and ate from our plate.  The server was sweet enough to give us a few extras for his mouth.  We had yummy cheesy rolls, creamy vegetable soup which was surprisingly good, a whole juicy chicken with delicious seasoned meat that just fell off of the bone, pork tenderloin, and a baked potato.  There were no utensils, but the food is prepared in such a way that it wasn’t bothersome.  They make it very easy and fun to eat with your hands, just like Sam.  For dessert was a delicious apple turnover.  Afterwards we walked around to the stables to look at all of the horses.  Boy are they beautiful.  Then back to the condo for night #3.  I think it was Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede that surprised me the most on this trip.  I’m not sure I have a favorite of all the things we did, but of all of them, the Dixie Stampede was an unexpected hilight!  I’d love to do it again.

The next day was our day at Table Rock Lake.  My friend Kim came down from Springfield (MO) and went with us.  It was a cloudy, overcast looking day, and the threat of stormy weather was always present by the dark clouds just a little ways away.  But it was a warm one, so the water felt good, and the clouds kept away the crowds.  This was Sam’s first swim since last fall, and he took his time to warm up to the water.  He wore a funny contraption which was basicly an innertube sewn into a 1-piece swimming suit, but it did it’s job and kept my little buddy afloat.  With a little singing and a tight grasp on Mom, we waded out into deeper water.  By the end of the day he was comfortable with it.  He enjoyed watching all of the boats parked at the marina, and had a good time bouncing in the wakes of those that were driving on the lake.  We ate a picnic lunch during which the sky cleared up and we had a beautiful sunny day.  Sam enjoyed playing in a shallow little area with his bucket, scoop, water, and rocks.  He was into dumping the water all over himself and his dad.  =)  We went back to the condo for a late nap, and then, reluctantly, packed Matt up to head home.

Matt, Kim, Sam and I had dinner at the Landing again, and, not that we planned it, we ate outside overlooking the fountains along the lake.  We couldn’t have timed it better as the big fire and water show took place while we waited for our check.  At another time or place I might have been frustrated at how long dinner was taking, but with beautiful weather and an impressive fire and water choreographed show, we had a nice time.  It was then time to sadly send Matt back to St. Louis for work.  Kim and I had decided to rent the condo for a couple of extra nights and play at the lake.  Sam stayed with us, too. 

It took Sam mere minutes to adjust to swimming in the lake this time.  He turned into a little fishy, literally overnight.  This time it was myself that was playing cautious, as my little man seemed to think he could swim on his own.  I wish I could describe how much he loved the water that day, but it’s just not possible to put into words.  We finally had to drag him out of the water for a late nap, since we had hit that “I’m so tired, I’m insane” moment, which just doesn’t mix well with “I love the water and don’t want to hold on.”  We headed to the strip for dinner at Fuddruckers that night, with a quick stop at the John Deere store for some fun things.

The next day we pretty much packed and drove.  As we drove through the hills, the car was full of happy travellers.  It’s hard to describe, but I just love that tired, content, relaxed feeling that you have after a busy, yet relaxing, vacation.  It sounds like an oximoron: busy and relaxing.  Only on vacation do the two words relate.  On the way home, it’s the perfect mix of sleepy and happy.  It’s similar to that feeling you get after a day of sunbathing and napping on a Carribean beach.  Who knew I could feel that way in Missouri!?  I’m just so thankful that our family is able to, first of all, be fortunate enough to go on vacations, and to have a great family location in beautiful landscape, just a half a day’s drive away.  On top of that, we were blessed with amazing temperatures and nothing but pleasant experiences with the people and places that we encountered.  No wonder we left in that vacationers bliss.  I love it!

Posted by: Nikki | June 17, 2009

Back in the saddle…again.

Wow!  I haven’t blogged in quite some time.  I knew it had been awhile, but didn’t realize that it had been quite this long!  I hate to make excuses, but it has been a crazy spring!  I logged on today to write a little bit about our recent vacation, but it seems that in doing so it would’ve created some sort of time warp on here.  And since the whole reason that I blog is to archive our families experiences, it doesn’t seem fair to leave a large black hole from March until now.  (Luckily my photo archiving didn’t become quite as neglected, and since pictures paint 1,000 words, I’ll use them to help me write!)  So, I will now make my best attempt at filling in the gaps.  Reader Digest version.  Of course, I always attempt to be short and sweet, and always end up long and wordy.  We’ll see how this pans out….  Here goes.

