Tuesday, September 9, 2014

beach trip 2014...

I was looking at pictures today instead of cleaning and organizing my house and I realized that I never posted about our summer trips.  Because the first day of fall is in a week or so, I feel like I can catch up on my summer vacation posts without considering myself too far behind.  So, here's a recap of our beach trip.

We went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with Mark's family.  This year instead of renting one big house for all 20 of us, each family rented apartments in a motel.  So we had a 2 bedroom apartment with a kitchen and living room.  They were fine for the amount of time we spent in the rooms.  The boys spent most of their time with their cousins and we would go hours without knowing which room they were in.  It was awesome.  They really love being with their cousins and there is never any fighting, the kids all just get along.

We divided out time equally between the beach and the pool  It was great to be staying beach-front with a pool.  There was always someone from our group at either one, so the kids could go between the beach and pool pretty easily.  Here are some pictures from one of our nightly walks.  Matthew and Grace hadn't made it to the beach yet for this cousins picture.  I said, 'line up by age / height' and Brandon (little guy in blue), said 'no, I don't want to'.  To which I said, 'oh I'm sorry, I wasn't asking.  I want to take a picture and need you to get in line.'  I don't think he was expecting me to say that, but he was a trooper.

The boys learned to body surf this year.  Last year for our quick trip, the ocean was too cold for them to spend much time in it.  Plus this year, they had older cousins to show them how it was done.  John and Luke really got into riding the waves.  Or maybe it was just John who rode the waves, Luke clung to Mark a lot but was able to catch some waves before the week was over.

The boys also spent a lot of time in the pool doing handstands.  And because they are my children and I take pictures of everything, they requested I take pictures of them doing handstands.  So, here they are...

Sister also got into the pool.  She has never really liked the water but tends to tolerate it and have you in a death grip if you are holding her.  One day it was really hot, so I got into the pool with Grace.  The shallow end of the pool was 3 1/2 feet, so I put her down and let go.  Once she realized she could stand, she just hung out in the water for about a half an hour.

The next morning, as we were all having our coffee and breakfast by the pool Grace walked over to the deep end and sat with her feet in the pool.  It was so cute because she sat down about 4 feet away from the side of the pool and scooted forward until her feet were hanging over the side.  Dad sat down with her and they contemplated life.

We spent most of our time at the hotel going between the beach and pool.  However, one day we took a trip to the Wright Brothers Museum.  Mark and I have been to the Outer Banks 14 times and never gone to the museum.  This summer we bought a book and read about the Wright Brothers in anticipation of our visit to the museum and monument.  As with most things, it went better in my head than real life.  The museum was really crowded and we got there at the wrong time for a tour.  So we raced as fast as we could past all the stuff took our time studying the museum and then walked up to the monument.  It was an incredibly hot day and the monument was really far away.  There may have been whining from more than one person.

One evening after dinner, we went to run on the sand dunes.  I tried to get a cute picture of my three but it didn't really work.  But we were able to get a picture with all the cousins.  And we got ice cream afterwards, which is also a beach tradition.

Overall, it was another amazing week at the beach with Mark's family.  The kids really love to spend time with their cousins and I love to see their relationships continue to grow and develop.  I'm so, so thankful that all the kids get along and there is never any fighting.  All the moms comment on how great that is and was a gift these bonds of extended family are.  It was such a great week that we've already booked our house for next year.  I can't wait to go back to the beach.  It's my happy place.


Monday, September 8, 2014

and then it was grace's turn...

Grace started school last Monday...

And it was not a good week for us.  It traditionally takes Grace a few weeks to get used to school again.  I'm hoping since this week was such a doozy, that it will take less time this year.  Grace has the same teacher, Regina, as last year and I couldn't be happier.  Not only does she already know Grace and her quirks, but she is great about communication with me.   She told me that all the kids were having trouble transitioning back to school.  It does help to know that we are not alone.  

Just to give you an idea of what 'not transitionally well' looks like for us.  Grace has either been up till 1:00 am or woken up at 2:00 am for the day, pretty much every day last week.  When Grace is awake she is VERY vocal so there is no way to just ignore her, so mama is up with her too.  I'm a little old to be having the sleep patterns of a college kid, so needless to say I was exhausted last week.  Her van comes at 7:40 so she was getting an average of 6 hours of sleep a night.  Not nearly enough for her.

