Sunday, July 27, 2008


Dear Spencer, 

Seven years ago you gave me the honor of becoming a mother - your mother.    With that honor you gave me a sort of calling for my life.   I don't really remember what my life was like before I became a mom and whatever I was doing before that time seems trivial and unimportant compared to this "job" I have now.  This title I hold of Mom gives me the most inspiring and rewarding and at times the hardest job I could ever dream of finding.  I thank you for that my first born child. 

I look at that picture of me holding you in the hospital and it seems like yesterday but also like forever ago.   Those newborn baby days pass by in such a haze of bliss and terror.   I remember bits of things so well but so much is lost somewhere deep in my memories.  We made so many mistakes as new parents and since you were our first born, our guinea pig per se, you bore the brunt of them.  I am sure by the time you are grown we will have made many more, so please bear with us. 

You are now seven years old.  Seven!  I know it is so cliche' but I just don't know where the years have gone.   In the fall, you will be starting first grade.   For the first time in your life you will be away from home all day long.   I will no longer be the person you spend the bulk of your day with.  You will have a new "teacher" and I pray that you will be looked after and that I have taught you enough in these years that you can look after and look out for yourself.  I feel so blessed and fortunate that I have been able to be home with you all of these years.  Sure there are times that I am ready to tear my hair out, but the majority of the time has been little moments that will be forever in my heart and memories.  Moments that I would never have wanted to miss - moments that I will cherish forever.  

You have grown into such a social little guy.  You have lots of friends and make new friends so easily.  You have a magnetic personality or something - people just seem to be drawn to you.   We will be at the park or anywhere there are kids around and you will just run up and join into the game they are playing.  If you are playing by yourself I hardly have time to blink before someone has joined you to play a game.  I am thrilled that you seem to have outgrown your shyness.  I never did, and it is a hard way to go through life. 

You are our scientist.  You love science and experiments.  You enjoy building your own inventions and contraptions and playing with your Lego's.    You are always curious to know how things work.  One of your favorite shows is How it's made on the Discovery channel.   The show takes the viewer step by step through how something is made - hence the title.   The other night I was flipping channels and you were begging to watch something on cartoon network.  As I flipped I noticed that How it's made was on and you were instantly hooked.  You looked at the TV and said to me "oven knobs!!!" in the most excited voice I have ever heard.  They were actually making padlocks but the dial sort of looked like oven knobs.   You also like to watch Food Network with me and while we were watching Iron Chef you saw previews for a new show called Food Detectives - all about food science and myths.  You could hardly wait for the premiere.   You say that when you grow up you want to be a scientist and a magician.  

You are such a boy.  You are very into your video games and TV shows.  You think that "potty" type humor is side splitting hilarious.  You love running around in the yard with your buddies playing "war" type games or the "ball" game.   Though you are all boy, I love that you still have an innocence about you.   You will still let me hug and kiss you -  many mornings I will be getting breakfast ready and you will come over and hug me and tell me that I forgot my morning hug.   You are extremely attached to your stuffed animals - especially the cats.  I let you pick out a new Webkinz for your birthday and you chose a pink cat.  I told you that we could find another cat if you didn't want a pink one - you wanted the pink one.  

At seven years old you are still a bit lazy.  I don't know where this comes from since your Dad and I are totally the opposite - we are usually going crazy if we aren't doing something.   You are starting the pre-tween backtalk a little.  If we tell you to do something "in a minute" or "but, Mom" is a typical comeback.   We are trying to instill in you that the correct answer every time is "OK".  It is a slow process.  You have  a bizarre fondness for  being naked.  One minute you will be fully clothed and the next second you are laying around watching TV in your underwear or bare naked.  Sometimes there will be a drop of water or something on your shirt and you tell me you couldn't wear it anymore because it was wet.  This habit drives me crazy!

