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Thursday, September 15, 2016

August and half of September - done!

All of August, half of September – done and done.  And thus ended the busiest (but possibly most fun!) summer we’ve ever had followed by our craziest (and eventful!) back-to-school time ever.  Phew!
We started August with Kayliana mastering two-wheels!  (And Mike and I both got about 59 more gray hairs…each).
August 11th, 2016 was our 15th Anniversary. (FIFTEEN?!!).  We celebrated with a family camping trip to Lake Wenatchee State Park.  It was a lovely, laidback, long weekend.
Happy Campers!

Less than two weeks later, Mike and I abandoned (lovingly) our children in the caring hands of our besties – Jason and Rebecca.  The next morning Mike and I left on a jet plane for NEW ORLEANS – a combo Anniversary and National Engaged Encounter Convention trip.  I’ve ALWAYS, ALWAYS wanted to go to New Orleans .  With my French major and History and Music Minors…it’s like New Orleans was MADE for me.  Bucket list, baby. 
A SeaTac selfie - SO excited to say the least!
We landed at 10:30pm (only 8:30pm our time) and immediately went with some of our great EE friends down Bourbon Street to experience all the Bourbon Crazy…and the grown-up slushies! 
The next morning, we walked back down Bourbon to CafĂ© Beignet in Musical Legends Park.  As we arrived the rain storm ceased, the steamy humidity kicked back in, the sun broke through and - to the sounds of a live jazz band - we had our first beignets.  I teared up.  Totally, totally cried.  It was a dream come true.
Later that morning, we went with our friends to the Bayou for an airboat swamp tour.  Holy stinkin’ Moly it was SO MUCH fun.  The captain would slow the boat down, then kill the fan and then feed the alligators marshmallows (probably not the healthiest thing, but it brings ‘em to the boat).   We saw tons of alligators including one that was 12 feet long and a nest of two day old baby gators.  Super fun!

Albino alligator!
While seeing alligators, tons of fantastic live bands and street musicians, the incredible architecture and historical sites of New Orleans (not all at the same time) we also managed to drink and eat our way through the place.  We did it all – we ate alligator, gumbo, jumbalaya, red beans and rice, muffaletta sandwiches, po’boys and, of course, plenty of beignets. 

The Engaged Encounter Conventions are like a big family reunion and wonderful.  We even had a marriage vow reaffirmation ceremony at the Convention Saturday night before a bunch of us went out and found yet another fantastic band.  Sigh.  I miss NOLA already and missed it the moment we left, but…
We missed the kiddos more and couldn’t wait to see them.  They’d been handed off to my mom for the last part of our trip and were home, all set for the beginning of school.  The kids and I had one last  Summer hurrah and spent an afternoon at the zoo, and then...

Monkeys at the zoo
The boys started September 1st (Matthew 7th grade and Zachary 5th grade).   Kayliana had to wait (oh, the torture!) for September 7th for her first day of FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN!  She is SO happy and SO loving school.  She still claims that her favorite part of each day is riding the bus.  She was SO freakishly excited to FINALLY step foot on that bus (after years of watching the boys get to ride).  One of the best things is that Zach’s class is the 5th grade buddy class to Kayli’s class, so they have two (out of three) recesses and lunch together.   
Needless to say, Kayliana handled going to Kindergarten like a champ and I managed to just get slightly-teary seeing her off on the first day.

In addition to school starting, we had a couple of wonderful staycations with Jason & Rebecca including a Labor Day weekend extravaganza with a birthday party to celebrate Matthew turning 13.  THIRTEEN.  

Now, we have a teenager (who finally got a cell phone –yikes!) 
AND three kids in school all day every day.  CRAZY TIMES.
Summer’s come and gone, back-to-school madness is simmering down…and now we’re already in the thick of it!  Here we go again!


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

July?! Check!

Happy August – ahh! It’s the last month of summer vacation already!  Good thing we have plans to make it a ridiculously fun (although busy) finale to this season.

July was over in a blink.  We had a wonderful time though.  We celebrated the 4th of July (slash a VERY belated birthday for Zachary) at Great Wolf Lodge water park. We had looked up height regulations before we left and saw that Kayliana was about .25-.5 inches shy of the required 48 inches for the biggest slides, so…we brought her ‘fake ID.’  I put a very festive like-fireworks-exploding-out-of-her-head ponytail at the top of her noggin and it did the trick.  The girl measuring her immediately put the coveted green bracelet on Kayli’s arm and off we went to the very biggest, freakiest, fastest waterslide of them all: The Howling Tornado.

