Saturday, September 27, 2008

Favorite Time of the Year

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Though I know January first is the true date, I've always considered fall to be the beginning of the new year. This, I'm sure has to do with the start of a new school year that, for so long, ruled my years. New clothes, new shoes, new books, pens, crayons and glue. What could be better? I LOVED shopping for school supplies. There's nothing like a brand new notebook just waiting to be filled. Ok, I'm well aware of the geek factor of the previous sentences. Well, just hand over the pocket protector. I'm sure my school supply obsession had something to do with my desire to teach school as well. Now I have to content myself with buying school supplies for Claire. Not nearly as exciting, but it'll do.

But it's not just the beginning of the school year that explains my love of Fall. I also love the weather - the warm (not freakishly hot and humid) days with clear blue skies followed by cool nights. I love to watch the colors of the leaves, and I love the smells of fall too - leaves burning, candles, pies and bread baking.

We also love all the festivals and fairs that take place in fall. In this area alone, there's the apple festivals, the pumpkin festival, the various county fairs, and the Dixie Classic Fair. Ever on the lookout for free family entertainment, we try to go to several of them, weather permitting, and last weekend, the weather was perfect, glorious really. I know that word "glorious" sounds pretentious, but I can't think of another way to describe it. The sky was perfectly blue, the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, yet it wasn't too hot - glorious. We attended the Historic Bethabara Apple Festival at the historic Bethabara Moravian settlement. The kids had a great time playing the old timey games, and we enjoyed the atmosphere and the time outside.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ben turns 2!

I can hardly believe my little monkey man is 2! But it is true. His actual birthday is on the 14th, but as that was on the Sunday after my dad's wedding, we spent the majority of his birthday driving home from Ohio. So, we weren't actually able to celebrate his big day until this past weekend. He did, however, get a few gifts from grandparents while we were in Ohio. The picture below is the morning of his actual birthday when he is playing with his new toy from Paw-Paw (Shawn's dad). It's a horse that bounces up and down, turns in circles, plays music and even connects to the TV, so that he can play a horsey video game by jumping over obstacles. Video games for a 2-year-old. Yes, it's true. So far he is content just jumping on it, so I'm hoping to avoid the male video game addiction for a few more years yet.

This video was taken on this past Saturday when we were finally able to celebrate his birthday. He was so excited about getting to blow out the candles, he couldn't wait until the end of the song.


Cake sugar high

We debated forever on what to get him for his birthday, but a choo-choo trains are definitely his current obsession. He loves Thomas the train, so that's what we finally decided on. He was very happy.

Thrilled with his new train set!

Boys and their toys
A birthday smooch from big sis


I love this little guy SO much, and cannot imagine life without him in it.

A few facts about 2 year old Benjamin:

1. He worships Claire. He will follow her, cry when when we drop her off at school, and mimic her. This includes accessorizing with tiaras and jewellery which has caused Shawn to panic a bit, but I reassured him that even my uber manly brothers had their "dress up" moments as kids. That's what comes of having an older sister.

2. He is nearly reflux free. Hard to even picture this sweet, pleasant (mostly) boy as the screaming baby who was in constant pain. We are SO thankful that he is better, and I'm no longer a candidate for the looney bin.

3. He is LOUD! I know all boys tend to be loud, but, good grief! Everything is said at least 2 decibels louder than the average human.

4. He is not a fan of milk. Not that I blame him, but we are wondering if he might have some food allergies too.

5. He still has bumps on his arms and legs. Again, wondering about the allergy thing here.

6. He loves to give hugs. Actually, he calls them "squeezes," and they are aptly named.

7. When he wants me to hold him, get him out of bed or pick him up, he will say, "Mommy, need you." Who can resist that one?

8. He has suddenly developed a fear of alligators. Not sure where this one came from, but I suspect it has something to do with the crocodile on Disney's Peter Pan. He will say, "ayayayayaaligator get me, mommy, need you." I'm not sure if this is an actual fear or just another way of getting me to pick him up and hold him. He's a smart little stinker.

9. He is a HORRIBLE teether. It takes forever and a day for the teeth to break through, and the fussy, hands in the mouth, non-sleeping phase that is supposed to only last 3-5 days will typically last a month or so for him. This current teething trial (2 year molars) resulted in a scare at Walmart yesterday. He was chewing on one of Claire's bead bracelets (I know, bad mommy), and he broke it and swallowed one of the beads. Well, I'm not actually sure the bead went down, but he choked for a second and then said that it did go down his "froat." As instructed by the doctor, I am still awaiting its arrival from the nether regions, but it has yet to show itself. We shall see.

10. He loves his bink, to swing, and to pretend to cut the grass or vacuum. However, he is terrified of the actual vacuum and lawn mower - way too loud!

