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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Great Wolf Lodge Trip

For Christmas this year the kids were gifted a very large amount of money for a trip from Oma and uncle Chris.  Uncle Alexander joined in and gave each one of them some spending money.  We were able to get a great deal for the Great Wolf Lodge and decided to go there for 3 days and two nights.  The kids were very excited and after watching YouTube videos to show them exactly where they were going, they got even more excited.  They even got to skip some schooldays so that the rates were a bit better.  It was a very exhilarating day when we finally left on our adventure.  We had packed up special treats from Costco for breakfast and lunches that we usually don't spend money on.  Nathan had been begging me for Danishes that we had bought for two whole days.  He could not wait for our first breakfast.  As part of our deal, the hotel gave us $30 credit every day.  We figured we could get pizza from that for dinner.

Our room was wonderful and very comfortable.  Here the kids wanted to do a little trick photo on a separator wall in the room.  Bet you thought it was two separate photos!  :-)  The girls had one bed, David and I the other and then Nathan had the pull-out couch all to himself.

Another treat.  A while ago my mom sent these cute toiletry bags for the kids with matching magic cloths.  We hadn't been on a trip since they were gifted, so the kids haven't used them.  I had some sample tubes of lotion and small toothpastes and other goodies that I packed in their bags along with their regular toiletries.  The kids were quite thrilled to open these "gifts" again and explore all their contents.

The hotel was decorated all throughout.  This fellow was such a decoration.  Isabelle was quite taken by him and stopped EVERY single time we passed him, even if other people were using the adjacent machine or visiting him.  

The hotel has a wonderful story time at night.  Most kids show up in pajamas as they watch the animated dolls tell a story.  Afterwards a hotel employee and a mascot also read a story. 

When story time is over, the kids can visit with the mascot.  The older two realize by now that this is a photo op.  Isabelle obviously is still taken by meeting people-sized animals in clothes.

The kids chose to spend some of their money from uncle Sandersche on a game called MagiQuest.  They purchased a wand and one game pass that they shared.  Dad would take them for hours (when Isabelle had to sleep) all over the hotel where they had to solve clues, find items and help all sorts of forest folk.  The hotel has all floors decorated and special rooms dedicated to this game.  There are pictures and talking animals all throughout the lodge.  When you point the wand at them, treasure chests open, books read, trees show videos of people in the game, dragons awake, animals start to talk and/or move, etc.  Abigail was the one who was totally hooked on the game.  As soon as we got up in the morning, she begged to play it again.

After tagging along with the big kids on the second day of MagiQuest, Isabelle got a little bored.  So we took her to a coloring area where she thoughtfully colored a raccoon.

The best part of the lodge?  The gigantic indoor swimming area.  Isabelle spent most of the first day in the kiddy area.  On the second day, we took her along to the bigger pools so all of us could be together.  Here Dave is getting her used to swimming in the jacket.  She is finally not freaking out and on this picture is waving.  It is funny, she totally trusted Dave but when I took her, she would grab on to me and hold on for dear life.  

We actually remembered to take pictures of the kids together this time.  Unfortunately the lighting inside the pool was very dark.

Dave is jumping up behind the kids for this photo.  They didn't even notice until they saw the photo...

The lodge even had their own TV show where animals teach about our responsibility toward the environment.  As you can see from Abby's face, very captivating stuff.  Nathan is just happy to snuggle with Isabelle, which she doesn't do very often these days.  He soaked up the opportunity.

The kids were allowed to spend uncle Sandersche's money on anything they wanted.  Isabelle of course bought the one mama and baby set of animals she found.  Unfortunately Copper got a hold of mama wolf three days after we got home.  She is missing an eye now.  It is a dog-eat-wolf world.

We also gave them each $10 for the hotel's arcade.  Abby figured she'd be best of spending some of her game money on guaranteed candy.  

Isabelle fell in love with this ice-cream truck.  She spent almost all her money here.  The truck also makes sounds if you press buttons but she just sat quietly in it. One time she played with the steering wheel.

Nathan loved this motorcycle game.  Hint: Don't ever ride on a motorcycle with him when he is driving! He's a terrible driver. 

Second night at story time.  This time, Isabelle did not want to leave her furry friend.  We had to pull her away as she kept turning around and waving at him.

Abigail bought herself a pink wolf, oh, sorry, a pink cat.  She is insistent that it is a cat.  So it is.  

