Friday, February 10, 2017

I survived Nathan's 13th birthday party!

We have a teenager in the house!  I can't believe it, but Nathan is 13 years old.  He's a great kid, very bright, a natural leader, and a friendly guy.  He's always willing to watch his younger siblings.  We are so glad he's a part of our family.  

It wasn't a friend party year, so his birthday celebrations were pretty simple.  He wanted eggs, bacon, and pancakes for breakfast and requested stroganoff and peas for dinner.  He didn't want a cake this year - instead he asked for apple pie.  

He got a Lego set, Pokemon cards, game, and clothes for his gifts.  He asked for clothes this year!    

This year was the perfect year to surprise Nathan with a friend party.  I poked around a little bit, finding out who Nathan hangs out with at school.  One of his church friends, who also goes to his school, helped me contact his buddies.  Nine of the 11 boys I invited were able to make it (after postponing on the first scheduled Saturday that was a 3 day weekend and not so good).  We ended up doing the party about 3 weeks after his birthday, so he had no idea what was going on.  I did party preparations while he was at school, cleaning during the evening.  I thought with the house being clean BEFORE Saturday might have tipped him off, but it didn't.  Ha ha.  One of the tricky things was doing the cake, but I ended up baking it during the day - cleaning up all the evidence.  Then we watched a movie late on Friday night, so I didn't get to start decorating the cake until about 1:00am.  Yep, it was a long night - didn't get finished with that and cleaning up until about 3:30am.

We also had to go to plan B on Saturday afternoon.  Alex was supposed to get Nathan and all the boys out of the house for a few hours (hiking) so that I could get the party set up.  However, it was also pinewood derby that day, and they ended up way behind on that.  So Alex was stuck at pinewood derby and Nathan was still with me... I texted one of Nathan's friends who was coming to the party and asked if they could invite Nathan over.  They were getting ready to go swimming at the YMCA, so it worked perfect to take Nathan along.  They brought him back over when it was party time.

Nathan's friends had a lot of energy!  Most of the balloons were popped by the time Nathan got there, and they cracked me up on surprising him.  Instead of hanging back and hiding, they stood right around the door so they could yell in his face when he walked in!  Nathan didn't even know it was a birthday party at first.  He asked a couple of times, "What is this for?"

Once the surprise died down, I divided them up into 2 tribes - we were going to do challenges like they do on the show "Survivor."  They picked green or blue bandanas out of a bag to determine which tribe they were on.  I made the banners beforehand, so that we didn't waste time picking names.  I chose the Araali and Zuberi tribes - African names that both mean "strength".  The simply made PVC banners didn't last very long before they got shredded.

We headed over to the local elementary school for some of the challenges.  We needed more space than we had in our yard.

The hard thing for me was no prior set up.  I didn't want to set everything up and then leave it for an hour, so I had to set up each challenge as we went.  If I did it over again, I would definitely plan on trying to set up beforehand so that I didn't lose them between challenges.  Our first challenge was fairly simple - a coconut roll.  I set up a small box of cones about a bowling alley length away, and they took turns seeing who could roll their coconut the closest to the "box".  They competed against another person, and the best 2 out of 3 rolls won it.  At the end, we totaled all the points, and Araali won it.  They actually won nearly all the challenges!  The coconut roll came down to a tie-breaker roll, so each tribe chose one person to roll again.  Owen was chosen for Zuberi because he had nearly the perfect roll.  But in the end the blue tribe won it.

Our second challenge didn't work very well, and I actually have nothing to document it.  I dyed a whole bag of mini marshmallows blue and green - even numbers of them.  Then I dumped all the marshmallows out and they had to scramble to get the most of their color marshmallows at their home base "circle" (of cones).  But they could also take out the marshmallows from the other team's circle.  The tribe with the most of their marshmallows in their circle after 1 minute won it.  It was a disaster, because they started just holding onto all their marshmallows until the last 10 seconds, or hoarding the other team's color.  After counting, the blue tribe won it, but what was painful was picking up every last scattered marshmallow off the ground when we were done.  Not fun.

Our next challenge was fun, but harder than I expected.  Each tribe had a caller, who would call out directions to blindfolded teammates to colored bags.  Each tribe also had someone reserved who would put the puzzle together.  They had to collect 7 bags, and then deposit them at their homebase.  Once all the bags were collected, the puzzle solver could open them and put it together.  There were 70 dominoes, numbered on the back, for each tribe.  They just had to put them in order on the puzzle board to win.  It turned out to be a harder task than I thought it would be.  But again, Araali (blue tribe) won it.  It was also a reward challenge - the winning tribe each got individual bags of chips.
Jared solved the puzzle for the blue tribe.  

