Happy tenth anniversary to the strapping young man who stole my heart and continues to do so. Three homes, seven countries visited together, four births, many ups and a few downs and many years and adventures to come!
He's like a total walking, talking (okay, blabbering), responsive child now. After so many months and endless hours of crying upon crying (have I mentioned he's been our crier?) and us not really knowing how to console him, his frustrations are seemingly dwindling away little by little. He nods his head yes and no when asked his opinion. He follows directions when NZ tells him to go lay on his pillow for bedtime milk. He knows where his blankets are and grabs them when he's tired and finds his favorite pillow to lay on all the while, never losing that thumb of his.
He gives kisses. Big open mouth slobbery kisses.
He also hits. Like, hard. We've already started reprimanding him for hitting and other unfavorable behaviors, and he really doesn't like getting in trouble for that! He has the cutest bottom lip pout I have ever seen.
Gino loves the park and the beach. He loves our yard. Often times after he wakes, he wanders out back in our dew covered grass and plays in the kids' play kitchen for what seems like an eternity (or just long enough for me to get beds made and breakfast served). He can climb our retaining wall and knows how to get down from the second level of it, but still needs help when he gets to the very top level. And yes, it still makes me nervous watching him climb. He spends time digging up Sal's buried treasures (aka bottle caps) and playing with our fleet of Bruder trucks.
He hates diaper changes and his high chair. He loves snacks. He loves emptying our snack cabinet onto the floor and stepping on everything that's crushable. I remember Sal going through the same phase at this age and am ever so thankful that we have cabinet locks in America.
My favorite thing about my big boy are his cuddles. While it's exhausting to parent a high needs child, I think it would be exponentially harder to parent a child who didn't want anything to do with me. He loves to climb into my lap and sit with me while we watch tv or read a book. He loves to pull on my pants until I pick him up. As soon as he is in my arms, in goes his thumb and down goes his head onto my shoulder. It's clear to me that I am his safe place. What better honor could a mama have?
He's just making sure that no matter how old he gets, he will always be the baby. My baby.
My long time friends John & Liz and their kids drove out from Nevada a couple weekends ago to visit us. We had only seen them a total of two or three hours since our return from China, so having a whole weekend to spend with them and catch up was really nice.
We had a house full of kids and it was awesome. I absolutely love watching our kids develop friendships with our friends' kids.
After Saturday morning breakfast we all headed to the beach for some sand crab catching and sand castle making. Okay, so Liz and I didn't do either- we sat on the beach and watched the guys man the troops. Lounging with her and accepting slobbery, sandy Gino kisses kept me busy.
We had originally planned to attend Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara but margarita imposed hangovers and traffic proved those plans to be a bust. Instead we bought a sprinkler ball and some pollo asada and whipped up a fiesta of our own.
Liz and I had made cascarones and the kids were so excited to crack them on each other's head for good luck and prosperity.
Sunday mornings and goodbyes came much too soon. After some of John's pancakes, everyone headed home.
As a reward for earning enough stars for good behavior, I took the kids to a local farm today. I know, this post piggybacks one in which I was just saying we don't do anything special--go ahead and say it-you know you want to-- that Brie is such a hypocrite! It's okay, I'm a big girl...I can take it.
But really, they love this local farm, and both of my star earning kids listed a trip to underwood as the ultimate goal. I'm proud to say they've both overcome some obstacles to earn enough stars for their chart. When I announced the grand total this morning, Sal already knew they had achieved their goal. That boy of mine--he's so stinkin quick with numbers.
We loaded up and headed out early. It gets hot the further inland we go, so we had to beat the heat. The farm has wonderful all terrain wagons for use- my circus just barely fits in one wagon anymore. Someone is going to have to walk next time.
Each big kid got to choose and activity. Carla chose to ride the ponies (I'm not surprised) and Sal wanted to pick carrots. We did both. In fact, picking produce was a hit with all three! They picked carrots, cucumbers, squash and green beans--saving ourselves a trip to the market later.
After some rounds to feed the animals, they spent some time in the sandbox and sharing some snacks.
On the way home, Sal announced that when he woke up he wasn't sure if his day was going to be good. But that the farm made his day a whole lot better and maybe we should go every day when he wakes up.
When I think about summers as a child, I recall many days spent playing at home, going to swim lessons and heading to the beach (thanks to my mom's love of tanning). We had simple summers. Rarely did we sign up for any camps--in fact, I only recall going to Zoo camp once. I've always looked back on my childhood summers as some of the best times of my childhood. I credit my mom for not over scheduling us. She let us be bored. She let us dig holes in the yard and play in the sprinklers. She let us read books upon books and (gasp!) watch tv if we wanted to. It was the best.
Now with kids of my own, I strive to allow my kids the freedom to be bored. To invent new games. To dig holes in our yard. To run in the sprinkler (okay, maybe not that one because-drought). But you get it--I haven't scheduled them for every camp known to man (although at some point of each day I think of how nice it would be to have them out of my hair), nor have we gone on and elaborate trips or visited many pay-per-visit playgrounds or museums.
We wake up in the morning and choose what we want to do. Sometimes this means we stay in pjs watching a Scooby Doo til ten, and others it means we throw on our tank tops and shorts and head to the park at the beach. Sometimes we pack lunches, and others we stop for corn dogs at weinerschnitzel before heading home for naps.
Our backyard has seen my kids playing in it from sun up til sun down. Our skateboards and scooters have had mileage put on them (can't say the same for Sal's two wheeler- he's still not game for trying) as they race down the sidewalks looking for treasures aka bottle caps. The kids have assembled a balance beam out of unused 2x4's and they tiptoe down the beam so "alligators don't get them".
