Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our Ski Vacation!

Drew and I said 3.5 years ago when I began cancer treatment that when it was all finished, we would go on a ski vacation in celebration of its completion.  It has been over 2.5 years since I finished treatment and we finally got to go on that vacation.

We decided last year that 2016 would be the year we would be taking a vacation!  We also decided that the closest ski resort would be in New Mexico, which would be best for the drive with two small children.  When our friends mentioned planning a ski trip to Red River, NM in January, we thought, "how fun would it be to go too?"  So, we have been planning this ski trip with them since September 2015.  

It takes a lot of work to acquire all the necessary layers and equipment for the kiddos for skiing when you are trying to buy everything used in Central Texas.  But, over the past 4 months I was able to do so.  And last week, it was time to go on our vacation!

On the way from our home to Red River, we decided to stop a little over halfway in Amarillo, TX and spend the night.  It is crazy that we drove over 7.5 hours and we were still in Texas.  It makes you appreciate just how large of a state we live in.  There in Amarillo we grabbed a bite to eat, checked into our hotel and got some new tires.  Drew checked our tires just prior to leaving our home and noticed that our tires were practically bald.  So, he ordered some new tires which were waiting for us in Amarillo.  It worked out well to have them installed there, as we just did some shopping together while they were being installed.  We also happened to walk around in the local mall (there isn't much to do there), and noticed the movie theater was showing "The Peanuts Movie" for just $2 a ticket.  So, we watched that movie as a family, headed back to the hotel and tried to sleep.  The kids were pretty giddy though about being in a hotel room.  Initially, Luke and Abbey shared one queen bed and Drew and I shared the other.  We ended up having to separate the two of them though about an hour or so after getting into bed.  So, Drew and I each slept in a separate bed with one of them.  Neither one of us got much sleep that night.  But thankfully, our drive to Red River was only a little over 4 hours the next day.   (All of the photos below were taken with a smartphone--dslr cameras don't do as well in the freezing cold apparently...and they are a bit bulky for the ski slopes.)

The drive there was really pretty.  The scenery was pretty diverse once we got into the mountains.

The kids were so excited to see snow!
Abbey was excited to make a snow angel.

Luke and his friends climbed on huge formations made from the snow that was plowed in a parking lot.

Luke and daddy even made a little snowman.  He was so proud of his snowman and checked on him each morning to make sure he was still there.  
Then, it was time to get our ski equipment rentals.  Abbey didn't like how tight her ski boots were, but once she got started skiing, she forgot about it,
We put the kids in ski school for 2 full days (from 9:30-11:30 and from 1-3p each day).  So, Drew and I were able to snowboard together while they were in ski school in the morning and the afternoon.

The kids had a great first day in ski school.  After we picked them up, we decided to go snow tubing with our friends.

Our group (minus Drew who took the picture).
Drew and I had a blast snow tubing.  I was surprised that both of our kids were pretty scared of this though.  The tubes went pretty fast.  And, it didn't help that as Abbey and I were exiting our tube at the end of the hill, an adult man came flying down beyond the point were he was supposed to be slowed down and crashed right into Abbey, knocking her off her feet and into the air.  I was carrying our tube.  It terrified me. Thankfully, someone helped catch her a bit or it could have been a much worse injury.  She was ok, but we decided to quit before our hour of tubing was up.  It was a busy first day.    

By day 2, Luke was going down the big green hill and was going up his first real chair lift.

Abbey was tired after her second day of ski school.  
On the second day, we arrived about 20 minutes early to pick up the kids from ski school.  We didn't see Abbey on the slopes, but we did get to watch Luke come off the lift and ski down with his little group.  When I picked up Abbey from ski school, she told me all about what she told her teacher.  She told her teacher all about Bella, her robot puppy.  She said, "I told him that when you rub her back she barks and when you pat her head she wags her tail.  I also told him about robot kitty and rainbow puppy that I left at grandma and grandpas.  I also told him about our bunk beds at our hotel room."  She told me much more stuff that she told coach Andy.  I thought to myself, "I bet coach Andy is as tired as Abbey is right now,"-Ha!  Our friends' daughter, Ava also told us that she saw coach Andy carrying Abbey inside to the ski school building (and she said Abbey wasn't wearing any ski boots). So, I am not sure how much ski instruction she got that 2nd day afternoon.  When I picked her up, she also had a hot chocolate mustache.  So, I am pretty sure that she worked the coaches over with her charm and managed to get herself some hot chocolate.

