First Day 2016

The boys headed back to school on Wednesday.  They were so ready!  This summer has been one for the books in every way, but we were all feeling refreshed and a little bit antsy to get back to our school routine.  Plus, there were lots of exciting things happening this year!  Alaster and Jack get to be at the same school for the first time since moving to Charleston, and Truman enters (if you can believe it!) Kindergarten!  Don’t they look great!?

(PS- I find myself forced into a new way of making my collages and I don’t have any say in how they turn out.  I only get to choose what pictures go in. So, future Jack and Truman: I didn’t love you any less. The computer chose to make Alaster bigger than you.)

Jack – 6th Grade, Alaster 4th Grade, Truman- Kindergarten
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Dropping off the big boys was fun.  Dropping off Truman was… PAINFUL.  Oh, this boy!  He was so excited and happy to go, but I think his drop off has been the hardest Kindergarten drop off to date for our family.  Truman feels SO much younger and more… fragile… than Jack and Alaster did at this age!

Developmentally he’s such an interesting and amazing kid.  He can read.  Anything.  Scriptures, chapter books, he’s solid.  There’s almost no word he can’t conquer, and his comprehension is great too.  He can recognize all numbers up to 100, and count to 100 by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s and he’s asked me to teach him by 3’s.  He can do simple addition and subtraction in his head. One day he asked me “Mom. 5 minus 5 is zero, but what’s zero minus 5?”  I told him negative 5 and we didn’t talk about it again. The next day when he was at our friend’s house he said to her “Marilee, what is 3 minus 3 minus 3?” Marilee knows Truman pretty well so she didn’t answer him.  Instead she countered “Truman do YOU know what 3 minus 3 minus 3 is?” He said “Negative 3.” He’s been doing addition and subtraction involving negative numbers ever since. He memorizes like nobody’s business… Ask him the season and episode of any TV show we watch regularly and he can usually tell you (this comes in handy when Dorothy is asking for an episode of something and I don’t know where it is!).  Ask him what street we are driving on in Charleston and he can tell you that too.

BUUUUT… his fine motor skills are horrible.  He’s never loved coloring or drawing and his handwriting totally reflects it.  I am also still concerned about his language skills.  Reading has helped tremendously as we talk through books together, but I still think he’s behind because he started talking so late.  He struggles when we talk, sans books, about abstract concepts and feelings.  It’s hard to tell if he’s making the connections that he should be at this point.  I loved that I was able to be his primary teacher this past year.  I noticed small things like this (that probably only I would) where he seemed behind from the other children in the class so I tried to go slow and really make sure Truman was understanding and learning too.  I also worry about him socially.  What if he has a hard time making friends?!  What if someone is mean to my sweet boy?!  Will he know how to handle it?!  And what about working and being gone for so LONG every day?  I’m not so sure he has that kind of stamina! He’s just a BABY after all!  And on and on the worries go.  I couldn’t fall asleep last night for worrying about this child!

And yet, I wouldn’t send him to school if I didn’t think that’s where he NEEDS to be.  I have high hopes that he is going to learn and grow a lot this year and that school will address many, if not all of the things that I have developmental concerns about. I’ve got a meeting set up with his teacher to make sure he is challenged in the areas where is ahead of the pack and to talk about the things I am worried about.

Plus, while it’s true that I am worrying myself to an early grave, he seems to be all excitement and smiles. Just look at him:
TrumanI took this in front of the school on the first day and in the gym as we waited for the teacher to come get his class. (He ate a full breakfast that morning, but he wanted another piece of zucchini bread in the car… that’s why he has that in his hand.)  I had to hurry out to the other kids in the van so he had to wait for a few minutes on his own.  I asked him repeatedly if he needed me to stay and he just kept saying he was fine!

I cried all the way back to the car.

Also, while Daddy couldn’t come to the first drop off because of a meeting at work, you should know that he feels the exact same way as I do about all of this.  When I texted him pictures he said he would have cried too if he had been there.  He’s such a sweet Daddy!

When the boys were gone all that was left was me and my girl!  Of course I will miss the boys, but I admit I am really excited to have so much one on one time with my best little girlfriend.  Guys, she really is my FAVORITE little girl in the whole world:
girlsEveryone reported a wonderful first day.  The first thing Truman said was “I learned about being responsible, respectful and safe.” Then he told me about the behavior chart and making good choices, having recess, finding some preschool friends on the playground, what he ate for snack and lunch, books they read, things they colored, how TIRED he was, how he was so glad there were no strangers (we had a safety FHE in preparation for school) and then “Could I just go home now and rest?”  Jack and Alaster were talking a mile a minute when they got in the car too, and all of it was positive!

