Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Hello Everyone,

As I sit down to write this letter the snow is falling and it is gorgeous outside. I hope it keeps up and we end up with a white Christmas!

2015 was a busy and eventful year for us. On Feb 15th, we welcomed a new nephew, little Noah into the family born to my brother Jon and his girlfriend Dannie. He is such a cutie and we wish we got to see him more as he lives about 5 hours from us.

Holding my new nephew

Right as school/tax season were ending, we were surprised to find out that we were expecting baby number four! This little unexpected blessing is a little girl and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome our little princess in January. The pregnancy is going good and everything is healthy so far and that is all that matters.

In June, we got the sad news that my 93 year old grandpa had only days to live due to a large tumor. So my sisters and I along with two toddlers drove straight down to California to say our last goodbyes. It was very emotional and but it was nice to see extended family even under the circumstances. Joe drove down for a few days with our other boys and my brothers to attend the funeral. My Grandfather was a decorated WWII hero, a wonderful man and even though he lived such a full long life, it was hard to say goodbye.

My Grandma and I
Eric and Grandma and I
All the Great Grandchildren that we could get to sort of sit still. 
The Grandchildren
My handsome Grandpa

We enjoyed the summer, doing some trips to the lake with the jetskis and the boys did a few sessions of swim lessons. We also started biking together as a family! 

My Three sons on Mother's day:-)

Monica and Christopher: He loves to "drive"

In August, my mom and I took a trip to Seattle to drop my little sister, Monica off at college, which was really fun but hard to leave her there.L We made it a fun trip, seeing family and shopping at IKEA. 

I did NOT like leaving her at college but was excited for her new adventure.

Tired at IKEA lol
Hanging with Joe's sister Tiffany
My nephew Paul and brother Mark came to check out the school.
My mom was in heaven at IKEA

On the way home, we met Joe about halfway and we took the kids to Silverwood Theme park while staying in our camper. It was a little rainy but they all had a blast anyway.

For Joe, this year has brought a lot of changes. In January he left the job as CEO and owner that he has been working at since he was around 17 years old. He grew up at this job, developed connections, knowledge, and had great success in helping to grow a small company into a much larger one. He had really poured his heart into it so leaving was a huge decision. While it was a nerve racking time to be without a job but God quickly opened up another opportunity for him at a wonderful company, Nomad, where he is working as director of IT operations. This company develops and manufactures command and specialty vehicles for the military, fire departments, Dept of Transportation and many more. While it is a little different than what he has done for so long, it has enabled so many wonderful changes for our entire family. His schedule allows him to be home a lot more and having regular hours is so amazing. He has done a lot more travel for work across the United States and is enjoying the learning new things.
He has also developed a love of cycling and this summer, he and Eric did a 100 mile bike ride as a fundraiser for a local charitable organization.  Besides snowmobiling, I think this is he new favorite hobby!

I had a year full of a lot of variety. In the spring I finished up homeschooling Shawn for kindergarten, running a homeschool co-op, volunteering in Eric’s classroom, working a very busy tax season and finishing up teaching a highschool geometry class. I had a lot of fun being able to implement some project based learning into the class and had the kid apply their skills a real life project, designing an eco-friendly mall for the future. 

I started off with six students but ended with this great group of 4.

At the end of school I found out I was expecting our fourth baby. It was definitely an unexpected surprise but now that she is almost here, I can’t wait! This pregnancy has been hard for me physically and I have had to do a lot of physical therapy to be able to function day to day but that has helped tremendously.

I decided not to teach another class this year due to the baby coming mid-year but have been doing some private tutoring and will be doing taxes again very soon.  

Eric enjoyed fourth grade, which included an ice-fishing field trip, big creek learning experience, playing Thomas Jefferson in a Lewis and Clark production and participating in the science fair. 

Daddy was a lot of help
Thomas Jefferson!!!
Great group of friends

He got first place in the science fair and ended up with his picture on the front page of the newspaper!! He tried basketball for the first time and also enjoyed his 6th year of playing baseball. 

Basketball group
Eric had a great coach this year!!