By the end of day 2, Abbey had learned two new vocabulary words.  First, before dinner I had asked the kids if they were enjoying their vacation so far.  Abbey quickly replied, "What is Vacation?"  That is when I realized that Abbey has never actually been on a vacation.  So, I explained what the term means.   Later, before bed, Abbey came over to me and told me that her legs hurt.  I said, "Abbey your leg muscles are probably sore from all the skiing." She said, "mommy, what does sore mean?"  Ha!  Our little Abbey hasn't really ever done anything requiring lots of endurance.  She doesn't yet ride a bike or scooter, nor does she love to run.  She just really has no desire to do these things yet.  But, I have a feeling that skiing will help her turn the corner as far as those things are concerned.

ready to go up the big lifts with mommy
By the third day, Luke was ready to take turns going with Drew and I down the blue hills.  Drew also accidentally took him down a black run....oops.  About halfway down that run though Luke decided to slide down on his bottom.  He told me, "I thought that was a better idea."  Ha!  Abbey did well too and she even did one run down the big green hill, after going on her first real chair lift.  I was sore in many places due to a few bad falls.  It is very different snowboarding as a mom vs. snowboarding before kids.  I was much more fearless and carefree back then.  I noticed this time (it has been 7-8 years since the last time I snowboarded), I was much more cautious--almost to a fault.  I was overthinking things and went much slower than I did before. I think the last time I went snowboarding (about 7.5 years ago) I was flying down the hills and I didn't even fall once.   I had no use for a helmet and didn't like the way it looked.  This time, I could care less about how I looked--I just wanted to protect my body as much as possible.   So, I rented a helmet.  It's funny the things that happen to your brain when you become a mommy.  I have other little people who need me now.  Also, I figured my bones were probably way more brittle due to chemo and radiation, so I had a lot more fear of falling this time around.  It was a good reminder though that fear can sometimes be crippling.  Any time I felt myself having great fear, I fell down.  That is how I ended up having a few bad falls.

It was fun going on the trip with friends.  It was neat to let the kids experience the snow and learning to ski together.  We got to do some ski runs with our friends.  And, we were able to share a couple of meals together.  Luke and his friend Brayden progressed at the same pace through ski school.   Thus, they were in the same small group together the entire time at ski school.  What a fun vacation!

The night before we headed back home.
We had such a fun trip together.   Our room was nice too, and we especially liked that the kids had bunk beds in a separate room.  We also had a full kitchen, so we made use of it for lunch every day and we even cooked dinner there one night.

Drew and I took turns wearing the go pro that I received for Christmas.  It was really fun to look back at the videos--but there are a lot of them.  I tried to take a few good clips and put them all together in one video.  The video includes clips of each of us on the mountains.  It is a little over 17 minutes long though.  But, in case anyone is interested, I am including the video below:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Little Stories by a Little Guy

Similar to what I have begun this New Year, Luke has also started writing "little stories."  A couple of months ago, I bought him a really cool book:

Luke loves to draw, and I thought it was time to start putting together "stories" with his pictures.  Since he enjoys drawing so much, I knew it would be a great opportunity to get him to write daily without complaining.  And, it has worked marvelously!

It is so much fun to watch his creative writing progress right before my eyes.  There are absolutely no rules with this project. I tell him that he can draw and write whatever he wants.  However, he has to do this completely independently, with no help from anyone else.  He has to write the words out based on how they sound in his head (unless they are sight words that he knows, etc,).  I don't correct him at all, because at this age, it is good to let them build their confidence and really use the phonics rules that are in their heads.

I think it is going to be a lot of fun to watch the stories and pictures progress in skill-level.  Also, I think he will really enjoy reading back through the stories later to see what his life looked like "back then."

On this story, he told me, "mommy, I know climb starts with a "c", but I like it better starting with a "k."  You said I could write whatever I want."

