Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hotel Vander Waal {June Guests}

We have now had 20 total days of summer vacation.  And we've had out of town guests for 10 of those days (+1 if you count the last day of school which was the day Grammy & Papa arrived and +2 if you count the day Grammy & Papa and then Justin & Mindy had to leave before 7am to make the 12 hour trek back home...and I am counting so we'll just go ahead and say 13 days of company!).

And it's been a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

First up, Grammy and Papa.  They arrived the evening of June 10 (the last day of school) and stayed with us until they headed back home early on Monday, June 15.  Prior to their arrival, I had a short laundry list of things I wanted to work on while they were here.  I try to be productive on projects that are hard to accomplish without extra hands here...their time to be with the kids allows me the leeway I need to get those things crossed off my list.  Namely, I wanted to get the downstairs bathroom (finally) painted and updated and I asked my dad if he would hang a ceiling fan in Ruby's room.  Well, the bathroom didn't get touched but that fan got hung.  I'm kicking myself now for not just getting that bathroom done but ambition and energy just wasn't there.  I guess the end of the school year wore me out!  But really, I want to spend time with my mom and dad just as much as my kids do - these short but precious visits shouldn't be spent working.

So we played.  And played some more.  Unfortunately, I have very few photos to show for it.  {I've promised myself that when the grandparents are here I need to take more pictures.  I want to document those relationships and the time they spend together.  Obviously, I'm not doing a very good job - likely a very big clue that it's time to cut some of the mental clutter out of my life!}

While Grammy and Papa were here, we went geocaching.  Definitely worth a blog post of its own, but this will be (hopefully) one of our big "events" of the summer.  It was challenging and fun and we're looking forward to searching for some more.  I think Papa really enjoyed it, too.

We walked, played at the park, showed off the new bike skills, and spent a good amount of time outside because it was gorgeous.

And from what I recall, board games were played, Legos were assembled, and Ruby broke out into song and dance, using a flashlight as her microphone.  When I saw it, I was convinced she had been taught.  Nope.  All on her own. :)

My dad brought a project for the boys to begin working on.  He has been a coin collector for as long as I can remember + longer, and has, over the past several years, been collecting the state quarters (among other coins) for his grandchildren.  He brought along a coin map book and the boys set to work filling it up. 

And mom and dad were still here on Sunday, when Brad and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.  Evening movie + free babysitters = a night well spent!

And, of course, somewhere in there was a meal at Culver's.  I'm certain of it.

Having Grammy & Papa here just as school ended was a great way to break us into the new summer routine.  We then had the next week and a half to ourselves before the arrival of Uncle Justin, Aunt Mindy, and Perry.  They graciously decided to spend the second half of their summer vacation here with us, and we were thrilled when we heard of their plans!  This was their first visit here, and we were so excited to spend some extra-special time with them and show them where we live!

Anxiously awaiting their arrival (they got here just after 4:00 the afternoon of the 23rd).
They toured our home and we ate dinner and spent the rest of the eating getting comfy and allowed the weary travelers to rest.

The boys played a lot downstairs.  I don't even know what all they did as I tried to avoid the noise.  I guess they did this!

Wednesday afternoon I arranged for a friend to hang out with Ruby and the rest of us went to see "Inside Out".  And we took this picture because minion butts.  Funny stuff.

(The movie was fantastic.  Loved every second of it.)

My favorite part of Justin & Mindy's visit was the time they spent with my kids, all three of them, but especially Ruby as she's not to the age yet where she's remembering those that she doesn't see regularly.

Special memories for me, if not for her.

We had beautiful weather for eating and playing outdoors.

Thursday we introduced the Cliftons to geocaching, and I think we have them hooked!  We (*ahem* Justin) found three caches that morning before heading to the food court at the mall for lunch.  The boys and Ruby came home then and played here while Mindy and I had a little girl time shopping.

