Monday, August 6, 2018

Annika is a Whopping 11

Well, today Annika is celebrating her first-ever palindrome birthday. YUP! As of 1:55 this morning, we there was an 11-year-old living under our roof.

While Annika soundly slept, Conor decided that he wanted to make her breakfast in bed. Fortunately, I was able to head him off at the pass and convince him that he should eat the bowl of Fruit Loops that he poured for her and after she had more time to sleep, we'd make her breakfast in bed. Reluctantly, he agreed. We got to work making waffles, knowing Annika would think a Belgium Waffle would be a fun treat. Once I saw Annika stagger out of her room (waking up fast isn't her approach to mornings), I told her that Conor had a surprise and she could wait in her bed. We quickly assembled a waffle (including whipped cream, sprinkles, and a candle), and delivered it to her while singing "Happy Birthday". She was in Heaven! :)

After a fairly low-key morning, it was time to head out for the kids' tennis lessons at Klahaya, where the instructors and other students all shouted "Happy Birthday!!!!" to her at the top of their lungs. Again, the girl probably couldn't have been happier if she tried.

Right after their tennis lesson, we headed north to have their bikes adjusted by the folks we bought them from. Conor's gears weren't shifting correctly and Annika's front wheel and handlebars weren't in proper alignment. While we waited for the bikes to get adjusted, the kids and I went to a nearby MOD Pizza for a very yummy (and filling!) lunch. As a special birthday treat, the kids even got to have orange Fanta... yeah, living the wild life!!

We ate our fill and returned to the bike shop, only to find out the bikes hadn't even been looked at yet. (Grr!) We'll head back on Wednesday, in order to give them PLENTY of time to look at the bikes.

The rest of the day was filled with dinner prep (chicken alfredo, per the birthday girl's request), presents, and dessert (grasshopper pie, again, per the birthday girl).

One of the sweetest presents was Conor's present to Annika: a poem

Favorite TV Show: Liv and Maddie
Favorite thing about school: All of the nice teachers
Thing you do best: Art
Favorite color: Seafoam green
Favorite toy: Bunny 1
Future career goal: I don't know
Favorite toys to take to bed at night: Bunny 1 and story bunny
Favorite book: Cleopatra in Space
Favorite song: A Million Dreams (Greatest Showman soundtrack)
Favorite cereal: Frosted Flakes
Favorite movie: Smurfs Lost Village
Favorite season of the year: Spring-ish Summer
Favorite food: Chicken Alfredo
Favorite animal: All
Favorite ice cream flavor: Cheesecake with Raspberry Swirl
Favorite sport: Soccer
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Dream vacation spot: Disneyworld
If you had $1000 to spend: 1/2 would go to charity, 1/2 to owning a kitten
If you had a wish: World peace
What do you like to do with your friends: Hang out
What do you want to do before your next birthday: Get my ears pierced (note from Mom: not gonna happen)
Favorite thing done as a 10-year-old: We went to Disneyland

Thursday, August 2, 2018

2018 Summer Getaway on Whidbey

Last night, a bit after 7 PM, the kids and I rolled up to the house after our 5-day stay on Whidbey. We were tired beyond belief, but due to having had so much fun and lots of activities the entire time. 

All four of us (five, including Buca), drove up to the island Saturday morning and got ourselves moved in for our short-term stay. By the looks of the amount of stuff in our cars, you'd probably think we planned on staying from now until the end of time, but alas, twas not the case. 

On Saturday, we hung around the house and generally kicked back. We played lots of games, threw a ball for the dogs countless times, rode bikes, and caught up with each other. Eric, his mom, and I also got a head start on Conor's class project for the school auction, ta da!! Eric's dad was off fishing when we arrived, but his absence meant he got to bring home an insanely gorgeous salmon (some of which is now in our freezer, soon to become dinner)! Conor and I also spent a little time walking up and down the driveway picking blackberries that were turned into freezer jam (yum!) for us to take home at the end of our stay. And if all of THAT wasn't enough, after Jack got home from fishing, he took Eric, the kids, and me to the rifle range to get in some target shooting. I'd like to point out (brag alert!) that I hit the bullseye multiple times.... and two of my hits were right on top of each other. The kids did a great job, both with respecting the safety rules and with their rifle skills. We wrapped up the day with a mini birthday celebration for Annika, knowing that Eric's parents wouldn't be able to join us the following weekend, when we will have family over to celebrate. 

