Christmas Vacation

Our Christmas vacation was packed to the gills.  It may have gone by quickly {pretty sure I blinked and it was over.} but we certainly lived it up.  Between blinks there were many dinners with family, an evening with Poppy and Birdie, a pancake breakfast with friends, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day {at our house!}, we squeeze in a trip to Sun Valley for a week, celebrated the new year with our little family and wrapped things up with a fun brunch with Gigi, Grammy, Aunt Corey, Uncle Andy and cousins.  Oh and Caroline and I also made a quick overnight trip to Bellingham.

And somewhere in the midst of all that coming and going Caroline checked a few fun milestones off the check-list.  She was on a roll {literally} while also giving real food a taste, and learning how to sit up independently.  She’s also become quite the charmer.  That is unless you are holding a camera.

It was truly a wonderful, almost magical, two-weeks.  There really is nothing better than an abundance of days filled to the brim with family, lots of fun and lots of crazy.  Just the way it should always be.

Perspective

Leading up to our weekend away I’m certain that had my head not been attached to my body I probably would have forgotten to pack it.  Just days ago all I could see was where things were going wrong.  God seemed far off and while all I wanted to do was feel His peace, I was also wishing He would just cut me some slack already.  It’s sort of embarrassing to admit to such icky feelings now.

Which is probably why the timing was perfect for a getaway to one of my favorite places with some of my favorite gals – my mom, Caroline, and Aunts Maribeth and Kimberly – to help gather some perspective and get my wits about me.

It was such a blessing to just be.  To be taken care of and to be heard.  To listen to others and to offer support and encouragement.  To feel like your head is screwed on just a wee bit tighter.  Of course my mom spoiled us with her hospitality and ability to always have a meal ready and a bottle of wine open.

somebody got new cozy boots…somebody else got a cozy stripy sweatshirt…sue me, we’re predictable.

p.s. Coco you are a dream baby.

And while all of this restorative and life-giving magic was taking place, back on the home front, Super Dad pretty much earned lifetime superhero status.  In between, loving, feeding, and shuttling them to and fro, he took the boys bowling, to the movies, to church and to a friend’s house for a game of apple baseball.  He navigated playdates and handled bedtime like an old pro.  And not only did the boys have an amazing weekend with their super dad, but my hubby who knows me oh so well and gave his wife the welcome home gift of a spotless house, a freshly mowed yard, a garage cleaned out and – for the win – all the laundry was done.  Amazing!

My only complaint* is that now mom is going to seem super lame.

But really, I’m OK with that.

*really I’m not complaining…remember I keep the bar set very low. Free suckers at the bank and the kiddos think I’m a rock-star.  And if I use that sucky, tube-y thing to make a deposit?  Well then I’m just too cool for words.

Anyhow.  Life is good.  Mama’s refreshed and I even have a handful of grainy pictures of me with my baby girl.  How could things get any better than that?

PS – Somehow I don’t have any close-up photos of mom or Kim…perhaps they planned it that way?  No matter I’m sneaky, see that pretty picture up there with two people walking in the distance?  There they are!

Disneyland

We did it.

Feeling like we should have one last hurrah before baby comes we packed up our family of five and went to Disneyland.

Oddly enough my vote for Maui was not taken seriously.

Our kiddos have been blessed to go on lots of vacations as they’ve grown up.  However during this vacation we realized that our boys have also missed out on lots of vacation norms.  Like flying.  Staying in a hotel.  Little things like that.  We are vacation road warriors, and don’t think twice about driving 9 hours to our destination.  That way we can pack our car to the gills and be as loud as we’d like without bothering anyone else.  William was pretty darn confused about the whole rental car thing, and *our new house.*

Let’s play *can you spot the cowboy hat?*

See baby Coco…you’ve already been to Disneyland.  And the beach.  ;)

We had the best time.  Six full days together, just the five of us.  It was so much fun to play and laugh and see where each day led us.  And while our exhausted troopers could have used every excuse in the book for meltdowns, they were fantastic.   We were on the go from our 7am wake-up until we returned to our room around 9pm and once until 10:30pm!

