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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Super Summer Round-Up

 So our summer has flown by! Our Activity Calendar with all kinds of options for library events, church nights, vacation trips, dollar movies, camps, and other fun events kept us from experiencing any summer boredom. And this year, I am so happy to report that we actually accomplished a lot of our "honey-do-list" too! Chris worked extremely hard replacing fence posts, porch lattice, and making other improvements around the house including a beautiful new gray paint color (Classic Silver) for our downstairs with long 84 inch curtains. And the kids had a good time picking things from our Just For Fun Summer Bucket List (pictures of some of those activities are included below). 
   Here's a picture of Riley and Maggie holding hands during the movie of Lady and the Tramp at church for one of the Family Fun Nights.  Other Wednesday night activities included Bubble Fun, Bike Obstacle Course, and Game Night. I loved that supper was part of the fellowship time and it was all FREE (which was my favorite word this summer)!

Nan and Pap outdid themselves again with camp this year with all 5 grandkids! They had a pirate theme and the little matey's "walked the plank" into a blow-up pool, went searching for buried treasure, found some gold dubloons which actually turned out to be tokens to Chuck E. Cheese, created cork pirate ships, hook hands, eye patches, and ate cannonballs and octopus (grapes or olives and hot dogs cut like sea creatures) for lunch...just to name a few of the special things they did. While the kids were busy learning to "shiver their timbers", the parents got to do some playing of their own. We went back to Almost Heaven, a cabin in Brown County, Indiana that we stayed at a few years ago. It has an above-ground pool, a hot tub, a pool table, a play to throw horseshoes (or washers in our case), and a charcoal grill. We got to meet up with Chelsea and her boyfriend, Evan, Saturday night and then just relax and catch up on Sunday before heading back to pick up our precious "cargo" on Monday. I had a good time learning to play Euchre, a Midwestern card game and Tim did an awesome job cooking up some grilled chicken for one of our meals. It's always such a blessing to have this time to bond with Chris' side of the family and I really love that Riley and Maggie are getting to spend such quality time with their cousins and grandparents and make such great memories! 
Speaking of making memories, my brother and his sweet family did that for me this year when he helped fly me out to Seattle to visit them for my 35th birthday. From the time I arrived Friday night, they let the good times roll! I was especially surprised on Saturday morning when Edward took me to the Seattle Space Needle for a brunch reservation that was paid for by my two other sweet siblings, Kelly and Joel. And what an amazing brunch it was!! taste buds were in heaven! 

Edward really enjoyed his meal as well and I loved having him as my personal tour guide as the restaurant slowly revolved and gave us a 360 degree view of the city. One of the skyscrapers in the middle of this picture is where Edward's Amazon office is located. Isn't the view of the Puget Sound, beautiful!?
 Take a close look in the background and you can see Mount Ranier rising above the horizon. 
 Edward gave me the insider's guide of the Fish Market and took me to the infamous gum wall that Chris and I never knew about when we visited 5 years earlier. We got to hear some great tunes by the Pretty Shady Stringband outside of Starbucks, taste some delicious macaroni and cheese like I've never eaten before, pick up some fancy salted caramels to take back home to share with Tripp, Liam, and Amanda, and see some absolutely gorgeous displays of fresh flowers, vegetables, fish, and crafts. 