On our last day, we finished our first stage of MagiQuest, defeated the dragon with a family effort, and then spent several hours swimming.  Abby was the most sad to leave.  It was just really nice to spend time with the kids without any of the distractions of home.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas Day 2013

Before I knew that I was pregnant (surprise!), I had oh so many Christmas plans.  There was a whole list of devotions, random acts of kindness for the kids, Elf on the shelf for every day, many cookie recipes, etc, etc.  Then I found myself pregnant and tired.  So scrap plan A and move to plan B: simply!  And that is just what we did.  The only thing I regret is that I didn't put up the usual Christmas lights around the windows and mirrors.  Other than that, I was ok without garlands, only occasional Elf visits, less devotions and less RAOK.  I loved having the kids home from school for their break!  They are such a help to me now and I love watching especially Nathan and Abigail grow closer together and become better and better play buddies.  Yes, there are the days where they just fight all day long.  Especially the first two days after break starts.  But then they settled into a mostly peaceful pace.
Our Christmas of course always starts on Christmas Eve (a German tradition).  In the morning we opened my mom's package and were able to Skype with not just her, but also uncles Matze and Alexander and aunt Kathrin (with Noah still in her belly).  The immediate sugar surge from all the German candy is always a good start for any holiday.  :-)  Most of all though, my mom surprised us with a gigantic amount of money.  Uncle Chris added to that and now we are able to take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge for two nights and three days!  It'll be a blast.

Christmas morning Santa had left us full stockings and extra presents for the kids.  Abigail got this long-wished for Lego Friends set, Nathan got a football uniform costume and Isabelle a toy puppy.  Nathan tore through his stocking, Abigail leisurely went through hers and Isabelle had to be continually reminded that she had something left in her stocking.  :-)  They had so much fun.  I love this American tradition.  Thank you, Santa! (And also for my goodies!)

As you can see, the breakfast table was very simple.  I'm afraid to say, I didn't even iron the napkins....  Strangely enough, I was ok with that too.  Lorena did a great job with the breakfast.  She cooked most of it in order to help me out.  The lovely centerpiece was a wonderful gift from Jennifer H.  Thank you!  I had oogled those at a local grocery store but the price just kept me from getting them.  Everyone admired it.
Oh, and Nathan was in his suit from Grampy for a mere....hmmm...10 minutes.  I guess that is what happens when Santa brings that greatly desired football uniform.  The girls wore their dresses, also courtesy of Grampy, all day long.

Pinterest had some Grinch hats which I made for the kids.  This is them slowly eating at them although they are not yet supposed to eat.  :-)  Usually only Isabelle will eat a fair amount of food.  For some reason, holiday breakfasts are a big deal now and even the older two love them and eat tons.  Abby will even eat sausages and bacon that she won't eat any other time of the year.  Tangent: Abby's curls are turning into waves.  :-(  I'm sad and will miss her little corkscrew curls.

Breakfast morning with uncles Mike and Chris and Grandma.  Daddy is taking the picture.  Then we feast!

After breakfast we open presents.  The kids are unusually patient for this.  However, once we told them we'd start, Abby rushed to her present for me and wanted it to be the first one given.  I loved that she didn't think of herself, but was experiencing the joy of giving instead.  Her gift for me was a lovely angel that is now displayed on a shelf above our TV.  Nathan gifted me cross earrings.  From my wonderful husband I got a wall hanging with my favorite hymn and a wonderful mug with a Jesus quote.  It is now my favorite mug.  I must not tell Abby that her gift from last year went to the #2 spot...  I love, love, love gifts from my kids and husband.  They are always so thoughtful and fitting for me, showing that they pay great attention to what I like.

Isabelle greatly accessorizing her outfit with an orange cone.

Uncle Mike gifted Isabelle a gigantic Tweety bird.  It is literally as big as she is.  The only problem is that it has a ginormous head and a tiny body, so it won't stand.  Incidentally, the tiny body is what Isabelle flings over her shoulder and how she carries Tweety.  In years past I would have grinched at such a present.  Now, seeing their joy, it is a perfect present.

Abigail giving us her excellent Mary, Joseph and Jesus set that she made at school.  She was very proud and wanted to give it to us two weeks before Christmas already.  :-)  It was very hard for her to keep it in the gift bag until Christmas morning.  

Nathan was gifted much-needed wrestling headgear and knee pads.  Naturally he had to try them immediately.  Truly, he just wanted an opportunity to wear his singlet.

Abby giving Nathan her two presents she had made for him.  She had made him a really cool toilet paper tube snake (since he loves snakes) and a parachute (which he also loves).

Finally!  The kids' beloved cousins arrived.  Although the present kept them entertained, this is what they were waiting for.

Opening the second round of presents.  Rusty and Megan made my night.  They gifted us a dinner out while they would feed our kids dinner at the same time!  It's a two-in-one!

