Thursday, December 24, 2009


At this moment, my 2 adorable kids are sitting together on the couch, snuggled up together. They are "reading" books together, which mostly consists of Ben describing all the pictures to Molly, with Molly making supportive comments back after each page.

Ex: Ben: "See Molly, the train is running down the track so fast and it's brakes aren't working so the driver is trying to get it to slow down."
Molly: "Yea Ben, choo choo fast!"

Ben: "Now the train fell off the tracks, and the driver is calling for the break down train so they can put the train back up on the tracks."
Molly: "Oh, I see!"

Ben: "Look, Molly, Olivia has her mouth open."
Molly: "Mouse (mouth) open Ben!"

But the best part of this moment is that...they are completely entertaining each other, without ANY help from me at all! Heavenly!!! They are playing well and constructively, and I am blogging:) Amazing!!

They have finally gotten to the stage where, at times, they will really play well together for sustained periods of time. It's not often, and it's not usually long, but it is finally every day.

They mostly like to play "babies" and pretend to be infants, play running/dancing games, and occasionally will get out an actual game, and play their own version of it.

It has been so delightful to see them reach this stage, and it is SO wonderful to see their relationship develop.

But, as a random parenting thought, I also have to add that I believe the only reason these moments are popping up every day for us now is that we don't do t.v. here for children under 2. Since Molly isn't 2 yet, this means that the television is never on the the day time...ever.

We aren't a t.v.-free house, Ben watches a show most days while Molly naps, and Aaron and I definitely watch when the kids are in bed. But our "family" hours are all t.v. free.

This was a commitment I made to myself when I was deciding who I wanted to be as a parent, over 4 years ago. And, to be honest, I didn't know if I could do it. It seemed unbelievably difficult. I knew LOTS of amazing mothers, and none of them had done it. My own childhood had plenty of t.v. in it. I didn't think that it would be hard to have it off in general play time, but I wondered how would I ever get ANYTHING done in the day with a toddler in the house. How would I shower? How would I get a random, but necessary chore done?

Well, now that Molly is only 7 weeks from the 2-yr mark, and we have no infants in the house, or planned for that matter:), I can officially announce that it has been WAY WAY easier than I ever expected!!!

Honestly! I think it is as simple as: it was never a part of my routine, or a tool in my arsenal to use with crabby kids, so I just never missed it. And, instead, I feel so much pride in knowing that I stuck to my parenting philosophy on this one, and so my joy each time I see them playing independently with each other, or even playing well alone.

The only time they need to play independently is when I am, doing dishes, on the phone, whatever. But these are the exact times that I would think to use t.v. if it were an option. So, while there are PLENTY of times that I am pulling my hair out trying to get them to play well together and also get a chore done, I think that, by keeping the "boob tube" off, I have been inadvertntly forcing them to use that time constructively without my help. It has been a WONDERFUL pay off!

It has definitely had it's moments of frustration, and showering is always a crap shoot, but I have loved it, and strongly encouraqe anyone wishing to unplug from the t.v. a bit to go for it. Our grandmothers got by just fine without it...we can too!! You don't have to go cold turkey...just back off one regular time, and leave the rest. Your kids will come around because, well, they will have to, and you will all survive:)

*And, come Feb 24th, when Molly is 2-years and 1-day old, I will still try to keep it off in general, because we just aren't used to having it on, so why start??! But I also will be showering in peace!!!! :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thanks, GiGi and Margok!!

First, let me apologize for not blogging well lately. My goal is one story/post a week, but we have been having computer troubles lately, so I haven't been able to keep up. I am currently using Aaron's work laptop, but can't add pics or anything fun, so it's hard to get some of the stories put together. Aaron and I are buying a new computer for Christmas this year as our present to each other, so that should get us back up and running soon.

For now, though, I have to say a HUGE THANK YOU!!!! to Aaron's sister Gretchen (GiGi) and brother-in-law Martin (Margok)!!!

They offered to come stay here at our house with our kids for us for a weekend and let us go away, as a thank you to us for the help we gave them back in March preparing for their wedding.

So we finally got all the scheduling to work, and this weekend was the big weekend.!!!

First of all, it sounds like the kids had a ton of fun all weekend, and slept well, and generally did just fine without us for 2 nights. And G and M didn't look nearly as tired and ready for a break as I worried they might when we arrived home. They actually looked like they were just fine, though probably very much looking forward to a night's sleep without a toddler in the room:)

And as for us, we had a WONDERFUL weekend! Though we did honestly miss the kids much, it was so rejuvenating to have a weekend of just the 2 of us. It has been over 4 years since we had a full weekend to ourselves, and over 2 years since we had a full night to ourselves, so we were ready for the time together.

We didn't even go anywhere, really. We just got a room at the downtown Drury Hotel right by the St. Louis Arch, and stayed close to home. We spent a lot of time resting, reading, chatting, and just generally doing what I suppose other people our age who don't have kids are doing on weekends. We even went to a movie Saturday afternoon, just because we were free! We saw "Up In The Air", the new movie out that is partly set here in St. Louis, and we really enjoyed it. It was so great to not have to get a babysitter, and then hurry home afterwards. And then later we went on a great walk around the Arch grounds, bundled up in our coats, but loving the fresh air and the scenery.

It was such a wonderful time, but one of the things that we were struck by the most was how easy it was for us to just be together again without the kids. It's been so long that there might have been the worry that we have stopped having things to talk about, but that wasn't the case at all! We just felt exactly like ourselves, but without other people to dress/feed/care for/etc. It was surreal and nice all at the same time.

