Sunday, July 31, 2016

October Fun

We were lucky enough to have my sister Katie and her kids come visit. I am not sure how much longer she will be able to pull this off as she has more kids, but I am glad she still can for now. We actually bought pumpkins this year from a pumpkin patch and even got around to carving them, which is a first since our rotting pumpkins our first Halloween in Texas. The pumpkin patch had a little play area for the kids.

John got a great leg workout helping King and Netta on the teeter totters.

Part of the reason Katie was able to visit, was that my parents came up for the weekend and then drove her back with them to Pittsburgh, so she could get 2 trips in one. We decided to head to the fall festival at a local apple orchard. They have amazing donuts and cider. Unfortunately, it was unseasonably warm and we were not ready for that, which led to some grumpy kids. We still were able to have some fun and scare the crap out of our kids by going through the haunted house. It really wasn't scary at all but it was more than Netta or King could handle.

We had a "Witches Night Out" at church for the ladies. It was really fun. Part of it was a scavenger hunt around town. It was really funny to be doing that with a bunch of grown woman and it was even funnier to see who would throw themselves completely into it and who didn't want to get out of the car. HaHa. There was also a hat decorating contest and I decided to go for Dia de los Muertos. I was pretty proud of my cheep finds that let me put the hat together and I was equally as proud of my makeup job. Wasn't sure if I could pull it off, but it may be my go to costume from now on. 

Our realtor is amazing and he sponsored a day trip to Chicago for all his past clients. He rented 2 buses, stocked them with snacks, and then drove us around Chicago to different popular spots. From the invite I thought you were only allowed to bring 2 people, so I told John I wanted to have a special date with King. Being the middle child, means poor King misses out sometimes. EZ, as the oldest has gotten to do a lot one on one with John and I and of course Conrad gets all my attention most days. Netta is technically also a middle child, but being the only girl, she gets more then here fair share of one on one time with John and I. So, King and I had our date and our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry. They just had had a sweet groupon deal where you could get a year long family membership for half price, so it was perfect timing. Then to make it even better, when we got there they had a special limited time exhibit just about robots. King was in heaven!

We spent most of the day there and then the bus took us up to Water Tower Place and King was once again in heaven in the Lego Store. We spent an hour just in there. From then on King started to crash and so we decided to go get some pizza at Gino's East. I have only been there at lunch and it is so much more affordable than dinner. I still can't believe I spent $50 on a pizza dinner for King and I. Haha. King got a new Mixel lego pack from the store and insisted on keeping it safe in his minion hat. Hence the interesting pump on his head. All and all it was a great day and we found out we could have brought the whole family. I am really glad King and I got our date this time, but if there is a next, we will all be going. 

EZ got to play some of his piano pieces at an old folks home and all the kids playing wore costumes. Christine Velasco, a friend from church, organized the whole thing. EZ is loves piano and actually enjoys working through things when they get hard. I am grateful and amazed by people who organize these kind of things. I wouldn't have even thought of it!

Halloween means Halloween parties at school and this year I got to visit Conrad and EZ. Conrad's preschool had different employees stationed around the Y with candy and toys and the kids walked around the entire place trick or treating. He was surprisingly shy on this visit. Sometimes Conrad is beyond out going, but then he still has those days where he clings to me and acts like he is afraid of people.

Parents at Brown school are very hands on and always willing to volunteer, which is awesome, but it also means sometimes it is hard to get into your kids classroom. For 4th grade you get to sign up to help with one major event and so I was in charge of the Halloween party. I didn't have to really do much except make sure all the different stations were taken care of and there were plenty of volunteers for that. I was in charge of the snack station and I decided it would be fun for the kids to decorate their own monster cookies. They had fun and I didn't have to do as much work. ;)

Here are all the kids in their Halloween glory. EZ and King were both characters from the Skylanders video game and of course if you kids aren't obsessed with those like mine are, you have no idea who they are. Netta was a spunky witch and Conrad was the cutest dinosaur ever. 

Our first year here, Halloween was kind of ruined by horrible weather that came through and this year was kind of the same thing. It rained a ton. EZ went out with some friends and their parents were so miserable in the rain that they finally told the kids they would talk them to Walgreens and buy them candy if they would quite trick or treating. Conrad and Kingston opted out of trick or treating at all and I had the fun of taking Netta and her buddy Elizabeth. They didn't last long and that was fine with me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

September Happenings

School doesn't start here till after Labor Day, so we still have some time in September to squeeze in more summer fun. My friend Katie Richardson, from our MSU days, came down to visit from Grand Haven with her kids. We had Silver Beach Pizza of course and then headed to the beach. Her son Cam is Netta's age, but EZ and him really hit it off and EZ requested a special picture of the 2 of them. 

 We also had time to take a few more pics with the art statues downtown. We have taken so many over the summer that EZ is no longer impressed. 