I told him that he doesn't have to start each story with "Hi my name is Luke."  He replies though, "but that is my name and I want to put that on every story."  I then told him, "you can write whatever you want to say."  So, each story has begun with those words.  :-)

Yesterday was a very special day.  After 11 weeks of having very strict restrictions on activities due to his broken arm, he was able to resume his "normal activities" carefully, while still wearing his brace for 3 more weeks.  I am pretty sure he aimed to do ALL the activities!   We were outside all day.  We rode our bikes to the nearby "Play for All Abilities Park" and had a picnic with friends.  The entire way, Luke was saying, "This feels so good mommy." On the way back, there is a very steep hill that Luke, impressively, has made it up once.  He made it all the way up the hill without stopping one time--the first time we made the trek down this trail.  The following times though, he had to walk his bike up when he was near the top.  His bike has no gears like mine does, so that makes it pretty difficult.  While I downshift, he is huffing and puffing all the way up.  Yesterday, after I arrived at the top, pulling Abbey behind in the bike trailer, I looked down the hill, expecting to see him halfway down the hill or so (perhaps walking his bike up).  However, he was literally right behind me.  It startled me, because I truly didn't expect him to be inches behind the bike trailer.  I was so proud of him!

Yesterday was full of LOTS of activity!
Bike riding wasn't the only activity he resumed yesterday.  He also got to ride his scooter that he got for Christmas (but couldn't step foot on until yesterday).  And, he did some swinging and playing on the playground.  But, that bike ride up the steep hill was memorable.   So memorable, that he wrote about it this morning.

I absolutely love seeing what he comes up with each day!  I have even noticed that he flips through the book every couple of days with a smile on his face to read what he previously wrote. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Busy Days

Remember my last post? I talked about one of my New Year's Resolutions:  to share more "little stories" of our day-to-day.  I have always struggled with this because I could not possibly write a blog post about an entire day in the life of our household and have it flow smoothly.  It would jump from subject to subject and bounce from activity to activity (on extreme sides of the spectrum).  But you know what?  That is exactly what our day is like.

Up until the past week, Drew's and my alarm clock was Abbey. If I didn't hear the door open abruptly, I would awake after sensing a warm body next to me, standing by the bed and breathing on me.  Or, I would be awoken by Abbey's first words of the morning, "I want breakfast." (And every time, this was before 7am, sometimes as early as 5:30am).  Let me tell you--that is not the loveliest way to wake up in the morning.  You see, Abbey is very much a morning person.  Me?  I am not so much a morning person.  I need a little while before I become chatty Cathy.  But Abbey wakes up joyful and her sweet little mouth outputs about 1000 words per minute.  We knew it was getting out of hand when Abbey began going into Luke's room in the mornings, waking him up when it was still dark outside and asking him to play.  As I was doing some January organizing, I came across an old Ipod alarm clock that I used many years ago.  I gave it to Abbey and told her that she could not come out of her room until the clock said 7:XX.  I didn't care what the numbers following "7" were, but the clock hour had to indicate "7" or later.  The first couple of days she forgot about that clock, and she still left her room in the wee hours of the morning to wake us up.  But, then she began looking at it.  I have no idea what time she actually awoke, but she didn't come into our room until after 7, so the problem was solved as far as Drew and I were concerned.  And the past few days, Abbey has behaved marvelously at the time of her normal "three-nager dramatic" hours from 4-6pm.  So, I am guessing she has begun to get more sleep at night.  This morning was strange though.  Drew and I woke up on our own.  Children had no responsibility in our waking.  It was the weirdest thing.  Time went on and I began getting ready in our bathroom.  Finally, around 8am I decided to head to Luke and Abbey's hallway to investigate this odd occurrence.  I saw the hall door cracked and I heard giggling.  Luke and Abbey were in Abbey's room playing with her kitchen.  They were getting along angelically.  It was a miracle.  I didn't want to disturb it.  Upon further investigating I discovered that it was actually Luke that went into Abbey's room this time, woke her up and asked her to play with him.  Although, knowing him, I am sure the time was after 7am.  The boy likes his sleep.

All of that fun story to tell you how the day began. It began marvelously.  We had breakfast, packed up our Legos and snacks for Lego club at 10am.  Then, we left the house a little before 9am to run an errand and stop by a farmer's market.  Lego club was awesome, as always.  The theme of the build was "favorite things."  Abbey decided she wanted to direct Luke to build her lego creation this time instead of actually building it herself.  I love to see her actual builds, because they always have many intricate little details.  Luke happily obliged to build hers though, because the boy really enjoys building.  He could build all day if I let him.  Abbey directed Luke to build a dog--the dog happens to be our neighbor's dog, Trixie.  The creation even included some of Trixie's "boo-boos".  Luke created a "robot dinosaur" for himself, combining three of his favorites: legos, robots and dinosaurs.  He even had a mini-figure inside who operated the robot dinosaur.  I love watching him create!