So, I'll end with recommending this for all of you out there with little ones. For people with kids who aren't yet approaching 2 yrs old yet, maybe you will have to wait a bit longer, but for the rest of us, we need to remember to take some time out and focus on the union that brought two adults together, and the created the place for children anyway. We're going to try to do it once a year or so, and hopefully you all will too! :)

Monday, November 30, 2009


Something happened today that I don't think has happened in 2 years!!

Ben fell asleep in my arms! It was so sweet and out of the blue. He was feeling a little off today, not truly sick, just coming down from a week of fun-at-every-second over the Thanksgiving holiday, and we were snuggling on the couch while Molly was taking her nap.

I could tell he was not his usual self by the way that he let me just hold him in my lap, snuggling together under a blanket on the couch. But he seemed fine, just low key.

Well, one moment I was making up random stories for him per his request, and then all of the sudden he was breathing softly and deeply, asleep in my arms.

I didn't want him to sleep long. It was late in the afternoon, and I knew if he was out for a while that bedtime would be rough for him. But I KNEW what a precious moment it was. So for about 10 min. I just held him and watched him sleep, much the same as I did when he was a newborn...feeling all my mommyhood love for him overwhelm me, as I peered at his little face. Seeing him throughout all the stages of his life so far, and being amazed at how big he has gotten, as well as amazed at how small he still is!

Finally, I gently woke him. We both had a good laugh about him falling alseep out of the blue like that, and went right on talking and playing.

So sweet!! I wonder how many times he will sleep in my arms again? Can't be too many. It's really overwhelming how time flies and children grow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mr. Moose turns 4!!!

I can't believe I am actually writing this, but my tiny baby will be 4-yrs-old by the time anyone reads this!!!

Sadly, our main computer is having trouble, so I am on Aaron's work laptop, and therefore can't attach any cool pics of Ben and his birthday, but I still wanted to take a few mintues to reflect on this next birthday of Ben's, and on my thoughts of having a 4-yr-old. I'll post some pics of the birthday boy as soon as I am able. And I apologize ahead of time for how rambling this will be!!!

Wow...4...another year grown and passed. Really, what else can I say other than that he is a total joy to me, a blessing that I cherish endlessly, and more than I could have ever hoped for in a son. He is just so amazing in so many ways.

I don't "know" everything about his personality yet, of course, but with each passing month, we are starting to get a more clear picture of who he is becoming. He has left the dependence of toddlerhood far behind, and is (mostly) bravely forging ahead into the world of a child. He is just starting to "get" friends, though his friendships are still heavily based on those with whom we socialize. At preschool in particular, however, where most of the kids are new aquaintances, there are some children that he gravitates more toward, and some that don't seem to be a good fit.

Just this morning, in fact, I saw it clearly. First, let me share that he still gets nervous when I leave him at preschool. It is hard for me Not "I might pull him out and never make him leave the house again" hard, but more like "he's so sweet and has to work to be brave and I can't wait until this passes for him!" hard. And he LOVES preschool, its just the part of me leaving the door that is hard. But recently, he has started to enjoy playing with 2 of the kids in paricular, a girl named Gabrielle, and a boy named Xavier. Well today, as I walked out, I could see him standing there fighting tears for a moment. But then Gabrielle walked up and she said something to him, and within about 5 seconds, he was skipping around the room with her and they were both laughing their heads off. SO sweet.

So it is fun to start to see his social world develop. In addition, his imagination is also growing rapidly these days. He is currently in the "extrapolation" mode of thinging. He is constantly asking a starter question, and then expanding it into further and further possible issues or situations. Like yesterday, I told him that he had to get his shoes on because I had to leave the house and I couldn't leave him home alone. So he asked WHY I couldn't just leave him there. After I tried to just brush him off by saying that the "good guys" a.k.a. the police, would put me in jail for making that decision and leaving my kids without someone to care for them, he then asked about 15 follow-up questions. Things like, "What would the good guys say to you?" "Where would they take you?" "How would you feel?" "What would you say to them?" "When would you come home?" etc.
In the end, I learned 2 important lessons. #1: He is getting much smarter and more broad in his thinking. and #2: There really is a time and place for the mom just saying "Because I said so!"

And I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone, but he is still a HUGE train fan! Really, it is so fun. And he's surprisingly serious about it. It's not as if he just likes the Thomas movies and characters, he actually likes seeing and learning about real trains and train yards. Just a few weeks ago, we were watching one of his train movies, which is really just a train documentary not even meant for kids, but still one of his favorites. And out of the blue he lets out a huge sigh. I asked him what was wrong, and he dramatically announced, with all the flair of a 13-yr-old girl, "I just don't like being a kid anymore! I just wish I could grow up RIGHT NOW so I could be a train engineer!" Awww...buddy, hang in there:)

He is back in to playing "baby" again. He liked it about 6 months ago, then let it drop, but has recently brought it back full force. He likes to pretend that he is a baby and wants me to coo and snuggle him. He talks in baby talk and asks for me to "nuggle" him. In all honesty, it's not my favorite game. I would much rather sit and read stories with him or something, but I am sure that it is one way for him to get some amount or type of attention that is is otherwise not getting, so I try to play along for a while. And it's never disruptive...meaning he doesn't pretend to be a baby so he doesn't have to pick up the toys or something, so it seems fine at this point. And it is sweet sometimes to hold him for a minute and remember when he actually was a baby and to think about how much he has grown. And, honestly, he's a 4-yr-old boy...I should be jumping for joy at any chance I can still get to hold him and snuggle him for a bit!