 We had a lovely spring break that included a trip to the zoo on St Patrick’s Day.  Sam had a wonderful time watching the tigers play on a beautiful day – his favorite this trip.  This spring we had a fantastic Easter here at home.  Sam enjoyed coloring on eggs that we then dyed, and then loved “hunting” for them on Easter morning.  Of course, hunting consisted of rolling them off of the coffee table and not placing, but throwing, them into his basket.  Luckily, we were planning to peel them shortly to make deviled eggs!  He had a blast when family came to visit after church, and enjoyed playing with his new dump truck and book on wheels from the Easter Bunny.

April and May are a blur.  I had a crazy year at work (thus the blogging neglect).  Amidst the paperwork and running around, we started working on our deck.  The big boy needed quite the face lift.  Our first staining attempt just didn’t take well (shouldn’t say “our” since I was pregnant and Matt had to enlist other helpers for the fumy job).  So, we’ve been left with the job of stripping off old stain, cleaning and brightening (my favorite step due to my newfound love of pressure washing!) and finally, new stain.  We’re just about done with the new stain.  One more day to go and then I will be able to relax and enjoy my beautiful deck again!

And we’ve been able to take a few breaks from all of the work.  In the last few months I enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day.  Matt and Sam spoiled me nicely this year, and we had a lovely afternoon at my grandparents farm.  Not all went as planned, as my grandpa experienced a fainting spell at church and we had to put our plans on hold as we waited for tests and such from the emergency room.  Luckily, all he ended up with was a bladder infection, and we were able to enjoy a lovely afternoon of fried chicken and games afterward.   

My dad was also honored Carlinville Citizen of the Year.  It was fun to go and watch him as he was appreciated for all of his service to the community.  I’m so proud to have been raised in a family where giving back to the community is valued, and hope to follow in his footsteps in my own way.  The banquet night was cozy and small town, and made me kind of long for that small experience again.  For the time being.  Not enough to make me start looking at the local housing market or anything – I love my suburban life, and doubt I’ll ever go back.  However, I will always be grateful for those small town roots.  I also love that my parents as well as Matt’s still live in the town where I grew up, so we make it back pretty often.  I hope that Sam will get to experience the same small town charm often enough in life, and I’m determined to make the words “combine” and “county fair” part of his vocabulary as he grows up! 

What else?  My nephew Sawyer turned one, and he and Sam have become quite the buddies.  It won’t be long before they’re in cahoots (sp?) against the rest of us.  And, (how could I forget!?) we’ve also taken Sam on his first camping trip.  In the middle of May, we bought a new tent (bigger family, bigger tent, with room for more).  We took that new tent on a test drive at Beaver Dam State Park.  The first night we survived severe weather with barely more than a drip inside.  However, the world outside was flooded, including our campsite.  Amidst the rainy start and the cool weather, Sam had a blast!  We even dried out for some beautiful weather!  Sam was very respectful of the fire and it’s smoke, and loved the freedom of the camp site.  We made the best Monkey Bread ever for breakfast, enjoyed delicious foil packets for dinner, and had a good time with family as they came out to visit us.  There were roasted hot dogs and s’mores (isn’t camping really all about the food?)  We took a brief walk around the lake and, overall, just loved being part of nature for the weekend.  I hope to do some more camping this season, probably again in the fall when the T-shirts are perfect in the daytime and a sweatshirt and the warm fire keep you cozy at night.  Can’t wait!! 

And then a few weeks later, what I thought would never happen finally did…summer!  After surviving a school year for the record books, freedom at last!  I’ve been enjoying summer for a couple of weeks now, and I’m already in love with all this extra time with Sam.  We’re already becoming such good buddies, and he’s been such a sweetie!  It’s still awhile away (thank goodness) but I know right now that it’s going to be very difficult to give this up again in the fall.  I’ve already read a fantastic book, taken Sam to the zoo to pet Stingrays, and been on a wonderful get-away to the Ozarks.  I hope to blog more about Sam at this age, and about all of these fun smmer things later, as I finally have a little bit of time to do so.  Still, don’t be surprised if I’m still a little slow at it.  I’m going to enjoy this gift while it’s here.  It’s about living it up, and enjoying it to the fullest, and if there’s a little time to write about it too, then that’s just icing on the cake. =)

Posted by: Nikki | March 20, 2009

Is he 20 months or almost 2?

