Kinda Nice

In the past few weeks, my kids have started doing something amazing - playing nicely together for more than 5-minutes! We've even had some 30-minute stretches in there. For the first time ever I feel like I can let them disappear into the playroom without following them (or constantly being a "hawk" as Anthony and I call it).

What's going on? Is it that I'm too pregnant and lazy to be a hawk so the kids are being forced to figure out how to get along? Is it that Austin is nearly 5 and more mature? Is it that Ruthie is nearly 3 and better able to hold her own? Is it that Ruthie is growing up and becoming a more fun playmate to Austin? Probably some of all of it.

Of course, life is a roller coaster. After 4 good days in a row, we had 3 awful ones with a zillion time-outs. Then a couple good half-days. That's how it goes. Still, I'll take it.


Living In The Moment

You know the old advice to "live in the moment"? Even though I think I do a pretty good job of enjoying the moment with my kids, it's not often that I am truly lost in it. Where I am not watching from across the room or the park; I am not thinking of my to-do list. Where I am undistracted and laughing and imagining just like a 4-year-old.

We had such a precious couple of hours recently playing a game of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We set up our hideout, made a treasure map, had an adventure in search of our stolen picnic and outwitted Captain Hook. It was a perfect morning.


July 4th

The "Fourth" came early this year as we started our celebrations at Debbie's house a few days early. We had a fill-your-tummy-busting-full picnic and lit off smoke bombs, snaps and parachutes. Parachutes are definitely a favorite around here- the kids love chasing down the chutes.

On the actual big day we had my parents and Heather and grandparents over for dinner, more parachutes and (other people's) evening fireworks. This was the first year we've been in our own neighborhood and we discovered just how patriotic (aka pyromaniac) our area is. Thanks to ariels being legal this year we could see 5 different shows from my yard and hear 2 others. I couldn't help thinking of my ligyrophobic friend Rachel as we sat there in the middle of what sounded like a war zone. It was loud! The kiddos weren't too excited by the exploding lights, but they sure loved getting to stay up extra late.


I Forgot Christmas!

Seeing as how I was slammed by First-Trimester woes shortly after New Years, it's no wonder I neglected to blog about Christmas... for 7 months.

Pre-Christmas activities.

Christmas Eve.
Traditions - doing puzzles, nativity scene, new pjs, leaving out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

This year's nativity scene.

Christmas Morning.
Our first Christmas in our own home. It was actually a lot of fun to do our own simple thing at our kids' relaxed pace. Austin, as usual, only got through a handful of gifts before having to stop and play. Ruthie diligently kept opening till the end. That's Austin's new bike that Ruthie is on. And the run-away hit of the morning was the marble toy.

Christmas Day.
Duffin traditional breakfast-orange julius, scrambled cheesy eggs, cinnamon rolls. Austin preferred his Santa-provided cereal. My fam came by in the afternoon to play and deliver another round of gifts.

It was a great holiday for us.


"Those Girls That Live Far Away"

We had some super fun visitors a week ago - Reese and Claire Bjorkman. Last summer we went to CO to visit them and the four kids totally hit it off. This summer we got to have them over to our house for a day while their parents were attending a funeral. The popular game this go-round was "The Ouchie Bum Bum Slide" - two mattresses propped up at an angle in the playroom closet where Austin and Reese would climb to the top, squeeze in between, and slip down. Ruthie and Claire laughed their guts out watching them.

At the end of their 8 hours together, which was seriously fun for them the whole time, when asked to say goodbye, they referred to each other as "the big girl" or "the little girl" or "that boy". I guess names are truly secondary to good friends. Speaking of good friends, it was a huge delight to visit with Rachel too. Next summer in CO?


Yes Sir, That's My Baby

I had an ultrasound this past week and got a 3-D image of my little one. Look at that adorable little thoughtful face. She looks fully cooked to me! Ah, just 5 more weeks to go.