In PJs on the ferry ... our kids' to-Whidbey tradition

Painting party

Eric working on his ombre technique

Conor with Bestefar and the 20-lb salmon

Annika modeling Bestefar's salmon

Conor, the berry-picking master

Buca "helping" us pick berries

Our blackberry haul

Safety first at the rifle range

Eric taking aim
Conor receiving instructions from Bestefar

Annika getting ready to take her shot

Why, yes, I DID hit the bullseye multiple times

On Sunday, Eric's dad and I got up before the crack of dawn to go fishing at mid-channel between Keystone (Whidbey Island) and Pt. Townsend. The sunrise was truly picturesque. While we didn't have any luck snagging salmon (a few ate our bait, so we were close to catching some!), we did catch a number of dogfish (boo!), a flounder, and 5 rocks (I caught 4 of them!). Even though we returned to shore with an empty bucket, it was still an incredible day. I got to spend 1:1 time with my amazing father-in-law. It's rare that we get time like that, and he taught me so much about fishing. By the end, I was able to tie a hook on my line, put 2 hooks in a herring, and find the bottom of the Sound (hence, all of the rocks!!). After we pulled out of the water at the end of our fishing excursion, our fun came to an abrupt halt when another driver hit the boat's motor (ugh!!). Come to find out, the witness to the accident was an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy (woot!). It was a hassle that included the at-fault driver not having his drivers license and his insurance card was newly out of date, which resulted in us having to call the police (both the Sheriff and State Patrol responded - wow!!) who took care of getting everything sorted out. While we were still on the water, Eric had to head back to Seattle so he could go to work the next day, leaving Eric's mom on kid patrol for most of the day. (Best Bestemor Award winner right there!!) 


Heading out to mid-channel

My 4th rock of the day

Boat snack!!

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all about golf, golf, golf. OK, there were also swimming, a park trip, and a little hike in there, too. On Monday and Tuesday before golf camp, the kids opted to swim in the club's pool. Monday was a hot day, so cooling off in the pool was a big deal. On Tuesday, it was a bit cooler, but the kids still had fun. By the time Wednesday rolled around, it was downright cool and the kids opted (with some nudging from yours truly) to visit a local park instead. Our visit to the park was a little sad for me because I realized our kids are outgrowing the play structure there.... it is the end of an era. After some time at the play area, we decided to check out a hiking train in hopes that we might see the mama deer and her fawn that we saw about a half hour before (no luck, but we did see a bunny!). 

Our little fish

Conor practicing his driving

Annika at the driving range

On a hike with Bestemor

Reading chair carved out of wood, complete with book and cat (under the chair)

As soon as the golf camp wrapped up, the kids enjoyed a little BBQ meal with their golf buddies before being whisked back to the house so we could gather up Buca and the last of our un-packed belongings (mainly things in the fridge/freezer and the kids' bikes) and we high-tailed it to the ferry terminal. We missed the boat we were aiming for by about 10 cars (bummer), but in the big scheme of things, it wasn't a big deal. We still got our annual "heading home from golf camp ice cream" on the ferry (I even worked a little magic and procured some ice cream for the CKS auction thanks to the fact the ice cream company's guy was in line behind us... bonus!)

On the ferry.... we're on our way home, Daddy!

A HUGE thanks to Eric's parents for hosting our crazy group for such a long time. We are eternally grateful for your hospitality and generosity. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Recent Baking Exploits

It is funny how baking requests seem to come in waves. Recently, we were asked to help with two different baking projects for the same day: a friend's 50th bday party and a baby shower for my sister's co-worker.

 My husband is a VERY talented man (duh!) and, once again, showed his skill working with fondant and a smattering of random pointy tools. I cannot even begin to understand how he so easily and beautifully takes a lump of fondant and makes a person... or an animal... or whatever else someone requests for the top of a cake. Bravo, hon!!

Jim (Elaine's husband) asked us to make the cake and gave us free license for the design. He sent over a couple of options that caught his eye (over the hill stuff) and so we used that as inspiration for Elaine's birthday cake. In our opinion, she is anything but over the hill, so made a happy, flower-covered hill. Two unknowns were big parts of the cake... would the fondant figure successfully stand (she did!) and would the cookie cutters cooperate when I cut out the fondant letters (they did!). WHEW!

My sister's co-worker is fairly new to the area and is expecting her first baby soon. To celebrate the baby's upcoming arrival, the people at work decided to throw her a baby shower. Once the planning process started, Suzanne asked if I'd make sugar cookies for the party. Umm... YES!! I love making cookies and for a baby? EVEN BETTER!

