Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reese's Masterpieces

My parents gave Reese art lessons for Christmas.  They are the perfect gift for her!

She loves going to art class.  She talks about her lessons constantly, and she asks me every. single. day. how many days she has to wait until her next Monday lesson.

I really like this class because they don't just focus on "making art" or coloring. They actually talk about artists, and then do a project based on their work.  Or they learn about types of art, and work on that. She made an African mask the first week.
And then she used chalk pastels to make a "caveman drawing," then a dot and line project, and an Inuit sculpture.
Aren't the frames neat?  Everything comes home with its own frame!
She was working on camouflage and monochromatic art this week.  Or as she called it, "monodramatic art."
She brought this home yesterday.  I'm glad we have plenty of room on the playroom walls!

I love how much she loves to create.  She would spend every second making something if she could.  She really wants me to take her to an art gallery (seriously).  She just wants to know how she can also get her art on display!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Busy Weekend

Our weekend was a little crazy (but so are most of our days).  We went to Mason's party on Saturday, but we still had about a million other things to do.

Wyatt has been taking ice skating lessons for seven weeks.  He's been improving, but he's in a group class, and it's hard for him to get one on one attention.  He took two private lessons last week, and his second was on Friday.  It's amazing the difference that I saw after those two lessons!  He's a bit of a blur on the ice now!
After his three o'clock skating lesson, he had a basketball game and a pizza party to end the season.  He has so much fun playing, but this kid is intense.  About basically everything in life.  Ha!
Brian also had his team meetings and drafts Friday night and Saturday morning, and then we left for Mason's party.  We were blocks away from the University of Richmond, which is where Brian went to college.  We had to take a quick drive through...on the day that High School Junior football players were touring the campus.  It was a little crazy!
It really is a beautiful campus!

Driving through campus did nothing to dissuade the Talls from their college choices.  Wyatt is currently thinking Notre Dame (because they have a hockey team), and Reese talks about Duke.  I'm not kidding.  She's still hanging on to that.

To finish off their college tour, Brian took Wyatt and Reese to an ODU game when we got home that night.  The Y planned it as an "end of the season bonus" for the players. They had so much fun!

Brian spent Sunday at the baseball fields dragging them and getting bases down.  Fortunately he had a great day for it, and the kids and I were able to get outside as well.  This little one insists on wearing her coat everywhere, though. If she sees it, she wants it on!

When Brian got home from he fields, he took the big kids to hit.  Baseball practice starts this week!  They need to get some last minute practice in!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mason's Turns Three!

Yesterday we made the two hour drive to Richmond for Mason's third birthday party!

The party was so fun for the kids.  They had a little obstacle course for them that included rings.
 And then a balance beam.
 Hudson really enjoyed it.  He was still talking about it today!
 I'm only posting this to remember his hair color.  He gets comments on it every. single. day!
 Mason leading everyone else to their next obstacle course - a trampoline and a few other fun things.  

Look at that giant walking behind Hudson.  Wait.  That's my oldest child.  Yikes!  When did he get so big?
 The attendees all stopped to pose for a birthday party picture.
 And then they got Mason strapped in the contraption.  He looks a little skeptical, doesn't he?
 And then they pulled him up and it was a large swing, which was awesome!  
 After some more trampoline time...

 Everyone gathered for pizza and cupcakes and some happy birthday singing!
Thanks for inviting us to your birthday party, Mason!  We had so much fun celebrating your special day!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five on Friday!

Friday's here! We have a birthday party for my sweet nephew, drafts for baseball (well, that's Brian's thing), and hopefully a few other fun things happening this weekend. But first I have to get through an afternoon of ice skating lessons for Wyatt, a basketball game for Wyatt, and my husband being at a draft meeting at bed time.  Ah! (Wine is on the horizon).

Here are a few things things going through my mind today!

The weather has been fabulous this week, but it's such a tease!  The kids have been spending their afternoons outside, I haven't been dreading dragging them out of the house.  I love it!

Gorgeous weather already as me checking out swimsuits for Reese this summer (I usually order the boys suits from Zulily's Hurley sales - they hold up well all summer).  Since she likes to have "options," I usually buy her a few suits from Target.  I'm really loving these two right now!