Somehow, it was determined that Mike would take Kayli in a tube and I would take the boys.  Well, according to Mike, due to the huge imbalance in their weights, as soon as they hit the big dip/waterfall, Mike was tipped over backwards so much and Kayli was up so high, he was sure they were going to flip over.  Then, upon entering the huge funnel, where you go UP-and-down, UP-and-down  three times through the rapids, on the last UP, Kayli yelled, “I CAN’T HOLD ON MUCH LONGER!”  Of course, they come out and Mike was a little traumatized.  He at Kayli to see if she’s OK, and nano-seconds later, she has a huge grin on her face and announced, “THAT WAS AWESOME!”  She ended up doing the Howling Tornado about 9 times throughout our 2 days in the park.

In addition to the waterslides, Zach got a ‘magic’ wand that could interact with ‘magic quest’ screens throughout the hotel.  He loved it.  Kayli and I joined a lobby dance party in the evening.  And we all watched in pseudo-fear as the lobby-display of freaky, creepy animatronics came to life and repeatedly sang, “There’s nothing to be scared of…here.”  (Matthew leaned over and said, “Uh, yeah, except to be scared of you guys.”)  The people-watching and the constant tattoos-on-parade were an equally fascinating and entertaining visual.  We all had a great time and even managed to watch some fireworks out of our hotel room window before collapsing in bed.
A couple of weeks later, the boys left for a week of sleep-away camp.  My calendar reads that the week they were gone, I was going to declutter and organize and catch up on a year’s worth of music class lesson planning.  I did get some lesson plans done, but that was about it. 

Kayli learned to ride her bike without training wheels – gasp! – the day before the boys left for camp, so that’s all she wanted to do.  Seeing as we live on the side of a pretty steep hill, the only safe(ish) place for her to ride is the bottom of our street.  I managed to take her out every day that the boys were away.  (So, yay mom-choice, boo-lack of visible ‘to-do’s’ accomplished.)  
We also had a few (smallish) trees taken down in our ravine and all of them trimmed up.  It looks so much better and thanks to the tree chips left behind from the work, we even have a level, cleared out play-space at the bottom now.  The kids have been having a great time playing down there and working on building a lean-to fort.  I’ve also been having landscape companies come in to give us bids on the huge project we need to do in the backyard.  (Excavate, level, terrace, put in drainage, remove railroad tie retaining walls, build garden brick walls, put in gravel for an outdoor kitchen and firepit spot, etc.  A HUGE project – and pricey-pricey – to say the least)!  We’re pretty sure we’ve decided which company will do the work and now it’s just a matter of saving up money for a couple more months before pulling the trigger.  (Ideally the work needs to get done before the super rainy late fall-early winter arrives).
I took both boys in for orthodontic consultation.  Zachary will be having oral surgery on 8/22.  He has to have a baby tooth extracted, a cyst removed and biopsied, and a gold chain attached to his permanent canine for pulling down in the future.  (Hopefully it will move in on its own but that’s doubtful and orthodontia will likely be required).   I think the gold gear in his mouth will really boost his hip-hop/rapping career.
And Matthew won the orthodontic lottery and will require everyone’s favorite: braces AND headgear.  (“At home-head gear” – cuz, you know, it’s all PC now, and they wouldn’t dream of subjecting a kid to wearing headgear out in public).   There’s no way we can afford to have both boys in fancy mouth-metal at the same time, so, we may just flip a coin or choose our favorite kid and that one gets the nice set ‘o teeth.
On the books, for this last month: a staycation with our besties (aka a “clancation”), our 15th wedding anniversary and family camping trip, and then Mike and I head to New Orleans for the National Engaged Encounter convention AND our anniversary get-away.  (Kids are ecstatic as they’ll be staying with the besties and then grandma too).   WHEW!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

June Overview/Review

This picture right here, pretty much demonstrates how our big push to the end of the school year felt.  Matthew literally fell asleep moments after walking in the door post-bus drop-off, backpack still on.  He worked his tail off to get through his first year of middle school and did awesome – straight A’s!  We’re all happy the school year is done.

