March 31, 2013

Our Week

You may already have guessed that I'm a little behind.  This week was marked by catching up (4 kids by myself for the weekend meant that I didn't do much of the laundry, dishes, or normal tidying), and getting ready (Easter week is sort of busy for us).  On Wednesday we had the Annual Egg Dying Party at the church - 21 kids, 14 adults, egg dying fun, crafts, and pizza.  A blast for sure!
It's yellow!!
 It's blue!
He loved to stop to count his eggs and name the colors.
 She might have dyed herself more than her eggs...
I saw a tutorial on making marbled looking eggs with shaving cream and food coloring.  I figured that even if it didn't work, what kid doesn't like playing in shaving cream?  I was right.  It was a hit!
Final count/color check.
 One mom donated ceramic Easter figurines for the kids to paint.  It was a huge hit!  Allie painted 4.
I promised to keep you updated on our caterpillar-butterfly transformation.  They are growing like crazy!  We can't believe how giant they have already become!  All week we have been wondering how much bigger they can possibly get before they start to spin their cocoons?  We expect a change very soon!
This week also includes a couple extra church services - at different times of the day than the twins are used to going to church.  More than once I heard, "We are going to church again?!  Now?!"  Thankfully, it was always followed by, "Yay!!  We love church!"  And the conversation always ended with, "Will this be the most fun church service ever?"  You'll have to ask them which service walked away with that title...

March 24, 2013

Cousin Sleepover!

Over Christmas, I promised H that we would have a cousin sleepover after the holidays.  Can you believe that "after the holidays" turned into late March?  When my Sister-in-law called to see if I could keep the girls overnight, I readily agreed so I could finally make good on my promise!  I did not, however, check with Lucas...or remember that it was the same weekend he was going to the NCAA basketball tournament (otherwise known as March Madness - one of his favorite holidays).  Oh, well.  I was sure I could handle it.
First Night.  Snuggles together on the inflatable bed.  Everyone wanted to sleep on it...although no one wanted to sleep!
When none of the kids wanted to sleep, I told them about all of the fun things we were going to do the next day as part of our "slumber party."  I told them they needed to go to sleep quickly to get their rest and have enough energy for our adventures.  I maybe over-sold it.  The next morning, D woke up at 5 am.  Her eyes popped open, she looked around, and she whispered, "It's time to party!  We have adventures!"  I did everything I could think of to get her back to sleep, but I watched her get wound into a more excited frenzy. She just knew it was going to be an amazing day, and it had to start right away!  She ended up waking up the rest of the kids around 7 saying, "Wake up!  We have to go one adventures!  For our party!  Wake up!"
Since they were all awake earlier than planned, and dressed and fed at lightning speed, we made a blanket tent over the table where they could color and play to kill some time.
I had signed us up to go to story time at our favorite paint-your-own-pottery place.  We've thought for a while that the cousins would enjoy it, but it isn't a convenient location for them.  It finally worked out for us to go together!
They were focused.  Almost completely silent for about 20 minutes.