Wyatt has his final basketball game tonight!  This season has flown by...then again it started just before Christmas and that was almost two months ago.  They're having a pizza party tonight after the game, and tomorrow night they're going to an ODU basketball game. He's had a lot of fun playing this season, but I know that he's very ready for baseball and soccer season to start (and so am I, although I love the perk of being able to drop the Smalls off in the child care center at the Y during basketball games)!

Making reading more of a priority was on my resolution list this year.  So far I have read and finished Balancing It All by Candace Cameron Bure (I'll give it 2ish stars.  It's more practical common sense-y stuff mixed with a memoir).  I'm systematically (slowly) reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (it seems to work better for me if I read it and apply it, rather than just reading through), and I am almost finished with The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle.  I really like, it's a quick, fun read about marriage.  Next on my list (and my Kindle) are Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine (honestly, I'm halfway through but I stopped to read Melanie's book), and I'm going to read The Life You Imagine by Derek Jeter.  Yes.  I'm reading a book by Derek Jeter.  Honestly, I've read a lot about the way his parents raised him, and I think it might include some good nuggets of wisdom about raising a good kid.  And I'm also really sad about the whole retirement situation.  I have an entire list of things I want to read (and a stack of books two feet tall by my bed), so I want to just keep at it!

I am so, so excited about my birthday present from my mom and dad!  I'm getting a new lens for my camera!  We have prime, so I ordered it last night. I can't wait to start using it!  Brian got me Adobe Lightroom for Christmas, and I need to get that open and start playing around in there, too!


Earlier this week I blogged about my favorite places to stay at Disney World!  I have a few more posts to put together, but I want to space it all out a bit.  I'll probably post about Meal Plans and my take on character experiences next Tuesday - I am already getting the Disney bug again.  I'm thinking about a trip next February!  Has anyone traveled to Disney that time of year?  I hear it's slow and wait times are low!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Morning at the Aquarium

This is short, sweet, and mostly just pictures.  Ha!
We spent Presidents Day morning at the Aquarium.

Watching komodo dragons.
And fish!
Sidenote: Finley Quinn loved the fish.  I think this calls for a solo trip for her on a Tuesday or Thursday while everyone else is in school.
And turtles!

While the Smalls slept that afternoon, Brian took the Talls to see the Lego Movie.  It was a hit. 

Because everything is awesome!
(I had to go there.  It's all I've heard for three days.  Apparently we are moving on from Let it Go.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Disney Q&A - Where to Stay!

Okay, so I am NOT an expert, but I have lots of thoughts about what's good and what's not when it comes to staying at Disney World. Real mom with four kids who isn't paid for Disney advice kind of perspective - ha!

There are so many options that need to be weighed - cost, transportation, space, etc.  I'll do my best to highlight what I think is important (and feel free to ask if I haven't covered something you want to know!).

On or Off Property
So, the first choice is obviously whether you should stay on or off property.  I am 100% an advocate of ON property.

We have done both.  When we took Wyatt and Reese as itty bitty babies (19 months and 3 months), we stayed off property.  And while our condo was very nice - it wasn't ideal.  We stayed there because the kids and I tagged along on Brian's business trip.  I'm not a fan of tram parking if it's not needed (more about that here), and I'm also a big believer in the Disney Magic.  Cast members go out of their way to make your Disney experience an amazing one.

I am not exaggerating or stretching how wonderful the benefits of staying on property are.  First, you get the Extra Magic Hours in the parks.  And the bus transportation (so no rental). When Reese had to be taken to the hospital from Epcot on one visit (not to go into detail, but it would be a cautionary tale to always make sure your kids eat properly on vacation, ahem), the concierge desk added an extra day to all of our tickets with absolutely no questions. We were able to make up the time that we missed while she was in the hospital without having to pay out of pocket.  I was stressed to the max this year when they messed up our Magic Bands (to the max), and the concierge desk did everything humanly possible to make it better for me. If I had to choose and it was in my budget, I would always choose to stay at a resort.

Which Resort
When you decide to stay on property, there are so many resorts to choose from.  We have stayed at two of their Deluxe resorts (Wilderness Lodge three times and Animal Kingdom Lodge once), and we spent our last vacation at the new Art of Animation.

