One of Will's favorite things to do right now is walk around and touch all the different plants that are growing and blooming and changing every day all around our house. I think his favorite is the Japanese Maple that is right outside our side door with it's soft, almost furry leaves. He giggles every time he swipes his hands through the branches and even leans in so that he can feel the fine filigree with his face. (Just once, he tried to show the neighboring Holly bush the same love but quickly learned his lesson.)

My favorite right now are the lilac bushes blooming along one of our retaining walls. I can see them from Will's room and from the breakfast nook, two places in which I spend a lot of time each day. I even cut some over the weekend to brighten up the inside of our house. (You might have seen on Instagram.)

I don't think I realize it until things aren't going so great, but so much of my mental health is tied up in Will's behavior... and he has been especially volatile lately. But when we're outside, we're both happy, which is why even today, when it didn't get out of the fifties, we spent most of the afternoon and evening out walking through a few different neighborhoods, pushing around the cozy coupe, and feeling up a few trees and bushes. Our cheeks might have been cold when we finally turned in for dinner, but they were also rosy from running and giggling. I'll take that any day over being warm and whiny. 

Also, ever since she escaped into the woods a few weeks ago, I had been making Lola wear a bright blue bandanna, but someone felt that she needed a girlier color, so we picked her up a nice lilac one this morning. I took this picture to send to Jason right after I tied the bandanna around her neck. Will turning on the fireplace blower in the background and Lola's face pretty much sum up our time spent inside the house lately.

New Kicks Mean...

...I'm at 158. I've lost ten pounds since January, not quite as much as I wanted to lose by this point, but like my mom always says, better than a stick in the eye. With birthdays and life and so many other excuses, I slowly started giving up my healthy habits for the last month or so and have been hovering all around 158 the entire time, but with the warmer weather, our pool opening in less than a month, and a beach vacation in less than two months, I have once again found the motivation to say yes to working out every day and eating (and drinking!) healthy.

Also, Jason and I are doing a plank and push-up challenge every night. I tried to do it on my own, but I am pretty horrible at motivating myself, so I asked Jason if he would do it with me. (Basically, I have made him responsible for making me do it.) So far, we are doing great! We aren't following any fancy challenge chart from Pinterest or anything; instead, every night before we get into bed, we plank for a certain amount of time and do push-ups for a certain amount of time. We started with one minute and add 15 seconds each Saturday. We're on our second week, so we are just at 1:15, and let me tell you, those additional 15 seconds are killer, but I do it! As far as push-ups go, I started out only being able to do four real push-ups (20 total), and have worked up to seven real push-ups (25 total)! My goal is to match Jason first week, 55 real push-ups (in one minute). Any bets on how long that will take me?

Are you doing anything to get your body pool/beach/warm weather ready? I'd love to hear it.

A Belated Birthday Post

Almost an entire month ago, we celebrated Will's birthday with family and friends, so this post is just a bit belated, but I was really happy with how all of my decorations for our "William's Birthday" themed birthday party turned out and wanted to share them with you just in case you also want to go with a "meta" theme for your next shindig. I mean, how awesome would this be for someone who was much older with pictures from throughout their life?

I'm pretty sure I got this idea after scrolling through "first birthday decoration" ideas on Pinterest, but it could have also come from a blog. Who knows? (Seriously, does anyone know the original source? I'd love to give credit where credit is due.) In order to make the banners and skewers and thank you bags, I basically went through my phone and found as many cute pictures of William's head as I could, changed the filter to black and white, and emailed them to myself from my phone so that I could copy and paste them into Word, crop, and enlarge them. I printed them on white card stock, cut them out, and hot glued the party hats (made out of scrapbooking paper and pom poms) to the card stock and then hot glued the heads to the twine (from the dollar section at Target) for the banners, skewers for the food, and thank you bags to place all around the house. 

For some extra pizazz, I used more banners and party hats (that I also hot glued pom poms onto for some extra flair) in primary colors to finish up the decor. Jason suggested that we save all the decorations and just add some more William heads for next year, so I've packed everything in a diaper box. I might add a number one to the hats on the heads from this past year and a number two to the hats for next year. We'll see if almost two-year-old William demands a specific theme next year.

Also, shortly after realizing that he didn't really care about his cupcake, William realized that there was a hat on his head and therefore, smelled like icing for the rest of day.

How Does Your Garden Grow

Yesterday, taking advantage of the mostly-cloudy, seventy-degree day, I pruned the rose bushes while Will pushed his wagon up and down our back driveway and open and closed the gate about 3,000 times. 

