Sunday, November 23, 2014

A lot to be grateful for

Thanksgiving is coming this Thursday. Yesterday we drove the nine hours to Arkansas to spend the holiday with Matthew and Lauren Bush. It feels great to have a little break from school and the normal patterns of life in Texas.
On Friday before I left, I took our four pets and six kids (our five plus one of Elia's friends) around town dropping off the pets at various friends' houses who agreed to let sit for us. It was quite the full load. Since I don't have too much to share this week, I thought I would give updates on what everyone is doing:
Elia: piano, tennis, gymnastics, loves geography (knows all fifty states and capitals), likes making things (jewelry, etc) and reading. 
Ethan: can usually be found making intricate and sophisticated lego creations. Including flying objects with multi-rotational wings. He also carries a backpack with him with essential supplies for outdoor survival such as duct tape, blankets, spy gear, rope, etc.
Kara: is usually drawing or creating something artistic. Her drawings are amazingly detailed... With objects covering most of the paper and everything highly decorated.
Sophie: typical of a two year old... Very independent and opinionated but extremely adorable. She loves candy and her "banket".
Taggart: highly mobile seven-month old. Crawling, pulling up on things and tasting things are his hobbies. He has a homing beacon set on the dog food. Here are a few extra pictures from the past month that were stuck in my phone.
Grampy and Elia at the museum of natural science
Morning bathtime for tagg and sophie is frequently in the big side of the kitchen sink. Tagg will play and splash for a long time in there. Sophie loves her toys-- cookie cutters and measuring spoons and cups.
Ethan and his friend Ethan making hot air balloons at science class.
I don't have a good picture of kara, so that will be my goal for next time.
Really we have so much to be grateful for. Great grandparents for our kids, a beautiful and comfortable house. Money to pay for a new furnace and to fix our car and garage door (all of which broke these past few weeks) and still be able to take a trip to visit friends. Good friends who will open up their house to our "big" family for a week. A family that will be together after this earthly life and kids who are amazing and (mostly) try to be obedient. Great, secure employment and good health. I am not sure it is fair to ask for anything more for myself... Though in all fairness, I sure would have liked to get that organization gene. Oh well, we can't have it all.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November: When it rains it pours

We are half of the way through November... Jen's dad came to visit for a couple weeks and then Eric's parents came for a visit. We did a bunch of field trips: to the museum, the marine mammal stranding network field trip (where we saw whale teeth and learned about dolphins), and went to the Renaissance festival.  That was really fun. We saw a bird of prey show, a fire-whip demonstration and a sword "school". The kids loved the jousting too. We shared funnel cakes (it was delicious) and watched a woman make a glass vase. 

The kids are doing well in school. Kara has a great kindergarten teacher and is so excited about independently writing and reading. She is very good at sounding words out and amazing at coloring... She will sit for hours making detailed drawings. 
This year, Elia and Ethan are in a co-op called Classical Conversations. They learn history, science, art, math facts, plus, Elia is doing a grammar and writing class. It has been fun to meet new people and friends. 
I can't believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and despite the fact that we had to get a new furnace, our car is making funny noises and our garage door is malfunctioning, our lives are so blessed. Eric went back to work for PROS Pricing filling a marketing roll which is new and interesting for him (though the commute will take some getting used to).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Overscheduled... But having lots of fun

Kara and Elia at reading night at Willbern: for the PTO fundraiser they did a reading challenge... See how many minutes the student could read in 10 days (and get pledges for completing it). We logged about 800 min! We will see soon how many the top reader had.... But we made a good attempt at it :). 
Saturday we took the Girl Scouts and our family to Schlitterbahn (a water park in Galveston). We had a great day. The park wasn't crowded and there were virtually no lines! It was just a perfect size that you didn't have to worry about loosing people. Below is Elia, Kayden, Emily, Savannah, and Monica. Our troop dissolved this year because the other leader and I didn't feel we had the time to lead the troop and no one else wanted to step up. We have had great memories with the scouts though and Elia has made some great friends.
After Schlitterbahn we went and picked up Elia's new pet: a hedgehog she has since named Henry. She has been researching and wanting a hedgehog for about a year now. She saved up $100 and really wanted to get one so we found this one on Craigslist. It is very shy right now, but we are working on socializing it. Elia is in heaven. 

It is that time of year again... Halloween is  almost here. We met the McKennas and McClellans at the children's museum for a members Halloween event. It is always fun to go on trips with friends. Grampy is visiting, so Eric and Grampy and I went as three blind mice, Elia went as a panda, Ethan is a minion ninja, Kara is Elsa, Sophie was a little orphan and Tagg was a skeleton. 
I have felt recently very disorganized.The second half of October has just been crazy busy. I wanted to do so many fun things with my dad that I just over committed ourselves... This week for example we had a tour of Houston Waterworks where the kids learned about water: where our water supply comes from and how it is cleaned as well as how to conserve water and some fun experiments about surface tension. Tuesday we went to the Apple Store for a field trip and learned how to make songs in garage band and movies in iMovie. Today we had our homeschool co-op all morning and gymnastics all night. Tomorrow we have a field trip to the marine mammal stranding network to learn about animal rescue. Then we rush back to go to writing class and then we have tennis. Friday we have checkups for kara and Elia and then we have a party for Halloween at the Gaastras. Saturday we have a soccer game, lego league, and a party that the family was invited to.
I know it is my own fault, there are just so many cool things to do! Someday I will learn to slow down... Maybe.
I will say this... All this running around makes me super grateful for Sunday and the rest that comes with it!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall? in Texas and Elia's Birthday Party

We are back on-line! It was so rewarding to print the book from when I regularly kept a blog (2007ish to 2009) that I decided to start blogging again. I am not sure I take as many pictures as I used to, but I love being able to keep the blog like a journal and I really enjoyed reading back from that time.... So here it goes again!

