Wednesday, January 31, 2018

7 Photo Worthy October Days

Baby Gwen's Blessing
We traveled down to South Beloit Illinois the first weekend in October. It was our first chance to meet baby Gwen and see Brian and Jamie's new house. The kids were long overdue for some play time with their cousins. I feel like I hardly saw Reid once we showed up. Jackson is such a good buddy for him.

There was a rainy outing to Edward's Apple Orchard (a long time favorite), some pool time at our hotel, and lots and lots of smiles. Although, Nell was clearly not smiling for the skeleton jammie photo shoot.

Isn't this photo of Mara just the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?

Grandpa Came to Oshkosh
Rick turned the trip into a Midwest work week. He drove through Oshkosh one night after some work in Green Bay. The kids were over the moon excited to have him here. It felt just like old times; Reid and Nell were definitely glued to his side. I'll tell you what, it just made missing him that much harder (especially for Reid).

Trip to Little Farmer
I think we've gone to Little Farmer every year since we fist discovered it in 2012. Reid had an early out day the second Wednesday of the month (and Nell had no school), so Ben decided to take off early as well. 

For this photo worthy day, videos actually serve it better justice. 

It was such a fabulous day on the farm. Of course we filled our bellies full of caramel apple treats, and we also came home with some 70lbs of apples. I'm typing this in January and I can tell you all the sauce and rings we made have already been devoured. Wowza!

Clearing Out the Garden
I decided it was time I finally pulled everything out of the garden and prep it for winter. The kids were eager to help with the task at hand.

We ate our last grilled pizza for the season. I can confidently tell you this was my favorite thing about summer/fall/gardening. Yum, yum, yum (and yes, that's a PB&J pizza)

Hike in Hartman Creek State Park
We were about five days too late for peak fall colors, but it was still such a beautiful hike. Plus, it hit 70 degrees on this particular Saturday, so peak leaves or not, we were getting out and going on an adventure!

I vaguely remember Ben threatening to take Coraline back to the car just a few hundred feet in. She was not too keen on riding on his back. She also wasn't keen on walking. She wanted me to carry her, but her choices were Ben or the car. I remember thinking "I'm going to die if you take her to the car!" Luckily he didn't, though that's probably what she really deserved, little stinker. You can tell she brightened up soon enough (like a good ten minutes into our 45 minute hike).

I love days like this. They are good for the soul. We stopped at a gas station Culver's (first one I've ever seen) and ordered the 10 piece chicken dinner to share. The kids were both filthy and in heaven. 

A random Sunday Evening
More often than not, Sunday's are a eight hour  (+) work day for Ben. I remember being particularly grateful for the gorgeous sunset this Sunday evening. It gave me that extra energy I needed to keep dealing with the kids all on my own for another hour or so. They were pretty proud of their silly pumpkin creations. 

Halloween (four or five times over)
An October post isn't complete without Halloween! This holiday has become such a big deal. I'm not sure how that all happened, but we ended up going to four different parties/events before the real deal. That's a lot of dressing up -- which we love -- and a lot of sugar -- which I'm starting to grow weary of (no lie, we still have some of our trick or treat haul stashed away in the basement).

The above photo was taken at a free event on the University campus. It was a fairly warm night and fun to go to a carnival style event hosted by various college clubs. We also had the ward party, the school pumpkin walk, and Festival's trick or treating. Plus, the kids got to dress up for their school parties. I wish I could remember what Reid dressed up as for school, I remember thinking it was kind of crazy -- like three things rolled into one. Shoot, I'll have to ask Ben and see if he remembers.

Nell all ready for her 4K Halloween Party

Trick or Treating with neighbor buddies Bella and Dominic

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Best Day Ever

As I began recapping our day to my mom, I found myself sincerely -- without much thought or emotion -- saying "it was the best day ever." I kind of caught the line before it fully escaped my tongue. The magnitude of it all hit me full force (while I was cleaning up kitchen leftovers), no really, today was the best day of my life. 

