Karlie's Night Camp At The Phoenix Zoo

Saturday night Karlie's 3rd grade class had their overnight camp at the zoo.  Karlie couldn't wait to have a slumber party at the zoo.  The zoo requires an adult chaperon for each child, so I was going to get to have a wild night too!  Max went to Iowa for his grandfather's funeral, which made it dicey trying to find coverage for all the kids.  My neighbor is my life saver and offered to keep the kids for me.  Then a few nights before the camp I remembered the dog!  I didn't have a place for Siri and it was so last minute I convinced Karlie to do an almost sleep over.  There was an option to leave at 11pm.  Being the good sport she is, she agreed that it would be OK to leave early.  It might have helped that I told her we would have a special night at home while all the other kids were at their sleepover and we would have a special breakfast WAY better than cold cereal.
 No girls night out can be complete without some drinks!  We hit Starbucks so I could make it through the night. :)
The nocturnal hike was fun and the Mexican wolves were baying at the nearly full moon.  It was really neat to hear them howl.  The kids learned about scorpions, turtles, boas, lizards, hedge hogs, cockroaches, and owls.  The zoo keepers brought each of the animals up close for the kids to examine.  After the evening snack it was time to hike to the sleeping campground.
 The campground was beautiful with lit palm trees and a roaring fire.  We played games and saw more animals.  Then it was time for the campers to set up their sleeping stations.  I was SO grateful for Siri who couldn't stay in her crate all night!  While I love to camp, sleeping on "decomposing granite" (aka rocks)  in the desert with a little mat is not my idea of a good time.  I am more of an all-inclusive luxury kind of "camper"(blow up air mat and a tent).  :)  Especially when Karlie was one of only 2 girls in her entire class that opted to do the zoo overnight camp.  We were in a group with 8 boys and their dads!  I can tell you by the end of the night after walking around a nearly 100 degree zoo these men did not smell the best.  Thank goodness I didn't have to sleep near them.  I have heard all sorts of stories about smelly feet and loud snoring!
Instead we nestled up in our king bed in the air-conditioned room with no ants or scorpions.  My neighbors kids ended up getting sick so I had to pick up all the kids and transfer them to bed at home. But I assured Karlie we would still have our special time.
 After getting things 3 and 4 fed in the morning, I made Karlie a special French Toast breakfast in bed.  I came back and we ate breakfast in bed together alone and talked about the zoo.
 Our favorite part was actually on the escorted walk out at the end.  The zoo keeper told us inside stories about the animals.  The funniest one was about the elephants.  Apparently they LOVE Gatorade.  The zoo buys it in the powder form and uses it as bribe to teach the elephants to trade items. Zoo keepers must have ways of getting dangerous animals to give them things they want or present body parts for check-ups.  Gatorade is the ultimate bargaining tool.  The elephants sniff up the powder off the ground and then snort up water and shake it all together in their trunk before drinking it.  Yes, elephant crack!  LOL  While learning about elephant crack was great, my absolute favorite part of the night was getting to spend some one on one time with my Karlie girl.  It was a wild girls night out!

Hank's Batman Birthday Party

Holy Smokes Batman!!!
Our Batman lover wanted a Batman Party.  Both he and Kaitlin wanted repeat themes from last year.  So I tried to change it up a little.  I had a lot of fun coming up with names for the food.  Free clip art for Batman made it even better.
 Mr. Freeze Ice Cream was cool.
 The Penguin Fish Snacks are a kid favorite.  I put them in a black top hat.
 Catwoman Claws were Bugle crackers.
 Batwings for the adults.
 Gatorade transformed into Joker Juice.
 Hank loves turkey and cheese roll-ups so they became Riddler Roll-ups.
Poison Ivy Pizza.
 Batman watched over the Batcake!
 Mr. Freeze had frozen Batman so the kids had to unfreeze him with their lasers (water guns).  They really loved this game.  It was a perfect activity while we waited for everyone to arrive.
Another fun activity was the superhero obstacle course.  First they had to run over bubble wrap to make Batman and Robin sounds.  POW!!  POP!!  Then they ran across the tramp and shot the laser gun, then they ran through the hoops toward the tree house.  They had to climb the rock wall and stack blocks.  Then they took the zip-line down to another block stacking station.  After that they jumped over two-by-fours and picked up their magic sword and made giant bubbles while they waited for the other superheroes to complete the course.  They kept doing it over and over and over. :)
How many twist can you have with pin the tail on the donkey?  Endless!  Pin the Bat on Batman.  I was shocked that some of the kids at the party had never played this game.  It is a staple in our house, as is the piñata.
 Hank is quite the batter and he thought it awesome he got to use his baseball bat.
 Everyone got Batmasks to sing to the birthday boy!
 It was a little Bat crazy (Kaitlin wiped out on the obstacle course and someone almost got taken out by the batter at the piñata) but it was great to see our superhero enjoy himself so much.  I think he had a very happy day.

