Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Florida 2011

We had another fun vacation to Florida this past fall! We planned a fun stop along the way this Mobile, Alabama. We always drive by a huge battleship as we zoom on by and we decided this year that we'd better check it out.

It was so great! When we first got there we let the kids out of the car to run around. There is a wonderful park area, with a pier, a rocky shoreline, and lots of tanks, helicopters, and airplanes that you can look at up close.

We would have enjoyed the stop if that had been all that we got to see, but there was SO much more!We bought tickets to board the USS Alabama and headed out. None of us had ever been on a battleship before. It was WAY bigger than we could have imagined. It's amazing that it can float! We followed the self-guided tours around and saw most of the boat...we actually got lost more than once.

It was a real treat and an eye-opener for all of us. We so appreciate the US armed forces and all who serve our country.

After touring the battleship we walked over to another part of the park where they have a submarine, the USS Drum. The kids really enjoyed walking through that...I think for two reasons it was their favorite part. (1) It's so compact and they make use of every inch of space, and (2) We met the man who is in charge of restoring the sub, a retired vet who had lots of fascinating things to share with us. Sam was anxious to get back on the road by this point, but we just couldn't tear ourselves away from this kind man and his vast knowledge. SO FUN!
After the battleship park, we headed on down the that point we are pretty close to our destination, so the last part of the journey went pretty quickly. We finally made it to the house we rent (or as the kids call it, "our Florida house"), dropped off our things and the kids and I, along with Kelly, Jordan and Matthew, grabbed some buckets and headed down to the beach.
We slipped our toes into the warm water, dug in the sand a little, got wetter than we planned on, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. What a perfect start to a vacation!

We did many of the 'usual' things that we do in Florida, since this is an annual trip for us. This year we decided to take the kids to see Dolphin Tale, as it had recently opened in the theaters. What a perfect movie to see at the beach, huh? :)
We spent some fun times shopping and even found matching sunglasses for all of the adults...
We spent many mornings and/or afternoons at this fun park that is just across the street from our house...and we even got a unique group picture!
Family picture time! We tried to recapture the colors from that first incredible sunset but couldn't quite get them.
The beauty of this vacation is that we all get time together, but as the kids get busy playing, Sam and I get time to talk and reconnect too. Such a refreshing time!
Of course there was lots of swimming...once they finally fixed the pool. The first few days we were there it was WAY too cold to swim, and the last day we were there it was actually too hot! There were a few days in the middle there that were absolutely perfect.
Vacations with family are the best!!!
I had high hopes for this next didn't turn out so great, but I just love all these little faces! :)
Last year Henry studied the Mississippi and was fascinated by it. He loved the idea of this HUGE river that flows so very far and was so very useful to the early American settlers. When I reminded him that we drive over the Mississippi every year on the way to Florida, he could not wait! Since we didn't cross it at a good time on the way there, we decided we would stop on the way back.

As we crossed over the river (on a bridge, high, high, high above the river) Sam pointed it out to Henry and told him to wave. Henry was devastated. He had thought we would stop and take pictures, and Sam had thought we would just slow down and look...different plans. So we drove on a few miles, and Sam looked for a place to turn around so we could go back across the river where the visitor center is and get out of the car. We enjoyed looking out over the river and walking around. For some reason there was an old cannon displayed on a hill overlooking the river. Sam thought it would be a good place for us to break out our inaugural 'family planking' and join the strange phenomenon. ;)
We are so grateful that we are able to take a yearly vacation. We love Florida: the weather, the beaches, the friendly folks and abundant shopping. But what we love most is a chance to spend time with family and enjoy time away together! Thank you Lord for the blessing of family vacations with extended family! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ranger Plane!

My Grandma recently stayed a while in Texas with one of my Uncles. This was a great opportunity for me, since I haven't seen my Grandma in years (right after Jonah was born, so 6). She lives in Washington. I haven't seen my uncle in more years than I can count. I was quite young the last time I saw him.
Even though we live about 30 minutes from my Uncle, we hadn't found a chance to get together since we've lived in Texas. I think it was a mixture of he is really busy, and we don't really 'know' each other any more, and he works in Dallas. So I was thrilled at the chance to get to see him and my Grandma at the same time!

My Uncle Bill runs an airplane inspection company at the airport, so we met them there at his hangar. It was pretty cool to go through the security entrance, and drive out onto the tarmac to park near his hangar.