You look forward to going up North to the cabin.  It is so much fun for you to run around up there in the woods and to splash around in the river.  You enjoy fishing there or at Grampa Paul's house.   It is funny to me that you are starting to get a little squeamish about touching the fish and even touching bugs and things we see around the house.  You have outgrown your little toddler sense of "let me just grab that thing and see what happens".  

You like playing baseball but enjoy the social aspect of it the most.  Instead of paying attention to the game you are more likely to be chatting up the player on the base you are covering.   You are a great swimmer and are still a natural little fish in the water.   You just finished tennis lessons for the summer.  You had also taken them a few years back.  You really enjoy tennis and seem to have a natural ability for it - probably more so than any other sport you have tried so far.   Of course your favorite day of practice was the day you all got to play games and hit water balloons with your racquet's -  again, the social butterfly!

In re-reading what I wrote here, it seems to me like I have barely scratched the surface of who you are and who I see in you on a daily basis.  When I try to think of what I want to write - how I want to try to capture you with the written word - my brain just flashes with images and snippets of conversation - a little mini movie in my head that just makes me smile and know that I am unable to fully explain you in a "paper doll" version.  You are too complex and multifaceted.   I still look at you sometimes as I do with your brother and sister and think in my head "this came from me - this amazing little person came from me".  It still seems surreal sometimes even though I have had that thought for seven years now.  

I love you Spencer!  I am so proud of who you are and who I can see you becoming.  You are a special kid and I know that you will do great things in your life.  You have a boundless potential that is going to take your farther than your Dad and I could ever dream.  I pray that you keep believing in yourself and following your own path.  Happy birthday my baby boy!

Love, Mom

Friday, July 25, 2008

The water boys

Today was the boys' last day of swimming lessons.  Spencer's tennis lessons go for one more week and then we are done with the summer activities.  August is still going to be busy with all the parties that are on the calendar - plus I think the kids are going to be baptized - but at least the early morning day to day running is done.  Maybe we can all finally sleep in!  Yeah, right!

Spencer completed his first series of lessons in the deep end and did a great job.   I am amazed at how far he has come in such a short time.  He is and always has been very comfortable in the water.   I feel that since we are around water so much of the time it is important that the kids can be able to be in the water without panicking if they were to fall in.   Knowing all the basic strokes and breathing is a bonus.  I never had formal swimming lessons and I am not a great swimmer, but I can "save" myself in the water.  

Front float with flutter kick.
Swimming the American crawl with breathing added. 
Back stroke - this is a new stroke he learned but I can't think of the name.

Evan had lessons for the first time this year.  When I was watching him I was guilty of comparing his abilities to Spencer's first time in lessons.  Evan was obviously struggling a little more.  He would put his face in and blow bubbles but when they were supposed to put their whole head under and stay under, he would just stick his face in then pop back up.   He needed a lot more assistance from his teacher and was apprehensive about jumping in the pool without having his hand held.   There were other kids that were at his same ability level - I was just being a bad Mom and comparing him to his brother.   It was not until I got home that I realized that the first time Spencer had lessons he was four and turned five while he was taking the class.  Evan only turned four a few months ago.   Nine months makes a huge difference in the abilities of a kid.   Considering that, Evan did great and he was very proud of himself!  

Blowing bubbles.
Back float across the pool with help from Steve.
Jumping in the pool to swim across.

A day at the gardens...

We spent the afternoon and evening on Tuesday at the Meijer Gardens.  This day trip is a summer tradition for us.  The boys love it there!   They love the children's garden, going into the huge greenhouse and playing i-spy, the cactus's, the "man-eating" plants and they are even beginning to be fans of the sculptures on the sculpture tour.  I was surprised that they even remembered their favorites from last year.   It is always an enjoyable day for us. 

 We were surprised that afternoon with a pop up thunderstorm, but it worked out great.   When it started raining, everyone left.  When the sun came back out about a half hour later, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.   While it rained we just went back into the greenhouse and looked for insects in the pitcher plants.  They are Spencer's favorites.  We also checked out the Degas display and the kids tried to replicate the dancer poses.  That took up a lot of the rain time.  I also thought for a second we might get arrested because Spencer set off an alarm by trying to "look" at a sculpture on display with his hands.   Oops! 

