Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End.

So, I've been thinking about it lately... I post less and less on this blog as the kids get older and life gets busier. I think I am done blogging! For real! And as this year winds down and I approach the nine year anniversary of this blog, I think it's just time to be done. Going forward, I think I will just make annual photo books instead of blog books. And for those of you who are not on Facebook but like to keep up with us, I will post all my favorite pictures on a Flickr site, too. I just won't be writing as much as I have been with the blog. But a picture is worth a thousand words, right?


Anyway, I do feel compelled to wrap up 2015. So brace yourself for one final epic post!! I have a million pictures and videos. I shall do my best.

So I left off a few weeks back, but it's been a very BUSY few weeks (as December often is). Niko started basketball again, which he's been enjoying (and Gus is the one who takes him every Saturday, which I've been enjoying!). And on the 10th, we went to make gingerbread houses at Caryn's house. The very first time I met Caryn was when she invited us to make gingerbread houses less than a week after we moved here in 2011! It's an annual tradition! :)
A few days later, Maya announced that she wanted to bake cookies all by herself. We were planning to go to a living nativity performance at one of the farms back behind us, anyway, and we needed to bring a plate of cookies to share. So I figured, sure... she can do this! And she did! She did a FANTASTIC job, and the cookies were excellent!
We ended up going out to dinner that evening. Afterwards, on a whim, I suggested we might go on a drive to see some Christmas lights. I had heard about a house in Leicester that had an interesting setup, and it looked like it might be fun. And it was a nice night-- relatively warm, no ice or snow. Perfect conditions. So we went!
Somewhere in there, Maya heard back from Santa Claus. She had mailed him a letter at the Festival of Trees, and he wrote back! She was beside herself!!
We also had to make a gingerbread house for the contest at Gus' work. We actually ended up winning second place with our gingerbread chicken coop! :)
And then it was time for the kids' holiday concert at school. They were adorable, as always! The full video is here, if you'd like to see!
And then, BAM! It was Christmas! And it was 60 degrees outside! We had a great time with my parents living so close now. They came for dinner on Christmas Eve, back for presents the next morning, and then for dinner that afternoon. There are advantages to being only ten minutes away!
One of Gus' presents was a small drone. Good thing it was such a nice day-- perfect for flying!
And Maya got me a selfie stick, so we were able to get a group pic at dinner using my phone! :)
The few days after Christmas were pretty quiet. We went to go see the newest Star Wars movie, which all four of us thoroughly enjoyed (but only three of us had shirts, haha! Mine is from 1999...).
And both kids had a great time playing with all their new goodies. Maya was especially proud of this scarf she made for herself using her new loom.
And then , finally, it SNOWED!!! I think we actually broke the record this year for the latest measurable snow in the season. But we finally got some! It wasn't much, and it was VERY icy, but it was enough to play in. And probably enough that we should have cleared the driveway, but it appears to be melting now (a few days later... ha).
And that brings us to today, New Year's Eve. The last day of 2015. And the last post on this blog. It's bittersweet, letting this go, but it will still be here if I ever change my mind. And until then... see you on Flickr! And Happy New Year!!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