A couple of weeks ago Sam had his quarterly PAT visit. For those of you who don’t live in MO, PAT stands for Parents as Teachers. These visits are so wonderful for families with young kiddos, and give parents a format to ask lots of questions, see how their child is doing developmentally, and see where they are headed. The focus is development, and I often find these visits more worthwhile than the well visits to our pediatrician.  He had one of those today.

These visits always make me stop and think about this moment in time with Sam, and how he’s doing. Which makes this a good time for an update.

It almost seems silly to post an update these days, because he seems to change and grow almost as fast as I can type.  As his parent educator said, he’s all boy!  He’s a climber, spinner, roller, driver, and dancer.  He’s all about moving and seeing what his body can do.  He seems to get onto certain “kicks” every few days.  Recently he enjoyed his tip-toes, throwing balls, and this week it’s all about scaling the furniture.

He’s into talking quite a bit, too.  He’s at a stage that I can identify with better now, since I’ve seen many preschoolers develop from non-verbal to little talkers.  Sam uses a lot of jargon these days (my SLP friends would be so proud of me!).  We can have entire conversations (I think) in another language, with lots of feeling and expression!  Lately Sam enjoys the sounds n and d and exploring the vowel sounds that he can put in between.  The result ends up with “naughty” and “denadi” and other similar sounds.  Of course, we’re also into big boy words, like “hi” “bye” “no” “mom” “daddy” “up” “down” “dog” “yes” and “oh no!” and “help.” Then there are those words that he uses for the same purpose over and over that I just can’t quite make out.  He looks at pictures of our family and says “dee dee.”  I also hear “ouse” a lot, very purposefully.  What does it mean?  I dunno.

His excels in his fine motor.  I’m amazed at what those little fingers can do, and with such dexterity.  His grandma and I were amazed as we watched the kid stack an 8 block tower with his ABC blocks.  I screen kids at 3 and 4 to see if they can do this!  He loves to color and scribble, put things together, take them apart, and repeat.  He’s feeding himself more and more with a spoon and fork, and drinks fairly well from an open cup.  He’s got the techinque, but not quite enough control for mom and dad to give him anything but water this way.  He also loves to try and undress himself.  Lucky for us, we haven’t yet seen him try to do this when he shouldn’t!  Yet.  He also loves to “help” with laundry and hands me the clean dishes from the dishwasher to put away.  He’s interested in the potty and what happens there…  Yikes…Mom’s not ready for that!  Luckily, his communication has a way to go before we embark on that adventure.

Sam’s other favorite things include (other than the constant climbing), going outside, playing on our deck, the manhole covers in the front yard (endless fascination!!), anything with wheels (especially if he can ride it) and kids.  He still loves his books and points things out to us all the time.  He really seems to love his little index finger.  He loves “talking” on the phone, which he holds to his neck, not his ear, to talk.  It cracks me up!  He also makes me laugh when he waves goodbye on his way out of the room (like he’s going on a long trip!).  He likes opening and closing doors (luckily doesn’t turn the handle, but he can easily reach it now).  His favorite is when he’s on one side and Mom or Dad are on the other.  Blowing us kisses and giving high fives are his favorite social games right now, but these things only happen when it’s his idea.  (He has his mother’s issues with control already!?)

He’s also gotten his mother’s allergies, poor thing.  And dad’s sweat glands.  Dad’s fascination with detail and how things work and mom’s endless chatter.   Dad’s quick fuze and Mom’s crankiness when hungry.  That crazy sense of humor and love for all things silly…probably from both of us. =)  It’s so neat to see the combination of personalities, and it’s fun for both Matt and I to point a finger at the other and say “that is all you!”

He probably gotten his height from the grandfathers in his life, since he stays in the 96th percentile.  Still near the 50th percentile for weight.  Tall and skinny…don’t Matt and I both wish he got that from us.  (He did, but hopefully he can keep it going longer than we did). =)  Not sure where he got his lack of fear, but the kid’s not afraid of much.  Dark rooms, tall heights, and Santa Clause are all friends of his.  Someday I will enjoy taking him on many roller coasters.  I’ll let Matt handle the scary movies.  He’s now done with shots until he turns five.  I hope that all of our kids can handle baby shots like he has, but the odds of repeating such luck probably aren’t in my favor.

