Saturday, August 31, 2013

{Holiday: Andreas' 30th Birthday}

The week before Andreas' birthday, Anders and I worked on preparing a few simple decorations that might brighten up the kitchen and create a nice backdrop for the birthday festivities. As a foundation, Anders painted several pieces of computer paper with yellow and green paint. I wrapped some empty toilet paper rolls with his artwork and used a craft punch to cut a bunch of circles from the remaining scraps. I threaded it all together with fishing line to create a garland, which we hung from the large window. It was actually pretty eye-catching with the natural light shining through the painted paper. I also cut a special message for Andreas from Anders' paintings. We glued the letters onto construction paper, and Anders used a border punch to embellish it a bit more. 

On the morning of his birthday I was able to present Andreas with a large stack of letters and notes from friends and family. So many loved ones contributed stories, words of encouragement, and well wishes. Some were sentimental and mushy, and others made us laugh out loud. They were all touching, and I was so pleased to be able to coordinate something that made Andreas feel loved and special. Thanks to everyone who participated! 

We headed off to church and lunch before returning home to open presents. Historically we've always done this first thing in the morning, allowing the birthday guy or gal to open their new treasures in bed while nestled in their comfy duvet. I'm not sure if this is a Danish tradition or a Vang precedent, but what I can tell you is that with a little boy and a baby it seemed both impossible and undesirable to attempt to wake up early enough to open presents and get the four of us dressed, fed, and loaded into mini(van) on time. And so, the afternoon began with unwrapping gifts. Andreas was the lucky recipient of much generosity and will be able to cross several items off his wish list. A few of us even surprised him with things he didn't even know he was missing. 

I gave him these earmuffs. Let me tell you, these were a big risk because I rarely venture off the wish list. Not only is Andreas particular, but he's also extremely well-educated in his areas of interest. This means that he usually knows the exact specifications, model, and acceptable price range of each item he wants. I get joy from giving him things he's specifically requested, but sometimes a wife has to surprise her husband, you know? These earmuffs were a big win, so I got to breathe a big sigh of relief. They will do the simple job of protecting his ears when he mows or does other loud home projects, but they're also capable of amplifying noise that isn't in a harmful range so they're a bit more dynamic than the average earmuff. I know this is extremely compelling. Moving on. 

Andreas and I were able to go out for date night on Saturday evening, so we chose to cook a special dinner at home to celebrate his actual birthday. That way we could spend the time all together as a family (and have a good excuse to buy a big hunk of expensive meat). We tried our hand at a beef tenderloin using this recipe, and it was a huge success! It was absolutely delicious, and I'm afraid we are hooked. There were some side dishes of course, but I was too busy savoring the melt-in-my-mouth tenderloin to recall anything remarkable about any of them now. Once the littles were in bed, Hannah, Andreas, and I shared a few cupcakes to properly finish off the night of dietary indulgence. 

I can't put words in his mouth, but I think Andreas would say it was a pretty great way to celebrate 30. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

{Week in Review}

For some strange reason this week, the hours we've spent outside have increased right along with the temperature. I have no explanation, but I'm not complaining either (well, not too much anyway).

Anders is finally tall enough to 'ride' his bike on his own, meaning he can sit on the seat and still have his feet touching the ground. We've been taking walks each morning, Anders leading on his bike, and Aksel and I following in the stroller. Anders still isn't 100% comfortable in his riding abilities, so our walks are slow, but we enjoy waving to neighbors, spotting animals, plants, and planes, riding over bumps, and generally enjoying the lazy pace.

And although his confidence isn't all there, he certainly looks the part.

Aksel lounges, studying his big brother, and Anders takes care to show him any particularly interesting sticks, acorns, or other collectibles. (Side note: Don't hate me for putting him in pants in August. The kid is trying to scoot around, so I do my best to attempt to protect his little knees!)

The Carrollton Public Library hosted Digger Day this week to mark the end of the summer reading program. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate their creativity and love taking advantage of a free activity as much as the next person, but did no one consider an indoor ice cream social? Because let me tell you, looking at construction equipment in an open parking lot in the middle of the day in August will leave you SWEATY. But I digress.

The first vehicle we explored was a dump truck. The air horn on this thing, people. Oh my gosh, my ears are still ringing! The kids absolutely loved it, of course.

Next up was a flatbed truck. Anders got some insider tips from the operator.

