Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Noah the Negotiator and Other Adventures in Parenting

Noah makes me smile.  I love him.  He also makes me completely crazy, and this may not be the best week for me to write an update because parenting has been a beast lately, and you, dear blog readers, are about to get an earful.  Please leave advice or ideas in the comments.  This strong-willed little boy often reminds me that I have no idea what I am doing!

I'm so glad he's my firstborn, my buddy, my parenting guinea pig (poor kid).  We test each other's patience daily!  But we also have so much fun together daily, and I couldn't love him more.  Here's a little bit about our Noah these days:

He imitates everything that he hears adults say, and it is hilarious to hear such grown-up things come out of such a little person.  For example, in the midst of a loud family dinner recently, there was a momentary pause in the chaos and he said to my sister-in-law,  "So, Aunt Alli, how are things going with your new baby?" We all burst out laughing--he just sounded so grown up! 

I also heard him playing with his toys the other day, making them interact and "talk" to each other, and one robot said to the other, "Dang, Brother!"  This is a total Nielson-ism, and apparently Noah has been listening to his daddy and his uncles interacting. ;)

He has also picked up some phraseology from the Westover side.  My sisters and I have a habit of
making a lot of words diminutive.  We put a "y" on words to show affection, and Noah does too.  I heard him playing with his Thomas trains the other day, and he said, "Oh sweet little Jamesy, did you fall off the tracks?" Jamesy! Ha!  He also says things to me like, "Let's take a shortcut-y, Mom!" when we are riding our bikes. 

And his imitation of me doesn't end there.  A few weeks ago he randomly went on a cleaning binge (this is SO unlike him) and started joyfully picking up his toys and straightening his room.  Perplexed by this sudden burst of helpfulness and cheer, I asked him what he was doing, and he said in a sing-songy voice, "Oh I'm just practicing being a parent; I'm getting totally organized." ;) I wish this organizational urge would strike his fancy more often!

He's still as dramatic as ever.  When I gave him a skeleton t-shirt at the beginning of October, he declared, "Oh Mom!  I've wanted one of these for years!"

He's equally dramatic when he's not pleased and throws himself on the ground in a shrieking fit when things don't go his way.  He often shouts, "You're a bully!" at kids who won't give him what he wants.  (Hey, I suppose he could call them worse things.)  I'm often declared a bully and a "mean mommy" too.  How dare I not let him watch four hours of TV a day? ;)

Tonight he was being so disobedient and got so many warnings that I finally just put him in bed without any stories.  I don't like using this punishment because story time is our special time every evening, but tonight this consequence was definitely merited.  "No scripture story either??" he cried in dismay as I put him in his bed. "But how will I learn about Jesus??" I stifled a laugh as I hugged him and said, "I love our story time too.  It makes me so sad when we don't get to do it together.  I'm sorry that you chose not to listen tonight." His response: "And I'm sorry that you chose not to teach me about Jesus tonight!" Oh my.  The master manipulator for sure!  How can a parent keep a straight face around this kid? 

He is a picky eater, and it stresses me out.  It makes me feel like I have failed him as a parent.  I am not an adventurous eater, and I have a huge sweet tooth, and it makes me sad to think that my bad habits have rubbed off on him.  Granted I certainly eat more than just PBJ and mac and cheese, but I'm not a huge fan of vegetables and I have too many sweets in our house for him to fall back on.  I know that my food habits aren't the sole reason he is picky--plenty of parents who are great eaters have picky kids--but I have also noticed that most of my friends who are adventurous eaters have kids who will eat anything.  Sorry, Noah--I guess we will learn together!

There is literally not one vegetable that he will eat.  Not one.  Over his four years of life, we have sometimes "forced" him to try foods, but it ends in huge battles that include multiple trips back and forth to his bedroom to put him in timeout or hours of him sitting and crying at the dinner table, and I've just decided it's not worth the fighting.  I want family dinner to be an enjoyable time for all of us, not a time for threats and tears.

