Wednesday, December 18, 2013

23 Months (and 2 weeks...)

I meant to post this awhile ago, but I am too easily distracted.

Benjamin has been 23 months old for almost two weeks old. This is the last age I will count in months. On January 5th he turns 2 years old!!

Once again, the leap in his speech/ability to communicate has changed and developed so much its hard to even describe. One month ago on Nov 11th I was impressed with a several part exchange involving city buses. Now, such complex exchanges are par for the course and so common place I hardly think about them as new, even though he has only been doing it for about a month.

He has a whole imaginary world going on all the time, and he is constantly talking about it, or about the factual things going on around him. Today at daycare, some high school girls who come in to help out (and get credit for it), gave them all presents. He got a pillow pal dog. When I picked him up he heard me and the daycare worker discussing this and of course that rapidly became the topic of conversation. His monologue goes something like this. (with me interjecting things like proper grammar and suggestions of what he is trying to say when he stutters) -  "I open present. I got dog. Soft dog. Little dog pillow. (again in a cute voice) Little dog pillow. Dog got two eyes. Ben got two eyes.  both Two eyes. Two eyes. (I am meanwhile putting on his jacket etc). I wear shoes. No boots. Nice jacket. Dad got two eyes. I wear puppy gloves. Mom got two eyes. Grandpa got two eyes. Grandpa Y got two eyes. Grandma got two eyes. Grandma Y got two eyes. (By this time we are outside). That's momma's car (pointing). I ride momma's car. We go home. Ben go home, play. Me eat." .... and that's pretty much what its like when he is awake. LOL.

He also knows many songs now and likes to sing. His favorite seems to be Baa Baa black sheep. He also likes Farmer in the Dell. And of course, Wheels on the Bus. Lots and lots of things on the bus. We told him the radiator bench in our living room is a bus, and he ran with it. He puts everything on that bus, drives that bus, talks about buses.

It has taken some time for him to adjust to the idea of Christmas. I feel like Halloween was the first holiday he really fully understood and appreciated, so he thinks all good things are Halloween. He thought our Christmas tree was a Halloween tree. When we ask him what he wants from Santa, he replies Halloween, or Halloween Candy. He sometimes says just candy now, but that is after lots of practice. He does like Christmas music. His favorite is Jingle Bells I think, but he also likes Frosty the Snowmen, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. At Bedtime he has taken to requesting Oh Christmas Tree and Up on the House Top as lullabies (yes, he requests lullabies).

His most requested none Christmas lullabies are "Castle on Cloud" (as he says it, from Les Mis), and "The fish song" which is a diddy I made up about his ceiling fish. Its melody changes, its words basically go - Sleep little fish, close your eyes, sleep little fish, all through the night. Sleep little fish, all night long, go to sleep little fish while I sing you thing song". 

He loves to read. He will sit and look at books on his own, or ask us to read them to him, or sometimes he will want to read "with" us - in which case he hands us a book to read, he picks up a book to read, and we each look at the books, occasionally pointing out what is in our book or asking what is in his.

Its sooo cute when he gets excited these days! He just shrieks and yells and tells us what is happening. For example, we have been letting him watch a little more video/tv. He LOVES to watch Thomas Videos, or Mickey Mouse videos, on Netflix. When he asks us if he can and we actually say yes (which is a minority of the time given the frequency of his asking), he just shrieks and runs over to his spot by the stairs and yells "me watch train video! hahaha" and laughs and giggles and shrieks.

He has opened the Christmas presents from my family, and loves them. We haven't even gotten around to setting them all up yet because there are a lot of them and they are awesome and we have been busy with other activities. But thanks to everyone!

What activities, you might ask. Last night we went to Bentleyville - the large light display here in Duluth. I love Bentleyville. It is the best of the Christmas spirit. It is free, the entire purpose is to make people happy and help those in need. And I don't mean "free, except if you want to see Santa" or "free, except your kids will want food". The food is free (cookies? hot chocolate? roast a marshmallow over an open fire?). Santa is not only free, but GIVES you a hat if you come see him. Mrs Claus is there too, also free. They collect donations for the food shelf and the toy drive, but everything is free. They want everyone to come and see it and enjoy themselves and be happy.  Benjamin loved it. He didn't want to leave. I think his favorite display was a reindeer driving a car. He also liked the mini Aerial lift bridge and its boat and elfs riding jet skis.

Lets see... I have talked a lot about what Benjamin likes to do and his speech/communication. What haven't I covered? We just moved him to size 6.5 shoes. It was quiet the ordeal. He didn't want to get new shoes, and its not until he calmed down and figured out the new ones light up that he even considered it. Once he put the new ones on, he totally forgot about the old and ran off in the new ones.

He still isn't really jumping, but he hangs on things a bit and climbs a bit more. He runs and crawls and plays ring around the rosie and pretends to be a dog or a bunny or a cat or a frog.

He is a picky eater, like most toddlers you dont know on any given day what he might be willing to eat. Sometimes he eats enough for an adult, other days he hardly touches his food. No rhyme or reason.

Bedtime has gotten easier again, and he has not had any nightmares recently or shown signs of being afraid of the dark. DH and I each do bedtime a bit differently. When I do it, I read him a couple of books, then I turn him around and look him in the eye and tell him what we are going to do. ("Benjamin, its time for bed. We are going to turn off the light, then I will rock you and sing a couple songs, then I am putting you in your crib and turning on the fish and you can watch them and go to sleep"). He likes when I do this, when I explain it, even though its the same every time.

Basically, we probably spoil him rotten. Not in the "never set boundaries" sort of way, but in the "only child and we love him to all ends and give him all our attention sort of way". I think we probably give him a lot more decision making power then most toddlers get. We will frequently use him as a tie breaker when we don't agree on something (like where to eat or what to do next).

Both of us are amazed at how its been almost two years and he is getting so big. He's the best. :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Best Advice for New (and Not-So-New) Moms

Dear New Mom,

You are probably getting advice from all sides - maybe to much. You have seen the lists online of what you should know, you're friends are all chiming in, and of course there are the baby books. You probably don't want one more message, but I can't help myself, because I think it's an important one.

My advice for new moms:

Don't take it personally.

That's it. Simple, right? You are probably wondering what on earth I mean. I mean that your baby's (or toddler's) habits are not a reflection on your parenting. I am sure there is some age when this begins to change, but I think it is always true to some extent.

Your baby may be a poor sleeper, or have separation anxiety, or refuse to take a bottle, or be grumpy, or have a health problem. Your toddler might be a picky eater, or throw tantrums, or get ear infections, or bite his classmates, or need speech therapy, or be slow to walk.

 If they do, it's not your fault.  You did not do this to them (and no, they are not trying to punish you). There isn't a magic thing you should have done or a parenting technique you could have used. Don't beat yourself up if your kid isn't perfect. No adult is perfect, so why do we count it as personal parenting failures when a baby or toddler isn't?

Being a good parent doesn't mean having a perfect child, it means loving your child and helping them to get through whatever challenges they face (whatever challenges they drag you through). Don't add a degree of difficulty by believing those challenges are your fault.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas List for Benjamin

I figured the easiest way to do an Christmas List for Benjamin is to just put it on here, that way people have it if they want it but I am not sending it out and demanding gifts. Plus his birthday is 11 days after Christmas, so this list is good for that too.

Benjamin loves trucks and vehicles and blocks.

That said, we really are trying to diversify his toys. If you already got him a truck/car something, I am sure he will LOVE it. If you didn't, consider some of the ideas below.

