Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here was today's Advent Calendar prize. Jack was all too happy to place him in our manger.

Blessings to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Traditions on The Ranch

I have been meaning to write several posts in the past few weeks, and those weeks FLEW by.  I cannot believe that we are only days away from Christmas! 

Now that the boys are getting a bit older and wiser, and because we were home for the holidays this year without any travel plans, I really focused this year on making sure we were creating some holiday traditions that would grow in our little family to be well remembered and cherished as the years pass.  Cory and I are very conscious of creating our family "identity" these days and there is no better time than at the holidays when he is not traveling as much and everyone is in a pretty joyful mood to capture that spirit.

When I was growing up we had an advent calendar.  It was a square piece of felt with a simple felt Christmas Tree and 25 pockets across the bottom.  Each year Mom hung it in the kitchen and filled the pockets with the 25 little ornaments that had velcro on the back and each day leading up to Christmas we took turns picking out of the pocket (you never knew which one you'd get!) and attaching them to the tree.  The last one though was always the same, Baby Jesus in the walnut shell.  Last year my mother sent us a wall advent calendar.  No tree, but 25 pockets to fill.  I wish I had thought of  just putting 25 ornaments and letting the boys put them on the tree, but I wasn't that brilliant so early in the year.  Instead we have our own elf, well one that actually requires some imagination as ours is too shy to actually see (that Elf on the Shelf guy kind of freaks me out!).  Our elf comes each night when we are sleeping and tucks away a new treat for that day.  This year we've had the usual chocolate kisses, chocolate gold coins, PEZ, and even some of the cereal that the reindeer (Corn Pops) and elves (Lucky Charms) eat.  Let me tell you, the prospect of a chocolate candy at 6am on a school day really jolts my kids out of bed.  We've never been out of the house faster all year long! 

The real fun of it though is their imaginations coming out.  Jack regularly goes to the fireplace (that's where the elf comes into the house, just like Santa) and tells the elf thank you, and occaissionally gives him suggestions on what might be a good treat for the next day.  And on a few occaissions when he hasn't particularly liked what the elf brought on a particular day, it's served as a learning lesson of how to be appreciative to receive something at all.  We even had a morning that the elf "forgot!" - the stinker was at a Christmas party the night before and was headed to our house very late (or early) the next day and since Mommy and Daddy were already up and having breakfast he didn't want to come in since he's so shy.  So Mommy told everyone to go back up to their room with Daddy while she turned off all the lights and put the dogs in the garage for 5 minutes while he snuck in.  WHEW!  That is one smart elf! 

I'm really excited for Saturday however, because we've been talking and looking at our nativity quite a bit and why there is a crib with no baby in it.  Pocket #25 will hold our Baby Jesus for the boys to lay in the manger.

And speaking of the true meaning of Christmas, we have been talking non stop about Christmas being the celebration of Jesus' birthday and that all the excitement is really for that big event.  A wonderful friend of mine from church, Mallory Carrington (who's dad was a former Packer by the way), gave me a fabulous way to tie in Santa's gift and Jesus' Birthday.  Each child receives 3 gifts from Santa, just as Jesus received 3 gifts from the wisemen.  I know some people don't participate in the Santa tradition at all as the topic was recently very eloquently discussed by one of my favorite bloggers Mom-101, but for us, we enjoy watching the kids believe in something they can't see just for the innocence and hope it creates in their heart.  Isn't that the basis for faith?  And I believe that someday as long as we continue to do our daily devotions and create a heart for Christ in our kids, they will not be confused but understand that there shouldn't be separation between the life they live between Sundays.

We've been doing all the other fun stuff, singing Christmas carols in the car - I LOVE my children for liking the Rat Pack over the regular versions, spotting Santa all over town (Duke is not so big a fan this year), the Polar Express train, ABC Family Christmas specials and even a great new one sent in by Grandma - a Christmas countdown!  They sent one home the first of the month from school, a picture of Santa Claus with the instructions to paste a cotton ball to his beard for each day to count down to Christmas.  The boys liked what Grandma sent to them better...and they don't look nearly as pretty four days before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Big, Little Man

What a month, and what a way to cap it off with a couple of birthday celebrations!

I would be remiss if I didn't at least post (very quickly) that my better half has entered another milestone, yep, 40. And he did it well, without pomp and circumstance (which is the way I think he wanted it).

However, I believe we both have a desire to just fly past this next birthday and go on to better things, like the fact our baby boy is now 3! And this blog would just not be complete if I didn't take a post to include pictures of how our several celebrations turned out for Duke.

Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the Rath family.  It's the one absolute certain time of year that the entire family gathers in Tennessee at Grandma's house to celebrate the holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas and since three of the family have birthdays that fall that week as well, it's birthdays too - Cory on the 26th, my nephew Kevin on the 28th and Duke on the 30th.  This year that meant #'s 40, 17 and 3.  Wow.  And grandma always comes through with plenty of sweets.

The funniest part of the approach to Duke's birthday this year is that about 3 weeks ago, Cory made an off-handed comment about how his birthday was "coming up".  Of course, in 3 year old speak, that usually means sometime before the next major meal he's going to have.  I remember it clearly, it was a Sunday and on the way to church he kept saying "It's my Birthday!" to which Cory would reply, "Not yet Duke, it's coming up soon."  I didn't think much of it, until we were on the way home from church and again it came up a few times, "It's my Birthday Mommy!".  Slowly it became clear, this kid seriously thinks that today is his birthday.  Uh oh.  Yep, that afternoon we had an actual birthday party to attend for a sweet little friend of Jack's, however as we prepped to leave the house the "It's my Birthday" turned to "We are going to My Party!" and "I get presents!".  Uh oh.

So after a few rounds of trying to reason with my 2 year old, soon to be 3 year old - not really a reasonable possiblity, and I must add he gave his #1 fit thrower brother a run for his money, we got in the car.  I figured at worst the child would finally figure it out when the birthday cake showed up in front of Sophia to blow out the candles.  If there was a fit to be had at that point, I'd just deal with it then.  But just like he always does, Duke came through and suprised me when I least expected it.  As we drove to the party, slowly he started to reason things out himself.  If there was a way I could have bottled that day, I would have. 