We had a very nice, peaceful Thanksgiving at my parents' house this year. Lots of yummy food and drinks, and everyone ate their fill! I attempted to take a group picture, and it turned out pretty badly. Especially in color! So here is the best version. I will blame all the wine!
As soon as we got home that afternoon, we decorated the tree. I had been chomping at the bit to decorate, and it took every fiber of my being to "respect the turkey" (to quote Niko). I must say, though, that the kids did a fantastic job getting the ornaments up this year. They were careful to make sure they were distributed evenly, and made sure every ornament was secure. They are getting so grown up! How did that happen??
The next day, Black Friday, I went out shopping in the morning with my friend, Caryn. We were already 99% done with our Christmas shopping, so it was an excuse to buy some new clothes for ourselves and get coffee, mainly. We had a great time! I was home before lunchtime, and got all the outside decorations up in the afternoon. I'd say it looks pretty good, inside and out!
On December 1st, we celebrated our four-year "Massiversary." I can't believe it's been four years since we woke up in this house for the first time! In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. Other times it feels like it was yesterday. Still, all things considered, and despite being something we could have never anticipated, this move ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to us. We love it here, and love the four years of memories we have already made. Here's to many more!
And then we got the kids' school pictures for the year. I always feel compelled to buy these for posterity, even though I have thousands of better pictures. But I present to you: their official photos for the 2015-2016 school year!
And some better pictures of those same two goofballs in front of the Christmas tree. :)
That brings us to this weekend, and the Festival of Trees! This is a great annual event in our town. We didn't go our very first year (first WEEK) of living here, but we have been every year since. Santa is there, and you can bring letters to him (and he will write back!).
In addition to Santa, there are rooms filled with beautifully decorated Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and wreaths. Different people and organizations can buy a spot and design their trees how they wish, with all the proceeds going to to town Historical Society. Our Cub Scout pack had a tree, and the second graders from the kids' school had a wreath. All the kids made these cute little owl finger puppets in art class (our school mascot is an owl). Here is Niko pointing to his owl:
After we admired all of the trees and cast our votes for our favorite ones, the kids turned in their scavenger hunt cards and received little baggies of "reindeer food" to sprinkle outside on Christmas Eve. Then we went home and had a delicious dinner of chili and cornbread before heading back over for the official town tree lighting.
We will likely head back over to the Festival of Trees after lunch today, to go on an antique fire truck ride and maybe listen to the live music. But it's Niko's name day, so he is calling the shots! Cinnamon rolls for breakfast and a local diner for lunch. No complaints here!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


WOW, this month has gotten away from me! It actually hasn't been as busy in terms of activities, but it hasn't helped that I've been sick. Anyway... let me catch up!

The last post I shared was on the morning of Niko's birthday. He had a pretty relaxing day at home. We went out to breakfast at his favorite local diner, he opened his presents, and he spent the rest of the day playing with his new stuff and watching the Patriots game on TV. My parents came over in the afternoon and then stayed for pizza and cake. He is officially 8!
And before I go on, check out his big present from us... he was a very happy little Cub Scout! :)
With his birthday out of the way, it was on to the next holiday for us-- Halloween! We had already selected all our pumpkins, but we needed to carve them, of course! This was the first year where the kids really carved their pumpkins all by themselves. I still had to scoop out all of the pumpkin guts, though. Maybe next year...
And then it actually WAS Halloween, which meant costumes and trick-or-treating (naturally!). The kids had a good time trick-or-treating with Evan and Paige for the fourth year in a row, and we were especially impressed that Niko kept his cardboard head on for most of the time. He had TERRIBLE visibility in that thing, so it took some dedication!
And ever since then, with soccer ending and things just generally quieting down, I haven't taken many pictures! The leaves have all fallen, and the unusually warm fall we've had is starting to turn cold (how it's supposed to be-- we've been spoiled!). Maya enjoyed jumping in the leaves on one of the warmer days a few weeks ago...
Now we are in holiday mode again. Today is the last day of school for the kids this week, and we will be spending Thanksgiving at my parents' house. I'm done with grocery shopping for the week, and have already dragged down all the Christmas decorations so that we can put them up on Friday (confession: some are already up. Niko has chastised me repeatedly for "disrespecting the turkey," haha!). I am 99.9% done with Christmas shopping AND wrapping already. I am ready!! :) We just need a little snow, and it will be perfect!

One final random picture: Maya and the cat. We are entering the time of year where the vast majority of my pictures will be taken indoors. sigh. But it is what it is!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Niko's 8th Birthday Letter

Dear Niko,

Today you are EIGHT!! We blinked and you somehow turned into a big kid, with feet nearly as big as mine! Our socks are constantly getting mixed up in the laundry. And you're just over a foot shorter than I am, but I am sure my lead won't last for too much longer. You are growing like a weed!

