Sunday, January 08, 2017

Giving Thanks

We have so much to be thankful for in our lives. Family and friends, of course, are at the top of the list. By the end of November, Ross and I were especially grateful to have a little time together as a family at home. Between the two of us we spent almost the entire month of November traveling. That didn't slow things down though. The kids had lots of play dates, wrap up of the soccer season, a few Cub Scout events, parties celebrating friends' birthdays, and a trip to Louisiana for Thanksgiving!

Back in September Jackson won the Raingutter Regatta for his Den. At the November Pack Meeting the winners from each Den were awarded "The Golden Duck." Jackson had been eagerly awaiting his award since that day. He thought it was pretty funny that the award was a rubber duck on a plaque with his name on it. He loved it! He also received his Bobcat rank the same day.

Audrey has two best friends these days, Charlotte and Chole. Charlotte's little sister, Clara, celebrated her birthday in November, and their dad captured a couple of cute pictures of them at the party that I couldn't resist sharing.

We spent the week of Thanksgiving in Louisiana catching up with family and eating lots of food! We stayed at a different house almost every night in an effort to spend a little more time with each person. We had a quick visit with Ross' mom, Susan, as well as with my Dad and his wife, Kim and Barbara, and my Aunt and Uncle, Kathy and Mike. It was an extra special treat to see my Aunt and Uncle since they live in Arkansas and made the trip to Shreveport just so we could visit! While we stayed with my Mom, Deana, the kids got to work on some art. They continued working on a canvas that was started during a previous trip. It's so much fun to watch them work and see how differently they approach things like this!

Our next stop was Ruston where our dear friends, the Tims family, and my grandparents live. We spent the night before Thanksgiving with the Tims watching the kids play while we caught up on life. Such a fun evening!

Thanksgiving day we eagerly made our way to my grandparents' house to meet the newest member of our family, Ellie, and of course, to see everyone else. My cousin, Meg, and her husband, Matt, made the trip from Connecticut with their almost 6 week old baby. She was so sweet! Can you tell where most of the attention went throughout the day?

Almost everyone from that side of the family was able to make it for Thanksgiving this year. We were just missing Meg's brother, Bud. He had a good excuse though...he has to work that day every year. It's a good thing he loves what he does! It was so wonderful to simply be with everyone. Being an only child means my cousins have always been like brothers and sisters to me. It was so fun to watch all of the 2nd cousins playing together with Great Aunts and Uncles, my cousins, and especially their Great Grandparents. Getting to eat the delicious food my Grandmother makes was the icing on the cake, and she make REALLY good cake!

There are more pictures from Thanksgiving in the album!

October Fun

October was a busy month with school in full swing, lots of after school commitments, and Halloween fun, of course. It was filled with lots of soccer practices and games. We all made new friends in the process. Audrey was all about the social aspect of the season and was always happy to sit on the sidelines to let someone else play because it meant she could talk and be silly. Jackson was an awesome defender for his team and rarely sat out. He also started playing goalie some this season. I don't have many pictures of Jackson playing because we were too busy watching the games. They were exciting to watch!

The kids and I had an extra day off in October, so I let them each invite a friend to go with us to Useugi Farm to pick out our pumpkins and have a little fun. We started our adventure in the corn mazes. There were 3 of them. It took a while, but we found our way out! After lunch we went on a hayride and tried a little pumpkin ice cream.

Then it was time for a few rides. They rode the carousel, 2 trains, and a pony! We wrapped up the fun with some pumpkin blasting. The girls decided to just watch and let the boys have their pumpkins. The boys were ecstatic about blasting a few more pumpkins at various targets. Finally, we picked out a few pumpkins and headed home. It was a long, fun-filled day!

I attended a conference just before Halloween, so I missed the class parties and parade. However, I was back in time for the candy-collecting event. This year Jackson was the Green Ninja from Ninjago, and Audrey was her favorite animal, a tiger. Some friends from our church host an annual Halloween party for the kids. We all love getting together to see the kids in their costumes and their excitement when running around the block together.

There are more pictures from Soccer and Halloween in the album.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cub Scout Family Camp

Going on our first ever Pack Family Camp means it's official. Jackson is a Cub Scout...let us know if you want some popcorn! ;-)

There were ~60 Cub Scouts and their families on this trip to nearby Chesebrough Scout Reservation. It was a fun adventure! We all got to know the Pack a little better and try some new things. The first event for Jackson's Den was archery. It was a little challenging for our left-eye dominant, but right-handed kid. With a little help, he managed to hit the target several times. Then Ross got a turn and impressed not only his son, but the adults around too.

Next up, BB guns. This event was a clear favorite for Jackson. The hand-eye coordination was a little more manageable. He was so scared of this event before we got there, but he really enjoyed learning how to safely and properly shoot a gun. He looks pretty cool in his safety glasses too.

We all took a turn at the BB gun range, and Jackson enjoyed it so much, he went twice...once with his Den and once with the family. Ross, once again, wowed the adults and kids that were with us, and I was pretty impressed with myself on this one. Let's just say we're reinforcing the stereotype about people from Texas.

The highlight of the trip was the Raingutter Regatta though. Each Cub Scout built and decorated his own sail boat and raced it against the other boys in their Den in hopes of winning a Golden Duck. The winner of each Den would race later in the day to earn the highly coveted trophy and be the best in the Pack.

Jackson was looking forward to the race and was proud of his boat. He eagerly listened to the rules and advice given by the leaders. He did a practice run and then sat back and observed the others' techniques. It was a double-elimination bracket. Jackson won the first bracket and proceeded to the final round for the Den. He won race after race with some really close calls and some clear wins. In the final race his Denmate from the losers bracket beat him, which meant they raced one final time to determine the winner...Jackson won!

