Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mighty Milestones

This momma is bursting with pride right now.  I can't believe how fast my little guys are growing up.  They continue to amaze me with every new thing they do.

Aaron:  Potty Progress
This is day 3 of our potty training efforts so far and I have to say I am pretty amazed at how well Aaron is doing.  He has had his accidents of course but I think he's getting it overall.  There have been things that were part of my plan that worked, and things that didn't work so well.

The potty chart - huge success.  We put a sticker up for every successful attempt at going potty even if its just a little.  Every 4th time he goes he gets to choose a prize.  He lives for the prizes.  They are all pretty small do-dads and there was some candy too.  Guess what got picked first?  Yup.  "Canny."  He's gone so many times that I had to continue the chart on the back.  I think it's about 18 times. 

 Bigger prizes for going number 2
 Little prize box

Big boy underwear - not so much yet.  He was excited to pick them out but it's hard for him to pull them up and down and they must feel similar to a diaper because he had more accidents when I let him wear them.  It has been far more successful to let him run around with only a t-shirt on.  Underwear will come though - I can't let him go in public like that!

Books and activities basket next to the potty - a must!  He can't just sit there.  We pull the step stool for the sink over and use it like a table.  He colors, reads, or watches Super Why and Yo Gabba Gabba on my phone. 

Potty Relays - total bust!  He just watched me do it and laughed.  I was already hurting from hiking and the little stinker made me run all throughout the house trying to get him to follow me to the bathroom.  I guess he knows where it's at and doesn't feel he needs to practice running.  Oh well.

Today has been a pretty successful day.  We had very few accidents.  I was nervous to do this, but out of food in the house, so I took him to Price Chopper with me.  We had practiced using our words to tell mommy that he had to go potty so when I heard him say, "momma, potty" I knew he meant business.  Half way across the store I ran my full cart along with Aaron and Ethan to the front of the store, booked it to the bathroom and like a big boy, he waited and went we got there!  I was sooooo proud of him!!!  Later on I knew he had to poop and after hounding him about it all day, I finally just let him be.  He went all by himself and then came to get me.  He was so proud.  The only thing was, it didn't quite make it to the potty but rather right next to it.  Good thing there's no carpet in the bathroom!  I didn't care though.  I'm just happy he seems to be getting it.
 This is a must in our bathroom.  (Thanks Adriana for the tip!)

Ethan:  Sitting like a pro and trying to stand
I had forgotten how monumental the crawling and sitting stage is.  It's like he is no longer a baby, baby.  Now is on the go and everyday he looks a little bit older.  He's quickly growing out of the baby stage and moving toward toddlerdom.  Good thing I still have a few months left before he really is a toddler.  I love this stage.  It is so fun to watch him get around and explore his surroundings.  Everything is new to him and he can't get enough.  He is so mobile and curious about things. He plays hard in the living room, crawling all over, sitting to stop and really check something out, and then pulling up to his knees to look what's up higher.  He would rather play with Aaron's toys which drives his older brother bonkers.  In fact, he would rather be doing whatever his brother is doing period.

Two things happened today that made me just a little sad because it means my snuggle days are nearing an end.  One, John had to drop the bed down.  Ethan couldn't even nap in it anymore because he pulled himself up to the railing and looked over the edge.  I mean totally over the edge.  Now when I go to get him after nap he is sitting in his crib staring up at me with his giant smile and dimples.  While it's incredibly cute, I sort of miss the helpless cutie laying on his back batting his arms and legs.

The other thing is we packed away the bathtub seat.  Don't need it anymore!  I suppose for that matter we don't need the bumbo anymore either.  Tonight I gave the boys a bath and Eman happily splashed in the water alongside his big brother.  Aaron tried to play ball with him a little and he showed him how to stick the letters to the side of the tub.  They were so cute! 

Our boys just keep growing!  I'm loving the new stages they are experiencing and look forward to many more firsts for them both.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big Piney, Big Adventure

What a great, adventurous weekend!  I have never been backpacking before but after hearing all about John's experiences and looking at pictures I was pretty stoked to try it out. There were a few essentials that we needed to get before we left. John had some leftover birthday money and wanted to splurge on a couple of things.  A friend of mine was kind enough to let me borrow a pack so I didn't need to buy a new one.  John already had one so he was set.  We ended up buying a new 2 person backpacking tent, a miniature stove, a head lamp, and some pants for John.  It all came in handy!