Abigail and Isabelle posing in their pretty dresses in front of our fireplace. Notice the Elf in the middle of the mantle.

All kids in wrestling stance!  I love Isabelle's.  Abigail looks really good in hers, as if she had practiced it.  And Nathan of course has this down.  

We had a really lovely Christmas.  The kids enjoyed it very, very much.  We are so blessed to have most of our family here where we can spend the holidays with them.  On occasion, even a German makes it out here for Christmas.  :-)  Maybe again next year?
Either way, the kids' ages are wonderful.  I can't wait for Christmases to come, when all the girls are a little older.  Although the thought of Nathan being so big already is not pleasant.  I love his age but it also reminds me that he will grow up before we know it and will be off, living his live independently from us.  And that will be sad when they are all out of the house.  We'll miss them.  But right now, we love having the privilege of having them in our lives.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Questionnaire 2013

Favorite Song - Come, Oh Come, Emanuel
Favorite Candy - Sour Skittles
Favorite Cookie - Gingerbread House Cookie
Favorite Show - Prep and Landing
Favorite Light Color - Red
Favorite Tradition - Mommy's hot chocolate
Hot Cocoa or Tea - Cocoa
Fake Tree or Real - Real
Favorite Board Game - Risk
Favorite Christmas Book - "I like every Christmas book"
Favorite Tree Ornament - "The one that says Nathan on it" (One he got from his teacher last year.  Red bulb with golden ribbon and golden writing of his name.)
On My Wish List - Lego Hobbit The Lonely Mountain Set, Seahawks Football Costume Uniform, Lego Hobbit sets
Favorite Advent Activity - Watching Christmas Movies

Favorite Song - Angels we have heard on high
Favorite Candy - Bubble gum
Favorite Cookie - Sugar cookies
Favorite Show - Grinch and Cat in the Hat
Favorite Light Color - Blue
Favorite Tradition - Decorating her pink Christmas tree
Hot Cocoa or Tea - Hot chocolate
Fake Tree or Real - A blue fake tree
Favorite Board Game - Scavenger Hunt
Favorite Christmas Book - The Grinch
Favorite Tree Ornament - Green and silver bead snowflake that Santa brought this year
On My Wish List - I didn't have one because I didn't have enough time
Favorite Advent Activity - Decorating the gingerbread house with Olive

Favorite Song - "Betta not cry, betta not pout..." (Santa Claus is coming to town) and what she calls the "Reindeer Song" (Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer - she mouths the whole song when Abby or I sing it)
Favorite Candy - "buddle gum candy - hmmmm"
Favorite Cookie - peppermint cookie
Favorite Show - "the raindeer hong" (reindeer song)
Favorite Light Color - white
Favorite Tradition - making the manger
Hot Cocoa or Tea - no answer
After that question I lost her....  A nearby straw captured all her attention.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 40th Birthday to my Man!

Nathan and David were gone all morning to a wrestling tournament.  That gave the girls and I perfect cover to decorate for a somewhat surprise birthday party.  Once David got home from the wrestling tournament, I forgot to take pictures of him or any guests.  So the only pictures we have are the ones I took before the party.   Our family all came (Grandma, brothers, Megan, Olive, Rosie and then Kevin and his family and the Hendron's).  Kevin's family and the Hendron's was a surprise to David.  As was the baseball-themed party.  For his 40th birthday I wanted to at least do something special.  With me being pregnant, I was forbidden to have a big party or anything extraordinary as David did not want me to stress or overly exert myself.  I figured a themed-party would be fun.  Some of the things that David loves came to mind but baseball stood out.  Not only does he love it and it has been a big part of his life, but practically thinking, since he is a coach, we had a lot of decorations.  :-)  

As you enter our house, a tee with a helmet on it greeted you.

The banner was the one thing I made. (Thank you Pinterest!)

We kept the food pretty simple.  Since it was baseball-themed, we offered hamburgers and hot dogs, along with peanuts, candy, sodas, water, popcorn, sunflower seeds and other treats.  My plan had been to grill the hamburgers but my husband would not let me, in order to make things easier on me.  Gotta love a man like that!

