Monday, March 30, 2015

A Night to Reconnect

I know when my kiddos are being so rotten that I just want to get some space from them, is when they need me to draw closer to them. Such has been the case with Jordan and I lately. These teenage years are no joke. I had foolishly thought things would be smoother sailing because I had boys. If raising teenage boys is this trying, I'm even more grateful now that I never had any daughters :)

So Jordan has been exhibiting all his teenage glory, moodiness, failing grades, just all around bad attitude; What's a mom to do. My solution was to take him to a concert, he's 14 and never been to any concerts. A friend had posted about a christian band that would be preforming not too far from our home. Once I got over the idea of I'm not rewarding bad behavior, I'm reconnecting with child who is craving more attention, I ordered our tickets. They weren't the best of seats; the furthest section from the stage and second to the last row. Jordan was fine with the seats, because this was something that we were doing just the two of us, no brothers allowed.

See that little hand next to the 3? That's Jordan in our seats :)
The View from our ticketed seats
The day of the concert we packed up the younger two who were going to spend the night with our friends from Growing into Me. Once the little guys were happily on their way to a fun filled night, Jordan was allowed to plan the rest of our night. Instead of going out to a restaurant for dinner, Jordan opted for extra electronic time and grabbing fast food on our way to the concert (YUCK! The things I do for my Once at the arena, which was a tiny place, we easily found our seats even though it was a sold out show. A friend of mine was volunteering as staff for the event, so we spent some time with him showing us around. Finally the music starts and we head back to our seats. The first act was just this guy and his guitar on the stage, Jordan wasn't too impressed :) The second act was a christian group that is known to others but was new to us, their music was a bit more lively. I had forgotten until the second act started just how LOUDLY Jordan claps. I had to bite my tongue to refrain from commenting on just how annoying I found his clapping. I'm glad that I did, I was having a great time watching him clap and dance in front of our chairs. By the third group Jordan had his hands raised in worship and the biggest smile on his face. I sure have missed seeing that smile!!!
John Tibbs

Audio Adrenaline
Finding Favor

During the intermission we walked around for a bit, until my friend asked if we'd like to move to seats closer to the stage. So we ended up stage side for the final act, the one we wanted to see. Jordan had an absolute blast!! He was singing along with just about every song and was very grateful for the better seats. (A quick shout out to my friend for being so awesome and helping to make the evening even better for Jordan)

Newsboys from our stage side seats

We were surprised to our car being snow covered when we came out of the concert. Figuring that we wouldn't be getting out of our parking spot any time soon, we sat in the truck for a bit looking through the pictures and videos we took. Then because it was still Jordan's night, we stopped for sundaes and french fries on our way home. Once home we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning looking up songs for the new to us bands and danced, sung along, and laughed until exhaustion won out.

I'm so glad Jordan and I had the evening to reconnect. He wasn't a "big bad, having to impress everyone else" teenager, he was my happy go-lucky Jordan for a bit. While it only lasted until his brothers came home, I hope now that he have found his "happy self" that we'll all get to see more of it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting Boys Back To Nature

One of our favorite metroparks is much closer to our church than it is to our house, we often head out that way after service. This was our first visit this year and invited my friend Critter and his two boys to join us. It was still kind of chilly outside but considering Michigan weather during the change over of seasons it was a really nice day to be outside. After a short visit to the nature center we all tackled a nature trail. Silly boys, left it up to me to choose the trail, of course I picked the one that was over 2 miles (the longest trail). My boys and I showed Critter and his boys what "pooh sticks" was, as it's a tradition for us (since Jordan was 2 yrs old) during our walks. For those of you who don't know what "Pooh Sticks" is, you've probably played and may have a different name for it. Just like Pooh Bear and Tigger whenever we cross a water bridge we find a stick that we feel will be lucky. Everyone drops their sticks at the same time off the side of the bridge, then races to the other side of the bridge so see who's stick the current pushed under the bridge first.

After having 5 boys looking for sticks for our little game, they all set about finding larger sticks that could be used as walking sticks as there was still much snow and ice along the trail. I should have been prepared for the idea of snowballs were going to be flying given the combination of 5 boys and snow on the ground, but the thought hadn't crossed my mind. Surprisingly it wasn't any of the boys who threw the first snowball. All the boys had paired off and were walking nicely. Then from behind me I see Critter launch a snowball up towards the kids :) That's all it took, it was game on. There were a couple snowball fights along our way, everyone had to stop throwing snow so the could concentrate on navigating their way around all the natural obstacles along our way.

