Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016-2017 School Pictures

Here they are. This concludes what I'm going to do with these ridiculously expensive pictures of some ridiculously cute boys.

Third Grade


Kindergarten


P.S. What you don't know is that Rhett wore the exact same shirt for second and third grade school pictures. Ha. Also, this is Ollie's retake after the first one looked a bit, um, shall we say, constipated?! I'm kicking myself that I turned it in before scanning it.

P.P.S. These pictures make five school pictures we've done with LifeTouch. Of the five, I've had issues with TWO. NOT a good track record, LifeTouch.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Little Lending Library

A couple of months ago, we got a letter from school asking if we'd be willing to erect a little lending library in our yard. Of course we said YES! There are a couple around our area and I think they are the adorable (as well as a super good idea). Plus, our local library is closed for renovations and our school is under construction, which is why I think the principal wanted these.

Big kids from the county's technical high school built them, we helped finish, and then we got to take it home and put it in our yard. The boys check it all the time. I love it. And kids in the neighborhood are using it! So happy.




Friday, January 6, 2017

Happy 12th Anniversary to Us

Christmas break week was mostly staying home and doing nothing with a bit of activity thrown in. We got one incredibly warm day and so we used that to go to Six Flags. We watched lots of movies at home, jumped on the trampoline a lot, went to the library, and even played tennis. (Ollie is constantly asking us to play tennis, even if it's nearly bedtime and completely dark outside; nevermind that he can't even play.)

But by Thursday, as I worked from home with all three boys driving me bonkers and Chuck and my anniversary coming up the next day, I'd had it. I started looking for things we could do to get us out of the house Friday. I remembered this post about shark teeth hunting and thought it would be right up my boys' alley. Turns out it was the right activity, but the wrong season. It was windy and cold and Ollie just wasn't feeling it. Chuck found some teeth and the boys found some cool shells, but we only lasted a couple of hours. So then we headed back to our luxury hotel (cough, cough, or not, but at least it was a suite) and watched lots of TV from bed. (We did make it out of the room for dinner and a tour of Christmas lights in La Plata.) The next morning we ate hotel breakfast and watched more TV from bed. In our TV-watching defense, I had a cold and was super tired so it felt really nice to just rest.





So that was our 12th anniversary. According to Wikipedia, the modern U.S. 12th anniversary gift is pearls. While we might not have traded pearls, at least we did get some sea treasures in the form of fossilized shark teeth and shells. Win!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Destruction of the Gingerbread Houses

And on New Year's Day (or New Year's Day Observed), we destroy those beautiful gingerbread houses. But not before we salvage all the good stuff off them, like the caramel chimneys, or the airhead ice rink, or all the sour patch kids.

And this year we destroyed mine by sitting on it. Not my most attractive moment. But still.


This is what everything looked like at the end. Another year, another tornado.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gingerbread Houses

I love making gingerbread houses. This year Chuck and I constructed them in advance so we didn't have to spend that time on Saturday doing it. I was really impressed with Rhett's stamina and skill this year. He had some really creative ideas. I also think it was Ollie's first year doing his own, and he is the king of putting jelly animals on his house. And because I made all the parts and had some leftover dough, I tried to go BIG this year. I won't make that mistake again, even though I liked it. I might, however, try to create something of the same size, just different architecture. I should enlist my brother's help in the design.

Ollie. Gummy sharks, gummy butterflies, gummy worms, gummy...


Chuck. I want to eat that caramel chimney.




Rhett. Notice Santa's sled, coke bottle reindeer, strings of Christmas lights, Santa going down the chimney...


dynamite (three vanilla tootsie rolls) with a lit fuse. Because he's an 8-year-old boy.


Erin. I experimented with stained glass this year and love how it turned out. So easy.


I may used up all my ideas before I got to the back of the house.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas

I gotta say, I love Christmas on a Sunday, especially with 8:30 church. We got up (some earlier than others, ahem), did stockings, ate breakfast, then got ready for church. Sacrament meeting was 50 minutes then we were back home and into pajamas and ready to open presents. It really stretched out the day, especially compared to last year when we were done opening presents by 8:00 a.m. (no lie).

