Sunday, November 3, 2013

Camping Trip!

We took the kids on a camping trip last year on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. It topped out at 103 degrees and left us all very sweaty and sticky (thank God for cool lakes nearby). This year, we were determined not to make that mistake again so a couple months ago we planned a camping trip with my sister, Katie, and her wonderful family for the end of October. As luck would have it, a cold front came through and the lows for the weekend ended up being in the 30s. (Not like now, a week later, where the weather is PERFECT and the lows are in the 50s). With two three year olds and a five year old, we weren't sure how it was going to work out but we decided to go ahead with the plan and hope for the best. And I'm really glad we did :)

The trip was a ton of fun. We met the Beans for breakfast then caravanned to DeSoto Falls Campground. The camp sites were your basic no-electricity sites: picnic bench, flat area for a tent and a fire pit. We picked a nice spot (based almost entirely on how much sun was currently shining on it) and setup the Beans' "tent hotel." The kids "helped" for a few minutes but as soon as the first tent was up, they dropped the helping game and went on to more enjoyable activities.

That was also around this time we realized that in trying to decide whether we should bring firewood from home or buy it on the way, we had done neither and therefore had nothing to build a fire with. The boys were immediately tasked with gathering firewood for the weekend before we all froze.

After we got the fire started, cooked our lunch and warmed up a little, we headed to the falls. It's only a 3/4 mile hike to the upper falls but with as much as the kids ran back and forth on the trail, it was probably more like 7,000 miles. But it was well worth the hike. The trail and falls are beautiful at this time of year.

The kids trying to keep each other warm on the hike back.
 One thing that was special about this trip was that Patrick is old enough to help with some of the camp site "chores" that had to happen. Any time Brandon and I had to go scavenge for firewood, Patrick jumped at the chance to come with us. He'd help us carry wood back, or sometimes (don't tell the moms) hold the hatchet for us while we sawed wood or carried the bigger logs. He was very proud of being "one of the guys" and it was awesome to have some bonding time with him. Here's a picture of him using a knife for the first time (with my help, of course) to make our hot dog/marshmallow roasting sticks. I made sure to tell him what my Grandfather (who carved professionally) always told us when we were kids: "Never put the meat in front of the blade."

The night went surprisingly well for how cold it was (... at least, for most of the group. Katie and Angie might disagree.) We all stayed right by the fire roasting marshmallows and chatting until it was bed time. Then we bundled the kids up, shoved them way down in their sleeping bags and hoped for the best. It helped that they were exhausted from the busy day, but they all slept AMAZING the whole night.

In the morning we collected more firewood (surprise!), Brandon made eggs and bacon for breakfast and we even managed to have some coffee.

All in all, it was a great weekend. We were all so proud of the kids for sticking it out through the freezing cold weather and being great sports. They had so much fun playing together and we had a fun time watching them and getting to hang out with Katie and Brandon. Our kids have been talking about camping again sometime soon ever since we got home. I'm all for soon as it warms up a little bit :)

Even when they're too tired to walk, they still want to hold hands.
You can check out more pictures from the weekend by clicking right here or looking at the slideshow below.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Patrick Turned Five! (several months ago)

Let's just get it out of the way: I'm the worst. My first born turned five years old back in July and I haven't blogged since JUNE! And even that blog was about Madelyn's birthday back in FEBRUARY! Part of it is that we've been busy. Tons of stuff going on, out of town almost every weekend for awhile and weekends in town have been even busier. The other part is that between Facebook, Instagram, texting and Twitter, we're able to keep family pretty up to date with what's going on and the blog hasn't had as much use. But, still no excuse for the lack of a birthday post. So onto the post we go...

Patrick's birthday landed during beach week this year so we didn't have our usual themed birthday party where everybody was present and his friends were there. Instead, he got to celebrate his birthday about forty different times over several months. He didn't seem to mind :)

It started on his actual birthday in Ocean Isle where we had an ocean/pirate themed party for him. While the kids rested the afternoon of his birthday, we went out and buried his presents in the sand on the beach then drew a treasure map on his birthday card. When the kids woke up, we got them in pirate gear and headed out for the hunt.

Round 2 of Patrick's birthday was spent with Grandma and Grandpa and crew at Tellus Museum. If you've never been there, you should go. It's awesome. They've got so much cool stuff to do and see. Here are the kids with a couple of their favorite dinos...

