Friday, June 26, 2009

On to the weekend!

This week can end now. It wasn't terrible or anything, but you know when you are kinda in a funk and the days just drag by? Its been that kind of week and I'm ready for the weekend where we can do some things that have been driving me nuts (namely E & G's trashed rooms and the laundry pileup that hasn't been dealt with) but I haven't been able to get done.

Its been a month now that Jason has been looking for a job and there has really been no movement. He had an interview for a contract job but that didn't pan out. Although we still have two months before he's laid off, and then severance and bonus after that to help us last, the waiting and having everything on hold is hard. Its stressful. Not an in your face stress, but an underlying stress that flares every once and awhile.

Elsa is walking so well now! 5, 6, 7 steps at a time. Last night she was even trying to run those steps! I'm ready for her to walk. So so ready! Her personality has had a growth spurt too. She teases us, shows off, and basically endears herself to just about everyone with her toothy grin.

Today the kids and I went with Mom to Flower World, a truly amazing place! Besides the acres and acres of every plant possible, the grounds are park-like and just beautiful... with fountains, geese, a water wheel and streams. Across the street there was a petting zoo and farm (they actually grow food and gather eggs to sell in their store) with peacocks, chickens, goats and sheep. The kids enjoyed that, and then we visited the produce stand which had lots of local produce and fresh eggs. Lovely stuff!

I purchased three hanging flower baskets that were on sale. They are so pretty! I'll have to get a picture. Yesterday, I also picked up a blueberry bush that was on sale, and also a cayenne pepper plant to fill in an empty square in my garden. I"m a little plant crazy this year :)

I'm doing this workout video called 30 Day Shred and man, is it tough! Its really really tough! But the nice thing is that its only about 25 minutes from start to finish.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chickenpox and stair climbing

Two things I forgot to mention in my previous post!

On Thursday Ethan came down with these spots

I consulted many a expert (i.e. friends and family) via the Internet and these looked pretty definitively like chickenpox. Ok, well good because they need to have it sooner or later, but kinda bummed it would happen during our camping trip!

However, Friday morning he wakes up and the spots are almost gone. There are no new spots. He is not sick. Neither is anyone else. I'm not sure what happened. He's had just one or two more pop up, but then they go away quickly. He's not felt under the weather at all. I was thinking maybe an allergic reaction (he's already been suffering badly the past month or so), but Mom and Aunt Deanne confirmed that those indeed looked like chickenpox. So it appears that he just a super light case. Or something. A mystery.

Elsa can climb stairs. And not just slowly meander, but RACE. She can make it up 14 steps in about 15 seconds. Anytime a gate is not across the stairs she will now race to the top and then calls us until we come and see what she did. Little stinker! Still no walking, but she is so close. The other day she jumped a few times which was pretty impressive. Both the other kids were walking by now, but Elsa will do it in her own time, thank you very much.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yurts at River Meadows

This weekend we went to River Meadows Park in Arlington and stayed in a yurt. We've always wanted to camp in a yurt and were quite excited to do this!

We packed up Friday afternoon. The weather was cool and cloudy, but not rainy.

A tired Elsa, waiting for us to finally leave already!

Our very full car and the excited kids (though Ethan doesn't look particularly excited in this shot...)

Our first vision of the park... Four deer eating berries

We turned into the yurt village and were surprised to find that we could not drive up to the yurts. One had to park in the parking lot, then use a small wagon to tow items to the yurts. If I had known this I perhaps wouldn't have chosen the last two on the road!

The unpaved yurt road

There were two yurts behind me, and these were the last four. Mom and Dad stayed in the very last one, we were in the second to last. Three of the yurts were bigger (20 feet) and #3 (the one closest in the picture) was "luxury", meaning it had two decks, bed linens and additional furniture.

Our yurt.

The interior was still new and fresh, since these opened up just recently. It was a bit sparser than I had imagined, and the sleeping arrangements were different than I expected as well, but overall it was pretty cool. We had two kids sleeping on the top bunk, then I got the bottom and J slept on the futon and the baby in the pack and play. We also had a small table. (Note: The yurt was perfectly clean when we got there. These pictures were taken just as we were leaving so it was a bit dirtier :))

A heater and outlets were also provided.

