9.22.2017

Summer Memories

School has been in session for almost two weeks now, but before I write about how Claire's doing in kindergarten, I've got to record some of my favorite summer memories. First up, how I spent my weekdays with all three girls at home.

Summer Weekdays

Well, we spent A LOT of time at the park with friends. We loved going to the Tuesday morning kids' concerts at the beach, playing in the water, enjoying a picnic lunch, and sharing ice cream sandwiches from the snack stand for dessert. We joined the Y again and made it there at least once a week. We were sad that our parish didn't have vacation bible school this year, but Claire and Maggie did a little tennis day camp at the park and had a weekly soccer clinic there as well. All three girls did swim lessons - the place where they've done dance/gymnastics for the last couple years also has an outdoor pool and starts lessons for kids at eighteen months. We started on Betsy's half birthday in August! Even though she didn't really learn anything, it was worth it to have her happily splashing in the pool instead of grumpily watching from the sidelines. The girls and I all agreed that the swim instructor was much, much better than the teachers at the private swim club in our neighborhood, where we'd done lessons the last couple years.

At the very beginning of the summer, I devised a plan for spending a little learning/spiritual growth time with my big girls during Betsy's afternoon nap. I drew up this schedule for myself:

Monday: Bible journals + books on CD
Tuesday:  Saint story + wipe clean workbooks
Wednesday: Bible journals + audio book with quiet activity
Thursday: Catholic treasure box story + board game
Friday: Rosary + sensory activity

For quiet activities, I mean puzzles, pattern blocks, and perler "biggie" beads. Just something to keep their hands busy while they listened to Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy. For sensory activities, I mean play dough, kinetic sand, or these water beads. We prayed the rosary by listening to these CDs from Holy Heroes and coloring in the accompanying coloring books. The Catholic Treasure Box books are from the 1950s, but were also purchased from Holy Heroes. We can't recommend them enough - our girls love the stories and we've learned a lot from them as adults.

We didn't stick to this schedule exactly the whole summer. Sometimes I knew they were just too tired from spending all morning playing at the park or the beach. Sometimes they were deep into an pretend world that I wasn't about to interfere with - both because I think imaginative games with your siblings are the very best education of all in early childhood and because it meant I could sneak off to finish chores or read a book on my own!

We were most dedicated to our bible journal project. We used Maite Roche's Bible for Little Ones because the stories are very simple and her illustrations are gorgeous. I found some blank storybooks at the Target Dollar Spot. Basically, I'd read the story to the girls, they would draw a picture in their bible journal, and then I'd write their narrated versions of the story.

Here's a page from Maggie's journal:

Maggie Bible Journal Old Testament

She said, "The big guy, Goliath's, shield gets stuck in a tree. Then he can't attack. The little guy, David, throws a rock at him. One of the trees falls over. Goliath is killed. David wins the war and a rainbow comes out!"

This is the page she was looking at in the children's bible: 

David and Goliath Example Page

Here's a page from Claire's journal: 

Claire Bible Journal Old Testament

She said, "Isaiah is telling everyone that God is real. A dove flaps onto his shoulder. The big star in the sky is trying to show that God is real too. Jesus is going to come tomorrow!"

This is the page she was looking at in the children's bible:

Isaiah Example Page

We made it through the twelve stories in the Old Testament. Next summer, I'd love to have them work on the New Testament in a new journal - it would be really fun to see how their artistic style has changed. They were both very proud of the finished product. Claire even brought hers in for her first show-and-tell in kindergarten. 

My other summer goal was to have them greatly improve in their ability to clean up the toys at the end of the day. I paid them a quarter for a job well done and periodically took them to spend their money on new books at the thrift store or new puzzles and coloring books at the dollar store. We're very much still a work in progress (especially when it comes to completing this task without whining, tantrums, and a million reminders to focus) but there's been definite improvement.

Summer Weekends

On the weekend, our town's summer fair and farmer's market are always highlights of the summer. We also made it to the beach as a family twice, where Adam demonstrated that he is most definitely the fun parent.

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For us, summer means lots of berry picking. We kicked it off with strawberries on a particularly warm Saturday morning in June. Claire and Maggie are true Seattle children and were not enthused by the unusually hot temperatures.

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In July, we picked raspberries and blueberries. In August, we picked blackberries - wild blackberries grow everywhere in Seattle, so there are no u-pick farms. We found an abundance at our local playground. We also harvested the apples from our backyard tree in August and turned them into applesauce. We use the strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries in homemade ice cream, as well as enjoying lots fresh with whipped cream and angel food cake (made with all the egg whites leftover from ice cream). We just freeze the blueberries to use in muffins and pancakes throughout the year.

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We spent a very fun Saturday morning at Remlinger Farms, an amusement park for little kids. This was the last year Claire could go on all the rides (before she's too tall) and it made us realize that our family outings will have to change when we don't have only small children anymore. I imagine we'll have to split up sometimes, but hopefully we'll mostly stick to things everyone enjoys.

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We spent another enjoyable Saturday morning at the zoo, although since it was another unusually warm day, most of the animals were hiding in the shade. I think the zoo is really a better spring or fall activity - as long as it's not pouring down rain, it's a pretty good time. We were surprised to see the hippo out of his pond, since it seems like we never get a good glimpse of him. Along with the rest of the zoo patrons, we were most excited to see the baby giraffe born earlier in the summer.