I think the crowd pleaser was the bulldozer.

Anders demonstrated his excitement by performing a jig. If i was smart enough to animate a GIF, I would, but let's face it this is a pretty low-tech blog.

I think the excavator was Anders' favorite, but that could also have been because it was the last machine we examined. Anders was used to the idea of climbing into the high seats, receiving instructions from the drivers, and hunting for the horn buttons on the steering wheels.

We have a busy and exciting weekend coming up. I'm sure I'll have lots of new pictures to share next week!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

{Weekend Update: Family Photos}

In July I mentioned that I didn't have any photos of the four of us and that I was hoping to take a new family picture soon. Now, three weekends later, we've finally accomplished our goal. 

If you are interested in taking your own family photo, here is what you will need:
  • A tripod and camera with self-timer
  • ~1.5 square meters of your outdoor property that is fully shaded and doesn't look overgrown or unkempt
  • Agreeable family members*
*This, as usual, is the ultimate variable. Agreeability may be obtained by means of bribery or threats, but almost always requires that participants be well-fed and well-rested.

This morning we all cleaned up and headed into the backyard for our informal photo session. Aksel was slightly cranky (a direct result of our failure to meet the well-rested requirement), and that quickly escalated into downright angry. Our best efforts were thwarted by wet grass, splotchy lighting, and distractions in the form of sports equipment, balls, and a plethora of other inviting toys that proved irresistible to Anders. We managed to get a couple of pictures that masked the mood of the moment and projected a more fitting image of our family, a group of people that loves one another dearly. We were pretty satisfied with the results, all things considered, but were still entertaining the idea of heading out later in the day after Aksel had taken a nap.

I'm so glad we decided to try again, because it was a totally different experience. We were actually having fun! And I'm definitely happy to have a little color in the background.

I will warn you that you probably shouldn't attempt this if you are easily embarrassed. Posing the family in the front yard, acting goofy to entice children's smiles, and running sweatily back and forth between camera and your mark on an August afternoon is not for the faint of heart.

The picture below is my personal favorite. I know Aksel isn't exactly looking at the camera, but that quizzical stare at his brother is so typical these days.

And of course I had to get a picture of my three guys. They are so handsome!

Lest you think me overdramatic, I felt the need to include a more 'real' picture. This is what the vast majority of our photos looked like today. Thank goodness for digital cameras!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

{iPhone Rewind}

This may or may not be my most random post to date. Andreas is working late tonight, meaning I spent no less than twelve consecutive hours solo parenting a toddler and a baby. I love my boys, but that's a full day, and my brain is a pile of mush. 

So first, an iPhone rewind of August so far. Please forgive my terrible phone photography. 

1// Brothers - Anders is really starting to interact with Aksel more. He notices when Aksel is watching him. He asks if they can roll a ball back and forth. He shows him his toys. I am loving watching their friendship blossom!

2//Serious bedhead - This is what Anders looks like almost every time he wakes up. When we walked into church this Sunday morning and his hair looked like that, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe it's time to start combing his hair before we leave the house. Oops.

3//Excited about the straw necklace he strung - I cut a few plastic drinking straws into two-inch pieces and showed Anders how to thread them onto yarn using a plastic crochet needle. He was so proud of himself!

4//Cuddle time - I don't remember the story behind this picture, but I do know I love when my baby falls asleep in my arms.

5//Enjoying a TV show in a blanket burrito - We love PBS programming at our house. The lineup of kids' shows is so clever! On this particular morning, Anders kept requesting that I tuck him in with his blanket. He would stay bundled for a few seconds before breaking loose and requesting, 'Again?'

6//My three guys - This is pretty self explanatory. 

7//Front yard landscaping improvements - This summer we've made an effort to upgrade our front flower beds. I'm particularly fond of this little grouping, especially the blue sage.

8//Testing out Far's new eye protection - Andreas purchased some much-needed glasses for mowing the lawn, and Anders was excited to try them on.

9//Sweet baby smiles - Aksel is such a happy baby. He loves attention, and I'm a sucker for that sweet smile.

10//New sneakers - For the past week Anders has been telling me his feet hurt when I put on his shoes. Guess he had a foot growth spurt! We looked several places before finding a few pairs that I thought were supportive, cute, and had simple closures. These are from Target if you're wondering. He rocks them.

11//Aftermath of the four month well-visit - Nothing like several shots to wear a baby out. I had to rock him to sleep this day, but I didn't mind. It happens so rarely!

