Thursday, March 30, 2017

Everyday Cuteness

Freddy helping me practice preschool lessons and take promotional pictures.

One morning I went to wake Gwen up for school and found her and Charlie already awake, reading books to Freddy all cuddely on the floor in the corner.

Freddy loves his giant turtle stuffed animal he got for his birthday from G&G Archibald.

Freddy hung up all his stuffed animals before falling asleep for a nap.

The kids rescued old fan blades from the dumpster and thought they would be perfect Cricket bats (Chris has recently enjoyed watching Cricket on the ESPN roku app)

Gwen sometimes lets me do her hair for church and then asks me to take a picture of it so she can see it.

Charlie and his soccer team during half time...Charlie likes to hide from me when I try to take pictures of him.

Frederick had been upstairs in his room during naptime for about 40 minutes before yelling, "I need to go poop!" Chris was home for lunch and helped him go potty and came down to tell me that Freddy told him, "I totally slept for a long time. Is nap time over? I already slept!"  I didn't push him to sleep more but my suspicions that he didn't sleep at all were 'totally' confirmed when he feel asleep within 1 minute of getting buckled on the way to pick up the kids from school.

One afternoon, while waiting for me to pick him up from carpool, Alec folded a paper into 4 little compartments, filled them with dirt and 'planted' a flower and some grass for me...he's so creative and thoughtful.

I love Gwen's ballet outfit. She insists on wearing her boots because they slip on and off so easily. She's always so concerned about being on time and wants to be at least 10 minutes early every Tuesday afternoon. 

One day, Charlie decided to be extra safe and triple buckle himself in after school. Such a cute, silly boy.

We had a cub scout hike one Saturday morning. These rambunctious boys wanted to do a 'dab' pose for the picture.

I've not been able to upload videos from my phone very easily before on the blog but here's an attempt at some cute vidoes I took of Freddy recently. He is working on the trick of raising his eyebrows up and down fast. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Break

We are totally submersed in the remodel and planned to have our Spring Break just working on the house. We hired most everything out but we were going to do the painting ourselves. We thought the schedule was going to work out perfectly for us to have Spring Break to paint. But not so. I forgot how long the process of mudding and drying for the drywall can take. We did take one day to go do something fun with the kids. We went to Columbus and bowled, and then ate out at Waffel House for lunch.  It was good to get out of the house. 

 I loved watching Chris help Frederick bowl.. those little bums are sticking out are the cutest.

Charlie spent his own money on a virtual roller coaster game. That kid spends money so easily, on the funniest things.

We had sort of planned to go camping one night someone local but it was SO COLD AND RAINY. We mostly ended up staying inside our little playroom, watching movies and making messes.  We had my good friend's teenage daughter stay with us for a couple of nights since her family left for New Orleans and she wanted to stay to attend the multi-stake dance in Birmingham. We took advantage of a babysitter in the house and after the kids were in bed Chris and I went out to eat and then stopped by Lowes to check out this or that for the remodel. On Saturday, we drove her out to Birmingham early and took her up on her offer to babysit the kids for us so we could do a session at the temple together! It was great.  Its always a long day to drive 6 hours and have 2 hours at the temple, but it feels good to be in such a quiet and peaceful place.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

YSA Shotgun Shooting Activity

We have some pretty cool YSA's in our branch right now. We've really enjoyed having this young single adults over to our house for FHE a few times this year.  One of them, Garrett, thought our yard would be a prefect location for a shotgun shooting activity. I've never shot a gun before and have always wanted to try so I full heartedly supported the idea.  It got postponed a time or two so we tried hard to make the current date work, no matter the weather. With the renovation fully underway and no kitchen to speak of, hosting a big BBQ was really only a good idea when I thought we'd do everything outside. The day came and it was SO COLD and RAINY.  I got out all our umbrellas and let people congregate in our one room that has heating and seating and look out the windows at the people brave enough to shoot.    I was a little nervous about stray bullets and what the neighbors would think of all the sounds of shots coming from our house. I went ahead a texted them all that morning to give them a heads up on our activity and everyone was really cool about it.. texting back for us to have fun and hit some squirrels if we could.

 Charlie tried it a few times and did well... then one time the gun kicked back and moved a bit on his shoulder so the back of the gun hit him under his eye and he didn't want to try anymore. Alec was brave enough to try shooting too and enjoyed it as well... until the gun moved on the kickback again and bruised him pretty bad on the arm.

