Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve!

Happy New Years! We had one family leave the day before and so were down a bit in numbers. Most of the parents and kids just wanted to hang around the house for New Years Eve, but my Dad needed to visit the Stake Activity at the YMCA and Alec and Gwen (along with cousin Ethan) wanted to go, so I ended up taking them with my dad to the party. They had a blast. I'm glad I took them, even if I had a bit of a headache and just wanted to stay home too. Chris was in the throes of Shingles so I kinda felt a bit like a single parent. Again.

But once the kids were in bed (they did a countdown on Netflix at 9:00pm) the adults got together for another game night at my uncle Ben's house. We got there a little late and they already had a nice big game of "the name game" going so we just watched and said hi and then came home to watch a movie and do a puzzle. 

My sister Sarah and sister-in-law, Radene, are really big on playing games and NOT just watching movies at night so for most of the nights over Christmas break we were up playing games till late - the name game, the couch game, inReverse, reverse charades, a timeline game, and a guessing numbers game etc...It was really fun spending so much time interacting with my family and laughing together at the fun parts of the game. Chris enjoys playing games too, so some of the nights, I sent him over to play for both of us. :) At some point, I had asked Hailey to recommend and lend me one of her many books and Tiffany, Justin and Jared (I think?) were all reading books too, so a couple of nights we all just sat on the couches together and read something. That feeling of being together without having to really interact might have been one of my favorite memories of the trip... almost like when we were kids, we were around each other without feeling pressure to spend quality time together. Weird, I know, but that's how I felt. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Other post Christmas activities

Another activity we did over the holiday was gingerbread cookie decorating for the kids.

We also took a few trips to the Chambers Bay park/playground. My dad and sister went running there while the kids played. It is SUCH a beautiful park as it over looks the Chambers Bay Golf Course - home to the upcoming 2015 US Open. 

 It was on that run that I found out two of my Aunts and Uncles were renting their house out for the upcoming US Open and each getting a pretty penny...or many hundreds of thousands of pennies as the case may be.  Chris and his siblings/spouses and parents are all coming up to stay at my parents house to attend the US Open as an adult Archibald family reunion.  It was so fun to imagine what that was going to be like! Also, Chris (despite not feeling the best - physically) was able to actually play the course! 

Another activity we did a was go on the same Bremerton-Seattle Ferry and go to the Pacific Science Center. Again, Chris had to do research so I took the kids by myself. It was helpful to have my mom and dad and other siblings to help watch the kids. We buddied off so every adult had at least 1 child to be in charge of. I think Alec loved walking around with his Uncle German and Charlie got to be buddies with Grandma. Gwen and Freddy were my buddies. 

I think the below picture of Charlie putting Freddy down the slide into Gwen's outstretched arms is a perfect metaphor for Freddy's life. He is constantly a blur as his siblings do this or that to him.

The butterfly house was cool! One landed on me for a second.

We saw an Imax 3D movie, "Flight of the Butterflies." 

The other fun activity we did over Christmas Break was discover that Chris had shingles! This picture was taken at the very beginning of it. It got much much worse and was mostly over his chest and under his arm. It was really painful and Chris ended up trying to be still for most of the week after Christmas. Luckily, my uncles are all doctors and could diagnose and prescribe something for him. He got on antivirals right away but it has still manged to be quite painful and long in recovery.  Even now as I write this post (almost 2 months later) he is STILL quite uncomfortable at times because of it. He says it feels like a someone putting a hot iron to a really bad sunburn. Ouch!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Post Christmas Activities: Anderson Island

On the Saturday after Christmas, we took the kids out to Anderson Island. Its a 20 min drive to the Ferry from Betteridge Bluff, then a 30ish minute Ferry ride. My Uncle Loren and Aunt Merlene have owned a house and property out on this Island for as long as I can remember. Their first house is where Chris and I went on our honeymoon. They have since sold that house and just kept some land where they built a little Eco-Shack but the next door neighbor was selling his old house and Loren and Merlene bought it and have completely gutted it for a remodel. We all wanted to see the new place so we packed up and went. Chris had to work so I took our kids by myself. We BARELY made it in time for the Ferry. In fact, Tiffany's van didn't make it on and they had to park and "walk" (really they ran) on.  Maybe the workers could sense they were part of a bigger group and didn't want to disappoint children over the holidays because they actually held the ferry for a minute or so for them to park/walk on ...something Merlene said she has never seen. 

Merlene and Loren's new property has a really nice beach so we mainly stayed out on it and threw stuff into the water. My cousins Bryce and Ben and Caleb got the paddle boat out and took the kids for rides. Loren built a bon fire and Merlene helped give the kids rides on their tractor. Charlie even got to steer it! They were so kind to us, we sure love them. 

