Friday, November 3, 2017

Birthday Hoopla

Let's talk Birtdhays. Not mine and Mara's, which are coming up in just a few days. No, let's talk about Reid and Nell's, which happened weeks and even months ago. Yikes! I'm slow.

Nell's Party
The new Lego Ninjago movie came out the week of Nell's birthday, so we decided that was a fitting party for this spunky little ninjago loving girl. I told her she could invite two of her closest friends, and without any hesitation she shouted "Evie and Dougie!" I figured Evie's mom and brother would like to join us (and I wanted to invite them to join us) so that opened up one more seat in our minivan. When I told Nell she could invite a third friend she thought about it for a second and then said "I would like to let Reid bring a friend." I tried to explain that it was her party and it should be her frie -- but she cut me off and put me in my place.

"Mommy, it's my birthday party and I get to decide. I want Reid to pick a friend." She's such a kind and determined little girl! I figured having Dougie and Oliver along was Reid bringing his own friends, so we just left things how they were.

We went on Tuesday ($5 day cause I'm cheap). Dougie rode the bus home with Reid and Nell. And man I tell you, there was a lot of excitement coming off that bus! My babsitter plans (for Mara) fell through due to illness. So we scrambled across town to drop Mara off with a friend. I'm so thankful Kalie was able to watch her such short notice. Gees it's good to know amazingly kind people. 

Once we arrived at the theater I ordered a couple of pizzas and we watched for Evie and Oliver to arrive. Nell opened an exciting present -- a Barbie vet clinic -- from Evie and then we all headed into the theater. About 20 minutes in I snuck out to purchase some kid snack trays for our crew. They were all in heaven (except Dougie, he was a little under the weather). It was so fun to treat Nell to such a special little outing with all her favorite people.  

Nell's Big Day

Her actual birthday was the next day, and oh boy I am going to treasure that photo forever! She had so much energy and excitement over the whole ordeal. Birthdays are really fun once kids start to catch on to how special they really are. 

She actually passed out on the couch while I was frosting her panda cupcakes. Honest to goodness I think she would have slept the whole night through, but we had to wake up the birthday girl if we were going to celebrate!

At this point I can't remember what we had for her birthday dinner. She requested crepes, but I couldn't make them because I thought Ben had eaten all the cottage cheese (yes, I put cottage cheese in my crepe recipe -- it's delish so don't knock it till you've tried it). Little did I know, I had two whole containers hidden in the back of the fridge somewhere. 

I do remember her excitement as she opened her presents. I really don't think she was expecting any. We'd made it pretty clear that the movie outing was her present from mom and dad. But earlier that day a package of goodies from Grandma and Grandpa Szilagyi arrived in the mail. Plus, Reid and Coraline gave her a Moana bath toy. 

photo taken the next day
The dress, necklace and hairpin all came from Grandma and Grandpa. They also sent her some beading jewelry. We tore that open and all three big kids made a nice necklace for themselves. The whole evening was the perfect way to celebrate our little Nell Belle.  At dinner we all listed five things we love about her, and it felt like we'd just barely got the ball rolling by the time we reached 15. I think we could have made it 30 with ease. There is so much to love about that sweet girl! We are glad she's ours. 

Reid's Party
Reid was given the option of inviting seven friends to the YMCA for some rock climbing or inviting just one friend over for a sleepover on the night of the Church Trunk of Treat. I don't know if it was the sleepover part or the friend at the trunk or treat part -- but he made his decision real quick and there was no going back. 

We're pretty grateful his best little buddy (and Ben's mom) were both so willing.  These boys had a blast staying up late and sharing their deepest darkest secrets (things like "I have to suck my fingers and cuddle my puppy when I fall asleep). We're so grateful Reid and Ben hit it off so well way back in 4K. They've stayed good little friends all these years later.

Reid's Big Day
I'd suggested that either Ben or I should go to school and have lunch with Reid on his birthday, and Ben jumped right on that opportunity. I think we will have to make it a tradition. Instead of joining the little people in the ranks of the cafeteria, Ben took Reid out for the full lunch hour and headed over to McDonald's with him. When he told Reid the plan that morning Reid said "It'll be your birthday gift to me!"

