Exploring for the Weekend

Last week our marriage turned 15 and we thought that was reason enough to head out with the kids for a long weekend.  The plan was to hike Devil's Lake, which is one of our favorite spots, with the kids for the first time.  We had grand plans to do our usual trails, but it stormed the night before and most of the morning, making them much too slippery (they are mostly rock steps).  So we hit the other bank and really did more than I ever expected the kids to manage.  Jack was a huge help to the girls (the easier trail was still pretty slippery & muddy).  EJ managed the entire 3+ mile hike and Liv made it to a little under a mile before she asked to be carried (and still took some turns walking when needed).  I was impressed!

This pic was at the top of the hill (so about halfway) and as we paused to take pics, it was really fun to share the story of how we got engaged on the top of the trail on the other side of the lake.  The sun started peeking out a bit and making things warmer too.  I was glad to share this special place with the kids and I can't wait to go back (Jack was ready to take on all the trails, but the girls were done).

The kids experienced lots of new things during the weekend.  First was a ferry ride across the river (which we did on the way home too...less rain but much bigger crowds) and they loved every second.

The other was visiting a Big Cat Rescue Center that we never knew existed in the same area we were hiking.  All of the animals are rescued from backyard owners or zoos and it was amazing to see them SO close (I think we were 3 feet away from their enclosures).  It was a first for all of us, but EJ (not surprisingly) was really takan aback.

This was her first peek at a tiger (her favorite animal in the world) and this is her reaction.

When she got over the shock, her expression turned to pure joy.

But honestly...we were all thrilled.

The rest of the weekend was filled with dinners out, late nights and lots of swimming at the hotel.

And on Sunday...cake for lunch!  It's tradition for our family to stop and order slices of our wedding cakes from the restaurant that made them for us.  Luckily, we had lots of options at the wedding, because now there is something for everyone and no one minds sharing with the family.

I think everyone had a blast (I know I did)...the perfect mini-getaway!

Classic Flicks

We're slowly introducing Jack to some classic 80s movies and so far, he has loved every one.  He caught The Karate Kid last week and got up early every morning to catch a little off the dvr before the day started.  Another big hit (although I could do without the Wax On/Paint the Fence jokes the kids now tell all the time).

What are some favorites you think we should share with the almost 10-year-old?  I think Planes, Trains and Automobiles is next for us, but we need to build a "to watch" list.

Drop In on Some Fun

Our city has a couple great (and free) summer programs that we drop in on each summer.  Usually hey each last about an hour so they are the perfect little thing to add to our day.  This week was a little too cold to be in the water, but I still wanted to keep things semi-mellow (summer school starts next week), so an hour program (to break up errands, chores, etc.) was perfect.

This week my kids...
created some new dance moves with the ballet...

found some zen...

tried out some ju jitzu...

played theater games/became pirates/joined a daycare group...

held/pet a bunch of animals...hedgehogs, turtles, chinchillas and this guy!

All of these activities were free and all of them were taught/hosted by really great teachers.  It is truly worth it to check out your local libraries and community groups to see if they have programming.  My kids love the events and the new friends they make (because my girls are not shy).

Think Outside The Lunchbox

We are planning to do some projects to help others again this summer (probably one each week) and so we started off this morning reading this book about how kids and adults can help others in their community.  It emphasized volunteering, fundraising and donations, but also made the point that making someone's life better (even if it's just to make them smile) is helping.  I really thought it was a great start to our day and put us in a good mindset for our projects.  Most of the thing we will be doing are small things, but I hope they have a big impact both in helping others and in helping my kids to learn how important it is to help others.

Our first project is a cause I've been thinking about a lot...feeding kids who may go hungry in the summer without school lunch.  There is already a huge need for food donations in our community, but summer is one of the worst times for children who depend on that one (and sometimes only) meal each day.  The Think Outside The Lunchbox Food Drive is a simple way to help and a wonderful partnership between Hunger Task Force and Outpost Natural Foods.  You can give a monetary donation or drop off non-perishable items in the entry of any Outpost.

