Great Wolf Lodge

About six months ago, my sister-in-law (Auntie Kristy) and I started talking about what we wanted to do to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. My mom has always loved swimming and water parks, so when Kristy suggested we might look into Great Wolf Lodge, I jumped at the chance. It was one of those things that I’d always wanted to try out with our family, but it was a bit spendy and I wanted to boys to be old enough to be worth the expense. My mom’s 60th was a perfect excuse to go check it out.

Originally, we had scheduled the weekend for January, but we got snowed out! After re-coordinating everyone’s schedules, we decided on March 11th-12th. You are allowed to enter the water park at 1pm the day of check-in so we piled in the vans and headed north Saturday morning.

When we arrived at Great Wolf Lodge it was a madhouse! Simon claims that you have to be a wolf to go there….an idea they helped him believe by giving all the kids wolf ears.

Eventually, we made it in to the locker rooms, got changed, and started having buckets of fun. The kid pool was amazing with a couple of slides that Simon wanted to go down over and over again. Even Caleb enjoyed going down one of them on Baba’s lap. There was a great wave pool, and some bigger slides that the adults and Elias were able to take turns going on while some of us stayed back with the littles. I couldn’t believe how fast some of the water slides go! On one of them, I was actually a little scared for Elias who was coming behind me. He made it down just fine, though, with a smile on his face and I no longer worried. They also have a great family raft ride that we went on a bunch.

We stayed for a little over three hours, then took a break for dinner. Against my better judgement, we decided to take the boys back down for more fun after dinner. Their usual bedtime is about 7 pm, and we went swimming from about 7-9 pm…on daylight savings time eve….when all three of them had colds. But you only live once, right?

We hurried up to our room at 9 and gave them a rinse off bath. Needless to say they were wiped out and fell right asleep. It was a restless night, and we lost an hour of sleep, but we got to wake up for more fun so it worked out! My parents took us to a great breakfast buffet as a thank you for taking them on the trip. Caleb tried his first french toast sticks and really loved them.

After breakfast, we had to get everything ready to check out before we headed to the pools. While Nathan, Auntie Kristy, and Baba took everything to the vans, the rest of us stayed and played upstairs. Uncle Scott came up with a fun game which involved the boys jumping/being thrown into a nest of pillows. It was right up their alley.

When we finally got down to the pools, Auntie Kristy let me borrow her phone case so that I could take some pictures in the water. We took advantage of the wave pool when the waves weren’t on. Caleb really enjoyed walking around in the water on his own.

And with his best buds.

When the waves started, Elias and Ama went to get to the biggest ones. Elias was really in his element the whole weekend. I think he could stay and play there forever.

Caleb didn’t like the waves, but he did like the fountains. Something about this one really made him tickled. He was laughing so hard!

We all enjoyed going down the slides with Elias because he loved it so much. Here is Ama coming down. Being 60 hasn’t slowed her down at all.

Simon, Caleb, and James mostly stayed in the kids pool but there was always plenty to do there. Here is Baba playing with them.

Alas, all good things come to an end. By lunch time, the three youngest boys were toast. While Elias could have gone all day, we decided to pack up and head home before the meltdowns really began. It was a wonderful weekend, and we really hope to visit again some day! Happy birthday, mom!

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Simon – 4 Years Old

Simon turned four years old today. We celebrated a bit with family over the weekend, and again today  with just the five of us on his big day.

Over the weekend we had a big February birthday bash with all of the Bartle boys. Baba, James and Simon all have birthdays within a week of each other. We went out to Red Robin for a family meal, then went back to my parents’ house for some dessert and presents.

Simon was excited to open this baseball helmet from Ama and Baba.

Birthday cupcakes were a hit!

The boys also had a blast getting in their usual Uncle Scott wrestling session.

This morning Simon woke up and immediately remembered some garden tools my parents had given him. It was still pitch black outside, and he wanted to go out and use them. I made him wait until the sun came up. I let him try to tend to this area under our Japanese Maple that got completely overgrown with weeds and grass last year when I couldn’t properly tend to it.

Simon got to go to his soccer class, then I took him to go pick out a cake. After getting Elias from school, the boys got to play outside all afternoon until Nathan got home from work. They loved riding their bikes. Simon is proud to ride his green bike now instead of the tricycle.

