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Mortvedts Go to the Mountains!

We did it. We not only survived, but enjoyed, what I would consider to be, our first family road trip! We have made many weekend trips, and even a couple slightly longer trips to visit family, but I classify this as our first real road trip, because it was longer than a week and involved stops at several locations along the way.  Chloe drew this lovely “Map of Destinations.”  It’s not quite to scale, or geographically accurate, but you get the idea 🙂

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Our first overnight stop was in Kearney, NE. We were very excited to meet up with some friends that are like family and were so thankful to be able to stay with their grandma. Monday morning brought beautifully clear skies, which was a relief, because we were looking forward to viewing a total solar eclipse. The eclipse did not disappoint. Children and adults alike were enamored!

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On Tuesday, we made it to Estes Park, CO and were welcomed into the home of some long time friends. I met this wonderful family my senior year in high school, when they had a toddler and a baby. Years later, they have a senior in high school (oy! That did not help me feel youthful 😉 ), a third child, and I’ve gotten married and had a couple kids of my own. While our families have grown and changed, the hospitality they showed me and my family was the same as when they first welcomed me into their home years ago.

When we first started driving through the foothills, we suggested that the kids might want to stop playing on the iPads and look out their windows. They complied and spent the rest of the drive ooh-ing and aah-ing over the mountains. Devon stated, “Colorado is sooo cool! I wish we could live here!” We spent Wednesday and Thursday exploring the mountains, which only solidified the idea that Colorado is cool and my kiddos wouldn’t mind living there!

Wednesday, our friends took us on a hike to Gem Lake on Lumpy Ridge, part of Rocky Mountain National Park. The total distance was about 4 miles, but with the elevation change and higher altitude it was not easy for any of our family members. Thankfully, there were plenty of snacks, fun older kids and encouraging, experienced hikers with us, so we all made it!

 

On Wednesday afternoon, we took the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to the top of Prospect Mountain. Our kids were ready to explore more mountains, but couldn’t handle any more hiking. We were ready to enjoy some more beautiful views, but couldn’t handle any more whining 😉 This was the perfect solution!

 

Thursday morning, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. Again, we were thankful for our local friends who acted as our guides. They drove us up Old Fall River Road, the original automobile route through the park. It is a narrow one-way road up the mountain with lots of narrow switchbacks. It was a perfect slow journey, with beautiful views the entire way up – made more perfect, because neither Aaron nor I had to do the driving! We stopped off and explored Chasm Falls and found a small trail with some very friendly marmots.

 

At the top, we stopped off at the Alpine Visitor Center where we got some souvenirs and Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids. We took Trail Ridge Road down the mountain, which was paved and a little less precarious, but not any less exciting. We spotted Big Horn Sheep (!!) and stopped off to see Forest Canyon.

 

On our way out of the park, we stopped and got the kids’ Junior Ranger badges and got to see a really neat topographical map of the park, showing where we were, where we’d been and all of the places we’d have to come back and explore another day.

On Friday, we headed out of the mountains and visited the Denver Aquarium. There were sea creatures from all over the world – real and imaginary. Chloe’s favorite were the “adorable otters and bright colored tropical fish.” Devon really liked the sharks and sting rays and we all thought the mermaids were pretty impressive.

 

After the aquarium, we headed to a hotel in Loveland. With bunk beds in our room and a water slide in the pool, this was pretty much the best kid hotel – and perfect for the end of our trip! To add a little bit of normal to our lives, we found a local pizza joint and had Pizza (But No Movie) Night 🙂

Saturday was our last day in Colorado, so even though we weren’t really in the mountains anymore, we wanted to make sure we still got out to do some hiking and exploration. We headed over to Devil’s Backbone and took a 3-ish mile hike. It was much easier than our previous hiking, but it was a great fit for us on our own – and we didn’t have to bribe the kids with nearly as many snacks 🙂  Although the one time we found shade between a couple boulders, they did decide it was the perfect time for a snack break!

 

We decided to make the drive home in one day. Our maps program told us it was 9 hours and 46 minutes of driving time. With stops for lunch, dinner and gas, we had the lofty goal of making it home in 11 hours. Turns out, our kids are rock stars and we made it in just 10.5 hours!

Not only did our family make a lot of great memories on this trip, but it was a great introduction to longer-term traveling. The flexibility of being able to travel at our convenience is one of the many things I love about homeschooling and am hoping to take advantage of more in the future. On the way home, I may have even started planning another trip!

