Friday, July 29, 2011


From the time we planned this trip, my mom has been promising the kids that they would all have a sleepover at her house. Five cousins in the same city at the same time calls for nothing less. Last night was that crazy night and it lived up to the hype.

Most of us played a game of croquet outside, pretty high stakes. Then a few select naps took place, due to a sleep shortage caused by camping the night before. Once the kids woke up they went bowling. I don't know the details, but I'm sure it was mayhem and fun, all at once. Dinner was at Red Lobster, a new restaurant to my kids. They loved it and were stuffed by the time they got back in the car(s) to go to Target. Oh yes, there must be a Target Toy Run.

Once home, they all agreed on a movie to watch; Tangled was chosen. (Did I mention it was about 10PM by this time?) Lehr and I were out on a date until 11:30, so we came home to find all kids awake, playing with legos and other things, watching a movie. I was shocked my kids were able to keep their eyes open, but they did. All of the way through the movie which was over somewhere around 12:15. Eli slept in the living room with the boys and Maddux opted to sleep in her regular room on the mattress (she didn't want to sleep with Grandma - I think she was just too tired). It is now 9AM and they both just woke up. Not nearly enough sleep, but the latest they've slept in longer than I can remember.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


That is the word of the day....

It started out fine. We planned to rent a pontoon boat on Lake Coeur d'Alene for all eleven of us. The kids were excited to 'tube' behind and jump off when we found some coves. We woke up to some rain though, so our boating adventure was backed up until noonish.

At that time, the sky was totally clear and the temperature was awesome. I even noted several times how glassy the water was (read: FLAT). Eli and Cole went back on the tube first, then Cole by himself, then Maddux and Cole, then Eli by himself, then Treis (who was the only one to fall in because of his daredevil tricks). The beauty of the boat is that it couldn't' get enough speed up to really scare the kids or put them in danger of falling off unless they stood up.

Maddux showed her bravery by asking to go into the inner tube by herself. However, just as we were puling her in after her ride, she got another brave streak and stood up. Of course that resulted in her toppling in. No biggie - she's wearing a life vest AND she can swim. However, the water was cold and she fell in by surprise, so she was spooked. Lehr and I tried to calm her and coax her into realizing she was fine. And she was, but it was hard to see her scared. Lehr did a great job of locking in with her and convincing her to swim with her arms, which ultimately got her to us. (This whole time she was maybe 15 feet from us.)

All kids had a chance to drive the boat, with Grandpa Jim in control, of course. Maddux assured him, "I really know how to drive!! I drived Daddy's car home from the pool." Just as they all finished up their turns, the water got a bit choppy, out of nowhere.
Then choppy turned into very bumpy and rough. Then the splashes came on board. The next thing we knew, all people up front were hiding under towels because of the 'spray' as we hit the waves. Stop. Remember that we're on a pontoon boat in a SMALL lake. There shouldn't be spray or waves.
Things got ugly quick and everyone was was unavoidable. We made our way to a private dock to get out of the mess so we could figure out how to get back to our marina. Eli was spooked. Really spooked. If you know me, you know i am not a fan of open water anyway, but I did not put that fear on him..I swear! Most of us got off of the boat for a breather and the decision-makers made a quick plan. We were getting back onto the boat and sticking close to shore to try and limp back in. I'm not sure how he found the strength, but Eli went back on needing very little persuasion from me. (That was a good thing because I could not have brought myself to force him back on.)

