Friday, March 27, 2015

MI Road Trip - Part I

In early March, our family headed out on a LONG road trip to Michigan. The main purpose of our trip was to celebrate Jason's dad's retirement. Before that celebration, however, we were able to enjoy a few other wonderful visits along the way. First, we traveled to Sioux Falls, SD, and spent a day with our friends Josh and Katie. These two were just wonderful at entertaining Jaden and Cody. The boys warmed up to them right away!

Cody, enjoying a good book with Josh

Jaden cozies up to Katie
 After attending Josh and Katie's church on Sunday morning, we drove through downtown Sioux Falls. This area of town boasts a variety of fun statues, but the top-scoring one by far, in Jaden and Cody's book, was this bronze Humpty Dumpty.

We can hardly ever get the boys to show their natural smiles for pictures these days-- guess all it takes is a Humpty Dumpty character! Cody and Jaden were SO excited!

Rubbing Humpty's bald head is apparently a must.

Josh and Katie knew just what our boys would like. After the downtown visit, we went to Josh's workplace-- the airport! Josh flies small medical planes, so he was able to get us special access inside.

The boys learned what some of the various controls do...

...but mostly were just excited to be so close to all these planes!

Thanks, Josh, for the exciting tour! (This next pic makes me laugh. Right before I took the picture, Josh squatted down so he could be at the boys' level. Of course, Jaden and Cody took that as their cue to squat down low to the ground as well!)

Following naptime at Josh and Katie's house, we visited Katie's workplace-- the mall. As an assistant manager of The Limited, Katie is in charge of quite a lot. One of her favorite tasks, though, is to build wardrobes for customers. She is amazing at this job!! I learned this firsthand when Katie patiently chose clothes for me (I'm a picky shopper!) and found several cute outfits that I ended up just loving. What a treat to spend this time with Katie! Meanwhile, Jason and Josh were entertaining the boys at the mall play area and on some of these various kiddy rides.

Cody gave us a "Ride 'em, Cowboy!" on this horse :)

Josh and Katie were wonderful hosts and great tour guides around Sioux Falls, too. We loved our time with you, dear friends! The next morning, we headed straight east to Austin, MN, to visit Great-Grandma Schleicher.

Great-Grandma had a pizza lunch (complete with fresh fruits and veggies and even special cookies for the boys!) waiting for us when we arrived. We are so impressed by this active, capable, godly woman! After our meal, Great-Grandma gave us a tour around her apartment complex. We saw where she walks on the treadmill at least 3 times a week, where she parks her car, and just down the hallway, we saw the empty apartment that is reserved for Jason's parents. It was fun to visualize where Grandma and Grandpa would be living. Cody and Jaden loved having all this room to run around in. What is it about a wide open area that just naturally makes little boys wild? :)

Thanks for having us for a visit, Great-Grandma! We all love you bunches!

Our original plan after visiting Great-Grandma was to make the brief drive to Rochester and stay overnight with Beth and Andy. The promise of a heavy winter snowstorm along our driving route, however, changed our plans. Instead, we cut our visit with Great-Grandma a bit short and made the LONG drive all the way to Holland that same day. We finally arrived around 2 in the morning, but we had smooth roads and didn't see a single snowflake. Several hours later, when we awoke, there was nearly 6 inches of snow on the ground, with the snow continuing to fall heavily. We were happy we made the decision to keep driving! Cody and Jaden were really intrigued by Grandpa's sidewalk shoveling.

They giggled so much when Grandpa threw the snow up in the air!

It was still early in the week when we arrived (the retirement celebration was on Sunday), so we had a bit of down-time to spend with Grandma and Grandpa before all the other guests and family came to town. Despite their large to-do lists, Grandma and Grandpa happily laid aside their packing and other preparations to play with Jaden and Cody for a couple days. We were very thankful to have this time together. Grandma played cars with the boys and gave them a few new matchbox cars, too. Definitely a trip highlight! :)

Grandma also read a LOT of books to the boys...

played the Disney matching game,

and taught them how to string beads onto a pipe cleaner. What a fun idea! I liked seeing how patient Cody and Jaden were with this project.

