Saturday, September 13, 2014

Two weeks in...

We're two weeks into the school year.

G-Bear loves spelling and writes stories with new words.

E-Bear is making friends and remembers some sight words.

Buddy and J-Bear enjoy playdates and Wednesday mornings with MoMo.

I've given three lectures and have planned two more.

We've been to two Fairs (for our State and our Church).

We've been on a bike tour around our neighborhood.

All this in two weeks?  How can it be?

That's the whirlwind of September, sweet as can be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taking GG to the Cabin

This year, for Labor Day Weekend, we took GG to her cabin.

Watching another generation enjoy the cabin with GG is a tremendous treat.
All the effort and energy that we put forth to get to the cabin together is worth it.

The cabin hasn't changed much in its 94 years.
It remains the cabin of many memories.

Of course, with a crew our size, tents are required (and thoroughly enjoyed).
MoMo and Papa's tent hasn't changed much in my lifetime either.  
This Labor Day, G-Bear, E-Bear and Buddy Bear got to sleep in the tent.
They chattered with MoMo and Papa late into the night and woke up to read stories with the late-August sunrise.

During the day, our favorite activities always include fishing with Uncle Scott.
Cousin B and Uncle Scott helped our Bears find their worms.

Then, they were out to the end of the dock, where everyone gets a fishing pole and a chance to catch a fish!  G-Bear has become a pro.  Buddy Bear is just a beginner.  I remember when G-Bear was Buddy Bear's size, learning to catch a fish with Uncle Scott.  Those days felt like yesterday as I watched my crew fish the lake.

Looking back to shore, what a sweet sight to see.

J-Bear enjoyed exploring the cabin for the first time.  She was here last summer, but she was just a newborn.  This year, she got to experience the cabin for herself.

Our sweet little J-Bear loved running in the yard, digging in the sandy shore, kicking the soccer ball with her siblings and Big Cousin B, and dipping her toes off the dock with me.

Can you believe that GG was J-Bear's age when the cabin was new?  

The best part of being at GG's cabin is the same today as when it was first built:
 the time spent together.  

Of course we had our traditional fireside dinner with hot dogs, hamburgers and s'mores. 
The corn this year is sweet and delicious!  J-Bear is just like her GG and her siblings.  She loved it!

The view from the pontoon was lovely as usual.  
We rode the boat to town to get an ice cream at the Dairy Queen.
What a blessing it was to give GG yet another tour around the lake.

T and I sat by the fire before heading to bed one night, and we watched the light of the tent and listened to the giggles from the sleeping bags.  Summer days at GG's cabin are sweet.
Thank you, GG, for all of these wonderful memories. 

Thank you, Lord, for GG and such sweet times together.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Week of School!

We have made it through the first week of school!

This year, G-Bear is in Second Grade.

E-Bear has started half-day Kindergarten.

Buddy Bear is excited for preschool activities at home.

What a big week we have had!

G-Bear had a great first week.  She is excited to be with old friends and is already making new ones. She is remembering the finer points of hot lunch and loves to lay in bed with me at night and talk about her day.  She has big hugs for her siblings when we welcome her home.   She is excited to be writing poems, journaling and learning about germs during these first few days.

E-Bear started Kindergarten with flying colors!  He got to go to orientation with MoMo (I was giving my first lecture to my students that morning).  Even though he was a little nervous about not knowing most of his classmates, he was so brave and enthusiastic.  He was up early on Thursday for his first day and certainly looked handsome in his uniform.  E-Bear gave Buddy Bear a big hug on the plaza the first day and re-assured his little brother that he would "be home soon."

Buddy Bear is sad to see his siblings go in the mornings.  I know how he feels, because I feel sad too.  Buddy Bear is so excited to do school activities that we are planning to do preschool at home.  For G-Bear's first day of school, I treated Buddy Bear, E-Bear and J-Bear to a morning at the Children's Museum.  Buddy Bear is so excited to do school activities that we are planning to do preschool at home.  After dropping G-Bear and E-Bear off for their first day of school, Buddy Bear, J-Bear and I arrived home to do "Shaving Cream Painting" for our preschool activity.