We’ve enjoyed watching our little baby become a kid.  We’ve learned which restaurants have their “Kids Eat Free” nights on which nights, who makes the best chicken fingers (O’Charley’s!), holding his hand and letting him walk rather than be carried, and we’ve loved the sense of freedom that came with removing the baby gate from the bottom of the stairs.  (Still have the top one…while he’s steady and safe on the stairs now, we don’t want him to have THAT much freedom quite yet!)

Speaking of freedom…I had my spring break this week, and I’ve had a blast taking my little man out and about.  We’ve had lunches with friends, fun in our yard and cul-de-sac with neighbors, walks to the playground, and a trip to the zoo, all in super nice weather. It’s been a great teaser of what’s to come this summer, and I can’t wait!  It’s hard to believe that Sam is just about 20 months old.  Twenty months.  It almost seems silly to be counting in months anymore, but am I ready for my kiddo to be “almost two” instead??  Yikes!

Posted by: Nikki | February 25, 2009

Sacrifice

We’ve thrown our beads and eaten til we’re stuffed in honor of Fat Tuesday. Now it’s time to get down to business. Ash Wendesday is here. I’m not sure that all of those crazy Mardi Gras participants are nearly as excited about the next 40 days of the church season, but it matters to me.

In my faith in the United Church of Christ, I’m given many liberties. My church doesn’t dictate that I give things up for lent, but if I choose to, I can. So for a few years now, I’ve given things up here and there, as if I was proving to myself that I was a good Christian.

Then last year I joined a new church, in February, right at the beginning of lent. As part of my new member classes, our minister shared some insight into this “giving things up for lent” business. I’d almost forgotten the main reasoning behind this habit: sacrifice. He reminded me that there’s really no point if I’m not making a true sacrifice. Jesus suffered and died on the cross, for me. He gave his life for my sins. Makes giving up candy seem a little trivial…for me, anyway. What I consider a sacrifice is not what others might consider sacrifice. It’s important that I test myself in a way that is meaningful to me.

So, this year, I’m going to truly test myself, and I’m going to stick with it. I’m not giving up candy, knowing that as an added bonus I might lose a few pounds. Adding personal benefit somehow takes away from the idea of sacrifice. I’ve decided I’m going to give up Facebook. To others, it might seem silly. Even to me, on the surface, it seems like such a trivial little thing to give up. And maybe it is. I mean, of course, I can live without facebook. It’s not like food or water or other essentials. But truth be told, Facebook is my one guilty pleasure, and I often waste way too much time of my day on it. It borderlines addiction, especially in the middle of the afternoon when there’s nothing else demanding my attention…not immediately, anyway.

So, whether or not it might seem silly, it’s what I’ve decided to do. And let me tell you, it’s been HARD, and it’s only been one day. I’m hoping for sanity’s sake that each day it becomes easier, once I break the habit. We’ll see. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just peek and see what my friends are up to, or what they think about my most recent status, proclaiming my upcoming task. I thought about what my status might be if I was able to post one right now, and found it quite ironic that I, for once, had an eventful day and wasn’t able to share it!

And, truth be told, I’m probably only blogging because it’s one way to kind of scratch the itch. However, with each temptation that I resist, I’m reminded of the reason I’m doing all of this in the first place. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be a challenge. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to be all of those things, because it’s supposed to be a reminder. A reminder of all that Jesus Christ sacrificed, for me. I think it’s the least I can do.

Posted by: Nikki | January 28, 2009

Snow Day

It’s the hopes and dreams of teachers and students everywhere: A Snow Day. We hang on every word that the forecasters say, from November through March. If we catch even the slightest hint of snow, say “a chance of flurries” or, especially, “morning commute,” we might go to bed with our pajamas inside out, or (I just heard this one recently) put an orange in our freezer. All for the sacred snow day.

