Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Break 2015

When we were finally able to begin our Spring Break, we had a great week! I made some spending money and set that aside just for me and the kids to do fun things during our break.

Monday night: 

Dairy Queen was offering free ice cream cones so we had to get a few of those. It was a messy affair! 





After we got back home, we decided to walk up to Paw-Paw's house. This walk is a good way to burn off some energy!



Tuesday: 

Our first big activity was a trip to the Fish Hatchery in Athens. One of the first things we did was feed the catfish. Their aquarium is open at the top and I just threw some pellets into the water. These catfish would go up to the surface and after grabbing a pellet, they would swish their tails out of the water. With the girls standing right up next to the aquarium, water came splashing down on them. Riley screamed and ran off, not really screaming because she was scared, just screaming to scream. Ella felt the water, ran off, and started screaming. She was screaming because she was startled by the splashing water. Just a few moments later when she realized what had really happened, she was laughing and clapping and excited to get wet again. Nolan was observing all of this from about ten feet away. When the girls started screaming, he started screaming. He was scared! 







We made our way to the gift shop where there were lots of things to break. The kids decided on bouncing balls as their souvenir. The gift shop attendants were running all over the place trying to pick up other toys my kids had thrown down. Then the balls I was buying started bouncing all over the place. Those ladies were glad to see us leave. 

We headed towards the pond, al the while chasing bouncing balls. I just knew a couple would end up in the pond. Nolan had a shoe come off, so I had to put everything I was carrying down on the ground and put his shoe back on his foot. When I stood back up, I managed for forget my keys in the grass. My heart just sank when we were headed for the car and I couldn't find my keys. So, back through the entire museum we went. As we were walking back out towards the pond, I remembered where I had probably left my keys. I found them, just laying in the open grass. Whew!

Wednesday: 

I wanted Riley to see Cinderella, the newest Disney movie. We picked up one of Riley's friends and headed to the theater. I also decided this was the best day ever to try and potty train Ella. We got to the theater, got some snacks, stopped at the bathroom, and found our seats. Ella wouldn't use the bathroom, so I knew what I was in for. Anyway, we settled in and the movie started. Ella and Nolan were great for about thirty minutes. Then, the popcorn hit the floor. Then, Ella runs to me and says, "Tee-tee!" I spring into action, thinking she wants to go to the potty. Nope. Using my phone as a flash light I was able to get her changed. During this fiasco, Nolan had wandered to the other end of our row and brought back something hanging out of his mouth. I jerked it out, only to discover it was a gummy worm, or something like it. I hadn't purchased a gummy worm or something like it. So that was nice to think about. Next, two bags of our popcorn hit the floor. Ella and Nolan started running up and down the stairs. I was praying the movie would end in a hurry! Just picture complete chaos going on on the top row of a movie theater while you're trying to enjoy a movie. I'm that lady. Riley and her friend were so great!


Thursday: 

I had talked about going tot he zoo, but the weather was a little iffy. Instead, we went to the Discovery Science Place in Tyler. I had high hopes that the kids would run around and play and burn off lots of energy. This is pretty much what they did! All three loved exploring the exhibits. The Brookshire's play area was a favorite. 

After DSP, I had a $50 gift card to Olive Garden that needed to be spent. We headed there for spaghetti. The kids were really pretty good during lunch. Nolan is still in a stage where he doesn't eat half the time, but Ella and Riley can be counted on to throw down at the table. I took Ella and Nolan's shirts off, because I learned early on with Riley that orange sauces stain clothes. I am in no mood to ruin a good shirt! Off their shirts went. 

Ella had the time of her life eating spaghetti. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. 









Our trip to Olive Garden wrapped things up for us. We had a really nice, relaxing Spring Break! I'm already counting down the Mondays until Summer Break!


Friday, January 9, 2015

December and a lot of January

Riley,

The biggest thing to happen to you lately...


And aren't you proud. For a couple weeks you mentioned that you had "objects" in your mouth. I thought that was gross and told you to go brush your teeth. Finally after kept telling me this I looked in your mouth. Those "objects" were two permanent bottom teeth growing in. On January 2, 2015 you pulled your first tooth out. I was laying down with Nolan trying to get him to go to sleep, when you burst in the room. At first I looked at you like you were crazy; I was trying to get Nolan to go to sleep. But when you started telling me what had just happened to you, I jumped right out of bed. It was an amazing experience. You are so proud!

The school work you bring home makes me so proud. You've just started writing words, even words that you really don't know how to spell. You always have very good behavior at school as well.

Ella,

You love to play with Riley's toys. You've even started accumulating Barbie dolls. I can't keep track of which Barbies are yours and which are Riley's. Santa brought you a Hello Kitty kitchen and you really like to play with it and your groceries.