We made quite a mess and had fun doing it!  After a long, playful bath, we sat on our ABC mat, sang the ABCs and pointed to the letters.  Then we read books and sang more songs together (This Little Light of Mine) and then it was already time to get E-Bear.   It is wonderful to have focused time with Buddy Bear and J-Bear.  I know that time with fly during our school day.

Happy first week of school, dear Bears.  May God bless us with a wonderful school year!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Learning Time with real tools

Buddy Bear loves tools, but it is hard for me to find ways that he can use them safely.

The other day, for Learning Time, I had an epiphany.  

It sounded so fun that even G-Bear and E-Bear wanted to join in!

I grabbed three blocks of styrofoam from a recent package we received.
The kids each grabbed a hammer from their tool bench.
I pulled out some real nails and screws and laid down the ground rules:

1.  Nails only go in the styrofoam.

2.  Put the nails back in their box when your done.

3.  Be careful of your fingers!  Hammers can bonk and nails are pointy.

 4.  Have fun getting all your nails in your block!

The kids did remarkably well with all the instructions.  They loved this activity.  I think we lost a few nails under the deck.  In the future, I will probably get larger nails for this project than the ones I had on hand.  But, all in all, this one was a success.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, September 1, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Summer 2014

The sun is setting on our summer.
We spent our last night staying out late with friends in the yard of their new home.
I'll be up late finishing my syllabus for another year of lecturing.

Yes, the moon is rising over our summer, 
but there are sure to be many adventures ahead in a new school year.

The moon rose over our tent this weekend at GG's cabin.

Lord, these days have been precious.  Thank you for our glorious summer.
Please bless our days ahead.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, August 29, 2014

State Fair Treats 2014

Yes, I dread the end of summer, but I love the Minnesota State Fair.
It is the bright spot at the end of my August.

This year, we got to go twice!

We woke up early for our first day.

We loaded up the Mundo with two backpack carriers, left the stroller at home, and biked to the Fair together.  It was a perfect morning for biking.  I love watching the priceless looks that T receives from onlookers as he rides by with all four kids on the bike.   The morning sun was shining and there was a cool breeze as we parked our bikes in the free bike corral.  It was a perfect day to be at the Fair!  Our three big kids marched in together holding hands.  Watching them, I was reminded that we have hit a stride as a family this summer.  I have loved having everyone home these past three months.  Most of all, I really feel that the kids have enjoyed and thrived with each other.  This was such a perfect picture crystalizing their relationships together.

We started at Little Farm Hands, because that is our kids' unanimous favorite (we had promised them rides later in the week when MoMo and Papa were along).  We hit two farming milestones this year.  J-Bear was big enough to farm herself (walking has its perks!), and G-Bear was too tall to ride the tractor.  Thank goodness that G-Bear is such a good sport.  She helped J-Bear by pushing her tractor instead.

Next on the list were the heavily anticipated Pronto Pups (and a turkey sandwich for E-Bear).  T treated the kids to a root beer. A few milks at the milk stand and we were all in heaven.

We were sure to try out the tractors in the tractor yards, visit the cows, color pictures at the Moo Booth, see the Big Pig and the piglets, read a few books in the Alphabet forest and watch the parade.  Our favorite new find was the sand, water and nature kids' playground outside the EcoExperience building.  This natural playspace was full of fun ideas for me and hours of fun for our kids.

 At the end of our first day, we headed home around dinner time, piled on our bikes with sore legs but full of happy memories.  E-Bear asked me if my legs hurt from walking, and I replied, "yes, but I am happy to have sore legs in exchange for such a fun day with our family."  All the kids had been such troopers on such a long day.  J-Bear and Buddy Bear had walked or been carried on our backs all day with no nap, and G-Bear and E-Bear walked the whole Fair day.  I was impressed.

Forty-eight hours later, we braved driving rain to return to the Fair for a night of rides and games with MoMo, Papa and Uncle C.  We would not be deterred by rain!  Between rain storms, we were able to fit in a ton of rides and fun.  We made the most of a stormy night!