View from the door

The yurt was incredibly light inside thanks to the skylight. It never felt enclosed or claustrophobic. My one complaint was that in the mornings it was VERY bright as soon as it got light out, which woke everyone up way too early.

Elly was a little ham and kept dropping her toys and saying "Uh oh".

Right after we got all our stuff down to our yurt the rain started to fall. We put up our canopies right away and man, were we EVER grateful that we'd decided that Mom and Dad should bring theirs too. Those canopies saved us this weekend and allowed us to cook and eat and visit in sometimes drenching rain without issue.

My Dad has an excellent technique for starting a fire in hard rain. A road flare! Its also very entertaining for the children :)

We'd only been camping for a few hours when BOTH Ethan and Gwen ripped their pants! Ethan wasn't sure where his ripped.... we think he slid over a log and got caught up. We know how Gwen ripped hers though and I wish I'd had my camera to capture it! Gwen was jumping off the tailgate of my Dad's truck and her pants got caught on a piece of metal. She was hanging there by her pants and started calling for help! Jason rescued her before the pants ripped through, but I tell you, it was just like you see in a movie when people dangle from their pants. It was hilarious!

Gwen helping Nanny do dishes

A very very very tired baby finally giving up the fight. Thanks Jenni :)

It rained all night, but thanks to the lovely yurt we were warm and dry. The mattresses on the beds were thick and even though they were a little hard, we could not complain as it was a lot better than a tent!

The early riser crew (thanks Elsa!). I believe this was at 5:15am.

While I was starting breakfast, she broke into the food bin and stole a hot dog bun. This girl is sneaky!

Nothing makes Ethan smile like hot chocolate in the morning

Jenni had brought her bike and we brought the bike trailer. We hooked it up and it gave the kids lots of entertainment (also handy for hauling things to and from the campsite). I took Elsa for a ride and she liked it! I had not ridden a bike for a couple years and this one had a very high seat (thanks to me being the shorty of the family). Nonetheless, I persevered. I'd forgotten how fun biking is.

Later in the day, we couldn't get a very tired Elly to fall asleep. Jenni took her for a spin, and voila...

Speaking of bikes, Mom suggested that we try to teach the kids how to ride without training wheels. We knew Ethan wasn't ready, but thought we'd try for Gwen. She did really good! She was able to go 5-10 seconds without falling. There wasn't a whole lot of pavement at this park, so we need to practice with her on longer stretches.

The weather was much better on Saturday. Though it started out damp, the sun came out later in teh day and warmed everything up and dried it out.

We bought this game called Lasso Golf (also called Ladder Golf). It was so fun! I don't know why we didn't get pictures of it. You throw these things that have a ball on each end, connected by string. You try to wrap them around the rungs and each rung is worth different points. There is actually some good strategy needed! Great fun for all ages. Anyway, Elsa loved the little throwing things and played with them constantly. She was crawling around exploring and next thing I know she's slung a few of these over her neck and is crawling back with her excited crawl (yes, her crawls have moods!), very proud of what she found.

We left our campsite in the afternoon to visit Jordan Bridge Park, which was about 5-10 minutes away. I have to say... it was not very exciting. It was a bridge, yes. There was a small beach, yes. But that was it. Not a thing else! Still, we made a good time of it.

Not too long after I took this picture, one of those swimmers in the background jumped off the bridge into the river. Not very smart.

I found a rock shaped like a heart and gave it to Gwen who was extremely impressed and excited. Gwen has the ability to find joy in the ordinary and that is such a gift!

We returned to our campsite and Gwen and Ethan started playing with the little kids they had met in neighboring yurts.

Gwen and her "girls".

One little boy just made himself at home at our site. He loved Star Wars and came with three light sabers. Ethan and Ben thoroughly enjoyed this!

