"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Weekend in Balmorhea

We enjoyed camping in Palo Duro canyon so much earlier this summer, that we were anxious to try again and see if we couldn't repeat our fun! Balmorhea state park is a place we've visited our previous two summers as day trips and we love it. It's a very beautiful and uniquely west Texas place.

This time we went with family friends from Midland and Nick's sister and her family decided to join us from Houston. Between the four families we had 11 kids between the ages of 6 1/2 and 8 months old! This kids free ranged around our campsite and had so much fun being a little less supervised than usual.

We also had a lot of cousin antics happening! Nick's sister has Bear of course, and then three girls who are close in age to all my three girls. Bear is very outnumbered!



We spent the first night just checking out the state park since the swimming pool was closed. It's small but there's a creek and a playground, and it kept the kids busy.


Day 2 we swam in the morning and evening. Gemma and Zoya actually got in the cold water on the first day.


We then took a break in the afternoon to go and check out the Davis mountains and the McDonald observatory. This long car ride provided a break from the 111!!! degree heat and also helped the kids get a much needed nap. We would really like to return to the observatory for a nighttime star tour in the future. I ❤️ west Texas skies! Especially at night. Because of no light pollution, the stars really are big and bright.


Here's Gemma bonding with her cousin twin Logan that evening. There were some very, very large turtles in the creek beyond the swimming pool.


Day 3 was all swimming and getting ready to head home. It was also a day for daredevil antics off the high dive. Nick actually flipped! And brave Isla and her little cousin buddy, Hallie even went off of the high dive. Here they are waiting in line.


Proof they jumped!


They also jumped off of the low dive together, which was so cute.


Scuba babies! Cousins Cora and Zoya are only two months apart.


Little Gemmie-Lou refused to get into the water on day 2. Also the floaties mean that I have completely given up on her swimming independently for now. Our year of lessons were essentially wasted, which is a bummer because even though we love our instructors, we won't be able to continue lessons for at least the next year. Isla is a very strong swimmer so that's good!


All in all, it was a wonderful weekend away with family and friends! We will definitely be doing it again soon.

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Isla at 5

Here’s a little update of Isla at 5, while she’s still a prekindergartian!

Birthday Party

Isla’s birthday was in April, and we had a rainbow themed birthday. From the minute her Clifford birthday ended last year, she knew that she wanted a rainbow birthday. She is very into rainbows lately, and we are also slowing redoing her and Gemma’s shared room in a rainbow theme. It’s a perfect symbol for our time, God’s promise to earth and reminder of His patience in our sin, and I love that she loves them so much. Her birthday was held at our local bouncy castle place and everyone had a lot of fun. I only took a few very bad pictures! I just got so busy chatting with the other moms who were there. The important thing is that Isla loved it! And of course she ended up having like 5 birthday parties – a little family one, a grandparents one and also we did a few cupcakes at her school, which she loved.

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Doctor’s Visit

Isla combined her 5 year well check a little late with Zoya’s 9 month. Here are her stats -

Height: 42 in (33 %)

Weight: 44 lb 12 oz (75%)

Everything looked great!

General

Isla continues to be a very sweet girl, who tries hard to be obedient… except when she isn’t! She isn’t perfect, but she’s very good, it’s also very easy to coax her out of her very, very rare cranky moods.

She’s also very empathetic and sensitive, which I love. I bought her “the Amy Carmichael Story”, which is a child’s version about the missionary responsible for freeing many Indian children from slavery. Nick and I looked back while we were driving one day, and we saw her crying her eyes out over a child being left at the Hindu Temple by her mother. We asked her if she wanted us to change the DVD and she said no. It was very sweet.IMG_1253IMG_1252

I appreciate how patient she usually is with her sisters. They don’t fight much, and most of the time they are unbelievable cute together. There are so many mornings where I come in and find Isla in Gemma’s crib playing together. The other day Gemma only wanted Isla to put her to bed at nap time, and then she wanted Isla to pray with her. My heart pretty much melted. She’s also still Zoya’s biggest admirer and loves all things having to do with our blue-eyed baby.

