Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mom's Visit

At the end of October my mom came out to visit with us. She had come out in March for Will's birthday party... but only for like 4 days and we were busy with party preparations that there wasn't much time for sight seeing or other fun things.

This time she came we got to do some fun stuff. I mean, she got to see my busy schedule (therapies, school, church) but she also helped with Halloween. You remember my disaster Halloween, right?

The Friday of her visit I was able to take her to the Creation Museum. I really, really enjoy that place! We went through all the exhibits and spent some time in the gift shop. Will and Lana were pretty squirrelly so it was definitely time to go outside.

It was cool to see the changes in the garden area from what it looked like in August to what it looked like in the fall. This time I was able to ride the camel and so did my mom!

Then, of course, we enjoyed being with the animals at the petting zoo.

On Saturday we headed out to Amish country. I had been wanting to go to Ohio's Amish country for quite some time and Ryan wasn't really that interested, so it was fun to go out and enjoy it with my mom and the kids.

It took us about 3 hours to get to our first stop - Roscoe Village. It's a restored 1830's canal town. We checked out the visitor's center and played in the children's area. After that we wandered a little bit down the street, chatted with the blacksmith, shopped at the little grocery store, and enjoyed the calm atmosphere.
The blacksmith's place... where Lana asked the man if he had a baby in his tummy.
Next was Hershberger Farm and Bakery in Millersburg.
We spent time looking at the puppies and browsing the shop. I chatted a little bit with one of the girls helping me with my purchase. Then we went to the barn and spent a LOT of time with the farm animals. We bought food and fed Big Ben (the biggest horse in Holmes County) as well as the cows, goats, sheep, and ducks. For some reason I always enjoy spending time with farm animals and the kids do too.
the kids holding adorable, cuddly, Havanese puppies
Mom feeding Big Ben. You can see Will and Lana looking at the chickens in the background.
this goat was so bossy for food he actually smacked me on the should with his hoof when my back was turned on him
there was actually a goat on the roof of the barn

We went in the store and bought some yummy food for sale. I picked up a pie, which we baked and cooked a couple days later.

Then we headed down the road and ended up at Guggisberg Cheese, home of the original Baby Swiss cheese. It was cute and quaint and, again, we purchased a few snacks. Across the street we ate a late lunch at the restaurant.

We did have one more stop we wanted to make... Lehman's (a huge hardware and appliance store that specializes in the more simple and traditional way of life) but unfortunately we were unable to find it.

On our drive we saw a lot of horses and buggies. It is fascinating to see all these people walking on the side of the road or riding in the buggies, regardless of the crummy weather. Will kept asking why they had to use horses, he couldn't grasp the idea that people would not be driving in cars.

We did pass through the main part of Berlin and boy was it busy! There were many places we passed by that I would love to check out. I told my mom I definitely had to come back there and spend more time enjoying the area. It is so beautiful and peaceful out there.

But it was time to head back. Something that sucks is that I had no signal on my phone... so I couldn't pull up my maps app. And the GPS was not in Ryan's car (remember, my van had broken down on Halloween). Oops! We took the longer scenic route back to I-70.

And wouldn't you know it, I run into another difficulty. Literally.

I'm driving down the highway, going about 75 mph in the right lane. The sun has not set yet. I see a huge hawk up on the hillside and sort of watch it as it alights and swoops down and goes up again. It is hunting something. I'm watching as it gets closer and closer to the road. And of course I think, "it's going to whip right back up as the car gets closer". These thoughts and observations are happening in split seconds. Then the big hawk is very, very close to the car and I realize it's not pulling up and I can't swerve out of the way.... BAM! It takes out the passenger side mirror.

It is gone. Absolutely gone!

All of us are fine. I couldn't pull over or anything so I kept driving and stopped at the next Rest Area where we survey the damage and photograph the missing mirror and bird poop now on the side windows.

After that we continue without incident back home.

On Sunday there was church and just general taking it easy. Then on Monday my mom left to return home to Washington.

Overall I say a fun visit. Of course it seemed to have flown by with everything we were doing. Now the kids talk about getting to see Grandma again at Christmas.

********Oh, and I will note that we did get our mirror replaced. $300 deducible and insurance had to still pay above that. Stupid bird!********

