Butterflies, Snakes, and A Few Other Things

It’s hot down South.   Nope.   It’s not just hot, it’s “I just sweated off my deodorant, walking ten feet to my car” hot.   It’s so hot that I can’t even bring myself to take my kiddos to our neighborhood pool because there is no shade.   They may be able to get in the pool and cool off, but I’m exhausting myself keeping sunscreen on them, making sure their little feet don’t get blistered on the hot concrete (they REFUSE their water shoes), and trying to keep myself from burning to a crisp.

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Fortunately, for the past two weeks, we’ve been in Rochester, NY where for the most part days there have felt like college football weather down here.   The mornings were crisp, light, and refreshing, with the occasional breeze wisping over your skin.   The nights were cool enough to sleep with a fan and window open, reminding me of the cooler summers of my youth when we would spend the night with my grandma who had NO air conditioning.   So, my boys and I have been spoiled for two weeks.   They’ve been outside a lot, minimal television and iPad usage, and exploring what’s around.  Now that we’re back home, well, it’s just too hot to be outside.

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Today, I thought we could remedy that by going to the Roper Mountain Science Center for the last day of their Butterfly Adventure.  I knew a big portion of the exhibit was inside, so we would be cool (when not in the simulated rainforest perfect for the living conditions of the butterflies), and the opportunities to explore and learn would be immeasurable.

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I’d head a lot about the exhibit before we left for NY.   Between packing and Vacation Bible School at our church, I didn’t have the opportunity to take the boys.   I decided that once we got back in town, I would take them before it ended.

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We go to the Roper Mountain Science Center at Christmas for the lights and easily the best Santa around, but outside of that I haven’t been to the center since my college days when I was in their planetarium for an astronomy class.   I’ve considered going on numerous occasions, but truthfully Henry is just exhausting and he seems to make things unenjoyable for Davey (and well me at times, too).

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I’m an early riser, so we left as soon as we were ready and made it just after the gates opened at 9 am.   The lines were not that long, perhaps a 15 minute wait, and the boys were able to pass their time cooling off in the water misters and drawing their own butterflies on the sidewalk with the chalk provided.   Davey continually asked questions since he had developed a fascination with butterflies thanks to this past school year where they watched a caterpillar become a butterfly.  Henry?   He didn’t care.  He was just along for the ride and eager to terrorize.

Butterfly adventure

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what we experienced wasn’t it.   We didn’t get to just see butterflies, but we also got to touch them, and even entice them over to us with our nectar wands, easily the greatest thing for Davey.   The butterfly adventure, was short, sweet, and to the point, but since you’re paying good money to get in, the center encourages you to check out the rest of what’s available which included a marine lab, an ecology lab, and a wildlife lab, which just happened to have  a corn snake ready to be petted.   Davey took one look at the snake and said, “no way”, while Henry wanted to hug, and squeeze it and take it home.   Henry couldn’t possibly get this from my side, this must come from his father’s side of the family (wink wink), snakes are not my thing.

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We spent the remainder of our morning “milking” a cow, which I found to be humorous for today’s kids who are completely clueless with the appropriate way to milk a cow.  Thank God for this country girl to show ’em a thing or two.   We toured backwoods homes, school houses that mirrored the one from Little House on the Prairie, and a farm.   We petted sheep, goats, chickens, and cows.   The boys washed their clothing the way my grandmother used to…an old washing board.   They thought they were to take the rags and clean the board, not that the board was to clean the rags.   Kids these days.

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While I’m sure we could have seen and experienced more, this oppressive heat just seems to be taking it out of us.  It’s difficult during the dog days of summer to find things to keep the kiddos busy, but today was definitely an adventure for the books.

Christmas Tree Hunt

On the second day in Rochester, Grammy said to us, “let’s go cut down a Christmas tree.”

Kunz's Christmas Tree Farm.
Kunz’s Christmas Tree Farm.

We awoke to a cold and blustery morning, but no snow, much to Davey’s dismay.   By mid morning, we trekked through Kunz’s Christmas Tree Farm near Penfield, NY in search of a tree for Grammy’s house.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve actually sought out a live Christmas tree and on a farm no less.   Live trees are cumbersome, they’re messy, they require regular maintenance, and you’re cleaning up their needles for the next year, but they’re also fresh, aromatic, and even romantic.

Row upon row of uncut trees.
Row upon row of uncut trees.

The last time I had a live Christmas tree, I was in Charleston, SC in 2001.  The last time I hiked through the woods of a tree farm, my brother was five years old, I was 11, and my mother was miserable.   29 years later, and I’m searching for a tree.

