Monday, August 31, 2015

First day of the 2015-2016 school year

It is official! We now have a 2nd grader and a kindergartener. How time flies!!

I woke up the kids at 7 and when I poked at Conor, he immediately requested "1 more minute of sleep, please." I then poked at Annika, whose eyes popped open and she proclaimed, "Is it time for school yet????" Ironically, this is the polar opposite of how they both normally wake up.

After ushering the kids through the morning routine (breakfast, brush teeth, load backpacks, get dressed), we took some rather windy first-day-of-school pictures and then were on our way to school and the chaos that ensued.

Annika was practically clawing at the car door as soon as we were on the school's campus. She could hardly wait to see her friends and get the fun going. Conor was a bit more apprehensive and was very content to stick closer to me. It was incredibly loud and chaotic under the school's pavilion, so him sticking close was anything but a surprise.

Eventually, we got the green light for the classes to go into their classrooms. We stopped in the 2nd grade room first and got Annika all settled in for the day. The fact that she and her little bff Madeleine got to sit next to each other was the icing on the cake for Annika. I had to giggle that I had to direct her away from walking into the 1st grade room out of habit as we walked down the hallway to her new classroom ... old habits die hard! As I left her, I told Annika I was leaving so she didn't think I had disappeared... what I fool I was. She didn't bat an eye and gave me a half wave as I left ... she was far too busy socializing to care that I was leaving her.

My next stop was taking Conor to the kindergarten room. We found his hook and got his backpack/coat hung up and then ventured into the classroom to find his desk. As soon as we entered the room, Conor's little bff Emilio shouted out Conor's name, which made Conor smiled from ear to ear. Seeing familiar faces around the room was exactly what Conor needed. His desk is right next to his church buddy (Caitlyn), which was probably pretty perfect for him. A familiar face right next door. Before I knew it, the parents were being ushered out of the room and it was time to give Conor a quick peck on the cheek. I wasn't sure how he was going to do with me leaving, but he did really well. Not a tear or sign of fear on his face. He wasn't looking overly comfortable yet, but that'll come in time. The kindergarten teacher (who Annika also had and who is MARVELOUS) had pictures for the kids to color waiting on their desks, so he was too busy working on his project to care that it was time for me to head out. Whew! :)

Before I close, I want to say how blessed we are to be part of such an amazing school community. Our kids are surrounded by good kids who are true friends to our kiddos. The teachers and administrators are the epitome of caring, nurturing, and dedicated ... the perfect trifecta! The last piece of the CKS puzzle are the other parents; we know that there really is a village involved in raising our kids and many of those parents are key parts of our village; they are friends to us and wonderful role models for our kids.

I can hardly wait to hear about their first days and hear all of their thoughts on how things went. Such a fun new chapter in their lives!

Conor: All spiffed up in his new uniform

Annika: Social butterfly extraordinaire 

This perfectly sums up part of our morning

And this sums up the other part of our morning

All ready for 2nd grade

Watch out kindergarten, here come Conor!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Seed and Nut Loaf

This month, we Daring Bakers were challenged to make a gluten-free nut and seed bread. To be brutally honest, this challenge didn't grab me for one reason: I'm not a "nuts in my baked goods" kind of person. Give me a handful of nuts to snack on any day, but please don't put them in my cookies, breads, or brownies. For me, it is purely a texture thing. Nothing more, nothing less.

That said, I decided to keep an open mind and give this challenge a go. I hit Central Market's bulk food section and loaded up on seeds and nuts galore ... I even grabbed some dried cherries (they didn't help). Once again, not the best baking project for a "leave the nuts out" kind of person like me. I included pumpkin seeds, flax seeds (which mostly wound up on my car floor due to a child "helper" holding onto the bags for the drive home), mixed nuts (cashews, walnuts, etc.), as well as almonds. I researched some methods online, but it still just didn't make my tastebuds dance. Some other bakers said they liked their creations more toasted ... didn't help in my opinion. In fact, I think I preferred it untoasted more than toasted. Nuts have their place, just not in my bread. Oh well... still a fun challenge and a great opportunity to break out of my standard baking mold!

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Conor - newspaper reporter and soccer referee

As we were driving in the car to Annika's 8-year-old check-up yesterday, Annika and Conor kept themselves busy by creating newspapers and "writing" articles to fill their pages.

As Annika worked, she had a running commentary of the "news" and inserted "Oh, this is gonna be big" and "Can you believe such a thing?" as her pen flew across the paper she was using.

Conor, not to be outdone by his big sister, also started working on a newspaper of his own. He announced that he was reporting on a soccer game that ended in a tie. He gave himself a promotion and decided he was also the referee for the game and his job was to "make sure the game ended in a tie and was preposterous."