After Daddy got home we went inside and talked with Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina on the phone. Then Simon got to open some presents from Mommy and Daddy. We got him a sleeping bag, two books on cd, a small wooden treasure box to keep his rocks, and a monster truck toy. He was a happy boy.

Finally after dinner (Simon chose mac and cheese), we got to eat his chosen birthday cake. A chocolate monster!

It’s been a big year for Simon. In his 3’s he was potty trained, stopped using a binky, started preschool, began swimming lessons, soccer, and basketball classes, joined AWANA, and much much more. We are so proud of the thoughtful and joyful little boy he is, and while I sometimes am driven to my wits end by his antics, I wouldn’t change a thing about him. Happy Birthday, Simon!

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Reaching Milestones and New Heights

We recently logged a nearly perfect weekend in the books. I think my happy feelings towards it partly come from the fact that it was definitely a spring weather weekend with beautiful blue skies, sun on our backs, and cool, comfortable temperatures. But there was a lot more to it than that.

For starters, I got in a few hours of much needed yard work, and I hadn’t gotten to do that for almost two years. Last year I was probably only able to put in a few total for the whole season due to Caleb being an infant. I really missed it (and so did our yard!).

We reached some milestones this weekend, though. Elias learned to ride his bike with no training wheels! This was something he has been wanting to try for some time, but winter is a hard time for bike riding. He was so proud of himself, and he picked it up very quickly once the training wheels were removed!

Nathan also reached new heights this weekend. He climbed up on the roof for the first time. Our gutters really needed cleaning and in one spot was even starting to bow out. He was also able to clean a bit of moss off the roof, although that still needs more work.

I made Nathan wear a bike helmet when he went up on the roof. He didn’t want to wear it because he thought he might look foolish, but I made him do it nonetheless.

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Caleb – 14 Months

Caleb is 14 months old today. How time flies! The last blog update I wrote for Caleb was at his first birthday. In the last two months I really feel the changes. He is not a baby anymore, but a little boy. The two biggest changes in the last two months are that Caleb is now walking and he is feeding himself with a spoon. He also experienced his first big snow and met his Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina. Caleb has four new molars, and finally, I can say he has made peace with our daily routine, which proved so hard for him since Elias’ school pickup was right during his nap time. He is (for the most part) just a happy little guy. He is persistent and a good problem solver. There isn’t a shelf he can’t climb or a brother he can’t bother. He also has an annoying habit of hitting an unsuspecting person on the head with his toys…a habit we are teaching him is wrong! But despite his flaws he brings us so much joy every day.

Big Snow

Caleb loved the snow if he got to go sledding. Other than that he kind of just sat in it like a big lump. He wasn’t stable enough of a walker to try to toddle around in it, and crawling in the snow is just no fun.

Walking

Caleb has been taking a step or two since about 13 months, but really got going about a week and a half ago with walking full time. He walks everywhere now, and was particularly interested in our shadows when he and I walked in to pick Simon up from preschool. Now that he is walking there is a lot more he can explore. He loved stomping on leaves and picking up sticks in the parking lot. Luckily he is content to stay close to me (for now!). Here he is exploring the hallway outside Simon’s classroom:

Feeding Himself with a Spoon

Caleb loves to feed himself with a spoon. His favorites are yogurt and re-fried beans. He makes a pretty huge mess, but also gets a fair amount in his mouth. Now that he knows he can do it, he won’t have it any other way.

The Explorer

Now that Caleb is walking he loves to explore. He seems so tiny in such a big world, but I love to see his confidence and his perseverance. I snapped a picture today at the playground after school. He wandered quite far from me (but toward his big brother), and just wanted to explore the bark chips, the grass, the pavement, watch airplanes fly overhead, and watch all of the big kids playing. I was trying to imagine all that must be going on in his little head. He sure is growing up.