Once inside, my Uncle let the kids look at all of the airplanes currently in the hangar. The one below is his personal plane that he is restoring and fixing up. My mom with her brother Bill...
My Grandma doesn't really like having her picture taken, but I was able to sneak in a quick shot of her with my mom:
Sam and I thought the best part was checking out the Texas Rangers (think baseball!) team plane. It is really nice inside...they travel well, by my standards. :)
The Ranger plane was probably a highlight for the kids too...they thought the seating was so cool. There are chairs that face each other with a table in between, and they also really loved the phones. ;) There was a helicopter parked at the hangar that evening too, and the kids all really liked seeing that.
So grateful for a chance to see my Grandma and Uncle Bill and Aunt Chris! Family is so important to me, and I was amazed to see some distinctive character traits that so obviously run in my mom's family. My brother is so like my Uncle Bill in his mannerisms and speech that you'd think they grew up together. My Grandma is planning a trip back down here in the Spring, and I am looking forward to seeing her again soon! :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bridget soccer 2011

Bridget has been eagerly anticipating playing soccer for as long as I can remember. The year she was born is the first year that Henry played, so she has been watching from the sidelines ever since she was a baby.

This year she was finally old enough to play on a team! Bridget was the youngest player on her team, as her birthday was the cut-off for being eligible to play. She was placed on the Tornadoes, coached by Mandy and Andy.

Bridget was so excited to go to her first practice! She ran right over and joined the group...and she hardly looked back.
Actually she made eye-contact with me once, raised her hand in a little half wave, then quickly turned back to her coaches. She takes her soccer seriously. Every time they called out 'water break' Bridget would run over to me, grab her water bottle for a quick drink, then run back to her coaches. Once or twice they told her to go back and sit down a minute to rest. ;)
This is Bridget right after her very first game. She looked so big out there on the field! And after the game, she was quite excited to head over to the snack-shack and get her free juice and animal crackers (which might or might not have been the highlight of the game for her).
Here's Bridget with her two biggest fans! It was weird for Henry to be watching instead of playing this year...this is his first season 'off' since beginning soccer four years ago.
My goofy girl. One of my favorite parts of this season was watching little parts of Bridget's personality develop. She is not usually very aware of the days of the week, but during soccer season, she was constantly counting down to the next practice or game. Friday nights she would lay out her gear and uniform before going to bed, without anyone reminding her to do it.
The referees are very good with the kids and always make sure they know which goal they are heading toward. Bridget was good at knowing which one was her goal; and even though she didn't make contact with the ball much, she was always right in the middle of the action.
Go Bridget!!!
Team picture of the Tornadoes, fall 2011

Back row: Coach Andy, Coach Mandy
Middle row: Mitchell, Maddie, Ryken, Bridget
Front row: Aden, Chesni, Johnathan
Not pictured: Thomas, Diego
I didn't get a good picture of Bridget with her good friend Mitchell! That was another of the best parts of the season...watching Bridget develop a friendship entirely on her own. We showed up for one game an hour early (oops! Should have checked the schedule, Mom.) and so did Mitchell and his family. The two kids played together at the park until game time and they were best buddies on and off the field for the rest of the season. So fun!

I'm so thankful for a daughter who loves sports and is healthy and active, and I'm also thankful for a wonderful community that provides great opportunities like this one!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Football 2011

Henry surprised us all this past spring when he announced that he would be playing tackle football in the fall.

Since he was four, Henry has been playing soccer in the spring and fall. He is good at soccer and loves it, so I wasn't really sure what he would say when I told him he would have to skip soccer if he decided to play football. He hesitated only a moment, asked a few questions (along the lines of, "Can I still play on the same team in the spring if I skip the fall?") and made his decision.

I tried to talk him into trying out flag football, to no avail. He wanted to play tackle or nothing.

So we signed him up!

The first two weeks were evaluations/try-outs. The coaches had them run (and run, and run!), catch balls, exercise, do drills, etc...and they separated out the boys into two teams. The White team was mostly boys who have played in the past, and the older kids (4th graders). The Blue team was mostly the younger boys (3rd graders) and those who were new to the game.

Luckily, Henry was picked for Blue, which is coached by a friend of ours. Coach Michael works with Sam at Sky Ranch, goes to church with us, and his son Luke is a friend of Henry's. Sam told Michael he would be willing to help out if needed, and Michael made him an assistant coach.

