Friday, August 30, 2013

We Survived...

...the first two weeks of school!  Can I get a Holla?!

Here we are, celebrating with a Sno Cone
Whew!  I don't know about you guys, but I am ready for a 3-day weekend.

Parker and his best buddy at 'Back to School Night'
You see...this school's pushing us.

Spikes on the second day of school
To get out of bed earlier.

Brandon and Parker walking to school
To pack school lunches...every morning.

To get out the door before 8 am...which has never been my strong point.

To worry.  To wonder.  To be confused and to be the 'new kid'.  To be the new parent who doesn't know which door to go in....which line to wait in....who to call or email when something isn't quite right.

But, luckily....we hit the jackpot when we were assigned to Parker's teacher.

He thinks she's the greatest.  He loves school.  And, really, that's all that matters to this Momma.

Happy Friday my friends!  Happy 3-Day Weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Huge Strides

I've had this post ready to 'publish' for a few weeks now.  But, every time I feel like hitting that orange button, something happens.  Something huge in a backward stride.  Something that makes me question our progress...makes me feel like a failure as a Momma...something that makes me feel like I would be lying through all of these words I've written, if I hit that button.  But, at the end of the day, when I look back at what we've done...even if there were tears...frustrations...stressful moments...all of those are helping us become stronger and learn new ways of handling different situations.  So, in a (backwards kind of a) way, these moments are huge strides.  I'd like you to read the words below, but know that everyday we also have set backs.  But, instead of bringing us down, we've chosen to use the backwards strides to give us momentum to push ahead, to turn them into huge strides.  Keep moving forward.


We've had so  much change around our house lately.  It seems like everyday something 'new' is happening....we are experiencing a whole new set of 'firsts'.  The first day of Kindergarten, the first day back at daycare, the first school lunch, the first attempt at potty training, the first loose tooth, and the list goes on and on and on.  And, while all of these new things are big, important, fun, and exciting milestones in our lives, there are so many little new things going on as well.  Some new things that may seem like little strides to some, but in our house they are actually huge strides.  Exciting strides.  Much needed strides.

I think most of you probably remember me writing this post a few weeks ago.  It was difficult to write, but no matter how difficult it was, I felt like I needed to share it.  And, as I wrote a few days after that, I am so glad I did.  You wouldn't believe the number of people who have talked with me about this...everyone from my mom to an old co-worker (who I just happened to run in to at a conference).  It's been amazing and I (we) are so blessed to have so much support, love, and kindness in our lives.

Fast forward to all know that Parker started Kindergarten.  If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know he has his first loose tooth.  You know I'm a nervous wreck sending him off to school every day.  But, something you don't know - he is most definitely, the most patient, loving, kind, big brother that walked the face of this earth.  Nope, I'm not exaggerating.

Because of Parker's personality, he is enabling his brother to do so much, and before I go on and on and on about my little guy, I just had to point out how much influence Parker has on his little bro.

He is Andrew's number one guy.

It's amazing at how much can change in three months.

We've worked hard at this.  I mean really hard.  All of us.  It's in our minds all the time.  Every second of the day.  Everything from watching He-Man and Power Rangers to what we're eating for dinner, involves a learning tool for Andrew.  We've learned to take advantage of each and every moment we spend with our boys.

And, what we've learned from our friend at Tiny K really works.

Here are some of our huge strides:

1. We've learned to give Andrew choices.  Instead of asking 'What do you want for breakfast?' (Which resulted in Andrew telling us something that we didn't understand.  Us guessing the wrong food.  Andrew saying the food again.  Us guessing wrong again.  Andrew getting very upset.  Me feeling awful because I couldn't get him what he get the picture.)  We've learned to ask something more like this: 'Would you rather have toast or waffles?'  By doing this, we get a response from Andrew that either resembles toast or waffles and it makes it easier for us to guess.  And, at the same time it's doing so much more.  It's showing Andrew that we DO understand him.  It makes me feel good that he understands what I'm asking him and I understand what he's saying.  It gives us the opportunity to repeat the word back to him and he then hears the correct pronunciation of the word to maybe say it more clearly the next time.  And, it makes him feel good.  It makes him smile.  It makes him feel like he's being understood.

2. Grandma Robbie would be upset if I didn't include this one.  After months (maybe more like years) of us prompting Andrew to say the word 'Grandma', he did it.  One day...completely out of the blue.  We had Grandma Robbie's dog over for a stay at our house and we kept calling him by his name, Cherokee.  Which is hard to say.  Andrew was not going to have that.  So...instead of calling him Cherokee, Andrew named Grandma Robbie's dog 'Gi Ma Ma's Dog'.  We were beside ourselves with joy and so we got him to say more words with Gi Ma Ma in them.  We would ask, 'Andrew, where did Gi Ma Ma go?'  His answer, 'Gi Ma Ma went her home.'  Amazing!  Not only is he learning ways to cope with his language barriers, he is putting together (for the most part) complete sentences!  This was definitely something to be celebrated at our house - definitely a huge stride!

