Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Perfectly Patrick in Every Way

I always say, “This is the BEST age” no matter what age my kids are at the time and it’s the honest truth. With each age and stage in development there are all kinds of amazing things they are experiencing and learning. This post is about Patrick and a few of his favorite things as he ventures into his hardly terrible twos. He is 30 ½ pounds of all boy and a bundle of nonstop energy.

Letters: It’s cool to see the progression from this video taken when he was 11 months-old and could only identify 5-8 letters and their sounds. (I love the way he used to say “O.” At the time I thought he was SO grown up. Looking back, I realize he was still just a baby!) Now he sings the ABCs, identifies letters, their sounds, and then says a few words that start with that particular letter. The other day while he was playing with magnetic letters he brought me the “M” and said “This is what you start with, Mommy. And Madelyn too”. He then went on to find a “J” and said jaguar, "G" for gorilla and grandma, etc.

Animals and Bugs: I found a HUGE Diego, the Animal Rescuer book at a consignment sale (for $2.50!) and Patrick takes it everywhere. We’ve learned about pygmy marmosets, chinchillas, condors, spectacled bears, howler monkeys and Patrick’s favorite, the puma! Patrick also loves his bug vacuum (many thanks to the Garity family) and has fun catching all kinds of fun creepy crawlies in it then looking at them with a special magnifying glass. We had a ton of spider webs on the front porch when we got back from the beach last month so I threw some baking flour on them so Patch could see the intricate details of the webs. He loved it and told the spiders they did an excellent job. Of course, it made a huge mess but thankfully Roxy licked the porch (and the webs) clean which both kids thought was hilarious.

Dramatic Play: He usually starts with saying a certain animal (usually a puma or an orca) is going to “come to my house.” Then we'll prompt him by asking questions about what they are going to do together, what he’ll say to the puma, what toys he would like to show him and so on. He’ll point and gesture wildly, talking about the puma having no "pots" (spots) and about how they will run together, ride his fire truck, play with his basketball “poop” and then with his trains. I thoroughly enjoy listening to the stories he makes up and the excitement with which he tells them. Now that he is talking in sentences and capable of having a full conversation it’s so entertaining so see what he comes up with. He also loves making tents and forts and, once we are inside the fort, telling us where everything is; the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the vacuum, the grill, the puma…

Counting: We used to use his old baby spoons as a visual counting aid but now that his little sister needs them to eat we had to think of something new. So, while we were making a family scrapbook page for his school (newsflash; 2 year-olds and 6 month-olds are not the best helpers while trying to make something that requires the use of many dangerous scissor-like objects, numerous choking hazards and glitter) we used my hole punch that makes the shape of a flower. I helped him punch 10 pink flowers, 10 green and 10 blue. He counts 1-13 well so I lined them up on a big sheet of black paper. Then I asked him if he wanted to count in English or Spanish and he said English. So I started, one…he stared at the flowers but did not say a word…twooo I prompted, waiting. Finally he cried out with tears in his eyes “No Mommy! I want the uno dos tres kind!” I had to laugh. I guess we’ve never talked about what the languages were called. I usually just start counting in the one I want him to practice. As you can see, I am learning too :)

Words of the Week: We usually do 3-5 new words a week. Patch loves to learn and usually listens intently when I explain what a new word means; the process of developing film or the definition of hypothesis or stethoscope, the directions left and right (he's taken a special interest in that one lately and gets them right more times than not). Lately though, he’s been questioning our authority. Last week Toby and Patch were reading a book and Patrick pointed to a picture of the water asking about the little lines that were drawn near the shore of a river. Toby explained they were called ripples and went on with the story. Patrick, a moment later asked,”See the rickles Daddy?” Toby gently corrected him saying slowly and clearly,” They are called rip ples”. “No, Daddy, rickles!" Patrick shouted," Ri CKles!!!”

Spanish: He says vamanos about 50x a day, asks for fruta for snack, yells ayuda me in more situations than he should and any time he climbs he calls out subir. Very cute. But I realized we had issues when Patrick sang a whole song in Spanish he learned at school and I could only pick out 2-3 words. Between my lack of knowledge and his lack of pronunciation we’re a mess! I can’t fully help him progress in this area which makes me feel both ignorant and motivated. Part of me wants to reconsider having Miss Nidia come to the house to take care of the kids while I work, and ask her only to speak Spanish with them, but then there is the issue of wanting him to be with other kids to develop his social skills without the crutch of Mommy being around…or maybe Uncle Jonathan can take him to see his friend, Pedro, in Mexico City or maybe a reunion mission trip for the whole family to Akil is in order…practically speaking we’ll just have to learn Spanish from Toby and from books for now, but it’s still fun to dream.

Making Us Cry: It seems like lately Patrick’s main objective is to bring us to tears...in a good way though. He’ll look up at me while we are reading a book and whisper, “I love my Mommy” then give me a kiss. Or, when Toby walks though the door from work he’ll jump into his arms for hug and say “I love you the BEST, Daddy”. When I served him lunch the other day he asked, tilting his head to one side, “You made this Mommy for me?” I said yes, and then he said “Thank you Mommy” so sweetly I choked up. Last night Patrick laid down next to Toby after they had just finished wrestling around and sweetly said ," Daddy; we're two best friends." I think he's trying to make my heart explode. I’ve said many times that we have no idea what we are doing as far as parenting goes but we must be doing something right to have such a tender hearted little boy.

