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.

Memorial Day Weekend

The annual Stone Family Reunion took place over Memorial Day Weekend. We made the trip from CA to be with everyone. It's always so fun to catch up and see what has changed and what has stayed the same each year.

We started with a visit with E's grandparents and mom, as well as a visit to the Mudbug Festival where we enjoyed some crawfish, art displays, and good music.

We always have three hosted events during the weekend. Aunt Dottie has everyone to her house for an evening of BBQ and fun. Susan hosts brunch the next morning, and we wrap up at Uncle Ronnie's for swimming, karaoke, and fajitas. I only took pictures at Susan's house this year, which means I captured the annual puppet show organized by Aunt Carol. The younger generation loves this part of the weekend!

We managed to get a large group picture this year, and we had almost everyone there!

I also played with a new-to-me lens while we were there. There were lots of beautiful flowers to take pictures of!

There are more pictures in the album!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lovely Easter Day

Jackson and Audrey awoke early this morning eager to hunt for eggs and see what was in their baskets. We had to slow them down so they weren't simply a blur in didn't really work. They had lots of fun anyway and were excited about all of the candy, of course. We spent the morning playing games and enjoying some time together before church.

After the church service, we made our way to our friend's house for lunch and an Easter egg hunt. The dads hid the eggs outside while the mom's kept the kids corralled inside. When the eggs were all hidden, the kids gathered at the door and eagerly waited to hear the word "go!" Then they were off! They had lots of fun searching high and low, and eating candy again. They also love the food and playing with their friends.

When we got home I convinced the kids to do a mini photo shoot in the backyard. Audrey was first and loved posing and smiling for the camera.

Jackson was next. He's always a great helper with picking spots for pictures and posing. He especially loved taking the picture above with Audrey.

It was a beautiful Easter day both because of the weather and the people we got to spend it with. There are more pictures in the album

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Audrey is 6!

Six years ago when this beautiful little girl was born I almost died. The first few hours of her life I remember being so scared I wouldn't get to see her grow up, and now she's 6! I will never forget the peace I felt the moment they finally let me hold her. I'll never forget the joy I could see in her eyes in the weeks and months to follow. Audrey has a special light inside her that she can't contain. She brings love and joy to everyone around her. Her smile and laugh and that sparkle in her eyes are contagious.

Thursday was Audrey's birthday, and we celebrated with cake and presents and lots of phone calls from family.

Today we continued the celebration with a few of Audrey's closest friends. Audrey chose to have a trampoline party. I wondered to myself if she was going to be happy with her choice, but I don't know why. She LOVED it! She loves to bounce around, climb on things, and swing from anything hanging in the air. This place let her do all of those things with some of her favorite people!

Audrey invited friends from school, her best friend from pre-K4, and friends from our church to celebrate with us. It took a long time to decide, but she settled on Strawberry Shortcake decorations and cake. It was between that and Care Bears because she liked the toys on those cakes the best, and they didn't have Power Rangers. I love that she's so well rounded. ;-)

The most fun occurred after everyone was done with pizza and cake. We had about 15 minutes of jump time remaining, and Ross was ready to be a kid again! Unfortunately, I am sick, so I didn't join in. I really wanted to though!

Ross won the most fun dad of the year award for his running and jumping and playing with the kids. I loved watching his face just as much as the kids. They all had so much fun!

Audrey smiled and laughed and had lots of sparkle in her eyes today. It was a wonderful way to celebrate six years of her being in our lives!

There are more pictures of the fun in the album!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Meg and Matt Visit!

Have I mentioned how much fun we had over the holidays? To top it all off, Meg and Matt came to visit us just after New Years! Matt had some school business to attend to, but we got to take advantage of having Meg around for an entire week!!! We kicked off our time together by visiting one of our favorite local vineyards, Martin Ranch. Not only did we enjoy a picnic and good wine, but we worked on our rock-skipping skills.

Ross was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas most of the time they were here, so Meg and I got to have some good, girl time when the kids were asleep or away. When they weren't, Meg was amazing with the kids. She read and played with them while I fixed their dinners. She helped them get ready for school in the mornings and helped tuck them in at night. They got lots of attention and love! Matt joined us toward the end of the week, and they decided he was hilarious. They simply adore them both!

We hope to see them again soon!!!

Christmas & New Years with Pop

It's Super Bowl Sunday, and I'm home sick while the rest of the family is having fun at our friends' house. I decided to make the most of the down time and finally finish my Christmas blogging!

My dad, also known as Pop around here, arrived the day before the Rodriguez/Taylor family went home. After they left, we exchanged gifts. There were lots of smiles and laughter as we enjoyed spoiling each other a little. Audrey LOVES stuffed animals, so you can see how excited she was to get this penguin Beenie Boo. I love how sweetly she was sharing it with Jackson too.