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She’s very tenacious and Nick and I try very hard to encourage her to try things and not be afraid to fail. I wouldn’t say that she is competitive, but she really hates to lose! She used to have a little meltdown when she’d lose at a game, but she’s getting better at understanding that no one wins all the time, it’s ok to lose, and you can always try again.

She’s still active and busy and can fight sleep like no child I’ve ever seen. Right now she sleeps from about 8:30 am to 8 am or so, but it’s summer so we are pretty flexible. She does a quiet time in the afternoons where she reads books or colors while her sisters nap, and it’s very helpful to me. She is one of those kids that gets kind of manic and crazy when she doesn’t rest or get a good nights sleep.

Isla is kind of obsessed with Doc McStuffins, and I encourage it. Ever since she started watching the show she’s decided she wants to be a Dr. Mom like Doc’s mom! Before that she would always tell me that she only wanted to be a mom (“mom, you’re only a mom”) in spite of my constant encouragement that she could be an artist or an engineer or just whatever, and my explanation of college and college degrees. I had a SAHM growing up, and I was pretty ambitious at 5, so I never thought that my girls would feel limited in their options. However, Isla had prior to Doc McStuffins been so resistant to the idea of a vocation, that for the first time since quitting my job, I thought about going back to work to show her what else she could do, even though I don’t want to. Anyway, since Doc came along, I don’t have to worry. I’m telling you folks, the mommy guilt happens no matter what “kind” of mom you are, and thank you to working moms who are showing my girls the big things that they can do. I’d like to add that Isla is welcome to be a SAHM if she wants to, but she will get a degree (and a husband) before that that happens.

School and Activities

Right now we are in the throws of getting ready for school! She is so excited. We have her back pack and lunch box – Doc McStuffins of course, new clothes, new shoes, and school supplies. Nick and I were able to take just her to Wal Mart for her school supplies, and it was so sweet. You’d think that she was the first kid to go to school ever. Anyone who’s come into the house since then gets to see everything we bought with a detailed explanation (“see, the pencils are already sharpened”). She’s so proud, and I’m enjoying watching her and her excitement.

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(Excuse the mess, we had just returned home from a two plus week trip!)

She’s doing really well with reading. We don’t know what level she can read at, but I’m consistently amazed at the books she’s able to pick up and read. When we were at Nick’s mom’s house, she picked up his first grade primer and read it without difficulty. Not bad for a kid that’s not even in kindergarten! I am proud of Isla, and I hope that she keeps working as hard as she can. We encourage her to work hard and not to give up, and I think it shows. I can’t wait for her to start math at her new school. All kindergarteners start a first grade math program, and just from the little bit that I’ve done with her, she seems able to pick up mathematics very quickly. We think she will thrive once she actually starts at school.

ALSO, I am so excited that we chose a university-model school. I think that Isla and I will do well as teacher and student. I’ve had a lot of moms tell me that they couldn’t homeschool, and everyone has a different dynamic with their kids, which is ok. In our case, I see it working really well for Isla and me, and I think we will grow closer. Right now we are reading through chapter books together. We’ve done Charlotte’s Web, Matilda, and we are working on an abridged version of Anne of Green Gables. I’m really enjoying our time with this.

Next fall it’s Awanas and ballet and tap only! I’m so glad that we settled on ballet and tap. Not only is it not a huge time commitment, it’s also not a huge financial commitment, which is nice. I also think that Isla has an aptitude for dance over all of the other activities that she’s tried so I’m so glad that we’ve settled on that. I think that I may try to get her into piano lessons once we see how the fall schedule goes! If we can fit it in without too much stress, then I think we will try it. Her Boo (Nick’s mom) spent some time teaching her songs when she went to visit her earlier this summer and she really enjoyed it, and seemed to catch on quickly.

That’s an update on our getting sooo big first born! We love our girl and we are so proud of her. She is definitely one of the many blessings that we know we don’t deserve.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Palo Duro Canyon

We are on our way back from beautiful Palo Duro canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the U.S., after the Grand Canyon, and it was stunning. It is safe to say that I am falling in love with west Texas. I love the big skies, kind people and tidy little towns. This trip cemented my feelings. The canyon was gorgeous and Amarillo of the Amarillo-by-morning fame was so nice in a well maintained-retro kind of way. I'd move up there in a heartbeat.