Here's a video we took this weekend on Toby's phone of him "reading" one of his pop-up books from Meme and Papa (which is why he apologizes to Meme when he's sees one of the pages is ripped).

Maddy's six month post (now that she's seven months old tomorrow...oops) will be up in the next few days. It's already written; I'm just looking through our millions of pictures of her for the perfect one :)

Friday, August 20, 2010


Although this picture may not look like much, it was the first picture Patrick took by himself with the underwater camera we found at the beach house.

Meme and Papa bought Patrick a book called Flotsam as something new for him to read at the beach. This is one of those books that only has pictures to tell the stories and no words. Like most books, Patrick loved it. To be honest, there was a time I really didn't like reading these kinds of book to Patrick. As an adult I had apparently forgotten how to use my imagination to create anything inventive or a story worth telling when the words weren't given to me. Now though, I love when we get to do books like this. Both because it's fun to make up a story and because I now see the advantage of a completely open narrative in terms of timing. On nights when I need to make it a quick story, I can. Sometimes I need to draw the story out a bit longer for whatever reason and I'm able to do that too. But really, reading anything with Patrick is fun because he enjoys it so much.

Anyway, this story is about a boy who goes to the beach with his family and, while playing close to the water, gets knocked back by a wave that washes an old underwater camera up on shore. The boy takes the film out of the camera and has it developed then goes back to the beach to look through the pictures. He sees all kinds of crazy underwater activities like robotic fish and an octopus family sitting on couches reading, but the last picture is of a little girl. That little girl is holding a picture of a little boy holding a picture of another little girl and so on. The boy who discovered the camera takes out his magnifying glass and looks all the way back to the first, black and white, picture taken with the camera of another little boy standing by himself on the beach waving at the camera. Our boy then takes a picture of himself holding the developed photo and throws the camera back in to the ocean. On the last page, we see it wash up on shore in front of a little girl on the other side of the world.

Patrick thought this was pretty great and had us read it at every nap time and bed time for the whole week. Since we had found a disposable underwater camera when we arrived at the house we thought it would be fun to recreate a little bit of the Flotsam story for Patrick. One day while he was playing near the ocean I put the camera in the water and let the waves wash it up on shore near Patrick. We all made a big deal out of it and he got really excited about using it to take pictures under and in the water.

So that's just what we did:

Patrick had a blast getting these pictures developed when we got back home. The coolest thing was that one of the pictures was of the little girl who must have had the camera before us. Patrick is still convinced she's the little girl at the end of his Flotsam book.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ocean Isle Beach Trip

Now that I've recovered from reading Angie's post, I'll write one about the rest of the beach week.

I think it says something about the week that Patrick lost his voice the very first night we were there from singing and talking so loud. It was really just non-stop fun from the second we arrived. (And only from the second we arrived since all the seconds spent driving before that were...well, not quite as fun.) This beach trip had several big highlights for us. The first is in the post Angie wrote below about Abbie and Matt's engagement (not sure if you can still read it after everyones' tears smudging the ink). The second awesome thing that happened was that we all got to meet Mandie and Tim's son, Creighton! Creighton is 3 months old, very smiley and super fun. And I gotta say, the kid's a trooper. He flew in from Idaho which meant a 12 hour trip and crossing multiple time zones. Then ended up in a house with a ton of people who all talk and laugh very loudly and usually at the same time. Creighton took it all in stride like a champ though and smiled and cooed his way through the week.

We had other out of town visitors for this trip too. Cousin Rhiannon accompanied Mandie and Creighton on the trip from Idaho and her mom and dad, Auntie Ronnie and Uncle Jeff, made the drive from Wisconsin. Rhiannon, Ronnie and Jeff are three of the nicest and coolest people you'll ever meet. We always love spending time with them and hearing about all the family in Wisconsin and Idaho and what everyone's been up to. They also always bring a seemingly endless supply of wine, which doesn't hurt either. As an added bonus, Reenie made everyone beach shirts with quotes from one of the girls' favorite movies from growing up, Back to the Beach (close-ups in the gallery).We were really happy to have a chance to hang out and for Patrick and Madelyn to get to meet them as well.

Although Patrick's voice was a bit hoarse, it didn't dampen his spirits at all. He loved playing on the beach, chasing the waves, riding the boogy board, using his Bug Vacuum and swimming in the ocean. The part of the week he tells everyone he sees about though was the crabbing. One night, we kept him up way past his bed time and let him come out on the beach to go crabbing with all the "grownups." He got to wear a flashlight on his head and carry a net, which in his current explorer/rescuer phase was a huge deal. We walked up and down the beach searching for crabs and diggers and found plenty. Patrick talked the ENTIRE time about everything he was seeing and whenever he ran out of things to say he'd just remark "It's soooo daaaaaaark." If you ask him, or even if you don't, he'll tell you all about the different crabs we found: the one that pinched Papa's finger, the one that didn't have any pinchers (which always makes him sad), the two that were "hugging" and the little diggers which he always says are "so cute." The cutest part of the walk was seeing him feel like a big boy. He walked with a larger-than-normal stride, carrying his flashlight and puffing out his chest.