Another idea I got from Pinterest.  The original had other candy bars which I had a hard time locating.  So I got my own candy bars and made something different.  It says:
"Do your bones CRUNCH?
Do you feel like you are falling to PIECES?
Is turning 40 like a SOUR PUNCH in the gut?
Turning 40 is nothing to SNICKERS about.
But this POP ROCKS and is still worth his 100 GRAND.
Happy Birthday to you,
BIG HUNK!!!" (Candy bar names in all caps)
The kids made a point out of memorizing this over the next few days.  They also drooled over the candy. :-)

For decorations, I only bought the table cloth and the plastic ware at the Dollar Tree.  Everything else, we had on hand.  The shirts over the chairs are teams David had coached in the past.  They were nice conversation starters for all family members involved in baseball over the years.  The baseballs in jars were also a Pinterest idea, as was the plate in the glove.  It is funny, during baseball season we cannot keep sunflower seeds on hand.  For this party, I threw most of them away.

David's mom gifted him his beloved crab for his dinner the day before.  He got some pretty awesome gifts this year, including a zoo membership, a large amount of money, a 3D movie ticket for himself and Nathan plus a movie ticket for himself and Abby, a light-up keyboard and some homemade crafts from the kids.  I had planned on giving him a crafted gift as well.  But my first trimester tiredness put all my schedule behind and I never got caught up.  Maybe I'll save the idea for the 50th?  :-)  So he got a pretty awesome huge (and I mean HUGE) jar of Jelly beans (the envy of all my kids) and some beef jerky (which the pregnant wife ate almost all by herself).  So really, he only got jelly beans....  Yikes.
David was pretty surprised at the themed-party and I'm pretty sure he liked it.  He didn't like turning 40 at all though.  But I love growing old with my wonderful husband.  It is lovely to grow older with your very favorite person in all the world and getting to spend all your days with him.  How many people can say they are married to their best friend and most favorite person?

“He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Gingerbread House Decorating with Family

This year grandma bought a gingerbread house for all the grandkids to decorate.  Nathan couldn't make it.  I think he had wrestling practice on one of the only nights that worked.  But Grandma, Olive, Rosie and Megan were able to come.  And as you can see from Abby's face below, that means the world.

Abigail intently working on something with Olive watching her.

Grandma working hard.  She was really fit this Christmas season and a real help to me.

And so it shall begin....

Rosie, so happy to be around the other kids.  She is such a cutie and also a funny little girl.  She always makes me laugh. 

And so does Olive...

Isabelly sporting the I-just-woke-up-from-naptime hairdo.

Little cousins working together.

Auntie Megan holding it all together after a wall collapsed.

The super adorable walnut shell baby Jesus' that Aunt Megan and Olive made for all the kids.  Each kid got one but Isabelle's fell victim to a chewing dog.  She was very sad.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things...

A few of my favorite Christmas traditions/events/etc:

Driving through neighborhoods and looking for Christmas lights, while drinking hot chocolate (Abby thought this was still too hot but insisted on drinking it anyway) and listening to Christmas music.  We start this early in the season and do it multiple times.

Making sugar cookies and then decorate them with excited children.

Isabelle literally just taste-tested decorations all night.  I wasn't aware of this until I saw the pictures....  There was Isabelle with red sugar on her mouth, then a few of the other two, then Isabelle with frosting in her mouth, a few more, then Isabelle with crystal sugar in her mouth....  You get the idea.

Our Jesse Tree.  Love that one.  We did an Illuminated Art one from Amazon (around $7) two years ago with Nathan and Abby.  They still remember all the ornaments and love seeing it.  We added a few ornaments from friends and from the kids this year.

Abigail, master decorator.  She decorates in crazy, colorful designs.

Nathan, there is a method to this.  He is detailed (hmmmm, who does that remind you of?) and systematic.

I think this year the kids were a little older for our old Jesse tree.  Not Abby, but definitely Nathan.  I had them vote to see if they wanted to do something different or the same one.  They voted for "new".  So we started Ann Voskamp's "A Journey of Wonder" I had printed a few years ago.  It is a very lovely way to prepare your hearts for Christmas.  We didn't finish it this year (due this mommy getting busily overwhelmed) but we will next year.

The Snowman.  I hide it.  When a kid finds him, they bring him to me and get rewarded with kisses.  Then I hide him again.  The kids love this.  So simple.

The Elf.  A newer tradition.  Last year the elf freaked Nathan out.  This year they loved finding it.  Here the Elf mistook dog treats for cookies and advised us to get new cookies as these ones weren't very good.  Isabelle got the most out of this.  She would just chuckle to herself and kept saying "That Elfff!".  That alone was worth it to me.

Snowflakes for the window.  Nathan came up with some nice ones this year.  Abigail's were still very simple.  She would take the folded start and just cut off the top and bottom, so she'd end up with a round flake with a hole in the middle.  It pleased her.

Just a few of the things that kept us busy in December.  How I wish the kids would have all of December off!  What fun we could have....