Sunday, May 30, 2010

Follow Our New Blog

We've started yet another blog. By "WE" I mean the kids and me. It's called "Little Librarians" and is completely devoted to something near and dear to all three of our hearts: READING! On this blog, I'll review the children's books we read, as well as include the kids' opinions of the books, because let's face it, those are the most important opinions anyway. We'll also give you our weekly library lists and each Friday I'll introduce readers to one of our favorite stories! In the near future, we also hope to begin reviewing newly released books.

I hope, of course, this blog will help expose and introduce other parents and kids to the books we read. As a mom, it's always nice to hear the suggestions of others. Through word-of-mouth we've fallen in love with some of our very favorite characters and the kids have found some of their very favorite books.

Anyway, please become a follower of our new blog and be sure to tell your friends! If you have any suggestions please let me know. The blog is in its infancy right now, but my hope is to review several books a week. If  for nothing else, I'll be able to look back over the weeks, months and years and remember the books Ava, Jax and I have read together... and smile when thinking about all the cuddle time that included!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthday Numero Dos

Jax woke up at 5:30 this morning. He came tromping into our bedroom carrying "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and his blanket. He was ready to read. I was not. I grabbed his hand, walked him back in his room, laid him in his bed, covered him up, gave him his bear and kissed his cheek. Then I went back to bed. Twenty seconds later I heard the crunching of his diaper as he trotted back into our room. It was early, oh so early, especially since I stayed up a little too late blogging. But then I remembered, it's his birthday. Not just any birthday, it's his SECOND birthday! So, into his room I went and we played monster trucks... until about 6:30 when Andy's alarm went off and Jax decided to run in and make sure Daddy was really awake... by jumping on the bed.

That's Jax in a nutshell, he's an early riser, he loves books, but more than that he loves monster trucks. He's just a happy little guy, even when he walks, his step has a little bounce. It's actually kinda cute because he walks just like Andy, if Andy had a diaper on and were a few feet shorter. He's mischievous, so very mischievous. He loves sneak attacks -- if Andy or I are laying on the floor, nothing makes him happier than running up and jumping on the floor-layer. As he does so, big grin in place, he always gives this deep, impish, growly little cackle. I hope he never loses it. It's one of my favorite sounds.

So, today our little dude is two. I could say what I always say, that I can't believe he's already two. And really, I can't. But, I know that in his two years we've done alot and accomplished alot. I mean, in two short years he's lived in three states, been to Disneyland, the beach, on a few airplanes, visited several zoos, sledded in the snow, learned his ABC's, had surgery, touched a dinosaur fossil, pet a stingray, made a great friend, broken five monster trucks, read hundreds of books, squashed hundreds of bugs, eaten several handfuls of dirt, nearly given his mother at least a dozen heart attacks, oh, how I could go on.

Jax definitely keeps me on my toes. He is curious and quiet, which can sometimes be a dangerous combination. Like, just the other day as I got Ava her breakfast I realized I hadn't seen Jax in a few minutes. First I searched his room, then Ava's, then the kids' bathroom, then mine. There he was, loading an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet. With those big hazel eyes he looked at me and said, "I wipe, like big boy." Which leads me to his independence. He is so fiercely independent, which sometimes creates mini fits and a battle of the wills. He wants to do everything, "I do it myself!" he exclaims -- walking outside, swimming, putting his shoes on, climbing in his car seat, holding the phone, painting, getting out of the bathtub, taking a bite of a giant sandwish. He wants to do it all. I'll admit, it can be frustrating when doing it himself can sometimes take twice as long as if Andy or I did it, or can create a mighty mess, but I let him because I appreciate just what a big boy he's trying to be.

It's hard to believe he's two. In my eyes he's still such a baby. A walking, talking, running, jumping, baby. I still see him as little, except when I hold him and Andy points out that Jax is more than half my height. He's huge! Right now he's just under three-feet tall and weighs 32 pounds (which is only three less than his four-year-old sister).

