Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Up in the Sky SO High!

So, pretty much as soon as each of the kids grew out of infancy, Aaron started playing a special game with them. He will throw them straight up in the air, as high as he possibly can and then catch them...and they LOVE it.

Sometime before he was two, Ben named it: "Up in the sky so high". As in, "Daddy, throw me up in the sky so high." And now, both kids love every chance they get to be tossed.

Here are a few recent pics of them soaring.

Little Miss Moose Mouse soaring with the greatest of ease. She really loves it and will throw her body around while she is up there flying. A future in gymnastics, maybe?

Ben has been flying since before his first birthday. He's gotten bigger over the years, but Aaron still seems to be able to launch him pretty well!

And finally, with a little help from a good friend, Aaron got to fly "up in the sky so high" for once, too:) Don't worry, his hands eventually returned to normal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vacation Part 4: The Jesters

If you know us well, you know that we are pretty blessed with a wide range of people who we care about, and who care about us. We really have some amazing friends!

That being said, it's not every family that could spend a week hiking and camping alongside another family. It seems that, spending that much time together, roughing it and needing to get a lot of "work" done for each meal and all chores, inevitably people would get over-tired, over-stimulated, or just over-cranky and things would get ugly for a while...right?

Well, much to our joy, that did not happen at all during our week camping with the Jesters.

These 4 people are some of the nearest and dearest in the world to us, and spending our first week camping in the Rockies as a family with them was so so wonderful. There are so many amazing memories, and instead of making us think it was a risky trip, we now can't imagine camping for a week with our kids WITHOUT the Jesters with us!

I was a bit worried that their kids (aged 7 and 9) would become annoyed with our kids (aged 2 and 4). Instead, the 4 kids were WONDERFUL. And with there being 4 adults, the work load was always easily managed, and the kids could still be watched by at least one adult, when necessary. And the older kids were amazing with our kids, so all 4 could have relative freedom and play without a lot of adult "rules" because they watched out for each other and helped each other. Molly and Ben pratically worshiped the 2 older kids, and I think that helped the older kids have patience with such young camping buddies!

Here is a fun pic of a group hug:) We had dinner in town one night, and as we were getting up to leave, the 4 kids spontaneously had this sweet hug.

Aren't they such a beautiful group of kids!!?

The whole group. Gotta love amazing friends! These were taken at Mills Lake. A 6-mile hike (round-trip) that we all survived and LOVED! Aaron and I would never have considered such a hike if we had been there with the kids by ourselves. But with the encouragement and constant motivation of the Jester kids, Ben hiked the whole 3 miles up by himself! And he got a ride all the way back down from Jason during a rather treacherous and wet thunderstorm. What are friends for?:)

And, one of my favorite Rocky Mountain experiences from my own childhood...snow in the dead of summer!! I was so delighted that my kids got to experience it too. When we were kids, my siblings and I were always excited beyond belief to see snow in the summer, especially being from Louisiana at the time! All 4 kids loved the snowball fight that quickly ensued.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vacation Part 3: The Dirt

So, the trip was basically awesome in every way. It was a week with freedom from work, stress, time lines, to-do lists, chores, and most especially...cleanliness.

Yes, friends, freedom from cleanliness was one of the best parts of our trip. When camping, we do strive for a basic level of hygiene. But other than the don't-get-e.coli-during-dinner kind of cleaning, there's not much to be done about the dirt. And the kids LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

About 5 minutes into the Park, so about 4 minutes and 49 seconds into Ben and Molly scooping dirt and rocks into magnificent piles, I said, "Don't get too dirty guys". And that was the end of my efforts at cleanliness. They had the most marvelous time kicking up dust clouds ("It looks like a steam cloud chuffing out of an engine Mom!" says Ben with delight), making rock piles, letting the sticky marshmallow from smores create a protective sheen on their faces that not even U.V. rays can penetrate, and just generally living like wild children. It brought joy to them, and delight to us to see them so happy exploring such simple parts of nature. Frankly, just thinking about it makes me want to throw them in the back alley to play and relive the fun:)

Here is Ben making some more "puffs of steam."

Molly showing off her special rock pile. She started this as soon as we got to our campsite and finished it by the end of the week. Ben and the Jester kids helped a bit too.

Smores faces...yum!

Nothing like playing in the dirt!

Seriously, it was even fun for the big kid in the group! Dirt just rocks!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vacation Part 2: The Tent

So, as I mentioned in Part 1, my biggest fear of the week was that sleep would be poor. For those who don't know, I have a checkered past with sleep and my kids, and I am prone to useless anxiety about getting enough rest. I spent WAY too much time leading up to the trip worrying that at least one of the kids would be up many times each night...needing a bathroom, hearing strange sounds, needing water, needing snuggles...whatever. I was geared up for terrible sleep.

