June 21, 2017

Colin's 5th Birthday!

Colin's requests for his birthday=a pinata, a sword fight, a ninja theme and a marshmallow shooter.

We started Colin's birthday off bright and early before Ben had to go to work.

Cinnamon rolls shaped as a 5 for breakfast.  Lesson learned: don't put candles in hot cinnamon rolls!  I don't know what I was thinking.  Lesson #2: don't wait until the last minute to try and find black decorations (Colin wanted everything black).  His ninja theme wasn't ninja-y at all but he didn't seem to mind.

Ben left for work and Alison and Colin asked to help make his cake.  He wanted a '5' funfetti cake.

Eli helped me put the 5 on.

Lunch was hotdogs, peppers and cherries.  He has such refined taste :)

He found the wrapping paper roll and was pretending to be a ninja.  I love how Colin is always full of expression.  It doesn't matter what he is telling you, it always comes with facial and hand expressions.

After lunch, we had our first cooking class.  It sounds crazy, but Colin was excited to be able to play with all his friends while the girls cooked.  Laurel did a little Bible study with the girls to kick off the afternoon.

We made mini quiches (aka egg muffins).  We talked about basic kitchen rules, how to turn on an oven, egg and knife safety and they learned how to crack/whisk eggs and how to properly hold a knife.  The quiches were a great place to start because they could add in whatever ingredients they wanted to make it their own and they were quick.

Aline, Aveline, Alison, Lilly, Cameron, Brealyn

The boys played Apples to Apples on the stairs...I have no idea why they chose there, but they were having a good time.

Colin, Tolson and Dahlia ran around with swords the whole time, having the time of their life.  

After cooking class, we set up the pinata.

Gwen was so gracious to be the person out there running the game.  Gracious and brave.
When it started to crack open, Brian cut a giant hole in the back and they let Colin wack until it all came out.  He worked SO hard!


The kids played a little more and then we had to head to basketball.  Ben made cheese pizza while we were gone and then we had our own little party that evening.

A friend asked me the day before Colin's birthday if I thought this year would finally be easier.  I thought it would.  But then Colin asked to look at pictures from the day he was born and this was the first year that he understood that his story is different.  Now, he understands what it means when he sees the picture of us facetiming daddy in the hospital.  He understands that the picture of daddy holding him for the first time is not on his birthday and he sure noticed how rough I looked (sorry kid, what do you expect when you fall out of your momma at lightening speed?).  Ben pointed out this year something I hadn't thought of before...most people who have had a traumatic event, don't have a yearly (actually daily) reminder of it, but more than that, don't have a day that they are supposed to celebrate it.  Colin's birthday may always be a hard day for me, but I am thankful for him every.single.day.  It was completely worth all the hard to have this amazing person in my life.

June 14, 2017

Life right now

This is a perfect picture of life right now.  From left to right:

*A fish in a vase.  Alison and Eli decided to spend their money on fish.  They each bought a betta; Alison named hers Hermine and Eli named his Star.  The guy at Petsmart said two female betta's would be fine in the same tank.  He was wrong.  Less than 24 hours after getting the fish, Alison came running into our room, "Come quick!!!  Something is wrong with Star's fins!"  After our last fish got fin rot, Alison is very sensitive to watching their fins.  We went to look and it looked like the fish had been electrocuted.  Ben realized that Hermine was literally eating Star's fins off!  It was disturbing.  We scooped Star out, made her a new home and waited for her to die...but somehow she is still alive and much happier without another fish trying to eat her.

*A very big white board schedule.  I say this with all respect to others, but I firmly believe that people who overbook their schedules are avoiding something in their life.  Point in case; I am very much trying to avoid the summer and I definitely got carried away with filling our schedule so we don't get cabin fever.  So carried away that I had to bring in the big guns so I could quit running through the daily schedule with the kids...and a little so I didn't forget.  Alison and Eli are taking piano lessons, Eli is playing basketball (3 days a week, gulp), they are all doing 2 reading programs, Alison is taking a cooking and art class and Colin still has story time.  Add to that a couple of work functions for Ben, continuing to do school and several doctor's/dentist appointments.  AND I just signed them all up for VBS next week.