He started the trip with "It's My Birthday!, Daddy said so Mommy!" in a bit of a shout - I'm serious, he pulled out the "Daddy knows more than you do Mommy!" attitude - can you believe it, well actually I can given my rank in the house between this kid and his dad.  Nonetheless, I reassured him that his birthday was coming in a few weeks, it wasn't today, but soon.  Slowly the rant changed to a question, "It's my Birthday Mommy?" to which I responded, no, not yet, but soon, in a few weeks.  And that's when a magic mom moment hit - "It's your birthday when we go to Grandma's house!"  And there became my savior, Duke now had a moment and place in time he could relate his birthday to.  It got real quiet in the car for a bit, Jack had conked out and I had assumed Duke had as well since there was not a peep out of the back for at least 5 minutes (that's like an eternity in my world).  Then all of a sudden, in a near whisper from the back seat came

"Mommy, it's not my birthday today."

It was as if he was resigned to the fact and finally acknowledging it to himself.  And in that moment, he shined.  Duke has always been quick to figure things out.  He's lucky as he has a big brother that's not so much bigger that he can follow along with.  But in spite of that advantage, he's always interpreted situations so quickly.  It's a quality in him that is quiet but when you see it in action, you know it's special.   And by the time we arrived at the party, my sweet, strong, quiet amazing 2 year old was sharing with everyone that it was not his birthday, YET, but it would be his birthday when he went to Grandma's house!

So, in the spirit of Duke's birthday, it was a big bang the first night of our trip to Tennessee with a cupcake cake by Grandma, in the shape of a 3, with Darth Vader to cap it off (Duke's favorite villian!)

But the fun didn't end there for our birthday boy.  Upon returning from Tennessee we would be remiss not to continue our tradition of waking up our little guys on their birthday with a cupcake lit with a candle in their bed - so Monday a.m. in walked Daddy and me with a cupcake, lit up with candle in the dark and a shiny new vintage Darth Vader figure for him.  A day early, yes, but because of some required arranging of Daddy's travel schedule and the fact Duke shares a birthday with one of his school friends we opted to have his party at school on the 29th rather than 30th.  And I'm sure Duke approved moving up the opening of presents by a day had he known any better.

How's this for a smile at 5:45a.m.!?

All of it was wonderful - the Star Wars cake at school was a hit, the party hats, Duke's being bashful (!) as his classmates sang Happy Birthday, opening his presents, it was all a part of such an amazing day.  But nothing can quite express how fabulous it was as much as Duke himself!

Happy Birthday my little big man.  You make my heart smile everyday in ways I can't express.  I just know that someday you will be the one that holds Mommy's heart in his hand bigger than any other.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween (Really Glad Ours Ended Friday!)

Ok, I'll be the naysayer, I am not really a fan of Halloween.  Never have been, and at this point in my life, I don't think there's a big chance that will change.  As a kid, I never was that good at coming up with creative costumes and as seemingly outgoing as I am (and as you all think I am - thanks for those great comments on my previous post), the thought of standing in front of someone's door who I don't know and asking them to give me something in return for nothing never was an easy thing for me.  It's the something for nothing that's tough - although I'd do anything for anyone no strings attached, I struggle in accepting the opposite, I know, I too am sure therapy is needed sometime yet in my future.

With kids though, can't really avoid it.  However I am thankful that because of where we live, I can minimize it some instead of it dragging out over the entire weekend when it falls on a Sunday.

Don't get me wrong, for those of you that LOVE Halloween, I don't wish to squash your enjoyment.  I am just glad that we are somewhat removed from the subdivision insanity of trick or treating, candy up to our eyeballs and 16 year olds still trying to capitalize on a kiddie holiday.

But again, with kids, gotta participate and so about a month ago I started the inevitiable inquiries, great big smile on my face and uplifting voice "What do you want to be for Halloween?"  A part of me wanted to hear "A Fireman and Policeman!" or "Pirates!", anything somewhat simple and generic and more creative than just a character on a movie that would just shout "Yes, my kids watch more TV than I'd like to admit..."

The answer and inevitable costumes:

And the irony was not lost on me that Duke wanted to be the "bad guy" while Jack dressed up as "peaceful" Yoda.  Their personalities fit pretty well with their choices. 

And so as the days passed and Halloween grew closer, we did all activities that fall affords, the pumpkin patch, carving our own creations, roasting pumpkin seeds and school parties...all leading up to the big kahuna - Trick or Treating.

Luckily for us country folk with homes are too far apart to allow for door to door cavity collection, our quaint town and county seat again hosted the "Monster Walk" in downtown Columbiana on Friday from 4-6 which meant we went straight from a day of Halloween dress up, activities and parties at school to trick or treating door to door at the businesses downtown.  The weather was gorgeous and plenty of people packed the streets.  Both boys were not shy to go up and ask for their treat, although Duke was a bit freaked out by McGruff the crime dog - he pretty much took a wide sweep out of the way to avoid him, and a couple of boys that were dressed as Mario and Luigi video game characters wtih oversize puffy hands until they took the gloves off so he could see they had real hands and then was calm enough to high five them.  But by 6pm we were able to finish our walk around the square and walk into our favorite local place, Bernie's, and have a nice meal to cap off our scary holiday tradition.

That's right, we were DONE! on October 29th!  Unlike all the other subdivisions that had voted to either trick or treat Saturday or Sunday, I had no children having to dress up yet again and bring home more candy to the house that I'd have to fight with them about not eating (or have Cory hide so I didn't eat it!) and we could have the rest of our weekend to enjoy this incredible weather quietly instead of crazily. 

Or maybe it's just not the same as it was back on William Street with sidewalks and darkness coming early because the time change was still in October.  Where the neighbors around the corner on Ruby Street saved pennies all year and gave us a baggie filled with them which was sweeter than any candy.  We got to finally stay up late and see all the decorations lit in everyone's yards and when we were older, trapse over to Florence Avenue where that neighborhood really put on the show to see who's house was the scariest. 

