Friday, April 27, 2018

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung!

These boys went from winter dino outfits to matching summer dino outfits all in one day :-)

2.  Chatbooks.  So I was incredibly skeptical as Facebook kept pushing chatbook ads my way, but I finally set it up and we have a slow trickle of 13 photo books on the way to our house and I'm working my way through our backlog of photos.  Curating digital photos has become my own personal hell, so the fact that chatbooks auto-curates from my google photos backup (and thus from all our cameras/phones/family downloads) is game changing.  It auto sorts by date and then groups similar photos and most of the time chooses the best one, and makes it easy for me to exclude photos from printing which mentally is an easier model for me to work with than the pressure of choosing what to print.  Mostly, the 60 page books with only the option for one photo/page makes the projects bite-sized enough I can do them around interruptions and without letting my perfectionism get in the way.  I am seriously pumped about this as getting my photos into print form to survive changing digital technologies is always in the back of my mind.  If you want to give it a try and end up ordering, here's a referral link.   I have $130 worth of books queued up to be sent to our house already so you could say I'm already in pretty deep and every little bit helps :-)   My eventual goal is 5-6 per year, but I've given myself some leeway with months where we have big events like adorable new babies or epic vacations.  Here's a glimpse of what I've gotten done so far, my first 11,000 photo/movie files boiled down into these neat and tidy little books.


3.  The camper market in Bozeman is crazy and we knew that when we bought ours it had some water damage but also that we had looked at smaller campers in the same price range with worse damage for the same price or more.  So, while it was not a surprise when we finally decided to address our camper water damage, it has taken a bite out of our weekend time as we rebuilt the front corner of the trailer when we discovered the wood was crumbling in our fingers.  The plus side of picking up an older camper is that the construction is fairly simple to DIY compared to the newer models, the downside being that much like photo books, nothing in this house can be done without multiple interruptions.  But, I now own a nail gun and a new circular saw, so it really feels like I'm making some progress on this whole adulting business.   Oh, and I have really great help, especially when I need someone to ask me a million questions while he's tightening one of the 80 million screws.

3.  While we were working on the camper trying to beat the impending rain storm, the kids played in the yard.  Catherine and an enterprising young friend who was over to play created a soda and art sale and all be darned if they didn't earn almost $7.  It is amazing what a mom will say yes to when she is arms deep in insulation and mold and just needs some time to work!   Here friends have also been teaching her to do cartwheels, here was her most recent attempt, she's getting really close and is so proud!

4.  And while we're talking about my young entrepreneurs, some of you will be getting direct emails/calls (okay, straight up solicitations) soon about the kids' fun run coming up and I'm going to shamelessly plug it here.  If you are able/interested in supporting their school, please consider donating at the links below or shoot me an email.  Our school is a Title I school, meaning a large percentage of students are low-income and the funds our PAC (PTA/PTO equivalent) raises are often used to make up gaps in experiences for all of the students, ensuring everyone can attend field trips, have adequate school supplies and more.   I know my kiddos have a better school experience with the funds provided by this fundraiser and our school has a group of parents who painstakingly try to get the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to spending the funds.  We have an amazing staff at our school that have all worked so hard for my two kiddos and all of their students, it breaks my heart that around town we don't get labeled "the good school" because so many of our students and their families are struggling financially.  So giving directly to our school with our time, talents and cash here and there is one of ways we are trying to level the playing field for these amazing and caring teachers and help ensure that all students have access to enriching opportunities.  

5.  Spencer is on a tear of epic proportions.  He's pulling up, cruising and crawling up the porch stairs at least.

And he's just all day adorable if not exhausting:

And he has already tried to escape his mundane existence with an attempt at the doggy door.  He also tried to escape at Lowes the other day.  As I was trying to sort out a return, another clerk notes "there are two cute kids in dino jammies crawling out the door" which is a pretty good summary of how my days are going :-) 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Billings Five

1. Spencer Watch - The Force Awakens.  I forgot how amazing the 7-9 month developmental leap is, and how utterly exhausting.  Spencer is now full fledged crawling, which quite simply means I can set him down and easily lose him.  He has so far discovered the glamorous locales of
- the pile of cords in his room and of course not at all dangerous space heater, white noise machine and charging cable.
- the roomba.  I always thought pics/videos of babies riding roombas were staged, until I had one OBSESSED with climbing on top and hitting the button.  He doesn't enjoy the ride yet he still keeps doing it.
- the dog food and water.  Though there is a chance that our dog food is more nutritionally sound than some of our road trip meals and rushed lunches I'd still prefer my kids stay out of it.

Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, he is pulling himself to standing so he can increase his fall length a little more.