Words To Live By

Another birthday is here.  Being 35 was really a year where I felt my age.  For most of my adult life I have felt like a 16 year old on the inside just faking it until I make it.  I can remember each time we left the hospital with one of the newborns thinking, "Really, you think I am old enough to take this precious baby home without taking a class, having a book, or passing a test?!"  As I have aged I have slowly grown into my skin and become more confidant in being Katie and not who I thought other people would want me to be and learning you can't make everyone happy.  At 35 I also started to feel and see the physical side effects of age.  No longer can I eat what I want to stay the size I want to stay.  Where did all those wrinkles come from anyway?!  And wow do my boobs sag.  Living in a city where plastic surgery is considered normal maintenance like an oil change for your car can really alter your self image.  At various moments I considered Botox, Boobs or a baby to recapture my youth.  Not to say that any of them are completely off the table but they are not the answer this year. (I think Max just fell off the chair reading this. LOL)

For a writing assignment in 6th grade we had to write our obituary.  Our teacher asked us to write what we would want to have accomplished and be remembered by.  Would we be defined by our career, a religious mission or family?  I have periodically thought about this assignment and have decided if I could only have 5 words to be remembered by, what would they be. Would those 5 words change the way I live today?  I have picked 5 words that I hope define me as age defines a fine wine. :)

1. Love
If I could only have one word it would be love.  I love fiercely and I hope all those near me will feel my love.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, the answer was love.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all you mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."
~ Matthew 22:36-40
I hope my actions will reflect my love for God, my family, and those in my community.

2. Generous
I want to be generous with the blessings I have been given.  Generous with love, time, and money.  If there is a need I hope to fill it.  It truly is better to give than receive.

3. Family
Family is everything to me.  Many people are defined by their accomplishments or careers.  My whole world is my family.  Being alone in the desert as a little unit has only sharpened my connection to them and made me realize the importance of maintaining strong extended family bonds.  Friends are good and can become like family but the genetic and spiritual bonds of family are special and worthy of investing time and energy in to strengthen them.

4. Joy
I am a happy person and I want to bring joy to those around me.  Most immediately to Max and the kids.  But I hope in small ways to bring joy to those around me with a smile, a hug, a helping hand, dinner, or in my endless errors that are always good for a laugh.

5. Serve
I have a heart to serve others.  At this point in my life I am giving myself fully to serving my family and doing all I can to put them first.  As the kids grow they will need less of me and I hope to serve others.  What good is a life lived if at the end of it, it was just for yourself?
The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.
~ Leo Tolstoy

These are my five words to live by.

How Hank Spent his 5th Birthday

Mr. Hank had a pretty good day.  For breakfast he had "Daddy Oatmeal" with cinnamon, sugar, butter and milk lakes.  (Mommy oatmeal is the microwavable kind = fast)  For lunch it was a bagel with cream cheese.  Dinner was shaped Kraft Mac-N-Cheese, chicken sandwiches, and artichokes.  He requested a blackberry pie instead of cake.
In the morning as we were getting dressed Kaitlin proposed we all wear our Batman shirts in honor of Hank's birthday.  So we were a little batty for our Batboy.
 No resemblance at all. :)
 Kaitlin gave him a Batman fedora so the girls got their fedoras and my high heels to be Batman's ladies. I am not sure how any future girlfriends are ever going to survive three sisters and mom that adore, pamper, and protect our little man!
I love you to the moon and back buddy!
I just can't express how thankful I am you made it through your rough start.  You are a blessing in our lives.  And I am not going to get emotional or anything about the fact that my BABY is five and I will have all school age kids.  No, not a single tear or empty pit in my stomach.  I just want to hit pause.

