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A Look Back at 2018

Here it is, New Year’s Eve 2018 and I’m finally writing a blog entry – for the entire year, because I just can’t do this more than once a year these days!

2018 was an outstanding year, but it started out pretty rough!

In January, we were able to visit the Great Wolf Lodge – the kids had a blast swimming, bowling and doing the ropes course! We had a few ski days in January as well, Ethan in Ski School and Ellie skiing with us.

Then the great sickness of 2018 struck in February – Ellie got it the worst with strep, croup and the flu – then Ethan got the flu, as well as Zach and myself. It was pretty rough. Crazy thing, in the midst of all that sickness, Ellie also got lice – yuck! It was rough – I cleaned and cleaned and did so much laundry and attempted to keep the rest of us from getting it as well. I combed through her hair a LOT – while the olympics were on the TV, she would sit and watch while I combed through her hair. I didn’t get all the nits the first time, and a week later they hatched and we had more. Ugh. (Next time this happens, we’re going to a lice salon to have them do the work!!) Luckily, we were able to prevent the spread in our family, but I’d sprayed a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t immediately wash with permethrin (that had come with the Nix bottle) and turns out, Ellie is CRAZY allergic to permethrin. Despite washing stuff that had permethrin sprayed on it, it was still there – if Ellie touched it, she broke out into a rash. I’d sprayed our couches, the rug, the ottoman, their car seats, their backpacks – essentially anything I knew I couldn’t actually wash. Oops! We bought new car seats, new backpacks, new other stuff – just to get some of the permethrin away from her. These rashes lasted until May! I felt horrible because she ended up going to the nurses office at school several times a day to get cream for her rashes.

In the middle of all the sickness of February, we also bought a camper!!! We decided we wanted to spend lots of time as a family up in the mountains and figured a camper was the way to do it. I’ve never been a “tent-camper” and Zach grew up tent camping and had no interest in doing that again. But, a camper means we’d have all the comforts of “home” (much more so than tent camping) and we were super excited to get to camp!!

In March we had some really nice days, so the kids got to enjoy playing at the park, which was much needed after February’s sick-infested month. They were able to ride scooters a bit, and we also did some indoor rock climbing, trampoline park fun and gymnastics classes. Ellie had a daddy-daughter dance at school – so she and Zach got dressed up for that. Also – our favorite snow cone place opened up in the Denver area, so we visited Bahama Buck’s several times in the first month it opened! 🙂 I had a work trip during Spring Break this year, so we signed the kids up for a Spring Break camp at the Rec Center. Ethan struggled quite a bit (partly because I was gone and partly because it was all totally different than his normal routine). Ellie was ok with it, but it wasn’t her favorite. We’ll have to take a look at other camps as they get older to see what we should do on long holiday breaks like that – I want them to do some cool stuff when they’re not in school and I can’t always take off the whole week from work.

In April, we skied a few more days – ending our ski season able to ski together as a family. Ellie is an excellent skier and Ethan finally had the moves down to be able to ski long green runs and keep up with everyone. It was so much fun! We also had some nice days, again playing at the park and even went on an Owl Hike at the park down the street. We also worked hard on getting the trailer ready for camping! Zach installed solar panels and did some other work that we wanted done. Zach also installed a tow-hitch on the back of his Volvo, so we could tow the trailer! We shopped for all the stuff to make our trailer our home away from home – almost like outfitting a small apartment!! It was fun getting ready for camping!!

In May, we had the MS walk – which is the first time we’d been able to participate in the walk! It was a good time. I took the kids to work with me for “Take Your Kid to Work Day” – they enjoyed seeing where I work. Ethan picked up riding a two-wheel bike and that just opened up our ability to go for longer bike rides as a family! They kids ended the school year with field day – they both had a blast. Right after the last day of school, we went on our first camping trip. We went to Gore Creek, which is near Vail. We had a BLAST! We went hiking, biking, played in the river and hung out in Vail a little bit. My brother and his family were in Vail that weekend as well, so we spent some time with them at the pool, having dinner together and playing at the park. For our first camping trip, it went amazingly and we were hooked!!

This is a picture of the camper at Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO

This summer I worked three long days – so that I could pack and unpack from camping trips, as well as spend some full days with the kids. When I worked, the kids went to each Grandma’s house (which they all love) and we also had a girl come watch them once a week. It was a great setup! When they kids were home with their sitter, they went on walks to the park, played on the slip-n-slide, did lots of crafts and just enjoyed hanging out. They got to have fun on their scooters (at the skate park) and bikes with the Grandmas and got in plenty of swimming too!

In June, the kids went to the church’s sports camp/vacation bible school. Ethan did basketball and Ellie did cheer. They both loved it! Then we went camping at Rocky Mountain National Park. That weekend was HOT in Estes Park! We enjoyed hiking, playing at the river, walking around town, driving up over trail ridge road (THAT was cold) and then doing a paddle boat on Grand Lake. It was so fun! We got visits from two of my roommates from college in June! First, Carisa and her husband, Chad, and their three kids came to visit. Chad was here for work, and everyone else came along. We got lots of time to visit and me, Carisa and all our kiddos went on a picnic hike at a river near by. We had so much fun!! Just after Carisa and her family left, my other roommate, Jana and her best friend, Lauren, came to visit. We got the chance to play tour guide by taking them to Castle Rock to do the Mini incline at Phillip S. Miller Park, and then on to Colorado Springs – up Pikes Peak and hiking around Garden of the Gods. We also drove them to Boulder and took in the sights up there. Right after their visit, I had a work trip. I was supposed to get home Thursday night and then we were leaving for a camping trip Friday morning. Prior to Carisa’s and Jana’s visits, I’d worked really hard to get most everything packed so that the process of having visitors and a work trip we still would be ready for our camping trip. Well, it’s a long story, but my coworker and I had car trouble on the way to the airport and despite several delays, I landed in Denver around 1am. While at the airport, I’d talked Zach through the majority of the packing, so the next morning there wasn’t too much to do before hitching up and heading out! I was SO tired, but it wasn’t too bad. This camping trip was to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a pretty long drive and at one point going over Monarch Pass, we almost over-heated the Volvo, but we made it! We went on some long hikes and drove around the rim to see some spectacular views. There was a burn-ban in effect, but luckily we had electricity at this camp site, so we just cooked inside the trailer. We took the long way home, through Grand Junction – but we stopped at lots of parks on the way home to give the kids a break. It was this trip that made us start considering whether or not we needed to buy a truck to pull the trailer…

In July, we celebrated 4th of July by getting a hotel room down town and going to the Rockies game (with fireworks)! Last year we went to a game (with fireworks) and it took us forever to get home so this year we figured if we stayed down town, it would be easier. So, we checked in at the hotel, walked to the game – enjoyed the game and fireworks – and then had a quick walk home before going to bed! The next morning we had a nice breakfast downtown and then went swimming at the Apex Center – we love going there on warm holiday days – because everyone else is outside! We went to Elitch’s with Zach’s work and Ellie was actually 48″ tall, so she got to ride some bigger rides, which was awesome for her. Ethan enjoyed the day too – even though he couldn’t do some of the bigger rides. We also went to the water park at Elitch’s, which was a blast! Since Ellie was actually 48″, a few days later, I took off work and I took Ellie to Water World – since she was tall enough to ride the big rides. (Ethan will get to go next year! And Zach says this time he’ll take off work and we’ll all go!) Ellie and I had so much fun. It had been YEARS since I’d been to Water World and it brought back so many fun memories! 🙂 We also took the kids to Top Golf in July. Ethan somehow started this obsession with golfing and we thought it would be fun to go hit some balls. They enjoyed it!! In Mid-July, we went camping at Turquoise Lake (near Leadville). Our campsite backed right up to the lake and it was amazing!! The kids swam in the lake, which was freezing!! We went on several hikes and ride bikes a lot!