We've gone through countless boxes of Popsicles and bandaids. We've done two sessions of swim lessons and finally have a child who's happy to submerge his face under water. We've got a sixteen month old who practices his climbing skills on our back wall, and a two year old who learned a "booty bounce" on their trampoline.
All of this in thanks to our simple summer. They've had the freedom to float from one thing to another as their little mind changes from one idea to another.
Back in 2012, I had made a pact with a few of my former teammates to meet up at the 2012 Olympic trials which were to be held in San Jose, CA. We thought it would be a good place to have a mini reunion and catch some phenomenal gymnastics together.
And wouldn't you know, after months of anticipation of meeting up with my girls, it was official, we'd be moving the first weekend in June to our new home in China.
The same weekend as trials.
I had to pass up the reunion-- while sad about not seeing some familiar old faces before I jetted cross the world, I was excited to get to China and find out what our new life had in store for us.
When we moved back to California last year, I found out that the 2016 Olympic trials for women's gymnastics were going to be in San Jose again.
I got to work wrangling up a few of my besties and we ordered tickets last summer....and then we waited and waited and waited for the next 10 months to pass.
You guys, I had so much fun. I mean--more fun than I've had in a long long time. Nick manned the troops at home while I got away for the long weekend.
Friday night was the preliminary round. I had an extra ticket in my purse and happened to run into one of my former competitors from when we were level 9's just trying to make it to a college team. Turned out she didn't have a ticket, so she bought my extra and we got to catch up sitting next to each other night one. It was such a fun surprise to see her after twenty years!
Friends since 10th grade- reunited!
Our seats were great! Right in front of bars with a great view of floor and vault. There were lots of nervous mistakes made by many (even Simone!!) but the level of difficulty coming from these teen girls is unbelievable. Simone's difficulty could outdo the men. For someone 4 foot nothing, she is amazing. Perhaps more than the top five televised girls ( Simone, gabby, aly, Laurie and ragan), I enjoyed watching the other seven phenoms that rounded out the competitor field. Here these girls were at the pinnacle of their elite career, having made Olympic trials, and most of America would never know their name. It's such a shame.
B MyKayla Skinner- bars
Saturday started at the crack of dawn, grabbing breakfast with my old teammate & trials roommate, Holly, before heading into the convention hall to put in a full day working at the GK elite wear booth.
Working at the GK booth paid off! So many former Olympians and gymnastics-famous people came through. I don't tend to get star struck, but I did sweet talk Amanda Borden of the 1996 Mag 7 into a photo.
Pics of her may or may not have covered my younger self's walls
My Jamie, love her.
The day was a flutter of lots of little gymnasts running around in search of their idols to take a selfie with (how times have changed!) or have them sign a leotard. I remember those days (my coach took us to the 1991 world championships-a trip I will never forget) so vividly. It made me smile seeing another generation of girls so excited about the sport.
Met this one the 1st day of college practice and have been friends ever since
Saturday night was dinner with another former roommate/ teammate, and a parade of Olympians. Over 100 former Olympic gymnasts dating back from 1950 were in attendance. Scotty McCreary, Kathrine McPhee and some Disney star put on a concert. I loved seeing my one time idols up on stage.
Sunday gave me my first opportunity to sleep in sans kids since the birth of Sal!!!!! You better believe it enjoyed it. After a leisurely morning and hotel gym workout,
I met up with more teammates for a lunch gathering before finals.
Go Aggies! Gymnastics reunion.
Dawn, Jen & me- finals
While I had to leave finals early to make the drive home, what I saw was amazing. Most of the nerves had been worked out, and Simone scored a near perfect vault score. A phone call from my girlfriend confirmed the team selected for me, and while the team selected didn't immediately make sense to me (Maggie Nichols wasn't even selected as an alternate despite the meet of her career), I get it now, and can not wait til August 7th and seeing the new fab 5 in Rio!
Anddddd, your 2016 Olympic team (+ Alts): Ashton, Aly, Madison, Gabby, Laurie, Mykayla, Simone and Ragan.
We just completed our first camping trip with kids in tow. Before kids, NZ and I would camp at least once a year, but a move overseas and having babies have stalled camping trips up until now.
We joined a couple of Nick's cousins at Jalama beach last Sunday and stayed through late Thursday night. I admit, I was a buzzkill for a good portion of the trip. It wasn't dirty kids that got me stressing-it was the heat and long term exposure to the direct sun that we had overlooked when planning this trip. An easy fix for next time will to bring an easy up / canopy so that we can escape the sun without having to hunker down in our tent or search for shade trees on the camp ground.
The older kids had so much fun galavanting around the campground with their cousin. They spent hours on the beach, digging for sand crabs, making drip castles and fishing with their dad. Gino spent a lot of time eating sand and battling yellow jackets (next time we will bring yellow jacket traps) but I think he still enjoyed getting dirty and following the big kids around.
Naptimes were tough-I finally figured out that wearing Gino was the only way we could guarantee at least an hour of midday rest for the littlest guy. We brought our pack and play, which is later transfer him into if our tent wasn't too hot. Carla and Sal enjoyed snow cones and playground tag every afternoon with all the kids at the campground.
We split dinner duties with the other two couples. It was nice to only have to prepare dinners a couple times!
Now we're back and unpacked and trying to catch up on missed sleep. We've also got chapped, wind / sunburned faces, but a whole lot of memories to go along with it.