Thursday, December 12, 2013

Weekend roadtrip: Branson, MO

In October, Jeff had a conference in Branson, MO. We (i.e. the rest of the family) have not been traveling with Jeff as much as we used to, but this was a new destination and the timing was perfect, so off we all went. I started to second guess our decision when we were all car sick after the brief but curvy drive, but all I needed was one glimpse of the view from our hotel room balcony and I knew we had made the right call.

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Jeff headed straight to the vendor's hall to set up his booth, so the kids and I drove down the street to kill some time at the fish hatchery. Who knew feeding hundreds of thousands of trout could be so entertaining?

Our hotel--the Chateau on the Lake--was amazing. It had an indoor and outdoor pool, an amazing breakfast buffet, a playground, a movie theater, and a beautiful botanical lobby. Although it was too cold to swim outside, the outdoor pool overlooked the lake and was gorgeous. Somehow we fit all six of us into a hotel room, and Sawyer did really well for his first roadtrip. The girls, however, kept us up all night the entire stay. They are terrible sleepers, even at home, so it wasn't really out of the ordinary.

We went to dinner in downtown Branson, which is a more of a small, oldish (albeit charming) town than a city. I picked a little diner based on an online recommendation, but the food did not live up to the review. It was fine, but the experience made up for it. The tiny restaurant only had one waitress, and she was scrambling to take care of everybody. She was probably a little curt because of it, and had zero patience for Savannah's indecision. We felt bad for her, though, and left her a nice tip because she was obviously very overwhelmed. At one point I had to walk Izzy to the bathroom (which was at the back of the restaurant, past all of the tables and THROUGH the kitchen!) and a man stopped me and asked if we homeschooled our children. I am guessing he overheard our conversation where we had been quizzing Logan on spelling words. Nope, I don't have the stamina for it, I told him. He then asked if we were LDS. Not sure what gave that away. Our glowing aura? Or Jeff's BYU sweatshirt? Must have been the aura...

On day 2, I decided to take the kids to the Titanic museum while Jeff worked. The museum was awesome (and looked like the Titanic from the outside--can you see it in the picture?) but very crowded. Trying to maneuver the stroller through the crowds was difficult, not to mention keeping track of all the kids and carrying a kicking, screaming Isabelle when she threw one of her several tantrums. I think I would have enjoyed it more if (a) it had not been so busy or (b) I had been there without kids. I was still pretty impressed by the experience and would recommend it.

When Jeff was able to break out of the conference, we went as a family to a go kart track we had eyed while driving through town. There were actually several tracks, but the one that caught our eye was a three story wood track. I felt like I had stepped into Mario Kart!

On our last day, we drove down to the water to enjoy the view before heading home. It was crazy windy and a bit chilly, but still so beautiful. I love living in a new part of the country and exploring cities that I've never seen or even heard of. It looks like our Pendleton family reunion will be in Branson this spring. I can't wait to go back!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Halloween 2013

A month before Halloween this year, I asked my kids what they wanted to be. To my surprise, they all said, "A monster." I toyed with this idea for awhile, but wasn't finding many non-scary off-the-shelf monster costumes, nor very many do-it-yourself alternatives. So finally I sat down, pulled up target.com, navigated to the costume page, and said, "Why don't you pick something from here?" Within 10 minutes, they had it narrowed down. Logan wanted to be a ninja and Savannah wanted to be a mermaid. (Izzy and Sawyer are still young enough that they get to be whatever I want them to be, which this year was whatever I could dig out of the dress up box.) We ended up not getting the costumes at Target, thanks to my mom finding them both at Costco, but in the end I'm pretty sure everyone was pleased with their get up. Phew! Another year down!

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We started off our festivities with our ward trunk-or-treat and chili cook-off. I am usually the lame car at trunk-or-treats with absolutely no decorations whatsoever, but I decided to try something simple this year. I think it's kind of great.

Halloween itself was a little bit of a disaster. I doubt the kids would think so, but I was a wreck by the end of the day. I think it was just the result of trying to do too much. It started when I got a phone call from the school saying Savannah had had an accident in her costume. Apparently shimmying out of her mermaid tail in time to make it to the toilet was a bit too challenging. So I ran over to the school, picked up her costume, brought it home and washed it, dried it with a hair dryer, then took it back to school in time for her class party. Both kids had parties at the same time, so Isabelle, Sawyer, and I ducked back and forth between the two to be at both as much as possible.