You're the mischievous one of the bunch. Sometimes just the look on your face lets me know that you are up to something. You're also the most abrasive. It's common for you to tell Paw-Paw or Grandad to "Go away!" or "Get back!" You follow that up with a big hug so they don't mind too much.

You are very possessive with your brother and sister. If anyone new comes around you immediately think they are going to take Nolan or Riley. You get a mad look on your face and yell, "That's my brudder!" I can't wait to see what you and Nolan are like when you're in high school. I hope you're always best friends.

Nolan,

You're the headstrong one. When you determine to do something, nothing will stand in your way. You're especially bad about getting someone's cup or water bottle and running off with it. I can't tell you how many times you've gotten Ella's cup and then spilled the milk all over you. If you steal a toy from Ella you take off in the other direction. This prompts screams from her until she gets the thing back.



You like to follow me around saying Mama. The way you say it makes you sound like a little baby sheep. And you don't just say it once. You say it over and over and over again. I love my Mama's boy.

You are an extremely slow eater. It takes you foreeeevvver to eat. Most of the time just pick and play with your food. Not much actually goes in your belly. You will drink an Ensure if they're convenient.

I love all three of you kids with every thing in me. I'll always do anything I can for you. You make my heart beat and give me a purpose, even when the days aren't so bright. Stay my babies forever.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

August, September, October

Kids,

I haven't written you a newsletter in a couple months. I think about doing it every day, I just haven't been able to do it. There is so much to write and so little time. I hope I can do better, but until the days are longer and I have fewer things to keep me so busy I doubt I improve much.

Riley: You are in Kindergarten mode and you love it. You could read a bunch of words before you went to Kindergarten and you have learned so many more since school started. Everyday you're reading bigger and harder words on your own. You use all kinds of context clues to help you figure out the word. I don't have to help you very often.


One of your favorite things to do is to transcribe locations from the map or flag map in your bedroom. You are obsessed with geography. This summer I bought you a map of the United States and we placed a sticker on all the places you have ever visited. Next to this map is a list of all the countries in the world and their official flag. It's common for you to bring a white piece of paper with names of countries written in your sweet handwriting and ask me to read to you what you wrote. Italy. Australia. Romania. Peru. And on and on.



Being a big sister is hard work. Being the biggest big sister is even harder. You're pretty good at chasing them down and wrenching free something they aren't supposed to be playing with. You're pretty good at keeping them out of the toilet when you brush your teeth. You're even good about playing with them and letting them have a turn. I think you were made to be a big sister.



Ella: You may have had a speech delay this time last year, but I think you've more than made up for it. You can say anything you want to. It's not always clear and you sometimes revert to jabbering, especially when you are excited, but you can carry on a conversation.

You are in a stage where you feelings get hurt really easily. I have to watch my tone and make sure not to yell at you too much. When you get in trouble you'll droop your shoulders and start wailing. You have the loudest cry by far.


I'm able to bargain with you. Thank goodness! If you want more chips, you have to eat another bite of sandwich. If you want me to read a new book, you  have to put the old book away. Bargaining has made things much easier on me and you're eating more.



It's still hard work to get you to sit down at the table and eat. For the longest I had a little table and chairs in the kitchen for you to sit at and eat your meals. You have never been very good about sitting still and finishing  meal. Instead you just run around with food in your hands or in your mouth, making a mess everywhere. So when the little table and chairs weren't working, I decided to try you at the big table with me and Riley. This doesn't really work either. You still get down and run around in between mouthfuls and half the time you don't eat much of what's on your plate. You just will not eat much. Usually what you do try and get in your mouth ends of all over you and all over the floor. Nolan, an opportunist, can usually be found standing next you after he's eaten, either pulling food off your plate or receiving bites from you! You feed Nolan! And Mama cleans up the mess. I know this will end and it really doesn't bother me when you don't eat much. I clear your plate away after everyone is through and if you're hungry later I can't tell it.



Nolan: Little brother. Sweet little cuddler. You are definitely a Mama's boy! You've just started leaning in to get kisses from me and you make the kiss sound. So sweet! You're my good boy.

When you aren't kissing me, you can usually be found harassing your sisters, especially Ella. The fights you two have are epic. There will be hitting, scratching, hair pulling, screaming, you name it. I usually let you two duke it out and you'll both run crying to me. Neither of you can stand it for the other to get to sit in my lap. I just laugh.


You are talking so much, too. You can say outside, ball, eat, bye-bye, Mama, thank you, Ella, truck, Da-da, Paw-Paw. If you can't say it, you can at least communicate what it is you want by pointing, whining, or fit-throwing.


