Monday, November 21, 2016

The kids, lately.

I haven't been able to access my blog account for a while, despite efforts to try and do so from multiple blogging apps that failed to support my needs. So, alas, here I sit on my husband's laptop fumbling my way through typos and two left hands as I try to acclimate to using a standard keyboard again.

I figured I'd do an update on the kids, lately.

Gino (19 months)
       As so many of my posts go about this boy, he keeps me on my toes. Nothing has changed. It's always a surprise as to whether he will sleep through the night, or spend half of it kicking his crib rails and wailing til the cows come home. You guys, I'm beyond EXHAUSTED. This not sleeping thing is way harder than I ever anticipated it could be. So many nights I want to yell and scream along with him, and throw my own tantrum. WHYYYYYY!?WHYYYYYY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH? WHYYYYYY BABY, WHYYYYYY? Now, logically, I know he doesn't actually hate me, it's quite the opposite. It just feels that way at 12:00, 2:30 and 4:15 in the morning. Night after night, after night after night. He does have weeks of solid sleeping, 7:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and I get so FREAKING excited and feel SO much like my old self..Really, a whole new woman. But, they've been short lived to this point in his life. I keep telling myself, someday he will sleep..Someday.

My favorite thing about this little bruiser is that he is starting to talk. He can call his brother and sister (Sal), (Carla), and Nonno by name, and also loves to say "poop", "ball", "uh oh", "look" and "no". He sits as plays with trucks and Carla's animal figurines, and loves it when Carla plays make believe "doggies" with him. They ask me to put their snacks in bowls so they can eat off the floor. He says, "bark bark!" and it is one of the cutest things ever.

Gino also loves to hit and run, dump toys out and stand on toilets to access our medicine cabinets. He is equally sneaky to Carla. Anytime it is quiet in our house, I know someone is up to NO good. One of the areas he excels in is his ability to scale just about anything ( I am dreading the day he figures out how easily he can get out of his crib). He can climb up onto our kitchen counters, using drawer pulls as steps, and has mastered our retaining wall to the point I no longer freak out every time I see him up top. He really likes playing in the dirt, running his trucks along the top terrace and dumping it in piles.

Carla ("almost 3")

      Carla continues to be a bundle of personality with expressions to match. She has a huge smile, and sunny disposition. She loves to play with her horsies and stuffed animals, and has yet to find any animal she hasn't professed her love for. This kid LOVES animals. At the same time, we still have to be on her case for pulling the cat's tail, or loving on them so much they're suffocating, but I think that is pretty much the relationship between any toddler and pet. She makes sure they have food and water, and many times in the morning, the kitties creep in her room and snuggle up til she wakes.

We switched her "school" from twice a week for 1.5 hours to once a week for 3.5 hours. I did this mostly for my own scheduling sanity, but also to allow her some more time at home to just be a two and a half year old. I believe that free play is so important for their development and helps them as they mature and since I am a stay at home mom, and have this luxury to be with them, why not?

She has her own big girl bed and room now, leaving the boys to share. She has improved greatly with the bedtime routine of needing to stay in her room after songs and "I love yous" but we do still have our struggles a few nights a week--especially if she napped that day. She doesn't usually fall asleep during naps, but every once in a while playing hard catches up with her and she just crashes. Most of the time she plays quietly in her room with her ponies and doll house or watches an episode of My Little Pony on the iPad as a treat for good behavior. 

Perhaps the biggest Carla news is that she decided to get her ears pierced--she amazed me at how mature she was just sitting in the chair so proud to be having them pierced. No tears until after it was all said and done, and we had all celebrated and scared her a bit. In her words, " Mama, I fancy now." 

Sal ("almost 5")

I love our conversations together. Whether it be from the back seat of the car to snuggled up beside one another watching "How It's Made" or his current favorite movie, " Wall-E", the things he asks and chooses to talk about blow my mind. He puts so many things together, that I often forget he isn't even five yet. For instance, I found a mailer advert taped to his door this week. It was for a local jewelry store sale. I asked him what was up with the wedding rings taped to his door, and without skipping a beat, he tells me that it's so he knows how much money he needs to save to buy his little crush a ring when they get married. He also tells me that they cost a lot of money, and that he doesn't quite have enough dollars yet. He thinks he might get a credit card, and a job to pay for the credit card, because "Mom, credit cards aren't free money, you know.You have to be able to pay the you need a job to pay the bill." SO SMART, this little guy of mine. Goes to show they are always listening and absorbing. And of course, with the presidential election and everything surrounding it--we had many a conversation about what it means to us to be a good person, what honesty is, and why lying can get you into trouble. It provided an opportunity to talk to him about our commonalities and differences as Americans, and how great this country of ours is to let all of its people vote. He turns to me after that conversation and says, " Mom, did you know that where Ayah's family comes from, her mommy can't vote?' Again, HOW'S HE KNOW THIS STUFF?!