I feel a little less anxious for these snow days now that I’m part time, but nonetheless, when someone grants you a free day, you take it! You’re twice as lucky if you get two in a row, and triple the luck if it the weather allows you to get out in it. We had all three this week. Yesterday it was still falling, sleeting, and there was maybe a couple of inches on the ground. A great stay in your pajamas day. Today, we got a fresh 6 inches overnight, the snow had stopped, and we had a clean slate of snow all around us. We had to get out in it!

Now, I’m a bit OCD about snow. I like it pretty. In a couple of days you’ll hear my whine about how the snow isn’t pretty anymore. The salt and cars will have it all icky and brown, and the neighborhood dogs will have made tracks all through it. By the time that all happens, I’m ready to be done with it. I like the look of fresh, untouched snow. So, while I was anxious to take my son out to enjoy his first romp in the white stuff, I had to amend my snow expectations a bit, but that was a small price to pay for treating my son to some winter excitement.

Matt had taken him out back in November, when walking in grass was still pretty new, and the results were iffy. Knowing the slow and steady approach was probably the way to go, we headed out the front door, where the sidewalk was, thanks to Matt, already shoveled. Sam stood on steady ground, and I grabbed a handful and showed it to him, then tossed it in the air, and then let him play in another handful. That was all it took. Then he started playing in the snow in our landscaping and scooping it back onto the nicely shoveled driveway. He loved walking on the cleared paths of the sidewalk and driveway (while mom held her breath on the driveway, chasing to catch up with him to make sure he didn’t slip or fall). He was very chatty and impressed, kept looking all around. Then he crawled through some shallow snow at the bottom of the driveway and seemed to enjoy it. I decided it was time for the deep snow. We walked out into the deep snow (maybe 8 inches…) and I plunked him down. He loved it. He crawled towards me, enjoyed putting his hands down and watching them disappear into the snow, played with the snow in his mittens, and then decided to crawl uphill. In the snow that proved to be a bit risky, and pretty soon we had a face plant into it. That didn’t go over quite so well, but a quick warm up inside and a few swipes with a towel and we were back out for more. Not knowing how it would go over this time, I picked up some snow and threw it in the air a few times. He enjoyed that and we were back down the driveway and into the snowbank again.

I would’ve loved to stay out all day, but I never really prepared us for snow. We didn’t have snowpants or a sled (you kind of hate to buy that stuff in St. Louis, cause as soon as you do, you’ve doomed yourself to a dry or rainy winter with no snow, and you’re stuck with a pair of snowpants they’ll never wear). So, our options in the snow were a bit limited. We stuck to just exploring the snow for now, and once I saw a hint of a runny nose, we headed inside, hoping that the snow would last until we had the chance to buy a sled, and hopefully get Dad out there, too, so the whole family can enjoy the snow day. Until then, I’ll enjoy the fact that the back yard is still nice and pretty, just the way I like it. =)

Posted by: Nikki | January 22, 2009

This Moment in History

It’s been two days now, and I’m still feeling some of the emotions that were so heightened on Tuesday.  All day long, I was hooked on the inauguration of President Obama.  Just typing the name almost gives me chills.  I was glued to the footage and couldn’t help but realize that, wow, we finally made it!  Our country made the right decision, folks, even I know we won’t all agree.  We didn’t elect a man because of his color, but because of the content of his character, and I love the character that Obama has shown to the American People.  We elected Obama because he is the right man for the job.  Obviously not everyone voted for Obama, but, hopefully, regardless of political party, we can all agree on this: that Martin Luther King’s Jrs. dream has never come closer to reality than when President Obama took his oath to become our President.  So many have fought for this moment; let us please enjoy it.

I was watching the Inaugural Parade when my son was waking up from his nap.  When I returned to the TV, I couldn’t help but think what history we were watching, and that, with each generation, we’re getting there.  I knew that there was no way that Sam could feel the weight of what his country just accomplished, but I take comfort in knowing that he gets to grow up in a more unified country.  I feel a sense of hope for our society and country, as many also felt.  I heard a lot of personal accounts of the day’s events as I watched on TV, and hope was the common thread.  So, now, my hope is that by the time my son is old enough to vote, we’re all colorblind.  This week we took a big step in that direction.  So, in the spirit of the Inauguration, and on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, let’s continue to celebrate, because now, out of all the despair that our county has been going through lately, with war and recession, we have something to draw strength from.  Let’s keep the spirit of this Inauguration going and celebrate our new hope!

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