Turns out Chris is quite the marksman! He said he'd shot a couple times before and was able after a few misses to hit a the flying clay pigeons 3 times in a row! My friend leaned over to me and told me I wouldn't have to worry in the apocalypse because Chris would obviously protect us all well enough.  The thought made me smile and I told her we'd probably need to own a gun first and she was SHOCKED to discover we didn't already have one.  It is such a normal thing down here in the South to have a gun or a dozen of them.

I tried my hand at shooting a shotgun too. I missed A LOT.  Garrett gave me some advice and I eventually did better and I hit the clay pigeon twice in row.  I tried to go for a third to match Chris, but couldn't deliver. I'd love to own a shotgun and practice some more, it was tons of fun.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Valentines Day fun

We had some fun Valentine's Day parties at the kids schools. At HWS (Alec and Charlie's school) Valentines is one of the two parties allowed all year. The school also issued a mandatory time frame for the parties (after 2:00 pm). This meant I had to split time between Alec's and Charlie's and then get them out of school a bit early. Gwen's party was the Friday before Vday and her teacher, Ms. Walker planed fun centers for the kids. Freddy really enjoys going to visit the kids in school. I always come away with more sympathy for I see first hand what kind of behavior/environment/rules they're around for the bulk of their days. They all have great teachers, but still...its hard to keep yourself in line in a strict environment with some kids acting so tough and angry a lot of the time.

Our Relief Society put on our branch Valentines Dance again.. complete with a photo booth. They had balloons on the floor and it was a big hit with the kids running around playing with them. 

 With our remodel ongoing and having just gone to Disneyland, Chris and I had too much going on to focus on doing something big and special for each other. But I couldn't let the day pass without SOME kind of gesture of love, so the kids and I decided to surprise him at work with a candy bar from a gas station. Freddy (b/c of the class parties) didn't get a nap and fell asleep in the car after school. I was able to unbuckle him and carry him up to Chris without waking him up..he even stayed asleep as Chris held him for a while to give me a break and carried him back down to the car and buckled him up again. Ha! We got a babysitter and went out to eat at the Indian Restaurant on Friday - Indian food around Valentines has sort of become a tradition for us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Kitchen / Front porch Renovation!

We wanted to have an entire year where we didn't do a major project on our house since we bought it almost 4 years ago. So this past year, we decided we would just focus on settling in, and allow us a year of 'normal' finances so we could be more accurate with our budgeting. It was a really good thing to do although I had to remind myself every now to stop thinking about the next project.  So with the start of 2017, we knew we were hoping to tackle another major house project and after getting taxes done ridiculously and super uncharacteristically fast this year (go Chris!) we were collecting contractor names in January and trying to completely flesh out our ideas/plans. We felt we couldn't really get started on anything official until after Disneyland, so our first week back my major focus was calling contractors and getting quotes.   I had a big long list and picked 3 to start with. They were all available to meet and look at the project within a few days. One guy graciously bowed out saying the job was too big for him now that he no longer has a crew working for him. We had a lot of our neighbors give REALLY good recommendations for one of the contractors. Everyone we talked to who has worked with him sang his praises and said he would get the job done fast, do it right, build it exactly how we want, do the work himself (with his brother in law, dad and a few friends/firefighters and be totally honest (not overcharge, or cut corners to try and increase his take). They said he probably wouldn't be the absolute cheapest guy (he bills hourly per guy, and takes 10%  on top everything and he might not offer any aesthetic design suggestions, but the quality and integrity of his work ethic was worth it.

So after we confirmed the sale of the rest of the stock Chris was given by his grandpa in his egg farm we called our contractor up to get started! He told us he'd be ready in about a week and a half. Perfect. We needed time to move out of the craft room (although I had pretty much got that room packed up on Saturday), kitchen and family room and we had hoped to save some money by doing most of the demo work by ourselves.  Our contractor called after the weekend and said he'd be ready to bring a dumpster by in preparation for the demo and said his current project and wrapped up unexpectedly and they could start the next day! He said they would be happy to help us pack stuff up and move it wherever we wanted. Ah!  So after dinner, and after Chris helped the boys put together their pinewood derby cars for their race the next afternoon, we got to work. We worked hard until the 1 or 2 in the morning but we did it. We had emptied it all. We even moved the fridge down to our storage room and dispersed the sectional couch in the kids rooms upstairs.  We are using the laundry room as a kitchen with the microwave, the attached small halfbath's itty bitty sink as a kitchen sink and the storage room as the pantry/fridge/freezer area. Then we moved the table and chairs and couch and TV into the playroom next door to serve as our living space for the foreseeable future.  We have the piano upstairs in the landing area (thanks to the YSA guys for helping us do that the Sunday before after we hosted their FHE).