We then spent a weekend in Hilton Head with the Beans! (More pictures to come unrelated to the birthday.)

First day on the beach with cousin Carson!
We also went out to dinner for Patrick's birthday with our great friends, the Barkers to Steak & Shake (Patrick's choice. He loves that place.) For some reason I don't have any pictures from that evening. But you'll have to take my word for it that we all had a great time :)

It's hard to believe our little guy is five already. I know people say it all the time but it really does seem like just the other day we were driving to the hospital, waiting to meet our new son. We had no idea what he would be like. What he would sound like. What his mannerisms would be. Five years later, we still learn more about him every day and he teaches us more about life every day. He's an amazing little boy who constantly keeps us laughing and learning. Patrick, we love you more than you'll ever know. Thank you for being such a good son, brother and person.

For Patrick's fifth birthday video I thought I'd do something a little different. The video is only 26 seconds long but it takes a look back at all of Patrick's birthday so far. It was really fun to put together and relive the last five years...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pixies and Pirates

(Update: new link to new pictures at the bottom of the post! Thanks Aunt Mandie!)

Back in February, our Madelyn turned three years old. I'm not sure how that happened since I specifically asked her not to do that and to just stay two a little bit longer; but, she's got a strong will and went ahead with the birthday anyway. As usual, we had a small celebration for her at the house where we gave her a few gifts, she got to pick dinner and we had a small cake. Then we had a bigger party with friends and family and, of course, a theme.

Madelyn's main gift this year was her new big girl bed. She had been dreaming about it for months and wanted it to be pink with a big pink canopy "like a princess has." Angie found the perfect sized pink bed on Craigslist and we found a canopy that looked like something a three year old's impression of a princess might like. Needless to say, she was VERY happy to find it in our living room when she came down from nap...

We brought it up to her room, hung the canopy and let her put some fairy stickers on the wall and she was ready to go.

First night in her bed!
For Madelyn's big party, she wanted a (surprise) fairy theme. And probably at the suggestion of her brother, she later added that she might want "some pirate fings too." So, we went with a Pixies and Pirates theme and everyone was happy. Angie, as usual, went all out on the themed food, games and decorations with help from Meme and Grandma and we even got a package full of pirate goodies in the mail from our friends Piper and Beckett Finn who live in NC. The kids seemed like they had a lot of fun and I know we had a great time. Rather than explain too much about it, I'll just put up the video and link to the picture gallery. The song is Audrey Assad's "Ought to Be."

And here's a slideshow of the pictures from her birthday at our house and the friend/family party. Or you can go right to the gallery by clicking this bad boy. UPDATE: Aunt Mandie has a whole album of pictures as well you can treat your eyes to right here.

Happy birthday my sweet girl! You bring so much joy to our lives!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Adventures of Pokey the Swordfish

It's kind of amazing what a great father does each day, isn't it? He breezes in the house in the evening, leaving all work stress at the door and is totally present, trying to fit in eight hours of quality time into the twenty minutes before dinner. He's tackled and tickled by little people before he can even get inside the house. He's listening to how my day went and answering questions about dinosaurs and space and pirates and watching a ballet recital/rock concert all at the same time. He helps with dinner and puts the wash into the dryer as he changes out of his work shirt while simultaneously playing, "Hey, hey, you crazy!" [monster game]. He's spraying for aunts, watering the garden, pushing the kids on swings. He serves as DJ and professional kid-spinner for the after dinner dance party and referee for the many mini-battles during bath and story time. And with kisses and hugs and prayers its bedtime. A whirlwind of an evening, every evening. But somehow he makes it magical. And for that we love him even more.

Just one of the many reasons I love this man - the bedtime stories he tells the kids. It's no wonder they love him as much as they do.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Frog Story

A couple months ago, I got this picture from Angie while I was at work in a text that said "We found a frog in the back yard and he's going to be our pet!"

The frog is the thing trying really hard to blend in with the stick.
Here's a better picture of him...

