Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Visit From Grams and Pa

My Grandma and Grandpa recently came out to visit us from Ohio.  We enjoyed a nice backyard BBQ together with my parents and siblings while they were here.  They got to meet Baby A, Little C, and Little F for the first time, which was fun!  We captured a few pics (below)... some unfortunately came out a little blurry, but it's the memories that count ;)  (I didn't have time to block out kids faces for the blog, so the pics of the entire group are not posted here).  Their visit wasn't too long, but we managed to squeeze in shopping, soccer, the park, feeding ducks, and a few meals together!  We are grateful they took the time to come and visit, as we don't get to see them as often as we would like.  Come back again soon Grams and Pa!

She was obsessed with Uncle Ben and Aunt Heather's tortoises

The Fam! :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fall Fun: Farm + Halloween

To celebrate another one of our "homeschool" days and the privilege to have a fairly flexible schedule, we spent a morning at a local farm near our home.  The kids had a great time - we will definitely return here next year!!

This barrel train was more like a barrel roller coaster!  Crazy driver!  Glad I didn't go!

We had a wonderful Halloween and enjoyed the tradition of carving our pumpkin and trick-or-treating.  Eli chose to be a Muscle Ninja, and Mikayla was BatGirl.  We also had Leonardo (ninja turtle), Po (kung-fu panda), and a cute little pink strawberry in our group :)  The kids brought WAY too much candy home of course, but they had a great time!!

Happy Halloween!!

Mikayla's 7th Birthday

Our beautiful girl turned 7 years old in September.  Can someone please stop time for me??

We started the morning off opening a few gifts from the family...

Eli picked out some new earring sets for Mikayla

Our younger boys were just excited to be in on the present-opening action! 
She was thrilled to receive the Merida doll :)
This year, Mikayla chose to have a friend go wtih her to make stuffed animals at Build-A-Bear instead of doing a family outing like we've done in the past.  Yep... she's growing up... and so it begins :)  She chose to invite one of her best friends, Kailey, to go with her.  Kailey is a friend from church who as grown up with Eli and Mikayla over the past four years.  I still remember when they were all in the preschool class together back at the movie theater where we met when the church first began!!

Mikayla chose to make a red panda, and Kailey made a dog.  We took our "new furry friends" out to dinner at Chipotle afterward, and then headed back home to join the rest of the family for cake and more presents!

A beautiful picture for to hang in her room at the new house!  Thanks Nana and Papa!!

More room decor from Nana and Papa
"Brave" card!
A Barbie car from Grandma!
Grandpa's gift to Mikayla was the outing to see "Little Women," and this gift was given to her by some of the Chinese students who attended the play with them :)
Mikayla was NOT amused by the trick candles I put on her cake this year... though I happened to think it was hilarious :)
We love you so much Mikayla!  You are growing into a beautiful young woman, and we are so proud of you.  I love your heart for Jesus, and your desire to help and serve those around you.  You have blossomed into the role of "big sister" to three younger ones this year, and this momma is extremely grateful for your willingness to joyfully lend a hand when I ask for your help.  You are very creative, and have taken an interest in making bead jewelry for all of your friends, combining your loves of creating, jewelry, and gift-giving!  You have an ability to draw and color pictures that look like they were done by someone much older than you. I am always amazed :)  You continue to love to dance (ballet specifically), and of course listen to music.  Whenever I play music downstairs, it's almost guaranteed that you'll be there twirling around the kitchen.  You enjoy swinging across the monkey bars, doing cartwheels (even one-handed!), building forts with your brothers, playing with your dolls, Barbies, and stuffed animals, and pretty much just having fun - wherever the fun is to be had.  I thank God for the amazing gift of YOU.  

Happy 7th Birthday Sweetheart!!

Outings with Grandpa

Eli and Mikayla both enjoyed individual outings with Grandpa recently.

Eli had his first golf lesson with a new set of clubs Grandpa purchased for him...