After turning 10 in March, he had a big party with his cousins at the local roller rink. Since then he rollerblades when and wherever he can! This summer he did vacation bible school and had his first long camp away from home for a whole week. 

Lego Roller Rink party

He also enjoyed a Cub Scout camp and biking with Joe. I am so proud of his endurance and stamina to ride 100 miles with his dad. This fall he is in fifth grade and in addition to school has started piano lessons. He has been teaching himself for a while by ear and now is picking up notes very easily. I can’t believe my little baby Eric is 10 and in his last year of elementary school before Junior High next year! It’s going too fast!! He is a wonderful help and big brother.

Shawn finished up his year of homeschool with flying colors. He did a reading class, dance class, science class and co-op classes in addition to the work we did at home. Then at the end of the year, he attended some days at the public school to see how he’d adapt to the classroom next fall.

Co-op learning about our insides!
Turning 6!!!
Loves to help me bake

Over the summer he continued to excel and by the fall, was definitely ready for first grade. This summer he also played his second year of T-ball, attended vacation bible school and learned to ride his bike with no training wheels! He is very creative and loves math and solving puzzles. 

Shawn and his T-ball coach

Silly Buddies
During his first few months at school, he has tested at over a second grade level in both math and reading and is doing an extra class to provide a little more challenge for him. He loves reading so much that I have to force him to put his books away at night! He loves playing with Minecraft on the computer with Eric and running around with his little brother Christopher.

Christopher has changed so much this year. He talks a lot now and is very specific about what he wants down to the color of bowl and spoon he wants to eat with. He began doing puzzles, loves playing with playdough, water play, and drawing on paper. One of his favorite obsessions is Curious George!  He still loves to ride on our backs in his baby carrier and is daddy’s favorite cuddle buddy. He turned 2 in June and has the toddler mood swings down to a science. 

He loves Curious George
Riding on Mom's back is the best!

He loves to ride his tricycle around the house and porch and play with his brothers. His newest thing is that he wants to do everything himself! However, he is still very much our baby, so we will all have some transitioning to do once little sister arrives!!

Well, that’s a little bit about our year. I hope you all are doing well and have a great holiday enjoying the most important thing in the world: TIME with those people closest to you.

Joe, Moriah, Eric, Shawn and Christopher

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trip to Europe: Part 1

Everyone thought we were a little nuts and I admit, I thought I was too. To take a baby and little kids overseas on long flights and bring them to places that are not typically family friendly was a daunting task.
So I started on a quest to plan our trip with different perspective to make it more kid friendly. I found some really great resources along the way too!!

The guidelines were:
Do activities that both kids and adults would enjoy: for the most part
Try to have only 1-2 tours/activities planned per day and room for breaks naps
Don't try to see everything, pick the most important things.

But as much as I planned, things definitely tried their hardest to go wrong. But that's all part of the adventure!!

First I did a lot of research and found some great websites about traveling with kids. This one had not only family friendly places to stay but book lists of children's stories about each one.
Some of our Travel items

but my favorite was this one:

Not only did they have family friendly ideas but very specific parks/tours/dining for toddlers and babies on blogs written by people who did it!! It was very helpful.

In preparation the kids and I did a lot of activities, read a lot of books and learned a little of each language. I made a folder with all the tickets and info organized by each location. So much fun!! Yes, I am a little OCD but everyone get's their fun

Shawn's new luggage!!

Our Map of our trip and what transportation we are planning.

The Journey Begins

So, on June 13th, after a crazy stressful week not knowing for sure if one of the passports would get here in time....we boarded our first of four flights to Barcelona, Spain where we would board our cruise ship. After a little mix up with our seats, we arrived in Seattle. Our flight to Newark, New Jersey was delayed and we weren't sure if we would make it to our flight to Europe. Between our seats being mixed up again (They kept seating the kids and Christopher in bulkhead and exit rows:-) and telling us to finally board and then de-board, they suddenly said it was time to take off! 

Riding the escalators was the best fun!
Grabbing some breakfast in Seattle.

