Monday, April 30, 2012

Seven Days of Spring Break 2012 Edition

Exactly like last year, we went straight from Jake's birthday party weekend into spring break. And so I thought that just like last year I would summarize with highlights of each day.

Day 1 - was Jake's actual birthday. With the weather finally warming up and the kids just itching to be in the water, I decided to take them to the spa pools.

We capped off Jake's birthday with dinner out and frozen yogurt but the real excitement occurred when Jadyn and I decided to sing him happy birthday. Jake decided to try and extinguish the flame of the candle by blinking it out with his eye, got to close and ended up singeing some of his hair off. Luckily it only shows if you look real close and his hair grows quickly.

Day 2 - I attempted to get the kids to go with me for Kuma's daily walk. At first they were excited and Jake wanted to test out his genuine camoflauging net that he got as a birthday gift from Cruz and Tara. If you look real close, you can see him hiding behind this bush. And Jake and Kuma especially had a ton of fun climbing these piles of dirt. However, the second half of the walk was filled with whining and a lot of "Are we almost home?" We finished off the day with a play date.

Day 3 - On the road to Grandma and Grandpa's, we made stops at ToysRus and Target so Richie Rich could spend his birthday money. We also stopped for dinner at one of my personal faves - The Old Spaghetti Factory and score! We got to sit in the trolley and the kids actually ate some of their salads. Jadyn was digging out carrots and Jake even tried a radish. This is a big accomplishment for my picky eaters.

We also found out that for the second year in a row, Jake had his picture in the paper for baseball. I think the reporter that covers Little League must have a little crush on Jake or something (kidding of course) because what are the odds? Pretty cool though.

Day 4 - DISNEYLAND!!!! We spent two days there but day one we met up with the Niles family. This worked out so well. Jake had a blast spending the day with his best friend Sam and I had extra adults to make it easier for taking the kids on all the rides. I so enjoyed their company and their tricks for maximizing fast passes so we hardly ever waited in line for more than 10-15 minutes.

Day 5 - Disneyland (not in caps on purpose). Two straight days is A LOT. We still had a ton of fun but there was a lot more whining and meltdowns (definitively more from one child than the other). Space Mountain was a huge hit with both kids. I think between the two days we went on it at least 6 times.

Jadyn, my little thrillseeker also loved Splash Mountain, but as you can tell Jake not so much.

Day 6 - Was supposed to be a day to recover but we ended up with a full schedule. We picked up Kuma from the pet sitter, both kids had team pictures for baseball and then we attended a swim party for Jadyn's best friend Riley.

Day 7 - a day of rest and some good news. Jake is still in the process of putting together all the MegaBlok Halo sets he got with his birthday money and Jadyn took on a project of her own. Organizing the magnets by color was completely her idea but I was of course happy to oblige. I don't know if I should be proud or petrified that my OCD has obviously rubbed off on them.

 The good news is that Joe will be home from El Paso (where he is working on a project for his current contract) earlier than expected. Only 2 more weeks of single parenting! We have been missing Daddy.

So it was a great spring break. It went by way too fast. But now we are back at school for only 31 more days before summer break and if this last week was any indication, I think it is going to be one epic summer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nerf Wars birthday party: The execution

The main event of Jake's birthday party was 3 rounds of a Capture the Flag game. The guests were randomly split into two teams, The Desert Dogs:

Versus the Woodland Wolves:

The battle was intense and fun and extremely close but the Desert Dogs edged to victory:

Back inside, everyone decided to get in more target practice:

The strategy that worked so well for the Desert Dogs was hiding their "ace in the hole", the only girl in the battle, Jake's cousin Madison who hid in the fort and shot anyone who got near their flag:

And even though one round did go to the Woodland Wolves, in the end the Desert Dogs edged them out claiming the third and final round:

In between rounds, I had more traditional birthday party activities inside so everyone cool down and re-energize with food and drink. I loved this scene where all the Nerf gear was compiled before heading inside:

The activities included singing happy birthday:

And opening gifts:

Overall I think everyone had a really good time and if exhaustion is a good indicator, I definitely think the party can be considered a success. And as a PS, I am pretty sure I will be finding random Nerf darts throughout the house and yard for some time to come. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nerf Wars birthday party: The inspiration

Jake really wanted to have a Nerf themed birthday party and for the first time, I couldn't just jump on a party supply website and order everything I needed because well, they don't have a line of Nerf party supplies. So I did my research and got some great inspiration from blogs like The Blackberry Vine, Michelle Paige and Just Deanna. Of course, it all starts with the invitation. 