This time around I stayed right behind the captain's chair with my arms around Eli to reassure him. He was so scared, and that was the best place to be to avoid the spray. Actually, it was almost the only place to be.... We said a few prayers together and then braved it out as Grandpa Jim kept us in as many 'flat' places as possible. We made real progress but then it got really bad again. Eli's level of comfort disappeared completely and he asked me if we could talk to God again. He even cried a little at this point. (He'd been holding it in really well the whole time leading up to that point.) We made it to another private dock, much less smoothly this time, and we all got off of the boat for good. The great news was we were only 4 road miles from the marina, so we called in and got a bail-out. (We were not the only ones in need of rescue that afternoon; a few other boats called in as well.) Once on dry land, Eli was fine. The dock, however, was getting blasted by the wake; part of it was even coming apart. And ten minutes after we'd secured and emptied the boat, one of the rougher 'swells' came through and ripped the boat away from the dock on one side, taking the dock that was connected to the boat by a rope with it. And when we got back to the house there were potted plants and trash cans blown over and down in the yard, PLUS a tree knocked down in my parent's grass. least I'm not exaggerating how crazy the wind was...there were white caps, for goodness sake!

What about Maddux, you ask? She was none the wiser. She spent almost the entire time with Grandma Cathie, playing with Eden and laughing. The only times she showed any distress was when she got hit by a big splash. True to her character, she was happy-go-lucky and unphased by chaos.

Once again, if you know me you may be thinking, how did Nicole make it through that without a heart attack?! Totally because of the kids. I couldn't lose my cool or show any fear, mainly because of Eli. So even though I held it together to help him, his fear was the only thing helping me to keep it calm.

I talked to Eli afterwards about it, and reminded him how proud I was that he stayed so brave during the whole thing. Once we got home I asked what his favorite part was: the driving, the tubing..... He said, "Pretty much nothing." Even after that stress, he was still in good enough spirits to joke about it. Life is good.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Birthday Celebration

What a day! We'd planned to celebrate Maddux and Eli's birthdays today, and what a celebration it was. To start the day, Grandpa Jim made the requested pancakes (for the second day in a row). We then headed over to Spokane to meet the rest of the gang at an outdoor aquatic center. So so cool. There was a huge water slide that could be traveled on with or without an inner tube, a 'lazy river', a smaller kids area, and many opportunities for water splashes. Eli and Maddux wanted to ride the big one right away, of course. They had to be accompanied by an adult, but we had plenty of us that were willing, so all they had to do was ask.

After about an hour we grabbed a quick lunch and got back into it. Eli and Cole were attached at the hip, going down the slide and pretty much owning the whole park, while Maddux seemed to enjoy the smaller kids area better. She could go down a smaller slide, pull water down on top of her, and feel totally independent and comfortable, all on her own. We had to cut the fun short though, because we had much more planned for the day.

A quick clothing change later we were back in the car, heading to a trampoline center. This. Place. Was. Awesome. For two hours the majority of us (Yes, us - the adults were more than welcomed.) jumped our hearts out. There were three sections: open-trampolines, dodge ball trampolines and trick trampolines. Eli had a blast trying to hang with Cole and Treis and the adults in the dodge ball games. Maddux went in too, but didn't even pretend to try...good stuff. Both kids tried their hand at the trick area. Eli did some flips while Maddux mostly stuck to cannon-ball-type jumps. I can't even say which was my favorite because they were all so much fun. And as tired as I was after just five minutes, I was very sad to see the two hours end.

We grabbed some pizza near Uncle J's house and then stopped by there to enjoy amazing dessert: chocolate souffle. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We're Here!!

After minimal delay, we arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's house last night. The kids were exhausted by the time they got home and to bed, as it was 1AM for them, but they held up really well. This morning they were up with the sun, ready to play with everyone and everything.

Uncle J, Treis and Eden came over as we were all outside playing a bag-toss game. Eli pulled out the bats and balls and golf clubs immediately at that point and went to it. Maddux had a blast chasing Eden around, trying to "mommy" her. We had a quick lunch and walked down to the beach at the river. Maddux hung out mostly at the shore, but Eli walked out on the dock in preparation to jump off. I reminded both kids that the water would be colder than the pool, but their ability to swim remained. Eli jumped a few times, but very hesitantly and close tot he dock. Maddux eventually jumped in, but only after Daddy did.

