Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family Reunion

A couple weeks ago we went to Discovery Bay on the Olympic Peninsula and stayed at the Worldmark by Wyndham property. Dad and Sally used up a bunch of their points and got 5 condos for the 5 families going. It's hard to know what it's going to be like before you get there but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised! The condos were really nice and allowed all the families to have their own space. Spending time together is great but with 20 people it was nice to have a bit of space to give some family routine to our day. It was a great mix.

We all arrived on Saturday and got settled in. I went grocery shopping....hungry. Dumb move. I had enough for all 20 of us. The kids went swimming with Bob and we all had a quiet night.

Sunday we went to Fort Warden. It's an old fort with giant abandoned bunkers. They are amazing and the kids thought it was really cool. The boys played Star Wars all over the place. Sophia went to the beach. It was a bit cool but pretty dry, no complaints.

Sunday evening the families had a pot luck and generally enjoyed each other's company.

Monday we all went to the Olympic Game Farm. That was lots of fun and the kids really loved it. It's a place where retired animal actors go so the animals are really tame. This is the place to go if you want to see an elk or llama's snout up REALLY close. Like in your car...

It was pretty impressive. Apparently this is where all of the Disney movies about animals from the 50's through the 70's were shot. Grizzly Adams is the only one I can think of right now. But there were movies about lions, cougars, wolves, foxes etc. All of which are either still there or their off spring are.

That evening we all had dinner and then convened at Oma and Papa's condo for the reveal. The reveal of what? The secret ingredient for the kids IRON CHEF dessert contest. Kendra and Todd's family participated in an Iron Chef competition at home and said it was really fun so they thought we should do the same. The secret ingredient was.....Peaches. The kids broke off into 4 teams and really did some impressive work. They had an hour to come up with their creations. It was great fun and they all did great work. We all ate it up!!!!

Bob had to leave Monday night for a meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. He took our car so we needed to depend on the rest of the crowd for rides. Luckily, there were some really big cars there so we were able to hitch rides.

Tuesday was spent wandering around Port Townsend. It's such a cute town. We really took it slow. We sat on a pier for an hour or so and then went to get ice cream. Now that is a good day.

Wednesday we got up at the crack of dawn to catch a ferry to Victoria. The ferry was at 8:30 which meant that we had to get up at about 6:15. Surprisingly we were on the road by 7. When you are working with about 20 people and half of them are kids it can be tricky.

The ferry is a nice way to travel. We left our cars in Port Angeles since you can walk or take a cab almost everywhere in Victoria. On the ferry ride up we discussed what time we would leave. Knowing my kids were really tired I said that I thought we would come back on the 3:30 ferry. Everyone else wanted to stay until the 7:30 ferry. The only problem was that Bob had our Portland. My dad said we could have the keys to his car and they would come back with someone else. We did the math and the remaining cars could handle the crowd. Great!

When we arrived in Victoria we all talked a bit about what everyone was going to do. The majority were going to go to the history museum. My kids weren't interested in doing that. I have learned when I am travelling with my kids, especially when I am alone, that I need to discuss the agenda with them and we make decisions together. They wanted to eat, go to the bathroom and go to China Town. Great! Sounds good to me. So we went off in the opposite direction from the crowd knowing that we would probably go home earlier and wouldn't see them until the next day.

The kids and I had a great day. We went to the bathroom, found some lunch (Mind you it was only 10:30 but they were up really early.), got a backpack, went to the bathroom, bought new pants for Coulter (he put on Kees' and didn't notice they were too small), went to the bathroom and so on. You can see the pattern. I was glad that we were not with the crowd because my kids and I went to the bathroom about 15 times. Can you imagine having to stop everyone because one of my kids had to go? That would have been miserable for everyone. By noon or so we made it to China Town. The kids got wooden swords and Chinese outfits. They had out grown the ones from last year.

Next we walked and walked to Beacon Hill Park. It's an Olmsted Brother's park that is only 2 blocks from the Empress Hotel. I can't believe I have never been there before. It was very impressive and big, 200 acres. Along the way we stopped at a totem park and the kids did their own totem.
Pretty cute in my book.