The next challenge was probably the most complicated - taking much more patience than 12-13 year old boys have.  I placed 8 colored paper plate rings in a line, with the ones further away requiring them to tie sticks together to snag them.  But first they had to run and pop one of their colored balloons and see which colored plate they had to snag.  I put little colored pieces of paper in the balloons that corresponded to the colored rings.  Then the work began.  They were not allowed to cross the line of cones with anything other than their sticks.  They had 4 sticks and rope to tie them together.  They had to pick up a ring with the stick, get it over their line, and then deposit it on another stick.  The first tribe to get all their rings on the stick first won.  I think the green tribe happened to get the brown ring first, the one furthest away, and they had trouble tying the sticks long enough.  The blue tribe ran into some problems too, but had too much of a head start.  They won it pretty easily, also winning the reward of Gatorade that went along with it.

The next challenge was another puzzle, but they had to collect the bags again first.  We took advantage of the playground structure for the obstacle course.  They had to climb up one side, touch the top, over to the next part, touch the top, grab a bag and head back.  Once they collected all the bags, they could open them and put the puzzle together.  It turned out to be a super close race, within one piece.  The green team, Zuberi, pulled out the win on this one.  The reward was a package of mini donuts for each tribe member.

After I cleaned up everything at the school, we came back to our home for some more challenges.  We did "worms in dirt" where they had to dig out 3 gummy worms out of pudding and Oreo dirt with JUST their mouth.  Yep, they all ended up with "dirt" in their nose!

Then we did the yucky food challenge - the food items were under a covered bowl with a number on it.  They each drew a number to determine which food they had to eat and who they would compete against.  They had to eat jello worms, drink vegetable juice, eat green olives, spam, sardines, and kale and brussel sprout salad with no dressing.  They got 1 point for finishing their item, and another point if they finished it before their opponent.  Nathan got sardines, and he gave it a go, chewing it up in his mouth.  He had to spit it out though - where was Weston when they needed him?  He loves sardines!  The worms looked fairly real and disgusting, but before they realized what they were, one of the kids had already started eating them.  No fear.  The other guy wouldn't even touch them, until he realized they were jello.  And even then, he had a hard time.  I wasn't eating any of that stuff!  The salad is even pretty gross with the dressing on it - eating without dressing is like eating grass.

We did a math challenge, where they had to solve 4 equations, which were on the back of a paper coin.  When they solved the equation, they had to find the real corresponding coin from a bowl of coins.  The answers to the equations were years on the coin.  

Another fun challenge was a quiz about Nathan.  Our boys were not allowed to participate in this one.  They had to answer 10 multiple choice questions about Nathan which had a correct answer.  They got a moment to think about it and then had to hold up their answer (one of the A, B, or C cards).  Then they had 10 majority rules questions, that didn't necessarily have a right answer.  The choice that got the most votes won it.  Some of them tried to cheat on the trivia.  I should have spread them out a little bit so they couldn't show each other cards before they held their answer up.  

Here's the quiz:  
1.  Where was Nathan born? 
A. OK         B.  TX       C. CA

2.  What is Nathan's middle name?
A.  Alexander     B.  Robert     C.  Ray

3.  Which foreign country has Nathan lived in for 3 months?
A. Australia     B.  Ireland     C.  Canada

4.  Which of these fruits does Nathan like the best?
A.  Apples    B.  Bananas    C.  Cantaloupe

5.  What is Nathan's favorite subject?
A.  History    B.  Math    C.  English

6.  What is Nathan's favorite kind of soda?
A.  Rootbeer    B.  Sprite    C.  Dr. Pepper

7.  What is Nathan's favorite dessert?
A.  Apple pie    B.  Brownies    C.  Cake

8.  Which of the following is one of Nathan's favorite teams?
A.  LSU Tigers     B.  LA Lakers     C.  Alabama

9.  What did Nathan's Kindergarten teacher say that he needed to improve on?
A.  Raising his hand     B.  Zipping his jacket     C.  Hopping on one foot

10.  What was the first sports team Nathan played on? 
A.  t-ball     B. soccer    C. basketball

Majority Rules Questions
1.  What does Nathan complain about the most?
A.  Homework    B. calls/plays during sports    C. things his parents won't allow him to have/do