After painting, we went to a friend's house (she lives nearby and was at the story time with us) to eat lunch.  The story time ends right at lunch time, so it was nice to be able to sit down, and eat our packed lunch, before we made the trip home.
On the way out, we saw an airplane taking off from the airport (the runway is right across the street from their front door).  The kids were excited (even if you can't tell from this picture).
We got home and D went down for a nap (she was exhausted from being up so early), and the older kids separated for some quiet play time apart.  Best thing I did all day.  The time apart seemed to do everyone some good and (I think) made the rest of the day go so smoothly that there were moments when it seemed downright easy!
After quiet time the kids (minus D who was STILL sleeping) helped me make "ice cream" out of frozen bananas.
 They were so excited I was giving them such a special treat...when I knew it was just fruit in a more fun form :)
Ryan and Allie opted for cheerios on top.
Finally, D woke up, and it was time to go to the carnival!  The local school was holding a carnival, and I thought it would be a great way to kill some time (while also maybe qualifying me for coolest aunt ever).  Imagine me...with 4 a school FULL of people!  I gave the kids a pep talk about sticking with me before we went inside.  To their credit, they did great.  We cousin caterpillar'd it most of the time (until they got their balloon creations and didn't have the free hands), and I didn't have much trouble keeping them near me.  I did have my hands literally full most of the time, which is why I didn't get many pictures...
Face painting.  One of the things they were looking forward to the most.
 He wanted a Lightning McQueen lightning bolt on one cheek and a basketball on the other.  He got a tiger paw and what looked like a tiger circle on the other...close...he couldn't see, so he was thrilled!
There were so many great carnival moments.  D winning a 2-liter of pop in the ring toss (which we later donated to the face painters because I could not carry it and hold all of the hands the kids wanted me to hold).  H talking the face painter into painting more and more and more things (and the face painter was just about to let H paint her own face when I intervened...because the other kids were ready to move on!).  And Allie leading the group down long hallways, through lots of people, on to the next exciting thing.  But my favorite was Ryan and the football toss.  I gave the kids their final tickets (expecting them to use them for the moon bounce).  The girls picked the moon bounce, but Ryan was determined to do a football toss that he had his eye on all night (full-size football through relatively small shaped targets that only highschoolers and adults had played whenever we were watching).  Thankfully, they were side-by-side so I could keep an eye on the jumping girls and Ryan.  He walked up and handed his ticket to the man running the booth, stood in the midst of several high school boys, and threw the ball with incredible aim.  They let him have extra turns (partly because they were so impressed, partly because there was no one in line).  He threw the football at least 10 times, and made 3-4 out of every 5.  He walked away from that game so proud.  He had tried something he really wanted to try (even though he was a little nervous), and they told him he was really good!  He knew it!
Just before we left.  Faces painted, balloon creations in hand, and many games played.  They were all still smiling!
 When we got home we had a snack-y dinner picnic style on the living room floor.  I asked each of the kids what their favorite part of the day had been.
H: Getting my face painted.
 Ryan: Playing football and doing really good.
 Allie: Jumping so high in the bounce house.
 D: Games!
They asked me my favorite part and I said, "Being with all of you.  You guys are really cool and a lot of fun.  I really like spending time with you."  And it wasn't just something I was saying because it seemed like the good aunt/mommy thing to say.  I really meant it.  I had a blast with these kids.

Since we had church the next day, I put all of the kids in the bathtub.  They were all a little unsure that they would fit, but they did!  They thought it was so funny for all of them to be in 1 tub.
Rub-a-dub-dub, 4 cousins in a tub.
The second night they were much more exhausted, which made parts of bedtime easier, and parts much more difficult.  By the time they were sleeping I was definitely too tired to clean the disaster we had created. Oh, well, it was fun to see the different parts of our day in each of the messes around the house.

Sadly, we exhausted poor D so much that she had a meltdown during Sunday School and was almost asleep before church started.  So they ended up leaving before the service so she could get some rest.  Up until that moment, the kids were truly perfect.

The best part?  Saturday evening, before bed, I overheard the cousins talking to each other about how they were all "Best Friends."  Then, as we were reading before bed, it warmed my heart to see them snuggle up together and give unprompted hugs and kisses while saying, "I love you SO much!"  I call it a successful time if they aren't sick of each other by the end of the weekend, but seeing how close these cousins are truly warmed my heart!

Hooray for cousin sleepovers!

March 23, 2013

Everyday Adventures: Part 2

I know, I know...why post more of the mundane?  I can't help myself.  These moments, to me, are some of the most beautiful.  The little moments that make up a whole life.  So, a few more of the little adventures that fill our time:
Another science experiment!  The kit had an experiment using the color tabs, milk, and liquid soap.  Honestly, it wasn't as amazing as their instructions made it out to be.  But it was  interesting, and the kids had fun.

Making rolls!  I found a recipe for pull-apart rolls that I thought could maybe replace the usual Rhode's rolls we do for holiday meals.  But Lucas is a bread connoisseur, so I wanted to do a practice run to see if they passed.  The twins wanted to help.  Most of the work is done by the bread machine, so they helped dump the ingredients in, and then watched it work its magic. 
 They quickly discovered they had to take turns looking in the small window.
Once the dough was done, we had to roll it into balls.  The twins had a blast doing this (although the term "ball" did lead to one or two being a basketball...
 And we made a huge mess.  At one point Allie threw a handful of flour in the air - Lebron style.  But, if you didn't make a mess, you didn't have fun, right?
The finished product!  They were so proud of themselves :)
The twins had asked for hamburgers, so we used their rolls as buns.  For the first time, Ryan ate his entire (half of a) hamburger...and Allie would only eat the bun!  Lucas tried them the next day and they passed!  He said they were delicious and holiday-dinner-worthy.
I would like to say that we have been working on writing their names, but we haven't.  I worked with them in the fall, but they were very resistant and I read somewhere that it was better to back off and let them take their time than push it.  So I backed off.  And then Allie started writing her name on everything.  And even Ryan was practicing the letters for his name.  Since we had some mail we needed to send out anyway, I had them sign their names on each one.  Is their anything better than first signatures?