Oh, also in early July, we ordered a new truck for ME! We finally decided that we needed a truck to pull the trailer and figured it was a good opportunity to trade in my van for a pickup truck! The thing I don’t like about pickup trucks is there’s not a lot of storage – my van had LOTS of storage – so that was going to be a tough sell for me. Well, Dodge Ram’s have “Ram Boxes” – storage boxes on either side of the truck bed – and THAT was my solution. So, we went to buy a new truck and none of the 2019 models that were just showing up on the lots had Ram Boxes. We were told we could order one and it’d be here in six to ten weeks. SO – we ordered me a truck – exactly the way I wanted it. And then we waited.

In August, we tried to soak in the last few weeks of summer – I took the kids to the ninja course that’s outside in Castle Rock and we went Ice Skating. We also got some “go back” tickets from Zach’s work to go to Elitch’s, so the kids and I went on a work day. We had so much fun!! Right before school started, we had a camping trip to Steamboat planned, but decided to cancel it because there were wildfires really close to our planned campground and we were unsure if the Volvo would make it up Rabbit Ears Pass (we still didn’t have my truck, which was expected) so we rescheduled and went to Carter Lake, which is near the town of Loveland. The lake was awesome! We swam in the lake, it was much warmer than Turquoise lake – and we did stand up paddle boards. We also did lots of biking and went into town one day just to walk around. Again, another great camping trip in the books!

For Mother’s Day this year, we wanted to give the grandma’s some new pictures of them with the kids, so we planned some days to go take pictures with each set of grandparents! It was a little late for Mother’s Day, but we got pictures taken in July and August – I think they turned out great!!

The kids started school in Mid-August and had a great start to the year. They both really liked their teachers and although we didn’t do a lot of reading or school practice during the summer, they did just fine getting into the swing of things! Right after school started we went to Spider Monkey – another ninja gym place for kids. We ALL played and we all had a blast!! They continually ask when we’re going back!! Another week later and we went camping again! This time to Monarch Park – which is just near Monarch Ski Resort – just past Buena Vista. It was a little colder than we expected, but we sure stayed warm in the trailer. The kids had a blast playing in the river that ran right by our camp site. We went on hikes and biked – and also spent a day at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs – it was AWESOME! I still didn’t have my truck, but pulling the trailer to Monarch Park wasn’t a big deal. We finished off August with some more park time, more bike riding and scooter riding (at the skate park) and a trip to a good-old-fashioned driving range.

In September, we were in the swing of school and enjoying some down time. When the weather was nice, we did some more bike riding around here. Having both kids on bikes of their own has sure made for a great year of getting to ride bikes as a family! In mid-September, Zach and I went back to Gore Creek for a weekend getaway camping on our own! This counted as our anniversary trip (a month early). The trees were changing colors and it was BEAUTIFUL!!!! We spent lots of time on our bikes and hanging out in Vail. Instead of planning food to cook around the campfire, we ate in town for most of our meals. So, it was the perfect anniversary getaway – quiet time in the mountains, sleeping in our camper, and great food in Vail!

At the end of September, we’d planned another attempt at camping in Steamboat Springs, but we still didn’t have my truck and it turns out the slides at the Steamboat Springs Hot Springs pool are closed in September. Glad I looked that up! So, we canceled that trip (we’ll definitely go to Steamboat Springs next year) and took the kids to the new ninja gym in Denver – Ninja Nation! We heard about it on American Ninja Warrior and the kids couldn’t wait to go! We all went and we all had so much fun!!!

We got one good snow in October, and the kids got their chance to enjoy playing out in the snow! Since that snow, we’ve barely gotten any snow and they haven’t had a chance to get back out in it (it did snow ALL DAY today, New Years Eve, but not much accumulated)… hopefully we get more snow at the start of 2019! After that one snow, the weather got nice again and I was able to take the kids to Boondocks to do mini golf, go-karts, arcade games and a ropes course. They had a blast and I really enjoyed watching them!

The funny thing to note about our anniversary and my birthday this year are that we went to Bahama Buck’s to celebrate both days (yes, if you know, those two events are 5 days apart). Zach and I shared the wedding cake flavor on our anniversary and then we all went back and I got Birthday Cake with Sprinkles (my favorite flavor) for my birthday. When you go in on your birthday, they give you a free snow-cone coupon – yay! 🙂 For our actual anniversary day, we sent the kids to grandmas and had a night to ourselves. We did a little shopping, to include going to Hobby Lobby to buy decorations for a gallery wall I wanted to do in our stairwell. I’m so happy with the way it turned out and I think it’s a pretty cool tribute to our anniversary – and our life together. Every time I go up or down the stairs, I see this and it makes me so happy!

A few of the pieces, I already had – like the old, wooden skis and at the top right corner is a copper picture printed with our last name and “est. 2007” that Zach got us for our anniversary a few years back.

Two days after my birthday, my truck finally arrived!!! Crazy thing – we had a week-long camping trip planned starting the 20th of October – to Utah and Arizona. We knew if we didn’t get the truck in time, we’d be OK pulling the trailer with the Volvo, because we didn’t have any crazy passes to go through… but we really were hoping we’d have the truck in time. So, we picked up my truck on the 13th of October and had less than a week to put 500 miles on it (per the owner’s manual, you need to put 500 miles on a new vehicle before towing with it)! So, I left work an hour early every day and would go for a drive before picking up the kids, then we’d drive a little more. Friday before we left, I took the day off work and did enough driving to get to the 500 mile mark! HA!

So, we got everything packed up, hitched up the trailer to the truck and we were off for a week of camping!!! The first day we drove to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. We got there late and the next morning we woke up to the most beautiful rocks around us. It was a rainy morning, but we drove around and checked out all the arches.

We spent some time in Moab then headed back to the campground. The kids enjoyed playing on the rocks around us for a really long time. The next day we hitched up and headed to Arizona. We planned for only two nights at Arches – since we got there so late the first night we really only had one full day at Arches since we had a long drive ahead of us yet again to get to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Four Corners and made it to the Grand Canyon pretty late.

Is it child abandonment if neither parent is in the same state as your kids? 🙂

We stayed three nights at the Grand Canyon, so we had a little more time there. We camped on the South Rim and rode bikes, hiked and enjoyed all the sights.

We went into Flagstaff one day – we loved that town! We got to watch the sunset from the Desert Tower one night, it was amazing. It was pretty chilly there (I’d assumed fall in Arizona wouldn’t be too cold) but it was worth the views! Then we hitched up again and headed back toward Moab, but this time to visit Canyonlands. We drove into Canyonlands and it seemed so empty – we had to drive a long time within the park to get to our campsite. It was amazingly quiet and very few souls around – which, after being around all the tourists at the Grand Canyon, was a welcome change! Our campsite at Canyonlands had lots of rocks behind it, so the next day when it was light out the kids, yet again, enjoyed playing on all the rocks!! We went on a long hike and drove around to see lots of sights. This was another 2-night stay, so the next day we hitched up and drove home. Overall it was a LOT of driving, but it was an AMAZING trip!

We plan to do a week-long camping trip every year – and lots of little trips in between. We learned a lot this first year of camping – what works well for cooking over a camp fire and what doesn’t. What things we need to bring each trip and what things we didn’t really use. We are grateful to have gotten the truck, which we feel gives us more flexibility to go some places where we need more towing power than we went this year. Overall we are SO happy with the choice to invest in a camper – it’s been a great experience so far for our family and we can’t wait to continue making wonderful memories for as long as we can, going on camping trips!!

Ok, One more… Truck + Camper + Bikes @ Grand Canyon = Happiness!!

We came home from our trip and instantly it was the end of October! I feel like the end of October to Christmas was endless crazy! We got Ellie’s ears pierced for her birthday, then had halloween and her family birthday party. Ellie dressed up as Rainbow Dash and Ethan was an 8-ball. I’m not sure why Ethan wanted to be an 8-ball but luckily we’d discussed it several months back and I ended up making him a costume – basically like those M&M costumes – but just black, with an 8 on it! He loved it! Ellie got a fin-fun-mermaid tail for her birthday – so, needless to way, we’ve spent a lot of time at the pool since then! She LOVES being a mermaid!

