Monday, July 28, 2014

First Movie in a Theater

A couple weekends ago (on the kids' birthday weekend), Mom, Dad, Jason and I took the kids to their very first movie in a theater.  The cheap theater was playing the Lego movie, so we decided to give it a try.  For $15, all seven of us were able to see the matinee.  The kids loved it.  Miles was especially enamored with it, but Vivienne and Evelyn enjoyed it as well.  The girls got a little squirmy toward the end, but we actually made it through the entire movie with all of us in the theater.  It was a great way to spend a gloomy afternoon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Walkie Talkies

I just love this photo of him, playing with walkie talkies with his sister on the playground.  All smiles and big blue eyes.  I love this boy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miles and Vivienne's Birthday

Last Friday was Miles and Vivienne's birthday, so we celebrated in style when Daddy got home from work.  Grandma and Grandad also came over, and then we headed to Mellow Mushroom for some pizza.  We virtually never take the kids out to restaurants that involve a wait staff (and don't involve chicken nuggets), so this was a real treat for them.

We were lucky that they had a guy there making balloon animals.  The kids had never really seen this before, and they were highly entertained by it.  Vivienne chose a pink monkey and Miles got a gray elephant.  Evelyn was delighted with her pink frog.

After pizza (and an epic meltdown from Miles), we went back home to open gifts and enjoy some cake and ice cream.  Luckily Miles calmed down as soon as he realized we would be opening presents.  They both really enjoyed opening all of their presents.

Vivienne's favorites were probably her Elsa cape (from the movie Frozen).  She has been running around the house dragging a blanket behind her, pretending to have a train on her dress.  Now she has something just like the movie.

Miles' favorites seem to be his Imaginext dinosaurs.  He has really been loving playing with the app on my iPhone, so I knew he would love the dinosaurs in real life.

After presents, we had the cake and ice cream.  Miles requested an airplane cake, and Viv requested an Elsa cake.  I spent hours that week baking and icing these.  The cakes are a lot of work, but I really enjoy it.

At the end of the day, we had a couple very happy, well celebrated kids.  I can't believe my sweet, tiny babies are now 4 years old.  They will be starting preschool next month.  I am thankful for each day I have with them.  Happy birthday, Miles and Vivi!

(We have one more celebration with friends tomorrow, because certainly ONE birthday celebration is just not enough!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hot Date

We actually go on dates every now and then.  And we clean up pretty well!  :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa Visit

Grandma and Grandpa (Fox) came to visit us a couple weeks ago.  We were lucky to have great weather while Lila and Keith were here, so we spent much of our time outdoors.  We went swimming, picked blueberries, rode bikes and made a trip to our favorite local museum in Durham.  We have visited this museum many, many times before, but it had been a while since we had been there, so it was somewhat fresh and new for the kids again.

The first stop was the fort and caboose outside.  Miles and Vivienne never tire of climbing through that caboose.

We also rode the train.  I can't believe my big girl can ride in her own seat now.  How did that happen?

Miles snuggled up with Grandpa for his ride around the tracks.

And Evelyn sat next to her Grandma.

We also made our way out to the boats, Miles' favorite part of the museum right now.  They have smaller and larger sail boats, and he loves steering them around on the little pond.

We also spent some time indoors, which is unusual.  The kids explored some areas that have previously gone unnoticed.  We learned about lift (my personal favorite).  The kids could put shapes and cups into these vertical wind tunnels to watch them float up to the ceiling and shoot out the sides.

We learned about orbits and rotation and momentum.

It was just a really fun day with their grandparents.  They also got their birthday gifts from Grandma and Grandpa on this visit, so that was a lot of fun.

We are so blessed to have them make the trek from Indiana to see us a few times a year, and the kids literally count the days until their arrival.  They are already counting the days until their next visit, when we will go to the beach together.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Canoeing on Bond Lake

Last weekend, Evelyn wasn't feeling great, so I took her to the pediatrician (on a Saturday - whoohoo!) with Vivienne.  Jason grabbed the opportunity to have some guy time with Miles.  The kids rarely get true one-on-one time with us, so it was quite a treat for Miles to spend the morning with his Daddy.

