Monday, March 28, 2011

A Few Favorite Things

We recently had a couple, who are brand new parents, over for dinner. I ended up pulling out a favorite swaddle blanket. The blanket is made by a brand I'd highly recommend even now. No matter what the baby market has made 'new and better' this is the kinda stuff that lasts because it's well made and versatile.
Lucky for you, after the dishes were done, the house picked up, the kids in bed, my brain was spinning with a few of the favorite things of late. The short list is far from 'crisp apple strudels doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles', nevertheless, favorites. Check 'em out...

On a recent excursion back to the US, I found this little box on the counter top at a toy shop. Intrigued by the concept, I spent the 8 green backs to take them back with me. They were worth every penny and more. These "story cubes" have 9 dice with a basic picture on each side. Perhaps their versatility is what sets this toy apart because they can be played in a variety of ways. For now, our kids are rolling them and making up stories with each picture that turns up. They have used them to write creative stories and play among themselves as well. We plan to take them camping too, where each person will add to the story using the dice rolled. These story cubes let the imagination roll! Google "Rory's Story Cubes" for more info.
Next up- an idea of sorts. The clarity of an idea I suppose. The book, Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids recommends, for one, dwindling down toys. We know, we know, too much is not always a good thing. This was a fab excuse for us to say sayonara to some of the toys lingering around. More importantly, the author recommends adding a 'fort box' complete with big sheets or blankets, clothesline, and clothespins into the toy arena. Our kids make forts all the time, using whatever they have, pillows, blankets, tables, etc. Often however, they become frustrated because they want to play inside the fort, but it doesn't hold up well.  Hence the fort box, a new spin on an old toy for this crowd- Clothesline, clothes pins, and sheets/cloth. How simple and complete! We're all much happier now. (The book is a great 'parenting' read too, and that's coming from someone who despises parenting books with the same intensity most folks reserve for war cirminals.)

Lastly, when Matt received the box in the mail labeled "the bedwetting store" he was curious who in the military mail room had fully read the label before sorting it to his post box. This 'favorite' is a bit specific, so skip it if you'd rather not incur words like 'pee',or freak if talking about 'bedwetting', and 'diapers'.

Setting- Emory, age 5, had never waken up dry in the morning. Not a day in his sweet blessed life. Nighttime diapers seemed like they would follow us on every journey and then some. We had visions of Emory as a healthy full grown man, waking up next to his wife someday, rolling out of bed with a diaper on. I asked the doctor if perhaps we should try "lifting" at night. (Waking him up from sleep late at night, to help him learn to go to the bathroom.) The doc said "don't push, but if you want to try it go ahead." Let's just say, this technique worked as well as a square wheel. In pediatrics, the current recommendation seems to be 'not to push', and that boys especially, will learn to wake at night as a developmental milestone, but often this takes until they are 7 years old or older.

OK, maybe. But it just seemed like nonsense not to try something.

We continued however, with nighttime diapers until the kid got lazy. Really lazy. Age 5 years and 5 days, he decided if he was wearing a diaper, he'd use it, whether it was 10 minutes before bedtime, or early morning at breakfast. We of course, reasoned and explained that he was not a baby anymore, and should only use the diaper when he was sleeping. Yet he continued to push back, showing us that even a five year old can make use of a diaper if you allow him to. Ugh. We were peddling backwards.

Appalled and concerned, we researched bedwetting alarms. Against the doctors advice, we ordered one and Emory began to use it, along with the instruction book. The bedwetting alarm is a bit like a high end car alarm strapped to the child's shoulder. The alarm vibrates like a machine gun, and is as loud as an emu in heat. (The noise level is actually up for debate in our home. I could sleep through it, but Matt did wake the alarm). At first, in a most peculiar way, Emory slept through it as well. As promised though, it trained him to stop bedwetting, wake up, and visit the bathroom. In less than 1 month he was wetting less. 3 months later, there was no need for diapers at all. He doesn't need the alarm now and can wake himself. We're happy to be saving a ton of money. Imagine how much longer we could have continued paying for diapers based on our doctor's advice!? Years! More importantly, he's proud of a big accomplishment. Bravo to the bedwetting store and to Emory. (and ah-hem, a nice pat on the back to Matt who changed plenty of sheets while I stayed on in the land of nod. God love ya honey.)

