Sunday, March 25, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In March, the kids and I got to visit my parents and family in Arizona. We had planned to go before Dad's stroke, but I was grateful to have the opportunity to see him--and all the family--again, this time strictly for fun.

It was their first time on an airplane, and they were out-of-their-minds-excited. They did great, loved the fact that they got to chew watermelon-flavored gum, and could barely contain their delight that there was a bathroom ON THE PLANE.

(Doesn't he look like such a big kid pulling his suitcase--which he insisted on doing himself the whole time!)

Getting off the plane in Arizona.

In addition to seeing my parents, we also were lucky to arrive the same day this little guy did! 
My brother and sister welcomed baby #4, their first boy!
(And he really was one of the most perfect little babies I have ever seen!) 

We also had TONS of fun enjoying the amenities of a big city. 
We went to the Phoenix Zoo, which really is quite nice. 

Watched Backyardigans with the cousins...

Went to the dinosaur museum (which Little Bird has been BEGGING to do forever!)
Digging for dino eggs here: 

And braving the T-Rex! 

And attending a favorite cousin's birthday party, complete with bouncy house, games and pinata! 

In news of my dad, he's doing remarkably well. I was so impressed by the difference in him. I know he still has his frustrations--for instance, he has beautiful handwriting, but it isn't back quite to that point where it was before the stroke (though it's much better than my husband's already!), and he gets tied up if he's talking in conversation more than 4-5 sentences (but was getting stuck at 4-5 words last time I visited!). I think some of his frustrations come from the fact that he sees the every day, small changes, but it is hard for him to step back and see how far he's come. For me, again, I have the blessing of distance and time--even though it's hard to be away, when I saw him, I was just blown away at how far he has come along. His therapy is truly helping and I am so grateful for his therapists. And again, I'm so impressed at and proud of him and the way he is working. He's ornery, so it takes a little to convince him, but once he starts, he really works hard. :) 

In July, after the baby gets here, Mom and Dad will be coming to visit and I can't wait to see them and the progess Dad will have made again! We've been so blessed to see them so much this year, especially given all the circumstances that have come along. It's been a difficult year, but one filled with so much love and accomplishment, too! 


Monday, March 5, 2012

Free to throw snowballs...

One of the things I have been working on as a mother is giving my kids a bit more independence. I'm sometimes the type that, if it were more socially acceptable, would wrap my kids in bubble wrap, keep them locked in the basement, and make them wear football helmets even when sleeping. This is a tendency I spend a lot of time fighting back, and because of it, I am occasionally smacked in the face with the realization of what precisely my kids can do, beyond my expectations.

Case in point: with this baby, I have mentioned I was sick. Much of my first trimester was spent losing weight, thanks to my inability to stomach the mere thought of food, much less eat it without it coming up. Most of my mornings were spent laying in bed or on the couch, mustering the courage to face my work day. Other times, I would drag myself around, attempting to play with the kids or get things done. Lucky for me, it turns out that Squirrel is quite the domestic assistant. Thanks to my illness, I learned that she can (and actually loves to!): pour cereal and milk for her and Little Bird; make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; start a movie; pick out everyone's clothes for the day; empty (some of) the dishwasher; and make the beds.

In most cases, letting her do these things usually left me feeling like a colossal failure (like when, at 22 weeks, I was throwing up again and laid in bed, and she said, "I'm sorry mama. I should have made us breakfast this morning, but I forgot." The kid still says "breffast" and is apologizing that she didn't feed her 4 year old self and 3 year old brother?!? Epic mommy-fail!), but I have also realized that she and Little Bird take a great deal of pride in doing things on their own. He is learning to use the potty and dress himself, and Squirrel is his biggest cheerleader and advisor (going so far as to demonstrate step-by-step in the bathroom how to get it done). When she makes a PB&J, or he puts his shirt on the right way, they positively GLOW with pride, and not even because I celebrate with them; there is a genuine and deep sense of accomplishment at doing something on their own. 

So...I am trying to give them a bit of independence.

We haven't had a whole lot of snow this year, actually a remarkably small amount, as I previously mentioned. But in the last month and a half or so, we've been getting the occasional fluff. And so yesterday, my kids asked if they could go out and play in it. And Squirrel specifically asked if they could go out *alone.* Generally, my immediate response would be to say no and distract them with a fun game where they would be locked up tight in my over-vigilant sight. This time, I reminded myself that I didn't have a good reason for saying no, and that they had been showing me how much they could do. So I set some ground rules and let them loose.

Mostly they stomped around, kicked the snow, and puddle jumped. Then they hung upside down on the banisters over the concrete steps (insert image of me picturing their brains spilled everywhere and literally biting my tongue to keep from hollering at them to stop...they totally survived AND still have all their brains in their heads!).

Then Squirrel got an idea. You can see it forming here...

And the approach here...

She pummeled her little brother with a snowball. 
He, in turn, came running to the door where I had just started taking pictures, near tears, to tattle. 
"Mommy! Sister frowed a snowball at me!"

Ordinarily, I would have probably given him a kiss, reprimanded his sister, 
and said it was time to come in. 

This time, I stopped to think, and then I said:
"Well, I guess you better throw one back at her!"

His expression immediately changed to pure mischief, and he was off to retaliate. 
And then came one of my favorite scenes thus far in the year: 

They had so. much. FUN. They both threw snow until they were out of breath. No tears, just laughter. No fights, just fun. And when they looked exhausted, I invited them in for hot chocolate. 

They were so proud of their outdoor play "alone."

Today Squirrel, wide eyed with excitement, said, "Mom. Remember that time you let me and brother have a snowball fight outside...all by OURSELVES???"

Yep, I remembered.

"That was really fun."

Note to self: a little freedom goes a long way. 

Maybe I'll let Squirrel make me breakfast in bed tomorrow...scrambled eggs, and hold the guilt. ;)