Saturday, February 23, 2013

Star Wars, Glaciers, Big Red Dogs and other weirdness of our weeks

So last we left off we had just celebrated James' birthday which meant Valentine's day was not far behind!  Matthew's preschool cohort has had a run of sickness (which we have avoided *knock on wood*) so our small preschool has been hit or miss.  However, we were able to get together Valentine's week and Thursday they had a Valentine party!  I had seen these Valentine's on Pinterest:

And decided to put a little twist on them and came up with this, which we added glo-bracelets to for Matthew's party (which was a giant pain in the butt to do without activating the sticks so I can't imagine doing it for a class larger than 5):
However, the pre-photo shop outtakes are pretty fun too:
Matthew addressed each one in his crazy handwriting:
He had a super fun time at the party and like usual, was moving around too much to get a good picture. Catherine at least moves at a slower pace and even though she had "helped" stuff our goodie bags, she was still excited about the tattoos and treats from Amma:
Speaking of her being all adorable, here are some pictures from snacktime the other day.  I love this first one because it very much captures her spunk and sass:
 She is such a ham!
That weekend I headed up to visit my good friend Jenn in Whitefish.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't great (February rain. Gross.) but we were able to take a drive up to Glacier for the morning and as always it didn't disappoint!

Unfortunately, it was too short of a trip and we didn't make it up to the top of the mountain at the ski resort for lunch considering this was about the last we saw of the mountains before we were socked in! Either way it was a great time with a good friend.  Meanwhile, James and the kiddos had fun too.  They apparently headed to the Winter Fair and while they did a lot of other cool things, the trains were the biggest hit as always.  Apparently the club has really upped its game since last year with an Atlantis section:
And there was lots of around the house silliness too I guess:
Since I've gone back to staying with the kids full time, James has been a rockstar about giving me some extra personal time with friends and away from the kids.  While its always nice to come back to their excited screams and hugs, it's nice to take a breather every once in a while. 

This week has taken the same pace as the past few in that it has flown by filled with lots of friends, exploring and silly time.  We've been trying to add in our own SSR (silent, sustained reading) and while most of the time the kids have a hard time not making each other crazy, every once in a while it works and they (mostly) "read" to themselves while James and I read.  I think we've hit a record 3 minutes this week!
Every ski town has a crazy awesome toy store somewhere in its downtown and Whitefish was no exception.  I took it as an opportunity to pick up some water beads as a treat for the kiddos when I returned.  They sure have had fun with them:
 And though we haven't made it out skiing, we did make it out sledding one day (where again, Matthew wouldn't stand still for a picture so they were all of the back of his head!)  I did, however, convince Catherine to take a picture with me:
 And an inadvertent favorite:
 We headed to a friend's 5 year business anniversary party where we tried out the photo booth.  Catherine was not amused:
 And then today we helped celebrate Clifford the Big Red Dog's 50th birthday (or would that be 350th?).  The kiddos made ears:

 And signed a birthday card for Clifford:
 And got to meet him!  I was worried Matthew would be disappointed because he had told me about Clifford being "big like a mountain and glacier" but he was pretty much in awe.  Catherine, not so much:
 And in another big step for the little man when it comes to big characters, he was willing to give Clifford a hug!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Celebrations and Snow

I keep waiting for the winter doldrums to set in, the respite from a busy summer, the calm before the storm.  However, that doesn't seem to be the case.  We've been flitting off to playgroups for some silliness:
 And the museum for some fishing:
 And one day when preschool was cancelled due to illness we made it to their tours for tots program.  Matthew learned a lot about Big Al the Allosaurus.  His retelling at dinner however, went something like this:
Me: "Matthew, can you tell daddy about what we learned about at the museum"
Matthew: "Allosaurus.  He ate meat."
Me: "What else?"
Matthew: "He had lots and lots of owies"
Me: "How did he get those owies?"
Matthew: "From eating pee"

Boys!  Don't know who or where he was warned about eating pee, but it's the second time it's come up as either a warning or consequence.  They also got to make really cool Allosaurus shrinky-dink necklaces.
 We also had some excitement as we celebrated James' birthday!  The kiddos made him a cake:

And most surprisingly, Matthew kept it a secret for two days!  It was especially exciting because my original plan was to take James out on his birthday, so we were going to have cake for breakfast!  Matthew picked out chocolate cake with chocolate frosting but when it came to decorating he wanted to make a rainbow cake, so this was our compromise:
Which wasn't too bad until we made our own purple sugar which Matthew was not as delicate about sprinkling as I would have liked.
That Saturday James and I not only had his birthday date, but it was also the day for us to see Dr. Noize  crash the Symphony.  He had been pumped about this since we picked up the tickets and it didn't disappoint.  Before hand they have an instrument petting zoo.  Matthew wasn't too keen on testing out the woodwinds and brass but he did give the percussion instruments a shot:
Catherine meanwhile felt the need to put her mouth on all the percussion instruments so mostly she observed this year.  As always the concert was great and the kiddos enjoyed.  Here's Matthew raising his hands to identify the themes of Beethoven's Fifth.  
 Sunday we thought we'd head out and do some cross country skiing.  It's been unseasonably warm for the past week and a half or so, and though I took the kiddos out to the golf course the other week:
it was some pretty crappy skiing and the conditions had only been sunnier and warmer.  Sooooo, I figured we'd head up into the mountains for some snow.  Unfortunately for us and our gear (fortunate for everyone else) the less than 1" of snow we got in town was 1-2 feet just up the unplowed road.   The downside as we started driving was that there was no place to turn around without getting stuck and the turn off to the trails we wanted to take (at the bottom of the canyon) was unplowed.  Once we found a promising turn out packed down with other skiiers we ran off the road.  Unfortunately, as you head further up the mountain not surprisingly the trails get steeper.  After unloading and dressing everyone and rescuing Matthew and his snowshoes from the deep piles in the parking lot, we hit the trail.  On the plus side, the trailer actually tracks decently well in deep powder.  However, since the powder was deeper than the bottom of the trailer I ended up plowing a bit of snow.  At least the surroundings were moody and gorgeous:
Unfortunately, as the trail headed up hill, I couldn't make any progress between the powder, the plowing with the trailer and the 60+ pounds of kiddos behind me.  Womp. Womp.  On a flat trail, we probably would have done fine in deep powder but I definitely don't have the skills (or skis?) to do much uphill yet.  We are still learning a whole heck of a lot about how to best pack/dress the kiddos quickly as well as James and I learning a lot more about how to ski off the groomed trails (and getting in better shape).  

In other news, Catherine has moved to her big girl bed.  It was a smooth transition in the beginning, though last night was rough so who knows how this will all play out.  Thank you to her big brother for teaching her how to climb out of bed.  We thought that we had a few weeks before Catherine would climb down by herself to get used to sleeping in the big bed before we dealt with the behavioral issues that come along with the freedom to get out of bed.  Oops.
Speaking of freedom, some other excitement this week was that both kiddos had dentist appointments.  Matthew did very well and did the whole appointment without me :(  While I was very proud of him it broke my heart a little that he's growing up so fast.  

 Otherwise, we've been out sledding, playing and otherwise having a good time.  Here is where we went snowsuit sledding down the ice hill.  Mr. Adrenaline had a blast and was moving too fast for pictures as always.  Catherine was a bit more contemplative:
 And she preferred as always just to eat the snow:
 Though she was willing to ride on the sled a few times with Matthew:
Though she had even more fun the next day with mommy and her friends while Matthew was in preschool.  Admittedly, hot cocoa always helps!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Reading and Photo Projects

It's not a big secret that I take/have taken a lot of photos in the past 3 and 1/2 years and a decent few in the past 10 years.  18,000+ to be non-exact (and this was after I started culling!)  Anyway, that number is clearly insane and ridiculous so I've been working on going through my photos with a goal of keeping ~100/month.   I've gotten through about 2 years.  Even 100 a month is excessive considering I have maybe 5-10 a year for each year of grandma Jennie's life and it is a seemingly overwhelming project!

Anyway, the ultimate goal after the monthly photos are to get them into printed photobooks ASAP.  Even though I have a decent backup system in place, I want small numbers of organized photos to eventually pass onto the kiddos one day that doesn't involve new technologies, file conversions, long-term maintenance that can be easily flipped through regardless of what software/hardware we have.

Another goal of the photo organization system is to get more pictures up on the walls of the house.  I have a big wall downstairs where I want to do a family picture wall.  I want to do something a little more organized than what we had in Wyoming, (maybe an abstract interpretation on a family tree) but I haven't quite found an exact plan.

However, I had a small space in our bedroom I was ready to decorate.  We've moved all the books in the house into the Master including most of the kids' books into our room (as noted by the messy shelf to the left).  The kiddos each get a rotating bin of ~25 books in their room but most books are housed in our room and bedtime and naptime stories are most often read on the couch in there.

I had originally pictured wooden R-E-A-D letters each with a 4-pic collage frame underneath.  However, I had a heck of a time narrowing down the 40+ pictures (and I found a few more awesome ones after I finished this project) I found and wanted the project to cost as close to zero dollars as possible and be easy to finish so I opted for photo collages with letters (and then I could use all the pictures :-).
(Pardon the messy bookcase, we are in a phase where we rotate through them quickly, they are weird sizes and shapes, and we are encouraging the kiddos to put them in order by themselves.  It's a small step up from having them all over the bedroom)
At the bottom and top I took an old frame with a printout of the following quotes (which I found collected here, which is possibly one of the best baby shower ideas I've come across):