She is also going through a change to her eating.  Since she is fed almost every single bite of food that she eats, I should say a change to her feeding.  Which means that she has become very picky and will now reject previously favored foods.  I'm spending a lot of time planning, shopping and making her purees now and trying to come up with food combinations that she will eat.  It has been very time consuming but I've made some progress with her feeding and she is now eating Whole30 with me.

The boys don't have to leave for school until 8:15 so they have been rolling out of bed at 7:50, but on Grace's first day of school I made them get up and pose for a picture with sister.  Don't they look thrilled?!?  John wouldn't get his picture taken in his pjs (which are literally shorts and a t-shirt), so we made the van wait on the first day so he could find the shirt and socks he wanted.  Guess it didn't matter that his hair wasn't combed...

During the first few weeks of school the class is doing a lesson called 'all about me'.  So the teacher sent home a sheet to be completed.  Since Grace doesn't talk, use her hands or really show preference for much, I asked John to help me fill it out.  So I read him the topics and he made something up answered for Grace.  When he got to "When I grow up I want to be...", he asked 'will she get to be anything'.  I said, 'probably not, but let's pretend.'  So he picked a career for her based on her love of dogs.  I waited to cry until the kids were in bed...

Since this post seems kind of whinny, and really I didn't mean it to be but I do try and tell the truth about having a child with special needs.  I thought I'd share a recent video of Grace.  We kept finding her on the back porch but no one was letting her out the door (she can't open and shut doors).  I finally saw how she was getting out there and now know why we need a new screen on the door.


I have shared most of these pictures and that video on instagram so sorry for the repeat if you follow me there.  If you don't, you can go here to my IG page.  I'm way better at updating IG that I am my blog or facebook.

Hope the start of school was great for your family!


Monday, August 25, 2014

first day of school...

Well, it's a wrap.  Summer vacation of 2014 is officially over.  I have a few posts that I've written about our adventures pending, but I wanted to post the kids first day of school pictures. 

I was a little worried about the first day of school, because my boys finally learned to sleep in last week.  Last week.  Literally, they went from waking up every day at 7:00 to waking up at 9:30.  It was awesome and frustrating all at the same time.  On the one hand, I loved the time alone in the morning.  My favorite thing to do in the morning is sit in the quiet of the house before anyone else is up with a fresh cup of coffee.  I'd really love to do this on my screened in porch, but since I don't have one I usually sit in my living room and imagine how great it would be to be on my screened in porch.  On the other hand, I was concerned that this tendency to sleep in would make the start of school hard for all of us.

But all my worry was for naught.  Last night, Grace woke me up at 2:00am and stayed up for the day.  Yipee!  I finally brought her downstairs after my shower at 6:15 and discovered John asleep on the couch, he hadn't been there at 6:00 when I came down for my first cup of coffee.  Apparently, he had a headache and woke Mark up for some medicine.  At 6:30 Luke came down and said 'Mom did you forget?'.  To which I said 'forget what?' and he replied 'Forget to say 'Good morning boys, it's time to get up for school.'?'  I just starting laughing because that is literally what I say every morning and said, 'No Luke I didn't forget.  You are all up an hour before you need to be to get up for school."

The boys were excited to go back to school to see their friends but not thrilled that summer vacation was over.  John said he was a little worried about the amount of homework he would get in 5th grade and the fact that he was told the teacher is very strict.  I asked him why that bothered him since he never gets in trouble at school and he said it just did.  Luke couldn't wait to see his best friends, which includes most of his class.  He was a little concerned about the amount of homework he would be getting in second grade after John told him he should be concerned.

We tried to stay on top of learning this past summer by reading and doing workbooks but I think it will take a while for us all to adjust to the routine of school again.  One way I've found to reduce the amount of stress in our days is to write out morning and afternoon routines.  These are not complex schedules but rather the steps that the boys need to follow to get ready for school.  For example, the boys wrote up the following morning routine; get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth and comb hair, put on socks and shoes, pack school bag, play time.  I type the lists up and post them in our kitchen on our pantry door. 