Experience Gifts: A membership to the local aquarium or children's museum would be lovely

Imaginative Play gifts: He has a tea set, but besides that he has very few "play adult" type toys. I am sure he would love things like toy tools, a toy doctor kit, toy food, or we even a toy kitchen (I think it will fit in our kitchen so he can cook alongside us).

Building Blocks: He has both mega blocks and duplos. I think Duplos will be more his speed as we move on up from here. His current duplo is (surprise) the car set. He could use just "general" duplos", or more of a "building"/"dollhouse" style set. I tried to buy him the Snow White set for example on  black friday (that comes with table, chairs, a rabbit, etc), but I couldn't get the deal.

"Action Figures" - OK, not actual people, but dinosaurs or animals. We don't want a TON of this type of thing laying around but I am sure he would use a small collection of it quite a bit!

Puzzles:  Puzzles he can grow into. I.E. - not too easy. A giant floor puzzle maybe, or wood cut puzzles where the pieces are not all just the shape of the thing they are. Some ideas of what I mean (not saying people need to pick these puzzles, just trying to show you the difficulty):
Small Jigsaw, Giant Floor Puzzle, Wood Abstract Shape

Books: I keep being told people are afraid to buy books for us because we have so many, but really we don't have as many as people think. Off the top of my head, books/authors we don't have are: Berenstein Bears, Little Creature, How Dinosaur (does something) by Jane Yolan,  Where the Wild Things Are, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, Curious George... and many many others. If you are not sure just ask. (We love Sandra Boyten, but have a lot of her so definitely ask. We have all doctor seuss, winnie the pooh,and disney).

Stuff for next summer: Balance bike? A fence?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for many many things... in general for my entire life and all the good that is in it.

But most of all for this:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Scientific Mind

Benjamin's mind is so scientific lately! Theory, test, conclusion. He learns new things all the time.

At day care when I walked in he didn't notice me. This happens a lot now because he is so engaged in his play. Today he had two different toy sets. Set one was some generic shapes with wheels on the bottom that are designed to latch together into a train. Set two was a plastic car with a boat trailer. He was mixing and matching, trying to put together the two different sets of similar types of toys. He would try to get two cars together, focusing very hard, and then, when they wouldn't go together, almost under his breath he would say "nope" and try a different two.

He totally cracked us up last night with this theory testing. We were walking out of parents group at daycare last night, him between us, and he said "firetrucks coming" a couple of times. I said "I don't think there is a fire truck, stop and listen." All three of us froze in place and listened to the night for a minute. Cars, wind, people talking. Just as I was about to say something or ask him what he heard, he just goes "NOPE!" and starts walking again. DH and I just about died laughing. Of course the rest of the walk out to the car was "no fire truck coming. No police car coming". He is so adorable.

Also, tonight we went to the mall. I got a Thanksgiving book at B&N and then we were going to get a cookie... Benjamin was more excited about the book then the cookie. That's just awesome, must be doing SOMETHING right.

Monday, November 11, 2013

22 months (and 1 week)

Benjamin turned 22 weeks old on Nov 5th. I am late posting.

The incredible thing is the speed with which he changes, especially his language. A mere two weeks ago I posted how exciting it was that he was starting to say things more original (less mimicking). I thought it was so cool he heard "we don't fit" and said "its so big". Now, days later, he has entire spontaneous conversations.

This morning I was putting him in the car. He heard a loud engine at the nearby traffic light.
"Truck?" he asks
"No, I think its a bus, lets go see"  It was a school bus.
"This way?" pointing up our street.
"No, I think it will go straight through. Lets get in the car, its windy out here".
"I rode city bus" he says, as I strap him into his car seat.
"You did ride the city bus one time. Was it fun?"
"Yeah." a pause "Dada rode city bus"
"Dad rode a city bus? really?"
"yeah" a pause. "Mama rode city bus"
"Mom rode a city bus?"
"yeah. Two rode city bus".

Yeah. He is constructing word problems now.

Yesterday I was playing a word game (bananagrams) with my sister and he walked in, got up on my lap. I said "eve". He heard "E".
"E ELEPHANT E ELEPHANT E ELEPHANT" he repeated vigorously until I confirmed I heard him and he was right. I asked him to point out an E and he grabbed the tile right up. Later I did it again to show my dad, and he grabbed an E right up. Then my dad said "what is NOT E". He thought for a minute, and then picked up an S and said "not E!" We have not been successful in getting him to identify any other letters yet. The slight difference in the word "e" and "c" and "b" confuses him.

He really likes to count to two. He can't really count to three yet, but we are working on it. He loves it when there are two of something. Last night he spontaneously said things like "Me have two eyes", and "me have two ears". It was pretty adorable.

He was playing with his aunt on the floor with a farmyard set. It has a momma and baby cow. I asked 'how many cows are there?" and he said (very happily) "TWO". His aunt picked one up and set it on the roof and said "one" and then the other and said "two". I asked "how many cows are on the roof?" and he said "TWO" very happily. Then one fell off. I asked "how many cows are there?". "ONE" he said, also very happily.

Sorry, you get to here all my "my kids so smart' bragging stories, because this is the place where no one gets to judge me for bragging.

Anyways, the point is, his speech is just incredible. His critical thinking blows my mind.

He still isn't jumping, he does this hoppy thing that is fun though when you ask him to jump, sorta a skip like run without any coordination. His friends, who are all a couple months older than him, literally run laps around him. He will catch up eventually.

He knows most his main colors. When we were walking into swimming last week he would say "Black truck" "red car" "white truck" etc. He doesn't always get them right, especially if its sorta a wonky color like tan or peach, but he does pretty well.

He really loved all the special stuff for Halloween, and when we eat Halloween candy with him now we always say we are celebrating Halloween. But I also keep telling him that Thanksgiving is next. Today a man ringing the Salvation army bell said Happy Thanksigiving to us and Benjamin immediately started to mimic and try to say it. I tolld him yes! Thanksgiving is next! I told him thanksgiving is about Turkey, being thankful, and Family. We will see what sticks. We also made some turkey hand print art already (you may have seen it on facebook), and he loved it.

His play has been changing too. More imaginary play. His lego cars/trucks tend to be much more "realistic" then they used to be. Rather than just sticking random pieces together he will make it actually kinda look like a truck/car. We had a Mega Bloks party this weekend and we got a really neat new toy called Billy Beats Piano. It plays a lot of music (and can be played like a Piano). He loves to press the "wheel on the bus" song and the "old mcdonald" song buttons. After we did it awhile he started to get creative. He would pick up a toy (like his stuffed owl, or a car") and say "CAR ON THE BUS" then would press the "wheel on the bus" button and I would make up lyrics (the car on the bus goes vroom vroom vroom), and he would dance. Then when the song ended he would say "Me DANCE with CAR" and laugh and laugh, and then pick a new toy to do it with.

Life is good. We are really enjoying seeing him grow and learn, its an incredible time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween Carnival!! We went to the elementary school Halloween Carnival (now called the Fall Festival). This is the same Carnival that I grew up going to, and it was exactly as I remembered! Basically you buy tickets (5/$1) and use them to go around and play little games that are fun for kids. Benjamin liked Plinko, the Duck Pond (where you choose a duck out of the water and it has a number that determines that prize you get), and the Mailbox (where you put your tickets in a mailbox, wait a minute,  a bell rings, and you open the box and there is a prize). We won some books at the silent auction and generally enjoyed ourselves.

I had my annual Halloween party on Monday for my family. Its just a chance to get together, eat spooky food and wear costumes. Without it, myself and many family members would have no excuse to dress up.