3. Repetition.  It's hard sometimes for me to understand this whole talking thing.  I don't talk a lot.  I don't like to repeat what I've said a million times.  But, for a little guy that has a language barrier, this becomes a necessity.  Not only so that he can learn to say things correctly, but to give him positive reinforcement that he is saying it right and that we understand what he's saying.  So, this is what we do.  We repeat.  At the beginning I thought this was a problem.  For me to repeat everything that Andrew says to me back to him.  I thought it might be limiting him and that I was talking for him.  But, after having lunch with a friend of mine the other day, I learned that this is important to kids with language issues.  He wants me to reinforce that I understand him.  He wants to make sure that I get it right.  That I'm not going to bring him a banana when he really wants grapes.  So, every time Andrew tells us something, we repeat it back to him.  I'm not gonna say this helps everything...because sometimes it actually makes things worse.  Like when we're waaaaay off on what Andrew is saying and we butcher his words.  But, it helps us to know what we need to work on and when we do get it right...well, let's just say we have one proud little man!

4. Coping.  This is something we've all had to work on and I really believe we've made huge strides in this area.  But, most of all, I've learned ways to help Andrew cope with his frustrations.  I know that I can't eliminate every frustration he has...or that he will have when he leaves his comfort zone...but, I can teach him ways to cope with them.  Andrew gets angry.  Pretty fast.  He's got a temper and it was at the point where Parker would run and hide from Andrew if he was upset.  For fear of getting a fist to the head or a toy thrown at him.  And, just in the past month or so, I've learned how to help Andrew cope with his temper.  How to get through those frustrating moments.  We've learned that we have to remove Andrew from the situation.  Hold his arms close to his sides.  And, think.  Think of anything that makes Andrew happy.  What does he want to play with?  How can I divert his anger into doing something else?  How can I get him to calm down so that I can explain to him that (whatever the problem was) it was not meant to hurt him?  To get him to listen so that he can accept the situation and move on, like most of us would in that situation.  To give him the opportunity to apologize or try again.  This is probably my biggest worry with my little man and I'm so blessed to have an intensely patient personality (with my boys) that can handle this 'extreme two-year old' personality. 

5. We all love to play.  And, something we've learned from Tiny K is that we have to focus our learning time around Andrew's play time.  If Andrew wants to play Power Rangers, we focus on the colors.  If he wants to play Legos, we focus on counting.  If we are watching a movie, we ask him questions about the movie and have him repeat things to us.  From this, I've learned a lot about my smallest guy.  Like, who his favorite Lego Ninja guy is...and each Ninja that he's assigned to people he loves.  For example, Boo Boo (Cooper) is the black ninja.  Bubba (Parker) is the blue ninja.  Dad is the white ninja.  Mam (who I believe is Cameron) is the green ninja...and so on.  Unfortunately, I am one of the snakes.   Go figure.  I hate snakes.   Andrew loves to assign roles to everyone in movies and I love to see who he's going to give to each of his favorite people.  But, playing also brings out more words.  I am still trying to learn some of them, but at this point in Andrew's learning process, I don't mind this.  I want him to play.  I want him to imagine and explore and even if his guys are talking a bunch of jibberish, I want him to keep doing that.  Sometimes I try to intervene and understand his language world and sometimes I just let it be.  He has the most amazing ability to just 'play' and I want him to always have that ability.  This is a huge stride.

{Andrew used his own money to purchase these Power Rangers.  In fact, he asked me to take him to the 'big store' so that he could pick out a new toy with his money.  So, we did that, and for about two hours straight, he walked around the house with these two Power Rangers, saying: 'Go Go Power Rangers!'}

6. Unlike his older brother, my Andrew-Man is super duper shy.  We've come a long way in this area, but there is still much to work on.  He will now smile at people when they talk to him and sometimes he even talks back.  The part that gets tricky is when they don't know what he's saying and they answer with something completely off the wall of what he is trying to communicate.  Then he closes down.  He puts his head down, hides behind my leg, wants to be held, or sometimes he'll even run and hide.  We've been working on trying to repeat what he says so that others will know what he's talking about, but unfortunately, we won't always be there to do that for him.  I am so proud of him for opening up to certain people that we know...his aunts and uncles, grandparents, our neighbors, our family friends...people who he once ran from, he is now playing with, talking to, and loving.  This makes me smile and is something I am very proud of.

