Sunday, February 25, 2018

Snowy Weekend Getaway

A number of weeks ago, my brother and his family suggested we plan a weekend getaway together in the mountains. A fun chance to get away, hang out, and play in the snow (assuming the weather cooperated). For the record, BOY! Did the weather cooperate!

Eric, the kids, and I packed up the car Saturday morning and trekked east on I-90 to the cabin my brother's family had rented for 3 days. (We caught the tail end of their long weekend.) The drive was easy, even though Snoqualmie Pass was rather snowy and there were some crazy semi drivers along the route.

Much of the weekend was spent playing in or admiring the snow... sometimes both at the same time! The kids had snowball fights, built one heck of an igloo, and made sure to construct quite the snowman in our time at the cabin. By the time it was getting dark yesterday, the kids were pink-cheeked, rather wet, quite tired, and smiling from ear to ear!

Annika cuddling up with a snowball

Annika and Ian planning out their next snow-based project

Digging, digging, digging

Yup! Pretty sure he's having fun!

I kid you not - he tried to bury her alive.
Their mom is NO fun and put an end to that without any further discussion. (I suck!)

Even Buca got in on the snow action!

Constructing the igloo

Yup - there's a little snow out there

Conor the igloo model

That's MR. Snowman to you!

While the younger set took advantage of the wonderful snow outside, we older folks enjoyed catching up and even pulled out some cards and poker chips for a bit of 5 Card Draw. Thank goodness we had Internet access, because we needed cheat sheets to remember which hands were better than the others. When then kids weren't outside in the elements, they busied themselves inside playing games, watching movies, and enjoying a slower pace of life. Catching your breath is critical now and then!

Cousins playing video games together

Poker party!

Good buddies!

Kat says "You kids have fun in the snow...
I'm going to stay inside where it is warm and watch The Sound of Music!"

Troy making Sunday morning pancakes
We wrapped up our fun day with a wonderful dinner and then family movie night. We all curled up on a couch or chair with a loved one (or more!), snuggled up under blankets, and had fun just being together... often jumping out of our skin at the loud crashing sound the snow made whenever it slid off of the roof. (Quite the experience!) Aside from those crashing moments, the snow was quiet and tranquil ... and plentiful!

Before we headed home this morning (amid quite a snowfall!), the kids and Eric headed back outside for a little more snow fun before returning to civilization. What's the point of being in the mountains if you don't get as much snow time as possible?? Conor and Ian even invented a new game - Snow Shovel Ball! (See video below for demonstration) The kids also realized that the igloo they built the day before was structurally sound enough to double as a small sledding hill. Bonus!!!

Monday, February 5, 2018

4th Grade Auction Project

Each year, our kids' school hosts an auction and class projects are auctioned off (in addition to other itemms!). For the past number of years. we have volunteered to help one of our kids' classes with their project. This year, we helped the 4th grade (aka Annika's class) with their project and I am proud to announce that we finished it this weekend. (insert round of applause here) It was an all-hands-on-board project for the Olson Four.

I take no credit for the initial idea; I found a similar cross on Pinterest. That said, we put our own spin on the project. I had the 4th graders identify words or phrases found in the Bible that meant something to them. Last weekend, Eric cut 3x3 blocks (curly maple, cedar, and padauk) and came up with the overall design. After Eric and the kids sanded the blocks, I used a wood-burning tool to write the kids' Bible references (or excerpts from them) onto the blocks. (In all honesty, I expected the burning to be an easier and faster process.... major props to people who burn designs into wood as a hobby!) This past weekend, Eric glued the blocks together and got them mounted onto a piece of plywood. Last but not least, he and I put teak oil on it to bring out the grain, color, and words. Today, the cross went to the kids' school and is in the very capable hands of the auction coordinators.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

CKS Talent Show 2018

Each year during Catholic Schools Week, our kids' school has a talent show on Student Appreciation Day. Each year, our kids want to participate in the talent show.

Conor's original idea for an act was to do karate moves that he made up himself. I officially won "World's Worst Mom of the Year" when I told him that wasn't an option, and he needed to keep thinking. After a couple of days, some sulking, and a few tense moments, Conor decided to tell a couple of jokes using my puppet (Wilson) as his sidekick. He practiced very hard and even gave Wilson his own voice.