I feel like I blinked and November was over – I don’t remember much about the month except Thanksgiving and celebrating Ethan’s birthday! We had both sets of grandparents over for lunch on Thanksgiving and just enjoyed the time together. A few days later we had Ethan’s family birthday party – we went and played pool (yes, there is some correlation between the 8-ball halloween costume and his choice of activity for his birthday – which, he’d NEVER played before). Neither of the kids were very good at pool, but we enjoyed playing and just being together. It was a fun time for all of us! On Ethan’s actual birthday we went back to Bahama Buck’s – it’s obviously a special treat for us to go on our birthday’s! 🙂

December rolled in and we had Zach’s work Christmas party, some friends visit from out of town, a few play dates, going to look at Christmas lights, a friend’s birthday party and then school was out! I feel like it’s a pretty big accomplishment to have made it through the first half of the school year. Things like homework and packing lunches and snacks, making sure we have library books back in time, different school parties and activities, etc. It’s sometimes monotonous and sometimes crazy and I was thankful for a little break. I think I’m now refreshed and ready to get back in the swing of things for the second half of the year!

We enjoyed the Christmas holiday with our families. Separate Christmas festivities with each set of Grandparents. We spent Christmas Eve day just us four – going to church and then we gave the kids their new scooters a little early so we could take them to the skate park to enjoy the nice weather while it lasted! Santa came Christmas morning then both sets of Grandparents came over for lunch on Christmas day. We had some nice down time together as a family and then we were able to go skiing one day before the end of December. The weather was great and both kids took to skiing again without skipping a beat! It’s so fun skiing with my family!!

Our sweet Ellie is now 8! She likes to go by Eleanor, but we called her Ellie for so long, it’s hard to remember to call her Eleanor. I think sometimes she forgets too – she goes by both Ellie and Eleanor at school. Ellie is doing awesome at school – she’s really excelled at math and reading this year. It’s been great to watch her really come into her own with school. She befriends all the kids and has such a tender heart towards the kids that don’t quite fit in. She seems to be a leader in her classroom and works hard to stay on task and not get in trouble. She definitely still loves art and music the most! Ellie decided she loves snakes this year – I have NO IDEA why. She went to a “creepy-crawly” activity at school and got to touch a snake and a few other reptiles and she loved it!

Ellie likes playing with her baby dolls and really likes being helpful around the house. She sometimes gets to cut strawberries or other soft items with a sharp knife – which, she thinks is pretty cool! She’s a great painter and loves to draw – it’s fun watching her artistic talent grow! Ellie is amazing at everything she picks up (except so far she’s not great at golf or pool!) – she’s a great swimmer, awesome at rock climbing, an excellent skier, super strong at ninja obstacles, a great ice skater and roller skater and she loves riding her scooter and her bike! She is so athletic and we really do have so much fun because they’re activities she loves!

Our sweet Ethan is now 6!! He lost 5 teeth already this year – all since the end of August!! None of his teeth have grown in yet, so he really struggles eating certain things!! But, no worry – he still loves eating and just goes with the flow! He’s ALMOST 48″ tall – which, by summer time he WILL be 48″ tall and get to do all the rides and slides!! 🙂 Ethan is still growing into his athletic abilities, but he’s definitely gotten strong as he’s gotten bigger and his chance to play on the playground three times at day at school has really helped improve his strength. He loves ninja obstacles and although he struggles reaching things sometimes, he just does his best and loves doing it!

Ethan loves owls – and a close second is penguins. He has so many owl and penguin stuffies – giving each of them very unique names and loving them all! Ethan is so tender hearted – he loves snuggling and always sticks up for his family! He’s a leader at school and has so many friends that he cares about.

The kids get along MOST of the time. They can play for hours and get along doing whatever they are doing. At times they fight and it drives me crazy! ha! I hope they grow up being best friends!! They are so equally matched in so many areas, which make it a joy doing things together. They really enjoy all the same activities, which is such a joy to do all those things with them. They really enjoyed camping together – I loved watching them!!

We are really happy with the kids’ school. Since we moved schools when Ethan skipped into Kindergarten, we were a little unsure of how it would go. After having been at this school for a year and a half now, I know God really put our kids in the right spot!! I’m so thankful that it’s worked out!

A quick recap on Zach – he HARDLY traveled this year (which is a vast departure from the last several years) and we loved having him home so much!! He’s in a different position at work (hence the reason of less travel) and it’s very different than the engineering he’s done in the past. It’s more people-oriented and sometimes problems he can’t solve because it’s not an engineering problem. He’s definitely grown a lot this year and I think he’s doing a great job! Zach taught an Introduction to Design course at Colorado School of Mines in the Spring. He really enjoyed it – he liked working with the students and encouraging them and explaining how each of their skills match up to jobs in the real world. It was a cool experience for him but it was also a lot more strain on us than we’d expected. He taught Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, which meant flexing his time at work (working later on the other days) and then coming home after dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although he enjoyed it, he didn’t sign up for the fall semester and doesn’t plan to sign up again – yet. We’ll see what comes of it. I could see him teaching some day… so, we’ll just see.

Zach’s MS is holding steady. He’s still eating mostly Paleo and doing shots three times a week. He had a weird episode in the Spring where he got stung by a wasp and then a few weeks later his hand was numb. We thought this was MS related, but then figured out maybe it was wasp-sting related… either way, we never really got an answer, but eventually the numbness went away and he’s fine! Zach still enjoys working out – running and lifting weights, as well as bike riding. He’s still a killer skier, even though he doesn’t get to shred the slopes like he once did… eventually the kids will be much better skiers and he’ll have a blast with them!

As for me, I definitely got the “kids to school, go to work, pick kids up” schedule figured out. I love the fact that school is so close – I can take the kids to school and pick them up and still work and still get time with them in the afternoons. Ellie started allergy shots this year, so that’s an added item to our to-do list on a weekly basis. We haven’t signed the kids up for a bunch of activities, but just enjoy going and going activities when we can fit them in. I really like this plan for now as it gives us flexibility during the week and on the weekends. I really enjoyed work this year – I got to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit and lead projects at work that really stretched me and challenged me. I enjoyed my work but towards the end of the year decided it was time for me to find a new program – so three weeks before Christmas break, I started on a new program, in a different business unit. It’s a lot of change – and I really don’t like change – but in the end I do think it will be a good move for me and eventually I’ll get the hang of all the newness and begin to be able to take on challenging roles again.

What a great year it’s been! I’d say the biggest highlights and activities of the year would be Ninja, Bike Riding and of course Camping! Yay for bigger kids who can roll with the punches and setting into camping easily, who can ride bikes far without needing assistance, who like to play hard and have fun! The kids are doing awesome in school and it’s so cool to watch them continue to get better and better and all the activities they do, the things they learn at school and how they handle different situations. This year is going to be a tough one to beat – and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds!

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2017 – Year In Review

As stated at the end of the 2016 blog post, I was true to my word and didn’t get a chance to blog all year! SO – here’s a long blog post about 2017!

In January, we enjoyed sledding near the house and a few more ski lessons at Keystone. We took the kids ice skating for the first time and Ellie got the hang of it right away! Ethan struggled a little, but I’m sure next time we go he will pick it up quickly! Ellie also got the chance to do some indoor rock climbing and again, picked it up like a champ! She had so much fun!!

In February, Zach and I went to Hawaii for our 10-year-anniversary. We only went to Kauai this time but we did all the fun and active things we didn’t get to do last time we were in Hawaii. If you recall, last time we went to Hawaii, I was 6-months pregnant with Ethan and got a terrible stomach bug the minute we landed in Hawaii – THAT was a miserable trip! So, this time was SO much better – we took a helicopter ride around Kauai, went zip lining, kayaked up the Wailua River and hiked to the water fall, took an 11 mile round-trip hike near the Na Pali Coast up the Kalalau Trail – it was all amazing! We drove to the top of Waimea Canyon for an amazing view even though some spots were so foggy! We had a long layover in LA on our way home, so we were able to catch up on some sleep before heading home to the kiddos, who had spent the week alternating time between both sets of grandparents! It was a great trip! A few weeks after returning from Hawaii, Zach had an appendicitis and had to get his appendix removed. It was a scary day when he realized he should go to the ER, but they took great care of him and he recovered quickly – we were so thankful!