We started out the weekend by packing the boys and heading over to Grandma and Granddad's house.  (Thanks for watching them this weekend!!) Bags packed, kids dropped off, a few more stops and we were on our way.  Unfortunatly we had some incorrect directions so we ended up on some random dirt road in the Ozark mountains that led to nowhere!  The anticipation of getting on the trail was getting to us.  We stopped, found a gas station with a map, and found our way to the trail head.  By this time it was already 4:00pm!!!  We had hoped to be on the trail before noon.  But that didn't dampen our spirits.  We hosed down with bug spray (100% Deet to be exact!), hitched up our packs, and set off on the Big Piney Wildlife Trail in the Mark Twain National Forest.  It was beautiful and we quickly realized why they must call it "Big Piney."

We took it nice and leisurely, enjoying the sights until we came across a bluff that had a nice clearing and a fire pit from previous campers.  It was perfect to set up camp.  As I gathered fire wood and fed the fire that John had started, he set up our tent and unpacked our food for dinner.  It had started to get cloudy and the only people we had seen on the trail were leaving.  They told us it was supposed to rain that night.  Oh well, we were already there.  The fire was going strong and I was about to make dinner when it started to rain.  No worries.  I just set our food up in the tent and cooked on our new pocket rocket stove under the rain fly.  That is the coolest stove ever!!!  It literally folds so small you can carry it in your pocket.  You just attach it to a propane can and you're good to go.

I packed individual servings to cook for dinner.  It was a recipe called Farmer's mash.  It consisted of dry vegetable soup mix, dry scallop potatoes, instant mashed potatoes, and a packet of white chicken. It was so tasty!  We also had campfire biscuits that we made by adding biscuit mix with dry milk and water to make dough.  They were OK but not the best.  For dessert we had smores of course!!  We braved the rain and made them over our dying fire.
After dinner we crawled in our tent and attempted to sleep.  I say attempted because you wouldn't believe how noisy the great outdoors is.  Between the bugs/crickets, the constant falling acorns that hit the ground like mini bombs, animals, and the various thunderstorms that passed by throughout the night, it was quite loud!  John even tried to make earmuffs to block it out.  We agreed that next time we might bring ear plugs.  At one point we even HEARD a spider on our tent.  It was massive.  We named it Kong and we were super grateful that Kong only explored the OUTSIDE of our tent.

In the morning we decided against a fire as the ground was pretty wet.  So wet in fact that our tent was wet inside.  We apparently were in a little dip and the water collected below us.  For the most part, we were dry in our sleeping bags.  Our pads took the brunt of the water.  We used the stove and made ourselves some pancakes and of course - COFFEE!  John tore down camp while I made breakfast.  The sky was begining to clear.  It was going to be a beautiful day!

Another late start - we left our camp around 10:00am.  The rain set us back because we couldn't sleep well and consequently slept later than we should have.  We weren't in a hurry at that point.  We knew the trail was 17 miles long and we would need to travel about 14 or 15 to make it back to the Jeep.  It sounded do-able.  We set out for a great day of hiking and took some great pictures of the view although they really don't do it much justice.  The Ozark mountains were beautiful and we went up and down them all day.  Just before lunch time, at about mile 4, we came to a fork that wasn't clearly marked.  Which way to go?  We had a map and the GPS coordinates of the markers we should come across on the trail.  The route we chose did not seem to fit what we were supposed to be seeing.  So at about our 6 mile point, we decided we took a wrong turn and turned back the way we came.  We should have come to Big Piney Creek by that time.  We back-tracked the 2 miles we had come and went the other direction.  A few more miles on, we came to our creek.  We were still having fun but had unknowingly wasted a big chunk of time.  More adventure was ahead of us.

Thirsty and hungry, we stopped for lunch.  The creek was the perfect place to refill our water bottles.  Yes - I DRANK CREEK WATER!!!  We used special tablets to kill any bacteria and then my wonderful hubby gave me the water bottle with the carbon filter to filter out any debris.  It actually tasted good.  I was so impressed!  We brought crystal light packets just in case but we really didn't need it.  For lunch we ate cheese and crackers, various snacks, and another round of coffee.  That stove was so nice to have!

At this point it was about 2:30 and we still had not come to the actual campgrounds that marked the half way point.  We probably should have turned back but we were determined to finish the loop.  I really wanted to see the waterfall that was toward the end.  So we pressed forward.  There were many points that we came to where we had to make a choice which direction to go.  For the most part, I think we stayed on the trail - it just took a LOT longer than we expected.  When we finally came to the campgrounds I was relieved to find an outhouse.  While John did not mind going number two in the woods, I was very nervous about it and held it until we found the campgrounds! After that we came to a bluff that stuck out through the trees and got some breath taking views of the Ozarks.  Unable to stop too long because it was getting late, we pressed on.