I, as usual, procrastinated and needed help getting ready. My mom and little sis swooped in to decorate the house, and they did a fantastic job! They used moslty the decorations we used in my parents house growing up, along with these new creations by my sister:

For food, we wanted to do something fun and spooky, but I def wanted to avoid having TOO much food like we did last year (and have had at many family events). I think we succeeded! The menu included: a Veggie Tray, Chips&Dip, Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow, Deviled "Goblin" Eggs, and Stuffed Jack-O-Peppers. We had a variety of "normal" drinks with the option to put wormy icecubes (gummy worms) in them. For dessert there was a delicious Pumpkin dump cake with vanilla ice cream.

I have had a request to "save"the recipe of the peppers. It was mostly made up! I got the idea from this blog post. The recipe there however is Polenta based, which I wasn't interested in. So I made my own recipe up for the filling. Here it is.

Stuffed Jack-O-Peppers
Ingredients:                                                                            \
2 pounds ground beef                                                    
Spanish Rice-A-Roni                                                    
1 Can Diced Tomatoes                                                  
1 Can Blacked Beans                                                    
6 oz Salsa (half a bottle)                                                
1 Envelope Taco Seasoning                                            
1 Egg                                                                              
16 Bell Peppers                                                              
Taco Toppings as Desired                                                

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees                                                                 
2. Prepare the Rice-a-Roni per the directions, which will require the tomatoes
3.  With hands, mix together raw ground beef, taco seasoning, salsa, and egg   
4. Fold in, with hands, rice and beans                                                               
5. Cut the entire top off each pepper with a small knife,  remove seeds and     
white ribbing. Carefully carve face into each pepper. Doesn't need to be    
perfect! And they all can be different.  Arrange the peppers in baking       
dishes as available (I used three 9 inch cake pans)                                      
6. Spoon the mixture into each pepper, distributing equally. Its ok if some are 
 overloaded. Press the tops down on to of meat mixture.                            
7.  Bake for 55-65 minutes at 350 degrees.                                           
8. Serve with toppings such as cheese, sour cream, and the extra salsa               

Everyone showed up! (The whole family). Everyone dressed up! 

Benjamin was supposed to be a fireman, but he would hardly let us put his hat on!! I was the Dalmatian and DH was a burning house.

My sister as Rosie the Riveter (Or Lucille Ball, depending on what face you make)

Scarecrow Mom!!!

Benjamin had so  much fun playing with his aunt and uncles! I had so much fun hanging with the 'rents and siblings. I hope a good time was had by all.

The ACTUAL Halloween. Since the Fire Fighter costume didn't go over great, we switched it up and borrowed a Panda Bear costume from my brother. I hear that Benjamin had a BALL doing trick or treating and a Halloween parade at day care. He sure came home with a big bag of goodies! In the evening, after a quick dinner, we went to the campus where DH works to Trick-OR-Treat in the dorms. DS thought it was great fun! He especially loved to take the candy from the person and put it in the bucket himself. Unfortunately, they ran out of candy after the first dorm. Fortunately, it was still early enough we could come home and go around our neighborhood a bit! Some of the neighbors we know loved to see him, and again he loved the whole process. 
It was a really fun Halloween. I didn't get to every little activity and craft I had originally planned, but we did the important thing - had fun with family (and ate good food).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Kind of Speech

Benjamin still mimics a lot, and in fact if you are having trouble understanding him, the first thing you should check is what you just said, because he is probably trying to repeat at least part of it.

But over the weekend he started a new kind of speech. More responsive, even conversational I might say.

The two examples both come from our trip to Target on Saturday.

1. He was sitting in the car with DH pushing. DH wedged the cart between a rack and a support beam and said "We don't fit!!" and Benjamin responded "too big!!"

2. As we were walking out to the parking lot, DH played a game (similar to slug a bug without the hitting) and Benjamin repeated after him. DH said to me "Even Ben beat you!" as I had not said the required word. Benjamin said "I beat you!" Hello correct pronoun, nice to meet you!

I hope to post soon (maybe even tonight if your lucky?) about the Halloween party I had last night. It was a lot of fun :)

Friday, October 11, 2013


Tonight it was thundering pretty loudly. We haven't had thunder in quite awhile, never that Benjamin was aware of. When he heard the thunder, he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked very uncertain and like he was leaning towards terrified. I told him it was thunder and it was nothing to worry about. He heard it again. The perplexed bordering on terrified face remained, and then he said it was "owie". I told him it wouldn't be owie and it was OK and that I liked thunder. He never went over the edge into scared, stayed mostly confused, but he did call it "owie" more and want some mommy hugs. He also learned the new word "Thunder".

When we got home, DH was here. He had been out of town overnight. Benjamin was very tired, but not quite asleep. He gave his dad a hug, then I took him up and put him in his crib. He was too awake to go without a bedtime routine though, so I told him I would send Daddy up to read him a book. I came back down stairs, gave DH the plan, and kept unpacking the car. About 5 minutes later DH and I were in the living room and I hear from upstairs "DAD BOOK". Most adorable thing ever. DH ran up there and read him some books. I love hearing those two together. Apparently while they were reading tonight Benjamin pointed out a kayak by name (a word he learned when we read "Baby Beluga" then appropriately applied to "Good Night Minnesota"), then called a canoe a boat and  said "row row boat" and wanted to sing. I love that boy.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

21 Months Old!!

Benjamin is 21 months old today! So, I guess I should probably do the update about him I have been wanting to do.

We haven't taken any pictures recently and I really need to do this. I am hoping my little sis will take some "professional" style pics for us soon.

In short, Benjamin is showing his toddler colors in many good and bad ways. His language improves every single day, and he learns so fast. We recently heard the statistic that babies this age are learning the meaning of 10 new words a day. It certainly feels like at least that many. The most recent new phrase, like new in the last three days, is "I'll do it". He can go from "help please" (sounds like uppie) to "I'll do it" in a heart beat... making it very difficult to make him happy.  He is really trying to assert is independence and ability, and we are certainly let him try to do most things!!

We had a sleep issue for a couple of weeks in which he decided it was a great idea to wake up at 5 or 5:30am and think it was time to get up for the day. (He had been getting up at 6:30ish). We pushed back his bedtime from 7 to 8pm and that seems to have solved it. I guess he needs less sleep when he actually sleeps instead of waking up all the time!!

Benjamin LOVES trucks. It is his obsession. He has four truck books that he constantly asks for. "big truck" is one of his generic answers for when you ask a question he doesn't quite understand. That, or "yellow". LOL. Tonight he asked for a Yellow Sandwich at Subway. (Things That Go, Book of Trucks, Trucks (tab book) and Mickey's Book of Trucks). We also build with blocks A LOT. Of course, what do we build? Trucks.

He has gotten really good at puzzles. We have seven that he can do no problem at home, and he can do a couple of the more difficult ones at my parents. I know he does a lot of puzzles at daycare too, he frequently asks for them when we arrive there in the morning.

He has two little friends at daycare - lets call them bear and dino. They are quite the trio. If you get two of them together its instant ridiculousness - running around and laughing A LOT. All three, and you are in trouble!! We hopefully will be going to bear's second birthday party and I bet it will be a blast.

Benjamin has also had a couple of days recently where the report from daycare said he was biting and hitting a lot. I really think he is testing limits/consequences. I mean, from what we see at home, his throwing thing is rough play, not a tantrum. He thinks its fun/funny. We are working on it.

He has been more demanding. He has opinions about what we should do. This morning he melted down because we were right by a city bus, and didn't get on it. It took most of our walk and lots of distraction to calm him back down.

He loves hats.

We are working on a fire fighter costume for Halloween.