When I heard "preposterous" flow out of his mouth, I was absolutely stunned!! I asked him if he knew what the word meant and he said, "Yes, do you?" I told him I did and asked him what he thought it meant. To which he replied, "It means to end in a tie." Umm... not quite, but REALLY cute!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mama and Kiddos Roadtrip to Sagle

Last week, the kids and I packed up our gear and hit the road to visit my sister and brother-in-law at their cabin in Idaho. (OK, I did the packing, but Annika and Conor were definitely in the car with me!)

Unfortunately, due to work commitments, Eric wasn't able to join in on the fun this go around ... I don't know HOW he could possibly pass up 6+ hours in the car ... each way... with our kids in exchange for a quiet house, no squabbles, and no one to tattle on anyone else!

Pit stop in Ellensburg

Pit stop selfie

On our way to Idaho, I decided to make a bit of an unplanned stop at the Wile Horses Monument, which is located just east of Vantage, WA. Ever since I was a little girl, I'd wanted to stop and see the horses up close, but never (a) took the time if I was the driver or (b) didn't have the opportunity as the passenger. This was my chance and I took it! Unfortunately, we weren't wearing the ideal footwear for a hike up a rather steep, sandy, gravely hill ... tennis shoes would have been MUCH better than our flip flops (DUH). Regardless, we conquered the hill in the blazing sun (it was MIGHTY HOT) and smokey air (seems like practically our whole state is burning these days). When we got to the top, the view was limited (see smoke reference) but still incredibly impressive. Seeing the horse statues up close didn't disappoint; the graffiti on the horses did disappoint me, though. The kids enjoyed the opportunity to burn off some energy and find all sorts of neat rocks along the path.

Headin' up the trail

Annika and her volcanic rock
"See my rock, Mama??"

The kids with the horses

Vantage bridge (and smoke) backdrop

 After our spur-of-the-moment hike, we were back in the car and continuing our journey east ... east .. east. Eventually, we made it to the cabin and I could immediately feel myself start to unwind. Nothing like seeing the lake to ease your breathing and heart rate. It really is one of my zen places.

Over the next few days, the kids spent countless house in the lake swimming, doing flips off of the dock, taking the peddle boat out for a few spins, and playing all sorts of made-up games. While they were having the times of their lives, I was soaking up the time with my sister and brother-in-law. We live too far apart in my opinion, so sharing air and the same space with my sister is something I truly cherish.

Speaking of my brother-in-law, Randy was truly amazing with the kids. He is incredibly engaging and takes the time to make them feel special and cherished. He took them to the marina for ice cream/popsicles, they went on walks, and the took them out on the peddle boat just for fun.

1st mate Annika, ready for boating

Conor chillaxing in the hammock

Happy hammock girl

Off to the marina with Uncle Randy

Sunset at the cabin

Peddle boat kiddos

On the 3rd day of our trip, it was time for Randy to head home for work, so he and Suzanne drove from the cabin to Pullman (to drop off a car with our nephew at WSU) and then drove to the airport in Spokane. Because Suzanne was going to be gone for the vast majority of the day, I decided that was the perfect opportunity to take the kids to Schweitzer. On our way to Schweitzer, we stopped in Sandpoint to pick up some supplies (aka my annual allotment of Pend Orielle Winery pinot grigio), poke around a few shops, and have lunch at Jalapenos restaurant.

My brother (Troy) and his family went there about two weeks prior, which is what inspired me to trek up the mountain with the kids. Little did I know how many summertime activities were there! There was a rock climbing wall, a swing set, giant checker and chess games, a zip line, horseback riding (8 year minimum age, so we didn't go), and a ski lift that took people up to the summit. I'd hoped to get some great photos of the lake from our higher vantage point, but (once again) the smoke proved that my plans don't always end up working out. Big picture... oh well!

Annika scaling the rock wall

Conor scaling the swing set's climbing wall

Sayin' hi to the horses

Our little gold diggers

Heading up the ski lift

Summit, here we come!
Creek from the ski lift

Lookin' back down as we went up, up, up

We made it to the summit!

A post-summit game of giant checkers

On our way back to the cabin after exploring Schweitzer, the kids and I stopped in Sandpoint for some much-deserved ice cream (gelato, to be exact). It was a lovely way to wrap up a fun day adventuring together.

Back at the cabin, the kids enjoyed some more lake time while Suzanne and I enjoyed our dinner of goat cheese and pistachios served on crackers... we live the life at the cabin, let me tell you!!

The rest of our time at the cabin was spent doing much more of the same ... relaxing, taking in the gorgeous view, chatting, playing games, and swimming. It really couldn't have been more ideal (except if Eric had been there with us ... THAT would have made it perfect-o!)