We decided to focus on snacks/quick meal foods and worked together to get the most bang for our buck.  This is what we were able to pull together with our modest donation dollars.  The kids chose snacks and flavors that they like themselves, which made it a little more personal.

The kids really enjoyed the shopping, but placing the items in the donation box made a big impact on them.  We talked about how these items would help kids just like them in our community to be able to learn and have fun this summer instead of wondering how to make their rumbly tummies feel better.

The donation boxes will be up through the end of August and the kids have already asked if we could donate again this summer.  I am planning to add extra items to my cart every time I am "snack mom" for sports and including staple items (rice, pasta, peanut butter) on my grocery list.  Please consider donating or looking into similar programs in your community.

Father's Day Fishing

This family has our traditions...on Mother's Day, we hike and on Father's Day, we fish!  This year we spent the morning fishing (thank you weather for being fabulous), ate some yummy food, and gave Dad gifts for one-on-one time with each kid.  As always, our fishing expeditions mean that Matt has to research a new place and spend time baiting hooks, but he swears that he loves every second.  The kids certainly do! Check out previous years here, here and here.

Olivia's Dress Take 1

It's finished and as expected...it's short!  I finished Olivia's dress (pattern here, WIP here) this week and it will work with shorts underneath for awhile at least.  The yarn patterning really didn't work with the gauge switches, but at times the patterning is nice.  On the next one (in the colors I do like), I will go a lot longer on the skirt and increase the size of the arm holes (it fits, but they are a bit of a struggle for her to get into).  I really love the high-waist ruffle and the edging (so much in fact, that I will probably add it to the sleeves as well).

I should know better than to take photos upstairs, but that is where we were.  Ignore the terrible quality and also, Liv's bedhead...it was an early morning photo shoot.

Mud Run Weekend

My brother-in-laws are doing a mud run this summer and found this awesome family event for a 2 mile mud run held this past weekend.  When my oldest nephew bailed out, Jack got to take his spot and I'm so thankful he got this opportunity.  They had a blast and loved getting super dirty in the process.  This is the kind of thing that is SO not my thing, so I'm glad Jack gets a chance to experience things outside of my comfort zone from time to time.  It may be hard to see from the photos above, but trust me, they were muddy!

In other news this weekend...

This girl retired from soccer.

This guy said goodbye to a team of great friends.  They won't be a team anymore (after 3 years together) but their friendships (and those of their parents) will definitely continue.

And this girl lots LOTS of quality time with her cousins (especially her dancing partner)!

Orange You Glad? Volunteer Gifts

We still have one week of school left in these parts, but today was the last day of volunteering for the wonderful group of parents that help our school.  It my last year coordinating this bunch, and it can be tough to come up with something new each year.  It's a larger group, so I want to make it cute and fun, but also affordable.  Hopefully they liked this bright spot of orange hanging from their front door (especially after our rainy, gloomy week).

I apologize for the photo below, but the gloomy weather really did a number on my inside pics this week.  This is our assembly process which went super fast thanks to my helper (who is now 4 and actually very helpful these days).  Each bag had a few fun items inside as well as a little note of thanks...all orange of course!

Printable tag: Coley's Corner
Orange soap: KJ's Crafts
Chevron clothespin & baker's twine: Rachel's Soaps
Gum, drink mix, bracelet, bag: Target

I had planned to make bracelets to include in the bags but ran out of time and ended up finding some fill-ins.  I wasn't in love with them (and really wish I had made my own), but I had to make do.  Using the baker's twine to make a large loop at the top of the bag was perfect for hanging on all kinds of doorknobs.  It made the drop-off process so much easier!

Looking for other simple, affordable gift ideas for groups?  Check out these gift ideas from previous years...