One difficult thing I will mention is that he has been REALLY hot and cold lately. He's either in a fabulous mood and playing baby and wanting lots of love and snuggles, or he's just furious and totally sure that I am the meanest mom in the whole, entire universe. I don't even know how many times I have heard, "I am never going to love you again!" this month! He will be going along fine, and then I will make some small change, or announce that we have to go somewhere or stop what we are doing for some reason, and he is SO upset. I am pretty confident that it is exactly what he should be doing at this age, developmentally, so it doesn't worry me, but it sure is a huge pain!! You never know for sure when you are going to cross his line...he's like a ticking time bomb. Argh!

One other good thing, though, has been that he is "playing" with Molly a lot more these days. They will run around the house like crazy and make up silly noises and make up little games together between the 2 of them. And when he is enjoying a good book or fun toy, he often will seek her out to invite her to join too. There are still plenty of times when he is in her face or wants her to go away, but it is so neat to see the sibling relationship between them continue to grow.

He really is such a source of joy to me. I still remember vividly seeing him and holding him the first instant of his life. I still have so many sense memories from his first few weeks and months. There are times that I honestly can't believe how much time has passed, and I am amazed that I have been capable of bringing that tiny baby foward all these years...and now that tiny baby is a 4-yr-old preschooler! I hope for and pray for the strength to continue growing into the mother that he needs, and into the mother that I was meant to be. It's funny that to him, I am just "Mom", but to me, I am just a person who is constantly striving to do good by him, while also remembering that it is a future adult that I am raising, not some helpless child. Walking the line between protecting him and pushing him forward is much more intricate and difficult than I ever imagined.

But I sure do love him...with all that I have to offer as a mother. And I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Aaron Schiltz!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pop Quiz

Molly's language has EXPLODED lately. I couldn't count all the words she says even if I tried. And she is starting to leave single words behind. She still uses some single words, like the occasionally demanding use of "more!" But she has definitely crossed the threshold of understanding that using more words together gets her point across more clearly, so more often than not she uses 2- or 3-word sentences.

However, she still has the mouth of a 20-month-old, so some of her words are darn near unintelligible!

Here is a little quiz for you. Get out your number 2 pencil, and read the list of words below. Then try to guess what word she is actually meaning/saying. Scroll down for answers.

Good luck!

1. out
2. margok
3. hawk
4. how house
5. bees
6. honey
7. pies you
8. bank
9. keem keem
10. guppy
11. hide
12. bite
13. knees
14. hockey
15. lub uh!

Here is the "Moose-Mouse-Translator-3000"

1. off
2. Martin
3. sock
4. applesauce
5. please
6. sunny
7. surprise you
8. blanket
9. cream cheese (still by far her favorite thing to eat!)
10. Jacob
11. side
12. bright
13. sneeze
14. sockie/socky
15. Love you!

How did you do???

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preschool Halloween Parade

Ben's preschool had a wonderful Halloween parade this morning. The kids preformed several songs and rhymes for all the watching parents (and one awesome Granny, too!). Then they had a costume parade around the building. It was great, and Ben did an excellent job singing the songs and remembering all the hand motions. He also came home with a massive amount of candy, which he is steadily powering through.

Here are some pics:

Our Fabulous Fireman!
Such a handsome guy! As we were getting ready to leave, he remembered his boots. He insisted that, being a fireman, he must of course wear boots. No matter that the ones we have are green froggy must be worn!
Also notice the backwards hat. He has always worn every fire hat he tries on that way. He usually wears construction hats like that, too. I think it is just more comfortable that way:)

Ben and the rest of his preschool class showing off some great costumes!

The whole class preformed some wonderful Halloween songs and rhymes for the parents.

Very exciting preschool parade! Such excellent marching:)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Miss Moose Mouse - Announcement!

So, I can't believe I'm about to type this, but...Molly is potty-trained!

Seriously...completely potty-trained.

And it was COMPLETELY child-led.

In a million years, I never considered potty training her at 19-months-old. But it just sort of happened.

It all started about 8 weeks ago, when she was just hitting 18-mos-old. She was having a little "naked time" to get some fresh air, and she was sitting on the kitchen floor playing with some bubbles. I had her on the tile because I fully expected that at some point she would potty. But all of the sudden, she stood up and said potty and started to walk to the bathroom. I was deep in the middle of a load of washing dishes, so I was not particularly interested in stopping and taking a tiny toddler to "play" going to the bathroom, but I figured I should let her try since she had asked. Well, sure enough, she went!

I figured it was a fluke and it didn't happen again for a while, so I thought that was the end. But then it happened again the next week, and then again a few days after that, and then again. She kept asking and so I kept taking her. It just sort of progressed from there.

Once she had gone quite a few times, I started to wonder if I should just go with it. I wasn't really sure I should try. Our lives are so busy that I knew there was no way we could stay home for a few days straight to let her practice being in undies all day, but I didn't want her having accidents out and about, because I didn't want to pressure her, and didn't care if she potty-trained at this age anyway. So I was kind of luke warm about it for a week or two.

But I did end up buying her some undies to try at home. And, seriously, they are the tiniest, cutest undies you could imagine!! The smallest they sell are 2T size, but they are just small enough that they will work. Though 18mo size would have been better.

She did great with the undies at home, but we still had so many little places to go each day, such as preschool or Granny's house, that I kept putting her in diapers when we left the house. And then, one day in Target, we were on the very opposite end of the store from the bathroom, and she was in a diaper, but she insisted that she had to go potty. So, while being amused at the whole situation, I hauled Molly and the cart and all of our stuff to the entire opposite end of the Target. I parked the cart and took the 19-month-old into the bathroom, fully assuming that she had gone in the diaper sometime in the 6 minutes that it had taken us to get there and get everything situated.

