Sunday, July 27, 2014

Easy Peasy Road Trip (Meet Me In St. Louis Again)

After doing a 20 hour road trip in June, our annual jaunt down to St. Louis (a mere 5 1/2 hours) seemed like nothin'. Charlie and I packed our bags (a'hem, you know he didn't pack a thing--as much as I encouraged him to participate) and headed South last Tuesday.

Most of you know that Mindy & I lived together when we were in grad school, but after she & her family moved to St. Louis we rarely see each other.  So, it's always fun to reconnect and this year was no different.  Our kids are at great ages-- becoming more independent but still interested in little outings and adventures that we plan.  (We might be singing a different tune when they hit those magical middle school years and become too cool for day trips with their ol' moms.)  But for the time being, it's great.  

Charlie and Harrison hit it off really well.  But let's be honest: I'm pretty sure Harry could hang out with anyone-- he's one of those kids that just jumps right into the action and doesn't look back.  My kid, as you know, is not a "jump right in" kind of person-- and probably won't ever be.  So once he surveyed his surroundings, he let his guard down enough to run wild with Harry.... as long as it was just the two of them.  As soon as a neighbor friend was part of the action, C retreated a bit and took on the role of observer for a good while.

We spent plenty of time just hanging out and relaxing at Min's house--playing pirates, diggers & dumpers, school, castle, store, hotel, and of course Bingo (which only involved spinning the balls around in the hopper and probably losing half of them-- Sorry Min, add that to my tab).  We also went on a few new excursions this year.  

On Wednesday morning, we packed a picnic lunch & headed down to a little nature preserve not far from Mindy's house.  The kids played on the park equipment before venturing down to a shady little creek and wading around. Mindy and I even enjoyed sitting in chairs watching them play for about ten minutes before we were summoned to do/help/intervene in some way.  The kids picnicked when their tummies growled and then resumed their quest for minnows and tiny tadpoles.  It was so picturesque midwestern summer-- This nature girl loved it and could have sat down there for hours.

We spent Thursday morning at the St. Louis Transportation Museum.  Mindy and I weren't sure how long our little people would last and figured it might be a short outing.  But honestly, they LOVED it! We arrived around 10:00, and didn't leave until 1:00.  The entire museum was really interesting-- I kept thinking of how much my grandpa Bernie would have enjoyed it.  Personally, I would have loved to had time to read more of the little plaques explaining things, but with four kids in tow that was nearly impossible.  Mason would have loved the automobile room-- where they have collections of antique cars and carriages.  I was impressed, but Mase knows his cars and I'm sure he would have been even more excited.

This year happens to be St. Louis's semiquincentennial.  (I googled that word--it's fancy for 250th anniversary) In honor of the big celebration, the city has placed 250 huge cakes throughout the entire city.  Mindy & the kids have been looking for them this summer and one of them was at the museum.  Very cool. :)

After finally riding the small train around the museum (they begged us to do it right away-- and had we known we got unlimited rides, we would have), we headed out for lunch.  Mindy introduced us to Five Guys-- where she proceeded to share her big burger with her three children (yes, four people split a hamburger) and I, alone, ate my entire burger.  (C'mon people, let's stick with the "eating for two philosophy" on this one.)  Charlie ate fries and peanuts and popcorn for lunch.  (I think we fulfilled the sodium requirement for the rest of the month)

That afternoon we rested (literally, I laid on Mindy's couch trying to get comfortable for a good hour or two) before eating pizza for dinner & ice cream before bed.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that we left Jeremy in charge of the kids for an couple hours Wednesday and Thursday nights while Mindy and I had date night.  Our date involved going to the Gap, returning a movie, and picking up ice cream. But it was solo girl time in a vehicle without sliding doors so it felt pretty darn exciting.  

The next morning, Charlie slept in late ("I was the last kid to get out of bed!") and Mindy spoiled us with monkey bread ("Mommy, can you make this yummy sugary monkey bread sometime?") before our travels.  Charlie and Harry played while I packed but we were on the road by 10:00 and home around 4:00.

