Monday, May 21, 2018

milestones

Today was a day of milestones for my two oldest kiddos. I remember their first milestones so vividly and sweetly, along with a side of sleep deprivation. First little speck of tooth poking through those sweet, red gums. First toddle to arms outstretched before the big plop onto the diapered bottom. First time on a two wheeled bike. It's almost impossible to fathom all of the milestones that have occurred between then and now. Yet here we are, somehow, impossibly, but truly.

Isaac finished up his season with his youth baseball league last week. They had a great end of year celebration go-karting at Bandimere Speedway, complete with pizza and pop. The 8th grade season is shortened so that boys who hope to continue to play in high school can start playing summer ball with their high school team.

Today Isaac got on his practice clothes, grabbed his cleats and water bottle, and hoisted his heavy baseball bag upon his back. I drove him to the high school field. Being built onto the side of a long and steep hill, there's no good place to park near the field, so I parked in the roundabout beyond the outfield. I told him a version of what I always tell him before practice or games. "Do your best. Have fun. Be coachable."

"I will, mom."

I hugged him and kissed his head, barely blonde hair hidden under his baseball cap. "Love you, buddy."

"Love you, too, mom."

He got his things, and I took his picture. He walked around the field to where the coaches were setting up. My baby boy who isn't a baby at all, but will always be my baby, went to his first high school practice. I don't even know what to do with this information. It's too much. He loved it and learned something new and did his best and had fun and was coachable. I call that a success. A bittersweet success.


I got home, and Audrey, Elliot, Asher, and I headed to Audrey's Girl Scouts party. It was the culmination of an entire year of working on their Bronze Award to support children in foster care. It has been so beautiful to see Audrey grow in confidence and ability this year as they worked toward this goal. They held a book drive, did a bake sale to raise money to purchase stuffed animals, and packed bags for children entering foster care at Packs of Hope. She wrote a play for her troop to perform, and when they decided to go a different route, she wrote and organized a reading of stories written by adults who were in foster care as children and teens. Her whole troop did an amazing job working together and truly earned this award.


Tonight they met at a local restaurant and did their final presentation, ate together, played games, and received badges and awards. Many of the girls bridged, so now there are 7 Cadettes in her troop. It was a great night celebrating a great group of moms, a wonderful leader in our friend, Lisa, and a group of girls committed to using their gifts to help others.


These kids are growing up. It's so, so amazing and cool to behold. It's so, so rotten to be so far away from those first milestones. Thankfully these milestones are special in their own right as these babies o' mine grow into the humans they were created to be. Oh, what a gift to be their mama.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Will you snuggle with me for one song?

True story: By the time I start putting kids to bed, I am tired.

Another true story: I have a snuggly buggly four year old. When we read books, he is in my lap, head on shoulder. When we play games, he is next to me. When we are in church, he is in my lap or, when we stand, in my arms. When I put him to bed, we read, sing, and pray. Then, every night, his sweet little voice pipes up. "Mama, will you snuggle me for one song?"

I am sorry to admit that for a while I told him no or I didn't tell the truth. "I'll come snuggle after I put your sister to bed," I would say to placate him, knowing full well he'd be asleep by that time. Ugh. Talk about a jerk move!

Then a few months ago I realized that this boy would soon stretch from headboard to footboard, eat me out of house and home, and prefer to not hold hands. I know in this case soon means a few years, but I also know from experience that those years will seem to pass at the speed of light.

One night we read, sang, and prayed, and he followed up with his patented, "Mama, will you snuggle me for one song?"

"Yes."

"Ok. Wait. Did you just say yes?"

"Yes."

"Yay!!"

Now we snuggle. Every night we read, sing, pray, and snuggle for one song. Sometimes we chat a bit and other times we touch noses and other times he puts his arms around me. It's pretty fantastic, and I'll tuck these bedtime moments into my back pocket for the day when he doesn't ask me to snuggle anymore. I am certain I'll be so glad I said yes.

Mother's day hike


lunch break at the CO history center when a thunderstorm forced us
to ditch the picnic table for a bench under a roof

book before bed with a boy in my lap.
Current chapter book: Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

My "helper" is washing the windows, and by washing, I mean spraying water on the
bottom 1/8th of the window and smearing it around with a rag/squeegee type thing.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Elliot's 10 year adventure!!!

As parents, we colossally mess up often, and probably daily. We say the wrong thing, lose our patience, use sarcasm too often, and generally make a mess of things. Of course, we have lovely and fun redeeming qualities, and, as Lutherans, rely on enough grace to fill an ocean. But there is something that we get right.

The 10 Year Adventure!

Elliot and I returned from his grand adventure a few weeks ago. Our history loving, Revolutionary War obsessed, almost 10 year old decided to travel to Washington, D.C. and a few nearby historic sites. He fastidiously researched his options and studied up on the museums in DC before creating a wonderful itinerary that suited him so perfectly. It was a marvelous trip. Simply spectacular. He saw what he wanted to see, stay as long as he liked at each spot, and reveled in being the only child, if only for five days.