He understands so much more than I ever expected a four and half year old to. Sometimes I wonder if he understands too much--and will be one of those cynical kids instead of the happy go lucky type. Here's to hoping we can pull off the Santa thing without him blowing the cover anytime soon. He's already spilled the beans to my sister and Carla on the gifts we bought them for Christmas. 

I haven't written much about it, but in the last year we've had Sal's speech assessed both by the county and school district, and in both instances, he qualified for Speech services for articulation issues. We started attending through the school district in September, and he goes two mornings a week before "school" and LOVES it. Gino, Carla and I also enjoy going, as the waiting room has a bunch of fun activities and toys for them to keep busy with while we wait for his session to end. Nick and I have both noticed a huge improvement on many of his sounds and hope that this early intervention gets him up to par with his age mates. 

The biggest struggle we face with Sal has been a tie between asserting his opinion ( which errs on borderline sass) and eating like a bird. He is not necessarily a picky eater-- it is more that he nibbles a few bites and claims he is finished. Afternoon stomach aches have ensued, and we are pretty sure it is hunger pains, so encouraging him to eat more has been my main focus as of late. I think the sass and meltdowns will become more manageable once we can get him to fill his belly.

And with that, bring on the holiday season! They're finally at the age where I think they genuinely feel the magic of Holiday gatherings and traditions. I am looking forward to post-dinner Christmas light drives in our jammies, decorating gingerbread houses and decorating the house with their little winter themed school projects this month!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just Beachy

We're so lucky to live where we do. We have the beach as our playground, and we've been using it to our full advantage with the kids--soaking up this warm November weather for all it is worth.

One of our favorite places to take the kids is just off PCH, to the tide pools. There is also a cave near one of the beaches that is accessible during low tide. This has become Sal's most talked about activity as of late. He asks on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis if we can go to the caves to search for sea glass.

I love that our children love the beach as much as we do. I love that it's free, it's nature, and we can all unplug and reconnect out there.

It's really just beachy.

Halloween, bugs and ER visits

The week prior to Halloween, I volunteered the kids as models for a local photographer to shoot in Halloween costumes at a really cool ranch owned by Paramount Studios. Within seconds of accepting her invite, I realized the costumes my kids were wearing for trick or treating weren't exactly "photo shoot" worthy. You see, I'm not much into dressing up in costume, nor are my kids. Our costumes thus far have involved their day to day clothing with "costume pieces" over it. For example, Sal's poster board "Popsicle" costume last year & Carla's repurposed tights and bathing suit as an aerobics instructor.

This year was no different. Sal's dream of being a magnet and Carla's request to be Rainbow Dash were made with minimal cost. A rainbow dash sweatshirt off Amazon for her, and a $4 piece of craft foam, a couple cans of spray paint from the garage and metal treasures hot glued on comprised Sal's entire costume. Heck, Gino wore the same Skelton pjs Sal wore two years ago as his costume/ pjs this year because let's face it, he wasn't going out trick or treating. What's a 19 month old going to do with a bag of candy? We all know who would've ended up eating his candy had he joined the big kids.

Anyways, back to the photo shoot. I scrambled and scoured pinterest for DIY themed costumes for a group of 3. I fell in love with the Flinstones costumes and knew I could probably make all of them in an afternoon with minimal supplies. The kids and I went to goodwill and bought an oversized orange t shirt and royal blue tie for the Fred costume, a green tank top for pebbles and an old skeleton decoration for the bones we'd need for pebbles hair and bam bam's shorts.

I hacked the orange shirt with scissors to make the zig zag hemline and arm holes, and spray painted triangles onto it. I did the same for the pebbles top and bam bam shorts (I reused some of Sal's old orange shorts for Gino. He's already only one size smaller than sal in pants!).

Here's the final result.

photocredit:Mily Cooper Photography

A couple days before Halloween, Gino woke up covered in vomit. He proceeded to vomit a few more times that night and I had no clue what to do with him. Nick and I survived almost five years without ever having to deal with projectile vomit! I guess we're lucky. Carla followed suit the next night, along with the other end, and it lasted almost a week for her. Then came myself and Nick on Halloween day, and ultimately, Sal. The big kids did trick or treat, but nobody was really feeling it. G stayed with me and handed out candy to the one group that rang our bell.

