Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1 1/2 Years Old Today!

I can't believe it, but our baby girl is one and a half years old today!  It really happened.  She is only six months away from being an official toddler (although she already acts like one).  Ella is such a bundle of energy and joy.  We just love her so much!  She is still the busiest and most physically active baby I have had.  She is fearless and extremely coordinated which is a dangerous combination.  Ella loves being in the thick of everything that her brother and sister are doing.  She loves running and screaming and playing with them.  She loves playing on the play set in the backyard and now can climb up the scary ladder to get to the top in addition to climbing up the slide.  She will go down any slide at any park and doesn't need any encouragement or help in doing so.  Ella loves playing with toys and runs into her older sister's room at any chance she has to get into all of her forbidden toys.  She still loves cuddling stuffed animals and her favorite, pink blanket.  Ella still eats a TON of food every day and never needs help getting anything down.  The most exciting news of the past month is that I officially dropped her morning nap.  She now goes down every day for her nap at the same time that Logan does around one o'clock.  For the first time in seventeen months, I have about two hours of uninterrupted time each day before Lia comes home from school which is pure heaven.  Ella also loves to try on other peoples' shoes and can always be found walking around with one or two of them on her feet.  She tries to dress herself by putting on her pants if they are laying with her on the changing table and she loves to put on my socks if she finds them laying around.  It's so funny.  Ella holds all play and real phones to her ear and says, "Lo," and combs her hair any time she finds a brush or comb in the house. She continues to add a few words to her vocabulary every month.  Ella says "thank you" all the time and now says, "There you go," whenever she hands you something.  It's so cute.  She also says the word, "eye," and will normally point to the side of her face whenever she says it.  She also just learned the word, "bee" and also says "Eee-uh" (for Lia) all the time.  This was exactly how Logan started saying Lia's name when he first started talking.  Ella has also really started to develop a little bit of a temper and can throw a tantrum when something is taken away from her or if she doesn't get her way.  Between her business and her little tantrums, she and Logan have become quite the dynamic duo most days.  Heaven help me.  ;-)  We love you, Ellie Bellie!

While I was folding some clothes in the laundry room yesterday, Ella and Logan were upstairs playing.  I suddenly heard some awful screaming and crying from Ella.  When I rushed upstairs,  I found her with two cuts around her eye and swelling occurring on her nose and eyelid.  A day later, her right eye is still really swollen and just looks smaller than her left eye.  It makes me so sad and worried to look at her.  It's a good thing that she has her 18-month check-up tomorrow so I can have her doctor look at it.  Poor, baby girl.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Three Weeks of a Miracle