When my mom asked what made it so great I had a short list of reasons.

It was so nice to have Ben home all day without any commitments or tasks to complete. He and Reid were buddying it up all morning and afternoon. They snuck away to the basement to build legos and race cars. They snuggled on the couch while they played Minecraft. The two of them were practically glued together all day, and I'm not sure which one that benefited more.

Nell was just cracking us up all day long. She is such a goofy girl, and she'll do just about anything to stretch a laugh. Lately she's been really into spelling words, as opposed to speaking them. I'm often referred to as m-o-m, not mom. She spells all our names, yes and no!, and poop. I'm not sure why, but she loves finding reasons to spell that last one.

Ben decided to heckle her a little by spelling most of the simple sentences he spoke to her today. She started to play along by shouting whatever letters she thought might spell the thoughts in her head. So then the game got real fun. I called her over to me and started telling her to spell things like "Y-o-u a-r-e j-e-r-k" After shouting out all the letters she'd turn to me and asked, "what's that spell?"

Then Ben wanted in on the fun and he had her shout "Y-o-u a-r-e b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l" at me. When she asked me what it spelled I got real serious and told her to go to bed. "I am really upset with you Nell, this is not funny. Go to bed right now." She just about lost her poor mind. I should feel bad that the rest of us laughed our guts out while she sobbed in fear. But it really was so funny. Once we convinced her it was a joke and she wasn't really in trouble she wanted to play again. I gave her one last phrase to shout at daddy. "I a-m a t-u-r-d." When I told her what she said, she excitedly shouted, "that's the same as a p-o-o-p!" Oh my gosh, I thought I'd die from laughter.

I seriously had the most genuine belly laughs I've had in years. As I was falling off the couch, ready to roll on the floor in laughter, I thought "this is it, this is a slice of how wonderful it is going to be to have these sweet kids in my home for the remainder of their growing years."

It was already an hour past their bedtime, but I still didn't want to send them on their way. I loved that moment we had all together, laughing and loving one another.

My house was (still is) a mess all day. There's more toys (and toys drive me crazy) than ever before. The two youngest kiddos are oozing snot out their noses and eyes. And today's high was only 5 degrees.

But it was the best day ever. It truly was.

What a wonderful gift that is. Merry Christmas! I recognize the beauty of it all is definitely made possible because of Jesus Christ. Even on the celebration of His birth -- He is the one that keeps giving.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

7 September Quicktakes

Intro: I didn't have a system for blogging this year. In 2014 I wrote a post everyday. It was crazy, but I did it. In 2015 I wrote a monthly post for each kid on the date of their birth. In 2016 I just did a big end of month round up for our entire family. This year, I had no system. I need a system. I'm going to have to come up with a system for 2018. Ah!

Anyway, to get all the photos and memories (that I still recall) from September and October (and soon November) onto the blog, I'm just going to write a quicktake for each month. So here's September. Enjoy!

1. Through late August and early September, Ben was busy helping move a lot of our Church friends. I can't remember exactly how many there were, but it seemed like there were four moves in just three weeks. Some of our favorite friends moved out of our neighborhood to their dream home on a lake. We were rewarded threefold for the little help we offered them.

One weekend they had Ben and I come out to canoe around the property with them. It was such a fun afternoon. They live in a small little town, so at one dock we hoped out and walked over to the drive-in for some ice cream (but it was probably really custard, 'cuz Wisconsin). One week night they let us bring our kids over for some fishing. The third reward came when they invited us, as well as all the other people who helped them move, over for a sunset BBQ. Spending time at their new place truly feels like a vacation. They are certainly living the dream, and we are so grateful they so willingly share it with us.
Caught her first THREE fish!
Mara was so determined to touch our catches.
One happy boy!
Lou stuck to me like glue. Which was nice, because then we knew she wouldn't fall in!
 2. Our little town fire department put on a parade and car show the weekend after Labor Day. It was so fun to bike down to Livi's house and watch the parade with all our friends. The weather was fabulous and the fun didn't end after the parade. J, who lives on the street behind us, came over to play. D and V, who live next door, were out for some fun too.

