Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quote of the day

Not much time for writing lately with our "early Christmas" coming up this weekend and family coming into town, Sebe in California this week for work, and just day-to-day life.  However, there are happenings everyday that have me chuckling.  Here was today's situation:

Blake and Gavin discovered a bowl of dried, fake decorative stuff we have around the house -- pine cones, pomegranates, and some odd-looking seed balls.  The seed ball is perfectly round and manages to fit quite well into a little palm.  Gavin made the discovery and Blake was quick to follow and find one for himself.  There they were, staring at me with these little balls in their hands and their faces full of anticipation.  The words came from Blake:
"What are these?"
"Can we throw them?"
"Can we roll them?"
"How do we break these?"It was the last question that had me laughing, as well as the rapid-fire delivery of the questioning.  I didn't even have a moment to answer between questions. 

The reason for documenting this is that I feel Blake's last question gives me great insight into boy-thinking.  I'll sum it up as follows:  discovering any new item is a matter of "how do I conquer this?" (i.e. break it).  This must explain why Blake is constantly taking apart his toy cars with a mini screwdriver  And perhaps gives meaning to yesterday's event:  Blake digging through the tool drawer collecting all the Allen wrenches and explaining to me that he was going to "fix the fire alarm" that was beeping while I was cooking dinner.

I love these little guys.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving!  

It is fitting today to share with you some things that I especially love and appreciate in members of our little family crew.

Foreman Sebe:
Lets me sleep in after a night up with little diggers.
Doesn’t mind folding laundry.
Often cleans up dishes that have been left out in our dash to a new activity/bathroom/diaper change.
Can fix anything.
He’s a stellar athlete.
Sparks creativity in all of us.
Patiently builds great friendships.
He’s extremely practical.
Applies dispassionate logic to any potentially emotional topic.
Builds with Blake.
Sings to Gavin.
Likes to hike and be outdoors.

Digger Blake:
The way he says "delicious" when he likes a particular food.
Builds 'chines out of Legos.
Likes to give hugs to all, including Gavin.
Tells stories.
Likes to be the leader when biking/dancing/hiking, etc.
Loves to swim.
Helps cook, and likes to make his own "concoctions" (he actually uses this word) with lots of 'gredients.
Checks books out from the library.
Doesn't like to see other people sad.  He'll give back a toy and comfort Gavin... well most of the time anyway...
Calls daddy "Dada."
Loves being tickled.
The glint in his eye.

Digger Gavin:
The way he navigates you around the house with his pointer finger when you are carrying him.
Has long conversations.
Vroom, vroom with the toy cars (he makes the symbolic functioning noise).
Laughs with Blake.
Pure joy at seeing our cat appear.  He loves stuffed animals too.
A hearty meat eater.
Can do the shape sorter already (15 months), climb a 2-step ladder, get his own snack from a drawer/counter, and brush his own teeth with toothbrush.
Identifies, and loves, chocolate.
Hangs on when you hold him.
Loves to swim.
His smile.
The glint in his eye.
I am also so grateful for our family and friends.  Thank you for being part of our lives.
Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


As we were leaving the grocery store the other day, a man was walking out with his daughter and two cases of Hawaiian punch.  His kid looked totally normal and healthy and I sort of admired his audacity to purchase something that must be on some national forbidden list by now.  After all, aren’t sugary drinks the new tobacco? 

It also made me feel better about making a longer-than-usual-stop at the frozen food section.  I needed some new meals, and somehow frozen peas and pot stickers have become very reliable friends when kids are hungry.  (Pot stickers actually cover three food groups!)  So I thought I’d see what else was in those grocery store freezers.  Turns out there is quite a bit and we went home with the bonanza of them all – corn dogs! 

I mentioned my shopping observations and purchases to my dad in a phone call that afternoon and here’s my recollection of the exchange:
 “Ali, you can do better than that.” 
“I do Dad.  About 90 percent of the time I am making fresh food for them, but occasionally I just want them to eat.  Why not make it easier on myself every once in awhile?”

