Saturday, April 30, 2016

Easter Activities

Our family celebrated Easter in a variety of ways this year. Jaden and Cody are at such a fun age for holiday celebrations. We love their abundant enthusiasm and innocent curiosity!

Trinity's Easter Egg Hunt
The day before Easter, we attended an egg hunt at Matt and Kim's church along with their family and Becky and Brian's family. It was a fun, well-organized event. Shortly after arriving, we got in line for the Resurrection Walk (a live presentation of the Easter story largely done by Trinity's high school youth). The wait in line was fairly lengthy, so we entertained ourselves by taking cousin line-up pics (a tradition for Kim, Becky, me, and our other Sylvester cousins),

Kim with Nathan, Cody, Jaden, Ryan, Ian, Noah, Natalie
posing for silly pics (apparently Cody and Jaden missed the memo on this one!),

wrestling? dog-piling?

and playing follow-the-leader (sort of... I think the kids were just running circles around the plants by this point!).

The wait was worth it, though, as the Walk was very well done! It was tough to get good photos of the various stations we walked through since many of them were in darkened rooms. But here are a few to give you an idea of what we did... First, we were led by a reporter who told us about the Palm Sunday procession.

She even introduced us to a donkey. Ha! These youth were great. :)

Then, we walked into various rooms to see the Last Supper, Peter's denial (complete with a crowing rooster sound coming out of an iphone!), Jesus' trial, and His crucifixion. This last picture came out super blurry, but it was a neat finale. The kids were given flowers that they were told to attach to this cross while declaring, "Jesus is Risen!" After completing the entire Resurrection Walk, the kids received a box of treats and a ticket for a free ice cream dessert at a vendor truck waiting outside.

Because our wait for the Resurrection Walk took so long, we missed the timing for the younger-age group egg hunt. No one seemed to mind that Ryan, Cody, and Jaden participated in the bigger kid hunt, though. Actually, the crowds weren't bad at all for this hunt, so it probably worked out perfectly. After a brief countdown, all the kids were released to fill up their Easter baskets.

Jaden and Cody got quite the haul of eggs! Last year in Billings, the boys got emotional about something once the hunt started and ended up with only 4 or 5 eggs total between them, so I guess anything would've been better than that experience! :)

This year, Cody and Jaden knew exactly what to do. This field was FULL of eggs, so the "hunt" actually went on for a while.

"Did we get all of them?"

"Here's our nice stash!" or probably more likely, "Hurry up and take the picture, Mommy, so we can open our eggs!"

It was nice to have Uncle Matt's help to open up the eggs.

Of course, we had to sample some treats right away!

After the egg hunt, the kids had the option of participating in a whole field full of carnival games. All Ryan, Jaden and Cody wanted to do was play in this bouncy house. This picture mostly highlights a random boy I don't know, but I had to post it since I love Cody's horizontal move in the background. :)

Salem's Egg Drop
Later that same day, we attended the Easter egg event at our church. Jason had a heavy role in the planning of this one. Once arriving, we met a few characters. Cody and Jaden were most excited about meeting this minion.

Then, we found the field of eggs for Jaden and Cody's age level (birth - preK) and waited. Uncle Jon was the DJ for the event and played some fun music for us to dance along with to pass the time. 

eager egg hunters-- Jaden, Ryan, Cody

Every once in a while the boys would glance to the sky. They were watching for the incoming helicopter! This event, the Easter Egg Drop, was so-named because a church member who owns a helicopter flies above the fields and drops thousands of pounds of candy for the waiting kids to gather. How exciting!

Jason was in charge of giving a brief Easter faith message to the waiting crowds. His talk focused on how much of our world looks down-- at electronics, at others, at themselves-- but God calls us to look up. Just as the audience was expectantly looking up to the sky, awaiting the incoming helicopter, we too should look up and aim our focus on our Resurrected Savior. Jason did a wonderful job. We were proud of him! Shortly after Jason's message, the helicopter finally arrived!