Work-in-Progress Wednesday 35

EJ gets a skirt, Olivia talks her way into a dress.  And not just one dress, but two...because I hate the colors she chose, so I agreed to make two so I could get to make a pretty one.  I decided to make her color scheme first so I can make adjustments on the one I like.  This one is going to be a little short (photo is cropped at her knees, so that's a lot of leg showing).  I could go back and fix it, but I'm thinking I will just leave it short and have her wear it with leggings (and it should gain some length from blocking/ironing as well).  And despite the Easter egg colors she picked, I think it's cute.

The next one will be in the green shown below on the bottom right.  I was trying to get her to agree to the blue as trim, but I think she is going to bully me into pink.

It might be a little while before I get to that dress though.  My other WIPs are for a VIP baby who decided to make her appearance 5 weeks early!  Lucky for her, she's adorable!

Sports Seasons

Our sports seasons are changing over, so we're wrapping up soccer and Jack is beginning baseball.  It makes for some busy weekends (especially given that we are two weeks from the end of school as well), but lots of fun being a parent spectator/sideline cheerer.

Jack had his first baseball game of the season and as his team took the field, we realized Jack was pitching.  We were in coach pitch last year, so this switch was already a little weird, but to have Jack starting seemed even weirder.  He did great though and we're on a new team, so I've got some player names to study!

Soccer is coming to a close as well (although he has plenty of camps coming up this summer), so I brought my camera along to try to get a few good pics.  It was a good match-up, so I did only get a few photos because I wanted to watch more than take pics.  I love this next pic because none of them are actually standing on the ground.  Our team is on clearly always on the move!

EJ has just one more game and then she has decided to stop playing soccer.  I think it's a good choice for her.  She has so many interests that she really has reached a point where she has to make choices if she wants to try new things.  Also, much like her mother, she hates playing in the cold weather.  Mostly though, she just isn't as aggressive as she needs to be.  The top right photo is telling, she always seems like she's worried about getting in the way of the other players.  Very courteous, but not as diehard as needed (even in U6).

Opening day of baseball also earned us the first cones of the summer.  We also watched The Sandlot (first time for all of us) Saturday night with Jack and loved it.  This weekend was the perfect unofficial start to summer!

Reading List Summary, April/May 2013

Mom's List
Red Thread Sisters (Carol Antoinette Peacock)
Instant Mom (Nia Vardalos)

Jack's List
The Same Stuff as Stars (Katherine Paterson)
Howliday Inn (James Howe)
This Book is Not Good for You (Pseudonymous Bosch)
The Million Dollar Kick (Dan Gutman)
This Isn't What It Looks Like (Pseudonymous Bosch)
You Have To Stop This (Pseudonymous Bosch)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room (Lemony Snicket)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window (Lemony Snicket)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill (Lemony Snicket)
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch (Donald J. Sobol)
Swindle (Gordon Korman)
Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (Donald J. Sobol)

EJ's List
Back in the Saddle (Catherine Hapka)
The Three Little Pigs (Harriet Ziefert)
Snow Surprise (Lisa Campbell Ernst)
Sam Goes Next Door (Mary Labatt)
Splash! (Ariane Dewey)
Sam Goes to School (Mary Labatt)
The Gingerbread Boy (Harriet Ziefert)
The Little Red Hen (Harriet Ziefert)
New Pig In Town (Lisa Wheeler)
Gilbert, the Surfer Dude (Diane deGroat)
Frog and Toad Are Friends (Arnold Lobel)
Mouse Soup (Arnold Lobel)
Duck & Company (Kathy Caple)
How to Drive Your Sister Crazy (Diane Z. Shore)
Bookstore Cat (Cindy Wheeler)
Annie and Snowball and the Dress-up Birthday (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night (Cynthia Rylant)
Henry and Mudge and the Tall Tree House (Cynthia Rylant)
Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake (Cynthia Rylant)
The Noodle Game (Larry Dane Brimmer)
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat (Cynthia Rylant)
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (Erica Silverman)
The Big Tee Ball Game (Larry Dane Brimmer)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wil Mara)

