Sunday, July 28, 2013

every July

Every summer July passes us by in a whirlwind of events. I find myself thinking once we get past a certain event, things will calm down...but they never do. This month we went to the coast for Independence Day, celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary, we had a handful of informal get togethers and playdates, Ben was promoted at work and had his 1st vacation in 2 years, Kai turned 4 and we had a party to celebrate, Ben's company celebrated a big anniversary so we've attended several celebratory gatherings (BBQ, formal dinner, baseball game), I chopped my hair shorter than ever, we visited a camp at Triangle Lake and Ben got to wake board after missing out last summer, we took the boys to a "Touch-a-Truck" event, Kai had his 1st dentist appointment, and we attended a rehearsal and wedding for my cousin at which Kai was the ring-bearer.

{last night at my cousin Valeena's sunset wedding}

There hasn't been much space between events to blog about what we've been up to in much detail. I'll do my best to break some of it down and post some pictures. Maybe. But the best place to keep track of our goings-on and see pictures we take is on Instagram. You can find me at ShanLeAnn, Ben at bensonpeculiar, and he also posts Malakai's quotes and things at KaiThoughts.  I rarely use the DSLR anymore, but do want to remedy that if things ever slow down enough. 

So, is it just us or is July crazy busy for the rest of you as well? I suspect it's easy to fill up with events when you're an Oregonian with only 8-12 weeks of relatively dry and warm weather. 

Happy summer, hope you're enjoying it as much as we are!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I love being 4!

A few days ago we started counting how many more "sleeps" until Malakai's 4th Birthday. It was an easy way to put it in to terms he could understand and he enjoyed talking about how his birthday was getting closer each time we went to bed and woke up.

Last night Ben + I put streamers over his doorway to surprise him when he woke this morning. For my own amusement I made this little sign.
{4-year-old in progress. Do not disturb until 7.16 @7:20am}

 I also put a happy birthday sign across the hall that he'd see when he came out. When he woke up I stood in the hallway to watch his reaction. He poked his head around the corner, looked at me with a smile and said "what is this?". Once I explained it was a surprise for his birthday, he kept saying "I love my surprise!" He also said "I love being 4" and my personal favorite "Can I be 4 all the time?"

We headed out as soon as we could for our traditional birthday breakfast at the Original Pancake House. We started going for each of the boy's birthdays on Kai's 2nd birthday. It was a fun way to commemorate the day, start a tradition, and include daddy in the fun when it was a workday. 

The best part is having pictures of the same scenes but just a year later. Like Malakai and his straw. Last year it was a bit of a new thing to get a cup with a straw at a restaurant. This year he was a pro. 

It was apparent this year how engrained our tradition has become. Malakai sat down, looked at the menu and then promptly addressed our waitress "excuse me, I would like pancakes with a candle in a strawberry please." We are not restaurant goers, the boys get to get out to eat maybe 5 times a year, maximum. 

The boys enjoy coloring while we wait. They are pretty good at waiting on their food. 
{Malakai wrote out the alphabet twice on the back of his sheet after eating}

The best part is watching him get the birthday stack and blow out the candle after we sing...

The excitement I captured when he was 2 will probably always be my favorite. That picture is still my desktop background on my laptop. Pure joy. 

I'm also quite surprised at how little he has seemed to change from 3 years old to 4 years old. I think he did most of his growing in his legs this past year. He and Des are both quite "leggy" these days. 

We went on a handful of adventures after breakfast (see photos on Instagram!). We stopped at Skinner's Butte Park, then Eugene Public Library- after which Kai claimed to be very tired, so we headed home and after lunch let Kai veg out in front of a show while Des napped, then we took him outside to finger paint and he played with the neighbor boys. Once Desmond was up we walked over to the park near our house, after some play time we came home and read library books for over an hour. Everyone was really worn out so we let Kai pick a movie to watch, he picked Mary Poppins and we watched half before and half after dinner. Then we sang happy birthday and ate green cake in the shape of a 4. Baths, stories, bedtime and the day quickly came to a close. 

While Malakai finger painted outside I did ask him a few questions as sort of a "yearly interview". Lately he's not really into answering questions. His favorite reply is "nothing"...which I don't find all that amusing. I'll ask him what he did in Sunday school, what he wants to eat, etc and if he's not in the mood that's the answer I get. That, or he'll answer with whatever is around him...which is how this interview turned out...