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And Just Like That, She’s 8

Oh, my. Every year I’m taken aback by all the feels on my kiddos’ birthdays. I so enjoy watching them grow and change, but I’m not quite ready for the getting older part that comes with it!

My little girl (she’s still little – okay?!?) is in limbo these days – wanting to be treated like a “big kid” and enjoy all the perks that come with being big, but still not quite ready for all the responsibilities that come with it. Being in this limbo comes with a lot of big emotions – that we’re all learning to deal with.

These days, Chloe is most passionate about art, cooking and baking. Pretending to cook and bake, as well as playing outside (when it’s warm – she totally gets that from me!) and reading are also high on the list. She loves time with friends and enjoys playing with her little brother, about 75% of the time 🙂  When we have littles over to our house, she is nurturing, loving and entertaining. When we have bigs over, she is full of energy and loves to play elaborate games.

While she sometimes has lofty goals, she still loves the little things in life. Today, she loved the candle in her biscuits and gravy at breakfast. We had lunch at Daddy’s work, and stretching out in a lounge chair was one of her favorite parts. On the way home, I stopped at Caribou on campus and she was thrilled to get her very own hot chocolate. Her presents from us included an outdoor rocking chair and a toothbrush that lights up for 2 minutes. They were both on her list of 8 things for her 8th birthday and she was ecstatic. We finished the day by celebrating with some of her friends at Hickory Park. Her favorite part was making up names for her french fries before eating them.

I am thrilled to have such a wonderful, smart, silly girl to be raising. Listed below are the answers to the 20 questions we ask every year – more silliness and simplicity.

  • What is your favorite color? Purple
  • What is your favorite toy?  Kitchen stuff
  • What is your favorite fruit?  Bananas
  • What is your favorite TV show?  Odd Squad
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  Leftover Pizza
  • What is your favorite outfit? Dresses
  • What is your favorite game?  Clue
  • What is your favorite snack?  Cheese and crackers
  • What is your favorite animal?  Dog
  •  What is your favorite song? Shake if Off – sang by Rosita and Gunther in Sing
  • What is your favorite book? Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew
  • Who is your best friend? Nya
  • What is your favorite movie? Sing
  • What is your favorite thing to do outside?  “Play cooking things in the sand”
  • What is your favorite drink? Lemonade
  • What is your favorite holiday?  Halloween
  • What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  Tangled blanket, George and Monkey
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  Biscuits and gravy
  • What do you want for dinner on your birthday?  “Maybe breakfast if we weren’t going to Hickory Park.’
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? A cook 

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The Sixth Love Language

When we got married over a decade ago, we were given a copy of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.” If you haven’t read the book, what it boils down to is that if you know your love language, and the love language of your spouse (or whomever you’re trying to show love – child, family member or friend) that you can more effectively connect. These are the categories that the book lays out:

5 Love Languages

According to the quiz you can take on their website, my love language is Acts of Service.

“For these people, actions speak louder than words.”

And while I would say that is fairly accurate, I feel like really there should just be a 6th love language: food. If i think about it, the act of receiving or giving food to others, could be considered an act of service. For me though, the act of providing or being provided food definitely ranks higher than other actions.

When I’m happy or sad, when there’s something to celebrate or someone needs cheering up, food is my answer. It’s my birthday – let’s eat all the best foods! You’ve had a baby – let me bring you food. You’re sick – let me send you a gift card to your favorite restaurant. You’ve had a rough day – let me find a bakery who will deliver!

Luckily, my husband and kiddos know this about me. So yesterday, on Mother’s Day, we didn’t have any big, elaborate plans, but we did have lots of amazing food. Breakfast was crepes, both savory and sweet. If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised to find out we had s’mores crepes!  Lunch was KFC with my mom, which is (disgustingly) delicious and brings back memories from childhood, when we’d have KFC at my grandma’s every year on Mother’s Day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a turtle ice cream pie from Baskin Robbins, another tradition from Grammie’s house. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Baskin Robbins in town, so we had to made due without. In the afternoon, we visited my mother-in-law and had strawberry shortcake. We finished off the day with homemade deep dish pizza, that my kids and hubby started prep work for on Saturday.

There were gifts as well, both store bought and homemade. And they were great. But something about the food made me feel really loved and appreciated! So just know, if you ever receive food from me, chances are I’m trying to show you I care!

