Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Whole LOT In One SHORT Week

(This is a long post. There are a lot of pictures. You have been warned.)

During Thanksgiving week, LOVE came to town. LOVE came to our home. LOVE invested in my kids. LOVE served Grady and I. LOVE drove 26 hours and used vacation time to sleep in a preschoolers bedroom and spend a week with our family.

And I'm so thankful for that gift of LOVE!
Because our visits together are few and far between, we cram carefully plan as much memory-making fun as possible. This visit included celebrating two birthdays, celebrating Thanksgiving, and celebrating an early Christmas. (Whew!)

Grady and I took everyone to see The Real Christmas Story at Narroway Theater as a birthday gift for my mom. Sometimes an experience together is a good idea over a "thing" to unwrap and have as a gift. The music was fantastic, the acting/dancing was okay, and the animals were an added bonus of fun (like when a camel p**ed during the climax of the wise men caravaning and singing their hearts out in worship).
In between all the out-and-about activities, we had some time to play and relax together at home. Annalyse styled Grandma's hair (!!), Grandpa threw a football, and all of us played card games and board games again and again.
My parents have a tradition of buying each kid their first bike for their birthday and this year it was Jaxton's turn! He is so excited to finally have a "big bike that can go fast like Grady and Micah's!" He's itching for training wheels to come off, but I'm waiting for my husband to own the pleasure of running alongside Jax while he learns to balance.
What's time with Grandma without some baking? She and the littles made cinnamon rolls for breakfast... except that they made them the night before and the house smelled amazing but we weren't allowed to eat them until the next morning and it was torturous.
Grandma willingly and enthusiastically obliged (or maybe it was because I asked with sad and pleading eyes) to help Annalyse assemble a project for her book report. Fact: If something requires a hot glue gun I'm out. I can't do it. I'm sick. Or I'm tired. Or I'm busy. But I can't. I just can't.

But Grandma can. And she did!
And, because Grandpa can't come and simply relax, he took on the project of assembling some new bedroom furniture. While I'm thankful for the nightstands and dresser he put together with ease, I'm especially thankful for the time and patience he gave my growing boy while teaching him a thing or two about tools and reading instructions. (I called this Shop Class and went ahead and checked this as a day of school. Win.)
The weather was mild and there were still some pretty fall colors so we took a day to hike Crowder's Mountain. It's always easy-going until the last quarter, but it's always worth it when we relax up top and enjoy the views.
A picturesque view, I know. What you don't see, though, are the deep breaths of air we're all gasping for, the huge slugs of water we're consuming, and the sweat dripping down our necks even though it wasn't at all hot. Unless your name is Grady Lee, Micah, or Annalyse... then you simply scamper up the mountain and wait patiently up top for everyone else.
As we hiked, I commented again how thankful I am for parents (and a mom-in-law!) who are active and healthy and able to do things like this. My kids have enjoyed so many neat things because of grandparents who are able to participate with them. What a gift!
The good news is that each of my kids now have their own Camel backpacks to carry their water when we hike. The even better news is that they are conveniently packed in a box in the garage and I couldn't access them to use them. (Sigh.)

Some more good news: my parents have a wonderful pedometer to track steps and miles. Some even better news: it was safe and sound in the van instead of with us on our hike. (Sigh.)
Are you tired of hiking pics? Sorry. Too many good ones not to share. But I've run out of commentary to share about our hike so simply enjoy and keep scrolling.
Challenge issued: Everyone stand on the rock without falling off.

Challenge accepted and everyone did!
Wednesday before Thanksgiving was Thanksgiving preparation day, and everyone had tasks and assignments. If your arms and hands worked you were a helper!
Since we won't be together for Christmas, Christmas came a month early! The kids decorated the tree and Jaxton put no less than seven bulbs on one branch. And I've left it alone - as much as it bothers me - because he thinks it's beautiful.