Later that afternoon we decided to spend the evening at a Great Lakes Loons baseball game.  Another beautiful night (even kinda chilly!) and it was dollar dog night.  Can't lose with that scenario!

Plus mascot autographs!  Check plus plus!

The next morning, the traveling trio was up early and out the door before 7:00 to make the long drive back home to Minnesota.  *Huge huge heartfelt thanks, guys.  Having you here, making the effort to visit, and having really low expectations for how we might entertain you ;) is a huge deal.  We are so glad you came.  It means the world.*

Round of applause to you, Justin, for most of this photos, too.  It seems Ruby was your favorite subject.  Thanks for these.

We then had two days to prepare our house for our third round of guests for the month.  On Sunday afternoon (the 28th), the Vrieze family pulled into the driveway for a two day stay.  We are so grateful for their friendship - they continue to make the effort to stay connected with us, which includes visiting us, no matter how far we seem to move away.  And our kids - I marvel more and more at their friendships.  They have been long-distance friends their entire lives and every time they see each other, they just pick up right where they left off.

{And these two big girls totally doted on little Ruby.  A couple little mothers right there!}

I also love that all of them (with the exception of Ruby) are to the age where they don't require minute to minute parental supervision.  With the exception of a few willful and stubborn moments (brought to us by Reed), they were all able to play well together downstairs while we grown-ups enjoyed the less noisy and chaotic main level of the home for coffee drinking and catching up.

After a leisurely Monday morning of more coffee and catching up, we took our crew over to Sanford Beach for fun in the sun, sand, and spray park.

Culver's.  Come on.

And just as sure as they come to visit, they also have to leave to go back home {this morning}.

Insert big sad faced emoji here.

*As always, Scott & Kathy, our gratitude.  Thank you for investing in our family.  Thank you for not forgetting about us.  Thank you for your effort and your love.*

Our June was full!  Full house.  Full hearts.

I can't think of a better way to start our summer!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

They Make Me Happy {Father's Day}

Lucky dad.  Lucky kids.

Lucky me.

Ruby at 19 Months

At 19 months, Ruby is busy busy busy!

 Reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Eating raisins

Playing with the princesses

Wearing striped and polka-dotted pajamas

Loving her new cozy coupe!

Falling asleep on her own - without a peep! - with help from paci, pinky, and her music box.

Ruby seems to have fallen quite nicely into her new bedtime routine.  She now successfully falls asleep on her own, without tears, every single night.  Another "we have arrived!" moment, for sure.  Both boys gave up the pacifier at 18 months, but I think we'll need to keep Ruby's for a bit longer, considering she just reached this sleeping milestone.  No matter.  I'm in no hurry to push her along. ;)  My favorite part of bedtime?  When we say our prayers.  Her chubby little hands fold over each other and my heart melts into a puddle onto the floor.

This month was marked by leaps in the communication department.  Ruby has always been very verbal (lots of babbling and noise making and "telling" tall tales) but now it seems she's really adding to her word list and slowly she's starting to be able to communicate her needs with words (as opposed to just pointing).  My favorite new word?  "Doo".  That'd be "Drew."  She said "Eed" ("Reed") once, too, but has now defaulted to calling him "Doo" too.  That "r" sound is hard to make!  Another favorite: "cook-ee" for both the pastry and the muppet.  ;)  Along with a larger vocabulary, she has even strung her first two words together.  We dog-sat for two weeks at the beginning of June, so "Hi Coco Hi Coco Hi Coco!" became Ruby's daily chant.  She has been nodding "no" for a while now but just recently began nodding "yes" - quite emphatically, I might add!    