Notice how Gwen is wearing different clothes from the picture of her with her girlfriends? Its kind of a funny story. Each kid brought a backpack that was supposed to hold 1 toy and a few books. I didn't check the backpacks. Well, midway through the day on Saturday, Gwen goes into the yurt and comes out in clothes that I absolutely did not pack her (I thought dresses would be too cold). She informs me that instead of packing toys and fun things, she packed two outfits (both dresses...) so that if she didn't like the clothes I brought she'd have something else to wear. We hadn't even had a conversation about not wearing dresses, she just had an idea that perhaps I wouldn't pack them. I wasn't sure how to reply to this except to praise her good thinking and cleverness and then have a good laugh with the adults about how funny kids are sometimes.

We knew that Sunday would be a busy day, so we celebrated Fathers Day on Saturday evening.

The kids gave J a gift they'd chosen all themselves.

It was a collection of darling truffles that we'd run across one day while shopping. The kids could not resist buying Daddy these yummy and adorable treats! The picture doesn't do them justice. They were really charming.

From top row to bottom:
Ladybug, ice cream cone
pig, chocolate Lab (just like Toby!)
a turtle, and an oyster with a pearl.

Card and a hug for Grandpa

We woke up this morning to the sound of rain. Rain, rain, rain. Never a good sound on pack-up day. It never really eased up, so we decided not to dally and hurried through breakfast and started getting things together. By the time we were done we were all thoroughly drenched and soaked. I haven't been that wet to the core in a VERY long time! Jenni took care of the kids while us adults hauled load after load up that long dirt road to the cars. We saw the rangers and asked if they would oh so kindly consider unchaining the posts that blocked the road so we could just drive down and load up, but no go. Much to our surprise, by the time we were fully loaded and heading out it was only 9:30am! We were home by 10:30 (coffee stop ABSOLUTELY necessary) and as of now everything is put away, everyone showered and I'm about 3 loads in on laundry. There are perks to camping close to home!

All and all we had a very enjoyable time. In one way, it wasn't a very interesting trip scenery wise. What we saw was exactly what we see all the time. A downside to camping close to home. But on the other hand, how often do we live outside in what we see? That was nice, and of course family time and the fun of cooking and living outdoors is always worth a trip.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good weather, bad blogging

They ARE related! We've had such good weather lately that I haven't had the time or motivation to blog. I have the vain hope that most our summer will be like the past month has been. 70's, sunny, gentle breeze. Just about perfect...

Last week I took the older kids to the doctor for their yearly checkup. I love doing that. For one, our pediatrician is a wonderful woman who remembers us from visit to visit (even though we only see her once a year) and is great with kids AND she's totally cool with whatever we want to do regarding immunizations and such. I also love to hear how my kids are growing. Here are the numbers.

Weight: 33.8lbs (50-75%)
Height: 40 inches (75-90%)

How come she always looks so tiny when she is not just average, but even a little bigger than average? And let this be a lesson to mothers out there who are worried about their babies not being on the percentile charts. Little miss was always teetering on the weight percentile, falling off it completely a few times. But she eventually caught up to normal in her own good and natural time.

Weight: 45.8 lbs (90-95%)
Height: 46.5 inches (95-97%)

Wow! We knew he was tall, but we had no idea he was that much taller than average. He's gonna be a tall one. I've been telling him that he'll soon pass me up and at this rate, well, I'm thinking that by 10 or so (maybe earlier!) he will be my heigth.

Both of them did have to get a shot :( Gwen was a trooper, stating, "That really hurt" in a calm voice. But Ethan thrashed and cried and fought. Broke my heart! But he did get it eventually. To calm the waters, I treated them to TCBY afterwards. They loved that!

This last weekend Mom took the kids overnight on Friday. It was the first overnight trip for Elsa and she did great! In fact, it was Ethan who woke my Mom up during the night and not the baby! We were so glad to hear that Elsa did well because the last weekend in June its likely we'll be going to Cincinnati for 3 nights to check out the area and the kids will be with Mom. Can I just say what a blessing my parents (and siblings!) are to me? They are. And I hope that I can return their support and love and service as much as they've given to me.