Maybe that's why Halloween isn't my favorite anymore, it's not the same as when you were a kid.  Hope our little monster walk and traditional Bernie's supper is enough for my two little guys to look back on and enjoy someday - at least it will be for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seeing Me

This year I have spent quite a bit of time reaching inside to figure out who I really am.  Whoa, deep, I know.
I think it's because I am very quickly approaching another decade, or it could be that I have been playing so many different roles in life right now that I am searching for significance among them.   I also have begun to see others around me that I find myself defining based on the significant roles in their lives.

I think everyone probably goes through stages where one or two roles supercede most others, but for me, I'm really attempting to nail down the one or two that define me in the view of others, the particular traits that when my name is mentioned are what my friends and family think of first, because I feel that by growing that particular role in my life, I can contribute more significantly to this world than I can if I try to perfect say 10 things and do each of them "fairly well", instead of  INCREDIBLY well.

I will admit that in this past year, I have thought that way about several people I've met.  Not so much narrowly defining them or compartmentalizing them - although as I write this it probably sounds like I am, but more that when they come across my mind, it's what I first associate with them as impressive and passionate in their lives.  For example, there are some women I know who are incredibly fashionable and can pick out clothes and always look amazing, I do not have this ability but I know that if I needed advice in that area, they'd be the first person I'd call; some women have a gift for cooking - if I am in a rut with meals, I can call her and I know it would be easy for her to throw out a months worth of ideas; some women are incredibly patient parents, when I'm on my last nerve, I can call them and get a boost of confidence that I'm not screwing things up.  I guess that could be different for anyone's experience with another person and so I probably need an example to illustrate, but I also don't want to offend anyone in the process.

My question here - what am I about to others?  How do others SEE me?  If I could do something that I'm doing now in a much improved way or really focus on a skill, what is it that I would most likely succeed above and beyond anyone else trying to do that same thing?

I know I have special talents, what I really want to know is what special talents do others view in me?  I think if I focus on those, that I might have a shot at taking my life, my family, my marriage, my career, to the next level. 

So, my 11 followers, and anyone else that happens upon this post that knows me, well or not.  Please share, don't be afraid, be honest.  I promise that I will not be offended in any way.  I'm not looking for a boost of confidence, I'm looking to GROW, and I'm stuck in moving forward without help.  I'm asking for it here, and I'm desperately searching to see me. 

All you have to do is click on the little "comments" link below this post, type in your comment and complete the word verification - really it's not that hard.  And it could change my life (and yours) for the better!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Fun Begins

I love fall. Love it Love it Love it. (And really loved it last night when my Badgers pulled out an amazing victory against the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes!)

This weekend was our real first feel of fall. It's been in the 40s at night this week, the leaves are starting to turn and fall festivals are abundant.

We started off on Friday shaky with a phone call from daycare around 3:15 "Jack has a stomach bug" so early pickup and home we went. However it was apparent after a few hours that whatever it was, wasn't long lasting, and even more apparent as he finished off a big supper with no after effects. We also got a welcome phone call from Linda and Joe Grauwels, long time friends of my parents - you know, those friends that no matter what direction life takes, they will be there - and set some plans in motion to meet up on Saturday, since they are visiting Birmingham with relatives. And meet up we did. Duke and I picked up Linda in Chelsea and brought her to see the house and have lunch and visit. It was so wonderful to share a glimpse of our life here with someone from home.  It would have been better to get Jack to join us for the photo op, but I'll take what I can get.

Sunday brought a wonderful morning at church - gotta love having Pastor Chris deliver another wonderful message which closed with one of my most favorite verses, "Be very careful , then, how you live --not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." Ephesians 5:15-17

And for the afternoon, we wisely took the kids, along with Adam and Crystal, Elli and Noah to the Grand Ole' Pumpkin Patch for some fall fun.

Yes, that is Jack - NO FEAR on the bouncer slides.  Duke, feared, until he did it once, then ALL ABOUT IT!  But didn't catch him on film unfortunately!

We skipped the overpriced tractor and hay rides, since we can do that at home for free :) and I think the guys might consider the $25 helicopter rides next year, but there were bounce houses, a pettting zoo (ok, a few rabbits in a hutch, two pot bellied pigs, a couple puppies, some goats and a few ponies and cows which wanted nothing to do with any of us, and then - pony rides!   The last of which would have been better if either of my children had actually done it and my oldest not decided as we left our turn in line that he really wanted to go after all.   That's ok, I don't mind that feeling of having my heart ripped out as I have to tell my child, "I'm sorry baby, you missed your turn and we can't go back (because there are 30 more people in line)"...hopefully it will be one of those life lessons learned, right?  Let's just say, I'm at least lucky that we got a few photo opps prior to that episode - though side note - he did catch on pretty quick to the situation and what consequences he would face if he didn't get himself together, so Natalie I can admit to progress outside of the house too!  Plus, FINALLY a new family photo (not perfect but do-able) - only about a year overdue!

We capped off the day with a last minute decision for a campfire in the fire pit and roasting hot dogs and smore's with the Schobers while the kids ran around playing until dark (7pm here these days).   A perfect end to an "unplanned" weekend. 

Did I mention I LOVE fall?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


You know those times when you don't realize how much your kids are really learning and it blows you away?  I had one of those moments this weekend when I discovered that not just Jack but Duke knows the entire Pledge of Allegiance, by heart.  Jack has never in 4 years mentioned it or demonstrated it.  Something on Sunday on our way home from the park sparked an impromtu serenede from the back of the car and so I figured I'd share it.  Because it's the only way you can really appreciate the effort.

Was that "to the Republic for which it stands" or "to the real Publix"?  I can't quite tell.  But maybe we are going to the grocery store just a bit too much as a threesome lately.