Before it got too late, Cole and Ingrid joined us and we walked back home for dinner. Grandpa Jim (with very little help from Eli) had prepared homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs. We squeezed all eleven people in the kitchen/dining for a big feast. After dinner we were back outside; Eden needed a bath and photo opp. My parents have a big copper tub that we used to take pictures of Maddux in during bath time three years ago. Tonight I got photos of all five grand kids in the tub (individually). Good stuff. We ended the night with a game of croquet, the first time for Maddux and Eli. A short tantrum by Maddux followed a small injury, and off to bed they went :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

VBX 2011

Wow. Another amazing year of VBX. Eli really really enjoyed his second year with the big kids and Maddux had a blast leading the pre-schoolers around again. Lehr led a kindergarten group (and I hopped in to help when I could), and I toured the whole scene, snapping as many pictures as I could. The kids did sack races, sponge races, ropes courses, tug-o-war, and science projects. The theme was "X-Periment" and the kids' goal all week was to discover what the "X-factor" was (Jesus). As always, the creative team came up with awesome dramas and amazing teaching moments through the science lab.

My favorite part was the worship sets. Both kids learned all of the songs and corresponding movements and we practiced them each day, at their request. Their interest in the music was never ending...they couldn't get enough of the CD's I made for their room! I love how much my kids love God and all things about Jesus!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Maddux Talk

It's time for another update because this girl just keeps them coming. It's like she has no internal filter; she just says everything that comes to mind without fear of how it will be perceived by others. And I admire that. Many of her 'funnies' have come in the way of prayers this month. Love it.
  • I took this kids to an indoor play area about a month ago. The kids played with each other and other kids awesomely for about two hours before I gave them the 1-minute-warning. Maddux replied, "Oh, OK. I better go find another friend." And that she did..immediately.
  • Maddux prayed before breakfast one day: "Thank you, God, for desserts, for Halloween, for birthdays and for marryin'. Amen."
  • Just a few days later, she prayed before dinner, (eyes squinched up): Thank you, God, for spaghetti, cheese, and toilet paper. Amen"
  • Since turning four a few weeks ago, everything she does revolves around how big she is. "Mommy, those shoes won't fit me now: I'm FOOOOUR!"

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Whole New World

While Eli has been reading for about a year now, we've recently asked him to read out loud to us more often in the last few months. And the books we've been picking have been ones usually saved for US to read at bedtime. I love, love, love how well he reads and how it's opening his eyes in a new way. He pauses a little more often because I see him reading ahead now, and checking the sentence out before he verbalizes it. And it is my favorite thing when he chuckles at the words, context, or pictures. It's funny because these are books we've read as a family no less than two thousand times. But you'd think from his reaction he'd never seen the books before. And I think it's so cool that Eli can now read totally LONG and non-sensical books like Dr. Seuss that really test his reading ability. No sight-words there, just plain old sound-it-out nonsense! Here is a quick clip of him reading last night.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sports Camp

The kids attended a Sports Camp at the YMCA for a few hours each morning this week. It is a camp they wanted to participate in last summer, but it booked up too fast. I made sure to get them on the schedule early this spring so they wouldn't miss out again. Eli and Maddux ended up being in different groups at the camp, even though they weren't grouped by age. This allowed me to get very different stories about the day's activities each afternoon. I do know they played basketball, roller hockey (I can't quite believe it), tennis, racket ball and soccer. And on the last day they got to swim. One day when I picked them up, one of the instructors, Eli's group leader, actually, came out and asked me if Eli played any sports. I told him baseball and he responded that Eli has been a bit 'obsessed' with hockey. I told him that Eli's grandfather had played and it really piqued his interest. That day Eli had drawn a picture of a hockey game during the camp. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trip With Daddy

Eli got to do something this last weekend that will hopefully be long-lasting memory for him: he got to travel to Florida with only Daddy to see the final shuttle launch. For the last nine-ish months, Eli has been a bit obsessed with shuttles and all things surrounding them. He has a few shuttle/space program/shuttle program books that he's basically memorized, he drew shuttles at school almost every day, and he even made his own book at home with his drawings and writings about the process a shuttle goes through when it lifts off.