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After school I tried to hurry and make some donut dough, thinking that would be a fun thing to eat on Halloween. What I didn't think is that maybe making homemade donuts for the first time ever was not a good idea on an already busy holiday. By this time it had started raining, putting an additional damper on our plans. We pushed on, though, and made our way to the Walmart home office, where our kids trick-or-treated through miles of cubicles. I have to give Jeff some credit here. He was in Oklahoma City the morning of Halloween, and had to be back the day after, but didn't want to miss being with the kids on Halloween, so he drove all the way home (3.5 hours) to be there for the evening activities, just to turn around and drive back early the next morning.

It stopped raining around 5, so I made the kids go back outside for another round of pictures. Sawyer was starving/screaming, Isabelle was completely uncooperative, but I was determined to get some photos. (See what I do for you, blog?)

We finally bribed Izzy with some chocolate to take a few pictures. Sorry for the nasty chewed up chocolate mouth shot. Just keeping it real.

By this time we were all starving, but I had no plans whatsoever for dinner (besides the donuts-- not super nutritious). We ended up with a take-and-bake pizza which took longer than we thought to bake and made us miss trick-or-treating with our neighbor friends. Eventually we bundled up and hit up all of 5 houses before calling it a night. We then returned to our pumpkin-less house (second year in a row we've failed to carve pumpkins) to eat overcooked donuts and binge on candy.

I'm pretty sure our kids had a blast, so I guess it wasn't such a failure. It was just a LONG day all around, as it always is and probably always will be. Oh well. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grammie comes to town

Just shy of Sawyer's 1 month birthday, my mom flew into town to visit. She made great sacrifices to come (including traveling on her birthday! Happy 21st birthday, Mom!) but we are so, so glad she did. Jeff had just left on his first major business trip since Sawyer was born, and I was extremely grateful for the extra help while he was gone. With every other baby, my Mom has come as soon as we are home from the hospital. I actually really liked having her around a little bit later this time. It gave me a chance to regain some strength and energy so that I could enjoy her visit, instead of being lethargic or comatose the whole time she is here.

We started off her trip with a Wild West Apple Fest at the kids' school. Aside from Isabelle having an accident all over my mom as soon as we got there, it was a pretty fun event. The kids loved the inflatables and carnival games. The food left much to be desired, but luckily I had found a new recipe to try that day so we had yummy butternut squash soup waiting for us at home.

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Since it was the weekend of General Conference, we spent a lot of the weekend listening to and being uplifted by the words of our church leaders. The kids worked on some Halloween decorations while we watched and were almost well behaved. I have given up trying to get much out of General Conference when I watch it live. We try to absorb as much as we can over the weekend, but always go back and re-watch it later one talk at a time when we can focus better (i.e. when the kids aren't around).

Jeff returned home a day or two before my mom had to leave, so we all went on a nature walk when the weather was nice. We didn't realize it, but the spot we had decided to go hike was sponsoring some sort of festival with all sorts of demonstrations. We got to see animal skins, try out stilts and games, learn about medicine during the Civil War, and watch a saw mill in action.

My mom ended up having to go home a day early due to a work crisis, but we managed to squeeze in a child-less shopping trip before she had to go. She also helped me figure out a new furniture arrangement in my living room that had been bugging me since we moved in. I don't know what I'd do without my mom... whether it's parenting issues or cooking tips or decorating help, she always has the answer! We miss her so much and loved having her come to visit.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stop growing!

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I am in a panic. Every night I sit and stare at this little guy and will him to stop aging. But every morning he wakes up older than the night before, and a little bit bigger, too. I just put half of his 0-3 month sleepers away in storage, and pulled out some of the 3-6 month clothes. I had to exchange the sweater I bought for his blessing because he outgrew it and we still haven't gotten around to blessing him yet. Enough already! Sawyer Lynn Pendleton, I forbid you from getting any bigger!

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Did you notice the spit up marks on this gray shirt? We have a spitter on our hands, just like his older brother. This kid is pretty much always wet. If possible, I burp him outside or over the sink and skip the burp cloth altogether. It cuts down on laundry. :) I guess if he has to grow up, at least this is one thing I won't miss.

