A Big Bed

Simon has reached another milestone this week. He has been growing and growing, and has outgrown the toddler bed. The poor little guy has been complaining about his feet touching the wood.

We took some time this past weekend to get him a twin sized bed. He was super happy to have a bed big enough for him, and to have a bed similar to his big brother.

We said goodbye to the boat bed. We purchased it for Elias 4 and a half years ago, and either Elias or Simon has slept in it ever since. Nathan and I really loved that toddler bed, but Caleb is not ready for it and if we are going to keep either the crib or the boat bed we decided on the crib because it can be converted to a toddler bed with the front off and it is more versatile in the long run. We were happy to send it to a good home, though, and hope cousin James enjoys it as much as we have!

Nathan the iron heart never understands why I get sad at moments like this. I am happy to watch the boys grow and learn, but feel sad that time seems to be slipping away through my fingers. As Daniel Tiger says, “Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time. And that’s ok.”

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Cousin Time

There are few things better than some good old fashioned cousin time. The boys have had the privilege of seeing their cousins most of the days the last week and a half or so. Today we had a water balloon fight and some sprinkler time in the backyard, followed by popsicles. What fun!

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Family Vacation 2017: Crater Lake Edition

Our final leg of the vacation had finally arrived. None of us wanted it to end, but to be honest I was exhausted and kind of felt like I needed a vacation to recover from the vacation. (First world problems).

We left the Oregon Caves National Monument and headed toward Crater Lake. Unfortunately, a forest fire blocked our path and lengthened our drive quite a bit. We arrived at Crater Lake National Park later than we had hoped, but we were still able to get in some stunning views.

The boys’ favorite part of our time that afternoon, though, was not looking at the lake. They were thrilled to find snow still on the ground. As soon as we were out of the car they were jumping around asking to go in the snow. We made them at least look at the lake first. Then we headed across the road for their first snowball fight in 80 degree weather!

We stayed the night in the Mazama Cabins. They were rustic, and not as clean as I would have hoped, but it was perfect for what we needed. We woke up on our last morning and ate breakfast at the Crater Lake Lodge. Elias was thrilled because he ordered off the adult menu for the first time.

After breakfast we took a few more looks at the lake at a few different viewpoints.

The last time Nathan and I were at Crater Lake was 2007. We were married barely over a year and had no kids. We had to take a selfie to remember the good old days when life was so relaxed and carefree, but definitely not as exciting. 10 years later we’re still in love.

We knew it was time to start the journey home when the boys became more interested in watching an ant on the stone wall rather than looking at the lake.

The drive home was long, and it was made even longer by horrible traffic. We survived it, though, and were happy to have made so many good memories.

The day after we got home I put the boys to work washing the van. It got filthy on all those unpaved roads!

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Family Vacation 2017: The Caves Edition

On Day 10 of our vacation we woke up early and packed up to head toward Cave Junction, OR. We were headed to the Oregon Caves. It was one of our longer drive days, and we decided to stop for a picnic at Hiouchi Visitor Center in Jedidiah Smith State Park. We had been there a few days earlier and we knew it was a good spot for a picnic not far off the road. The boys got good at picnicking during this trip.

The road from Cave Junction to the Oregon Caves National Monument is steep and very windy. We made it up the hill and to the Chateau in plenty of time for our cave tour. We checked in at the Chateau, which was very charming. The building is old and has the original wooden desks, bed frames, and other furniture from the 1920’s. Each bed has a hand made quilt. The boys had fun relaxing in our room.

Unfortunately, you have to be 42 inches tall to go on the cave tour, so Caleb could not go. My parents stayed back with him while Nathan and I took Elias and Simon into the caves. We had an excellent tour guide who made it fun and interesting. Neither of the boys had really had an experience like this before, and we were hoping they would enjoy it. Simon got a bit nervous when they turned out all of the lights and we stood in the pitch black of the cave to see what it was like. Both boys enjoyed walking through the cave and up and down all of the steps. We saw many really cool formations.

After about 90 minutes inside the cave we came out the exit thrilled with our experience, but ready for dinner.

We woke up the next morning, and it was my parents’ turn to go on their cave tour. Both Elias and Simon had the opportunity to go with them, but only Elias took it. Simon decided he had had enough on the first time through. Elias, Ama, and Baba departed for their cave tour, and the rest of us went on a short hike while we waited.