The first few practices were helmet-only, to get the boys used to the feeling of running with the different balance and weight that it adds. After that they wore full pads and started learning to tackle. Those first few tackle practices were pretty intense and emotional (for Henry and his mom!). Henry and the other boys learned how to tackle properly to avoid injuries. Once they figured it out they gained quite a bit of confidence and lost some of their fear.
After that it was time to start learning positions, plays and strategy. Henry loved learning the plays and the code words they use to tell each other where they should be. He was put in the position of wide the picture below, Henry is #82 (blue jersey, player farthest to the right).
Henry loved his first season of football! He was not the smallest player on the team, but he was close...most of the other boys were fourth graders. That left Henry on the sidelines quite a bit, but he definitely got lots of playing time. Henry was enthusiastic and one of the best encouragers on his team. We were so proud to see him paying attention, helping others up, telling his friends what a good job they had done, and generally promoting team unity.
Sam was a favorite among the parents. There was another assistant coach who was a bit harsh sometimes, and the other parents really appreciated that Sam never once yelled at the kids. Sam is a gentle, encouraging, inclusive coach. So fun to watch! Henry was so proud to have his dad out on the field with him. :)
The Blue team lost all their games...they actually scored 7 points in the second to last game, and they were so excited to have points on the board! At the end of the season when the other teams went into play-offs, we were done. So we invited the whole team (along with their parents and siblings) over to our house for an end-of-season football party. We cooked hot dogs, had chips, potato salad, soda and more dessert than we knew what to do with. The boys had so much fun! The parents mostly sat around visiting, and the boys played catch, climbed around in the tree forts and ran around the yard.
From left: Grayson, Nick, Caleb, Dylan, Coach Sam, Luke, Ethan, Henry, Alex, Blake, Coach Michael, Jordan, Seth, Christian, Braxton, Brody.

It was such a great season! I'm grateful to the Lord for keeping all the boys safe, helping them find joy despite the scoreboard, new friendships, and healthy bodies. Way to go, Henry! We are so proud of you for trying something new and learning that you love football! :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mulititudes on Mondays

Florida 2011
Sam and Lisa
Henry, Jonah and Bridget on the beach at sunset. :)
November is upon us and I just LOVE this season. Fall weather is here, Thanksgiving is coming, fall sports are winding down, lots of good things baking in the just the best. And along with all of that is my return to blogging...and my list of one thousand gifts, which I've neglected for far too long. So here goes, another batch for the never-ending list:

191. leaves falling from the trees
192. crunchy footsteps across the backyard
193. stacking firewood in preparation for winter
194. the first fire of the season
195. sitting in front of that fire with Sam, just enjoying an evening to talk
196. our new dog, Fred, who is such a joy
197. the ease of communicating through texting (saving me phone calls while I'm trying to teach my children)
198. homeschool routines falling into place
199. easy peel clementines-yum!
200. my three cameras (one of them is always handy no matter where I am)
201. Henry's first deer hunt
202. bonding between Sam and his son
203. Henry's first THREE deer
204. a freezer full of deer meat
205. a chicken who lays a bluish/green egg for me every day
206. Reader's Digest. There is always something interesting in there!
207. my strong, healthy husband who cut down all of our dead trees last week
208. the two trees that fell across the ditch, leaving two fun bridges for the kids to play on
209. a surprise coffee visit from a friend and time to catch up and visit
210. jell-o!
211. uplifting, energizing music playing in my kitchen
212. candy corn (shaped) cookies
213. extra boxes of kleenex for the sniffly season that seems to have descended on our house
214. home school field trip group
215. two scheduled field trips (dairy museum and the Nutcracker!)
216. the prospect of an upcoming ladies Bible study here in my home
217. GRACE
218. Christmas music (I'm not listening to it yet, but my husband is singing it already--and I love hearing him sing!)
219. Cub Scouts and the fun kids that I get to teach
220. hand drawn portraits of me, taped to the screen so that I see them every time I sit at the computer

I'll stop for now, but I have LOTS heart is overflowing with gratitude. I'm so thankful for so many, many things. Will you join me and start (or continue) to count the blessings in your life and watch how an attitude of thankfulness changes your life? :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bridget's 4th Birthday!

Bridget is a girl with a plan. About six months before her birthday, she started telling me that she wanted a castle birthday. What fun, I thought! We could invite a bunch of little girls over in their princess dresses and have a really cute party. Visions of "Tangled"-themed games and decorations flowed through my brain. But when I pressed Bridget for more details about what she actually wanted, it turned out that she simply wanted a castle cake. She really didn't want a party at all! As her birthday got closer and closer I kept offering...telling her which friends we would invite, which games we could play, how fun it would all be...but to no avail. She just wasn't interested. She had made her mind up.