Don't get me wrong.  I love my Logan Cruz.  In my eyes, he is jut the cutest, little boy I have ever seen.  But he is difficult.  Although he can also be the sweetest boy around, he can be so, so difficult.  He still throws many tantrums a day, does not like transitions, and disagrees with lots of things that I ask him to do.  As a result, it came as no surprise that Logan was NOT on board with potty training.  In fact, when I first tried after Spring Break was over last April, I had to wrestle him to the ground the morning that I put underwear on him and informed him that we were going to start going pee pee in the potty.  Logan then threw a massive tantrum, ripped off his underwear, and threw them across his bedroom.  At that moment, I decided that he was not ready to start potty training and shelved the whole thing for a few months.  During the summer, I decided that we would try again on Lia's first day back to school.  For several weeks leading up this day, I would tell Logan, "You are going to start wearing underwear and go pee pee in the potty when Lia goes back to school."  Each time I said this, Logan reacted the exact same way--with a massive tantrum!  He would scream and cry and shout, "No!"  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this day.
Three weeks ago today, the dreaded day arrived.  We dropped Lia off at school and drove straight to Target.  I let him pick out as many toys and treats from the dollar bins before heading home and putting them on the mantle above the fireplace.  At first Logan was excited to get all of this fun stuff.  But once we got home and it really sunk in that he had to "earn" all of these goodies by going pee in the toilet, the tantrum began.  I brought him upstairs to put on a pair of underwear and the worst tantrum of Logan's career began.  I'm not kidding.  After attempting unsuccessfully to get a pair of underwear on his body, he started throwing things, banging his head against the wall, and trying to rip out his hair (in addition to screaming and crying).  It was insane.  I have never seen him do anything like this!  It got so bad after trying to talk to him for many minutes that I finally had to give up and take Ella out of the room for her safety and go downstairs.  This tantrum went on like this for 45 minutes.  During this time, I wondered how on earth this was ever going to work.  It would take a miracle.  
And suddenly the miracle happened.  After 45 minutes, Logan came downstairs still crying, but trying to calm himself down.  Through tears and gasps, he managed to communicate to me that he wanted to try to go potty.  I couldn't believe my ears!  I immediately asked him if he wanted to go downstairs on the potty seat or upstairs on the potty chair.  After telling me that he wanted to try downstairs, we quickly went in the powder bathroom and I put him up on the potty seat.  After seriously trying for a few seconds, Logan produced a few, little drops of pee.  And that was all that I needed!!  Much hooping and hollering followed!  After celebrating with him for several seconds, I asked him if he wanted to put on his underwear to which he said, 'no.'  And then it all clicked.  Logan was never afraid of potty training, he was afraid of wearing underwear!  He always associated the two because I always talked about them together!  Once I finally figured this out, it was as easy as pie.  We quickly pulled up his pants and then ran into the family room to pick out a toy.  And from that moment on, we have never looked back.  Logan immediately started going #1 in the potty every single time from that day on with zero accidents.  In fact, he has only had ONE accident in three weeks and it was entirely my fault because I forgot to help him go after his nap one Saturday because I was outside planting flowers in my pots on the porch.  He has done an amazing job.
However, being true to Logan's form, nothing is easy and simple.  He immediately set up a few ground rules that had to be followed.  One, he refused to wear underwear and so he went "commando" every day (which is kind of funny to me).  Secondly, I was the ONLY person allowed in the bathroom with him (not even Ron was allowed to even watch him go to the bathroom).  And third, he refused to even try to go #2 in the toilet.  He quickly figured out that if he waited until nighttime, he could go in his pull-up diaper after we put him to bed OR in the morning right after waking up before I changed him for the day.  As annoying as these little rules were, I decided that I would take whatever I could get and just went with them.  Luckily in the past week, we have broken through all three.  Logan is now wearing underwear every day, Ron is allowed to help him in the bathroom, and we have had FIVE successes with #2 in the toilet!  So, it looks like we are finally turning a corner.  Thank heavens for that.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lia's First Horse Lesson

Lia has loved horses for years.  I think that Merida is to blame for this.  Regardless, Lia has been in love with horses for a long time and has always wanted to ride one.  Sadly, the best that we have ever been able to do is pay for Lia to go on the little pony ride found at the Spring Fair where she gets to ride one in a circle a couple of times around in a tent.  Pretty pathetic, right?
Well, this all changed when Ron got a new job this past summer and learned that one of the ladies who works in the counseling office owns TWO horses!  After telling her how much Lia loves horses, Sabina immediately offered to take Lia out riding one morning!  What?!  I couldn't believe my ears when Ron came home from work that day and shared the exciting news.  So, a day in September was set, and the waiting began and it finally came today!  Luckily after a rainy Friday, we were blessed with a beautiful, autumn day.  We drove the 20 minutes out to Graham and met Sabina and her husband at an amazing horse riding park that is open to the public.  Lia got to help brush the horses before beginning her lesson.  I was amazed at how calm and brave she was around these large creatures!  She did a great job.  Sabina then had her ride both horses (Buck and then Honey) for almost an entire hour in two, different arenas.  Lia was so calm and confident riding both of the horses with Sabina at her side.  It was so dang cute to see her riding these horses with her little, riding helmet on her head.  I just loved it!  Afterwards, Lia then helped Sabina and her husband feed the horses before they loaded them back up on the trailer.  It was such a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.  And, as you can imagine, Lia L.O.V.E.D. every second of it and wants to begin horse riding lessons tomorrow.  I'm afraid to even look into how much this will cost and the amount of time I will spend driving to from them.  However, since Lia is already involved in four activities after school right now, I think it will have to wait.  But, maybe one day, we'll make her wildest dreams come true!  We'll see...

Lia brushing Honey with Sabina's help.

Lia petting Buck.

And brushing Buck.

Sabina helping Lia get up on Buck.

Ready to go!

Lia beginning her first time around the arena.

Lia and Buck from a distance.

My smiling, happy girl!

Sabina leading Lia and Buck into the second arena.

Lia and Buck finishing their first lap in the second, larger arena.

My little equestrian. 

Sabina's husband helping Lia change horses.  For some reason, Lia really loved Honey and bonded with this horse.  

Logan patiently waiting to play at the park after Lia's riding lesson was over.

Lia, Sabina, and Honey finishing up another lap.

Lia petting Honey while Sabina tried to convince Logan to sit on the horse (it never happened).