He was clearly dismayed that his grandsons were being offered frozen corn dogs; surely that food item must be on a national forbidden list by now too.

Alas, it wasn’t long before the corn dogs were offered up.  And of course, they liked them.

I’m sure everyone will be happy to know that I do make homemade chocolate pudding regularly.  And let me tell you, the kitchen is very quiet when that gets put into boys’ bowls.  No throwing food, no complaining, no special food requests, no moaning to get down, nope, there’s nothing going on but eating.  It even got Gavin to start using a spoon (thanks again for the nifty front loader spoon, Dad).

And yes, for my birthday, my dad and his wife (a fabulous cook herself) sent me a slew of new cookbooks.  We may have to try making our own corn dogs!

Nutrition value:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tender moments

People say it’s a lot of work raising children.  I find myself wondering which part of it gives it that reputation:  is it due to children unexpectedly waking me in the night, or is it that I have to think of constructive activities every day, or perhaps it is the never-ending search for a lost item – such as the television remote—that a toddler has relocated for you.  Add to that list the the emotional juggling of three-year old whims, the firmness required to toilet train, and the timing of getting everyone fed before meltdowns occur.  Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it.

There is always more to do and that can make parenthood feel like a blur from one event to another.  It’s in this whirlwind that I find a longing to accomplish something—to see measurable progress in my job of raising children.  And for me, that is a main contributor towards feelings of tiredness or lack of fulfillment.  The marker posts of progress and achievement in child-rearing are hard to see and the feelings of accomplishment that feed human satisfaction sometimes seem elusive.  

But then, when I least expect it, there are moments when a grain of goodness sprouts in my child and all the hard-won toilet battles, repetitive reading sessions, and hugs pay off.  They are moments—just moments—but oh so precious.  They explain how the word "rest" can be defined as "lack of friction" rather than "lack of activity."  Here are a couple of those moments at our house:  gracious interactions between brothers who are learning how to live together.  When I see these boys express tenderness and compassion with each other or with others, I feel satisfied.  That’s when I know we’re getting somewhere…and that somewhere is good.

                        Sippy cup video           Sandbox guarding video

Reading time with Daddy

Mommy hugs

Monday, November 1, 2010


Blake is fond of saying, “It takes a long time for _______.”  You can fill in the blank with boxes, birthdays, morning, anything he’s looking forward to... and Halloween was no exception.  Figuring out what to be is the consummate Halloween question.  I am usually pretty psyched for this holiday in September, but as October 31 gets closer, my motivation wanes.  We knew Gavin would fit into the frog costume that we purchased last year, but Blake was still a question mark. 

He and I had had many discussions here about what to be—“house” seemed to be topping the list.  And then finally in the pool on Friday Oct. 30, Blake announced to his swim teacher that he’d like to be a garbage truck.  So that afternoon, he and I sat down to sketch our ideas and design the costume:  I drew him with clothes on and trash stuck to him (yes, mom was trying to take the easy way out), but Blake quickly pointed out that that didn’t look like a truck.  That meant we were going to have to go for the real thing. We enlisted family and neighbors to acquire the needed boxes and after a lot of tape, cardboard, construction paper and hot glue, here is the garbage truck.
Boo Garbage Collection Services Truck

And here is the frog.

Gavin the frog

And here is a bag of trash for "Boo Garbage Services" to collect.

And finally the whole Ziesler clan.

We trick-or-treated in the neighborhood with our neighbors and good friends Scott and Shane and their twin girls Sadie and Sophie, as well as their grandmother Shari. 
Sophie the flower and Sadie the bunny

The entourage
I’m a fan of the fact that former President Bush changed the dates for daylight savings time to enable little kids to trick-or-treat in the light, but Sebe pointed out that without porch lights on in the dark, perhaps people could put up a sign so we don’t have to walk all the way up the sidewalk to find out that no one is home and there is no unattended bowl of candy waiting for us.  Nonetheless, Halloween falling on a Sunday seemed to ensure a fairly high likelihood of people being home and we made a pretty good haul.  