#bitchpleasecat is not amused by this development either

2.  The kids had a 4 day weekend for teacher conferences so we took a trip to Billings!  We are building up to our big summer trip so we took the camper, even though we mostly did "big city" things :-)  The kids think Billings is "the most awesome town ever" and I feel like there aren't many people who describe it that way so I should probably get their Chamber of Commerce to pay my kids as spokespeople.    First, there was the Zoo:

Then we stopped in at our campsite and James and I relished the fact that 3 of our kids could be sent to the playground by themselves while we completed every vacation's least favorite task of if/when/how/where will the baby sleep.

Then dinner at Scheels, the sporting goods store that is its own event with a ferris wheel, bowling, a , play area and more.  I tend to get analysis paralysis in the store, but the kids had money from Amma and Papa burning holes in their pockets, so we even shopped this time!

Then back to the campground for our first s'mores of the season!

The next day we hit up a trampoline park and the kids LOVED it.

And finally we stopped in at the waterpark for some splashing and sliding.  Everyone is getting to be confident in the water, which is great because in new-Bozeman you have to reserve swim lessons for your kids a million years in advance . . . especially if you are lazy and refuse to do them at different times/days for different kids.  So, here we sit on the waiting list.

It was a crazy, fun and exhausting 2 days, celebrated with 4 sleeping kids in the car on the way home.  4.  At the SAME TIME.  It's like finding a unicorn in the trunk or something :-)

3.  Matthew has been experimenting with stop motion animation and he's pretty good and very, very patient!

4.  John is a monopoly beast.  He beat Catherine and I twice and now understands the rules enough to play mostly peacefully with his siblings, at least until he is ready for the regular version then I expect all hell to break loose.

5.  And this family is even more hilarious when bouncing:

Monday, April 9, 2018

Another Five

Spring is never arriving and for a while I didn't think this blog post would either, but here we are!  5 things from the past few weeks:

1.  Spencer.  Oh this boy, he is growing way to fast.  He is "crawling" in his own crawl/flop motion wherever he wants to go much to his puzzle loving brother's dismay. This new found motion and ability to flip and flop means we all of a sudden have a lot of baby gear that is no longer helpful, bouncers, seats, playmats and our bath seat because someone can sit up himself and splash around now.  I am constantly bracing myself for his "lasts" which will be our family's lasts and on a very practical note, I'm mourning the last of a child who can't follow me into the bathroom.

2.  John is busy as ever as well, but every once in a while (generally when a cold is coming on) he slows down to rest and all his wild fury is settled into this angelic face:

And while there are many things he is not excited about daily (using the potty, bedtime, foods that aren't brown etc.) he is so excited about going to school, playdates and new books and magazines!  While I'm excited about the time Spencer and I will get when he goes to school twice a week next year it's already hard to believe how quickly that will be here.

3.  Easter Camping.  So, in our grand scheme of mild craziness we decided to go camping for Easter.  Easter used to be "Grandma Elsie's" holiday and I needed a distraction from missing her and we've been slowly trying to shape a new set of Easter traditions.  Packing up our brand new camper and taking 4 kids cold weather camping was certainly a distraction and outside our norm :-)    We weren't too ambitious as we camped less than 6 miles from home.

 First meal in the new camper!  No one caught on fire in the tight quarters!

The good of the trip:
- Everyone eventually slept
- We had extra space in the van even after putting the bikes in the new car instead of on the bike rack so there is hope that we aren't *that* van where shit falls out everytime a door opens this summer.
- The kids survived the top bunk even after I put a too thick mattress up there, no claustrophobia for them!
- The stove, fridge and electrical outlets worked beautifully.  I haven't messed with the water systems since its still freezing often enough, but we are working our way to success.

The bad:
- We are still used to packing everything back into the van instead of leaving it in the camper so I wasted a lot of time moving stuff around
- Catherine and Spencer sharing a sleeping space needs some tweaks, as well as figuring out how to keep a crawling toddler warm
- The furnace gave out about midnight :(  Luckily we were a) close to home and James could run and grab a space heater and b) at a site with electricity.  
The cold limited much of what the kids like to do when camping, so we made some jiffy pop and settled in for a movie on the iPad:

The Hot Springs don't open until 8pm on Saturdays, but they certainly were a perfect way to wear the kids out and get them to bed easily!  I finally invested in a waterproof case for my phone, so we played around with it a bit:

The next morning we tested out the oven with cinnamon rolls and then the kids rode bikes around and hit up the playground.  Spencer finally decided to snooze:

And I forced the kids to take a family picture:

4.  After a second trip to the Hot Springs, we got all dressed up for some more semi-regular traditions.  Spencer again was unimpressed:

Until he discovered the pure sugary goodness that is Peeps on a stick:

Matthew was worried there weren't enough places in the camper for the Easter Bunny to hide eggs so he suggested we leave our eggs/baskets at the house for the Easter Bunny to find (smart kid!)  It worked out beautifully to come home and find eggs instead of playing the "let's wait for everyone to wake up and pretend we haven't already spotted everything" game.  We then wore our finest to IHOP where at 2pm most of the rest of the clientele were still in ratty pajamas.  It was perfect and mostly someone who was not me was willing to keep refilling my water glass, which is pretty much where my standards are for taking the family out to a restaurant.  #winning

And capped it off with the magic of Shrinky Dinks:

5.  And now I leave you with a .gif (hopefully) of Spencer eating broccoli, because damn, 7 month olds love broccoli.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Five

1.  Matthew discovered the “39 Clues” series of books with the audiobook downloads from the library.  This has given me a beautiful and much needed 20 hour break from parenting him and 900 pages for his reading log this week.  Win-win.