March 22, 2013

Everyday Adventures

It's been a while since a post.  I think.  Honestly, it feels like I JUST posted.  But then I started to look at the random pictures and videos I have collected since then, and it seems like a lot of life has happened (and this isn't even all of them - because my phone has decided to hold my most recent photos hostage).  Which, I assume, means more time has passed than I thought.  Isn't that the way life is?  You're living the day-to-day and it doesn't feel like time is really moving (or perhaps the rhythm of the daily lulls us into believing no time is passing), and then one day you  pause long enough to look around and realize it's been almost 10 years exactly since you started dating your husband (true story).  A third of my life, yet I feel like I barely blinked. 

Anyway, back to the present...or recent odd assortment of pictures documenting our random everyday adventures:

Taking inspiration from one of her favorite DT characters, Shiny, Allie claimed a random bag of shells from the craft room and took them out to play in the snow.  Of, course, almost all of them disappeared.  But now that the snow has (mostly) melted, she is enjoying re-collecting and arranging her "Shiny shells."
One of the presents the twins got for their birthday was a science kit.  It might sound strange, but if there is one thing I learned from my dad, elementary science teacher, and college chemistry professors, it is that science is incredibly fun!  The twins didn't have to be convinced, they were begging to break into the kit!
This main focus of this kit is to teach kids about color mixing.  I taught them about primary colors, and how other colors come from combinations of them.  Then I set them loose.  They created 24 unique colors and had a blast doing it!
Um...yeah...I basically failed for St. Patrick's Day.  In the past I we have made decorations, special food, activities, or at least documented it better.  This year, I managed to find church clothing that was green (for everyone in the family), and that was my big accomplishment.  While I did think to snap this picture, while they were watching tv, I didn't remember to get them in their official St. Patty's t-shirts :(
The kiddos are currently VERY eager to help in the kitchen.  Tuesday evenings I make easily transportable food since we eat in the van on the way home from swim lessons.  I realized they could easily make the entire meal (taco biscuits) themselves.  Allie pressed the biscuits into the muffin tin, Ryan spooned in the meat mixture (which he had helped me mix earlier), and Allie sprinkled cheese on the top!
Of course, I think part of their eagerness is that they already realize that if you help, you get to sample while you work!

Another story time at our favorite toy store!  This one was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and they brought a certified American Sign Language instructor to teach the kids basic signs from the book.  
My children had trouble sitting and signing - apparently, if you take the words away, they need their whole body to talk!
Another birthday gift was a Live Butterfly Kit.  I have wanted to do this with my kids ever since I was a substitute teacher for a kindergarten class (the first year Lucas and I were married), and they had one.  I have just been waiting for the twins to be old enough.  We ordered the caterpillars and anxiously awaited their arrival.  Fittingly, they arrived when we got home from the story time of the same theme!
Originally, I took these pictures to take to the post office as evidence.  They put the caterpillars in the mailbox, and I (expecting them to be delivered to my door since they needed to be opened right away) didn't discover them until 4 hours later!  They looked frozen, and I was livid (my children might also have been a tiny bit traumatized by me gasping, "They killed our caterpillars!" which didn't help.  Oops.).  Then I saw one of them move.  We watched in awe as, one-by-one, they started to wiggle and then crawl.  While they might not all make it yet, within an hour ALL 10 of them were moving!  We will keep you posted on the caterpillar to butterfly transformation!
And there they are - the random little adventures of which our days are composed.  So much life lived in such short, but quickly-passing, time.  

March 15, 2013

Twinners Turn 4!!

Warning: This is a picture heavy post!
I love birthdays.  I love celebrating them as much and as long as possible.  So, we started the birthday celebration on Thursday by taking the twins to our favorite toy store to pick out presents for each other, and then playing at the bounce house!
They were so excited because they got to eat lunch at the Bouncy Castle!  I didn't know they served lunch before...
The next day, Papa & Gigi were here (they arrived during the night), and we went back to Jackson to run various errands and eat lunch at our favorite Chinese Buffet for the last time with the twins eating for free.