If you were to create a 6th love language that best described you, what would it be?

 

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Another Day, Another Mess

When my children are at their most creative, and generally getting along the best, they are also at their messiest. Sometimes, it seems as though the contents of an entire room have been rearranged or moved to another room for the sake of their game.

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The kitchen of their tiny house, aka – the living room.

The problem is, when I ask them to clean up said mess, you would think I asked them to eat liver and onions while standing on their heads. I’ve learned that there’s a little less resistance if they’re given plenty of warning, but even still, it is a painful experience. C has to examine each individual item very carefully before putting it away. Sometimes, she has to reorganize everything before she can start putting anything away. And D, he just shoves things away. When cleaning out his bookshelf, I found dirty socks, dog toys  and used tissues shoved onto the shelves.

Additionally, D loves to keep everything he ever touches. Or sees. He might need it some day, you know, for an art project. To give the boy credit, he does like to create using boxes, empty bottles, cardboard tubes and tape. Lots of tape. And I love that about him. But, that doesn’t mean he needs to keep the plastic ring from a Cool Whip container or every single toilet paper tube that’s ever been in our house. Good luck trying to convince him of that though. Here’s what I hauled off the top of his bookshelf and the floor in front of it today:

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Now, I’m trying to figure out how to keep everything in balance. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but I’d like to have some semblance of order in my house, without having to do all the work myself. This seems reasonable with a 7 and 5 year old – at least more so than a few years ago! And I’d prefer if my son didn’t end up on an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive some day. They’re good about helping with specifics jobs, such as laundry, dishes or even scrubbing toilets. Putting things away and knowing what’s important enough to keep are the things we struggle with. So, my question is, how do you teach your kids to keep a (reasonably) neat house, without nagging or stifling their creativity? 

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Just like that, he’s 5!

Oh, (not so) little boy…

Another year has flown by, and you are still the same independent, stubborn, sensitive, creative, smart little boy you’ve always been. You started preschool a few weeks ago, and even though you’re a tiny bit sad every morning when I drop you off, and require me to stay until you walk back to your classroom, you have a blast – every single day. I love to hear about the friends you’re making and the adventures you have.

Not a single day goes by that you don’t simultaneously challenge me and amaze me. After a morning meltdown because I asked you to brush your teeth (like I do every morning…), you might later do some quick math in your head to figure out that if our family of four wants to ride the train at $3 a person, it would cost $12 for all of us.

You love to help with projects, whether it be handing dad tools while he works on his bike or helping me put together my latest IKEA purchase. You loathe cleaning up, but most games you play involve moving a large quantity of toys from one room to another. You want to keep every box ever delivered to our house and have an overflowing “art box” that I would consider filled with junk, but you insist on keeping and never use.

You love hummus, and generally just eat carrots or sweet peppers as a conveyor for your hummus. You recently discovered that you like Sweet Red Pepper hummus the best, although Original and Garlic are also good. The Cilantro Jalapeño got a thumbs down. The only way you’ll eat most meats is in a casserole or covered in ketchup – it doesn’t matter if it’s steak, pork chop, salmon or chicken – it needs ketchup. You have always liked clementines, but recently discovered a love for navel oranges as well. I’m not sure if it’s the flavor or the fact that you can do this.

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I love being your mommy and can’t wait to see what the next year brings. Hopefully, you don’t lose your squishy, kissable cheeks. You haven’t outgrown them yet, so I’m just going to assume you never will 🙂

And without further ado… Here are the answers to the 20 questions I ask my kiddos every year on their birthday. Or at least close to their birthday. Remembering things is hard!

What is your favorite color? Blue. 

What is your favorite toy? MagnaTiles

What is your favorite fruit? Clementines and oranges

What is your favorite TV show? StoryBots

What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Macaroni & Cheese

What is your favorite outfit?  “My Paw Patrol shirt. And my Paw Patrol pants.” *smirk*
(Note: He does not have any Paw Patrol pants. I can confirm that he likes the shirt.)

What is your favorite game? Hide & Seek

What is your favorite snack? Oranges

What is your favorite animal? Cows

What is your favorite song? Go Tell it on the Mountain

What is your favorite book? Zootopia (book on CD)

Who is your best friend? Judah

What is your favorite movie? Planes: Fire and Rescue

What is your favorite thing to do outside? Set up American Ninja Warrior Courses

What is your favorite drink? Orange Juice

What is your favorite holiday? “My birthday!!” (We then had a discussion about how it’s not technically a holiday, but we do celebrate it.)