We lazed around the house playing with presents. Some of us napped because some of us were up until 1 a.m. And then Chuck's brother and family joined us for an easy Feliz Navidad. I love easy Christmas dinner.

Gift highlights for Rhett: German nutcracker, camera, Guinness Book of World Records (he seriously loves this book), new Harry Potter book.

Gift highlights for Ollie: stuffed Piggie and Gerald, spooner board, magformers, pinpoint impression thing (he seriously loves this toy--I think it was the last thing I added at Target).

Gift highlights for the adults: trampoline for the boys. Seriously. They spent so much time out there. I know I'm going to love it. Unfortunately it has yet to result in sleeping in, no matter how worn out they get on it. But still. I even showed them a few things! That is, before I started peeing my pants from all the jumping.





Oh. They kept telling me how cold their faces were. So I made them some balaclavas.




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December

This was a hard month. I really want to blame it all on the boys' school schedule. With them not getting home until nearly 5, and with a 7:15 p.m. bedtime, it didn't leave much time for family Christmas activities. We were realistic and cut out a lot of stuff we normally would have done, but that didn't mean I didn't feel guilty about cutting them or that the boys didn't continually ask why we weren't doing things.

We did do some things: temple lights trip, cookie decorating, sleeping under the tree, cutting snowflakes, blah blah blah. But it was hard.





This restored Rhett's faith in magic. All because of the physics-defying balanced pancake.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Random Thoughts

Two years ago I bought a heated mattress pad for our bed. At the time, we had a down comforter. The two together totally made me sweat at night, so I would use the mattress pad to preheat my side of the bed and then I'd turn it off when I got in. Perfect. But this year, I bought a new quilt for the bed. (I'm so over duvet covers.) And guess what? I am learning just how much heat the down comforter captured. Because now I have to keep that mattress pad going all night long...on a THREE. It should be noted Chuck turns his side up to a six or seven.

I know how late I am to this, but that's just like me. Anyway, I've been listening to Hamilton pretty much non-stop for the past six weeks. When everyone is home, I keep Christmas music on, but otherwise, it's this. And if I have to admit it, sometimes I even listen to Hamilton when the little boys are home. Rhett likes to follow the story. Maybe I'll make him read the biography.

I find Christmas gifts as an adult really hard. Whatever I don't want to buy (new dishwasher, updated closet doors), I have to do it. Which leaves very little for things I actually want. If I knew what I wanted, that is.

Ollie. Sigh. In the interest of not oversharing Ollie's troubles, I won't. But just know that we are REALLY struggling with this boy. And I mean really.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend: Three Great Days Ain't Bad

Considering the weekend was only four days, I think three great ones is some good odds.

Thanksgiving: It didn't start out great. Our neighbors' dogs were left out all night and their barking woke me at 4:30 a.m. When the boys woke at six, I kicked them out of their bed and I got an extra hour of sleep in their bottom bunk. (Their room is on the opposite side of the house from the offending dogs.) After a long run and a full can of fully-caffeinated diet soda (!), I was ready. We cooked some and relaxed until we realized time was short and then we cooked a lot and didn't relax. We ate dinner with friends at 4, and it was lovely. Dinner was even outside under heat lamps. It's so nice having big kids that I can ignore during dinner. Hmm...maybe that's not the point of Thanksgiving. But it certainly was when I was young, so maybe that's okay. Sadly I got no pictures of dinner. But this kindergartner, oh I love him.


The Day After Thanksgiving: Wanting to avoid all things Black Friday, we bargained with the boys for a hike. This probably worked because we didn't tell them the hike was four miles long. But they crushed it! It helped that the hike was really rocky and these boys love rocks. Weather was chilly but perfect. I may have overdressed.


Kids and climbing.


We even saw this Park Police helicopter come right up the river. So cool! Ollie loved that the pilot waved right at him.




We didn't plan that great (no snacks other than three crunchy granola bars for each boy and nothing for the adults. ha), so when we were done hiking, we were all famished. And where does one go when famished? Taco Bell! Well, maybe not, but we did. We all enjoyed our lunch and then got the Christmas tree. The kids have been begging for Christmas decorations since Halloween, but I only allow it after Thanksgiving. And once the tree was done, we watched "Elf." It was really a great day.


