Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day Memories

We packed lots of fun into our extra long Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day traditionally means camping. We have a favorite campground not too far from home that is really great for the kids. We have had a few soggy years in the past and this year's forecast called for a few showers so we got out all the regular gear, which includes a pair of waterproof boots for each member of the family.

Though the boots came in handy for running through wet grass, we really didn't have to worry about rain. The girls ran off into the "forest" (more like tall weeds behind our campsite) and the boys played baseball in the wide-open field.

Crossing the river on the big bridge is always a favorite activity. The bridge is made of open planks so you can see the rushing water far below and it gently sways as you walk.

My favorite part of camping is sitting around the campfire. The kids had a great time telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows.

The campfire is that much more enjoyable, of course, once the kids are snuggled into bed. There's something extra exciting about sleeping in a tent.

We woke to warm, sunny skies and it was obvious that our weather was going to be much warmer than the weatherman predicted. We planned to take the kids to Remlinger Farms, which is really close to the campground. I had packed for cooler temps and couldn't bear the thought of wearing a long-sleeve black shirt in 80 degree weather, so I was forced to wear my only short-sleeved shirt which was dirty from the day before and probably smelled like a campfire.

Remlinger Farms is such a fun place for the kids. Caleb was getting to be a bit tall for many of the rides but he's been coming here for so many years, he still wanted to enjoy them all.

First up was the ponies.

Then my favorite: the train. It's the cutest little steam engine and I have to admit, when we rode it for the second time at the end of the day, its gentle rocking put me right to sleep.

Alyssa, our poser, hopped on a tractor for a quick picture before heading off to the boats. Caleb really was too big for them but the nice lady let him go anyway. There was a time, not so long ago, that he and the twins fit easily into one boat together. Now just look at how those long legs fill that canoe.

Natty loved the flying pumpkins...

...but all the kids voted the roller coaster as their ultimate favorite. It's just a tiny little thing but it really does move pretty fast. It also is quite noisy which has always been too much for Caleb to handle. But this year, he overcame his fear and rode it time and time again. They'd all run right back into line as soon as the ride ended.

The weather was so great and the kids were having so much fun with their friends. We were sad to leave, we normally camp for two days, but needed to be back for church on Sunday. We had a great time.

On Monday we worked in the backyard and then enjoyed our labors by having a BBQ. It's always fun to eat outside. Then we came in for a "Chronicles of Narnia" movie night. Jon had Tuesday off as well so he took Alyssa to see the new Narnia movie. Caleb didn't want to go and Nat is still just a bit too young for the show.

Once they got home, it was time to head off to the Mariner's game. The kids were so beat, we'd been up to so much fun that they all crashed before we even got there.

They livened right up, of course. Any sporting event makes our family time complete.

And they won, too! What a great holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stories of My Life

About twice a year, I visit the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale to take advantage of their great selection of books at 50% off the retail price. We've found books that have become some our favorite stories at the sale and though we certainly didn't need any more books, I couldn't resist going yesterday.

The warehouse is very large with aisle after aisle and rows upon rows of eye-catching titles. It usually takes me quite some time to meander through them all while resisting the urge to fill my cart.

We had scarcely started down the first aisle when I spotted my first must-have. It was titled "Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie." I didn't take time to read it word for word but a quick glance convinced me this might be just the book for our sweet girl who is known for her fibs (or whoppers).

I took a few more steps and found "Tiger Can't Sleep." I can't believe this, I thought. I keep finding books written specifically for my children. This one was perfect for our other sweet girl who can't ever seem to stop playing around at night. Getting her to sleep is a nightly fight. It was another must-have.

Natalie was having fun at the sale and wanted me to buy every girly, princess book she could find. I kept refusing her requests and when "Naughty Little Monkeys" caught my eye, convinced her that that was the one she wanted. After quickly flipping through the pages, I decided it too could be applied to the monkeys living at my house.

I came home with quite a stack of fun books which I would usually set aside and have the kids earn, one at a time, with good behavior. But I'd been in such a hurry after getting home from the sale that I didn't put them up and out of sight. I rushed from one thing to the next and when bedtime arrived, I was out at a meeting and the kids got into their new books while I was gone. Alyssa read each of the picture books to Natalie.