We spent much of Halloween week just getting through each day hoping the next would be better. By the following weekend we had overcome the barf hug, but a few of us had head colds. Head colds could deal with, vomit. Not so much. I took the opportunity to run errands solo on Saturday, and upon my return home, within minutes, Nick comes in and announces he needs to go to the hospital NOW. Thankfully his dad was here, so the two hopped in his van and off they went, leaving the kids and I wondering what had happened. Turns out, he was helping a neighbor lift something heavy and cumbersome and it slipped and tried to take his pinky off. He's now the proud owner of a broken finger and missing nailplate.

So yeah, we've been busy over here--and are ready for some normalcy again!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Connected again

Hey guys,

After my last iDevice updates, my old blogging app stopped working and it's just taken me a while to figure out which app will work best to fit my blogging style/ needs. I had drafted a few blogs and lost them when the old blogger app took a dive on me. So, boo.

I've got a lot to say, so when I find a little time. I'll be posting again!

Happy November!

Friday, September 23, 2016

We still do

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!

Happy tenth, NZ!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Gino, lately.

Our baby isn't such a baby anymore!! 

I swear to you, he changed overnight. 

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. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekend visitors

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. 

Thanks for coming to our casa, Hefleys! 

Until next time...

Monday, August 1, 2016

Underwood Family Farm

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. 

Good try, kiddo. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer days

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. 

They're just kids being kids...enjoying summer. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 US gymnastics Olympic trials

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. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camping {in a tent}

I'm alive! 

We're alive!

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. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Carla, lately.

Current age: 2 years, 5 months 

My sweet little sass is starting "school" this month! It's just one morning a week, for 90 minutes, but she can't wait! She's been asking to go since she turned two, but I used potty training as leverage, telling her she couldn't go until she wore skivvies. She took it to heart and has been day trained for the last month. She still poops outside, but that's another story. 

She wants to do everything Sal does, whether it be riding skateboards or building a Lego house. Her Lego houses are always horsey houses- built for her horse figurines she totes around in her backpack everywhere we go. 

Carla loves to sing " twinkle twinkle" and " you are my sunshine", which she just calls "sunshine song". She will tell me to be quiet when I sing in the car, and has no shame in telling us to "turn dat song ooooooff!" followed with her request that I play "widing duty" (riding dirty). 

While she still follows Sal around with admiring eyes, she's developing quite the mischievous relationship with Gino. They're my little Bonnie + Clyde. Double trouble, partners in crime. It's fun to watch how she balances the little sister and big sister roles. With Sal, she does the grunt work. Anything he tells her to do, she does. When she's with Gino she gets to test out her bossy voice and assert her place in the sibling chain.

She loves to wake G up in the morning, so earlier this week, she asked to wake him while I was still in bed. I told her she could go in and play with him while I got out of bed and dressed. A few minutes later I walked into a butt pasted crib and kids. Lesson learned. Never, ever trust a toddler.  

Especially when they're this cute!

Carla Denise, thanks for keeping us on our toes and adding some sweet sass to our household. You ARE my sunshine. 

School is out for summer

As of last Friday, Sal is officially on summer break and looking forward to beginning the preK program in fall. 

He may not have grown a lot this last year, size wise, but his speech has improved and he has a knack for puzzles and pattern making. He can write his name (but won't), and he recognizes most of the letters in the alphabet and can sound out the majority of them. 

He loves all things scientific--choosing to watch "How it's Made" and YouTube videos of wastewater treatment plants over cartoons these days. He's enamored with manhole covers and storm drains and nothing makes his day more than figuring out how things work. 

He and Carla have a special friendship, that is somewhat love/hate but mostly love. They play for hours on our upper terrace, digging dirt and playing make believe. 

Four is a fine balance of emotional meltdowns and quirky conversations. We talk about life, friends, sewers, cats, when he was a baby, and everything else under the sun. I love listening to his chatter. The flip side is dealing with meltdowns and his emerging sense of embarrassment following said meltdown. If we are in public and he realizes people may see him (say, we are on our way to school drop off), he tries to suck his quivering lip up and get himself together because "I don't want them to see me cry, mama." A few deep breaths and a knock knock joke later, he usually redeems himself and we get on with our day. At home though-it's no holds barred. Tantrums go on and on and on.  That's tough. It's the only part of four I'd like to fast forward through. The rest of it is so much fun. 

He's still working on riding a two wheel bike (he realllly doesn't want to-but we keep trying), and he has been more tolerant and receptive to swim lessons this summer. He put his whole face in the water today--that's HUGE for a kid who spends all morning on swim lesson days lamenting over having to go to swim lessons later. 

I'm looking forward into soaking up summer with him and joining our local library's summer reading program. While it's nice to have him busy three mornings a week during the school year, I am happy to have a break from school drop offs and having to get out the door on time. 

Here's to summertime!