In March, we were fed up with the kids constantly waking in the middle of the night and coming to our room – because no one was getting sleep! Ethan’s mattress was still on the floor because we hadn’t decided on the bed situation in his room yet. I had an idea that if they got to sleep in the same room, maybe they’d sleep better… so, we talked about it and they agreed that they’d like to have bunk-beds in Ethan’s room so that everyone will get better sleep. Once we got the bed ordered and put together, our world changed! These kids actually slept all night in their room because they were comforted by the fact that their sibling was in the room with them! WOO HOO! That was the best idea I’ve ever had! They still have their moments where one comes out in the middle of the night, but those times are very few and far between now! It is wonderful!!

March and April brought some really nice weather and we had the chance to visit a lot of different parks! Zach took Ellie to her first Daddy-Daughter dance and Ellie was on cloud nine! The kids had gymnastics and swimming classes, which they always enjoy! I went with Ellie on a school Field Trip which was a lot of fun! During Spring Break I took the kids to an indoor trampoline park and they had so much fun! Ellie lost her third tooth in April and had to leave a note for the Tooth Fairy in HER ROOM, so the Tooth Fairy would know to come find her and her tooth in Ethan’s room. It was adorable.

In April we had completed Ethan’s early access testing and he was accepted to enter Kindergarten a year early. During the testing process my assumption was that we would keep both kids at the school they’d been at in Douglas County – it was a STEM school and when we had chosen that school, we thought it was the right choice for our kids. As we completed the process we heard how Jefferson County has four different Elementary “GT Center Schools” which basically means there is a “Gifted and Talented” classroom for every grade – but they have “normal” classrooms for every grade as well. I had already discounted the idea of moving schools because their school was fine and I wasn’t about to drive all over Jefferson County to drop the kids off at school. When I found out the closest GT Center School was two blocks north of our house, I knew that maybe God had other plans. We figured we’d take a chance and check it out – so we visited the school and had a meeting with the GT Counselor, the principal and Ethan’s potential teacher. We fell in love – everything about the school, the GT program, the teachers and staff! God was very much showing us that THIS was the school for our kids – both kids – because we had made the decision to keep them together at the same school. We let Ellie know that she’d be moving schools in the fall, which she was NOT excited about – but we also found ways to encourage her to understand that this would be a good move – everything from not having to wear uniforms to having friends from her neighborhood to have play-dates with, etc. It was a tough sell, but by the time she went to school in August, she was ready to try it out! Ethan was very excited to get to go to Kindergarten, he hadn’t comprehended the fact that he was going to a different school!

In May, the kids finished out their semester at their old school – complete with end-of-year programs and field day. We started off the summer with their first Home Depot kids project and it was awesome! I can’t believe it took us this long to do this fun activity! When school got out, I continued to work my two-days-a-week schedule and the grandmas each got a full day of fun with the kiddos while I worked. We spent May and June going to splash parks, normal parks, swimming pools, pottery painting, going to movies, climbing trees, going on hikes, riding bikes, playing in the sprinklers and slip-n-slide in our backyard and a week of church sports camp!

In July we took the kids to their first Rockies Baseball game, which was also one of the nights they do fireworks for the 4th of July. They had so much fun at the game and the fireworks were amazing!!

In mid-July we got the opportunity to travel to Australia with Zach for a work trip. He found out about the trip in early June and we made quick plans to figure out how we could turn it into a family vacation! Due to the extent of Zach’s international travel this year, he had six first-class upgrade coupons he was able to use for this trip – giving me and the kids first-class on the way there AND on the way back. We flew from Denver to LA, then LA to Melbourne (16 hour flight) and then Melbourne to Adelaide. We were all so thankful for first-class on that long flight – the kids were able to get a normal night’s sleep and had room to move around and not feel cramped. I agreed to take that trip prior to knowing we had first-class, but boy am I glad we were able to have first-class!! Once we arrived in Adelaide, we drove south to Cape Jervis and boarded a ferry to Kangaroo Island. We spent two nights on Kangaroo Island in an awesome house we found on VRBO. We saw all sorts of sights all around Kangaroo Island – Remarkable Rocks, a honey farm, sheep, kangaroos, wallabies, and even dipped our feet in the ocean! Since it was summer at home, it WAS winter in Australia – so it was windy and raining on Kangaroo Island, but we still had a great time taking it all in!

After our two days on Kangaroo Island, it was time to head back to Adelaide so Zach could start his work conference. We had an apartment-like hotel in downtown Adelaide, just across from the convention center where Zach’s conference was. We went to an Australian Football game (Footy) and then the kids and I visited the Adelaide Zoo, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Haigh’s Chocolate Factory and an indoor swimming center while Zach went to the conference. We also visited several parks that week – the kids had so much fun! We watched TV in the evenings in the hotel room and this is where the kids were first introduced to Ninja Warrior – Australian Ninja Warrior!!! They had no idea such a thing existed in America!

We headed out of Adelaide early Friday morning and landed back in Denver on Friday morning… that was the strangest thing and the kids didn’t sleep so great on that trip. We all crashed when we got home, exhausted from the busy and long trip. Although the first night back we all slept, it was the second and third nights that the kids were awake in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep and once they woke me up, I couldn’t go back to sleep either! We pushed through and eventually got back to normal, but that was rough… although I was so thankful that happened when we got home and not when we got TO Australia!

We only had a few more weeks of summer break after Australia to soak in some more parks, swimming pools and splash parks before school started. In mid-August the kids started school at their new school and I started my schedule of dropping them off, going to work for 6 hours and then leaving to go pick them up to spend the afternoon with them – every day of the week! This was a big deal for all of us! Ethan has always been a home-body, so I was a little worried how he’d respond to all-day Kindergarten and he wasn’t even five-years-old-yet…but he started off great and he loved it!! And he still loves it!! Ellie was apprehensive, but once she met her teacher, she felt pretty comfortable and quickly made friends! While the weather was still nice, we went stand-up-paddle boarding at a lake nearby and continued to hit up all the parks around us – but this time looking for “ninja” parks – places they could climb and do monkey bars and all sorts of obstacles that looked like things they’d seen on TV!

In September, we took the kids to their first concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater! It was a Chris Tomlin & Friends show, complete with Stephen Curtis Chapman, Ellie Holcolm, Mac Powell and Brandon Heath. The kids knew just about every song from K-Love and they had a blast! We also did the Royal Gorge Train ride, which was really cool! The kids had a carnival and a fun run at school, which they really enjoyed. As they have made more friends at school, all these school activities are really fun for them! While the weather was still nice, we got them some razor scooters, which they love riding in the street right outside our house. We went to the Audubon Society for their Hootenany Festival – complete with seeing real live owls, owl face painting and owl crafts! Both kids loved it, but Ethan’s love of owls really shined every time he saw an owl and went “ohhh!!!” – it was adorable!

In October, Ellie went to a roller skating birthday party and had a blast! I went with Ellie on a school field trip to the Denver Zoo and we went to a trunk-or-treat thing at church. The kids had a fun Halloween parade at school and their classroom parties were a lot of fun! We took the kids to get funny face pancakes at IHOP for Halloween/Birthday breakfast that morning and then celebrated Ellie’s birthday with the grandparents before heading out for Trick-or-Treating that night! Ellie loved her birthday! Ellie dressed up as Harley Quinn and Ethan dressed up as Batman!

In early November, we had a combined Birthday party for Ethan and Ellie at a Ninja gym. They each invited about 6 kiddos and it was a great party! Ellie, of course, mastered the warped wall during our time there, and really enjoyed all the obstacles! Ethan did great also – he’s gotten so strong this year and better able to control his body. November brought great weather again, so we enjoyed lots of park time and the kid’s Turkey Trot at school was awesome because it was nice out! Ethan had a Thanksgiving feast at school and he picked his Native American name to be “Flying Owl” – this boy and his owls! We had a nice Thanksgiving lunch with the grandparents and enjoyed the week off of school! A few days after Thanksgiving we celebrated Ethan’s birthday at home with the grandparents and it was a sweet time.