This morning I asked Natalie to bring me the books so that I could read them with her. She was so delighted to tell me that, "I'm in this story, cutting the paper." I still hadn't read the book myself and figured there must be a reference about a monkey cutting paper which is something she's definitely done a time or two.

I soon realized that this story is about 26 naughty monkeys, one for each letter of the alphabet. And sure enough, next to the "N" is a scissor-wielding monkey wearing a shirt with "Natalie" printed across the front.

We turned to this page and Nat exclaimed, "See, there I am!" Indeed.

New books are always a special treat but these books seemed to be pages right from the stories of my life. If only their delightful pictures and words could magically solve each of these life problems.

Monday, May 19, 2008


This weekend was all about Caleb and what a great, talented boy he is.

I knew Caleb was anticipating the mile run in P.E. last Friday. Our weather was quite warm and he wanted to be sure he wore shorts so that he wouldn't be too hot. He told me of his desire to better his previous record. When I was at the school that afternoon, the P.E. teacher approached me to tell me of Caleb's great achievement. He finished first in his class with a time of 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Now that's fast for a nine-year-old, or an any-year-old for that matter! His teacher said he set his pace from the beginning and never looked back. We wish he'd put this talent to use on the track team but he's decided the blast of the starting gun as well as the nerves that come from racing others are too uncomfortable for him.

Friday Night we went to Pack meeting where Caleb earned his Bear Rank. He really loves scouts and I just think there's something especially cute about seeing him and all the other cubs in uniform.

The theme of the meeting was all about collections. Caleb did a great job presenting his collection of football helmets.

The highlight of the weekend was watching Caleb perform in his school's presentation of Disney's Jungle Book. The show was so great! The kids just did a really amazing job. The show was really polished with some pretty complicated choreography. We were particularly taken by our little elephant. For years he was much too shy and intimidated to try out for the school show but, like so many other things in his life, he has overcome that fear and does a great job on stage. I'm so grateful that Caleb has the opportunity to participate in programs like this. (We'll try to post a bit of video later.)

He may have to hurdle a few more obstacles than the average child but he shows how successful he can be in doing anything any other child can do. We're sure proud of him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tea and Cookies

Alyssa couldn't wait for the day of the Mother's Tea to arrive. She and her fellow first graders had been working hard on a musical program and she'd made several projects that she was looking forward to presenting to me. It was clear this event was important to her and I think I was just as excited.

Motherhood has done something to my tear ducts; I felt all misty-eyed just as soon as I stepped foot in the school. I waited in the hall--wondering why I seemed to be the only mom feeling emotional--for Alyssa's turn to greet me with a tissue paper corsage. She wore a beaming smile as she ran to me, placed the flower on my chest and gave me a tight squeeze. She then escorted me to a carefully decorated table where she served a plate of delightful treats. She was extremely understanding when I resisted the bite-size desserts and opted for the grapes and strawberries. She knows I am in the middle of two family fitness challenges that won't allow for such splurges.

She shared her thoughtful projects with me and we watched a slide show of the class. I tried to be discreet as I dabbed my teary eyes and again felt like the only one crying. It was great to be able to celebrate, just us two.

We then made our way to the gym where all four first grade classes presented a tribute to Moms. I was blown away by their performance. There were readings of cute Mom stories and many fabulously choreographed musical numbers. Those little kids did an amazing job. I was more impressed by them than with the fourth graders at their Veteran's Day program. And of course, I cried some more. This time, however, I noticed other moms wiping tears, too. It was the sort of program that would make any mom proud but I'm especially proud to have a daughter like Alyssa.

Mother's Day weekend also brings the annual HOA garage sale. It's tradition to make cookies to sell with our junk. Stephanie and I each make a batch of my grandma's So-Good Cookies and we decorate them together. The boys sell them for a dollar apiece and by day's end we end up with a fist full of spending money. We completely sold out this year and didn't even get to keep any for the family. It's the free sample marketing technique that gets 'em every time. The boys offer a small bite of cookie and as soon as the deliciousness touches their lips, an entire cookie seems too hard to refuse.

I sold lots of other things including one relatively large item that needs a blog post of its own. It's always a lot of work to get ready for the sale but it always feels good to get rid of extra stuff and make a few extra dollars in the process.