I live in a house with gardens that both my mom and my grandma carefully tended for years. I've inherited lilac bushes, Moonbeam Coreopsis, Russian Sage, hydrangea, a wide variety of rose bushes, and countless other shrubs, trees, and plants. Each spring, I'm surprised when everything starts growing and blooming again despite my negligence, but this year, I have started to make an effort to tend the garden. Feeling the urge to prune and clean out the roses, I went searching in one of our sheds and found shears and thick, stiff leather gloves. Did I move those over from our other house? Were they my mom's? My grandma's? I've decided to believe that all three of our hands have filled the gloves, warming the leather until the stiffness subsides enough to wield the shears, my mom and grandma much more deftly than me. 

I'm uncertain whether my amatuer efforts will yield benefits or cause harm. Either way, I am enjoying the process, learning with each new project, and experiencing just how much work Grandma De put into creating a beautiful space for all of us to come together each summer. Every time I go out to look at the flowers with Will or notice that a different tree is in bloom, I realize just how precious her years of careful planting and tending still are to me and my family, and my heart is filled with so much love and thanks for Grandma and her legacy. A legacy of love, tender care, and pruning back in the hope of growing fuller.

Also, the other thing I inherited from Grandma is a ridiculous amount of lawn ornaments and birdhouses. I remember, one time, stopping at a gas station on a short road trip back from somewhere; eveyone else went to the bathroom or bought drinks and snacks, but Grandma picked up a new concrete lawn ornament. This is a small representative.

In a Flash

I want to remember the way that he runs (full speed) with his arms back and his chest out. The way he always turns the blower on the fire place on whenever we are hanging out down stairs. (I think he thinks it's a white noise machine.) The way he shouts, "Woah," any time he sees something new that he likes. The way his face lights up whenever he sees his Papa or his Jam. The way he touches his nose to anything soft and fluffy, not only puppies, kitties, and stuffed animals but also the Swiffer duster and Lola's bed. The way he walks over clutching Good Night, Moon and hands it up for a read through or two.

I don't want time to slow. I don't want him to stay the same age. I don't want to keep him just how he is at this very moment because each new moment is distinct and miraculous.

But I do want to remember.
Also, I would like to remember teaching him how to dribble a soccer ball......but for now, I'll just remember how fast he runs by it and how much he giggles when I hold him and run around the yard kicking and chasing the ball.

Ball Pit Fun

For a few days there, we were getting out every day to run around in the newly green grass, but yesterday was drizzly and cold, and today is sunny and colder. So instead of going to the playground, going for a walk, or kicking a ball in the front yard, we'll be heading back up to our attic playroom to work out all of our afternoon energy. 

One of my favorite toys in the playroom is our ball pit. Relatively safe for my physically active and curious boy, colorful, and versatile! What's not to love? Our ball pit is a hodge podge of different items from different places and came together over time. First, I bought some balls second hand (which is how we get most of Will's toys) from someone at work. (The balls came with a purple and pink princessy blow-up contraption that I ended up stabbing with scissors after unsuccessfully trying to inflate multiple times.) Then, my sister gave Will the blue blow-up pool for Christmas after I tried to requisition her baby pool. And just a few weeks ago, I actually invested in 100 more brand-new balls to fill up the "pit" a bit more. Will has loved to climb in and out and move all the balls around ever since he was able to crawl over to the pool, and as he has grown, we have developed some (only slightly) more organized games.

IN and OUT
Get yourself in and out, put the balls in and out, take the car/bear/block in and out. This will probably just happen when you set your child anywhere near the ball pit and with a little encouragement can become a fun game and useful in many situations like cleaning up and following directions.

Matching--Pick up a yellow ball and ask your child to pick up a yellow ball. If they pick up a ball, that's great! If they pick up a yellow ball, that's even more impressive. If it's any other color, choose another yellow ball to match yours or choose the color that they have to match them. Usually, we then hit the balls together and someone usually tries to eat one.
Sorting--Take/throw all of one color ball out of the pool or into a bucket or basket. Try the same with two colors and two buckets/baskets. And so on...

Take an object that makes noise, place it in the balls, and turn it on. Encourage your child to find it. Start easy with younger children by leaving part of the object visible and make it harder by submerging the object or hiding objects that don't make noise as your child develops object permanence and gets better and better at seeking. Eventually, you might be able to ask them to hide objects for you or other children to find. (BE CAREFUL: Will loves to throw himself into the pit, so we make sure to remove all hard objects after each play session.) 