I don't have much perspective to offer about the moderate resorts, except to say that they're Disney resorts and probably amazing! And I know that some places (like the Swan and Dolphin) cater to more business type guests (for conferences - I think the MLB has held their GM conferences there), so I'm not sure how "kid friendly" they are.  My aunt stayed there on our last trip, and she really liked it, but I don't know that my kids would have loved it as much!

When it comes to finding a budget friendly place to stay, the value resorts are great!  Brian has stayed at the All Star Sports resort for work travel, and he thinks that it's an awesome place for kids to stay. We've had friends who stayed at the All Star Movie resort and they thought that it was great.  For our large family, our last trip required a large room that was also easy on  the wallet - and we chose to stay in a Lion King room at the Art of Animation.  It was amazing.  The kids absolutely loved everything about the themes.  We actually spent our first afternoon walking the resort, and they had a blast looking at all of their favorite movie characters.  The Nemo Pool was also a huge hit (when they finally made it there)!  The only downside to the resort was the dining area.  It was very, very, very slow.  We chose to eat in the parks some nights just to avoid having to eat at the resort. I think the key to understanding a Disney Value resort is knowing that it isn't "perfect" but it is probably better than most cheaper places to stay.  

When it comes to Deluxe recommendations: Wilderness Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Wilderness Lodge.  I am sad to say that unless we go back with my in laws and put a kid in their room we probably won't be able to stay there again. Wilderness Lodge only allows 5 people in a room, and we don't fit that bill.  Although, I'm sure Brian's parents would make that sacrifice to go back!  We absolutely love everything about it.  The views, the boat ride to the Magic Kingdom, the easy bus lines, the Roaring Forks restaurant (it doesn't have tons of seating available, but the food is so good), and just how absolutely beautiful the resort is.  It is amazing.

Our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge wasn't my favorite.  The hotel was pretty, and it was nice to see the animals from our room, but I didn't think the food or dining was spectacular, the staff wasn't up to my Disney standards, and the walk to our room took forever (and it seemed like it would be that way for most people).  I would never pay that money (ever) to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge again. I would definitely choose Art of Animation over that Deluxe resort!

I hope that gives a but of insight into resort options in Florida, and it makes planning a vacation a little bit easier! I still have a few other posts - what to do by age, meal plan or no meal plan, can't miss characters, and which ticket to buy - so make sure to check back!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Weekends never seem long enough, do they?

On Friday afternoon, Brian got home from work and I begged him to get me out of the house.  The cold weather and kids cooped up inside had driven me to the point that I just needed to get out!  So we loaded them up in the car and took a little drive before he left for the hockey game.  

Saturday was basically the same.  I am almost never a person who begs to get out of the house on Saturdays - I spend so much time running around during the week, and so much time trying to get out of the house as soon as we wake up on Saturdays in the fall and spring. In the winter I just want to stay home.  This weekend we colored for a bit and then ran errands.  If I turn Disney Radio on Pandora, Brian and I can actually have an adult conversation while the kids sing.
Wyatt had a late basketball game, so I made him fit in reading time beforehand.  I'm trying to find special reading spots for each of them, so they have a place that is comfortable, but also good for their imagination.  So far, the tee pee is a winner for Wyatt.  Reese likes to go upstairs and sit by the window - although she does want a "comfier place" in her new room!
Hudson had his first Star Wars experience on Saturday night when he watched The Phantom Menace.  He's hooked.  But if we follow the "Daddy Plan" he won't watch another movie until he's four and it will be A New Hope.  That's what the geek squad calls the original Star Wars movie (I kid, I kid.).  Wyatt is sworn to secrecy about the fact that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader who is Luke's father and also Leia's father because they are twins. For serious.  My 6 year old has been keeping it from the other kids for a year. He's also been told not to tell kids at school. That's impressive and kind of crazy.
Finley is back to her old stethoscope ways.  She's also very into hats right now.  
These kids have a real knack for driving me bonkers at Target lately.  Hudson only wants to sit in the front of the cart.  Finley doesn't want to be put down.  On Sunday they came to an agreement for about 30 seconds that this made them both happy.  It didn't last long, but it sure was sweet.
And after the epic battle of good-ish versus evil-ish on Sunday night, we had backyard races.

Yep, backyard races.