In December we enjoyed lots of Christmas crafts and Snowstorm, our Elf on the Shelf, came back to visit. I’ve had a blast with our elf this year – the kids really enjoy all the mischief she gets into and I’ve enjoyed being creative with all the things she’s done! We were able to go see the Christmas lights at Hudson gardens, right before the weather turned really cold! Zach and I stayed a night downtown for his work Christmas party and really enjoyed the party – visiting with friends we don’t get to see often enough! We took the kids to Loveland for skiing before Christmas – Ethan had a lesson and Ellie skied with us. Ethan had fun at ski school and Ellie had a blast with us and did great! The sun was out and the traffic was easy – so the trip was a success! We enjoyed Christmas festivities with each of the grandparents and then Santa came and did not disappoint! A few days after Christmas, we headed to the mountains with the grandparents to stay at a 4-bedroom condo for three nights. Ethan had two days of ski school and Ellie again skied with us for two days. She mastered greens without falling and quickly moved to blues! The weather was so nice and the kids had a blast. We had a nice time staying at the cabin, having family meals together, warming up in the hot tub and just chatting. It was a great time!

That’s a quick (not so quick) recap of our year… here’s a little more about each of us:

Ethan continues to LOVE math and talks through math concepts all of the time! He understands pretty complex math ideas and amazes us often with the things he comes up with! He can read pretty well and being in school has taught him some reading/spelling concepts that have strengthened his reading and spelling skills. Ethan enjoys school, loves his teacher and has made lots of friends. He quickly learned all the names of the kids in his class and is so friendly to all of them! His favorite subject is “powerful play” which is the last hour of school that the kids get to pick what they want to play with in the classroom. He also loves recess! Ethan loves music – he likes sitting in the office while Zach plays the piano and he loves picking the songs out for Zach to play. Ethan is still a very loving and cuddly little boy. He loves pinching the clothes we wear when he snuggles – sometimes needing “one last pinch” before walking away having gotten his fill of snuggles. Ethan is sensitive to other people and always very considerate of the kids he’s around.

Ellie enjoys school and is excelling at reading, spelling and math. It’s been fun working with her on reading, and very challenging at times too! She isn’t always motivated with school and homework, so we are still trying to find ways to motivate her. She does enjoy the social aspect of school, so that’s her motivation to GO to school – we just need the “learning” aspect to be motivating as well! She really loves specials: Music, Art and PE. Ellie is so athletic, artistic and musical. She loves dancing and singing. She decided that she wants to go by Eleanor and has told everyone at school to call her Eleanor. We still call her Ellie at home, although sometimes I remember to call her Eleanor. Ellie (um, Eleanor) is very sensitive and empathetic to others – she can read a situation and peoples’ faces really well and can show consideration to people in their given situation. She is very observant and loves giving compliments.

At seven-years-old, Ellie is almost 48″ tall and weighs 50 lbs. She’s lost a total of 6 teeth so far – one of which she pulled out at school! At five-years-old, Ethan is almost 45″ tall and weighs 47 lbs. He’s trying really hard to catch up to Ellie – I’m sure in the next year he will surpass her in height and weight. They currently wear the same size clothes and same size shoes though! The kids play really well together. The last several years have been pretty neat to be able to do activities with the two of them that they BOTH enjoy – from outdoor activities to crafts to games to brain-games to just about anything else. They do have their moments where they fight, but it feels like the “getting along” times far outweigh the fights! That makes me so happy! The kids had several colds this year – which usually starts with one kid, travels to the other and then usually hits me too. Thankfully, the only ailments have been colds (and Zach’s silly little appendicitis 😉 ) and nothing more serious. Ellie still gets croup when she gets a cold, but thankful we always have medicine on hand (even when we travel) and she doesn’t freak out anymore because she knows what’s happening!

Zach had a busy year this year – he traveled a lot internationally for work – including traveling to every continent (except Antarctica) this year, but it wasn’t a LOT of time away, which was nice. He still enjoys his job and the people he works with. Most of his best friends work at the same company, which is nice that he sees them often! He moved into a new position at the end of the year which should actually decrease his travel time quite a bit. He’s also going to start teaching one section of a Freshman intro-to-engineering class at Colorado School of Mines in January. He is excited for the opportunity and what other opportunities might come his way because of his affiliation with Colorado School of Mines. Zach is still fighting MS but his scans this year were great – no additional lesions! So, he’s just doing his shots three-times a week and eating Paleo to continue to be healthy. He’s not been as strict Paleo as he was the first year, but he still eats really well and works out often. He remains the healthiest he’s ever been and still says that MS is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Zach loves to play the piano and usually spends half an hour in the office after dinner playing through different song books that he has. I enjoy hearing his music travel through the house!

For me, it’s been a great year! I really enjoyed the summer with the kids and all the activities we got to do – especially Australia! When the school year started and I changed my schedule, it was a great change! It took me a few weeks to get the hang of everything (packing lunches for all of us all week, not having a day in between working days to run errands, etc.), but I think I found a good rhythm and now it seems pretty perfect. My previous schedule of only working twice a week made some activities at work quite complex – not being there every day was hard for continuity in some areas. Now that I’m there every day, I am able to add more responsibility to my plate and feel like I’m contributing more, but still have the flexibility to take off work when I need to in order to tend to sick kids, field trips, or days off school. The best part is I’m only at work for 6 hours (enough time to get stuff done, but not so much time to make the day drag on!) and I get to spend the afternoon with the kids. I loved being able to work two days a week when the kids were little, but I think I’ve been looking forward to this “new everyday schedule” ever since Ellie was born! I really like the consistency of a schedule five-days-a-week for the kids and for me! It’s been a wonderful change all around. As far as the work I’m doing, I really enjoy it and am happy where I am!

As we close out 2017, Zach and I have reflected back and realize that 2017 was a great year. We have high-hopes for 2018 to be another great year!

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2016 – Year In Review

2016 was a busy year and, as you can tell, the blog posts suffered! In an effort to catch up, this will be a year-end 2016 blog to give you an idea of what happened this year!

I started off 2016 by cutting back my work schedule from three days a week back to my original two-days-a-week. I had changed my schedule to three-days-a-week in the fall of 2015 – grandmas still watching the kids Tuesdays & Thursdays, but we got a nanny to come over to the house on Wednesdays. That schedule was OK, but over Christmas break I decided I didn’t like being away from the kids three days a week. So I spent 2016 working only two days a week (and working some extra evenings and weekends as necessary). This was a good move on my part because not only did it give me more time at home with the kids, it also gave me the opportunity to focus on cooking our time-consuming Paleo meals.

Paleo?! If you don’t already know, Zach was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2015. (Read the blog post for Zach’s account of his MS Diagnosis) After completing several rounds of steroids to relieve his MS episode and getting stabilized on three-day-a-week MS shots, Zach decided that he’d start 2016 on a Paleo Diet – which would benefit him and his fight against MS. I was a caught off-guard by his desire to change his eating habits, because it would greatly affect how I cooked dinners (which also were generally his lunches the next few days at work). My dinner plans were always very simplistic: minimal ingredients and a LOT of processed/boxed foods! Sounds terrible, right? Well, it was easy and manageable – I’d been cooking the same way, planning ahead for the dinners on days I worked, ever since I went part-time when Ellie was a baby. I knew what meals were easy and what the kids would eat. I had it down to a science and I liked it that way. I had also JUST attended a Wildtree freezer meal workshop where I’d prepped 10 freezer meals, most of which contained foods that are NOT on the Paleo diet! Trying to wrap my head around changing how I prepared dinners was over-whelming at first. So – we powered through the foods we already had on hand and started the shift towards Paleo eating (for dinner especially) but also snacks, breakfasts, etc. We bought Paleo cookbooks and started trying all sorts of new recipes. It was exhausting – I felt like I was constantly in the kitchen – prepping meals that required 20+ ingredients… I was VERY thankful that I was only working two days a week at this point!