11. He is learning to jump. Right now his jump is a knee bend followed by one foot being lifted into the air.

12. He has the best laugh ever and the sweetest chubby cheeks that jiggle and bounce up and down when he runs. Shawn calls it the "Baywatch bounce." HA!

Happy Birthday little man, porkchop, little monkey, buddy boy. We love you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dad's Wedding

There is not much that can prepare a child (of any age) for attending a parent's wedding. Generally (though not as often these days, unfortunately) the order of things is usually switched, marriage then kids. But, I've come to realize about my life, more so in the last five years than ever before, that it's never really what I expect it to be. Too often I find myself wishing that, like my two year old son who so often now yells about not getting his way, I too could throw a fit about this crazy life that keeps changing. Change is not often a fun or desirable thing, but, every once and a while, it is a very good thing too.

My father's wedding took place this past weekend. It was a wonderful time to visit with family, see friends from many years past, and rejoice in the new happiness in my dad's life. It's been a long time coming for him, and we are extremely thankful for SueAnne and her addition to our family. And yet, despite the overwhelming happiness of the day, it cannot be denied that a certain sadness existed for me as well. A sadness for what was, what was lost, and for what cannot be regained. However, seeing how happy my dad is, how happy SueAnne is and how happy they are together is really evidence that, truly, sometimes, change is a good thing.

I've posted several pictures from the weekend.

Jesse and Zeke at the rehearsal dinner at Marion's Pizza. Can't get this type of pizza anywhere but Centerville. Jesse just put a huge bite in his mouth, and Zeke is grinning like the little stinker he is. Don't let that angelic smile fool you.
Shonda and Tristyn
Claire and Kayli at the wedding
This picture cracks me up. We all met at the church and hour and a half before the wedding to get all the pictures taken. Surprisingly, the whole family was on time. The photographer, however, was not. The picture below is dad's first glimpse of SueAnne in her dress. The horrified look on her face has nothing to do with her feelings for dad, but instead, dad (ding-dong) chose that moment to tell her the photographer was late!
I had to include this picture of Shawn and Ben. Ben was only present for the pictures and didn't actually stay for the wedding. We knew that keeping him occupied during the service was not going to be easy, so he left to go take a nap at Grandma's house.
The photographer did finally show up, and, I think, was able to get all the pictures taken. As you can see, my camera did not agree well with the lights she set up.
Who sings in their own wedding? Um, my dad and SueAnne do. Actually, they sang one song together, and my dad sang another song to SueAnne later in the ceremony. A poem he wrote for SueAnne was also read earlier, and there were more than a few men grumbling afterwards that dad had ruined it for all the other men there. Writing poems AND singing to her?
The vows
Happiness personified
Instead of descending to the depths of the church basement for the reception, it was held outside on the lawn. The weather was a HUGE gamble, but it ended up being a great day. A little warm at times, but still very nice.
Bud and Gran B flew in from Florida
Claire and her Papa

After the cake reception at the church, immediate family (sans kidlets) had dinner at Carver's - yum. It's not often that Shawn and I get to dress up for anything and go anywhere without the kids, so I had Seth take a picture of us at the dinner reception.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Noah Timothy Browning

Despite being scheduled for an induction on Wednesday night (the 10th) which would, most certainly, have resulted in Amy giving birth on the morning of September 11th, this little guy had his own agenda. Amy went into labor on her own on Wednesday morning, and Noah was safely born that night at 10:30. We were thrilled at his timely arrival. Though we all professed to Zach (to his face, anyway) that his son being born on September 11th really wouldn't have been a big deal, I'm pretty sure we were all secretly horrified at the thought. Imagine having that birthday and it being commemorated every year with a memorial for all those lost on that dreadful day. I'm sure it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to him, and, with time, the stigma of that day will surely lessen (sad though that is), but, still, we are glad he came a bit early! Welcome to the world, newest nephew!!

Though the hairy beastliness of his father has not been passed on to him (though, puberty will tell for sure), I would say that little Noah favors his papa. He has almost no hair, and what he does have could really only be properly included in the blond "fuzz" category.
This little cutie wasn't so little, actually. Weighing in at 8 lbs. 9 oz., he gave his momma a run for her money. As all mommas know, labor is most certainly aptly named.

Proud Aunt Naomi, Nomi, or Mimi, whatever. I'm cool with it.
I'm not cool with my greasy face in this picture, however, but that's what comes with traveling in the car all day and then racing to the hospital as soon as I could.