Claire's Wedding

On May 28th we were in TN to witness the beautiful wedding of Claire and Joe.

They were married in the Erin Presbyterian church, where the Johnson family has attended (and still attends) a Christmas Eve candlelight ceremony ever since they were little kids. It was fun to see the wedding in that meaningful place and to have it performed by pastor John Stuart who has the cutest Scottish accent and a funny personality to go with it.

After the wedding was a gorgeous reception at aunt Jan's Bluebird Hill reception center - with live music and delicious food. There was even a merry-go-round for the kids (where mine pretty much took up residence for the evening).

Claire and Joe are such a great match and obviously very happy together. We were so glad we got to be there!

The beautiful bridesmaids. Sisters: Hilary, Amber, Kerry, (bride) Claire, (friend), (niece) Olivia, Tiffani.

The week before the wedding we spent vacationing in TN. We joined up with Amber, Mike and Henry to be tourists for a few days. Dad was awesome and joined us for most of the outings.

We spent one afternoon at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg.

One evening Dad took a group out on his boat. Anthony water skied and Austin was brave enough to go tubing!

Another day took us to the Knoxville Zoo where the kids got to feed camels. One evening we went to a splash park downtown only to realize we'd forgotten swimsuits, but the kids didn't care! (Luckily we had extra clothes on hand). On another afternoon Anthony took the kids swimming in Dee's pool where Ruthie had a blast jumping off the diving board over and over (look closely in the picture below). And of course, one of the big highlights of Oma and Opa's house is all the animals. Rummy (in the picture) is the favorite (and most kid-friendly), but the other dogs and cats were a big thrill too. Austin and Ruthie also loved seeing cousins Henry, Olivia, Sophie and Rosie (in the doggie picture).

As for me, I'm just thrilled that this trip to TN while pregnant was nothing but fun!


A Little Ruthie

Just a little Ruthie cuteness...
I love the picture of great-grandma Ruth reading to her little Ruthie.

Ruthie is a swimmer. It's the reason Austin and Ruthie no longer share bathtime... she insists on kicking all the toys out so she can lay down and "swim." She's actually done this her whole life, but now she's too big to swim with brother in the tub too. Look out Olympics 2028, this girl will be bringing home some swimming medals.

This video is from Feb, a week or two after Ruthie first figured out how to use the mouse. I loved the role reversal here - where Austin is the helper and Ruthie is the one driving.


Jail Birds

When daddy gets home from work (and after dinner) the call goes out, "Daddy, are you ready to wrestle?!" It amazes me how my kids (mostly Austin so far) come up with clever and unique games. The kiddos have named some of the games they've invented.

Get Past Daddy - Run from one side of the room to the other without getting caught. Daddy plays on his knees.
Steal The Hat - Daddy puts something on his head to be the "hat". Try to steal it.
Stay On Daddy - Daddy is the bucking bronco.
Show Your Moves - Classic wrestling, where you periodically show off your karate chops and kicks before you attack (though we only attack with wrestling moves, not hits or kicks).
Jail Birds - Run around the couch until daddy catches you and puts you in "jail" on the couch. Escape and do it again. A little sample of this game...


Cousin Tyce

Tyce has been over for a few sleepovers. Here's some of our fun adventures.

Hot Chocolate anyone?
My kids got very hooked on Swiss Miss hot chocolate with marshmallows this past winter. They preferred to add and stir the mix into luke-warm milk themselves. Often they would pick out the mallows by hand, spoon-eat the sugary powder right off the top, then drink the milk.

Superheroes and Gymnasts!
Yes, my kids think those are "big stickers" and have come to specifically use them for making superhero letters on their shirts. Austin and Tyce are 'A' and 'T', but since 'R' is too hard, Ruthie is usually 'X'. And that "gymnastics bar" and "jungle gym" is Austin's closet. It amazingly holds up just fine and has turned out to be a great toy for my little monkey children.