We had talked about visiting Palo Duro canyon for a while, and I had always pictured us staying a hotel and visiting the canyon during the day and maybe picnicking. Then Nick suggested the crazy notion that we camp - with two babies! Now I like to think that I'm a good sport, after a fashion, so after a little complaining and balking, I agreed that we try it out with the proviso that we could leave and go to a hotel if we couldn't sleep or we got too dirty. It was only 2 nights too, so that was also comforting to this non camper.

We drove up Thursday afternoon and set up camp. Our campground was lacking in restrooms, but the views of the canyon made up for it.




We roasted hot dogs and made s'mores of course, and then believe it or not, everyone settled in and slept really well. Even the grown ups, who had forgotten to pack their queen sized air mattresses. I'd also like to point out that I've spent my entire life hating s'mores, but when I bought the ingredients I decided to get dark chocolate. It turns out that s'mores made with dark chocolate is the thing that has been missing from my life for the past 31 years.

The next morning we woke up early, made taquitos and then went for a four hour hike. We started on an easy trail and then moved to a moderate trail. We ended up bringing the wagon, and never had too much trouble using it, even on some of the steeper moderate parts of the trail. At most the girls had to get out and walk once or twice. I had Zoya in the Bjorn.



10 year marriage wisdom - always let Nick be the navigator. Navigation and map reading is just not one of my gifts.





  
We were able to stop off at a cave, which was kind of fun. The girls gave us their best growly bear faces.



I had a blast on the hike, and so did Nick... The little kids had fun, but also spent a fair amount of time tolerating it. Even Isla who I thought would be all over it since she loves bugs, nature walks, new experiences, bonding with her dad, and just going for any reason, gave us a lot of "ah, there's SO many bugs", "I'm tired.", "I'm bored.", "I'm scared! Will there be any bears?"; she was kind of a pill. And Gemma is 2, and a pill most of the time anyway. Thankfully one of Nick's superpowers is making frowns turn upside down. I love that about him, and it's safe to say we all had a lot of fun. PDC's most famous trail is to the lighthouse, which we thought might be too hard with three young kids. We walked over 4 miles and we are thinking, even with little girls being a little less than gung-ho, we might be able to do it with better planning next time. 

We had always planned to get into the car and head into Amarillo in the afternoon to hopefully get the littles to nap in the car and check it out. Once everyone was up, we stopped at CFA for some cold drink and an indoor playground.

Mission accomplished.



PDC is famous for its amphitheater overlooking the canyon and its nightly showings of Texas! In the summertime. We were definitely not going to miss it on our trip so I prebought tickets. We also decided to eat the BBQ dinner offered there before the show. It was nice to have one meal taken care of.

Gemma is really into horses.


Predinner dancing.


Morrrreeeee BBQ, mama!


After dinner we walked to the parking lot where the horses from the show were giving $5 rides. Luckily I had $10 in cash from Nick's Mema in my bag for the girls to do something fun with, so they were able to ride the horses. They were in heaven. Thank you Mema!



Postdinner, preshow dancing :).




The Texas! show didn't even start until 8:30, and we were all exhausted, so we just decided to do the best we could. Zoya started fussing about 30 minutes in and so I was up and walking around with her. Isla and Gemma did shockingly well and really seemed to enjoy it.





It started to rain at about 9:30, and we decided to head back to our tent. I'm so glad that we did because it ended up being a crazy thunder storm, and we had left our tent windows down. The girls were so tired that they fell asleep, "funder" (no longer bunder, sigh) and all very quickly.

Then morning came and we got up, had breakfast, and then a quick hike before we packed up and headed home. 


Both girls' faces crack me up in this one!



We made a quick stop off in Lubbock to have lunch with our friends Heather and Stephen, and we are home now. I can't wait to shower! 

It was just a 48 hour trip, but we loved it and had so much fun. Even the camping was a success and I'm up for trying it again. I'm officially in love with the Texas panhandle and I can't wait to get back! My family agrees.

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