They started out with biscuits from Bojangles… always a special treat!

After their second breakfast (because we had already had oatmeal and eggs that morning!), Jason took him to nearby Bond Lake to play on the playground.  After milling around the playground for a bit, Jason asked him if he wanted to go rent a boat.  They decided to try a canoe (we have done paddle boats before, but not canoes).  They got their oars and were off!

Jason said that they went around the lake a few times (obviously much MUCH faster than the paddle boats we got last time).  After their hour was up, Miles cried when they had to return to shore.

I know he's looking forward to more special time with his dad, and I hope we can find ways to carve out these special days more often.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy 4th Birthday, Miles and Vivienne!

I want to take more time later to write a formal post about their birthday festivities… but wanted to throw down some quick thoughts with my coffee this morning.

Four years ago today, I was at the hospital, in labor with my first children.  I was nervous.  I didn't want to have a c-section and I wasn't sure how their birth was going to go.  The epidural was keeping me pretty comfortable by this time.  I thought I knew how these babies were going to affect our lives, but now I realize that I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen.  I guess you just don't know what you don't know.

Then, just before 11 am, Miles and Viv were born, 3 minutes apart.  No c-section.  Beautiful, perfect babies.

Right now, those beautiful babies are in their 4T and 5T clothes in the family room watching Umi Zumi with their baby sister.  They use words like "similar" and "contrail" and can hold a conversation.  They give me the deepest joy and the biggest challenge of my life.

I honestly say, without hesitation or regret, that they have helped me discover more of who I truly am.  I love you more than I knew possible, Miles and Viv.  And I love you every minute of every day and always will, no matter what.

Happy birthday.

Heavenly Hideaway in Asheville

A couple of weeks ago, Jason and I took a much needed break from the kids and headed to the mountains.  It was four glorious nights without children.  My parents took them from Sunday evening through Thursday morning.

Sunday night, we just cleaned (surprise!) and got things done around the house.  I think both Jason and I find it a lot easier to relax while we are away if we know that we are coming home to clean house.  There are also always so many things that need to be done at home (hanging a new towel rack, putting out the bird feeder, etc) that always go undone.  It is so nice to catch up a bit.

Before we had children, if we traveled, we always flew.  So we would go on more distant vacations and trips for triathlons.   We never explored our state at all, and we had never been to the beach or the mountains here (or really even driven past Raleigh).  Of course, now we are regular visitors of the beach (twice each summer), but it was due time to explore the mountains.

Monday morning, we left fairly early for Asheville after "sleeping in" until about 8 and having a leisurely breakfast at home.  We arrived at our "Heavenly Hideaway", and it was perfect.  It is a beautiful log cabin (though that makes it sounds much more rustic than it actually was) in the mountains.  It has gorgeous vaulted wood ceilings and log beams, a perfect kitchen for two, a swing on the balcony outside and a hot tub under the stars.  It was absolutely perfect for us.

The first thing we did was to lace on our hiking shoes and explore the land around the cabin.  It is laced with artistic touches and wooden characters like this one:

There is a small pond with a paddle boat and a field of blueberries.  We stopped to sample some blueberries and made our way up the nearby mountain.  On our way up, we came across a couple of wild turkeys.  We were on the lookout for a black bear that the owner said had been spotted on her land 3 times in the last few weeks, but it apparently wasn't too hungry that afternoon.

The map said that this trip should take about an hour and a half.  We did it in about 40 minutes and were very proud of ourselves.  :)  At the top of the mountain, there was a little mailbox with a guest book to sign.  Here we are at the top:

It became immediately clear on this hike that rhododendrons are in bloom this time of year.  They were everywhere.  I also found out during our trip that they are called mountain laurel.