Knowing how much my kids (especially Patrick) are in love with all animals, I knew she wasn't kidding when she said the frog would be our pet. Because if the kids found then captured a frog and it didn't bite either of them or hiss or something, there's no way they're letting that thing go. His life was now theirs. I half-expected them to start throwing sticks into the frog's little habitat saying "It climbs the sticks when they are thrown in. It does this whenever it is told." (If you've never seen Silence of the Lambs, GO WATCH IT NOW. I can wait.)

Then, throughout the day, I got pictures like this one with captions like "Guess who's blasting off!"

And "Guess who's saving the town from a fire!"

"Guess who's going for a tractor ride!"

And so on...

 And so forth...

I fully expected the frog to be dead before I got home. But amazingly, he was alive and as happy as a frog is able to express.

Madelyn changes Disney Princess outfits pretty much every 20 minutes. I don't know which princess this is but she needs a bigger shirt if she's going to be role modeling for my daughter.
And so, we kept him. We found out that he was a grey tree frog and could climb pretty much anything in our house. He would jump from Patrick's shoulder onto the wall and then jump back onto the next person that walked by to hitch a ride somewhere else. It was all pretty cool.

One of Patrick's favorite things to do was race the frog up the wall. Patch was excited to have a climbing buddy and also excited to win every single time since his opponent has a slight size disadvantage and no idea he's even supposed to be racing.

 If it's hard to tell what's happening in that picture here's a video of Patrick climbing the door frame to get to the pull-up bar. As much as I wince every time he drops down, I'm glad he does that now rather than what he did before; which was climb to the top whether you were close by or not then start yelling for someone to come get him before he fell with about 2 seconds of warning. I learned I can run to the kitchen door from almost anywhere in the house in a very short amount of time when necessary.

We also had to feed the frog. We tried all kinds of stuff the first few days but he didn't eat any of it. Then we finally went to the pet store and got him some small live crickets and he went bananas for 'em. Sometimes we'd put the crickets in the habitat with him and let him "hunt" them (sit really still until a dumb-as-bricks cricket literally jumped onto his face) and sometimes the kids would feed them out of their hands. This is video of the first time they fed him from their hands. I LOVE how excited they get.

Here's a better angle. I also love how closely Madelyn pays attention to Angie talking about the frogs tongue at the end of this video.

And so it went for weeks. I REALLY thought the frog wasn't going to make it past the first week with how not-so-gentle the kids can be in their excitement to "play" with him. But they did great and the frog kept eating and drinking and doing all the other normal frog things frogs tend to do. Both kids tried sleeping with the frog in their room but they both kicked him out after the first time he croaked really loud after they had fallen asleep. His croak is loud enough when we hear him in our yard - when he's in the same room, it's pretty darn loud.

His piano playing, however, was magnificent.
Then one day, Patrick seemed to suddenly feel a little guilty about keeping the frog in our house. He talked to us about it on and off all day and we did our best to answer his questions but it just didn't sit right with him that we had taken the frog "out of the wild" (his words). A few days later, Patrick decided we should let the frog go. I was at work but Angie said Patrick was saying things like "he came from the wild, we should put him back in the wild. We didn't buy him from the pet store. He's not really ours. He should be with his family and friends." Angie assured him it was OK if he wanted to keep the frog but he had made up his little mind. Mr. Ribbits needed to be released.

So they took him out and Patrick cried as he let Mr. Ribbits go in the yard close to where they had found him. He kept saying things like "It's OK buddy. You'll find your friends and your family again. They'll be so happy to see you." crying the whole time. It was heartbreaking. But we were SO proud of Patch for making a tough decision, completely on his own, and going through with it even though it made him really upset.

That night, we heard the frog croaking in the back yard and Patrick started crying again but smiled and said "He sounds so happy!"

I love that kid.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mother's Day

WOW things have been busy. Crazy, crazy busy lately. Most of it has been great but it's definitely kept me from staying current with the blog. I'm still working on Madelyn's 3rd birthday party video (for the party that happened in FEBRUARY) and we have a million other things to blog about. But, rather than trying to catch up on all of them I figure we'll just start with something recent and I'll fill in the past as we have time. Sound good? I thought so.

A couple weeks ago we celebrated several holidays over the course of Mother's Day weekend. We celebrated, of course, Mother's Day but also Grandpa's birthday and Grandma's birthday. It turned into a whole weekend of fun.