After they finished, we got back in the car to head for our final destination: Crater Lake. You can read more about that in the final episode – Family Vacation 2017: Crater Lake Edition.


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Family Vacation 2017: The Redwoods Edition

Day Six: Jedidiah Smith State Park

On day six we woke up in Gold Beach and climbed in the car for a shorter drive into California to set our eyes on the Redwoods. We arrived at Jedidiah Smith State Park in the late morning and feasted on the sights. There really is nothing quite like being dwarfed by those huge trees. I expected tall trees, but even more amazing was the width of the trees.

As with most things in nature, you just can’t really capture the true beauty with a photograph. I still took tons of pictures…I’ve picked out just a few to share in this post. But mostly I just wanted to stand and stare, and let it all soak in through my skin to my soul so I could take it home with me forever.

With three little ones, we weren’t sure how trail walks/hikes would go, and how long they would stay interested in the trees. While initial excitement was almost a sure thing, developmentally, little kids just aren’t able to appreciate scenery in the same way adults can. We decided to keep hikes short and move around to see as much as we could.

We started at the Simpson-Reed Grove in Jedidiah Smith State Park because there was an easy one mile trail loop. As it turns out, the Redwoods are a little boys paradise. They were thrilled with all the sticks, rocks, logs, and other interesting places there were to explore.

We got a family picture next to a particularly large tree. It’s the classic Redwoods photo that makes you look like tiny ants.

Caleb and I had fun trying to get a picture to show just how tall the trees were, and how we pretty much had to bend over backwards looking up to see the tops of the trees.

Another way to tell how large the trees are is from the fallen logs. Sometimes it felt like walking through Jurassic Park.

We all had fun on this mile loop. We got our excitement and wiggles out, and then headed over the visitors center in Hiouchi to eat a picnic lunch and pick up some junior ranger booklets for the boys.

After lunch we decided to head down the highway for a bit, and we stopped at the Trees of Mystery. It’s not part of the National Park, and is a bit of a tourist trap, but they have a really fun gondola ride which takes you through the forest.

To get up to the gondola ride, there was another easy to moderate trail through the trees. We saw many more interesting and very large trees. There was a giant cathedral tree where people have actually gotten married. We saw octopus trees and “upside down” trees. Here, they are looking at the “lightening tree.”

On the ride, we gained over 500 feet in elevation and ended up on top of a small mountain where we had views of the forest and even saw the ocean in the distance. We had to wait over an hour to get on the gondola, but in the end, the boys thought it was worth the wait.

Here we are riding up the mountain in the gondola:

We stopped at the top to take in the views.

And then we rode back down:

Down at the bottom of the hill we stopped for some ice cream and smashed pennies. Then, the boys got to play outside on Paul Bunyan’s boot. There was someone somewhere who was watching and talked to the kids playing out in the courtyard. Simon was so tickled when Mr. Bunyan answered his questions and held a conversation with him.

Thus ended our first day viewing the Redwoods. We headed down south to our hotel, and awaited more fun the next day.

Day Seven: Avenue of the Giants

On day seven, we decided to go explore the Avenue of the Giants. It runs parallel to 101 in Humbolt Redwoods State Park. Our first stop on the avenue was at the Eternal Tree House. It was a large room which was burned/carved out of a living redwood tree. In the past, people used it for shelter both for themselves and for livestock.

While in the room, Elias signed us in the guestbook.

Outside, the boys got started on their junior ranger booklet activities.

And Caleb was just excited to be out running around.

After the Eternal Tree house and some junior ranger activities, we headed out to the Big Tree area. It was down a long mostly unpaved road, and there were a number of different trails leading off from the area. We chose one that would lead us to “giant tree.” It was also a relatively easy loop. This hike was one of my favorites of the trip, other than the fact that I pretty much got eaten alive by mosquitos.

Here are the boys next to “giant tree.”

And Nathan hugging the same tree.

We took our time and enjoyed just being in the forest. There were many interesting trees to see, but mostly it was just amazing how grand everything was.