By the time we made it down this ridge it was nearing 7:00pm and we weren't sure how far we had left to go.  We were both pretty tired at this point but secretly excited to do a little night hiking.  That's when we came to a sign that pointed the direction we were headed saying "7 miles."  Seven miles?  Our pace, even pushing it, was only 2- 2.5 miles per hour.  A little discouraged we just kept going.  We could no longer stop to enjoy the view, we had to book it.  John realized the trail looked familiar.  It was the one we had veered off onto earlier that day!  Eventually we came to the same crossing we were at that morning.  The map and directions told us to go one way, but we knew if we went the other way (the way we had come and the way back to our original campsite) we could be certain we would not get lost.  Besides, there was no way we would be able to see and enjoy the waterfall at this point.

It was past 8:00 and completely dark out.  With four miles to go still we were looking at another two hours at least.  We were really feeling it by then.  Especially myself - my legs were so sore that I knew if I stopped to take the pack off I would not be able to continue.  We had little to no cell coverage and what we did have went in and out frequently.  Too frequently to make a call.  So we texted John's parents hoping they would not be too worried.  We had planned on being back home by this time and we still had a four hour drive ahead of us.  Both his parents had to work in the morning and while we did have our tent and enough food that we could have set up camp, we knew it would REALLY worry them if we did not make it back that night. 

The rest of the trip back was a battle of will.  In no way did it ruin our trip, but at that point all we wanted was to be back home with our kids in a comfortable bed.  We were looking for the gate at the beginning of the trail like we looked for water towers in the next town on BAK last year.  We were testing our limits and it HURT like heck but boy was it satisfying to see our Jeep.  There was a field between the trail head and the parking area that we had to cross.  It should have been the easiest part of the trail but by that point every fiber of my body screamed with every step I took.  It was very slow going and we finally made it to our Jeep at about 11:00.  The ride home was tough.  I kept falling asleep though I tried very hard to keep John awake.  We got back to John's parents house around 3:30 and completely crashed there.  No way we could pack the kids up and go home at that hour.  (Ron and Teresa: We are SO sorry we made you worry so much!)

What a trip!  While the end was a little rough, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  It was so much fun!  I think it's time for me to get my own pack. : )  It will be awesome someday when we can take the whole family.  Aaron is going to love it!  John tracked our hike on the GPS.  Here are our stats:

21.7 miles total
Almost 20 miles in one day
7 miles in the dark
13 hours of hiking on Sunday

The actual trail map with our route overlay:

I just did this on the computer and the results are a little surprising. The highlighted area is where we went the first time and backtracked.  As we look at the overlay though it turns out we were headed in the right direction after all.  The plan was to take the southern route and loop back around on the northern side.  Instead, it looks like we hiked the southern route for a while, then switched to the northern route and looped around back to the south.  Oh well, next time we'll get it right.  I'm not sure what trail we were on in the middle but it apparently was a way to cross over - like a turn around or something.  We kept getting confused by the land marks we were supposed to be seeing.  That would be why...

This was our elevation chart.  It felt like we were going up and down all the time.  Nothing huge but certainly tiring! 

Someday we will go back and do the actual route.  I'd love to see the whole thing.  I think it would be pretty to go later on in the fall when the leaves have turned.  They weren't quite ready yet so it was still pretty full of foliage.  Maybe in a few weeks for my birthday... : )  I'm hooked.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Potty Time

It begins... It's finally time to start potty training.  John and I have very different attitudes towards this particular milestone.  He is indifferent at best - but really not looking forward to the process.  He'll be happy with the final results, but the in between is basically my job.  How do I feel about this?  Excited.  Thrilled even.  I know, I'm weird I guess.  Yes, I'm excited for the end result, but I'm also excited about little victories, the frustration in the begining followed by the "ah ha" when he finally gets it, basically the learning process in general.

We, well I, have plans to make this a fun and exciting process.  We are going to have a "Potty Party" which will consist of a trip to Wal-mart in which he will get to pick out his new big boy underwear and a new potty chair (maybe even one that sings when he goes!)  Then we'll pick up some salty snacks and lots of drinks of his choice.  When we get home we are going to play what I'm calling the Potty relay where we are going to practice running to the bathroom from various places in the house and even outside the house to see how fast we can make it.  We'll even make trips to each grandparent's house to do potty relays there too.  Then we are going to snack and drink and snack and drink and snack and drink... and then sit and wait, sit and wait, sit and wait.  And hopefully we will have some small successes that will make him excited to go potty like a big boy.  I have stickers and maybe we'll get some fruit snacks as rewards - and who wouldn't be excited about a song that plays when you successfully pee pee in the potty right?! Maybe I'll even make a chart for the refrigerator! EEkk!! <that's me squealing with anticipation> For three days I plan to do nothing but chill at home and play games while Aaron hangs out in a t-shirt and underwear.  I may even make him sit every 15 minutes or so on the potty in the beginning. 

