Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Eve Pj's!

I love Christmas Eve. It must be the traditions. There is something so comforting about traditions and carrying them on. Every Christmas Eve since I can remember my Mom and Dad always gave my siblings and I a new set of PJ's, and a special toy/stuffed animal. My special gift was almost always a stuffed animal, in fact I still have a few of my favorite that were given to me on Christmas Eve, tucked away in one of the boys toy bins. So when I had children I knew I wanted to carry on the tradition. A tradition I still enjoy because my Mom always spoils me with a new pair of PJ's even now that I am "all grown up". For some reason this one gift reminds me that no matter how big I am, or how many years have gone by, I still am their little girl, which is comforting on so many levels.

This Christmas Eve, my parents came over to our house, as they have since Zach was born, we enjoyed some Chinese food, and watching the boys excitement, and then my Mom gave me my Pj's
She of course couldn't come without a little something for the boys too:

Another unspoken tradition is that if you love your Christmas jammies, you put them on immediately. Seriously there is footage of me as a kid literally undressing the moment I received them...sort of embarassing, but serious shows my excitement over the Pjs! Unfortunately, my boys were not as thrilled about their Christmas Pj's. They were more interested in the new Geo Trax that Grandma and Papa brought. At first I thought I was the only one who was psyched about the new Scooby Pj's I'd gotten Z, and the footed reindeer Pj's Matt was going to rock that evening. (You'll note in the rest of the pictures, I am wearing my Pj's...traditions are traditions after all, even if I was the only one into it!):

Since neither of the boys seemed interested in their Ugly Dolls...I posed for a pic with Dave and Ket:

Then slowly...the boys warmed up to the idea of getting their jammies on. Zach reluctantly posed for this jammie picture, while Matt refused:

He was too busy trying to get Papa to play trains with him...or give him his coffee!:

Eventually Matt was willing to do a little posing in his jammies:

They both were so thrilled to put out the cookies and carrots and milk and water for Santa and the reindeers. Just look at them in their jammies, waiting for the magic of Christmas to arrive! I dare say it might be better to watch that gleam in your child's eyes more than it was to have it in yours!

And while these two slept, Santa did in fact arrive. What a beautiful sight this is to see it all come together.

(Thanks Mom for taking the pictures, I'm sorry you fell victim to the Mom curse of never being in a photo that night!) Stay tuned for more Christmas fun!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twas the night before, the night before X-mas

And all through the house, preparations were underway, and the stockings were out.

I am so excited for Christmas morning this year. Watching the boys react to Santa's visit is pretty much priceless. Now that most of the gifts have been wrapped and only minor matters need to be attended to, I am feeling much more calm about the coming days. I am so sad though that Wayne's Grandma fell yesterday and fractured her hip, needing surgery today. We go there every Christmas Eve, and this year she will most likely be spending her holiday in the hospital. Say a prayer for her. Also, my nephew Grant had his tonsils out a few days ago, and is feeling under the weather today, so hopefully with a little luck he will be on the mend by Christmas.

Matt got a bill of clean health yesterday at the Dr's so aside from a cold that I have, everyone in our home is feeling well. I just keep praying that the boys stay healthy so they can enjoy every moment of the next few days. Tomorrow we will get the chance to see some family, and then on Christmas day the non-stop fun begins. It really all goes so fast that if you blink you might miss it. Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, I hope that you are surrounded by the people you love, embrassing the beauty of this season, a miraculous morning, and a silent night!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Words you never want to hear...

I know I went missing again. There were two really good reasons for that. First I had a ton of grading to get done for the quarter, which I had been procrastinating on. Second there was a lot of illness in my household. First Zach had a bit of the flu, then Matt, than Wayne and then I did. I also had my yearly observation with my administrator the day after I had the flu. All that planning and prep couldn't go to waste so I headed to class, even though I was still not feeling 100% that day. Then came the biggest blow. After almost a month of no ear infections, Matt started grabbing his ear and saying, "It hurts me". I knew what that meant, and as luck would have it, we had a routine checkup with his pediatric ENT that day.