As I told her, Amy looks pretty darn good for having given birth just the day before. Hello, makeup? I was impressed. I looked like death warmed over, and could have cared less. Poor thing had a horrible time with her epidural. She had a "wet tap" the first time, and it had to be redone. Even worse, the messed up epidural has caused awful headaches. The doctor told her, not to worry, they should be gone in two weeks. TWO WEEKS!??? I think I would have punched him in the face. But that's just me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First Day of School

Claire started her first day of Pre-K last Friday. On Wednesday of last week, we went to a brief orientation meeting, and she was able to see her new classroom and meet her teachers, Ms. Robin and Ms. Shana (apparently, in the South, teachers don't have last names until you get to "real school."). She was happy with her new classroom, as it not only had a computer with computer games, but it also is home to the class pet fish (yet to be named) and various "cool" new toys.

Unlike the anxiety that colored last year's first day, this year's first day was full of excitement and anticipation, mostly due to the fact that Alexandra, her best friend from last year, is in her class again. As you can see from the pictures, she was all smiles about her new dress (thanks, Grandma) and her new Tinkerbell backpack.

Here she is outside her classroom. No tears!

Now that several school days have passed, she has informed me that she has a new best friend - Riley (female). Actually, Claire seems to think that her name is Rolly, but I kinda doubt that (though who knows these days, huh?). Anyway, it seems poor Alexandra threw a fit and told Riley to leave her friend (Claire) alone. Claire, ever the peacemaker, calmly informed Alexandra that she would have enough time to play with both of them. While I certainly don't like the idea of girls fighting each other for friends (cat fights aren't supposed to happen till jr. high, right?), it does this mama's heart good to know that Claire has more friends than she can play with all at the same time. This is a far cry from last year when this little girl would constantly come home from school and tell me that she just played by herself that day.

So, here's to more cat fights! Just kidding . . . sort of.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jeff and Allison's Wedding

Well, it happened a week ago today, and I'm finally getting the pictures up. Jeff, Shawn's older brother, got married to Allison on the 31st of August in Youngstown, Ohio. I'm not sure who has been waiting for this wedding longer, Linda or Claire. I wonder if Linda had started to give up on Jeff ever deciding to get married (sorry Jeff!), and Claire has been in a state of constant anticipation, so excited to see Allison in her beautiful dress, dance at the reception, and, most importantly, eat wedding cake.
This picture of Allison walking in with her father is about the only view of the wedding that I had. Shawn was best man, and Claire sat with relatives, so, in order to keep Ben from yelling out during the ceremony, I tried to keep him occupied in the concert hall next door.
I took this picture of Ben and me while trying to keep him occupied during the ceremony.
The picture above and the one below were taken during the receiving line after the ceremony. Claire wanted to be as close to Allison as absolutely possible. The picture below is of Jeff, Shawn, Linda (mom) and Sam (dad).

The new Mr. and Mrs. Black
Dr. Conn and Darlia were there so that he could officiate the ceremony.

This picture makes me laugh. Mrs. Conn took it of Shawn while he was giving the best man speech. I, as during the ceremony, was out of the room keeping Ben occupied.

Sam, amused at his grandchildren running wild during the reception.

This picture was supposed to be only of Shawn and me, but Claire ran into the frame at the very last second.

The whole family, all dressed up!

Claire danced as many songs as she could. If we weren't on the floor with her, she would move over and dance with any of the people who were. Here she is cutting a rug with Aunt Becky.

Claire was waiting to dance with her daddy all night long, and she was NOT happy when he decided to dance with someone else. She actually started crying when he danced with me. I was starting to wonder if her name was Elektra.

This wedding and my dad's upcoming wedding next weekend have, of course, made weddings and getting married a VERY popular topic in our house. Yesterday, Claire wanted to watch our old wedding video. While we were laughing throughout the whole thing (mostly at Brad and Merica being dorks while mocking the videographer), Claire was carefully analyzing the whole production.

She has always told me that she wants to marry daddy, and she asked me yesterday if she could wear my wedding dress when she gets married. I told her she could, and then she asked me to show her on her back how far down the veil will hang. She's really serious about this. A bit much, but fine, she can dream, right?

Well, last night, she had an interesting conversation with Shawn. I wasn't present, but it went something like this:

Claire: Why do you have rings when you get married?

Shawn proceeds to explain. She then wants to know where I got my ring and where he got his ring.

Claire: Don't worry daddy, you can take mommy's ring with you when we move into the hotel.

Shawn: Move into the hotel? What do you mean?

Claire: Everybody moves into a hotel after they get married. You can take the ring mommy gave you, so that you can remember her when we get married. Don't worry, we'll call mommy sometimes and see how Ben's doing or when Ben's birthday is.

Um... yep, Elektra for sure.

Grandma dancing with Ben

The highlight of the evening was the bouquet toss. I know it's difficult to see in this picture, but the girl in front lunged for the bouquet, missed it and nearly did the splits. The bouquet? It fell on the floor right in front of Claire.
Allison and Claire along with the hard won bouquet.

Stop Mom! No more pictures!