7. Parker's love language is primarily physical touch.  I love this...probably because I love snuggling, hugs, kisses, and holding hands.  And, while I studied this a few years ago and have always known this about Parker, I hadn't yet looked into Andrew's love language.  But, in the past few months, I've refreshed myself with this theory and one more huge stride we've taken is to realize that Andrew's love language is quality time.  He wants us to get down on the ground and play He-Man, Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and Dragons with him.  I love this as well.  I love watching him play and learn and grow because of his imagination.  He has grown so much because of our play time and our one-on-one attention.  With Parker starting school, Andrew and I have had some more one-on-one time without big bro there to join us and I value this time so much because I really do feel like Andrew learns so much with each of these moments.

Andrew is learning.  He is growing and changing every day.  The other day, I told a friend of mine that right this very moment...I feel like I have no control.  And it's been really hard for me to put into words the emotions we feel everyday with our little guy.  Sometimes it's exhaustion.  Sometimes it is overwhelming excitement for something new that he's learned.  Sometimes it's sadness...then sometimes it is extreme joy.  But, there's one thing that I know I have complete control of and that's what I thrive on and that is our love for our little man.  No matter what obstacles we are thrown, we're in it together and full of love.  And, I am so proud of all of these strides, big and small.

Happy Friday my friends!  I know a lot of you have kids going off to school today and I know that some of them are heading to Kindergarten for their first day!  That, in itself, is a million emotions flying everywhere...I'm thinking of all of you.  We actually just found out who Parker's teacher is, last night and we couldn't be more thrilled! 

We are looking forward to a great weekend and we wish you all the same!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The First Day

This day came too fast. 

But, I think we're ready.

We've been talking about it for months.

And now summer is officially over.

It's Parker's very first day of Kindergarten.

And, while I'd love to dig deep into my  heart and pour out everything that I'm feeling today, I'm not going to.

Because, this is an extremely exciting day!

Just look at how happy, proud, and excited this guy is!

And, because I want Parker to know just how excited I am for him, I'm going to hide away my Momma feelings and be excited with him.

Happy (very first) first day of school Parker!  I love you!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Walk Down Memory Lane

For a weekend 'at home' this weekend seemed to be super busy and go by super fast.  I think it went by so fast because it's our last weekend before school starts...and I've been begging time to slow down, but it knows I want it to slow down, so it actually seems to be going faster.  I'll share more with you about time later this week, as we prepare to send Parker off to Kindergarten and Andrew back to Sherry's house, but for now I have a memory to share.

I love telling this story.

Ten years ago, Brandon and I were in San Francisco.

It was absolutely amazing.

Brandon was taking classes for a Microsoft Certification (I love a good geek conference) he needed for work and he asked me to tag along with him.  I'd never been to California before so I was extremely excited to go on this trip with him and see a part of our country I'd never been to.

After his class one day, Brandon told me that the guys in his class said there was this beautiful bay that we just had to go see while in the area.  I thought it sounded like a fun idea, so we got in the car and drove for about twenty minutes...and then we traffic...for what seemed like forever.

I was getting crabby, as I often do when I'm hungry...and stuck in traffic.

 I remember telling Brandon, "Why don't we just stop over here and get something to eat!  I'm so hungry!  Ugh!  I hate traffic!"  Poor guy.  I'm surprised he still went through with it.

Then, finally...we reach Half Moon Bay.  We pulled over into a small gravel parking lot and hiked to to the top of a cliff looking over the bay.  It was breathtaking.  Beautiful.  My grouchiness faded away with the wind and I was overcome with peace and love and happiness that Brandon would want to share this moment with me.

We were standing there admiring the view and when I turned to Brandon to say that I was sorry for the way I acted in the car and that this was totally worth the drive, the traffic, and the waiting...there he was...down on one knee.

With a little white box in his shaking hand.

With a smile (that I love), the words came out: "Brooke, will you marry me?"  I melted.

Of course, I said "Yes!"

And, my sweet hubby to be, he'd thought of everything.  I didn't even notice on the walk to the top of the cliff, that he'd lugged a little cooler, the camera, a blanket, and a little picnic basket.  He was ready - with champagne, cheese and crackers, and little cupcakes and cookies.

We sat at Half Moon Bay for quite a while, simply listening to the sea lions below, watching the sun fade away, and enjoying each other.

After that, we decided to walk around the Bay and we found the sweetest little Italian Restaurant to eat dinner.  We tried to call our parents from there, but we didn't have phone, they had to wait until the next morning to find out that we were now engaged!