I don't make him a separate meal if he doesn't like what I am serving, but I don't force him to eat it either.  I try to deconstruct the meal a little for him so he can eat what he does like from what is being offered (just the chicken from the soup but not the broth, etc).  At the suggestion of our pediatrician, I also try to make sure that there is one thing on the table that he will eat, even if it's just some fruit that I offer everyone as a side dish.  I encourage him to try all of the various dishes served, but it's not a mandate. Since he knows I won't force him to try foods anymore, he's often surprisingly willing to take a nibble.  Baby steps. 

He sometimes tells me that he is hungry before bed, and I say, "Boy I wish you would've eaten more dinner!" and he says, "Yeah, me too," and then we move on.  I don't make him a bedtime snack, and he doesn't die of starvation in the night.  I wish I could say that this has transformed his willingness to eat dinner, but it hasn't. Sigh.

One thing that I do insist upon is politeness.  Oh it makes my blood boil when he whines, "Eeeeeew, I don't like that!" when we all sit down to eat.  It's so rude and uncalled for, and I would die of embarrassment if he ever said that at someone else's home who made him dinner.  We are working on just saying, "No thank you!" when he doesn't want to eat something (he remembers to be polite about 60% of the time), and if he is respectful, I try to be respectful back by allowing him his preferences with food.  Who knows if I am doing any of this "right," but I prefer it to huge battles at dinner every night. 

He loves preschool.  He was so confident starting again this year.  No tears, no trouble adjusting.  His first-day-of-preschool photo made me laugh because he looks "too-cool-for-school," like, "I did this last year, no big deal."  And that's kind of how he acted--didn't even want me to walk him up to the door on his first day.  He just hopped out of the van, ran up to school, tripped on the step while he was opening the door, and fell into the classroom.  Noah knows how to make an entrance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enrolled him in two different preschools this year, one that meets in the morning MWF and one that meets in the afternoon TR, and he loves both. This was such a good decision for both of us.  I love his teachers, and he learns a lot.  And it gives me a couple of hours every day with just Sally or, if she is napping, with my computer. ;)  It's so hard to get any computer work done with little ones underfoot, and I truly love to blog and write for Power of Moms.  So while Noah is at school doing his learning, I'm at home doing mine.

He adores his teachers (especially Mrs. Stevens from his TR class), his classmates, and the cute art projects that they do together.  I'm glad he has somewhere to do crafts--because it's not happening much at home with his mother!  We read lots of books and do other fun things, but crafts is just not my forte.

He is learning to be independent.  I wouldn't say this is natural for him.  I hear about some toddlers who insist, "I do it!"  Noah was never one of those.  He'd prefer that I do most things for him, and I've had to deliberately teach him to do things on his own.

In order to help him start buckling and unbuckling his own car seat, I put a sticky note on my dashboard, and anytime he got the buckle done or undone himself, he got a mark.  When he got fifteen marks, he got a treat. This system was so simple, and it worked like a charm.  On the days he couldn't get the buckle done or didn't want to try, I said, "That's okay," and I did it for him but he didn't get a mark.  He started really wanting those tallies, and within a week or two, he was totally independent on this task.  I worried that the treats would continue to be expected, but he doesn't ask for marks anymore--that interest faded almost as soon as he had his new skill mastered.

And can I just say, having a kid who no longer needs my assistance with his car seat is truly heaven.  Do you hear the angels singing the Hallelujah chorus?  Because I do--each and every time I no longer have to do this loathsome task!

He's also learned how to make his own PBJ sandwich recently.  This one took a bit of reverse psychology.  I started to ask him if he knew how to make a sandwich, and then I said, "Oh never mind, what am I saying? Four-year-olds can't make their own sandwiches.  Silly me!  When you're a big five-year-old, you will be able to do that, but you couldn't do that now."  Boy was he quick to hop up and prove me wrong.  Sneaky mommy.