He loves bread and butter. He loves fish sticks, to the point we cannot say the word around him unless we are about to eat them. He loves dipping foods.

We do read other books, besides trucks. Lots and lots of books. And we are told he loves books at daycare as well.

He knows lots of songs. The other day he said the "merrily merrily merrily" of Row Your Boat, I had no idea he knew that song. Some of his favorites are Wheels on the Bus, Tiny Tim the Turtle, and I'm Bringing home a baby bumble bee.

In general, he can finish repetitive phrases from books (Brown Bear Brown Bear what do you __) and songs (10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the ___, one fell off and broke its ___) etc. He picks up on them so fast now. 

He wears size 6 shoes, size 5 diapers, and is just transitioning from 18m to 24m/2T clothing. We are working on building a cold-weather wardrobe. 

I think that's all! It is time for me to go do bedtime!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Addicted.... Sorry

I want to post and tell you about the awesome hike I took up the shore as part of my 30x30 list. It was beautiful, gave me a new bucket list goal (as in lifetime bucket list), and taught me something about hobbies and efforts.

I also want to tell you about how Benjamin is getting big, how he is acting like a "terrible two" toddler sometimes, and how much his language development amazes me.

I also want to tell you about something I realized with regards to "mommy wars" and "mommy guilt" in a conversation with a friend yesterday, that lead both of us to take a new "vow" for how we talk to moms.

I also need to do a "sleep diary", because even though he is normally STTN, we have a new issue we had to deal with.

But I simply don't have time right now. And I am addicted to Diablo III in the evenings, and that is sucking up a ridiculous amount of time. I know, lame, right??? Hopefully I can get to the above topics soon....

Monday, September 16, 2013


Back in June, when I was feeling ambitious and had the whole summer in front of me, I signed up for the North Shore Inline Marathon. I started rollerblading several nights a week after DS was in bed, and got my sister to teach me some core-strengthening techniques. In the middle of July I did a "test run" 10 mile skate to see how hard that would be, and it wasn't bad.

Then I got sick. Really a bad cold, and couldn't even think about skating. Then we went to Arizona for 8 days. Then... well then I was lazy. I mean, I was starting a new job, so that is something, but I could have started skating in the evenings again, but I didn't.

All the sudden it was September, and I hadn't been on my skates for 6 weeks, and my longest training run was 10 miles (less than half of the marathon I was signed up for).

But, I thought "Hey, I already paid for it, and I think I can do it, and its on my 30x30 list, so I mine as well give it a try, what is the worst that could happen? I get picked up by the 'you are too slow' car and don't get to finish??" (Or you know, crash and die, but I tried not to think of it that way).

So on Friday I went to pick up my race packet. I felt totally ridiculous and out of place walking into the skating expo where all the booths were trying to sell the latest gear. But I picked it up.

And Saturday morning, I found myself getting on a yellow school bus to ride the 26.2 miles to the start of the race, holding my 13 year old RollerBlades and a small bag with some water, a protein bar, and safety gear.

The weather was perfect temperature wise, but there was a strong headwind. 

Unlike a traditional marathon, at the Inline Marathon they release you in waves - to make it safer and keep you spread out. I was in Wave #6, also known as the "we are not sure we can even finish this" wave. We didn't cross the start line until 10:43am. (The first elite wave started at 9:30am)

The first 3 miles were hard. I had no idea how fast I should be going, and there were a lot of hills so I kept changing paces, going to fast and then being out of breath. Then around 3 miles I settled into a rhythm (admittedly stolen from people who looked like they were doing well in front of me... hold my hands like them, push off when they do, boom I have a rhythm).

Miles 3-10 were pretty easy actually. Then it got a little harder, but I was excited because I was almost to the half, where my family (dad and little sis) would be cheering). So, I made it to the half in good spirits and making decent time (1:40).

Then Mile 14 came. And, out of no where, I suddenly felt like I couldn't move another inch and I was just going to drop dead. I would describe it as total body fatigue. For miles 14-18 I considered it a success if I kept moving forward. The head wind was a killer and I couldn't "catch a break". At the 18 mile marker I sat down on a guard rail and then the ground. Drank some water. Stretched my back. Ate a bite or two of the protein bar. A medic stopped and checked on me. I told him it was just a break and I was going to get up... so then I had to do it. LOL. The thing was, when I did stand back up, I felt a LOT better. I skated around the corner to find the straight-away I had been looking for, where the scenic highway ends and runs into town.

So, mile 18-20 were OK, because I had just had a break and was excited to be able to move towards the goal of town.

Then I got to town, and there were NO spectators. I mean, I didn't expect many, but skating down a very empty London Road (usually busy street) was pretty eerie. The edge of town is 60th Ave East. I thought that DH and DS would be waiting for me at 40th Ave E, so I counted down the blocks. But then, they weren't there (as it turns out, DS was down for his afternoon nap). So, I sat down at 40th Ave and had another break (1-2 minutes). Got up, felt better again. Turned the corner, and could see the infamous Lemon Drop Hill, the biggest hill on the course (to climb). I felt like "The Little Engine that Could" at this point and literally was going "I think I can" in my head. And I climbed up it, into the head wind still. Mile Marker 23.

Now I knew I would make it. I had labelled Lemon Drop as my "point of no return" and told myself and others that if I made it to Lemon Drop, I was going to make it all the way (or crash.. but not drop out. LOL). Besides, the long climb of Lemon Drop was followed by a long downhill onto the highway (it is the northern tip of Interstate 35, pretty cool that we get to shut it down for this race), and then we got to skate through the tunnels. By this time I could FEEL that we were closing in on the end. Just had to climb up the exit ramp (which was practically as bad as Lemon Drop), then turn out of the head wind (probably like 25.8 miles into the headwind. then the last .4 not), and down the off ramp (the biggest/steepest down hill of the race), around the DECC, past cheering DH and DS, across the finish line!!

Since we were so spread out by the time I finished, they even announced my name as I crossed! I guess that is a perk of being at 3:32 (three and a half hours). Once I got off the race course and into the recovery area I pretty much just sat down in the middle of a parking lot and took off the skates. I got one large blister on each foot, and several bruises around the top of my skates. I am pretty sore.

But here is the thing... today, when I wore my finisher's t-shirt to work, I felt invincible.
I mean, if I can skate 26.2 miles on a whim, I can pretty much to anything, right??
It sounds cheesy, but that marathon was crazy empowering.

So the question is, what next? I think perhaps I will tackle that section of the Superior Hiking Trail that is on my 30x30 list....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

20 Months + 1 Day - First Scar

Yep. First Scar. I mean, its not a Scar yet, but we are told it definitely will be. Benjamin has had his share of fevers, bumps, bruises and scrapes, but this was a new one. On Friday afternoon he was running in the daycare room and tripped and fell into the corner of the wall, taking a deep gash out of his forehead. When I say deep, I mean deep. as DH put it "Deep as in its possible that you were seeing skull when it was cleaned out". It is over his left eye. Luckily when it happened DH was already at home (early) and could go get him and take him to urgent care. I met them there after work. It was pretty obvious from his ongoing activity level that there wasn't a brain issue or anything - he was happily playing in the waiting room as we waited (happily except when another toddler tried to play with the same large toy as him..). Eventually we got back to see the doctor. They numbed up the cut (which was quite an adventure in itself because he was squirmy and the numbing agent was close to his eye), and then we burrito wrapped him and they cleaned it out and glued it shut. Yep. They glued him back together. They said it will scar for sure because how deep and wide it is. It seriously looked like a hole in his head. Pretty gross.