His dinner request was Quinoa bites (of course). He also asked for an ice berg cake. I'm pretty convinced he just thinks about what cool things he wants to put on the cake and goes from there. Something like this, "I want to decorate my cake with polar bears, so I want an iceberg cake!" The request was specifically for a chocolate cake with white frosting so it would look like an iceberg. But when I went looking for animals I could not find any cute seals or narwhals to have swimming around the ice chunk the polar bears would be floating on. So, in the end it turned into more of an arctic mountain cake. He was pleased as could be though. There is an entire polar bear family on that thing, and can you spot one more animal?

Those arctic foxes truly are great at camouflaging!

His present pile was non-existent, and he didn't care one bit. When he told me he wanted the Garmadon Mech for his birthday I burst his bubble by telling him it was out of our price range. This didn't deter him though. He counted up the little bit of money he had, asked me what our budget was, and added in the money Grandma and Grandpa Bassett send him each year and figured he'd have just enough! I was pretty proud of him for saving up so well. I also decided to surprise him by buying it before hand. Once he opened up all his cards and gathered up his piggie bank, we started getting ready to head to Target. I told him I just had to bring up one pile of laundry, and when I came back upstairs he saw that giant box of 774 Legos on top of my laundry pile. I'm a little disappointed to say it, but he wasn't even surprised. Appreciative yes, but not surprised. Ben later told me that at lunch Reid talked about that Lego set as if it were a done deal. I suppose he knew he'd finally have enough money.

After surrendering his $60 dollars, he got right to work. He woke up early the next morning and hinted at wanting to stay home and keep building. We compromised by offering to drop him off at school. Skipping the bus would give him an extra 35 minutes to build. When he came home from school he got right to work building. Dougie had actually come home with them again that day, but Reid wasn't even interested in playing. He just really wanted to finish that Mech. A boy on a mission!

He was one proud boy to finish that whole thing in one day.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Weekends

Sometimes it feels like I live for the weekend. Mon - Fri I send kids off to school or lessons or community events. Then the weekends come and we all get to do something special together. Fall hikes, art gallery tours, Halloween festivities -- there are so many fun weekends I want to blog about in an upcoming quick take. But this weekend needs to be recorded right now.

It was spectacular.

It was absolutely one the best weekends the kids have ever experienced!

It was even an extra long weekend. They had school off on Friday so I made all sorts of fun and special plans.

Then Friday came and none of us were really motivated to go anywhere. When I listed off all the fun things we could do, Reid simply asked "Could today be a home day? Can we do those things tomorrow and  just stay home all day today?" And I happily responded, "Yes!"

Before that, Ben and I slept in a little bit while they woke up and watched cartoons together. I finally made it to the kitchen and whipped up some German pancakes (one of our favorite breakfasts). After we filled our tummies the three big kids all ran downstairs to play. They played down there together for over an hour. There was no fighting, no crying -- only happy giggles and one imaginative game after another. They played animals, moving, house, Legos, and so much more. They didn't ask me to join them or watch them. They just played and played and played.

Before Coraline's nap they tore open the package of See's suckers Grandma Bassett had sent in the mail. They hung on the simple joy of a new candy from a far away place, sent to them by someone they love. After Coraline's nap they all put on their warm winter coats and went outside to play together. Our neighbor friend quickly joined them. Their cheeks, noses and smiles all beamed bright red. When they finally came inside they were covered in leaves and renewed from all the fresh air.

At dinner time they helped empty the dishwasher and set the table. I tried my hand at homemade pizza dough, and we all loved it. Ben calmed them with his regular reading of their hand picked bedtime stories.

Saturday rolled around and we found them happily playing together once again. But this time, we forced them out of the house. We put them in costumes and took them grocery shopping. It was a chore that paid great dividends.

They came home and gobbled down a lunch of free trick or treat items. They spent the next hour playing with their new sticky skeletons. Giggles filled my home as I heard "Whoa, Nell look how far mine went." And "Reid come watch mine roll down the wall. Come watch this! Come watch this!"And "Look at mines! Look at mines guys!"

In the early evening I started clearing all the toys out of their closets. I told them they could each pick one toy to keep out, but the rest would be put away for the entire week. Next Saturday they could each go to the basement and pick one more. We'll repeat this pattern until Christmas, and at that point all the toys that remain will disappear. Forever.