Fast-forward now, to a whole year of eating Paleo – we have had THE BEST food I never knew I could make. I make all sorts of dishes and we’re loving the variety! I have gotten faster at chopping, prepping and planning Paleo meals. We’ve eaten more cauliflower rice than I ever thought possible and it’s SO MUCH better than regular white rice! I still plan for “easy dinners” for the nights that I work, but they are frozen paleo meals that I’ve made earlier in the month and I plan ahead to make sure all ingredients that need to be cut/prepped in advance are done the night before. Zach keeps up with making his paleo granola to eat with yogurt and fruit for breakfasts and we make breakfast for dinner at least one night a week so that he can have re-heated egg-dishes to break-up the yogurt monotony for breakfast every day. I plan ahead enough to make sure that I can have Zach’s help in prepping when necessary and we even make some standard snacks that the kids like. We do make “different” meals for the kids a lot of nights – I always make them eat the meat we are eating, but will give them normal breads and pasts in lieu of our paleo breads and “pastas”.

Zach not only started eating right, but he also started working out more consistently than in the past! Working out combined with eating right, he lost 60 pounds in just a few months and we had to buy all new clothes for him every season this year! I suppose that’s a good problem to have! He’s to the point now that his weight is stable and maintainable and between working out and eating right, he’s the healthiest he’s ever been – even with MS! At 36, Zach is fit and in all of his life, he has never called himself “fit”! He’s enjoying the new him and taking pride in taking care of himself!

While eating these Paleo meals myself, I have found what works for me to maintain my weight – between eating Paleo for dinner, and “normal” foods for other meals – for me, as long as I can balance it all, I’m doing ok! I have definitely eaten more fruits and vegetables in this single year than I have eaten in my previous 35 years combined! I have tried to cut back quite a bit on sweets and generally only use pure maple syrup and honey for sweeteners. I still have to have chocolate (focused more on dark chocolate now) and I still can’t resist some homemade treats (like homemade chocolate chip cookies).

After what felt like a stressful end to 2015, the beginning of 2016 just flew by once we got our new normal figured out. Ellie finished out her Pre-K school year in May and did an awesome job learning her letters and numbers! She really enjoyed her teachers and her friends at school. Ethan started becoming very interested in car emblems in March and April – being able to name just about every car type on the road, based on their emblem! Once he mastered car emblems, he became interested in the names of cars (i.e., Kia Soul, Honda Accord) and quickly picked up reading all of the car models in no time! By the time summer was over, Ethan was reading everything! Both kids took swimming lessons in April, in preparation for our fun summer ahead! This was Ethan’s first “class” at a rec center and he did great!

In June, we took a week off of work and spent time in Telluride and Glenwood Springs. We had a cabin in Telluride and spent the days walking around town, riding the Telluride gondola, going on little hikes and of course “swimming” in the hot tub. One afternoon the kids got to ride horses and they had a blast! Then we spent a few days in Glenwood Springs at the Hot Springs Hotel – the kids loved swimming and riding the waterslides! It was a great family vacation for us!

In July, just days before Ellie and Ethan’s scheduled Gymnastics classes at the rec center, Ellie fell on the playground and broke her arm! Luckily, Zach was with us at the time and I didn’t feel as scared having to take her to the ER all by myself! She was a trooper at the ER, only freaking out every so often because she was worried she was going to need a shot – she didn’t really care that her arm was in pain! ha! She got an adorable watermelon cast from her hand to just below her elbow and it was waterproof! So, despite the fact that she was in a cast, she was able to play and enjoy the water this summer! She missed out on Gymnastics classes, coloring and writing with her dominant hand and she couldn’t ride her bike for a month, but she got her cast of just days before school started and didn’t miss a beat at all when it came to her hand-writing! Ethan had fun in his Gymnastics class and yet again, showed us he was ready for school by paying attention and following directions in class.

The school year started and Ellie loved her Kindergarten teacher right off the bat! She quickly made friends and tested into First Grade math! She has math homework every night and she’s slowly learning how to sound out words and is a pro at her three-letter sight words! It’s impressive to see this kid learning new things every day and generally enjoying school. Ellie’s most difficult part is waking up every day to go to school! Ellie is very artistic and loves drawing, coloring, painting, etc. She loves singing and dancing and will “perform” around the house any chance she gets! She has a very funny sense of humor but gets upset when we laugh at the funny things she says – she doesn’t quite understand that what she’s saying is funny and it’s OK to laugh!

Ethan started off the school year in the preschool class and by October his teacher requested that we move him up to the pre-K class and start the early entry process for Kindergarten for him in 2017. The teacher said he was just too advanced for the preschool class. He was very kind and sociable with the other kids but would benefit from the academic challenges of moving up to the next class. She knew he would be bored out of his mind by the time he reached Kindergarten at the rate he was going. So, the week after Fall Break, Ethan moved into the Pre-K class and took off running! He’s doing great in class and so far the only thing he’s struggled with is using scissors! (Fact: I hadn’t given him scissors to use until now because Ellie didn’t start using scissors until she was 5!) So that’s one skill we’ve worked on at home more than others. Ethan can do simple to not-so-simple math and can read just about any word you put in front of him. He still doesn’t know how to sound out words, but if he’s seen/heard the word once, he’s got it down! He loves math and numbers and is constantly thinking of how the world works with numbers. He cares a great deal about what time it is (he loves to translate between am/pm time and military time) and about the calendar – knowing today, tomorrow and next week when it comes to dates and activities! He also has quite the sense of humor – saying things at just the right time and it amazes us what he correlates! We will start the early entry Kindergarten assessment in January – it is a long process and I’m honestly not looking forward to all that we need to do, but in the end it will be so worth it!

At six years of age, Ellie is about 44 inches tall and weighs around 42 lbs. At four years of age, Ethan is about 42 inches tall and weights around 42 lbs.! They both wear size 12 shoes. Ethan looks best in 5T clothes and although Ellie CAN fit into 5T clothes, she mostly wears size 6 clothes. It won’t surprise me if this time next year Ethan as already surpassed Ellie in height and weight – he’s going to be a big boy and she’ll probably always be a petite girl – which, is OK with us! 🙂 I have been asked on several occasions if they are twins! ha!

In December, both kids took ski lessons and did awesome! We didn’t know until this year, but the Colorado Ski Resorts give free ski passes to K-5th Graders (plus under-4 is free). So although I didn’t think we’d get our kids in skis this early, we jumped at the chance to put them in ski lessons this year – instead of US buying ski passes, just to spend time on the slopes teaching the kids. While the kids are at ski lessons, Zach and I just hang out and enjoy a kid-free-day walking around the mountain-town shops! Ellie did AWESOME at her lessons – her athleticism definitely shows when she’s on skis! Her teachers have said she’s the best in her class! Ethan did well, but he’s definitely still so little and just standing up and making it down the very flat hill is decent progress! They both have another lesson planned for mid-January! We probably won’t take them skiing any more this season, but we’re all really looking forward to next season!

Christmas with these kids was so fun this year. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition and for the month of December Ellie JUMPED out of bed to go find the Elf! That was my favorite reason to have the Elf around our house! ha! We gave away some toys to our friends before Christmas this year (like in years past) but I made the kids aware of it this year and they were very gracious in giving away some of their toys – that was pretty special! At the end of December, we spent one night (two days) at the new Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs. We went to a Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City in 2015, so it was definitely neat to go back again – this time, so much closer to home! With the kids being older, they were able to ride more slides this time and they just had a blast! This adventure will definitely be on our “once-a-year” list every year now that it’s so close to home!

We are excited for 2017! Ellie and Ethan will both continue to work hard in school and we have Gymnastics and Swimming classes scheduled for both of them in the spring! Zach is still doing great at work and we are hopeful that this upcoming year has him traveling less (at least less internationally). My work is still stable – I really enjoy the schedule I get to keep and I definitely enjoy the project I am leading. At the end of 2015, I started selling a jewelry line called KEEP Collective. It was a lot of fun to start and I still enjoy the jewelry, but haven’t been very gung-ho about selling it to all of my friends and family – mainly because I didn’t want to become a nuisance! I really enjoy doing in-home parties, because I really like sharing ideas with ladies in person, but could definitely pass on the on-line selling aspect! Selling a product like this is difficult because it’s not a necessity or a consumable, so once someone buys something, they generally only think to buy more for gifts, not necessarily for themselves again. I finished up 2016 by selling enough to continue my active status and still get discounted jewelry for my own hobby and gifts! We’ll see what 2017 brings, but I’ll continue selling KEEP with my laid-back approach and go from there!