I know I've mentioned this before, but it remains true: Noah is a negotiator.  Everyone who spends anytime around Noah mentions this to me.  He likes to debate, negotiate, discuss, and explain his point of view.  Maybe he will be a lawyer someday; he'd be a good one.

He has asked "Why?" for every rule I make since he was about two years old, and I don't mind explaining my reasoning; but when I do, he always has a retort.  He explains why my logic doesn't apply to him or to this particular situation, or he explains what he will do to avoid the problem I am describing. It is exhausting, hilarious, and infuriating all at once.  I've taken to just saying "Because, it's a rule" and refusing to dive into the discussion further.   He often says to me, "Mom, let's compromise" when he's not completely satisfied with my answer. Need I remind you that he is four years old?  Heaven help me.

I'm sad to admit it, but Noah is a whiner.  His default voice is whiny, even when it doesn't need to be.  "Please use a nice voice" is my constant refrain, and I wait until he rephrases his request politely, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. 

His favorite response whenever I ask him to make his bed or unload the dishwasher is, "But that's going to take forever!!!!" Then he goes into his room and pouts for 30 minutes until finally making his bed in 2 minutes.  Maybe that's why it feels like forever to him. ;)  I think I may pull the reverse on him one of these days: When he asks me to make him a snack or help him with something, perhaps I will wail, "But that's going to take forever!!" Ha!

I don't want to raise an entitled, bratty child, and it's hard to know what to do when acts this way.  The other day I made him macaroni and cheese before preschool, and as I pulled out a plastic bowl from the cupboard, he screamed in the most awful, demanding, nails-on-chalkboard voice ever, "I DON'T WANT THAT ONE! GET ME A DIFFERENT ONE!" I wish I could say this was the first time that had happened, but I am hearing these reactions more and more often from him lately, and it honestly concerns me.  I said, "Noah, you cannot talk to me like that. I will be happy to get you a different bowl as soon as you ask me nicely." He proceeded to scream, howl, wail, and yell mean threats at me for 45 minutes.  45 minutes!  I texted his preschool teacher and told her that he would be late, and then I just waited it out while he raged.  He finally emerged from his room and said in a slightly whiny but at least controlled voice, "Mom, can I please have one of the white bowls for my macaroni?"  "Of course!" I responded, as if I was totally unphased by his huge tantrum. "Thanks for asking me nicely." And that was the end of it.

Does anyone have advice on how to deal with situations like this?  Is he going to grow out of this entitlement?  It's giving me gray hairs, and I'm only 31 years old, and he's only four years old!  We have a lot of years ahead of us, and I don't want our relationship to be combative.  I want to love being together, and it has been rough the last little while. 

In spite of his strong will and his whining, Noah really can be a sweetheart.  After episodes like the one described above, it gives me so much hope to witness the moments when he runs to hug his sister after she falls down or asks me about people whom he sees who homeless.  I love seeing his empathy and compassion developing.

Ryan and I recently went on an anniversary trip to Mexico (much more on this in another post!), and unfortunately my iPhone got stolen while we were down there.  When Noah heard about what happened, he said, "Oh, Mom--I feel so sad for you that someone took your phone and didn't give it back!"  Then he went into his room and got out his allowance envelope and came back to give me all of the money that he had: $3.23. He asked, "Is this enough to buy you a new phone?"  It completely melted my heart.  It was so unexpected.  He usually wants to use his very minimal allowance money to buy candy or toys at the store, yet he didn't think twice about giving all of it to me when he thought I needed it.  I took the money and told him how much better it made me feel to know that someone cared about me and wanted to help.  He beamed from ear-to-ear.  Sweet boy.

Finally, as always, Noah is a comedian.  He doesn't mean to be.  He's just so smart and so hilarious without even knowing it.  Here are a few of his classic lines from the past couple of months:

-He was playing Jenga with his little friend, Alanna, and I heard their conversation from the other room.  "Wow, you're really good at this game, Noah," she said.  "Thanks!" he responded, "I learned from the best: My daaaad!!!"