After we finished the hike in the big tree area, we headed back a ways up the road to a nice picnic area. After lunch, we let the boys play in a nearby stream. Caleb wanted to throw rocks into the water. Elias and Simon built a rock bridge in the stream.

Our next stop was Founders Grove. I don’t know much about it because Caleb had fallen asleep and so I stayed back in the van with him while everyone else went on another short hike. They returned happy. The boys had been particularly happy because they got to climb in an alligator log and see a particularly large fallen tree.

Our final stop on the avenue of the giants was the Shrine Drive through tree. We were a bit nervous taking our van through. According to our owner’s manual, we would have three inches of clearance on each side if everything went well. My parents went through first and I took some photos of them going through and after safely making it.

Our van also made it safely through with no dings, dents, or scratches. I never questioned Nathan’s driving skills anyway.

After the drive through tree, we headed back to our hotel for some swimming. It had been a full day!

Day Eight: The Rest Day

After so many fun filled days, we knew we needed a day with a bit of an easier pace. Plus we needed laundry done, and we had to go to the store to restock on fruit and other such groceries. Our day began by checking out a local park in Eureka. They had these really cool slides coming out of a tree house that the boys liked.

After an hour or so at the playground, we checked out the Sequoia Park Zoo. It is a small zoo, but there are many interesting exhibits, and many animals that we don’t normally get to see at our zoo. There were a couple of animals I had never even heard of before! We even got in at half price because they are members of the reciprocal zoo program. The boys enjoyed a river otter tunnel, the eagles nest, the aviary, and the petting zoo. Their favorite animal was the red panda.

After the zoo we went home to rest, went shopping and swimming, and prepared for our last day at the redwoods.

Day Nine: Trees, Ferns and Birthdays

Day nine of our trip was my birthday. The boys, who had mostly been choosing to ride with Ama and Baba declared that they would ride in the van with me once since it was my birthday.

We drove to Prarie Creek Redwoods state park. Our first stop was fern canyon. I had read amazing reviews of the place, and was really looking forward to it. The road to fern canyon is mostly unpaved and very dusty. All of the trees and plants look almost fossilized because they are so caked in mud. It was a long, windy road, and in the end we had to ford the van across a stream a few times. Nathan drove like a pro again and we arrived safely at the trailhead.

At first, the trail seemed no different from the others. But then, we crossed a stream on foot and turned the corner into a canyon. It was amazing! Fern canyon is…well…a canyon filled with ferns. It is like a vertical garden. Pictures can’t really do it justice, but I tried.

Along the canyon floor there were a lot of downed trees, over which we helped each other climb.

It really was a little boy’s paradise. And the adults had a lot of fun too!

After awhile, we reached a place where the vegetation was much thicker on the canyon floor, and there were a ton of mosquitos. We decided that was a good point to turn around and go see something else! Fern canyon may be my favorite hike of the trip.

After fern canyon, we crossed the van back over all of the streams, and headed to Gold Bluffs Beach for a picnic. We let the boys play for the last beach time of the trip.

Eventually it was time to move on and we hiked back to the car.

From there, we headed to the Prarie Creek visitors center where we saw some elk, and went on one last short hike in the trees.

The boys also earned their junior ranger badges, and very proudly said the pledge.

Afterward, Elias took his duty very seriously, and decided he wanted to learn as much as possible about ferns so that he could write a nonfiction book about them and help other people learn.

After this, we sadly had to say goodbye to the trees for now. We’ll have to go back again some day!

When we returned to the hotel, we went out to eat for my birthday dinner. Then, we went out for a birthday ice cream treat on the bay. The hotel conveniently had a complimentary limo so I got to take my first limo ride on my 33rd birthday. What fun!

In these few days at the Redwoods we made memories I’ll (hopefully) never forget. While the main part of our trip was over, we still had a few fun days and amazing sights planned. Stay tuned for the next episode – Family Vacation 2017: Caves Edition.

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Family Vacation 2017: Boat Ride Edition

Day Four: Lincoln City to Gold Beach

The family vacation saga continued on day four as we left Lincoln City and headed south. I was particularly excited for this day because I had never been south of Florence on Highway 101, and I’ve heard the southern Oregon coast is really beautiful.