Here’s to another great year!

Jack Turns 11

We told our children that themed parties would end at age 8, but we had to make an exception for Jack’s 11th.

Jack is almost as big a Harry Potter fan as his parents.  He’s read the entire series almost twice through and loves the movies. So, naturally, Corey and I planned a surprise party for him this year.  After all, “It’s not every day yer young man turns eleven!”

Jack actually brought up the fact that he was turning eleven and that if he were magic he’d be receiving his invitation to Hogwarts (well… Ilvermorny actually, but he didn’t know that because he’s just ALMOST as big a fan as his parents). I played it cool like “Oh yeah?  I had forgotten about that. Hmmm.” The Saturday morning before his birthday Dad went to get the mail and found two special invitations for our eldest boys, and a package from Aunt Dee Dee with an awesome Gryffindor scarf! Harry1Corey made the invites from Dumbledore and I delivered them to his friends earlier in the week. To keep it a secret we had the parents all give the invites to their children that morning in similar fashion. I wonder if any of them were as confused by it as Jack was? He thought the card was awesome, particularly the wax seal, but he just thought someone sent it to him as a birthday card. It took us a few minutes before we realized he hadn’t got it. When we explained we were throwing him a party… and that it was happening that afternoon… and that it was Harry Potter themed… and that his friends were all coming…he flipped!

Activity no.1 at the party: Quidditch Practice! Corey made a “Quidditch Cannon,” (air compressed cannon made out of pvc pipe and a ball valve) to launch Snitches (also made by Corey…ping pong balls spray-painted gold and embellished with gold sharpie so they really looked the part) for the boys to catch.Harry2

Corey launched them at the kids in our long backyard and they showed off their Seeker skills.Harry3

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Corey let the kids have a go launching the snitches too:Harry5Dorothy was so excited by the cannon! She loved watching the snitches fly and loading the snitches back in after they had been caught.  Daddy helped her launch a few too.

While it has nothing to do with Jack’s birthday I couldn’t resist inserting a picture of her gorgeous golden curls in this collage. My other favorite pic is the bottom right.  We have to be pretty careful around that curious girl!Harry6vs2Activity no. 2: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean Challenge.  Disgusting, but fun!Harry7Don’t worry, we didn’t let the horrible flavors sit in their mouths for too long.  Immediately following the gross-out challenge we sang to Jack and partook of my biggest contributions to the birthday party, Chocolate Frogs (I got a mold and made them dark chocolate with caramel and pecan centers) and Butterbeer Cake.  I’m not going to lie, this cake was good.  It was a double layered Butterscotch Cake with Browned Butter Frosting (I’ve never browned butter before… it was fun!) and a Spiced Molasses Drizzle.  It was incredibly rich and tasted exactly as I imagined Butterbeer would taste… only in cake form! Success!Harry8Activity no. 3: A trip to Diagon Alley for wands!  Corey is the coolest. The. Coolest. He made these wands for each of the kids coming to the party and for each member of our family. The cards beneath detail the wands wood, length, core and pliability. Birch, Black Ash, Oak, Cedar, Willow…Pheonix Feather, Unicorn Hair, Dragon Heart String, Veela Hair… Swishy, Springy, Rigid… etc. He thought of everything!Harry9The kids loved them.  See the bottom left pic?  That’s what happened when Corey asked who wanted to go first.  The kids didn’t choose their wand because “the wand chooses the wizard.”  Corey had made specific ones for our family and then he let Jack decide before the party which of the other wands each of his friends would get.Harry11I was a little concerned that these 11 year old boys would feel too old for wands, but I needn’t have worried.  They had a grand time running around and cursing each other 🙂Harry12After opening presents we let them outside to play. They ran all over our yard playing a game they call “Infection.” I didn’t quite catch the rules but it felt similar to sardines only with a lot more running!  Aren’t they a cute group?Harry13I loved having Jack’s little buddies over. It was the first time we had met some of them. By the end of the party I was full of gratitude that he has chosen such good, good kids to be friends with.  They were polite, kind to Alaster, Truman and Dorothy, and so much fun!  I noticed a lot of little things about how they interacted with our family that told me they come from good homes with parents who are teaching them well.  What a blessing!

Last collage today comes from Jack’s family party.  Jack requested we have Gram, Grampa and Tyler over to roast Hot Dogs and S’Mores. Considering he got a bunch of Scout paraphernalia for gifts I’d say it was appropriate!  Bottom middle pic: Corey handed down his Swiss Army Knife. Special!Harry14Happy Birthday Jack! We love you!!!