So, I don't have any good pictures of the cut, because that is just not how I roll/ was not a priority for us. We were busy reading him magazines and driving his car with him and singing him songs.

I probably will take a picture of the cut glued shut once the band-aid falls off... but for now I am just leaving the band-aid on. I am pretty sure removing the band-aid would alert Benjamin to the fact the cut is there, which he seems to have forgotten entirely.

Just thought I would record this day for prosperity - Benjamin's first scar. The ladies love a daredevil... LOL

Thursday, September 5, 2013

20 months

It has been ages since I have posted just about Benjamin and what he is up to. That's because on his 19m "birthday" we were off gallivanting across the southwest.

Today though Benjamin is 20 months old. A lot has changed since I posted about him on July 5th. So much I hardly can keep track of it because most of it seems like "old news" to me.

But let me give it a shot.

Clothes:  He recently started wearing size 6 shoes. He loves to wear hats. He still is wearing 18m clothes for the most part but can pull of 24m shirts no problem. 24m pants are too long still. I am trying to figure out what to do with his fall wardrobe. I don't want to buy a bunch of 18m pants he will outgrow by Christmas, but I don't have enough pants to cover him full time (without using the shorts). Time to go to the second hand shop and see what I can wrassle up.

Gross Motor: He is not yet jumping, but he can run. We went through a day or two where he was trying to run faster and falling a lot, but his muscles caught up. He has gotten a lot more proficient at stairs. He likes the playground - especially going up the steps and down the slide. He loves loves loves benches. When we go on walks he needs to climb up on every bench he sees. He doesn't stay up there long, but he wants to get up there. Just today he started to climb up onto a kitchen chair for dinner. (He sits on a calculus book on a regular chair these days). He has a big-wheel style bike. He has gotten really good at scooting it around. I have showed him what the pedals are for, but his legs are not quite long enough.We have been trying to play more music because its so cute seeing him dance.

Fine Motor: Benjamin has really gotten better at puzzles and shape sorting - he has the dexterity to line things up better (or maybe the patience?). He colors as well, and likes to draw with a pen. He absolutely loves the sandbox. He likes to shovel sand into trucks or buckets and dump it (usually on himself).

Language: To say there has been a "language explosion" is an understatement. In the past couple of months Benjamin has started saying so much more, and trying to say so much more. He often uses words we didn't even know we taught him. For example, calling a station wagon a wagon instead of just a car. Today he was saying "monster" pretty well and he recently told me dinner was "yummy". Sometimes he still babbles. He goes 'dibba dibba dibba" and its absolutely adorable. There are still some code words in Benjamin-speak. For example, if he says "beep beep beep" be means something is backing up, or should back up. The other night he said "beep beep beep" when he wanted a door the cats had pushed open to be closed (the door should back up). He imitates a ton - especially if you yell or make any sort of weird noise. If you yell at the pets (no, back off, stop) he will do so as well. He learned to say "O-H!" and get us to say "I-O!" last Saturday. He likes to play language games. For example - He will say "mama, mamam, mmaammaa" and expect me to say "Benjamin" back. Then he will say "Dada" and expect DH to say Benjamin. He also has discovered possession and frequently asks if things are his ('mine mine?"), or points out/confirms they are his. (for example, food before eating it).

Communication: Even bigger than the language changes are the communication changes. He understands SO much now! We have been trying to be really good about telling him what is going on. Sometimes it goes well ("Benjamin, after this last time down the slide we are going home. Benjamin, I am going to drop you off at daycare, but I will be back later.") Other times it goes poorly - like the time I told him in the morning that we would see Grandma&Grandpa that evening, and he misunderstood and was disappointed when we showed up at daycare instead of "baba"s house. When he gets upset I really try to get his attention and talk to him - ask him what is wrong, what he wants, or explain what is going on. It works a lot of the time. I usually combine it with distraction. It might go like this:

Benjamin starts screaming
Me: Benjamin, what's wrong?
Benjamin: CARRRR!!
Me: You want to play with your car?
Benjamin: YEEEAH (stops crying)
Me: We can't play with the car right now because its bedtime, but we are going to read a book! What book do you want to take upstairs? 

That probably sounds really cheesy and like its out of a parenting book, but it totally works 9 times out of 10. It also helps to ask him to "say goodbye' to things we are stopping or leaving (like toys, the park, etc). I also try to repeat things a lot when I want him to understand what is going to happen next.

Academics: Benjamin can tell the difference between one and more than one. Anything more than one he calls two. He likes to point to things and has us count them and I am working on 1-2-3 with him. Benjamin can pick out the colors yellow, green, white, and blue. For awhile he answered yellow whenever you asked him what color something was, and then everything was green for awhile. Even at this time he could pick out a yellow crayon if asked to do so. I think it was a language thing, he knew yellow was a color if that makes sense. He knows some shapes - they have been working on them at daycare. He especially likes to point out stars. He knows his vehicles. He can differentiate between Trucks, Cars, tractors, diggers, firetrucks, police cars, motorcycles, bikes, scooters, station wagons, and SUVs, though he thinks all SUVs are "jeeps". I am sure there are other farm implements and such he knows as his favorite book is still "The Big Book of Things That Go".

Reading: Benjamin loves to read and be read to. When he reads it is adorable (though he does not do it often at home). You can tell he is trying to say what he remembers of the book or what he sees in the pictures. For example, we have a library book called "Good Morning Digger"  and when Benjamin read it to himself he said "digger" "yellow" and "truck" a lot. There are books that Benjamin has a favorite part of that he is waiting for. He likes Old McDonald's "e-i-e-i-o". He likes "the going to bed book" where they are coming down the stairs tired. We have been reading a wider variety of books, and he lets us get through a lot more of them now.

Eating: As of about two weeks ago, Benjamin is weaned entirely. Ending breastfeeding is bittersweet! Its nice to have my body back, and to be able to have DH help with bedtime and night time a lot more, but it was a special thing (mother child bonding and all that - lots of snuggling). In terms of real food, Benjamin always wants Cheerios. All of the time. He is intermittent on what else he likes... one day he will love a meal, two days later give him the same thing and he hardly touches it. A lot of it is just his mood, how hungry he is, whether he would rather be doing something else, how it is presented, whether you are eating it.. etc etc etc. He can drink out of a cup when we let him, but usually we give him a sippy cup out of convenience (so he can carry it around etc).

Sleeping: The main reason we weaned was because we wanted him to sleep better, and its working. I originally intended to night wean (leaving only a 7pm breastfeeding session), but the way things played out, it just made sense to wean all together. He now sleeps through the night more often then not. Its a great change.

Likes: Benjamin still loves being outside. He still loves anything with wheels. He likes to clean up after himself - "away away" he will say. He has gotten very good at building with blocks. He has a set of Duplo's that is cars - three car bases and lots of windshield, truck bed, engine, etc parts to build cars. He loves these. He also has mega blocks he builds all sorts of crazy things with. And when he is done, away into their boxes they go. He likes to roll around balls. He likes to kick balls. he likes to try and hit a hockey puck with a stick or watch us do it. He likes bubbles. He loves boats and going near water - throwing rocks in water, going to watch boats come in the canal, walking along the water, etc. He loves cookies, cheerios, and ice cream. He likes to press buttons. He likes to open doors when he can reach them. He likes to be in control of his environment. He likes water and lemonade and his night time pacifier, though he knows he only gets it at night now. He likes the playground (and can find it himself if we let him pick which direction to go).  He likes watching videos on you tube (usually vehicles, animals, or elmo). He likes Elmo. He likes most kids songs. He likes to splash in water. He likes to wash his hands. He likes to look at car-ads that come in the mail. He likes saying "uh oh" when anything is out of place or not as he expects it to be.

