Campin' At Four

This summer, Spencer asked if he could go camping.  I told him it was too hot to go camping in the summer--that's true in Arkansas--but that maybe he could go when it cooled off in the fall.  And he didn't mention it for months.  So, imagine my surprise when we were talking about how the leaves were changing colors because it was a new season, fall, and he said, "It's fall!  I go campin'!"

So, in an effort to not really go camping quite yet, or maybe ever (ha!), I planned a Camping Birthday Party for the celebration of his fourth year.  Thanks to the internet, very little original thought has to go into parties anymore.  I do enjoy the feeling of having a great idea and pulling it off; but I also enjoy a little help during this "season"--both of life and of Christmas.  And, in our family, it's also birthday season.  At least half of our family has a December birthday.

Spencer loved having everyone there.  He was his usual, social little self, having all sorts of things to tell grandparents and friends.  It's so fun that he's old enough to really know everyone now.  He knew every person who walked in to the party, and he knew they were there for his special day.  We missed our friends and relatives who couldn't be there, but thankfully, Spencer felt very celebrated and had a great time.  Mission accomplished.

About a week before his party, Spencer let it be known that he expected marshmallows at his camping party.  I don't know why he wouldn't.  So, we had S'mores Trail Mix.  When I was putting the baggies together, he sneaked a marshmallow, tried it and disappointedly told me it wasn't cooked (or something like that).  I think he was hoping for more based on how great he thought they looked.  Other guests enjoyed the marshmallows, though, including Evelyn.

This was the gift and favor table.  It was full of gifts by the time he started opening gifts.  Benjamin brought each gift over to Spencer to open.  It was so cute.  Each year Benjamin has helped Spencer open his presents.  It's a special tradition that I hope continues for a long, long time.  

Spencer also asked me over and over again for a real fire at his party.  I gave it way too much consideration, but it quickly became clear that a humid, seventy degree day in a room full of babies and preschoolers wasn't the place for a real fire. 

The fire place hearth was, however, the place for the bug hunting supplies.  Everybody got a flashlight and a bug bag, and then they got to search the dark-ish campsite (racquetball ball room) for bugs.

His favorite moment was when we lit the candles on the cake and everyone sang "Happy Birthday."  He has always loved to be celebrated--particularly with corporate singing.  

And then, Spencer blew out his four candles.  This was the first year he was able to do that.  It was so fun to watch him.  And, he loved it!  We'd lit a candle on a cupcake for him a few days ago, and, to my surprise, he blew out the candle!  It was such a fun surprise for me.  I think he knew he would be able to do it, though, because he didn't seem that surprised--but he was very proud.

Then, it was time for cake.  While they ate, everyone got their "Good Eater" badge.  The badges were also Spencer's idea (inspired, I believe, by "Max and Ruby").  He asked me a couple weeks ago if he was going to get a Hospitality Badge.  After he asked, I heard myself saying, "Yes."  He can't grow up and say I only ever told him "No."

After they "earned" their first badge, I passed out the flashlights for the bug hunt.  Evelyn was excited to be included in the big kid game.  

Evelyn enjoyed some s'mores trail mix earlier in the party.  While Mallory was busy eating her cake, Evelyn borrowed her bag of trail mix.  She went straight for the big marshmallow.

Spencer is a much loved little boy.  Not only were his grandparents and aunts there, but his mom's grandparents and aunts were there too!  And, his baby cousin Ruby hung out at, what I believe to be her first birthday party.  Spencer went to his first birthday party when he was three months old in this same room for his friend Benjamin.

Here's an "after" shot of the birthday table.  Levi was kind enough to take pictures while the party carried me away to the bug hunt extravaganza.

Spencer got the bugs out of the "lake," and Bonnie and Nana helped him find the ones hiding on the "shore."

I told him about the bug hunt before his party, and he was so excited.  I was worried I'd built it up a little too much and that he'd be disappointed, but he and the other kids really seemed to have fun.  Yay!

Mallory wasn't pumped to go into the dark, echoing racquetball room to look for bugs until her mom clarified that they were toy bugs.  Then, she settled right in, but she preferred that I pick up the bugs we found and placed them into her bag.  She's such a doll.  

Mimi helped Evelyn and Spencer with the bug hunt.  I don't think Benjamin needed any help.


I put Gigi in charge of chasing Evelyn around for the whole party.  Nice, I know.  I thought it might help me "enjoy" it all a little more.  Bonus--Evelyn didn't get hurt very badly once.  She did get hurt a few times, but it was never very serious.  That's a victory in and of itself.  I probably should have assigned a couple of people to watch her.  She's pretty quick.  Towards the end she kept walking straight to her diaper bag and asking and looking for her pacifier.  Poor baby, she was exhausted.  

Spencer did great opening his presents this year.  He's always really enjoyed opening them, but this year we were able to reason with him a bit regarding not completely opening every single boxed toy that he unwrapped.  It generally took a little explaining and a little redirecting, but he was willing to leave most of the toys in the box until we got home.  He's really growing up!  

He did insist on opening the dog-themed nesting doll set from Bonnie.  He wanted them beside him in his bed tonight.  Sweet, sweet boy.

Benjamin also showed remarkable restraint while Spencer opened tons of cool toys.  Bonus, Benjamin was able to explain to me what some of the toys were (when I really hadn't figured it out yet), and he attempted to teach Spencer higher level gift opening maneuvers, such as sliding the ribbon off when it's wrapped around the box instead of wasting time untying it or waiting for someone to cut it off.  

Just when Evelyn was about to completely unravel, Nana gave her a present.  It's a toy made to (loosely) resemble an ipod.  Evelyn loved it.  She took a nap with it and played with it most of the evening.  She loved making it play music and dancing along.  She really loved it when I would dance along with her.  She's such a little love.