We've been saying it since birth but it just becomes more and more apparent every day -- the kid is all Kleinman. He has his Grandpa Ralphie's huge mitt-like hands, and giant blocks for feet! He's already in a size 8 shoe, to put it in perspective, Ava wears a 9. His legs are shaped JUST like Andy's, he walks like Andy, he loves cars like all the Kleinmans, he is a daredevil like Uncle Eric, he's content on his own, he's incredibly methodical just like his Daddy. Like most kids he has a bedtime routine and toys he likes to sleep with. But he has a set group of toys that MUST be in his bed and which he lines up in a particular way against his wall before he can go to sleep. If a toy is missing or out of order, he WON'T go to sleep. He loves to line things up, and stack things. He doesn't need cartoons or movies, just Youtube clips of monster trucks or garbage trucks and he's content. His favorite book is, "Firebears the Rescue Team" by Rhonda Gowler Green. He hates Dr. Seuss books. He'll do just about anything to make us laugh! As I type this, he is putting his pajama pants on his head. Really. He also looooves to laugh at other people, especially when they're hurt. Bump into something and say, "Ow!" and the boy is rolling with laughter. When he's angry he swipes at the air and says, "Hi Yah!" He'll eat just about anything, with the exception of mashed potatoes, cottage cheese or anything lemon-flavored. If I don't watch him carefully he'll eat an ENTIRE pear, I mean, the whole thing, seeds and all. His favorite kitchen job is helping me stir. His least favorite is staying out of the trash. He is crazy about soccer and football, telling us almost daily, "My football game all gone." or "My football game at eight-turdy." Every Sunday after church he asks Andy if they're going to watch football. He's a little artist in the making, always asking to draw or color. Although, sometimes he doesn't ask and just finds a pen and starts doodling on the nearest surface. Oops.

Of course, I could write for days about our little dude. But, my absolute favorite things about Jax are 1) How much he looooooves his sister. When he wakes up he asks, "Where Ava Grace?" He follows her around, copies what she says, lets her dress him up, hugs her, it's really the sweetest thing and 2) just how thoughful and cuddly he is. Every morning he comes in my room and cuddles me for a few minutes, he showers me with randome kisses and hugs throughout the day, and he often asks to "Cuddle Mama, please." His cuddle pose is so cute too because he curls up in this scrunched up ball of boy on my lap and rests his head on my chest and tucks his hands between us. Gives me warm fuzzies! And hey, unlike his sister, he'll even cuddle Daddy sometimes!

Well, we're off for a fun-filled day of playing with monster trucks, swimming, eating pizza and chocolate cake! Happy Birthday, Jax! We love you!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This Is What You Do...

...when it's 90 degrees out and almost 90% humidity...


Thank goodness for the pool in our apartment complex! It has been such a life-saver as we adjust to this climate. Not to mention it's sooo fun!

Our first day in the pool the kids' personalities really came out. Ava was extremely cautious, clinging to either Andy or me for quite some time, choosing to let her little brother wear her floaties (I should mention in advance that they're pink... that's right, our boy wore pink floaties).
Jax, on the other hand, would have jumped right in the pool floatie-free had we let him. As soon as his body hit the water he was kicking and giggling and once he had the floaties on he sternly announced, "I do it myself!" He didn't want us holding on to him, this kid wanted to move on his own. And that he did. He did take in several mouthfuls of over-chlorinated water but that didn't stop him. Once Ava saw what fun Jax was having, she decided she was ready to adorn the fancy pink floaties. Still, a little hesitant at first but within a few minutes she was chugging around the pool all on her own. She too gulped down some delicious pool water, which caused a reaction quite the opposite of her brother's. Once the tears were gone and I convinced her she wasn't going to sink to the bottom of the pool, she went back at it like the brave little toaster she is. From there on out, she turned into a fish... or should I say mermaid, she's likely object to me calling her a fish.

