Monday, April 17, 2017

Our Alderbrook Getaway

For the most part, Eric's and my birthdays pass with little fanfare or hoopla. At our ages, we tend to top off the celebrations with a take-out dinner and some gifts. Low-key is the name of our game.

Because this year marked Eric's 50th birthday, I felt compelled to do a bit more than in other years. He wasn't convinced it was necessary, but I did. Hey! How many times does a person hit the half-century mark? Right??

To celebrate his 50 years in this world. I booked a weekend getaway for our family at Alderbrook Resort. Knowing March is a crazy-busy month for us, I opted for us to go out of town in April... a little after his birthday, but better in terms of the calendar. I was able to get a two-bedroom cottage, complete with a kitchenette, making thins a whole lot easier for us. The cottage was even pet-friendly, so Buca could go with us. Bonus!

After making the drive to Union (just shy of 2 hours from home), we found ourselves ready for vacation, but vacation wasn't quite ready for us. Because we arrived before the official check-in time, our cottage wasn't ready for us. To pass the time, we decided to do a little geocaching. We tromped around the resort's property for about an hour and a half and had a marvelous time. It was a great way to stretch our legs after being in the car and to learn more about the lay of the land. We went along trails through the woods, to the pool, along the beach, and along the loop of cottages. Fortunately, we only got rained on a little bit. Considering we were expecting a very wet weekend, we felt like we dodged a big (wet) bullet.

Soon enough, we were able to get the keys to our cottage (#10) and get unpacked a bit. While the kids claimed their beds and figured out where their toys would spend the weekend, Buca got comfy on his vacation dog bed that we found waiting for us and promptly fell asleep. (Traveling is so tiring!) Eventually, Buca was up for a little exploring. (He's 12, so emphasis on the LITTLE.) He and the kids walked down to the beach to check out the sights and smells. Buca even took a little dip in the Sound ... too cold for us, but he had a great time!! Of course, that completely tuckered him out, leaving me to hoist him back up over the 2' bulkhead so he could slowly walk back to the cottage and his comfy bed.

After dinner, we took advantage of the lovely indoor pool and hot tub. (You had me at hot tub!) The four of us (Buca was on cottage guard patrol) had a marvelous time playing, splashing, and relaxing in the water. At one point, Annika decided to make a raft out of the available pool noodles. She was incredibly industrious!! It was such a treat to see how far the kids have come in their swimming abilities. They both can navigate in the water with skill and confidence. Conor had a blast tossing our dive toys around and then scurrying around the bottom of the pool to retrieve them. Fortunately, we didn't have to share the pool with a lot of people for the most part. 

Soon enough, it was 7 o'clock and time to dry off so we could enjoy one of the many fire pits around the resort. Thanks to a hint from my friend Kate (who recently visited Alderbrook with her family), we packed s'more makings and had dessert outside while soaking up the heat from the fire. We wrapped up the evening with a walk along the docks and some quite admiration of the local beauty.

After putting the kids to bed, Eric and I opened a bottle of bubbly and plated a few hands of cards. We played Quiddler (and had to reminder ourselves how to play because we'd taking a rather long hiatus from that game apparently!) and gin rummy. We even whipped out the dice and played a few rounds of Greed. Yeah. we are party animals!!

We chit chatted, reminisced, recapped the day, and laughed together ... all while listening to a chorus of croaking frogs. (Definitely not part of our typical city-dwellers soundtrack.)  

The next morning, we awoke to a quiet calmness that basically sums up staying at Alderbrook. We had 9:00 breakfast reservations, so scooted out of the cottage fairly soon after Annika woke up. Oh my, but was breakfast amazing! We had warm carrot cake break (which we all inhaled) as a starter. The kids and I ordered eggs benedict (mine had crab cakes instead of an English muffin and Canadian bacon.... AMAZING) while Eric had scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. (Ahh, my runny-egg hating sweetie!) The potatoes that came as a side dish were addictive ... the kind of food that keeps bringing you back even though you're painfully full.

We walked off breakfast by touring the docks and beach one more time before packing up our stuff (well, most of our stuff ... stay tuned for that story) and heading home. We had fun looking for pretty shells scattered along the beach. The kids were particularly impressed with the oyster shells ... something they had very little exposure to previously.

Before long, we bid Alderbrook a fond farewell and made the journey home. That night after the kids went to bed and Eric and I sat on the couch to watch a TV show, a teary-eyed Conor came into the room saying, "I think Spot 1 is still at Alderbrook!" (sob, sob, sob) We search through his luggage and the car hoping Spot 1 was just hiding. Unfortunately, it was soon apparent that Spot 1 was on an extended vacation. I called the resort and spoke with a very helpful (and sympathetic) employee who quickly found Spot 1 in the lost and found (WHEW!!). He took my contact info and promised the person in charge of the lost and found would contact me the next day to arrange for Spot 1's return. (Double WHEW!) As promised, I received a call the next day and Spot 1 was kindly packaged up and returned to his rightful home. A very squishy (and MUCH anticipated) package arrived at our home a few days later. I swear, I've never seen Conor so happy to see the mail in his life!! To show how top-notch Alderbrook is, they included a stuffed chipmunk (named Chip) and a note explaining how Spot and he became friends while they were both at Alderbrook. Talk about customer service!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Conor is 7!

Last night, we put our 6-year-old little boy to bed. This morning, he woke up as a 7-year-old!

When I stop to think about all that has occurred over the past 7 years, I find myself trying to figure out how so much time has flown by and how it is possible that Conor hasn't always been a part of our daily lives .... such an integral part of our family.

