The kids and I escaped down to VA for just shy of 24 hours to spend some time with my SIL and her family.  I adore Scott’s sister so a visit to her house was a bright spot in our week.  
We arrived in the early afternoon with time for me to take the 4 boys to the park while Aunt Karen took the girls to run a few errands.

Then after dinner we built and decorated gingerbread houses. 
Now, I must say we did not have luck with building a sturdy construction of said houses… the nifty little trick on Pinterest turned out to be a bust, to say the least, however not a single kid seemed to mind as they still were able to consume gobs and gobs of sugar throughout the endeavor.  IMG_7407
I love this picture of my nephew… arm out on the bench, mouth full of graham cracker and icing… he was one very happy little boy.  Pretty sure his face says, “man this is the best after dinner activity ever”IMG_7402
Then there’s my youngest… roof falls off mid decorating, no problem, just eat the roof.

While Karen and I struggled to find a way to make the houses stand, we called in for back up with Jim… and as is often the case, he once again proved that dad/uncles rock… “What having problem with your gingerbread houses ladies, here let me take a stab at it”
And he builds a TRAIN…
making this little guy the happiest 5 year old ever.
My oldest son wanted to take a stab at constructing his on his own, he tried using reeses cups to serve as part of the construction…and when it didn’t exactly hold up, he laughed it off. 
My 8 year old’s house reminded me of Dr Seuss, couldn’t you totally see this house in Whoville?
And when my youngest daughter’s house collapsed, she embraced it and instead made what looked like a plate of cookies.
Because after all, what are gingerbread houses for anyway?  Just an excuse to have fun and eat sugar.
As usual, we had a blast with them and made many wonderful memories!
It’s hard to believe that my youngest will be school age next year.  Seriously, how did that happen?  Sometimes when we drop the big kids off at their tutorial on “school at the building days”  he will pause outside the Kindergarten room and tell me, “That’s where I go next year Momma and then you will be all alone and so sad.” 
And my heart kinda breaks a little. 
Because he is right.  I will be so sad.  I will miss my little buddy at Trader Joes who pushes the cart and makes a dash for the coffee.  I’ll miss him packing up his book bag with sooo many books so he too can carry it around like the big kids, even though I am most often stuck lugging it around. 
Scott encouraged me to make sure I am cherishing these days… not just getting stuff done that I need to, but really taking advantage of this time with him.
Which I know I am guilty of not doing. 
So I brainstormed a few things I want to make sure we do together this year and one was visiting Santa.  Because I realized I had never taken him to see Santa.   Usually our Santa visit occurred at the family Christmas party at Scott’s work, but we haven’t been for 3 years to that party due to a gymnastics meet falling on the same morning.  And so we haven’t been to see Santa for 3 years. 
I asked my 4 year old if he’d like to visit Santa.  “Oh boy,” he exclaimed, “I thought Santa was just for pretend… I had no idea we could see him in real life.”  He was so excited…. and I had to chuckle and wonder what I am doing to my poor child. 