Labor Day weekend, Uncle Casey was playing volleyball in Cincinnati so we made a little family vacation out of it. It was insanely hot and then it rained like crazy. The rain messed up the schedule so much that a bunch of the games were played late at night and sometimes John was the only representative of our family there.

 Casey is sponsored by Paul Mitchell and they always have a booth at the events. Netta had her hair braided. I was amazed that they could actually get it in a braid. Poor girl loved it and I have never even tried to do it. I better up my game. 

When Casey wasn't playing, we explored Cincinnati and I was pleasantly surprised by it. My bad google directions ended up with us trying to find a Chick-fil-A that was actually in the college stadium and then because that didn't work the next closest one was actually just over the river in Kentucky, so I can now say I have been to Kentucky as well. We also made sure and try some local restaurants, like a really cool grilled cheese place, where actually the best part was the desserts made out of grilled donuts. Our favorite place was the museum center housed in this old train station. It had a really awesome children's museum. 

We all loved cheering for Uncle Casey and they made it to the finals, which was awesome. King was the most excited to see him and to get to have dinner with him after the final game. He is actually smiling in this pic and not ruining it with a crazy face like he usually does. He talked to Casey the entire time at dinner. Casey couldn't always understand him, but he was a good listener. 

As soon as we got back from Cincinnati, it was back to school. I can't believe I have 3 kids in school now. I was really worried about King and how he would do. He has been insisting that he is not going to go to Brown school and that he only wants to stay in preschool. When we went to back to school night to meet his teacher, he wouldn't even look at her. Luckily, at that same event we were able to tour a school bus and actually meet our driver. His name is Mr. Rath, which I think is hilarious, and he was so nice to King. I thought I was going to have to drive King to school the first day and then pry him off my leg when we got there, but he was so excited to ride the bus that he just strolled right on. I still can't believe, but I'll take it!

Since Conrad and I have all this time to ourselves now, we decided to stand in line at a new restaurant, Taco John's, to be one of the first costumers and win fee Potato Oles for a year. They actually aren't that great, but hey I love a deal!

A week after the kids went back to school, Conrad started preschool. He goes 2 days a week at the Y. It was so funny to see him wearing his back pack that is humongous on him. I can't believe that I now have a 3 hours twice a week with on kids. I gotta say it is really nice for actually getting stuff done.

Every fall they have a little festival on the bluff and of course we had to check out all the animals. Usually we would have been running around at soccer in the morning, but this year we gave soccer the boot. EZ just isn't into running that much and Netta loves dance so much and only really played soccer for the candy and I couldn't handle how crazy it made out lives. King wants to try it out, so this year we opted for doing an intro to soccer at the Y. EZ is taking a speed and agility class at the Y in hopes that it can improve his running for when basketball starts. It makes our Wednesdays absolutely crazy, but I love having such lazy Saturdays!

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Birthday and an Anniversary

Conrad turned 3 on Aug 19th. We enjoyed a fun birthday lunch together at Moe's. I don't really like the food there, but I love the chips and queso and so does Conrad. The queso isn't as good as some places in Austin, obviously, but I am just impressed I can get it anywhere here. We also went to Chuck e Cheese one day as a family. Conrad has been begging to go back. I wish it wasn't 45 minutes away, but that may be a blessing in disguise ;) It was also nice to actually have John there with us, so he can enjoy the special fun/torment that is Chuck e Cheese.

Conrad is hooked on the show "Octonauts" so we decided to recreate one of the characters for his cake. He requested Kwazii and I got the Swedish fish cupcake idea from Pinterest. I'm not gonna lie, I am pretty proud of how this one turned out.

Conrad is such a fun kid and he loves to be the center of attention. He is going to give Netta a run for her money. He likes to give us standing orations during dinner and if he feels like we are paying too much attention to the TV he will stand in front of it and say "Look at me!" We watched a lot of America's Got Talent this summer and he likes to do his own auditions. His talent seems to be doing a lot of downward dog poses. Not sure where he got that.

Conrad's birthday is the day before our anniversary and we had hoped to go to Chicago for the weekend to see John's brother-in-law play volleyball, but he had an international tournament that he had to go to that weekend. Luckily, kind of last minute we found a good deal on flights to his tournament in Long Beach and John got to fly free on my companion pass, so it was too good to pass up. Our awesome friends the Reeves watched the kids for us and we loved getting to see some of John's family, including his nephew Ethan who is serving a mission there, and watching amazing volleyball players from around the world. 

Of course one of the best parts about leaving town is getting to eat amazing food and you know California did not disappoint. I got hooked on acai bowls, which I are kind of healthy, but we also had some not so healthy, but oh so delicious, chicken and waffles from the original Roscoe's. 

