Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Same, Yet Different: Another Lesson about Phases

They're one in the same. They're completely different. I can see a part of one in the other's face. I see the tantrum of one rubbing off on the other. I feel like I've been here before, but I know I haven't. Not {here} exactly, but I have tested these waters. And I'm extremely fortunate to have surrounded myself with a village that has waded time and time again in these waters. The Sea of Phases is deep and never-ending.

Just as we realize that what we're into is a phase, it's over and the next one begins. Constant turnover. The other lesson learned is that though the boys grow, yes, grow, through the seemingly same phases, how they progress through them is always a new adventure. Duders never did the slam-yourself-down-and-kick-your-feet tantrum. Brub? He's all about it.

Duders was, and still is, the one that wants to be held. We're now discovering that Brub isn't that different even though he's our "loner" of the two. The difference is that Duders wants Mom and Dad and Brub wants Duders. As Nana would say - same church, different pew. I see it as that almost tangible bond which is deepening between then. I never tire of watching it grow and weave its way through each of them. Quite frankly, watching them interact with each other (when not fighting anyway) gives me baby fever more than babies themselves.

And then there is the phase of going out in public. Every parent knows this rite of passage; every non-parent knows this annoyance. Kids in a restaurant. In this particular case, a wedding reception. Luckily for us, it was a very close family member's wedding, but every outing is a chance to show how we're to act in a public place. Rarely does it go that way.

Brub is completely in that phase of disrupting and short attention span. It was at this wedding reception that Adam and I looked at each other and realized that Duders is no longer the child for whom we have to worry. He's content drawing, coloring, or playing on the phone. Brub is not. Nothing except running around will do for this child and as far as we're concerned that's unacceptable. Frustrating on our part and annoying to everyone else. This is the time that you get the knowing been-there-done-that nod from others who have gone before you.

Even while eating, Brub wasn't content. We know that being tired was a factor in all of this restlessness, but we laughed at ourselves for realizing how far we've come with Duders and how far we have to go with Brub. Though time is relative, especially with little ones. Before we know it, we'll be into the new set of phases with these two and laughing at ourselves once again. But before that time comes, we'll just have to learn to laugh at us now. Like when taking a family pic -- Duders now knows how to smile nice and sit still. Brub, well, doesn't.

As the night came to an end for the little ones and started to ramp up for the adults, it was time to let loose, dance a crazy dance, and make a silly face.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Down by the Oglebay

We have the pleasure of living in Southwestern PA (not Pennsylvania, but PA. All native Pennsylvanians call it PA for some reason.) and this affords us some amazing vacation spots within a day's driving distance. One such resort is called Oglebay and it's not only within a day's driving distance, but it's within an hour's driving distance. Adam's family has been vacationing here for over ten years now and while some family members do have a lot further of a drive then just under an hour, it's still a reasonable drive even with little ones in the car. Oglebay Resort, or Oglebee as the locals call it, has most everything and anything you would want to do outdoors. Paddle boats, nature trails, a park, mini-golf, a pool, etc.. Not to sound too overly romantic about a family vacation, but it truly seems to become more magical every year. The foundation of memories that was created  years and years ago is being built upon now that Adam and his cousins start and continue to grow their own families. The little ones are starting to remember Oglebay from year to year and their joyous excitement to see the park and family is contagious! Duders and Brub about explode from the seams when they see the deer that live on the grounds. These deer are so popular that during their nightly grazing time, you can see vacation-goers all grab their cameras and click away at the 30+ deer in the meadow surrounding the lake and cabins.

The family stays, the whole crazy bunch, in one large cabin. In fact, it is one of the largest cabins on the property. There are some dinners, usually during the weekend, when almost every single family member from Adam's clan is present and accounted for -- that makes close to 40 to 45 people! This year Frozen was the movie du jour. Not that that surprises anyone. And yes, at this moment, playtime was interrupted by Elsa singing "Let It Go." Like moths to a flame.

Nap time during vacation means even Old Man Duders takes a rest. Early mornings, late nights, and non-stop during awake time means T-I-R-E-D little ones. The melt-downs during the dinner witching hour are something of legend around these parts.

And that non-stop activity? It's constant. Did I mention that we're constantly going? Even if we're still just at the cabin "resting" and trying to take a break?

Another time-honored tradition of family vacation are the cheese balls. They're on the grandkids' list every year of things-we-must-have. My kids especially love them because it's about the only time of year they're allowed to have them. They're allowed only so many a day, so they're a very special treat and they can't wait to have them. Duders practices his shovel and inhale method of eating, while Brub chooses some for an early morning snack.

Some glow-stick necklace action:

Family vacation like this (i.e. crazy, loud, chaotic, congested) sounds like a nightmare for some but for Adam's family there is no other way. By the second hour we're all looking for our Tylenol because of the noise and then by the second day we're all settled and living life as if a whole year hadn't just zoomed by while we all blinked. We compare notes on parenting, gardening, cooking, computers, and marriage. We make meals for all even if we eat in shifts. We make tee times and we ride The Train. There is no Oglebay without cheese balls or The Train.

If I sound overly romantic, I do not apologize. It's not hyperbole or exaggeration. It's simply because that's the way the week unfolds and weaves its magic around our memories. Memories that were started years ago and continue to grow, build, and expand as does our family and the love we have for each other. Here's to next year's Oglebee trip, cheese balls, and train rides.