*Deployment clock is set to normal time.  We are still thankful everyday that Ben is home!  Every time I look at this clock, I am reminded of all those days I looked to see if Ben was asleep or awake.  I'm also reminded that it's over and now I can just look to see when he'll be home from work.

*A bucket of dirt.  Alison planted some seeds for math.  She was supposed to measure which plant grew taller; the one in the shade or the one in the sun.  But nothing grew, in the slightest bit.  In all the planting we've done the past year, we've only grown ONE tomato!  AND Eli is supposed to do the same thing for science this week.  He's supposed to be learning about roots and stems and leaves and all that good plant life stuff and I CAN'T GET ANYTHING TO GROW!  So, the bucket is just sitting there while I'm praying for a miracle.

* A big box of kleenex.  A big cold + allergies hit me hard last week...like the first time in maybe years that I was down and out.  I was on the couch with a box of tissues and the humidifier and told the kids they could do whatever they wanted to do.  It was probably their favorite couple of days ever.  Thank you for older kids who can get themselves food!

June 5, 2017

This school week

After family left, we jumped right back into school days.  The temperature is rising, but still feels pretty nice in the mornings and evenings.  For some reason, the kids were super into being outside this week, even wanting to do school out there.  One morning, Alison was dressed, had her chores done and was at the picnic table with her schoolwork by 8:00.  She really wanted to get it done so she could play...you have to be an organized teacher to keep up with Alison.  I do love that we have that flexibility; if we want to sit outside on a skateboard, with some music playing while we learn math, then we can :)

I tried to get it on video, but Eli doing this math page leaves me scratching my head.  He just learned adding 2 digit numbers where you carry a 1, but he doesn't carry the 1, he just looks at the numbers and writes the answer.  I'll ask him how in the world he knew the answer so quickly and he'll say, "Because 25+48=73"...there's no figuring it out, it's just what it is. I think I may need my grandpa to come teach him more advanced math because I do not understand how his brain manipulates numbers.

The skateboard is new to our house this week.  One of Elizabeth's co-workers sent us some gift cards as a thank you for our service.  I love that she included something for the kids; Toy's R Us gift cards!  They each picked out a toy; Alison, a skateboard.  Eli, a Hex bug + track.  Colin, a costume.  

I dug out Alison's old pads that I was about to donate and the boys took turns using them to learn how to skateboard.  Colin took one good tumble and decided to just sit on it.

When our work was done, Eli took a turn.

Then they dug out the sprinkler! Even Maya joined in on the fun, which was VERY surprising from a dog who runs at just hearing the word water.

All of the kids have done a fantastic job reading. Our little reading program worked like a charm! Alison is already on the 4th Harry Potter book, Eli has read 20 books and Colin is on lesson 16 of his learning to read book.  Alison and Eli celebrated their completed reading program with Cold Stone.

 They all have a competitive side and wanted to work to get more stickers than the other.  Colin sat down one day while I was eating lunch and asked to read to me.  He's doing a great job sounding words out but is still struggling to blend the sounds to figure out the word.  Baby steps...

June 4, 2017

Elizabeth, Kent and Jordan Visit

Alison cleaning for family to visit; I love that she puts on her apron to clean.

 Elizabeth, Kent and Jordan came to visit for a few days and arrived on Kent's 50th birthday!  We felt honored to spend a special day with him.  We had enchiladas for dinner and strawberry swirl cheesecake for dessert.  I made the mistake of thinking I had plenty of candles in our pantry and could only find a #7,5 and 2...so Kent had to turn 7 this year instead of 50.

For Eli's birthday, Elizabeth and Kent sent Eli fabric and a pattern to make a costume.  I haven't had time to do anything beyond cutting out part of the pattern, so Kent helped Eli finally sew his birthday present.

We played lots of games during their stay.  Uncle Jordan was very patient with Colin as he learned the ropes of Blockus.

The men spent a lot of time playing Risk and Eli could not be left out.  Naturally he's missing a shirt, but he would pick different characters in the game and go dress up like them.  

Ben and I were able to go on a long run together.  Ben tricked me into going much further than I had planned, but we just enjoyed the time talking without interruptions.   We ended up running all the way to the border of Mexico!

