Sunday, September 25, 2011

Westward Ho - Salt Lake City Children's Museum

The day we left Utah, I knew we would be sitting in airports and airplanes for most of the day, so I decided to take the kids to the Children's Museum in the morning, to get all their energy out!  We really miss the SLC Children's Museum!  We have some great memories of it, from our many years in Utah!  I remember taking Angel there as a young toddler, with Grins in the sling.  Then more memories of feeding Wiggles in the toddler area while the older 2 played.  So the nostalgia really set in as we returned now, after more than a year; this time with 2 school-aged children and a toddler.  It made me long to return to those days when my 3 precious little children were all home with me all day, every day.  Those days were tiring, yes.  But oh so much fun.  And oh, how I miss them.  Please, please, please let time slow down.  My children are growing up too fast!!

This time around we spent most of our time in the travelling exhibit, PLAY:

The oldest 2 (especially Grins) really enjoyed the GIANT dominoes!  Grins tried to race them as they toppled over one by one....

As always, the parachute was a big hit!

My 4 year old.  Look at those dimples.

I was surprised at how much Wiggles enjoyed the helicopter, given her aversion to loud noise!

And the trip wouldn't be complete without a little construction time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Westward Ho - Day 1

This past July, the kids and I took the trip of all trips!  We drove to Manchester, flew to Chicago, flew to Salt Lake City, drove to Portland (Oregon), drove to Bend, drove back to Salt Lake City, drove to Mill Hollow, drove to Oakley, drove back to Mill Hollow, drove to West Jordan, flew to Chicago, flew to Manchester, and finally, drove back home to Maine! Whew!  Did that exhaust you as much as it did me?  Just think....I had 3 kids in tow! :)  Fortunately, however, that was over the course of 3 weeks, and not all at once!  It was still quite the adventure, though!

Day 1 - Because the Mr. needed to get to work, he had to drop us off 4 1/2 hours early at the Manchester (NH) airport.  Knowing we had many hours of sitting on airplanes, I tried to think of ways to get the childrens' energy out while we waited.  Although the Manchester airport doesn't have any 'play' areas for kids, with a little creativity, we had fun!  Then we flew from Manchester to Chicago, where we had another few hours to kill before continuing on to Salt Lake City.  So, I did have to get inventive, but somehow I managed to keep the children entertained...

There was a neat airplane display:

The kids had fun posing with the statues:

Moving walkways are always fun:

We are getting sleepy on the airplane, as you can see by the droopy eyes and fake smiles:

The children started out by sitting all together, with me across the aisle.   Since there are only 3 seats together, and none of the children wanted to sit alone, this seemed the best solution.  When, during take-off, we "tipped" (while turning - completely normal), Grins started screaming "We're tipping!!!! We're tipping!!! I'm SCARED!" at the top of his lungs, I decided some seat rearrangements were in order.  Fortunately, Angel was wonderful and consented (after some bribing) to sit by herself, between 2 strangers.  She was so brave - just sat there, reading "The BFG" to herself for the entire flight.  I was so grateful, and pleased with her flexibility and willingness to help, even when it was out of her comfort zone!  After that, the flight went rather smoothly, and the children did marvelously well.

Carrots and PB snacks while waiting for the next plane:

Manchester had a very interesting display of random things: (I know these are out of order....takes too much time to rearrange them)

Through the window, we saw what appeared to be a little walking path next to the airport, so we decided to check it out.  It ended up being a very small path to a 'pet area' - basically a tiny little spot of ground to serve as a pet 'bathroom' if you will.  Grins found some pet waste and, being the good citizen that he was, said "We should clean that up! It's litter!"  I complimented him on his citizenship, and let him know that, since he was the one with the bright idea, he ought to have the clean up privilege himself.  Luckily for me, he obliged, and I had to take a picture, just because I was so pleased with his sense of duty and responsibility.  That's my boy!

Pleased with himself for a job well done! :)

 Wiggles insisted on carrying her backpack around - even though it probably weighed nearly as much as she does!

At least an hour was spent walking / running / dodging in and out of the spinning doors.  Who knew they would provide such entertainment!

 And finally, the last leg of our flight!  I had to stop pitying myself for travelling alone with 3 children, when the woman sitting behind me was travelling with her SIX children (one of whom was a 3 month old baby!), along with her sister to help.  I held the baby for awhile and her sons sat next to Angel, which was a welcome change from her sitting between 2 adult strangers on the previous flight!  Fortunately all 3 children slept for most of the flight - until Angel woke everyone up with a night terror at the end.  At least it was towards the end of our trip - and we all made it in one piece!  Whew!