-And speaking of this particular friend: We often listen to Justin Beiber's Baby, and there's a line in the song where Usher says, "When I was thirteen, I had my first love."  Noah informed me the other day, "I had my first love when I was four.  Her name was Alanna."

-I heard him calling from the garage one day, "Mom, come quick!  Two besties are riding a tricycle!"  I went out to see this sweet scene.  I'm so glad he considers his sister his "bestie."

-He had a stomach flu bug when were were driving home from Sun Valley a few months ago (kid vomiting in a car=no fun), and he said miserably while clutching his barf bag, "I know I'm not supposed to say hate, but I hate throwing up!!"(Oh I do too, Noah!  Go ahead and hate!)

-For his preschool "homework" the other day, he had to tell me five things he was thankful for.  He said, "Trees because they give us shade, fences so dogs don't run at us and get us" (I have no idea where that one came from) "parks to play at, friends, and Sally because she's so cute."

-Another preschool assignment was to talk about authors and illustrators and identify both in one of our favorite books.  We looked at Where The Wild Things Are, and when I told Noah that Maurice Sendak was the author and the illustrator, he got these wide eyes and said, "He wrote the book and drew all the pictures?? He must have been so tired! He must have been tired for over a week!" 

-He loves Show-and-Tell at preschool because the kids give him a "roundible clause."  I think it's so cute that he calls it that, so I don't even try to correct him.  And when he gets home I always say, "Did you get a roundible clause after your show-and-tell today?" ;)

-Yesterday morning I was picking up the kitchen and singing loudly when Noah looked up from his library book and said, "Mom, please be silent.  I'm trying to feel the Holy Ghost over here."  Okay then.

-When we were playing the Game of Life for our daily "special time" recently, Noah ended up with six kids.  He named them John, John the Baptist, Icky, Icky the Second, Funny, and Baby Boy.  When I got my one baby toward the end of the game, Noah exclaimed, "Mom!  You're finally living the good life!"

It really is the good life. What would my life be without these crazy kids of mine? 

One thing is certain: There's never a dull moment with Noah around.  He keeps me laughing, learning, and lecturing.  I wouldn't trade him for any kid in the world. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sally Grace, Almost 16 Months

This girl got spunk. She's as busy as ever, climbing on everything and falling off of everything.  I have to move the kitchen table chairs into the living room between meals because she can't resist scaling them (which has resulted in more than a few bonks).

Changing her diaper should be an Olympic sport.  Ryan says it's like wrestling a Tasmanian Devil.  And grocery shopping with her is just downright impossible.  She is like Houdini and somehow wiggles her way out of the seatbelt and stands up in the front of the cart. 

She still loves the slapstick humor.  In fact, moments before that precious photo above was taken on the pumpkins, she was wiggling away and crying and refusing to sit for a picture, so I said, "Noah come over here and whack me in the head!"  Worked like a charm!

It's hard to get her to sit still for anything, and only recently has she started being willing to listen to one quick book before bed.  When Noah was her age, I could read to him forever and he would sit calmly in my lap.  Not our rascal Sal!

She has no interest in TV, and I know this should make me grateful, but honestly, I need her occupied for a few minutes every once in a while!  Just this week she started watching Baby Einstein for a couple of minutes, and I am thrilled.  Noah has been a boob-toober from day one, and he willingly watches Baby Einstein with his little sister.  How do those weird movies continue to hold the interest of children, from age 0-4? 

She is a whiner.  She has this insistent grunt,"Uh uh uh!," when she wants something.  This is all I hear all day long.  She grabs at my shirt and wedges herself between my legs and the counter, begging me to pick her up. The thing is, she doesn't want to be held; she just wants to be picked up so she can reach more mischief.  The moment I put her on my hip, she lunges toward the light switch she wants to play with (light switches are her favorite) or she grabs a plate and knocks it off the counter.  She is busy and curious!  It can get exhausting, but I know it's just a stage, and I'm glad she is interested in learning and experiencing the world around her.