Well, sure enough, the diaper was dry and she went at Target! And that was pretty much it. From that day on, for the most part, she has stayed dry in her diapers. And this past week, we have made the switch to undies full time, and we have been potty-free all week.

So that is it in a nutshell. And I have to admit, that, other than laughing at the fact that she won't be able to actually get herself up on a toilet for at least a year because she is so tiny, it is WONDERFUL to have a house free of diaper-kids!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random post-timing issues. If you are just checking in, check out the "Apple Picking" post below this one, it is the newest post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Preschool "Fun Run"

We started off Aaron's birthday (9/26) this year with a bang! We participated in the "St. Stephen's Preschool Fun Run." It started with a 5K race for the adults. Ben and Molly enjoyed a brief ride in the stroller. I say brief only because Aaron was pushing...if it had been me, it would have been a LONG ride:) But we all did the race, so it was a great family event.

The adult's race was followed by a short run for the kids. Ben had seen both of us run before, but had never participated in a kid's run, so he was a little nervous at first and asked Aaron to run with him. Daddy was happy to oblige. Ben did enjoy wearing his (way too big) race shirt, though:)

They started off well, but as they neared the half-way point, Ben started getting a little tired, so Daddy helped him out a bit!

As they neared the finish line, Ben got down and found some extra steam for the home stretch!

Proud runners:

Friday, October 16, 2009


One day recently after preschool, Ben and I were reading books on the couch while Molly napped, and out of the blue, he asked, "Mom, can we go apple-picking today?"

I thought about the logistics of it all, and was first tempted to say no. He wouldn't have fussed, I'm sure, because it was such an unusual request, and he probably wasn't really expecting me to say yes.

But I thought about it again, and decided to embrace the fact that this is the very precious and very brief time in our lives that we can pick up and go apple-picking on a random Tuesday afternoon if we want.

So I got directions to the nearest Eckert's Farm, and as soon as Molly woke up, we headed out!

The kids had SO MUCH FUN! It was a perfect but not cold or windy. There was almost no one at the farm because it was late on a weekday. We weren't even charged to get in.

We had a wonderful time playing on the tractors, seeing the animals, taking the tractor ride around the farm SEVERAL times, and of course picking apples.

Molly, especially seemed delighted that we could just walk up to the tree, grab an apple and take a bite! Of the pics shown below, none with apples were posed. The kids pretty much had their mouths stuffed with apple the entire time we were in the orchard:)

And to top it off, Nana came in town a couple of days later, and made some DELICIOUS apple muffins with some of the excess apples. Yum!

Puddles ROCK!

We love puddles!

Ben has had his green froggy boots for over a year now, and we finally found a matching pair for Molly. FYI, one of the blessings of living in the city is that there are lots of alleys, and they are often poorly maintained, which means LOTS of puddles!

The only problem with puddles is that, eventually, the call of the wild can get too hard to resist, and we end up in a dirty alley like this...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bestill my beating "art"!

It has finally happened!!!! The day I have looking forward to for 3-and-a-half years now! Ben drew something!!

He has drawn lots of squiggly lines and such, but never tried to draw an object before. In fact, he is rarely interested in art at all. Its really not a huge deal. He has so many strengths that I never worried about his total lack of interest in drawing. Its more just that it would be so much fun to sit and draw together if we were imagining things and drawing with intent, rather than just scribbling for 3 minutes and then just done.

Plus, I have the artistic skill of a fly, and he has many family members who are quite talented with a paintbrush or pen, so I did hope that he would try to draw just a bit, so that he could see how fun it could be.

Well, here's how it finally happened. We were playing on the sun porch, and he was drawing squiggles on the chalk board. At one point, he said, "I'm going to draw you, Mama!" My heart instantly started racing:)

He drew...a squiggle. So I decided to try to see if I could get him to try a bit more. I asked, "Where are my eyes?" And that was apparently the magic question, because from there, he started drawing a whole host of things.

Here are the pics that I was able to get:

This first one is the picture of me. You can see my eyes, my legs, and the dots on top are my hair. It may not be a DaVinci, but it is definitely not a squiggle!

This one is a pic of Daddy, Mommy, and Ben. We each have a body, legs, hair, and eyes...I think.

After drawing several people, he then decided to branch out and draw fruit. You can see the kiwi (complete with fuzz), a banana, and some delicious-looking blueberries:)

And finally, a pic of the proud artist, showing off the raw materials of his creations!!!

Sadly, there have been no further drawing days. But I think he is just searching for his muse...I just KNOW there is a little artist in there somewhere:)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A few short stories...

Miss Moose Mouse:

1. I've been meaning to write this for weeks. Remember a little while back when I wrote that long list of the single words that Molly could say? Well I had been working on that list for a while, and she must have known it somehow. Because, wouldn't you know it, the week I posted that list, her language EXPLODED.

Now, I couldn't even come close to listing all the single words that she knows. And, she has suddenly "gotten" the usefulness of combining words. She usually uses 1- or 2-word sentences throughout the day. Some examples: up mama, eat more, down please, more water, dada tickle.

And, of course, the MOST useful 2-word combination in the house, which she wasted no time in mastering: "NO, Ben!!" :)

2. She has now moved on to some 3- and 4-word sentences. Today, she clarified the location of some of her favorite people to both Aaron and I by stating, "RiRi Anna Curt home!" and "Nana home Papa home."