Grady and Micah received NBA shirts from their favorite, but opposing, teams. Annalyse received an antique tea set, which she asks to use every.single.day. Jaxton received a remote controlled truck that has suffered quite the abuse as he learns to manage the remote, and a rifle with "real" sounding (and obnoxious sounding) noises. Because, obviously, grandparents buy the noise-making toys, smile happily at their grandchild's excitement, and then say goodbye and leave the noise-making toy for the parents to endure.
After a fun and full week, Thanksgiving arrived and we enjoyed a day of eating, relaxing, football, and games. That is, after the morning Turkey Trot 5K. This year it was just Grady and Grady Lee, but we still had fun cheering on the handsomest runners.
I don't remember their time, because I am fantastic with pertinent details like that, but I do know it was their fastest Turkey Trot to date.
FINALLY, Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of food and a lot of thankfulness, but with such a small crowd and with my mom's help, not a lot of mess to clean up!
Just like that a week was over and we were standing in the doorway, holding hands, praying, hugging, and saying goodbye.

 LOVE left town. LOVE drove back to their home. ANd we are so thankful for that gift of LOVE!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Columbia, SC Field Trips

The kids and I enjoyed a mini road trip/getaway to Columbia, SC (way back in September, but that's beside the point). We decided that since Dad was out of town on business we would go out of town on FUN. And it was! 
We had a great time exploring a new museum, the state capitol, and a zoo. Bonus points: the kids had a lot of fun swimming in the teeny-weeny hotel pool and I had a lot of fun sipping coffee and reading. 
Can someone shout a hallelujah?! Do you understand what has transpired?! I have reached the point in parenting where I don't have to play/oversee anything and everything pertaining to keeping my kids alive. They are little people capable of fun and adventure without me fully engaging.
We arrived at the South Carolina State Museum just after lunch and didn't leave until just before dinner. It's true: we are legitimate home school nerds who spent over four hours in a museum and enjoyed every minute of it.
After a full afternoon at the museum, we raced a few blocks over to the State Capitol and got in on the last guided tour of the day where we collected new insights on government organization, southern history, unique architecture, and famous artwork. 

(And, maybe someday Annalyse will reach the point of not asking me if every statue we see of a famous dead person is George Washington. Sigh.)
With aching feet, tired legs, and rumbling bellies, we stopped for smoothies and then checked into our hotel to relax and catch our breath.

A standard suite like we always stay in, but MY WORD, apparently elevator buttons and tiny soaps and city views were as exciting as ever. Sorry to whomever was staying in a room next to us, or even in our hall for that matter, but I promise I tried to sshhhh the squeals of delight.
Mellow Mushroom for dinner, an evening swim, and then everyone was out cold by 9:00 and didn't make a peep until 7:30 the next morning. (Can I get an amen?)
With excitement about feeding giraffes and coffee to keep me gong, we headed to the Riverbanks Zoo for a day of animal fun.
When we arrived I was concerned the zoo was closed because there weren't any cars or buses in the parking lot. Come to find out, it was just a slow day with no big groups visiting. I think I spotted five kids, not my own, that day. Otherwise, it was just a lot of elderly folks out for a stroll. Usually our visits to Riverbanks Zoo involve waiting in lines to see animals or needing to save a seat for a show a good half our before the scheduled time. It was eerily quiet and wonderfully exciting to have the animals to ourselves.
We watched the gorillas and otters for a long time because they were active and hysterical. Going to a zoo is such a reminder of God's creativity and humor!
Hands down the highlight of the day was feeding the giraffes. I payed a few dollars for a handful of leaves to give them, and you better believe we ripped up each and every leaf into little pieces to prolong the feeding experience.
Grady Lee is more committed than ever to working in a zoo when he's older - the boy is enthralled with caring for animals. 

Micah enjoys animals if they're moving and doing something, otherwise he's scoping out the nearest bench or curb to do some parkour moves on.

Annalyse wants to hold a monkey, wonders if "mommy animals discipline their babies," and thinks otters are "the cutest animal EVVEERRR."

Jaxton has reminded me multiple times that he doesn't want a puppy for Christmas anymore, but does want a baby giraffe. 
You guys, the best part of our little getaway? It all counted as school. No workbooks. No sitting. No grades. Only hands-on, interactive, move-around fun!