(I LOVE this picture of the two of us!)

I was exhausted when we walked through our front door, but as always, it felt good to be home.  This was the last of our mini overnight excursions for the summer and in a way, I'm a little sad to see them come to an end.  But, on the other hand, I'm ready to just hang out in Spahnville and soak up the rest of the summer.  On Friday night we watched the tractor pull at the Grundy Fair and last night we enjoyed some barbecue action at a friend's house before watching something called "demolition derby" at the fairgrounds.  (Believe me, I really hope I remember to blog about that!)  Nothing feels more like small town summer than a county fair with tractors, livestock, and random food on sticks.  (And let's not forget the sno cones and lemonades and greasy people in tank tops.)  We have another busy week ahead-- with a BIG ADVENTURE on Tuesday and Kelly's visit on Thursday!  I'm super excited about both-- will keep ya posted with blog and instagram pics, I'm sure.  

In the meantime, we just wait for that little baby cousin to arrive any day now.  (I love that she was due on Friday and is making her mama wait a few extra days.  Makes me giggle that she's already changing her very-organized mama's plans.) 

And now, I leave you with this quote from Charlie.  I asked him if he had fun with his friends this week, and this is what he told me:

"People that we know and we don't live there, and we love them, we miss them when we're not there. Like I miss my friends."  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Summer Day (Mostly about my kid)

As mentioned previously, our summer in Spahnville has been cray-cray-cray-crazy!  But crazy in that really good, soak it up, say "yes" to indulgences, lounge around, travel far, stay up late, eat forbidden junk food, kind of way.  2014 has definitely been a fantastic summer!  AND, while it's hard to believe it's already the middle of July, I keep reminding myself, "it's only the middle of July!"  Which means, we still have a good month left before school starts, and even after school starts, we have weeks left of summer weather!  (I'm doing a happy dance just thinking about it!)

This summer, Charlie seems to be at the best age yet. Have you noticed a pattern that every milestone he's ever gone through has become my new favorite?  It's always better than the last.  I love love love watching him grow up.  His vocabulary seems to astonish me every day and his independent thinking has really been something fun to watch develop.  During our road trip, Mason was reading facts about dinosaurs to him.  Suddenly, Charlie asks "Daddy? Could you tell me what time period that dinosaur lived in?"  What the what?!  My little paleontologist is constantly seeking out new prehistoric information--which is so fun to listen to and honestly, I'm learning quite a bit.

However, this morning, he did tell me, "Mom, I'm kind of not into dinosaurs anymore.  I think I'll be into Spiderman now."  He was so serious and big-boy that I could only nod back and say, "Spiderman is lots of fun too, but I'm sure you can still play with dinosaurs if you change your mind later."

He's also recently discovered joke telling.
Last night, he wanted to tell knock-knock jokes during supper.  He started with this:
C: Knock Knock
Us: Who's there?
C:  Um......... (looks around the room) Lamp!
Us:  (glancing at each other) Lamp who?
C: Um...Lamp Knock!!  Haaahahahahahah!!  (Wild laughter from him)

So Mason followed up with this one:
M: Knock Knock
C: Who's There?
M: Boo
C: Boo-Who?
M: Boo-Hoo!  Why are you crying!?
----Now here's the funny part-- >  Charlie goes into FITS of laughter.  Like, bursting out, gagging, eyes watering.  Then he stops long enough to slap the table and choke out the words, "Crying!  That's a good one, Dad!"  At that comment, Mason and I about died laughing-- as in choking on our food and spitting out our water.  (And I may have almost wet my pants but it really doesn't take anything for that to happen anymore.)

C is also becoming quite the Daddy's helper.  Mason and I have been working in the front yard to replace the compost with mulch.  Last week, I tore out the existing weed fabric (yes, at 7 months pregnant I may have overdone it a bit and yes, I may have gone to the chiropractor as a result, and yes, I'm totally fine and not crazy.) and got it all ready for Mason to finish.  Last night, he put down new weed fabric and what looked like a million bags of mulch.  Charlie helped carry and open and spread the mulch around-- in between building ant traps and playing baseball and running around the yard like a crazy man.  The result of our hard work looks amazing, don't you think?