Conor's act:

Initially, Annika wanted to sing a song while standing on her head. I suggested she try it out first because that can make breathing really hard. Half way through her song, she was asking me for ideas on other things she could do. We kicked around a few ideas and came upon THE plan... a banana bread making demonstration. She even worn her "Annika's Kitchen" apron that Bestemor made for her! Talk about taking it to the next level!

Annika's Act:
(In multiple parts due to video size restrictions)

Side note: The recipe calls for 1 1/2 c flour, not 1/2 like she said

Annika's banana bread recipe/script.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Conor's Two-fer Funnies

This afternoon was a true treat for me. Why? Because Conor said not one, but TWO, highly entertaining things within only a few minutes apart. It's like seeing a double rainbow up in the sky ... except funnier ... and cuter.

As I was tying Conor's shoe when I picked him up from school, Conor's buddy Theo decided to try doing the splits next to us and wanted Conor to notice how well he was doing. I told Theo he was doing a great job and Conor said, "You get that stretchiness from me. I'm your best friend, so it makes sense, you know." (I was beyond grateful to be looking at his shoe at that very moment so he couldn't see my smile and the tears in my eyes caused by the pain of holding in my laughter.)

The kids and I have been playing a car game lately called The Great Out-of-State License Plate Game. (Clever rhyming, eh??) We inherited a wooden map of the US (thanks, Hall family!) that has a small wooden block on each state with its name. On the flip side of the block, is a picture of the state's license plate. As we see an out-of-state license plate while we are out and about, the kids get to flip over that state's block. It passes the time and helps them learn a little geography. Today, I was behind a car with New Hampshire plates. When we were in the car after school, I mentioned to Conor that he could flip another block. I told him the state name and approximately on where on the map to find New Hampshire. (We saw a Maine license plate recently, so was able to use that as a reference point.) When he found the state on the map, Conor exclaimed, "I found it! New Hampster!"

Yup, I'm still smiling! :)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Conor's First Communion

This weekend was a big deal for our little boy. After months of preparation and hard work, his big day finally arrived. (A few days prior, Annika turned to me and said, "I can't believe Brother is going to be able to go to Communion with us soon!" I agree, kiddo!! You two are speeding through childhood and I can barely keep up with your pace.)

It was a no-brainer that we'd have Fr. Fred involved in the whole thing. Fred provided the same curriculum that he had Annika follow, so we knew Conor was ready and knew what he needed to know. The fact that Conor received his First Communion in the same chapel he was baptized in is beyond special to me. And the fact that the same priest ... OUR priest ... did the sacraments fills my soul with joy. Before mass, Fred and Conor stepped to the side of the getting everyone settled chaos so Conor could receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. (That night, I asked Conor what he thought of that experience and if he felt good talking to Fred about his spiritual mis-steps. He replied, "Oh yes! I like talking with Fred." We went on to talk about how special it is to have someone like Fred in our lives ... someone who is a true friend and spiritual guide.)

The mass was wonderfully personal. The only attendees were the four Olsons, the four Nelsons, Nana,  my best friend Kate, and the three "aunties" (Joann Roberts, Mary Ann Seiwerath, and Sheila Linggi). Oh, and Fred.... but that was a given, right?? One thing I cherish about mass with Fred is he never stops teaching. He'll often throw in a question, tidbit of info, or random insight here and there throughout the mass. He turns mass into a welcoming, comfortable, personable, thought-provoking experience that is sprinkled with humor... 

My brother (Troy) read the first reading and gave a hilarious nod to his wedding joke (ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death) before reading the correct Bible passage. Annika followed him by reading the responsorial psalm, (She practiced her little heart out to make sure she had all of the words down pat and maintained a good speaking pace. Kudos, Annika!) 

Troy reading St Paul's Letters to the Corinthians (11:23-26)

Annika leading the responsorial psalm (Ps 147:12-15, 19-20)

 Fred returned to the helm after that. During the preparation of the gifts, he invited the kids up to the altar so they were part of the experience and closer to the action. As a side note, I have never seen Conor stand so still as he did when he was next to Fred at the altar. Pretty sure the boy didn't shift a single inch the entire time! Before long, it was Conor's big moment.... his first communion. He was nervous but didn't let that get in the way. (Fred giving him quiet little reminders also helped!) It was quite apparent from the look on his face that Conor was less than impressed with the taste of the sacramental wine. Pretty sure his face would screw up less if he bit into a lemon! Ha ha!! This turned into a bit of a special day for our nephew (Ian), too; Fr. Fred had him take on the role of Eucharistic minister and offer the chalice to the mass participants. Ian was composed and took on the role with marvelous maturity and focus. It was fun to see him in such a "big kid" role.