We've gone to the pool several times since we got here, and I have been so impressed by how much Ava's swimming skills have improved! She's doggie-paddling, kicking with much more consistency, blowing bubbles and not freaking out if she swallows water. She's excited about learning to swim and tells me she can't wait to do it without her floaties! That's huge progress especially when you consider that less than a year ago she was terribly afraid of water deeper than bathwater. I'm so proud of her for facing her fears and learning to love to swim!

Jax, our buoyant little boy, loves to jump off the side and splash us in the face. He loves when Mommy does "tricks" in the pool (read: somersaults) and now thinks all water-dwelling animals do somersaults under the water rather than swim! He hates getting out of the pool, but loves getting to come home and run around naked while I rinse out his shark swim trunks.

I suspect we'll be spending much of our summer by the pool. We've already stocked up on spray-on sunscreen (although we're all already sporting way more color than we ever did in Utah) and we finally picked up some green floaties for Jax. Bring on the summer Mississippi, we're prepared!


Andy likes to ask Jax who his partner is, hoping Jax will excitedly answer, "Daddy!" Usually he says "Mommy" or "Gravedigger" with the occasional "Daddy" thrown in there. But since my parents left Jax is singing a different tune. I've been replaced, Daddy's been replaced, even Gravedigger. Now, the only partner Jax will claim is G-Pa. This kid looooooves his G-Pa. Jax is definitely a Mama's boy, but when G-Pa is around I may as well not even be there because I'm invisible to the little dude.

I captured some sweet little Jax and G-Pa moments while at the zoo that I thought I'd share.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Exploring Our New Home

Our stuff won't be here for another week or so. Now that I'm past the shock of that reality, I actually think it may be a blessing. Rather than using our first week in our new home (and Andy's last week of off before work) unpacking, we've used all our free time to explore our city.

We were so lucky to have my parents here with us for four days to check out all our little town has to offer. Which is, surprisingly, alot! We, of course walked the downtown area and took a tour of the largest antique doll and toy museum in the US. I thought Ava would enjoy this much more than Jax, but when he saw an entire room devoted to cars he was just as elated as Ava was about the dolls.

Our first day out we ran into the coolest park I've EVER seen! I'm not over-exaggerating or trying to convince myself that this place is more exciting than it is. Really, this park is AMAZING!!! The slides and play area are like none I've seen before, there's a climbing wall, rubber climbing robes, balancing contraptions, a little town, a little kitchen, a giant xylophone, monkey bars, climbing tires, I'm really not doing it justice...

Just across from the park is a giant water play area, which I'm told are pretty common in the South. I wasn't sure how the kids would react to this being that both have an aversion to water in their faces, but, of course, they loved it. We went on a pretty hot day and my only regret was that Andy and I didn't bring our own bathing suits!

Every kid at the waterpark did this! It's a kid right of passage.

On G-Ma and G-Pa's last day here we made the trip up to the zoo. We were all impressed by the size of the zoo and the array of animals. Best of all, there were only a few other people there so we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. To finish the day off, we boarded the zoo train and took a nice relaxing ride before saying our goodbyes to G-Ma and G-Pa who were off to the airport.

After enjoying a snow cone
We brought the stroller for Jax, but he ended up pushing Ava in it. He's already assumed the role of his big sister's slave.

I'm glad we explored when we did because this week temps have been in the 90s with close to 90% humidity. Too hot to be outside! Just this morning, I took the kids outside at 7:45 just so they could play for a couple of hourse before the heat and humidity kicked in. We ran around in the grass, blew bubbles and played on the playground. The kids were happy, I was glad to get out and play with them and the best part, Jax was so worn out he took a three-hour nap! I think we're going to have to get used to early-mornings outside!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Made It!!!

We made it to Mississippi! While the kids and I stayed in Utah last week to tie up loose ends and clean our townhouse, Andy drove for three days and arrived Saturday just an hour before our plane landed. Perfect timing!