The desserts from both parties were met with rave reviews. So glad everyone enjoyed themselves and we had a hand in their eventual sugar rushes!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Kid Time

First, I have to say that our summer has been pretty darned great. We've had a lovely balance of relaxation and fun activities all smooshed together. Today, was definitely one for the "fun activities" column. The kids and I got the chance to visit some school friends .... moreover, their animals!

The Clausons' goat had her baby 2 weeks ago, and if I'm being honest, I was dying to get a chance to meet the wee one. Tonight was THE night.... squeee!! After dinner, the kids (ha!! I should use their names to avoid confusion between our kids and the baby goat) and I hopped into the car and within a few minutes, found ourselves knocking on their door.

Annika and Conor got in lots of goat snuggles and quickly learned that goat babies are very willing to nibble/nurse on anything within reach, including chins, noses, elbows, hair, cheeks, arms, skirts, shorts, shirts, and legs (human and chicken). They also learned how to feed a goat a bottle of milk and how to milk a goat. (After we got home, Annika proclaimed, "Bucket list item checked off! Milk something.")

In addition to the goats, the kids (again, ours) got to spend quality time with the chickens. Ever since we were at the farm last summer, Conor has had a true fondness for chickens. He prides himself on his egg-finding skills and really seems to enjoy the company of chickens. Tonight was no exception. Annika practically stalked the baby goat (in a good way) while Conor (while a fan of the goats) seemed quite drawn to the chickens, too. A little taste of farm life is so good for the soul!!!

We are incredibly grateful for the chance to get in touch with our inner farmers and spend time with animals that are beyond the typical "family pet".

Annika learning how to bottle feed a goat

Goats tickle!!!

Annika would keep this goat forever if she could

Conor getting to know the baby goat

He agrees that goats are tickly

Annika milking the mama goat

Conor had the "up close and personal" approach to goat milking

Chicken snuggles
Babies will mouth anything....

Oh, and the Clausons have bee hives, too!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Family Camping Trip at Lake Easton

This past weekend,the Olson Four packed up our camping gear and headed out into the great beyond and the wild outdoors.... well, Lake Easton State Park. Not exactly very beyond (1.5 hr from Seattle) and "wild" might be a bit of an over statement... it is a state park full of other campers just like us. For the most part, we tend to be a pretty tame group.

THAT SAID... we really did have a lovely time on our trip. As a regularly plugged-in person who is also married to a man  who is usually plugged in and who is the mother of two youngsters who prefer to be plugged in whenever possible, it is always a treat to get away and UNPLUG!!!!

We headed out late morning on Friday, knowing it was only 1.5-ish hours to the park. Very intelligently, we had our summer nanny (hi, Miss Emma!) work that morning so she could keep the kids occupied while Eric and I got our pre-trip tasks done. Brilliance, I tell ya! The kids got to burn off some energy and we got to focus on getting all of our .... items (notice how I didn't use one of a few 4-letter words I could have selected) into bags, bins, and the car.

Prior to our trip, I treated us to a soft-sided chuck box.... best thing EVER!! No more digging to the bottom of a big blue plastic bin whenever we needed a specific item. Hatchet? Check! Matches? Check! Paper towels? Yup! Everything was organized and readily available.

Waiting for Eric to grab lunch
We made it to the park in good time and without incident (always good things!), and quickly made camp. Eric and the kids got the tent set up in record time, partially because Lake Easton State Park has level tent pads. It took the guesswork out of finding "the best spot" for the tent. We knew right where it needed to be and that no huge rocks were going to be in the way. Bonus! While the kids used the pump to blow up the air mattresses, Eric and I got everything else set up.... including my hammock.

Readers, I have to explain about the hammock. We have brought it on EVERY camping trip we have ever taken but have NEVER used it due to the trees in our site not being conducive to the hammock. Usually, they were spaced too far apart and/or had too many nearby bushes for the hammock to be used. We contemplated leaving it behind on this trip, but I said, "You know, if we leave it home, this will be the first time it'll be able to be used." How right I would have been!! This camp site (lot 67) offered a perfect hammock experience! Many a relaxing moment was spent in the hammock over the weekend; it was glorious and renewed my desire for a hammock stand at home so we can use it more often!

 After my "leave me alone for a little bit, I want to enjoy my wonderful hammock" time, we set about many of our other camping past times, including playing games galore. Of the course of the weekend, we played dice, checkers, tic-tac-toe, a version net-less badminton called Jazzminton, and more.