Your favorite thing to do is play outside with a ball. Your favorite drink is flavored water. Your favorite toy is a ball. Your favorite time of the day is right after your bath. You love to help me with laundry. Your favorite food is Pasta Pick-ups.


And so... there is your newsletter for the last couple of months. Life is good. We have more than we need and are extremely fortunate. Most nights when I tuck you all in I think about the little kids who don't have a nice clean bed to sleep in. I think about the little kids who are getting thrown up against a wall for having a dirty diaper. While I'm throwing away scraps from plates that were half eaten, I think about the little kids who are going hungry. As long as your daddy and I can help it, you won't have to worry about those things. We love you more than you'll ever know.

Love, Mama

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How I Drive Across the Country With Three Kids

Driving with the kids is actually not all that bad. I drove from Texas to West Virginia with a 4-year old and 9-month old, while 6-months pregnant. I drove from Texas to North Dakota and then from North Dakota to Michigan with a 5-year old, 2-year old, and a 1-year old. Here's how I do it: 

You'd better use the restroom!
I make Riley (the only potty-trained child) use the bathroom just before we pull out. Then during the trip drinks are limited. There are times when emergency restroom breaks have to be taken, but for the most part limiting drinks helps with those. Now, they are allowed to drink plenty of liquids. I just don't allow them to sip drinks constantly.

Snacks!
I have Capri Suns for the older kids to drink, and plenty of snacks for everyone. One thing that has made life much easier is fruit pouches. All the kids like them. They usually don't make a mess, and they only cost about $1. When Ella or Nolan get fussy, a pouch will usually get things quiet pretty quickly. 

All snacks are within reach and easily accessible from the front passenger seat. 

Entertainment!
I do not have a TV in my car. I have one iPad that gets passed around and one LeaPad 2 that is shared. I pack a couple bags of toys for the kids to play with when they get bored with technology. 

There are also times when I make them put the iPad or LeaPad up. For instance, South Dakota was too pretty for Riley to be absorbed on the iPad. I made her put it up and look out the window. (Isn't that what I did?) 

We also sing songs. Pandora has a great toddler station and Kidz Bop station that we listen to. We sing along with the songs and dance. All the kids like this. 

A good helper in the backseat!
I am lucky and have a very mature 5-year old helper in the backseat. I realize it is a lot of responsibility for her to take care of a 1 and 2-year old, but she is made that way. She is a great big sister and is very attentive to their needs. She helps pass out snacks and toys. She also lets me know if I need to stop for any kind of emergency, i.e. poo-poo has been smeared all over someone, their clothes, their car seat, and toys. That was fun. 

I get on the road and drive!
I do not stop for much. Anytime a state line is crossed I like to get out and get a group photo. Chances are we've been driving for a couple hours and need a break anyway. State lines usually have great photo opportunities and clean restrooms. 

Unless a baby in a diaper has poo-pooed, I don't stop to change them. Otherwise, they get changed about every two hours, which is basically the same duration as a nap time. 

Pit-Stops!
There are times when I stop. If I need gas, everyone also uses the restroom. Anytime I stop I also reorganize toys, snacks and trash. When I get back on the road I am fully stocked and ready for another 2-3 hour driving stint. 

I have my route planned!
Planning road trips is fun for me. I like to research the roads I will be on and any tourist attractions along the way. I study the directions and in addition to my MapQuest app that talks to me, I know which roads I am going to take. 

I'm a Choice Hotel member and try to only stay at their hotels. When planning a 2-day driving trip, I look for towns a little over half-way to my destination that have a Choice Hotel. Most of these hotels provide complimentary breakfast which is great when traveling with little ones. My kids wake up and demand to be fed, so it's easy to get on the elevator and go get hot breakfast right in the same hotel. 

That's pretty much it. I think anyone can do it. 

Headed Home

Henry had a reservation in Parma, Michigan and we made it to yet another hotel. We were under the impression that it would only take him a couple hours to do what he needed to do, and then we could all head home together, me following him. NOT! After me driving around and killing time we found out he would have to be there all week. I was devastated and shed some tears. After two weeks on the road with the kids I had had enough and was ready to go home. I don't know how Henry stays on the road for months at a time.

So, I left my husband in Michigan and high-tailed it to Texas. No tourists stops. Few pictures. We were tired and tired of riding.


I can't remember what town this was in, Illinois or Missouri for sure, but this meal at Cracker Barrel was the best I had had in a while! It was delicious. We loaded up on some jelly beans before we left and the kids snacked on them until we reached Blytheville, Arkansas for the night.



Happy girls when we crossed into Texas! We had to stop at Brookshire's and get groceries before we got home. Everyone was just silly. I was so embarrassed in Brookshire's! It was worse than the normal 3-kids stuff. They were really happy to be home.