My first impression of Mississippi, is, well, it's not really an impression so much as a mish-mash of thoughts. First of all, it's beautifully green! There's not a mountain in sight which I initially thought would be strange having grown up in Arizona and most recently lived in Utah, however, where this state lacks in mountains it more than makes up for in large, luscious trees! It really is lovely. With the many shades of green comes humidity and lots and lots of bugs. To be honest, the humidity hasn't been nearly as unbearable as I had anticipated. As a matter of fact, the mornings and evenings are perfectly cool, but it's that time in between that's not so comfortable. I'm told this isn't even the worst of it. I guess it's a blessing we moved here when we did to give us time to acclimate and prepare for the 100% humidity days I'm told are in the future. Fortunately, we have a pool at our apartment complex and there's a great little water-play area downtown, both of which the kids have already thoroughly enjoyed (I'll post pictures soon).

Our apartment is nice. It's similar in size to our last home, just with a significantly smaller kitchen which I affectionately call our "one-butt kitchen" because only one butt can fit in it at a time. It's also lacking a backyard, which has been hard on the kids. However, we have a cute little patio which Ava has already adorned with a tomato, strawberry and cucumber plant. Fortunately, there's also a playground and tennis court within our complex (just outside our apartment) as well as some large grassy areas and the above-mentioned pool. I really think the kids will be fine.

As for adjustment, that's been the hardest thing. Our possessions still haven't arrived. As a matter of fact, they're still in Utah. The moving company apparently doesn't have a driver for the truck yet so our boxes are sitting in the company's storage facility until a driver signs on. We were told they'd have a driver by now, but alas... no such luck. To be honest, I'm not surprised as the whole moving process has been nothing but a hassle and lack of communication on the mover's part. The hardest part though is it makes it impossible for this to feel like home. We're sleeping on blow-up mattresses my parents bought for us while they were in town this weekend. Our living room has two green camping chairs and Ava's little pink one. Fortunately, we had packed blankets and sleeping bags in the car, and I bought pillows here. Andy brought most of our bathroom things (soaps, toilet paper) etc. And we packed a few of the kids' most special toys. We each have four outfits and bathing suits (there's a laundromat in our complex). But that's about it. As I type right now Andy is on his way to Wal-Mart to get a deck of cards, just so we have something to do. As for food, we've really had to use our imagination since all our cooking utensils, pots, pans, etc. are in a moving box in Utah. Our freezer is stocked with foods we can throw in the oven and eat on paper plates. For breakfast, we've been enjoying yogurt and lunch is PB&J. We stocked up on fruit and little snacks for the kids. We're making do, but it's obviously not ideal.

The kids are doing surprisingly well. I really thought Ava would have the most difficult time as she was so sad to leave her friends, but she's surprised me and seems to really be enjoying herself. She loves all the new things we've seen and done, and she's been a HUGE help with her baby brother who has NOT adjusted well. He's having a hard time sleeping and he's simply not acting like himself. He keeps telling me he wants to go "home." I've tried explaining this is our new home, to which he responds, "No, this G-Ma and G-Pa's home." I think he though that since my parents were here, we were visiting them at their home. Andy's doing well, of course. I, on the other hand, miss Utah terribly. Actually, it's not really Utah, it's just a few things about Utah. I miss having a grocery store right up the road (we have to drive into "town" to get to one now), I miss having temples everywhere (the closest is three hours away in Memphis). I miss Ava's best friend A.J. and her mom Brittney, who quickly became one of my closest friends. But most of all, I miss my friend Joni and her kids Ethan and Avery. That's been the hardest adjustment for me. I know we'll keep in touch and visit them in Utah, but it's still not easy. I think once I get to church Sunday and our things arrive, I'll start to feel better about the move. I'm not trying to be a complainer, I'm so grateful for Andy's job and this new little adventure, but change is never been easy and this move has definitely been the most difficult for me (it's our fifth in 7.5 years of marriage).