Cody and Jaden were quite proud of the fancy bracelets (or anklets?) that they made.

Grandpa and Daddy got in on some of the story times, as well. The boys latched on to two particular new books at Grandma and Grandpa's that we all read over and over and over again. :)

Other fun happenings at Grandpa and Grandma's place included a belated birthday song for Grandpa, 

some playtime in interesting new places, 

and visiting the church nursery for more playtime!

Also at the church, Grandma and the boys got to watch a plow clearing the large piles of snow out of the parking lot.

Then, we all listened to Daddy as he practiced his song for Sunday's retirement celebration.

Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa, for this special time with you. We all loved the chance to visit and the quiet, relaxed pace. We love you!

Then, finally, we had one last stop before the retirement weekend began-- our old stomping grounds in Saginaw. We were excited to stay with our good friends John and Lisa and their 3 boys. Hayden, the oldest, was very gentle with our boys and cuddled up to them right away. What a sweet kid!

Will (only 6 months older than J&C) was a wonderful playmate! We were so impressed with the way he shared all of his toys without an argument-- and even willingly offered some of his favorites to our boys. I hope Jaden and Cody were learning their lessons from this cute kid! :)

Little Colten endured the extra attention and kisses from our boys without too much of a fuss. :)

In addition to the Duclos family, we also meet up with our friends the Sowatskys. Their 4 little ones don't seem quite so little anymore! Our three families all met at McDonalds for an ice cream treat and some fun at the play place. Ally jumped right in to take care of Cody and Jaden, holding their hands and helping them over the taller play place equipment. The boys absolutely loved her! :)

Here are some group shots at McD's....

(top) Hayden, Tyler, Luke, Ally, Colten
(bottom) Will, Cody, Jaden, Daniel

Ginny, Amy, Lisa & Colten
During our time in Saginaw, we visited lots of different people-- the church pastors and the school staff at Bethlehem, some high school students (the students in my last 4th grade class are now high school seniors!), and other Bethlehem friends. Unfortunately, I hardly got pictures of any of these visits! Between my eagerness to catch up with these friends and our efforts to manage our somewhat cranky boys (that's what missing 3 daily naps in a row will do to 2-year-olds!), taking out my camera didn't get the priority. 

I did, however, get a picture of our visit with some wonderful old neighbors, Jim and Lola (aka Speed). :) We were happily surprised to find this couple at home, since they're typically snowbirds until after Easter. We had a nice talk and got to listen to Jim play some beautiful jazz for us on his keyboard, too.

On our last night in Saginaw, the Duclos clan had a special treat for us-- s'mores in the fireplace! What a fun idea! Hayden and John showed us how the roasting was done. 

The Duclos family has a tradition of using Reeses cups instead of Hershey bars on their s'mores. This was a particular hit for our little guys!

Cody preferred to eat all of the s'more pieces separately. Jaden, on the other hand, was quite happy to devour his whole.

We enjoyed our time with you so much, Duclos clan! Thanks for being such fun hosts and such wonderful friends. Love you guys!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Growing Older

Jaden and Cody are quickly approaching another birthday milestone. In less than 3 months, the boys will celebrate their 3rd birthday! So, what does life look like now that they're officially two-and-three-quarters? :)

Well, first of all, our boys definitely look a lot more grown up! Regularly, people comment on their tall height. (I think the presence of more hair helps them look older now, too.)

Cody, Jaden

Jaden, Cody

Jaden continues to be our loving, careful, particular little guy. He is very concerned when something is out of place or different. He's my little memory-guy who will remind me if I'm forgetting to do something. Jaden absolutely loves little babies. He's naturally very gentle with them, and when baby-friends of ours cry while on a playdate, he'll be the first person over to offer a hug or kiss to the crying child.