 We've also put in a new patio and seat-wall, which just so happens to double as the perfect balance beam as well.  It's a great addition to our deck-- and eventually, when our funds aren't so low, we'll add some new patio furniture, a fire pit, and maybe even one of those outdoor heaters for Mama!  (Another happy dance!)

And, here's a look at a few of my favorite annuals this year:

These have just gone crazy-- covering our entire planter and cascading off the deck.  The petunias look white in the picture but they're actually a light purple-- I'm such a sucker for purple flowers and these are gorgeous.

Charlie chose these flowers from the greenhouse and planted them on Earth Day.  They, too have bloomed like crazy and surprisingly the orange/purple combination looks really good!

So, summer is cruising by and I think it's safe to say that we're all loving it.  There are so many other things I want to post but I honestly just find myself wrapped up so many other activities that the blog is definitely taking a back seat.  Someday, I promise to catch up.  In the meantime... keep on keepin' on as summer rolls by.

Do Not Try This at Home; A Bubble Mishap

I'm so proud of myself for releasing my tight grasp of a daily schedule and trading it in for a more relaxed, laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes daily summer routine.  (With the exception of this one tiny rule: Wake up, go potty, get dressed, brush teeth all must happen before eating breakfast.  If these 3 things do not occur before breakfast, then each one of them will turn into a gigantic mother-son battle of wills.  And it's anyone's guess as to who's stamina is going to prevail on any particular day.) That being said, we've had many easy-going summer days and plenty that are filled up with day trips and mini-adventures.

But sometimes, on our easy going days, I feel like I should be doing more.  I should be doing something to foster creativity or better independent thinking or just something.  Mason found a website that had a million fun summer activities to do with your kids and they all looked amazing!  But honestly, playing the ipad is more fun for Charlie and his mama likes it because she can sneak in a nap during a little Minion Rush action.

The other day, however, we decided to experiment with bubbles.  This activity commenced around 11:20 pm.
1. We made giant bubble wands like this
2. And made these super cool bubble snakes.
3. We tested them out on the deck.  The weather was perfect-- cool and a little breezy to make the bubbles fly away just enough.  Everything was good and fun and sunny and lovely.  I was a very good and crafty and montessori-ish mom.

Until I wasn't.

Around 11:35 this:
All of the sudden, I heard a choke/gag/vomit sound.  I dropped the bubble wand, ran to Charlie, who was choking and coughing and turning red in the face-- all while holding his bubble snake bottle.

"What happened!?"  I gasped.
"The bubbles, went inside! I breathed them in!" he managed to sputter as a lone bubble escaped his mouth.
And while I should have been immediately comforting and reassuring, I hate to admit that my first words were, "What were you thinking?  You can't breath in bubbles!" (Luckily, it quickly dawned on me that he's four.  Period.  Be the mom.  Be the grown up.  Help your child.)

My instinct told me to have him drink water, although I had no idea if that would help or hurt the situation.  I pictured his whole esophagus filling up with bubbles and escaping from every possible pore.  He tried to drink the water but was getting so worked up about the discomfort in his throat.  Tears were streaming down his cheeks and his little face was getting splotchy from his accident.  And my heart simultaneously broke and giggled as he struggled to speak, "It hurts, Mommy.  My throat is hurting so bad. These are bad bubbles!"  As he spoke, bubbles escaped from his lips and others were forming inside his nose.  (It reminded me of those old Mickey Mouse cartoons where the sailor is hiccuping bubbles--it was kind of even cuter in real life.)

I scooped him into my (ever shrinking) lap, and told him he'd be fine but he really needed to relax. The worst part was when he looked at me, in all seriousness and said, "Mommy, I think I'm going to die!"  (I know, he tends to be a little on the dramatic side but I really think he was scared this time.) So, I did what I do when I'm in some kind of semi-crisis like this.  I called Mason.

