Archive for the ‘Growin’ Up!’ Category

First Days

I held his hand tighter as I felt him shake. “Please don’t leave me, I don’t want to stay,” he said. And I wanted to kneel down to him and wrap my arms around him and whisper, “No, of course you don’t have to stay. We will go home to the backyard, to the sunshine and grass. We will count the ants as they march to their hill, and we will lay on our backs and tell the stories of the shapes in the sky. We will hold hands as we jump together into the pool, and laugh as we roll down the hill.”

I longed to hold onto the days that the sun rose and set with just his brother, his daddy, his mommy. I longed to slow the inevitable separation that another year older would only bring closer. But instead of following my breaking heart, I looked him in the eye, pasted a smile to my face, and said, “You’ve got this, buddy. It will be so much fun! Your friends are all here — look! Here comes one now!” And somehow, before I was ready, I felt his hand slip away from my own, and he was across the room in a flash. Just like that, his nerves were calmed, his enthusiasm fanned, his need for me, gone.

I waved and blew him a kiss as I backed out the door, my eyes bright with the tears I refused to let flow.


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For Addison’s sixth birthday last summer, we spent months planning a pirate themed buccaneer bash.  The time we spent together creating the party was all the more special because what we were really creating were memories together.

We spent countless mornings at the fabric and craft stores choosing supplies.  Afternoons were filled walking the yard, mapping out the perfect spots for activities such as a treasure hunt, a pinata, a puppet show, balloon animals, and face painting.  We planned swimming, playing, and interactions with a real pirate and mermaid.  Our evenings were spent cutting, sewing, gluing, and imagining.  More than once, he woke me in the middle of the night with another fabulous idea he wanted to add to our notebook filled with other such fabulous ideas.

In the end, my entire family came together to help us pull it off.  My parents, my sister and her whole family, Patrick, and even Hayden, all played invaluable rolls in helping Addison have the best Sixth Birthday Buccaneer Bash ever!

Here are a few pictures of what we came up with.  All photos are taken by Daniel Stagner.  You can find a link to his Facebook page here.  Want to see even more of our pirate party pictures?  Check out the rest in my public Facebook album:


We used pirate themed fabrics and colors to make the bunting that we hung above the cake table. The happy birthday banner in front was made with pirate scrap papers and LOTS of ribbon. Easily the most time consuming project!

The Pirate Shaped Birthday Cake.  We also adorned glass jars with red and white polkadot ribbon and then filled them with red and black licorice ropes, Hershey’s Gold and Silver miniature chocolate bars, and served Red Velvet Cupcakes.  A wooden placard read, “Silver, Gold, and Cupcakes…. A Pirates Best Treasure!

We used authentic fish net, net cork, coral, and decorative glass floaters.

With tons of help from Addison, we managed to make 36 of these gift bags for the kiddos to take home with them. They were filled with pirate themed treasure.  A wooden pedestal sign read, ‘Take One… If Ye Dare!’

Somehow I ended up without a decent shot of these, but we decorated our concrete flower boxes with fabric cutouts of waves. We attached sails to bamboo, and turned the flower boxes into little pirate ships.

In the background is a larger version of the cake table bunting. This one had larger pennants, and stretched 20 feet. Gifts and Balloons adorned the wine barrels for added decor.

A ‘Shipwreck Island’ Sign (complete w/ spinning arrow sign) pointed the way to the party.

The treasure chest dates back to the 1850’s. It may have belonged to a real pirate!

Kids and Treasure!

Arrr! Dang face paint stands in the way of an otherwise perfect picture!

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I spent much of Sunday afternoon in our shop garage, looking through a bunch of our old baby items for things to sell on Craigslist.  I was supposedly tackling the disorganized clutter of assorted outgrown infant carriers and safety gates that has over time evolved into a mountainous collection of all things outgrown, but what I was really doing was taking a nostalgic stroll down memory lane.  And wiping tears from my face with my soon soaked sleeves.

I pulled out our umbrella stroller which had accompanied us on a few trips to Disneyland, and struggled to open it, knowing there was a lock somewhere that was holding it all together, but not remembering quite where.   After shaking it, stomping on it, and yanking on every latch I could find (um, you may want to think twice about buying the Combi City Savvy Stroller in Carolina Sky listed in the Portland Craigslist), the stroller finally flew fully open.  As it did, I was engulfed in the most lovely, sweet cloud of baby smell.  A smell so strong it made my arms begin to ache in that all-encompassing I must hold a baby in my arms right now sort of way.  Which is crazy thinking.

Next, I opened a large plastic tote that turned out to hold an array of size 3-6 month clothes, worn by both Addison (for about a year) and Hayden (for about a minute).  Again, I was overwhelmed by the baby powder smell of newborns that had somehow managed to cling to the fabric through several years of storage.  That’s when a strange sound came from the back of my throat.  Followed by another.  And then a huge intake of air as the sobs overtook me.

What the heck!?  Like I said.  Crazy thinking.