I also took Spencer to the library and he had a blast and I had a blast from the past as every other mom there had just one kiddo between 7 and 14 months.  I was weirdly nostalgic for the ease of parenting one but thankful for the perspective time and quantity give 😂

John had a good time too, though being at baby story time overwhelmed him with too many crawlers who didn’t know how to share so he spent most of the event giving me sad puppy dog eyes as another baby came and grabbed his toy, so we went to build blocks in the big kid section too!

Before school reading.  One day my kids will figure out that I am exploiting their love of books in lieu of a solid behavior management or parenting strategy.  

Until then I’ll deal with stacks of books and some overdue library fines in exchange for some fleeting peace and quiet.

2. Matthew got student of the week for his grade and there was an Orange Julius coupon involved so we went and toasted his acknowledgement/

Catherine also hit a milestone and rode her bike home by herself.  On Fridays Matthew has choir rehearsal and picking up Catherine falls squarely during nap time so we are all looking forward to this development.

3.  And speaking of (no)naptime, someone has 4 teeth now!  It is so exciting he can hardly sleep #truestory

They are perfect for tasting gifts from Amma and Papa.

But not enough to scare away the cat who is now bold enough to sit ON Spencer’s lap. 

Or enough that he's lost all his giggles:

4.  We’ve all gotten a little crafty this week.  We kicked it off testing a robotics lesson and decorated some eggs in a very modern way:

Then I decided to lighten up the camper with new cushion covers and curtains.  This was the original decor:

The update.  I may have seen more in the last 48 hours than the rest of my life combined, and I still have more to go.

Don’t worry, the burnt orange carpet is staying a while longer, though the wallpaper is probably going before this weekend.  In more practical news, we’ve tested everything but the water system and it all works as expected.  Yay!  

And Catherine started writing a book.  I have a hard time believing it’ll be fiction and I’m not sure if I find it hilarious or sad she gave it a reading level 😂

And we took a family cooking class!  Our local Farm to School program is offering a free series of classes.  Our family made the beet brownies!

5. John is a ball of fire, hilarity, energy and words that goes 100 miles a minute.  He is most of the time intentionally hilarious, though sometimes he is unintentially so.  He has no fear keeping up with the big kids and has been riding his scooter on one foot:

And he is still super excited about all presents, especially clothes:

We got on an off-topic dinner conversation about prank ideas.  John tried to tell us a prank and he not only didn’t really have a plan but he got a hilarious case of the giggles.  Spencer was unimpressed by this weird chocolate milk prank idea (we think).  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring Break Five

We are (were) in the car heading back from an excellent 4 day “spring” break getaway of sledding, soaking, skiing and museums and our longest as a family of six (when I started to write this, but then we had to make an unexpected nursing stop to end the baby fussing and then the other kids had 2,314 immediate questions so what i expected to take me from Butte to Belgrade has taken 2 days.  We can pretend we were traveling via Conestoga).  Here’s the highlights:

1.  Our first stop was Fairmont Hot Springs, which was our original destination for a couple days . . .  until I went to book and the total cost reminded me why we are not a resort vacation family.  I'm not sure if it was the final price or the idea of sharing a standard hotel room with our whole family for an extended period of time that spooked me, but for a day trip, it was perfect!

We started with a “picnic” in Butte on the way.  Getting out of the house and scheduling meals on our trips is one of the biggest hurdles to travel.  We have a pretty sweet picnic system down and it often breaks up a trip nicely for potty and nursing stops, but it's definitely easier in fair weather.  Not only was this park covered with snow, but the area was covered with trash and broken glass and enough evidence that nothing good probably happens in the parking lot.  The kids however were none the wiser and all want to go back and play more!

3 kids carrying most of their own crap to the pool upon arrival #parentingwin

We stayed way longer than expected because everyone was having lots of fun.  This is a huge milestone as our kids are hit or miss about staying at the pool.  Spencer LOVES the warm water though so a happy baby to start helps!