Anyway, Saturday morning, while we were still kidless, I was browsing Craigslist for a swing set (I've been looking for weeks and weeks to find one cheap enough and close enough) and found one. J called on it right away and we talked the guy down $10, not much but enough to cover gas, and it was ours. So we drove up to Stanwood to pick it up and it was in GREAT condition. Only used once, and packed away out of the weather. We came home, assembled it and went to bring the kids home so they could see it. Oh man. They love it! They are out there at 6am and still are swinging at 8pm. Best $90 we've ever spent.

My garden is growing well. My sugar snap peas are out, though my one plant has only give me two. The other has given me many more, though not enough for a meal. Aren't they lovely?

I did a revamp of some squares, since so many things didn't grow thanks to my incompetence (next year will be better...). I planted a hardy spinach hybrid that grows well in all seasons in 4 boxes, tossed my sage and replaced with tarragon and tossed my thyme and replaced it with a larger one that will hopefully grow! Parsley is going strong and is delicious. Parsley salads are yum. Cilantro is taking well and has started putting out new growth. Tomatoes continue to grow and blossom. I'm hoping for a great harvest from them in another month or two. Basil is also doing well. If nothing else, I have to remember that this garden is getting us outside more, its teaching the kids (and me) about plants and their life cycles and how to best support, or damage, that cycle.

The kids have been doing reading lessons each day and loving them. Its amazing what a difference a few months makes. What frustrated and bored Ethan earlier this year is a joy and challenge to him now. I'm not sure if Gwen will follow this through to completion or not. She likes it, but she is still so young. I'm following her lead. If she loses interest we won't continue, but so far she's enjoying it. I ordered a handwriting book for Ethan and its below his level. But that's ok... I really just wanted him to practice his hand strength. I like this style and some of the letter formations are a bit different than how he learned in pre-k so the practice helps reinforce the slightly different style too.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I guess its time to teach her about stairs

Elsa likes to hang out by the back steps, watching us come in and out. She's never tried to crawl out the door or come close to being pushed out. I really did know it was only a matter of time before she was knocked over, but when it happened we all felt dreadful. At first I didn't even see the bruise because it was hidden under her mop of hair, but when I was washing her face I found it :( Poor little thing.

One day I'll get it right

This morning the kids and I yanked up all the radishes. I planted them around the beginning of April and while the greens looked great, the radishes themselves were tiny and so woody I could barely cut them. See?

Its very frustrating! I feel like gardening is so hard. I wonder how people ever did it to feed themselves. I guess there were generations upon generations of knowledge that was passed down that helped.

So now I have three empty squares and no idea what to plant, or what I could even plant at this point.

Yesterday I made a outline for our days during the summer. I'm finding it hard to focus and keep on task. Just a lot on my mind with J's job situation and feeling overwhelmed in general. I thought that maybe this would help give me some structure (which I try to avoid in general!).

Part of what I want to get into daily is some sort of lessons. Reading for both the kids, and when Ethan's handwriting book arrives, he'll do that too. Right now I have both the kids doing tracing pages of their names. Ethan's hands are weak and he needs lots of practice. Gwen had been reluctant to start reading, though she was so obviously ready. She kept saying she was afraid. Yet she had an annoying tendency to hang over our shoulders when Ethan was doing his reading and point out where he was making mistakes and sound out words with us. So today I took her on my lap and asked her to try one lesson and see how it went. She agreed, and before we were done with the first 5 minute lesson she was all smiles and thrilled with herself. She LOVED it! I think she was intimidated, and she has this fear of failure. If she thinks she cannot do it, she won't even try. Once I pushed her to try, she saw that she could do it and now she's very excited.