Sabina kissing Buck with Lia and Honey in the background!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Off to Preschool!

As with Lia, I decided to organize a preschool co-op for Logan's first year of preschool.  I was able to find five other moms from church who were willing to join in and be part of it.  I spent several hours the first week of September getting everything ready for the orientation meeting that I held at my house.  Besides having 17 kids under my roof, everything went well at the meeting.  All of these moms seem super responsible and organized which is a relief since so many in Lia's co-op were flaky and irresponsible and dropped out half way through the year.  So, I am hoping that we will have a more successful year for Logan!  We are meeting twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:15 to 11:15.  We will rotate between the following activities:  free play, Circle Time, activity time, snack time, and story time and will focus on a different letter and number each week.  Since I am in charge, I offered to host the first week which was last week.  As a result, I didn't take any pictures of Logan since I felt like it was a little anticlimactic for him to head off to his first week of preschool at his own house!  So I waited until today to take a picture of him walking into Vera's house.  It actually turned out to be a good thing to host the first week as Logan struggles with transitions and new things.  He had two opportunities to get used to the routine at our house last week before going to Vera's house.  In fact, he threw several tantrums over the past few days whenever I told him that preschool was going to be at a different house.  Luckily this gave him enough time to warm up to the idea because he was actually happy and ready to go into Vera's house by the time we pulled up this morning which was a major relief to me!  I just never know how this boy is going to react to things as he is so unpredictable!  And according to Vera's mom, Logan actually did a good job today at Circle Time and activity time (which were the two areas he struggled with last week).  He actually sat on his carpet square during Circle Time AND traced his name and an entire line of number 2's on his worksheet during activity time.  Maybe my temperamental boy is growing up a little bit after all....

Logan flashing me his crazy, camera smile (with Asian eyes) as he heads up to Vera's front door.

A close-up of my crazy boy with his crazy smile and his crazy bed head hair that he refuses to let me brush in the morning.

Logan and the rest of the kids starting Circle Time with Vera's mom, Mercedes.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Losing Tooth #3!

It finally happened.  Lia lost her first, upper tooth bringing the total to three lost teeth.  This tooth was loose FOREVER.  I'm talking months.  I had no idea that a tooth could take so long to fall out.  And the strange thing was the looser this tooth got, the bigger a gap grew between this tooth and it's neighbor to the right.  By the time her tooth was ready to fall out it actually looked like she had already lost an upper tooth.  I don't understand the reason for this (I should probably ask my dentist brother), but she now has an extra large gap where this upper tooth used to be.  After wiggling it for months, Lia's tooth finally came out today while eating cereal for an afternoon snack at my parents' house.  Lia's school district had a half day for "Fair Day" (crazy, I know), so we jumped at the opportunity to go spend the afternoon and evening with grandma and grandpa.   I am grateful that Lia was not in school when this happened as a ton of blood came out with this tooth!  I think the kids in her class would have made a big deal out of this and made Lia feel bad or embarrassed.  Overall, we are all happy that tooth #3 has joined her tooth graveyard and Lia cannot wait for the tooth fairy to come visit her tonight!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tickling the Ivories