Does your family take a traditional or non-traditional family vacation yearly? The beach? Disney? National Park? Is it just your immediate family or the whole, crazy bunch? And do you leave for home with all of your sanity?? 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer 2014 Bucket List

As our two munchkins are growing and becoming more self-sufficient, our options for what-to-do are increasing. Going and doing are becoming easier since I don't have to have a huge baby diaper bag on my shoulder or stroller to remember. Add to all of that is the fact that we're haven't been pinned down with the rigors of a set weekly schedule since the end of May and our busiest time of summer is over.

{But I live for schedules. I'm a true Type A. About as A as they come. I like love plans.}

How to co-mingle the wide-open summertime field of possibilities with the long and narrow path of must-dos?

{Enter the Bucket List.}

In today's world that is filled with YOLOs* and FOMOs* everywhere you look, it is easy to feel like our world might not be complete unless we do {everything} and leave out {nothing}. Our bucket list helps contain that must-do-everything feeling. We have a lot of cool, fun, and often free or low-cost activities to pick and choose.

Our Summer 2014 Bucket List started as a small piece of note paper. Just ideas that I jotted down as they came to mind, heard through a friend, or someone posted on a social media site. And {gasp!}, I did this list throughout the month of June knowing that I wouldn't really be able to get into the nitty and gritty of a Bucket List until July anyway. Another {gasp!} Bucket List don't that I did was that I put things on the list that we already had done in June. I didn't feel anything wrong with retroactively added activities to the list. Summer vacation is surely on the list, but I still wanted to the boys to be able to pull their sticky note down from the fridge.

Behold! Our kid-friendly Summer 2014 Bucket List

I take the list that I made on the note paper and simply transfer each activity to a sticky note. When we do the activity, we remove the sticky note from the fridge. It's as simply as that. I tend not to add too many ideas, er go sticky notes, once the list is "complete" however, it's nice to add one or two as reminders to do an activity that you remembered/thought-of during the depths of summer. Again, I like love a plan, but I'm not trying to over-schedule our summer. I feel passionately about {kids being kids} and that they must have {free play} every day. A must! Kids learn through play and with my boys being only 2 and 4, it's essential to their learning and well-being. One of my best friends posted this Huffington Post article and of course the article is geared toward adults, but the subtleties extend to our children. When we are busy all the time, our kids, by extension, feel the same "need" to be busy. I know this happens in our home. I'm a "busy" kind of person. I rarely stop and smell the roses, so by having my Summer 2014 Bucket List I hope to end the glorification of busy. Yep, we all have to get things done to make our lives go 'round, but we shouldn't value ourselves at how busy our lives are....It's summertime and I want to run through that wide-open field of summertime possibilities with my boys.

Our Summer 2014 Bucket List has around 25 items listed on it. How many does your list have? Do you add activities throughout the summer? What sort of activities make it onto your list?

*YOLO = you only live once; FOMO = fear of missing out

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

HBH: Exca-vator-saurus

< | | | HOME BUILD HAPPY | | | >

Now that our busyness is pretty much over for the 2014 summer, we're happy to report that our HBH project is humming along at a great pace. No, we aren't close to moving into our new place. As a matter of fact, we haven't even technically "broke ground" yet. I know that sounds like we haven't been doing anything this entire time we've been away from the computer, but the amount of up-front paperwork that is involved with home building is down right alarming.

{perc test} You can read about that here.

{septic design and approval}

{survey of land}

{signatures from the township supervisors}


{bank loan}

Some of the steps above can be started simultaneously; however, most of the time there is a flow and proper process to be allowed to build...even on your own land. Basically our township wants to make sure we're not putting up a Costco or big pink concrete bunker in the middle of an already populated, rural area. (Though I would LOVE to have a local Costco come to our area!)

In an effort to have a more tangible notion of progress, we decided that we could clear the land we wanted to build on, but not completely disturb the soil. We've talked to several banks and several other families that have built their own homes and the banks like to see the undisturbed land prior to loaning money towards the parcel. Clearing the trees and brush is one thing, but making a huge hole in the ground is another. Hence the no "broke ground" yet. We have a lot to clear of the two acres that will become ours in the next couple of weeks.

The clearing of land was made possible by the use of Pap's excavator. He upgraded his older backhoe for this machine and we can't thank him enough for letting us use it to clear our land. The next photos were taken on June 1, 2014 and that day was the biggest clearing day we had had to date. Adam worked almost all day clearing and piling the brush so the men could burn it. The boys love watching their dad, pap, and uncle run the machine. They think it looks like a dinosaur...and it, of course, completely does!

This is the view of the HBH site upon entering the wooded area. The first picture if the top of the path and the bottom picture is the opening to the clearing area. The trees and brush that you see here will also be cleared out eventually.

The next sequence of Exca-vator-saurus photos is a good idea of what Adam has to do when he comes to a tree stump that has either already fallen over, been cut down, or pushed down with the bucket. He first has to pick it up and then he has to drop it from high in the air. Hopefully when the stump and its roots hit the ground, some of the top soil comes off and stays on the ground during the next raising/falling. We need as much top soil to remain on the ground as possible to help the grass grow eventually...and dirt doesn't burn.

And once as much as top soil has been removed as possible, the metal dino moves it over to the pile that will be burnt to the ground within a couple days to a week. Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness of burning. If the day is going to be very hot, you have to start the burn early in the morning. The fire will burn all day into the night and the hot sun and temps just fuel the fire, so to speak. Cooler days mean a less urgency to start the fire first thing in the morning, but a morning start is still required. And constant checking is a must.

And I close with a little note of caution: Never, ever allow children in the cab of a machine while it's running or being operated when there is no door on the cab. Children can easily fall out onto the wheels or treads and get critically hurt. While we do allow the boys to check out the cab, the machine is off. Better safe than sorry! If all doors are on, make sure to be extremely careful if you have a little one in there with you!