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gym & Swim

Several, several months ago (back in April in fact), our regular YMCA was closed down. It was an older building and they could no longer keep up a standard to be on par with the other YMCA's in the area. It was a bit of a bummer because they were those closest to us and the only Y in the area that had a kiddie pool. They also had a track outside, that surrounded a lake, people could run on after signing in their kids at child watch. Not to mention they also had a hot tub and saunas.
Our final time at our old YMCA
So we switched over our membership. At this other YMCA they are also allowing people to run outside after dropping the kids in the child watch. The path isn't very interesting, but at least it's outside.
And although they don't have a kiddie pool, they do have a smaller normal pool. They also have more areas for group classes, a full size gym, and a room for gymnastics.
Ryan and I had been talking for quite some time that the we wanted to get the kids back into swim lessons. We both feel this is an important skill for children to have. After looking at the schedule they offer at the Y, and comparing it to our therapy and school schedule I found a time for our kids to enroll. What makes it better is that they offer a Gym & Swim so the kids can do a half hour of gymnastics followed by a half hour of swim lessons twice a week.
This was something I wanted to do. Gymnastics is something Will's developmental pediatrician said would benefit his motor planning and since I feel guilty Lana never gets to do anything but follow her brother around, I thought this would be right up her alley.
After our first couple sessions I wanted to run away and not claim my children. Oh, I was cringing almost the entire time. Lana would not stop touching her brother, hanging off him, pulling him, being RIGHTNEXT to him at all times. She also loves to live in her own little world and follow the beat of her own drum... not do what the teacher is telling everyone to do. And you'd think showing her "all the other kids are doing it this way" would work... but it doesn't. She has her own mind and if she doesn't want to do it that way she will fight to do it her own way.
And then William just feeds off whatever Alanna is doing. He'll almost encourage her activities and will join her so she's not alone anymore. My face was in my hands nearly the entire time. Then I'd have to step in and discipline, which is never fun with an audience.
I was trying to find a solution to the problem. I think both kids would be more successful if they were in a class without their sibling. Unfortunately, they don't offer the classes at another time that works with our schedule. Then I thought about just enrolling one of them... but my personal guilt of leaving one out prevented me from doing so. Why only sign up Will when he is always the one we schedule around for school and therapy? Why should only Alanna be signed up when this is something that helps with Will's motor planning?
In the end I kept them both in the class. I talked with the teacher and told them that if my kids are not behaving in class they are not to receive their fun stamp at the end. Amazingly, that worked... at least for a time...
Then the other week Alanna was exceptionally challenging and disobedient during gymnastics. After being put in time out once by the teacher and being removed from the class later by mom... she lost her stamp as well as the privilege of going to swim lessons. I did not allow her to put on her swim suit and she had to sit on the bench near the pool with me and another mom to watch the other kids during swim lessons. She was not happy, but she resigned herself. Since then her behavior at gymnastics got better... then it got worse. We're working on some new tactics that will hopefully continue to help. Also, we have discovered if the teachers are consistent in keeping Will and Lana separated during class they both perform and behave better.
Now with the swim lessons they are both doing pretty well. Alanna still can be a challenge to the teacher (and she's very vocal in whining when something doesn't go her way). Will is doing amazing! He can now swim a short distance unassisted! He's very comfortable in the water. I'm sure having aquatic therapy in addition to swim lessons helps. The thing is, he is always treating things as a race. Maybe it's a boy thing? He always wants to beat the kids in his class to one side of the pool or the other, or get to the toys to get first pick. Then you have Lana who is trying to drink the water, splashing others, and gets very angry is somebody else gets the purple water toy.
But, they are getting better. The first couple lessons the instructor had issues with Will and Lana messing with each other (like the time Will pushed his little sister under the water on purpose or Lana just hanging onto Will so he couldn't swim away from her). Now he also tries to keep them separated when possible. And Lana may have to spend some time sitting out of the pool or lose her opportunity to jump in the pool to straighten her out. After talking with the swim teacher recently, he said Will has maybe one or two more times of doing this level swim before he moves to the more advanced class. All he has to improve on is swimming on his back.
I do see the improvement. We'll stick with this at least until December. At that point we'll take the month off since we'll be going on vacation anyway and use that time to re-evaluate what we will do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Disaster that was Halloween 2013

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the pumpkins, and the leaves, and the colder weather. Going trick-or-treating is still a blast to me... at almost 30 years old. And I always told myself that when I had kids they would have rocking costumes and makeup since their mommy is talented in that area. I stay away from the whole "It's EVIL" argument because, in my opinion, it's a fun time to dress up and get free candy. That's it.

If you remember last year, William and Alanna looked AWESOME!

I was really looking forward to Halloween this year because my mom was coming to visit and to do trick-or-treating with us and the kids. We also had other plans of fun things to do. So I was very pumped for Halloween!

This year Lana decided months early that she wanted to be Skully from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Really. A green parrot. Apparently it was because he could fly. No other suggestions would persuade her from being Skully.

Okay then.

William for a long time didn't want to be anything for Halloween. I told him he could not go trick-or-treating unless he was dressed up in a fun costume... and he said he didn't want to go trick-or-treating. Eventually, after given many options, he said he wanted to be the guy with the tools who builds things. So Construction Worker is was!

I got started pretty late in the costume sewing. I knew Will's would be easy to get together so I started on Lana's first. I decided to make it out of felt so it would be sturdy enough for my design, it's pretty cheap, and easy to manipulate. I kept calling my mom so I could talk out my designs because I was having the hardest time deciding how to do the wings! But I figured it out. My next obstacle was the head. I could NOT find the proper fabric design for the bandana. Thankfully my mom had found a little skull cap hat which she brought with her that turned out to be PERFECT for what I ended up doing.

