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!