We went to Grandma B’s house afterwards for cider and a special treat and Blake got to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters there.  He got a big kick out of that!  

Monday, October 25, 2010

First snow

October 24, 2010:  The season's first snow.  Some of you may find it hard to believe that this whitewash happened before Halloween, but I'm not.  We'd had such a beautiful fall with 70 temperatures, and I could just feel that winter would make an early appearance.  Nature has a way of balancing everything out.

More than four inches of snow fell today.  Even now, well after the sun has gone down, another snow flurry is underway.  Fortunately, we had read the weather report and knew it was coming.  On Friday, Sebe and Blake had finished their chores of putting up snow stakes, cleaning out the sandbox, and readying Blake's machines for their winter duties.  The weather did not disappoint and we woke to fresh snow this morning.  We all bundled up to help clear the driveway and test the machines. 

Four inches of snow

All bundled up

Bulldozer is tested first

Ali and her boys

Gavin loves to get the mail

I think Sebe enjoyed the snow the most -- shovelling is fun!

And what would a first snow be without trying on your ski gear!

Last year's gear still fits!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A boy and his bike

Blake’s boyhood has entered a whole new realm.  Dirt bike jumps!  I’m not sure if this kid is a super-stud or if this is just normal, average boy behavior.  To me, he’s a superstar, so we’ll go with that.   

It’s become a weekly outing to go cruise the jumps at the nearby park.  Sebe and Blake attended a professional Big Air show there a few weeks ago and the small jumps have since been dubbed the little kids jumps.  When they all roll out on their balance bikes, razor scooters, and tiny pedal bikes, it calls up images of ant hills or a swarm of bees.  Last Saturday, we left when it got up to seven riders, none of which were following the same path.

Somewhere along the way, Blake said, “I want to go to the big jumps.”  He chose to descend the steepest hill (it was twice as big as what you just saw in the video).  Apprehensively, we got him centered and stable at the top, offering up a quick instruction to keep his bike wheel straight.  Then Sebe and I cringed, watching with eyes half-open,  waiting for the crash.  But there wasn’t one.  Amazing.  And all on a plywood bike with no pedals.

Poised on a big jump -- the one I mentioned is far right of pic, second back - the really big, dark one.

Checking his gear

Cruisin' the big jumps
In this next video, Gavin says, “Dada.”  Yes, he's talking now and has a few words:
All done
Dada (this was his first word)

Pretty impressive for under 14 months.  And for all the guttural noises he likes to make, his voice is wonderfully sweet.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not a baby anymore

Gavin is officially out of infanthood.  
He’s full of antics and has a lot to say. 
He’s walking.  
He loves the playground.
He can brush his teeth and put the toothbrush back in the jar.
He can now open our back door by himself.  
He is recently adept with a little chair and table
He can climb the stairs on his hands and knees and return safely.  He can complete a shape sorter puzzle with six shapes.
He likes to visit Sebe at work, making us seriously reconsider Sebe’s office location which is currently at the top of the stairs. 
If you are carrying him, he navigates you around the house with his pointer finger.
Did I mention that he can climb, seemingly overnight?
Good news for Grandpa Rob:  Gavin appears to have quite a throw, complete with sound effects.  
He’s really into books.   
And he likes tools.
He puts up with his brother.
And he can torture the cat quite effectively.
Through it all, he is happy, loving and full of life.

It's very interesting discovering this little boy.  Here is the letter that I wrote to him just before he was born.
Aug 24, 2009
Dear Baby Boy,
It is a beautiful night tonight.  The sliver of moon set early amidst pink and grey clouds, and there is a cool breeze shaking all the aspen tree leaves.  It is so beautiful that I hope you arrive tonight.  I am looking forward to meeting my new little boy.  I know you are coming with a purpose for being on this earth.  I know you will love your family dearly, and we already love you.  There are many qualities that I know you'll express, but the one that stands out the most to me right now is joy!  You are a bundle of joy and love and I can't wait to hold you in my arms.  Come out, come out and join us little one.  With so much love, your Mama.