He was so excited, but he was also a really good sport. It was so amazing to see how these kids treated each other with respect despite the competitive desires to win. Audrey was so proud of her big brother if you can't tell from the picture below!

The last event of the day before the final series of races was rock climbing. Jackson and Audrey geared up and waited in line to climb. Jackson went first and pretty quickly and easily scaled the wall and rang the bell at the top. A little later it was Audrey's turn. Her agile nature made it easy for her to get to the top, but she just couldn't reach the bell. The entire crowd was cheering her on and willing her to do whatever it would take to ring the bell. It didn't happen, but she was great about it and had lots of fun anyway.

There was a little extra time left when the kids were done, so they let the adults that were interested climb too. It didn't take much convincing for me to go, and I'm glad I did. It was a lot of fun and gave me some flashbacks to a fun climbing trip in high school.

The big moment finally arrived, the Raingutter Regatta Finals! Jackson was in the zone. He was punching his hand as he mentally prepared for the final was pretty cute! Jackson won quite a few races in the first round before moving to the loser's bracket where he got another shot at the trophy. He did so great! He didn't win the overall event, but he did REALLY well! If you check out the pictures in the album you'll see some examples of the great sportsmanship they practiced.

That's where my pictures end, but that's not where the camping trip ended. That evening each Den prepared and performed a skit at the big campfire gathering. They also retired 6 American Flags that evening, which was a very humbling experience for them all. Of course, there were roasted marshmallows and campfire stories/games before bed. The next day the boys went for a hike, which rounded out a really fun Cub Scout camping experience!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School

1st and 3rd grade are here! Jackson and Audrey are wrapping up their first week of the 2016-2017 school year, and I'm thankful to say they're off to a good start (knock on wood!). This is their second year at the same elementary school...a first for our kids. It was fun to see Jackson walk up to the school confident and comfortable, and Audrey was adorably excited and nervous.

After waking up and eagerly getting ready for school, we did our 1st day photo shoot. In preparation I asked each of them what they want to be when they grow up. Jackson still wants to be a scientist, but he's also added app maker and robot designer to the list. Audrey wants to be a photographer and a gymnast this year. They both have a wide range of capabilities, so I have no idea what they'll end up doing as adults. I do know that getting some real smiles from these two involves some silliness in the process.

The kids picked their photo spots and asked for some silly, serious, and happy shots. Here's what we got...

I love these kids! They are so much fun!

Mountains and Lakes

We had such a great week at Pinecrest Lake with some friends from our life group a few weeks ago. We spent a few days in a beautiful cabin and enjoying the great outdoors. All of it was amazing! The kids loved playing on the "beach" at the lake. We rented a kayak one of the days and took turns checking out the lake. When the adults were done, Audrey decided she wanted a turn, so Ross took her out on the Lake. She did awesome! The boys were busy making their own tide pools, which they thought was a blast.

When we weren't at the lake, we were busy eating, playing games, and looking at the stars and planets and rocket boosters reentering the atmosphere. It was incredible! We saw Saturn and Mars through their telescope. We saw a few shooting stars, and then we saw this huge mass entering the Earth's atmosphere and breaking apart across the sky, which we later learned was a Chinese rocket booster. Pretty cool for a couple of space geeks.

We were back at the lake each day, so we did a little boating, fishing, and hiking while we were there too. It was a great way to spend one of the last weeks of summer. Great friends and great experiences make wonderful memories!

There are more pictures in the album as usual!

Friday, July 29, 2016

4th of July in Texas

We spent the week of the 4th of July in Texas again this year. Our first few days were spent in Leakey with the Rodriguez family. We shot fireworks on the 4th. Jackson and Mitchell helped with the display. They both had a blast and only got minor injuries. Really they both just got sparked enough to learn to be careful. We also floated the Frio river, played on the ranch, and celebrated Taylor's first birthday! Everyone was excited. I enjoyed watching Audrey drink in the smell of the cake, Mitchell help his little brother blow out his candles, and Jackson grin from ear to ear watching his baby cousin investigate cake for the first time.

It didn't take long for Taylor to dig into the cake and enjoy driving Mickey around on the icing while singing the hot dog song.

Taylor loved his presents and playing with family. There were lots of giggles and laughter, especially when Mickey did his songs and dances.

If that wasn't enough fun, both kids became go-kart drivers while we were there. Not something that was easy for me to watch! Mitchell taught them to drive...he can't reach the brake, which means they only know one speed, fast. Audrey almost crashed once, and when we had her stop so we could talk to her about how to be safe, we pointed out that she almost crashed. Her response was, "But I didn't!" We all couldn't keep ourselves from laughing since she said it with a huge grin on her face. Watch out world when this one gets her license!

We spent the remainder of the week in Fredericksburg with my Dad and the Money family. We went swimming and checked out the local farmers market and their vineyard. The kids loved playing together, and we had a wonderful time visiting and helping out however we could.

We wrapped up our visit to Texas with a visit to one of our all-time favorite restaurants in Austin, Trudy's. It was even better than we remembered! Great way to end a great week!

There are more pictures in the album.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Spring Baseball

Yes, I know it's summer. Yes, I'm always behind on my posts these days, but I want to capture these moments so I don't forget! This spring Jackson played baseball. The opening day ceremony was really neat. All of the teams stood around the field, said the pledge, and sang the national anthem. Then their special needs team, with the help of their mentors, threw the opening pitch. It was a great way to start the season.

The season was a tough one for Jackson's team, the A's. We had a new team that had several first time players. I was amazed at how much they improved over the course of the season though. In addition to learning the basics of the game, they started player pitch part way through the season.

Jackson was persistent and resilient during practices and games. He steadily improved throughout the season, and most importantly, he enjoyed playing!

There are more pictures in the album.