Thursday, December 22, 2011

...If Not Efficient

In college, my girlfriends teased me that the best word to describe me was "efficient." Even my car (white Ford Escort, 2 door, front wheel drive, stick shift, tape deck, automatic nothing) fit the bill. So this year, I set myself on the route for quality, efficient holiday cards. 
- Purchase the Groupon for our local photography studio - just a 20 minute session with access to the electronic files.
- Quick stop for new shirts for the boys that will double as their holiday finest.
- Early order through Snapfish - my favorite cards to date - in time for their discount code and free shipping.

Then, in my last bid to be efficient, I set the box of cards aside to wait for us to get a lease signed in Portland. How great (and efficient!) would it to be to tuck a little "we moved!" note inside each holiday greeting? So the cards sat, and sat, and sat.  We realized that we weren't going to find a place before the holidays and postponed our family move to February.  We dove into the holiday season and buried the box of cards under shopping bags and Christmas cheer.  Fast forward to 3 days before Christmas, and, well, the cards went in the mail box this morning. Happy New Year!

I did want to post a few pictures from our photo session. If these pictures were truly reflective of our year, you would probably see:
- Bald spot on the back of Josh's head where we had to super glue to close a wound;
- Perpetual spot of drool/food goober on my left shoulder
- Long, shaggy hair covering ears and eyes of the kids
- Wrist braces and finger splints holding Scott's hands together
- Owens' short pants from an early fall growth spurt (oh wait, you can see those!)

- Two boys wrestling through half the photo shoot and (literally) running circles around the photographer
- Busted knees on all my pants (which I call a sign of good mothering - lots of time down on the floor with my kids!)
- Bags under eyes and weary hearts, processing all the change that is to come

As it turns out, a clean change of clothes, quick trim over the ears the night before, and a talented photographer can make our real life look pretty spiffy. Thankfully, the joy and smiles are 100% real... in no part coerced through the promise of M&Ms sitting on the front counter.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

...Until We Don't

Over the summer and early fall, I took on this wonderful mantra:
"We Live Here!"
It was a way to celebrate both the place we live - the mountains, lakes, beautiful weather, places to explore - and the community in this place - friends that get us, welcoming attitude, the love of outdoors, willingness to explore, access to nature, and all the events planned with families in mind.

Each Friday in September, as we gathered with friends to hike around one of our high dessert beauties, I would turn to Michelle and marvel, "We Live Here!" Watching our kids splash in Sparks Lake with the Three Sisters rising in the background... "We Live Here!"  Sitting on the shore of Todd Lake while our kids hunt for frogs and tadpoles... "We Live Here!" Sitting outside Jackson's Corner with dear friends, pints of beer in hand, watching the boys play with their friends in their play area... "We Live Here!"  Checking in at the public pool, the one with twisty slides, water play structures, and zero-entry wading pool, waving at the friends who were already gathered and layering on the sunscreen... "We Live Here!"  Enjoying our end of summer party/graduation at the boys' school, with all the kids showing off the river they had built in the backyard, adults drinking home-brew beer, all eyes beaming at the two kids who have grown from toddlers to kindergarteners in this magical place..."We Live Here!"

Needless to say, we have come to LOVE Bend, Oregon.
The problem is, Bend, Oregon is suffering (along with the rest of the country). We know so many people, including numerous friends and co-workers, who have lost jobs and are still struggling to find a comperable position in town.  While August and September were filled with marvel at this amazing place we live, October brought the news that Scott's position is ending in Bend and my office would soon be closing. Ironically (amazingly, shockingly, coincidentally??) we received these two pieces of news within one 24-hour period.

We suddenly found ourselves in a very common position... and in a very uncommon position at the same time.  You see, Scott's job is ending in Bend, but he's been offered a transfer into a fantastic position in the Portland office. My office is closing, but I was given the option of working from home, or transferring to one of our other offices... two of which are located in suburbs of Portland.  So, after much gnashing of teeth, tears, and discernment (okay, how much discernment was really needed, given the situation??), we faced the music and are trying to get ourselves moved to Portland in January.