He thought we were going to the North Pole and wondered if Santa would open the door for us and let us in.  I went on to explain how it works when you visit Santa… you wait in line and then go up and sit on his lap and he will probably ask you what you want for Christmas.
“Oh no, Mom, that is a problem.” 
“I don’t know what I want for Christmas.”
I told him that was ok, he could just tell Santa he didn’t know.
So, we went… he got a bit shy when his turn came and I realized while we were there that his asthma was bothering him and he was getting a cold.  But, I went up with him and sat with him till he warmed up to Santa a little.  Then they talked and hugged and I snapped a picture.
Afterwards he told me that Santa did ask what he wanted and he said he didn’t know.  Santa told him that he would bring him some surprises then.  Then my four year old said, “Mom, I guess Santa will have to use his phone to figure out how to find our house, right?” 
hahaha… Santa using google maps to find our house.  Made me chuckle. 
It’s hard to balance time these days… I try to take full advantage of the two days the kids are at the building, to work out, run errands, catch up on housework, and often my little guy comes along side me… and I enjoy having him along side me.  But, I also need to make sure I am intentional about making some precious memories during these days.  Because he is growing up faster than I’d like to admit.
It really has been fun watching our youngest play soccer this fall.  And he truly has been so excited to have a sport of his own to go to for practices and games.  He’s lived up having his turn with the celebration plate.  And besides the first game (in which he was very cold and a little under weather), pretty much every other game he has looked like this
Smiley and happy….
He even scored a few goals…
But there were no smiles this morning.
This morning it was C-O-L-D and rainy and windy…. and we had to be on the field at 9am  after Halloween… Halloween in which we let him stay up late playing in the court with the neighbors….
Today he looked like this. 
photo (7)
I told him he’d warm up if he ran on the field… He responded, “I will warm up if I go inside.” 
because he wanted to be able to eat a doughnut after (b/c really what kid doesn’t need a doughnut the morning after Halloween) he did go on the field for a little while then it was back to Momma’s arms till the end of the half.
  photo (8)
And since they were 4 they only played a half in the cold, November rain…. and then Coach Dad presented him with his monster doughnut and his medal.
photo 1
And while that face doesn’t quite convey the joy he felt, I can tell you he was quite excited about that medal.
photo 2
He has worn it all afternoon.  He told me later, “Mom I don’t think I got the medal for todays game.  I think I got it for the other games.”  I love that he has somewhat of a firm grasp of reality.  I told him he was right, it wasn’t for today.  But, he did have lots of games where he did work hard. 
What a Night!

We had a super fun Halloween evening this year and I am thankful we got to know several of our neighbors better. 
This year we had
Harry Potter
Super Girl (yes she has been Supergirl for 1/3 of our Halloween’s but what can I say, the girl likes being super girl)  This year she changed it up and went with pink super girl though.
Her majesty the queen also graced us with her presence.  I have to say one of my favorite parts of the day was putting make up on her.  I let her wear my real make up and earrings and her smile and her smile and giggle while I got her ready were priceless.
I bet you will NEVER EVER guess what this little man went as…
He is a Jack-o-Lantern dressed up as a lion.  He also really likes making sure that the nose of his pumpkin stays in even when lit.  So he carefully pops it in.
We had a super fun evening. 

We carved our pumpkins tonight….



My second born has always been my tactile child.  She loves getting her hands messy… she’s the one who loves the feel of dirt on her skin and apparently is also fond of pumpkin guts on her fingers.  She happily squished and sorted seeds.


Her sister was less thrilled with the feel of pumpkin guts on her hands.


But,we were all happy with how the jack-o-lanterns turned out.


And we are looking forward to trick or treating on Friday!


While picnicking at the orchard last weekend, a bee made his way to our 4 year olds apple.   As it buzzed around and lingered around his hands, Scott thought that it might freak him out so he started to swat it away.

“No Daddy!” our 4 year old protested, “he’s trying to become my friend!”


That’s one we hadn’t heard before…

I absolutely love apple picking with my kiddos. 


This year I found a great price on delicious locally grown honey crisp apples at the local grocery store and we enjoyed them all fall and I was so tempted to skip out on apple picking b/c we had already enjoyed such delicious apples this fall.  But apple picking is about so much more than the apples for me.

It’s the memories.



I love walking through the rows of apple trees.  I love watching the kids pick apples.  I love the big blue skies, the fall colors, the cool air and warm sunshine.  I love fall.  I love pretending we live in the country even though we live in suburbia.


And so I was so grateful that we were able to slip away for a few hours this weekend and pick apples together as a family.


Fall fun at its finest…


It’s been a few years since we have been to the zoo, and our youngest has been eager to go and see real animals up close.  He was super excited about the lions and tigers.  He’s been asking for several months if we could go to the zoo.  I thought fall would be a nice time as it wouldn’t be too hot.  I was hopeful we could see animals being more active than in the summer months that we typically visit.

We planned to go on Columbus Day since we didn’t have school.  When I saw the forecast for clouds and rain, I wondered if we should try for a different day.  But, we decided to go ahead as planned. 

When we first got there it started really down pouring and part of me questioned our decision.  But the radar showed the down pour would pass, so we grabbed our umbrellas and proceeded.