Off we went, just my little tough guy Mattie and me. I hate to think that pain is something he's gotten used to in some way, but the truth is, this boy has had over 13 ear infections since Feb 11, and he has had tubes since June...still 6 ear infections since then. The tubes have been a blessing in so many ways, even though they didn't help to lower his risk of ear infections, they did help him to hear in a normal range, which means he's verbally all caught up. I love his little voice and hearing him tell me, 'Sit down Momma" when he wants to snuggle on the couch. His "special ears" as I call them have changed him. He went from being the most easy going one year old, to a pretty needy toddler. He is used to getting his way, and since he's been ill, I've given it to him. Don't get me wrong he's a sweetheart too, but when he wants something, he can be relentless. Every time he starts to get into a normal routine, he's grabbing his ears, and I know we are headed for trouble.

So we went. And we did some tests. And it turns out that Matt had a plugged ear tube, and that an infection was trapped behind it. My smart little man, knows already that pain in the ear, means nothing good for him. The Dr. gave me some antibiotics, some special acidic ear drops to "try to open the tube" and told me it was time to think about our options. So here they are:

1. Hope that the drops open the tube, and they don't need to go in to replace the tubes


2. Obviously there is something going on in this situation because he is still getting chronic ear infections, so it may be time to take his adenoids as well


3. He will need yet another surgical procedure done which will require anesthesia, and should be done ASAP, as we do not want to risk permanent damage to his hearing.


4. We just had him go through an ordeal of getting blood work done, a shot to try to boost his antibodies, and now that seems useless


5. His Dr's office seems to think we should consider removing his tonsils too


6. Taking out a child's tonsils is a more extensive recovery time, and do I really want to put a 2 year old through this procedure when he has never had a problem with his tonsils?


No....I don't want my baby to have to go through this, through any of these procedures. I don't want to think about him being scared, or hurt, or feeling pain. I don't want him to have "special ears", except, I didn't get to pick and I know I should be thankful that this is heath burden in our family instead of something more "serious"


He's MY baby

and I think its unfair that he will have two surgeries, even if minor, in less than 7 months. I also think its unfair that there is no guarantee that this will solve anything if we go through with it.

So truth. I am frustrated. I am scared. I am trying to be the most educated advocate I can be for my son, who although he is "young and resilient" and "probably won't remember" is my one and only Matthew. I get freaked thinking about the what ifs. I want to do what is right by him always, and I can't ask him weigh in, I am the Mom, I am supposed to know what to do. And I do....its just I don't want to do it.

This week. I want to focus on the magic of childhood, on the smile on his face when he sees his presents, on the light in his eyes as he laughs, on the fact that every part of him is special, not just his ears, and I will try to look to the New Year hopeful instead of defeated, and find faith that someone little, but fierce, will not allow any ear pain to take away his spirit of joy. I mean seriously...this boy loves to be hopefully his ears get that memo!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life is Messy...

During this time of year, everything just gets a little messy:

And I think its WONDERFUL! Hope you all are enjoying this last week of crazy prep before the frenzy of Christmas morning!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Top Five Nighttime Books...

These books are nearly nightly reads around here. One of the things they all have in common is that they are focused around bedtime, well almost all of them. Both of the boys enjoy these books, and I always feel like you can't have enough help in getting kids to settle in. So here they are, five of our must read before bedtime stories:

This book is a classic apparently even though it is NOT one that I remember from my childhood. Both Z and Matt have had this book read to them since they were fact I am pretty sure Zach can recite most of it by heart. I know its a story I've memorized after the millionth read. NOTE: I wish looking back I'd bought the Board book version, our is torn and falling apart from overuse. Maybe Santa will bring a fresh copy!

I read this book to both of the boys when they were in utero, and hundreds of times since! I can recite it at the drop of a dime, and it never gets old. There is something so charming about these little pajama animals. The only part of the book I still can't figure out is why they take a bath, and then go up to exercise!

This book is one of Matt's favorite. He has been saying Llama since he was about 1 1/2 which is just adorable! Speaking of adorable... I absolutely love this wide eyed little llama. We also have some other llama books, but this is one of our favorites. The illustrations are beautiful and it has the perfect ending of letting the main character settle in and drift off to sleep!