Conor and Eric mid-Greed game

Annika opted out of playing Greed once the hammock was vacated by yours truly

After we finished our game of Greed (yes, I won... but who is counting???), the kids and I went on a bit of a hike while Eric discovered how lovely the hammock is. Behind our camp site was a trail that followed a leg of the Yakima River. We found the trail head and made our way from one end to the other. It was a lovely day, easy hike/walk, and pretty view. Win, win, and win!

We finished up the day with more games, roller blading/scootering up and down the campsite rode, readying, and roasting hot dogs over the open fire, and snacking on s'mores. A perfect evening!

Perfection was rattled a bit at 3 AM when we discovered that just on the other side of the Yakima River from our camp were railroad tracks that freight trains ... LOOOOONG, LOUD freight trains travel on at 3 AM and 5:30 AM.  (We'd hoped this would be unique to our first night, but the 2nd night proved that nope, it was a regularly scheduled event. Oh joy...)

Needless to say, our 3 AM train wake-up call left us feeling a bit drowsy on Saturday (and down-right zombie-like by Sunday). We had a low-key (coffee-filled) morning and eventually out ourselves in gear enough to get dressed and pile into the van for our excursion into Cle Elum.

We had lunch at a tasty Mexican restaurant (Conor requested Indian food, which wasn't exactly an option in Clu Elum.... it was either generic "American" food or Mexican food) and were thrilled to see how easily the kids (especially Annika) conversed with the waitress in Spanish. (Thanks, CKS Spanish teachers! You are rock stars!) After lunch, we poked around some of the local shops and the Telephone Museum, which was a huge hit with the kids! They got to use rotary phones and call each other  while seeing the internal mechanism do their thing. They kids thought "old timey" switchboard was particularly fun and took turns being the switchboard operator.

Annika using the rotary phone to call Conor

Silly telephone boy

Conor talking with Annika (who was 3-4 feet away)
Eric inspecting the switchboard

Switchboard operator Annika at your service

We wrapped up our Cle Elum visit with a much-needed stop at the local Starbucks (please reference the previous train story if you don't understand that need) and a speedy "hi and goodbye" visit with another CKS family who has a 2nd home in Cle Elum. The kids were anxious to get to swimming in Lake Easton, so we did a quick "how has your summer been going?" catch up with our friends and then headed back to camp to change into swimsuits.

Knowing the lake was glacier fed, I opted to guard our blanket and towels while  Eric and the kids braved the insanely cold water. They get the Bravery Awards for their willingness to dunk themselves in the frigid water. I happily claim my "stayed warm and enjoyed reading a book" award.

Because the water was SO cold, the kids were more willing than they otherwise would have been to make it a short trip to the lake. They spent a bit of time in the water, laid in the warm sun to thaw a bit, and then we high-tailed it back to camp so we could build a fire and warm up a bit more. Eric took the opportunity to teach the kids how to safely make kindling (the family at the site next to us could have taken a few lessons from us on hatchet safely.... but  then again maybe not all families feel the need to tell their kids not to swing hatches around and come insanely close to lodging them in their little legs.... but I digress....)

With a crackling fire nearby and thawed children, we changed our focus to dinner and then on to the ranger's presentation on bats. We learned all about bat anatomy, species, metabolism. conservation, and behaviors. It was quite interesting and even included a rather cute bat puppet.

MMMMM! Burgers (Thanks, Crowd Cow)
 Sunday morning was another sleepy one thanks to the middle-of-the-night trains... this time, the 3 AM one included lots of whistle blowing as a bonus. (God bless the inventors of coffee!)

Conor and Eric relaxing by the fire

Crackling fire, hot cocoa, and a little table time for Conor

Before packing up and heading home, the kids and I attended another ranger presentation. This one was about salmon. Annika rocked the presentation because of the fact her 4th grade class studied and raised salmon most of the school year. She had the vocab and life cycle information down pat!! Conor was a bit disappointed with the whole thing because for some reason, when he heard "junior ranger presentation", he thought they'd learn how to use a bow and arrow. Salmon aren't NEARLY as cool as what he'd envisioned. Poor boy!! Fortunately, he worked through the disappointment and found a way to have fun.

By late morning (not only because we ran out of coffee and were insanely tired, but those reasons didn't hurt), we packed up and started on our way home. The drive home was uneventful and included a stop for lunch and more coffee in North Bend... win for all involved!! Before long, we were home, doing laundry, airing out our suitcases (no camp fire smoke smells allowed in our closets!), and were reunited with Buca once the dog sitter dropped him off.

All-in-all, a great weekend for the Olsons!!