On Tuesday my brother Jimmy joined us {which was apparently the same day we gave the camera a break?}  What a treat it was to spend the day with my brother and to watch him interact with his adoring nephews.

Wednesday we decided that three days at the Happiest Place on Earth was enough and called it a beach day.  We headed to Malibu and spent the day playing in the sand, eating a tailgate picnic, catching up with my cousin Jessica and stopping at In-And-Out for dinner.  Yum.

Yes, Disneyland was cliché.  It was overstimulating.  We probably could have just flown the commuter flight from our hometown to Seattle and back and called it a day.  {Seriously, that was probably a top highlight for the boys.  That and a pack of gum they split.}  I also felt like I should make a tater tot casserole when we got home.

But for all of those silly things, it was just right.  I’m so thankful for Alex who carefully planned every detail for our family.  And I can’t think of anything better than watching my loves play and laugh and be thrilled together.  Yay for family vacations!

A couple of Disney tips if you are headed that direction in the near future:

1.  If you are traveling with multiple little ones bring your biggest double stroller.  We might have gotten some funny looks at the airport, but there is no way we could have successfully done this trip without our trusty double bob stroller.  Even Henry would collapse into it on occasion.  It was the perfect place for the little ones to nap or just pull down the shade and take a break if it became too much.

2.  Bring your own snacks and water into the park.  We ate our lunch and dinners at the park {or right outside} but I was so thankful to have plenty of granola bars, raisins, water bottles, etc. to pass out throughout the day.  Not only did it save money but we were able to avoid standing in yet another line.

3.  Speaking of lines, we pulled the special needs card.  We’ve never, ever done this {quite honestly we try to avoid doing this at all costs} but this felt like the right time to do it.  I’m not sure if this is taboo to say or not, but hopefully this information will help another family out.  When we first got to Disney we checked in at city hall and received a pass that allowed us to cut to the front of almost every line and keep our stroller with us the entire time – right up until we boarded the ride.  Now before you start cursing my name, know that this was huge for Charlie.  {And let’s be honest, his very pregnant mama too.}  I’m pretty sure it allowed him to keep pace with the rest of us and avoid the way over-crowded and over-stimulating lines that might have led to some meltdowns.

4.  Go slow.  We spent 1 1/2 days in the Disney park and 1 1/2 days in California Adventure.  We didn’t see it all.  We didn’t go on every ride.  But by doing this our boys never felt rushed and we were simply able to enjoy what we did see.

5.  Take the ART shuttle to the park if you are staying off-resort.  It’s way easier {and cheaper} than parking and again, another unexpected highlight for our boys was riding the *bus.*

P.S. I have no idea why sometimes pictures post and why other times they don’t.  I’ve even noticed that some text occasionally gets left out.  I’m just not tech savvy enough to understand…but I’ll do my best to fix things as problems arise.

Spring Break

We did it!  Spring Break 2013 was a hit.  There was nothing better than having the boys home for a week.  When all was said and done I was pretty bummed to head back into our school routine.  If anything I’m looking forward even more to summer.  And yes, this might be the hormones talking since summer = home all day long with three busy boys + one newborn.

I’m such a homebody at heart.  To me there is nothing better than puttering around the house, digging around the garden, baking something each day and just being with my kiddos.  Allowing our days to be determined not by a schedule, {pick-up! drop-off! practice!} but by our own rhythm.  I also love watching the relationships between each brother grow.  Of course this also comes with our fair share of hurt feelings and disagreements.  Yet sometimes its as if I can actually see the threads of brotherhood actually weaving in and out of each interaction.  I’m certain that this is yet another reason I’m so insistent on always circling the wagons.  Keeping playdates to a minimum and just letting my boys discover their days together – as brothers.

This week we are back at it.  Yesterday I counted and I loaded and unloaded and buckled the kids into the car seven times.  {Truthfully I just buckle William and Henry helps with Charlie but I did herd and coral the kids all SEVEN times.}

Yes, I realize how silly I am.  Always wishing for something else.  Like for my sanity.  One less errand.  Or a sudden burst of energy.  Too much to ask?  Maybe.

Plans for Spring Break.