Eric and Conor listening to Fred 

Troy and Ian giggling at one of Fred's jokes

Ian, Kat, Annika, Fred, Conor at the altar

Fr. Fred and Conor

Conor receiving his first Holy Communion

Conor receiving the wine

Annika congratulating Conor with a big hug

After mass, all of us poured into a conference room for a small reception of sandwich platters, a veggie tray, and cake. Everyone was chatty, smiling, and in a grand mood. We are incredibly blessed by our family, friends, and faith community.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

December 2017 Wrap-up

Before January 2018 gets too far under way, I want to jot down some of the fun things that we did in December. It was one heck of a full month, but full of so many fun things!

2017 Olson Family Christmas Card

We have a non-negotiable holiday rule in our home: NO Christmas decorations until December. So, the first weekend in December is typically when the tree appears and we decorate the house with Christmas merriment galore. This was our first year having an artificial tree (thanks for the hand-me-down, Suzanne and Randy!), something I've been advocating for over the years. (Eric resisted because he would miss the smell, which I totally understand. I just was done spending the money on real trees that needed constant watering and still dropped their needles all over.) We compromised by hanging some tree scent sticks from the artificial tree... it worked ok for this year, but I think next year we'll just hang a wreath or swag somewhere in the house for the smell.

It's always a kick to decorate the tree with the kids because the activity is so much more than simply taking ornaments and putting them on branches. With each ornament, we would talk about why it was special, who it belongs to, or when we got it. Decorating the tree turns into a family history lesson, in some ways. We listen to Christmas music and dive into the past ... all together.

On Christmas concert December 14th, the kids' school had its annual Christmas concert. Conor's second grade class sang "Rise Up Shepherds And Follow". Annika's fourth grade class sang "Up On the Rooftop ". In addition to being an audience member, I was asked to take photos of the concert, so was us and down a lot throughout the evening. I'm pretty sure that Eric was convinced he was sitting next to a jack-in-the-box with how much I was popping up! Ha!

Back in November, I was at Central Market and noticed a flyer for their gingerbread house decorating event. Simply put, you buy a gingerbread house kit and decorate it at their butcher paper-covered tables using their frosting/icing and candy. In the end, you take home a fun house and the wonderful Central Market folks clean up the mess. Win, if you ask me!! The kids had a marvelous time creating their gingerbread masterpieces... and sneaking nibbles and bites of their candy decorations along the way.

This year, we had about a minute between the end of Advent and Christmas Eve. Annika was THE altar server at 10:30 mass on Chistmas Eve morning (aka the 4th Sunday of Advent) and that night, Conor was one of the wise men in the church's nativity play. Prior to mass, Annika was nervous about being the solo server; after mass, she turned to me and said, "I'm glad I did it alone because it made me realize I remember and know more than I thought I did." Way to go, Annika! She was mostly excited, however, that not only did she get to ring the bells during mass but also got to sit on the cushioned altar server chair. Bonus!

Conor decided that he wanted to participate in the annual nativity play at Christmas Eve mass. If I'm being really honest, I did try to convince him otherwise so we had fewer time commitments on the calendar and so we could go to a slightly earlier Christmas Eve mass at another nearby church, but he was determined to participate. Ok... fine. As it turns out, he had a marvelous time and it was pure joy to watch him with his school buddies reenact the nativity. I even helped out a bit by making the crowns for the three wise men (ok ,wise persons... Fiona probably doesn't want to be called a man). Conor had an extra prop  -- the camel stuffed animal that my brother gave to him when he still lived in Bahrain. Seriously!! Our little wise man had a camel from the Middle East for a play that was supposed to take place in .... oh yea .. the Middle East! How cool is that? Almost immediately after completing the performance and sitting next to me in the pew, Conor turned to me and asked if he could do the play again next year. Oh, my little star of the stage!! The second graders who were in the play also got to bring up the gifts during mass... bonus!! Conor (and his camel) did a very nice job carrying the basket up to the altar.

As Conor and I headed out to Christmas Eve mass, we noticed that it was starting to snow. Hello, Christmas miracle!!!! Eric suggested that we take his SUV instead of the van to church and I am so glad we did!! By the time we drove home, the roads were covered and slick. (Thanks for the loaner, hon!!)

