Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Buddy

I'm off work this week and have been enjoying some quality time with Grayson. I've completed some serious closet purging (mine and Gray's), caught up on laundry (finally!) and am fitting in some fun with my boy.

Grayson received his first video game from Santa (Minecraft), so I'm trying to balance screen time with good 'ol fashioned play time. I'm sure this is a battle we'll fight from now until he moves out of the house, but so far, it's been a great motivator for getting other chores done before he can play his video game.

Iron Man ready for some Minecraft

Showing me all his tricks on the playground before the weather turns bad this week

We've also watched a few movies, had lunch with daddy, baked pumpkin cookies and played with all of Gray's new Christmas toys. I'm very thankful for this time together and our everyday moments of fun. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Party Hoppers

Merry Christmas everyone! Between school, work and family celebrations, we've had two weeks of holiday parties. We're now gearing up to ring in 2015, but before that happens, I figured I should post pictures from a few of our Christmas parties.

Here's Grayson's class after their gingerbread building holiday party. He's about five kids over from the left side. These kids were so amped up when we took this picture, I'm shocked that they are all looking toward the camera. When I walked in to the party, I caught Gray piping icing directly into his mouth...that gives you an idea of the sugar consumption happening at this event. Yikes!

We hosted my dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve. Here are Jack, Gray and Luke hanging out at the cousins' table. 


Aunt Amy sent the boys matching Star Wars Storm Trooper pjs. So cute!

Putting cookies out for Santa

This has been a Lego Christmas! Gray has enjoyed hours (and days!) of Lego building. Here he is working on a 753 piece firehouse set. It took him three days to build the entire thing, but he did it almost entirely himself and plays with it daily. 

The Saturday after Christmas we met up with the Solomon side. Here's a shot with those cousins: Ladd, Cooper, Van, Gray, Ella, Charlotte and Nora. 

Here's my generation of cousins. We were missing about half of the group, but I always enjoy catching up with the gang. 

We are blessed to have so much family! It's been a full couple of weeks, but I couldn't imagine it any other way. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Birthday Roxy!

This is a belated note to celebrate Roxy turning 10 on Dec. 20th. She enjoyed her day with a few extra treats and, of course, several naps all around the house.

I can't believe it's been a decade since this little fur ball entered our lives. She was big enough to fit inside a shoe and when we took her outside to potty, she'd just sit on your foot and shiver. To her defense, it was February in St. Louis and awfully chilly for a dog who only weighed a couple of pounds.

Since then, she's evolved into a full-on diva, but we still love her enough to put up with her "quirks." Michael and I have also learned a few parenting tricks along the way.

Happy 10th birthday Miss Roxy!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Giving to others is a gift to yourself

This time of year, we talk to Grayson a lot about the non-material gifts of the holiday season. He's still pretty young to connect all the dots, but every year I see him understand more of our lessons and even initiate acts of kindness for others. 

We had a teachable moment today when we donated a truckload of stuff to Goodwill. Gray had helped me fill a huge box with toys from his room that he has either outgrown or no longer plays with. Most are still in great shape, so we talked a lot about how the toys can bring happiness to other kids (thank you Toy Story 3 for illustrating this point as well). 

I was prepared to see a few tears during this purging process as in years past, but he surprised me with a wonderful, understanding attitude and even went above the amount of stuff I thought he would put in the box. 

When we got to Goodwill, I thought he might get upset by the physical act of handing everything over, but instead he jumped out of the truck and wanted to help us carry in all the boxes. I showed him the items mommy and daddy were donating as well, so he would see we weren't asking him to do anything we weren't doing ourselves. 

After everything was unloaded we were back in the truck and he said how happy donating the toys made him feel. We learned about joy this morning at church for Advent and he was happy because he knew those toys would bring joy to other kids. 

Little did he know that his generous spirit and feelings of happiness brought so much joy to his parents. It's these everyday moments I need to hold on to when he's asking to open the presents with his name on them under the tree for the 1,000th time. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Traditions

Last Sunday we raced back from Houston to get to our church for their annual Advent workshop. We hadn't been to it before and heard it was a really fun event for all ages.