I love Michigan weather, you never know what your going to wake up to from one day to the next. While it was a toasty almost 40 degrees there was still plenty of snow for our snowball fights, there was also lots of decent sized puddles from the melted snow. What's nature without dirt and mud, we also had no shortage of squishy mud to hop over. I think we only made it less than a half mile before all 7 of us had soaking wet shoes/boots.

I was so impressed with the kids on our hike. When the number of children increase so does the potential for squabbles amongst them. The pairing of kids couldn't be more perfect. Jordan hung with Critter Jr (he's not actually a junior, but so much like his father, in my opinion) and they got to talk about teenage stuff. Little Critter is a nice mix between Joey and Jacob's personalities. The 3 younger ones are all high energy and seem to "click" well together. Which leaves just Critter and I, it's had to describe us. We are complete opposites, but yet are so much alike.

Critter kept the boys entertained during our long slushy hike by finding nature made obstacle courses for the boys to compete on. Then there was his ever present reminding the kids of the snow on the ground with a carefully thrown snowball at them. I being the only girl, managed to stay protected from all snowballs. Well, during the hike anyways :) Once we were closer to the cars, I guess they thought I was fair game (but I held my own).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Our Glimpse Under the Sea

Back in January we learned a new attraction would be opening at the end of the month, Sea Life Aquarium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We were very excited to check it out, but knew that it would be complete craziness for the few months as many families dived at the opportunity of a glimpse under the sea. Grandma invited us on a visit to the aquarium in the beginning of March, thinking things may have slowed down and we'd be able to look about without it being so crowded. The weekend day we had planned on heading out was completely sold out. Sea Life has allotted time slots you can sign up for on their website (also you can get a discount on your tickets on line). While you sign up for an assigned time you are welcome to stay as long as you want. They allow a few openings during each time slot for walk-ins, but you risk them already being at capacity and having to wait or being turned away. We opted to squeeze our scheduled visit in during a Wednesday.

A weekday visit seemed like the best way to go. While we had a mad dash to get from school to the aquarium during rush hour for our chosen time slot, there were only a handful of families there. So we were able to really get a close look at everything, and spend as much time examining things without feeling like we needed to move on so others could get a look. The younger kids were given explorer books they could get stamped at varies checkpoints throughout the aquarium, then earn a small prize for completing all checkpoints.

I found it really interesting to see all the different sea life creatures. My boys absolutely LOVED it!!! The aquarium had calming sea sound music playing over the loud speakers. There was actually a lot more to see than I expected, from jellyfish and seahorses to sharks and stingrays. There was a huge tank that houses many different fish as well as some stingrays that looked like they were smiling at you and a couple sharks. I think that tank was my boys' favorite. There were a couple bubble windows near the back of the tank, and my kids parked their behinds in them and were in complete awe just watching the fish being fish. Joey who had been a bit on the hyper side with the rushing to get to the aquarium and the excitement of visiting somewhere new, was more calm watching those fish than I have EVER seen him.

They had a touch-pool with starfish, coral, and shrimp. Jordan being the brave one was the first to let a shrimp walk on his hand. I finally gathered my nerve and having those little guys climbing around on you really tickles. The touch-pool attendant informed us that the tickling was actually the shrimp cleaning our hands. Having a shrimp clean under your nails is a feeling all of it's own, a couple times I had to really focus not to jerk my hand away from the tickling feeling. Grandma learned that the starfish were not nearly as squishy feeling as they look to be. Besides the huge tank with the sharks this was a favorite spot for just about all of us.

At the end of the loop of tanks there was a play structure for the younger guys. Jordan and I really wanted to take one more look at the fish before calling it a day, but the other boys want to climb for a bit. Papa and Grandma stayed with the younger two while Jordan and I walked through one more time taking goofy selfies with different fish along the way. Then a final visit back at the touch-pool to play with the shrimp one last time.

While the tickets were a bit pricey, the experience was well worth the money.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Did We Really Do in February? Part 2 Happy Birthday, Jacob!

I can't believe that I completely forgot to post about the highlight of our month, Jacob turned 9!!! This is the last year that any of my kiddos will be in the single digits. Jacob's milestones are always bitter-sweet for me, I'm thrilled that he is growing and moving on to new stages, but he's my baby (probably my last baby).