Hailey was not herself for a big part of the day.   She was crying non-stop and was constantly wanting to be held.  I was encouraging her to play in the water and sand - her favorite things - but she wanted none of it.   She did not want to walk at all.   Finally after taking her shoes off the crying began to subside and she started to venture off walking a little bit but was very leery of putting weight on her feet.   I started to remember that she had been fussing a bit when I put her shoes on before we left, but then she was fine and laughing in the car on the way.   I started to freak out a little that I had crushed, bent or broken her toe in her shoe.  We kept an eye on her and she eventually started walking and acting normally.   She is still a little weird seeming when I try to put shoes on her.  I wish she could tell me what happened. 

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our day at the gardens.   By the way, before we left I put a new xD card in my camera since I haven't backed up the pictures on my other full one anywhere.  This was a smaller card that only would hold about 40 pictures.  I was worried before we left that I wouldn't have enough space on that card.  40 pictures!  In old fashion film that is almost two rolls for a couple of hours.  I did use them all up and then some - I had to delete while I was there (which I hate to do) and change my picture resolution to a lower setting to get more shots.  I am such a digital photographer - I can't believe I never wanted to switch over from film.   That is the only drawback to digital in my case - I take way too many pictures!

Spencer telling us that the fish he sees is "this big"!   This pond is full of big ol' goldfish.  I don't know how to spell their Japanese name.
Evan's favorite sculpture - the giant dinosaur eggs.  
I don't know what they were doing.  Trying to rip apart the metal in the sculpture. 
Spencer is the king of the world.
Hailey (finally herself )playing in the fountain.
Evan kicking water out of the fountain.

Hailey in the birdnest.

Spencer and Evan got to sculpt their own creations out of clay and have them put on display for the day in the children's garden.   This is Spencer's rattlesnake.

Evan made an elephant with a giant trunk (with a little help from Mom)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do you see the resemblance?

Trent was leaving to take the boys to a bonfire the other night.  While he was in the house talking to me the boys were in the garage waiting for him.   We should have known they were up to something since we did not hear the normal screams and crying when the two of them are "playing" together.  When Trent walked out in the garage, both boys had poured baby powder on to each others head.   They looked at him with big smiles and told him "We wanted our hair to look like yours!"  He called me to the garage telling me he didn't know whether to spank them or hug them.   I told him this was just one of the moments you grab the camera.  

The next night we determined that we might have gone to easy on them.  That night was a bad night.  A whole lot of frustration and badness just all coming to a head - that is a blog for another time.   Trent was completely frustrated trying to figure out why our sink was leaking and  I was getting ready to run out the door to do some errands.   The boys decided to lighten things up by pulling their little trick from the night before, but this time much worse.  Not only were they covered  - the garage was covered, everything in the garage had a film of powder, the car.  It was just everywhere.   The garage smelled really nice but when you walked through there it felt like your lungs were coating with powder.   The boys and I cleaned up as best we could and the powder is no longer in the garage - mostly because it was empty.  

If you are thinking "Why in the heck is there baby powder in their garage anyway?"  The answer is for sand removal.  If the kids come home from the beach with sand stuck all over their bodies (like they do constantly) we put some baby powder in our hands and wipe it over the sand.  I swear it takes the sand off better than water.  Just a little tip I picked up somewhere.  Try it.  Just make sure your kids can't reach the powder. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Water balloons

Water balloons are things that seem great in theory but in reality - not so much.   Since the first day I brought them home and we played with them, I have tried to hide them from the kids.   The other day they found them.   It was hot outside so they immediately cited that fact and asked if they could have a water balloon fight.  I told them not while Hailey was awake and outside because she could put the balloons or pieces of the busted balloons in her mouth and choke.  They promised they would keep them away from Hailey and they would pick up the broken ones and begged and pleaded and begged and pleaded some more.   Not being able to take anymore whining or hanging on me, I gave in.  