Now the fun begins!

The workers came the next day and by 10:00am had pretty much knocked out whatever Chris or I could've done over a couple weekends!  Wow. They were fast and good.

Goodbye Kitchen:

Hello Demo:

Pinewood Derby

This year, the Cub Scout Leader (who is also our RS president, and homeschooler mother of 6) and I tried to simplify things for us both and have the Pinewood Derby NOT be an entire branch activity and keep the entrants just to the cubscouts. We held it on their weekly meeting and invited their families to attend.  The boys and Chris had big plans this year to really do all the suggested extra steps to make their cars fast. They watched Youtube videos and everything. But again, with the remodel and Disneyland, it was hard to find the time to actually work on them besides cutting them out of the blocks of wood. So the night before the Pinewood Derby they found themselves, putting the wheels on, greasing, tilting the anxels, weighing, lifting up one wheel...whatever-else-ing them. It was very generous of Chris to take this time to do it since we had just gotten the surprising news that our Contractor was ready to start in the morning and we needed to move out entirely from the kitchen, family and craft rooms.  They boys were pleased with their cars and excited for the race the next day after school.

Wednesdays are crazy anyway because we get our friend Dash from school and keep him for a few hours until his mom (and my good friend) is done with work, and we also have piano lessons from 3:30-5:00 and Cubscouts in the middle of that from 4:30-5:30.

The Derby was successful from the standpoint that the boys got to race their cars lots of times and be more involved. It was a little chaotic in between official runs as the track wasn't protected and so scouts and siblings would sometimes disrupt or crash runs. As a result, the cars got pretty hammered and Charlie's car was pretty fragile and the wheels kept falling off.  The winning car was actually a repeat car (without any changes) that also won last year. We might have to change the rules for next year or something. Malina and I tried to think of good rewards for everyone and gave them out in order of fastest to slowest, letting the boys choose a candy bar in the same order.

Turns out, Alec and Charlie's cars were the slowest, most break-able ones and to say they were disappointed is a big understatement.  Charlie was in tears a lot, inconsolable and slightly angry.  Alec was sullen and SO mad AT Chris. He almost refused to come into the gym to participate in the official races. He quietly yelled at and hit/kicked Chris telling him something along the lines of 'you must hate me because you purposefully made a bad car so that I would lose..because you wanted me to lose.'  Poor Chris! He felt bad and a little embarrassed that his attempts to make really fast cars didn't turn out well and mostly stayed out in the foyer during the races....but then he had to deal with the kids backlashes towards him too. He stayed patient and quiet the whole time but I could see it was draining.  We usually only have a 20 minute window to eat dinner together on Wednesdays between Cubscouts and Chris needing to leave to go to Young Mens. Without a kitchen or any dinner plans, neither of us was looking forward to dinner at home with the kids.... but with the kids crazy bad behavior I didn't feel we could just go out to eat at a restaurant either. So I gave Chris a hug and told him to go eat out by himself and have a few quiet moments before Young Mens and I would take the kids home and figure out dinner on my own. Chris was really touched by my offer and the fact that he took me up on it is a testament to how much he needed it.  I gave the boys a good talking to in the car on the way home and it was then that Alec was able to verbalize his feelings (albeit still very angrily) and I tried to help them put the afternoons events into perspective.   Life lessons like losing are hard to learn, but also such good practice and experiences for the soul. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Part 4 of 4 Last Days - Courageous Carter

Wednesday night late, my dad and brother-in-law flew in to join the party. So Thursday was our first day ALL being together (well - all except my sister-in-law, Radene and her son, Carter since he couldn't come because of his Leukemia treatment). We decided to all wear our Courageous Carter t-shirts and try and take some group pictures so we can send them to Carter and let him know how much we were thinking about him all week.  We went back to California Adventure park and got there early again to get fast passes for Radiator Springs but then headed out to the pier to ride some of the rides that had no lines... like the swings and the ferris wheel etc.  We saw Woody walking to his picture spot and followed him to be one of the first groups to get a picture with him. The workers noticed our matching green shirts and asked about them. (a group of 31 people in the same bright shirt is pretty noticeable) We told them a little about Carter and they were so touched by his story and our efforts to 'bring Disneyland' back to him.  One worker wanted to get a little surprise together for us and Carter so after talking with people on his phone he told us he could get us a private meeting with some of Carter's favorite Disney characters.  Then he walked us across the park to meet Lightning McQueen and Mater. Then he told us he had one more surprise for us and to meet him by the pier at 3:00.