This year we had another low key party for him, which only included the four of us and Papa and Grandma. We also celebrated at Papa and Grandma's house, since Grandma was in charge of his birthday treat. Jacob decided against a cake jam packed with dyes and thought he's like a pie instead. At first he wanted a graham cracker pie like Uncle Jason then at the last minute changed his mind and a lemon meringue pie. Our family believes the best lemon filing comes from Canada (their filing is also dye free) and Grandma hand some on hand, so she made his birthday pie.  Along with opening a few gifts from us he and his brothers spent some time playing outside and built a bonfire. As his birthday dinner he chose fried chicken, because we don't eat fried anything at our house.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Did We Really Do in February? Part 1

While much of February seems to have passed in a blur, I do remember all the really cold days cooped up in the house. There were quiet a few snow/cold days from school too. I knew we had to have done something other than hide away all snug and warm in the house. Then I remembered I take pictures of EVERYTHING. Looking through my phone I was able to jog my memory of the many fun things we have done.

One of our church campus was hosting a Winter Blast about a half hour from our home. The boys and I loaded up snowboards and sled for a fun day of playing in all the snow. They had a huge mound of snow in their parking lot for the kids to sled down. Even had a nice little walking path to make hiking up the snow mountain easier. There were different style sleds that the church provided and everyone was really nice about sharing their sleds. Besides the sledding there were many other activities to keep everyone happy while getting some fresh air. There was an ice skating area, we had to pass on that because none of us own ice skates. Joey being the creative child he is found a way around not having ice skates and took a disc sled over the the ice and a guy was kind enough to slide Joey around on the sled. Jacob got a big kick out the "human foosball". There was a tractor behind the snow mountain that was giving sled rides. Even I couldn't pass that up! Not wanting to look silly I had Jordan go for a ride with me :) Joey also tried out the pedal cars/tractors, which were a lot of work in the snow. I thought it was a wonderful idea that they had fire pits setup so that while the parents warmed up they could still keep an eye on their kids. After exhausting ourselves playing we headed into the church for free hot dogs, chips, cookies and hot chocolate (and coffee for the parents). They had a couple "special shows" set up, they tosses dyed water in pop bottles using a catapult. Then there was my favorite "show" they blew up Olaf!! They had two different showings of when they exploded a snowman. My boys like when there was a short wait just before the exploding snowman and everyone was given the opportunity to throw snowballs at one of the pastors. Pastor Tim use to preach at our church before moving to our new campus. Poor Pastor Tim, the kids really let him have it with the snow balls. While Jordan stayed outside playing in the snow and throwing snowballs at the volunteers (they said he could, I asked them) the younger two and I went in to warm up. Inside they had two bouncy castles set up and music playing. There were too many little kids in the bouncy castles so I didn't get to bounce with my boys. I did get up and do a couple dances with them though.

Bye-Bye snowman :)
cute little snowman

After spending four or five hours playing in the snow, you'd think we would be beat. Nope, not us! There was a glow in the dark ice skating down by Grandma and Papa's. After a quick phone call and inviting ourselves to their house for dinner we were headed for some ice skating. Jacob opted to hang back with Grandma and play at her house, while Papa and I took the older two skating. What an adventure that turned out to be. I hadn't been on a pair of ice skates since I was about Joey's age and I wasn't real steady on them then. We get to the ice rink and to say it was crowded would be an understatement. Once we finally rented our skates and made our way to the ice Jordan took off whipping around the ring. Which left me struggling for my footing on my own while I waited for Joey to catch up to me. Joey and Papa only made it once around the ice rink before Joey's skates were bothering his ankles. I thought Papa took him inside to exchange his skates. Nope, they turned them in. When I went inside to see why it was taking so long to exchange them and where do I find Papa and Joey, in line to buy nachos!! Papa and Joey watched as Jordan raced around the ring and I slowly made my way. I am very proud to say, while I was extremely slow moving I did not fall :)

Jordan on the move
they were on the ice

A Very Educational Field Trip

Yesterday, I finally was able to help out with Joey's class. There was a field trip to a hands-on science center, the historical museum, and the state capital all scheduled back-to-back. I was torn if I should go on the field trip or not; I love being there with my boys watching them learn new things and connecting what they've learned with things they see at the museums, but I'm trying to step back and allow them some independence. With all the problems Joey has had with his teacher this year I figured it might be easier on Joey if I was there as a buffer. Plus Joey really wanted me to go as this was their first field trip. I arranged for Papa to stay the night so he could get up early and get Jacob off to school, and he also needed to collect Jordan and Jacob from school as our bus was not due back to the school until 5pm.

With Papa staying the night there wasn't much sleep happening the night before. There was some hurt feeling about who's room Papa slept in and everyone woke up way too early just knowing Papa was in the house. Joey and I needed to be at the school and hour early so we dropped Jordan off at school on our way (per his regular drop off time).