And yes, that's me in the backround cracking up when I hear Duke's "shun shiny faces" I thought they were done with "justice for all". The rest was all new to me last night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Little Late for Babies

I get lots of ideas for posts, just never time to post them.

About a week ago, this little fella made his way to our pond.  Not the bigger guy in the lower right but the smaller one in the upper part of the picture.  I think it's a baby goose, but this time of year?  In any case, he visited for several hours, snuggled up to the decoy who resides in our water to keep the anchor rope afloat for the water trampoline and gave us a little treat.

I just hope he found his momma. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Potty Training Without the Training

Can you really call it potty training if there is no training involved?

Been a big week at the Rath house.  Duke went from pull ups to underpants, so in about 5 minutes flat I saved $40 a month on my daycare costs and $50 a month in pull up costs.  I feel like I just got a raise for job performance.

About a month ago we tried one Saturday morning to see how it'd go and after peeing on the floor several times I figured we were in for a long haul again.  Jack was a nightmare - but the more I think about that experience the more I believe he was pushed too early because of room changes at daycare and had we given him the 8 months we'd spent training, he probably would have mastered it like Duke has.  Really Huggies "Enjoy the Ride" as the marketing campaign - well, I didn't.

But after last week when Duke woke up 4 out of 7 nights completely dry...hmmm, Jack still doesn't, but somethings going on.  So Saturday afternoon we put 'em on and nary an accident since.  (note I am not yet bold enough for nighttime, but since Jack is still not dry at night, I'm going to let that one go for now)

Wow.  That kid is good.  And this mom is $90 bucks happier.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And On His Farm He Had A...

Since our fabulous new loft bedroom premiered in early July, I have been attempting (begging) to find a consistent bedtime routine.  It started very ugly on my part.  It's pretty hard to go from snuggles and lullabies and soothing nite-nites - one of which never took more than about 30 seconds to put to bed, to two giggling giddy toddlers who have probably the coolest room ever (it beats the heck out of OUR room) and who are seemingly wound down until they get into their sleeping spaces, or should I call them "The Boys' Most Awesome Fort Ever" and decide it's a whole new place to jump around, talk to one another and climb under each others sheets.  The ugly - me stomping up and down the stairs threatening them within an inch of their lives with "IT'S NITE-NITE!  GO TO SLEEP!"  (Caps intended to read as if I was screaming because on several nights in the past two months, I was  - cringing admittance that I yell at my kids.)

Well, somewhere in the past month, I gave up.  I guess I got tired of listening to myself and tired of those stairs - after all they are the only ones on the whole property that are not part of a ladder.  So one night, I just let 'em have at it.  The next morning, I found Duke sleeping next to Jack which made me melt into an ooey gooey mess of a moment - my kids love one another!

Since then, for the most part, it's been working better - gee could it have been ME all along causing the delay? - cringing admittance I need to yell less and let it go more.  Typical routine has become- we read a book in the rocking chair, then some nights when it's not too late, we read a page of our devotional for toddlers, then Duke is up the ladder to his bed and laying down while I rock Jack and sing our old standby, Hush Little Baby (yep Mom, we still sing that song and I think of you every time I've done it for 4 years now - twice a night for nearly 3 of those), then Jack's up the ladder to his bed, rub his back a minute; me-"I love you very much" Jack-"I love you too" me-"Nite-Nite" Jack-"Nite-Nite", I go to Duke's bed, rub his back, sing Hush Little Baby, me-"Give me a kiss" kiss, me-"Nite-Nite", Duke-"Nite-Nite", check Jack for one last kiss, down the stairs and lights out.  I'm done.

Not bad given where we started from.  The only glitch, occassionally Duke likes to sing REALLY LOUDLY before completely passing out from exhaustion on the nights when he's overtired.

Tonight's chosen tune?  Old McDonald.  Except the farmer only has a chicken.  And he sang it three times, while I attempted to concentrate on making it all the way through Hush Little Baby with Jack without busting out a laugh that would bounce both of us out of the rocking chair.  I mean after the 2nd round of "And on his farm he had a................CHICKEN!  E-I-E-I-O!"  You would have been close to wetting your own pants, trust me. 

So I rush though the rest of the lullaby as I can safely without losing my composure figuring at any minute the chicken is going to turn into a cow or pig, get Jack in bed, only to find Duke - out cold. 

I could have sworn there were feathers laying near his pillow in the dark of the room.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome to the 4's!

Another birthday came and went...well that's what Cory and I will be saying about this year's festivities for us.  Jack had a great one as he rolled into his 4's.  It was a mixed theme - Starwars and Pirates.

We celebrated simply this year after last year's big joint Jack/Duke birthday bash.  Just a cake at school and presents at home.  But simple it was not apparently.

I need to just get it into my head that Jack really needs major advance preparation and reminders for any event that is outside the typical normal day.  I mean why do I torture myself thinking this is going to be the last exhibition of a being overwhelmed by attention moment he will have.  He's the one on the right by the way.  On the left - his completely opposite tempered brother.  I should have reminded his teachers to warn him when leaving the playgound, he's only been in the room a couple of weeks, they wouldn't have had any chance at knowing what result would come of him walking into his classroom to find me and his father with a the big pirate birthday cake he has been drooling over at the Publix bakery every week for nearly a year and all the tables decorated with pirate plates and hats ready to sing him a great big Happy Birthday song!

Instead, upon entering the room and surveying the scene, a crumpled mess he became on the floor and I spent about 15 minutes trying to console him and calm him down while assuring his teachers it was ok to let the other kids share in the cake and not to worry, that this was "normal" for us.  Let's face it, although he is a sweet, kind, wonderful, curteous, happy child 90% of the time, it's the 10% of instantaneously being overwhelmed by too many people, too different a situation that I struggle to figure out.

Ahhhh hindsight, 20/20.

A much better moment came at 5:45am - guess he's a morning person like his parents.