Mase did a quick google search and then asked if I had called Poison Control.  Um, no.  Hadn't even thought of that one.  But cut me some slack here-- I've only been a mom for four years-- How was I supposed to remember there even is such a thing?  Long story short:  I called the 800 number and the lady at Poison Control was very nice and assured me that I had done everything right.  (!!)  She told me to watch for coughing and difficulty breathing in the upcoming hours and she even called back an hour later to check on us.  (She also will be sending free stickers and magnets to our home address.  I think having the stickers and magnets would have definitely helped me remember this resource.)

So here's my take-away lesson:
Before you rush out and try to foster creativity or learning or something pinterest-mom-worthy, ask yourself if it's really worth putting down the ipad for.  In this case, I definitely questioned it at the moment.  But honestly, some good ol' lessons were learned from our 15 minutes of creativity.   Then we went back to the ipad and enjoyed our afternoon.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Out of Office Auto Reply

I feel like I need an auto-reply these days.  As in, we've been away from the house, the yard, the daily routine long enough that coming home almost feels like being on vacation.  (Isn't that a lovely thought?)

Our summer has absolutely flown by-- as I knew it would.  That seems to happen when you fill up every nook and cranny with things to do.  But just like a week-long vacation, where the first two days seem to stretch out endlessly before you and by mid-week time is slipping through your fingers, the summer seems to be doing the same thing.  June was filled with swimming lessons and preparations for our vacation-- so much to learn and think about and prepare for!  There was so much on the horizon and so much to look forward to.  (If you ask me, the anticipation of upcoming events is half the fun of them)  But now, I glance at our backyard and the corn is definitely more than "knee-high"-- it's height matches my own (not that that says much about height) and will reach the 7' mark before we know it.

A few nights ago, I heard cicadas for the first time-- a sound I love, but one that is definitely associated with late summer.  This week, temperatures dipped into the 50's and 60's-- some meterologists even speculating that we'll see some record low temps for July.  The thought of sweatshirts and chilly evenings makes me cringe, but my fingers are crossed that we'll have some very "oppressive" heat-stroke-inducing days ahead of us.

So where has our summer gone?  What have we been up to?  Here's a peek off the top of my head:

* A few ladies golf nights with the Parkersburg gals
* A few golf outings for Mason
* Spahnville Friday night family golf

* Charlie and I spent the 4th of July in Spencer (note to self:  Spencer Fireworks make Grundy Center Fair Fireworks look like NYC celebration.  Seriously.  L-A-M-E.)
* Charlie spent a few days with his grands-- who took him on numerous adventures and spoiled him beyond the usual grandparent spoiling.
*  Mason spent several days up at the cottage with his high school buddy.  Their days were spent fishing and golfing and probably talking about their lovely wives whenever they could.  :)

Misc Activities:
* New patio
* Annuals
* Flea Market Finds
* Clean garage
* Mama's Lapswim
* Pool-time
* Summer Reading
* Minion Rush (we all have our vices, right?)
* Giant Bubbles
* Farmer's Markets
* Pregnant Sister Pedicures
* Buying Baby Clothes
* Felix Grundy Celebration
* Big Waterslide
* DM Zoo trip with Sister & friends (& kiddos, of course)

So yes, summer is slipping by quickly, but it's been fantastic so far.  I'm feeling well (& LOVING my internal furnace right now-- just the thing so many people told me I'd hate.  Honestly, this is the first summer I haven't had to carry a lightweight sweater while I grocery shop or stroll through a mall.) although I definitely feel five years older than the last time I did this pregnancy thing.

We have several things to continue to look forward to-- we're headed to St. Louis next week, our family has Adventureland tickets for later in July, Kelly & Turner are paying us a visit at the beginning of August, and we're hoping to steal some time on Holiday Lake with a few good friends before kicking off the school year.  Oh, and we'll have a new little niece arrive sometime during the midst of all that!  Can't wait!