Needless to say, very few things actually made it past my sentimental attachment and into the moving on to another family pile.  But as I sorted, I had plenty of time to think, to reflect, and to wonder where all the time has gone, and how it managed to go so quickly.  And to think about what I would tell my old self about all the things I know now, but didn’t yet then.

Such as…..

1)  I would tell my pregnant self to turn off the Dallas reruns, and actually sleep during all those times I was put on bedrest, because it really is true that once you have kids, years will pass without a full night of sleep.  And that makes for very tired (and cranky) mamas, so sleep all you can, while you can, and when will you ever have a better excuse to sleep than when on bedrest?

2)  I would tell myself not to waste $25. on a bottle of miracle lotion that will keep stretch marks at bay.  It is still sitting unopened in the medicine cabinet.  And turns out to not have mattered, as the dreaded stretch marks never appeared.  According to my sister, she got enough for the both of us.

3)  I would say not to sweat the baby weight.  I’d eventually lose most of it.  But then gain all of it back and more from my ice cream addiction.

4)  I would go back to my quick and unexpected, but complicated, labor with Addison to tell my very scared and bewildered self that I am so proud of her for facing such a scary situation with grace and strength.  And then I would tell her to focus, focus, focus so she would remember that first moment she lay eyes on her baby, because in the next few moments things were about to get a whole lot more complicated and chaotic than they already were, and she wasn’t going to be able to recall that precious moment, no matter how many nights she stayed awake trying to force the memory back.

5)  I would demand that I take more pictures.  Many, many more pictures!  And video.  And to write down the funny things they say and do, right from the very beginning, because once mommy brain sets in, memory goes out the window.

6)  I would tell my exasperated, exhausted self that I am exceptionally blessed to be mommy to two wild, energetic, free-spirited, hugely enthusiastic, hilarious boys and to not miss a minute of it, because it goes so quickly.  And that in the blink of an eye, I will find myself out in the shop surrounded by piles of memories, wondering how all of a sudden I have a 5 year old, and a 2 year old.  And that I would give anything to have some of those lost moments back.  Just to hold on a little longer.

Addison getting to know his Daddy

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For Addison’s 5th Birthday, we had a

Pool & Pony Party!

The front of the invitation (above) read:

“Saddle Up for a Splashin’ Good Time at

Addison’s Pool & Pony Party!

The Whole Gang’s Invited

So Wrangle ‘Em All Up!”

The back read:

“And Don’t Forget

Y’er Spurs & Suits,

& Towels, Too!”

Followed by party details

The kids had so much fun!  Have a look!

The kids loved riding Queenie!

They first got a quick lesson in caring for a pony, during which they all had a turn to brush her, and feed her apples and carrots.

We had two tables set up for the kids to work on little crafty projects such as making Pony Shaped Visors, Western Themed Book Marks, and Sheriff Badges.

The Pony themed cupcake cake was gone in minutes!

I think the kids wore as much icing as they ate!

We set up hay bales in front of our shed as a photo op for families.

Don’t get cuter than this!

‘Cookey’, our ever helpful ranch hand, served up the grub!  Classic PB&J, tons of assorted chips, cookies, crackers, and dried fruit, apple slices, carrot sticks, cheese sticks, gogurts, little water bottles, juice boxes, and of course, adult beverages.

The goody bags were red or blue bandannas filled with western themed toys and candy.  Each child also got their own cowboy or cowgirl hat and a star shaped sheriff badge.

We had Sack Races and a Western Themed Scavenger Hunt!

(Read more about them here here)

We used colorful balloons, western themed cutouts and banners, hay bales, and cowboy hats for some of the decor.

There was swimming, too!

And lots of really fun presents!

Each child took a few swings at a giant Cowboy Boot Pinanta

And then rushed in to grab the goods!

Party-goers ranged in age from under a year to 70+ times that, and all had a ball!

So much fun!

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My husband and I have a very deep, dark, and dirty secret that I am going to share with the world today.  I’ll be honest, my stomach is in knots thinking of the backlash I am risking.  I am fully aware that the majority of people out there will disagree completely with me.  Believe me, I have already spent the past several years getting earfuls of lectures, contempt and disgust disguised under thinly veiled pretenses of friendly advice and neighborly concern.  I have a thin skin, and don’t take letting others down lightly.  Doing something that other people disagree with, and look down on, is almost impossible for me.  But this was something we decided to go against the grain with, and for us, and our family, it turned out to be absolutely the right decision.

So here it is.  We did not potty train our oldest son.

When his friends began using the potty at two, we felt the pressure to get it done.  But Addison wasn’t feeling that same pressure.  He wasn’t the least bit interested, and when we tried to encourage him, it quickly became very clear that he could not care less.  No amount of praise or bribery were worth it to him.  He’s a pretty smart kid, and I don’t think it took him long to decide that the rest of us were the idiots for interrupting our play, our sleep, our errands, our whatever, for a trip to the bathroom.  Why bother, when there is this wonderful invention called the diaper that lets you go on with all of your activities while you go?