We are terribly sad to be leaving Bend.  The place, the people, the community.

We know Portland is an amazing City, and we recognize the amazing luck to both have jobs in the same place; a place that is not Cincinnati or Fresno, or Nebraska; a place that we would have been #1 on our list of places to move if we found ourselves jobless and out of options in Bend; a place that fits our lifestyle and values; a place that puts us 3 hours closer to family in Seattle and only 3 hours away from spending weekends in Bend.  Really, there are only two downsides to moving to Portland:
#1. We have to move
#2. Portland is not Bend.

This is the chaos that has been consuming our lives for the last 6 weeks.  How to move our family, choose a neighborhood , figure out a place to live (infinitely harder than we anticipated), find a childcare that comes remotely close Bloom, rent our house here... all the while dealing with my standard end of the year crazy at work and Scott's temp schedule of being in Portland a few days/week. Oh, and it's the holiday season. Awesome.  Stress Level = High. Faith Level = Tested. Hope Level = Wavering. Knowledge that everything will turn out for the best in the end = Solid.  Best Quote I heard this month: "Everything will work out for good in the end. If it's not good, it's not the end."

We Live Here!... Until We Don't.

Friday, November 25, 2011

If It's Not Broken

We are not super creative or crafty around these parts.  When Josh's birthday rolled around, I was quite tempted to roll his celebration in with the group party we do for all of our playgroup friends that have fall birthdays... all 8 of 'em!  In the end, I really wanted Josh to have a party that was for HIS friends.  Granted, his friends are all the younger siblings of our playgroup, but it was fun to plan a party that would be just for

Now, I've done one 2-year old party before, and it was a great success, so rather that break out a new set of tricks, we did a full repeat of this party from July 2009. The kids decorated their own t-shirts, played with every toy in our house, and then stuffed cupcakes with sprinkles.  To customize the party for Josh, we did dog-themed plates and cupcakes, but it was a wonderfully simple party.
The most amazing party of the party was how QUIET it felt.  Two years ago, nine 2-year olds felt like total chaos around my house. This year, eight 2-year olds weren't quite sure what to do without their older siblings creating chaos.  They decorated, played, shared, and snacked without any incident and barely any noise.  Without the older siblings running the show, it was serene, almost zen-like... until we broke out the sugar. =)

Josh's Friends: Gavin, Zoe, Pilar, Calvin, Jet, Miles, Ian
Love those cupcake faces!

On a separate note: Why does my 4 year old refuse to take a normal picture? I know this is a standard phase, but it sure would be nice to have a smiling face on record one of these days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Summer Camping

As the snow is starting to fall and winter is making itself known, I have enjoyed looking back at some of our late summer activities.  Our summer was way too short this year, and by Labor Day, we were really kicking ourselves for not getting out there, exploring, and getting the kids under the trees more in July and August.  Thankfully, our September adventures included some great Friday hikes with our play group to soak in the trees and mountains.

As a family, we rallied for two different camping adventures.  Thanks to great friends that found campsites and allowed us to tag along.  Over Labor Day, Andrew and Sarah introduced us to dispersed camping.  We definitely need our own table to do it ourselves, but they had all the supplies and the perfect campsite at Davis Lake. Will taught Owen all about building fairy houses out of found bark and Josh loved hanging out with his buddy Zoe.  Even Hudson and Sophie managed to co-exist (a miracle for either of those dogs), and Scott and I always enjoy our time with Sarah and Andrew.  For that adventure, Josh didn't even have his own sleeping bag, but he cozied up in a HUGE pile of blankets.  While the cold didn't bother him, he was pretty scared of the corner of the tent in the dark, but a 2AM reshuffling of positions allowed us all to sleep in past 7AM.  Success!

Camping adventure #2 was with the Staleys and the Donnelly's out on the McKenzie.  We were the only ones tenting it, and the kids LOVED exploring the camper van and Mini Winnie.  We had the campground almost all to ourselves, which allowed the kids some serious bike time. Josh also got his own sleeping bag, and I found invested in a much plusher sleeping mat, which made for happier campers all around come morning.