It’s officially spring break and I guess you could say that our official plan is to not have a plan.

We have nothing major on the calendar beyond a mini-baseball camp for Henry and I can’t wait.  No pre-school.  No elementary school.  No horse-back riding lessons.  No piano lessons.  No little league practice.  No speech therapy.  And while a teeny-tiny part of me wants to panic, the rest of me is super excited.

umm…could somebody please tell me where my seven year-old went?

See this week I have plans to become *that* mom.  I have this little dream of being the mom who drops her kiddos off somewhere while wearing her jammies.  Strange I know, but my kiddos have always been little and required a parent to walk them to their classroom or practice.  Now that Henry is in second grade I can drop and go…so this week that’s just what I plan to do.  Just once.  At baseball camp.  And then I envision heading home with the littles and lounging around drinking coffee and doing puzzles.  Or something like that.

Yes, I dream big.

You see, the rest of the time I’ve become *that* mom.  And ironically, while we have done our best to push back, say no and limit our schedules, eventually you just do reach that next stage when it’s time to add a lesson here or activity there.  Of course this also translates to lots of snacks on the go, more time in the car and less time at home.  The kids adapted easily, however this homebody is still adapting.  Without hesitation I’d say William has earned his little brother stripes.  He is a trooper.  I’ve also made a note to make sure that baby girl’s car seat is pretty plush because she is going to be a gal on-the-go from the get-go.

So this week we’re saying yes to saying no.  We’re sticking close to home and making our own adventures.  We’re boldly wearing our jammies well into the morning. {maybe just yoga pants? see I’m chickening out already.}

Happy New Year!

I realize that I’m about three weeks late with that sentiment but in my defense this is the first {ok, maybe second} *real* week we’ve had back in our usual routine.  The boys school vacation schedules were off so I was in part vacation mode/part real world mode for almost a month.  We {me} forgot more appointments and practices than usual and I probably spent more time in my jammies than I should publicly admit.  But somehow it was just what we needed.

We met the Christmas season moving at a snail’s pace.  And by the time the little ones were out of school if Amazon wasn’t delivering then it probably wasn’t going to be under the tree.  I just don’t take my little ones shopping.  Target and the grocery only if necessary, but other stores are an absolute no.  I can’t make a decent decision for the life of me and they are miserable too.  So we just skip it all together.  This probably also explains why we know our UPS man personally.

Anyhow, Christmas was wonderful.  We left town for a week of skiing and Christmas celebrations.  We have done this for a few years now and love it.  This also allows us multiple early Christmas celebrations with other family members who aren’t travelling with us.  We get to celebrate together but we aren’t rushing around, we actually get to relax and enjoy our time together and the kids have the chance to savor each gift they receive rather than loosing them in the shuffle.

I also realize that with our growing family this might not always work.  Quite honestly while on the road we looked like an episode of Hoarders buried alive, the *on wheels* version.  With three kids, two parents, one uncle, ski stuff for everyone, food, clothes, presents, etc. and yes even a suburban with a rocket box on top and we were drowning.  Oh and our speedometer broke.  But don’t worry, there’s an app for that.  However, there was no app to fix our DVD player.  Which also broke.  Sort of.  It would ONLY play Elf and Home Alone.  Parents of the year we are not.  In our defense it was a 9-hour trip.

We had a blast.  And of course I’m going to share an overload of vacation pictures.

Alex skied two full-days.  I skied two full-days.  Henry skied five.  Go figure.  And yes he has officially passed almost all of us up.  He is fast and prefers the bumps.  Did I mention that he is fast?  It scares me to death.  He was however, also very protective of me on the mountain.  “I don’t want anyone to run into you mom.  You’re pregnant so you need to be very aware of other skiers.  Tell you what, I’ll just ski behind you to make sure you are safe.”  That of course lasted for five seconds, but it was the sentiment that I loved.  This also means that I have no pictures of Henry actually skiing.

Charlie and William also put in some quality time on the ski hill courtesy of the magic carpet.  They both love to be on skis and their giggles as they fly down the hill and even when they eventually fall are the best.