The best part of the day was waking him up in bed, along with Daddy who had been gone a full week, with his birthday cupcake lit up with a candle in the dark.  Something I started last year and which I cannot wait to repeat in 3 months for Duke for his 3rd birthday.  Alongside the cupcake, some small seemingly insignificant trinket or figure, but one that has been so wanted for so long that you would think I was handing a 16 year old keys to his first car.  Last year it was Guido and Luigi from Pixar's Cars.  This year, the Battleship Droid Commander.

We did make it through the party at school and returned home to a quiet night of opening and playing with our fantastic presents (I still have lots of thank you's to send out!).  He was a trooper even insisting Duke open some of his presents for him and they've been sharing them ever since.  I just hope we see the same generosity in a couple months.

Best line of the week came yesterday when out of the clear blue Jack pipes up from the back seat, "Hey Mommy!  Hey, I'm 4 now!!!!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

A New Zoo

Don't have a heart attack, it's true.  3 blogs in 6 days.  I may have a heart attack.  But there's too much good stuff going on and not enough time to call and chat with anyone.

As many of you know, Cory left last Tuesday (technically it was Tuesday, but in my bedroom it was Monday night at 2am), for a "work" trip to Wyoming with two salesmen from one of his biggest accounts for the hunting trip they earned for selling his many product lines this year.  Really, it's for work.  For me, it's 7 full days, including Labor Day weekend, plus the kids were out of daycare on Friday 1/2 day for Teacher Inservice and it's one of the two busiest times of the year for me at work with an upcoming buying show in Ft. Worth I have to prepare our people and systems for - ironically which he will be attending, after a 24 hour stay at home Wednesday this week, until next Monday night.  (Seriously, which one of you will be nominating me for Wife/Mom of the Year? - Kidding, I'm more of a "do" than "be")

So back to our weekend. 

I couldn't bear to think of a full weekend at the house with just me and the Younglings.  We did that just about all summer because with Cory's schedule each week (gone...), he really wanted to be home on the weekends and even if I didn't, I did want to spend them with the kids.  So this weekend it was all about them and me and anywhere we could be, other than home.

Friday, I picked them up at noon and we headed straight downtown to the McWane Science Center.  A tremendous place, with hands on exhibits, an indoor playground, mini aquarium and shark/ray touch tank (they are not brave enough just yet)  and right now special exhibit with Mr. Potato Head characters.  We even took in a feature at the IMAX Theather - Bugs!, which was probably not worth it for them since it was really a documentary type nature film, although I enjoyed the 45 minute seat and popcorn.  Well I did, after Duke calmed down from the theater going black and crying "I want to go Bye Bye!" about 20 times that first 5 minutes.

Overall - fabulous day for us, they are showing me how much they are growing up in these experiences by really paying attention, catching new ideas and behaving! 

Saturday, our first official "Stay Home" day of the weekend and I was blessed by them sleeping in until 8:30 - hooray!  We had to get to the grocery store, so we did a bit of that, stopped by Lowe's for some birdseed and a new pot of Russian Sage (I can't stand deadended summer plants, had to put something new in the garden) and of course called MiMi to wish her a Happy 65th Birthday!  (I know you are loving me telling the world that one mom!)

Sunday, Church Day, brought us to a morning of refreshment (they serve Starbucks at Church of the Highlands!) and an afternoon of guests.  "Aunt" Kay and boyfriend Dale joined us for the last of the lake days (it was a bit brisk in the water having dipped into the 50s the previous 2 nights) and we enjoyed cooking out with them and having some downtime.

And after all of this...somehow I had the energy to get the boys out the door by 8:30am today and on the way for the 75 mile drive to Montgomery with promises of elephants.  That's right, a "new zoo", complete with the elusive elephant that is always "sleeping" at the Birmingham Zoo.  It was just the right size for us, we enjoyed seeing the 3 African Elephants, playing in the playground, seeing an alligator up close-like 2 feet away!-having a cheetah and a jaguar walk right in front of our noses, feed the giraffes (Duke did too, while still holding on to me for dear life, after he was convinced the giraffe was nice and not going to eat his hand) and just have somewhere new to visit.  Again, angels the whole day and bonus - Duke stayed DRY the entire visit to the zoo.  So, looks like potty training is going to take a front and center activity in our house again - oh yea!...oh yuk.

In between all of this, I got some quality snuggle time with Jack (and Buzz and Woody) since our ritual was to put on a movie after supper and which Duke promptly zonked out during the first 30 minutes, we had plenty of opportunity for life lessons - which are much easier for me to work on with the boys when it's just them and me and not a lot of other people around to distract me from my goals - and even a bonus, I guess you could call it that.  Last night Duke wet through his pull-up and woke up at 5am - waaaaay too early for a start to the day I had planned, so downstairs he came, changed, and in bed with me (gee, darn!) for a few hours before I snuck into the shower.  I'm not a fan of co-sleeping, but on the rare occaission its necessary I am not complaining when I get to snuggle with my kids in bed, that is without them wriggling and giggling around.  I even got to bend another of our "rules", which I secretly love to do but know I have to be so very careful about, and let them have Cheerios in Mommy's bed while watching Dora on the tube so I could finish getting ready and pack the car. 

It was a busy weekend, and I'm EXHAUSTED, but overall I couldn't have enjoyed it more.  It is hard being a single mom a lot of the time and the thought of weekends alone, ugh.  But when we have times like this, it's all good.  The moments that we spend "together, alone" give me an opportunity and focus to really instill in them the values I'm trying so hard to put into their hearts and have fun at the same time.  With Cory gone so much, when he is home so much of my attention is focused on him, or him with the kids, that any other moments I can grab - I tend to grab for myself.  When it's me and the Younglings...well, it's all about them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Secretly I've Always Wanted to Be The Mom in Parents Magazine

I've read them every month since Jack was born, of course now I can skip the tips on "Better Breastfeeding" and "Tap Your Baby's Hidden Talents", but I still read on. Vowing with every article, to make that recipe, craft, workout; part of next week's agenda.

Yea, well.

Today though, we made these.

Aren't they crafty, hung just perfectly.  I'm sure there will be finches covering them any minute now.

