Sunday, June 24, 2018

2018 | Week 25 - Park Time & Bands on the Red

This week was mainly spent preparing for our trip to California, but we still found time to hang out at the park with friends (and check on the progress of the new skate park).  With so few months of nice weather here, I feel like we need to take advantage of every beautiful day that we have.
 Haley is re-reading Sherlock Holmes, but Alex really wants her to play instead...

Thursday night we got to attend Jake's Bands on the Red concert. He's been practicing with this group all month and it was so fun to listen to them play on the gazebo at the Historical Society.  
 Alex was not quite as impressed by the music, but found a way to occupy himself with random items in my purse.

Of course, no outdoor summer concert is complete if not followed by ice cream.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 | Week 24 - Girl's Camp & Father's Day

 This past week I had the opportunity to serve as a chaperone at the Girl's Camp our church holds for all the Young Women ages 12-17 in our area. When they had asked for parent volunteers Haley said, "Mom, you should come!" I figured I was pretty lucky to have my 15-year-old *want* me to go to camp with her, so we drove a van full of girls 5 hours east to an environmental camp about an hour north of Duluth, Minnesota.  It was a gorgeous setting and a wonderful experience.  I was so impressed with many of the girls and their strength, good attitudes, and kind spirits. 
This was Haley's 4th year at camp so we got to go on the 4th year "hike" - which this year was an overnight canoe trip.  We loaded our gear into canoes and paddled around and across the lake to a (very) primitive camp site where we cooked dinner over the fire and spent a rather cold, uncomfortable night in tents.  On the positive side, the setting was stunning.

 Bo and the boys held down the fort while Haley and I were gone.  Bo said he was waiting for Jake and Alex to naturally get tired of screen time, but we still haven't found their limit (must be more than 4 days).  When I got home I asked Jake to put away the package of bulk toilet paper.  He's been known to create TP towers in the past, but the addition of cotton balls to the one in our bathroom was new.

Saturday the boys and I went shopping for Father's Day presents. With a bribe of breakfast at Starbucks, they were semi-helpful in picking out some new running gear for him.  We spent the afternoon playing at a park and eating banana cream pie, after which Jake talked Bo and Haley into playing Risk. He's always looking for someone to play with him! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

2018 | Week 23: Summer Activities, Garage Sale, and Storms

So much for sleeping in!  We dove right into summer with music and sports.  Jake is taking trombone, saxophone, and cello lessons this summer, while Alex is signed up for tennis and golf. Haley started voice lessons as well, so we were up and running early Monday morning.  

It's so fun to watch Jake progress and enjoy his music.  He says he wants to play ALL the instruments...

 Speaking of early mornings, I've been getting up early to walk/run along the river, and been rewarded with some pretty amazing sunrises.  I even convinced Jake to join me one day.

 This week was also our annual garage sale.  (It will also be our last one for a while.) It is SO. MUCH. WORK. to set up and price everything, but is usually worth the effort.  The kids love having the sale and always do really well with their lemonade stand.  11 years and counting! Haley did all the baking this year while the boys were on customer service duty.

Friday afternoon a huge storm rolled in, so we quickly closed up the sale and watched the boys run around in the rain.  It's always astonishing just how much rain can fall in such a short time.

 Finally the sale was over so we celebrated with (yet more) ice cream and playing at a park.  

Sunday, June 03, 2018

2018 | Week 22 - HEAT, The Big 4-0, & School's Out

 The end-of-school-year whirlwind continued this week, with hot temperatures adding to the summertime feel.  At some point in the distant past, I used Cherry Berry (self-serve frozen yogurt bar) as a bribe to get Alex to endure having his hair cut (the sitting! the itchy hairs! the stranger touching him!).  Our kids are all about traditions, and this is one that I'm sure they'll never let go of - "hair cuts and Cherry Berry" are forever linked. After school one day I leveraged their desire for cool treats and snuck haircuts in.
 Before eating Cherry Berry...

 ...and after.

 This week also brought my 40th birthday.  Since it fell on a Wednesday we hadn't really made any big plans and it felt a little like any other day.  However my co-workers spoiled me with lunch, pie, and gifts, and Bo had flowers and balloons waiting for me at home. 

But the BEST surprise was walking out from the back at work and seeing these faces!  Never in a million years would I have guessed that my long-distance BFF would be there with her beautiful family. They were just passing through town on their way to the airport, but we were able to visit for a few minutes and make solid plans for this fall.  Yay!  I don't think I stopped smiling the rest of the day.

We always seem to wind up at Texas Roadhouse for birthday dinners (slim pickings for family-friendly dining here) so we headed there for dinner where Haley put her Roll Saving Plan into action. She literally put a few of those soft, delicious rolls into her purse for later snacking.  The carb-loving apple doesn't fall far from the tree, folks. We're working on perfecting a copycat recipe of those rolls, but it needs a little tweaking.  

Finally, FINALLY, school is out for the summer! We held our annual last-day-of-school party at the park after the final bell on Thursday. We are all so excited to sleep in, lay by the pool, and s...l...o...w... things down for a bit.  I may be kidding myself, but that's what we're hoping for anyway.

"I 'mustache' you - Are you excited for summer?!"

Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 | Week 21: More Concerts, More Soccer, Field Day & Ice Cream

We are on the home stretch of the school year, with only one week left! This past week was busy with end-of-the-year concerts and events, as well as the end of spring soccer.  As fun as the activities are, we're all looking forward to having some unscheduled evenings in the coming weeks. 