Seven years ago today, contractions woke me up just a bit after 3 AM. Soon after 4, I woke up Eric to let him know we'd need to get to the hospital fairly soon. At 4:30, we called our dear friend Dave (God bless you, dear man!) asking him to come over and stay with Annika (who was sound asleep through all of this) until my mom could drive up from Tacoma. We arrived at the hospital around 5 and welcomed our baby boy at 6:13 AM.

From that moment on, we know our family was made whole. This little boy has been a bundle of energy from the first moments. He is cuddily, frighteningly smart, witty, musical, and competitive to his core. Each day, he amazes us. He wears his feelings right on his sleeve and believes no day is complete until he's had a snuggle with either Eric or me. (And we wouldn't have it any other way.)

The past 7 years have been a wonderful adventure and we cannot wait to see how life unfolds for our little man. He has countless adventures ahead of him and we know he will take them head on with verve and busy feet.

We love you, Conor!! Yesterday, today, and always!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Conor's Music Class Pictionary Recap

Last night as we drove home from his music class, I asked Conor what they did during the lessons. He said that he did a lot of singing (which is impressive considering he has a cold!) and they played a few games, including music pictionary and rock band karaoke.

I asked what things they drew during music pictionary and he said, "rock bands and instruments."

I then asked which bands they drew, to which he replied, "Oh, ones like Squished Pumpkins."

(Insert mental image of me gripping the steering wheel to within an inch of its life here.)

My apologies to all members of the band Smashing Pumpkins for him not knowing your actual name. He's 6, so what do you expect?  :)

Sugar Bowls Experiment

One day last week, Eric headed out to trivia night with his buddy, so the kids and I had an evening to fill. As if by divine intervention, earlier in the day, my co-worker sent me a link to a tutorial that shows how to make bowls out of melted sugar. I told the kids that after they were done with their homework, we could do a fun project but it was a surprise until then. (They are so easy to manipulate!!)

They diligently worked on their homework and as soon as they were done, we got to work making our very own edible bowls. We melted the ingredients (sugar, Karo syrup, and water) and cooked them until they hit the right temperature. It was a nice opportunity to teach the kids about reading a non-digital thermometer ... learning never ends! Once the mixture was hot enough, we turned off the flame and added our colors -- Annika chose red and Conor chose blue, so we got a nice purple-ish stained glass effect. I carefully poured the mixture over the water-filled balloons and we set a 30-minute timer to let them cool. I quickly realized that I should have made 1.5x or 2x batch to cover all three of our balloons, so I whipped up another partial batch to ensure the bowls would have tall enough sides. Looking back, I probably should have just used smaller balloons because our bowls were huge!! (Note to self: make smaller balloons next time and prop them up on cross-sections of an empty paper towel tube instead of the ramekins.)

Eventually, the bowls were cool enough that I felt confident we could separate them from the balloons. While I held a bowl, the kids helped snip a small hole in the neck of the balloon so we could let out the water without getting the bowl wet. (Easier said than done!!) Fortunately, the balloons released without difficulty (only some random spray) and I was able to put some ice cream in the kids' bowls. They were in heaven... ice cream AND a bowl made out of sugar that they could nibble on. Kitchen fun win for all!

Our cooling sugar bowls

Pretty colors

"Mom, stop making us smile so we can eat these, please!!"

Conor's sugar bowl creation

Annika's sugar bowl masterpiece

My sugar bowl ... too sweet to eat, but fun to make!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A girl and her dog. A dog and his girl.

Last night, Annika and Buca shared some sweet moments of affection that were nothing but pure love. There's just something so special about this connection. (Yes, it helps that we have an amazingly wonderful dog!)

As is proven by his grunts of happiness, Buca is a big fan of Annika's ear rubs. :)


Friday, February 10, 2017

CKS Talent Show 2016

Last week, the kids' school held its annual talent show as part of Catholic Schools Week. It was no surprise that Annika was itching to participate, but was a little stumped on what to do for her talent. Conor tends to be a bit shier than Annika, so I have to admit that I was a little surprised when he said that he also wanted to perform in the talent show.

After a little head scratching, I was struck with the idea that Annika could sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" while also performing the song in American Sign Language. The song was short enough that I knew she'd be able to learn the signs quickly and master the whole thing prior to the show.

I found two cute jokes for Conor to tell, thinking that, too, would be easy for him to master in the allotted timeframe. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to unearth two very cute, age-appropriate jokes for him: "What is a pirate's favorite state? Arrrrrrkansas!" and "What do you do if you find a green dragon? What for it to get ripe." (insert laugh track here.)

One requirement to participate in the talent show (which is organized by Conor's marvelous teacher, by the way) is each child has to perform his/her act a week or two ahead of time to make sure it is an approved act. When Eric picked up the kids the day of "auditions" (no child is turned away), Eric was told that Conor decided to forego his jokes for whistling. He's very proud of his ability and at the last minute, tossed plan A (the jokes) out of the window and went with plan B (riffing some whistling).

Snow Days for the Olsons

On Sunday as I sat on the bleachers at the local pool and watched the kids in their diving class, I heard a mom down the bench say it was snowing outside. Wha??? Apparently, I had been out of the weather loop because I had no clue that snow was even a possibility.

As it turned out, it was a major possibility that wound up giving the kids two days off from school this week. The extra days off from school were filled with snowman making, snowball fights, snow angels, and some much-needed relaxation for the kids. They kicked back and enjoyed a slower pace for a bit, which was appreciated considering the break neck speed life has been traveling for the past few weeks.

Eric and Conor watching the snow fall

Winter gear, schminter gear.... who needs boots and a coat when you have a hat and PJs??

Pretty backyard trees

Showing off our snow accumulation

Happy snow boy

Annika putting a bit of a scientific spin on the snowfall

The scientist and her assistant

Snowballs are about to fly

Snow angel

Even Buca got in on the snow fun

Snowball fight

Our pretty front yard tree covered in snow

Hey Buca, you have a little something on your nose