Dislikes: Benjamin doesn't like hamburger very much, it can be challenging getting him to eat it in most dishes. He doesn't like when the pets are too close to him or on the table. He doesn't like getting dropped off at daycare. Most days it goes OK, but its harder than it used to be and some days he totally loses it. He doesn't like being told we have to stop something he likes. He doesn't like waiting and we have to find distractions while dinner is cooking. He had a total meltdown at my parents house the other night because he wanted sweet corn and it was still raw. He doesn't like turning - when we take him in the stroller he wants us to go straight for ever and ever. He doesn't like when we are eating or drinking something he cannot have. He doesn't like spicy bbq sauce. He doesn't like being in the car very long (unless its nap or bedtime). He doesn't like it when DH sings the Alphabet. He doesn't like it when he wants to be up in the morning and we are both still sleepy. He doesn't sleep in. He doesn't like trying to go to sleep somewhere besides his bed, daycare cot, or the car. He hates the doctor.

That is Benjamin at 20 months... enough detail?? LOL

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

Friday Night 8/30/13 - After work we headed out to my parent's house for pizza night. It got off to a really late start because my BIL and Bro had to work late, but that was OK because we planned to stay up for a campfire anyways! After a late dinner and lots of hanging out, my older sis and I took a dip in the swimming pool, then my dad got a fire started. Benjamin was very interested at first! He liked to sit in his little Benjamin size chair and watch the flames. After that got old, he was fascinated by a color changing globe my parents have in the garden. Then it was S'more time. I think it was hard for him to bite, but he certainly enjoyed the marshmallow! By this point he was getting pretty tired! I mean it was well past his normal 7pm bedtime! (like 10pm?) I tried to get him to go to sleep on my lap, but he wanted nothing to do with it. So, we decided we better leave. We put him in the car and started loading other stuff when we realized he was already 90% out (before we even turned the light off or the car on), so we decided to just roll down the windows for him and enjoy the campfire a little more (about 20 feet from the parked car). It was a very fun relaxing night!

Saturday 8/31/13 - I spent most the morning thinking it was Sunday for some reason, probably because Friday night was so much fun. We headed over to my parents around 10am to watch football (go Buckeyes!!). The football game and company was fun, and DS learned to say O-H-I-O!! He could parrot either half (O-H or I-O) and then figured out if he yelled O-H we would respond I-O. Its going to be a fun football year! Then we all took a long late-afternoon nap. We went to Culver's for dinner and tried to go to Best Buy to get Direct TV (DH has been wanting more sports channels badly!), but they weren't prepped for it, so instead we ended up at the dollar store and had a good time. (Is that lame that that makes good entertainment?)

Sunday 9/1/13 - We were dog sitting, which it made making breakfast at home difficult, so we went out for pancakes. It was such a beautiful morning we decided to go to Brighton Beach to throw rocks in the water and dangle our feet in. It was nice relaxing family time! Back at home we cleaned cleaned cleaned. After lunch Benjamin went to sleep and we had some down time. In the evening DS and DH grilled us some hotdogs for dinner, then we walked to the playground for awhile, then took a nice fun bath before bed. In the evening we got the unfortunate call that my BIL had an accident with a garage door earlier that day and had splinter fractured a finger. He had surgery late Sunday night and had to stay in the hospital overnight, but he is doing OK. 

Monday 9/2/13 - After the normal morning routine we headed to Canal Park to watch the boats come in and go to the Maritime museum (the last time we tried to take Benjamin he fell asleep in the stroller and slept right through it! this time though he liked it a lot! He especially liked the tug boats and like to say tug boat. We watched the bridge go up a couple of times and just had a good morning. During Benjamin's afternoon nap I ran and got groceries for the week and then made protein bars for my breakfast for the week and beet and quinoa salad for my lunches. When Benjamin woke up we headed to my parents house for a labor day bbq. We played teeter-totter with my dad's flatbed trailer, dug in the sand box, and enjoyed some fresh off the vine green beans, tomatoes, and raspberries. Dinner was delicious and the company was excellent!

It was a pretty awesome long weekend!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


New Job -  I now have one week of my new job under my belt, and things are good. I think I am going to enjoy the work (as expected)! As usual (for me), training is a bit slow/boring. I spend the extra time (for now at least), reading manuals etc. The job is complex enough that I might not run out of manuals to look at! LOL. I have an hour lunch at my new job, and I need to figure out what to do during it! There are some people I would like to meet for lunch, but I also would like to have a list of other options of things to do that are fun or productive in a one hour lunch downtown. I can walk to the library (and did so once this week), so that will def be on the list!

Family Time - Tuesday was DH's birthday - we went to dinner as a nuclear family and went out browsing cars for fun. Wednesday was my dad's birthday - we got together with everyone who was in town and had hamburgers and cake (and lots of laughs). Friday we had pizza at my parents house. Saturday night my sister and BIL came over to play Dh's new board game (7 Wonders).

Beautiful Weather - The weather here has been gorgeous all week. We have gone on lots of walks. Last night we went to The Portland Malt Shoppe. So good!! We have also spent a lot of time relaxing on our front porch. Benjamin plays on his bike (big wheel) or with his sports equipment (balls, hockey sticks, etc) while we sit on the porch swing, surf the web, mow the lawn, or play with him.

Sad Situation - I am currently preoccupied by a sad situation that is just beyond my social circle. My brother has a nephew (on his wife's side obviously) that is in the end stages of childhood leukemia. The boy's name is very similar to Benjamin, and he is a toddler (2.5?), and he has been sick pretty much his whole life. I have never met the family or child, but I can't get the situation out of my mind. As I ate my malt, played board games with my sister, and swung on my porch swing, somewhere south of here a little boy much like my son has been struggling to breathe; his parents watching their son die and trying to do anything to prevent what at this point seems inevitable. It breaks my heart. And there is absolutely nothing to be done about it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Our AZ/CA Trip 2013

July 31st to August 7th we went on our big family trip of the year, down to Arizona to see my SIL get married, and then out to San Diego, CA to see a friend! It was a great trip and I really want to document it well, so this post may be epic!

July 31st - Benjamin's First Plane Ride
We left our house around 7am, headed for the cities.  Benjamin slept most of the way, though he did wake up long enough to start our trip off right with a doughnut from Tobies. We were kind of rushed for time at the airport, but managed to make it through check in and security without major issue. As we waited to board, he loved watching the other planes come and go, and was excited to get on one. Unlike a few months ago when we road a train and he did not seem to understand once we were on board that it was anything special, this time he definitely understood he was on a plane. As we waited to take off, we discussed what was going to happen, using the vocabulary provided us by a book we have been reading him for the past few weeks "Freddie goes on an Airplane" - meaning that soon Benjamin was "roaring" every time he saw a plane in front of us take off. And then it was our turn. Up, up and away we went!! Benjamin watched out the window from my lap. When we were up in the air and leveling out, what did Ben do? "More more!!" That's my little boy. First plane take off ever and he asks for more! His Grandfather (the air force pilot) would be proud!

He did great on the flight as well! I had packed a bunch of new-to-him toys and books, and it worked great. We had a whole set of Matchbox Construction equiptment (go to Target if you want it... Amazon is way overpriced in this case) which kept him occupied for quite awhile. We also had The Truck Book, which was new to him but very close to his (over-sized) favorite Things That Go. We also had a variety of items from the dollar section at Target - such as plastic dinosaurs, flash cards, and a vinyl cling set. He did great!