We took a quick picture and accidentally tipped off the border patrol...oops.  A few minutes later, 2 trucks were following us along the dirt path we were on.

We made it home, safe and sound, 10 miles later.  This is the sidewalk going into our neighborhood:

Whoever built it clearly has never walked on a sidewalk before.

Memorial Day, Alison really wanted to go to the river.  I love the river too, so I thought we'd go early in the morning to beat the crowd.  I underestimated Yuman's love for the river!  It was packed and people were already grilling at 8:30 am!

We went to get coffee instead.

We also went to a new taco stand.  I think this one might be the best one yet, but I might have been swayed by the abundance of shade.  Eli looks so much older to me here.

May 17, 2017

Staycation week + more

We traveled for a week and then we had a week of vacation at home.  Ben took each of the kids on a date and I capitalized on him being home to get things done.  I realized at the end of the week how un-vacation-y it was to go to the eye doctor and dentist and spend a day catching up on school stuff, but it needed to be done and I'm so glad I didn't have to do it alone.

So, it's kind of funny.  I really had no reason to take Alison to the eye doctor; she has never complained of anything.  I hadn't been since high school and I realized that the pediatrician barely speaks English and wasn't sure if she passed the eye examination or not (not joking), so I made us appointments just to keep on top of our health.  We saw a great optometrist who told us that Alison is near sighted in one eye and far sighted in the other eye and therefore her depth perception struggles.  She said if she didn't get help, the development of her depth perception would be altered.  Alison was thrilled that she had to get glasses.  I very quickly had flashbacks to basketball...it all makes sense now...no wonder she was always flinching when the ball was coming toward her...and now we feel really bad for yelling at her to "Get in the game!!!".  The optometrist was so nice that she let Alison look in my eye and gave us some good tips on how we could dissect an eye for school.  I made Ben take Alison to pick out the frames and apparently this is the style now.

We also toured the Quartermaster Depot:

And we had to say good-bye to FOUR families.  PCS season is not fun.   Liza lived just a few doors down and her friendship with Alison throughout this year had it's up and downs, but something really clicked while Ben was deployed.  I think she just become more comfortable in our home and would come over often after school.  I actually became excited for the days that Liza came to play because it was so good for Alison.  The last few weeks they have been working on making a video.  They wrote a script and had their Barbies act it out and then edited it together.  It was pretty cool.

Liza pretending to hold cheese because I said "Say cheese!"

We set up our own "Book It" system for the kids.  It really was intended for Eli, but the other two couldn't be left out of a reward.  Eli is a great reader, he just doesn't like to read.  So for every 10 books Eli reads, he gets to go get a treat with Daddy.  For Colin, it's 10 reading lessons and Alison it's 5 big books (we want her to take on more challenging reading.  That may sound like a lot but she can fly through books).  I'm thankful to say that it worked and really inspired Eli to read.  He asked to go to the library and checkout 30 books!  So we did.  Sunday afternoon, he brought a stack into my room (I may have been trying to take a nap...hello, mother's day) and we read all afternoon.  It was the best present ever to hear him excited to read.

We checked out a new-to-us park and I was really sorry we haven't been there before.  It has a track running around it and would have been perfect for a deployment workout.

Life is back to "normal" this week and it's actually really exciting.  Ben's at work and we're doing school and it feels so nice.  Vacation was good for us, but when life has been out of sorts for 8 months, normal almost feels more refreshing.

May 16, 2017

The fort

I almost forgot the most favorite part of the trip! We may have to go back to the house in the mountains because I'm pretty sure the kids loved it more than Legoland. Ben built the boys a fort up in the woods behind the house. It was a big deal to them! Eli kept telling Colin that this was real and they weren't just pretending.

There was an abandoned lot next door and Alison found some old broken plates.  She had so much fun collecting "artifacts" and brought them up to the fort.

Eli wore this outfit every day because he called it his pirate costume...and kept flipping the collar under, because that made it more pirate-y I guess.  I LOVE this picture of him.

Protecting the fort.

The kids also decided that this trip would be a great time to do lots of growing.  Usually, they don't eat much when we travel, but this time they were a bottomless pit!  Every single trip, I look down and see their pants are too short!  I swear they fit when I packed them.