There have been a few PRICELESS quotes that I've been meaning to share lately:

1. Ben has a habit of "playing" with words. He likes to change the sounds around a bit and make up silly words that are similar to the originals. Usually, this is just cute, but it got a little embarrassing a few weeks a go when we were at a restaurant, about to order him some "noodles". He loudly proclaimed, "Dada, I want to get some NUDIES for dinner!!"

2. Ben recently announced, "Mom, I have a tummy-ache in my neck."

3. I often take great pride as a mother in his huge vocabulary. I'll admit that I have been known to think of how well I must be doing as a mother if I have a son who knows such big words. Well, I think I was encouraged to be a bit more humble today when Ben used the word "gravity" in a sentence. It went something like this: "Mom, tell Molly to leave my balloon alone! She's trying to be 'grabity' with it!"
Though, the pull of gravity, and grabbing something really are a little similar:)

4. We had a very funny moment here a few hours ago. Ben has gotten so smart and grown up in some ways that we really can generally trust what he is saying. That is the good news. The bad news is that he isn't always good at remember how to keep a secret. Today, for example, I took the kids with me to Golf Galaxy to buy a birthday gift for Aaron. I told Ben that it would be a surprise, but I guess I didn't stress the secret part enough.

This evening, at dinner, Ben looked up at me, out of the blue, and said, "Hey Mom, remember when we went to that golf store?" I tried to give him a look to tell him to stop talking about it...but who was I kidding...he's 3!!
So I tried to throw him, and Aaron, off the track by saying, "Are you talking about some time that you and Daddy went to the golf store?"
He replied, "No, I'm talking about today when we went to the golf store to get something for Daddy."

At this point, Aaron had a huge grin on his face and was trying not to laugh, which just made me start laughing. Soon, the two of us were shaking with laughter, which only continued as Ben tried to help me get my facts straight by repeating, "Mom, THIS day, remember? THIS day. THIS day. THIS day!"

Oh well, Happy Birthday Aaron:)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go Cards!

Well, it only took 3 years, but we finally did our "good parents of a St. Louis-born kid" duty and got Ben to a Cardinals game. We are clearly parenting Molly much better than her brother, because she only had to wait 18 months for the trip:)

After we returned from our vacation, we were so happy to have Helen and Tony (Nana and Papa) come in town, and the Schiltz gang made it to a Cardinals game.

It was a GREAT time, and I think we are all looking forward the the opportunity to do it again!

Here are a few pics.

Vacation: Train

Originally, when Aaron and I planned heading out to CO, we thought that hiking would be the most exciting plan. But, after some good info from my dad and others who knew about such things, the plans soon came to include a ride on a real steam engine!! It was something that we knew Ben would love with every ounce of his being:)

All summer, as we geared up for the trip, we all talked about how exciting it was that we were going to ride the steam train. And Ben got more and more excited about it with each passing week. He even got to the point of telling complete strangers about our plans to ride the train. :)

So we got out to CO, and pre-purchased tickets on the final run of the Georgetown Loop steam engine for Tuesday afternoon. The whole Sides/Schiltz/Stokes gang was going to drive down from Estes Park to Georgetown for the train ride.

Ben eagerly counted down the days until the "steam train day." Finally, train day arrived. The family gathered and loaded up into the cars with about 90 min to spare. We thought we were being conservative with extra drive time, because Google maps thought it would take about 75 min. So we padded an extra 15 min, and headed south.

Well, unfortunately for us, Google maps was TERRIBLY wrong about the drive time required! 1.25 hours?? Try 2.5 hours!! And that was with Grandpa (my dad) leading the car caravan at near break-neck speed. We, of course, completely missed our train, and because it was the last run of the day, we drove 2.5 hours and there was nothing we could do once we got there. We were all really disappointed, but Grandpa in particular felt awful, though none of it was his fault in any way. We were all cranky to have missed our train, but mostly were all so heart-broken at the thought of Ben missing his train ride. And, on top of it all, we discover that the steam engine is under repair, and the train is currently being pulled by a stinky diesel engine.

We stopped for a while at the station anyway to stretch our legs. Ben did enjoy just seeing the station and exploring the gift shop, which helped to distract him from his disappointment. He quickly found a little toy train that he immediately fell in love with. Aaron and I were ready, by this time, to buy him just about anything to ease the disappointment of the missed ride. But Grandpa, who, to my knowledge, has never personally bought Ben anything (though he and Granny, via Granny, are consistently extremely giving to both kids), saw that Ben wanted the train. With a look of determination in his eye, my dad said, "Does he like that train? He wants that train. I am buying him that train!"

He bought the train on the spot, and Ben has been attached to it like it is a 3rd arm ever since. He LOVES this train. Seriously, he sleeps with it every night, and he got it almost 6 weeks ago! In the pics below, you can see a pic of him sleeping with it on the airplane. :)

In the end, we decided that the just Schiltz family would head back down on Thursday to ride the train, and the rest of the family would not repeat the long trip down. I think everyone was bummed to not get to ride the train with Ben, but no one really wanted to make the long trek again. And everyone was mostly concerned with Ben getting to ride, not their own ride.

It ended up being a WONDERFUL ride. You can see the pure, unadulterated joy in Ben's face in the first picture. He loved every minute of it, and Molly liked it too. The diesel engine was pretty stinky, but it was still an amazing ride.

We remember it fondly, and the memories of the driving disaster have faded significantly!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of Preschool!!

Today was Ben's first day of preschool! He did a wonderful job, and according to the teachers, really enjoyed himself most of the time.