I was eager to see the panda bears.  We also added elephants and zebra to the list.  I recall at our last visit they were working on building a new area for the elephants.  This was SEVERAL years ago.  Clearly they have finished it now.  It was so neat to walk out on this bridge overlooking their area and see them.


We got incredibly close to a clouded leopard.  At first she was sleeping, but then she stirred and started licking herself.  It was so fun to watch this giant feline and see similar characteristics to our kitty at home.  At one point she turned and faced us, for just a second… and Scott snapped this picture.


IMG_5900The kids all really enjoyed the hands on exhibits… I found them reading the signs more this zoo trip and engaging in the educational aspects more.



I was quite eager to see the panda’s. First we saw the Momma panda bear outside.  This was exciting.  We then went inside to see her baby cub, who I heard from a lady on the path was taking a nap.


When we came in, the baby was stirring and we actually saw him sit up for a bit. IMG_5951

He was so cute and fuzzy.  And oh my…. I was smitten. We watched him for awhile and then they called Momma in to eat. I love how her eyes close while she eats.  She just looks like a big ol’ stuffed animal to me. I really enjoyed watching her.


Momma was hungry… Baby decided he wanted to go back to sleeping.


After seeing the Panda’s, we stopped for a picnic lunch.  Because we too were hungry.


IMG_6041Then, we headed to see the gorillas and orangutans.   The gorillas got a little playful and chased each other from room to room in the gorilla house. It was fun to see them racing around.  This one looked so serious and somber though.


We left there and went to the Reptile House.  If you know me, you know I hate snakes…. so this is an exhibit I am usually fine to walk on past.  But, inside we went. 

And it was amazing. 

In a gross kind of way.

We saw so many reptiles… so many snakes, huge ones and tiny ones, and very, very venomous ones.

And hungry ones.

We happened into the reptile house at feeding time.


Yes, that would be the tail end of a mouse that rattle snake is swallowing.

But, wait… there’s more….


Like this…. Seriously, we watched this boa constrictor eat a rat whole from beginning to end.  It was amazing and disgusting all at once. 

I have read about how a snake can open its mouth big and how it’s jaw can separate to swallow a small mammal whole.  But, to see it…. well that is something else entirely.

We actually watched it’s jaw separate and saw how it kind of walked the rat up it’s mouth as it slowly swallowed it whole.   IMG_6110We were so fascinated by it that one of the zoo volunteers offered us a private tour of their discovery room (which was actually closed at the time).  We learned about turtles, snakes crocodiles, alligators and lizards. We got to hold old turtle shells and see how their vertebra is actually build into the shell.  We got to touch so many things...  Scott and I even learned so much from this behind the scene tour.

As we were exiting the reptile house I was laughing at how every animal we saw we would walk away saying, “Ok, THAT was my favorite thing so far.”  Every animal seemed to be showing up the last and we joked about what might come next, how do you beat a private tour?

Our last destination for the day was going to be the tiger and lion.  They were must sees for our 4 year old.  He has been roaring like a tiger around here for months. 

I truly didn’t think our day could get any better, but this grand finale was amazing.


We walked up to the lion exhibit and saw him pacing around… and then he started roaring….


We realized, he was roaring at the tiger on the other side of the wall, so we walked over to see the tiger.


The tiger was also roaring quite ferociously.  It was incredible.  I couldn’t believe it!  My 4 year old happily roared back at him.


So often I feel like you come and you peek up and say, look way up there in the corner under that tree, see it laying there… that’s the tiger… or lion…


But today, we could say, “look at his HUGE paws, as he paced right in front of us”  And listen to his roar.   We watched him pace around, saw him scratch a branch.

We were amazed!  Then we went around the corner and saw lion cubs!




We finished the circle back where we started with another great show by the male lion. 

You could see the smoke of his breath as he roared, it was amazing.  Then he went down and got a drink of water and then walked over right in front of Scott to pose.


We learned so much.  And all of us, all 6 of us were truly amazed by these animals God had created.  It was such, a fun, fun day and I am so grateful to the Lord that we got to enjoy it together as a family. 

Who knew… rainy, overcast, dreary fall Mondays make a great day for a field trip to the zoo!