Once we got home, I got Evelyn down for a nap and then helped Spencer put his circus tent together.  When Jonathan got home, Spencer had all three of us in there for quite a while.  


If that's not a happy birthday, I don't know what is.

Happy Birthday, Nana!

Spencer and Evelyn got to visit Nana's library to wish her happy birthday.  Jonathan took them while I did party errands, but I hear a good time was had by all.  Spencer loves that Nana's library is full of animals.  Evelyn carried her purse.  They love their Nana so much, and Nana sure loves them!


Thanksgiving 2012

I had two precious turkeys and a really hard time getting pictures of them.  Our church has a Gratitude lunch every year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Spencer and Evelyn loved it because we let them eat a ridiculous amount of desserts so that they would just sit for more than ten seconds at a time.  It didn't work, and Evelyn did not hesitate to walk by herself to the dessert table and back multiple times.   I'm so proud, ha!

These two have a lot to be thankful for, as does our whole family.  They are loved on, adored (and extravagantly clothed) by family, friends, teachers, and therapists.  Ok, so far the teachers and therapists aren't clothing them, but I say just give it time.  But in all seriousness, this year has been nothing if not a huge example of God's providential care for Jonathan, Spencer, Evelyn, and me.

God has always provided for me, and this year it was so overt and obvious that there is no way I could attribute our blessings to anything other than His work through His people.  It's nice when He just lays it out there for ya.  I'm usually pretty quick to dismiss a lot of His provision as coming from other sources, or even more ridiculously, from myself.

Evelyn has been chatting away the last month and a half, another huge "upper" for which I'm very, very grateful.

After the gratitude lunch at church, I attempted to take some pictures of the kids in the backyard.  It was a gorgeous day.  The leaves were beautiful, the children were all sugared up; and I could not get them within ten feet of each other.   I did, however,  get these two pictures where they appear to be running away with almost identical form.  It just struck me as funny.

While Evelyn obsessed over getting onto the tricycle, I convinced Spencer to join us.  I told him to stand next to her on the tricycle, thinking one of them sitting on something might actually work in my favor.

Instead I looked up and saw this.  I just laughed.  Evelyn just went about her business as Spencer went about his.  I'm hoping to work these two shots into each of their rehearsal dinners someday.  Or maybe their senior yearbook (will they even have yearbooks at that point?).

Evelyn looks so much like my niece that it really is strange.  Beautiful runs in the family.

Below is one of my culinary contributions to our family Thanksgiving celebration.  Kids and adults alike were pleased.  I also brought a fruit tray arranged so that it looked like a turkey and green beans cooked in tons of bacon grease, you know, because fruit and vegetables in any form somehow cancel out the refined sugar.

We spent Thanksgiving Day at Gigi and Papa's.  All in-town family came, and so did Nana and G-Dad (my in-laws).  Which is another thing I'm very thankful for:  in-laws who get along with my family and are glad to come to our crazy get togethers.  It really makes Thanksgiving nice and as stress free as possible.  We see everyone at one time, in one place.  As far as holidays go, I've been very spoiled.  That's pretty much how we did the holidays when I was growing up too, so it's one life-adjustment I'm not having to make right now.  I'll take it.

A tradition I started on Spencer's first Thanksgiving was putting the "baby" in the turkey costume.  It has a built in tummy, and it's just the cutest thing.  Spencer tolerated it very poorly when he wore it as an almost-on-year-old, but Evelyn rocked it.  I think she would have worn it all day.

Spencer got to play soccer with my cousin and his friend.  He loved it.  

And, I know he's mine, and I'm biased, but that looks like pretty good form for a not-yet-four-year-old.

Meanwhile, Evelyn gobbled around the backyard.  I couldn't stop looking at her in that costume.  I don't know why it makes my heart so happy, but it does.

My cousin who kicked the ball around with Spencer was diagnosed with CAS around two.  So, it's fun for me to watch them together for a myriad of reasons.  Spencer adores Alex, and he is in seventh heaven when someone will do something active and entertaining with him.

One of Alex's friends joined us Thanksgiving day, and he wasted no time jumping in to help entertain my kids--another thing for which I was thankful.

Here is my Mimi holding her third great grandchild.  She was thoroughly enjoying herself.  Ruby seemed to be enjoying herself too.

This was the first Thanksgiving at which Spencer ate turkey--such progress!  After we ate, Evelyn got to play with her Nana's necklace and bracelet for quite awhile.  Evelyn always has time to try to take someone's jewelry.  It wasn't long before Spencer decided if there was a demand for the jewelry, it must be worth having.  He'll be thankful someday that I don't have that part of the story in pictures.

My sister and brother-in-law made the drive home from Nashville (and we were all so glad!).  Spencer and Evelyn both loved seeing them, but not as much as they loved playing with their chocolate lab Dakota.  Well, Evelyn still has some ambivalence concerning Dakota, but Spencer and Dakota go way back.  She was our backyard guest this summer, and before that Spencer consistently ruined every visit to Hillary's house because of his hysterical fits to play with Dakota the entire time.  Over the weekend, Spencer got to play with "Kotie" every day, and I don't think there was anything else on earth he'd rather have done.  I loved it for him.  

My camera died early on during the day, and that was a little disappointing; but we went on to have much eating, chasing of children, and general fun. All of the food was delicious, and Spencer had helped Gigi make the cornbread for the dressing earlier in the week, so that was special.  A couple of days before Thanksgiving, Spencer told his SLP that he and Gigi made the cornbread and that I was making the turkey, and it was funny because it was so very not true--another thing for which I was truly grateful.