Monday, December 19, 2016

Third (and Fourth) Time is a Charm

Forest was 13 months old the first time he met Santa, and I don't believe a baby has ever been more terrified. 

Flash forward 12 months and he wasn't getting anywhere near that strange bearded man. He clung to me marsupial style as I leaned him in for a photo op. 
This year he possessed at least some form of rational thought, so with a little prep we were able to talk up Santa enough for him to actually willingly walk up to him and voluntarily sit on his lap. It helped that Santa was visiting the library just down the road and that there was no line, so it being a familiar environment with little time to panic certainly helped. 

We also told him to think of a Christmas wish list because Santa would probably ask him what was on it. Well this got him thinking about Thomas & Friends which is the fastest way to get him to come out of his shell. He mumbled to Santa that he wanted Toby and I clued Santa in to the fact that this was a train from Thomas and suddenly Santa was talking Forest's ear off about Thomas characters. Poor man accidentally said Bertie was a helicopter to which Forest gently and shyly corrected him: "I think he's a bus....". 
So even though I marked this in my book as a successful encounter with Santa, we still didn't get a smile out of F. 

However, looking at the camera and not sobbing was a huge improvement. Later that week Santa was returning to the library for a special story time so we decided to go meet him again. This time Forest repeated that he wanted Toby AND he even gave a (very small) smile for his photo op. 

Cha-ching! (Also Cha-ching that the only item on his xmas wish list is a 10 dollar non-battery operated toy for his train tracks. We threw in a train shed and a Thomas puzzle for good measure. Stay simple and sweet my dear train-obsessed boy.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cool Rider

Yesterday, just 6 weeks after his 3rd birthday, Forest learned to ride a bike. Like a for real, no-training wheels bike. And though Jonathan and I would like to think he’s some sort of phenom, this trend of younger cyclists seems to be gaining ground. 

We first heard of it when Forest was around 18 months and hopped on a balance bike at a friend’s house. A balance bike is a toddler size bike without pedals. The jist is that toddlers simply learn to balance first, pedal later. Our friends told us that they’d heard of kids going straight from a balance bike to a pedal bike, skipping the training wheels step altogether, right around their 3rd birthday. 

We were intrigued but put it out of our minds until one of Forest’s best buds was given a balance bike for his second birthday. Since we always went to the park with this friend and Forest was always asking if he could ride and sharing/taking turns was pretty tense, we decided to get him his own balance bike for his half birthday when he turned 2.5. He took to it much more than the scooter that was gathering dust in the back yard and within a week or two was coasting down hills with his feet up. 
He even got featured on Schwinn’s Instagram feed for being so stinkin adorable. By the time he was 2.75 he was just a blur and he rode his balance bike to the park nearly everyday with me jogging alongside. 

Soon he was bored with just going fast down hills and started incorporating jumps and stunts into his bicycling routine. We figured it was time to up his game and planned to get him a pedal bike for his 3rd birthday. Well when my far-too-generous mom caught wind of this, she offered to get it as his birthday present from Nana and Pops. 

We got to researching the best bike for a toddler coming from a balance bike and learned of the Woom (pronounced ‘Voom’) line. It was way more expensive than I ever envisioned a bike for a toddler could be, but the website "Two Wheeling Tots" insisted that a bike is not a toy, it’s a vehicle, so basically- don’t buy a toy. Well I fell for that logic hook line and sinker and my mom and dad went along with it (perks of having an only child) and later that week a giant box with the most adorable bright green bike inside showed up on our doorstep. 
Since my parents were in town for F’s birthday, they got to witness the big reveal of his first real bike. 
We immediately  took him out for a test drive and I don’t know what I expected to happen- him magically just start pedaling away I guess- but he basically just treated it as a balance bike and was too distracted by the bike’s bell to concentrate on anything else. 
The next few weeks were a deluge of visitors and traveling and so we’d take the bike out for a spin in 5 minute chunks here and there and he got to where he could stay upright for a few feet before wobbling but just didn’t seem motivated all that much to ride the thing. 

Shortly after Jon left for Angola, I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn’t help to stabilize Forest on the bike so we decided to give it a rest until daddy got back. He was pleased as punch to go back to his ‘blue bike without the pedals’ again. When Jon returned from Angola we decided to let him have another go with the green bike, fibbing to him that his blue balance bike had a flat tire. 

We got about ¼ of a mile from the house with him refusing to pedal and just coasting on his bike as if it were a balance bike. We didn’t push the issue because we wanted him to be comfortable and not hate learning. We tried to convince him to try pedaling but he just didn’t seem interested. Then a cyclist came by and we pointed out the pedaling motion he was making and suddenly it just clicked. He wanted to try! And by golly within 60 seconds and with a push from daddy he was off. 
He even made a turn onto our street all by himself. By that afternoon he was racing down hills (Lord help us). 
He still has some difficulty going up hills and taking off without a push from us but I’m certain it won’t be long before he’s keeping up with the elementary kids in the neighborhood. He always looks longingly at the gang of grade school boys that play kickball down the street and when he rode by them yesterday he said ‘I’m riding a bike! I’m big!’ so I think he views bike riding as his ticket into the big boy club. It’s certainly a step in the right direction. 