Once in the class I was assigned my group that include to high energy boys besides Joey. (I don't know why I always get all the "high energy" kids, guess the teacher figure I'd know how to handle them.) One of my group was home sick that day, which left me with Joey and a boy I knew from when Joey was in cub scouts. I had been expecting one of the school bus style buses, but instead we had a nice cozy travel bus. Shortly after we left the school, we're talking 15-20 minutes, a lovely Michigan style icy/snowy/rainy mix fell full force from the skies. Thankfully the teachers had been prepared for our2+ hour travel time and had movies they played on the bus. The movies didn't help much as 60 kids per bus were excited about the field trip and were noisily chatting amongst themselves. Also there was the added joy of retractable footrests on the back of every chair. These footrests became quiet the headache for the parents on the bus as the kids being 10/11 years old were unable to adjust the footrest only once. They spent the entire ride to in from the capital readjusting the footrests that made the noise of crinkling plastic every time they were moved. After 2 hours on the bus, the teacher in charge of our bus informed us that due to the weather we would not be stopping at the hands-on science center as we still had another hour drive to get there. A lot of the kids were disappointed, honestly so was I. It was a center I had planned taking my boys too and want to get a feel for the place.

Finally we reach our detestation just in time for our 11:30 lunch break. After getting all 100+ kids fed and through the gift shop at the Historical museum, we started our tour. Only we lost our tour guide once we got off the elevator. Supposedly there was suppose to be someone to meet us on the second floor, after waiting a few minutes the teachers gathered their class as lead their own tours.

During our field trip, I quickly was able to see how Joey's classmates intact with him and I wasn't too happy about it. Just about every child hovers around him telling him what not to do. Don't touch that. Stop making noise. You can't stand there. I actually got to the point with one little girl that I asked her if she was his mother, when she answered no, I informed her that I was and would handle Joey. They just didn't let up on the poor kid. He didn't have to even be doing anything wrong and they were correcting him. At almost the end of our time at the Historical museum Joey was on sensory overload and I walked him away from the group so he could regroup. No sooner we turned the corner and 30 kids were squawking that "Joey went up the stairs!" His teacher had even called me to reassure that I was with him. I had the other child in my "group" within my sights the whole time I had Joey away from the group. While the historical museum is a really neat place, there wasn't much the kids were allowed to manipulate and got a bit boring to most of them. (still better than sitting in class all day though).

Once we had seen all there was to see at the museum we were bussed over to our Capital building. Again the kids were not allowed to touch anything and they were all getting restless and having a hard time keeping their hands still. Our time at the Capital passed rather quickly. The guide we had was very good and shared a lot of information, not that I think the kids retained much of it.

Then it was time to get back on the bus to watch movies and crinkle the footrests for another few hours. Over all we spent more time on the buses than we did at the places we were to visit. A total of 6 hours on the bus and 4 hours walking around. We finally reached the school at 6 pm, where the parents found their vehicles encased Michigan's wonderful wintery mix. It was a very long day, but I had been very educational. I learned just as much about our state as I did about why Joey complains so much about disliking school.

While it really bothered me to see how the other students treated Joey, I was so glad I was there as a buffer and to get a better understanding of his feeling towards his classmates and teacher.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 Resolutions Febraury Progress

Time already for a review of what February held for us. Honestly, I can't even remember!! I know there was too many snow/cold days from school. There weren't many books read, most of the time was spend on electronic. Snow days are the equivalent to no school days and all electronics are permitted. Jordan read bits on pieces of a couple books, Jacob reread some of his favorites, Joey and I haven't even touched a book for the whole month. In the colder months I tuck my books away in favor of crocheting. I have slowly been dwindling down my work in progress pile. I am so excited about just finishing a Mother's Day gift for my mom.

February our whole routine got tossed out the window. There was no menu plans made and dinner was a guessing game every night. The 30 minutes before bed reading didn't happen. We kind of drifted through the whole month. Homework was done in spurts between electronic time. I love when we have snow/cold days from school and we have more time to spend as a family. The downside is we lose our routine and have a hard time getting back into our groove.

Tonight is the last or second to last night of attending a small group through church. I adore the people in my small group and we have way more fun than most small groups should ;) Through being part of the small group I have been able to make more connections with people at church. I have always loved listening to our pastor and the messages he shares, but never had any need to stay and mingle with people. This past month the boys and I have been looking forward getting to church early so we have the chance to fellowship before and after service. I'm kind of sad that small groups are coming to an end, and look forward to attending another in the future. Not only did I make connections with the people in the group, my relationship with Christ has strengthened too. My boys have enjoyed me getting out of the house for a couple hours every Monday night. Papa has been kind enough to drive all the way out here every week to watch the boys. The boys love spending time with their Papa. It had been awhile since the four of them got to a "guys night", and I know my boys look forward to every Monday for a couple hours of "guy time".