Alright, our lasagna is done. Thank goodness for pre-made dinners. I'll update again soon with pictures of some of the fun things we've already done in Mississippi.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Christmas in... May?

Ava, our little dancing queen, had her very first official dance recital May 1st! Her dance class has performed at little parties at her studio, but this was a real recital in a real theatre! Ava was super excited until she found out her class would be performing a Christmas dance. "I already did a Christmas dance!", she exclaimed. However, the powers-that-be at the studio thought doing a holiday-themed show would be fun for all. I could tell you what all the mothers thought about this, but will spare you all the catty comments. Anyway, Ava became a little more excited when she heard the song, "Let It Snow"... a really cute, bouncy version of it, actually. Then, when she found out she got to dance with a snowflake wand she was sold! However, her reservations returned when we got the costume --- a snowman. Not just a snowman dress, but a halter top and black boots a la "Pretty Woman." Not so appropriate for anyone, but especially not a group of four-year-old little girls. I was irate. Ava, my sweet little Ava, was so distraught when she saw the costume, "Mommy, I can't wear that, it's immodest." I was so proud and so sad all at the same time. So proud that she recognized just how barely-there the costume was, and that she knew that in our family we don't wear such immodest clothes. But sad that her studio would even allow such costumes, and sad at how disappoined Ava was in the costume. We were told not to put leotards under the costume. But, Ava and I decided together that she would not wear the costume as it was. Fortunately, a local dancewear store carried ONE long-sleeved skin-colored leotard in her size. It was PERFECT, and solved our problem!!!

Ava and A.J. hanging out befor the recital. Check out her MODEST leotard!

Best Friends!

Ava was the absolute cutest little snowgirl ever made! She danced her heart out, smiled big and just had a blast! It was so special watching her up on stage. I couldn't help but think that she looked so grown up to me (not just because she had a teeny bit of mascara and lip gloss on). All of a sudden, she's this little girl, not my baby anymore. I loved seeing the look on her face once her routine was finished, she had such a sense of accomplishment slapped across her pretty little face! I was beaming, Andy and Uncle Dusty cheered her on and Jax clapped loudly for his big sister! Such a special night for our tiny dancer!!!

P.S. We weren't allowed to take pictures during the recital, so these were all taken at the dress rehearsal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cinco the Mayo

Cinco the Mayo... Ava said this on accident and when I laughed at her little slip-up she took that as an invitation to continue calling it such. And she did. And she laughed everytime. So did I, not because I think it's so funny, but I think her laughing at her little joke is pretty darn adorable!

We spent the festive day with our wonderful friends. Joni and I love any excuse to get together, eat yummy food and make crafts with the kids. It's a weekly occurance for us. And Cinco de Mayo was no different. On the menu? Quesadillas, chips, homemade salsa verde, horchata and homemade sopapillas. YUM!
After gorging ourselves on all the deliciousness we got to work on thr crafts. First up: Spanish flowers. We had grand visions of doing this with the kids, but they were much more interested in chasing each other around the house. So, Joni and I made them. Okay, Joni made them and I kept messing them up. So, being the good sport I am I gave up and insisted we move on to the next activity... for the kids' sake of course.
My single successful flower
Fortunately, Ava, Jax and Ethan were much more interested in this one. We handed them each a brown paper lunch sack, markers, tissue paper and a glue stick and let them decorate them. Once they were fancy, Joni filled them with candy, trinkets and stickers. We closed them up at the top, hung them from a broom and TA-DAAAA! Homemade pinatas! The kiddos giggled and cheered as they wacked their individual pinatas then collected the goodies!

Such a fun fiesta with our favorite amigos!!!