It's easy to say a kid will express joy, but it is actually amazing to see it take shape.  Gavin is truly a bundle of joy.  He has a smile for all and his belly laugh can pull Blake from any activity.  Gavin loves his daddy's voice and he loves accomplishing toddler milestones.
We all love discovering the wonder of Gavin.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween pumpkins

It’s only 21 days until my favorite holiday, Halloween.  We have not decided what to be this year.  Blake’s choices have ranged from an eagle to a pig to a table to a traffic light to a ghost.  Pretty much whatever we’re looking at when we ask him what he wants to be is the name of the new outfit.  I’m hoping ghost sticks around because that’s easy.  I have not bought anything or started to make anything, but we have pumpkins!

We went out to dinner last Thursday night and were heading to ice cream afterwards when the topic of pumpkins came up.  All of a sudden, from the backseat, we heard, 
“I want to get a pumpkin.” 
“Instead of ice cream?” I asked incredulously.   
A slight pause.  And then...
“Yeah, pumpkin!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised at his decision since Blake is a child who would rather play than eat.    And even when he’s starving, he still won’t tell you he needs to eat.  His brother is the opposite:  eat trumps play.

So Sebe pulled a u-turn and headed to the grocery store.  No charming pumpkin patch for us—we were going for the bulk buy.  We got pumpkins for Blake, Sebe, Ali, Gavin, Princess (cat), Grandma B, Steve, and even Alice, their cat.  All were proportionately sized, of course.  Blake’s pumpkin was chosen for the first carve.  He searched for and found the carving kit that had made it into his mini grocery cart a few weeks ago.  And with wonderful supervision from Sebe, the drawing, scooping, planning and carving began.  Disclosure:  we did utilize one of the kit’s six face patterns for this jack-o-lantern.  I am not normally one for kits, but I am realizing that it’s occasionally all right to make things a little easier for yourself (and a young child).  Frankly, the kit was a big hit.  We even took a not-really-so-spooky video, starring Blake’s jack-o-lantern, to inspire even more of the Halloween spirit.

A few other Halloween games that Blake and Gavin have discovered:  roll the pumpkin, throw the pumpkin, kick the pumpkin, and today, while reading Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, Blake and I discussed making a pumpkin car, replete with Lego wheels.  Hmmm… I don’t think you’ll find that in a kit.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I read an article last night that said parents of newborns lose as much as six months of sleep in the first two years.  Since Gavin was born when Blake was not even two, I can probably add another three months to my running total, bringing my sleep deficit to nine months over the last three years.  For those of you who’ve noticed I’m grumpier than I used to be or can't deal with a situation all that well, this lack of sleep might explain it.  Granted, my husband works at home and I have been gifted a few daytime naps when little ones awake before me and he has a light workload.  Sebastian is not so great on night-time duty, but he’s quite good about getting up with whichever boy is up for the day at 5 or 6 a.m., and letting me sleep until the oatmeal is ready.

PTP’s (poorly timed poops) are often the culprit for these boys’ lack of napping; neither of them will sleep if there is a poop coming anytime in the next two hours.  Gavin was assailed with three poops this morning, which left no time for napping.  So I put the boys in school with lemon-scented playdough, made and sent to us by Oma Eileen.

Don’t worry, Gavin was fine.  And both boys and their mama napped after lunch.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Every Monday (or Tuesday) we go to the grocery store.  The Market has kids figured out. There are mini carts that Blake loves to push on his own and fill with various things.  Last week he learned the all-important life lesson that the looks of the cart (i.e. an intact “Customer in Training” flag that waves high enough for parents to find their kid) is not as important as how well the wheels roll.  He ambles along filling his cart, fueled by a few jellied raspberries from the bulk bins.  I have no qualms about the fact that these are consumed before we check out.  Seriously, with the extra items that Blake loads into his cart and insists we need, I figure they are making an extra $15-20 on me per trip.  That is worth a few bulk candies.