The next few days we'll be relaxing at home-- trying to get caught up on "just being"... although I'm beginning to admit that there really is no such thing during the summer.  Which is fine and dandy for me.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to be a Pirate (Destin Vacation #3)

The entire point of our beach vacation was to hang out on the beach.  There was little interest in doing touristy things or leaving our perfect house, nestled in the white sandy beach.  Except that when I travel, I tend to want to do something, even if it's just one thing.  I'm sure this comes from traveling with my parents, who tend to be crazy busy while on vacation.  But they're much more intellectual than me-- and they seem to like learning new things at all times, including while on vacation.  I, on the other hand, love to sit around... as long as I get out of the house once.

We had heard from some friends that the Buccaneer Pirate Ship was a really fun adventure if we were looking for something to do.  So we took the bait and boarded the 3:30 Buccaneer Pirate cruise.  The kids were entertained for the entire two hours... and the (non-pregnant) adults drank beer.  Who could be upset with that arrangement?

The Keplingers with Charlie:

Learning how to swab the deck:

Stealing a little lot of Mama's smoothie:

Teaching Daddy how to sword fight.  "Blade to BLADE, Daddy!"

The Keplingers watch the activity on the deck.  And that's "Captain Cannonball" at the wheel!

And yes.... there may be video of this event.  But for now, just use your imagination.

Lil' Mateys: Charlie & Jack

Little Kate wasn't too excited, but was quite the trooper.

It's safe to say the kids (especially the younger ones-- or at least my kid) loved the pirate ship.  They helped haul a treasure chest from the ocean and open it up.  Charlie's eyes were as big as silver dollars as they opened it up and then sang the Buccaneer Pirate Chant:
"We are the crew of the Buccaneer...Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of root beer!" 

After our salty dog adventure, the families went their own way for dinner.  We hit up the kid zone and Charlie "bungee jumped".  I couldn't get enough of his smile.  It was contagious.

And what would vacation be without a stop to ride go-karts?  Apparently, these were not too fast but Charlie loved them because he had a steering wheel.  Life is good.

That night, we ate supper at the house before having ice cream with peaches.  (Again!)

When Charlie fell asleep that night, his eyes fluttered and his body snuggled into the soft and sandy sheets.  And he mumbled, "We are the crew...of the...Buccaneer.......yo.....ho.....root-beer.........."  and he was out.  And I was a teary hormonal mess.  Magical, I tell you.

I couldn't have been more grateful.   

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sand in My Sheets... Our Vacation Daily Routine (Destin Vacation #2)

Disclaimer: Pic Heavy Post so I hope I don't crash your computers or phones or email or anything!

Call me crazy but there was no way I could sleep in on Sunday morning-- despite having traveled over 1,100 miles the days before.  I woke up early and stepped outside to smell that salty air.  It's the most distinct smell-- you forget what it even smells like until you step outside and inhale it.  For me, it takes me back to the Caribbean-- to Punta Cana with Mason, to Jamaica with our wedding guests, to Puerto Vallarta with Kelly at Flynn's wedding.  Each of those trips has been magical, and this one was no different.

The view from our main deck.  Notice how empty and peaceful the beach looks before the crowds arrive for the week.   

Our walkway down to the beach.

A tide pool and giant cloud that hung in the humid air for hours.

Testing out the water for the first time bright and early on Sunday morning.

The families we stayed with were college friends of Mason.  One family lives in Dubuque, and the other lives in Birmingham.  Both families have three kids-- whose ages stair-step from 3 to 11.  I was a little worried that it would take Charlie the entire week to warm up to his new friends, but they all were inseparable by the end of the first day.

The boys took a beach break to watch some Scooby-Doo in our room.  I told them they could lie on our bed and watch it-- and when I came back in, I found them like this.  Snuggled IN the bed, laughing and giggling at Shaggy and his silly gang.  No wonder a pound of sand poured out of our sheets that night when we crawled into bed.