The boys perusing the pre cut trees.
The boys perusing the pre cut trees.

What did we want?   We listened to the owner discuss when he’d planted trees, how many he’d already cut, the fact that we were early or perhaps he was late, and which tree would be best to meet the criteria we had.   There was blue spruce, douglas fir, fraser fir, pine, and a few others.   We were given a cart and a hack saw, we were definitely getting back to the adventure and reality of getting a Christmas tree.

Henry helping Daddy and Grammy.
Henry helping Daddy and Grammy.

My husband led the group, my father-in-law complained about the fact that my mother-in-law had two perfectly good fake trees in storage, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law chaperoned the boys who were nearly bundled up beyond recognition.

Davey helping Daddy with bring the tree around.
Davey helping Daddy with bring the tree around.

We walked a few hundred yards, inhaling the crisp western NY cold air.   Mother Nature was definitely playing her role in the whole “Doser Family Searches for Tree” scene.

Henry off for the hunt.
Henry off for the hunt.

There was every tree imaginable…full ones; short ones; tall ones; fat, tubby ones; and even ones that resembled the pitiful tree from a Charlie Brown Christmas.   After very little debate we landed on a tree.  What kind?  I couldn’t possibly tell you and I was quickly losing faith in the young lad who attempted to tell us.   He looked over the tree, stroked its needles with his gloved hand, before taking off his glove and rubbing the needles.   He closed his eyes for a moment, as if willing the tree to speak to him through osmosis of the needles.   I chuckled and had to walk away, no offense to any of you “tree whisperers” out there.

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My husband gallantly and a bit exhaustingly, I might add, cut down the tree, loaded it onto the cart, and trucked it off.   The entire event took a mere 30 minutes of our time, but was truly an enjoyable experience.   Davey created a song to the tune of “Going on a Bear Hunt”, while Henry did his best to keep up on the walk.

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Day two of Thanksgiving in Rochester is in the history books.   Day two of the excitement and adventure that surrounds the worlds of Grammy and Aunt Dee Dee.   Day two of my boys truly being the most well behaved little angels I never thought I had.  🙂

 

On The First Day in Rochester

Aunt Dee Dee did for me…a fun-filled crafting spree.

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Our night was short and sleepless.   After the previous evening’s flight, we were all exhausted and Henry had given cry a couple of times during the night having woken in a strange place and in a strange bed, but we all made it, safe and sound, to Grammy’s house, and now we were heading out for an exciting morning of Pancakes and Pajamas at Aunt Dee Dee’s house.

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Rochester, during the winter, is known for its gray days, downtrodden weather, and temperatures much colder than this Southern ga’ls blood is accustomed to.   Today, Rochester did not disappoint…she held true to all of her “winterly” traits.

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So, we dressed the boys in their winter pajamas, put on their insulated snow boots, jackets and hats then trekked off.   When we arrived at Aunt Dee Dee’s, the aromas from the kitchen beckoned us in like the teasing finger of a wicked witch.     She had eggs on the stove, sausage and ham placed on plates, and was finishing off with silver dollar pancakes.   Homemade hot chocolate enticed us at the bar, and fresh fruit, which should be unheard of in these parts at this time of the year.   Did she pay high dollar to specially ship them in?

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The boys were excited and indulged in almost a dozen pancakes between the two of them, two slices of ham and a half dozen sausage links.   I suppose travel can famish the souls of toddlers.   And what a treat, to have their own special Santa “milk” jugs complete with straws, with which to put their hot cocoa in.   My boys are spoiled, but never as much as when they see Aunt Dee Dee.

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After our wonderfully fulfilling breakfast, we jumped onto the craft train that Aunt Dee Dee had scheduled.   The boys painted ornaments and decorated cookies.   And we even followed this up with a special surprise guest…SANTA!   That’s right, Ole Saint Nick decided to stop by Irondeqouit, NY to see the two little Doser boys.   Davey jumped ecstatically, eager to see Santa and fill his ear with all the goodies he desires. Henry? Well, let’s just say Santa is a little on the scary side for him.   We all, including Grammy, had to thaw the ice of fear that seemed to paralyze Henry, and after a few minutes he shuffled over to Santa, if only to give him a high five before scurrying off behind the safety of Grammy’s legs.