What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Clifford, Snuggle Duck and Taggie

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes!

What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Walking Tacos

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I don’t know. I’m not decided yet. Hmmm… A pool lifeguard.”

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Loyal Reader Q&A

Since posting about D’s first day, several people have asked why we’re homeschooling C and sending D to public school preschool this year. Here’s the quick-ish answer, just in case you’re also wondering…

When C was preschool aged a few years ago, I was still working for the City 30 hours a week. In Iowa, preschool is offered to all 4 year-olds free of charge, and it seemed like the logical next step for her, so off she went. Throughout her year, we loved the experience she had. She was in a classroom of 15 kids, with a lead teacher and two assistants, plus an occasional ISU student or foster grandparent thrown in for good measure. We never felt like she was getting lost in the shuffle. Her mornings seemed to be spent mostly playing at centers or outside at recess, reading books and singing songs together with her class. I know she did some learning as well, because soon she was able to write her name and use things she’d learned against me. (My favorite example of this is when she kept getting up one night at bedtime. I told her the first step to falling asleep was to lay down, because she couldn’t sleep standing up. She responded with, “But astronauts do, Mommy. I learned it from Ms. Jill!)

When C went to Kindergarten the next year, she was in a class of 26 with only her teacher present. There were many times she was left to figure out right and wrong without an adult around to assist. The educational expectations outlined for the kids seemed overwhelming for a 5 year-old and C came home exhausted, frustrated and sometimes confused at the end of the day. That’s when we decided to give homeschooling a go. We are lucky enough to live in an area where there’s a great support system for homeschoolers and we’ve loved it so far.

As the time approached for D to start preschool, whether at home or at school, we decided that it would be good for him to spend a little time away from Mom and second-Mom (aka – his sister) to have a chance to play with other kids his age on a regular basis and figure out how to feel safe away from me, in a safe environment. So, because we’d had such a great experience with C, we decided to send him to Northwood.

I felt even better about this plan after attending the parent orientation a couple weeks ago. D’s teacher explained the vision and mission of the Northwood Preschool Center. It totally fits with my thinking of how I want my kids to experience school, especially at a young age.

Vision:
To create a positive learning community that fosters life-long learning by cultivating five core traits of successful learners: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, collaboration and reflection.

Mission:
To engage all learners academically, socially and emotionally, and physically.

With this in mind, we’re hoping to have another great year in preschool! Then our plan continues to be to homeschool both kiddos next year when D starts kindergarten.

If any other readers have questions, please submit them in the comments below, by email or in person and I’ll answer as time permits 😉

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She’s a 2nd Grader!

We deemed today Chloe Mae’s first day of 2nd grade. It’s really pretty unofficial, because we’re been slowly adding more structure and school back into our days since the beginning of August. And today (or this week for that matter) we still won’t be doing ‘everything’ that’s planned for this year. However, we needed a day to take pictures 🙂 and I plan on us really getting back into the groove this week. In addition to the fact that it’s “just time,” Devon is at preschool most mornings and Aaron’s out of town for work, so we need something to keep us busy!

We’re excited to continue our homeschool journey this year! We are continuing with the math, language arts and history curriculums we used last year. Additionally, we’re adding Spanish and Cursive and using a Magic School Bus kit for Science.

We aren’t using an official reading program, which for a planner like me is a bit intimidating, but Chloe is looking forward to picking out books she’s interested in from different genres. Today at the library, she picked out a book called, “Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell.” She has been reading the Judy Moody chapter book series for fun, and apparently Judy mentions Elizabeth Blackwell several times, so Chloe asked if we could find a biography about her to start off the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what other choices she makes!

After we dropped Devon off this morning, we came home and Chloe Mae was all set to take pictures. She said to me, “I know you didn’t do your hair or anything, so you don’t have to take a picture with me like you did with Devon if you don’t want to.”

Stop.

Hold it right there.

There is no way I want my daughter thinking that her hair has to look good, or she needs to have the perfect make-up, clothes or anything before she gets her picture taken. So we enthusiastically took a selfie. Honestly, this is probably a better representation of what I look like during my children’s childhood years anyhow (and maybe beyond. Who knows??) So, for the official (blogosphere internet) record, here it is:

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