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Bartle Family Beach Weekend

My brother (Uncle Greg) and his wife (Auntie Shaina) came to visit over the long weekend. We were eagerly anticipating their arrival since we hadn’t seen them since their wedding almost two years ago.¬† I was worried the weekend would go too fast, and it certainly did. It was a whirlwind of fun and good family times. In order to squeeze in as much family time as possible, my parents decided to treat us all to a weekend at the beach. If we were all together in the same house, we wouldn’t need to leave at the kids’ bed time. While it made for some pretty tired adults, their genius plan worked and the eight adults got to laugh into the wee hours of the night playing games and more while the kiddos slumbered below.

Getting to the beach was tricky. While we have 100% consumer satisfaction with our van, it is not really a snow vehicle. We had to chain up on the Hwy 6 pass.

We were annoyed at the need for chains, but at least the view was beautiful.

We made it to Rockaway Beach and the boys instantly got in on the family fun. Neither of them had ever played pool or foosball.

Friday night we just hung out around the house. Saturday morning we drove in to Cannon Beach because Uncle Greg wanted Auntie Shaina to see Haystack Rock. We brought some sand toys, kites, and the winter coats. It would be a cold time to play on the beach! Despite the cold, it was a beautiful day and much fun was had. We played with the stomp rocket that Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina got Simon for Christmas. That was a huge hit!

The cousins played in the sand.

Even though there was not suitable wind for kite flying, Simon really wanted to make it work. Auntie Shaina helped him get it in the air.

Caleb took to the sand like a pro just like he did last summer.

Elias tried to scale this large sand wall just like his Uncles were doing. He eventually made it up and was very proud of himself.

We managed to get a selfie of all twelve of us with Haystack Rock in the background. Good thing Uncle Greg has long arms!

After the beach we headed back to the house where Auntie Kristy and Baba cooked us a delicious turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the fixin’s.

In the evening we went to the beach just outside the house and had more stomp rocket fun. I caught this picture of the sun near dusk.

Sunday morning we headed out to the beach one more time. It was absolutely freezing, but again, just so beautiful. It was nice for the boys to get so much cousin time!

Caleb and James really hit it off. They played together a lot. Now that Caleb is walking a whole new world of play has opened up to him. He and James were mirroring each other’s movements and Auntie Kristy reported that the two even played hide and seek together.

On the way back to Portland we stopped (of course) at Tillamook for some ice cream and fudge. Can you believe in all our visits we’ve never actually sat in the bus? This was a first.

We were sad to see our weekend end so quickly, but are so thankful for the time we had together.

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Geocaching Fun

I’ve wanted to try geocaching for a few years now, but we were waiting until the boys were a little bit older. We finally tried it out a couple of weekends ago, and we loved it! We found our first two caches just a short walk from our house in Noble Woods Park. We plan to do many more in the coming weeks.

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Snow, Snow, and More Snow

The boys don’t know how lucky they are this winter with so many snow days. They don’t remember that last winter we didn’t get any good snows. After tomorrow they’ll have had eight snow days off of school, and currently we are still in the midst of getting 8 inches at our house. In other places of the country, people wouldn’t blink an eye, but in Portland, that’s definitely something!

We’ve done it all in the last couple of days, and all without leaving our house. We built a snowman in the backyard, we’ve gone sledding at the end of the street. We’ve shoveled snow and had a snowball fight. We built a huge mount of snow and jumped in it enough times so that it became almost flat. The boys have giggled with delight and complained of cold. It has been a lot of fun, but I am looking forward to the days when they can all put on their own snow gear and can stay out a little longer at a time!

Here is the snowman the boys built:

Caleb definitely liked being pulled around on the sled the best. Here he is when we forcibly removed him from the sled:

And after we put him back on to be towed around the neighborhood:

Mommy and Daddy stopped for a selfie. Nathan worked from home and was able to take a long lunch to come outside and have some fun with us.

Simon had a great time on the sled. Unfortunately he did have one crash and now has a big “chain link fence” print on his forehead. It’s all the rage these days….

Even though there were some bumps and bruises, everyone is safe and healthy and we are glad we’ve had the opportunity to play so much in the snow!

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Winter Break 2016

Well winter break past weeks ago, but it sure feels like it is still here! Elias will have had one day of school this week out of five due to snow days!