We've been doing this for three years now and I like this practice for two main reasons, 1) I am helping to teach them how to organize and plan their time.  This is something that is intuitive for some people and not for others.  So it is a really valuable skill to teach your children.  Also, as they get older I'm hoping will translate into their school work and other areas of their lives.  And 2) I have found that it cuts down on my yelling in the morning and the boys whining if we have written routines of what they are supposed to do. Now all I have to do is say, 'What should you do next?' and they look at the sheet and do it.  They also know what time we need to be in the car to leave for school, so if they want play time they learn not to fool around and just get their tasks done.

We also have an absolute rule of no screen time in the morning.  None.  At all.  This is not something they are thrilled with but they accept it.  We do allow screen time during the week after homework is done and they know that this can be changed to weekends only if they complain or while about it.

Hope the first day of school was a good one for your crew.  Next week it's Grace's turn to go back...


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

checking in...catching up...and a new video...

We are so enjoying our summer!  I think we have had a perfect balance of days with plans and thing to do and lazy days without plans and playing outside with friends.  However, when I turned the page to August on Monday (I know I was a few days late) I realized that we only had 3 more weeks until school started and I panicked.  My immediate reaction was, 'Oh no, I only have 3 weeks of summer left'.  The boys were also sad to learn summer was almost over.  So I'm taking that as a sign that we've done a good job with our summer so far.

We have taken 3 trips, which I will blog about separately, and crossed off a lot of activities on our summer fun list.  So August will have a slower pace than June and July, but I think it will be great for our family.  I'm also working on my annual update post about Grace, you can read last year's update here.  It is amazing to see how much she has changed and grown in the past year.  I say grown lightly, because at a recent doctors appointment they told us she is in the 2% for height.  Which totally cracks me up because everyone (and I do mean everyone) comments on how tall she looks.  I think it may be because she is crazy skinny for her age or maybe it's because she is so developmentally delayed that she acts like a toddler but is really 7 years old.  Any way whatever the reason, it cracks me up.

Speaking of Grace.  Last year we came across a video that Grace really liked and we watched it a lot.  We like to think that we were a large part of why this video was viewed over 2 million times.  As I've mentioned before, Grace is completely non-verbal but really musical and keeps a beat better than most.  She also has begun to 'sing' to songs by making the intonation of words, so we like to say she sings along to songs now.  Here she is watching the video and 'singing' along to Happy while she eats breakfast.

Well, Chris Rice released another tap dance video this week and it was just as good if not better.  We have watched this video almost constantly since it came out (and that's no joke).  The boys have decided that John is Chris and Luke is Clay Thomson and they make up dance steps to all kinds of songs now.  We all tried to do a handstand today, based on Clay's walking handstand at the end of the video, and I have to say that mama still has it.  I'm sure Mr. Noble, my first gymnastics coach, would be proud that I can still do handstands and cartwheels at my advanced age.  I didn't take pictures of that but here are all 3 kids watching last years video, which we still watch all the time.

The boys then decided that they wanted to help fund Chris's next project (and yes, my family is a little obsessed with Chris and Clay), so we clicked over to kickstarter and gave a little something.  John wanted to give $2,500 so we could be in his next video and get a dance lesson but that was a little out of our budget.  They are so proud that we are now patrons of the arts and still want to visit Chris and Clay in NYC (my boys act like we actually know these guys instead of just creeping  following them on line).  I'm sorry to say that neither one of my boys wants to sign up for dance lessons, no matter how much I beg them to sign up.  So it looks like we will have to continue watching Chris's videos.  Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.  However, now the kids all walk around signing Happy and I can't get it out of my head, no matter how much 80's grunge rock I listen to).

Hope you like this video as much as we do!  #Tappy


Thursday, June 19, 2014

summer fun list / summer plan...

Our summer officially started last Friday and we could not be happier.  It has the boys jumping for joy!

For the past four years, we have created a summer fun list.  I saw this idea on a blog and promptly stole it.  It is a great way (for us) to stay focused and to have a general plan of things to do.  We come up with the list as a family and everything is fair game.  It is also a very visual reminder, as we check off items, of all the things that we have done during the summer.

This year, I decided that I wanted an even mix of going big places and staying home creating fun.  I want to make sure that for every day I take my kids somewhere that is entertaining, say the zoo, that there is a day at home where they just play.  My three words for this summer are; organized, intentional and creative.

I know that it is up to me as the mom to organize our summer so that we don't just drift through our days and not do anything.  I love summer days without schedules or places to be.  As a result, I don't have my kids in a lot of camps this summer.  I'm also a procrastinator and love nothing more than curling up with a book and not leaving the house.  So the summer list helps this introverted / procrastinator get out and do stuff.  