When the date for the final shuttle launch was released, Lehr and I looked at our calendars to see what could be done. A trip for all four of us would be difficult due to plane ticket prices and my weekend 'job', but a trip for two was do-able. The only catch was a scrubbed mission, which happens often. The good news was that the launch was scheduled for Friday, so if it was scrubbed, there would be at least one more opportunity over the weekend. And in the event it was scrubbed for the whole weekend, at least Eli would be able to see the shuttle on the launch pad, and he'd be able to tour Kennedy Space Center (basically Disney World for NASA).

We kept it a surprise from Eli until the last second, packing his backpack on the sly and using the pretense of a 'date night' with Daddy for me to get him downtown to meet Lehr. Once inside Lehr's car, on the way to the airport, Lehr broke the news. He was ecstatic.

I wasn't there, so the rest is just from the stories I've heard from Lehr and Eli. They stayed with Nana all weekend, they surfed, they hung out with family, and they got more than their fill of the shuttle. I know it was by far the coolest thing Eli has ever done.

The morning of the launch they all rose early to go 'get a seat'. Eli is very fortunate to have a grandmother who works for NASA, so in addition to all of the cool paraphernalia she's given him over the last few missions, this time around she got him special viewing passes. Lehr and Eli were able to sit as close as humanly possible to the shuttle (3 miles away). They were seated right next to the big clock that you see on TV. The area around them was mostly made up of press...unbelievable. And this launch estimated one million tourists; they shut down a few causeways so people could just stand and watch. Yet the area Lehr and Eli were in had plenty of space to walk around, sit comfortably, and be very UN-crowded. Special privileges......

After a minor delay, the shuttle took off and Eli cheered like crazy. He still tells me about the look, the sounds, and the events of that morning. It left a definite mark in his memory. There was some surfing later that day. As Eli tells it, he did a really cool trick on Russell's board. I do know he actually stood up on the wave, but beyond that, I'm thinking it was all just chance.

Saturday found the boys at Kennedy Space Center. Lehr said it was a good test for a possible upcoming Disney trip because it was SO crowded and SO hot and SO long lines. And Eli did great. Lehr said he waited patiently and didn't whine or complain. That really does not shock me because I know how into it he all was. So even waiting in line, he could look at and talk about all shuttle things around him.

Before the boys flew out on Sunday they woke up early for the beach. It was close to empty except for them. Lehr really misses the beach and seeing his boy out there, enjoying it with a board the way he always did was pretty cool.

Maddux missed them like crazy. Seriously. Even more than Daddy, she missed Eli. When I told her (around the same time Lehr was telling Eli), she said, "I'm sad...I'll miss Eli." And she must have asked 4 or 5 times each day for us to call them and see what they were doing , or what they were eating for breakfast. They did have one conversation on Saturday. So sweet.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mommy-Maddux Weekend

Lehr and Eli went to Florida to see the final shuttle launch this last weekend, so Maddux and I had a girls' weekend. I wish I'd had more flexibilty to take her somewhere also, but with a few shoots lined up before Lehr made their plans, we stayed put.

Thursday night we met a new friend of Maddux's for sushi. She and the little boy are similar in age and get along really well. They both ate lots of rice, steamed broccoli, and edemame. Her friend brought a present for her, in honor of her birthday the week before: a beautiful dress.

Friday we ran a few errands, played at the pool, and then ended up meeting CC for dinner. Maddux had a great time entertaining her with her silly songs and coloring skills. We ended up staying at the restaurant well after our meal was finished.