Of course, it is September, in Alabama, where it can easily hit 90 mid day which is probably hot enough to liquify the peanut butter and make our lovely pinecone bird feeders melt in a goop on the grass below.
However, I can now check this one off my list of "things I better do with my kids before they are too old to want to do them with me so they have all these great memories of growing up with me as their mom."

Or I can just be happy I came up with something to keep them busy for 5 minutes while I filled up the actual birdfeeder without "can I help, can I help" trailing behind me.

Either way, mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Funny One

Admit it, we all do it, tag our children with personality traits before they are even old enough to have personality traits.

Jack - clean, structured, precise, needy, helpful, tender hearted, wants to please, momma's boy; the serious one.

Duke - messy, if there is something that can get on him, it does, full out all the time, loud, big loving, daredevil, no fear; the funny one.

Duke wins tonite.

It's not a suprise to those that know us well, we discipline our children. We aren't perfect parents but we believe in a parenting path which involves more than time-out. I promise we aren't some crazed, strict mom and dad whose kids will show up on Maury Povich (is he still on?) 15 years from now telling their story of spending hours in a closet with no food, no water, no light for a week. We just believe that in order to change certain behaviors at this age, it can require more than discussion.

We probably started this parenting path a little late with Jack, but at this point, the times we need to visit Mommy and Daddy's room are pretty few and far between. He understands what the limits are, and really as much of a straight and narrow kid as he is naturally, grace is used successfully much more often. Except when he decides he's big enough to go to the lake on his own - then the wooden spoon reappears for a brief moment (understandably, what's worse, a pop on the bottom or him drowning?).

Duke benefitted from Jack's learning curve. Essentially he was trained in the early years that if you didn't listen to Mommy and Daddy there were consequences. So by default, he usually follows the path of the straight and narrow within one warning. "Duke, we don't ... or you will get a pop on the bottom." 'nuff said. But there is one small behavior we are working on, which brings me to tonight.

I have boys, I realize this and I give a lot of room for consideration. I do not expect them to sit at a table and color for an hour undisturbed. They are active. They need to exert their energy. No problem here. But, I have my limits. Spitting is one of them. And it seems to be one of Duke's weaknesses.

In the past two weeks I've had two drives home (mind you that means 45 minutes) in which I have spent 42.10 of those minutes explaining that we "DO NOT SPIT". It doesn't help that his brother thinks it's hilarious when he does it and all but eggs him on in his comedy show. Well tonight I calmly explained when we got home, it meant Duke would need to go to Mommy's room when we arrived. They both know what this means, which brought about an entirely new discussion of how many pops on the bottom would be required (Side note - we pop 1 time and 1 time only for an infraction, that's it, the rest is their vivid imaginations at work. Some parents discipline in other ways, this is ours.).

"Duke, how many pops will you get?"
"No, you are going to get five."
"No, I don't want five, six!"

etc. I actually heard Duke say, "I get Two Five pops!" at one point. I'm now firmly convinced he hasn't counted past ten in preschool.

We arrived, and off to Mommy's room he went. He knew, didn't run off, moaned about it on the way, but knew he deserved what was coming. I just wasn't prepared.

Up to this point, when it's time for Duke to receive the consequences for undesired action he's been fairly accepting of the punishment, usually getting down from the chair he's sitting in during the discussion of what he'd done wrong, to turn around and accept his "pop". Tonight I had a moment in which I had to control myself...not for anger - come on, they are my kids! But from falling on the floor laughing.

The child walked into our room with a book he has grown quite attached to - Going on a Bear Hunt. We've read it several times for bedtime in the past two weeks. I do it with a British accent because at school they have a book on tape they play and the reader is British which makes it even more fun. "W'aahr goin on ah Beahr Hunt, W'aahr goin to catch ah BIG one, W'ahr not scaahd" The board book.

Tonite, when he realized as he sat in the chair and I talked with him about his behavior in the car and how he disobeyed me (multiple times) and continued to spit, that he would receive a consequence for that behavior, I noticed he was putting the book under his bottom as he sat in the chair. At first, I thought it strange, but when he pulled it out from under him and said "Pop the book" I could barely keep a straight face. He continued to try and position it down behind him as he stood up. The child isn't even 3!!! I can honestly say that since we instilled this parenting path, nearly 6 months ago, he's been popped maybe 5 times, tops.

So, I'm now convinced of one thing. He's not just The Funny One. He's actually The Smart One too!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Space That Created Sanity

As promised, here is a short video walk through of the new playroom and loft bedroom that Cory built for the boys while we were gone over the 4th. (I apologize for the backround noise - that's the tower fan, so just mute your volume if it is bothersome)

I had to get the final painting done before they could take it over for their bedroom, but I managed to do that at night last week and now it is completely theirs. First night was Friday and all is going well, other than they are enjoying themselves a little too much based on the giggles and talking coming over the monitor after it's lights out. Kind of gives me the giggles - as long as they aren't getting out of bed, I'm fine with it.

Bonus - Jack now is asking to go to the potty after he's in bed which means a trip up the steps for me around 9pm each night and that has spurned Duke into new interest in doing the same - so maybe we'll get some potty training done while we are at it!

Cory and I have found new energy in reorganizing our house into an actual house instead of a storage solution for all things toy. Yet we are still sitting on the floor weekend nights cuddling with the latest Pixar movie they are hooked on. As you will see from the wall decals - that would be Toy Story - "To Infinity and BEYOND!"

I have to give Cory BIG KUDOS! The man worked like a horse to get it done while we were gone and I could not be happier with how it turned out. He really has a gift for design and building.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another First (and 4th) Down!

The challenge - traveling from Birmingham, AL to Racine, WI via air travel (and if you know Birmingham, it isn't direct to anywhere east of the Mississippi - unless Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinatti or Baltimore qualify) - ALONE with a 2 1/2 year old and 3 1/2 year old - and not losing my sanity.

I will admit, it left me a few times, but only briefly, overall we held it together, and had a WONDERFUL trip.