Here's a little background information on the 10 year adventure. I first heard about the idea when I read Bob Goff's first book, Love Does. When each of his kids turned 10, they chose a location around the world and an adventure. One child chose England, and one chose dune buggying in the desert. The child chooses the adventure that suits them. They'd fly there, have a wild and wonderful experience for about a week, then fly home. I loved the idea. In our family, Isaac chose snowboarding with Jim at Lake Tahoe, and Audrey chose Cape Cod and the amazing history of Boston. We do not have the cash flow or frequent flier mileage of Bob Goff, so our kids can choose a location within the contiguous United States. Asher, our 4 year old, had grand dreams of traveling to the North Pole to meet Santa. When I showed him the wall map and reminded him what contiguous USA meant, he changed his tune and decided he'd like to go to New Mexico because there are toys there. Thankfully, he has some time before he has to decide because I think he would be sorely disappointed if we held him to NM. Not that there aren't great parts, but it might not be what he has in mind for his 10 year adventure!

There are so many special things about these adventures we take with our kids. Ten years old is such a cool time to ask your quickly growing up child to grab hold of what makes them smile from ear to ear and spend a bunch of time doing it. They are so grown up, but also such a kid, so their unabashed enthusiasm and excitement is contagious! In our family of many children, our kids rarely have alone time with a parent, rarely get to call the shots, and often have to take many other kids' needs, naptimes, schedules, and desires into account. We throw all of that out the window when 10 year adventure time rolls around. Bedtimes are fluid, mealtimes happen whenever the kid is hungry and they get to have whatever they're hungry for, and they are in charge of the schedule. If they want to spend 7 hours at a particular museum, we stay, and if they find it boring after 15 minutes, we leave. (This works in DC where almost all of the museums are free; I might not be so cavalier about it if we were paying for admission!)

Shout outs to Bob Goff for inspiring us to take these adventures, to Lin-Manuel Miranda for writing Hamilton and taking my boy from history loving to history obsessed, and to Jim for being home with the other five kids while Elliot and I had the adventure of his dreams! Without further ado, I present to you a veritable boatload of pictures from our amazing time at Monticello, Mount Vernon, and Washington, D.C.

The 4 am wake up call got us to the airport in time for our flight. DC bound!

squeallllll, we're going to DC!

As we headed toward Charlottesville, we stopped at a few Revolutionary and Civil War spots. This is Sanders Field, where the Battle of the Wilderness took place. Elliot stood where Generals Lee and Grant fought. What?!?!

Then we saw a sign for James Madison's estate, Montpelier., so we pulled in because we could! We couldn't tour the home, but we saw grounds and spent some cash at the bookstore.

Hey, James, Dolly, whatcha reading?

He was hoping we'd rent a Maserati or a Mustang, so I stuck with the M theme and got a Malibu. haha!

We took an extended tour of Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello.  When we arrived, fog enveloped the whole area. It was stunning. The tour was fascinating and showed that it was definitely Thomas Jefferson's house, with the rest of his family's needs as an afterthought. From the layout of the home to the narrow and inconvenient staircases, it fit his needs. He died with massive debts, thus making it necessary for his family to sell the family home right away to pay off his debts. 

We could not take pictures of the home, but were allowed to snap a few inside the dome room.

The fog burns off and the views open to us.

Note the things he wanted on his tomb.

We drove a few miles down the road for lunch at the famous Michie Tavern. We were famished after a lot of walking!

He chose the root beer float.

Look at that smile!

The Tavern was the site of many political speeches and rabble rousing during the Revolution. It used to be 17 miles away, but was moved to this site. 

Back to Monticello for our garden tour and slave quarters tour.

Here is our garden tour leader. They are still using seeds that are descendents of seeds Thomas Jefferson planted and Lewis and Clark brought back from their travels westward. Jefferson's work in farming and agriculture is quite impressive. 

a garden

The tour leader of the slavery tour. The stories he told were so hard to hear, but so important to hear.

The back of the house.

Yo, TJ, what's up?

We found out that James Monroe's home, Highland, was just down the road so we went there because we could! We were the only people on the tour, and it was clear that these tour guides don't have quite the training as at Monticello since it's a much smaller home with much smaller tourist numbers, but we still enjoyed it. Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were great friends who spent much time at each other's homes. Here's the statue of  Monroe. 

On the way to Alexandria, we stopped at a spot where Lafayette had a meeting. Elliot was Lafayette for his Faces of History presentation, so he was really geeking out about it!

Up early for our time at Mt. Vernon. There were lots of school groups there who just walked through the first floor without a tour guide. We explored the grounds while the masses descended upon the home, and we were excited for a great tour of all three floors of the home. It was a great tour of a gorgeous home.