And Grandma helped Mikayla pick out this beautiful purple dress (plus accessories) to wear for a date night with Grandpa to see the play, "Little Women."  She loved it, and we now own the book and the movie!

2nd Grade

Time to post a few updates on this blog!  Instead of cramming everything into one long post, I'm going to attempt a few shorter posts to separate things out.

To start things off, Eli and Mikayla started 2nd grade this year!!  Well, they actually started last spring... since we are still homeschooling our curriculum usually starts a bit ahead of the school year.  But, they had their first day of school in August, at the same enrichment program they attended last year through the local public school district.  This year, they are attending two days per week, which works out nicely for me in terms of trying to coordinate schedules of five kiddos (three of whom are not school-age yet), and both kids enjoy the time out of the house to experience things they don't get to do at home... if you ask them, they will tell you their favorite parts of going to school are recess, lunch, and PE.  Typical.

Here are a few photos of my BIG second graders...

These first ones were from the photo shoot we did during the summer... I think I mentioned it in my last blog post way back when :)

Then here you have the "official" first day of 2nd grade photos - complete with backpacks on.  Of course my girlie girl chooses to wear rainbow clothes with lots of pink and a large bow in her hair, while my typical boy wears a teenage mutant ninja turtles shirt ;)

We chose to continue homeschooling this year, and I'm thankful for the extra time I get to spend with my kids.  As I mentioned, our schedule looks different now, having five kids in our home, but I am grateful for the privilege to continue homeschooling for as long as the Lord leads.  When we started homeschooling, we had in our minds that we would do so through the primary years in order to just give our kids more time with us, and set a solid foundation for their education.  We don't really know what the future will hold as far as whether we continue homeschooling, or if the kids still start attending school, but we just trust the Lord will direct our paths.  I also don't think homeschooling has to be all or nothing... I think families can have "seasons" where they homeschool, and seasons where they don't.  I even think there are times where certain children in a family might be homeschooled, while others attend school outside the home, depending upon the needs of each child and family.   So, not knowing what the future will hold, or if I will be homeschooling these two next year, I am just making the most of this year and enjoying our time together!! The pictures below are from a recent visit to the Arizona Museum of Natural History (fondly referred to as the Dinosaur Museum by my kids).  One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the ability to just get out of the house and enjoy these types of experiences on days when other kids are in school, so they aren't crowded!!  I love hands-on, experiential learning!

Of course the 1-year-old enjoys coming to "school" as well :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013

(So I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks after we returned from our trip... but never actually hit the "publish" button.  Oops!  Oh well, here it is...)

Last December we decided we wanted to do something different from the norm for our summer vacation this year... and we landed on spending a week at Forest Home Family Camp.  I experienced Forest Home as a teen camper back in the day, and Micah took teens to camp there when he was  youth leader.  So, we both had some ties to the camp and figured we'd give it a go!

I really appreciated that once we arrived there, we were able to just stay put and not have to drive around to different activities or sites, or figure out where we were going to eat for our meals, etc.  It was so nice to have yummy meals cooked for us every day (yes - including an awesome steak dinner just for the adults!), and have a variety of planned activities we could choose to participate in... or not.

And the kids' programs were awesome - our kids went to their own age-grouped classes in the morning while the adults had a session they could attend with a speaker or workshops (though Micah and I usually just took the morning off to have some quiet time, take a nap, drive a kid to urgent care... etc.) :)

In the evenings, each family had a CCA (child care assistant) assigned to them for the week who would show up and take care of our kids while we attended the evening sessions with the speakers, followed by a date night or whatever we wanted to do :)  Since our family had five kids, and one was a baby, we were assigned two CCA's for the week, and they were wonderful.  They really cared about our kids, and our kids grew to really care about them as well!  It was such a blessing!

The re-cap in pictures...

This is the second year in a row we left for our vacation on Father's Day.  I joked with Micah that we just like to celebrate big and take trips in his honor :)  Seriously though, I'm so thankful to be married to  such an awesome guy... willing to spend Father's Day cooped up in a van with five kids!!