When we tried to force the issue, the tantrums were epic.  Well-meaning advice givers would tell him that he would be a big boy if he began using the potty.  I honestly believe that this was the reason for the majority of his resistance.  The last thing in the world that this kid has ever wanted is to be a big boy.  He associates that with leaving mommy and daddy, which is something he has sworn he will never do.  So staying a little boy is just fine by him, and what better way to accomplish that than to refuse to use the potty?

We were fortunate that his preschool made an exception and allowed him to attend in pull-ups.  We were fortunate that none of his playmates teased him.  We were fortunate that Pull-Ups came in size 4T-5T.  We were fortunate to have fairly optimistic natures and just held tight to the belief that we would get through it and that, eventually, it would work itself out.  You know, hope springs eternal and all that.

It wasn’t all that different from most of the other struggles we’ve faced as parents.  With the exception of a stinky, soggy diaper to contend with, it really is like any other child rearing experience.  Remember thinking you’d never get more than three consecutive hours of sleep?  Or that you would never make it to church without fighting on the way, due to the elevated blood pressure caused by the screaming infant in the back seat?  Or taking your baby in those first few times for vaccinations?  You just grit your teeth, close your eyes, and in this case, plug your nose, and then pray fervently that you will come out the other side with your patience, and sanity,  still somewhat intact.

So I suppose you are wondering by now how Addison finally came to wear underwear.  I have two words for you.  Buzz Lightyear.  Or is it three?  Buzz Light Year.  Whatever.  Anyway, I knew that there wasn’t a chance in heck he’d be allowed to wear pull-ups in Kindergarten.  But both Patrick and I still refused to turn our home into a war zone, so I did the only thing I could think of to do.  I lied.  I went to Target and bought that ultra cool Buzz, you know, the one for a gagillion dollars?  When I brought it home, I put it up on top of the refrigerator without allowing Addison a close look.  I told him that the box clearly stated that “This toy is not intended for use by children in diapers or pull-ups.  Must wear underwear and use potty prior to play.”  And then I told him to let me know when he had put his underwear on, and that I would get it down for him.  It took a day and a half of convincing him that the box really did, in real life, say those words.  But before day two, Addison was using the potty and wearing his underwear “to infinity, and beyond!”  And that’s all it took!  No training necessary!

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We went to the Clark County Fair this year on Addison’s Birthday.  We are going to have a party for him later in the month with all of his little friends, but on his actual Birthday, we hung out as a family, and this is what he wanted to do:

Addison & Big Sis Peyton, on The Wacky Worm.

Peyton contemplating a trip to the bathroom before the ride starts.

They couldn’t wait to get on the swings!

Hayden looking casual (and blurry).

Eyes on the road, eyes on the road!

Okay, at least we’ve a ways to go before any of them can really drive!

After spending the day at the hot, dusty, dirty fair, we headed home and slapped a cupcake in front of him.  He knows he is having a party later, but I was amazed by how much he enjoyed such a simple celebration!

Here he is eying his one and only present of the day.  Not a single complaint about getting just one present!  Cool kid, huh?!

A set of Lincoln Logs!

Hayden in the Box!

My parents had wonderful birthday traditions for us as we were growing up!  One of several that I am continuing with my own children is the Birthday Door.  Each child wakes to a decorated door on his or her Birthday.

Happy Birthday to the most precious little big boy I know! You’ve only been in my life for five short years, but I can’t remember what life was before you. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love! Happy Birthday, Addison!

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So the day finally arrived.  Addison started his first day of Spanish Immersion Kindergarten today, and boy, was he ever excited!

He was so wound up last night that he didn’t finally fall asleep until after midnight, which meant he didn’t wake up until 10 o’clock this morning.  That was actually quite a blessing, because it meant less time for him to ask if it was time to leave for ‘la escuela’.  He still asked about a gazillion times, but it would have been worse starting at 7 am!

He couldn’t wait to show off his new backpack, which we found at LJC Feed, the local feed store in Washougal, of all places!  If you happen to be local, and looking for some fantastic Western Decor, you’ll want to check out the adjacent little shop called The Patty-O.

Now, I did happen to notice that the backpack is nearly as big as he is, but he really wanted it, so, well, how could we not?

Here he is standing in front of his school sign.  I cropped out the name of it, just in case there are any wackos reading my blog.  And no, I don’t mean you!  You are not a wacko!

Because school starts at noon, they begin with lunch, so I snapped a couple of pictures before we left.

I’m not sure if he is checking the scene out here in general, or checking out a classmate’s lunch, but he seems to be thinking, “Hmmm, this just may be okay.”

This is him showing me his self portrait cut out when I picked him up from school.

And here, I had asked him if Maestra Sarah spoke in Spanish the whole time, and did he understand her.

He said he didn’t know what she was saying, so he just did what the other kids did.  Cute.

Already, he asked if he could go back tomorrow, because it was WAY COOL!

Hayden trailing after his big brother.  Always carrying his monkey, of course!

And there he goes.  My baby boy who is not so much of a baby anymore.  Sigh.

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