Read-aloud List
Ramona and Her Father (Beverly Cleary)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
Ramona and Her Mother (Beverly Cleary)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (Beverly Cleary)
Bye, Bye Butterflies! (Andrew Larsen)
Ava's Poppy (Marcus Pfister)
The Lonely Book (Kate Bernheimer)
Laundry Day (Maurie J. Manning)
A Kiss Means I Love You (Kathryn Madeline Allen)
Here Comes Trouble! (Corinne Demas)
If I Built a House (Chris Van Dusen)
Under Ground (Denise Fleming)
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? (Eve Bunting)
Mossy (Jan Brett)
The Donut Chef (Bob Staake)
Little Cub (Olivier Dunrea)
Happy (Mies van Hout)
Snowboy 1, 2, 3 (Joe Wahman)
Mr. King's Things (Genevieve Cote)
Sleep Like A Tiger (Mary Logue)
The Napping House (Audrey Wood)
Busy, Busy Mouse (Virginia Kroll)
Edgar Degas: Paintings that Dance (Kristin N. Cole)
I Know A Wee Piggy (Kim Norman)
Monkey's Friends (Ruth Brown)
I Would Tuck You In (Sarah Asper-Smith)
Lester's Dreadful Sweaters (K.G. Campbell)
Hippospotamus (Jeanne Willis)
Penguin's Hidden Talent (Alex Latimer)
Rosie's Magic Horse (Russell Hoban)
The Box (Axel Janssens)
Part-Time Princess (Deborah Underwood)
Fly Blanky Fly (Anne Margaret Lewis)
A Leaf Can Be... (Laura Purdie Salas)
Marathon Mouse (Amy Dixon)

Reading List Summary, March 2013

Mom's List
The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Jack's List
Jackie & Me (Dan Gutman)
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective (Donald J. Sobol)
Afternoon on the Amazon (Mary Pope Osborne)
High Tide in Hawaii (Mary Pope Osborne)
Christmas in Camelot (Mary Pope Osborne)
If You're Reading This, It's Too Late! (Pseudonymous Bosch)
Weird But True 4 (National Geographic Kids)
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (Chris Colfer)
The Homework Machine (Dan Gutman)

EJ's List
In A People House (Theo. LeSieg)
The Cold Winter Day (Carl Emerson)
I Am the Artist! (Dawn Anderson)
Little Sister, Big Mess! (Jane E. Gerver)
Sneaky Pete (Rita Milios)
Messy Bessey's Garden (Patricia & Frederick McKissack)
Firefly Friend (Kimberly Wagner Klier)
A Bed Full of Cats (Holly Keller)
Take My Picture (Sanford Hoffman)
Mac and Cheese and the Perfect Plan (Sarah Weeks)
Messy Bessey and the Birthday Overnight (Patricia and Fredrick McKissack)
I Like Shoes (Candice Ransom)
A Busy Guy (Charnan Simon)
Come! Sit! Speak! (Charnan Simon)
Pizza Soup (Fay Robinson)
My Camp-Out (Marcia Leonard)
The Friendship Tree (Kathy Caple)
A Dollar for Penny (Dr. Julie Glass)
Annie and Snowball and the Prettiest House (Cynthia Rylant)

Read-aloud List
A Winter's Tail (Susan Meddaugh)
If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo (Mary Jean Hendrick)
Elmer and Super El (David McKee)
A Weekend with Wendell (Kevin Henkes)
Elephants (Melissa Stewart)
Hop, Hop, Jump! (Lauren Thompson)
The Princess Who Could Not Sleep (An Leysen)
Mooshka: A Quilt Story (Julie Paschkis)
Seababy: A Little Otter Returns Home (Ellen Levine)
It's a Tiger! (David LaRochelle)
The Sunflower Sword (Mark Sperring)
Trick or Treat (Leo Landry)
Ramona the Brave (Beverly Cleary)
Mimi's Dada Catifesto (Shelley Jackson)
Constructions Kitties (Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges)
Tumford's Rude Noises (Nancy Tillman)
Splat Says Thank You! (Rob Scotton)