The baby started saying two new words over the weekend. There is a picture of a baby on her bag of diapers, which she sees every time we change her. She kept asking "What's that" and we kept saying baby. This weekend she pointed to it and said, "babee" (sounds like bobby). I was impressed! Then she brought me a book and asked me what it was and I told her and she says back to me, "book". Clear as day! Her language seems more developed to me than the other kids at this age, but its hard to remember that far back too :)

Ethan's allergies are a mess right now. He's very stuffed up and his face is puffy. We're trying out Zyrtec and doing Nasonex daily. Tomorrow, him and Gwen have their yearly checkups and I'm going to get a prescription for more nose spray. Poor little guy :(

Jason continues to look for a job and we continue to ask for your prayers that the right job is brought his way. At the end of this month, we are going to be flying to Cincinnati to check out the area and make our final decision about moving. We are 90% sure we will not be moving, but by then we should have a better idea of Jason's chances of getting a job here. So far its been slow. Last year he put his resume up out of curiosity and the phone rang so much he had to take it down. This year, not so much. Please pray for us. Its very stressful...we have to account for worst case scenario, which is terrifying, but still keep our spirits up and hope for best case. I go through times of panic and peace, often within minutes of each other! I know its a large burden for J as well.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


My garden is doing great, though I had to bid adieu to my carrots and beets. They never grew. I left a few carrots in that seem to be growing, albeit slowly, but dug up the rest and planted cilantro in their spot. I also replanted my lettuce which never grew at all. I replaced my basil plants that had been stunned by the cold snap we had. Aunt Margaret gave me some artichoke starts and I planted those. I don't know if I'll eat them or just let them flower. They make gorgeous flowers! My parsley continues its quest for world domination, and my tomatoes are flowering like crazy. Woo!


Mon jardin

On Tuesday we visited my friend April and new baby Garrison! Oh he's a cutie. I do not believe that my kids were ever that small, but they were. He has big hands and feet... they are almost the same size as Elly's. I think its possible that he could outpace Elly in size in a years time :)

Elsa loved him. She just wanted to pat and pinch him and sit on him.

The face just yells trouble

After we left Aprils, we stopped at home and picked up Jason, then headed out to Mom's house to try and stay cool. Its been HOT the last few days. Much too hot for June. Mom and Dad got a pool for the kids to play in and they love it.

Elsa in her bathing attire. I think its terrifically cute.

Wednesday, we headed to Willis D. Tucker park to play on the spray pad. My friend Heather and her kids Max (Gwen attended pre-school with him) and Gracie came, and we also ran into one of April's friends Beth. It was a very hot day, but the kids had a blast.

Ethan is in the orange shorts

We had April's son Gibson with us and that was fun too, though I perhaps underestimated the amount of effort required to keep tabs on 3 kids as they run from the spray pad to the playground and to the sandbox, while still tending to a 1 year old AND try to talk to your friend a little. Whew! But it was all good.

Gibson is in the red

Gibson is a great sharer and him and Elly get along so well. They find each other entertaining. Here they were sharing a snack of popcorn and having a little conversation. Well, he talked and she listened and smiled :)

Elly knows how to live the high life. Kickin' back in a stroller, sipping bottle of milk, checking out the view. Life is sweet.

Today is another hot day and we escaped during the early part to have our long overdue weekly Thursday visit at my Mom's house. Grammy, Aunt Margaret and Aunt Deanne were all there and the kids played in the pool some more in the hot hot sun. They were utterly exhausted. Know how I could tell? This is what they looked like when I got home.

So, remember how I mentioned in my previous post regarding the rumors about Jason being laid off? Well, he was given notice today that it was impending. However, he was offered a relocation package to Cincinnati. We have until July 2nd to decide. Regardless of our decision, his last day is August 28th. This is a huge answer to prayer... we had been very concerned that the layoff might be immediate or within a week or two, giving him no time at all to find another job. He'd been looking since the rumors started flying, but the job market is sluggish and often the interview process can take 3-4 weeks! If he stays through the 28th, he would get a 6 week severance package, his remaining vacation time cashed out, and a bonus for staying until the end. Another answer to prayer... if he cannot find a job by the end of August, the severance and bonus, plus what we have saved up, would last us another 3-4 months. Maybe longer if we really cracked down. While we are really sad that he is losing a very good job and has to go through the stressful and difficult task of finding a job, we feel so fortunate to have these options. I know J is still stressed, but I feel as if some of the stress has been lifted off my shoulders and my jittery jangly nerves are settling a little.