Friday, December 12, 2014

It's on the List

Time for one of my favorite posts of the year again! When we got back from our Thanksgiving trip we had the kids sit to make their Christmas lists. Some items on their lists were totally expected, some not so much. 

Okay, Edith's list was totally predictable: Wonder Woman, My Little Ponies, and Frozen, you say?? Hard to believe, right? Ha!

It's apparent that Big got online before making his list. No Bruder this year, but lots of other specific items. His interests are definitely changing and expanding. He still likes construction, but more to watch it rather than play. Playing with their Hot Wheels on tracks is the new passion for all three youngest. I say, hey, whatever keeps them occupied. :)

Bud's list is great. He's on the verge of straddling that kid/tween line and you can tell. I love how he left #6 vague so as to cover any and all existing cool stuff. And I like how with #9 you can tell he was aware that a $50 iTunes gift card is most likely a pipe dream. I'm proud of him for shooting for the stars, but it's a good thing he's willing to settle for any amount. Ha! Music is this kid's life-- he knows all the new releases that are coming out every week and can spout off facts like you wouldn't believe. I hope he can use his passion someday.

Ginger's list is getting older in theme, but still has something cooking related on it, of course. She still loves to cook-- right now she has her sights set on owning a sandwich shop someday. On a side note: I'm still kind of struggling with the fact that high-waisted light wash skinny jeans are back in...

I love Pen's list this year-- such a one-eighty from what she's been doing (which is no list at all). Pen is always a pretty tough one to buy for, so having everything spelled out so clearly for Santa (and us!) makes things a lot easier. And I love her note at the end-- she really tries hard to be mindful. It's great.

As always, I love how their lists are such an illustration of where the kids are at in their interests and ages. You can tell that the 4 younger kids did a bunch of scooter riding while we were in Arizona for Thanksgiving. It doesn't seem to make much sense to acquire scooters in the middle of winter here, but I guess we'll see what Santa does. Thank heavens there are do-overs when birthdays come around. 

I can't wait to see what everyone gets! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Still Sporty At Forty Thanksgiving

We arrived to our Thanksgiving destination just in time for dinner at the place my sister, Martha, was renting for the week. It was so good to see everyone, and when the older kids took the younger kids to the park after we ate, we got a good taste of what the week was going to be like. A lot of adult time while the kids kept each other occupied. Heaven on earth I tell you.

My younger sister, Art, just moved into her new home a few days before we arrived-- she was so generous to let us stay with her. I'm impressed with how much she got unpacked before we got there! It was a great place to stay and we felt so welcomed. 

The new house that Rib and Jazz Hands moved into at the beginning of November was amazing, too. And the greenspaces both next to and across the street from the house were a perfect place for the kids to play. A perfect gathering place for our big group of 26. 

They were so nice to have us all down for Rib's 40th birthday and Thanksgiving, but I'm pretty sure they're happy to be getting more settled into their houses now that we're gone! 

Rib's birthday was on Tuesday, so we went to his house to hang out and celebrate as a family. Just a few minutes after we arrived, I threw on a mullet wig and challenged Edith to a tricycle race. Doesn't everyone do that?

Dinner was nice and relaxing and the taco bar was delicious! Happy Birthday, Rib!

After dinner, we got to work making Rib's 40th birthday wish a reality-- a family band to play at his birthday party the next night. Everyone gets together with their family and puts together a 12 song set list with 1 1/2 practices, right? So, so much fun to do. I wish we'd done it years ago. 

We spent the day on Wednesday getting food and stuff ready for Rib's big 'Still Sporty at 40' birthday bash. Art and I hosted the big family dinner at her house and then we got all of the kids settled in with snacks and treats and a movie before we headed back to Rib's for the party and big gig. It was really a lot of fun. Not without glitches, of course, but a total blast. I'm so glad that my brother requested we do it. An evening without children, playing music with my siblings? I'll take it. 

Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course. I made a batch of gluten free stuffing that morning and tossed it in the crockpot, then we headed over to Rib's after lunch and spent the day relaxing. After taking some family photos first, that is.

When I saw that Rophone and Plumbean were both dressed in green shirts, I insisted that we take a couples shot. :) Aren't they handsome fellas?

Before we lost momentum, I gathered my family in the backyard and had Art take a quick photo. I don't know why, but I love this candid shot of my girls. Maybe because it captures their personalities-- Ginger singing, Pen dancing, and Edith worrying that maybe I'm asking them to stand too close to the pool. 

I decided to take advantage of the good light to shoot a few photos. I sure didn't have my camera out as much this trip-- probably because I was enjoying participating and relaxing. Definitely not a bad thing. 

These three boys are so cute:

I love the relationship Ginger has with her cousin, The Genealogist. 

Their interaction when she discovered he was standing on his tippy toes to seem taller really shows the affection they have for one another. I hope they'll be friends forever.

First, a covert stepping on the toes…

Then something a little more obvious and proactive…

Tippy toes and bunny ears!

I wanted to take a picture of Pen and Edith together, but one of them was more willing than the other. Still, I managed to get my shot. 

Then Mathman appeared so we had to add him to the mix. No tippy toes necessary, he's just getting tall!!

Three lovely ladies: 

I even went in search of the kids when they were out playing, putting my adult time aside for a moment. Huge risk, just in case it altered the course of things and I'd end up being required to parent! :)

Taking a breather:

I managed to capture this cute moment between cousins as I turned to go back to the house. 