We booked a great little VRBO about half an hour away and I had packed a brilliant meal to put in the Instant Pot, until I realized I forgot my Instant Pot at home and we were leaving the pools a couple hours later than expected..  Womp. Womp.  Luckily it gave us a great chance to try an “original” pork chop sandwich at Peppermint Patty’s in Anaconda.  We all approved of their extra fried, extra delicious menu!

2.  We took our first family ski day!  Well, we were at least all at the same ski area at the same time.   It started out a Bluebird day!

But by the end it was snowing hard with big wet flakes.  I was super impressed with the kids, they skied hard and it was so fun to see all they learned in lessons this year.   It will be bittersweet whenever Spencer finally weans, but the thought of getting in a full ski day more often than once a decade is pretty exciting for me!

However, Spencer took on the role of ski lodge bum quite nicely :-)  We had plans for everyone to ski and take advantage of the nearby XC trails as well with Spencer, but our ski day got changed on the weather forecast and we went from a leisurely morning plan to rushing out the door to ski in about 15 minutes, so not all the details got worked out.  James took one for the team and hung out at the lodge with Spencer instead!

Then there was poor John.  We didn’t quite know what to do with him as he's just past the age for riding too long for XC ski without losing it, so we signed him up for kinderski.  He LOVED  it.  “School Ski” as he calls it was hands down his favorite part of the trip!  We were super impressed with the staff and everything they had him do and by the hour it was cheaper than babysitters are in Bozeman so we’d definitely do it again!  John also was in his element as the teacher’s all kept telling us how great he was and mostly how chill he was.  I’m not certain I’ve used chill to describe John in about 2 years 😂

This was John getting on the "big" non-bunny slope lift!  The big kids and I did this run a few times and while I don't know how long it was, it is definitely long lift and covers 1,200 vertical feet on the way down.  I'm not sure how his little legs did it but they did.

You can’t be in the area without a trip to Sweet Palace so we ran to Philipsburg for groceries, and in case we got snowed in...plenty of candy!
Decisions, decisions!

And even better was the family apres ski hot tub back at the VRBO!

Not a bad view!

3.  Our second day was supposed to be full of awesomely bad museums (or at least so I assume about any place called a Prison Museum Complex) but with 5-9" of snow falling, we decided to call it a day to be "snowed in" at the apartment.  We took advantage of the terrain for some awesome sledding and a few more hot tub visits.
Spencer was an ultimate hill supervisor while I held sleds, lest we lose a child to the hill . . . again.   Spencer and were summoned from some post-nap snuggles when Catherine knocked on the door and said "Mom, John slid all the way down to the road by himself."  The situation was not quite as dire as she relayed, but we all learned that John does not understand how to turn or bail when sledding :-)  Luckily James rescued him and then took a few sleds to the chest as he blocked the kids from that path in the future.

Both kids even felt brave enough for some snow baths, though Matthew was the only one goofy enough to have me video it :-)

And we made a snowcave for 4!

I regret not taking a pic of how deep the snow was off the deck, but it was deeper than John most everywhere.  It was quite the herculean feat for him to climb up onto the snow!  Thankfully he wasn't heavy enough to fall through.

It was a great time unintentionally offline with no cell or wifi service, but the kids did get plenty of time with shows they don't normally get to see via the satellite and James and I did get to check in with March Madness a bit.  It can't be spring break without a bit of basketball!

Spencer had an awful lot to say about the day:

4. We wrapped up our final day with a stop in Butte.  First we had time to kill before our scheduled museum tour so we headed to the mall as I had a vague idea they had an indoor play area.  That was almost all their mall supported and it wasn't much, but it was just enough for James and I to catch up on a few lingering emails and voicemails while the kids played.  There's not much more adorable than John's Hippo impression!

We contacted the Mai Wah Museum for an off-season tour.  It was another fantastic glimpse into pre WWII Montana and Butte's Chinatown and we will definitely put it on our calendar to be there for the Chinese New Year parade next year!

We also hit up Silver Bow Pizza.  It has been completely redone since the last time we went and the games work, it's light filled and super clean.  The kids had a blast!  It took 2 visits (lunch and a later dessert stop) to spend their $5 game cards as they kept wanted to do the free rides with this adorable sidekick instead!  

And a quick stop at the Mineral Museum at Montana Tech because glow in the dark rocks are always cool.  It was quite an impressive collection overall!  It reminded of stopping in at UW's geology department with my dad when I was little!

5.  The big kids won mini-whoopie cushions at the pizza place because we were in our last couple of hours of vacation and I gave up.  Through some miracle of modern math they collectively earned 600 "tickets" which meant there were approximately 3 million combinations of toys they could "buy" and they were trying to weigh the pros and cons of each combination to maximize the amount of cheap plastic to bring home and thus, I okayed whoopie cushions.  John finds them hilarious which I find hilarious because his laugh is contagious and with that we are home, trying to unpack, clean rugs and in general control our house chaos . . . now with 200% more whoopie cushions.

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...