When we landed in Phoenix, he was happy to stretch his legs a bit and run around the airport (mostly in the right direction). We got all our luggage together, picked up our rental car and stopped by Burger king to eat our first real meal of the day while we waited for my ILs to arrive. They soon showed up and Benjamin leaped into their arms without any hesitation! We next went and visited DH's step Grandma who lives in assisted living in Phoenix. She is a chipper and happy 90 yrs old and loved to see her great-grandson, and had some teddy bears and magnets to amuse him with! Benjamin has now met all of his Great Grandparents that were alive when he was born, so that is nice to have.

Eventually we started the drive up to Flagstaff, about 2 hours. Benjamin slept for the first bit but then demanded entertainment, and our resources were wearing thin. None the less, I loved the drive! We climbed from 1000 ft of elevation to 8000 ft (then back down to 7000), up first through the cacti and brown gravelly foothills, then into taller brown, yellow, and red mountains, through cedars and high flat lands. Up we went into the pine tree and meadows with grey mountains in the distance. Right to the top of Arizona. Once we made it into Flagstaff we checked into our awesome hotel. By this time it was after 7pm pacific time (9pm CST). But, we hadn't eaten dinner and we wanted to see my SIL and her soon to be hubby, so we headed out to a yummy dinner at a local Mexican restaurant that was known for its Salsa bar.

August 1st - The Grand Canyon 
Our Hotel had an excellent breakfast (excellent everything really...), and we took full advantage of it throughout our stay in Flagstaff, and breakfast because the planning point of the day as well. On Thursday we were headed off to the Grand Canyon. FIL drove one car with MIL as the passenger, and I drove the second car with DH, Benjamin, and SIL in the back. It was another fun drive through some beautiful country with some good conversation. It was about a 90 minute drive.

Seeing the canyon in person was surreal. It was, as many people had described it to me, hard to take in. At first it just looks like the paintings, you cannot grasp the depth or width or sheer size of what you are seeing. Its not until you see it from a few different angles and look for the details (a bridge at the bottom, a scrap of the Colorado river, hikers making their way down), that it becomes more real. We walked along the rim near the main visitors center, taking in the sites. We bought one of those little backpack leashes for Benjamin to give us more security, and it worked well, although the areas we were in were mostly fenced. When Benjamin looked out at the Grand Canyon he said "water" "water" and quickly lost interest. He was much more interested in the benches, stairs, and pathways. He also got quite a few comments on his adorableness with his leash and hat. I can't argue with them!

We also got to visit a small geology museum, hear some thunder and see some rain over the canyon, and eat a yummy lunch in one of the restaurants in the park. Besides the benches, Ben also loved the buses. He was totally fascinated by them and did not want to get off (except of course at the end when he fell asleep in my arms!) Back in Flagstaff, more family had arrived (Aunt and Uncle S&S). We had another nice dinner out-  BBQ this time, and enjoyed a walk downtown, saw some street musicians, and had another latish night.

August 2nd - Sedona
On Friday we decided to drive through Sedona. S&S, and Aunt B in one car, DH, Benjamin, FIL and I in the other (this is the part where I mention I had to drive every where because my rental car company sucked and we didn't want to keep moving the car seat around.) Benjamin napped most the way there. We approached from the highway, seeing Sedona from the East and south  before approaching closer. Sedona is a completely different experience then the Grand Canyon because you are right inside it and can move through it, getting closer to specific formations. We mostly just drove and gawked, though we did get out of a couple places to take a longer gander. The red rocks were beautiful, and I was fascinated by the buttes, capped with trees. Benjamin liked the rocks, and liked throwing rocks off of some ridges we were on. We also stopped by a cool bridge over a deep canyon. Eventually we climbed up through a tree filled valley, up many hairpin turns to one last scenic overlook. Back in Flagstaff we had a late lunch, then spent a relaxing afternoon and evening in and around the hotel, taking the opportunity to walk through the campus of Northern Arizona University (where SIL and FBIL attend for PT and accounting). 

August 3rd - The Rehearsal
You know? I am not sure what we did Saturday morning. I think maybe just stayed in the hotel and let Benjamin nap? Maybe ran some errands? Oh yeah! We looked for shoes for Benjamin and restocked our toy and book supplies. In the afternoon we headed up to the AZ Snow Bowl - the highest elevation in the state (the mountain is over 12k feet of elevation, I would say we were 11k-11.5k up). Benjamin enjoyed running around on the deck and in ballroom where the ceremony and reception were being held. He did not enjoy waiting while they lined everything up for the rehearsal. When he was released (to be ring bearer), he took off!! Ran right up the aisle and laughed doing it, the ring bearer pillow swinging in his hand. When I scooped him up, it also quickly because clear we would want to game plan a distraction to keep him quiet the rest of the wedding as he squirmed and squeaked, wanting to run around during the rehearsal. But, it was over shortly and after a few more set-up tasks, we all headed back down the mountain to the rehearsal dinner (BBQ) at a local park. There was an awesome playground there that had a motorcycle for Benjamin to ride and many fun walkways, stairs and slides. Back at the hotel we went on a nice long walk and hit up Dairy Queen. 

Having a drink w the flower girl :)

August 4th - The Wedding
The morning of the wedding I went and got my hair and makeup done with the bridal party. It was a lot of fun. After that it was a slice of pizza at the hotel and then heading back up the mountain to help with set up and get ready ourselves. While it rained in the early afternoon, by the time of the ceremony it was gorgeous out, as was the bride. Benjamin did great as ring bearer. He and the flower girl held hands about halfway of the aisle, it was adorable. Then the flower girl got distracted by a photographer and they broke apart. Eventually they both made it up the aisle though! We had lots of distractions for Benjamin and he did fine during the ceremony (ok... he did start saying beep beep beep once when he heard a car alarm in the distance). The wedding was beautiful and I wish the couple much happiness. After that we snapped some family pictures, then headed up to the reception, where Benjamin was one of the lives of the party. We pilfered a couple of fruit tarts off of the dessert table to keep him occupied early on (he was not a big fan of the other appetizers). He ran all over, being adorable, driving his car on the dance floor, playing with the flower girl and bridesmaids, playing peekaboo behind columns. The reception was a lot of fun for everyone! There was also an amazing sunset to watch and good dancing. It was a late night! 

August 5th - The Drive
Monday morning was clean up! We shifted stuff around from the wedding, helped get everything of importance back to the bride and groom, packed our bags, and said farewell to my entire IL family. It is always sad parting. We headed back south towards Phoenix, which was actually just a way point to continue south and west towards San Diego. It was a LONG drive through the desert. The really amazing part to me about it was the changing landscape, even though it was all desert! Arizona has red, yellow and brown gravelly desert with varying amounts of scrub and cacti. As we got closer to/into California the desert and mountains got darker - black gravel, black mountains in the distance, very little scrub. Then it got yellower again and more sandy, until for one brief period it was full out yellow dunes like out of the Sahara. Then back to brown scrub... and then as you get close to San Diego, the weirdest mountains I have ever seen (and at this point I have seen a lot...). They look like giant rock piles... like giant breakwaters, except all the rocks are light pink. So odd!! And cool. Benjamin slept for the first 3.5 hrs of the drive, and then was entertained by DH for the second 3.5 hrs. We stopped for lunch at Carl Jr that had a great view of a train (which Benjamin enjoyed). When we made it to San Diego, we ended up driving around in circles a bit due to poor GPS directions, but we made it eventually to our friend's apartment. He has a beautiful view - overlooking the airport, bay, ocean, and many neighborhoods. He also had some delicious local pizza waiting for us! Benjamin seemed confused by the travel and requested cheerios for dinner, which our friend luckily had. Benjamin would live on Cheerios w/milk these days if we let him!! After dinner we walked to Cold Stone through "Old Town" San Diego, a touristy but cute area. Back at the apartment, bedtime was a bit of struggle because of no crib, but Benjamin eventually caught on and slept in the middle of the air mattress, while we stayed up chatting and playing boardgames. It was so good seeing our friend!!