Luke and Abbey with some of their friends from Lego Club
It was a ridiculously gorgeous day outside today, so after each child presented and made Valentine's card for our military troops, they spent the rest of the morning (and part of the afternoon) outside playing.  We didn't leave until 1pm, and only because I told the kids we had to leave.  I was shocked they hadn't begged me for lunch yet, since they usually are "starving" at 11am.  Although, I did bring lots of snacks.  Anyway, we headed home and ate outside on our picnic table. Then, Luke and I did our schoolwork outside.

As we were finishing his schoolwork, we began hearing our neighbor friends outside playing.  We share a gate and the kids come and go freely between the two yards/homes.  It is the best thing ever!  Abbey ran over to our trampoline and began jumping and talking with our 1st grade neighbor, who was also on their trampoline jumping on the other side of the fence.  Our neighbor was having a playdate with a school friend though and I could tell Abbey, who was talking proudly non-stop about her new "Pete the Cat" stuffed animal, was being slightly annoying.  Just as I was going to go talk to Abbey, the neighbor invited Abbey over to play with her little sister inside their house--ha!  I thought that was a smart move on her part.   I texted my neighbor friend to make sure it was alright, and she sent me back the following photo:

I am not even sure how Abbey got into their house and put a princess dress on so quickly, but the three girls looked like they were having a lot of fun.  Our neighbor that is Abbey's age was having a playdate with one of her friends as well.  Soon, our first grade neighbor and her friend came through the gate asking Luke if he wanted to play.  The three older kids began playing in our yard, while the younger ones were in our neighbor's yard.  However, shortly after, the three older kids were back in our neighbor's yard, totaling six kiddos playing in one yard. I followed the three older kiddos over to help watch the kids (and get some more "adult" conversation with my neighbor friend).  We had a lovely time, the weather was perfect, and none of us wanted the day to end!

We headed back to our home, and while I was getting dinner ready, Luke played until the sunset at our sandbox.  You should see the creation he is making there!

After dinner, the kids and Drew played a game of Uno, Luke read some books to Drew and Abbey, Drew read some books to them, and then the kids went to bed.

reading with daddy
These are precious times.  The "busy-ness" is not a stressful busy like one often thinks of with deadlines, etc.  It is simply a very "full" day--a day full of life!  I wouldn't trade my current job for any other.  I am so thankful that God led me to this. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Little Stories: A New Year's Resolution

While we were visiting my family in Oklahoma over the Christmas holiday, we got to visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as siblings, nieces and nephews and my dad.   As I was visiting with one of my cousins on one of the days we were there, she began telling me a story about finding an old childhood school project in a box that she was looking through.  The project was to write a true story.  I believe she was around 9 years old when she wrote a story about a family vacation that we shared with her.  She told me she loved reading the story and it brought back memories.  When she told me the story, I honestly didn't even remember the details that she shared in the story.  The story was a funny one, and she recalled that the teacher questioned her on whether the series of events discussed in the short story actually happened because they were so outlandish.  But, knowing our family, of course we believed the story was true.  I loved that there were different details that she remembered from that vacation, since she was so much younger than me.  When she told me about that story, it really got me thinking.  How awesome would it have been if I had kept a journal during my childhood?  There are so many memories, of course, that I have stored in my head.  However, there are also many details that I don't have stored.  Yet, had they been jotted down while fresh in my memory, I could now have them to treasure.   More than I wish that I had my own memories jotted down, I wish that I had my mom's thoughts, daily struggles, daily joys, and much more in the form of a journal.  My mom is no longer alive, and I cannot ask her about these things.  Not only that, but although she had an impeccable memory, there is no way she would have been able to describe the exact feelings she was having on a day when dad worked 12 hours and she had the four of us kids under 4 at home to take care of.   I mean, she could give me an idea, but I want to know the details!