That evening, we also went to explore downtown Asheville, which was very interesting.  It is certainly the crunchiest city I have ever been to in North Carolina.  There are lots of yogis and dreadlocks and vegan restaurants.  It was a fun change of pace.  We tried a couple local restaurants that were pretty good, but I think we preferred the mountains to the city.  Though there was the French Broad Chocolate Lounge… pretty sure I could visit that place every day and never tire of it.  Who doesn't love a chocolate lounge?

On Tuesday, we took the Blue Ridge Parkway to the top of Mount Mitchell.  The peak is at 6,684 feet, and it is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  The views from the top were incredible.  We thought we were going to hike around 11 miles.  After we got started, it became abundantly clear that we were not going to make it that far.  We were stepping up and down steps that were 2-3 feet high and crossing small streams and walking on slippery walks.  It was incredibly fun, but a more much technical hike than we had anticipated.  I had actually asked Jason earlier in the morning if he wanted to try to run it.  I don't think so.

I was surprised to find that the top of Mt. Mitchell is a rain forest.  It's not tropical, but it's a rain forest.  It is absolutely covered in moss and ferns… incredibly beautiful.  The trees are mostly spruces and firs and it's like walking through a huge natural Christmas tree farm.  The air was so damp and cool and refreshing.  It was a perfect day for a hike.  We didn't come across any black bears, but we did startle some ruffled grouse.  Sun and clouds and streams and tennis shoes and my fun husband… just a great day.

At the very end, we raced each other to the very peak of Mt. Mitchell.  Jason won, of course.  And then we were attacked by an incredible swarm of these tiny black bugs.  I mean they were everywhere.  They were all over the sidewalk and handrails and all over the people at the top.  That was unfortunate, but entertaining.  It was actually kind of gross, so we snapped a couple pictures and ran back down to the car.

The hike was definitely my favorite part of the trip.  We would do that again in a heartbeat.  Next time, I would wear our hiking boots instead of tennis shoes, though.  It was very wet and slippery and boots would have been more appropriate.

After our hike, we ate at the restaurant at the top and rested our legs for a while before heading back down.

On our last morning at the Heavenly Hideaway, we gathered our own eggs from the chicken coop for breakfast.  I have to say that they were dirtier than I had anticipated.  But it was still really cool to eat straight from a coop, and to take a few dozen home with us as well.

We packed up our bags and headed over to the Biltmore Estate.  We had been on the fence about visiting because of the expensive tickets, but we were gifted a couple tickets by someone at our church (Thank you, Bonnie!), and I'm so glad we went.

Jason and I had not been there before, and we were shocked at the opulence.  This truly was the closest thing I have ever seen to European castles in America.  They spared no expense.  250 rooms and thousands of acres of land with beautiful gardens.  We did the audio tour, which was was informative and interesting.  After that, we walked around the gardens for a while.  I would have loved to have looked at the gardens longer, but it was about 95 degrees and we had gotten a late start, so we cut that a bit short.

Before heading back to Raleigh, we made one final stop at 12 Bones Smokehouse.  The ribs were very good and it was the perfect way to round off our wonderful weekend away.

I have not yet mentioned that on our way to Asheville (about a 4-hour drive), Jason's air conditioner went out on his car.  So we drove 4 hours in about 95 degrees with no air conditioner.  It was hot and uncomfortable, but still totally worth the 2 nights away, just the two of us.

Thanks for the amazing trip, Jason!  And thanks for keeping the kiddos for us, Mom and Dad!  I look forward to doing this more often in the future.  Hawaii, here we come!  ;)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Evelyn's First Braid

Today I put the first braid in Evelyn's hair.  It was a simple rope twist, because I can do it quickly and it holds very well.  Hopefully she loves having her hair braided as much as her sister does.  I'm looking forward to much more braiding in this girl's future.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Growing Up

I guess our little boy really is growing up.  In the past month or so, there has been a notable increase in his use of "Mom" and "Dad" instead of "Mommy" and "Daddy."  He started doing this on his own, and we're not even sure where he got it (because most of their cartoons don't involve any moms or dads).  I hope I can get him to call me "Mommy" for just a little while longer.  Or maybe at least until he's 22.