Cody is our ball-of-energy, quick, and goofy kid. He and his brother are both constantly on the go, but Cody is FAST! He loves to climb all over objects and people and especially enjoys wrestling and other physical-play activities. Lately we've been calling him our "runner," as he likes to bolt away from us in stores, at church, or any other time we need him close-by. He is our kid who regularly gets a little gleam in his eye or a smirk on his face before saying something silly or answering a question in a goofy manner.

Both boys are becoming much more independent. We regularly hear phrases like, "do it by self!" or "Mommy/Daddy not do it." They're getting much better at dressing/undressing themselves (though the shirts still present a bit of a challenge). Recently, we moved them out of high chairs to "big boy chairs" at the table. (We still use boosters, though, to prevent them from running away before the meal is done!) Both boys are especially good at clearing their places after mealtimes.

We have also moved away from diapers at bedtime. Hooray! Jaden was able to make the switch first, but Cody followed soon after when he saw his brother picking out new underwear after nighttime baths. Cody will occasionally have an accident, but we can officially say that we are fully potty-trained. Yay! Our entire household (and our pocketbooks) have really enjoyed being diaper-less! :)

Jaden and Cody have been showing some increased maturation during their playtime, too. They are more willing to sit for longer periods of time to play certain games (Mommy and Daddy LOVE this!). Their current favorite game is a Disney matching game. We put all the cards face up and let the boys search for matches this way. Most of the time, they will play until all of the cards are gone.

Mommy can also plan activities that require a bit more thinking. One day, we played this color-matching game. The boys had to find items in the room that matched the colored squares I laid out for them.

Tantrums and loud sibling-battles certainly still exist regularly in our household, but they have lessened a bit in the last few months. Praise the Lord for that! :) We're working hard on having the boys try to express their feelings in words to one another and trying to come up with sharing-solutions (like trading toys, asking to set a timer, etc.) rather than reacting physically. Of course, some days are much worse than others in this regard, but at least sometimes it's somewhat successful.

We especially love it when we hear giggles like these during the boys' playtime...


As the boys get older, it's really been a joy to watch their ability to imagine grow. It's quite common for the boys to name their animals (Moby the alligator, Rudolph the moose, Ms. Douby the elephant). They also like to build particular things with their blocks. On this day, both boys were creating a church.

I found it interesting that Jaden's church (in the back) was tall and compact while Cody's had the large, sprawling effect.

Both boys also love to sing! Their absolute favorite songs (requested every night at bedtime) include "He's Got the Whole World" and "O Come Let us Adore Him" (which is just the chorus part of "O Come all Ye Faithful"). They also really enjoying listening to recorded versions of Old MacDonald, BINGO, Humpty Dumpty, and Twinkle, Twinkle. They aren't usually willing to sing for the camera, but I was able to get them acting out "Rock-a-Bye Baby" on this video. Perhaps we need to work a bit on the gentleness factor of this lullaby... :)

Cody and Jaden's all-time favorite activities still include playing with cars (small matchbox vehicles, especially)...

...and reading books. They will often ask Mommy or Daddy to read a certain book to them throughout the day, but they still really enjoy flipping through books all by themselves. They'll generally have a large stack somewhere nearby, flip through each book page by page, and then toss it on the floor in front of them. Then, they'll run to their room to gather a new pile of books. This sight always makes Mommy so proud! :)

Mostly, Cody and Jaden will silently flip through their books, but some days (as seen in the video below), they enjoy narrating.

While having twins is still a challenge in many respects, as the boys grow older, we're seeing more and more joys with having two. One funny joy is watching them help each other out. Cody is our "sick one" below, while Jaden is the helper.

Here's the action video. Cody requests a "nose wipe" at the beginning. Then, be sure to catch Jaden's affirming remark ("good") to Cody when he's done.

These boys definitely give us plenty to think and laugh about each day. They are exhausting, loving, energetic, and funny little fellas who we wouldn't trade for anything!