The Day After the Day After Thanksgiving: We will not speak of this day.

The Day After the Day After the Day After Thanksgiving: After church (wherein I was released from teaching Gospel Doctrine!), we got lunch and then headed downtown to see the Botanical Gardens trains display. The theme this year was National Parks and it was pretty awesome. This is the Grand Canyon and I love how they handled the rock strata.


Mount Rushmore


Kennecott and Denali, which you can't see. I have been to both of these places, so that's fun. I will say I was disappointed by the absence of Utah's parks. I mean, Utah has more national parks that any other states except for Alaska and California. They had one for Arches, but it was kind of lame. I mean, no Angel's Landing? No Bryce Canyon? Oh well.


And then, because Chuck wanted left over turkey, that evening we did a mini-Thanksgiving for dinner. It was easy because rolls had already been made, frozen, and thawed. Sweet potatoes were reheated from Thursday. Mashed potatoes were made as was the turkey, but it was pretty easy. And delicious. I think my apple pie this year was the best it's ever been. And yes, that is china we're eating on. We're fancy like that.


It was a pretty good weekend (Saturday excepting) and we all have much to be thankful for! Tomorrow is December! AHHHHHH!

P.S. Oh, and Monday's FHE fun activity was pretty great too: making popcorn and cranberry garland for the tree. Well, it was fun when the boys weren't driving us crazy.

P.P.S. My parents are now back on the American continent! Only two time zones away! So excited for them (but mostly me)!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Written by Oliver

My boys are driving me crazy. Rhett can't keep his hands off Ollie or Ollie's food. Ollie can't obey to save his life. And neither one is interested in eating any dinner I cook, only in crying about it. It's definitely a rough patch in our house right now.

Thankfully Oliver is unintentionally offering a bit of comic relief through his writing. He writes a couple of notes every day, and pretty much every one is hilarious. He's a small sample (translations underneath):


"I am happy now today." (This after a note that said he was really, really sad. He bit his lip pretty bad.)


"I am sorry because I just don't like playing Splendor." (This after a fight with his brother over the board game Splendor.)


"This is because I don't talk because I don't want to say bad words and I don't want to say ????" (This after Chuck asked him why he writes us so many notes!)


"This is why I was so mean. I don't like girls and I have not seen you." (This after he said he was bored so I told him to write a letter to a cousin. This was for Lucy. Obviously.)


"What the hell." (This after...who knows. Nice use of the sacrament meeting program.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Made Something

Can you believe I sewed something? I can't. But I did. First, let's talk about my sewing. My production this year has been very low. And why? Not because I don't have the time; I do. I think it's I don't have the reason. Now that my boys are pretty big, finding appropriate projects for them is hard. Same goes for my nieces and nephews, who frequently got homemade gifts from me. Also, a lot of my friends aren't having babies anymore. Sure, I could make quilts for the house, but fabric for those are expensive and then there's the quilting I'd have to pay someone to do! So what's left? I don't know. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm available, should you need me.

Now, the vest. The boys' morning care provider had a grandson earlier this year and requested a Mickey vest. Done! The boys picked out the fabric, so please don't judge. I love these little vests from Dana. Ollie wears his pretty much every day.



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Working from Home

Metro's Red Line, the one I take to work, was hit with a major surge of track work starting around Halloween. Not only are a few stations closed, but trains aren't even going through the stations. For me to get to work using Metro would require a train, a shuttle around the affected stations, and then back on the train. UGH. It would likely take two hours each way. So um no thanks. I was given permission to work from home the entire time (through Thanksgiving). SWEET.

Or not.

I thought I would love working from home. And there are parts I love. I love waking up and just going upstairs to turn on the computer and start working. I love not having to pack a lunch for myself. I love being able to listen to music a little bit more loudly than I would at work. (I've been listening to Hamilton a lot.) I love signing off and joining my family for the rest of my evening.