Before I knew it, we were packing up and heading back home. I'm not saying there were tears when I hugged my sister good-bye ... oh wait ... who am I kidding??? Saying goodbye to her is never easy, especially when we don't have our next visit already on the calendar. After a few extra hugs, I wiped my eyes, sucked in as much lake air as my lungs could hold, and pointed the van homeward. The drive home was smokey but easy. The kids were so tuckered out from their 4+ days of playing in the lake that they were incredibly mellow the entire drive home... much fewer "are we there yet?" moments. Plus, we were all excited to be reunited with Eric!

Home sweet home. Cabin sweet cabin.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We have an 8-year-old little girl

My apologies, dear readers and birthday girl, the month of August has apparently gone into turbo mode and we are nearing its end and I have yet to write up a blog post about our sweet girl turning 8 years old.

The night before her birthday, Annika was CONVINCED that she'd be too excited to sleep. Fortunately, she was incorrect and had no problems resting up for her big day. She rested up so much that Eric and I didn't see her until after we got home from work... it was so odd not to see her the morning of her birthday, but it seemed cruel to wake her up early just so we could say happy birthday. 

The evening of her birthday, we had a little "Olson Four" celebration for her, which included Annika's chosen dinner (chicken pot pie) and dessert (grasshopper pie) ... notice a theme?? Our dining portion of the festivities were followed by the much-anticipated give portion of the evening. Conor gave her an over-sized stuffed unicorn that Annika named "Sparkle Horn" and quickly placed in the center of her stuffed animal affections. Eric and I gave her a Dash robot, which is a robot toy that helps kids learn a few programming basics. She is enamored with robots these days, so the gift was a hit. She can program it to follow paths that she sets up, make noises, change colors, etc. 

Because Annika's birthday fell on a Thursday this week, we held off on having a party that included more than the four of us for a couple of days. The Saturday after her birthday, we invited the local extended family over for a BBQ lunch to celebrate Annika's birthday. 

It was a lovely day filled with lots of laughter, wonderful company (Eric's parents, my mom, Uncle Troy, Auntie Staci, Ian, Kat, and Uncle Dave), and more food than we could possibly eat.  Our little girl was showered with love and gifts ... truly a very good day in her eyes. She received safety equipment from Eric's mom/dad, a cook book and apron from my mom, a Pete the Cat book from my brother and his family, and best of all... big cousin Ian gave her all of his old Pokemon cards (130 in all). Without a doubt, the Pokemon cards was the best of the bunch in her eyes; before bed that night, she spent about an hour and a half organizing her new cards in her binder and taking the time to ohh and ahh over each card. 

Our nephew Ian put a spin on the antipasto plate by
adding little protesters... he never fails to amuse!

The top of Annika's requested bunny cake

Side view - Didn't Eric do an amazing job???
(My contribution: The inside is a white cake with pink, purple, and teal polka dots)

Cook book from Nana

Book from the Nelsons

Cousin Ian and goofy Conor

Annika and her hand-me-down Pokemon cards

Blowing out the candles (did I mention they were trick candles??)

Modeling her new apron and safety equipment
Thank you to everyone for making Annika's celebration so special. We are so grateful for the community that has rallied around us from the minute we told them that we were embarking on the roller coaster ride that is parenthood.

Happy 8th birthday, sweet Annika! We love you to the ends of the universe ... and back.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sunday at the Pool

With Annika's new found love of diving, we are now spending an hour and 45 minutes at the local pool each Sunday. She's taking the diving class, drop-in diving instruction, and her regular swimming lesson ... all back to back. I'm tired just thinking about it!

Yesterday, the kids and I headed to the pool in time for Annika's dive class, which meant Conor had an hour and fifteen minutes to sit around and wait for his class. He was an absolute trooper!! He watched his tablet for a bit, but was more interested in watching the kids dive and even took videos of Annika when it was her turn to dive. Talk about a supportive little brother!!

Annika did a great job during her dive classes. She listened attentively and eagerly applied what she was taught to her next dive. She did pencil dives (feet in first), forward dives, and backward dives. Each time, she popped her head out of the water with a huge smile on her face. It was really fun to watch.

Forward dive

Another forward dive

Backward dive

After over an hour of patience, Conor was anxious for his chance to have some fun in the pool and when he had the green light to get in the pool, he eagerly hopped in and got to work on his crawl stroke, "blast offs", and back stroke. His skills are really taking shape and his crawl stroke is really impressive!

 Unfortunately, his penned up energy from watching Annika for so long seemed to get the better of him... he had a marvelous time splashing water when he wasn't supposed to and got pulled out of the pool. (Whoops) My thinking is maybe he and whichever parent is on pool patrol can do a little recreational swimming while Annika is in her dive class... it'll help him work off some energy before his class begins. Plus, it's fun to go swimming!! :)

Conor listening to his teacher

Conor getting his blast off arms right

Conor practicing his blast offs