Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Party Preparations

For Cody and Jaden's 4th birthday, we decided on an Olympic-themed party for our family and friends. Since we had a wide variety of ages attending the party, we figured this theme would appeal to all the kiddos. I copied a pattern from Pinterest for the invitation to make it look like an Olympics ticket.

About a week before the party, Cody and Jaden helped me package some candy bags to be used as party favors. I forgot to take a pic of the final product, but these photos of the process are more fun anyway. :) We bought some candy with gold wrappers, put samples of each kind in a bag, and labeled the bag with "Go for the Gold!" It was so wonderful having helpers this year! Jaden and Cody loved this task and took it very seriously.

In addition to having great almost-4-year-old helpers, I also had the wonderful blessing of Grammy's live-in assistance. Grammy was staying at our home for a few days while Papa was finishing out his work in NM. Even though she was busy with many moving-in tasks, Grammy took time out to help with various aspects of our party planning. One night, she helped me make the boys' party T-shirts. The iron-on transfer pattern was made for us by my cousin Becky who had an Olympic party for her twins two years ago. Thanks, Becky, for this cute idea! (I actually borrowed quite a few Olympic party ideas from Becky and her sister Marcie, two pretty amazing party planners! Thanks so much to you both!)

I had never before done a print-it-yourself iron-on transfer, but it was a surprisingly easy process.

Super cute, don't you think?

The night before the party, Grammy helped with the birthday cake. What a blessing to have Grammy and Papa living less than 15 minutes away now. We love it!! I decided to make one cake and cupcakes this year rather than one cake for each boy.

I always give away the tough job of frosting the cake. :)

I just step in for the fun part and add some decorations. We used blue and red M&Ms and marshmallow halves for our cake border. The torch was just a cupcake in a cone with loads of orange frosting on top.

And... ta-da! The cake and cupcakes are done!

I decorated more for this party than I typically do-- partially because I found some nicely priced Olympic decorations online and also because I figured the boys would actually enjoy the decorations more now that they're older. This easel display welcomed the guests at our front door.

I lined two of our archways with small flags from around the country and then added paper chains in Olympic colors (another Becky idea).

Of course, we couldn't forget about the beautiful banner from Aunt Sarah. I love how festive this makes our entryway!

We hung two Olympic banners on our garage door that could later serve as a photo backdrop for our whole group of guests.

I hung all of Jaden and Cody's birthday photo posters in the kitchen. It was fun to compare their pictures from one year to the next. They certainly look quite different from their "first year" photos! On this table, we set out Olympic themed picture books for our guests to sign.

Soon after our guests arrived, we planned to offer them a small trail mix snack and a water bottle to help them prepare for their Olympic competitions. We attached a personalized Olympic label to each water bottle so the kids could find their water later.

We put up most of these decorations two nights before the party. It created even more anticipation for Cody and Jaden. They were thrilled with the decorations-- "Our house looks so beautiful, Mommy!" Those kind of comments make all the efforts worthwhile. :)

Gift bags-- check
Cake and cupcakes-- check
Decorations-- check

Bring on the party!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

May- Part 2

The rest of our family happenings from May:

The New Cleaning Enthusiasts
Cody and Jaden have learned to vacuum! These pictures make me laugh when I think of the boys' history with the vacuum. For months when the boys were babies, the only way I could get Jaden and Cody to nurse was if the vacuum was running in the background (our floor stayed really clean in those days!). I'm not sure if they found the noise soothing or if it completely frightened them, but it was the only way the two would nurse calmly without screaming. 

Fast forward to the toddler stage... and at some point, Jaden and Cody developed an utter fear of the vacuum! Both boys would scream in sheer terror if I ever turned on this cruel machine in their presence. (These days our floors were not nearly as clean!) Only within the last year or so have I been able to vacuum without completely scaring the boys, and that's only when they scampered off to a different room. So, considering all this, you can imagine my surprise when Cody eagerly offered to help me vacuum last month. Looks like all fear of the vacuum is gone! Hooray! Cody was my first volunteer and actually did a pretty decent job of covering the whole surface area of the carpet. I just had to walk along behind him holding the cord so he wouldn't get all tangled. :)

Jaden wasn't quite as enthusiastic to be close to the vacuum, but once he saw Cody vacuum three entire rooms of the house, he wanted to give it a go himself. Hopefully I can hang on to this cleaning enthusiasm for a LONG time! ;)

Cousin Time
I can't even tell you the story behind this picture, other than that Cody, Jaden and Ryan were in the middle of watching a video at Aunt Kim's house before lunchtime. Why Ryan has wet hair and why Cody is holding a broom, and why they see fit to be covered in a blanket in the middle of May, I have no idea. All I know is that these three absolutely love being together!

The Gleannloch 10K
Earlier this spring, Kim challenged Chelsea and me to compete in a 10K race with her, rather than doing another 5K. We figured the longer race would encourage us to put even more effort into our training and would be a bigger accomplishment for all of us. This was the longest distance both Kim and I had ever run, so it was a good challenge! Chelsea even bought us all matching shirts for the occasion. The back of our " I Run Like a Girl" shirts say, "Try to Keep Up!"