The days sort of morphed into each other and looking back, it's hard to tell one day from the next. This is probably because we quickly settled into a daily routine...of sorts.  It went something like this:

5:45-6:00 I wake up.   I was always the first one up-- that early morning muggy air and ocean breeze just called my name.  I would sit outside on the deck or walk along the beach with the other early birds. One morning, Charlie woke up early and walked along the beach, too.  It was so fun to have him with me-- he jumped on and off the sand ledge and ran around.  I could have watched him all day.

Other mornings, it was just me and this baby.  Pretty special time too.  One lady came up to me and said, "Isn't it neat to think that you're hearing the same sounds as your baby?"  Ah, very cool.

7:00-8:00 Take tents down to the beach to claim "Our Spot".  Thanks to Mason's friend who brought the giant purple tents, we had plenty of shade to rest under and set up camp for all of our belongings.

The view of our walkway and the tons of chairs/toys/boards/etc. we hauled down to the beach every morning.

Mason and his buddy, Kris

Early morning beach look

View from the house-- love those purple tents!  Go Duhawks!  (Go Panthers!)

8:00-9:00:  Kids wake up, eat breakfast, watch Disney Jr. (a treat for Charlie since we canceled our extra channels), play ipads.

     Get ready for the beach: Basically this involved suiting up and lathering our bodies with sunscreen.  I think we all used Broad Spectrum 50, which seemed to do the trick because nobody in our family received even the tiniest burn.
     Head down to the beach:  Usually we had to trick Charlie into this because he insisted it was too bright and sunny for him.  But once he was actually on the sand and had his friend Jack in sight, he was good to go.
      Play in the water & on the sand: Had I not been pregnant, I would have spent every second in the ocean.  And while I spent my fair share of time jumping over waves with Charlie, I was jealous of Mason being able to do much more than me.  Gravity was not my friend when it came to hanging on to Charlie and bending over the waves, and it didn't take long to tire me out.  But, I tried to enjoy as much ocean/ wave time as possible.

My view:

The other ladies on our trip.  Sneaky Miss Beth didn't let me take any other pictures though!

A thrilling game of "Chase Daddy!"

The kids had a blast digging sand holes and filling them with water.  One day we had four or five of these surrounding our camp.

Miss Kate said hers was a nest.

Charlie said his was a castle

An afternoon walk on the beach to check out a sea-turtle nest

Our camp, complete with all our goods!

Little Miss Kate

Miss Karen showing her volleyball skills with the beach ball

Charlie and Daddy way far away!

It was supposed to be a cute shot of the college buddies with their kiddos... but someone ran away screaming, "I don't want to take a picture!"  (Later he told me, "Mom, I don't need my picture taken. I already know what I look like!")

Doritos? Cheetos? Yes, Please!

Scoop little ones, scoop!

   Usually we spent this time inside as the beach was HOT and very crowded.  It was good rest/relaxation/down time.  The kids usually played games with each other or made crafts or played ipad games.   The daddies usually watched the World Cup-- especially if the US was playing.

Late Afternoon- 6:30/7:00
     More beach time.  I wish this time of day would have lasted forever.   The public beach crowd had died down and the sun was not nearly as hot.  The kids ran in the sand and flew kites and kicked soccer balls.  They tossed toys into the waves and caught tiny fish and hermit crabs with little nets.  We soaked up every drop of beach time before heading in for supper.

Beach Hair! Don't Care!

Oh.My.God.  This picture is all I need in the world.

     Most nights, we ate as a large group.  We took turns cooking dinner (although I still feel guilty for not cleaning the kitchen enough.  Next time, when I can stand for more than an hour, I will definitely be a better helper!) and then enjoyed ice cream before bed.  (Bryer's Peach Ice Cream with fresh Florida peaches on top....GLORIOUS!)

     This was the latest anyone stayed up-- and I think we were mostly in bed by 10:00.  After spending all day in the sun and waves we had little energy to do much else.

(to be continued...again)