Reese thinks that she's faster than Wyatt. (She totally is).
Wyatt doesn't think so.
So...backyard races.

There was stretching.
And running (and cheating).
And really, she went 2 for 3.
Her winning streak was a good way to end the weekend (for her anyway).

And then, you know, they went to bed early because The Walking Dead  and Downton Abbey were coming on.  The end.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

An Epic Battle

After weeks of snow and bitter cold, there are days where I really just want to open the door and tell the kids to get outside.

Just. get. out. side.

Reesie has been going outside to practice tee ball (her sport of choice this spring).  Wyatt and Hudson have just been running.  And today (after a Phantom Menace viewing last night. And another this morning.), they decided to have a light saber duel.  They're both Jedi Training Academy graduates, so this really could have gone either way.
 Reese is good on defense.
 But Wyatt has a more aggressive, "take no prisoners" mentality.
But Reese also takes breaks to smile.  Who smiles during a light saber battle?
The answer is Reese.  Reese stops to smile. And drops her light saber.  
Wyatt wins.

We'll have to see what happens with the rematch.  They're also really into sprinting races across the backyard.  Basically, if it involves competing with each other, these two are ready.  And it makes for some real happy days, let me tell ya.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Disney World Q&A

I figured that since I'm a bit of a Disney um, expert/fanatic/frequent traveler, it might be fun to do a Q&A post for people who haven't traveled there yet or are currently planning a trip.

While I am by no means an expert, I do have lot of experience and have stayed at a few different resorts (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).  And, honestly, I love talking Disney and helping people plan their days - and with kids of all ages (and boys and girls), I have lots of thoughts!  And, I need a reason to post our PhotoPass pictures from this year!  Ha!

So leave a comment below or on Facebook, and I will answer it (and I might also be planning our next trip).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jeep Buddies

Brian has been driving his trusty 1995 Jeep for almost 19 years.

It is a great vehicle, and we've put lots of money into over the last few years (including a new engine and new tires. Lots and lots of fun), but we still didn't think it was the best way for Brian to get back and forth to work every day (his commute is almost entirely a two lane, windy road).

And today, we (well, he) sold it.
He actually came to the agreement with guy last night, but all the kids wanted to take one last ride in it tonight.  Brian just did a quick loop around the neighborhood, but they loved it.  They are all "Jeep Buddies" after all.

This little one was first up.
(Sidenote: she's a "colorful person.  That's why she has a purple jacket, pink leggings, blue and green mismatched socks, and silver shoes.  Really.)
 And little brother was next.
 This was only his second ride!  I know it's crazy, but it was really only ever used for commuting, so he's only had the chance to catch a ride with Daddy once before
 This is how everyone felt about selling the Jeep (except me.  I'm happy Brian will finally be able to pick up some of my carpool slack!  The Jeep could only fit one car seat, which meant that when we had to "divide and conquer," it usually meant "Brian takes one kid and I take the other three.").

And of course we had to find a way to get our girl Noelley in the picture.  This was her commuting car every day for 13 years!
 And don't rake me over the coals for this.  I let Finley go for a ride, too.  She was forward facing for a quick loop around the neighborhood.  We had to let her experience it.  And there's no rear facing car seat that would fit in a '95 Jeep Wrangler.
 The good news is that she was a little traumatized by the forward facing experience.
 And after her quick three minute loop around the neighborhood, she was more shell shocked.  Definitely sticking with the rear facing car seat for the long term!  Oh, the things we didn't know 6 years ago when we turned Wyatt around on his first birthday.
 This guy was the first "Jeep Buddy."  After all the other kids took a spin, we took out the car seat and put his booster in (the car seat was a. pain.)  He has been Brian's most frequent co-rider, especially after baseball and soccer games.  He was the most upset that it was leaving.  
Once upon a time, Brian thought he might give his Jeep to Wyatt one day.  But now we know he:
1) May not ever be allowed to drive, and
2) Will definitely have air bags.  And a more permanent-ish roof.
Brian gave the Jeep once last hug (ha!), and then we took it to the new owner's house.
Really, it's only 5 minutes away.  And it's new owner lives next door to one of Brian's co-workers. I have a feeling this wasn't good-bye forever.  We'll be seeing it out on the road again soon!