Madelyn had a great time at the beach as well. A lot of times when we play with her at home, we'll blow on her face as a fun game. So, standing on the beach with a constant breeze just feels like someone is always trying to play a game with her. Every time we walked outside she would smile and squeal. She loved putting her legs in the water, feeling the waves wash up against her and really enjoyed putting her bare feet in the sand. We set up a little tent for her and Creighton on the beach so they could hang out in the shade while we were playing in the sun. Luckily, she was usually pretty gentle with baby Creighton and didn't pull his hair too hard or try to kiss him too much. It was very cute watching her with a baby that's younger than her. She also spent a lot of time working on her crawling. She's gotten pretty good at scooting around now but really wants to crawl. She gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth then usually ends up moving backwards.

Thank you SO MUCH to Meme and Papa for an incredible week. As you can tell by our five-million pictures, we had an awesome time. The kids enjoyed themselves so much and we enjoyed watching them experience another wonderful year at Ocean Isle. So thank you for all the memories and stories to tell for years to come. Below is a slideshow of pictures from the week, or you can go straight to the gallery by clicking here:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Proposal

It's easy to love Matt. His excitement for life is infectious and in everything, every moment, he finds something to celebrate. So when he told my family he would not be able to join us for our annual beach week at Ocean Isle, N.C. we were all disappointed. The beach trip would not be the same without him. Matt and Abbie have been dating for six years and unfortunately the majority of the time they have been together they've been living in different cities. Needless to say, Abs was especially bummed when Matt said he was unable to get off of work to come with us.

Beach week was going swimmingly (you see what I did there? Uh huh, welcome to the cheese factory): lots of sun, lots of family and a whole lot of great food. We got to meet Mandie's little one, baby Creighton, and Uncle Jeff, Aunt Ronnie and cousin Rhiannon also joined us, along with Betsy and her boyfriend, Travis. (More about them in a different post)

Tuesday afternoon Betsy and Abbie take a walk on the beach and not a moment later Travis tells us my mom is ordering us up to the house. We all casually walk and talk about what the heck she could possibly want. Then it dawns on us, simultaneously (or, I thought it did. If you ask Toby, he thought we were moving houses. You have to know my mom and her history of moving beach houses and camp sites in the middle of the trip to appreciate that one!) and we begin to run up the deck to the gazebo where mom is on the phone. She tells us Matt is on the beach, waiting for Abbie. We all squeal with delight and start hugging, and some of us (I won't say who), shed a tear or two, knowing what's to come. The whole group, which now includes Matt's parents and Abbie's friends, Lindsay and Jill, (who flew in that morning- God bless them!), huddle on the gazebo waiting for Abbie and Betsy to return.

Five hours later (or 10 minutes, depending on who you ask) they walk up and Abbie spots Matt lounging casually in one of our beach chairs. They sit together for a couple moments, chatting, then he takes her hand and they start to walk toward the beach house. Then he puts his hand in his pocket (the group leans in), gets down on one knee (we hold our breath) and asks her (we cheer and hoop and holler - they don't even notice). A kiss.

So many images flashed through my mind as I had the honor of being present at this most intimate moment. I thought back to when I first knew Matt was the one for Abbie. It was October 2004 and she had just returned home from the hospital after having a tumor removed. My parents gathered us together to talk. This is when our lives changed in an instant.

not what we expected...malignant...ovarian cancer... aggressive chemotherapy... start as soon as possible... I felt paralyzed. I could see that Toby was holding my hand but I couldn't feel it. Betsy started to cry. All I felt was doom. And then anger. 18 years old. One of the most intelligent and kind hearted people ever to walk this earth, not to mention witty and hilariously silly. This is not happening. This is not happening.

Silence. Everyone is crying and my parents are fighting to be strong with everything they have left and knowing it's just the beginning. Now we are talking about the duration of the chemo, the statistics, the challenges of the coming months. Everyone is looking at each other in despair; utter disbelief. Then Matt says, "Ok, so we just have to get her through chemo. We can do that. She CAN do this." And with those simple words there is something so hope-filled and beautiful- the way he said them- so faith-filled and trusting that I start to believe. I shut my eyes and say a prayer of thanks for sending him to us, her angel, full of endless optimism, endless devotion and pure, unfailing love.

And now they are embracing in the sand, the waves crashing at their backs, their family and friends cheering them on from a distance. She with a ring on her finger, he with a smile stretched across his face. Happiness. The moment is perfect. Everything is possible.

We toasted the engagement and then celebrated with a fabulous Italian meal cooked by Rhiannon, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Ronnie. That evening (and every night thereafter) we stayed up late discussing wedding locations, dresses, flowers and my personal favorite, cakes! It fills my heart to see my little sister glowing with happiness and excitement for the future. We wish you nothing but the best, Abbie and Matt, you deserve everything good life has to offer. Thank you for letting us be part of such a special occasion!