Every year since Lia started Pre-K, I have added an extra activity to her schedule.  During her Pre-K year, she took gymnastics and swim lessons.  During Kindergarten, we continued with gymnastics and swim and added Girl Scouts.  For first grade, we kept these three activities and added art class.  I decided at that point that four activities at a time was my max.  As a result, I knew that one of these activities needed to be dropped if Lia wanted to try something new.  All summer long, I had been mulling over what we would do for Lia's second grade year as Lia is constantly saying she wants to try this or she wants to try that.  Since she is on the pre-team at her gymnastics facility, she is working towards joining their team after try-outs this coming Spring, so I knew that wasn't an option.  And I love her Girl Scout troop so much, that I would really like her to continue with this lovely group of girls until she gets into Junior Girl Scouts and loses interest in the entire thing (which is what I did when I was a girl).  So, I realized that she would either need to drop swimming or art class.  Since Lia got so competent at swimming without a life jacket this summer at Lake Samm and Priest Lake, I was fine with letting go of swim lessons to let her try soccer for the first time.  She has expressed an interested several times in trying out a few other sports and so this seemed like a good time to do that.  And after three sessions of art class last school year where the same curriculum was taught each time, I decided that it was time to find something learning to play a musical instrument!
Lia has talked about learning to play the piano for quite some time now...but there was just one problem:  we don't own a piano!  Minor detail, right?  As a result, I never really pushed it.  However, when Lia started talking about taking flute lessons this summer, I thought this would be really do-able as a flute is a lot easier to buy than a piano!  However, as I started my research, I learned that flute lessons are a bit more pricey than I had hoped for AND I also found out that if Lia was willing to wait until the 5th grade, she could join the school orchestra and start learning how to play the flute for free.  So, all of a sudden, we decided to enroll her in piano lessons without a piano in our house!  After talking to the most affordable piano teacher in our ward during the first week of school and learning that she actually had a few available spots, I quickly signed up Lia on a Thursday afternoon for a Monday lesson with NO piano to practice on.  Talk about putting the cart before the horse!  I'm normally such a planner that I found this rather hilarious.  So, before I knew it, I spent all of Thursday afternoon during the babies' naps looking for a piano on Craig's List.  After Ron got home at 5 p.m., I dashed up to Auburn to a used piano store to supposedly buy a piano.  But after getting there and spending an hour with the owner, I realized that what I was looking for was not there.  So, I drove back home in bad, rush hour traffic empty handed.  At 7 p.m., I started my search all over again on the computer.  Since we have a really small spot in our living room where a piano could fit, my search was very specific.  I needed a certain size of piano in a certain color (that would match the rest of my living room furniture) that was in good condition and a decent price.  At 7:30, I made a call to an owner of the best possible match in our area and was pleased to talk to the sweetest, elderly man who was retiring to Arizona with his wife and who needed to sell their piano before they moved.  The piano had been in his wife's family since it was bought brand new over sixty years ago in Oklahoma.  His wife learned to play on it as a child before inheriting it from her parents and moving it out to Tacoma many years ago where it has stayed in their home this entire time.  All of the boys in their family then took lessons and learned to play the piano on it, too.  As much of a family heirloom as it was, no one wanted it and they were happy to sell it to us--even $100 less than their asking price thanks to my bargaining skills!
So, all of a sudden it was 8 p.m. and I had to find a bunch of men to help Ron move a piano the next night!  Talk about a bit stressful as we just don't have a lot of people in our town who we feel comfortable asking for this kind of big favor.  But after spending an hour on the phone, I managed to find four men to help us with moving the piano at the Tacoma end and four men to help us with moving the piano at the Puyallup end.  In addition, Ron and I hopped online and ended up renting a dolly, moving blankets, and a truck with ramps from Uhaul to make sure that our piano got here safely.  At 9:30 that night, I collapsed at the kitchen table and ate my dinner!  It was quite a night.  And I am happy to report that all went as smoothly as we had hoped for on Friday evening.  Our friends showed up on time and easily moved this huge piece of furniture safely to our home in less than two hours.  The children were thrilled to have it arrive and have been fighting over it ever since!  Lia had her first lesson today with Sister Berbert and L.O.V.E.D. it.  She came home from her lesson and immediately asked if she could practice.  I know that the honeymoon stage will eventually wear off, but I am just enjoying every minute of it while it lasts!

Lia practicing one of her songs.

Turning the page to another song.

Practicing away!

My aspiring pianist.  So cute.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back to School!

It's hard to believe, but Lia headed off to 2nd grade today!  There was such a difference between the Lia of a year ago and the Lia of today.  Last year, there was many tears and much drama before her first day of first grade.  She clearly was very nervous and feeling a lot of anxiety about heading off to school.  This year, she was calm, cool, and collected.  When I walked into her room this morning, she was just playing Barbies on the floor like it was just another day.  When I asked her how she was feeling, she said that she was fine.  Lia got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed off to school with us like it was no big deal.  I couldn't believe it.  I was so relieved.  Lia got the best of the three second grade teachers at her school and her class is FULL of friends!  So, I think that all of this helped her to be nothing but excited about starting school again.  We parked our car and walked her out to the black top to help her find her line.  After waiting around for a few minutes, I told Lia that we were leaving and she barely gave us a goodbye as she was so busy talking to friends.  My baby girl is really growing up!  Part of me is so excited for her and part of me is so baffled by how fast this is all going...

Lia and her siblings before heading off to school.

Lia sporting her new outfit complete with a unicorn t-shirt.

Lia with her Frozen backpack and lunchbox that she is using for the second year in a row.

Lia in her class line with her good friend, Sienna.