Just before bedtime, we got to our completing our Christmas Even traditions: set out milk and cookies for Santa and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Problem: I used up our carrots when prepping Christmas dinner's veggies. We had no carrots for the reindeer. Fortunately, we (and hopefully the reindeer) were open to a slight variation on the snack .... this year, they got cherry tomatoes! One really neat aspect of our ongoing tradition was this was the first year all four of us helped read "Twas the Night Before Christmas". It was an unexpected gift and so cherished.

On Christmas morning, we woke up to about 3 inches of snow and it was still (lightly) falling! A white Christmas in Seattle?? Holy moly!! Talk about the best Christmas present EVER!!! (Although, remember that whole "no carrots left for the reindeer? Well, that also meant no carrot noses for the kids' Christmas snowmen. Obviously, I need to keep more carrots on hand!)

Unfortunately, the snow kept Eric's parents from making it to our house first thing in the morning. (They couldn't get up their driveway because it was too slick.) So, we adapted a bit and the four of us opened presents on our own. (It felt so weird!) We opened our stockings first and then moved on to the gifts under the tree.

In preparation for Christmas, I sewed a number of reusable fabric gift bags and we used them to wrap our gifts.... talk about a smart choice. The clean up was a breeze and the amount of recyclables plummeted compared to years past.

After a few quite hours at home (filled with enjoying our gifts, catching our breath, eating our family's traditional Christmas Breakfast casserole, and playing in the snow), we geared up for some amount of unknown guests for dinner. Eric's folks arrived a little bit after 1 and Eric's best friend (Dave) arrive a little after 2. Because of the snow and the fact we did a pre-Christmas celebration 2 days before, the Nelson contingency opted to hunker down at home ... and we didn't blame them one bit!!

While our Christmas turned out to be a "let's play things by ear" day, we loved the treat of having snow on the ground!

The Wednesday after Christmas was our designated night to to to the holiday lights display at Woodland Park Zoo. We've gone every year for I don't even know how long and usually have our friends Dave and Anne join us. Unfortunately, Eric's nasty cold (which turned into a sinus infection by January) kept him him and feeling miserable. So, the kids and I met Dave and Anne at Zeek's Pizza (our pre-lights dining spot due to its proximity to the zoo), had dinner, and then walked over to take in the pretty lights. It is fun to look for the new additions each year. This year, we found a Yoda in lights! The kids had so much fun running around and having fun together. (Dave and I greatly felt Eric's absence because that meant we were outnumbered 2 to 3... we had to play zone defense.... no man-to-man for us!) We wrapped up the evening with about a half hour of a "snowball" fight in the Zoomazium. The kids probably couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up the evening! (The adults were just glad it didn't rain and we left with the same number of kids we arrived with!)

The morning after our zoo lights excursion, the kids and I layered up and headed up to Snoqualmie for our annual tubing fun. Again, Eric was feeling so cruddy that he opted to stay home bundled up in his PJs and sipping on Theraflu. (Boy, does he know how to enjoy the Christmas holidays or what????)

As we drove up to the pass, I started feeling nervous about the conditions at the tubing area because we were seeing nothing but down pouring rain. Even 2-3 miles before the freeway exit to the ski and tubing areas, it was still raining. Amazingly, the slight elevation shift at the tubing area meant snow for us while we tubed and tubed and tubed for 2 hours. This year, the tubing area had speakers up that play fun music from the 80s and 90s. It was a neat bonus, for sure!

Before we knew it, it was New Year's Eve and we were saying goodbye to 2017. Of course, Eric and I had NO plans to stay up until midnight (much to Annika's chagrin ... we are SUCH party poopers!) Conor was sacked out by 9. Eric and I were in bed and asleep before 10 (as nature intended!) What about our little night owl, you ask? She opted to stay up until midnight, have a party with her stuffed animals, made party hats for said stuffies and her family members, did the countdown, and even made confetti to toss in the air at the stroke of midnight. I awoke a few minutes after midnight knowing someone was standing over me. Even though we were blissfully ignorant of the new year having arrived, Annika felt the need to include us in her celebration, so she put our party hats (that she kindly made while waiting for midnight) on our heads. Was I startled? Yup!! Was her sentiment sweet? Yup!! Was I glad to be awake? Nope! Oh well...

So,that's how our December and year wrapped up. So much fun! A few annoying germs. Celebrations galore. And snow. Aside from the germs, we've decided to call it a win. Happy new year to our loved ones far and near!!