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world.
 Love of books is the best of all. -Jacqueline Kennedy
To learn to read is to light a fire;
 every syllable that is spilled out is a spark. - Victor Hugo
Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. -Emilie Buchwald
Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading,
 to make reading one of her deep and continuing needs, is good for her. - Maya Angelou
The more you read, the more things you will know.
 The more you learn, the more places you’ll go. - Dr. Seuss
Anyway, here are the collages close up:

Though I'm positive nearly every family member we have ever visited or who has visited has read the kids stories I regret I haven't gotten pictures of everyone :(  However, it warms my heart to know how many different reading times have been documented.
I try to stay off my parenting soapbox about a lot of issues since I don't really know what I'm doing, but if you have kids and haven't read it yet, I highly recommend you run out and find the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  The introduction uses a lot of research (and a few well-done anecdotes) to make a clear case not just for why it's good to read aloud to children (which seems fairly obvious) but why it needs to be made a priority at both home and in schools as well as continuing well past the point where the child can read themselves.   Every time I feel I am faltering in my enthusiasm for reading (especially after reading Clifford Counts or something 3 times a day for weeks on end) I go back and re-read a chapter or two of the introduction.   There is also a really good part about suffering through this stage of reading aloud to get to the point in a few years where the books we read aloud are interesting for all of us :-)  However, the bulk of the book and the even better resource are the book lists for read alouds, broken down by age, genre and anything else you could ask for.  I use it a lot for making gift wish lists and as a literary kill list of sorts :-) 

While I still wish we read even more to the kids, we generally read at least 3 books to the kids before nap and 3 before bed and normally about 3 throughout the day.   If I were to be conservative and say our average was 7 books a day, it still means Matthew has read nearly 9,000 books (of course, Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo might account for 30% of that number) at this point in his life and will have read over 13,000 before he enters a formal school setting.  Crazy.  Catherine is well on her way to catching up as she is incredibly demanding and throughout the day will bring over a pile of books and throw herself into your lap.  I won't lie, it's incredibly hard to resist!  She especially loves Wheels on the Bus (which upon the 5,000th reading/singing I've discovered is missing a comma on page 6) and her Sesame Street sounds book right now.   I also wish we modeled pleasure reading more with the kids and while they see us read the newspaper in the morning, since I've switched to reading on my phone - reading facebook (or I'm sure to Matthew playing Elmo's ABC) looks just like reading a good book.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superheroes, Snowcoaches and Snowmobiles

 We had another crazy week and weekend with lots of friends and fun.  I had plans a few nights this week but judging by the photos in my photo stream, they had a great time with Daddy:

The weekend started out with a friends Superhero/princess party.  
 Where Matthew got some pop rocks which he found intriguing:
 Then on Sunday we got out early and headed down to West Yellowstone.  As part of a kids program they were offering free snowcoach rides.  It was a gorgeous morning as we left:
 And a gorgeous day in West Yellowstone, though much colder than our adventure last weekend.  I've been pseudo-planning a bigger winter trip into Yellowstone so we can ski around Old Faithful and the geyser basins, but it requires snowcoach travel so I thought this would be a good chance to see how feasible it was for taking the kids on a trip.  Catherine had a good time:
 While Matthew bounced around in the back seat with some of his friends.  The kids got to ride without seatbelts or carseats which they thought was awesome.  The trip was just a sampler and truthfully, I'm not certain how well James and I would do on a longer trip.  We were seated at the back of the coach and it felt like we were fishtailing and whipping back and forth the entire time.  We went about 7 miles in along the Madison River and saw lots of bison and elk:

Afterwards they had snowmobile rides around the Visitor Center parking lot.  It was perfect timing because as we headed down we saw quite a few snowmobiles and he noted "when I get bigger I will ride one of those."  
 Even though the event was billed as for 6 year olds and up, the guys running it were really good.  They kept wanting to get Catherine on one, but we settled for just having her sit on one.  Maybe next year we'll see her roaming around the track:
Matthew idolizes our 9 year old neighbor so as she climbed the 15 foot snowpile, Matthew tried to follow her.  My shy, cautious boy is slowly becoming an adrenaline junkie!
After a quick picnic lunch we went for a short cross-country ski trip.  Of course Ellie and Boo had to join us:
 We skiied in the park and were hoping to make it down to the Madison River but just after James and I switched hauling the kids we had run out of time and needed to be heading back to town for Superbowl.  This is James making his 30-point turn to turn around.
 And back on the trail:
 Being pulled by daddy is apparently hard work!
 Every time we head to Big Sky or West Yellowstone I'm on the lookout for bighorn sheep.  There are standard signs warning about them throughout the canyon and two seasonal signs warning about animals on the roadway but I've never seen them, until this weekend.
 Someone slept through all the excitement.
We made it home at about 3:15pm which was good because we had company coming for the Superbowl at 4pm.  We had a great time with good food, friends and a house full of a dozen kids and just a few more adults to maintain some semblance of sanity!

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...