Thursday, January 28, 2016

ABQ Christmas - Part 2

While visiting Albuquerque over Christmas, we did a few special activities with our family. With six active young kiddos all under one roof, it was necessary to go out of the house a few times! Grammy and Papa had brainstormed several fun ideas for us. We visited the Explora science museum twice during our visit. Jaden and Cody had been to this museum a couple times before, and we love this place! The silly mirrors at the entrance are always a hit.

The newest Explora exhibit (one we hadn't yet tried) involved creating your own marine animals. First, the kids chose a creature (fish, jellyfish, squid, etc.) to color or design.

Then, the kids scanned their creation into the machine....

...and poof! A scanned image of their creature popped up and swam around this ocean wall.

The kids LOVED finding their fish and then running around after it as it bopped across the screen. My boys were so excited to put new creatures on the screen that they would barely color two lines on each one before scanning a new one in. What a creative exhibit!

We also spent some time at the sand table (another new exhibit), which was actually a sort of topographical map. As you would build up or tear down your sand hills, the lights shining on the sand would change, each color indicating a certain elevation. We adults got a kick out of creating hills and valleys of varying elevations and watching the lights change.

The kids, however, just treated the exhibit as a large sand box. :)

We always love riding the five-star elevator. It contains a couple large couches and even a piano. Talk about going up in style!

The bubble exhibit had been expanded into a much larger area than the last time we visited. We made huge bubbles...

.... stood inside bubbles, 

...and played with bubble foam.

Jaden and Cody experimented a bit with the good old-fashioned bristle blocks.

Ryan and Cody drew a design with this fancy contraption (totally don't remember what it was called...).

And then we built some block towers.

Another day, Papa and Grammy gave us a pile of coupons and gift cards to use at an Itz family fun center. This was our first experience at an Itz. It's a bit pricey, so I doubt we will go often but the kiddos all loved their time! We first tried out their pint-sized bowling lanes.

The lanes were shorter than normal bowling alley lanes, and the balls were MUCH smaller and lighter. It was a great way for Cody and Jaden to try out bowling for the first time.

The little ones were pretty animated whenever they knocked anything down, so it was quite enjoyable for us adults to watch. Cody jumped and danced all over even after knocking down a couple pins at a time. I think he's preparing his jump of jubilation already now. :)

The kiddos enjoyed themselves at bowling but didn't have a super long attention span for a full game. Perhaps they were just excited to try out everything else...

The corner of the Itz building had a section of smaller games especially for little ones. We spent the longest amount of time here. This mini-carousel was free to ride.

Despite his appearance, Jaden really did enjoy his carousel ride. This is simply the face he gives me frequently when I ask to take his picture. Oh, the joys of three... :)

This virtual roller coaster ride was free too.

We played a few simple arcade games as well, such as this Whack-a-Mole. It was built just at the right height for Cody.

The highlight of the visit for the 3-year-olds was riding this Frog Jumper ride. Matt was the designated adult to accompany the kids the first time. Way to go, Uncle Matt! :)

Jaden was a bit hesitant to try out this ride the first time....

...but he willingly jumped on (surprising Mommy!) for the second ride. All the kiddos giggled happily whenever the ride bounced them up and down. No tears = a successful ride!

I just love their big smiles!

Then, we tried out the Spinoli ride (which made Mommy a bit dizzy).


We spent quite a few afternoons (and mornings sometimes too) at the school playground. It's wonderful that this place is so close to Grammy and Papa's-- just an easy walk.

One day, Jaden, Ryan, and Abby pretended to be food stand vendors.

Midway through our visit, Albuquerque got some snow! Jaden and Cody enjoyed some brief playtime in the snow. They were never much for playing in the snow while we lived in Montana, so a brief taste of snow this winter was probably all that they needed. :)

There was just barely enough snow for Ian and his daddy to squeak out a small, cute snowman.

We tried to plan a few small at-home events for the kiddos during the week, too. One night, we popped popcorn and watched a Christmas movie.

Gotta love this special cousin time! :)

Another night, Papa made a fire in the fireplace. It made their family room so cozy! Jaden and Cody enjoyed just watching the fire.

Aunt Kim surprised the kiddos one afternoon by making balloon animals for them. So fun!

Then, the kids all helped to make sopapillas for our dessert after a delicious Mexican meal. Grammy showed the kids how to roll the dough and cut it into squares.

I think Cody and Jaden's favorite part was watching the dough puff up like a pillow once it was placed into the deep fryer. Eating the sopapillas was only so-so in their book, although they were pretty excited about licking off all the powdered sugar.

We adults, on the other hand, loved these desserts and had no problem finishing up the ones the kids left behind! :)

We always cherish this special family time together. Thanks, Grammy and Papa, for all the wonderful memories and for being such excellent hosts for our active families. We love you!