This past year has been marked by both physical and cognitive growth. You are so smart, and your ability to reason through problems and get things done continues to amaze us. You love to read, and have blasted through pretty much the entire Magic Treehouse series this year, along with too many other chapter books to count. Your math skills also put you at the head of the class, as I got to witness firsthand recently as your substitute teacher. And while you profess to not enjoy writing, you are quite good at that, too. These things come very easily to you, and for that you are so very lucky! Homework is a breeze, and your errors are always of the careless, rushing-through-work-to-get-it-done variety. You seem to enjoy school, too, and your teachers are always saying how quiet and well-behaved you are in the classroom. I'm glad to hear it, since I know full well that you are not always quiet nor well-behaved at home!

What's funny is that the older you get, the more I recognize traits in your personality that have been there since you were a tiny baby-- we just didn't know what we were looking at. You have a very strong opinion on most subjects. And if you want something, you will pursue it relentlessly. Little baby Niko was the same way, he just didn't have the words to say it (so he screamed and cried). You are stubborn as a mule, which is both a good trait and a frustrating one. It is very tough to get you to try new things but, at the same time, you will never be the kid who gives in to peer pressure. You don't do anything unless you've really thought about it and WANT to do it. We can constantly see the wheels spinning in your brain, trying to figure out how to turn a situation to your advantage. And that is definitely a skill that will help you later in life! We've said for years now that you are our future lawyer, and that hasn't changed!

You have lots of friends at school and are generally well-liked, though you prefer to play with one or two kids at a time instead of a big group. You generally don't choose to play sports at recess, preferring to instead play games that require your imagination. Minecraft is always a popular choice. In fact, Minecraft is your favorite everything right now. You love the video game and would play it all hours of the day, if you could. You read the handbooks that go with the game. You build with Minecraft legos. You are dressing as a Minecraft character for Halloween. And... you get the point. You love anything and everything associated with Minecraft, as do a lot of other kids your age. So of course you choose to pretend to be IN the world of Minecraft at recess time.

Despite your big feet, big brain, and big opinions, you are still our baby. You still give us the best snuggles. And despite pretending to be embarrassed when you see me in the hallway at your school, you still let me give you a hug and I know you are secretly happy I am there. You're a good kid, Niko, and we love you more than we ever thought we could possibly love a screaming little baby. Happy Birthday, buddy! It's going to be a great year!

All our love,
Mommy, Daddy, and Maya

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More Fall Fun!

We have had one of the prettiest falls this year! While the weather has suddenly gotten quite a bit colder and some trees are already shedding their leaves, there are still plenty that have not. Lots of color everywhere! I love it!

Anyway, after I last posted, the kids had a soccer game. Both of them have improved so much this season, in terms of their playing skills! They are fun to watch! And Niko, as one of the older kids on the team, gets a LOT of play time. I love it!

Later that same weekend, we went to AppleFest up at the local ski resort. We've gone every year since moving here, so it's a tradition. And now, Gus' company actually pays for our admission and food, and hosts a private tent inside where we can eat and hang out. It became their annual family event (suggested by Gus!). So that worked out well! My parents joined us for a bit, too, though it was VERY cold. Right around freezing, and much colder (painfully so) at the top of the ski lift. But it was pretty! I didn't take a ton of pictures because my fingers were frozen, but here are a few.
(see the white spots on my hair? More on that in a minute...) The best part of AppleFest this year was this contraption, though. I could have stood there and watched them launch pumpkins all day long, ha!
So, after lunch, we were huddling in the tent to try and warm up when I happened to look outside and see SNOW. What?? At the same time, my phone buzzed with a text message from my parents (who had left) saying that it was snowing on them. It came and went the rest of the afternoon. But this video was taken from my car when we got back home. Interestingly enough, I was driving over to my parents' house to drop something off. By the time I got to the center of our town (less than a mile away) it was sunny with bright blue skies. Go figure!
That brings us to this weekend! It's only Saturday, but we have had a longer weekend than usual. On Thursday, the kids had an early release day at school so that the teachers could do their monthly professional development. Gus and I picked them up at lunchtime, and we headed to Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate Niko's birthday in style! We have a deal with the kids where they only get friend birthday parties every other year. On the alternating years, they can have some kind of special experience (Maya went to the American Girl doll store this year). Niko was dead set on Great Wolf Lodge. But it was SO expensive that I had pretty much written it off as a possibility. Until I got an email about a 48-hour flash sale and heavily discounted rates on certain days of the week. Everything fell into place, and we booked it! They did miss school one day (Friday), but I had talked to their teachers about it ahead of time and everything was squared away.