She's not really a cuddler because she's so busy, but she gets very sweet at bedtime and lays her head on my shoulder and pats my back while I rock and sing to her.  Melts my heart and makes all the madness of the day worth it.

Sally loves her daddy.  When he comes home from work, she lights up and runs to him with her arms open.  She adores me too but totally takes me for granted.  When I come home from being away, even if I've been away for several days for a girls weekend, she hardly looks up. "Oh hey, Mom. You're back. No big deal."

She willingly goes to all babysitters and waves goodbye when I leave her. It surprises me every time because Noah was more clingy.  It is crazy how children have such different personalities. (Now Noah is certainly not that way, and they both adore their regular babysitters, as evidenced by this photo with our neighbor Ashlyn.)

She is an awesome sleeper, and, as long as she has her beloved paci, she never protests when I lay her down in her crib.  This is my saving grace on her especially whiny days.  She watches me go and sometimes says, "Bye!" She isn't sure what she is doing with naps: one nap or two? It depends on the day, which makes life a little hard to schedule. But her nightime sleep couldn't be better: she goes to bed early, about 7 p.m., and sleeps a solid 12-13 hours.

She is still a teensy little lady.  She is 19 lbs, about 10th percentile and only recently moved up to 12-18 month clothes.  I'm glad she's so light--makes it easier to keep her on my hip while I'm cooking.

Her right foot turns in when she walks.  It's quite pronounced and trips her up a little when she tries to run. The pediatrician isn't remotely concerned about it, and every time I mention it, he says it will correct itself and the bones don't fuse for several more years.  My aunt is a pediatric physical therapist, and she's going to check her out at Christmas and see if she needs a brace.  Right now she's our cute little klutz.

She is getting smart.  I feel like this is magic month when things start "clicking" for babies.  I remember that with Noah too.  Around 15-16 months, they start really understanding what people are saying to them.  She likes to help me warm her milk in the microwave--she knows just which buttons to push and how to open the door.  She points to my nose when I say the word, and she has started folding her hands when it's time for prayers.

She does the sign for "All done!" in her high chair, and it kills me every time.  She looks right at me and starts turning her little wrists so deliberately with these big eyes, like, "Mom, I'm talking to you here.  Can you understand what I'm saying?"  I don't do Baby Sign Language with my kids, but I have done the "All done" sign with her for a while, and it's fun to see her catch on.

 She doesn't talk much, but she can certainly shout Noah's name.  It's hilarious.  She shouts this shrill "Na-ah!" whenever she is looking for him or wants his attention. She says that word more than any other.  Just yesterday she said her first two-word sentence as we were leaving Noah's room: "Bye, Brother!" Could a tiny baby voice be any more precious?? 

She sometimes attacks Noah, and I'm not sure what to do about it.  Most often, she goes for his hair.  and grabs huge fistfuls and yanks.  His screaming only increases her glee and makes her want to do it more.  I always move her hands away and say "No!" very forcefully and seriously, but she just laughs.  Little stinker.  Maybe I need to put her in time-outs?  I just feel like that doesn't really work for a 15-month-old.


She is a laugher.  She laughs at everything--sometimes it's a fake chuckle and sometimes it is real.  But she is a happy baby, especially when someone is interacting with her.  She is super friendly and tries to catch people's eye in the grocery store or hall at church so she can tell them hi.  She loves to charm and wave at passersby.

We spend a lot of time walking around the halls at church because she cannot be contained and won't stay on a lap for even two minutes.  Church is completely miserable with her, and Noah follows her lead and misbehaves and slithers around on the floor, and it makes me crazy!  Ours kids are definitely the worst behaved in the entire congregation.  It's just a phase of life, right??

She got her top two front teeth this month, and they are coming in all wonky.  I don't think Ryan is pleased.  Ha!  She has another top tooth breaking through right now, and I love seeing her crooked, crazy smile.

Her favorite thing in all the world is pushing the buttons on my keys.  I often come out of the house to find all of the automatic doors to the van wide open, and there must be some magic combination of buttons that you can push to roll down all the electronic windows.  I have not figured out this trick, but Sally has!  The van doors and windows are often open, thanks to Sal.