Monday, January 25, 2016

ABQ Christmas - Part 1

For Christmas, we spent just over a week in Albuquerque with the Walquist side of the family. It feels very strange to say it, but that will likely be our last Christmas spent in Albuquerque. A few months ago, Amy's dad officially announced his retirement after 35+ years of being a pastor in New Mexico. Come summertime, Papa and Grammy will be moving to Texas-- yippee!! :) Because Albuquerque has been Amy's hometown for as long as she can remember, it will be very different to no longer travel "home" to New Mexico. However, we don't mind too much, as we are very excited to live just across town from Grammy and Papa soon.

Because it was Papa's last Christmas preaching at Immanuel in Albuquerque, our family traveled out there separately. Jason had church commitments here on Christmas Eve, so he stayed in town until that night and then drove to Albuquerque by himself (arriving just in time for Christmas dinner!). The boys and I flew out to Albuquerque earlier in the week so that we could be present for Papa's last Christmas service.

This was my first time flying with the boys alone, and they did an excellent job! It definitely helped that our flight was direct. Daddy dropped us off early at the airport. The boys ate their breakfast while watching the planes.  

The biggest challenge of the day was that our plane was small and only had 2 seats per side. That's not easy when you're traveling as a party of three! Neither boy was willing to sit across the aisle from me, so the decision was fairly easy-- both boys sat by themselves in a row with Mommy across the aisle from them. This setup wasn't ideal for reading books and playing a lot of the games that I had brought along to entertain the boys during the flight. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of turbulence during our trip, so I wasn't able to scoot over to their row and hold one boy on my lap either. So, we had to rely upon good old technology-- and lots of snacks!!-- to get us through the 2 1/2 hour flight. Thankfully, both Cody and Jaden were in good spirits, and our trip was overall smooth. They looked like such big boys sitting without a parent!

Once we got to Albuquerque, the boys were very ready to play with the family. We spent a lot of our Christmas week just relaxing at Grammy and Papa's home-- building with blocks,

playing games like Spot It...

and Crackers in My Bed (a childhood favorite of mine, one that the 3-year-olds all loved),

doing puzzles,

catching fish,

riding Trigger,

playing Kings in the Corner (a new game for Ian-- he was a fast learner!),

being silly,

and just relaxing!

At the end of every family gathering, we always have SO many pictures of adults reading to kids. That's likely because the kids are finally still and easy to capture in a picture-- ha, ha! All the kiddos really do love books, though, and requested reading time often. Usually, it would start with one or two kids, and then quickly pile up to nearly all of them. I think this reading time and these pics are just precious, so I'm including quite a few of them... :)

You will see this mask/helmet that Abby is wearing appear in several pics during the course of this trip. Andrew and Ian built the Darth Vader-like helmet and continued to add embellishments to it as the week went on. It became a very normal piece of attire that week, but it looks quite funny to see it now in the pictures. :)

And more reading pics...

Grammy and Uncle Andrew devised a great mid-week activity for the kiddos. It was a bit chilly to play outside for extended periods of time (especially for us now used to the Texas winters!), but this activity kept them all happily occupied outside-- downhill wagon riding!

My pics of the kids actually moving in the wagon came out a bit blurry so it's tough to tell, but Andrew really did let go of the wagon each time. Some of the rides got fairly quick. They all loved it though, and thankfully we had no accidents. :)

Eventually we came up with a way for all of the kids to fit on the wagon at the same time. They were a bit squished, but it worked!

Before church on Christmas Eve, the kids helped with the annual tradition of setting out and lighting the luminarias.

We only had two bags catch on fire. :)

I don't have any photos of our family of 4 on Christmas Eve since Jason hadn't arrived in town yet, but here are a few of Jaden and Cody in their Christmas best. Grammy and Papa bought them these sharp-looking outfits. So precious! Jaden and Cody loved their penguin ties but did NOT like having their shirts tucked in.

We attempted to get a grandchild picture with Grammy and Papa, but it's hard to get six kids to all smile in the same direction at the same time, particularly after they've just finished sitting through a church service. At least everyone matched quite nicely. :)

We opened Christmas presents late on Christmas Day, after Jason arrived. It was so nice to have Daddy back with our family. Cody and Jaden were definitely spoiled by their loving aunts, uncles, and grandparents with many great gifts.

 I love the developmental stage that Jaden and Cody were in this year for the gift opening. They understand what it means to receive a gift, but they aren't at the gimme/I-want-it stage yet. On Christmas morning, I asked the boys, "It's Christmas! What happens today?" Their first answer was, "Daddy's coming home!" and their second answer was "Jesus is born!" They liked the presents they received, of course, but that wasn't at all the focus of their day. I'm sure that attitude won't last forever, but for this year, I can sure learn a lot from their childlike faith.