And even though it’s becoming more common for 3 year olds to tackle this milestone, we are still bursting with pride over our little guy. What an awesome rite of passage, no matter the age! 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Family Photos by Cortney Russell Photography

Forest's birthday is perfect timing for getting family pictures done in time for Christmas Cards. This year we hired Cortney Russell and actually did a separate photo shoot for his birthday featuring his art theme and then did another portion of the shoot where it was the four of us. This year may be the last year Samson gets to be in our pictures (though I said that last year so I'm not counting him out! That little pup is proving all his vets wrong.) I thought Forest would finally be cooperative since he's mellowed out considerably lately, but both he and Samson were totally naughty and made our photographer work for her money. 

The art idea was super cute and got Forest to stay still, but unfortunately he took it so seriously that he couldn't be bothered to look up at the camera much.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

National Bible Bee

You’ve all heard of spelling bees, but have you heard of a Bible Bee? It’s a similar concept except in a Bible Bee kiddos from 7-17 learn entire passages from the Bible in addition to learning the context and even some of the original language of the selected excerpts. Anyway, it’s incredible, inspiring and impressive and my sister’s two oldest boys both qualified to compete this year. 

Since the competition was being held in nearby (by Texas standards) San Antonio and I hadn’t seen my sister or her boys in over a year I decided to take Forest and join them at JW Marriot Resort in the Hill Country. The resort is home to a beautiful golf course and a pretty impressive water park.  Unfortunately the first cold front of the season was scheduled to come through during our stay but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the water while we could. 

Since it was the off season, the lifeguards turned a blind eye to the fact that Forest was technically too short to ride the big slides an let my dad accompany him. No surprise here but Forest LOVED racing his big boy cousins down the twin slides. 

He also had a blast swimming the lazy river. We tried to explain to him the purpose of a lazy river is to just relax and float but he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swim at lightning speed. 

Whatevs. Fortunately my dad and two eldest nephews had him covered so I didn’t have to chase after him and could just hang out with my sis and her littlest boy. 

Oh did I mention my sister is the mom of 4 boys and has another baby on the way? She’s pretty much amazing. 

After an hour or so of fun it was time to get cleaned up and dried off for dinner and Forest and I hit the sack early while my sis and her family attended Bible Bee festivities late into the night. Early the next morning we gathered to hear the announcement of the top 15 semi-finalists. We were over the moon (but not at all shocked) to hear that 10 year old Corbin had been selected to compete in the next round. 

We were also so proud of 7 year old Lucas who performed incredibly for this being his first time around! This meant some serious studying for Corbin while the rest of us headed back to the waterpark to enjoy the temporarily sunny skies. 
This time we had the two 3-year-old cousins and Lucas so mainly stayed at the kiddie pool where Forest and Andrew were easily watched. Andrew is thankfully less confident (ie crazy) in the water than Forest so I was only responsible for keeping one kid from going overboard. 
Forest had a blast again and thankfully Lucas was a good sport about hanging out with the younger boys while his usual partner in crime was reviewing his Bible verses. 

The front rolled in quickly as we were getting out of the pool so we all headed in for a power nap before the semi-finals at 2:30. Corbin did amazing in the semi-finals and sailed through to the final round. Top 5! We were ecstatic and so proud. It was like being related to a rock star. Everyone attending the Bible Bee had these big lanyards so were easily identifiable. Everyone would ask if I had a child competing and when I’d say ‘No but my nephew is a finalist’, they’d ask his name and they’d be like ‘OH! CORBIN!’. He was the only boy in the top 5 for his age group so he did sort of stand out. 
In between rounds we had tons of fun exploring the resort grounds with family.

Only 4 weeks apart, these cousins couldn't be more different.

Room service and Super Why. Life is good.

The finals were the following morning so the superstar was off studying for the remainder of our trip. Forest and I had to pick Samson up from the kennel by a certain time that evening so I knew we had to leave as soon as the finals were over. They lasted 2.5 hours. Forest was a trooper, and I bit through my nail beds out of nerves for all the kids. How they remained so poised and confident under that sort of pressure I will never understand. 

In the end, Corbin was announced as the winner of the whole sha-bang! We were whooping and hollering and so proud of our boy. 

He’s such a special kid and truly brilliant but I know he also put in hours upon hours of studying and his parents do an amazing job of constantly redirecting him to the Lord. What an awesome way to use that brain of his, memorizing scripture which will forever be imbedded in his heart and soul. Plus he won $25,000!!! 

I’m telling you, it’s a huge deal!