The wonderful people at the water balloon making place include a little piece for you to screw onto your hose spicket to make the actual filling of the balloons easier.  What is doesn't say on the package is that the spicket will leak so prepared to be soaked as you fill each balloon.  Then there is the tying of the balloons.  You have to fill them to just the right amount or you won't have enough "stem" left to tie off the balloon.    While you are getting soaked and cutting off circulation in your fingers tying these, the kids are watching your every move and wondering why you can't move any faster.  The kids just don't understand that the prep for the water balloon fight takes patience and time - things not high on the agenda of little kids.    
Once you get the balloons filled - and however many you fill is never enough - though it seems like you have been filling and tying for the better part of your life - the kids finally get to have fun with them.  Fun.  Fun is not how I would describe the water balloon fight in our yard.   Yelling and crying would be better words to describe it.   The boys cry if they get hit by a water balloon and they yell and cry some more if the one they throw does not hit its intended target.   I have tried to instill in them the water balloon technique of aiming for the ground in front of the person but they still insist on throwing the balloon directly at the person where it just bounces off the person and will always do so unless you throw it with some oomph ( which these kids don't really do).   Yes, I am a water balloon expert - my cousin's and I used to have very elaborate water balloon fights -so I know what I am preaching here.  

So the fun water ballooning game always seems to end with me having to fill at least one more balloon for each crying, disgruntled boy and to keep the peace by letting them hit their desired target - me.  
These things are just great - my next hiding place is going to be the garbage can.  Squirt guns, anyone?

Into the wild...

We spent last Friday and Saturday at the cabin.  The boys finally had their dream come true - to be able to spend the night at the cabin.  They have spent the night there before, but they were probably too young to realize it.   We had a great time.  The forecast called for scattered showers and the skies were dark at times, but it never did rain.   Honestly, if the sun was out all day we would have been melting up there so we couldn't have asked for anything other than what it was.   We did a lot of cleaning and had a lot of fun.  I posted pictures of some of the highlights.  

Using the scythe - The boys each grabbed one and were mowing down tall grass and weeds all over the place.  I was afraid they were going to cut up their legs or each other but they were loving it.  Evan kept telling me that he had "work to do" as he walked around with the scythe  -it was quite cute.  
Going for walks - This is a photo of Ev on the bridge while we were on a walk.  Their favorite walk includes walking to the "ruins of the castle".  This time Daddy even walked them further in and they got to see the tunnel where the dragon used to live.   Next time I will have to join them on this hike and get some photos of the boys in the ruins.  I love this photo of Evan - this cowboy hat has been at the cabin forever and Evan always likes to wear it.  
Picking wildflowers - I don't know if picking wildflowers is illegal in this state or not but the boys (especially Evan) were picking them left and right and bringing them to me.   By the time we left on Saturday I had a beautiful, giant bouquet to bring home with me.  The flowers sure are pretty though!  The mosquitos were awful - that is why Evan is bundled for the great white North in this photo.  The kids were still all covered with bug bites in spite of being covered up and doused with bug repellent. 
Speaking of pretty...this little beauty is into everything and wants to be included in everything.   She is still at an age where being at the cabin is very hard for her.  She had to be watched like crazy every minute or she could be in big trouble in very little time.  Luckily Grama was there to give us some backup or we would have been going out of our minds. 

Playing in the river - Our boys cannot get enough of this river.  It is so cold yet they will go in without a second thought.  They love wading around and looking for treasures (and golf balls).  They love riding down the river in the blow up boat or tubing with Daddy.   They have not been very successful in fishing the river - they may be a little young.  Evan has managed to lose one fishing pole and get his new pole snagged up so many times that I have lost count.  The days of fish on the grill are yet to come. 
Red Pop - The cabin is all about getting away from everyday life and treats.  Red pop is about the best treat the boys can imagine!
Little cereal boxes - We were not sure what to do for the kids for breakfast.  At home they usually have waffles, pancakes or something similar to that.   We bought the variety pack of cereal and they could not have been more happy with anything.   They ate the whole pack - for breakfast and for just snackin'.  I love these cereal packs.  They remind me of spending the night at my grandparents' house.  My Grama always had these for breakfast in the morning and it always felt like such a decadent treat to get to pick a different cereal each morning.  