Although this blog post doesn’t cover all that went on this year, hopefully it was a summary enough to catch you up on what we’re doing and as we move into 2017! I didn’t even post pictures on the blog this year – but at least I was able to keep up with posting pictures on other social media sites!

Happy New Year!

p.s. Don’t be surprised if the next blog post you see is wrapping up 2017! 🙂

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MS Diagnosis

By Zach:

Many of you may not know, but I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2015. Shortly after my diagnosis, I wrote the following “story” about my diagnosis. We shared the the news with family and slowly we told friends and co-workers but it wasn’t ever something I publicly shared. Many of you may know about my MS Diagnosis, but never read this story – it’s long, but helps you understand my perspective and what got me through the first days/weeks/months to get to my “new normal”…

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Symptoms:

“Well – this is new,” the young man thought as he stepped out of bed to feel the sensation of pins and needles in both feet, as if he had been sitting on them all night.  After finishing his morning routine, he realized that this new sensation was going to be around a while and then he set about his day.  The weather was unseasonably warm for the weekend before Thanksgiving in Colorado which made it feel less like the holiday season and more like fall.

The weekend passed and the pins and needles persisted – causing moments of concern, but nothing mentally debilitating.  The prior week the young man spent traveling – sitting for long periods on airplanes and lugging bags around…perhaps he had simply pinched a nerve in his back, or sat too long…surely his feet would wake up eventually.

As Monday approached a growing concern became too much to ignore and the young man reached out to his doctor for answers.  Because it was a holiday week, the doctors were consumed with other more pressing cases and the earliest available appointment was on Tuesday.  He made the best of the warmth and put up the Christmas lights outside so it would be done in time for the upcoming holidays.  

During his appointment on Tuesday, some routine blood work was done as well as an A1C panel and Vitamin B12 to rule out Diabetic neuropathy and pernicious anemia.  No specific diagnosis other than “Well – that’s strange,” was given.

Waiting for the test results was agonizing – wondering if his life was going to be drastically changed by insulin injections or by something different and equally sinister.  Wednesday passed with no lab results.  At this point, Google only provided more concern as he Googled symptoms and terrifying things were returned.  As the pins and needles sensation seemed to be intensifying, he began to wonder if left undiagnosed or treated, would he wake up lacking the ability to use his legs at all?  

Needing answers he set off to the ER – at 11 pm on Thanksgiving-Eve.  It was lightly snowing, finally showing signs of Winter.  Once at the hospital and checked in, it was only a matter of moments before the ER doctor had performed an initial physical exam and concluded that the young man wasn’t diabetic – as it would take years of other symptoms before neuropathy would start to show.  He also concluded that the young man wasn’t anemic as he regularly ate meat.  The ER doctor mentioned that he wasn’t inclined to think it was Multiple Sclerosis (MS), since in his mind MS presented in a more hemispheric pattern (i.e. you get a plaque in the right hemisphere of your brain and your left hand goes numb).  The young man mentioned that his father-in-law contracted a case of optic neuritis that was left untreated for a week as he waited to get an appointment with a neuro-opthamologist (yup – that’s a real thing…and there aren’t many of them in Colorado) – which caused some permanent vision loss and also weighed heavy on his mind and initially spawned the thought of lower extremity paralysis.

The ER doctor offered two courses of action:  go home and see if the pins and needles sensation goes away, or he could perform a lumbar puncture to see if there was anything in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that would lead to a diagnosis.  When the young man asked him his opinion, he replied with, “Well you came here, on Thanksgiving-Eve, because you felt like there was something wrong.  I can help provide you answers today, but it will take the lumbar puncture to do so.”  When the young man asked what his thoughts were, the ER doctor didn’t want to speculate too much, but Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) or Meningitis were things that the lumbar puncture could help rule out.

The young man agreed to the additional testing and it was started and finished in about 20 minutes time.  Obviously, the lumbar puncture wasn’t “fun” – however the procedure is incredibly routine as it’s the same technique employed to deliver the epidural numbing agent used for laboring mothers.  As the ER doctor was pulling the samples of CSF to send to the lab, he mentioned casually that he was going to pull an extra CSF sample to send off for MS testing, even though he didn’t think that MS was the culprit, since this is “precious stuff” and it’s not terribly easy to get.

1:00 AM in the ER on Thanksgiving day is quiet.  The young man laid in the ER bed, gowned, and hooked up to a continuous blood pressure monitoring machine, trying to rest and failing – due to the ten 48” fluorescent bulbs that were lit in the hospital room and the unsettled feeling of the testing he just had done and concerned about more testing that could be coming.  The young man texted his wife that he was doing well.  She was at home with their two children and clearly not sleeping, as he continued to receive almost  instantaneous text message replies.  He felt like she was right there with him and was incredibly comforted by her emotional presence.

As some of the CSF and blood tests came back, they showed that there were signs of inflammation in the CSF, but were negative for GBS and Meningitis.  The ER doctor indicated that after talking with their on-call Neurologist, they had ordered a head, neck and Thoracic Spine MRI – in part because of my lab results, and in part because of the Optic Neuritis in my family history.  The young man said back to the ER doctor, “Family history…you heard me say Father-in-law, right?”  The ER doctor said, “Oh…so no genetic tie?” and the young man replied, “Nope.”  The neurologist had already ordered the MRI testing and they had already called in the on-call imaging specialist, so the ER doctor said, “Well, we might as well go on and do them, as it will provide the neurologist more information anyway.”

The MRI testing included the three sections of the young man’s head and spine and was ordered to be done with and without contrast.   For the uninitiated, in addition to the 2’ diameter tube that you are slid into, a head and spinal MRI also includes the installation of a cage over the head and one on the chest to receive all of the radio frequency responses of the MRI – further adding to the claustrophobic nature of this test.  The young man tried to remain calm and cool and rested in the knowledge that at least no one was sticking a large needle in his back.  The MRI testing generates incredibly high resolution and clear images of the brain and spine…but it makes a significant amount of noise – so much so that earplugs are put into the patient’s ears to help keep the perceived noise level at a manageable level.  The noises are somewhat other-worldly as well – pops, clangs, beeps and one particular scan that happened to be a resonant frequency in the bones of the young man that made him feel as if his soul was going to be pulled from his body.  The entire MRI process took on the order of an hour in the tube for a complete set of images.

Back in the ER waiting for test results, the young man sat, again – trying to rest and remain calm.  After the radiology report was generated, a new ER doctor presented the young man with results…in that they had no results.  He said that nothing definitive was shown on his CSF panels, and nothing definitive showed up on the MRI.  The young man was discharged and sent home at 5:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning with instructions to follow up with a Neurologist on Friday.  The new ER doctor mentioned that they didn’t think he was crazy, but they couldn’t come up with a cause for his neuropathy.

Diagnosis:

The young man went home – with an intense headache, either from pulling an all-nighter, or from the delta in pressure in his CSF.  Either way, he went to sleep for a few hours before his family arrived to have Thanksgiving brunch…after all, he was healthy, and had a Turkey to prepare.

After he woke up, had some breakfast and got the Turkey in the fryer, he told both sets of parents and his wife the whole story of the previous night’s activities.  Trying to put the numbness in his feet out of his mind, he continued to help prepare the day’s meal and to enjoy the company of his kids and family.

Around 1:00 PM, just before the family was to sit down to their traditional Thanksgiving meal, which this year was to be done as a late lunch, the young man received a phone call from the Chief of Neurology at the hospital.  She asked if the young man had received any results from the night before.  He indicated that he was discharged with “inconclusive” results.  She apologized for the confusion, and made no excuses for the mistake, but that there was in fact a result that was buried in the radiologist’s report, which was noticed by the Physician’s Assistant (PA) who picked up the case on Thursday morning.