We went to the Children's Farm. It's a petting zoo. Unfortunately, it wasn't as cool as we expected. We did get to pet goats but that was about it. It was a nice walk but now the kids were tired and Kees was STARVING. I called a cab.

We had a really nice lunch and decided that we were having such a good time that we would stay and ride home with the rest of the crowd. I turned on my phone just in case the groups plans had changed. We finished lunch and did a bit of shopping along the touristy part of town and then we walked over to the Empress and laid on the lawn. The boys had a sword fight and played in the garden. Rex and Tina were surprised to see us on the lawn since they thought we went home early. We chatted and then then took off.

The kids and I checked out the hotel a little bit and then talked about the remainder of the day. We decided we would just hang out and play and then go to an IMAX Movie. The kids all put on their Chinese outfits and were immediately transformed into Kung Fu Fighters on the side lawn of the Empress Hotel. It was GREAT! Moving at their pace definitely pays off. They were happy and I was totally relaxed. I loved our afternoon. After a bit of playing it was off to the show. If you haven't seen Stomp's Pulse, you need to.

The show was over at 6:45 so we had plenty of time to head to the ferry and wait for the crowd. We walked on with Rex and Tina. As a matter of fact we were early so we were able to get 3 bays of window seats. Just enough for all of us. Tina texted Sally and told them where we were. Sally texted back that they were just finally getting home. They had gone on the 3:30 boat. Wow, that was a switch from the original plan. And here we thought we were taking one for the team and staying late so we could be with the crowd.

As we were pulling into the ferry terminal Sophia said, "I wonder how they all got home? They only had one car." I thought....."OH Crap. That's true." I called Sally and she explained that they were surprised we were not on the ferry at 3:30. She had tried to call once they were on the boat but I didn't answer. They packed the one car they had and then Sally went back for the rest of the gang. I felt really badly since it was an hour and a half round trip to our hotel. And my phone never rang. Other than that one hiccough it was a great day. We got home really late but were satisfied and happy.

I put the kids to bed and Bob came back for the remainder of the trip. Ahhhh....that was good.

Thursday was fairly free form. The families went off and did their own things. We went back to Fort Warden with the boys and Sophia went with her cousins to a lavender farm.

The boy ran and played and thought those were the coolest forts ever.

When we got home the secret ingredient was revealed for the adults IRON CHEF competition. It was.....avocado! Christine and I paired up. She made an appetizer and I made an entree. Both were great! Her's was a nacho plate and mine as a chicken dish. The kids were all judges and did a great job. They all tasted everything and made comments about the presentation, flavors and finish. It was funny. We won..and then we all had dinner. That was good fun.

And our final day....Friday, our family went to Port Townsend. Bob hadn't been there. We walked around and had a fine time. In the late afternoon we went to the grocery store for some last minute things because we were making dinner for the whole crowd for a last night celebration. We made tabbouleh with quinoa, a Greek salad, lamb burgers, and lemon mint rice. I loved it and everyone seemed to have a nice time.

It was a really nice trip and the Leeks had great fun. It could have been craziness with that many people but it all turned out for the best. I hope everyone else had as nice of a time as we did. Thanks so much to Dad and Sally for making it happen. It is a big task to get that many people together especially when it involves a group travelling from Texas and another party in the middle a move....YIKES!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Setting the Tone for Summer

Day one of summer is in the books. I have been planning our summer for months now. When you have kids these days you know that if you want to get into the camps that you want and get the dates that you want, you gotta start early. I started in January and put together a spread sheet. The spread sheet has vacations, special events, camps, camping, visitors, birthdays, swim lessons etc.

I have also been working on a chore sheet. I have a white board with chores on it and point values for said chores. The chores include; Unload Dishwasher, Load Dishwasher, Clean Your Room – No Complaints, Laundry – Wash / Dry, Laundry – Separate and Fold, Empty Small Trash Cans, Vacuum, Mop, Play Ball with and feed Iva, and Meal Prep and Planning. Most of the chores have a value of 1 point. The kids are required to produce 2 points per day.