Between some of the matches they called people out from the audience to compete in a competition. John and I were chosen and I had to sit in a chair, while he served volleyballs to me and I tried to catch them. They had us going against some high school girls and while it might have been the nice thing to let them win, I wasn't going to mess up on purpose and so we beat them soundly and got some awesome swag ;) While we were walking back up to our seats, the girls parents walked by and jokingly said "Thanks for breaking our girls' hearts." Oops, but I promise they were joking.

Unfortunately, Casey and Jake did not have their best performance this tournament, but we loved seeing them play and we went back even after they were out to watch some of the other Olympic contenders. We are really hoping that Jake and Casey make it to the Olympics. They have a really good chance and in fact, we already have had to commit and buy tickets for some of the volleyball events in Rio. Supposedly, they will be really easy to sell if they don't make it, but we are hoping it doesn't come to that.
We also got to shop till we dropped, see "The Man from UNCLE," which was awesome, and hit up this humongous flee market. We scored some awesome deals, which unfortunately were negated when our car got towed. That was such a hot mess and just ridiculous, but we just let it go and didn't let it ruin our trip. That is not something that always comes easy to me, but I am getting better! Oh and I even survived the last minute somewhat scary motel we had to stay in the first night we got there. I refused to touch the floor with my bare feet, but we made it through the night without anything stolen ;)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

End of Summer Fun

While I was at the last day of scout camp with EZ, John and the other kids had fun exploring downtown. We love the sculptures this summer and we have a ton of pictures of the kids in front of various whales and rubber duckies.

Chalk the Block is always a really exciting part of summer and I was sad to miss the chance to walk around with all the kids. The artwork is always amazing.

I enjoyed camp with EZ and I really loved the skit that the kids came up with for the final campfire. EZ was painfully shy when he was little, but now he is confident in front of people and really funny!

Our friends Jon and Elise came to visit with their kids for the day and of course we had to take them to the carousel. They have an old bumper car in there and we got this cute pic of King and Netta. I love any pic I can get of the two of them getting along.

We have done the carousel a lot and I keep waiting for it to get old, but the kids still seem to love it and the dress up clothes are always a hit.

I have been really impressed with the programs the library has for the kids and now EZ is old enough to start taking part in the tween activities and they are even more awesome. They got to go to the beach and have a professional sand sculptor help them make this enormous lizard thing. The other kids and I tagged along to watch and everyone loved it. 

We were excited to be able to attend one of the open houses for the Indianapolis Temple before it was dedicated. I have never been to a temple open house before and it was such a wonderful faith building experience. The best part was how much EZ enjoyed it and how good he said it made him feel. 

We went down with our friends the Reeves and we were also able to meet up with my friend Sarah, whose family lives in Iowa now, but were driving through on their way home from vacation. Sarah is one of my good friends from MSU and we had our first kids at the same time, so it was really fun to catch up and to see Claire and EZ together.

Since we were in Indianapolis, we decided it would be the best time to go visit Conner Prairie, the old time village place that EZ missed visiting with his class while we were in Austin. It was a bit muggy out, but we still had a lot of fun. Before we could stop them King and Conrad had climbed into this bed. I don't even want to think about what could have been in there. 

EZ got the privilege of being the pretend patient who had to have a blood letting. The look on his face is priceless. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

The Sunday after we got back, John said he needed to go hit some golf balls to practice for a charity golf outing the next day. I wasn't too keen on that and then I got a little concerned when he was gone for a really long time. Finally, he called to let me know that he was trapped in the parking lot by a fire truck that came to put out a golf cart that spontaneously went up in flames. That is what you get for breaking the Sabbath ;)

We discovered another fun thing to do in the summer here. There are some moms who put on Art in the Park, where you go to the park and they have set up stations with all different types of art projects. They just do it, because they want to and all they do is that you make a small donation to help cover supplies. The kids loved it and I was just bummed we didn't hear about it till the end of the summer. There happened to also be a charter high school from Benton Harbor having a end of year party on the other side of the pavilion. Benton Harbor is not known for having the best public schools and there is definitely a clear race/economic division between Benton Harbor and St. Joe. They had extra food that they offered all of us, which was wonderful, but then one of the teachers said she was just grateful that we were willing to share the pavilion with them, because there are people that wouldn't and would have negative things to say about their students. That was a really sad and really eye opening conversation. 

Finally, the boys were able to go on a father son camp out with John. When John went on the daddy daughter camp out with Netta there was a huge rain storm and that is exactly what happened this weekend as well! Luckily, they were still able to have some fun, despite getting basically no sleep thanks to the storm. Of course I am a fan of anything that has John spending more time with the kids and me getting a little bit of a break ;) Netta and I had some fun with our girl friends and those little girls were party animals. I think they would have stayed up all night if we had let them.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

July Shenanigans

We got home from my parent's house, just in time to celebrate the 4th of July with John. We started the day off at the beach. Luckily, we got their early enough to beat the crowds, but we didn't have the energy to stay all day till the fireworks.