Lia with her friends Mila, Sienna, and Mollie and Mollie's little sister, Gabby, who started Kindergarten this year!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Bike Ride

For the third Labor Day in a row, we headed out for a family bike ride on the Orting Trail.  Although it was a cooler, cloudy day, we had a pleasant ride through this picturesque area full of farms.  Lia did a great job riding over two miles on her bike, Logan kicked it in his bike seat on the back of Ron's bike, and Ella happily cruised along in the bike carrier.  It was a fun way to spend our last morning of "freedom."  After getting home, we ate lunch and then Ron put the babies (and himself) down for a nap while Lia and I dashed up to Renton to see the new Cinderella movie one last time in the theaters.  We loved seeing this movie today as much as we did opening weekend last March!  It was a fun mommy-daughter date complete with popcorn and root beer.  We then came back home to pick up the family to head out to Applebees for our final dinner of the summer.  Our waitress rushed our order through and we were able to get in and out of there in an hour which made for a very pleasant, enjoyable dinner since the kids really did not have time to get restless and antsy.  It really was the perfect way to wrap up summer!  Here's hoping for a good, 2015-2016 school year!

Ron at the helm with Lia right behind.

Sweet, baby Ella peering out at me through the window of the bike carrier.

Logan flashing me his best camera smile as I biked past him.

Ron tolerating me taking his picture with the kiddos in the rear.

Big girl Lia riding along.

Mommy and daughter.

At the half way point, we stopped for a break and snacks.  Lia decided to check out Ella's "ride."  You can see that Ella wasn't too sure what to think about all of this.

Father and son munching on almonds and string cheese.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

End of the Summer at Blake Island

For the sixth year in a row, we headed off to Blake Island for our annual camping trip with my family.  After a fun, but very exhausting, summer of hauling Logan and Ella with me everywhere without help from a working Ron, I decided to be selfish and leave them home with him.  I hired a babysitter to watch them during the day while Ron was still at work.  As a result, I was able to go with just Lia and I had the most relaxing and enjoyable time.  As much as I love my two little ones, they are just a lot of work right now so it was a little slice of heaven to get a 30 hour break and be with my oldest and easiest child.  :-)  Lia and I just love Blake Island and our camping trip out there is one of our favorite activities each summer.  We thoroughly enjoyed the beach, the marina, the playground, the stunning views, and spending time with my family.   As always, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for making this possible as we could never get out there without their boat!

Lia and Vivi spent quite a bit of time playing on the playground while we were out there.  They eventually discovered that their favorite game was making silly faces for the camera while going on the zip line.

Lia being silly!

After dinner, we enjoyed a walk out past the marina and to Tilacum Village.  Here is Lia with grandma, Aunt Rebecca, and Vivi.

Mother and daughter and the marina.

Lia and Vivi posing in front of one of the many Native American pictures painted on the lodge.

Three generations of campers.

The children had fun building little homes out of various shells, driftwood, pine branches, rocks, and other items they found outside.  Here they are working on their masterpieces.  

Lia and her little house.

As always, the kids had fun playing on the driftwood teeter totter.

Lia, Vivi, and Callie did another round on the playground as the sun was setting.  Here goes Lia again on the zip line.

Lia and Vivi sliding down the slide with a silly Callie trying to get them from below.

Saturday morning brought more time at the park.  Lia just could not get enough of this playground.

The kids also spent quite a bit of Saturday morning climbing around in the large tree near our campsite.

Lia was too scared to climb it and spent some time hanging out below.

We enjoyed a nice walk along the beach after breakfast.

Here is Lia walking on the massive log we found on the beach.

The three girls stopped during our walk to stay and play in the sand.

Eric and Garrett climbing a massive tree that had fallen from the cliff above the beach.

Eric, Rebs, Garrett, Brynn, Chris, Trenton, Natalee, and me.

We enjoyed some quality Frisbee time on both Friday and Saturday.  I actually played my first Ultimate Frisbee game in years and it felt great!  Here are Eric and Garrett fighting over a Frisbee that Chris had thrown to them.

Lia and I wandered back over to the Tilacum Village Lodge on Saturday before their lunch time cruise arrived.  We got a kick out of watching them set up the delicious salmon fillets in the fires to be cooked for the meal.

Starting the fires!

Lia, a totem pole, and the Puget Sound.

Lia enjoyed some Frisbee time, too.  She played in our Ultimate Frisbee game with the group on Friday evening and tossed it around with Chris and Trenton on Saturday.

Lia throwing the Frisbee to Trenton.

As always, the raccoons were in abundance all over the island.  Like last year, they were almost as bold during the day time as they were during the night time.  Although I can't stand the vermin, it was kind of cute to see the mother-baby combos running around.  Here is one mother with her baby investigating our campground as we were packing up to leave!  

Until next year, Blake Island...