Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family Happenings

Oh wow, do I feel like I've been neglecting you!  Things here have been incredibly busy for the last month.  Plus, I've realized that whenever I sit down at the computer, there goes an hour, minimum!  I will try to catch you up on some of the things we've been doing since I last wrote, with posts to follow in the next couple of days with projects and recipes we've worked on recently.

So, first up was that Don's niece graduated from St. Mary's College on May 22. We are incredibly proud of her!  She graduated in four years, while living independantly, working 2 jobs AND having a very active social life.  We had a house full of guests for a long weekend:  Don's parents, his 2 sisters, and his other niece.  It was actually quite relaxing, (for me, anyway!) and nice to see everyone again. Our house was basically the home base for everyone, and they came and went to the various graduation activities. (Not a great picture, but the best one I have, unfortunately.)

School for Brianna and Brittany ended on June 3, so there was the flurry of end-of-the-year activities surrounding that.  Somehow, the last week of school always feels the most frantic to me, but I'm sure, when school starts back up in six weeks, my perspective will change.  Come July 27, for the first time ever, I will have 4 girls in school.  That's right, the twins start kindergarten, which has been the prompt for a whole host of activities.

Abby and Emma, for various reasons, have never attended preschool.  So, we are working on "catching up" on some of the things they would've learned had then gone.  I haven't taken pictures yet, but I have letter charts hanging on our pantry door, so they can see them when we practice writing.  I've got "homework" books, covering letters, numbers, math, reading, etc., that we work on a couple of times a week. 

We joined a fantastic program at the library.  They sponsor a summer reading game, and have versions for all ages, so Madison and I are participating too.  For Abby, Emma, and Katie, every 20 minutes they spend reading/being read too, they get to circle a picture of a boat on their chart.  There are a total of 45 boats, with a halfway point designated at boat 23.  We have circled 22, and we only started the program on June 7.  At the halfway and completion points, they get prizes.  Maddie's chart has 16 pictures of bubbles.  For every activity done with her (nursery rhymes, picture books, clapping games), she gets to circle a bubble, and will get a board book at the end.  I get to read books and write a review for a chance to win either tickets to a reperatory theater or gift cards for restaurants.  Lots of fun, plus it gives us a definite reason to leave the house once a small feat!

Don was away the first weekend in June for the Safeway Invitational Golf Tournament in Monterey, so I took advantage of his absence to do a REALLY messy project with the girls.  We made "treasure bowls" for their dressers, to catch the little bits of things that always seem to be on the floor...barrettes, rings, get the picture.

We took their cereal bowls, covered them with plastic wrap, painted them with a flour/water glue, and then covered them with squares of tissue paper.  Looks like fun, right?  See the table cloth on the floor?  That is one of my most clever ideas, so far.  I've never really minded them doing messy things, so long as it was on the kitchen floor.  But this time, I decided to tape a vinyl tablecloth on the floor under their table, just to catch some of the overflow.  Worked like a charm, so I see many more messy projects in our future!  After the bowls were completely dry, I coated them inside and out with a substance that is kind of like white glue, to give them more durability.

Last week, Don took the week off from work, to stay home with Madison, while I volunteered at Vacation Bible School.  Our church, which we joined last June, does a great VBS.  As a matter of fact, it was "Crocodile Dock" last year that helped us find this church.  This year's theme was "High Seas Expedition".  They do a really incredible set in the sanctuary for the openings and closings each day, which everyone attends.  I wish I had pictures to show you, but just couldn't manage a camera and my group at the same time.

Each day is a different message, presented by a different animal friend.  The messages were "God's word is true.", "God's word is comforting.", "God's word is surprising.", "God's word is life changing.", and "God's word is for everyone.".  Each time the kids heard one of these phrases, they were supposed to respond with a shout of "Let's go!"  There were lots of catch songs, too, and I've got a copy of the CD on the way.