I love walking down this memory lane.  It takes me back to a time when we were so young and so naive.  We were so much in love...with no distractions...

Life sure has changed.  We are still very in love and, in fact, I believe we are more in love now than ever, but it's a fuller, different kind of love.

Happy Engagement Anniversary Day to Brandon!

And, Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Flashback Friday: One Week From Today...

One week from today, this guy will be heading off to Kindergarten.

 Oh yeah, and he has a loose tooth.

 And, in about six weeks, he will be celebrating his sixth birthday.

But, do you know how I still picture him...

These are Parker's 1-Year pictures that I took.  They are my all-time favorite photos of my Parker.

 Like this...

 And this...

 And sometimes I even still think of him like this.

The day we brought Parker home from the hospital...what a wonderful day!

I don't always picture him as the guy that he's become.  Let me tell you.  Parker has become big.  Not just physically bigger, but he's bigger in his voice, in his actions, and in his personality.  He has grown up so much in the past few months and I am so proud of the guy he's grown into being...

Most of the time.

In one week he will be in Kindergarten.  He will loose his baby teeth.  And, he will become a six year old.  It blows my mind just how quickly this is happening, but, I think I'm cool with it.  I may not be completely ready for it, but I'm so thankful for this big guy and all that he is...and I know that I am loving this guy that he has become...more and more every day.

Happy Friday, friends!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Growing Fins

Summer just isn't summer without trips to the swimming pool.

It's a right of passage.  Like playing baseball in the front yard and swinging at the park, swimming is something we love to do.

And I really think that this summer, my kids grew fins.

I am a firm believer in swimming lessons and teaching our kids to swim and have the right skills, just in case, they are ever stuck out in the middle of  the ocean.

Okay, maybe they won't be stuck out in the ocean, but maybe one day they will follow in Aunt Dani's foot steps and be on the swim team.  Swimmers are strong and I love how much endurance this sport takes.

Parker took lessons from the Ottawa swim team coach.  He is ahhhhh-mazing with these kids and in the four short weeks that Parker had lessons, he went from an arms-flailing, dog paddling, sinker to a kid who can now swim laps around his mom and dad, even lifting his head every three strokes to get some air.

We call it 'Olympic Style' swimming.

I love how Coach Jeff handles the kids in swimming lessons.  Giving them confidence, yet making sure they know their boundaries.  Pulling 5 or 6 kids out to the 'deep end' on his arms so that they can practice treading water.  Letting them jump in at the end of every class, letting the kids believe that this is a 'fun' time in class, but really he's using it to teach them to jump in and swim to him.  Knowing just how to encourage the kids and call them 'buddy' and yet he disciplines them when they aren't being the best listeners...something most coaches these days have simply let go of.

Again this year, Andrew took lessons from our local recreation organization, and although it took him a few days of class to warm up to his classmates and his teachers, he loved it.

As with most kids, Andrew seems to listen better to instructors when his Mom is not around.  So...after my failed attempts to get him to try new things at swimming lessons, Dad took over and he had the magic touch to help Andrew learn the swimming lessons songs, jump in the water, blow bubbles, and yep, he even taught Andrew to go under water.

And, while I'm a little sad that I didn't have the magic touch, it makes me smile to know that Brandon got to experience this with Andrew and now it's their 'thing'.

Andrew has no fear when it comes to the water, so when we're not at lessons, he is required to wear his life jacket.  But, this jacket, it gives him the freedom he wants to swim out to the 'deep end' with his brother.  Without help.

Yep, he's big stuff with that jacket on.

And, I have to admit, that he may be the cutest little swimmer boy I ever saw!

Lucky for the boys, Aunt Dani loves the pool.

I think they went everyday this summer...even when it was cold...and maybe even in the rain.

Aunt Dani taught the boys many things this summer, but my favorite thing of all...she taught them to jump off of the diving board.  Andrew, of course, wears his life jacket...but, I get chills just thinking of how high up that board must look to a two year old.  He is my brave little man!

And, Parker, oh how timid he was at first.  I can't tell you how many times he climbed up that diving board ladder, only to turn around and go back down.  He would watch it, longing to do the flips, dives, and other tricks that the older kids were doing.  Until one day...he was with Aunt Dani...and I get this text, with this video...

It almost made me cry.

Parker grew his fins that day.

As summer starts to wind down and we try to squeeze in everything we haven't checked off our summer bucket list, it's moments like these that make me reflect on past summers and think of just how fast every year seems to be flying by.   I remember riding my bike to the pool as a kid, having green hair from mom sewing the 'summer pass' badge onto my swim suit...and I am nostalgic for that same experience for my kids.  I am so glad they love swimming and that this summer, the summer of '13, they grew their fins.