The views across the Potomac were stunning. We learned at the Ladies Association of mt. Vernon purchased the land across the Potomac when they head of plans to build a water treatment plant. Now it is a National park and the view that Washington saw remains unspoiled.

Our tour guide at Mt. Vernon

The boy and the mama at Mt. Vernon

We saw this tree from before the Declaration of Independence was written. So cool!

We saw where George and Martha Washington are buried.

The home was beautiful and much more a family home than Jefferson's.

Washington inherited the home from his half brother, who inherited it when their father died. He added on to it as his fame grew and as he received more and more visitors. It has been in the Washington family or used as museum.

We have now seen 4 of the first 5 Presidents' homes. 

We went to the on site museum and saw one of Washington's swords and also viewed a really interesting 4-D movie about the revolutionary war.

We had lunch at a historic restaurant, Gadsby's Tavern. Leaders of the revolution and early presidents dined there, celebrated birthdays and inaugurations there, and gave important speeches.  

Gadsby's Tavern in Old Alexandria

It was a warm and beautiful day. 

Elliot got delicious ice cream at Pop's Ice cream company.

We drove the car back to DC and quickly dropped it off at the airport because driving in DC is not on my list of things to do! It's time for Elliot's first metro ride!

We emerged from the metro to find we were right at the Washington Monument. It was another cloudy start to our day. 

ta-daaaaaa!!!

His first stop was the National Museum of American History-Washington's uniform

Another sword

We were shocked and amazed to see an enormous, 30x42 foot flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem, The Star Spangled Banner. 

We grabbed a pretzel and saw this lovely sculpture park with a beautiful fountain.

Just my boy, strolling in DC. 

Time to wait our turn to enter the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution are on display. We just studied American History extensively this year and memorized the Bill of Rights and Preamble to the Constitution. Seeing them in person was pretty incredible.

acting bored that putting the preamble in order was sooooo easy. haha

We played founding fathers fact or fiction in the education center of the National Archives. It is the coolest "kids' section" of a museum we've ever been to. I highly recommend it.

Outside the National Archives.

Now it's time for our Lincoln adventures. Here he is at the theater where he was shot. . . 

and here he is at the home where Lincoln died, which is just across the street from the theater. We also ate at the diviest breakfast spot, Lincoln's Waffle House, so named because it is next door to all of the Lincoln museums. 

We walked a few blocks to the International Spy Museum where Elliot learned how to break code.

We met up with Mason and headed to view the White House. In all of the pictures that we've seen, it looked more removed from the city, so we were surprised to see that it was surrounded by office buildings and condos.

Mason and Elliot at the White House. 
Reflecting Pool Beauty

WWII Memorial-So much power and history in this area


Lincoln Memorial

View of Washington Monument from Lincoln Memorial


The spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous speech. It was so powerful to be in that spot and imagine being there on that day. 

Another stunning view of the reflecting pool and memorial.

So excited to share this time with my boy

The feeling in the Lincoln Memorial was so reflective and somber. 

Hanging in DC with my little brother! We went and had a hilarious dinner where we tried too many hot sauces and enjoyed Elliot's slaphappy stage after not much sleep and 27,000+ steps, and a full day of sightseeing. It was a hoot!

he wanted a funny picture of me. I am such a glamorous and beautiful mama. :)

Then he decided to copy my silly face. Did I mention slaphappy?! We're on our way back to the metro station after our big day of DC sightseeing.

It was so cool to see the Washington Memorial shrouded in fog in the morning, with a clear blue backdrop during the day, and finally, with the stunning sunset.

It's our last day in DC, so we're going to the Air and Space museum.

The spirit of st. louis

Wright flyer

We caught a glimpse of the Capital building on our way from the museum to lunch 
Delicious, fantastic, yummy pizza at We the Pizza



Another stroll. Our leisurely pace was just right

Big libraries named after Founding Fathers are right up this guy's alley!

our last escalator ride down to the metro. We rocked the blue line! We were able to stay with my stepdad's mom, who lives just a few blocks from the Blue line. It was perfect, and not having to pay the sky high prices for hotels in DC meant we could upgrade some of our tours. We are so thankful for that opportunity

Another silly picture of my funny son!

DC hat, dimples, and an airplane

It's almost time to go back home. We had the best time!

The Jefferson memorial was the only major monument along the National Mall that we didn't get to see. We were happy to at least catch a glimpse of it from the sky, knowing we'll see it next time we visit. 

An airplane view of the National Mall
Elliot really planned every stop of every day, and then we just stopped at extra pit stops along the way as they caught his fancy. He did an exquisite job with our itinerary, and we had the best time. A few days ago we worked on a shutterfly book of our trip. To sit with him and see his smile of joy at the memories was another gift. He is a special young man, and this was the perfect trip to share with him. Ten Year Adventures are a great invention and such a blessing to our family.