We finally arrived in Salt Lake City around 2am our time - just over 18 hours from the time we left our house the previous morning.  The next day when we woke up, Angel asked "How are we going to get back home?" to which I replied "We will fly back, the same way we flew here."  Her eyes widened and she said "I REALLY don't want to do all that all over again."   I laughed and reminded her that we had a few weeks before we had to think about the return trip.  What a little trooper!  I felt truly blessed that the trip went so well!  I really do have wonderful kids!

My Beautiful Ballerinas....All 3 of them!

Lately, Angel eats, sleeps and breathes ballet.  Well....when she's not reading. :)  Lately, she is going so far as to dress up her brother and sister as well.  They often put on shows for me while I'm cooking reason I LOVE my house! I can watch my kids play/dance/perform/read while I cook! :)

Swimming Lessons

This summer, we decided it was high time the kids learned how to swim!  So we splurged and got a Family Pass at the YMCA and we are so glad we did!
 To make the most of our Family Pass, we enrolled the two older children in the 4 day per week Swimming Lessons.  (Wiggles' level only meets once a week).  We also went to Open Swim every Fri or Sat!  So most weeks this summer we were at the pool 5 days a week!  But our efforts weren't in vain....all 3 children made great gains in their swimming abilities!

Angel started out as a fairly confident swimmer, but gained confidence swimming in deep water independently.  She also learned to dive, do the crawl stroke, and swim underwater.  She also had a lot of fun socializing!

Even though her class met only once a week, Wiggles was the child who showed the most improvement over the summer!  At the beginning of the summer, she insisted on being held by Mom or Dad with both arms firmly hugging her, and she refused to get her head wet at all.  She progressed to doing complete "bobs" (ducking her whole head underwater) independently (and loving them!), and wearing a buoyancy belt (nicknamed a "bubble").  First she would wear her 'bubble' and hold onto a floatation barbell - but by the end of the summer she had given up the barbell and would just buckle her bubble on, jump into the pool (completely on her own), and "swim" around the entire pool - all on her own!  Since the bubble belt kept her upright, when she kicked her legs and paddled her arms, it looked just like she was running through the water.  I wish I had taken the video - it was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen!!!

Grins did fantastic as well!  He went from being somewhat fearful, and unable to swim without floatation help, to swimming confidently on his own.  And he perfected the dive!  Literally.  Neither the Mr. nor I can dive as beautifully as he can.  It's incredible.  He started out doing somewhat of a belly flop - so I told him to imagine he was starting a somersault.  The next few times he attempted a dive, he flipped completely over in the water, landing on his back (the somersault.)  I finally explained that he should do only the beginning of a somersault - and once he understood the mechanics, he had it down.  It was neat to see him work at it over and over, and really give it his all, and meet with great success!

Of course, his favorite thing to do in the water was play with the torpedos!

It is so fun to watch my children learn and grow.  As much as I dislike them growing up (I want them to stay my babies forever!!!!), I do enjoy seeing them learn new things, gain confidence, and progress.  I just want to enjoy every minute of it!!!

Our 10th Anniversary!

The Mr. and I "celebrated"* our 10th Wedding Anniversary this past month!  In some ways, it's hard to believe we've been married that long - because I still feel like I'm a young, 20-something newlywed, and I remember when 10 years was half of my life!  But in many ways, it's hard to even imagine life before marriage... 3 lifetimes ago! (Angel's, Grin's and Wiggles' lifetimes!)

These past 10 years have seen us move across 6 time zones, from the middle of the Pacific ocean, across to New England and the coast of the Atlantic.  We've moved 11 times, spent 9 years with at least one of us in graduate school, spent 5 years managing apartments, had 3 children, and have certainly seen some ups and downs - fortunately mostly ups! :)   They have been a challenging, but incredibly rewarding 10 years, and I look forward with great anticipation to the next 10....and more!  I've joked before that, if absence makes the heart grow fonder, the Mr. and I are falling in love all over again.  But it's true.  These years of school and raising a young family together, with their financial struggle and extreme demands on our time and energy, have certainly brought us together more than we ever could have anticipated.  The Lord has truly blessed our marriage and family beyond our wildest imagination.  We sometimes lay in bed, exhausted, at the end of the day and say to eachother, "If we can make it through this together, we can make it through anything!"  I feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful man at my side.  I so admire and respect the Mr. for his goodness, his very strong work ethic, his integrity, his honesty and his gentleness.  It has been a wonderful and rich 10 years!