I am kind of ready for group to be over though. It's one more night that our routine has been tossed. There isn't much time between the time we get home from school and when I need to pick up my friend and head to group. My multitasking mommy talents have been put to the test every week. Monday is when notes come home about what assignments need to be completed for the week, homework still needs to be done, and dinner needs to be made and on the table (with any luck I'll be able to snag a couple bites before heading out the door). I don't get home group until after bedtime, which means everyone is getting to bed late. Late to bed usually means there is some grumpiness the next morning.

For my personal goals there hasn't been much progress. I have strengthened my relationship with God, but I'm far from through working on this one :) I have made some strides in cutting down on my caffeine. I usually have the equivalent to 4 cups in the am and 4 more around 3 pm. I have cut out 2 cups in the afternoon/evening for just over two weeks and am working on cutting out the other after school cups. I'm still getting some caffeine, but not as much as I was before hand. I like having a warm drink to hold while everyone is shifting from school mode to home mode. I have been opting for a cup of tea instead of my coffee. I have been thinking about in the near future switching from tea to lemon and honey water instead. We'll see if I actually make that switch though :)

I spend 3-4 days a week volunteering at the Assisted Living which is a good chunk of my time. My scrapbooking has gotten shoved back into the closet. No early morning workouts happening either, as I'm still getting to bed between 1-2:30am. I am really looking forward to warmer weather so I can get my butt outside and getting my exercise by playing with my boys. No couponing, I haven't even bought a newspaper. Cooking from scratch...didn't happen....I was doing good just to come up with "something" to feed everyone every night :) Cutting off the cable is still an option. I haven't done it yet, but I'm getting closer. My last bill was outrageous considering how little we actually use the TV. I have been checking into Netflex, Hulu, and Apple TV. I haven't really found anything that will meet all our TV needs.

The boys have been doing better with the goals I have set for them. Jacob has done awesome with his volume control, and we're not getting screamed at like we were. Joey is much calmer, with the exception of right after school. The medication seems to be helping him a lot, but the wear-off after school can be trying for all of us. We had the same aggression and over-exaggeration issues before when he was one this medication. We're working on how to help Joey not feel so overwhelmed and frustrated during the wear-off. Jordan was off to a really bad start last month. There were a lot of reminders of "even a fish wouldn't get himself in trouble, if he just kept his mouth shut". The back talk and snide comments were at an all time high. Then he made a bad choice that almost cost a friend's mom $200 in iTunes charges. I was left with taking the tough love route and pulled his deposit for his class Washington DC trip. I think it bothered me more that he wouldn't be going than it bothered him. Since canceling his trip, there has been positive steps towards being more respectful to others. These teenage years are no joke, I'm just praying that I can make it through them two more times ;)

So there you have it, February was somewhat a productive month :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sensory Overlaod Arcade

I had been talking with a friend from church for a while and we decided it might be fun to get both of our families together. The question was "Where are you suppose to take 5 boys on a chilly day?" Not just 5 boys, but 3 of which are high energy and 2 are teenagers. My friend had mentioned the arcade, but this was not your run of the mill arcade. We met at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I have to admit that I don't remember ever going to an arcade anything like this one, and I've been to my share of arcades back in the day. The second you step through the door you are hit with a sensory overload. There is music playing, lights flashing, games pinging, and people talking and trying to maneuver around everyone and everything. There is so much stuff packed into every nook and cranny, literally from floor to ceiling. I was a bit worried how Joey would do with so much going on around him, he did absolutely awesome though. I on the other hand did get a bit claustrophobic and was glad once we were back outside.

My friend was kind enough to give all the boys quarters and we set the loose to wonder about. It was interesting to see some older "games". There were many "unique" games. There were some I remembered from when I was younger and had forgotten all about. I did find my favorite games amongst the modge podge of machinery, tucked in a corner was the skeet ball and they had a whole wall of pinball games. It was fun watching the boys figure out how some of the games worked.There were some that did more than we expected them too.

It's a difficult place to describe. If you truly want to get the whole experience of what this place has to offer, you really need to see it in person.

This one made me giggle. You just have to lift the leaf :)

Care to have you hand sliced for a quarter
This was a "game"; you could watch people be tortured

The wall of pinball
Wonder what this one does?