I'm not sure whether or not this was purposeful, but I liked that the crowds below could easily pick out a cross on the tail of the helicopter.

We watched the helicopter circle around a few times...

...and then out came the candy! The pilot had either practiced this before or was just good at aiming for a target. The crowds on the perimeter all stayed safe from the falling candy.

Jason and Uncle Jon, however, were on a stage in the middle of the field and weren't quite so fortunate with the dropping candy. They came out okay, though. :)

As you can see from this pic, the event was crowded! And, you can see that the fields were covered with an insane amount of eggs.

As soon as they gave the countdown for the egg hunt/gathering to begin, the crowds closed in.

The fields were full of  both eggs and lone candy pieces. By the end, Jaden had a bucket full of plastic eggs, while Cody only chose to gather the candy on the ground. It was interesting to see how completely their strategies differed.

After opening the eggs and finding a lot of small plastic toys and tattoos, we determined that Cody's candy strategy was the smarter one. :) Thankfully, the boys had already gotten a huge bucket of candy from the morning's egg hunt at Trinity, so they didn't seem to mind the smaller pile of candy from this event.


Little Isaiah and Nathan were pleased with their candy-gathering as well. :) We love these two cuties!

Before leaving the event, we stopped by the fire truck and ambulance that were on the grounds in case of emergency. The fireman even let the boys climb in the truck.


An Egg-cellent Surprise!
Last year, a good friend of ours in Montana had surprised us by "egging" our house for Easter. She and her kids had hidden filled Easter eggs all over our lawn and left an Easter message on our door. The goal is to hide 12 eggs and leave one empty as a reminder of Jesus' empty tomb. We loved the idea and just had to copy it this year! Cody and Jaden were pretty enthusiastic about the thought of secretly hiding eggs in our friends' yards.

We hit up the homes of 2 neighbors, one church friend, and Matt and Kim's of course! At first, Cody and Jaden "hid" their eggs by dropping them in plain sight on the lawn.

After a bit of instruction, their hiding spots got a little trickier.

The boys just loved being sneaky and running around our friends' yards. We only got caught at one house, so we were overall successful! :) Plus, on the day of the Egg Drop, Matt and Kim, along with Becky and Brian and their kiddos, returned the favor in our yard. Cody and Jaden were thrilled to find that our house, too, had been "egged!"

Easter Sunday
One of my parents' traditions is to pick out Easter Sunday outfits for our boys. My grandparents always did the same thing for my sister, brother, and me when we were young, so it's especially meaningful that Grammy and Papa are continuing this tradition. Cody and Jaden looked pretty sharp that morning! Cody is on the left in each of the pictures below.

Finally, for the first Easter ever, I remembered to take individual pics of the boys! :)

As we entered our church's community center that morning for Easter breakfast, we ran into the Easter bunny!

Jason loved not having to be in charge of a youth-led Easter breakfast this year (as he has done the last many, many years in a row). It was a treat to sit with him for the entire church service.

After church and naptime, we went over to Jon and Chelsea's house for a family dinner. How wonderful to have family so nearby to celebrate holidays with! When dinner was done, some of the adults planned an egg hunt for the kids. I really wanted to have Jaden and Cody actually hunt for hidden eggs, rather than just pick a bunch of eggs up off the ground. Some of the eggs were hidden in pretty challenging spots!

Jon and Chelsea had even filled the eggs for all the boys. What a candy-filled weekend! :)

We loved all of our Easter events this year, but most of all we are so thankful for our Savior's victory over death and the grave. May we all rejoice daily in the beautiful message of Easter-- "Jesus is risen!"

Monday, April 25, 2016

B2N2 Visit

Just before Easter, my cousin Becky and her family from Chicago came out for a visit. Becky and her husband Brian (B2) have boy/girl twins, Natalie and Noah (N2). Natalie and Noah recently turned 7, and this was our first time meeting them. That shows that it's been way too long since our families have connected! We were so thankful that their family made the effort to travel here.