There's a committee that works all year coming up with craft activities and prepping the materials so you can build ornaments, gingerbread houses, wreaths and other decorative items all in a two-hour span of time. After seeing the event first-hand, I realized how amazing the Advent committee must be, because the event was full of clever craft ideas that were extremely well organized.

It was a really fun way to kick off Advent and also get to know more people in the church. We've been visiting the church for a while, but are now officially joining and love meeting new people through these kinds of activities.

Grayson headed over to build a gingerbread house first, then we made an ornament, painted two wooden candle holders, did a hand stamp picture of baby Jesus in a manger, and then capped off the night painting a nativity set.

I love all of the crafts we made and can't wait to look back on them over the years when we set out our decorations at home. One of the ladies told me they do new crafts each year, so it's fun to add to your holiday collection with handmade, sentimental crafts.

After taking this picture, Gray immediately wanted to eat all the candy off. We're learning a life lesson about restraint! 

Painting a star on one of the candle holders

Painting the nativity which prompted lots of discussion about how Jesus was born. It's such a blessing to see him starting to connect the dots about the true reason for the season. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

We have a lot to be thankful for, and our trip to Houston over Thanksgiving break was a perfect start to the holiday season. We got to see a lot of family, eat tons of amazing food, celebrate birthdays and even get a jumpstart on Christmas festivities.

Here are a few of the highlights:

All of Michael's cousins with their spouses and kids

So many wonderful ladies!

Burning some energy after our Thanksgiving meal

Rhyann keeping up with the boys on her scooter

Lincoln pedaling his little heart out

Three monkeys

I couldn't love these three cousins any more!

Gray's oldest cousin Blayne was with his dad's side on Thanksgiving, but got to join in the fun a few days later when we celebrated his 13th birthday and opened a few early Christmas presents. Can't believe he's a teenager! For some reason they were inspired to flash the "Go Cougs!" sign for Univ. of Houston Cougars. 

One night we decided to drive around and check out some Christmas lights. We ended up making an impromptu stop at the mall near Nana and Popper's house to check out their amazing Christmas tree. The mall was about to close, but Gray spotted Santa and surprisingly there wasn't a line to see him so he stepped right up and told the big guy what's on his list. 

Family pic in front of the massive tree! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Case of the Missing Tooth

I picked Grayson up from school on Monday and he burst through the doors with excitement from losing his first tooth. It came out while he was on the playground and he ran to the office to get a tooth-shaped necklace to put his tooth inside for safe keeping.

Later in the afternoon, he was looking at his tooth inside the little box and it fell out somewhere in his classroom. The entire class stopped to look for the tooth, but they couldn't find it.

I told Gray we could just write a note to the tooth fairy and put it under his pillow, but he insisted that he wasn't going to draw a picture, instead he needed to create a model of his tooth. And that's just what he did. He even used a red marker on one end to make it look like blood because his gum bled a tiny bit when the tooth came out.

His two front teeth are also loose, but just barely. It won't be long now before Gray's entire smile changes.

Making his tooth model

He asked me to write this note on the back of the model to apologize to the tooth fairy for losing the tooth. He read it afterward to double-check my writing, like he didn't believe I was accurately capturing what he told me to write.

Here's the front of the "model." A bit oversized!

Placed under his pillow and ready for the tooth fairy

The next morning, he woke up and was so excited to find the tooth fairy left two dollar bills. They were folded in the shape of airplanes and he was beyond thrilled. The tooth fairy must have known he was in to airplanes these days. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Buddies for life

Michael's best friend came from San Francisco to stay with us last weekend and Grayson soaked up every minute with Uncle Aaron. They played Legos, wrestled, went to get donuts and had lots of fun.

After bedtime, Michael and Aaron enjoyed their grown-up version of a playdate...bourbon tastings and video games. Guess you're never too old for a buddy!