But, the most magical thing happened...cool moutain air, comfy air mattresses, long days hiking and playing in the moutains, and sleeping within arm's reach of Mommy and Daddy all came together to produce some of the most wonderful sleep of my life!! The first night was a bit touchy, but other than that, it was AWESOME!!

I'll admit that when we camp, Aaron and I like to be comfy. Not "we 'camped' at the Hilton" comfy, but nice-sized air mattresses with lots of blankets, pillows and warm jammies comfy. And it was SO worth the car-top carrier we had to buy to have those air mattresses. Such great sleep!

And I also have to admit that our brand new, very warm tent helped too.

We hadn't planned on getting a tent. We were going to borrow my parent's tent to save a few bucks. It is a monster 12-man tent that requires 4 people, 6 sled dogs, 1 backhoe, and a turtle to set up, but they were willing to lend it and we (I) thought it would be nice to have some (lots of) extra room for the week. So we packed it, and its massive bag of poles, and its massive tarp and drove them all out to the Park. It was even the (4 gigantic piece) item that put our packing over the top and required the last-minute purchase of a car top carrier.

But, alas, my brother was the only person who knew how to set it up. We scheduled a meet time a week before the trip for him to show us how to get it set up, but he wasn't able to come at the last minute. And as we tried to figure it out ourselves, we realized that he has long since removed the instructions. But Aaron and I figured, "We both have Master's degrees, the internet, and good experience with tents. We'll print new instructions from the web, and just figure it out when we get there." Uhhh...BIG mistake.

We get out there, with a huge storm rolling in over the mountains, and despite our very best effort, combined with the best effort of our friends with us, we were NOT able to get the thing even close to usable. So Aaron dashed off to downtown Estes Park, found a camping store and bought a nice, 6-man Kelty tent. He raced back up to us, we furiously set it up, and hopped inside and zipped up the rain fly just in time to avoid the hail storm that rolled in:)

Really though, it worked out well because we LOVE our new tent, and are now inspired to camp much more often. If only the mountains were closer!

Sweet Moose Mouse catching some zzzzzz's:

Sleepy Mister B, warm and cozy in the footed jammies that his Aunt RiRi and Uncle Curt gave him this year for Christmas. They keep him WARM...ideal for camping at a high altitude.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Vacation! Part 1: The Car Ride

So I have been a poor blogger of late. The summer has been busier than I expected (isn't it always!) and we spent a WONDERFUL week away as a family, which has also kept me behind on posts. But I have a few free minutes, so I thought I'd try to start catching up. First thing's first...I need to share some pics and stories from our wonderful summer trip!

In early July, we took a week and drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park. Aaron and I LOVE the Rockies, and love RMNP especially. We have been there many times, and have been wanting to take the kids out for some camping just like we used to do before we were parents. We were a little nervous to go with them as young as they are, especially Molly. We were afraid a 2-yr-old wouldn't do well with 14 hours in the car, and a week in a tent, with no set nap time or consistency.

But some very dear friends of ours were up for going as well, and our kids adore their kids (as do we), so Aaron and I decided to give it a shot, thinking a few extra fun friends around might help, and hoping that the kids would love it out there as much as we do.

Thankfully, we couldn't have been more right. The trip was AMAZING, and the Jester family were more help to having a fun week than we could even begin to explain! SO many wonderful times for everyone.

Here is the first story:

Getting out there and back!

My biggest fear was how sleep would go in the tent for 5 nights. I'll get to that later. My second biggest fear was how the kids would survive the super-long car ride.

Well, I'm happy to announce that they did a superb job! We stocked the car with some new small toys/trinkets and art supplies, filled a bag with new books from the library, got a bunch of fun snacks and treats, and snuck in the car dvd player to be used only when we were all reaching the meltdown stage. And, other than a few select moments, we all survived the car just fine. In fact, it was kind of fun to be traveling together all day. There was plenty of time for talking, music, reading, playing, and just generally having fun together. Molly even got some quality naps in. The dvd player was pulled out a few times, but not nearly as much as I feared...which made it all the more effective of a tool.

Here is a pic of Molly with her special car cup, special trip snack cup, and her special car drawing toy having a great time!

Ben showing off how fun it is to be in the car for an entire day:

Molly demonstrating proper nap technique, especially when you are driving across the blisteringly bright plains of sunshiney Kansas!

Ben flashing DOUBLE "I love you's" to us for straping him in a hard, plastic car seat and drinving him across 3 states.

And finally, how to keep a salt-addicted 2-yr-old happy when your driving cross country: (and yes, she finished the bag!)