2.  What is Nathan's best personality trait?
A.  Friendly    B. Leader    C. Smart

3.  What is Nathan most afraid of?
A. the dark     B. losing/failing    C. talking to girls

4. What will Nathan most likely be when he grows up?
A. Accountant     B. Professor     C. PE Teacher

5. Who would Nathan most like to meet?
A. Taylor Swift     B. Jimmy Fallon     C. Donald Trump

6.  If Nathan had to pick from these sports, what would he play?
A. Water polo     B. Bowling    C. Ping pong

7. If Nathan were an animal, what would he be?
A. Monkey    B. Dog    C. Parrot

8. If Nathan could change one thing about his appearance, what would it be?
A. Hair     B. Freckles    C. Height

9.  Where would Nathan choose to go on vacation?
A. Hawaii    B. Switzerland   C. New Zealand

10.  If Nathan was a superhero, which would he be?
A. Superman     B. Captain America   C. Spiderman

Some of the challenges also had a reward along with points for the tribe.  The final challenge was simply to see who could stand on one leg the longest, without the other leg touching the ground.  Bryce and Jared lasted a super long time, and eventually decided to split the reward (which was Extra gum).  I originally had wanted to get down to individual challenges with the winning tribe, but we ran out of time.  So each person on the winning tribe (Araali) got a 100 grand candy bar.  It probably wasn't as fun as getting the whole bag, the "million".

These guys were probably too old for cute gift favors, but I enjoyed making something to go along with the theme.  Rice, beans, rope, water, and matches (pretzels with a dip of red chocolate).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

welcome to cub scouts!

Since Owen turned 8, he is now old enough to do cub scouts at church.  He had a couple of introductory meetings in January - one was a pack hike to the beach.  Then he jumped right into pinewood derby, which was super fun for Owen this year because he had a winning car.  Jared was pretty disappointed, because he had designed his car for speed this year, only to get beat by Owen... 

Owen got his bobcat award the same day as the pinewood derby race.  So he is officially a wolf now!  

They both did the district race as well, and I am glad they participated.  Owen got 3rd place in the wolves and earned a trophy.  Jared wanted to win something too, but he didn't, so we had to comfort him because it was his last year for pinewood derby.  We tried to explain how it wasn't about winning - that it was more important for them to participate, to be there, and just show up.  It's hard when you want so badly to win.

Jared's car is the blue one in slot 28 and Owen's is in 29.  I'm pretty sure the sleek gold one in slot 30 won the whole district race.   

I hope they still had fun racing!  


Another missed December event...
Alex was gone on a business trip to Argentina the first week of December (see, I told you December was busy).  He caught a view of the Buenos Aires Temple from the road.  He got to stay in a cozy little cabin, but spent most of his time outside exploring the area.  
Where is this vacation when I need it?  

Other December fun

I missed a couple of things from December - pictures from Alex's phone (and thus activities that I missed).  

Alex, Jared, and Owen gave it a go at ice skating, which was part of our ward's Christmas party.

The rest of the year...

After the family pictures, baptism, baby blessing, Christmas, and birthday party were over, we had time to just hang out!  

We all went to the movies one day - some saw "Passengers", some went to "Rogue One", and several went to "Moana."

It was warm enough to swim one day, although most of us didn't bring our swimsuits.  My boys just swam in regular shorts.  Ashley swam in her sweater... she actually jumped in to rescue Emmy and then since she was already wet, she jumped in all the way!

Roasting hot dogs...

This was one of my favorite things - going to the temple with Papa, Alex, Nathan, Jaden, Daniel, and Ashley.  Jaden just turned 12, so he is now old enough to do temple work.  It was his first time to go to the temple.  Alex and I prepared some names to take and do baptisms for as well.  It had been a while since I had participated in doing baptisms.  While we were there, a temple worker made some remarks about the importance of temple work.  As I was feeling the Spirit, Nathan turned to me and whispered, "I can feel the Spirit."  I was glad he was experiencing the same feelings.    

After the temple, we met Sam, Jared, and Hazel and went out to eat.  Then the girls came home, and the guys went to the Alamo Bowl.  Oklahoma State won the game, but it turned out to be a pretty boring game.  Nathan and Jared were glad to be there though - their first bowl game!

Some took an outing to the museum one afternoon.  

I liked just hanging out at home!  We stayed for New Year's Eve, but had to head back home on New Year's Day.  
Mike and Carrie brought their dogs - Cheerio and Benny.  They were pretty cute together!

Savannah enjoyed having some girls to play with...

Sure love hanging out with family!