Marvin K is another family favorite. Both of the boys have always enjoyed this imaginative story where a little boy rides bumbleboats and on a lion's tail. When it comes to reading a children's book, Dr Seuss is a must!

And finally:
This probably wouldn't make everyone's top 5, but it makes Zach's! He absolutely loves anything Hulk and it is the one book he picks out of the masses at least 5 times a week. I guess it goes to show when they have a passion go with it!

I'm always looking for great bedtime stories, so please post a comment with your top choices, so I can add to our ever growing collection!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Visiting Santa!

Yesterday we went to get the boys pictures taken for the X-mas cards. I am actually usually done ordering them by now, so the pressure was definitely on. Zach and Matt were told that if they took nice pictures they could go see Santa. Zach was thrilled by this prospect even though I can't say it improved his willingness to take pictures. Matt was a little less than thrilled by the whole concept. Not only was he terrified of the photographer, he was shrieking whenever we put him anywhere near the guy in red. After what seemed like a twenty minute struggle between Matt vs both me and Wayne, we relinquished the idea of getting any picture of Matt with Santa this year. So while Matt hid himself on our shoulders, Zach talked Santa's ear off.

Its funny because I remember that Zach has NEVER wanted to sit on Santa's lap before. For the last few years, he flat out refused. This year it was a whole different story. He seriously was so pumped to get his opportunity to chat up Santa, and ask him directly for his Hulk toy, that he probably would have sat there all day. Here he obliged the elves with a "cheese" smile, no bribery required! This is my big boy who is sooo smart and imaginative he makes this most wonderful time of the year truly magical.

Maybe next year we will finally be able to get a shot of BOTH boys sitting with Santa....a mother can only dream!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Toys for Boys- Our Top 20!

I kid you not, my sons have a lot of toys. I mean they are everywhere in the house. They are in baskets, they are in bins, they are upstairs, downstairs, outside and in! It is sometime overwhelming especially when they tend to play with all the things that aren't "toys", or in ways that the toys were not designed to be played with. Creative, definitely! Frustrating, sometimes! There are hundreds and yes I DO MEAN HUNDREDS of toys in my home. (I am counting all of the Little People individually of course!) Its funny, but when I go to put something away, Zach and Matt decide that they really want to play with that toy. Funny...or they are both genius! With Santa and grandparent and auntie and uncle santas on the way, it is time for some major reshuffling. I know that we are about to get an influx of new toys, but all of the following are stables around our home. They are the toys that both boys flock to on a regular basis, and when you have hundreds of toys to choose from I'd say that makes them very special.

The Fisher Price IXL-

Both Zach at four, and Matt at two play with this toy. I like that it is educational, they like that they can "read" books and paint pictures. Sometimes I think they just like that it plays music too. The only downfall to this toy is that the batteries need to be replaced often from too much use!

Melissa and Doug Puzzles-

I have always been a fan of Melissa and Doug toys. I have a lot of the chunky wood puzzles, but Zach prefers these now. I think the images are beautiful and the boys really enjoy trying to put them together. This is not quite a toy that either boy can do completely by himself, but I look at that as a plus rather than a minus

The Fisher Price Town

I have had this toy since Z was one. He has played with it in many ways throughout the years. He and Matt both enjoy putting the "apples" into the tree which counts to them. I really like that they both can play with it at the same time. It seems simple in design, but there are songs, and games to play, and best of all it fold away for easy storage!

Angry Bird Plush-

I always loved stuffed animals as a kid, and my boys seem to be following suit. While Matt loves to walk around with his Elmo, both boys find it fun to throw these birds all around the house and at each other. They hide them everywhere, and Zach will even set up pillows and try to kill the pigs.

Geo Trax-

There is something fascinating about trains to little boys. While the boys have a great collection of Thomas the train toys, lately they have seemed more interested in trains that they can control rather than push. I know that they will be excited this Christmas when they add to their Geo trax collection

Imaginarium train table-

I love this train table. Ironically it sits in my living room/aka playroom almost like a coffee table. The set is gorgeous and so worth the money. I had to put the set away for awhile, because Matt was tearing apart the track everyday, but the boys still use the table for the trains, or trucks. I have caught them trying to use it as a dance floor too...see what I mean about toys being used in ways they are not intended.