She's still a really good eater, and I am just hoping and praying that it continues.  One of her favorite foods is broccoli, and she will eat pretty much anything I put in front of her.  Keep it up, Baby Girl!  When for some reason she's not in the mood for a certain food, she pitches it to the floor with gusto and starts waving her hands around in front of her face like a crazy person, as if she's trying to get the distasteful remnants away from her.  It's pretty comical to watch. 

She still has really good fine motor skills.  She is so interested in buckles.  The only time I can get her to sit still is when I let her play with the buckle on her high chair or toy swing--she carefully focuses on putting the buckle together and snapping it closed.  I use this trick when I need to pull her hair back into a little ponytail or pigtails.  The only way I can do her hair is if I strap her down in the highchair.

She loves slides and, not surprisingly, she is fearless on them.  She can do all of the slides at the park by herself.  Unfortunately, she also tries to walk down the slides, so I have to be vigilant about forcing her onto her bottom.

She is obsessed with her linen blankies.  She absolutely must have one in order to go to sleep, and she loves to drag them around the house as well.  I should probably stop this habit and keep the blankie in the crib, but hey, they make her happy, so maybe I will fight that battle after we are done traveling for the holidays.  I've noticed recently that she loves to hold onto the very corner of the blanket--it seems to soothe her, maybe it feels extra soft.  She loves soft things.  She holds the blanket up to her cheek and rests it against her shoulder.  It's nice that the linen blankets came in a pack of three, and she is equally attached to all three, so it doesn't matter which one I grab at bedtime.

About a month ago, every time Ryan or I would get Sally out of her crib, she would point emphatically at the tiny photo of my mom on her shelf.  It was across the room and barely visible, yet she would point at it as soon as we entered the room.  She wanted to hold it, look at it, and carry it around.  It made me happy.  I believe that heaven must be very close for these pure, sweet babies, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if she has seen my mom.  It was like she was saying, "Mom, this lady comes to me in my sleep!"  I hope that's true, and I hope my mom will always be a guardian angel for Sally and Noah.

We love our Sally Wally so much.  The entire family is smitten, even Noah.  He came around a corner yesterday and saw her perched on a step stool inside his closet, and he exclaimed in delight, "Oh Sally! What are you doing in here, my cute little menace?"

She certainly is the cutest menace of them all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Third Quarter, Part 2: Adventuring with the Familia

In addition to the trips with Ryan's family (and in between the dailiness of chores, Ryan's work, and everyday life) we went on a lot of family adventures this summer.  It helps me to actually schedule "fun" on my calendar (yes, I have a category for "weekly fun" on my to-do list) or else I get caught up in projects and household tasks. Early in the summer, I made a sheet of ideas for day trips, fun with friends, and date nights, and I'm happy to report that we did most of it.

There is no one I would rather adventure with than Ryan and the kids, and I find that I feel so much closer to them when we are out in nature. I guess it makes sense: it is much more bonding to walk through a pine forest together or look at the stars around a campfire than it is to pick up toys, do dishes, and work on jobs around the house!  (Though we do have some wonderful and special moments in our home, of course.)

It is always so hard to get out the door for any sort of family adventure, and I often feel like saying, "Oh let's just forget it!" when everyone is melting down and crabby with each other before we've even left--but I almost never regret making our adventures happen once we get there.  Notice that I said *almost* never. ;)

We camped three times this summer: once in our backyard and twice in the wilds of nature (okay, so we consider "the wilds of nature" to be forest service sites with our minivan parked 10 feet away--but hey, it's better than nothing!).

I must point out that it never rains in Idaho--except when the Nielsons go camping.  Truly.  I must also point out that the Nielsons are morons for pressing on with our camping plans despite rain in the forecast.  Don't ask why we did this not once but twice this summer.  It's just so hard to change the plan when we are all packed up and excited to go.  (I have learned my lesson, and in the future, I will flat-out refuse to go on a camping trip if there is a high chance of rain.  Hold me to it, please.)