So what's the problem? I don't love that I snack all day. I don't love that I forget to brush my teeth. I don't love how grubby I feel at the end of the day. I don't love not having access to a printer. I don't love how little I move during the day.

Now that I'm in week three, I am learning my strengths (getting up early), and weaknesses (see above). So I had to make a conscious effort to brush my teeth. And instead of spending my lunch hour perusing the paper, I sped-read and then took Bruno on a walk. So maybe it'll be okay after all.

P.S. This tree. I love this tree. It's a gingko tree and we found it in Jellystone. The yellow was stunning and I walked by it about 40 times and took about that many pictures of it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Last Camping Trip of the Year: Shenandoah

Even though we were camping down the mountain from the park, that didn't mean we couldn't go in for the day. Saturday afternoon we enjoyed the amenities at Jellystone, but Sunday we got up early (thanks for nothing, DST). So we packed up and headed into the park. My plan was to do a four-mile hike and then see how we felt. I didn't care how long it took us, just that we finished.

I made the boys pack their backpacks. Glad to see they brought the necessities.


At Dark Hollow Falls.


It's kind of fun to have a kid big enough to take pictures. And when I say, "pictureS" I certainly mean plural. Multiple. Plethora of.


One of Rose River's many cascades.


One of our many water/candy/real food breaks.


The hike was gorgeous. We had incredible weather, slightly chilly but beautiful blue skies. Overall, the boys did great on the hike. Ollie had some weird breakdown at the start of the hike that was loud and long, but I just thought, "Hey. He's keeping the bears away." But once that was over, he did great. And once the hike was over, they were done. We headed back to our lovely camp and enjoyed its amenities.

Monday morning we wanted to do another hike before leaving. Rhett wanted a peak hike and chose, of course, the highest in the park. It's a fairly steep, but relatively short (only two miles roundtrip) hike.


At the summit.


Chuck stripped the hiking sticks bare. The boys received many compliments on them!


Lessons Learned: If we're going to camp in Shenandoah in the fall without reservations, we must take off Friday. Regardless, we had a great time! Sure, it was cold, but manageable. Especially with a heated Scamp.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Last Camping Trip of the Year: Jellystone

Months ago I created a plan to camp the first weekend in November. The little boys were out of school on Monday because of a teacher workday and all three boys were out on Tuesday for Election Day. The plan was for a Saturday departure. (Because we couldn't leave until 5ish on a Friday and because traffic in DC is the worst on Fridays at 5ish, this made sense.) And even though we couldn't make reservations and even though only one campground in Shenandoah was still open, we were pretty sure that we'd have no problem getting a campsite Saturday.

We were wrong.

It was made even more painful because the last 0.5 mile of the drive took over an hour. Apparently half of DC decided to take a day trip to Shenandoah and getting all those cars through the entrance took that long. It was just insult to injury. After tears were shed (by me and Rhett), we knew we had to do something. Driving home wasn't an option for me. I knew that on the other side of the mountains was a town called Luray. I knew that there was a KOA down there, so down we went. But before we could reach the KOA, we saw Jellystone. I must admit, I had some serious reservations about staying at a place called Jellystone. But what choice did I have? Between that and the KOA, well, did it really matter?

And guess what? I was wrong. Jellystone, while never outranking state and national park campgrounds, will now be a Plan B or C or something. But they'll be on the list of possibilities. Because let's be honest: I have kids. And kids don't care if the campground isn't all natural. They like the bouncing pillows. They like the mini golf. They like the playgrounds and dog park. They don't like the "Goodbye Yogi" dance party (for which I am truly grateful). But they would have liked the swimming pool and waterslide. And you know, sometimes (but only sometimes) it isn't all about me.

We brought a rake. Possibly the best things we thought to bring.


Given how late it was in the season and that we'd be there after the end of Daylight Saving Time, I also brought lots of glow things. Also a hit.


Rhett really perfected his Superman jump into his leaf pile. He also perfected attacking his brother with the rake after said brother jumped into the leaf pile without permission.


Chuck and I feel like these things just showed up. Where were they five years ago? Now they're everywhere.


I couldn't get over being at a place called Jellystone.


Clearly.