August 6th - San Diego
On Tuesday our friend took us all over San Diego! We started off going to a beach where seals like to hang out! Benjamin was "barking" like a seal in no time! He also loved the ocean, loved watching the waves come in and kept asking for more (which the ocean willingly supplied). He also loved all the benches. After that we headed down to the Midway (the aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum). What could boys like more than a ship of war full of planes and helicopters to look at? It was a lot of fun and also gave us a great view of the harbor. After that was lunch at a place called "Extraordinary Desserts" that totally lived up to its name. Benjamin took a nap then, so we headed back to the departments and played more boardgames. When Benjamin woke up we went to Coronado, the Island across the bay from San Diego. It is named such because it has "fools gold" mixed into its sand, and therefore gold glinting everywhere. Benjamin was at first a bit freaked out by the sand, he didn't like the feel of it and insisted on being carried. He let me put him down when we were close to the water, but then freaked out when the wave came and touched him. Daddy to the rescue scooped him up and stood in the water and made him laugh! Then he touched the water with his hand, then eventually he let me put him down... for a bit. He walked back across the dry sand on his own. We ate at "the Burger Lounge" which was yummy! And had some frozen yogurt... then you guessed it! Benjamin fell asleep in the car and we played more board games! Stayed up too late too, but it was worth it :) 

August 7th - HOMEWARD!!
We left San Diego in the morning! Benjamin was excited about the planes again, we were both exhausted and just wanted to nap! And, unlike the first time around, we had to change planes in Denver. That went smoothly though, and we made it to the cities, got our luggage, and made the drive home without problem! Benjamin went back to his normal schedule with no issues. In fact, on Thursday in daycare, he was SO HAPPY to be back we got a glowing report from the teachers. 
WHAT a great family trip!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ch ch ch changes

So, obviously, there is a lot going on in my life right now. I had to prioritize what I was going to post about this weekend, and Grandma K came first. Second is the news that I am starting a new job on Monday!!!

I will be working for the local county government, as what is called a "financial worker". This means I will be determining eligibility for public aid programs like food stamps, rent assistance, and medicaid. I am very excited to start! While my job satisfaction had improved at my old position, I still disliked the micromanagement, and the corporate culture. The issue, I think, was not the corporate culture at my specific company, but rather corporate culture in general. I am excited to move back into the public sector!!

Coming up soon (hopefully) - a report on our recent vacation and Benjamin being 19m old!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Grandma K, Memorial

My paternal Grandmother was laid to rest today. I was not able to attend the funeral, so I wanted to take a minute to write about her.

Grandma was my last remaining Grandparent. She was 88 years old.

When you are a child, Grandparents are ageless. They are old, but unchanging. Its only later when you see pictures that you see their hair changing from dark to grey to white. As a child, Grandma K meant endless buckets of cookies. I especially remember the sweet chewy toffee cookies, or was it butter brickle? Grandma and Grandpa would arrive in their Suburban, with a third row "short" seat (lower to the ground) for us little ones to ride around with. We would unload their things into the guest room and the gallon ice cream buckets full of cookies to the kitchen. We would be eating them long after Grandma went home.

Grandma and Grandpa K had a beautiful lake house, which it felt like they bought just for us grand children. How many lazy summer days did I spend there? Probably less than my memory would lead me to believe, but those timeless repeating memories are best. I remember arriving after a long drive and the roller coaster hills, stepping into the hot Ohio heat, and then into the cool fresh air conditioning and into Grandma's arms for a hug. The garage had a very particular smell that I never found pleasant - hot rubber? But I would still happily go in there to find a soda or see my Grandpa "play" the player piano. We slept on a trundle bed, and since I was the younger sister, I always got the bottom bed, which remained on the floor. In the morning, we would creep upstairs for breakfast - either personal size cereal boxes where everyone got to pick their own kind (I always chose Raisin Brand), or if we were lucky, pancakes and the most delicious sausage. It is in that roomy stretched out kitchen that I learned to love my sausage with real maple syrup (and actually, to demand real maple syrup in general). Then we would go swimming - race down the hill to the lake and splash away the hours. Grandma never swam with us, but we always knew it was because she was upstairs working her magic in the kitchen. At some point she would ring the bell for lunch and we would all climb up up up the hill to eat fresh cut ham sandwiches, chips and cookies. Often the afternoon brought more swimming - or if not, playing with the electric organ, the pink tea set, board games, cards, or drawing with fruit-smelling markers. We would smell each marker and use it, then carefully put them back away in the sleeves, making sure none got lost. My favorite was black licorice, even though I preferred to color with the pink berry smelling one. Often cousins would join us and we bonded over silly games and lots of laughter. By dinner time, swimsuits were expected to be shed, bodies washed, hair combed. Feeling cozy and warm we would eat another wonderful family meal all together. Later in the evening - desert - usually ice cream or more of those wonderful cookies. Those were my days with Grandma and Grandpa Keener. Full of food, fun and love.

When I got older, in Middle School and High School, I spent different time with them. They took me to museums, and college campuses. They showed me things about their past, told me stories of my father sleeping in a drawer when he was a baby, of how little they had, and how they made due, of what their parents taught them, and how they grew up. I still loved seeing them, and my days with them were filled with food, knowledge, and love.

My Grandpa passed away in 2005, and that is when my Grandma's struggle with dementia (eventually Alzheimer's) began. I was off working in New Jersey that summer, and then back at college in the fall. I wasn't sure how often I would see my Grandma, or what she would be like when I did. Then, fortuitously, I ended up attending Ohio State University for Grad School, only an hours drive from my Grandma's house. Suddenly I was able to see her more often than ever - two to three times a week rather than two to three times a year. When I moved there in 2006, she was still relatively mentally engaged, with only occasional confusion. I drove her down to visit her sister and got to hear the two of them relive the past and eat some wonderful ham and brownies. I cooked desserts for her, she loved lemon. For one of her birthday's I made lemon cake with lemon filling and lemon frosting. I talked to her about her childhood memories, and her nursing stories. She would tell the old stories and laugh and laugh at some of the foolish things from her youth. As time passed, she declined. She became less engaged, less active, less present. I got used to repeating myself, telling her the same thing (that we were waiting for Aunt Karen to arrive, or that dinner was almost ready, or that DH had to work that day) five times in five minutes. And then she stopped asking even those questions. The confusion increased, and with it her frustration with not understanding what was going on. And it is perhaps in these final months I spent with her (before moving back to Minnesota in 2012) when she taught me one of the most important lessons. She had a mantra that she repeated anytime she got frustrated with her inability to grasp what was going on around her. My uncle nicknamed her Doris Day for it. The mantra was "whatever will be will be." She said it because it was something to hold onto, a sentence, a song, that always holds true and makes it OK to not quite know what is going on. I find myself using it sometimes as a mantra when the going in life gets rough.

My Grandma K was a great woman. She was a nurse, she raised my funny and loving father, my genius uncle, and my tender heart aunt. She baked cookies, and hams, and rang that dinner bell. She loved her husband, and her kids, and her grandchildren, and aged as gracefully as fate would allow. I am glad I had so long with her, and glad that her values and love will live on in her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.