Kayliana graduated from pre-Kindergarten.  She’s very excited to be joining the boys in full-day, 
bus-taking school livin’.

Business Venture
Kayliana started a rock-painting business.  We’ve named it “Rockin’ Art.”  She made this “creepy clown” and announced that Uncle Timothy should buy it for either “$50 or $10,000.”  He has yet to complete the transaction.  She started taking her rocks door-to-door and made over $3 in her first day.  The boys quickly realized she was on to something with this plan and immediately joined the family business.  Matthew announced that Kayli should be the main salesperson though seeing as “she’s cute and can sell more.”  He thought a 60-40 split seemed fair.  (Sales-lady would earn a 40% commission).  So far, their primary focus has been on production and they’ve spent several afternoons painting. 

The Creepy Clown rock

 Some of Kayli's creations

 The Rockin' Artists at work

Brief Pet

I discovered this little guy hanging out on our hose wheel.  Matthew immediately ran inside grabbed a vase (of all things!) and built “Winston” a little habitat.  For 24 hours this poor little creature lived in confusion in a vase (with a poked-holy syran-wrap roof) on our kitchen table.  On the 2nd day, he was looking awfully sad.  Winston had lost his bright green glow and was looking a bit blah-green.  We discussed how he needed food.  For some reason, the boys went in search of bugs and managed not to find a-one.  Really?!  Even with the woods behind us and the bug-eaten leaves in my pathetic attempt at a garden?  After doing some Google-research, the next thing I know, the boys are sprinkling bacon bits into the vase.

“Um, what are you doing?” I ask.

“Well, it said that frogs like meat.  We thought we’d give him some bacon,” Zach logically explained.

“Riiiight, so guys, I think we need to set Winston free….” I start.

The confused and terrified frog, was now crouched in the vase wondering what the heck kind of strange land he’d found himself in.  A place where it rains bacon.

The kids agreed and we put the vase on its side in the yard.  Winston VERY quickly hopped out and scurried away from the bacon-captivity madness.

Yesterday, when I went to water my straggly vegetables, I was startled to discover Winston, happily bright-green again and clinging to his favorite spot on our hose.


June brought some exciting events.  Zach was in another Youth Theater play – this time James and the Giant Peach.  He was one of the narrators.

I was blessed with the chance to experience a miracle - the birth of my best friend Rebecca’s 3rd daughter (and 5th child) Maria Grace on June 13th.  She’s perfect.

On June 16th, I was in charge of the Kindergarten graduation at my big school.  They boomwhacked Ode to Joy (beginner and advanced version), Star Wars and Pomp and Circumstance.  They did AMAZING! They also sang An Irish Blessing which – I’m sad to say, after tons of practicing and fabulous run-throughs – somehow turned out to be a major train wreck.  Oh well.  It’s done!  First crazy school year teaching at 4 different preschools – DONE!  Their practice can be watched here:  They did even WAY better at the actual graduation!

We spent a weekend at Lake Cavanagh with our Engaged Encounter family/friends.  We rented a big house and had a BLAST.  Mike gave the kids rock-skipping lessons.  Matthew (aka Mini-Mike) has gotten quite good!

Zachary and I got sassy short summer haircuts.

We’re spending the 4th of July celebrating Zach’s 10th birthday (back on April 28th) with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge water park.  Since we’ll be inside and will miss the fireworks, we took the boys to the Mariner’s game on Friday night, July 1st.  They won – woohoo!  It was a GREAT game.  And afterwards they had a patriotic fireworks show.  Zach and I were FREAKING out with how amazing it was!  (Mike and Matthew were also there but – as usual – quite more subdued in their reaction).

Happy 4th of July!  God Bless America!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My girl

Kayliana has many different personalities (like not the needing-to-be-diagnosed kind), there’s just a lot goin’ on in that girl!

She’s playing softball t-ball.  She’s on that super intense cut-throat team, the Blue Butterflies.  They play other frightening sounding teams like the Pink Puppies and Purple Penguins.  We were supposed to face the foreboding Yellow Honeybees this morning, but got rained out.

Most days, Kayli would rather be in workout-type clothes (or something cheetah print so she can pretend to be one all day).  But every once in a while – and it’s gotta be on her terms – she wants to get super girly, be in a dress, and occasionally (occasionally!) I’ll do a little makeup for her.  (If we’re not going anywhere important – like school or church). 