We went bowling.  This was a great family activity for all of our kiddos, even the little guys had a blast.  As for scoring I’m pretty sure William was right behind Alex, and Uncle Jimmy might have come in last.  And yes, we used the bumper guards.

And bless my parents hearts.  They still welcome our loud montely crew.  We take over the entire basement and you can be sure that our stuff spills onto the other levels as well.  No matter, they still feed us and genuinely seem to have a good time with the whole crew under one roof.  {It’s 2012 kids, and Pop-pop is reading the Night Before Christmas via iphone…}  And a special shout out to my brothers.  My boys pretty much think they walk on water.

One last shout-out for summer vacations.

Tonight the air has a hint of fall in the air.  It’s crisp and cool and as much as I’m ready to welcome the cooler weather it is also bittersweet, this changing of the seasons, time flying by.  But before we get ahead of ourselves and declare it fall, we have still have birthdays to celebrate, back to school send-offs and a vacation that deserves a shout-out.

Of course I have far too many photos to share. But what good is a blog if it doesn’t include a long drawn out vacation recap?  I hope you don’t mind.  I’m pretty sure my computer is up in arms about the photo overload.  Yes, our computer saga continues.  I mean really Apple, would it kill you to just release the new iMac so we can quit limping along?  The O key is shot, and I’m pretty sure our current machine might explode…but let’s get back to vacation mode shall we?

We had the privilege of joining our friends for what’s become an annual vacay at Lake Chelan and in our third year, the fun, the weather, the water and the company did not disappoint.  Our kiddos were in their element and I’m pretty sure our time on the water sealed the deal for Alex who has been itching {and constantly researching} for a boat.  It also helped that he rocked it on the knee-board.  Don’t worry, he’s totally redeemed himself and learned how to slalom ski the next week.  What a guy.

count ’em up, that’s five happy littles on one boat…

Alex’s new sponsor shot.  Totally hot right?  Sorry ladies, he’s taken.

Love this guy.  Alex had never waterskied before but tried and got up on his first try, proving how *easy* it is to Henry and his buddy Anthony.  They weren’t convinced.

Charlie loves the water park…he’s a total adrenaline junkie.

This little guy, not so much…

kayaking, paddleboarding…doesn’t get much better than this…

The littles loved the ski trainer.  Half the time though we were yelling at them to quit waving and clapping and to hold onto the darn handle.  Too cute.

Seriously, what is he, like 16?!

Among other many other tenacious skills, the beauty of travelling with our friend Joy is that she plays the role of photographer, which in my book is a treat because it is a rare occurrence for me to have my picture taken.  And to have a photo with my kiddos?  Well that’s just icing on the cake.

There is however a downside to all of these photos…

{and yes, it not only looks like I lived in that hat for a week, I actually did, much to Alex’s dismay since he was the one that actually packed it…}

Henry was a fan of the tube and was obviously getting a bit too big for the trainer.  While he did give water skiing a try, we might have traumatized the neighbors between his skiing {screaming} and people {joy} flying off of the boat.  Sweet boy did survive this character-building session.

our gracious hosts testing out the new tube…

sweet hair!

safe to say Charlie is pretty comfortable on the tube, he was sound asleep!

We went on vacation.

And over one week later apparently I’m still in vacation mode.  It’s lovely really.

Alex and I laughed often during our week of vacation.  *We’re really doing this AND we’re having fun!* we’d exclaim to one another.  This was our first real vacation as a family of five and well, it actually felt like a vacation.  A milestone worth noting for sure.  It made me feel like I earned my “parent stripes.”  I loved getting to spend this time with all four of my amazing boys in a place that they truly adore.  We rode our bikes everywhere, and when we walked it was typically for ice cream.  Half-way through the week our dear friends who are really more like family, joined us in vacation mode and together we had plenty of adventures and yes, more ice cream with our crew of five little boys.

We love *Fun* Valley!  {Thank you Nana and Pop-pop!}

PS… I want to thank Alex for saying YES to a full week away… I know it’s not easy to be away from work – especially when he’s got a lot on his plate – so I extra appreciate the fact that he’s willing to give up a little of his sanity so that we can do family things.  I married a pretty great guy and I am thankful for him every day.