Monday, June 16, 2014

Schools out!

We finally made it to the end of the school year! I am never sure how I'm going to feel when school lets out, but this year I was as excited as I was as a kid. Our schedule during the school year is so jam packed that I was really looking forward to some slow, lazy days.

Logan started second grade with a gappy smile and sweet baby face. Looking at these pictures, I think he must have grown a foot! His teeth finally grew in (braces, anyone?) and although still sweet, his face definitely looks older to me. Logan mastered 3 digit arithmetic this year and is making great progress on his reading. He tends to read too fast and skips a lot of words, so we have been working as a family to read aloud so he can't get away with it. :)

3rd grade, here he comes!

Savannah was the only one NOT excited for summer. She was so sad when she got off the bus for the last time. She loves her teacher and her friends. Luckily we have a lot of fun things planned in the upcoming weeks, including a big birthday for this cute girl. This summer her goal is to read chapter books, and she already has her first one under her belt.

With a little coercion, I managed to weasel a little excitement out of her.

My big first grader.

Hooray for summertime!

Lost Valley Trail

After the success of our Devil's Den hike, we decided to try another hike that had been recommended to us. We were a little fuzzy on the specifics, but decided just to drive to the general area and figure it out when we got there. That's kind of how we roll. The kids were not as enthusiastic as we were after driving for an hour and a half.

We had originally thought we might go to a set of waterfalls that was just off the road. But after arriving at the visitor's center, we found out we were still 45 minutes away from those falls. The very helpful lady suggested we backtrack a mile or two and try the Lost Valley trail. When we got to the parking lot, it was pouring rain. We knew it would let up soon, so we hung out for a bit in the car until it had nearly stopped.

I don't know that we could have planned a better hiking experience if we'd tried. Sometimes being spontaneous pays off! We never saw another storm cloud that afternoon, and the temperatures were pretty much perfect. The rain ensured that all waterfalls were running, and the trail was stunning with bright green foliage everywhere. The kids LOVED it, as did I.

The trail has been really well maintained. Although dirt, the first half mile was so smooth we could have pushed a stroller. After that it was up and down, but anytime it got steep there were stairs to help us out.

Sawyer did great in the front pack. He is getting a little big for it, though. It is probably time to invest in a second hiking backpack.

Eden Falls. Such a beautiful and peaceful place. This waterfall originates from a cave that you can climb through to find an indoor waterfall, but we were not daring enough with all our little guys to try it out. Next time, for sure.

We thought we'd seen our share of waterfalls on this trail, but on the way back we took a little detour and found another one! This was probably my favorite of the day. It was small, but so pretty. It reminds me of something a landscaper would try to imitate.

After our hike, we drove to a viewing point to try and see some elk. We caught a quick glimpse of one right as we drove up, but after 20 minutes decided to give up and head home. We'd been on the road maybe five minutes when we drove right past an entire herd! Jeff pulled over and I hopped out to get some pictures. There were probably 20 or so elk grazing 15-20 feet from the side of the road. So neat!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pack meeting

Logan had his first pack meeting last week. This whole scouting thing is pretty new to both of us, but I have vague memories of attending pack meetings as a kid. Logan has a great den leader, Sister Dragovich. She is organized and extremely helpful when it comes to helping new moms like me get on their feet!

Logan earned his Bobcat, a preliminary step to any other ranks. Now he can start working on his Wolf requirements. I had forgotten that moms get an award, too. I guess it's only appropriate since moms earn most merit badges along with their sons! I was flattered to be pinned by such a cute boy.

The boys did a short skit about Indians. I didn't really catch the plot, but it was something involving getting the audience to say, "Oh what a goose I am!"

We finished off the evening with water balloon games. Logan was very sweet and let Savannah be his partner for the water balloon toss.

This has nothing to do with the pack meeting but how gorgeous was the lighting that evening? I'm loving these later sunsets.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Devil's Den

After getting several separate recommendations to try out Devil's Den, a nearby state park, we decided to spend our Memorial Day checking it out. One of my favorite things about this area is all the hiking trails and outdoor activities. This summer is our time to explore and discover. We started with a simple 1.5 mile hike, but are hoping to work up to 5-6 miles by the end of the summer.

The older two whined and complained the whole drive there. They didn't want to hike and thought it sounded boring and tiring. I'm sure you can tell by these pictures how much they hated it. ;)

Although it was short, this hike had lots to see and do. It was riddled with caves and cool rock formations, and even had a small waterfall. One cave, the "Ice Box," was incredibly cool compared to the surrounding air! It wasn't a deep cave, but just stepping underneath the overhang brought a rush of cold air. Perfect for a warm day!

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Kindergarten grad

As much as I hate to admit it, Savannah has officially completed Kindergarten. She won't turn 6 for a few more weeks and still seems far to young to be a first grader, but she loves everything about school and nothing will hold her back.