They didn't complain. And I have a feeling almost none of those toys will be missed. This weekend the only thing they need was one another's company. We'll still have plenty of books. The closet is still full of art supplies and board games. And they have each other.

Before we tucked them all in bed tonight, we sent them down to the (toyless) basement for some rough and tumble play. There was no fighting and it didn't end in tears. I am seriously beaming with pride; they all played so well together all weekend long.

This weekend truly was magical. Of all the weekends we've had these last two months, I pray this is the one they always remember. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nell's First Fieldtrip

Nell went on her first ever fieldtrip today. She was pretty excited about it! I love seeing her face beam when she is eager for something new and fun like this. Yesterday she kept mentioning how long the fieldtrip would be. "You'll drop me off in the morning at the same time Reid goes to school. And I won't come home until the afternoon. I'm going to be like a Kindergartner!"

As I prepared her sack lunch this morning we went over all the things she would need to bring. Reid pipped up, "And you'll need an extra pair of clothes." I couldn't help but laugh. When he went on this same fieldtrip two years ago he may have wet his pants and needed a change of clothes. Man, that boy was so horrified of port-a-potties. Heck, he's just barely getting over that fear. At least he was discreet about it. After lunch (he drank a full water bottle) they took a hay ride out to the pumpkin patch. On their way back from the patch he stood up off the hay bale and one of the mom's noticed he was pretty wet. None of the other kids near him were, so it wasn't the hay bale that had soaked his pants. Rather, he had soaked the hay bale.

But back to Nell. I always say Nell has been ready for school since age 3. And she really has been. She is so eager to learn, and she's confident when she tries new things. I'm surprised to see just a little bit of anxiety shine through for big moments like this. I'm so grateful she gets to test those nerves and come home proud of her new accomplishments.

She sure enjoyed her day at the farm. She told me her favorite part was riding a horse. She also loved her snack lunch, and was super excited to tell me one of the mom's shared a sugar cookie with her. When I dropped her off this morning I just had to snag a picture -- to try and capture all that excitement. When I picked her (and Dougie) up this afternoon that same smile was spread all across her face. I sure love that adventurous Nell Bell!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On the Phone with my Mom

I was on the phone with my mom when I started making the frosting for Reid's birthday today. Yes, it's his birthday today, yet this funny conversation is what I'm choosing to blog about. Anyway.

I pulled the cream cheese out of the fridge and said "Crap, my cream cheese expired two weeks ago."

C: "Oh, that's not what those dates mean. It should be fine. Try a little bit of it."

A: "I usually don't mind something a couple days past the date, but you really think it's okay if it's been two weeks?"

C: "It's been in the fridge the whole time? I mean, you haven't used any of it and it's unopened?"

A: "Yeah."

C: "Well taste it and see."

A: "Oh, I might have one in the -- " (opens freezer) "Ah, nope. This is all I've got if I want this frosting."

C: "Oh it's for the frosting, then it should really be fine. Why don't you taste it?"

A: Sniffing it after I finally open it up, "Well, it smells fine."

C: "Taste it!"

A: "How? Just plain? I don't really like plain cream cheese." I scoop a little out with my fingernail and finally taste it.

C: "Really, you don't? I love it. Put it on a cracker or piece of toast."

A: "Well, I tasted it and it's kind of sour, but that could be because it's low fat."

C: "Oh, it's low fat. Then chuck it! I don't do low fat. Can't you tell? That's gross, throw it out."

Oh man, I love my phone calls with my mom!

But also, the frosting was fine.

Both Reid and Nell's birthday posts are coming up. I promise!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Library Fun

Last Friday was rainy, rainy. We had the good fortune of spending two hours at the local library. Yes, two hours. That place is so great.

They have together time bins which are a-mazing! Reid spent a lot of time playing with these gears. He made cannons and guns and all sorts of weapons little boys could dream of firing off.

They also had an Egyptian scavenger hunt which was a bit more stressful than I think it needed to be, but the kids came home with new treasures and fun experiences. So, we'll forgive the few glitches I think they should have worked out a bit better. 