All the adults got in some time on the bike too (though admittedly, I spent more time frustrated on the side of the trail than actually pedaling the bike). We finished that trip off with a stop at Belknap Hot Springs, which would have been more fun if Josh was out of diapers, so we ALL could have gone in the pool.  But a fall drive home over McKenzie Pass was also a great way to say good-bye to summer in true Central Oregon style.

I had to steal pictures from Michelle's Blog. What a fun group of kiddos!


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Halloween 2011

Happy Halloween from our Royal King and Red Devil!

The new blogger interface is driving me crazy, so you'll just have to take my word for it that I wrote a lovely, witty post with captioned pictures do document our Halloween Fun.  It's there, in cyberspace somewhere... but just not here on our blog!

In short, our Halloween Festivities included:
-Two trips to the pumpkin patch - one with preschool and one with our friend group.  With our friends, both my boys managed to get lost at different times. Thankfully, we had enough people with us to track them down.  While 6-8 of us were looking for Josh in the playground and hay maze (where I had just sent him down a slide), Elaine and Elizabeth noticed him wandering through the picnic area and snagged him before he wandered into the parking lot.  Geez! No fear in that kid.

- The kids got their costumes from the costume swap and Owen helped me bedazzle all aspects of his king costume with jewels. Lots of purple and gold to honor our Huskies!

 We spent an afternoon tasting beer and carving pumpkins with the Mowreys at the Wiaters. So fun to have friends with matching age kids... and we have lots of 'em!  These families make a unique match because all three dads are brewing their own beer.  We're certainly not going to be short of excuses to spend weekends in Bend next year!

The Donnelly's hosted us all for Halloween again this year. Food, Friends, Kids, Costumes, and Candy make for an evening of chaos, but it's all worth it to spend time with these dear families.  This year, Scott kept pace with the 4 year old bunch running from house to house.  I hung back with Josh, who was wary of being out in the dark amid the costumes.  He warmed up to trick-or-treating (literally), once we stopped back a the house for a hat and leggings... and one he unwrapped and devoured that first piece of candy.  Definietly added a new word: CANDY! to the vocabulary.  After our warm-up, we caught up with Michelle and Calvin and Jett, who were moving at Josh's pace and much more enthusiastic about knocking on doors.  Pretty much nothing cuter than a trio of two foot tall trick-or-treaters!

Our whole group before they were off to the races:

Owen the King and Lily the Princess:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Terrible or Terrific

Josh turned two this week.  Celebrations included:
- A visit from Grandma and Grandpa
- The customary crown from school,
- Cupcakes, presents, and a family picture at home
- Over the weekend, we'll get to celebrate with Nana and Papa and have a "littles only" party for some of Josh's friends.

Josh's two favorite things: Dogs and Airplanes. He points them out with gusto.  Other favorites are books about dogs, books about airplanes, his new doggy sticker book, airplane toys, etc.  Okay, he also loves music, dancing, mimicking faces, from silly to surprised, snuggling with mom (and dad when mom's not nearby), watching and playing sports, and helping - anything to make him feel like a big kid.

We have had a pretty substantial explosion of words over the last couple months.  We still need the secret decoder ring to figure out most of what he's saying, but Josh is starting to embrace words over point and grunt. When you repeat what  he was trying to say, he'll give you this huge, proud nod of the head. He's stringing words together in short phrases, though generally all we can hear are the vowel sounds. Last night, Owen had him saying I Love You to each person in our family: "I OH OO A-DEE" "I OH OO Ma-A" "I OH OO Ow-ee."  We love his cute "S" that sounds more like a jumbled "sch," and he generally talks like his mouth is full of marbles.  We'll continue to keep an eye on the speech, but for now, we're happy that he's trying to talk and practicing a variety of sounds.

Josh is clearly on the lighter side of eating.  A bite here, a bite there, and he's happy to be done.  The winner foods are pretty limited - pasta, meatballs, salmon, fruit, and SWEETS.  Other than ice cream and frosting, Josh's favorite food, by far, is sliced cheddar cheese. As soon as he gets one slice of it, all other foods are off the table, and we spend the rest of the meal responding to, "Mo Cheesche Peasche!"