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I was told we’d have a special guest and I suppose I should have known it would be Santa, but my in-laws are great at planning surprises.   Santa was definitely the whipped cream on top of the Pajamas and Pancake breakfast. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay long, so the boys stood at the door and waved goodbye to Santa before we completed our day of decorating Aunt Dee Dee’s tree.

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Our trips are always exhausting, especially the travel, but there’s always one guarantee when visiting Rochester…my boys are never disappointed, and today was no exception.

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The Lost Art of Penmanship

Writing a letter is a lost form of art.   Once upon a time, letter writing was the only way to communicate.  At that time, the prose was more romantic, the wording more lyrical, and the grammar nearly flawless.   Of course that was before the days of the internet, back with the Post Office didn’t bleed you dry just to mail a letter, and when someone wrote “I love u”, it meant you loved the letter “u”.   These days, there are comma splices every where, slang and lingo have taken over the way people communicate, and confusion over how to actually start writing a letter abounds.

I wrote my first letter when I was seven.  It was my first summer away from my parents.  I didn’t actually spend the entire summer away from them, more like two weeks, but for someone who’d yet to stray from her parent’s grasp, two weeks seemed like an eternity.   My aunt and uncle from Baton Rouge, La had come to visit us and I flew back down with them.   At first, I believe there was a bit of trepidation on my part, but then reality sank in and it became clear to me that I would finally have something that was all mine.  The birth of my younger brother less than a year before was sucking all of my parent’s attention away from me and to know that I would be free from him seemed like paradise.

While down in Baton Rouge, my aunt encouraged me to write a letter home, a sort of summer camp letter, minus the whole “Hello, Mutha.  Hello, Fatha.”  She bought me my first stationary, a beautiful red pen and even made a snack for me.  We sat down at her kitchen table that afternoon and I pounded out my first letter.

I wasn’t new to writing at that point.  I could write quite well and spelling was my forte, as I was already winning spelling bees by the time I hit first grade.  I found writing the letter to be exhilarating.  It was fun and intoxicating.  I wanted to write a letter every day, each time I embarked on some new adventure.   Fortunately for me, stamps were super cheap back then and my aunt was patient.   I wrote quite a few letters that summer, and even wrote my first story.

I’m not so naïve to believe that the art of putting pen to paper will ever be revived, but that doesn’t mean my boys will not understand how to write a letter and the importance of it.

I started working with Davey a few months ago on learning how to write.  We’d spent months prior to that with workbooks where he could trace letters, but I decided that it was high time we progress past that and start writing his ABC’s on his own.  I didn’t know he would take to it so quickly and happily.

Dear Mimi
Dear Mimi

Last week, I encouraged him to write his first letter, which was to his Grammy in NY.   I put Henry down for a nap, thereby allowing me all sorts of time to devote to Davey.   I spelled the words for him and he wrote the letter.   It was simple and basic, getting his point across.  It went like this:  Dear Grammy I love you.  There was no complimentary closing, as Davey informed me that he’d written enough and was tired.   Those five words took up three sheets of paper.

and Pop
and Pop

At that point, I didn’t realize how happy he would be about writing.  I always thought he would see it as a chore, something I was forcing him to do, but he’s completely blown my mind.   He genuinely wants to write.  He eagerly asks for it every day.  Last night, as I was kissing him good night, he asked me if he could write a letter to Mimi and Pop after this sleep.  Of course I said “yes”.

I love you
I love you

So, following suit with the other days, Henry went down for a nap and Davey began writing his letter.   He has a few stumbling blocks, mostly with the letters “R” and “Y”,  but he’s quite the pro at the others, namely “D”, “E”, and “M”.  Today’s letter actually included a closing and it was four pages long.

Love Davey
Love Davey

I love his excitement over writing.   I’m glad that he wants to continue doing it and I’m aware that at some point this enthusiasm may change.   I know the days are long gone of slipping notes under desks and swapping them in the hall between classes.   I’m also well aware that everyone these days is in a hurry and taking the time to actually write counters that need for urgency.   For now, my boys will hand write letters.  My boys will learn they need a signature and how to write in cursive.   For now, my boys will at least enjoy something that is “mine”, something I’ve always loved…writing.

 

Just Another Day of Kiddie Conversations.

I am always amazed at a child’s imagination.   There are times when I’d love to be able to shrink myself and travel through the neurons and synapses of my boys’ brains.  I can imagine the sparks and flights of information travelling through the synapses to the various different compartments.   I often wonder if my brain ever held their levels of ingenuity, and if it did, has the daily drudge of grown up life completely snuffed out the existence of any of those sparks.