My mom and us four siblings playing follow the leader.  Jason was in the lead, followed by Jeremy, me, Holly and then mom.

I am sharing all this for the following purpose:  I have a totally different kind of New Year's "resolution" this year.  (I have several other resolutions as well, but I am going to share one important one here.)  I want to journal more "little stories" that I can store away for those who come after me to read and enjoy.  I feel like this blog would be a great place for me to share these little stories and that is my plan over this next year.  There--I said it here.  Now that I said it, posting that here will hopefully keep me accountable to it.  I need to remind myself throughout the year that I don't have to have one large post in my head before I get at the computer at night and begin writing.  I can simply, at the end of the day, write a few thoughts about what happened that day, what new experiences that we had as a family, etc.  It doesn't have to be extraordinarily funny, sad or exciting to share.  It just has to be details of that day.  That is the kind of stuff Luke and Abbey are going to treasure some day.  When they recall what a day in our life was like, it will be fun for them to compare how that same day was like from my perspective.   So, here's a warning that you may see some really short, random posts this year.  :-)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

We have a Lil' four-year old!

I feel badly for Abbey being our second child.  There is definitely the "second child syndrome" thing going on around our household, especially when it comes to Abbey's birthday celebration.  It is definitely not intentional though.  It doesn't help that her birthday is just 9 days after Christmas.  We have Christmas (which involves tons of traveling to visit family), settle back into our house, unload suitcases, start to get back into a routine and then have the realization:  "Oh my! Abbey's birthday is in just a few days!"  Do you know she has never had a big birthday party?  And, the only parties she has had are with family--when we already happen to be visiting them for Christmas.   While we are there, we have a Christmas celebration, and then Drew and I make the "big" birthday plans for Abbey: "Oh hey, let's get a cake and have a quickly put together party for Abbey."  We've gotten by without having a "big party" for three years, but after Luke's Lego-themed birthday party this year, she began coming up with ideas for her big party.  As a family, we decided just before Luke's birthday this year, that we would only have "big" parties on even birthday years.  This way, Abbey and Luke would both get a big party a few months apart; and on odd years, the party will be more intimate with family only.

For Abbey's actual birthday this year on January 3, we let her pick out what she wanted to do for the day.  She could pick what meal she wanted, what special treat she wanted, and we even let her pick out her gift from Toys R Us.  I feel like it was such a lazy thing (on our part as parents) to do to let her plan her own special day.  But, she is also going to get a special party....on February 20. Is that terrible?  "Happy birthday Abbey---a month and a half late!"  Honestly, I figure that this separates it a bit from the holidays, and it gives me some time to plan it.  We have a lot going on this month, so I will need a couple of weeks in February to put everything together for the party that she wants.

I really hope Abbey doesn't feel that she is any less special than we truly think she is.  She is such a sweet, special, funny, joyful little girl.  So, with the rest of this post (a week after her actual birthday), I want to honor our special Abbey.  Here's is my picture letter to her...

Abbey, you are a little silly and a little sassy--always making us laugh!

Yet, you also have such a tender, sweet caring nature:

You love to jump!

But your favorite place to jump is in puddles just after the rain!

And you even enjoy jumping in puddles while it is raining!

You love to help mommy and daddy with whatever we are working on...

I love watching you learn!

You love art projects!  And I love your facial expressions that you exhibit while you are in the middle of creating your masterpieces.

I love watching you experience new things and try to figure out how things work...

You absolutely love to learn and ask to "do school" every day.  This past year you have become a beginning reader, you can count to 100 and beyond, count by 10's and by 5's, and have memorized many bible verses!   Your memory astounds me, and you often pick up new skills just by overhearing Luke and I work on specific things.  You are most definitely an auditory learner.

You love your brother immensely and look up to him so much.  (Of course, we also have our fair share of sibling fights as well, but it most frequently stems from your desire to have attention from him and play with him as much as possible.)

I love that you love playing, exploring and going on adventures as much as I do!

Abbey--you know how to work the pouty face and the big brown eyes already to get what you want.  This works especially well with daddy.

You are precious beyond words!

Happy 4th birthday to my funny, sweet, caring, loud, dainty, nurturing, sometimes dramatic, loving little daughter.  I love you dearly and way more than words or pictures could ever describe!  I can't wait to see you grow each day as a four-year-old!