Really, the boys were fantastic travelers.  The most difficult was explaining to Jack why he had to sit in a seat across the aisle from Duke and me and next to some strange lady (she was VERY nice and from Sheboygan, thankful for that!) - since not only are there no direct flights from Birmingham to Milwaukee, but there are no planes with anything but 2 and 2 on the row.  I went into it prepared with new seek & find books as well as bag treats to distract at takeoff.  Unfortunately, on the way up we got wrapped into a 30 minute tarmac visit before takeoff in Birmingham which meant a lot of cajoling Jack into staying quiet in his seat.  But it worked and from Atlanta to Milwaukee, Toy Story 2 ruled the plane and we made it.

The biggest regret of the long weekend?  We didn't have enough time to settle in.  I want the boys to be able to experience where I grew up, and yet we only had 4 days to get it in.  There will be more visits, but I really wanted this trip to sink into them what kind of fun you can have in "Sconsin" as Jack calls it.

We even got an extraordinary opportunity to visit the other side of the family - we can't seem to get organized enough (or have enough vacation time!) to make a trip to Georgia to see the Eades (Patrick, Natalie, Alyssa, Kevin, Hannah & Victoria) but we managed to connect in Wisconsin and meet up at Aunt Rosie's Subway on Hwy 50 to get in a quick visit.  (Jack I will remind you someday of this one!)

From that point on off we were, to the Racine Zoo, on the Racine Trolley, to First Friday celebrations, North Beach, our first movie theater to see Toy Story 3 and the culmination of the weekend - Racine's 4th of July Parade - with plenty of family bonding in between.

If I could re-live it I wouldn't change a thing.  I would have loved to have taken them to the fireworks - it was a beautiful evening, one meant for sitting quietly and watching the bright bursts of energy over the water.  But my little guys are still little and need their sleep.  As Jack often tells me "someday..."

Thank you to Josh & Clare for opening up your home to us, I truly can't thank you enough for letting us walk all over your lives.  I enjoyed our quiet evenings together, exhausted as I was by that point each day.  And to Caroline and Quinn for sharing all your toys without hesitation.  Thank you to Charles and Ali for splitting the pizza so we adults could have what we wanted without compromising for the kids and for showing Jack the toy collection Nolan has amassed.  That one is still being commented on by said 3 1/2 year old.  I am so glad to have finally been able to hold the newest member of the family - Jonah - what a beautiful boy to add to our collection.

And Mom and Dad, I hope you got another glimpse into the lives of the little men that really make mine special.  With each visit I hope I'm putting a little of what you gave me into their hearts.

Love you all and miss you already!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Congratulations your photo has been selected...

Well friends and family.  Just for fun about 2 weeks ago I posted 6 pics to for the 2010 Cover Contest of Jack.  I told no one (those of you that know me know I like to remain behind the scenes :)  I even meant to get Duke some pics posted this weekend but never found the time.  Given that there were 85,000+ people posting, I figured it would just be for fun. 
Turns out, Jack's got a following (766 votes for him, and I don't even know those people).   I got this email today.  So at this point, what the heck - how about clicking the link below and Vote for my little guy's photo.  I could use a trip to NYC!
Click Vote for Me under his pic and type out the phrase that appears as it many steps I hate to ask, but what the heck!

Update:  Here's a direct link to Jack's pic to vote

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: <>
Sent: Tue, June 22, 2010 11:25:09 AM
Subject: Congratulations your photo has been selected...
ParentsVote Today!
Thank you for entering the Parents Magazine Cover Contest! Your photo is currently in the running to become one of our weekly Reader's Choice finalists! The photo with the most votes this week will go into our semi-final Reader's Choice round for a chance to travel to New York City for the Parents Cover Contest Photo Shoot. Official Rules.
Vote Now
Come back daily! Voting ends 6/27/2010.
Get your friends and family to vote too! Just forward this email to them or share the link.
Kids In Hats Photo Contest: Share photos of your adorable child in a hat and you could be our $250 weekly winner! Click here to enter! Official Rules
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

That Little Thing Called Life

Life, that's what's been happening people.  I know you've been checking in daily to find out what the latest excitement has been in our little corner of the world only to be sorely dissapointed to find out that for another day you will have to live in the suspense of not knowing.  Well, now you know, it was life that was happening.

That's right, and for once I just put the computer down and lived it.  (Well, maybe not down, maybe just didn't type into my browser when it was in my lap.)

Ah but all that has changed, and here I am.  And to fill you in, here are just a few highlights of the past 45 days (for your enjoyment and my attempt to update this, my electronic diary of the life of the Rath's).

I ran in a 5K and finished (and not on my hands and knees, although I will have the foresight next time to actually take the inhaler an hour before exercise like my doctor suggested so I can avoid the final 1/3 mile of wheezing from the exhaust of the idling police vehicles designed to help aid the runners in their quest to finish).  And I'm happy to report that although due to the rest of the events that follow, I had taken a slight reduction in my training schedule, I have in fact ramped it up again and am working toward consistenly hitting the track for 15 miles per week minimum.

My Dad visited for a long weekend and we planted all my landscape for this's looking mighty lovely now and although we didn't really plan it out to be, we picked the perfect weekend for him to come as it was the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Annual Plant Sale so we got some great specimens at amazing prices. I'm so looking forward to marking that weekend as his annual trip - although since the size of the wine glasses I have vs. the ones Dad is accustomed to are significantly larger I will be sure to be the one pouring the wine when we have the neighbors over for dinner and a visit during next year's trip.

We said goodbye to our very best friend in the whole world - Payton - and her Mommy Leslie, who have moved on to bigger and better things in Gaithersburg, MD.  Payton and Jack spent every weekday together at Odyssey Early School since they were just a few months old.  Leslie and I have become close friends in that time through many a parenting moment.  We miss them terribly, but know we will visit them one day without a doubt.  And we are so excited for them to also be bringing a new sister for Payton into the world this fall - maybe a little unexpected excitement given all the other craziness in their lives, but a blessed one nonetheless and one that's been much wanted for a long time.