I then stocked up on paper goods in yellow, orange and black. Sure it could be seen as Halloween-ish, but it is the most traditional of Nerf colors. I then used the Stencil font in Word and went to town making signs and made sure that all our guests would be well-equipped for battle - as they arrived they were issued a Nerf gun if they did not bring one, a label if they brought their own, protective eyewear, fresh new bullets and a bandanna to signify which team they would be on for the big showdown.

To warm up, I created three separate exercises for the guests to test their accuracy - a traditional target and tin cans and army men to try and knock down. 

To make sure that no one went hungry and in keeping with the theme, the food served was carrot darts, cheese bullets, orange bombs and (not shown) target pizza:

And of course no birthday party would be complete without cake, or in our case cupcakes! Once again my good friend Rose rocked my request and we were able to assemble this:

Outside, these two forts made out of washer and dryer boxes I procured from a local appliance store with an entrance and window cut out and doctored up with a ton of black and green spray paint served as the bases for the two opposing teams. In between were a few sawhorses and other obstacles to serve as "cover". The kids basically participated in 3 rounds of capture the flag with the rules being that if you were hit  from the shoulders down, you had to go back and touch your base before continuing the game. If you accidentally hit someone above the shoulder, you had to go back and touch your base before continuing the game. Whoever made it back to their base with the other team's flag while still being in possession of their own flag, won the round.

Favors for the guests consisted of the eyewear and bandanna used in battle along with a water bottle and mini dart gun with fresh bullets:

So with all this preparation, the real question is, how did the party go? Well for that you will have to wait for the next post.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It just can't be

It just can't be that on Monday my "not so little" boy will be turning 8 years old. EIGHT! Wow that sounds old. Where did the time go?

Today he is celebrating his birthday at school, the last day before they get out for spring break. Sunday we will be having his birthday party (Nerf theme and I am having WAY too much planning it. I think it is going to be epic and I apologize in advance for all the posts and pictures I am sure include on my blog. And yes, the planning of said party is the primary reason for my absence in the blogosphere/Facebook/Twitter as of late.) Anyway, as I was saying - Monday Jake will be 8 years old. I can keep saying it over and over but it continues to be very surreal to me.

So what is Jake like at this age? Well there are things he is into that are not my favorite - all the guns and military and shooting games, interests that have carried over to his wardrobe, which now almost daily includes camo shirts or pants, dark sunglasses, sometimes a beanie or camo cover and gloves with cut out fingers. It is the first time he has wanted to participate in his clothing choices and so I am trying, although it is extremely hard for me, to let him exert his independence in this way. And he has becoming increasingly independent in other ways too. He wakes up and gets ready in the morning with literally no help or reminders from me. He comes home in the afternoon and likes to "do his own thing". However, since I have tried to become more involved in the things that are important to him, I am happy to report that I have gotten my snuggly "little" boy back and I couldn't be happier that we can cuddle up while reading a book (Magic Tree House, Super Diaper Baby, Bad Kitty, Skippy Jon Jones are among his favorites) or watching a movie (Puss in Boots, Hop and The Muppets have been in heavy rotation lately).

Jake is still very athletic. He has decided that soccer is his favorite but with this being in second year playing machine pitch baseball, he is enjoying it much more then last year and has really found his groove, hitting really well and actually fielding the ball. He always gives it 100% and is extremely competitive. The downside to this of course is that he can be kind of a sore loser but I think that is pretty typical for boys of his age (and maybe of any age, LOL!).

Jake is also still very math-oriented. He loves to build and solve puzzles and he always does his math homework first. Sometimes it blows my mind the things he can figure out without my assistance. But even though he doesn't love to write, he has the neatest printing I have ever seen for his age and now that I have found books he enjoys and with the encouragement of the accelerated reading program at school, he is reading at almost a 4th grade level. While very smart and generally a good student, he still doesn't "love" school and typically only does what he has too. Again, I think pretty typical of many boys his age.

Jake has NO patience whatsoever (and I have no idea where he got that from, haha). He never can seem to save his allowance for big ticket items, choosing instead to spend it every chance he can get. He always WANTS and I wish there was a surefire way to stop that but I truly think it is just part of his personality. On the flip side however, he can be so giving and thoughtful at times that I can't help but just smile. Case in point yesterday Jake and I went to Wal-Mart and he decided to spend reward points on a treat - a small box of colored goldfish. When we got to the car I asked him if he wanted to eat his treat and he said, "No, I want to wait until we get home so I can share them with Jadyn". And he does little things like that ALL the time. It's just so sweet.

Jake only likes to do things that he can do well. He is sort of a perfectionist (again, no idea where he got that from either, haha). This was apparent from a very early age when he didn't really start coloring pictures until he could stay in the lines and do it well. He also tends to over think things and I think this is the downside to his thoughtfulness. Sometimes those thoughts can get the best of him and make him reluctant to try anything new.