With some pillows, couch cushions, or fold-up tunnels, make your ball pit part of an obstacle course to chase your child through (which is what Will loves) or have them follow you through.

Encourage your child to push the balls around with his or her arms and kick his or her feet through the balls. Will loves to do this in a sitting position, but you could also try on their bellies or backs. If your child is really advanced, teach them the different strokes!

That's it! Do you have any other ideas for ball pit games or activities? I'd love to hear them because I know in a few short months, we'll be escaping from the heat to play in the attic.

An Afternoon

There was no napping, but one baby was fed, two diapers were changed, and four bodies went for a walk. If kitties or cats were mentioned, Will had us covered with the "mow"s, and if puppies or dogs were mentioned (or Lola was in sight), Piper represented with the "woof woof"s. She also alerted us to any (and every) ball in the area while Will experimented with alternative pacifiers.
Oh, and coloring. There was lots of coloring... mostly by me. There were also many attempts at sharing. Would you like this pink crayon? Would you like this frog (which can also double as a pacifier)? But no actual sharing. Maybe next time. I kind of can't wait until next time.

Also, there was a little bit of crying. Totally justified crying. Crying to let it be known that putting your finger inside Will's mouth to get out the tip of the blue crayon is not appropriate.

Not the Original Plan

Yesterday between naps (and eating and cleaning), we got in a walk around the neighborhood for Lola and a trip to the playground for Will. Our new favorite playground is in the middle of all the soccer fields in our park and has plenty of gumballs (with all the spiky things removed somehow) for Will to collect and carry around as he climbs up slides and through tubes. Over the spring and summer, I can just imagine Will learning to climb the rock wall and go down the slides on his own. Maybe with much prompting, he will eventually sit back in the swing. Who knows? 
In August, as planned, I will be going back to work teaching English to high school freshman, and I am looking forward to being back in the classroom. So starting in August, I probably won't have time to get in both a walk and a trip to the park on every nice day, but I will have time for at least one because I am going to work part-time! Through prayer, Jason and I realized that me working part-time would be best for both our family and my students but didn't know if it was even an option. So months and months ago, I put in a request, and a few weeks ago, I found out that I was approved for teaching two classes (as opposed to five + an advisory) a semester. 
I will still get to spend most of the day with William, and he will get to spend his afternoons with Maggie and Piper, which I think will actually be much better for his development than spending the afternoons with me. I really can't imagine a more perfect situation. We keep putting our faith and trust in God's plan for our lives and tearing ourselves away from our own plans. And every time, His plan is SO much better. I am so thankful to God for his plans for my life and all of the amazing people involved, for my family, for my bosses, for my students, and most of all for William and Jason. Also, William makes it a point to take a moment to say hi to all walkers and runners who come by on the path... but if they happen to have a puppy dog with them, he will stop whatever he is doing and run full speed, shrieking the entire time. So if you are in the area, please plan your walks accordingly. The shreiks are pretty freakin cute.

A Perfect Way to Start the Week // Zuke's Dog Treats Giveaway

We adopted Lola old from our local rescue organization, Partners for Pets. She was already three months old, but we were still amazed that it only took a day to crate train her with only one real accident in the house. A few months later, we signed up for obedience classes, and she learned sit, down, off, and heal (kind of), but she has never fully grasped the concept of "come." When it's really cold or hot outside or time for her to eat, she happily comes when I call her, but any other time, she ignores me or takes her time. Shortly after bringing Will home last year, I realized that I needed Lola not only to "come" but also "leave" much more often, so we slowly started trying to teach her those commands. Now, she knows that when we say "out," she needs to leave the room, and I've learned that all I need to do to get her to come is shout, "Do you want a treat"?

A few weeks ago, Zuke's sent us their new line of Hip Action treats. The great thing about all of Zuke's products is that they are all natural and healthy for your pup (or kitty), so I don't feel bad giving Lola a treat every single time she comes inside the house. Lola loves all three flavors of the Hip Action treats, and I really appreciate that even though they are moist and chewy, they don't have that funky dog treat smell.

If you want to try out Zuke's, you can order them online or find them in this area at Petsmart and local pet boutiques, OR you can enter to win some treats! Just visit Zuke's and choose a line of treats that you'd like to try out with your pup or kitty and enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, don't you think Lola looks like the pup on the packaging?
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