Henry is becoming a lot more vocal and his vocabulary continues to expand.   I’m still bombarded with the continuous dribble drabble of toddler speak, but for the most part he know what he wants to say and usually says it.

Davey is well past the standard vernacular of toddler speech.  I am amazed at how well he speaks and the inflection and tone with which he says things.   He is very good at enunciating his words.   Of course, having a mom with at least two degrees, one in English and another in Speech and Communication Studies and Political Science, only serves to either help him or frustrate him as I constantly correct his grammar and tell him how best to diagram a sentence and conjugate a verb.

***side note*** I don’t think my Political Science degree with have any influence on his learning.  And my Master’s in Business Administration may serve us when the boys become older.  Who knows?

Today; however, isn’t so much about how either boy is communicating, but more so about what they have to say.  I find myself chuckling at times, shaking my head at the absurdity of what I’ve just heard and the all out amazement with the things they develop.

Davey enjoys sitting in his room, perched upon his bed with books abounding fruitfully as if they seem to magically spring up from the never reaches of his mattress.   He, of course, “reads” each one and then turns to his pirate ship and reenacts what he’s just “read”.

As I sit here writing this, today’s conversation seems to have flashed forward a few months to Christmas.   Davey grabs my calculator and informs me it’s his mini computer with which he can text.   This is our conversation:

“Mommy, I need to text Santa on my computer.”

“Santa?  Why are you texting Santa?”

“I need to see if he was ok in daddy’s truck.”

“Why was he in daddy’s truck?”

He becomes exasperated and rolls his eyes at me as if he can’t seem to understand why I would ask such an asinine question before responding with this, “Because that’s how he gets to work, Mommy.  Daddy takes him in his truck.”   And then he walks off upstairs shaking his head at my apparent stupidity on the subject of how Santa gets to work.

Earlier, when I woke him up, he told his three good monsters who are strategically placed within his room every night before he goes to bed, that they were off work and could go home to their monster families. Interestingly, these monsters are the same every night, but they have different names, names I can’t speak, not because I would be banished for saying their names, but because I don’t speak “Davey” and can’t say the names.   These three good monsters are in his room every night to protect him from the bad monsters and they even made it on the plane to NY a few weeks ago!

I’m impressed with his creativity, his attention to detail and I’m actually a bit jealous of it.   As many of you know, I’ve begun writing some books.   I have a few short stories under my belt, but the illustrious novel I want to write seems to elude me.  I hit a constant creativity obstacle.  My child, on the other hand, seems to exude my much needed spark.   Once again, what I wouldn’t give to travel into his brain and see how it works.

We still have quite a few hours left in the day, so I’m sure our conversations will continue to grow and continue to astound and even stupefy me.   Maybe he sucked out all of my creative writing skills when he was still within my womb.  I don’t know if I really want to believe that, because it could mean my days of writing are over.

Summer Break, Give Me a Break!

We are only two weeks into summer vacation, and this mama is absolutely exhausted. It’s nearly mind-numbing to me, not to mention physically taxing to come up with ways to not only keep my boys entertained during summer, but to also keep those brain cells pumping. And of course, there’s also the normal day to day activities involved with the upkeep of our house.

I swore to myself, more so than to my children, that I would keep them going during the summer. The television tuning would be and has been limited, that the educational experiences would abound, and not once would I hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored.” Well, truth be told, I’m not too ashamed to say that I wish I hadn’t made that oath to myself. I’m not that mom who seems to be able to function at full speed on the half charged “d” cell battery. I’m not the crafty mom, either. Forget finding acorns and painting and stringing them together into a beautiful key chain. That’s not me. Pinterest is really not my friend.

In my nearly two weeks, I’ve found only a smidgen of things to do to keep the boys occupied that will not break the bank. One of which included an air show last week. The downside to the air show was that it was brutally hot, something I should be used to being a native South Carolinian, and the almost 45 minute drive to get to it. It didn’t cost me anything except for the gas, and if I’m going to be honest, my mom and dad came along and they drove, so it really cost them gas. This is what I’m looking for, free things that are fun and educational. I know they exist, we’ve done them before. I’m just tired of searching them out and planning our weeks based upon these.

Once the air show started, it became a success with both boys. I’ll gladly take them to another one of those this summer, of course within a reasonable driving distance. I’m grateful for my stay at home mom status so that I was able to take the boys to the show since it was going on during working hours of a Wednesday afternoon. However, if I were a working mom, I wouldn’t be fretting with ways to keep my boys entertained during the summer. Someone else could handle that for me. Oh the insanity of it all!