If you know of a parent who's struggling with a child's nighttime wetting, and tired of doing extra laundry send them here ... really, promise, it's well worth the try!

Ok, sure. I said 'lastly' on the latter favorite, but just one more. Please? Who doesn't love sidewalk chalk anyway? Current and long time favorite....

So what are your current favorites eh? We would love to hear about them! Please, do tell.

Thought the Camera was a Carrot

He tried and tried to take a nibble out of my camera when I wasn't looking, and this made the kids giggle endlessly.

Meet the neighborhood donkeys. Their owner previously mentioned that we were welcome to drop by and pet them anytime, and of course, share a snack of carrots.

We ride by our furry freinds daily on the way to school and back. Lately they've been hee-hawing at us, so on Friday we took their clue and dropped in, to drop off their snack.

Imagine what those donkeys thought when they saw this crew approaching their fence....

I had warned the kids not to let their fingers get too close to the donkey's mouth because we really didn't have time to explain away a random story about a missing finger and a donkey, on a Friday night, in the ER.
Addie so keenly seemed to think the sweater she was wearing would serve as protective gear for her fingers? But alas, they had their snack and we enjoyed the brief visit.
No fingers missing, so we'll probably go back soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just when

I think that in ring 4 of our 3 ring circus we might actually see forward movement;
We might finally rid of pacifier.
We might see a glimpse of a human being who will some day, wipe his own butt.
We might in the far away future, raise a respectful, productive person.

Just when I think, perhaps, we might eventually be able to put him with the others, in violin lessons,
(and I get a little bit happy because oh-la-la, we've made a bit of progress)

I find this.....

3 cheers for hope.
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Be.Boo Art Gallery

 Stella's painting has really come along. The lessons with the art instructor
(for the post of that saga, click here)
have truly paid off as she's much happier to create again.
Here are a few of her most recent works. Her personality just beams through them.

She's taking offers for commissioned work if you're interested!
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Thankful for the Little Things

An important reminder. Be thankful for the little things.
A mantra to repeat daily. 4 little things. Be thankful. Yes thankful.
Like today.
Oh-So thankful that he put the dog's water bowl over his head, after he poured out the water on the floor.
Thankful....all perspective isn't it?
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Dishwasher Replaced

Our dishwasher is broken. So it's been replaced with cheap child labor, which can be slightly noisier than the old dishwasher, but works well. Luckily, the new dishwasher likes his job, because eventually he may be promoted to "chief cook" too!
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Monday, March 21, 2011

All in the name of progress

We made worlds of progress this weekend. So much progress that I'm not sure why the Pentagon hasn't called us up to ask for our help in solving their problems too. Why we haven't been contacted by the Red Cross to logistically find solutions to instantaneously dissolve tragedy in Japan?- Not sure.  
Can't figure out why scientists haven't been knocking on our door for a cure...cause we're seriously on a roll at solving problems around here!

Firstly, we got Addie back. She was on a class visit to a farm for 3 days and 2 nights. Part of the Belgian school experience, we happen to all appreciate seeing her leave, ....and then getting her back.
I solved the laundry problem of nasty holes in pjs, undies, and socks.
What a relief.

Meanwhile, Addie began work on a gift she's planning to give. This solved the problem of endless material hanging around, as well as her desire to 'connect' with her sewing machine on a more frequent basis. Everyone was smiling this weekend I tell you!
 Stella solved problems of her own. She has decided that she wants to be an astronaut,
(note another problem solved- child found goal for productive job post departure from home)
 so she worked hard on her math homework...
and when she finished that, she moved on to solving the riddle of her birthday.
Hmmm, what to do for Stella's birthday? Have a party of course!
So she made invitations. Done.