Saturday morning I had a shoot, so one of Maddie's favorite babysitters came over to play for a few hours. They totally 'girled it up', playing ponies and princesses. When I came home we went back to the pool and swam the afternoon away. After a few minutes of down time at home, Maddux got dressed up in her new dress and we went to a new location so I could do a mini-shoot with her. As expected, she accessories plenty, adding sunglasses and a few necklaces. We finished the night with a dinner of pasta (per Maddux's choice) and a little bit of Olivia. The boys returned after church on Sunday...all in all a good weekend.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Lehr and Eli left for Florida yesterday; we wanted Eli to see the final Shuttle launch. We kept it a surprise until Eli was in Lehr's car on the way to the airport. I told maddux about the trip just before she napped. She took it ok, especially when I told her about all of the cool stuff we'd do this weekend. She napped, she woke up and we drove to dinner. Almost as soon as we got in the car, she asked if we could call Daddy and Eli. I dialed and handed her the phone. On my end I heard, "Hi Daddy! (pause) Yes. Can I talk to Eli? (pause) HI ELI! (pause) I miss you. I wish you were here.' Click

Be still my heart.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fish, Fish, Everywhere

Yesterday I took the kids to the Aquarium. We've been 3 or 4 times before, but this was our most lengthy and worthwhile trip ever. The line to get in was longer than usual, and there were way more people there than we are used to, but the kids did great. They stayed with me, obeyed pretty well, and didn't complain (until the end when Maddux's feet were tired).

Eli has been intrigued by sharks this summer due to his Swim Team (their mascot is a shark), and both kids have been interested in most marine life because of the National Geographic specials we've been watching each week. They were both very excited to see the dolphins and whale sharks, and of course the spider crabs, which have always been their favorites.

We arrived just before lunch and had a quick snack. (I snuck a few granola bars in. Not really 'right', and I didn't make it obvious to the kids that I was bending the rules. After the pricy ticket to get in teh door, I couldn't justify overpriced food.) Eli and Maddux poured over the map while we ate, pointing to each section and shouting, "I wanna go there!" each time they saw something they liked. We went through each section except the River Scout, only because we'd already been there so long by that point. Eli got all into the huge tank with the whale sharks, pointing out each shark and verifying their name with me. Maddux loved the colorful fish, and the big 'ugly' grouper. The dolphin exhibit wasn't that exciting, and I didn't get tickets for the show because they were sold out until much later in the afternoon. Eli and Maddux did put hands in the shark and ray tank this time, both with success. They've dunked their fingers before, but only as a faux attempt. Eli caught one dorsal fin and a two-finger swipe at a ray, and Maddux touched a little bit of shark skin. Very cool.

I did something that I've never done before: I let them each pick out one souvenir. (Yikes!) I was a bit picky about what they could choose. A plastic container of candy shaped as a fish was off-limits, but a dolphin necklace was get the picture. Eli picked out a bag of hard plastic sharks; 7 different kinds. Maddux picked a container of small plastic sea animals, similar to the large ones she collects. They both played with them the rest of the day and named most of them correctly. Very good day!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Independance Day

What a weekend! You'd think by now I'd be used to the weekend surrounding July 3/4: the craziness of Maddux's birthday followed so closely by a fun-filled holiday. This one was a doozy!

I left the house well before 6AM to get down to the race on time. Lehr and the kids got up just after 6 to pick up breakfast and head down to 'spectate'. As usual, Maddux and Eli had a blast eating bagels and yogurt as runners passed by most of the morning. They saw plenty of costumes and patriotic headgear before I made it to them on my own route. D and Bryce were with them also, helping the fun factor, for sure.

After the race we headed home for lunch. A quick nap and family game later, it was approaching dinner time and it was raining cats and dogs. Since the weather was threatening to cancel fireworks, we ate inside. We'd already planned to have Family Movie Night if the storms cancelled fire works, but we were hopeful as the sky cleared. Just as we pulled out of the neighborhood, the rain started again, harder than before. We turned the car around and texted some friends to come over for FMN. The kids watched most of "Up" and ate all of the popcorn I'd popped for the fireworks. They had a blast and never even mentioned sadness over the change in plans.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Party for Mad Dog

Yesterday we celebrated Maddux all day; I'm sure she'd have it no other way! We woke up and let her pick her clothes for church: her red, white & blue tutu (that she's worn every year, including her first birthday, by the way), a blue shirt, some fancy sandals, and various necklaces and hairpieces. We had breakfast, followed by Maddux opening a gift from Eli. He had picked out a special "Olivia" play set which she loved. Lehr was teaching her class at church, and she enjoyed the possibility that it could have been in her honor. We then went home for a quick lunch, after which Maddux opened her gifts from us and the grandparents. We got Maddux a PaperJamz guitar, which plays "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (one of Mad Dog's favorite songs), a book, and a small purse with a few dress-up accessories.