Another thing I’m grateful for is our current location, nestled witin the rolling hills of upstate South Carolina. There are a ton of options for us, some of which cost money, while others are free. The one exciting item for Davey that I plan to continue on a weekly basis, a few days a week, is to take advantage of our Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Davey has really taken to his bike lately, and I’ve used the opportunities to add in some additional cardio for me. He’s started biking three miles, while I run/walk alongside of him as I push Henry in the stroller. It’s great for some fresh air and we’ve even managed to turn the excursions into learning exercises as I’m pelted with questions like, “why is that tree trunk falling apart?” or “look at that lizard, what is it doing?” And then I also get the opportunity to tell the story of the trail and it’s origins making for some funny antics as Davey tells his own version of events. At the rate we appear to be going, he should be without training wheels before his 4th birthday. Guess that means a new bike is around the corner.

We plan to hike, since Paris Mountain is right in our backyard, and learn about the different trees, their leaves, and how they grow. I hope we encounter a few animals, minus the snakes, and even get the opportunity to swim in the lake.

We have a neighborhood pool and a playground in our backyard, along with the one at the Runway Cafe not too far down the road. There are waterparks, $1 movies, and trips to NY planned for the summer. My only problem in all of this is trying to find some way to fit everything into the 24 hours allotted to me each day. Why oh why couldn’t the Lord make us to NOT need sleep. It is a waste of my time.

As I write this blog, Davey and I have practiced writing his upper and lower case letters. He’s drawn pictures, and is working a 48 piece puzzle, something he seems to be a pro at. Henry? Well, he’s napping, thank God for that.

Perhaps I’m the only stay at home mom who focuses and frets over summer breaks. Maybe I’m putting too much focus into their days and I should just throw them out into the backyard every day, but I can’t seem to let go. While I may be complaining about what feels like the added work of summer vacation, I’m also eternally grateful to have the days where I can do all these wonderfully time consuming and exhausting trips.

Big Boy Bed

Try to say that three times really fast!

So, last week I took advantage of the Labor Day holiday, which meant my husband was home and could entertain Davey, in order to start work on Davey’s new big boy room. I’ve put it off a lot longer than I did with his first bedroom. I’ve toyed around with ideas on what would be best. Did I want to do a room devoted to Mickey Mouse or did I want to do one with a different Disney theme? Side note…anything Disney rocks this child’s world!

Then I thought of practicality. Did I want to redo a room again in a few years when he’d outgrown some of the kiddie/baby phase? Not really. I needed something easy, something convenient for me, and something that would grow with him. That being said, we quickly decided to avoid a themed bed (he has a racing car bed at his Grammy’s house in NY), just because I didn’t want to fork out the money again for another new bed in a few years. We landed on a contemporary, with a hint of the traditional, full size wooden bed. Bedding can always be changed.

For a month the bed sat in our garage as the days ticked by as we awaited anxiously the ultrasound that would determine whether we were having a boy or a girl, hence dictating which room the bed would actually be placed. After a trip to Rochester to see family, and a quick jaunt to Myrtle Beach to kiss summer goodbye, we began work last week, and I must say so far I’m pleased.

enjoying some quality time on the new bed
enjoying some quality time on the new bed

It’s a nervous arena, being the parent of a child who’s growing, one that you wish would stay your little baby forever. I cried when we converted Davey’s crib into a toddler bed! How the heck was I going to react to this? Truth be told, I was second guessing moving him into another room. First, the nursery is a tad bigger in size than his new bedroom. There’s more closet space, more playroom. Second, what if he became really irate about giving up his room? What if he didn’t want to move? Of course, this hasn’t been the problem and we haven’t even referred to the nursery as Henry’s room.

Finally, with the walls painted, the bed up, and new bedding on top, we decided to let Davey have a “go” at the room on Saturday. Naptime is much more different. No longer do I rock him to sleep. Instead, I say “nap time” and he runs up the stairs (just like he always has) and I tuck him into his bed, give him a kiss, read a book, and then close the door. it takes about a half an hour to 45 minutes of him “talking” to himself or “reading” one of his books to his stuffed animals before he finally goes to sleep. Bed time is much the same, which has become quite shocking to both me and my husband. We both thought we’d have a bigger issue with getting him asleep in the big boy bed.

first official night
first official night

From time to time, I see my little baby in his big bed and I do get a lump in my throat. I love the new stages and his growth and development, but I am super sad to know that one day he may be much too big for that bed.