Christopher slept most of the 5 1/2 hour flight to Newark. 
When we arrived there, we received a message from my mom saying they had cancelled our flight!! However, that ended up just being a just a scare and we were able to board our biggest jet to London!! The kids loved that everyone had TVs in their seat and they had all the new releases: especially the Lego Movie and Frozen. 

Our dinner on the plane...chicken curry, salad and some lemon cake. It was yummy!

I didn't sleep much during the 7 1/2 hour flight to London but the kids did really well and we arrived safely in London!! This is where we found out that our one large suitcase that we had checked did not arrive in London. In fact they had no idea where it was!! While most of our stuff was in our carry-ons, the diapers, babies clothes, my make-up and contacts etc were in this bag. So frustrating!!

We spent the night in London in an apartment that was a little more difficult to find that I had thought but after we got settled, we had Indian food and crashed!! Before falling asleep we met this houseguest hanging in the curtains above our bed. We didn't sleep quite as good afterward!! Giant giant spider!!!

The next morning, we boarded our plane to Barcelona! When we got off the plane however, our stroller wasn't there at the gate. It didn't come on the baggage claim and we were starting to panic. Our driver was waiting to take us to the cruise ship and we were running out of time!! Finally the lost baggage claim clerk went on a quest and finally located it in the wrong baggage claim on the other end of the airport!!! We were so relieved and excited to finally get to board our cruise ship!!!

Our first port was in Marseilles, France and we took a shuttle into the city to walk around.

We saw this amazing cathedral!

Tried yummy food at this little French Cafe!

Our second port was in Villefranche, France where we took a ferry boat into the town. We had some yummy French lunch and some crepes and headed back to the ship.

 Eating dinner on the cruise

One night Mark took baby cause he was fussy and Mark was tired and this is how we found them. it was so cute!!!

Christopher turned one on the cruise ship!! He did not like his cake!! 

The Dreamworks characters were on the ship!!

Sleeping with Daddy in our room on the cruise.

Zonked out!

The one long tour day we did on the cruise was to Rome. It was called Rome for Families and they took you to the Colosseum, a Da Vinci Museum where they let the kids interact with machines built from Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings, and then have time on our own after.

 After we saw the Colosseum, our tour group started moving and I thought Mark was up with Joe but he had actually stepped over to look at something and didn't see us moving. We all had earphones on to hear the tour guide but Mark had taken his out for a second. Thus followed the worst hour or so of the entire trip! I went back to look for Mark but couldn't find him. So I continued with the boys and the tour group to the Da Vinci Museum while Joe went back to look. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy anything until I heard that Joe had found him. My smart brother went to find WiFi for his phone so he could text us. Some kind people helped me meanwhile and let me use their phone to find out the status of Mark and Joe. So happy that none of the horrible things I imagined were true and I have my brother safe and sound.

Playing with the inventions. 

Christopher enjoying a Fruit Leather oblivious to all the drama with Mark. 

The Trevi Fountain that was closed for repairs. 

On our way to Pisa on the tour bus.

Back on the cruise Joe and I got away for a yummy Anniversary dinner. Really amazing and special!

Mark watched the baby and the kids went the fun activities in the on board day care. They begged and begged me to go and they loved it!

During the cruise Joe spoiled me with three spa treatments: a facial, a massage and a pedicure! I felt pretty pampered

At the Pantheon

 Our last port was Naples, Italy. They have this giant castle that is pretty amazing. We just got of the boat and walked into the city to explore.

The Lemons were the size of Shawn's head!!!

Back on the cruise we had a whole day of cruising back to Barcelona, Spain. We tried out some ping pong.

Celebrating Christopher's birthday....again!

Shawn and his dance moves!

We did a Dreamworks breakfast where we got up super early and all the characters came and danced and took photos with us while we ate!

Doing a dance to warm up!

One of the many amazing towel designs our cabin attendant made for us!
He would make up our room in the morning, pick it up in the afternoon and make up our beds in the evening. Really special service, we were spoiled!
While we were sad the cruise was over, but excited to be off too our next be continued...