Josh is incredibly physical.  It's pretty clear that he thinks he's 4 years old.  He loves to run, jump, wrestle, and spin. He assumes he can do everything that Owen can do and has been hanging out on the "preschool side" of school for about 3 months. He is trying very hard to ride the strider bike he inherited when Owen got his pedal bike in July. When we've been at the gymnastics center for open gym lately, Josh jumps in the pit, swings on the ropes, hangs from the bars, and jumps on the trampoline with all the older kids.He loves to climb, wrestle, jump, and spin. He is always on the move and working those big muscles.  He's also started to challenge us by winding up for a fully body smack when he's frustrated, so we're starting to employ more time-outs and consequences. I can tell that one of our long term parenting jobs will be to make sure Josh is getting enough of the wiggles out, so he can focus in school or wherever. For his birthday, we got him a balance board and pair of kid stilts.  Both a little beyond his age, but not his desire, or, in the case of the balance board, ability!

Josh's sleep has improved GREATLY from that rough first year. He's generally agreeable going to bed.  Most nights, he sleeps from 7:30/8 until 6:30ish, but he goes through spells (like these past few weeks) where we end up in his room rubbing his back once or twice a night.  We keep blaming it on his teeth, as his canines have been trying to break through for about 4 months.

While Josh is full of the energy and enthusiasm and physical skill of a 4-year-old, he is still lagging well behind in the growth department.  At 24 months, he is hovering around 21 pounds and fits quite nicely in 12 month pants and 18 month shirts.  His face is growing out of the baby look, so we aren't getting so many questions about "how old is your baby," but I am conscious that as we move over the mountains, he's going to be the smallest kiddo in his new school.

Josh is working hard to exert his independence.  He wants to climb in and out of the car, do his own car seat buckles, brush his own teeth, choose his own clothes, cut his own food, etc, etc, etc.  "I Do It!" is the new favorite phrase, along with "Mine!" and "No!"  There's no doubt he is TWO YEARS OLD.

Josh is a strong emotion kid.  High highs and low lows.  When he gets frustrated, he is inconsolable and we are learning to just let him work it out because there's usually not a way to reason him back to happy.  But when he's happy, he is quick to smile and share his contagious laughter. I has been a fast two years (and at times two long years), but two years that are unimaginable without our sweet Joshua Todd!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In the Weeds

As I looked ahead at the events on the calendar in September, I put my eye on the Costume Swap as the "just make it to... " marker. Unfortunately, the work crazy of September only got worse in October and it turns out that the Costume Swap was the least of our insanity. On top of my standard workload, my work team picked up two new assignments that need to be done by the end of the year, I found myself on the schedule for THREE professional conferences this month (thankfully 2 in Bend), and I need to squeeze in a 2 day training in Portland. It's all great opportunities, but sometimes even a pile of good can be overwhelming.

Scott's work is no more busy than usual - the standard 50 hour work week, but he's been trying to ramp up his bike training the Big Fat Tour this weekend. His training got temporarily sidelined by a busted elbow that thankfully has healed in time for him to embark on 150 miles of trail over the next 3 days. Throw in one 3am wake up for a fishing trip (no bites) and a few day trips to Portland for work, and we have a few weeks where it looks like we will just be ships passing in the night.

In the midst of all that, we started the month suddenly wrestling with some challenging decisions regarding both our work situations that have major implications for our whole family. While the situations are not totally unexpected, the magnitude seems larger than we had anticipated and it's certainly an unwelcome TIME to be figuring this all out.

We are in the weeds.

I have had more than my standard share of weepy moments these last few weeks. But even in the weeds, life keeps marching. And that means that the rhythms of our weeks bring us back to playgroup, book club, dinners with friends, and laughter over beer. In each of those encounters, I'm reminded how blessed we are to have the people around us providing wise council, encouragement, and simply a listening ear.

My new "just make it to..." date is Halloween. We should have more certainty by then, but for now we wrestle and wonder and hope and pray and try to trust.... and get up tomorrow to do it all over again.