I caught the kids putting this giant diaper delivery box in the wading pool and I just shrugged it off in the name of science. They all looked like they were having a lot of fun. But the real fun began as the box started to fall apart and Reid and Dougie flung chunks of it at each other. Oh my gosh, their giggles truly were contagious. It was wild!

Ben had a sore back this weekend (he hurt it real bad in one of the moves), so I was hauling kids everywhere I went and trying to make the best of it. It can be really exhausting to not feel like I never catch a break on the weekends, but I'm trying to work on my attitude in that regard. Anyway, we had fun snooping around the car show and supporting our local fire department with some food purchases.

3. A few days later we took advantage of a beautiful midweek afternoon. I drove the kids up to Neenah to see a park I meant to visit this summer. We've always heard so much about the Rocket ship park, and I assure you it did not disappoint. Imaginations were shooting sky high.

4. The heat kept climbing and we actually experienced our hottest day of the year on the first day of Fall (I love irony). Reid, Nell, and I were sweating bullets at the city's annual Touch a Truck Event (Coraline, Mara, and Ben were home taking a comfy nap). There was something really special about a couple of quality hours spent with just my big kids. They are still such good buddies. I love having them alone together.

 5. The next weekend was the opening of the duck hunt -- which I always try to make the best of. It was also the last day to cash in on one of our library summer reading coupons. And it was the special opening of the Lego Ninjago movie. Our theater wasn't having a party, but our Target was. So I took the kids there to do the scavenger hunt. They loved it, obviously. Next, we went to the pizza ranch for our free buffet (yay for the reading program).

Our final destination was a special field trip with some friends to the local museum. It was the last weekend to catch the art gallery "Voices of Native American Art -- Telling Our Stories" It may have been the last weekend to catch it, but it was also the best. We had a very intimate guided tour with one of the local artists. The kids spent so much time taking it all in and asking such fabulous questions.

You'll notice the little girls aren't in this picture. Ben made it home just as we were headed to the museum, so I snuck them both inside for naps and enjoyed another weekend outing with just my two big kids (and two of our favorite friends). 

I was so moved by a few of the pieces. The one we are pictured in front of was my favorite. The statue you see above Nell's head was bleeding/crying/spilling oil over the Earth. I really regret not writing about this day that evening before I crawled in bed. There were so many little details I wanted to remember. Reid and Nell each had a favorite piece of art as well. Plus, they made their own art and wrote about what they learned. Nell's writing did say something about taking care of the Earth. I was so grateful she picked up on that. 

Julian's writing mentioned a story our guide let Nell share. We noticed some strawberries on a few prominent pieces, so Nell made the connection between that and book we have called, The First Strawberries. I believe it is a Navajo legend, and she retold it quite well. I was in awe with how much they were learning and growing. It was so wonderful to share it all with fabulous friends. 

6. Reid and Nell were in a dance class together for most of the month. The idea was that having something regularly scheduled at the Y would get Ben back in the habit of going to the gym. But, when he hurt his back he wasn't feeling up to it. So I took them most weeks and the whole thing felt like more stress than it was worth. But hey, at least we tried something, right?

7. As I'm flipping through my September calendar to see if there is anything else worth noting, I find one simple phrase that makes me smile. It says "bought new clothes." I was in desperate need of some new pants, so I spent a couple of evenings driving up to Kohl's to check out a sale they had advertised. Almost $200 later I have a whole new wardrobe. It's funny how something like that can make such a big change. I'm constantly updating the kid's wardrobes and making sure they have nice, well fitted clothes. It's about time I did that for myself, right? It was money well spent. I now have a titch more confidence and I love my oversized body more than before. Maybe there really is something to this whole "treat yourself" movement.

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!
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