AND keeps me sane when said van breaks down just as we are getting to the edge of town. (sigh...)  Yep, all of our kids and all of our stuff sat in the grass at Jack in the Box while we waited for AAA to come tow our car away.  Had to unpack everything... including the roof cargo sack.  Blah.  The silver lining in it all was that our tow guy ended up telling us that he was going to cover our $200ish tow to get our van back to Mesa (what?!?  awesome!!!) and Micah's parents allowed us to borrow their SUV for the week, which prevented us from having to pay a boatload of money to rent a van for the week.  My father-in-law drove the SUV out to us, and we were able to just continue on our way after getting everything loaded back up.  So despite the annoyance of it all, we were thankful to be witness to God's faithfulness and provision to us through the people he surrounded us with.  We know many were praying for us to have safe travels - and those prayers were certainly answered.  Considering we broke down right before entering the stretch of our drive which included miles and miles of barren desert... things could have been much worse.

We finally arrived to our humble abode for the week - Cedar Inn.  Our family had two adjoining rooms, since we were too large to fit in one room.  The funny thing is that six members of our family ended up sleeping in one room, and ONE member of the family (Baby A to be exact) slept in her very own cabin.  She was a terrible sleeper that week (aren't babies always terrible sleepers on trips??), and that was her ticket to rooming SOLO :)

All the kids loved the idea of sleeping in sleeping bags for the week... though every single one of them woke up at least one morning to find their sleeping bag on the ground.  Some sleeping bags managed to find their way to the ground every single night, sometimes multiple times during the same night.  Since Micah and I didn't sleep much anyway, we usually rescued the sleeping bags and stuffed the sleeping child back into it.  Good times, good times.

 We enjoyed some hikes...

Mikayla and I conquered the high ropes course :)  She was definitely the braver one - she led the way and I followed - my motivation was not to be not to be out-done by a 6-year-old...

The kids enjoyed the mini-zipline, which was a new addition to Forest Home this year.  Little C managed to fall off of this not once, not twice, but THREE times.  That child is one of the most accident prone kids I've ever met (though now that Baby A is walking, and loves to CLIMB, she is almost overtaking the #1 spot in this area).

Eli, Mikayla, and I spent a couple afternoons in the craft cabin while the younger ones took naps.  They both created a few "masterpieces" and enjoyed bringing these home as souvenirs.

 We spent plenty of time just enjoying the great outdoors and wearing our jackets during the cool mornings and evenings...

We also made a couple trips to "The Clubhouse" for huge scoops of ice cream!  Yum!

Sliding in the "Den" (game room)... love these cuties :)

 One of the days at camp was designated as "Lake Day," and all of the families hung out at the lake swimming, kayaking, blobbing, sliding, relaxing, and BBQ'ing!   This day was probably the highlight of the week for our family, we had a blast :)

I couldn't believe that she loved the freezing cold water!
Little F - chillaxin'!
Micah took the older three kayaking, while the younger two had "nap time" on shore.  They loved kayaking!!

Our set-up on shore... complete with shade and "napping areas" :)

 Getting Baby A to decide to sleep  in the Pack n Play at the  lake was definitely an accomplishment.  As long as I was in sight, she only wanted to play with me, so I hid myself on the side of the shade tent where she couldn't see me. Pretty soon I heard rustling along the side of the tent, and sure enough, she moved the siding just enough to peek around and spot me... as you can see below, I was CAUGHT! :) 

Proof that she did finally give up and go to sleep :)
Little C was exhausted... he fell asleep within 5 minutes of laying down
Mikayla has always loved playing/building the sand
Had we taken this trip prior to conquering swimming lessons a few weeks before, these two boys would have NEVER set foot in this lake.  They had a blast swimming and splashing around, and I was so happy that they could do so without FEAR of the water!!

As I said at the beginning of this post, our kids loved their CCA's, and these girls were a huge blessing to our family.  :)
What a great week!!!  We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Forest Home together.  Not sure if our future summer plans will bring us back again... but we definitely hope to return someday in the future.