Then we came home and began the preparations.  I wanted everything to be finished before I went to bed, so that I could just enjoy getting ready in the morning.

I wanted to surprise the twins with balloons all over their floor and streamers across the door, but didn't want to do it before going to bed in case they needed to get up during the night.  I was planning on getting up early, and doing it before they woke up, but they surprised me by waking up at 6am!  They were excited about their we put out their clothes for them to get dressed, and set up our birthday fun in the hall :)
 Playing in the balloons.

While they waited for breakfast to bake (monkey bread!), we let them open their presents from us.  The first present was the mini aquariums for each of them to get a fish.  They have been wanting pets for forever, and had specifically requested fish.  We thought they were old enough to be (somewhat) responsible for a pet, and fish are an easy, inexpensive way to go.  We also got them light up shoes - because Allie said the best thing about being 4 would be getting light up shoes, so we thought we'd better make sure that was true!
 We also let them open their present and cards from the great grandparents and great aunts and uncles.  Mostly because those all involved money, and I knew it would be more likely to get lost if they opened it during the party.  I thought spreading out the gifts was a brilliant idea.  Instead it sort of ignited a fire to open presents that would not be quenched until every present was opened at the party.  They were more excited than Christmas.
I asked the twins what they wanted their birthday theme to be this year.  Ryan said, "Trains," and Allie said, "Planes."  So that's what we did!  
The best decoration, by far, was the cardboard box train Papa made. I gave him some boxes, showed him a few pictures of what other people had done, and told him I didn't really care as long as it was somewhat arranged like a train.  He went ALL OUT! 
 Every kid took a turn driving and riding in the train at some point during the party.
 They had a blast giving rides.
And look at the detail!  He even did the point in the front!  It is amazing, and will probably get a lot of use long after the party.
We did 1 game - a paper airplane competition.  Sadly, the one that went the farthest was crumpled into a ball of paper and tossed.  Paper engineers we are not.  Then the twins were desperate to open presents so that got started. 
With one of their presents - a mini golf course from Uncle Nic and Aunt Ariel.
 Allie's FAVORITE gift - blimps from Uncle Grant!   She has been playing with her blimp family, and sleeping with her cuddly blimp ever since!
 Hugs for the presents.
We moved pretty quickly into eating lunch (I did packaged lunches like you would get on a plane.  The beauty being that it was minimal effort).  And then the cupcakes!
Blowing out their candles!
And then we played.  Dress up was a favorite.

 Even Poppy played!
The biggest entertainment was one of the presents (stomp rockets).  I have some videos of the kids (and adults) having a blast.  I just need to figure out how to get it off the camcorder...All in all, I think it was a fun party.  The twins enjoyed themselves for sure, and that's all that really matters!

Sunday we went to pick out their fish!  Introducing the newest members of the family!
Racey (as in race-y, as in having a racing quality).  
I wanted Allie to pick a fish with a brighter color (worried that the faded color might mean a less healthy fish), but she was confident this was her fish.  She couldn't have picked one better!  Racey is active and loves to show off.  When she moves, she likes to zip around, which Allie loves.
 Gracie (name taken from our favorite fish book).
Sure, Gracie is a boy, but Ryan refused to pick any other name, and the he-fish seems to pull it off.  I was sure Ryan would pick a blue fish, and he originally did, but then he saw this one and no other would do.  Turns out he could not have picked a fish more like him if he tried.  Gracie is shy.  We will see him swimming around his tank when we are out of the room, but the second we come near his tank, he hides.  Betta fish breathe at the top of the water, but we literally see Gracie race to the top, take a breath, and race back to the bottom (even when no one is there).  And, currently, Gracie won't eat if we are in the room.  Ryan has been a little bit disappointed, but when I explained that Gracie feels like he does around people he doesn't know, he understood better.  Ryan said, "But Gracie is part of our family, and we love him."  I responded, "Yes, but we are new to Gracie.  We picked him out and brought him to our family and loved him even before he was ours.  But he doesn't know us, and our home and our family is new.  It will take a while to warm up."  As I spoke those words, I thought this was a good thing for us all to remember as we prepare to welcome adopted children into our family who may jump right in like Racey, or slowly and shyly like Gracie.  
We've rounded out our birthday celebrations with a day at the Tree House and a morning playgroup at Toasted Mud.  4 years old has been amazing so far!  Here's to an incredible year!
Happy Birthday, Ryan and Allie!!!