Kayliana’s been in ballet/tap all year.  The whole year is basically one long rehearsal for the recital that is…tomorrow!  Wednesday night was the dress rehearsal and Kayli was SO excited to finally get to wear her costume and – yippee! – makeup!  I’ll admit I a little bit freaked out with the cuteness.  It might be our first AND last year of ballet, so I just tried to thoroughly enjoy it.  Kayli hasn’t been all that into dance class (despite begging to do it for a while).  Like other sports, she doesn’t want to practice she just wants to play in the big game or dance on the big stage.  But the big moment is nearly here.
On the way home from rehearsal she gasped and said, “I have to pee! I have to pee! I have to pee!”  We were about 8 minutes from home, but only 2 from a McDonalds.  Dreading the possible disaster of an accident in THE costume, I quickly decided to stop at the Golden Arch’s restroom facilities.  Of course, she got all sorts of admiring ooh’s and ahh’s and looks as we hustled into the bathroom.   When we were in the bathroom she asked if we might get a treat of some sort.  I quickly caved wanting to celebrate our fun evening as well.  I said that we could pick up three chocolate chip cookies and take two home to the boys.  (And she wouldn’t be eating hers until she was out of her costume at home!)  

She got excited and said, “At least they’ll be free!”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She gestured to herself up and down and said, “I mean, look at me!” 

“Um, so you think you’ll get free stuff ‘cuz you look pretty?!”


Oh geez.  Help us.

Kayli was a little excited about getting cookies.  She started acting like a monster (or crazy person or who knows what) and thoroughly enjoyed playing to the crowd in McD’s.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Yeah, yeah, yeah.  It’s been a while.  I really haven’t figured out a way to add time to my days yet.  I even say that to the kids (especially Zachary – when he starts whining about not having enough time to do something).  I always say, “Sorry, but I can’t add time to the world.”  Really wish I could.

Anyway, here’s a fun project that we did make time for recently.  Zach has wanted to make a fairy garden for quite a while.  We spent Mother’s Day morning going to thrift stores and craft stores to stock up on goods.  I think the most fun find was what he used for the little brick walkway.  It’s one of those stones that you heat in the oven for keeping your bread warm.  Clever kid.  It was a fun project and a good distraction from the other busy activities.

Let’s see, what all’s gone on?  Zach turned 10.  (We’ll be celebrating this summer with a family overnight at Great Wolf Lodge – swim amusement park place.  Matthew made him this epic birthday card with “Zach Sparrow” instead of “Jack Sparrow.”
Kayliana turned 5.5years old.  She’s one of the youngest on her softball t-ball team.  (The ominous sounding “Blue Butterflies.”)  She’s holding her own though!  I told her that – seeing as Matthew hung up his bat and retired from baseball after last season, that – while it’s totally up to her – she WILL love softball and WILL play through college.  She graduates from preschool next week. 
Matthew is still taking trumpet lessons and tries out this week to be bumped up to the 7th/8th grade band next year.  He’s worked his butt off in 6th grade and currently has all A’s!  He’s starting to show some serious maturity (a requirement before he gets a cellphone for his 13th birthday) and – miracle of all miracles! – I found him doing dishes without anyone telling him to.  He also babysits Kayli once a week while I take Zach to his acting class.  So far, I’ve only received a handful of tear-infused, frustrated-with-her phone calls.

Mom had a full knee replacement a few weeks ago.  My brother Timothy and I took turns being her coach and helper-outter.  I’ll admit it was almost a vacation to stay in her quiet apartment and pick up meals from the restaurant in her building.  Not a bad gig. 

Mike, Zach and I all got to attend the Broadway-touring show of Newsies. It was SO stinkin’ amazing.  Geez.  It was a nice break for Mike and I who have both been working A LOT.

Meanwhile, my kindergartners put on their own astounding performance – a dramatic retelling of Going on a Bear Hunt complete with some fun songs I added in.  Now, we focus on preparing for their Kindergarten graduation.  They will play three songs on Boomwhackers – Ode to Joy, Star Wars and Pomp and Circumstance.  Then they’ll sing this touching number (and play bells while making their parents shed sentimental tears):  Not my best singing/performance, but I wanted to do it slowly and clearly enough for the Kindergartners to use for practice.  Kayli has also really enjoyed making a cameo in many of my videos – especially the dinosaur ones.  