We spent the a lot of our time together just hanging out, playing games, and doing a little hiking nearby. It rained almost everyday over the break, so we were grateful to spend a little time outside!

On one of the rainy days we made our way into San Francisco to visit the Exploratorium. Everyone had fun playing and learning. I didn't get a picture of it, but one of the favorites was an exhibit that showed you what you would look like if you had a perfectly symmetrical face by flipping an image of half your face. Some people didn't look much different at all, and others looked really funny! We also made tornados, learned about engines, danced to some cool colored videos, and so much more.

For New Year's Eve, I threw together a last minute party for the kids. We hung balloons displaying the hourly countdown. We sped up the count down by starting at 6 PM and celebrating every half hour. At each "hour" the kids would pop a balloon and open a bag of clues, which eventually led to surprises and games. It was a fun way to pass the time, have some good conversations about everyone's values and perspectives on life, and to laugh and play the night away! We were disappointed to learn we couldn't watch the ball drop at midnight Eastern time, so we found an online countdown and put the kids to bed. The adults played more games and did a traditional cheers at midnight.

My dad also spent some time sketching with the kids while he was here, giving them tips, and inspiring them to try new things. After he left, I asked Jackson what his New Year's resolutions/goals might be for the year. He said he wanted to exercise more, practice being a good doctor, and become a good sketcher. I think Pop left an impression!

There are a few more pictures in the album.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Christmas with the Taylor/Rodriguez Family

We had the most wonderful Christmas season this year! We had family at our house for 3 weeks straight with a maximum of 10 people sleeping at our house at one point, which might sound overwhelming to some, but it was SO much fun and such a blessing in so many ways. Living in California with most of our family in Louisiana and Texas, but also spread from Connecticut to California, means it's harder to get together. Having so many people willing to travel to spend time with us was amazing!

The same day my mom left town, Susan, Leslie, Philip, Mitchell, and Taylor arrived! Baby Taylor was often the center of attention, providing lots of entertainment and smiles. He has the most infectious laugh, which the kids enjoyed getting him to do by playing peek-a-boo. They also discovered how much Taylor loves to listen to singing. Any time he would fuss, they would start singing him Christmas songs and lullabies, which quickly calmed him down. The kids were also entertained by playing with fun Star Wars apps on Uncle Philip's phone!

Their first full day here was mostly spent hanging out. However, Audrey had a gymnastics camp to attend, so Leslie and Philip took Mitchell and Jackson to see the new Star Wars movie. This was Jackson's second viewing of the movie...we went as a family for Ross' b-day while my mom was in town.

We spent most of Christmas Eve visiting, preparing food, decorating cookies, and playing. We got a few pics of the kids before we left for church. They did amazingly well in the service and loved lighting candles and singing "Silent Night." When we got home the kids all put on their matching Moosletoe pajamas, and Jackson led everyone in singing a few more Christmas carols.

After a few more group photos under the tree, the kids laid out their cookies for Santa. Jackson read everyone a book, and they snuggled into bed, anxiously waiting to see what Santa might bring!

Christmas morning came early and was over quick! Jackson and Audrey were both beyond excited to find their most wished for presents under the tree. They both asked for Bitty Babies because they both LOVE taking care of babies! Then the chaos of gift unwrapping began. Before we knew it, we were done and had piles of paper and presents everywhere! We took a short break for cinnamon rolls and our traditional egg casserole somewhere in the midst of the gift exchange.

It rained most days during their visit, so we were grateful for a break on Christmas day. We took advantage of it by driving to Woodside, CA for a hike. It felt great to be in the beautiful outdoors! Even Taylor wore himself out, and fell asleep in my arms by the end of the trek. After our hike, I drove Leslie, Philip, Mitchell, and Audrey along the "skyline" where we enjoyed some picturesque views of the Bay Area.

The next day we made our way to the Dell'Osso Family Farm for a little winter delight. We started the adventure with some snow tubing. It was a blast! We had tickets that let us go down the slides as many times as we wanted for 90 minutes. Mitchell wasn't much of a fan, but Jackson and Audrey didn't want to stop! They rode with us on double tubes, as well as by themselves in single tubes where they could spin in circles. Every ride ended with a huge grin and often some belly laughs.

While we were busy tubing, Mitchell and Leslie did some ice skating, which Mitchell loved! We all did a little snowball throwing, and the kids did some pillow jumping and roller coaster riding. I'd say it was a successful day!

My dad joined us that evening, and the Taylor/Rodriguez family headed home the next day. We were sad to see them go, but we enjoyed every moment they were here! There are several more pictures in the album!