The Results and Fall Festival

Costume Swap was a great success. Especially for a first year even that got planned by two people who did NOT have the time to pull it together. Between Shannon being in the first trimester of a pregnancy and my insane work schedule these days, the swap really snuck up on us. But, we pulled it together, found some great sponsors, and managed enough media contacts to pull in a decent turn out.
In my mind, the biggest success was that everybody that donated a costume to the swap was able to find a new costume for their kids. One mother brought 5 beautiful costumes to donate on Friday night and found adorable, matching fairy princess dresses, complete with hairbands and flower wands for her two daughters the next day. We watched our own green dragon costume be chosen by a little boy, who proceeded to wear it around Fall Festival for the next TWO HOURS. My own boys walked away with a red devil (so appropriate for a nearly 2 year old Josh!) and a purple king robe that put the biggest smile on Owen's face.

In the end, we will be able to donate about $200 to FAN, and that's a bonus in my book!

Our booth happened to be right between the bouncy houses and the pony rides. Owen was sooooo excited to ride the ponies, and after patiently waiting for everything to get set up, he was rewarded with one of the first rides of the day.

Next year, the biggest change would be to find more volunteers to hang out at the booth. Shannon ended up being there most of the day Saturday and by 3:00 she.was.done. With more volunteers, we could have kept the booth opened longer and probably sold 10-20 more costumes on Saturday evening. Maybe even had the booth open for Sunday as well. But, we were able to sell the remaining costumes to a local consignment shop and add the money to our donation to FAN.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Costume Swap is Coming!

Amid all the life happening, I've been working with my friend Shannon to organize the Central Oregon Children's Costume Swap. We are thrilled to have some great sponsors and excited to see how everything comes together.

Central Oregon Children's Costume Swap
October 1, 2011 at Fall Festival

How it works:
All costumes $10 (all proceeds to the Family Access Network.)
Donate a costume and receive $5 credit toward your selection; Donate 2 and select one free!

Costume drop off will be Friday, September 30 from 6-8 p.m. at the Bend-La Pine Admin Building.

Who knows how much traffic we will generate, but this is only our first year as an official event. The real goal is to give parents a venue to recycle past Halloween costumes and pick something new. Hopefully we'll raise a little bit of money for the Family Access Network along the way.

For more information, check out the Central Oregon Children's Costume Swap on Facebook or Shannon's blog.

Also, our event is affiliated with the National Costume Swap Day that is promoted by Green Halloween. If you're not in Bend, you can check out the national website to locate a similar swap in your area.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Josh is fearless. Witness my soaking wet shorts from having to jump into the pool after him today. He ran FULL SPEED into the pool without even hesitating. Everyone watching commented that he didn't even turn around, flinch, slow down, or pause as he approached the edge. In he went, under he went, and in I got to go, too. (At least it was during rec swim, so I just looked like anyone else jumping in the pool, but I really would have liked to get the shorts off first.)

Witness also the current state of his forehead:

In addition to that that massive goose egg (which I THINK he obtained jumping off a chair into the leg of the kitchen table), he's sporting 3 scabbed scratches from tumbling down a rock wall last weekend, one solid bruise from trying to carry a vacuum down our stairs, and a whole host of other bruises from daily (hourly?) crashes. We decided that we might need to start calling him Harry Potter because he's sure to have some awesome scars if he survives this childhood.

Now, I know bumps and tumbles are just a part of growing up, but these are the injuries sustained by a child that our daycare provider describes as having, "... a really solid sense of balance." Stephanie has noticed that Josh works to retain balance and stays on his feet in situations where most toddlers would fall down. In other words, Josh seems to have decided that the normal range of toddler activities are just too boring and has decided he needs to push the limits even further. Oh, and all the injuries described are just the ones on his head! The arms and legs are equally bruised, scabbed, and colorful.

And, I guess we are somewhat to blame for not stepping in faster, but this kid is QUICK - I was running after him and he he still hit the water before I could catch him!