We got to the lodge at around 2pm, after a stop for lunch along the way. Side note: we totally went the wrong way. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, and only about 20-25 minutes to get home (via the beautiful back roads). OOPS! It's much closer than we realized, and we shouldn't have taken the freeway! The kids were instantly in love with our fancy hotel room, which had a separate little "Wolf Den" for them, complete with bunk beds and their own TV. They would have just stayed their the entire time, I think, haha!
We did, however, get ourselves changed into our swimsuits, and had a blast exploring the two water parks for a few hours. Gus and I went down the waterslides, but could not convince either kid to join us. But they were fine with that. We floated around the lazy river, shot hoops, and played in the wave pool. They didn't have any desire to go on the slides, and that was fine.

After we got back to the room and changed, we decided to go out and explore the hotel. On our way back to the room, we picked up a pepperoni pizza that was (surprisingly) reasonably priced.
After dinner, the kids changed into Halloween costumes. Not the real ones they will actually be wearing this year, but ones that fit easily into the suitcase. :) Great Wolf Lodge celebrates Halloween every single night during the month of October, and so the kids got to go Trick-or-Treating in the hotel.
After we changed out of our costumes, we went in search of Niko's free birthday ice cream. We got that (plus a scoop for Maya) and then explored the arcade. Niko was desperate to try to win a Minecraft toy. Despite knowing how these machines work and that they are completely rigged, he begged us for the chance to try. And, it was his birthday trip, so we let him (and no, he didn't win. Neither did Maya.).
And then it was time for bed. They watched tv from their bunk beds for a little bit, then hit the hay.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast in our room, we were back to the water parks! I didn't stay in as long as they did because I haven't been feeling well. So I actually got some photos! Before I got out of the water, though, I managed to convince Maya to go down a waterslide with me. She seemed to like it, but changed her story after the fact. Niko still wanted nothing to do with them. And that's okay.
I even got a few videos while I waited. The first was from the room with the wave pool:
And then I took this from our table (in the other room) while we waited for our lunch. That giant bucket is the reason Maya wouldn't go on this play structure at all. I'm not sure I blame her!
After a quick lunch, we headed home. We mostly just relaxed for a few hours, since we had a busy evening ahead of us. The kids had another soccer game. The weather was sunny and clear, but COLD. I was frozen all the way through by the end of this one! Niko, however, was in top form. His ball handling skills are amazing!
From the game, we ran home and changed out of soccer gear and into Halloween costumes (still not their real costumes). Then we went to the Cub Scout pack meeting/Halloween party. Niko received another belt loop (that's him dressed as a football player), and Maya had a great time. Half of the Tiger Cubs this year are little boys from her first grade class, including her good buddy, Brendan. So she had plenty of friends to talk to. :)
And that brings us to today! After a glorious night's sleep, we spent the morning cleaning. And I baked a cake for a little boy who turns 8 tomorrow:
He is currently out on a hike with the scouts, and they are making foil packet dinners tonight. The plan for tomorrow is to go out to breakfast, open presents, and carve pumpkins. My parents will come over later in the afternoon, and we will make pizza and have cake for dessert. I'm thinking that the birthday boy will have had a pretty great long weekend! :)