The kids spent their time together playing a lot of soccer and board games, riding scooters and bikes and, after darkness fell, they played Mission. That was Edith's favorite. The bigger kids were so nice to include her, and it made her day to be playing with them, in the dark, with no parents present. I was so happy to see the kids having such a good time together, and that they're getting old enough that the adults can have more fun together, too. We're entering a new era! 

With all of us pitching in, Thanksgiving dinner rivaled the best I think I've ever had. So many good dishes. Definitely a food coma in the making.

Rophone was his normal wonderful self, helping Edith to stay focused and eat a good dinner so that I could hang and talk with my siblings. I took a few pictures during the meal, too.

It cracked us up to hear the kids at this table talking politics. For real.

I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the adults! Bummer.

Rophone hung out with the men and all the kids at Rib's house on Friday so that Martha, Jazz Hands, and I could dive in at Art's house to help her unpack and organize a little more (Opera and Jules had left, or I'm sure they would have joined us!). I was so happy to help Art get to a more functional and relaxing point with her house-- it was the least I could do after she let our not-so-little family of 7 invade her space. She even let me build a couple of chairs! I love to use my hands, so it made my day. 

On Friday night, Rophone and I managed to go out with our good friends Hoolio and Miner. Such great company. I wish we could manage to see them more often-- we'll have to see what we can do about that. 

This vacation was such a blast. A mix of time having fun adventuring with just our family, great times with extended family, and a fantastic visit with friends. Can't get much better than that.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Our Way

We made the trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving again this year. My whole family (minus my mom and Jake on their missions) decided to gather to celebrate not only the holiday, but my brother, Rib's, 40th birthday, too. It seems that most of our family vacations are to go see family, and we mostly just drive there and back without any detours or stops to add time (or money spent) to the journey. This time we decided to take the kids out of school for the whole week and make the trip more of an adventure. 

Rophone booked us a hotel in Henderson, NV (handily near the place we always stop to eat and buy snacks) so we could take our time and make the drive in two days, exploring and seeing things along the way. I think I was even more excited about this drive than the kids were! 

It was so nice taking our time getting out of the house the morning we left. Starting out the drive feeling pretty rested rather than kind of sleep deprived from having to get up so early made a real difference. It was a little cold and snowy that morning and I was actually kind of bummed to be leaving it behind for sun, but I think everyone else was pretty happy about it. 

After we stopped for lunch, we visited a little park I'd read about. It was so much fun for the kids to explore, and the red rocks were beautiful. Sadly though, like the reviews had mentioned, broken bottles littered the ground. In some places the ground glittered and shone because of how many little pieces of glass were mixed in with the dirt. Such a lack of respect. Anyway, it was still a ton of fun.

Bud, our rock climber and explorer, especially loved it.

There was a neat cave, and when we entered it I realized the lighting was perfect for photos. Edith's poses were cracking me up. I'll post just a couple, but I took probably 10 shots and she did a variation of her pose in each and every one. She's a crack up.

Hiking and exploring make me happy, so to be able to get out of the car for a bit to do it made me feel good. I think it made the kids feel good, too. Good thing Big isn't thinking about how high he is-- not a fan of heights, that kid.

I sure do love Rophone. I totally scored in the husband department.

This last picture from the park is probably my favorite. There was this hole in the cliff face, and I managed to convince both Pen and Edith to sit in it. I think I'll title it: "Big Kid and Little Kid in the Same Hole". Ha!

Every year when we pass by Las Vegas on the drive to Arizona, the kids ask if we can go to The Strip they can see in the distance. The answer is always, "One of these days…", so we decided this trip would be that day. That one day. We're only doing it once kids. :) So, after we checked into our hotel (super posh, and cheap on a Sunday night! I wish I would have taken a picture!) we headed to The Las Vegas Strip.

It was interesting to watch the kids faces as they absorbed all there was to see. I think that Pen and Bud could have gone on indefinitely, finding it an interesting study in human behavior, but the rest of us were ready to go after a few hours. The Bellagio fountains were definitely fun to see, but I think I pretty much decided that the rest of The Strip is one big migraine trigger. :)

After a night's rest (I'm not going to say a 'good night's rest' because I shared a bed with Edith and she's a bed hog), we got up and continued on our adventure. After a delicious breakfast we made the rather quick drive to our next stop: The Hoover Dam. We opted not to take the tour, and our visit was rather short-lived.

The minute scared-of-heights Big looked over the dam wall, he hit the ground and wouldn't move. Rophone admitted that his knees were shaking and he was tempted to do the same thing, but he managed to stay upright long enough for me to take a photo.

Well, that was fun! Guess it's time to go now

I promised Bud we'd come back together another time without the scaredy cats. :) I did manage to snap a few other photos on our way to the wall and back out, though, luckily.

The top of the dam wall in macro:

The shadow of the stair railing looked really cool.

Now, on to Arizona! I'm so glad we made our drive a little more of an adventure. Definitely something we need to do more often. 

Oh, and I have to make a record of what was probably my most favorite part of the drive-- it was when we stopped for gas and I took Edith into the strongly scented bathroom. All of the stalls were full, and as we waited this conversation occurred:

Edith: "It smells good in here."

Me: "It does?" 

Edith: "Yeah. What is that I smell?"

Me: "I don't know. Smells like maybe it's some cleaner and maybe some of the soap people use to wash their hands."

Edith: "No, that's not what it is."

Me: "It isn't?"

Edith (with absolute certainty): "No. It smells like unicorn."

(snickers and laughter from the women occupying the stalls) 

Me: "It does?"

Edith: "Yeah. It definitely smells like unicorn."

Well, she would know. She's the expert. Ha!