Fourth 2015

Okay, so I’m still in back-blogging mode here, and while I know I really should be trying to do this in some kind of chronological order. But I feel so overwhelmed by my situation (I’m 2 stinkin’ years behind!) that I’m just gonna be a little nonsensical about it and blog whatever I happen to feel like blogging when I sit down to work. I know myself. It will be like this or not at all, so I choose this! Pathetic. I know.

Today I feel like blogging about the Fourth of July in 2015, probably because I’m aching for summer to return!

As is tradition, we spent the Fourth with Aunt Missy (Gram’s sister) and her family.

Upon arrival Gram and Daddy painted Dorothy’s toes a festive red to match her comfy car outfit that she wore as we we drove to Indiana. As you’ll see in the pictures, Dorothy had more than one Fourth of July outfit from Gram.
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Missy made sure the yard was full of fun things for the kids to do. Truman played with the bean toss game almost the entire time we were there, by himself or with whoever he could grab. Tyler, Daddy and Hannah probably spent the most time with him:
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Jack and Alaster played mostly on the slip n’ slide, and with water guns:

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This picture of Aly with a soda is the only picture I got of our yummy BBQ lunch. Woops! And Jack had fun on the swing:
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Then it was off to the Parade!
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Now, I know what you are thinking, “Two full collages of Dorothy in that outfit!? Overkill much, Ashlee?” Sorry! I couldn’t stand to leave even one of them out!
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We had so much fun! There’s nothing like a mid-western small town parade!
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Dorothy crashed when we made it back to the house. All that sugar and excitement caught up with her. She napped on me and then on the grass for quite some time before we left. (I’m not sure why the image is flipped. I saved it in the right direction!)
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While she slept Uncle Jerry gave us all a real treat: He let us drive his antique tractor around the high school parking lot across the street!!! The boys have never driven anything before so they thought it was basically the coolest thing ever. Corey and I loved it too!
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Then it was time to pack up and say goodbye. What a fun day!

And Dorothy wasn’t the only one with multiple Fourth outfits. Here are the boys in their second outfits from Gram:
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Awwww. They are cute, huh?!

Meet Me In Saint Louis Louis!

No. Don’t meet me at the Fair.
Meet me at the Arch! And Grant’s Farm! And the Science Center! And the Ballpark!

And oh yeah… travel back to 2014 because that’s when we were there. 😦 Yep, we’re in for some serious back-blogging today!

In the summer of 2014 Gram and Grampa took us to Saint Louis for a fabulous trip.  We checked in at the hotel after the 3 hour drive to stretch out a little and take a swim:
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We tried (and except Jack didn’t much care for) Saint Louis style Pizza:
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Then it was off to the Arch! It was a lovely walk to get there, and we loved seeing the boys running enthusiastically to reach it and marveling at its height and general awesomeness:
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If you’ve never been to the Arch, it’s quite an experience. The journey starts underground with museums, exhibits, movies etc. and leads to the main attraction: riding to the top! Dorothy and Truman needed to go to bed so Corey and Gram took them back to the hotel. Grampa stayed with me, Tyler, Jack and Alaster as we went to the top. You ride these incredibly cramped and scary pod things on an incline up to the viewing area. The boys absolutely loved it. They report it as being the best part of the whole trip! I tried not to pass out from fear and was happy that they were happy. (Tyler really was having a good time, he was just doing an Alaster grumpy face impression):
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The next day we headed to Grant’s (as in Ulysses S.) Farm. It was huge and beautiful and so, so fun. We took in all the fun we could stand in the heat. First we bought tickets and took a trolley ride around the park:
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Then we entered:
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We fed goats. I’ve never seen so many in one place before. It was insane! The older boys loved it but Truman was scared out of his wits. He was little and there were hundreds of hungry goats running wild and trying to get at his bottle. Eventually he did feed one, but it took some coaxing. And he never did leave my hip:
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We also rode a:
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Wandered around seeing all the different animals and birds:
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Tried to cool off with some shaved ice while snapping some shots of Dorothy’s ruffle bum:
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And put the big boys on camels. This had to be my favorite part of Grant’s Farm. The smiles of pure joy on their faces was priceless!
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Lunch was delish… especially the cold drinks.
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But the heat finally became unbearable. Poor baby girl was nothing but a sad little sweat-ball! We hopped on the trolley and headed out. We could have spent so, so much more time at the Farm. We didn’t even get to go see the award winning Clydesdales! But MAN the heat and humidity here is no joke. See? See our little sweat-ball? She was so relieved to be back on the trolley headed out!
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We hadn’t planned on going, but the nicely air-conditioned Science Center ended up being the perfect place to spend some time and refresh before we headed off to the ball game.