Malakai, on your 4th birthday {interviewed by mama, while sitting under a tree + finger-painting}

What is your name? Malakai 
How old are you? 4
What is your favorite thing to do? (several "nothings") paint
What do you want to be when you grow up? painter. (he's such a stinker. later he said "I don't want to grow up."
What is your favorite food? pancakes.
Who do you like to spend time with? Charlie + Jacob (the neighbor boys, he was facing their house at the time...see what I mean?)
What do you do really well? (he had moved on from painting and was hitting the ground with a stick) bamming bees and spiders. 
What makes you laugh? When someone tickles me, like you or daddy
What is the best time of day? rest time, when I get to play.
What are you afraid of? stinky breath trees (I have no idea)
Who is your best friend? Charlie and Jacob. (these kids are 6 and 8 years old and he rarely plays with them, haha.)
What do you like to do with your family? play chalk.
What do you love to learn about? Trees and stuff
Where do you like to go? The restaurant to eat pancakes
What is your favorite book? Jake and The Pirates (a book from Grandma Debbie)
If you had one wish, what would it be? a tree to be big and giant

So, in retrospect, I should have asked these over breakfast when he wasn't so tired. Still, his answers are a funny snapshot and for me that's the point. Now here are a couple more things about Malakai according to mama...

Favorite colors: green and brown, in that order. 
He loves to play at the park, with puzzles, and listen to music. His favorites are the Jake and the Neverland Pirates soundtrack and Owl City. 
He picked his birthday party theme this year- "Rockin' Birthday! with guitars."
He likes to watch a handful of different shows: Special Agent Oso and Fireman Sam top the list lately. If we had more seasons of Jake, he'd be all over that. 
He loves to eat cheese pizza and hamburgers. 
He enjoys a lot of books. We checked out "Blue hat, Green hat" by Sandra Boynton today and he laughed hysterically, even after a dozen or so readings in a row. 
He loves to help with dishes, laundry, washing the car, watering plants. Anything that he gets to work on with daddy. 
He loves to wear shorts and T-shirts. He isn't very fond of pants and refuses to wear any shirts with a collar or buttons, even polos. He can dress himself well, but sometimes gets too grumpy and asks for help. 
He has a list of morning routines that he loves to follow, but he'll often ask if it's okay that his bed is a little messy. It's a twin size and quite tall so he has a hard time making it totally straight, I don't mind it at all. 
He adores Nate from down the street and is more gentle with his baby brother Luke than he ever has been with is own brother. He also loves playing with Justice, Titus, Liam, Kylan, and Jacob. He is also quite sweet with Jacob's sister Kacie, who is the same age as Desmond...brothers. Most of his playmates are within a year of his age but he also really loves to play with the big kids (under our supervision of course). He has a great memory and often talks about his friends Henry and cousin Caleb who he has only played with a handful of times recently (Henry he grew up with until about 2 years old). 

Malakai knows all about letters, reads handful of sight words and is getting better at sounding out new words all the time. He is pretty eager to read, but also gets frustrated easily. He hates to be in the sun for very long and always has to wear his sunglasses or he squints like crazy. He used to be shy about playing in water but can now swim with the help of a life jacket, but he does tread water and can swim the entire length of my parents in ground pool repeatedly. 

I can't believe our boy is already 4 and I have one short year until he's off to Kindergarten. He's growing up all too fast, but I couldn't be more proud of the boy he's becoming.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

true "mom" status..

We've been praying over our transportation situation for years. In 2005 I bought a brand new Dodge Neon. I love my Neon. It's a great little car and it has served my family and I very well over the last 8 years. It has never broken down on us or had any issue bigger than a dead battery (because apparently the trunk light doesn't go off  when it's open). Ben had a VW Jetta when we were dating and into our first year of marriage, but it died a sad death one July weekend when we were headed to Washington to visit with family, we only got as far as Salem. It sat parked for a long time until we were able to have it repaired and then we sold it. We were a one car family for a very long time and we managed okay.

A couple years ago we inherited my father-in-law's car so I could drive the Neon around and Ben could take the "new to us" Dodge Intrepid. It was quite nice having the freedom to get to work a couple days a week (when I worked outside the home) and to run errands and take kids to appointments without having to arrange for Ben to carpool, which he did a lot of (thanks Brad!). 

We've been outgrowing the Neon as a family car for a while now. The bigger the boys get the less leg room they have (well mostly Kai since Des is rear-facing) and there is zero space for any of the loads of stuff that come with packing around a toddler and preschooler. When we go anywhere that's more than a day trip (even just one night) we have to borrow a bigger vehicle. 