He will not be trained in 3 days - I know that.  I also know that there will likely be lots of accidents and I will probably get frustrated at times.  I'm hoping that he catches on at least a little and that this gives us a good jump start.  We've been reading books before bed and talking about it for a few weeks now and he seems excited.  We even checked out one memorable book from my childhood called, "Once Upon a Potty."

I'm a total novice at this and part of me thinks I may look back at this post down the road and laugh at the pure naiveness of it all!  Some moms that are reading this now may be laughing in their seats at the glorious picture I've painted.  I'm sure it will not be as glorious as I'm making it out to be! We'll see.  The potty party begins on Monday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Proud Parents

Ethan has been a busy little baby this week.  First of all, he turned 7 months old on Monday!  I know I say this every time, but man time flies!  He is growing so fast - way faster than I remember Aaron growing.  I wonder what it will be like with baby number 3 or 4 or 5?!?!

Eman is FINALLY cutting teeth!!  He has two pearly whites coming in on the bottom.  He tells us all about it everyday - I'm sure it is not a very fun experience to feel razor sharp objects pushing their way through your gums.  If it's anything like a root canal I completely understand the foul mood!  We've been getting by with Oral Gel, Tylenol, and good old fashioned frozen wash cloths.  Oh and about anything that he can put in his mouth.  The drool is copious, much like the river of snot oozing from his nose.  Let's just hope they all start coming in and it passes soon.  None of this drag-on-forever business!

He is also starting to sit on his own.  He can manage for a few seconds before pitching forward and he's getting better everyday.  The biggest development this week however is he is crawling!!!!  Look out world - here he comes!!  He's been doing a few crawl steps here and there but tonight it clicked and he was off!  I'm in for some serious running around now! 

It took some work, but he has mastered it.  Check it out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Ba bye daddy. Daddy go."

Most nights that John leaves for work we are outside playing.  We typically eat dinner as a family at 5:30 and then head outside until around 7:00.  Since John works nights the kids get to say goodbye before he leaves so instead of the typical, "Daddy's home!!!" in the evening, it's "Ba Bye Daddy."  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it's really quite sweet.  Aaron always says goodbye - even if we're inside he runs to the window to wave as he pulls out of the driveway.  Sometimes they are awake in the morning to greet him with a big "Daddy's Home!" but not always.  Aaron's words are getting so much better so he not only says, "ba bye dad-da" but he will repeat "Daddy go" for about 30 minutes after he's gone.  It is the cutest thing ever!  Tonight was especially sweet.  First he said, "daddy bike, Aaron bike!"

 John: "Fist bump!"  Aaron: big smile

 Aaron: so excited he gets off his bike

 John: "It's OK buddy - get back on your bike."  Aaron: happily gets back on his bike

 Aaron: does a circle around dad and comes back around

 Aaron: OK I'm ready!

Pound it!

"Ba Bye Dad-dy!"

This boy seriously loves his daddy! :)

A great day with the kids

Today was one of those, "I'm so glad I am fortunate enough to stay home with my kids" kind of day.  Well come to think of it, everyday is like that, but this one was especially good.  This morning (though I just remembered last night and I really wanted to invite my BFF and her boys) we went to Pizza Hut for a special tour they gave our moms club.  The kids got to see the kitchen which Aaron was not really interested in, but it was neat all the same.  Then they got to make their very own personal pan pizzas.  Anyone who lets Aaron help cook is an instant friend.  He made his pizza with cheese and peperoni.  He managed to eat most of his peperoni before the pizza went into the oven!  I'm sad that Amy and the boys didn't get to come because I bet Asher would have loved it since he seems to be an aspiring chef!

start with the dough
add our ingredients

put it in the oven for 8 minutes

 "look what I made momma!"

 "I guess I'll just sit here and eat my car seat..."


 After lunch it was nap time which went pretty well today.  Then I decided to get creative for dinner.  A Kristin original I call, Chicken Cars!

 It's a marinated piece of chicken I flattened, rolled with cheese inside and covered with seasoned bread crumbs, baked, then attached wagon wheel pasta to.  Turned out pretty cute don't you think?

I served it with wagon wheel pasta and marinara sauce.

After dinner we played outside as usual.  Eman is soooo cute in his jumper!