All in all, it was a great overnight trip and we are looking forward to going again soon.  Little by little the cabin is coming together and will soon be back in tip top shape.  The boys love it "in the wild" and can't wait to go back.  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

80 something in the shade...

So what do you do when it is stifling outside and trash from who knows where is washing up on the beaches?

You fill up the little swimming pool!

Evan and Hailey had a fun and refreshing time filling up the pool and playing in it.  

Hailey was just standing by Evs watching him fill up the pool and after a bit decided that she wanted to help him.  I was amazed that he let her!  I love this picture with both of their sweet little sibling hands in teamwork!

I don't very often take pictures in the direct sun like this anymore.  I have realized that most of the time I just don't like the way they look.  The shadows are just too harsh and it is hard to get a natural looking face.   I  made an exception today though because these two were just so cute and Hailey was beyond adorable in her first bikini ( a lovingly accepted hand me down from her good friend Amaya).   I just couldn't stop picking them up and hugging them - my shirt was soaked!
Hailey had enough and was ready to climb out after she had dowsed herself with a bucket of water!

Take me out to the ball game!

Today was Evan's last day of t-ball.  He was very excited to receive his first trophy!  T-ball started out a little rough for him.  Not quite as rough as Spencer's start, but definitely not what I expected from Evan.  

He was looking forward to when he would finally get to play.  He had been watching Spencer's team play for weeks.  Finally the day came - we headed to the field in shorts and sneakers and froze our tushes off!  It was mid- June and I bet the wind-chill was in the low sixties.  Evan was cold and grouchy and once he gets his mind set it is a task to change it.   Eventually he enjoyed the first day after Spence and I had to take turns going out on the field with him.  He didn't want to bat - which is the best part - so I had visions in my head of kicking and screaming dread for the next few weeks.   He was a little timid and apprehensive during the next couple games.  He had to be coaxed out to the field and to participate, but once he was playing, he literally had a ball.  He even wanted to take his turn at bat.   After the fourth game or so, he had no problem - he was loving it.  

Running the bases after his hit.  He is a lefty at bat.  For some reason both the boys play sports as a lefty but write with their right hands.  Crazy!

In the field - so intense on getting the balls.  He would often gather a mitt full!

Evan's first trophy!  He was so proud of himself!  I am so glad he persevered!
A trophy and a popsicle!  Could this day get any better?

Sweet...and a little bitter.

Trent bought the kids a sixteen dollar lollipop while we were in Baltimore.  When he told me the price I gave him an are you freakin' kidding me look.  He went on to tell me to just think of the cool pictures I would get with the kids and the lollipop.  Man, that guy knows me well.  

Here are a few of the best pictures with the lollipop.  I was so happy with the way they turned out.  Unfortunately, it wasn't until I got home and got the pictures loaded into the computer that I realized that I had my ISO ramped up to 1600 due to the fact that the evening before I was trying to shoot some pictures of the kids jam piling in the living room with natural light.                                                              

Any chance of blowing these up to a decent size is pretty much shot.  I am so bummed and so mad at myself for being so stupid.  Moral:  Always check your camera settings before doing a shoot.  

Now I am going to have to find another sixteen dollar giant lollipop!

The boys wouldn't let Hailey hold the lollipop because they thought she would break it. 

Hailey dancing along the wall!
Shaking her booty with her Daddy!
Aww!  Brother and sister find a moment of peace and dancing!
Come on, Mom!  We have waited long enough!  Let us eat this thing!