On Tuesday I got to help chaperone the 3rd graders on their field trip to the City Hall.  They've been learning about city government and services, and finally got to see some of it in action.  I think it was  a little underwhelming in the end, but my van load agreed it was still better than having a regular day at school.  They also tried to convince me to stop at the gas station for candy and ice cream, but I didn't think Mrs. A. would have appreciated that.  Points to them for trying though! 

Due to record-setting high temperatures, I did let Alex talk me into 
frozen custard after school.

Jake's math teacher incentivized his class by offering a Cold Stone gift card to whoever had the greatest improvement on their state math test.  He was surprised and VERY excited to win. Jake has his sights set on MIT...I told him to keep it up and maybe they'll give him a "gift card" for high test scores...

Tuesday night was Jake's spring orchestra concert. The middle school orchestra is combined 6th-8th grades, with an especially strong cello section. Despite the HOT gymnasium, they sounded wonderful. 

That Cold Stone gift card was burning a hole in Jake's pocket, so we (and a lot of other sweaty concert-goers) stopped by after the concert.

Wednesday was the 6th Grade Track Meet at the local high school, where the kids each competed in 2-3 events.  Jake chose long jump and high jump, both of which he practiced about three times. He told me, "I'm not very good, but long jump is fun anyway and I want to pole vault in the future so I have to learn high jump first." I was proud of him for his good attitude and effort.  Jake has his dad's long-distance-runner build, but says he has a hard time getting the pacing down.  Since it was about 92 degrees and humid, I don't think he was regretting his choice of events!

Afterward Bo and I met for a lunch date at Vinyl Taco. No pictures because we were too busy devouring our delicious food.  Yum. We're going to have to go back weekly and try everything on the menu.

Thursday night was the final soccer game of the Spring season.  Due to the late thaw, it was pushed back pretty far. Alex has really had fun playing and I think he's learned a lot as well (like keep both feet on the ground when throwing the ball in from the side). This was the first year they've had a referee and goalie, as well as played on bigger fields.  He's looking forward to improving his skills with summer soccer, which starts in less than 2 weeks.

Go Team Newcastle! (short about 5 players here)

Thursday night was also Haley's Spring Orchestra Concert at the high school. She played in the Varsity Orchestra as a 1st violin this year, and auditioned and will play as a 2nd violin in the Concert Orchestra next year. They are getting seriously talented and playing some really neat pieces. They played Saint-SaĆ«ns' "Carnival of the Animals," for which Haley also narrated the introduction.  

After our busy week we dove right into a busy weekend.  I drove down to Fargo for a doctor's appointment on Friday afternoon and got to spend the rest of the evening shopping wherever I wanted for as long as I wanted (three garden centers and the book store), while Bo did taxi service for the kids.  Jake got to play his new X-Wing game with friends at the game store, and Haley saw the new Hans Solo movie with friends.  Saturday we headed to a local park for a church BBQ, followed by cleaning out the garage for our upcoming garage sale, before Haley headed off to a bonfire and the rest of us collapsed on the couch to watch Peter Rabbit.  To say we're looking forward to having Monday off from work and school is an understatement! Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 | Week 20: Concerts, Soccer & Springtime

This week we're still in the middle of concert/recital/soccer season, but managed to get some yard work done and have fun with friends.

First up was Jake's final 6th grade Band Concert - the improvement in the band's performances over the past year is nothing short of miraculous.  They've gone from squeaks and honks to sounding really great! Jake has loved playing trombone and plans to take lessons over the summer to keep up his skills.  It's fun to watch (and listen to) him expanding his musical abilities.

Haley entertained herself and Alex during the concert by illustrating the creatures in the songs...

Thursday was Haley's Spring Choir Concert, where she sang with the Freshman Chorus as well as the   Chamber Choir (an audition-only group).  She also accompanied the Freshman Chorus on the piano for the song, "Farvel." It still astonishes me that she is willing and able to do such a thing...I wouldn't even be able to remember my name in front of an auditorium full of strangers, much less play piano.  She said she didn't play it perfectly, but it sounded great from where we were.  Haley loves to sing (in fact she's humming as I type this), and we looking forward to many more choir concerts in the coming years.

After cold temperatures and heavy rain late in the week, Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny.  It was a perfect day for a soccer game.  Alex played hard, kicked a great goal shot (that sadly the goalie caught), and played some good defense.  During the game Bo and I debated the merits of team sports.  At this age I feel like the whole point is that they are being active and having fun.  After every game or practice he says, "That was so fun!" so I guess it's working.  It's nice to have an activity for this high-energy kid!  

'Tis the season for outdoor cooking, and we took advantage of that this weekend.  Friday night our friends John and Tierney spoiled us by bringing over some amazing shish-kebabs, grilled pineapple, and peach cobbler.  Seriously delicious stuff right there!  

On Saturday the kids worked hard all day with the promise of our first bonfire and s'mores - now that the burn ban has been lifted (Haley and Alex walked next door to the fire station to be sure). We trimmed up all the spruce trees in the back yard (with the hope of saving the lawn, which is dying due to heavy shade), removed 2 overgrown - and long-detested-by-me - shrubs, and hauled it all out to the curb for the city to pick up this week.  We were exhausted by evening but kept our promise and the kids had fun making s'mores and playing "night games" with friends.  We hope it will be the first of many this summer.

We can see the sunsets again (as well as the hockey rink) with our newly-trimmed trees.

Late spring in North Dakota is a truly glorious thing.  We have two flowering trees in the front yard and they are in full bloom this week, along with the tulips & daffodils.  It feels miraculous after our loooong winter, and we try to take advantage of it all we can.