 Today, his find was a Haunted gingerbread house.  For $12.99, it became our arts and crafts project for the day.  And Blake is a very considerate builder.  When the roof would slide off and I would mutter at it to stay in place, he told me to stop being so angry at the gingerbread house.  But that sensitivity was unidirectional. By dinner time, I found large bites taken out of the roof. 

Here is Gavin's turbo crawling, which turns into a gingerbread house introduction.  The second video is Blake's song about the gingerbread house.

We admired the rainbow on the way out of the store and when we got home, Blake bundled up in his Columbia pants, raincoat, and moose-embellished red rain boots to play in the sandbox.  (Okay, impressive!)  When the sun came out, he merrily came in to announce that the dark clouds had gone away, stripped down to his underwear and went back out. 

Digger #2, Gavin, was such a mellow baby that we thought we’d have it easy with him.  But he likes dismantling the dishwasher and unloading drawers as much as any kid.  His days of crawling are numbered, as walking is becoming the preferred means of travel.  He loves having Blake and I hold his hands and escort him around the house.  He even laughs when Blake runs, pulling him along at break-neck pace.  Gotta love that Gavin.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Telling stories

My mother is a retired English teacher.  Yesterday she informed me that the revision process in writing can be learned before kindergarten.  The first step apparently is to have your child tell you a story and write it down.  When the child has developed this skill, you can presumably teach them to edit the story for content, etc.  We are not yet at the age where we can start editing, but we did make our first attempt today to write a story.  Here is Blake's story:

"Bugs usually crawl and bugs usually fly and bugs usually eat things.  And bugs climb trees and bugs crawl on feet and bugs crawl on phones and they swim in hot tubs and they lie down on beds and they sit in chairs.  And they eat on the table.  That's the end of my story.  And then a big giant came down and locked them in a cage and then turned the switch off and took the monitor and then he took the car up to where he lives in the sky. And then he do-do-do (singing interlude here) then opener and downer closed and then the bugs can't sing.  And then the bugs got washed away in the sink.  That the end of my story.  And one more thing happened in my story.  And then an opener giant showed up and ran the garbage disposal.  That's what happened in my story."

Okay, so stories told by a three-year-old provide plenty of editing potential, yes.  But honestly, I was cracking up as he was telling this story because, if you think about it, bugs really do all those things!  Okay, so now it's your turn.  Choose a Blake picture below and send us a story.  Blake will love getting your mail.

The name

It seems that the requisite first post of a blog is to explain the name.  I considered many that would describe the sometimes banal moments of raising children and the ofttimes minor events that provide fascinating insights into children, life, our interactions and milestones as a growing family.  The rejected names were many:  “drops of joy” sounded like I was trying too hard, “mountain musings” was taken, as was “snippets of life.”  So I called my sister, an unwavering source of creative inspiration and she asked me how I think of our family.  “Like the Jetsons,” I offered.  Maybe because I’m married to a do-it-yourself, computer chip engineer it felt like we were flying through the future.  But when I actually watched the youtube clip of the Jetsons, their superficial life didn’t fit ours at all.  We were more the Flintstones, but with boys and not a little girl.  Hmmm…still not a fit.  

So I went to a topic that we talk about daily in our house – machines.  Or ‘chines as they are called here.  Specifically, construction vehicles.  Our oldest child is three and he is fascinated with them.  I’m not sure this is unique to our boy; watching youtube, you can see many young children able to tell you the difference between an excavator (it has tracks), a backhoe (has a shovel in front and back and has stabilizers), and a front loader (only has a shovel in front).  However, we adults don’t seem to have this vast library of diggers categorized in our brains and ready for daily discussion.  My husband and I are constantly corrected, “No, it’s a digger.”  And therefore, out of the corner of my brain now dedicated to knowing the full fleet of road construction vehicles, came the title, “A crane and two diggers.“

The name fits quite well actually.  I am the crane, Blake (3) and Gavin (1) are the two diggers.  We’ll call my husband, Sebastian, the foreman of this little construction crew.   We look forward to sharing moments of our life with you and hopefully providing you with some entertainment, youthful insights, and at times even an idea or two to ponder.  Ali