Saturday, April 23, 2016

So very helpful

And here is a glimpse into my life (and why I typically make these when the kids aren't around):

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

On with the show

While driving to the zoo, I overheard a conversation between Kayliana and her friend Zoey.

Zoey, says, “Do you have a boyfriend, Kayli?”

Kayli (thankfully!) replies, “No.  You don’t have boyfriends until you’re a teenager.”

Then Zoey says, “Oh, well, I have five….or ten.”

Then the conversation moves on to marriage.  Zoey  says, “You get married and then you kiss and go on your Honeymoon.”

Kayli adds, “Yep, and when you’re married all you do is smooch all day and take silly pictures to send to each other.”

I asked Kayli, “Do daddy and I do that?”  She quickly responded in the affirmative.  Huh!

So, this past weekend was the Zach-show.  Zachary had a BIG weekend.  He was in his first real on-stage play!  He’s done several classes and camps where at the end they put on a mini (ten minute) production in the classroom just for the parents, but this was the real deal.

The show was at the Youth Theater (right near where I grew up and close to where my mom and brother Chris live).  It was called “Cinderella Rockin’ the 80’s” and it. Was. Awesome.   Totally cheesy, very much geared towards the parents in the crowd who actually remember the 80’s.

The first night I went to pick Zach up from practice, the cast – including just one other boy and a gaggle of giggly girls – were singing Cindi Lauper’s “Girls, Just Wanna Have Fun.”  They spent an entire evening of rehearsal going through the script with the two directors explaining every 80’s reference to these younguns.  (Honestly, I’m not sure the directors were old enough to have lived through the 80’s, themselves). 

Zach landed the part of “Prince Cruise Swayze’s” sidekick Charles.  Friday night – opening night – Zachary was a perfect combo of nerves and excitement.  I was those plus a bit emotional.  Nearly our entire neighborhood showed up to cheer him on (post-bus stop Happy Hour).  We were all there plus my mom and her friend.  My oldest brother Timothy came Friday night and Chris came Saturday night (with my mom again).

Now, obviously I’m biased.  But really, I feel like sometimes I’m reversed biased.  Because they’re my kids, I’m actually a little more critical of them.  Maybe I had (and am ashamed to admit) slightly low expectations.  From the few times that Zach said a couple of his lines to me…well, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed.  But…No lie…No joke...No exaggeration.  He stole it.  Took the show and ran…well, he and maybe 1 or 2 others.  I’d say 3 of the performers really carried it and he was easily the leader of the pack.  I was so proud and just so super…impressed!

We celebrated afterwards by going out to ice cream with the whole fam – Grandma’s treat.  She pointed out that it was the exact same Baskin and Robbins we went to after celebrating my first ever opening night (of a middle school musical).  I realized that subconsciously I must’ve known this is ‘what we do’ since we went to Dairy Queen after Matthew’s first band concert back in December.

So, two performance nights – Friday and Saturday and then Sunday brought a different kind of ‘show.’  Zach altar served for the first time at Mass!  I was, once again, a little nervous, but once again, very impressed.  We – the rest of the family – were asked to bring up the gifts for Communion.  Super special to bring up the gifts to Father Todd who then handed them over to Zachary!  Proud mama weekend for sure.

Alas, not to be outshined (outshone?!) by my own kid, I did the only thing any good mother would do – and started a YouTube channel.  Actually, it’s something I’ve been planning on for a while.  And with the Kindergartners preparing for a little show for their parents, the teachers asked if I might leave them with music to practice next week (while I’m gone on Spring Break).  I thought – well, the easiest way would be to just sing it all out on video.  I also did several drum videos.  My primary goal with these is to help other early childhood music educators.  There really just isn’t a lot out there, so I might as well start sharing some of my tricks and tips.  I plan to do playlists for each of the different instruments we use and then playlists for all of my different themed songs.  After doing this (toddler/preschool music-deal) for 12 years, I have a heck of a lot of ideas to share.  Maybe it’ll just be my mom who watches them, but, whatever!  It’s out there. Little Ditties Music Academy YouTube Channel