So, what is new with our family of seven? We are in Houston, TX, our oldest, Elia, turned 10 last month and our youngest, Taggart, just turned 6 months. The weather is slowly but surely getting cooler here. I am not sure the cool weather is here to stay yet, but we will take any days we can get.

We took advantage of the nice Texas weather though and snuck in one last swimming day on the last day of September: We went with some of the Flores' kids and with Dallas Lauck.

On the homeschool front, we are doing some fun science classes at the museum (last time they learned about the rock cycle). My dad, does history and science over Skype once or twice a week and we are doing a co-op with some other homeschoolers once a week. In this picture Ethan, of course, finds math blocks much more useful as building components than as tools to learn math:
On Saturday the 4th of October, Eric had signed up to do a mud run with his friend Ryan. They had a mini kids one set up too that Elia and Ethan could do. They both loved it, but were cold after being wet and muddy (of course, this would be the one day that the weather had to be a little chilly).

Eric and his friend had a lot of fun too... and though they weren't really running for time, got 13th place in the non-competitive bracket.

 Taggart is growing up so quickly! He is six months now and crawling all over! It is definitely time to baby proof! He is always getting hair wrapped in his little baby hands. He is pretty easy going though and so cute with his little blonde hair. Elia went to Valentina's birthday party and brought back a typical "Columbian" hat. We put it on Taggart.

Kara is enjoying kindergarten with Ms. Sensat. Many days we walk to school through the park by our house. Kara enjoys riding her scooter and having us bring her scooter to the bus when we pick her up. She loves hanging on the monkey bars in the park if we have extra time.
 On Wednesday last week, we let Kara play hooky from school and Eric took a day off work while we went on a homeschool field trip to Dewberry farm. The kids all had a blast playing on the rope swings in the hay, on these huge inflatable pillows, riding a train and going down a huge slide. It was like a little mini family vacation. We will take it when we can get it!

We finally have a double digit child! Elia's birthday of course was back in September, but she wanted to do a camping themed party and it was way too hot then. We picked yesterday (and Friday) to have it. She had 8 friends over for a s'mores cake, roasting marshmallows on homemade s'more sticks, bracelet making and watching Parent Trap in the tent. Most of the girls stayed the night sleeping out in the tent. Jen slept out in another tent with Kara and Ethan to keep an eye on the girls. Everyone had a lot of fun. Elia wants to save her birthday money to buy a hedgehog.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beach days

For the last three days we have been staying at a beach resort near the small town of Samara. The beach is on a little cove. We have been fortunate that it hasn't been too rainy while we have been here. Our first day we took a kayak tour to a little island that was literally swarming  with hermit crabs. Eric, ever the adventurer, climbed up the island's waterfall while the kids and our guide caught fast moving crabs in the tide pools. 
We have spent lots of time boogie boarding in the waves and swimming in the humongous pool (though it seems to get colder each day we are here).
On the second day, we decided to take a horse ride as a family... It was much more interesting than our first ride which was carried out in a slow horse-head to horse -tail line. We could trot, gallop and we didn't even have to sign a waiver (which has been present at most of our activities). We were rewarded with beautiful views of the ocean.
 Elia had a surprise when her horse tried to hop over a small log in the middle of the path. She fell off and her foot was caught in the stirrup for about three seconds. Bravely, and to the cheers of the rest in our group, she got back on and finished the ride.
Most of the time we spend exploring the beach, finding shells and rocks along the sand or playing in the pool. We have found our favorite smoothie place here. It has a beach front view with the most delicious smoothies that we will try and replicate when we come home! ;)
We also enjoy seeing iguanas run across the road or path that are at least 24" long, the native species of squirrel that has a burnt orange body and black stripe that runs from his neck down his body, and the birds that steal the sugar packets.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Days 3 and 4

We had a whirlwind couple of days accompanied by spotty internet so it was hard to do a post. On day three we took a guided walk through a cloud forest complete with about eight hanging bridges. 

We then took a ride up a sky tram to the top of the forest. Most of the day was a downpour so we don't have a lot of pictures. We then went into a small town for lunch and for the chance to look around.
Ethan, who slept through lunch because of a increasingly painful earache, needed something so we took him to the equivalent of the urgent care clinic. The doctor there said he did indeed have an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics. We started him on them that night and he was already better the next morning. 

Yesterday we drove four hours (seeing a troupe of monkeys along the way) 

to see a pottery demonstration 

and take a boat ride where we saw lizards, birds and crocodiles. 

We then drove two more hours to see the oldest church in Costa Rica 

and then beach where we will stay for the next two days. We are all glad for the break from driving! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Costa Rica day 2

Today was jammed packed with fun. The kids woke up at 5:30 in the morning and we ate a big breakfast then we took off for a day of zip lining through the Costa Rican canopy, horseback riding, tubing down white water rapids and soaking in natural hot springs. It is 6:45 and I feel ready for bed!

We coated ourselves with mineral-laden mud before soaking in the springs.

Everyone was so impressed with the bravery of our kids. We all had a ton of fun! 
Here is a photo from our first day... Juice in a bag with a straw. It was the sweetest pineapple juice ever! Apparently it is fruit season here. Hooray!