Since it was the 4th of July, we had to stay true to our American roots and light up the grill! Amanda prepared a big variety of steak,chicken, and shrimp kebabs and we all got to enjoy eating them outside. Later that night, the boys got to take their first bus ride downtown to watch the fireworks. We had a great view of them from where we were standing on the bridge and with a little luck (and the use of Edward's bus schedule app) we were able to catch the last ride home! 
       My birthday was on Sunday and it was one of the best birthdays I've ever had!! I got to sleep in (which is a real luxury in itself) and then we went to eat at "Gorditos--Home of the Baby Burrito" (and they aren't kidding...they actually have the walls covered with side-by-side pictures of newborn babies wrapped up in blankets and placed next to a gigantic burrito that is served at this restaurant). Lunch was amazing, but just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it did! I got to meet up with Kristin, Riley's birthmother, at an old-fashioned ice cream shop in Tacoma called Ice Cream Social. Edward went with me since I wasn't familiar with the roads. And we had a great time catching up with this precious person who gave Chris and I the opportunity to become parents. I learned so many similarities that Riley shares with this special family. For example, Lonnie and Riley both love watching "How It's Made", share a passion for comic book superheroes, and both have phenomenal memories; Lex doesn't like to use utensils to eat with either, likes to hunt, and also sleeps with his mouth wide open; Lily is a big eater, she's the bossy one who like Riley enjoys dictating what the other sibling must play and while she enjoys playing school with Lex, she will also play with toy guns; Kristin enjoys eating at Waffle House and calms her kids fears by putting her magic into stuffed animals for them to hold onto at night. Riley made a sweet video for them and drew a picture that I gave to Kristin along with a few recent photos. I look forward to maintaining contact and having Riley know how doubly loved he is by both families. Adoption is such a beautiful blessing! 

  When I got home from that afternoon adventure, Amanda had the most scrumptious cake waiting for me. Her talented culinary skills had whipped up a blackberry vanilla cheesecake cake!!! That's right, imagine the most delicious cake layers wrapped around the smoothest, creamiest cheesecake ever and then topped with frosting AND blackberry sauce (or is it called blackberry compote...I don't know...I haven't been watching enough Food Network lately). It was sooo00000 goooo0000ddd!
And then when I was ready to curl into bed and call it a day (because it had been awesome), I got the best surprise of my life! Edward called me back down to the basement for a special video presentation. You see, my dear brother made it his New Year's Resolution this year to become a better gift-giver and he blew me out of the water with what he put together for me! He got together with Amanda and Kelly and brainstormed a list of like 20 different "lenses" and then had every single family member and my friend Carson describe me using the phrase, "Tracy as a....". Some of the topics were Tracy as a sister (Edward made me cry with this one), little girl (mom and dad's photo collage was awesome), smell (Joel's belly button sniffing memory of me was hilarious to watch), jig (Kelly and Edward both danced individually to "Brown-Eyed Girl"), athlete, chef, cocktail, driver (Chris dressed up for all of his videos and made me laugh on every single one), coffee aficionado (Kelly's videos were so genuine and sweet and honest...loved hers on this topic), a gift-giver (Dad really appreciated the memories I compiled from friends and family for his 50th bday), daughter (Mom came from behind a piece of paper to talk from the heart about this and it really meant a lot),  and a superhero (I'll never forget Amanda coming up with her own version of the "SuperWhy" theme song and changing the lyrics to be all about me being a super planner!). Then on top of all these individual clips that were compiled, my sweet family also sang "Happy Birthday" to me in many unique ways (like Joel's upside down headstand version against his fridge and Tripp and Liam's duet). It was the most remarkable thing anyone has ever done for me!! I will cherish it forever (once I can figure out how to save the hour+ video from Dropbox onto an actual DVD or hard drive). :)

 So to wrap up my trip to the West Coast, I got to visit the Pacific Ocean (Ruby Beach) and watch Tripp's pick-up summer league baseball game. The beach was really neat! LOTS of rocks, instead of shells and much colder than we expected. No body surfing for me! The kids had a great time exploring and skipping rocks (not one of my athletic talents, unfortunately). My personal highlight was seeing a group of seals bobbing in the water about 25 feet out from the shore.

 After a fun-filled five days, I was ready to head home and see my little munchkins again. Chris had done an awesome job keeping them busy with a library show, bowling, went swimming at Grandmama and Papa's pool, checked out Cabela's, went out to eat a few times, hiked at the Riverwalk, and went shopping at the Dollar Tree to buy me some extra special birthday presents! Within minutes of me landing from my red-eye midnight to 8:30 am flight from Seattle, Riley informed me that he and Maggie were going to be world-famous hunters and was begging to go back to Cabela's to show me all the stuff on his hunting list. He was so excited!! Here's a few pictures from our morning adventure.