I've been trying to take Nell and Coraline to Monday morning story-time more regularly. You would have thought, based on my experience with the upside down lion, that I had learned my lesson by now. My kids do not want my help with their library story crafts! They also don't want to follow directions. 

Isn't that little apple the cutest? She is such an independent little thing. After I helped her with a bit of glue she refused to even touch that letter a on the left. It was all mine once I had contaminated with my own efforts. Silly, stubborn little girl. I sure love her. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reid is in First Grade!

Reid was roaring to go back to school. I was so excited he was placed in Mrs Sammons class. Granted, she is the only first grade teacher I've met -- but I know she is wonderful. We were a little disappointed his best buddy -- who has been in his 4K and K classes -- wasn't in his class. Our neighbor friend and one other boy he played with last year are both in there though, so he's surviving just fine.

On the last official summer night we invited our neighbors over for some simple fireworks. I'd let each kid pick some out at a 4th of July sale. But at that point in the summer it doesn't get dark until 9:30, so we saved them until we could light them off during a more reasonable hour. Reid's chosen fireworks were "Dinosaur Farts." No surprise. 

I bring up this story to let you know, that of all the dozens of First Day photos I took, the only one that got a genuine smile (above) was the one I snapped right after I told him to think about something silly, like dinosaur farts. 

The above photo just cracks me up. "Try to keep your eyes open while you smile." Mission accomplished, I guess.

So far he really likes school. When you ask him what his favorite subject is, he'll tell you it is art. Near the end of summer he started coming up with his own projects to complete each morning. I was really impressed with this ocean one.

That boy does love his art!

He also really loves his sisters. He is always willing to help with Mara when I need an extra hand. I love that he has such a tender heart.

He still isn't reading much. He is eager to take piano lessons. I just have to figure out how to work it into the budget. Currently, he is taking a dance class with Nell at the YMCA and he seems to love it. We'll probably go back to swim lessons soon. Once he turns 7 he can join the rec departments Tai Kwan Do, and he is ecstatic.

He still seems to play with his closest Kindergarten friends at recess. Reid has been so much better about being ready for the bus this year. I'd say this is ironic considering the bus comes half an hour earlier -- but I actually think that's why he's always ready to go. He doesn't have any extra minutes for play, so that keeps him focused. Our house is the second pick up in the morning and the second drop off in the afternoon. It's perfect.

This morning I asked him to go make us scrambled eggs for breakfast while I fed Mara, and he jumped right on it.  Eventually I did holler at Ben to go check on him, but I think he could have done the whole thing without any supervision. He was so proud of himself, and it was sweet to hear his sisters thank him for their yummy breakfast. Come dinner time he was begging to make the dumplings all by himself as well.

I love watching this helpful little boy grow and flourish. I know first grade will give him opportunities to stretch himself. And he's ready to bring it all on.  

7 (Final) Summer Quick Takes

This is my last summer post. I promise. After these seven random memories, I'm fully moving on to more recent things -- like Reid's first day of first grade and Nell's 5th birthday. Recent, ha!

1. Solar Eclipse
The whole nation was totally swept up in solar eclipse business. I was singing "Total eclipse of the heart" all day every day for a solid week! I swear. People (that we know) planned entire family vacations around the path of totality. It was a really big deal.

Maybe it's just my general "meh, to pop-culture" attitude, but I really wasn't swept up in it. I didn't want to bother buying special eye wear, and I definitely didn't want to make my own. I inquired at the library and was told they did have a viewing party with approved eye wear scheduled. But that was during the little girls' nap time, and I wasn't about to uproot our whole schedule for this.

On top of all that, it was cloudy and the forecast wasn't looking great. Come 1:00 (our best view was at 1:17) I decided to just turn on PBS kids and not really mention the whole thing. Well, Ready Jet Go (a show about space) was on and they were showing an Eclipse episode. "Perfec!" I thought, and I headed to my room to do the budget.

The moment that show ended at 1:15 Reid headed out the back door to find an eclipse. Ah! I panicked. If there was anything I knew about the eclipse it was that I should NOT let me kids look at it. What a parenting fail. I ran as fast as I could to stop him. When I greeted him on the deck he eagerly pointed "Look Mama! Look! It's an eclipse!" And I ... well I immediately looked. Ha! It was pretty amazing. Nell had followed me out, and she was gazing upward as well. "Stop!" I shouted as I threw my hands over their eyes. "You cannot look right at the sun!"