Happy 5th Birthday Hank!

Happy 5th Birthday Hank!

I so wanted to have a boy for Max.  I wanted him to have that special bond with a mini me like I had with the girls.  I never imagined how much joy a little boy could bring me.  You are my little man.  You bring such a different energy to the house.  You are always ready to run and go until you drop.  You are very loving and kind.  How you can be wired to be an instant sports fan is a mystery to me.  Anything with a ball you want to be a part of it!  You love T-ball, Batman and your family.  You have each of the girls wrapped around your finger (including this one).  You and Daddy are buddies and you love to work with tools and wrestle with him.  We love you Hank!  Happy birthday!

Viva Las Vegas!

Last weekend Max and I head to Vegas baby!  We rented a convertible mustang for the drive.
It was too much fun!  Max clearly enjoyed it as he made the 5 hour drive in 4 hours.  We had the top down until my teeth were chattering.  It was thrilling to be in such a little car that could go so fast and having the convertible was icing on the cake.
 We rolled into Vegas around 2 am but had to put the top down and cruise down the strip. :)  There is no time to sleep in Vegas.  I think over three nights we got 14 hours of sleep.
We were only there for a little over 48 hours but we made the most of it.  We visited all the major icons of Vegas and got the Buffet of Buffet cards that allowed us to eat at 11 participating buffets as much as we wanted for 24 hours.  We had breakfast in Paris and unlimited seafood at the Rio.  I don't think I have ever eaten so many crab legs!  We got our money's worth in sushi and crab alone.  The extent of our gambling was Max putting a dollar in the slots and lost.  We spent our money on other entertainment...
 Kidding!  This was as close as we got to Chippendales.   We met our good friends Rob and Anne from Colorado there to see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at the Venetian.
The last time Max and I were in Las Vegas Hailey was 4 months old.  It is difficult to party like a rock star when you are nursing a baby and still getting up in the night.
So, we tried to make up for it this time around.
Ah, but age was not on our side.  Rob and I were taking chasers of Maalox with our adult beverages.   Anne lugged the Maalox around in her purse all weekend.  Not the iron gut of our 20s anymore. 
The craziest things happen in Vegas.  While we were in the casino someone tapped my shoulder and said, "Are you Katie and Max?"  It was a friend we went to high school with and have not seen in 18 years!  Even crazier she lives 30 minutes away from us!  I suppose not everything that happens stays in Vegas.  We are going to get our families together for a BBQ.
It was wonderful spending a weekend as a couple.  When we were in line to go dancing at a club the guy behind me said, "Let me guess, you guys are in the first year of your relationship."  He about choked when I said, "try 22nd year!"  Its good to be madly in love with your best friend.
The concert was amazing.  The theater only holds 1800 people, so it is much smaller and intimate than any concert we have been to.  Tim and Faith shook hands with everyone in the isles of the main floor.  Shoot! Should have bought better tickets!  Faith's Dad and Tim's Mom were also in the audience.  They sang all our love songs.  I was disappointed that no one was standing and dancing.  I guess I belong with a rowdy crowd than Vegas.  I was hoping to dance with Max to our wedding song, It's Your Love that they sing together.  When they began to sing Max grabbed my hand and pulled me to the back of the theater and danced our wedding dance with me!  He even dipped me at the end.  I will always remember that moment where everyone disappeared but him and the sounds of their voices singing live!
Thank you Rob and Anne for partying like rock stars with us!  While our time in Vegas was short, the memories will be long lasting.
We were not quite ready to be done with our little vacation so we rode with the top down the whole way home.  Pretty fun way to get a tan and way better than traveling by plane if you ask me. :)
 The kids couldn't wait to take the car out for a spin.  They all LOVED the Mustang (especially the big kid driving)!  I don't know, there could be a middle age, midlife crisis sports car in his future.
Karlie kissed the mustang and said, "I will see you in 7 years!"  Apparently she thinks she is getting a mustang at 16.  It might be that many years until we get back to Vegas,  but I think we had enough fun to last us at least that long.  Viva Las Vegas!