When traveling with three kids six and under, there are going to be a lot of stops. Actually the boys did really well in the car…but that still didn’t cut down on very many stops. Our first stop was near Florence, OR where we had a picnic. We had planned to stay for about an hour and let the boys run around on the beach after we had eaten our picnic. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold. I wrapped the boys in beach towels, but they were still shivering as they ate their lunches. We made a short attempt to walk on the beach, and I even challenged Elias to a running race, but it was all futile. We piled back into the cars after about 3 minutes on the beach.

After driving south of Tahkenitch Lake, we were in Terra Incognita…none of the seven of us had ever been there. I have to say about Highway 101 in central/southern Oregon – the parts that were on the coastline really were breathtaking. However, most of the highway is inland and takes you through forest. It was a nice drive, but I was expecting beautiful ocean vistas the whole way and felt like I just got a little taste.

In a few hours we made it to Bandon, Oregon, and stopped at an ODFW beach area to stretch our legs and take in the scenery. We walked down what was once called “the most beautiful staircase in Oregon” to the beach.

This area is known as the Bandon needles. Think of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach on steroids. There were tide pools to view at low tide, and sea lions as well as rocks for the boys to collect and climb on. Since everyone was feeling well, we got our first family portrait of the trip:

I also got acquainted with the panorama feature on my phone camera while watching the boys play in the surf.

I don’t think any camera feature could really do the view justice. It was a really beautiful view, and a fun place to play. While it felt warmer than our picnic stop, the wind was still very cold, and we only lasted 30 minutes or so.

We stopped by the Bandon City Park to use the restrooms and let the boys play on the playground before driving our last leg down to Gold Beach.

When my mom and I were planning the vacation a year ago, we knew we wanted to break up the drive down to the Redwoods and that we wanted to stay somewhere along the southern coast. My mom suggested Gold Beach because it is right on the Rogue River, and when she was eight years old, her parents took her on a jet boat tour. She’s remembered how fun it was ever since. We arrived in Gold Beach tired and ready for our boat ride!

Day 5: The Boat Ride

On day five we woke up and headed to Jerry’s Jet Boat Tours to take our tour of the Rogue River. The tour began right at the mouth of the Rogue River, and took us 32 miles upstream to Agness, OR, population 75. When my mom was a little girl, the boat tour actually delivered the mail to Agness. I’m not sure if that is still the case.

My mom was right…the jet boat tour was a lot of fun. On the way upriver we went slowly, making a lot of stops to view wildlife along the river. Elias and Simon stayed super engaged because the boat captain, named Sean, challenged them to find Osprey nests. They were excellent nest spotters. Caleb napped on the way upriver which was good because I was nervous how I was going to keep him entertained for almost two hours in a small space!

The Rogue River area is really a beautiful place!

When we reached Agness, we chose one of two restaurant options, and got off the boat for a lunch break. We got to eat outside overlooking the river. It was very nice.

After lunch, the waitress let the boys feed the fish in the Koi pond.

Soon it was time to load back up on the jet boat. I snapped this photo of Elias, Baba, and Simon on the ride home before we got all wet. The ride home was much faster, and the boat captain knew just how to spin the boat around making it a much wilder ride. We all got soaked, but that was welcome because it was very warm on the river that day. Elias loved sitting on the outside and getting soaked while spinning around.

Caleb stayed awake the whole ride home. He enjoyed the ride, but was a bit nervous about all the spraying water and mostly just hugged me the whole ride home.

When we returned to Portland I asked Elias what his favorite part of the vacation was. He said he loved everything, but this boat ride was his favorite.

In the afternoon, we decided to explore the beach. We discovered that Gold Beach has two weather reports: windy and very windy. The beach is really interesting there. The wind blows away most of the sand, and the beach is very rocky. Simon picked up pocketfuls of agates. Elias sensibly chose 4 to bring home. Simon ran around with rocks bouncing around, weighing him down. It was a very comical sight.

Again, though, we were foiled. No one wanted to sit down and play with sand toys. It was just too windy. We had fun rock hunting, then went back to cook dinner.

After dinner, the boys took Baba back down to the beach (he had missed our earlier excursion). It was still windy, but Simon was able to pick up some more rocks.