The first time we camped in the rain, it actually ended up being quite fun.  We roasted hot dogs in the midst of the downpour with our umbrellas, and then the rain stopped so we made s'mores and enjoyed time around the fire in the nice cool weather.


Sally had a hard time in the middle of the night, and I couldn't get comfortable on my lame camping pad anyway, so she and I ended up sleeping in the van, but all-in-all, it turned out to be a pretty great camping trip, and she sure enjoyed playing in the tent, eating her first s'more, and lounging around the fire in the morning.

The second time we camped in the rain was a different story.  I had a terrible attitude--I'm not totally sure why.  We had a gorgeous campsite in City of Rocks National Reserve, but the scenery did nothing to lighten my mood.  If anything, it made me madder because we could not even leave our tent to enjoy the beauty.  In the morning, when it was still raining, I was going on and on about how horrible everything was, and Ryan (understandably) got frustrated with me for my bad attitude, and then I got defensive and said, "I'm not saying this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone; I'm just pointing out that it's not worth it to go camping when it is raining!  Families go camping to have fun, and this is not fun!!"  Noah, who adores everything about camping, piped in at this point, "Well, Mom, the fun's about to start!  We are having cinnamon rolls for breakfast!"  Ha!  That comment actually did lighten my mood.  Hilarious!

It is amazing how happy Noah is when we are camping.  He skips around and hums and talks a mile a minute, and he doesn't seem to notice the rain, cold, or any other inconveniences.  I should take a page from his book!

The highlight of that second rainy camping trip was definitely trying out my new two-person sleeping bag and air mattress.  After I ended up sleeping in the van earlier in the summer, I took matters into my own hands and ordered a highly rated camping mattress and a truly ginormous sleeping bag so that Ryan and I could snuggle and keep warm on our camping adventures.  This sleeping bag is a complete beast, but soooo comfy and worth every penny, in my opinion!  (Noah only got to come in for the picture--and at 5 a.m. when he was cold.)

The backyard campout was uneventful.  We got out our firepit, pitched our tent, and after s'mores and stories, Sal and I slept in the house.  (Insert thumbs-up emoji here.)

In addition to camping, we went on some short hiking adventures.  This is something we've loved to do ever since Noah was a baby, and for the most part, he still does really well on our mountain escapades, as long as we keep it to under three miles or so. We hiked to an old miner's cabin near Sun Valley, and we hiked the trails closer to Twin Falls several times.  Sally is a trooper in the hiking backpack, especially if she has her beloved binky.


We involved our friends in the fun when we could, inviting our besties over to make paper mache masks, hosting a kickball game at sunset for Family Night one evening, spending time in the backyard hammock, and even going for hikes around Dierkes Lake or at the bottom of the canyon to watch the parachuters.

Other family adventures included a father-son date to an amusement park in Utah for Ryan's summer work party (Sally and I were tired of driving and vacationing by that point), a family date to go twilight golfing at the course in the canyon (funnest part for all of us was speeding down the fairway in the golf cart), and plenty of impromptu walks to the park near our house on warm summer evenings.

And then there is the dailiness of life, which can be just as precious as the outings.  I love these kiddos of mine.  I feel like this post makes my life look like it's all fun and games, which it isn't--I have plenty of extremely mundane and frustrating days at home trying to manage these little ones and plenty of meltdowns and moments when I totally lose my temper--but I do know how beautiful my life is, and I try to savor the best moments and let the harder moments pass by without dwelling on them too much.  (Easier said than done, but I am consistently trying!)

Truthfully, the everyday moments of motherhood are pretty priceless:

From camping trips, exciting hikes, and family outings to bedtime stories, chaotic trips to the grocery store, food-smeared faces, and groggy morning snuggles--there's no doubt about it: motherhood is the best adventure I've been on to date. I'm grateful to my crew for taking the journey with me!