Their "celebration" ceremony was pretty adorable. They sang several songs, including one about a cowboy that involved some western moves. Seeing 100 or so Kindergarteners riding their ponies was just about as cute as it gets.

Each kid had a moment in the spotlight as their name was called and they received a diploma (a blank piece of rolled up paper) from their principal, Ms. St. John.

Afterwards we were able to get a few pictures with friends and teachers. Savannah loves this sweet little friend. I laugh to myself that they could be the poster children for a politically correct classroom. Is it even politically correct to say that?

Savannah's teacher, Ms. Cardwell.

The graduate. I am so proud of Savannah and all she has accomplished this year. Her reading has improved by leaps and bounds. At the beginning of the year, it was painful just to get through the very most basic phonics book. Now, when we read scriptures together as a family, she can get through an entire verse with little to no help and at a pretty good pace, too! She didn't seem to catch a love of reading right away, so I worried that it would be difficult for her, but she caught the bug eventually and a new world opened up for her.

Savannah is a very meticulous student. Her teacher tells me she is often the last one working on an assignment because she is so careful to dot every i and stay within the lines. She is the type who will color every inch of a picture, right down to the outermost corners of the background. This is completely the opposite of Logan, and it has been fascinating to observe the differences and outcomes of their unique personalities.

On our way back to the car, I told Savannah to jump in the air and yell, "Hooray!" The result is one of my favorite pictures of all time. Such joy! And I have 10 others that are just as fun.

Don't be fooled, though. This girl is super sad that summer is here and she won't get to see her friends and teacher anymore. It's a good thing we have a busy summer planned--she'll be back to school before she knows it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Crystal bridges

If you come to visit us in Arkansas, it is pretty much a guarantee that we will take you to Crystal Bridges. Crystal Bridges is an art museum that has a much better collection than you would ever expect for this part of the country (at least so I'm told). But the real reason I love it so much is the grounds! Any time of year it is a beautiful place to visit, but springtime is really exceptional. My friend, Jessica, and I took our kids out to try and capture some of the spring color that has been popping up everywhere lately. We were striking out with odd lighting and cranky kids until we stopped off the side of the road on our way back to the cars. All it takes is a few moments to get some perfect shots. Success!

This one of Sawyer is courtesy of Jessica. Her work is amazing! I love having a friend that can talk photography with me all day long and never get bored.

Speaking of Jessica, here she is with her cute baby, aka Sawyer's best friend-to-be.

Take me out to the ballgame

We made it to our first Naturals game (minor league team based in Springdale, AR) when Logan was able to sing with the 2nd and 4th grade from his elementary school during the pre-game ceremonies. Logan felt pretty special being able to stand on the field, especially when a camera man came out and started videoing them. They sang an anthem of patriotic songs and ended with (what else?) Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Although we had been experiencing a hot spell, our seats were in the shade and it was such a pleasant evening. Nate and Laurel joined us with their twins, and their company made it that much nicer. 

Now if only I were a baseball fan.


After 2 years of renting, I was full of ideas and projects when we became homeowners again. Just about every corner of this house was begging for built-ins. I had never built any myself, but I found a blog tutorial and thought, "I can do that!" (Famous last words.)

The first place we decided to tackle was the family room. Here it is the day we closed. The whole room was very monotone, with the same yellowish tan color on the walls, trim, and moulding.

My first task was to paint the fireplace. I wanted to see what a coat of white paint would do. I loved it, and that confirmed the idea of building bookshelves flanking it on either side. Soon after, we knocked off the mantle as our first step in the demolition.


The next step was installing some pre-made base cabinets on either side and then cutting, staining, and installing butcher block countertops. It all sounds so easy, but just getting it that far was really tough for us non-handy folk. And consequently, it sat that way for a looong time.

It was such an eyesore that I left these baby shower decorations up for over a month to hide the rough edges and unfinished cabinetry.

After several attempts at progress with no success, we called in backup. Our friend, Shane, came and spent several weeks in his makeshift workshop on our back porch. He worked his magic and before I knew it, my vision was a reality!

Almost there... you can see the new wall color (Wordly Grey by Sherwin Williams) on the wall behind the bookshelves and the half painted wall on the left.

Finished! I am SO thrilled with how they turned out! It completely transformed the room and I LOVE it. Plus, I have lots more storage now which is key in this house-of-no-closets.

It turns out that decorating these shelves has been the hardest challenge of all for me. I arranged and rearranged for a week and wasn't liking it at all. Finally I had the idea to sort the books by color and that helped a ton.

It's still a work in progress, but that's half the fun! Every few weeks I'll move something around, or add/take away an item. I don't usually pay attention to the type of books I'm grouping together, but I've been amused by how often they seem to coordinate. For example, here's our blog book about our family, sitting on top of Parenting with Love and Logic and Strengthening our Families.

And our Willow Tree figure is sitting on top of With Full Purpose of Heart, Righteous Influence, and The Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate-- all key things for a happy marriage. :)