12//Cleaning out my purse - This is a picture of shame. So many receipts, toys, mail, pens, and other randomness. It felt so good to purge after about three months of hoarding.

13//Organizing the craft closet - I recently purchased a bunch of educational tools, materials, and manipulatives (mostly at the Dollar Store!). This sounds great and practical, except they didn't have a place to live and were being temporarily stored on the floor beside my bed. The pile was a treasure trove for Anders, and daily he would march out of my room with a new 'toy' to play with. Now they are all organized and put away in the guest closet!

14//Bouncer baby - Anders was absolutely crazy for this bouncer. Aksel likes it too, but he is getting a little big for it already!

15//Showing off his licorice - If there was any doubt he's half-Danish, here's your proof. Since Andreas first introduced licorice to Anders last week, he's been asking me for 'more lick rish'.

16//Testing gear at Sports Authority - I asked Anders to try on the baseball helmet to send a picture to my brother, Kirk. When I put it on he said, 'Hi, Kirk. Michael.' All the uncles got a shoutout in one sitting. 

I also got a few extra cute photos of Aksel this week and feel like I owe it to the world grandparents to share.

We officially have a tummy sleeper on our hands. This week Aksel kept crashing out while on his play gym. I was so excited because Anders would never fall asleep on his own like that. Of course the trend didn't last long and this weekend he was over it! I had been telling Andreas for days how easy it was to put Aksel to sleep, and Aksel was determined to make a liar out of me.

Good thing I took a bunch of pictures as proof. Another day, another nap.

Those squishy cheeks are getting big and starting to sag!

And lastly, two of my favorite guys in the world. 

I'm a lucky girl to have these handsome faces greet me every day!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

{Week in Review}

We had a lot going on this week, including 3 play dates during which I didn't take a single photo. Toddler play dates begin in a social gray area, because for a while they are really just mommy play dates where the children may or may not acknowledge one another. I believe the technical term for this is 'parallel play'. A more appropriate label would effectively communicate that during this stage there is still a good chance you and your mommy friend will be able to drink your diet sodas (or coffee depending on the time) while having a nice conversation until the kids decide they both want to play with the same toy at which point any peace and quiet ceases and your conversation is over. But that's a lot to expect out of a developmental stage label, so I guess it's a good thing you read this blog and can stay well-informed. 

At this point I feel like I can use the term play date without any sense of embellishment. Anders is starting to interact with other kids, and it is so much fun to witness! Now don't get me wrong. I already miss being able to get out more than one adult sentence before a parenting intervention is required, but it really is neat to watch him begin to form relationships with other little humans. As far as picture-taking goes, though, I'm usually too busy chatting with my own friends during the calm moments to stop and take photos. Not to mention, there are no definitive rules about posting pictures of other people's kiddos on the internet. I'm sure those questions will get tougher as my kids get older, but for now I just avoid them altogether.

Also, it is hot. We've had a pretty mild summer so far, but now it is you-can't-avoid-the-Texas-heat-any-longer hot. Avoid-going-outdoors-after-10am hot. Sweat-stained-carseats hot. And hot weather means water play. While I enjoy water activities in the summer, I worry about pulling my camera or phone out when I'm within splash range of a wily toddler.

I did manage to capture a few of our indoor activities this week.

We enjoyed some toddler sushi. (Eventually I hope to encourage proper pencil grip with these chopsticks, but I'll settle for building hand and finger strength for now.)

We also experimented with Q-tip painting, where kids dip Q-tips into paint and press into a circle on paper - one dot per circle. The primary purpose of painting in this manner is to improve distal control, but my motivation was much simpler. I was happy for Anders to be painting with something disposable, one less thing to clean up! I found some templates on Pinterest, and we started painting!

This activity went well, and Anders was pretty focused until I totally derailed the project by painting a heart on his stomach. Anders though it was hilarious to 'tickle' himself with the paint.

He also tried his hand at face-painting.

By this point, you may be asking yourself where Aksel is during all this excitement. Well, Aksel started rolling from back to front last week, and ever since then his main concern in life is getting onto his belly. He will happily attempt to roll out of your arms or out of the bouncer, so we pretty much pull his play gym from room to room. The other night I was making dinner, and he absolutely wore himself out.

I can't blame him, really. I'm actually a little jealous. This is how I feel at the end of most days, too.