Given the potential for rain, we opted to move her 'party' to mid-afternoon instead of dinner time. Each of the four years Maddux has celebrated a birthday, we have kept things pretty low-key, holding a small celebration in the yard or at the pool. This year we went with the pool theme, as it was too hot to do anything other than be in the water. A few neighborhood friends and D came to share in the festivities with her. She had a blast jumping off of the diving board with everyone, mixed with hanging out with other friends who just happened to be at the pool. At some point we pulled the food out and Maddux ended up grazing the rest of the afternoon. Even when her friends were in the pool, she'd randomly end up sitting in a chair with a cup of fruit. The cake was the highlight for her, of course. Eli and I had picked out a Hello Kitty cake mold about a month ago. (And then Lehr and I stayed up until midnight the night before making and decorating it). We used strawberry cake to make the inside pink for Maddux. She chose to blow out her four candles one at a time...way to milk every second out of it!

The pool party wrapped up around 6; we went home to change and grab a quick bite before we did some fireworks in our driveway. We knew it would be too late after Independence Day fireworks to shoot our own off, so we decided to combine them into Maddux's celebration. The kids loved them, though Mad Dog did go stand near the garage a few times (we were up at the top of the driveway so we could use the cul-de-sac for the TNT), just in case it was too loud.

A very fun day, filled with Maddux telling everyone "I'm four now" while holding up her four fingers. Life is good.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Four Short Years

How are we here again already?!? I KNOW it was just last week that we celebrated your third birthday...

What a year it's been, Maddux. You started a new school, attending a 3-year old class three times each week. You absolutely flourished in that room, shocking the teachers and parents with your verbal skills and obvious social gift even though you were the youngest, by far. Not a day went by that you didn't come home from school full of stories about your friends and your teachers and all of the cool things you'd done that day. I was informed several times about your amazing heart; any time someone was sad or hurt in your class (or at the gym, or at church), you were the first to try and comfort them.

You learned to ride a bike with training wheels this year. Actually, you didn't learn: you just KNEW. One day you hopped on Eli's bike and just took off. It seems like each time we turn around we find you doing something that we never taught you how to do. How do you figure these things out on your own?

This year we started you in ballet classes. You loved them, but we were sad to not be able to watch each week. Eli and I had to sit in the waiting room and watch the clock tick the minutes away; every week we'd hear your giggles several times during the 45 minutes. I have no doubt you were not the most dainty or graceful student, but I'm sure you had more fun than any of the other girls.

We had another trip to the ER: you had a little too much fun in church one morning resulting in a laceration to the face. As expected, you were a real trooper and didn't cry at all in the hospital. In fact, you didn't even cry in the car on the way there. Six stitches later you were good as new, ready to show anyone who would look your latest battle scar.

You are still amazingly confident and audacious, Maddux. You make friends everywhere you go, and you make those around you part of your world with just a smile. At the pool I often find you climbing on another mommy or daddy, or helping a younger child in the baby pool...the world seems to be your oyster.

Mad Dog, you are devastatingly beautiful, and that coupled with your lack of shyness is a deadly combo. Your father is going to have many more gray hairs in the years to come because you are a magnet for love and attention. People flock to you because of your big heart; you make them feel at ease and worthy of your attention, all at the same time.

I probably say it each year, but you are goofy as all get out. Not only do you give an odd little 'sneer' each time you see the camera, but you have funny little dances, songs, and facial expressions for every moment of the day. You play hard, love strong, and live out-loud. How blessed have our last four years been....