*I put celebrated in quotations because we haven't actually celebrated in the traditional sense, with a romantic date or dining at a restaurant or anything of that nature.  The Mr. has been working far too many hours.  And, there is a painful shortage of competent babysitters (in our price range) to celebrate this year, the children and I "heart attacked" the Mr's bike, and delivered cupcakes and our own little homemade (budget) version of an "edible arrangment" - which was quite sorry looking, but the only picture I had to capture our Anniversary this year, since we spent it apart.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things....

This morning, while in the kitchen, I called Wiggles to breakfast a few times, and heard no answer.  I finally said, "Wiggles, can you hear me?"  and she said "No!"  Her honesty gets her every time!  She is always the first to report her wrongdoings - or straighten things out if there is any misunderstanding.  For instance, the other day, Grins said "Wiggles hit me!" to which she shouted, "No!  I hit you and KICKED you!!!"  She seems to be our little honesty girl - I love it!

I always love hearing the childrens' prayers - you never quite know what you're going to get!  This morning, Grins prayed "Please bless that if a gun shoots our house, it won't fall down...."

Where did that come from?  My children seem to have very specific fears.  Angel, for instance, is terrified that a 'robber' will come steal her from her bed during the night.  She insists on us walking through the house with her each night to shut and lock every single door and window - which was unbearable during the hot summer months!  Even with the house locked tight and the brightest night-light possible in her room, she ends up finding her way to our room each night, crying with fear.  The only night in the past several months that she remained in her own bed throughout the entire night was the night Hurricane Irene visited us.  When I asked her why that was, she stated, "I knew no robbers would be out in the storm that night.  So we were safe."

So apparently, she is thinking through her fears rationally.  Which makes it all the more difficult to calm her is somewhat simple to reassure her that dragons are only fairy tale creatures and monsters are simply a figment of her imagination.  But I can't exactly tell her that children are never kidnapped - she knows it happens.  So it's presenting an interesting challenge.

My children are so entertaining! :)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Grins Turns 5!!

Grins had grand plans for a "Huge Darth Vader Birthday Bash".  He and Angel planned a whole day's worth of activities and food for the big event, from light saber fights to building a Star Wars ship to Darth Vader cupcakes for dessert.  Unfortunately, the only thing missing from the party was the guest list.  Grins' two closest friends moved away a couple of weeks before his birthday, and two other friends were out of town for the summer.  The only remaining friends were a girl and a much younger boy, and while he wanted to at least invite them, his already over-scheduled mother (ahem) felt overwhelmed at the thought of all the preparations such a party would take, that the thought of doing it all for just a guest or two seemed a bit much.

Fortunately, the easy-going, happy-camper that Grins is, I was able to talk him into having a "Party Day" with his sisters and I.  I offered Jokers, Chuck E Cheese or the Children's Museum as optional venues - but in the end, he selected the following activities for his Birthday Schedule of Events:

Grins opened gifts from Oma and Opa the very first thing in the morning.  When he discovered his first very own set of Legos, he wanted to spend the remainder of the day building them - so of course, he built that into his birthday schedule!  

Crepes for Breakfast, with nutella and whipped cream 
(he didn't request the kiwi, but we had to add something with a little nutritional value!  
Grins made the Mr. promise to wake him up before the Mr. left for work - so the Mr. brought Grins breakfast in bed at 5:30 am!  Poor Grins was so sleepy that he didn't actually eat then....but he immensely enjoyed them later!)

Tennis:  We walked to the tennis courts down the street from our house.  Unfortunately, it was very hot and sunny, so our tennis game didn't last nearly as long as he had hoped, since his tennis partner (mom) had to forfeit due to excessive thirst and heat stroke (ok, an exaggeration, but you get the point...).

Tennis took so long that we ended up forgo-ing the bike ride to the cemetery that day....but we have made it up several times since then! :)

Lunch: Chicken Nuggets and carrots, eaten on the trampoline (we had to snap a picture at the table, because it was so hot and sunny outside!)

 Building Legos (from Oma & Opa) and Plasma Car (from Grandma & Grandpa) - Grins had an incredible time putting together the police car helicopter and fire truck!  I think we sat there working on them together for at least 3 hours - and since it was his birthday, I could justify just sitting there with him, building legos!  What a rare treat for both of us!  I often wish I could hire a cook and housecleaner, so I could enjoy more moments like these!

Since Grins' birthday fell on a Tuesday, our Mutual night, we picked up a pizza on the way to the church.  Grins selected the toppings: BBQ sauce, cheese and pepperoni.  Fortunately he also requested a tossed green salad so the meal still had some nutritional value!  The kids ate dinner in the Nursery at the church while I conducted Young Women.  And then, as a special surprise and wonderful ending to the day, The Mr. got off work "early" and came out to the church to collect the kids around 7, so they could go home and watch "How To Train A Dragon" and eat 'honey popcorn' and brownies.  