Tonka trucks-

Trucks in general seem to be a big hit these days with the boys. The great thing about this truck is that is large enough for the boys to push around without by bending over instead of crawling on the floor. This truck is great too because the ladders some out, but be careful sometimes that leads to ladder fights. Honestly if you have two sons, I recommend getting two of these trucks. My boys seems to fight a lot these days over who had this toy first. I certainly hope that getting another big toy truck of somekind is on Santa's list!

Sport Balls/Bouncy balls-

There is a reason that sports are a billion dollar industry, and I have a pretty good understanding that it stems from a boys love of balls! Seriously some of the most played with things in our house are plastic balls we picked up for a dollar. The boys love playing catch, and they also like learning about how to play sports. If you have a little boy to buy for these season, trust me, they will love a ball. I don't know why, they just do!


Matt recently got this set for his birthday from his Aunt Penny and both of the boys really love it. They are Play doh fanatics, and while I hate cleaning it up, I love that they are amused and creative for 20 minute stretches of time. It is a great activity for dinner making time, because it keeps them in the kitchen with me, but also allows them the freedom to create. My one piece of advice though is be sure to buy plah-doh scissors...just be sure you have one pair for each kid. Oh and if you don't want all brown playdoh...only give them one color at a time!

Rock and Roll Elmo-

I have to say my boys love all animated toys. They have a Hulk, a Mickey Mouse, and two Elmo dolls and they really play with them all. My parents got Matt this beauty for his birthday, and it is super cool. He likes to sing the ABC's with him and also play one of the extra instruments. If your kids like to sing and dance like mine do, this is a great toy!

A play kitchen with grill -

I am so glad that I bought a play kitchen for Zach when he turned 1. It has been one of the greatest toy purchases I've made. My husband fought me a bit claiming that a boy didn't need a play kitchen, but compromised on getting one with a manly grill! HA! Seriously the boys really like playing with this toy, and often take the basket liners and put them on their heads as chef hats. They like to bring us lunch, or grill up everything in the fridge! Even if you have all sons, I would say, buy a kitchen...this thing gets used at least once a day!

Play food with velcro-

When you get a play kitchen don't forget to buy some food to stock the pantry. One of my favorite sets has velcro that attaches the food together, it makes a really cool sound when you cut the vegetables. Also I prefer the plastic food to the wood food, only because my boys have been known to have a few food fights!

Nerf guns-
Belive it or not, my boys love nerf guns! I know shocking right? I am surprised with how capable they both are at loading the guns and figuring out how to cock the gun- Matt needs some help. These toys have created a lot of wonderful Daddy/son moments. I think the boys like them so much because Wayne loves to pull them out when we are outside, or inside and things need a little bit of action!

Board Games/Action Games

This game is one of the boys favorites. They love to take the fish out and play with them. We don't necessarily follow the directions, but they both can play together, and they both seem to really like that the game is interactive. Lately Zach has been more and more interested in games, and Matt is always close behind. Another big favorite in our home is the Angry Bird Game. The boys just like to play with the birds for the most part, although Z likes setting up the blocks too!

Lego Duplo Sets-

Kids need blocks. We have a lot of cool kinds. We have Bristle Blocks and Mega blocks, but the boys seem to really enjoy the Lego Duplo blocks. They are big enough that both can manipulate them and they come in some really cool sets. One of the boys favorites is this fire station set. They like the little cars and people that come with them, and also the siren!

Play tent-
Every kid needs a fort/hideout! These cool little tents set up in seconds and they allow the boys to feel like they are hiding. Our current tent is too small for both the boys, so this Christmas one of the other Santas are getting them a bigger one! They will be so thrilled I'm sure, and I can only imagine they will spent hours playing together inside.