We have been talking a bit about preschool on and off this summer to help him prepare for it. In the beginning, he would say that he didn't want to go, or would ask if I would be able to stay and play with him. But after several conversations explaining how it would be and discussing it all, he started to get more excited about it. And after the open house last week, he really started to seem more excited by the idea.

We talked openly about how he might be nervous, but then we also talked about some things that he could do to help himself feel better. He knew there was a train table there, and a good friend of his (Isabelle) would also be there, so we talked a lot about how he could always play with the trains or sit next to Isabelle if he wasn't feeling brave.

Last night, as we were putting him to bed, he told me that he wouldn't be nervous and then spontaneously during prayers thanked God for his new preschool cute!

Then this morning, he woke up in a good mood and excited about going. On the way to school, it was just he and I because my mom and sister stopped by to visit for a bit so I left Molly with them to take him in by himself. We talked in the car, and he suddenly said that he was feeling nervous. So we talked about how it would be ok and what he could do to feel ok.

When we got there, we went in and washed his hands, which everyone does when entering the school, and then he had me hold his hand as we walked to the table to choose an activity. He told me that he was nervous but that he wouldn't cry and that he was ok. I gave him a kiss and left. Quick and painless!

There is a viewing window into the room so I watched for a few minutes. He seemed a little hesitant, but otherwise fine. He mostly just watched the other kids and the teachers, and seemed content to just sit and take it all in for a while.

When we came back to pick him up, he was happily playing. Of course, as soon as he saw me there he started to tear up, as did most of the other kids when they saw their parents there for pick up. But he didn't actually cry, and came out of the room with a big hug for me and a big smile on his face.

Here are some pics from home and school. He proudly showed his first school painting!

It is so hard to believe that he is really old enough now, though truly he is completely ready, and has been for a long time. Honestly the most difficult thing to accept is that this marks the beginning of the end of our time together at home as a little family-at-home unit. Since the day he was born, our schedule has been up to us to make. Feeling lazy? Then just take slow walks around the neighborhood and explore what is around us. Feeling pent up? Head to the zoo or Science Center at the drop of a hat. Any old plan on any old day will be just fine.

But not as of this point on. Now, we have a school schedule that we need to follow. His teachers and his classmates are expecting him, and there is a whole world of discovery that is awaiting him at preschool.

Now, I will admit that I am being a little dramatic here. He only goes to preschool on Tues and Thurs mornings. We have every afternoon to do whatever we want, and we will always have all summer long, if I can get my work schedule to cooperate. But just the idea that we have begun preschool now, and kindergarten is a rather short time away. And when we get there, we will have commitments and plans every day, and I will go back to work full time at some point. So, really, I guess I am just trying to remember to enjoy every minute of this time that we have together, and to enjoy these preschool days while we have them! Thankfully Molly has 2 years still before her turn for preschool!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Vacation: Anniversary

Our vacation happened to coincide with our 8th wedding anniversary. Though, admittedly, we did try to plan it that way:)

It just so happens that Aaron and I spent our honeymoon in Estes Park, CO. So when talk of a CO trip for this summer began, Aaron and I worked to make it happen the week that would include August 11th. And when it became clear that we would overlap the right date, we then pushed for Estes Park, because it is such a meaningful place for us.

One of the reasons that Estes is so meaningful to us is that we are both mountain people, at heart. I have formulated the oh-so-brilliant theory that there are two basic types of people...mountain people and ocean people. And whichever you are, that type of place is where you are most rejuvenated and most easily physically and spiritually fed. You might like both, but there is one that is more "right" for you and your soul. And here is my genius test for determining which you are...close your eyes and focus on the rejuvenating idea of water...give it a minute, and then focus your attention to discern this question: is your refreshing water more like a babbling mountain brook or an ocean wave?

If you hear a brook or're a mountain person, just like me and just like Aaron. We are completely refreshed by the majesty and quiet power of the mountains, and even one day there is like a balm on both our souls.

So, we chose the mountains for our honeymoon, and have also been able to go out many other times. Most of our experience lies close to the front range in Colorado, because Aaron's grandmother, Bertram, and his aunt and uncle lived in Colorado Springs and we would plan trips that could include time with her, as well as time for hiking/camping.

So, we have actually been in CO for the majority of our anniversaries, and have specifically been in Estes Park for our honeymoon, 3rd anniversary, 5th anniversary, and now 8th anniversary.

And since we have been in Estes so much, we, of course, have a few favorite restaurants that we love to visit. But for a romantic dinner, we always choose Mama Rose's Italian Restaurant.

It is right on the bank of the Big Thompson river, and if you make a reservation and the weather cooperates you can get a table right by the river's edge. It is a magical spot!

And thankfully all of the stars aligned for our special dinner out. We made a late reservation so that Granny and Grandpa could just put the kids to bed back at the condo without us and then we could have a longer night out. The restaurant saved a perfect table for us right by the river, and the weather was perfect. And the menu at the restaurant had been recently updated, so that we had one of the best meals either of us had ever eaten!!! It still makes my mouth water to just think of it!!

After our amazing dinner, we walked around downtown Estes, just window shopping and enjoying the perfect night, and then before bed, drove up to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and spent a few minutes stargazing. We each saw several shooting stars, which is easy to do in a crystal clear mountain night sky.

It was a wonderful way to spend our 8th anniversary.

The first pic is of us at the restaurant. You can't tell in the pic, but the river was about 10 feet behind us. And the other two pics are from the deck of our rental house.

Vacation: Travel

I have to all honesty, our kids did an AMAZING job traveling! From the Metro-link train ride to and from the airport, the flights to and from CO which had layovers, to the rented van and the Sides vehicle pulling a trailer...from start to finish our kids traveled well. And, most of the time, loved every minute of the traveling.