And lastly, I have Summer Rules and Information posted. It is below. Mind you this is a work in progress and I am sure it will morph over the summer.

• We will have 1 hour of quiet time daily. This will even be when we travel.
• We will discuss our day each morning so everyone knows the plan. We will also determine when quiet time is AND what chores each person chooses for the day.

• Everyone is expected to earn AT LEAST 2 points for doing chores DAILY.
• There will be no complaining while doing chores.
• Always listen to mom and/or dad.
• Co-operate with siblings.
• We will pick up all toys after using them in public areas.

• 10 Points - computer or Video Game for a ½ hour uninterrupted
• 20 Points - Coffee time with mom or dad
• 30 Points - Trip to the dollar store and Mom will provide $2 dollars
• 50 Points - Lunch with mom or dad alone
• 50 Points - $20
• 120 Points - Chuck E. Cheese’s trip and you can bring a friend

DEDUCTIONS* - You will be given ONE warning before points are deducted.
• Not cooperating with parents
• Not cooperating with siblings
• For getting out of bed at night
• For not following the RULES (see above)

Sophia - $7.00
Coulter - $6.00
Kees - $4.00
Summer allowance will be used for all treats at the pool, the ice cream truck, souvenirs, toys, special items at the store, going to the dollar store, vacation treats, lemonade stands, etc.
Mom will keep all cash until it is requested and / or needed.

*- All daily routines, rules, rewards and deductions can be changed, amended or deleted by mom and dad. If they are changed we will have a meeting so that everyone knows how our system will be working.

And that is the end of that....for now.

The best part of the morning was that I didn't get out of bed until 8:30. That was awesome! I hate getting up early, I always have. When I got down stairs the kids were all watching TV. Ahhh, this is not the weekend. They were treating it like a weekend morning. Kees caught me out of the corner of his eye and started yelling, "Mom, can I have some hot chocolate?" I said, "NO!" Man if I start handing out hot chocolate today they'll want it every morning. No way Jose.... It is certainly a weekend thing.

Next I ask a dumb question, "What do you want for breakfast?" The answers I got were, pancakes, crepes, eggs, french toast and sausage. I say, "Nope, this is not a restaurant. I am making scrambled eggs and french toast. Sophia says, "But I want crepes." I repeat the choices and finally get answers from everyone that fit into the criteria that I have set for this morning. Great.

After breakfast I sit the kids down on the couch to go over the Summer Rules and Information. We talked about how there is only one of me and 4 people that will be home all summer, 5 of us who live here and 6 of us that need care. (We had to include Iva.) We came up with the rewards together and all realized that we would probably come up with more or different prizes as the summer went on. We decide that we can make changes later but we'll need to do it all together. Great. In the meantime we'll post what we've agreed upon so far.

Next we discuss the summer calendar. I show the kids what I have and they think that is great. When I went to the Bahamas in April I posted a calendar for the week that was broken down by the half hour. It was intended for Bob and my friends that were helping out. What I found out is that the kids really counted on it. It gave them a real sense of security to know what was going on. They could see who was picking them up from where, when and anticipate it. No surprises. I want our whole summer to be like surprises.'s a goal.

The kids were all on board with the program and picked out some chores. The boys did laundry. Honestly, they did 3 loads of laundry. They needed a small bench to reach inside the washer and a reminder about how the dryer worked (Kees has the washer down) but other than that they did it. Sophia unloaded and then loaded the dishwasher. That was huge! The best part of it all is they did it with a positive attitude. Their chores took little time but are huge in the big scheme of things.

My goal is to raise independent, responsible kids. I hope that is the direction that I am taking them. I know that today went as well as I could have expected. I expect that we'll have challenges and on some days the rules will be bent. But if we can have more cooperative and productive days than not, I will be happy with the result. I am sure there will be lots more on this in the days to come.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Week of the Weak

Last weekend Coulter was over at the Stewart's for a sleep over on Saturday night. He was thrilled. All went my knowledge....except... He got sick at about 4 in the morning. Throwing up sick. Nasty. We have known the Stewarts for about 6 years now. Why do you need to know this? Because we have been cleaning up after each other's kids both poop and vomit the whole time. Julie even joked that she'll be happy to continue the current arrangement. The one where our kids have gastronomic issues at her house and her kids have bowel problems at ours. We both laughed in a knowing mom way, like, when the hell does this end?