Is there anyway to instill a healthy dose of fear in this kid?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Little Brother

There are so many ways that Josh is clearly "the little brother," but none more so to me than in the time he already spends tagging along and waiting on the sidelines. I'm constantly thankful that Josh gets quality, age appropriate activities in his 3 days at Bloom School because his days home are decidedly geared toward the 4-year-old set.

For example, when Owen was 18 months old, he was regularly doing parent-tot swim lessons. This winter, we signed Josh up for the same class, but he first had to spend an hour waiting by the side of the pool for Owen's lessons. By the time it was Josh's turn for class, he was tired, cranky, and SO DONE with the pool that we never made it through a whole lesson. Fail.

From the moment I could get out of the house, Josh has been tagging along to our weekly playgroup. When Owen was little, Shannon set up a weekly play time with purposeful, exploration activities for the under-2-year-olds. Now, Josh just tags along on our field trips, hikes, and environmental ed lessons that are clearly structured for bigger kids. We do our best to let Josh participate in the activities (and he gets a kick out of running around as if he's playing the same games as the big kids), but I'm acutely aware that nothing we do is really FOR HIM.

This winter, he waited through weekly gymnastics (Josh climbed up and down stairs and ate copious amounts of Annie's Bunnies to pass the time), and he is spending the summer on the sidelines of swim lessons and soccer. Of course, Josh doesn't know any different, but I just can't help but observe how he is so obviously the little brother. Before Owen's soccer class, there's a class for younger kids (and parents). It's a whole class for kids Josh's age, and I never once even THOUGHT of looking into classes for him. Instead, we bring our own mini soccer ball for Josh to putter around with during Owen's class. Or, on the weeks we forget, he finds a way to entertain himself... like playing throw and fetch for a half hour with an empty Pepsi bottle. Poor second child!

I'm pretty sure watching the big kids will actually pay off in the end. Josh gets exposure to so much more than Owen did at that age. And I'm guessing he'll be more than ready to tear it up when he turns 3 and can start taking some of the big kid classes on his own. Right?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Birthday Reflections

Owen had a somewhat never-ending birthday. We started celebrating with grandma and grandpa down in Sunriver, continued with Owen's "official" party - a BBQ in the park with friends, enjoyed opening presents with Nana and Papa, and ended with a July 5th Fireworks display on the day Owen actually turned 4. Few! After all that celebrating, the presents we had purchased (other than the bike) still hadn't arrived (Mom was a little late on that order). In the end, those gifts ended up stored for Christmas instead... look, I'm early!

With Grandma and Grandpa, I managed to make the ugliest plate of cupcakes possible... from a box mix. I guess there's a reason they call for vegetable oil - butter will not substitute.

Thankfully, Owen didn't seem to mind.
Neither did Josh.
And the presents that arrived from the extended Maxwell family were a hit!

The BBQ party was a wonderful celebration of friends, summer, and the joy of being outdoors. We invited 12 of Owen's friends from school and playgroup. I figured most would be out of town for the long 4th of July weekend. (Note to self: for the 3rd year in a row, that has NOT been the case!) Instead, between friends, parents, and siblings, we ended up with nearly 40 people RSVP'd to the party! Good thing we love our friends AND planned for a BBQ in the park. It was a great evening to be out playing in the grass.
Need a sense of how these kids have grown up? check out the pic from Owen's second birthday party here. Lily is on the right in both pics.
Clearly some sort of important negotiation going on between Owen and Hazel.
Oh, and my cupcakes turned out much better this time. Made from scratch. Chocolate chip cupcakes with strawberry or mini-chip toppings.
As always, we requested no gifts. Instead, many of Owen's friends spent time making this assortment of cards. So sweet!

The final gift - the sandbox from Nana and Papa has been a daily hit in our house!
The final celebration. After all that party, we were sort of at a loss of what to do for Owen's actual birthday day. It was a work/school day, so we needed a quick evening activity. We were thinking of a family trip out for ice cream, but then Scott was able to pick-up some last minute, day after, boy are those cheap, fireworks. Winner! I think that's a new tradition - 'cause we clearly need another way to celebrate this summer birthday!