We started out by spending Friday night with Meme. We had pizza, danced, and chased each other around in the backyard for a LONG time. The kids were exhausted by the end of the night which is always a good sign that fun was had :)

Saturday was Angie's Mother's Day. This year, she banned me from purchasing anything for her as a gift or making a big craft with the kids for her. That didn't leave me with many options to show her how much she means to us other than just repeating over and over "We love you, honey. I love you. The kids love you. You're great. We love you." all day, which would get very old very fast. But, I found a loophole in the plan. Instead of buying her a gift, I bought a whole lotta her favorite foods for the day and sent her out to get her nails done.

While Angie slept in (Angie almost never gets to sleep past 5:30) the kids and I prepared her favorite breakfast: omelets. We got all her favorite fillings/toppings and chopped and cooked away until she woke up.

Then after some play time around the house, the kids and I went to get everything we'd need to make Angie dinner while she went to get her nails done.

Dinner ended up being much larger than I had originally planned because I kept thinking of things Angie would like but neglected to remove items from the menu as new items were added. So, we ended up having grilled filets, grilled bacon-wrapped bourbon shrimp kabobs, grilled vegetable kabobs, grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, grilled romaine hearts with avocado lime dressing and, of course, some wine :) And for dessert, Angie's favorite: cupcakes from Small Cakes. This is a picture of mine (somehow, all the others were gone by the time I took the picture). Yep, that's bacon on that cupcake and it was magical.

On Sunday, we got together with my side of the family to celebrate birthdays and Mother's Day. We met at the river park and it was a PERFECT day to be outside. The weather was awesome and the kids had a blast. It's so fun to see the three older cousins play together now that they're all capable of about the same things. Even Declan joined in on the swinging action!

After lunch and cupcakes at the park, we headed over to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. As usual, the kids loved seeing all the owls and eagles and other animals but we got a bonus this time of seeing an opossum and corn snake out of their cages. Pretty cool stuff.

The kids were able to touch the snake with their forearms (CNC didn't want their hands getting germy).
All in all, it was kind of a perfect weekend getting to see everybody and celebrate the Moms in our lives.

Here is a link to the gallery with some more pictures from the weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Christmas Round Up Part IV - What?! Still?!

Hey guys, did you know that Christmas was a few months ago? Did you know I'm still blogging about it? Well, ya do now. But I promise this is the last Christmas post. It has to be right? It's like 80 degrees outside right now!

Anyway, the reason this one took so long is because I had to wait until I got footage from the kids' school Christmas performance from another dad at the school. It wasn't because I forgot to bring our video camera. Oh no. It is because I managed to make a classic dumb-dad-in-a-dumb-movie mistake.

Right before Madelyn's class went up to sing their song, I checked the camera for the millionth time to make sure it was on and had enough battery and hard drive space. This was Madelyn's first "performance" on stage and I wanted to be sure I captured every second of it. Instead, I must have accidentally hit the "record" button and started recording the ground. Then, when Madelyn's class took the stage and the big curtains opened, I hit the button to start recording and, because it was already recording, actually stopped it from recording. Once she was done with her performance, I quickly hit the button again and started filming the ground and everybody's feet.

Luckily, I figured out what happened a few minutes after and in between kicking myself as hard as I could for not filming my second child's first performance, I got Patrick's class on video. Also lucky was that another dad at the school filmed the whole thing and I was able to get a copy.

So, that's the long reason of why this post is so late. But I finally put the video of the three performances together (yep, three. Because, for some reason, the whole family had to go up and sing Patrick's song with his class right after all the kids sang it. I don't know.). Maddy is up first and thankfully she's right up front and the tallest in her class so, even though it's not us filming it, we can see her for the whole thing. (Also, if you're wondering why none of the kids are singing, it's because a) they're 3 and b) they changed the song on them a couple days before.) After Maddy's performance there's a cute moment that I actually managed to capture and not lose for all eternity (right around the 2:30 mark) where Patrick's class is on their way to the stage and Maddy can't help but run over and give him a big hug before he goes on. I love that they love each other.

Here it is:

We're so proud of both our kiddos for getting up there and doing such a great job. They had a blast and so did we. And thank you to Grandma and Grandpa for making the long trek out to be there too!

Friday, March 29, 2013

From Tree to Table

We started with a large tree that was right up against our house/Patrick's room and was acting as a big stairway for all types of wildlife to gain access into our attic.