The race day (Memorial Day weekend) was VERY muggy. Chelsea looked it up and discovered that the humidity was 98%. Not the most ideal running weather, for sure. But, all three of us ran the 6.2 miles without stopping and in less than an hour. Woo-hoo! Here is Chelsea approaching the last leg of the race. You can just barely see me behind the gal in orange.

Despite this smile that I was giving to my boys and nephews on the sidelines, I was utterly exhausted by this point. The finish line was in sight!

Okay, now this picture I shouldn't really even be posting since it's completely inaccurate. It makes for a funny story though. Notice that I am now in front of Chelsea and that gal in orange? Basically, I cheated. I inadvertently took an earlier turnaround loop than was intended. This race wasn't the most organized nor was the course very well marked, so I accidentally snuck ahead. :) The funny part was that neither Chelsea nor I noticed each other during this last portion of the race. We only figured out the problem when the results were given and my time was listed as faster than hers! Oops!

Kim, like Chelsea, took the full, non-cheater route. :) I love seeing the excited boys running alongside the raceway. They were wonderful motivators at the end!

I'm not sure that a half marathon is in my future for anytime soon, but it sure felt good to accomplish this distance! This race kept me very accountable to regular running, too, so it was very worthwhile. We all agreed to wait for some cooler weather before signing up for another road race!

Fun at the Children's Museum
Grammy and Papa gifted the boys with an early birthday present this month-- an annual membership to the Children's Museum. Jaden and Cody love this place, so it was a perfect gift. On this day when we visited, the museum held flag parade, I think as an early celebration for Memorial Day. Cody and Jaden were so proud that they had happened to wear their flag shirts that morning. Jaden very seriously tells everyone when he wears this shirt, "This flag is for the United States of America."

The museum employees gave all the kids flags, turned on some patriotic music...

...and then led them in a march around the museum.

Later in our visit, we stopped by this science station to make a volcanic eruption. I was pretty impressed with their volcano model. It made the eruption much more exciting. First, Cody (on the left) and Jaden had to dump baking soda into a test tube.

Then, they squirted colored vinegar into the top...

and watched the eruption!

Mom and Dad's Welcome
The last and most exciting part about our month was welcoming Mom and Dad to Texas! I know they will be dearly missed by their congregation and many friends, but we are so pleased to have them here. On their last Sunday in New Mexico, the congregation gave Dad and Mom these cowboy hats "to help them look more like Texans!"

Ian and Ryan designed a lovely banner for Mom and Dad's new home, and Kim and I each made a deco-mesh wreath as a Mother's Day gift for Mom. I made the patriotic themed wreath on the door, and Kim designed a cute summery wreath.

Since Mom and Dad's arrival, we've helped with some unpacking and a few other moving-in projects. Jaden and Cody even assisted their Papa with some shelf-cleaning in the pantry one day.

We are happy that Mom and Dad's travel to Texas was overall smooth (despite some heavy rains and minor flooding along the way) and that their belongings have arrived safely. They are still in the "settling in" process, but they seem happy and relaxed. We continue to pray for a smooth transition into retirement and into their new home! Thanks for moving to Texas, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mom Boy Olympics

One of the greatest things about having a daddy as a Children's Ministry Director is that Jaden and Cody get to benefit directly from his creative planning! In January, Jason planned a very successful father-daughter dance at our church. In May, Jason teamed up with some other dads from our church to coordinate another event-- our church's first ever Mom Boy Olympics. Our family was very excited to participate! We even invited Aunt Chelsea to join us as an extra stand-in mom. Our first activity after arriving at the event was to take some silly photo booth pictures. And, yes, our matching blue shirts were purposeful! :)

Then, each boy could select 5 competitive events (from a list of 15-20) to take part in. Not surprisingly, Cody and Jaden wanted to compete in the same events. We forgot to take pictures of our first two activities that were outdoors-- the water balloon toss, and the basketball shot. Since Cody and Jaden were in the pre-K and younger category, no official scores or results were taken. The goal was to simply enjoy participating. We were okay with that. :) 

Inside, we took part in the relay races next. The original ideas Jason had for this event had to be completely revamped since the heavy rains we got that afternoon forced nearly everything to be moved inside. Jaden and Cody didn't mind at all. They loved balancing (I use that term very loosely) this stuffed doggie on their head and running across the room. They laughed when Mommy and Aunt Chelsea had to do the same.

Balancing a ping-pong ball on the spoon was a little more challenging, but Cody and Jaden ran alongside us for support!

Our next event was the puzzle assembly. The facilitator at this event timed the boys, but they didn't really get into the competition aspect. Someday, no doubt, they will! Chelsea and Cody worked together on a tricky Minions puzzle...

while Jaden and Mommy completed an Avengers one.