For along time I had hoped for a nice crossover or SUV but as I compared them to our needs now, and in the future, they weren't practical. I wanted a 7 seater so we could have 3 more kids  haul family and friends. I wanted storage space, even when using all 7 seats, and the seats needed legroom because my boys are already leggy, and will probably (hopefully) take after Ben and his brother in the height department. So basically, we need lots of space. I also wanted good gas mileage, which is also hard to come by in a hip vehicle. All those things leave the ever popular and super "uncool" minivan. We all dread minivans in our high school and college years, but the longer I drove our Neon packed tight (Desmond's carseat touched the back of the passenger seat and Kai was always kicking the driver), the more I longed for a minivan. I truly envied those who drove them, more so then those who owned their cooler counterparts. True "mom" status people, that's where I found myself. It got to the point where Ben really wanted one you know the height of our car situation when the dad wants a minivan! 

We prayed for years and figured it would fall into place someday. We especially hoped it would at least happen before we decide to add another kiddo the family. I don't think Kai would like riding in the trunk...more than once. 

Recently I started browsing minivans on craigslist and local dealer sites, as I've done many times before. I found a really good deal on one and Ben even test drove it after work one day. He liked it so one Sunday we went to see it. I immediately shot it down, the upholstery was disgusting and it smelled like someone had smoked in it for  its entire existence, non-stop. The night before we went I came across a new listing and so I asked about it after the 1st was a no-go. Our dealer (the same I had purchased my Neon from) couldn't locate it. We were about to head to church when I spotted another couple looking at it. Ben ran to tell the dealer that if they didn't buy it, to call us and off we went. In the middle of service Ben got a call and they had tried to buy it, but couldn't. So after service we headed back for me to test drive it. The car hadn't been fully processed yet (no mechanical work, no detailing) and it was already cleaner than the one we'd looked at that morning. I took it for a test drive and it drove smooth, a 2005 Town and Country (which is the EXACT same thing as a Dodge Grand Caravan, for those of you who are more familiar with Dodge). We decided that pending it's inspection we would buy it (a killer price and so much of it was falling into place that we knew this was our chance). I went home to feed the boys and Ben headed back to complete the deal. 

Sadly it took 4 days and a lot of back and forth for repairs to happen.  Our dealer even said had they done the inspection before selling it that they wouldn't have. That may sound bad, but all that means is that they repairs they made cost them more than they wanted to pay for the low price we got it at. So we got it all fixed up and at a killer deal. Ben traded in the Intrepid and will use the Neon as his work car, which is perfect because it gets much better mileage and is an overall more comfortable car. 

Our first trip was last weekend to the coast for the 4th of July. We didn't show the boys until it was packed up and ready to go. Then we told Kai we had a surprise before we could leave. I opened the door and said, we have a new van! and he gasped and said "yay!", he was so excited. The first 5 minutes of our car ride he kept shouting "this is SO FUN!" over and over. 

We had so much space for stuff for our stay in Florence. We packed our huge plastic wagon, a cooler of food, our luggage, a pack and play, Malakai's cot, camping chairs, toys, and more with room to spare. It was the perfect first run with the new car and we are so pleased. 

The boys have a ton of room in their captain's chairs, we can see them better, and we have more space than we know what to do with for their bags and toys. 

carseats in the neon compared to the T+C

I took it grocery shopping for the first time today and it has the perfect amount of storage space and handy little hooks to keep your bags from flying around. I feel so blessed to have a car that is so useful for our family!

Monday, July 1, 2013

EASY No-Bake Granola Rounds

In an effort to make a quick and easy breakfast or snack, I went looking for a granola bar recipe. I found quite a few that I took from and sort of worked out with what I  wanted to use in mine. No-bake was a must as the temperatures have been rising and I don't want my a/c unit to have to work any harder than it already is. Plus, it's pretty difficult to use the oven in my teeny kitchen with two kids running around.

Here is the recipe for my No-Bake Granola Rounds

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup honey (or sticky sweetener of your choice)
1/4 cup or less chocolate chips

Stir the oats and coconut together in a large bowl. Then add the peanut butter and honey and stir until the oat/coconut mixture is evenly coated. Next time, I may use less honey as these turned out pretty rich. Although they pair with coffee perfectly. 

Most granola "bar" recipes call for adding the mixture to a square pan, so if you prefer this method use an 8x8 and then cut into bars when ready. I put mine in a muffin tin to make rounds instead of bars. That way I could just pop them out, no cutting. I pressed the mixture into each round and then pressed in chocolate chips on top. 

Let cool in the fridge at least 30 minutes to set, then cut or pop out and enjoy! I also stored them in the fridge to keep them firm. I'm not sure how well these would travel long term as the honey and peanut butter may get kind of melty when warm, but my husband loves eating them in the car on the way to work!

As always, let me know if you try these out. Enjoy!
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