We went to the beach just as a family, but we ended up running into people we know. It's a small town and you basically see someone you know everywhere you go. This time we ran into the Fors family and they happen to have a paddle board that they let EZ have a go on. This was his second paddle board adventure this summer and he is definitely hooked.

It stays light way late here in the summer, so the fireworks weren't set to start till after 10:30. We were way to tired for that so we EZ and Netta amused us with some fireworks made on Minecraft.

John had a 4 day weekend for the holiday, so we used one day to go to South Bend and explore the South Bend Chocolate Factory. It is a short tour, but that was good for the kids and we all had a great time except for King who almost missed the tour because he refused to put on the hair net.

The hair nets are not the coolest thing, but I think Netta and EZ rocked them. The kids loved the free samples and I loved the discount chocolate they were selling.

We decided it was time to start potty training Conrad. I thought it would be a breeze, since he is so articulate and he has 3 older siblings to follow. Well that was not the case. Here is a picture of one failed attempt. I was getting really desperate and doing whatever I could to get him to sit on the potty. We tried for a day or 2 and then quit for a week and then tried again and then quit again. I was really ready to be done, but he is going to preschool in the fall, so I couldn't really avoid it much longer. For some reason he just refused to pee on the potty, like he was scared to. So finally, when I knew he had to go I held him down on the potty for 10 minutes. He was crying and I was thinking I might be crossing the line and scarring him, but then all of a sudden he couldn't hold it anymore and so he peed and he just started laughing when he realized how easy it was and that he wasn't going to die and then that was it. It was pretty easy from there on out.

We went to visit our friends JJ and Bridget one day. They have an awesome pool in their backyard and some awesome pool toys. My kids were in heaven and I found myself really jealous of their pool. I know pool season isn't long here, but our town has no public pools, so they only real place for us to swim outside is the beach, but that lake is so shallow that it just isn't the same.

One of the highlights of summer here is the berry picking. We picked blueberries for the first time and while they were absolutely delicious, they were a pain to pick and King in particular did not last very long. Then I realized that you can basically get the already picked ones from local growers for the same price, if you buy in bulk and that was the end of picking for me. Maybe next year we will try again. 

Every July, Chick Fil A has a day where you can eat for free if you dress up like a cow. Well I am all over that, but I was sad to think that we might miss it now, since we don't live close to one. Luckily, we had a new trampoline we needed to pick up that was only in stock in South Bend, so I had my excuse to head to Chick fil A for free food. It's my happy place.

I decided that this year I wanted to try out a sprint triathlon, so I signed up for one in Sister Lakes. When I told my dad about it, he said he wanted to do it to and so did Meghan and Jared, so they came up for the weekend it was a big fun family affair. When we got their and checked in, I found out that my race number was 666. Not the best sign for your first triathlon. Haha

They also wrote your age on your leg, which I didn't know was a thing and I could have done without it, since it wasn't all that fun to watch way way older people flying past me on their bikes. I made the mistake of racing on a mountain bike and I will never make that mistake again.

Despite getting killed on the bike portion, I really enjoyed the race. I was afraid I would be in trouble for the open water swim, because my ear infection and then the pink eye I got basically kept me from training for the swim at all, but I survived and actually found a good rhythm about half way through. Then on the bike portion, my saint of a father had passed me and then felt bad for my lame self and he turned around and rode with me. He said when he saw me he just flashed back to when I was maybe 11 years old and he took me on my first long bike ride and it was way too long and it kind of killed my desire to ride much more. He said he has always regretted that and when he saw me struggling this time he couldn't leave me there alone. He is one awesome dad.

Since Meghan and Jared were there, we had little cousins to play with. Sammy may not look super excited, but King sure was.

Towards the end of the month, EZ, Netta and King all went to a week of summer camp at the Y. EZ and Netta were really excited, but King was a harder sell. He had a lot of fun once he got there, but like always he is not a big fan of new things. They were outside playing all day everyday and they even got to go to the beach. Conrad and I were able to make the most of some time alone. I felt a little guilty for enjoying it so much. I gotta admit I am excited to have 3 in school in the fall. I don't know what this thing is that Conrad is standing next to in this first pic, but I love his cheesy smile.

At the end of the month EZ got to go to cub scout camp. I have a love-hate relationship with scouts. I love how much fun EZ has and all the things he learns, but I hate how expensive it can get and all the bureaucracy. The first day of camp I got to go with him.

The second day of camp I stayed home and Netta, King and I had fun downtown. We went to the Discovery Center and Netta made this beautiful sculpture that she wanted me to immediately post on Facebook.

She also insisted I take a pic of her making this silly face. She kills me.

My kids are all such hams.

I still have a hard time here and there, living in this small town, but it sure is beautiful in the summer.