Cute story: The boys were in the hamster wheel that starts the big marble things going all around the museum entrance. They were having a hard time of it so some sweet guy helped them out from behind (you can spot his hand in the pic). They didn’t know he was there and they were so pleased with how fast they were going etc. Everyone surrounding the area got a kick out of it!
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And seriously… the Science Center is SO cool!
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The grand finale of our trip was at Busch Stadium with the Cardinals:
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To take advantage of:
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You read that right! Mormon Night at The Ballpark! How the tradition of inviting Mormons and giving them a special cheap section and handing out free visors and letting the Stake Presidents onto the field to be honored and throw the first pitch started, I really have no idea… but I’ll tell you this… WE LOVED IT! For real. I am not a sports fan, but it’s practically impossible to not enjoy yourself at an event like this. We saw lots of friends from our Stake and well… I’ll just let you take a peek at the pictures. They say it all:

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Thus concludes the back blogging for today.
Happy Sabbath!

Truman’s Mickey Party!

Did you know our Truman boy turned 4 in June? My sweet baby boy is getting so big!

This year, when I asked him about a party, he was able to articulate what he wanted and how he was feeling about it. For those of you who are familiar with the struggles he’s had with speech you will understand what a testament that is to how much Truman has grown in the past year!  And he just keeps growing every single day. My heart is all squeezy just thinking about it!

Even though Truman has really only gone through one Mickey Mouse phase, and it was pretty short-lived and happened about a year and a half ago, Mickey was the theme he chose for his party.  Done.  Mickey is basically 3 circles. I have tackled MUCH harder cakes and cupcakes in my time!

Or so I thought anyhow… the chocolate versions turned out, but the vanilla version didn’t do so well. My frosting was a bit runny to hold up Oreos. Even some solidifying time in the fridge didn’t help. Oh well! They tasted great! (Side Note: Does anyone have a tried and true buttercream or vanilla frosting they love?  Share your recipe with me please!!!)
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Look at Truman’s face while we sang and he blew out the candles.  There goes that heart squeezy thing again!  He’s just the sweetest boy!

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More than anything else Truman talked about as the party approached was “my friends!” They were going to come and play at his party! Look what a cute group we had:

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In addition to siblings he had his friends Felix, Riley, Scott and Peter. We’ve started to become friends with both of their families and it’s been great!

Okay, so the second name of this party, after Mickey of course, was SIMPLICITY. The past year has been crazy and stressful. Apparently a job change, 2 moves during the school year, buying your first home etc. will do that to ya.  We’ve all kind of struggled with the changes in our own way, and as I planned Truman’s party, I found one of my biggest goals was just to not stress myself or anyone else out. At all. Some days I feel like we’ve had enough stress for a life time. So I let the kids help and we kept it simple. We did 3 easy games, no craft, no decor, and only the 2 cupcakes (Yes, the cakes and frostings were all homemade… I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t at least done that!).  And I’ll tell you: It was great! Sweet kids like these are easy to please!

I asked Jack and Aly if they would be willing to create a scavenger hunt for the younger party attendees and they happily accepted. They drew pictures as clues and put them all up in advance. There was a bag of suckers decorated with the classic Mickey shape at the end for treasure. It got off to a good start:

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But we quickly realized that Jack and Aly made some mistakes in their planning. Woops! Thanks anyway guys! I LOVE that you wanted to help! I should have watched a little more carefully as they prepared.  No worries! We ended up hiding the suckers all over the living room for them to find and it worked out just fine. Good thing I had written initials on each of the suckers before hand:

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Our next game was a balloon toss. I started close and we kept moving the board further back. The kids really got into this one!  Here’s Truman about ready to toss his first one!

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The game portion of the afternoon ended with a classic: Musical Chairs! I found a YouTube video that played the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “Hot Dog!” song continuously for an hour. Perfect. The game was a success, but my favorite memory of that YouTube video will be of when I found it and shared it with Truman. He got so excited and we danced and danced to it all around the kitchen.  Hot Dog, hot dog, hot diggetty dog!  He was so happy and so cute!

Awwwww… there goes my heart again!

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The rest of the party we just let the kids run around and play. They got wild. Reeeeaaaallly wild. Truman joined in for most of the time, but admittedly he did sneak downstairs once or twice to hang with the adults where it was a bit more calm.  Still, I think he really had a wonderful time.

I just really, really hope he felt special and loved.
Because that kid is SO special.
And he is SO loved.