I enjoyed watching Gray and Aaron bond while taking turns reading pages from a library book before bedtime. Not sure how they ended up reading on the living room floor, but they seemed to think it made sense. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Snow day fun

We had a surprise snow day last week and Grayson couldn't wait to play outside. He wanted desperately to make a snowman or have a snowball fight, but it wasn't the right kind of sticky snow for that. 

He still managed to have fun tromping around and eating it. I enjoyed watching from inside our warm house and then making hot chocolate when he came back inside. 

Daddy is such a good sport

Reading books inside a blanket fort

Time to warm up by the fire!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our Terrific Kid

It's time once again for our parent/teacher conference. We love Grayson's teacher this year and were relieved to hear he's doing well on all accounts. His academic assessment shows he's reading above a first grade level and is exceeding in all other subjects.

We were more interested to hear how he is doing with things like sitting still, talking, finishing his work and other similar areas where he struggled last year. His teacher said he's doing great and she thinks that retaining him in kindergarten has done wonders for him, especially when it comes to sitting still and finishing work next year when he's in first grade. 

She told us Grayson is a class leader, very caring and thoughtful and has lots of friends. 

He was also recognized on Friday as part of the "Terrific Kids" program, so we went to the assembly where he received his certificate. I think he's more excited about the possibility of having his picture in the newspaper, which I guess they submit as part of the whole deal. Too funny. 

The Terrific Kids recognizes students for various character qualities throughout the year and today's award was for enthusiasm. Gray is nothing if not enthusiastic, but it was nice of his teacher to nominate him for this award. He's very excited!

The group of Terrific Kids getting honored this month from each class. 
Gray is in the front row. 

Gray with his teacher Mrs. Isaac. She's the best!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Counting our Blessings

We took an impromptu trip to Houston last weekend and always wish we had more time to spend with our family there. We'll see them again for the holidays, but it's just never enough.

Of course, every trip is not complete for Michael without visiting local donut empire Shipley's. Grayson and I are happy to oblige as you'll see in the pics below.

Gray had so much fun playing with his cousins Lincoln, Rhyann and Blayne. I love seeing their bond grow deeper. He even had a sleepover with Jennifer and Robbie which meant he was in toy heaven playing with all of Blayne's thousands of Legos!

It just so happened that we were there in time to celebrate Kristin's birthday, so we enjoyed a lunch with two generations of cousins.

While I'm not ready to break out the Christmas decorations just yet, this little taste of family time made me ready for Thanksgiving break and more time together.

Raiding the toy chest with Lincoln

Wrestling with Blayne...Gray's face says it all. He's so happy to have the attention of his big cousin!

Lego bins for days

Cousin lunch!

Rhyann and Gray throwing sticks in the lake

The best "posed" picture I could get

Our silly boy

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Daytrip to Red Rock Canyon

When Pappa and Susu were here for Halloween, we made our annual fall trek to Red Rock Canyon for a picnic with our extended family. It had been so warm the leaves were just barely starting to turn, but we still had fun hiking around, grilling hotdogs and playing catch in the open field. 

I have so many wonderful memories of this tradition with my cousins and aunts and uncles, so I'm always a bit sentimental seeing Gray and his cousins explore the area and make lifelong memories of their own. It was especially emotional this year since my cousin Suzanne and her family recently learned they will be moving to Denver in the next few months. 

I know we'll continue to see each other and get our boys together, but it makes me cherish these moments together even more. 

Luke, Gray and Jack during the only five seconds they weren't constantly in motion

Hotdogs and a picnic blanket...what more do you need?

Oh yeah, soda...that's right. We need that. These boys never get soda so they thought they hit the jackpot!

Jimmy, Michael and the boys leading the way

Pappa and Suzanne getting in on the hiking fun too

Cousin BFFs!

We paused on the hike to let the boys explore one of the rocky formations and they made up all kinds of games and could have stayed up there for hours. 

I just prayed they didn't start digging in a snake hole