Little Stinker

I usually try to keep things positive here on our blog, but today, I have to vent a little bit. I've noticed that my kids go through cycles where each of them gets a turn to be the problem child. For the first 18 months of her life, Isabelle was a gem. She was so pleasant and cute and fun and we all loved being around her. Then something happened. I wish I knew what exactly, because I would undo it in a heartbeat if I could, but I can't pinpoint what changed. All I know is one day she was easy and the next day she was a terror. It happened about 6 months before her 2nd birthday, but nonetheless I am blaming it all on the terrible two's. Some kids don't hit terrible status until 3 (like Logan), some never hit it at all, but Isabelle hit it early and with a vengeance.

(The following pictures tell a different story. Don't be fooled.)

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It started when Izzy wouldn't sleep in her crib. Or her bed. Or anywhere else. She just decided to stay up. All night. It has been a year since she stopped sleeping in her crib and we still fight battles every night to get her to sleep in her bed. Most nights she falls asleep on the floor of the family room while we watch our evening shows, but not until she's been up with us 2 or more hours past her bedtime. If she takes a nap during the day, then it's even worse. I try my very hardest to prevent daytime naps, but keeping her awake during the day is as hard as getting her to sleep at night. Gah!

Then there is the hitting. This girl is violent! Logan and Savannah have started flinching when she walks into the room out of habit. She also throws things (toys, food, cups, anything) so we've all gotten pretty good at ducking and dodging. Usually she's not even angry when she hits and throws, she just does it for sport. To make matters worse, Isabelle doesn't respond to many forms of discipline, so my endless nagging and "time outs" and threats do absolutely nothing.

Having a baby around has amplified Isabelle's potential for harm. I am amazed Sawyer has survived his first month. When Sawyer was two weeks old, Isabelle pushed him in a stroller down our very steep driveway. I had put him in the stroller in preparation to walk to the bus stop, but when I turned my head for a second, Izzy pushed the stroller over the top of the hill. The stroller crashed at the bottom, but luckily the carseat straps and stroller buckle were secure and kept Sawyer from harm. I don't always buckle him in as tightly as he was that day, and I will be forever grateful that he was watched over and protected. Although that was the worst (albeit unintentional) of Isabelle's attacks on Sawyer, it was not the only one. She is constantly poking his eyes, squeezing his hands, hitting him on the head, and climbing in his crib.

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Isabelle is destructive. Everything she touches she breaks or ruins. Logan has learned to keep his Lego creations up high and behind closed doors if he wants them to stay intact. The markers and pens are strictly off limits. Don't leave papers out unless you want them ripped into hundreds of tiny pieces. A stack of folded clothes is too tempting for her to resist. A clean house is virtually impossible with her around. Shopping with Isabelle is a recipe for disaster. Just in the last week she ripped stickers out of a book at Sam's Club and decorated the floor with them and broke a glass vase at Hobby Lobby.

And finally, there's the issue of potty training. Why is it that no matter how many times I do this, I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing? We started potty training a month before Sawyer was born, hoping that she would be mostly trained before he came. Well, that completely backfired on us and now we've gone from underwear to pull-ups to diapers and back to underwear so many times that it's no wonder the girl doesn't know where to go to the bathroom! For the past 2 weeks we have all been more consistent and it seems to have helped a little bit, but just when I think she's finally got the hang of it, she'll have four accidents in a row. She's had so many accidents that now she puts her underwear in the sink and gets the cleaner out before I even know she's gone. I am am my wits end trying to deal with her, but there's no turning back now. (I tried putting her back in diapers, but she would take them off and still manage to pee on the carpet.)

Yet I still love this girl to pieces. Strip down all the terrible-ness and you are left with the sweetest girl with the spunkiest personality. It gives me hope that one day, this phase will pass and I will get my cuddly little girl back ALL the time, not just on rare occasions. In the meantime, I'll just treasure what I can get.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A day in the life

I forgot how challenging a day can be when you have to work it around a newborn's schedule. For instance, today is a school holiday so we invited some friends over to play first thing this morning. I was feeling pretty good just to be showered and dressed by the time they came over. Minutes after they arrived, Sawyer woke up ready to be fed. I tried to hold him off while I got the girls and their friends set up with markers and paper, but between their request for various marker colors, settling disputes over what to draw, cleaning up Isabelle's hands and dress when she colored all over them, and answering questions of why Sawyer cried so much, it was awhile before I got the chance to sit down and feed him. For the next 45 minutes I did my best to supervise from my position on the couch, but I had to take a break mid-feeding to help Isabelle go to the bathroom, then again when she ran out in the front yard pant-less a few minutes later.