Ben, especially, loved all the excitement and activity of flying and riding so many different types of vehicles...particularly some of the more unique things like the shuttle bus to the rental car station, and the in-airport shuttle/train in Denver. There is a pic below of him with Aaron on the trip home, holding himself up (with just a bit of help from Daddy;) with the train handle. He loved the fact that the train had no seats and was for standing only.

It all started with Aaron dropping me, Ben and Molly off at the Shrewsbury Metro-link station at 5:40 a.m. the first day of vacation. I took the Metro with the kids, one carseat, and one carry-on bag to Lambert Airport. I was meeting Mom/Granny, Aunt RiRi, and cousin Anna there. The three moms and the three kids were going to fly to CO, and all the dads/boys drove out.

Aaron dropped us off with about a minute to spare, but both kids just happily took it all in stride as we raced on to the train and waved bye to Daddy. Then we had a very pleasant ride to the airport while watching the sun rise. And we didn't have to pay for long term parking, so it was even nicer:)

After a little hustle getting through security and on the plane, all the kids flew very well, with some very special help from Granny. She was the glue that held the flying travelers together, because with her there was a 1:1 adult to child ratio. Below are a couple of pics of our airport/airplane time. All three kids were fascinated with the planes.

They all three also really loved picking up the rental van in Colorado, and Ben talked all week about riding in the "vacation van". He was also completely fascinated by the trailer that Grandpa had hitched to the Sides car for towing luggage (and 2 motorcycles, but that's another story!). Ben loved to "help" hitch and unhitch the trailer, and spent large chunks of time instructing the rest of us on how to properly attach, open, and then close the trailer:) There is a pic below of him proudly showing off the hitch.

So, all in all, for a trip with 3 kids 3 yrs and under that involved many different modes of transportation, I'd have to declare it a rousing success!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vacation: Hiking

I've been wanting to write a few stories from our family vacation, but haven't gotten around to it yet. So instead of being paralyzed by trying what to write from so many memories, I am going to post a few different types of stories and try to cover the bases. Just FYI, we spent a week in mid-August in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We stayed in a condo in Estes Park, CO with my immediate family, and were right by the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was beautiful!!

First up: HIKING!

We had SUCH a great time hiking as a family. Aaron and I have been wanting to hike more with the kids for pretty much all the time we have been parents. But when we are home, projects around the house, family plans, or other events always seem to be more important. But when we were away for a week, in the midst of such awesome beauty, there was nothing stopping us!

We had 3 really strong hikes as a family. Now, when I say strong, I mean that we technically did hike, for as long as we had planned to...with the caveat being that all trips were on the shorter side, and carefully planned around naps/meals/etc.

But really, the kids did great. Molly, in fact, LOVED IT! She seriously enjoyed the backpack carrier that I carried her in most of the time, and went back and forth between sitting happily, and then trying to stand on the back bar and look all around her. She even took a nap back there for a little while. I was totally feeling my Native American roots with my little papoose on my back:) And when we got her out of the out!! She was in LOVE with the whole idea of hiking, and really enjoyed scrambling more than I ever thought an 18-mo-old could. See the pic below of her attacking a huge boulder with all her might!

Ben did really well, too. Though I must admit that the first 1/4 of each hike was a bit hard for him. Not physically, so much as mentally. We got a lot of questions like, "Why do I have to hike?, Where is the park? Is this all we are doing?" But once we got going, he did great for the rest of the time, and LOVED leading the pack. He would take off down or up the mountain fearlessly.

We had such a great time hiking that Aaron and I are going to re-commit ourselves to hiking more...though we've been back several weeks now and haven't hiked yet:( Hopefully we will set ourselves straight!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Half-Birthday, Molly!

Molly hit the 18-month mark this month. We had a great visit to her pediatrician for a well-child visit, and here are her stats:

Height: 31 inches - which puts her in the 30%tile

Weight: 22.6 pounds - which also puts her in the 30%tile

She looks great, according to the doc, which we of course already knew:) Hopefully we won't have any reason to see him again until her birthday. The kind doctor commented on her sweet curls, which makes him just like almost everyone we talk to when we are out and about. I've got to say (with obvious modesty:), I'm not a particularly vain person. I've got my sins, but vanity isn't the worst. And I am also not a vain mama, too much;). But this girl's soft, flowing curls are just lovely. We get so many comments from strangers about her cuteness/sweetness/prettiness and her beautiful hair. I don't ever want to cut it!! Gotta love sweet little baby curls!!

And as for Molly being in the 30%tile, it is SUCH a different experience than with her brother. Ben weighed 22 pounds at 9 mos! She is healthy and growing well, so there is no problem with her being on the smaller side, and if I had to bet, she's probably right around where my mom (Granny) was when she was at this age, so Molly does have the genes for it. But it is sometimes hard for me to remember that she isn't a baby, though she can feel like one in my arms.

Aaron and I have admitted that we are in some ways the classical parents...we expected SO much more of Ben at this age. He was so much bigger and had such a huge vocabulary that we always treated him as a bit older than he really was. With Molly being so sweet and little, its hard for us to stay on top of her and not let her get away with things just because she's cute.

In fact, we have recently begun really stepping up our consistency, because she has finally really started to test us and test the rules.

But in our defense, she really has been so mild and pleasant for these past 18 months that there was no need for us to enforce the rules...she never tried ANYTHING. I still remember the first time I ever told her no (around 11 mos) and she burst into tears. She just generally goes with the flow and has a great time!