We returned to our hotel again and packed up. The next morning we would finally be setting our eyes on the Redwoods! Stay tuned for the next episode of our vacation – Family Vacation 2017: The Redwoods

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Family Vacation 2017: Barf and Beach Edition

Every time my family gets together for a vacation we have an amazing time, but something unfortunate always seems to happen. For example, in 2014 when we all got together in Oahu, my brother got appendicitis and had to be hospitalized, and Elias got stung by a man of war. It’s kind of a family joke…but we wouldn’t mind if it disappeared.

Many years ago, my parents expressed a desire to treat us to a vacation together. They took my brother and his wife to Florida. They took my other brother and his family to Hawaii. Nathan and I wanted to choose a national park. At first we looked into Yellowstone, but eventually, because of the age of our children, we chose the Redwoods. My mom and I planned the trip almost a full year ago, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since.

Day One: Portland to Lincoln City

The day for our vacation finally arrived. We packed our van for a twelve day road trip and headed off for our first stop on the way down to the Redwoods. Just before we got in our van to leave home, Elias told me his stomach hurt. I thought it was odd, but didn’t think too much of it. About an hour in to our road trip, here we were:

We pulled off on the side of the road with some cows to keep us company. Elias had barfed all over the van. (Which we would have to spend much of the next twelve days in). There was nothing to do but move forward, though, and we cleaned him and the car up as well as we could and drove on. We stopped at the Spirit Mountain Casino gas station to wash hands and maybe buy Elias some gum or breath mints or something. It was a good thing we stopped because this was where barf #2 happened. After that, we sacrificed our nice travel cooler to barf. Poor Elias was so sick. Our barf count ended up at about 9 before we ever arrived in Lincoln City.

We had been planning to play on the beach while we waited for my parents to catch up with us, but with the circumstances, we decided to request that we be allowed to check in to our hotel without them. Luckily, the hotel was accommodating even though the rooms were under my parents’ names. Elias pretty much slept the rest of that day.

My parents arrived, and my dad volunteered to stay back with Elias while we all checked out the beach. Simon was immediately in heaven because of all the driftwood he could gather. He made a huge pile of sticks, and chose one favorite. Then he designated this huge log his “pirate ship” and proceeded to instruct Ama on how to get the bad guys.

Caleb had a lot of fun on the beach too!

It was pretty cold on the beach so we didn’t stay long. Luckily, the view from our room was gorgeous so we could hear the surf all evening long.

When bed time was approaching, I started to feel sick. I hoped it was just because of all the barf I had dealt with, and not because I was catching anything. Unfortunately, I had caught whatever bug Elias had. I’ll leave day one there!

Day Two – Good Thing We Planned An Easy Day First!

Not only did I get sick after Elias, but Simon started barfing in the middle of the night. My poor parents. I’m sure they felt like they didn’t want to be around us. I myself went through many stages of grief. Why us? Why now? Luckily Simon’s was a short sickness, and although he didn’t eat for almost two days, he seemed himself by morning.

We were glad we had planned an easy day for our first full day of vacation. We started out by visiting “Prehistoric,” a cool fossil shop in Lincoln City. Elias and Simon liked the moving dinosaur, but Caleb was really scared.

Then, we went to a really cool park in Lincoln City. It has wooden structures, and is absolutely huge! It is called Regatta Grounds Park, and it overlooks a lake. I tried to take a picture of it, but it was just too huge to fit in the camera. This gives you an idea, though:

We all had fun sliding, climbing, swinging, and more.

Many of us tired out quickly, though, because of all the sickness, so we went back to the hotel for some lunch and a rest. After naps, we went out to the beach to play. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be on the beach, but it was still a bit cold. The boys had to wear their robes over their swim suits.

While we were on the beach, Nathan informed me that he was going back up to the room. He had caught the bug too. Another one down for the count! We stayed on the beach and played for a long time. We even tried out Baba’s new dragon kite.

Then, we went swimming. It was freezing. Here are the boys warming up afterward.

And so we finished day two, hoping that Nathan would wake up well in the morning, and we would leave the sickness behind!

Day Three – The Aquarium

While we were down on the central coast, we thought it would be a good idea to take the boys to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Since everyone was feeling ok (although no one was really eating much yet), we decided to go for it. We welcomed my parents to the barfmobile, and drove down to Newport. (Actually I must say Nathan worked very very hard to get the barf smell out of our van, and did a pretty good job, but it just needed a bit more time to air out).