In the end I think her costume turned out pretty darn good!

Since I took so long problem solving with Alanna's costume I was behind on Will's costume. I did go out and search store costumes for a construction worker outfit, but at those awful prices and the cheap method they were made, I decided I would just make it myself. A benefit to my mom being here was that she could help! She ended up whipping up Will's vest. I made up his special tool belt. And like with Alanna's hat, mom had also found a construction worker hat that was the finishing piece.

He also turned out looking amazing.

I will mention here that these costumes were originally made to fit OVER winter coats. After what you'll read about down below you will realize it was all for naught.

So... what happened to ruin Halloween? Life. Stupid, crummy, can't be helped, life.

That morning we were already rushed and behind! Costumes were truly finished that morning. Treats for the kids' classes were made that morning as well. Pumpkins were carved that afternoon before school.

Then my mom and I had to get into our costumes. We were candy corn. They were the costumes my mom and sister wore last year and she was able to bring them out to Ohio for us to wear this year.

We rushed off to the kids' school costume parade. We all looked great, but we were having issues just getting our stuff together to get there! It was a sweet, short little time handing out candy to the classes. Then they took off costumes and we were done while the kids all did school. Mom and I did not get any full photos of us in our costumes while there, but we said it was okay because we had the opportunity later to do so. How I wish we had done the photos then.

I dropped my mom off at home then ran to the local store to pick up Halloween candy because I didn't have much and just giving out what I had at the school depleted me. I totally loaded up on goodies.

Once back home it time to pick up kids and race up to Ryan's school where the AFIT Trick-or-Treat was taking place.

And here's where things get bad.

Driving to the base I hit a HUGE puddle of water. Then, strangely my battery light comes on. Then I realize I have no power steering. CRAP!

A few weeks prior we had our serpentine belt on the engine replaced since it was cracked and the tension thing was messed up. Then a day later with heavy rain it came off. The place that replaced it did the work to fix it again. Well, when I hit that big puddle of water on the way to Ryan's school apparently the belt came off again... and that's why my power steering was gone. I get to the gate and think, 'yeah, I can still at least make it up to his school -slowly and carefully- then switch cars'... but that was not to be. As I'm handing the guard my ID card I watch as my temperature gauge races up to HOT and an alarm starts dinging.

I pull off just inside the gate, turn off the van, and try to call Ryan. No answer. I try several times. I text. I e-mail. Nothing. So I call a friend who was volunteering at the trick-or-treat table and she, thankfully, is able to find Ryan standing there. He comes down with his car to get us, but he can only take 3 of us. My mom says she will stay behind with the van. By now we are waaaaay late... and when the kids and I finally show up, the trick-or-treat is over. We did get a little bit of candy though.
not the best photo, but it gives a look at what my costume looked like

Ryan says he'll take me and the kids home then come back to my mom and the two of them will deal with the van, the towing to a different place for repairs, then come home.

Then, I kid you not, we are stuck for almost 45 minutes just trying to get off the base!

I finally get home and am trying to calm down because I am so pissed at the van. We've been having a lot of issues with it. That was the 4th time it has stranded me since May! Not to mention the crap it pulled on our PCS out to Ohio!

So, anyway, I'm home... and then I get the news that the base commander has cancelled Trick-or-Treat because of the weather. A storm was to blow in that evening. So instead of postponing a day or two like last year (and what many other areas did this year), ours was cancelled. As a reprieve they were opening the gym on base for families to gather at and hand out candy as well as trick-or-treat.

Well, I was still stranded at home with no vehicle and it was starting to rain and I was not going to walk down those blocks to get to the gym and then walk home. And I knew there would be a ton of people. And I was already in a bad mood. We did nothing. Even with my decorations outside, we received no trick-or-treaters at the house either.

Turns out most people were angry about the trick-or-treat that happened. People were lined up outside the gym and had a hard time getting inside... and it was extremely hot once you got inside. And it was like speed dating for trick-or-treat. Apparently, there were also many other people who were there that were not military families or live in base housing that added to the mass. I really didn't hear anything positive about the experience from people who did attend so I wasn't too upset we did not go there.

Anyway, Halloween was a wash. The kids even asked me about going "outside trick-or-treating" because we'd been talking about it for weeks! I was frustrated, and angry, and annoyed, and disappointed.

I texted a few friends/neighbors to see if they wanted a couple trick-or-treaters the next afternoon. They obliged. So after our trip to the Creation Museum (which I'll blog about later), we were able to hit a few neighbors' houses. It wasn't the awesome trick-or-treat experience I was planning for, but it was at least something.
yes, even Maya got in on the Trick-or-Treating in her usual Ladybug costume

On Sunday we were invited to trick-or-treat at the neighborhood from some people at church, but by then I was so over Halloween I just wanted to be done and push it away and move on.

I hope next year will be better.