Anyway, I requested that Abby, Emma, and Katie be placed in different groups, in an attempted to pave the way for the school year, when they will all be split up.  I was the crew leader for yet another group.  On the preschool side, there were a total of 10 groups. (There were over 230 kids participating in the entire program.)  Abby and Emma did great...each made new friends, and enjoyed waving to each other throughout the day.  Katie wasn't quite as happy, especially when she saw me with other kids.  And having me there just confused them all for the first 2 days.  (On Monday, I would mention a song, or the snack or craft, and everyone would ask, "How do YOU know about that?".  On Tuesday, as we pulled into the parking lot, they asked if I was dropping them off.)

As a crew leader, I had a group of 8 kids assigned to me, but wound up only having 6 all week.  All were 5 years old, and entering kindergarten, and were, for the most part, great kids.  I had 3 boys and 3 girls, and my main task was to shuffle them from group to group.  There was a meeting point for us, then we went to the sanctuary for the opening.  From there, we went to Snack, Story Time, Theater (for a DVD story), Outside Play, Craft Time, and back to the sanctuary for closing.  When I first volunteered, I was wondering how hard it could be.  By Friday afternoon, I was questioning whether or not I would help again next year, but I'm sure I will!

Since Don was home, we decided to take the kids on some family adventures.  Unfortunately, Brianna and Brittany were with their dad for the week, so they didn't get to participate.  Among the things we did were to go to the Jelly Belly factory.  I was hoping the kids would get to SEE them make the candy, not just the video monitors, but the production line was closed, as it was when we went in February.  I will check their production schedule next time!  But, we did have a nice picnic lunch there.  The next day, we took them to a local orchard to do some cherry picking, and then came home and made ice cream.  Vanilla the first day, but the next day, we made sweet cream with cherries and chocolate chips.  Yummy!  We took Friday off, but on Saturday, took the kids to Mount Diablo State Park. 

Mount Diablo is a mountain that we can see from our house.  It has an elevation of over 3800 feet, and I'd never been there.  Plus, it has campsites available, and we are kicking around the idea of camping this year, so we thought we'd go investigate.  It turns out, you can drive all the way to the summit, so we did.

Here is Don and Maddie, on the viewing deck.  That is Abby, behind Don.  They say that on a clear day, you can see into 35 of California's 58 counties from there.
There is a visitor's center built right on the peak, and they left the ground exposed there.  Here are Don and the girls, on the very tippy, tippy top of the mountain.
And, to prove that I was there too, here I am on the top, with 3 of the girls.  It was chilly up there, so that is why we are all wearing jackets.
  Here is the visitor's center from where we parked.  From our upstairs, with a pair of binoculars, you can see the building!  Next, we drove down to a little parking lot across the street for a picnic lunch.
Abby, eating her lunch:
Emma and Katie:
Madison and Don:
Next, it was time to explore a little.  Very, very little.  Pretty much just the immediate area.  This state park is over 20,000 acres, and we mostly just drove the roads, checking out what was there.  But we did wander around the area around where our lunch was. 

Maddie, enjoying a walk with Dad.

Katie, Emma, and Abby, enjoying the view:

Don, Maddie, and Emma, on the walk back.

The three girls, happy with each other:

Abby, on the ride home.  Guess it was a long day!
And here is a picture of Don and the girls, taken on Father's Day.  This was taken first thing in the morning, before we got ready for church.

Here are some random pictures of Emma, Katie, and Brittany, helping out around the house:

Katie, watering.  I was in the kitchen, and heard water on in the back yard.  This was why. 
We have the best looking weeds on the block.  By the way, we have a sprinkler system.
Emma, emptying the dishwasher.
I love helpful girls!
Brittany, cooking dinner.  I love it when she does this.  It's such a treat for me!

And Madison, supervising....
...which is really hard work! (She fell asleep with the bottle in her mouth!)
That, in a nutshell, are the highlights of our last few weeks.  I hope you had some fun adventures too!  There will be more posts in the near future, I promise!  On that note, one final picture, that sums up the crazy business around here lately:

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