Finally my insatiable baby seemed satiated, but for some reason his stomach was not settling so I spent another half hour sitting with him as he spit up at least half of what I had just fed him. Meanwhile, the kids had made their way to the trampoline, where I could hear a mix of laughter, yelling, crying, and fighting coming from outside. When my refereeing via megaphone wasn't working, I eventually got up to check on them, and found pieces of foam from the trampoline all over the yard and the swings on the ground next to the swing set.

Trying to control my exasperation, I set the baby down on the floor, corralled the kids inside, and cut up some apples to eat with peanut butter. With everyone happily chomping away, I sneaked away to change Sawyer's spit up soaked clothes and lay him down for a nap. While upstairs I started a load of laundry since I had just used up the last burp cloth. Back downstairs, the kids had finished their apples and were now digging into the peanut butter jar with spoons. Peanut butter was everywhere--smeared on counters, chairs, and plates. I stopped the madness and started cleaning up, but within minutes I was interrupted by cries and shouts. I really don't understand why it is SO HARD to stay out of trouble for 5 minutes!?

Just then I hear Sawyer crying through the monitor, so I head upstairs to check on him. Turns out Isabelle had climbed into his crib and was forcing a binkie into his mouth. If ever there was a time to admit defeat, I think this was it. I had reached my max and gotten in over my head. By the time our playdate ended, I was ready for a movie (for the kids) and a nap (for me). And it wasn't even lunchtime yet.

My kids were already at challenging ages when it was just the three of them, but add a baby that literally puts me on the bench for an hour five times a day and I feel like I am falling hopelessly behind. Yet despite all that, I would spend all day cuddling with my sweet baby if I could. I don't even mind the constant spit up and poop smell that seems to cling to me around the clock. And now that a few hours have passed and I've gotten a little cat nap, I am even feeling ready to attack the biggest hurdle of them all: dinner.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's always fun when Grandpa (and Grandma) come

One of the perks of having a new baby around is getting spoiled with lots of visitors! This past weekend we were lucky to have Jeff's parents come stay. Having family in town gives us an excuse to get out and explore a little bit. We took them to our tried and true favorites (Crystal Bridges, the Five and Dime, and the Walmart visitor's center) and then to some new hang outs. Friday we tried out Fast Lanes, a bowling alley/fun center. We had so much fun racing go karts and playing arcade games that I've already purchased a groupon to go back sometime. On Saturday we took a short hike to a "waterfall." I think we actually missed the turnoff for the waterfall but ended up here instead which was at least equally if not more fun.

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At first the kids were having fun just splashing around a bit.

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But as they got more daring...

we broke out swimsuits and let them dive in.

Savannah thought the terraced rocks would make a nice slide, but it wasn't as smooth as she'd hoped.

Grandma spent a lot of time during her stay on Sawyer duty, which I think made them both pretty happy. (And gave me a chance to play with the rest of the gang!) She also did all the cooking and dishes single-handedly the whole time, which included a birthday breakfast--cinnamon rolls!--and dinner for Jeff. Between the generosity of friends and neighbors and my amazing mother-in-law, I didn't have to break out my apron until Sawyer was 2 weeks old, and even then it was to throw together freezer meals. I have been super blessed and very well taken care of these past few weeks!

We had such a blast with these two. Our kids have some of the greatest grandparents in the world! They got up to see them off at the bus and were there when to pick them up when they got home, and even met them for lunch one day despite an hour and a half break between Savannah and Logan's scheduled lunch times! (Kindergarten eats lunch at 10:20 am--that's still breakfast in my book!) Another highlight of the trip was going to the hospital to meet our new cousins-once-removed. Nate (Jeff's cousin) and Laurel welcomed twin girls last Saturday and we got to see them at just one day old. I was glad they came while Bryan and Susan were here so they could meet them, too.