G-Bear on the Bumper Boats
 The Bumper Boats were a huge hit.  
E-Bear on the Bumper Boats
 Buddy Bear's smiles said it all.

J-Bear was perfectly content to hang with her dad and watch the excitement.  There are so many fun sights and sounds at the Kidway!

Each of the kids got to choose three rides, a gift from Papa and MoMo.  They chose the bumper boats, motorcycles, a roller coaster, and soaring gliders.  I got to ride the airplanes with Buddy Bear.  We had so much fun!

After they had chosen all their rides, Papa offered to take all the kids on the Ferris Wheel.  What a treat!  They got to see the Fair from the highest point at the Kidway.  

T and I are amazed each year by how enthusiastic, delighted and grateful our kids are when MoMo and Papa treat them to the rides at the Kidway.  We know these moments are fleeting and won't last forever, so we are soaking up the memories.  

We grabbed a milkshake at the cow barn before we headed home for the night, this time on the bus.  I said I liked biking to the Fair the best.  The kids liked riding the bus.  Good thing we went twice.  

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dinner on the porch to celebrate Boards

T passed his Boards!

Thank you, Jesus.

Such a monumental occasion merits a night out to celebrate.
Unless you find out the news at 5:30pm on your way home with four tired kids 
and no babysitter is available.  

In that case, you go to plan B: put tired kids to bed early and get Indian take-out.
Hang a few porch lights, light a few candles, buy a few Izzes,
spring for the palak paneer AND the tandoori chicken,
and you have a veritable feast fit for ANY super special occasion.

After all, we've hoped for and looked forward to this day for years.
What a wonderful way to celebrate.
Congratulations, T.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crabby Pants

I am the crabby pants in our house right now.  

I hate the end of summer.

Did I mention that I hate the end of summer?

I really do. 

But, as I had to remind one of our children tonight, there are many things in life that we won't enjoy, things that wouldn't be our choice if it were up to us to choose, and we have to choose to be cheerful anyway.

So there you have it, Queen B.  Time to buck up and be cheerful.  
Summer is ending whether I choose to be cheerful or not.

After lying awake the other night worrying about the start of school,
I reassured myself with this post by a friend, and woke up the next day with a plan.

In the first morning hours, we tried on uniforms, ordered all school supplies on Amazon (hallelujah, free shipping!), stopped by school to drop off early registration forms (no long lines for us on registration night!), and went to the store to buy two remaining pairs of pants for the school wardrobes.  Then, I treated the kids to Chick-fil-a as a reward for all our hard work and spent the rest of the day riding bikes and playing in the backyard.

See, it doesn't help to be crabby.

I am also preparing to teach at a nearby university this fall.  I have never been good at multitasking logistics planning for me and the kids.  But, procrastination, like being crabby, won't help.  

Even so, there is still so much to do in our last week or so of summer vacation: 
a trip to the cabin,
a visit to the State Fair,
what else can we fit in?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Relaxing August Days

We are recharging after the fun adventures of July.

Sweet peas and green onions from our garden

Learning time has been put on hold.  Errands can wait.  
We are home together almost everyday of the week.

I have been able to say 'yes!' to requests for Duplos and Play Mobile, dress up and Legos.
No rushing, no hustling.  The schedules will come with demands in due time.

An afternoon of Duplo wands and dress up.

The sandbox is open for business.  Roman ruins and castles rule the day.

When our friends come over, our backyard is full.  We had nine kids, ages 10 and under, were playing Capture the Flag in our yard this morning.  What a sweet summer surprise!

We have plenty of walks across the street the the University Quad.  
Sometimes Papa and GG come to join us.  

Four generations on the Quad
Dinner on the porch is a luxury.  Our kids are getting good at shucking corn on the back steps.

And after dinner, popsicles are a perfect indulgence.  These three put our Zoku popsicle maker to good use.  We buy Bolthouse fruit smoothie at the grocery store and pour it into our Zoku.  Let it be known that the green smoothie looks weird, but it tastes oh so good.




Thank you, Lord, for these sweet August days.