Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wild Lights 2016

For the past few years, we've visited the Woodland Park Zoo's Wild Lights exhibit with our friends Dave and Anne. We attempted to go a few days before Christmas, but a fire at the zoo made us come up with a Plan B for visiting the zoo. We were able to reschedule for a couple of days after Christmas and, lucky us, the weather was incredibly cooperative!

We started our evening at Zeek's Pizza for some tasty pizza (duh!). The kids were thrilled with the menu and we adults appreciate that it is good pizza! The other plus of Zeeks is it is down the block from the zoo, so we could park once for both dinner and the lights display. Win!!

After filling up on pizza, we trekked across the north lawn of the zoo and entered a wonderland of lights and fun. Each year, the zoo expands the display and this year was no different. We had such fun finding our favorite lights from years past and discovering the new things this year.

We are grateful for the time together and the beautiful lights ... and the fact we didn't get rained on! :D

The dads and the kiddos

Gorilla family

Friends since birth
Go Hawks!

The watering hole

Annika, Eric, and Conor in the butterfly house

Dave and Anne

Hummingbird getting dinner 
Colorful peacock

The three amigos

Christmas 2016 Recap

Stunningly, all of our Christmas prep is behind us and we find ourselves reflecting on another blessed holiday that was filled with family and friends.

Christmas Eve was filled with last-minute Christmas prep, 4:00 mass at St. John (we even got seats this year!), breakfast for dinner (we do this every year - keeps things so much simpler!), reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas (another Olson Four Christmas Eve tradition), and leaving out cookies/milk for Santa and a couple of carrots for the reindeer. One highlight for the kids was receiving official notification in the mail that they were on Santa's Good list - whew!!! Both kids received certificates and personalized letters from Santa ... and couldn't have been more excited if they tried!

He's officially on the Good list - what a relief!

Nothing like making it official 

Ready for our North Pole visitors

Unlike some years, this was a day we looked at as very flexible, not knowing who would be at our house and for how long. In the past, we've had a set approach to the day, but this year, we know Eric's dad was still recovering from his recent back surgery, so we didn't know how long they'd stick around (or if they'd make it at all... even with Eric's mom's instance that they'd be here.) My brother and his family were trying to make plans around his in-law family's schedules, so we weren't completely sure if/when they'd be here, either. In times like these, we set ourselves up to adapt and it all worked out!

Eric's parents arrived around 6:30, to ensure they were here before the kids awoke. Upon their arrival, we popped the traditional Christmas breakfast casserole in the oven (I'll pause here for the collective "oh, man, is that stuff ever tasty" response) and then sipped on some much-needed coffee and played a few hands of cards while we waited for the munchkins to wake up.

A few minutes before 7, the kids rolled out of bed and were raring to go!! They were very excited to see what Santa left for them and to open the gifts under the tree that had been tantalizing them for the past week. Before we knew it, paper was flying, smiles were cropping up everywhere, and we were (once again) reminded at how fortunate we are.

A little Christmas family hug session

Conor admiring his gifts

Lookin' good, Bestefar!

Co Christmas is complete without a pirate beard!

Someone got the Smencils she was hoping for

A power washer for Eric

Any guesses what they're talking about?

Proof that Santa exists - she got the gift she asked him for

Conor giving a gift to Bestefar

That is one happy boy!

Bestemor and Bestefar

Buca watching the festivities from behind the furniture barricade

Checking out his new video game

This was the view we had of the kids for much of the day - those Nintendos were a hit!
Buca is about to start singing "Les Mis" in hopes the barricade will fall

After we finished unwrapping presents, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast and some more games. (Yes, we Olsons do play a lot of card and dice games ... I think we're legally or genetically bound to!)

Because Eric's dad is still on the road to recovery, they weren't able to stick around much past 10:30, which was completely understandable. We were so grateful to have had them here with us... even it it wasn't for all day.

The Olson Four took a little time to clean up the house and catch our breath before opening our doors to the masses at 1. Our friend Nicole was the first to arrive. It was fun to catch up with Nicole, who has become one of our Christmas regulars and we couldn't be happier about that fact. She regales us with stories of her travels, adventures, and work. She is a true gem and incredibly generous with her time. Soon after, Eric's friend Dave arrived, bringing more merriment and fun stories to share. Around 3, my brother (Troy) and his family were knocking at our door, ready for Christmas dinner and some Olson-style fun.

We had ham, rolls, twice-baked potatoes, and salad for dinner. With no tummies left behind, we followed that up with a crazy amount of cookies for dessert. Yes, we are still full!! There was a typical amount of chaos and noise, but it wouldn't be a true holiday without those pieces, if you want my opinion!

Ian and Eric in deep conversation
Merry Christmas, Uncle Dave!

Uncle Dave cutting loose

Kat thinks we're all a bunch of nuts ... but entertaining nuts!

Kat is keeping her eye on all of us crazy people
Troy is a ham!
Staci and her krumkake
In case you needed more proof of his ham-ness!

Ian and Conor playing Legos together
(no surprises there!)
After we bid goodbye to our loved ones, we finished up the day with a pillow fight between Eric and the kids... we're pretty sure the Three Wise Men had plenty of these while they were following the star to Bethlehem ... someone just forgot to write it down!

Pillow fight!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Annika's Irish Dance Performance

Since September, Annika has been attending weekly Irish dance classes as part of her school's after-school learning program. She has really enjoyed it ... to the point that she rarely walks anymore... instead, she Irish dances everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! Annika? Go get the forks for dinner, please. (Insert Irish dance moves here.) Annika? Please go get your homework out of your backpack. (Insert Irish dancing here.) Annika? Please go brush your teeth. (Insert Irish dancing and tooth brushing here.)

It has been a real treat to watch her skills develop ... both in terms of the actual steps, but also her sense of rhythm and timing.

Yesterday was the last class session. To mark the occasion, the girls in her class did a little performance for their parents/siblings. We watched the girls practice some of their dance steps and then watched them perform a basic dance routine. It was fun to watch them hop around while pointing their toes and keeping their arms straight at their sides. Well done, one and all!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Snow Day 2016

I think it is pretty safe to say that in our area, we tend to be pretty jaded when we hear that snow is in the forecast. We have been burned too many times with promises of snow that turn out to leave us "Flakeless in Seattle."

So, when we heard that it was supposed to snow last night, we were (in our opinion) justifiably skeptical. Shockingly (to us), Eric and I saw a few flakes start to fall around 8 last night. It was pretty to watch the tiny flakes fall and dust the surface of our deck. We were told that the snow would turn to rain before mid-morning, so we weren't expecting to see anything of consequence when we awoke this morning. Boy, were we fooled!!

We had just over 2" of snow  that resulted in the kids' not having school today. SNOW DAY! Wait, wait, wait. I'd like all people in the central and eastern states to stop laughing here and now. We, unlike you, live in a city that is totally unequipped to deal with snow and we have a very hilly city. On top of that, we have plenty of drivers who aren't practiced enough at driving in the snow to be intelligent (or safe) behind the wheel. BAD combo!

So, we are hunkered down at home. The kids are happily playing in the snow that is on our deck (Eric even got in on the fun for a bit ... yes, while wearing one of Annika's knit hats!). Conor was a bit bummed that we didn't have full-sized carrots for the snowman noses, only baby carrots. (Can we say First World problems??). Annika is now decorating her snowman with chocolate-covered almond eyes, a baby carrot nose, and a Seahawks M&Ms mouth.

I'm happily still in my PJs and am about ready to start on my 2nd cup of coffee. Life is good all around. :)