Her personality is awesome - she shows more spunk every day!  She's feisty and stubborn and opinionated.  She's a girl!  The best is when she'll give you this confused, furrowed brow look, tilting her head to the side, but when you look into her eyes, you can still see that sparkle.  She is a ham...and she knows it!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

She Needs a Dog

Since we lost Luci last spring, we've had occasion to dog-sit our neighbor's dog, Coco.  One of the things we've been sad about, about not having a dog right now, is the chance for Ruby to grow up with a pet.  Certainly the boys have a lot of growing up left to do, but there was something special about how Luci was here when they were so little, like Ruby.  After Luci died, we made sure our neighbor's knew that, if needed, we'd love to spend some time with their pooch.  Kinda like grandkids - bring 'em home, enjoy 'em, then send 'em back!

If we had any fear about Ruby being around a dog - there isn't any trepidation any longer!  Having Coco here for a day or two has just proven, to all of us, that we are a dog family.  And more so, that she is a dog-lovin' girl!  A little hesitation at first, but then, she was all in - laying beside Coco, talking to Coco, giving Coco's food a try (oops!), petting Coco, saying her first two-word phrase "Hi Coco."  As a matter of fact, "dogs" are no longer "dogs."  Each and every one is now referred to as a  "Coco".    

We just sent Coco back home after having him here with us for the past 18 days - his family was on summer vacation.  And at some point during the past two plus weeks, after the kids had gone to bed and the house was quiet, Brad called me over to him and his computer.  He was on various dog-finder sites, looking at a potential dog for our family.  What?!?!  

So goes the heart of a Daddy when his little girl loves herself a dog!

To which I said to him, "You'd better be serious.  Do not go down this road if you aren't."

And I think he is.  I have a hunch I'm gonna have to eat my "we'll wait a few years before we get another dog" words.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Last Day of School

It's the last day of school...

...and we're just a little bit excited!

What a difference a year makes.

It has been a big, big year.  It's always a big year - so much learning and growth and new experiences and friendships and independence and wow.  But this year it was all of that --- times two!

Mrs. Sauve & Reed

We were so fortunate, once again, to have the best kindergarten teacher.  I was heartbroken when Drew's kindergarten year ended and I learned that his teacher, Mrs. Faust, would be moving to a different school in the fall.  She is a phenomenal teacher and I so badly wanted Reed to have her, too.  So coming into this year, I was nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect.  And what I learned is that while I'm sure Reed would've flourished under Mrs. Faust, he was given the exact right teacher he needed.  Mrs. Sauve exceeded my expectations in every way, and was the absolute best match for our Reed.  She taught and led and encouraged and motivated and provided an incredible environment for Reed to excel.  She made school so fun that when Reed missed a day because he was sick, he was so sad to not be there!  She will be a teacher that he remembers forever.  And Reed stood out to her as well, as Mrs. Sauve nominated him, above every other boy in her class, for the school Citizenship Award.  One boy and one girl from each class receives this award in recognition of being a good citizen of their school - a good leader, friend, student; someone who cares for both the school and the people in it.  

  Reed received his award this morning at the school's Awards Assembly.
He was pretty thrilled.
{Of note, Drew received the same award when he was in kindergarten.}

Ms. Slabaugh & Drew

Drew's second grade year was full of ups and downs (typical growing pains, I think) but all in all, it was a year of new discoveries, new challenges, and new friends.  Ms. Slabaugh tuned into his particular strengths and pushed him to go farther with what he knew and with what he could do.  She was also able to tap into some of his emotional setbacks, meet him there, and help him reach up out of the dumps in order to succeed.  She was kind and compassionate and patient and gave Drew what he needed when he needed it.  {Ms. Slabaugh was put into an unfortunate situation at the beginning of the year - she was given the job of 2nd grade teacher just two weeks prior to the first day of school, after having been a family interventionist (school counselor) for the past eight years.  It was an uneasy start for everyone, as she adjusted to being in the classroom again, but with time and flexibility, it all came together and made for a successful second grade year.} 

It's funny, as the years pass, I find that I'm less and less baffled by the speed of it all.  It feels very much like "Yep, this is exactly where we're supposed to be right now!" ... but check back with me in the fall, when I send my 1st and 3rd graders off for their first day of school!