A Long Time Coming

Two years ago, when Andy went back to school to work on his Masters, we promised Ava that when Daddy graduated our family would celebrate with a trip to Disneyland. She reminded us of that promise quite frequently over the two years. So, just three days after Andy graduated we loaded up our family and drove to California!
Ava, being in love with all things princess could hardly wait to see all the fairytale characters. Jax, talked often about Disneyland, but I think his excitement came from copying his sister. Me, on the other hand, I was genuinely thrilled at the idea of seeing my kids' faces as we walked the streets of the Happiest Place on Earth.

Andy and I took part in Disney's volunteer program this year, collecting books for United Way. As a result, we earned free tickets for the two of us, Dusty and my best friend Jaime. Sadly, Dusty couldn't join us, but Jaime and her son Joey met us there for a day of fun. It was a sweet little reunion for Ava and her buddy (and future husband). They took breaks in almost every line we stood in to hug each other or laugh at their silly jokes. It was very sweet.

Anyway, on to the rides. I mapped out our plan of attack in advance and decided to start in Toontown (at the back of the park). However, on our way there, we were sidetracked by "It's a Small World" (Andy was dreading it) and took a ride. Fortunately, the line was short and in just a few minutes we were on the boat preparing our ears and mind for the inevitable pounding of "It's a Small World" into our brains. As soon as we entered the tunnel, Ava, Jax and Joey were in awe. The ride's been changed up a little to include Disney character in some of the countries, so it made for a fun game of "I Spy" with the kids. Seconds after the ride came to an end, Ava was ready to hop back on, but at Daddy's urging, we went on to Toontown. Here they visited character's houses (Ava's favorite was, of course, Minnie's) and rode their first roller coaster. Jax met the height requirement by the hair of his mohawk. I'll admit, I was a little concerned about the potential freak-out from one or both of my kids that could come from hopping on the roller coaster, but to my surprise, both loved it. Okay, Ava loved it, Jax had a scared look on his face the ENTIRE time, but as soon as it was over said, "Again!"

In jail in ToonTown

We, of course, hit the necessary rides: Teacups, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Pirates of the Carribbean, King Arthur's Carousel, along with some new ones. Each one elicited wide-mouthed smiles and squeals of excitement from all three kids -- and, admittedly, the adults too.

So happy and so dizzy on the teacups!

Trying with all her might to get the sword out of the stone!

My only disappointment with the entire visit to Disneyland was that the characters no longer roam the park like they did when I was a kid. Rather, they stand in designated areas, and like everything else in Disneyland, you wait in line to see them. We would have loved to have seen as many characters as possible but top priority was, of course, the princesses. Andy, being the cute dad he is, bought Ava a little princess autograph book and pen and stood in line for over an hour just so she could meet the REAL Disney princesses. She had her hopes up that Snow White would be available for a photo, but unfortunately, she was busy. However, she did get a chance to chat with Ariel, Cinderella and Mulan. She beamed!

Andy took Jax back to the hotel around eight, while Jaime and I stayed with Ava and Joey until the park closed. We ended our fun day at Disneyland with one last trip though "It's a Small World."

As we walked back to Jaime's car, Ava thanked me for the "best day ever!" She simply couldn't believe the day had finally arrived and was exactly how she dreamed it would be!

She fell asleep in the car on our way back to the hotel and I coudn't bring myself to wake her and change her into her jammies.

Jax was so tired he actually ASKED to go to sleep. That never happens!

Disneyland has always been one of my favorite places, but it was definitely a different experience going with our kids. I wasn't concerned about lines, or which rides I wanted to go on, I would have been happy not riding a single ride as long as I got to see that joyous look on Ava and Jax's face. It was priceless! I have to say too, both Ava and Jax were on their best behavior. I don't think we had a single meltdown the entire 10-hour day. Ava walked the whole day, while Jax spent equal time in the stroller, on foot, and on Daddy's shoulders. The kids were patient and courteous, stayed right next to us just as we asked, and constantly told us how much fun they were having. It really was a great day, I couldn't have imagined it any better! Best of all, we spent some much-needed vacation time as a family. It was a long time coming, but so worth the wait!