Bridget wanted the following:
a castle cake
Matthew and Jordan
a party with Matthew and Jordan ONLY at Grammy and Grandpop's house

So that is just what we did. :)

The castle cake turned out pretty cute. It had another tier to it, but the turret pulled it down before we were ready to serve it was remodeled.
On her actual birthday, the boys distracted Bridget while I decorated her room. I had found these great flower wall clings and put them up all around her room. They totally fit the purple-girly-fun theme she has going in there already. Bridget was so excited and sure that I had painted them onto her walls. It was a fun surprise!
The party at Grammy and Grandpop's house was great. Bridget requested hamburgers for dinner (her favorite!). She had plenty of time to play babies with Grammy while the other kids played outside in the sandbox. We had play clothes along for her but she just didn't want to take off her beautiful princess dress. Eventually she agreed. I'm not sure what Bridget's favorite gift was, but I know what mine was...Jonah had saved up his own money and bought a veggie tale movie (The Wizard of Ha's--fitting for our family, isn't it?) for her. It was just such a sweet gesture and Bridget loved it. It was just a perfect day for her.
Thankful for another special day spent with Grammy and Grandpop. So glad that we live close and can share life with them! :)
And here's my big FOUR year old girl!
Happy Birthday Bridget, we love you so much! You are growing into such a lovely young lady. I love how you light up a room with your wide smile and how you always come up with the most creative and fun games. You are always willing to go anywhere and do anything...and you're the bravest 4 year old girl I've ever met! You love to climb things (anything at all) and you love to read books more than anyone I know. I can't wait to see what God has in store for your future! Love you, Boo! :)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Trip to Arizona

This summer my Mom and Jim treated us to an incredible vacation to Arizona! We had so much fun visiting their home during the summer. The only other time we've been to visit them was in April, and while the weather felt pretty perfect, the pool was a little cold during that visit. This time, their pool was about 80 degrees...perfect!
The kids and I flew down first and spent a few days before Sam was able to leave work and join us. One of the things we did without him was visit the Phoenix zoo. It is such a great zoo! We loved every bit of it. One of our favorite parts was playing around in the gnome house. Another highlight was petting the rays in a touch great!
I love that my mom is not afraid to 'monkey around' and have a good time with us! ;)
We took a picture in this same spot last year-I love the way the trees lean apart just perfectly framing us! Even though it was hot, there was plenty of shade and a bit of a breeze that day. We really had a good time! The kids also loved the splash pad area (I didn't take any pictures in that section) that has slides and waterfalls...they were soaked, but they dried up pretty quickly walking around in the sunshine!
Once Sam got into town, we celebrated our anniversary. My mom and Jim threw us a lovely party and showered us with fun was so cool. We don't always get to celebrate our special days together since we live in different states!
Sam ramped up the fun in the pool...he brings a little more rowdiness to the crowd. :) He thought it would be fun to build a tower of kids, but Bridget got very nervous at the last minute.
Because we are able to Skype regularly, the kids don't really feel like Grandma and Jim are so far away. When they see them they don't feel like it's been forever since they've seen each other. I'm so very thankful for that little invention!
We were treated to a trip to a new museum that is in the area as well. It was a neat place and they kids loved it. They had a touch tank there as well as lots of cool rooms to explore. The shark tunnel was probably our favorite spot.
My mom treated us to a trip to a local pottery-painting studio while we were there too. It was a great place with so many options that we hardly knew what to do! I made a cute little serving platter and the kids all made Christmas ornaments. My mom carefully packed them up and shipped them to us after they were glazed and fired...what a treat to find in the mail a few weeks after we got home!

We also spent a day at the library and signed up for their summer reading program. We got there the day the library was setting up a sidewalk sale with super-cheap kids instead of checking books out, we just bought a bunch. :) Near the end of the week the kids went back to the library to watch a Flat Stanley puppet show and do a craft. They all came home with summer reading treasures, and about a week after we got home we received their big books in the mail, courtesy of the library!

For the kids, one of the highlights of the whole trip is flying. They love airports, airplanes and all that goes along with travel. All of the kids traveled exceptionally well and I was so proud of them! We packed a few books, crayons and a few snacks in each of their bags, and they never once complained or found themselves without something to occupy their minds. It really makes it fun for me too, knowing that I can relax and enjoy traveling with them.
I am so grateful for my Mom and Jim. They value family so much and they always make us feel so welcomed and special. It is always a treat when we get to see them and spend time with them. Due to many little reasons, we have been blessed to see Mom and Jim many times this past year and we do not take it for granted. We are so thankful for you guys! We love you. :)