How Kaitlin Spent Her 7th Birthday

 Kaitlin's actual birthday won't go down as one of her best.  She was so excited that her class was going on a desert hike on her birthday.  However, when I went to pick her up before lunch she was holding a  cold compress to her eye.  Along the hike she had been stung by a bug. :(  Her eye had a good welt under it.  Luckily we were headed to the pediatrician for her 7 year check up anyway. The swelling calmed down and the rest of her check up went great.  She is a big and very healthy 7 year old!
Breakfast was a bust.  Max had to be at the hospital early and didn't even get to see her.  She just wanted Honey Nut Cheerios.   She chose Subway for our lunch date.  A turkey sandwich with provolone, tomatoes, olives and lettuce.
For dinner it was her favorite shells and white cheddar, a rotisserie chicken leg, and salad with tomatoes and olives.  Girl loves her olives and tomatoes.
 We had to do presents before rushing off to piano.
 Her present was a new mountain bike!  No more bike trailer, this biker babe is ready to hit the dirt roads!
With just having cake on Sunday and left overs on Monday.  She was ready for a change.  We had brownie sundaes!  
Hailey wrote Kaitlin the sweetest poem for her card.

You are the sweetest pea of our pod
If a favor is needed, your answer is a nod
Trying to help all the time
Your love is an ear greeting chime.

You have hair as long as a river
Your smile makes me quiver with glee
I'll always love you
My little pea.

While not the greatest actual birthday, still pretty sweet.

Happy 7th Birthday Kaitlin!

Happy 7th Birthday Kaitlin!
Seven years ago our family was blessed with you!  You are so loving, tender, and kind.  You care deeply for others and go out of your way to put others before yourself.  You are very close to me, to the point that it is puts you in tears for me to leave after helping in your class.  You gentle heart makes people want to be near you.  Even your teacher began to cry at the thought of not having you in her class next year.  You are like a beautiful and rare flower.  We love you to pieces Shuggie and hope this is a lucky and blessed year for you!! 

Kaitlin's Hello Kitty Paint Party

We celebrated Kaitlin's birthday on Sunday with a Hello Kitty Paint Party.
  Kaitlin loves Hello Kitty and art so we combined them.
 This party was a little too much fun for me!  You know how I love a theme...  It was fun using rainbow colors with a Hello Kitty twist.  We set up a "Starving Artist" table.
 Gatorade became Creative Juice with little number 7's on top and Hello Kitty duct tape wrappers.
 Their forks and straws became the Artists Tools.
 Rainbow fruit Shish Kabobs and rainbow gold fish crackers for snacks.
 Rainbow paint brush rice crispy treats.  These were so cute.  A crowd favorite!  In the middle of the night last night Siri ate all but one of the left overs.  Apparently even the dog loved them.
Picasso Pops
Hello Kitty Cake Version 2.0.  You can see last year's cake here.
 Max made these Hello Kitty paint shirts to protect the artist's clothes.  The birthday girl had to stand out. :)
 It was time to start painting!
 First they painted the canvas all one color.
 I am likely the least artistic in the family, so I was very nervous leading the painting party.  Luckily 6 and 7 year olds are pretty forgiving, even if they are better artist.
 While we let the canvas dry we came in for some refreshments.
Then they painted a large circle of another color in the middle.

Hank even made one.
 While step 2 dried we played Pin the Paint Brush on Hello Kitty.  Kaitlin was quite pleased with Max's creation.
Little kids just love this game.
 Then it was time to add the letter of each of their names and some polka dots!

While the final masterpieces dried the kids took a crack at the piñata.  This was an absolute requirement for Kaitlin.  She wanted a party at home specifically so she could have a piñata. :)

Candy + Kids = success!
Finally it was time to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake!

We used a water color set as a thank you card that said: Thanks for coming to my party!  You made it a  masterpiece!  
At the bottom we added individualized Thank Yous.
The final masterpieces!
This party was SO fun but could never have been such a success if it weren't for the entire family.  This was a team party.  Everyone chipped in to make it a special day for Kaitlin.  The first of April came and I realized we hadn't figured out a party date or idea yet.  Usually I begin working on theme well in advance but we threw this party together in a week and most of the details in one day.  Without everyone being willing to spend their time helping ( read between the lines- cleaning and doing whatever crazy art project Mom asked)  it wouldn't have happened.  Kaitlin must have thanked me a dozen times last night with her big old grin.  "Thank you for my party!"  Nothing makes me happier then making them feel special.