Sunday he seemed fine. He played, went to a birthday party and went shopping with Bob. All was fine until....he puked again in the late afternoon. Damn, he had been around a LOT of people that day. Up until then I had just chocked it up to something he ate, I guess I was wrong. Immediately after he threw up he was fine and continued to be fine. Kids heal fast.

Monday came around and I felt a bit blah but nothing major. Coulter stayed home just in case. I didn't need him throwing up at school. Apparently 25% of the kindergarten and first grade kids were out....It wasn't just Coulter.

Bob and I watched a bit of TV on Monday night and went to bed fairly early. I still wasn't feeling up to par and wanted to sleep it off. I laid awake for a couple hours and started thinking that I wasn't feeling better, as a matter of fact I was feeling worse and headed toward....we'll say, expelling my dinner. At 2 I did indeed "expel." At 2:10 Kees came to the door and I told him to go back to his bed, that I was sick. I fell asleep. At 2:25 Kees came back and I told him the same thing. He said, "I don't feel good." Awww, poor baby. I said, "Come up here and get in the middle." He did and then almost immediately said, "I'm going to throw up." I grabbed him and ran to the bathroom. He made it. Of course him throwing up didn't do anything for my condition. I went to Bob, who was totally asleep (How can he sleep through this?) and said, "Bob, can you take care of Kees? I have been throwing up and can't do it right now." He said, "I just threw up 10 minutes ago." CRAP! I have known Bob for 15 years and he has only thrown up 2 times.

So here we are the 3 of us running back and forth to the bathroom all night. It was gross and exhausting. At 7 Sophia came into our room. I told her we had all been sick all night. She backed away from me. She hates being sick. I asked her if she could help Coulter get ready for school. She did and was so sweet about it. They had breakfast and then she read him stories until it was time to go. I called a friend who picked up the kids and took them to school.

Kees, of course, felt fine but I was not going to let him go to school. He did sleep in but other than that there were no signs that he was sick. What's with little kids and how they get over things so fast? Bob and I were stuck either on a couch or in bed. We both slept the majority of the day. We did have to go retrieve Coulter at noon. He was feeling bad again and fell asleep in the office when they took him in there.

Now here is the silver lining. My friends all went into "candy striper" mode. They were bringing over remedies left and right. We got crackers, Jello, electrolyte drinks, soup, ginger ale, dinner for the kids, etc. It was amazing. They were all on it. It made me feel very loved and cared for by my friends. I hope they all know I would do the same for them if the tables were turned. I'm pretty sure they do. Anyway, if there was a silver lining, that was it. It just goes to show what an amazing group of friends I have right here in my neighborhood. Being that I have never lived anywhere for more than 3 years I had never developed these kinds of relationships before. It's very interesting and rewarding and I love it.

By Tuesday night I felt like we were starting to mend. By Wednesday morning Bob was better....totally unfair. I got everyone ready for school....except Sophia, she was starting to go down hill. After the super sister that she had been on Tuesday I let her stay home. She didn't seem super sick but she doesn't complain much and if she felt like she needed to stay home, I was going to let her. I babied her all day bringing her vitamin water, noodle soup and crackers. She watched movies all day and slept a little bit. Her big issue was that she had nasty stomach cramps. I still felt crappy but I needed to take care of the rest of my crew.

Thursday everyone went to school....except for Kees, he had a scheduled day off. We had mommy and Kees day but neither one of us was back to 100%.

By Friday I'd say Kees and I were back to about 95%, Coulter and Bob were fine and Sophia was still having cramps but was OK.

So that is the full story of our week of sickness. It sucked for the most part. I am eternally grateful to my girl friends that knew we were sick. They saved me and my family. I hope that NEVER happens again.