 I came back on a Wednesday morning and that weekend we decided to go camping as a family for the very first time! We went to Kings Mountain, NC (just about 30-45 minutes away). Thinking back on it now, here are my top ten memorable moments from this trip:
10. Having a husband who knows how to pack for a camping trip!
9. Watching as my two miniature campers help set up the tent.
8. Playing crochet for the first time as a family 
7. Eating hot dogs and "spicy chips" (aka Doritos) for supper
6. Going to the park at the campground and Riley falling but not getting seriously hurt
5. Roasting s'mores together and getting messy faces and sticky fingers
4. Riley helping make a log cabin fire with Chris and excitedly talking about the flames nonstop
3. Enjoying some drinks with Chris after the kids went to bed
2. Sleeping as one big happy family in the same tent
1. Celebrating that Riley caught his first fish the first time he went fishing!!!!

So July came to a close with us doing a few more things off our summer bucket list and Chris going camping with some buddies to West Virginia. These are pics of me and the kids playing "The Silliest Game Ever" with shower caps, shaving cream, and Cheetohs.

 On July 14th, we celebrated two big things: Cow Appreciation Day with free food from Chick-Fil-A and Grandmama's birthday where we were treated to a free meal at Bupa di Beppo's courtesy of Papa.

 Grandmama got a kick out of the birthday card that Maggie picked out for her that said she was turning 90. I tried to convince her to pick another card, but she flat out refused and said, "No, this one is special. She will like it."

 Another bucket list activity involved excavating treasures from ice blocks. I froze a bunch of Army men, jewels, plastic rings, and gold coins in bowls of colored water and let the kids try and uncover the toys using toy hammers, screwdrivers, and spoons.  

 This activity using a sock taped to the bottom of a water bottle and then dipped in dish soap and water turned out pretty neat. The bubbles formed long "snakes" and we added drops of food coloring for some extra pizzazz.

 For Chris' birthday on August 2nd, we went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse as a family and then did some back to school shopping at the Charlotte Outlet Malls. These three sweeties got new shoes (Riley insisted his be Sketchers because he is easily influenced by their commercials that come on during his TV shows and truly believes they will make him run faster) and the boys got some new clothes. Maggie is so blessed with friends giving us clothes that she really doesn't have any big clothing needs.

 When we got home from all our shopping, we ate some of the turtle cheesecake that I made.

Riley had a blast taking a few pictures with the camera as well! 

 It wasn't the creamiest cheesecake we've ever eaten (as you can see by Maggie's demonstration below), but it was okay. :)

 The following day we decided to go to Concord Mills to take Riley to the a Lego Store. He had some money from his 4K graduation that was just itching to be spent on a new building set. I LOVE how happy this little boy was about this trip and how he poured over the Lego sets for quite awhile before settling on his top 2 choices: a Ninjago set and a Superhero set. What I also really get a kick out of is that as soon as we got home, this little stinker was able to put together both sets (with more than 100 pieces each) with minimal help! I love that he can follow the "constructions" (his word for the instruction booklet) all by himself and only comes to us when he gets stuck with a piece.
 Here's a picture of our newly updated paint color and curtains in our living room.
 Some of our final summer bucket list items included making a boat track out of aluminum foil (it sorta worked), creating cereal and gummy Lifesaver necklaces (those were a big hit), and having a Random Acts of Kindness Day (where the kids got to hide dollar bills in the Dollar Tree aisle, put sticky notes with encouraging messages in public bathrooms, hold doors, and leave a bag of microwave popcorn at a Redbox). I sure have enjoyed our time together this summer and am sad to see it go, but as the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end." And yet, even though I know this means we have to go back to work and the kids start school and preschool...I have a feeling that there will still be some good things in store for us in all three of the remaining seasons! :)

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