I lost Charlie once and was a little stressed trying to find him. He had gotten in a different car with a cousin and even though my sister in law texted me right away, the cell service was spotty enough that I didn't get it for 5 or 10 minutes. I know that's not long but in that circumstance it felt like FOREVER.  Some of the kids had tried to step in the water and were muddy and wet and cold so I gave some of the girl cousins a bath when we got home to warm up. 

Getting out of the house can be a feat in and of itself but exploring the beautiful Northwest fills some tank within me. I need that beauty in my life. 

Alec's birthday - 8 years old!

This is a big birthday for Alec! 8 years old! He's really excited to be baptized sometime in late January. We wanted to wait and do it back home in Mississippi since its such a good way to connect with the members in our small branch and a wonderful chance to share the gospel with our friends.  

Alec was super happy to have his birthday breakfast in bed. I think getting it served to him while a room full of cousins watched made him feel special. He patiently waited downstairs for Chris and I to get it together. 

He had said that he really wanted to GO somewhere for his birthday and with 22 kids invited (all his Betteridge cousins and the kids of our good friends the Talbots) going out somewhere sounded like a good idea to me too. Chuck-e-Cheese was the location of choice and we all had a good time. We bought a few pizzas and got a bunch of tokens for the kids and basically sat and talked while the kids played games. Well, Amy and I sat and talked while the boys went and played games. Last minute all of the girl cousins and a few moms decided not to go, Gwen included, so it was basically a boy party. 

I am pretty sure Chris had as much fun playing the games as the kids. He had a pocket full of tokens...what else was he supposed to do, right? 

Alec's request for his cake couldn't have been any easier. A vanilla cake with blue frosting and his name written on it in red. Bam. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy (as our good friend, Jonathan from Canada would say!)

Showing off all their tickets they won from the games. Alec's cousin, Cameron, sweetly told me that because he didn't have a present for Alec, he wanted to give him all of his tickets because making other people happy made him feel happy and that he likes to see people's faces when he gives them gifts so that was the best part of Christmas. He is such a good kid. 

My sisters and brothers surprised Alec by giving him all of the tickets they won too! He was so happy and I'm sure felt so special. He loved putting them in the ticket-eating machine to automatically count them! He had... I can't remember... over 600 tickets? (Chris... is that right??).  Besides the fun party, I think Alec's favorite birthday present this year were Heeles shoes from his Grandma Dixie. He's been wanting them for a long time and was really really happy to have his own pair to try out. They are shoes with a wheel on each heel and when you run and then tip your toes up, you can just roll on your heels. Over the next few days Alec relentlessly learned how to do it quite well. He was pretty tough too, rarely complaining whenever he fell (and he fell really hard a couple of times!) Even his fellow cousins seemed impressed by how quickly Alec mastered them!

The past year and a half has been very difficult for Alec to express his feelings and frustrations appropriately. We think the stress of Chris' cancer and hospitalizations and all the other major changes our family dealt with this past year took a toll on Alec. He does seem to worry about things (like Chris) and as the oldest, he may have felt added pressure whenever he and his younger siblings lived away from Chris and I.  And even when he did live with us, I know that I have high expectations for him to act older than he really is. I want him to be the example of everything good for his younger siblings and so when my patience rope was at its end and he was at the end of his too, we had explosive and violent episodes. I'm talking, hurting-anyone-in-his-way, yelling-till-I'm-hoarse-and-crying, holes-in-the-wall, cry-myself-to-sleep explosive. 

I'm mentioning this now because I have to say that Alec (and I) are dealing with his physical manifestations of anger and frustration so much better! Alec rarely stays upset for very long and almost always, within a few minutes has calmed down to positive interactions! Its amazing. He is such a sweet and kind boy when he plays with Frederick and reacts almost as quickly as Chris when Frederick's safety is questionable. He loves to play with Charlie and Gwen and maintains such amazing focus with games, books and free playtime. He works hard when he gets into his chores and can clean the bathroom sink/mirror/floor as good as me. He loves to laugh and tell jokes. His sense of humor is so much like Chris that they will laugh and laugh until they cry about the silliest jokes - especially physical humor. He has gotten into playing the piano all on his own and will sit and learn a new song without hardly any instruction from me. He gets 100% on almost all his tests in any subject and has NEVER gotten less than the highest behavioral marks at school each day.  He loves science experiments and thinks Bill Nye is the coolest dude on Earth. 

We love you, Alec. Thanks for putting up with our experimental parenting and being a good older brother.