Our winter break 2016 was just perfect. Traveling is always fun, but there is nothing quite like having a couple of relaxing weeks at home to unwind. The boys and I had a couple of pajama days where we just stayed in our pajamas all day. We played, read, and relaxed. I think it was what all of us needed.

Pajama day!:

We also played games a did some puzzles. Elias completely whomped me at Monopoly. You can see he has houses and hotels, and almost all of my properties are mortgaged. We actually did finish the game and he eventually completely bankrupted me. He was quite proud if you can’t tell from the picture.

We celebrated Christmas. On Christmas eve the boys participated in the pageant at church. Elias was a dove and Simon was an angel. Caleb was a spectator.

After the service we took our annual family photo on the altar.

After the service we went home and had a quiet evening exchanging gifts. Simon loved his light saber.

I got Nathan tickets to two blazer games: one to go with Elias, and one to go with Simon. They went the week after Christmas and all three of them had a blast.

I volunteer in Elias’ classroom once a week. While I was volunteering one of my tasks was to hang the kids’ writing on the bulletin board. Out of all of the fun we had over the break, look what Elias chose to write about:

It’s Elias and his Daddy in their black jerseys. You can even see their red popcorn bucket in the picture. I guess it was a good choice for a gift!

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The Whole Fam!

This is why we needed a bigger couch…so the whole family could fit!

Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina are visiting this weekend from Ohio. This evening we all gathered at our house for tasty ribs and good company. We are excited to spend the whole weekend together!

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Advent 2016

As I sat and contemplated how I wanted our family’s advent observances to look back in November, one word kept coming up in my mind: counter-cultural. Everything I want to teach and experience with the boys during advent and Christmas is just different from what I am told I should think is important by media, facebook, and more. We don’t do Santa or elf on the shelf. Not because I think those things are horrible. No judgement here. But Christmas is about the incarnation, and with so much in this world already out there vying for our attention, anything that distracts from that is just….well…in the way.

I always wondered how the boys would react to our different traditions once they were old enough to realize that our family does advent and Christmas a little differently. This year, Elias started kindergarten and that day finally came. He asked me on the car ride home:

E – “Do we do elf on the shelf?”

Me – “No. ”

E – “Why not? It sounds really fun.”

Uggh. I had such a sinking feeling at first. But then hope. Because I could share with him my decision making process for why. And I hope that it has helped him have a deeper appreciation for the things we do.

So what does our advent look like? I wanted it to have three components:

  1. Spiritual Development
  2. Service
  3. Fun

One of the things we are doing for spiritual development is a family Jesse Tree. Each day during dinner we light the advent wreath. Then once the meal is finished, I read them the scripture for the day and we talk about it. Finally they get to color an ornament for our Jesse Tree. We made our Jesse Tree on the first day of advent. Elias was proud because it looks like it is from minecraft.

Each day we also read two stories. I wrapped them up in wrapping paper so each day the boys get to open one. One of the stories is about the nativity story in some way. The other is a fun one such as the nutcracker, etc. I got a lot of books from the library to wrap up, and we also have a pretty good collection ourselves. This has been great because we are getting to read so many different books.

Also for spiritual development I enlisted the help of some good and wise friends to help me pull off this advent spiral with our family group at church. Each child got to walk into the spiral alone searching for “the light of Christ.” Then they brought the candle out and set it along the path, symbolizing them bringing the light into the world. It was a bit chaotic with so many young kids, but a beautiful tradition I’d like to try again.

For service we have done things like buy food for the food bank and donate it, and purchasing clothes for a foster closet. I had other plans that were ruined by the snow so perhaps next year we can try those again.

We’ve fit in a lot of fun as well. We celebrated St. Nicholas Feast Day by putting chocolate coins in the boys’ shoes. Caleb even got to try his first chocolate candy! We also made a gingerbread house for the first time ever!

We’ve seen Christmas lights, made garlands, decorated our Christmas tree, and cut out paper snowflakes, and the boys will eventually participate in the Christmas pageant at church.

I’m hoping that the boys are growing and learning about Jesus’ first coming so that under all the tinsel and wrapping paper of “the big day” they can have a seed of hope and love to carry with them, and they will know the true meaning of the gift we have been given in Jesus, and ultimately, they will be more prepared for his second coming.

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