I seriously felt like the worst parent ever. Not only had I downplayed the whole thing, but now my kids were going to be blind for life because I hadn't stopped them from seeing it. I did call the Doctors' Office. The nurse on the other end told me he had actually ran out to see it real quick too. It was kind of comforting, to be honest. And of course, there's the now famous photo of our fabulous President Trump looking right up at it as well. Sigh. We messed up on the same level as Trump.

But here we are months later and none of us have blind spots, and we did get to see something pretty spectacular. Reid and Nell spent the rest of the afternoon drawing pictures of the eclipse and other space miracles. It was pretty cute to see how much spark that one little episode of "Ready Jet Go" gave them.


2. Rest of La Crosse
In my last post I mentioned we went to La Crosse Wisconsin with my parents on the First day of September. After we sent my parents off to Minnesota (and then Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah) we headed over to the Children's Museum for a couple hours. There was an awesome rock climbing wall both Reid and Nell tried out.


Before leaving the area we drove up to Grandad Bluff. This was the other "most see" tourist attraction all our local friends recommended. I really regret not taking my mom and dad there. It was absolutely fantastic and no picture could ever do it justice. I just can't believe how gorgeous the Mississippi Bluffs and Valleys really are. It is breathtaking for sure.

3. Favorite Outdoor Play
Back in June I mentioned the kids favorite outdoor play toy was a pile of random boards and lumber we cleaned out of the garage. Below is a photo Ben took of them playing with all of it. Reid also used it to make some art in our flower beds.

Near the end of the summer the boards started to lose their novelty, and instead the kids started playing regularly in the tiny stretch of gravel under the mailboxes. They seriously played here every day for several weeks. Silly kids. I'm so glad they are easily entertained.

4. Backyard Fires and Neighborhood Hikes
I don't think this section even needs any explanation. Be warned, Lou's joy might jump out of the screen and bite you.

We are so grateful for our big backyard and the town's open fire pit ordinance. We are also so grateful for the nature center behind the kid's school. We are blessed with so much outdoor living space to explore. 

5. Clowns and the Library Reading Program
The kids completed the library reading program and earned some awesome necklaces, new books, and free kid's meals. As well as the awesome incentives to track our reading, the library also sponsors a bunch a fun free programs. One evening our whole family went to a clown show. This was a big deal for Ben, since he isn't a fan of clowns. Luckily he said they were more like "Trams" and those didn't scare him. He he.

It was a great show, which is no surprise since Mike and Miler both worked on the Barnum and Bailey Brother's Circus route. It was a really awesome family night. We are grateful for all the amazing community programs we participate in here in Wisconsin.  

6. Evenings out with Adults
The night before we took off for our family vacation I was able to drive up to Green Bay and have dinner with my Aunt Syd and Uncle Howard. They were on a tour through the area and staying a couple nights in Green Bay. It was so lovely to have an hour with them. It felt so strange to have a little piece of "home" right here with me, thousands of miles away. It's funny, I am almost getting a little emotional just thinking about it.

The night my parents arrived in town Ben and I attended the wedding of one of my former Young Women. We were at a table with the new Stake President and his wife, the Munsons. The other guests at our table didn't show up, which made our time together much more intimate. It felt like a much overdo double date. We had such a great time chatting with them about parenthood and the gospel and so many other random things. It's nice to know there are so many other LDS couples, striving to raise young kids in the gospel, out here in Wisconsin with us.

7. 4th of July
That's right, I never even blogged about our Fourth of July. It was pretty simple and absolutely perfect. The ward had a little Picnic out in Ripon (a small town in our ward boundaries). The park we reserved was fabulous. Reid loved catching clams down on the river.

Coraline and Nell loved all the playground equipment.

Mara loved showing off her patriotism.

As we got in the car to head home I asked Ben if he'd gotten a picture of each of the kids. When we realized Nell hadn't been in a photo yet, I quickly remedied the problem.

Ha! It was quite the tiring afternoon. That evening Ben took Reid and Nell to another near by town (Omro, also in our ward) to view the fireworks. The moral of this story is that small towns do the 4th of July best. They really do. 
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