Dragons and princesses

No time to slow down... on Monday, the kids had an amazing princess and dragon party, planned and put together by Audrey.  The big kids got to do an escape room, where they had to solve clues that would help them get out of a room they were "trapped" in.  The younger kids did a dragon egg hunt, knight target practice, and decorated their own goblet.  The girls got to have their nails, hair, and make-up done.  It was great fun!

After all the fun, the kids were ready for lunch and cake.  Audrey planned some fun themed food, although I think it was Micah that put the dragon veggie plate together.  

Four of the kids have December birthdays - Owen, Jaden, Hazel, and Savannah.  Micah has a December birthday too.  I was in charge of the cake, so I did my best to stick with the dragon and princess theme.  They turned out pretty well!  We were eating leftover cake the rest of the week.  

Savannah wanted a Cinderella cake - I think she was pretty happy with it!  She got to keep he Cinderella doll too after we were done with the cake.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Christmas festivities

The baptism and baby blessing were on the morning of Christmas Eve.  After we got done cleaning at the church, we did a little bit of song practice for singing in sacrament meeting.  Then we headed home for dinner, cookies, and ice cream.  The kids got to decorate sugar cookies, eating most and saving a few for Santa.  Weston wouldn't eat any of the cookies, but he made sure to put tons of sprinkles on for Santa.  I think his cookies are the ones pictured below.  

Then it was time for the cousin gift exchange and opening new PJ's.  The gift exchange went pretty well... until it was Weston's turn.  He was so excited to open his gift, but when he saw a plush angry bird, he started bawling and threw it aside, saying, "I don't like the birds!"  He only likes the green pigs in Angry Birds.  Luckily Owen received a really cool knit pig hat and gave it to Weston, taking the red bird that Weston didn't want.  Weston did get a book that he likes, and he does like the red bird now too.  He just didn't think he wanted it at the time!  We were all laughing at his raw, unfiltered emotion, although I felt sorry for the cousin who picked out the gift for him (I think it was Evelyn).  The kids all did a big group hug after the gift exchange.

Somehow we managed to get the kids to bed every night, although by "we" I mean someone else.  I probably helped get the kids in bed once while we were there (too busy doing other things).  I think the guys had to do most of that work, and it was pretty crazy in that bunk room!  Anyway, the kids woke up to lots of presents under the tree in the media room, but they weren't allowed to open anything until AFTER church.  

We had a nice church service, filled with musical numbers.  The kids all sang "Away in a Manger", which turned out to be funny and adorable at the same time.  Eli had the microphone because he sang a solo for the first verse.  Then all the kids joined in on the chorus.  Eli was supposed to set the microphone down after his solo verse, but he held onto it the whole song!  He didn't sing through the parts he didn't know, but when it came to the chorus, the part "Asleep, asleep...", he belted that out!

Some of the adults sang a musical number right after the kids song.  Mom, Dad, Sam, Audrey, Mike, Alison, Micah, Ashley, and I sang an arrangement of "Once Within a Lowly Stable", with Carrie as our pianist.  It was fun to sing with my family again.  

Once we got back from church, it was time to open presents.  The kids sorted out the presents, and once everyone had their own pile, we let them loose.  I have no idea what anyone else got - I just tried to keep up with my kids.  

Here they are with a before picture:  

Alex took some video of the present opening - the rest of us were trying to get pictures and video of our own kids.  It all happened so fast!

I didn't get a shot of each of their piles, but this is a few things they got: 
Nathan got a Soccero game, Amazon Echo Dot, and a couple other things.  Jared got a watch, Lego set, and sleeping bag.  Owen got a Lego set, walkie talkies, and Pokemon cards.  Weston got a couple of Lego sets and plush green pig.  Savannah got a mermaid doll, doodle board, and a few other things.  
Nathan wanted an X-box for Christmas... We gave him a box with an X on it as a joke!  Ha ha.  We didn't give in on the X-box yet.  

A special extra delivery came in the afternoon, from one of Santa's helpers, who drove in on my parents' mule with presents in the back.  

The kids were pretty excited!  I love the cowboy boots that Santa's helper is wearing!  Gotta love Texas.  

 In the evening, the kids did a nativity (or attempted to).  Things got a bit crazy when the shepherds started running after their sheep!  They all had some role, although in the end Weston would only be the "light technician" (he wanted to be the pig - I was happy to comply, making him a pig nose, but he wouldn't wear it).

Our birthday party for Jesus didn't turn out quite as planned - it's hard to light candles and keep them lit outside (too much wind).  But we got a few lit and enjoyed the cupcakes.  Traditionally we do a spiritual candlelight reading of the Christmas Story, but that didn't happen either.  We ended up singing and dancing instead!  

It was memorable!