One of my favorite things about Jake is that his smile can light up a room and his laugh is infectious. Nothing can make me happier than to listen to him giggle and luckily for me, he likes to have fun, be silly and laugh with friends and family as much as possible.  His thoughtful and friendly personality is evident by how many friends he has, at school, from sports teams, he even makes friends in the brief time we might be at a park or other similar outings.

I feel incredibly blessed to have a son that is as thoughtful and smart as Jake. I am extremely proud of the boy he is and love him with all of my heart. I can't wait to see where this journey of life will take him and as we get ready to celebrate his 8th birthday, I just have one request from him. Can you please stop growing up so fast?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jadyn's Decision

I have written on several occasions how Jadyn been very insistent about wanting to play soccer (for 2 seasons now) and now this year, try t-ball in addition to dance. And I have also written about as a general rule of thumb, I had always thought I would limit the kids to one extracurricular activity at a time and I made an exception for Jadyn to do sports and ballet at the same time. But I knew that at some point, she would have to make a choice, particularly I thought by the time she starts school next year, because as a first grader (when did that happen, seriously?) she would have a full day schedule.

Well over the last several weeks Jadyn has not been wanting to go to ballet. I kept finding reasons for it - she is tired from the time change, she is worn out by the time Thursday rolls around, she will be more excited once they start preparing for recital, etc. etc. But guess what? They started working on choreography for the recital. She got to see the costume. And yet still. And guess what else? If she has a t-ball game or even practice later in the week, she is always raring to go. So I sat down and talked to her and sure enough, she doesn't want to do ballet anymore.

So Jadyn's made her decision. She likes and wants to play sports. Honestly, I think the writing has been on the wall for awhile now and I pushed it but really why? I played both soccer and softball growing up and loved it. So why am I having such a hard time with her decision. Why do I find myself disappointed and sad?

As my very wise husband pointed out - Jadyn loves to sing and dance, maybe she just doesn't particularly like ballet. That's true. He also pointed out that just because she doesn't want to continue ballet now, it doesn't mean she won't change her mind in the future. That's true too.

I really want the kids to be able to pursue the things they are passionate about - things that they love to do, skills they want to improve upon and hone. And I want it to be theirs. Not mine. Not the things that I would choose for them. Not the things that I did as a kid or wished I would have done as a kid.

And to be absolutely clear, my mom was always very supportive of me trying something new. I remember being little and taking piano lessons and performing in ballet and tap recitals. Then I moved onto soccer and softball before eventually pursing dance in high school after roller skating competitively in Jr. High. I even tried my hand at BMX racing for a short while if you can believe it. My only regret was not having that "one thing". I wished I either would have stuck with sports and played them in high school or taken dance consistently as a child so I could have been a more technically solid dancer when I was a teen. However, I can not let my regrets cloud my judgement as I guide my children. And I definitely recognize where that is coming into play here.

Jake loves loves loves soccer and he really enjoys baseball. I have mentioned other activities before and he has shown no interest in them so I guess for Jake it is easy. For Jadyn it is more complicated, I think not only because she does show interest in multiple things but because she is a girl and I see so much of me in her.

I am hoping that writing about my feelings will be cathartic in some ways. And if not, I only need to wait for Jadyn's next t-ball game to watch her smile as she holds her helmet and runs the bases and know that she is doing something she enjoys. As a mom, I don't think I need anything more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter 2012

We had a very nice Easter weekend filled with family, friends, egg dyeing, hunts, finally some decent spring weather, much needed haircuts for the kids and multiple showings of the holiday themed movie, "Hop".

The kids cuddling up close at the park after haircuts Friday:

The local gang after a very fun Easter egg hunt and playdate:

Concentrating hard on making those eggs beautiful:

And then showing them off afterwards:

Getting giggly and silly for the camera:

Look what the Easter bunny brought!:

Egg hunt #2 at Aunt Leigh and Uncle Aaron's:

All dressed up and posing for the camera:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Whitewater Preserve Take Two

Last April, we took Kuma with us for his first outing as we discovered a new place to go hiking at Whitewater Preserve.

I'm embarrassed to say it has been almost a year to the day before getting a chance to go back and although the circumstances were a little different on this trip, the outcome was still a success. Our original intent was to go for the "catch and release" fishing they offer on certain days. Otherwise we probably would not have chosen this particularly windy and cool early spring day to venture out to the preserve. Once we arrived however, we found out that the website does not very clearly (in my opinion) spell out that you need reservations for the fishing so the kids were unable to participate. Luckily they got over it pretty quickly and we headed out on a trail and to revisit the stream that was such a big hit with the kids and Kuma last year. It did not disappoint.