I was able to attend 3 different meetings with the Children's Hospital Auxiliary Board and continue to stay involved in helping to formulate plans for the future of the hospital volunteer arm as they embark on the upcoming multi million dollar expansion.

Mother's Day - I got sheets.

We finished up our small group semester at church, having taken the Growing Kids God's Way parenting course and boy, did that transition our household.  Both Cory and I felt for the first time we both had a plan of action in raising our kids that not only made sense, but that we believed in and that WORKED!  We've both adopted a much calmer demeanor in handling trying moments and have honestly, lightened up in how we were managing our day to day lives.  Not sure that makes sense, but maybe I can translate that to we've taken the pressure off - of ourselves and thus off our kids.  I think we both are such perfectionists in many ways and expect so much of ourselves (and by default of others) that we had to step back and really take a look at the road we could have headed down with our kids.  Everything in context, but with the understanding there is one main rule right now in this household - Listen to Mommy & Daddy.  And when it works.  WOW.  Our kids are happier, we are happier, there is less yelling, more listening, and even GASP - obeying without being asked!  I know, shock, I'm still kind of in it.

We went on our first family vacation and not to visit family! (No offense to any of you of course, WE  LOVE TO VISIT YOU)  We spent 4 days and 4 nights in beautiful Destin, Florida at the Sandestin Hilton Resort where we laid on the beach, swam at the pool, ate out a few times and basically did nothing for the entire trip but enjoy the kids having their first experience at "the ocean!"  Absolutely the most enjoyable trip we have ever embarked on with the kids.  I actually looked over at Cory sometime during Day 2 and asked him who the kids were that were with us, because they weren't the same ones we had at home (see above paragraph, I was still in denial at the time that we actually had turned the corner in our household in the land of behavior) .  I absolutely cannot wait to go again, but alas, we may be waiting a while it seems by the looks of the oil spill and how it will affect our sugar sand shores of Alabama and Florida (no further discussion to be had here).

During all of this, I also organized our Teacher Appreciation Week at the boy's daycare.  With 50 teachers to honor and about 175 families to coordinate, I had my work cut out for me.  It was a lot of work, but I had a great group of parents that stepped up to help and it was worth every bit of extra time and effort to see the reaction of the teachers to their well deserved week of special events.  Lots of parents thought I was crazy to undertake such a mission, but that's my spiritual gift - organizing and pulling it all together - and I can't think of a better group of women (and man) to reap the benefit.

My Birthday - as of this posting I have 355 days left.

Finally, we held our 3rd Annual Memorial Day Bash at self named Sterling Creek Ranch.  Again this year, storms were part of the party, but we had about 50 people make it out and enjoy a full day of sun, storms, water, food and fun times.  Nothing makes us happier than being able to share this place we call home with friends.

So, that was what was happening this last 45 days, just life, and so glad to have lived it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Geese Have the Last Rath Paci

Almost a year ago, we said bye bye to Jack's paci.  It was a cold turkey move, necessitated by a tumble on the playground and visit with the dentist.  It was not a fun transition, although I don't remember that because it was so awful, I just re-read my post on it.  Funny how you put those things out of your mind.

I've been struggling with when to do it for Duke since his 2nd birthday.  He only takes it at night and nap - and only naps at home, hasn't had it at daycare since he was 12 months (WIMP me - should have done it all then!)  I really didn't want to go through the holidays with any issues with sleep, so that put it into January.  Cory was gone all but about 6 days that month and I didn't feel like dealing with it on my own, same for February.  We hope to have the boys rooming together by the end of this year, and therefore, I can't really wait until that happens to do it.  So I've been waiting for "the opportunity" to present itself.  It did today in an odd way.

I took his crib bumper out of his bed about a month ago.  I was just sick of dealing with it when I had to change the sheets and the only reason I kept it in there was to keep his paci from falling through the slats in the middle of the night.  After a few nights of hearing a quiet "Where's paci go?" at 2 a.m. and retrieving it, those mumurs stopped, yet in the morning, more and more often, I'd find said paci on the floor under the crib or in between the mattress and rails hidden from his searching hands and him waking up without wanting it.  At least until it was time to get out of bed, then he'd ask for it, we'd find it, he'd take one long drag like a person on smoke break trying to eke the last bit of nicotine out of a cig and dunk it in the crib for that night.

This morning however, neither of us could find it.  Looked on the floor, around the edge of the mattress, under all his stuffed animals, nowhere in sight.  Our opportunity had just presented itself.

"Well, the geese must have taken your paci!"   I should have read my previous blog post before this plan, since I didn't actually want him thinking geese randomly entered his room in the middle of the night to steal all things precious to him, but in a way it worked.  Jack pipes up "Yea Duke!  The geese have your paci!  Now you're a big boy too!"  After a few "MY PACI?!" cries and general wake up crankiness passes, he's actually ok with it.  We talk more on the way to school and again on the way home and he's actually agreeing that it's all gone, the geese have it, etc. 

Bedtime went better than I thought, though not as great as I'd have liked.  Right up until going into the room, he was all fine with it, but once the reality set in, not so happy.  We rocked, we sang, we did all the rest of the 5 second routine the kid requires "Go Nite Nite", "Give me a Kiss" kiss kiss "I love you Mommy", "I love you Duke" "Thank you" "Your welcome" and off to the crib, with the exception - and interesting one - he wanted to walk to his crib tonite rather than be carried on my shoulder from the chair.  hmmmm.   So after a little more crying/whimpering and me rubbing his back a minute, I left the room and went to finish up with Jack.

Then the howling started.  Not to the level Jack can be famous for, but strong with intermintent long pauses.  It probably helps I don't usually have any need to go into his room at bedtime, and that I'm usually stuck for 20 minutes getting Jack through his routine in his room.  For that 20 min I had no idea if he were screaming, hollering or silent. 

It was in between.  By the time I got out, there was about another 10 minutes of crying laced with long silent stretches that has since turned into complete silence.   And since he doesn't have it in the middle of the night most nights when it falls out of the bed...I may have made it paci free at last!