Not quite the huge Darth Vader bash that he had originally planned, but it was a beautiful day, enjoyed by all! I love this Birthday Boy with all my heart, and will be forever grateful that he is part of our family!

Dear Grins,

         My darling son!  You will never know how much my heart swells with love for you!  You are SUCH a precious little boy!
         If I could use only one word to describe you, I would have to choose "Happy".  It is hard to imagine you without a huge, dimply, toothy smile on that cute little face of yours.  Your giggles are so contagious - you spread laughter wherever you go!  A close second would be "Loving"!  You are SO full of kisses, snuggles, and hugs.  You love to have your cheek against mine, or your head against my chest.  You love rubbing my arm or face.  And you especially enjoy snuggles.
        You are a boy, through and through!  You are CONSTANTLY on the go - you must always be moving (unless you are snuggling!).  You run almost everywhere you go - on your tip-toes, with your arms up and hands hung down (it seems to be your trademark run - I don't think I've seen anyone else run quite like you!)  If I ever ask "What would you like to do?" you ALWAYS answer either "Ride bikes", "Jump on the trampoline" or "Play ball outside."  Even during the winter, when it's freezing outside, you want nothing more than to play outside.  Sports thrill you - and though you don't seem overly competetive, you are incredibly hard on yourself, and get very angry if you don't hit or catch the ball.  I'm afraid it's my fault - you would probably be a professional ball player if I would practice with you as much as you would like to...I wish I had nothing else to do than pitch a ball to you all day!  I don't think you would EVER get tired of it - it seems you can practice for hours on end.  You love baseball most of all, followed by soccer, basketball, and tennis.  The other day you played kickball - with a group of youth and adults (you were the youngest by at least 10 years) - and you were fantastic!  I said "You did great!" to which you replied, "I know! Because it's just like baseball!"  You are so much fun! 
      Despite your 'rough and tough' play, you have kept your sensitivity!  You love snuggles and hugs, and if I say I'm disappointed with a choice you've made, you are devastated.  You take things very personally, and you try very hard to do what is right.  You get upset when you make mistakes or get in trouble - but you are always so quick to make up!  When you and Angel sit on the 'repentance bench', you are always first to say what you've done wrong, apologize, and give hugs and kisses.  You can't bear to be angry or have someone angry with you.  You love snuggles!
      You are SUCH a hard worker, just like your Daddy!  On Saturdays, when we clean the house, you are first in line to choose your chores, and you dive right into your assignments!  Your favorite chore: cleaning the toilet!  You always pick that one!  And you work really hard to get everything done right.  You moved into your own bedroom a few months ago, and since that time, you have kept your room immaculate!  One day, you said "I need to go clean my room - it's so messy!" I asked "How did that happen?  It was clean a few minutes ago." to which you replied, "There's a book on the floor!"  In addition to cleaning everything, you always insist on having at least one or two of your creations on display on your dresser.  Which reminds me....
      You LOVE building things!  You can work for hours with your TRIO, K'nex and, now (your latest discovery which began at Oma's house this summer) - Legos.  You are constantly building 'weapons' (mostly arrows and darts), submarines, rocket ships, and anything else you can imagine.  Building is certainly a favorite past time of yours!
       You are SO gentle with your sisters (most of the time.)  You love them so much!  Angel is your best friend on earth.  You two can play for hours on end.  You love going along with her ideas, and adding your own to the game.  You love dressing up with her (sometimes as a knight - other times as 'one of the girls') and painting your toenails with her.  You are so excited to go to school with her, and you want so desperately to be in her class!  You are especially tender with Wiggles.  If I ever get angry with her, she cries, "I want (Grins)!"  You always comfort and console her when she's sad.  Of course, you do love teasing her, too!  If I ever hear her running and screaming, I almost always find you a few steps behind her. :)
      When you grow up, you want to be a "baseball player, soccer player, and basketball player."  When you're not playing ball, you want to be an astronaut who flies rocket ships.  You keep asking to go visit NASA in Florida, so you can learn how to be an astronaut.  You have the determination and the work ethic to do whatever you set your mind to.  I know you will go far in life, my darling boy.  I hope you will have the courage to go after your dreams, and that you'll always have lofty aspirations and grand plans for your future. Please always keep your willing attitude, your loving nature, and your giggles and grins.  And above all know that you, my son, are loved more than you'll ever know.  You fill my life with love.

I love you, my Grins! 

Love, Mommy