I want to be intentional about how we experience summer this year.  I don't want to be subject to a schedule every day but I do want to intentionally plan days where we go and do.  I also need to combat my boys natural inclination to ditch school and anything related to school.  If you are raising a child who voluntarily reads, please take a moment and thank God for that.  Seriously.  You may not understand the gift you have been given.  I came up with a what I thought was a reasonable summer reading program and they can earn rewards for reading this summer.  Basically, I'm bribing my boys with ice cream to read this summer.  I'm not too proud to admit that.  I also have several workbooks that we are going to work through and the boys each created a summer journal.  They are going to use these to document our summer with words, pictures, ticket stubs and photos.  Here is a link to the blog where I got the 'directions' to cover our notebooks (Maggie Holmes has such a lovely blog).  You almost don't need instructions but I encouraged John to read the directions out loud and then both boys were able follow them without my help.  And BAM, he was reading without even realizing it!

My boys have a strong affinity for playing video games.  Do you like how I said that?  It seemed nicer than saying they were addicted to playing on devices.  It is a challenge to balance allowing them time to play devices and having them not use them.  We have limits and family standards but we don't have it down perfectly.  We were hesitant to open the door to hand held games because we knew that once it was open it was going to be super hard to close.  But we are managing the constant requests to play on the ipod and ipad in a way that works for our family.  One thing I knew for certain, was that I didn't want this to be something they pestered me about doing all day long did everyday all day long.  So, we have a bunch of creative things on our summer list.  For example, my boys love to paint, color and draw and we have a few days set aside that we will do just that first thing in the morning.  My boys, being boys, also love to blow things up.  So we have exploding paint bags on our list, which I found here.  This blog, Growing a Jeweled Rose, has a lot of really great ideas for kids activities.  Some of them are too young for my boys but are still really great.

We've already checked off a bunch of stuff from our list and we are only in the first week.  I'm hoping that I can stay focused on the summer.  Traditionally, I start off strong and have really good ideas and lots of energy but by August I'm done.

What's on your summer fun list?  What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?


Friday, June 13, 2014

last day of school...

Well, it finally arrived!  Today is the last day of school for my boys.  It should have been last Friday but the winter did not cooperate and we had 1,000 10 snow days to make up. 

Here are the first and last day of school pictures for comparison.  I'm so glad I take these pictures because it is amazing to see how much they grow and change in just one school year.  My babies aren't babies any more...

Here's some jumping pictures to celebrate the last day of school...

The boys have a half day today, so we are going to go out to lunch to celebrate two months off.  They picked MCD and asked for happy meals.  Yuk!  Then we are going to buy craft supplies for a few summer craft projects. 

Yay!  It's summertime...


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

beach trip 2013...

{I realized that I wrote this post last summer but never posted it.  So here is a recap of our beach trip from last year.  I can't wait to go again this summer...}

Mark and I are beach people.  In fact, my dream has always been to live at the beach.  I sometimes regret that I never did this in college when I was able to do so.  Mark and I have always talked about retiring to the beach when he no longer has to work and the kids are grown.  Of course, now we talk about Mark, me, Grace and her care taker living at the beach together...

We have been going to the beach with Mark's family for our entire marriage.  We would rent a huge house in the Outer Banks and spend a week together.  This trip was awesome and the kids always had such a great time with their cousins.  Unfortunately, this tradition ended a few years ago due to cost and family schedules.  So the last time we went to the beach as a family was 2011 (you can see pictures here, here and here).  That was too long for me to be away from the beach!.  So when my parents invited us down to the house they rented in Bethany Beach, we jumped at the chance to go.  The last time we were at this beach was also in 2011 and I posted about it here and here.

We drove down to the beach on Sunday afternoon and as soon as we got there the kids wanted to go to the beach.  It was windy and cold but we were all so happy to be there.

The next day the boys got up early and couldn't wait to go to the ocean.  John and Luke did what kids do everywhere and made friends with another boy on the beach.  They then proceeded to have his parents bury them in the sand.  YUCK!

Sister did not want any part of being buried in the sand!

She did however, play in the sand and was quiet happy to be at the beach. 

It was a quick but awesome time at the beach.  Next year we are planning on going for a week.  I already miss the beach.  It is my happy place...