Summer is such an odd time of year here in Seattle. We want to squeeze in as much fun as possible while the sun is shining, but we also have more chores to keep up with, since there's always yard work to be done. This year, we also wanted to get a few house projects finished before our new baby arrives in November and knew we would have much less time once school started. I actually felt quite relieved when the rain, cloudy skies, and cooler temperatures returned this week!

9.07.2017

Richland Road Trips

There are so many trips we would have loved to have taken this summer - three weddings of dear friends, British Columbia for Canada's 150th, Oregon for the total eclipse. But ultimately, we knew it was most important (and most affordable!) to visit my parents in Eastern Washington. We made it to Richland for two long weekends. 

Over July 4th, we went swimming at a family friends' house and at my mom's gym. The girls had a great time playing in the sprinklers and kiddie pool in the backyard. Although Betsy mostly enjoyed stealing the cherry tomatoes from their garden! 

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 We visited again the last weekend of August. We went bowling, got ice cream at the Country Mercantile, rode on the Carousel of Dreams, and played at the splash park. 

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You often hear jokes about how traveling with several small children isn't a vacation, it's a trip. Sure, it's a bit harder to get everyone to sleep, but staying at my parents' house is much, much more relaxing than my regular life. They serve delicious meals, which we often get to enjoy on their back deck with a beautiful view of the golf course. While Betsy's napping and the big girls are watching a show, we don't have any chores or projects to work on and can play board games, read, or take a nap ourselves. Little things like getting to use their Keurig, walking to their neighborhood park, or watching donuts being made on after Mass trips to Krispy Kreme are just really fun. We still can't get over how lucky we are to have them only four hours away!

P.S. Adam's parents and his oldest brother's family made it through Hurricane Harvey unscathed, thankfully. Adam's brother was actually on a work trip in Oregon and couldn't get home for almost a week, so he drove up to Seattle to meet with some clients and we got to visit with him a few times. It's been really sad to see so many homes and so much of the infrastructure destroyed in the suburb of Houston we're from. Texas is in our prayers, as are all those fighting the forest fires currently plaguing the Pacific Northwest.

8.18.2017

Our Anniversary + The Edel Gathering

Things have been kind of hard since Claire's hiking accident. One dad with a pretty badly sprained ankle + one quite pregnant mom + three very small children + emotional trauma = not exactly a recipe for success. But, today, let's focus on two bright spots over the last month.

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First, our seventh anniversary! Adam and I had the best time celebrating on a really great date night. Seattle has an impressive food scene and we spent a while researching new restaurants we wanted to try. We finally narrowed it down to Bateau, Renee Erickson's new steakhouse in Capitol Hill. 

The beef is all grass-fed from local farms and butchered in house. They want to use the whole cow, so they sell some less-common cuts of steak and they have limited availability of everything. All the cuts are written on big chalkboards and the waiters cross things off as customers order them.

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We started off with salads, then I ordered the ranch cut with mashed potatoes and Adam ordered the Denver with fries and garlic aioli. We had just enough room left to share a bread pudding for dessert. Everything was delicious and very reasonably priced. 

We had such a fun time reminiscing about our honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico (we would go back in a second!) and realized I've been expecting for more than half of our anniversaries thus far.

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After dinner, we had planned to go up to the Columbia Tower Observatory (the tallest building in Seattle) to watch the sunset, but, alas, the Sea Fair parade meant there was no parking to be found downtown. So, we went to go see The Big Sick instead. It was such a different and delightful romantic comedy. We'd highly recommend it.

The next day we had our traditional anniversary family feast of fajitas and derby pie, the food we served at our wedding reception. I promise our children were more enthused than they appear in this photo!

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The following weekend, my dear friend, Libby, and I flew to Austin to attend the Edel Gathering. I am so thankful that Adam's ankle had healed enough by then for me to go, because I had been looking forward to this for many months. We arrived on Friday evening, just in time for the announcement of the crazy shoe contest winners at the opening cocktail party. We thought the Frito pie bar was such a fun and delicious idea.

We had planned to attend the Soul Core session on Saturday morning, but when we arrived the room was already full and we weren't quite gung-ho enough to join the crowd working out in the hallway. Libby actually did head to the gym, while I chose to read by the pool instead. We showered, walked over to the flagship Whole Foods for lunch, and then it was conference time!

We heard three beautiful talks, indulged in some shopping from all the fabulous vendors, went to the Vigil Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, and made some new friends during the closing dinner and dance party. The face painting booth was such a great addition to the evening. One of my friends from high school, Katie, was there too and it was so great to catch up with her.

Our flight didn't leave until 7:30 on Sunday night, so we had almost the whole day to explore Austin. We read by the pool until checkout time, then walked around South Congress, where I purchased my first pair of Kendra Scott earrings and we had tacos at Guero's. We finished off the afternoon with pedicures and Amy's Ice Cream. It was such a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend away!

Edel Gathering

We took 2016 off because Betsy was a little baby the whole time, but Adam and I really like to give each other a couple days of kid-free time a year. I've been to the Edel Gathering twice and to Portland with my sister. Adam's been camping twice and visited friends in Pittsburgh, while also accompanying my brother on a scholarship interview. When family members offer to watch the girls so we can both sneak away, we are all over it. They are awesome and either my parents or my sister have kept them overnight several times. The last time was our fifth anniversary, but my parents are coming to give us 24-ish hours off next month. To say we are very, very excited would be definitely be an understatement.