Superhero toys-
If you have sons, chances are you have superhero toys. Zach loves them all, especially the Hulk and Matt even knows them by name now. Playskool makes some really cute sets. The boys like to add these heros everywhere around the house. They often are found tucked away in vehicles I find in the kitchen or under the Christmas tree!

Imaginext Batcave-

We have a lot of great Imaginext toys, but the favorite by far seems to be this Batcave. Maybe its the fact that the Superheros have a home, or maybe its because there are cool nooks to hide guys in. Whatever the reason, this is one of Z's favorites!

Musical toys- The Bee Bop Band

This toy is the one that started it all. Both of the boys love musical instruments and now we have plenty. Not only do they still play with this set, but it inspired Z to get a drum set, and Grandma Alice to buy them a baby grand toy piano! We love our musical instruments, and if you are looking for a musical toy to give a child over 12 months this would be my recommendation!

The Ipad 2-

No this is not the boys toy technically, but if you do have one, download some apps and let the kids play. Both of the kids love reading books on the Ipad and playing word and matching games. It can be a great educational tool, and in this tech savvy world, its important to teach your kids how to use and gather information. We also love our itouch because its portable and it is our main source for our dance music.

So there you have it...20 of our most used toys. I should disclaim that both of my boys love to look at books too, but I think I will save those for a separate post!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Holiday Hustle and Bustle!

There is something so magical about the Holiday Season. Maybe its the lights that sparkle in and around the houses, or maybe its the excitement I see in Zach's eyes everytime Santa is mentioned. (Matt is still a little too young to get the full understanding) Actually, I am trying to convey the real meaning of Christmas to Zach this year- that this season is about more than presents under your tree. Its tricky stuff- religion and kids. Sometimes I feel I've waited too long to take them to church, other times I think that Zach's already creative mind might be overwhelmed by too much information. I mean the kid had me explaining where blood is in our bodies this morning.

Anyways, I just love this time of year. I love watching all of the classic Christmas cartoons I watched as a kid. I love curling up on the couch nestled under a blanket with my hubby, and a warm cup of hot cocoa in my hand. I love the way the first snow sparkles in the sunlight, and I love watching Zach and Matt trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues. I love the week long reprieve I get from my job as a teacher, and cherish waking up to morning after morning when my priority for the day can be completely focused on being Mom. I love that every day is filled with anticipation, and everyone is so much kinder. I love the way people find charity for others this month, even if they live all 11 other months in oblivion. I love the songs on the radio, and dancing in my kitchen with my boys. I love the promise of seeing family often, and the smells of Christmas cookies baking in the oven. I love the taste of those cookies a whole bunch too. I love the idea of taking a drive to look at Christmas lights with the boys, and the prospect of building our first real snowman together. I love it, I love it, I love it.

And yet this month is constant hustle and bustle. I know I have a million moments plotted in my head that probably will have to wait. I have tried to finish all my shopping before December struck, and for the most part I did. So I will not be out in holiday lines, I will not be panicked that a package will not arrive in time, I will not be spending my December evening online shopping instead of snuggling. I will not be involved in that hustle and bustle. Instead my hustle and bustle will be making sure Christmas cards get sent, gifts get wrapped, cookies get made, family traditions are carried out.

But the most important thing I will do this month is hustle and bustle to make sure my boys feel the magic of this season. I will take them to the Christmas parties, I will take them to see lights, I will tell them stories every night, and watch a million movies I'v seen a million times before. I will sing the same Christmas song 30 times a day, I will let them frost cookies, even though they will mostly frost themselves. I will take them to festivals, and out in the snow, even though I have always hated being cold. I will hide our elf Durley every night, even though most days I am so tired, that its the last thing I want to do before bed. I will talk about Jesus and hope that they learn it, and I will listen to their hopes for what Santa might bring them. I will try to capture all of these moments, and record them for them. I will take them to spend time with family and friends, and I will continue to encourage them to be kind. I will do the extra shopping for their teachers, and I will bring treats to their class. I will remember to listen to them, to stop the hustle and bustle of the world, and sit with them and be present. I will be their playmate, their teacher, their champion, their nurturer, and this month their Santa. Some people might not like the hustle and bustle of the season, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.