So, this happened (thanks Uncle Tim)...

Which led to this...

In summary...

After a few weeks of tree parts sitting around in our yard, we decided to put them to work.

We cut, measured and pencil lined...

Cut some more and paint lined...

And colored/painted...
Yes, it is sitting on our bed. I finished it during the kids' nap time one day.
Then drew a tic-tac-toe board on the other side and got to stainin'/weather proofin'...

I take full credit for the really creative design.

We made chairs for the kids out of leftover stumps and wood, too. Once the wood was cut, the kids were ready to stain their chairs...

Then we set it all up using the large base of the tree we cut as the table. If you look in the video, you'll notice a pond/sludge factory right under the tree. The previous homeowners had given up on it a few years before we moved in and we haven't done anything with is since we moved in last year...wait, 8 1/2 years ago. Yikes.

We decided to get rid of the "pond" and use the stones in and around it for the new outdoor game table area. The kids couldn't wait for us to finish putting it all together before trying out several dozen rounds of stones vs. acorns tic-tac-toe.

They're wet and barefoot because we're hill people they had just finished playing in the water table.
We stacked the stones then used some flat stones from around the pond for the floor and poured gravel in to fill in the gaps. Here's the finished product...

We'll probably get a few more decorative things for around the outside and have the kids paint a 'welcome' sign for it or something. We're also planning on taking some stones and painting them black with Xs and Os for the tic-tac-toe board (just in case we ever run out of pebbles and acorns).

(P.S. - If you're ever looking for a good gift for someone, the Black & Decker Matrix Drill is great. It, along with all its cool attachments, made things much easier for the project. It was really nice to be able to switch from drill to trim saw to sander to jig saw all in the same tool.)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

This Girl

At age 3...

She is constantly moving and 99% of that movement is dance.

She's getting goofier as she grows. And I'm pretty sure she's going to be somewhat of a smarta$% (in a good way, of course.). When we were at Fernbank a month ago there were several older ladies
that passed us going into an exhibit.
They did not speak English but leaned over and pointed at her, making cooing noises and touching her head. One of them said "baby." Without hesitation she stared up at them and said sarcastically, "goo goo gah gah" and pretended she was a baby, then looked at me and half rolled her eyes. I couldn't help but laugh at my almost 3 year-old mocking foreigners. I should probably be more concerned...

The brother and sister silliness continues. They have a blast together. End of story.

The transition to a  big girl bed from a crib has gone well so far. Instead of calling for us when she wakes up, she now goes into Patrick's room to wake him up (bonus!)(Also, sorry Patch! Thanks for taking one for the team.). The first time it happened was on a Saturday morning. Toby and I woke up for a minute when we thought we heard a door close, then when things were quiet again fell back asleep for another 30 minutes. Eventually we found the kids snuggled up in Patrick's bed reading together. Toby and I high-fved each other and snuck out of the room to make breakfast and have a cup of coffee together. It was like a date! A 15 minute date, but a date nonetheless.

She's getting even more independent. It's not unusual for her to go off  to read books or play on her own. I think that's pretty typical of a 2-3 year old. What's not typical is the way she holds her own with older kids- be it in school, on a playground or a bounce house. She never wavers in her confidence and has yet to let a bigger kid push past her or boss her around. When we went rock climbing she insisted on doing everything herself. No matter how high, how dangerous or if she's done it or seen anyone do it before- she wants to do it on her own.

She's turning into a cuddle-bug. As long as its on her terms she will hug and kiss you all day long. Quite often she'll turn to one of us while we're reading or playing and say ever so softly, "I love you" and lean over for a kiss. And then my heart melts...

Madelyn makes us smile and shake our heads each and every day. I love that she likes fairies and princesses and dancing but also loves to get messy and play tackle with her brother. She's tough when she needs to be and stubborn when she wants to be. She's more confident in herself and abilities than I ever was and probably ever will be.

 I love that she could be singing a soft lullaby to her babydoll while wearing her "Tangled dress" one moment and catching bugs and climbing trees the next. I love that she loves to do each of those things equally. She's a Daddy's girl to the core and adores her brother more than anyone in the world. There is no way to convey how much we love her. And no way to measure how much joy she's added to our lives by being in it.