So we rode some more rides: Radiator Springs, did some rides in Bugs Land, the Jellyfish, the Zepher, and watched a Chinese New Year Parade.  Then met back up at the pier at 3:00. The worker guy met us and had a big bag of gifts for Carter that he presented to Justin: a tshirt COVERED in signatures from disney/california adventure characters, a mickey ear hat with Carter's name embroidered, a signed Captain America shield and free access to the pictures they've taken of our group earlier that morning. It was so kind and thoughtful and brought Mom and I to tears (remember the crazy emotions I'm dealing with). The rest of the day we rode some more rides (the boys rode Screamin' with me a couple of times in a row thanks to extra fast passes) and went shopping and again came home early.  It was a very nice without any stress or rush of getting in certain rides since we've mostly ridden everything we wanted to plenty of times.

Our last day was back in Disneyland. Whew.  It was forecasted to rain and be overcast and a little chilly. We happily thought this meant fewer crowds. Wrong.  Our plan was to go straight to Peter Pan since we hadn't ridden that one yet and it has the longest line. Even though it said 20 min when we entered the line we ended up waiting over an hour for it since it had to temporarily shut down twice while we were in line.  Plus it was raining. But it was first thing in the morning so the kids were still fresh and it wasn't too bad.

Then we went rode some more rides and watched a show at the fantasy land theatre, Mickey's Magical Map. We had great seats and it was really good.  We had to say goodbye to Mom, Dad and Hailey since they're flight left that afternoon. Then we visited Toontown and rode the rides there. Freddy fell asleep and I walked him around in the stroller. When he woke up, everyone was on a ride so I decided to take him to Mickey's house since he still wanted to meet Mickey.  The line was super short and Freddy didn't cry or run away (like he did with Minnie). So cute. Then we rode Star Tours again and got dinner and treats at the nice restaurant at the end of Main Street.  The rain had gotten worse and kids were tired and cranky so most families split up after dinner to head home (they were going to Harry Potter World the next day and wanted to get good rest).

The kids each got one treat a day and then could spend their own money on more treats or souvenirs. They each had $50 plus whatever smiley-face money they've saved up over the past year. Gwen had quite a lot and hardly spent any. Charlie had a decent amount and most of it (mostly on snacks). Alec had a decent amount too and spent most of it too.

We stuck around with Jordan and Estefi and Sarah and German. We rode Splash Mountain some more, and did the Jungle Cruise. Then we waited at the front of Main Street to try and catch a glimpse of the Electrical Parade... but it was canceled because of the wet conditions. So we booked it to our car (we had parked that day to help us get home fast). We got to the house around 9:30pm. and then loaded up the car (we had packed all our bags in the morning) and by 10:30pm after 5 full days at Disneyland we started our 31 hour drive home to Mississippi. 

The drive home was..... terrible. Chris took the first shift driving and made it to Arizona by 2:00am and we stopped to sleep for a few hours. I woke up just after 4:00 and decided we'd better get going and drove until lunch or thereabouts. Then we switched back and forth driving till we couldn't and trying to sleep when we weren't driving. The kids were tired and cranky too and when I wasn't driving I felt like a MONSTER.  I had no patience for whining or fighting and didn't parent very well. :( We pulled into Dallas, TX around 2:00am Sunday. Then crashed at Thom and Brittany's until 7 or so. We wanted to stay and play but needed to get going. We wanted to stop by a sacrament meeting somewhere and found a chapel outside of Dallas at the right time on our route. We drove the rest of the day and got home around 7:00pm Sunday night. And got up at 6:30 for school and work the next morning. UGH. It was so brutal. But totally worth it. At least, I can say that as I'm typing this a month later!

It really was worth it to be able to be a part of such fun memories with their cousins. Our kids don't get a lot of cousin time, and to feel like they belong to a part of an extended family is SO important.  It was a sacrifice of time and money and sanity but it was totally worth it and full of fun, sweet, family moments.