On their first full day in town, we visited the zoo. The day started out surprisingly cool and then turned into a perfect day to be outside. True to form as a parent of twins, Brian handled a multitude of kids very nicely :)

Cody and Jaden warmed up to N2 right away, although for some reason they especially chose to clamor for Natalie's attention. She was definitely the popular lady of the week! Noah was a very good sport about it (and I think he ended up getting some special attention from Ian and Ryan later on in the week, so it seemed to balance out!).

It was a really good experience for Jaden and Cody to visit the zoo with older kids. Our boys typically breeze through each exhibit so quickly, but since N2 took a little more time to observe the animals, Cody and Jaden slowed down a bit too. Some of their favorite spots on this trip included the elephants,

the meerkats,

and the gorillas.

We stopped at the gibbons' exhibit at just the right time (around noon) and happened to hear quite a show. Our family had never heard the gibbons making loud calls before, and it was fascinating. The kids were very entertained! It was actually much louder and more ongoing than what this video shows, but at least you can get an idea of what we heard. 

Jaden and Cody always love the non-animal aspects of the zoo, too.... like the bongo drums,

the animal cutouts,

and the carousel.

The animals in the petting zoo didn't seem to be too fazed by our two sets of twins. These poor animals likely endure a lot. :)

What a beautiful day at the zoo!

In between our outings, N2 and Cody and Jaden played together very well at home. Sometimes, they just played next to each other,

while other times, they actually did activities together.

Natalie and Noah even read a few books to the boys. Jaden and Cody truly adored their second cousins! (The boys have asked almost weekly since their visit, "When can Natalie and Noah come back and play with us again?")

On the second day of their visit, we went strawberry picking. Because our area schools had spring break just the week before, much of the field appeared to be picked-over. The berries didn't look too impressive, unfortunately, and the farm had run out of baskets for us to use. Collecting berries with grocery bags doesn't have quite the same feel...

These facts didn't deter our two sets of twins, however. All four kiddos were enthusiastic about their strawberry picking (and very much enjoyed the taste-testing too!).

This was Jaden and Cody's first strawberry-picking experience, so we had to teach them the rules about what "good" strawberries might look like.

Despite my attempt at instruction, our bag of berries was filled with a wide variety of sizes, colors, and condition of strawberries. :)

The kiddos all seemed to enjoy the experience, though, so that's a win in my book!

After lunch and rest time for my boys, we met N2 at the tire park-- our favorite playground! Since our move nearly a year ago, Jaden and Cody have developed so much independence on this zip line. All they need is a starting push from me and they're off!

We love all that there is to do at this park! It's apparently community-built and kid-designed, so that's probably why it's so popular.

Another lovely day down here in Texas!

On B2N2's final full day with us, our families journeyed to Galveston. Jason had been planning on joining us this day, but he came down with a high fever. Unfortunately, that meant we left him uncomfortable at home. :( Thankfully he was able to get caught up on some much-needed sleep, but we missed him! Once the rest of us arrived in Galveston, we first rode the car ferry but had a tough time seeing many dolphin. The day was very windy and a bit cool too, so the boys and I spent much of our ride inside the ferry boat. 

We got to the gulf shore at around lunch time, but of course the kids had to test out the water before stopping to eat. The water felt cold!

But as you can tell, the chilly water did not slow Jaden and Cody down one bit!

Mommy, however, was much too wimpy to even put on a swimming suit. I was quite content in my T-shirt and yoga pants! This is about as far as I went into the water. :)

Natalie and Noah were much more exciting jumping partners. What a fun picture!

Thankfully, despite the cooler temperatures and the high winds that day, our section of the beach was filled with smiles and laughter from our kiddos. This was N2's first visit to the ocean, so their enthusiasm seemed to rub off on everyone. :)

We were thankful for a reason to enjoy the beach early in the season. Jaden and Cody had a delightful time!

Thanks again, B2N2, for your fun visit. We loved our time with you!