I need to post pics and stories from our trip to the Rocky Mountains soon, but I will just say quickly that, despite being the youngest kid on the trip, she did, by far, the best all week. That's Little Miss Moose Mouse for you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Random Thoughts


Molly is still my BFF. She loves me with all her little heart:) And I love just about every minute of it...really I do. But occasionally, her totally dedication to loving me can be a little much at times. Even Ben has noticed, and he tries to help her "share" me from time to time.

Like today, Aaron and I were standing in the kitchen right before dinner. We were chatting and laughing about something and we gave each other a quick hug. Well, Miss Moose Mouse immediately noticed and, as she often does when Aaron and I snuggle, she tried to squirm in between us so that she could be hugging me instead of Aaron. Ben saw this and piped up, "Molly, they are married...they HAVE to hug."
Thanks for clearing it all up, Ben!!

And on vacation last week, we came up with a new nickname for Molly. First of all, I should say that she did an amazing job on our trip! She was a great traveler and really enjoyed the hiking. But, with so much going on, she did get a little clingy from time to time, of course wanting only me. It started to feel like she might as well have been something I was wearing rather than a separate person from me, and now that she is so fidgety, she sometimes felt more like an animal than a person. So, her new nickname is...MONKEY VEST! And it fits, really. Holding her felt more like I was wearing a monkey vest most of the time:)

Ben also traveled really well. I will try to figure out how to post a picture slide show, but of all the pics that I would love to share, my most favorite is the one Aaron took as we were sitting on the Georgetown Loop Railway train, waiting for the train to depart. It is a pic of Ben sitting on his seat, staring ahead toward the engine, and he is wearing a look of pure excitement and happiness. It was such a treat to get to take him on that train ride!

Both kids are generally sleeping well these days. Bedtime is between 7:45 and 8. Molly sleeps until 7ish, and Ben until 7:30ish. Molly also takes one afternoon nap at 1 p.m., for about 1.5 hours to 2 hours.

They both do have certain things that they like to sleep with:
Molly pretty much only needs her pacifiers. She only uses them to sleep, and the pacifiers stay in her bed at all times, so when she gets into bed, she lunges for her little sleep aids:) She has one in her mouth, and at least one in her hand most of the night.
Ben, on the other hand, prefers a greater variety of things for sleeping. Tonight for example, the contents of his bed include: several stuffed animals including a camel, zebra, horse, bear, frog, dog, and chicken; a train that Grandpa bought him from the Georgetown Loop gift shop that he currently can't live without; a water bottle; his pillow; his blanket; and his Batman ring:)
Sweet dreams, little man!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Miss Moose Mouse

Without any exaggeration, I can honestly say I just witnessed the worst tantrum that I have yet seen from one of my children. We're talking full out back-arching, red-faced-screaming, ear-piercing-volume yelling, previously-undiscovered levels of hysteria, total emotional meltdown.

I'm afraid that it might be a hint of things to come. Yikes!

Molly, in general, is so sweet, calm, and wonderful. But I remember that somewhere between 18 mos and 24 mos, Ben went through one of his most difficult phases, and I feel that today's meltdown is an indication that Molly is on the same path. It is the time when, developmentally, all trace of baby is gone, and there is only a toddler left. The sweet, little one who used to placidly enjoy whatever you brought into her life, suddenly realizes that there are some things she wants and some things she DOESN'T want...or, rather, would prefer to die a thousand painful deaths rather than be forced to tolerate. No matter what.

Like today...she wanted cheese, but I wasn't quite ready to serve her, as I was already busy cleaning up some stickers that she had put all over the floor. So, rather than wait 20 more seconds, she felt that I left her with no other options than a mind-blowing tantrum.

We're in the time of development when language and speech are improving rapidly, but not nearly as quickly as cognition. So, essentially, she KNOWS now more of what she wants and feels, but can only say it clearly maybe 20% of the time. That...and she has the patience of a toddler. (Though, in the interest of honesty, it had been a long day already by that point for all of us, and she is almost always the picture of excellent patience in a toddler).

Until her language catches up with her brain, I fear we may be in for some rocky times! Though she is generally really sweet and easy-going, when she has set her mind to something, she is unstoppable.

Just for my own memory, here is a list of words that I know she has mastered now: (I included the way she pronounces things for some words in paraenthesis)

mama, dada, ben, nana, papa, granny (neenee), anna, riri, curt (cu), grandpa (gupa), jacob, gigi, water (wawa), banana (nana), cream cheese (tee teese), cheese (cheese), pop corn (pop pop), blueberry (beebee), strawberry, m&m (nemenemenem), no way, all done, okay, please, bear, elephant, monkey (oooeeeaaa), dog, cat, quack quack, baby, lion (roar), tiger (growl), bird, cow (moooo), teeth, poop (poopoo), ball, mine, no, away, up, down, eat, milk, balloon, air plane, car, bus, bike, swing, bed, more, shoe (fwoo), bow, hair, nose, eye, teeth, toes, arm, leg, night night, bye bye, hi, hello, help, juice, hot, dip, hot dog, noodle (noo nle), hat, book, bed, Lauren (lo lo), choo choo, wash wash, bubble, slide, good guys (guh guh any time she hears a siren of some sort), boom, sit, in, out, on, off, chip, bell, alley, ball

I will probably need to add to the list over the next day or two, as I think of things I have missed, but at least this is a start. These are words that she uses independently, or with only the littlest amount of prompting. Not too bad for a if, being a speech-language therapist, I should care or anything:)

Hopefully, while her speech and language catch up to her understanding, we can make it through these next few months without too many repeats of today!