Matt solved the camping/tent problem, which has plagued his dreams at night lately.
He was worried the tent might be too big or that he might have trouble figuring out how to set it up. 
(He was an Eagle Scout, but apparently tents can be tricky for even the best of scouts). 
Due to very wet weather, he hasn't been able to put the new tent up at all.
So, looking on, with the cast which is hopefully solving the problem of torn ligaments in my ankle, I admired his boy scout ability to set that tent up in no time.

and whoo-hoo! It's the perfect size for the 4 ring circus, with room to grow. Just what we hoped for!
Entertainment is often a problem for Emory and Arleigh. It's nice to see they can solve their own problems....
 with pole dancing
and potty training lessons.

Ahhh- if every weekend could be so very productive!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

10% off

So, this guy happens to know some folks who own a bridal shop.
They carry loads of wedding dresses, tuxedos, prom gowns, shoes, veils...lots of stuff for a fancy schmancy night out, in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes.
He talked them into doing a little plug for this small, family owned shop. So if you need a dress, or something else they can help you with, and you mention "SNAPSHOT - the blog" they'll give you 10% off your purchase. 
Pretty sweet deal for a guy under 3 feet eh?
Check 'em out.
"Tomorrow's Bridal Finery" Oil City, PA

In training

Ring number 4 of our 3 ring circus is now in training.

Please God, Grant me the strength...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting There

For years, the kids have asked to learn to ski. We saved money, waited until we thought the timing was decent, booked a lodge and trip 6 months ago, then took off this school “Carnival” holiday for the slopes. Our destination- 8 hours away in the Bavarian Alps to the peaks of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. We drove all day to reach the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area, passing through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and Austria.

We never stopped the car to take photos of the landscape, but it was beautiful. Here are a few shots snapped from the car along the way.
Let me add, that in our journeys around Europe, if I had just a penny for every time we've exclaimed "Look kids! A castle up there!" college 529s wouldn't be necessary.

Perhaps it was Emory who summed up the scenery best when, from the backseat of the car he asked
"Hey Mom, Dad, is this Disneyland?"

Starting out Skiing

First- the fittings. Three kids and two adults, fit for ski gear. The kids excitement was just bubbly, (and catching). We took care of fittings the night before we started with lessons, which saved time, yet exacerbated their anticipation over learning to ski. They were tucked into bed fidgeting but thrilled to finally be nestled among the Bavarian Alps.

The next day Addie, Stella, and Emory began ski classes. Mixed with lots of potty and snack breaks, they learned gradually how to maneuver on skis, ride the rope tow, and then ride back down little hills.

Less then 48 hours later, they were riding the lift and sailing down hills as if they were born with skis on their feet. (Meanwhile, their mother was still stumbling around in the snow, trying to remember how to stand, despite the encouragement of several instructors.)

Their learning curve wasn't without a few falls, but they took to skiing much faster than we anticipated. 

Got it!

Our goal for this family vacation was the expose the kids to skiing. If they liked it, great. If they didn't, then that would be fine too. Stella had been itching to try for years though, so we expected that she might like it.
Most impressive was the swiftness that the kids took to skiing. They not only picked it up, and displayed nice control, but more importantly, they really enjoyed it.


Why in the world would a banana go skiing you ask?

All over the world, the days leading up to Ash Wednesday mark a time of revelry, merry making, and celebration Some places have the honor of hosting the grandest, most spectacular festivities. New Orleans has Mardi Gras. (Belgium/France has Carnival.) Southern Germany has Fasching.

Fasching, a time of joy and occasion, in Bavaria and Austria. The word "Fasching" is derived from Fastnacht, meaning "eve of the beginning of the fast". Like so many holidays, Fasching began as a blend of pagan traditions with new Christian customs. Dressing-up as fools, clowns, or harlequins is a common characteristic that stretches far and wide across cultural and political borders in Europe. Most shops during January and February are stocked with costumes ranging from the traditional masks and ‘fools‘, to contemporary pop culture references. Costumes available in all sizes, with all of the accessories, make-up, and wigs to match, might cause an outsider to think they celebrate Halloween early.

So, it was no surprise to see Fasching celebrated on the slopes as well. We happened to be skiing over the Fasching/Carnival holiday, which was, to say the least, interesting. When I asked these people if I could take their photo, they replied in a strong European accent, “of course!…We are just like in Ameri-ka ! No?”