By far, Cody and Jaden's favorite activity of the whole day was competing in this obstacle course event-- which was basically just like an inflatable slide. The helmets were a mandatory precaution, though Cody and Jaden thankfully didn't get too crazy.

The boys loved hearing us shout, "Ready, Set, Go!" and then raced to climb up the wall.

After we completed our chosen events, we were allowed to participate in any of the other activities just for fun. Jaden and Cody pretty much wanted to stand in line for the obstacle course over and over again! At the end of the evening, we got a bunch of sugary snacks and then attended the closing ceremonies. A few prizes were awarded to the older kid age group winners, and then every boy received a medal. It was a pretty touching moment (or so I heard-- I was in the bathroom with Jaden at this point...). Jason had all the moms put the medal around their sons, reminding them how dearly loved they were by God and their mothers, no matter what their accomplishments were in life.

We definitely had a memorable afternoon! Jason could be assured that he planned a great event when both boys asked that evening, "Can we go back to Mom Boy Olympics tomorrow?" :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

May- Part 1

Here is what our family was up to the first half of May:

We signed up for another kids' build workshop at Home Depot. The project was an Angry Birds birdhouse. The shape of the final product was a bit strange, but Jaden and Cody still enjoyed the process. We were happy that Daddy could accompany us on this Saturday morning. He helped out Jaden...

...while Mommy worked with Cody.

Once the birdhouses were done, the boys got to decorate the outside with stickers.

After building these birdhouses, Jaden and Cody were intent upon filling them up with food right away! So, on our next trip to the store, we bought some birdseed for their creations. I think that Cody and Jaden were a little disappointed when birds did not come immediately flocking in hordes towards their generous gift of birdseed. It actually took a few days before the birds even seemed to notice the birdseed. Eventually, though, a few birds visited the new neighborhood birdhouses, and Jaden and Cody were satisfied. :)

Each time Daddy mows our yard, Cody and Jaden love to be part of the process. Often they like following him with their toy mowers even though the mowers are a little short for them now. On this day, Cody was thrilled to be allowed to push the real thing!

On Mother's Day, Cody and Jaden surprised me with sweet cards and tickets to go to Sea World in San Antonio as a family later this summer. How exciting! I sure love my sweet boys (and their wonderful daddy, too!). 

One Friday in May, I had my first personal encounter with a Texas snake. I was just entering the school building to teach piano lessons when, quite accidentally, I happened to shut the door on this snake! The most disturbing part of the encounter (other than the fact that it reeked since I had partially smashed the thing) was the snake was actually on its way OUT of the building. Who knows where it had been before?? Thankfully, one of the school maintenance workers took care of the wily reptile for me!

On Star Wars day (May 4th), one of my piano students gifted our family with Star Wars themed cookies. Yum! Jaden and Cody especially enjoyed the dark black-frosted Darth Vader cookies.

Sometime this spring, I had the idea to start up a neighborhood playgroup. It seems like our neighborhood is full of young families, and I was eager to meet some new people. So, I put out a message on our neighborhood Facebook page and started a bi-monthly gathering for moms and kiddos at our neighborhood playground. We've had anywhere from 4 to 10 moms join us, so it seems to be successful so far. At the beginning, some moms would volunteer to provide snacks to share, and I would plan a few games for the kids. Now, we've started bringing individual snacks due to allergy issues, but I still organize a few kid games for each gathering. Here, one of the moms brought some bread for feeding the ducks.

Our games are always VERY simple since we generally have a young mix of kids. On this day, the kids raced across the grass while balancing a cotton ball on a spoon. I've really loved meeting some wonderful moms this way, and we've found new playmates for the boys too. 

One of the biggest things about this month was ALL-NEW hairstyles for Jaden and Cody! I've been wanting to cut their hair shorter for quite some time, especially with how hot they always get in this Texas humidity, but I was unsure of how exactly to style it. After watching a haircut tutorial on youtube that my sister sent me, I gained some confidence and was ready to give it a whirl. I figured I could always buzz the whole thing if I screwed it up! Jaden was my first guinea pig....

I've always let the boys watch a couple short videos when cutting their hair in the past, and I could generally trim them both in the time frame of two Curious George episodes. For this new haircut, however, I was still teaching myself what to do along the way, pausing for reminders from the tutorial, so it took much longer. Jaden and Cody didn't complain at all when they got to watch four videos during this evening of haircuts!! :)

I used a combination of clippers (at the bottom) and scissors (at the top) for this haircut. Cody was a pretty patient model, too.

In the end, I was pleased with how both boys' haircut turned out. Mostly, I just felt good that I didn't have to go crawling to a professional stylist to fix up all my mistakes. The end result was good enough in my book! :) The short do certainly makes both of them look quite a bit older.

One day this month, I happened to capture a pretty precious playtime moment with Jaden and Cody. I don't think they even realized that I took out the camera. :) Gotta love these heart-warming moments that remind you of the joys of raising kids!