The Aquarium was a hit. We especially loved the underwater tunnel.

Elias enjoyed reading the map and directing us to all of the different exhibits.

The favorite for our boys was learning about sharks.

Another highlight was the “big bites” exhibit they have going on right now.

And of course they enjoyed the touch pool.

When we returned from the aquarium, the boys rested, and then we went arctic swimming again. We finished off the night with dinner, and the four adults were feeling well enough (finally) that we got to play some games after the boys went to bed. We had had a fun time on the first leg of our trip (we would have preferred no barf), and were getting ready for the next phase of the vacation. Stay tuned for the next episode – Family Vacation 2017: Boat Ride Edition.

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The Last Day

And just like that….

he’ll never spend another day in kindergarten.

It sounds so dramatic, and I know he is still so young, but days like today make me feel like he is growing up so fast. I feel like time is just passing me by…like the “People Movers” ride at Disneyland. The belt with the little cars just keeps moving. Your only choice is to hop on and enjoy the ride whether you are ready to move on or not.

We certainly enjoyed our kindergarten “ride.” Both Elias and I were thrilled with his kindergarten experience at Imlay. We are ready to enjoy our summer, but can’t wait to see what is in store for him next year.

Congratulations, Elias, on being a kindergarten graduate!

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A Happy Fathers Day

Nathan is one of the best dads I know.  Our boys are super lucky to claim him as theirs. Today we started out by showering Nathan with gifts. I had let each of the boys pick out a shirt for their Daddy along with a gift card to a restaurant. Elias went with a green stripe, Simon went with a nice plaid, and Caleb got a plain black. Each of the boys also made Nathan a card.

After a nice morning together, we went to church. Somehow, we made it with plenty of time to spare. No rushing out the door. It was nice to finally have a relaxed time! I took a picture of my boys at the coffee hour after the service. I took about fifteen pictures. Someone is always moving or making a silly face or closing their eyes. It’s difficult to get everyone looking good. This was the best I could get:

After church we came home for some rest. When Caleb woke up from his nap, we packed our bags for our best Fathers Day tradition: swimming! Nathan chose his own fathers day tradition when Elias was a baby. We’ve gone swimming on Fathers day every year since! We headed to the Conestoga pool. Again, I attempted a fun picture of the boys with their dad. Here is the before swimming pic:

We splashed around and went down the slide. It was different this year because Elias is more of an independent swimmer. In a few years they’ll all be going off the diving board.

After dinner we went out to Red Robin, and then came home. Elias promptly attempted to confince Nathan that playing Minecraft together was a good idea for Fathers Day. Nathan rewarded him for his rhetorical skills and the older boys played together for a bit.

What a fun day!


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Elias and Simon have save, spend, and give jars as part of their education about money. They get a small “allowance” each week in which they are required to put one quarter in each of the jars, and the final quarter can go in the jar of their choice. They also have a sticker chart each week which helps them earn more moolah. On the sticker chart are skills we want them to work on, or habits we want to help them form. They can choose where to put that money as well.

At first, the save jar never seemed very glamorous to either of the boys. I noticed that not much of the choice money ever went in there. However, when I actually had them set a goal for where to spend the money, they did actually start “saving.” The first thing they saved for was a trip to the Wings and Waves water park. They saved enough for their own admission, and we went last April. After that, I had them set a new goal, and they said they wanted to save enough to go bowling at Big Al’s so that they could play two games and also go to the arcade. They both saved enough, and have been begging to go so we finally found a free evening to head over the the bowling alley.

We ended up staying out almost an hour past bedtime…but it’s almost summer anyway, right? They boys had a blast both at bowling and at the arcade, and the best part is that they paid their own way. It’s nice to see them reap the rewards of their saving.

Poor Caleb was pretty miserable the whole time, though. He was just along for the ride because he is too small to bowl (although he was so upset that we did bend the rules and let him push the ball off the ramp a couple of times). Saying I’ve never seen Caleb cry so hard would be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was close. He was super distraught that he couldn’t lift the balls and we wouldn’t let him down the lane. He is really good with facial expressions these days:

Next time we will have to find a babysitter so he doesn’t have to go through the torture!


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