The radiologists report indicated that there were brain plaques and a spinal plaque that indicated MS and that was her diagnosis as well – coupled with the clinical presentation of symptoms.  She was very encouraging over the phone, and indicated that the young man didn’t need to come back into the hospital today, rather he should stay home with his family, eat a Thanksgiving meal and enjoy the fact that his prognosis was excellent.  She also indicated that the plaque that was causing his current symptoms was located somewhere near the conus medullaris, which is at the very end of the spinal cord, and when a plaque is in the spinal cord, the symptoms present bilaterally and from the plaque down.  The ER doctor that didn’t think it presented like MS was thinking “MS is a brain disease” rather than “MS is a CSF disease”, which can affect both the brain and the spinal cord.

She made an appointment at her clinic for the young man the next afternoon, so the young man and his wife could discuss treatment options and go over all of the radiology images and ask any questions they might have.  During this appointment, three treatment options were given to the young man, of which he chose the one with the least listed side effects.  He also modified his diet to remove refined sugar and grain from his diet in an effort to reduce the inflammation in his body.  The Neurologist also ordered 5 days of high dose IV infused steroids – specially modified to pass through the blood-brain barrier (BBB).  This would help decrease the swelling that is happening in the affected region of his spine, and allow the remyelination process to proceed and fully restoring his neurological function (i.e. effectively “waking up” his numb feet).  The Neurologist remarked that she so rarely has all of this information available to her in such short order to make a diagnosis like this.  She was amazed that I already had CSF labs that supported her diagnosis of MS, and had the images to confirm it.

The young man had presented with a Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) of Relapsing-Remitting(RR) MS.  Technically, MS requires two clinical presentations of symptoms to be considered Clinically Definite (CD) MS, but after a single presentation of symptoms combined with the additional testing that was done at the hospital, there was enough to make the diagnosis and begin treatment.  RRMS is the most common form of MS, and can be well managed using modern pharmacological techniques, with varying delivery options which include simply swallowing a pill, to subcutaneous injections all the way to monthly IV infusions.

Incidentally, the day after Thanksgiving, the young man’s regular doctor called and informed him that his A1C came back and that he was on the border of being pre-diabetic and that he should try to cut back on his sugar intake.  Because of the relapsing/remitting nature of his MS, he could have heeded the advice of his primary doctor and cut back on sugar, his symptoms would have gone away, as they would have done naturally, and the young man could have gone a year or more before having another relapse, and would have remained undiagnosed.

Looking back at the symptoms and diagnosis of this young man’s recent journey, one can glean some pretty remarkable instances where God’s hand was clearly directing every detail:

  1. The continued fear that pushed him to the hospital to begin with – which led to the correct diagnosis.  This concern in his mind would have been allayed if he received the test results from his primary doctor on Wednesday, when they were supposed to originally have been done.  Because he didn’t receive those results, he went to the hospital.
  2. The ER doctor pulled the extra sample and sent it off for specific MS CSF testing, even though he didn’t think that the symptoms presented in such a way that it could be MS.
  3. The ER doctor heard “father” instead of “father-in-law” and conveyed that information to the Neurologist on call who ordered the MRIs.  When the young man pointed it out to the ER doctor, he almost flippantly said, “Well, they’re already ordered, so you might as well go on and have them done.”  As it turns out, those images, coupled with the clinical presentation and the CSF labs allowed the Neurologist to make the proper diagnosis.
  4. The PA who was closing out the young man’s chart the next morning who caught that the radiology report had the diagnosis of MS in it – and realized that no one had told the young man before being discharged took it upon herself to contact the Neurologist on call, who also happened to be the Chief of Neurology, at the hospital to let her know.  Without her noticing that rather important detail, the young man may have gone many years and relapses before having any knowledge of his diagnosis.
  5. The doctors missed the MS notation in the radiology report and allowed me to go home – to receive the news of this diagnosis in the young man’s home, with his loving family and support system by his side to cry and pray with.  He felt incredibly blessed to be able to receive this diagnosis while standing with his family, and tried to express that gratitude to his Neurologist, who debated whether or not to call the young man on Thanksgiving and give him this diagnosis over the phone and settled on making the phone call.  

Realization:

Making any assessments on whether the young man was “alright” had to come after the IV infusions ended and the oral “tapering” pack were completed, as the steroids affected the young man mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Everything from food tasting like zinc to night sweats to the feeling that his soul was hopping up and down in his brain coupled with the IV that was left in his arm for 5 days and daily trips to the hospital infusion center gave him the overwhelming sensation of being “sick”.  Daily episodes of uncontrollable weeping ensued as a result of all of the changes that had happened and were implied over the previous week.  Whether because of the steroids, stress, or the change in diet, the young man lost 15 pounds in the two weeks since the symptoms began.  

After the young man was allowed to get off the emotional roller coaster that the steroids put him on, he began to come to grips with his new reality.

He is not in charge.

As many times as he’s told his kids that THEY were not in charge, he kind of always assumed that he was.  He was (and still is) a successful engineer, making his way up the corporate ladder at his company, blessed with an incredibly beautiful wife, two amazing children, a home two times as large as what he “needs” (by comfortable United States living standards), a new car, and anything else he decided he wanted.  I mean, life’s not perfect, but if you asked him, he couldn’t identify anything particularly “wrong” with it.

At church on Sunday, the pastor referenced a short story by Leo Tolstoy – yes, the same one that wrote another short story called “War and Peace”.  This short story is entitled “What Men Live By”.  So as not to butcher this beautiful work of literary genius by distilling something already called a “short story”, I’ll simply sum up the three main points that really hit the young man as he read this story.

In the story, three questions must be answered:

  1. What dwells in man
  2. What is not given to man
  3. What men live by

The answers, as it is presented in the story, that LOVE dwells in man – the kindness and generosity of others in time of need – the aid to all mankind.  KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT WE NEED is not given to man – the things we WANT is not necessarily what we NEED.  This is illustrated in the story by a wealthy man who has a pair of boots commissioned to be made that should last him a year’s worth of use as he purchased fine and high quality leather, when that very day he is struck dead and instead needs burial slippers.  The realization that I cannot provision for my future because I don’t know what my future holds. The idea that men live by the LOVE OF GOD and not by care of themselves is deeply comforting for the young man in this diagnosis – that he can’t possibly know what his future brings and that is OK…because he has the love and provision of an all-knowing God.

This diagnosis instantly took him from the driver’s seat in his own life and redefined him squarely as a passenger.  Hubris was the thing that made him think he was ever really driving to begin with…

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That was over a year ago! I can’t believe how far I have come! I give myself shots three times a week (an MS medicine called Copaxone) and although they are not comfortable, I do it because I know it will give me a longer future without symptoms. We participated in the MS Walk and MS Muck Fest this year and will continue supporting the fight against MS. I started eating Paleo and working out to take care of myself (more on that in the next blog post by Lori) and am in better shape that I have ever been! I tell people this a lot, and I don’t say it lightly, but MS is the best thing that has ever happened to me!

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Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!
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Christmas this year with the kids was so much fun! We really enjoyed finding gifts for them that they either asked for or we knew they would like. Ellie’s reaction when opening gifts was obnoxious but also adorable because she was so excited. She told me I really outdid myself this year! ha!

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Zach and I both took two weeks off of work for Christmas break. We enjoyed a lot of time at home just playing with the kids. We decorated cookies, did a gingerbread house and looked at Christmas lights. We watched lots of movies together too! We spent Christmas Eve with Lori’s parents and Christmas day with Zach’s parents. The kids enjoyed the time and we had lots of yummy food!

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We took lots of fun pictures of the kids and family – check them all out in our November-December 2015 photo album.

We are looking forward to 2016! We can’t wait to see what God does in our family and around us this year. We love watching our kids grow and learn and transition into big-kids! What a joy life is with our family and friends!

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Ethan is Three!

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Our little man is now 3-years-old! This year, we celebrated Ethan’s birthday with family on Thanksgiving – which is probably the last year we can get away without doing any kind of “real” party. He enjoyed his balloons and cupcakes! He had fun opening gifts and playing with his rocket ship, blocks and stop watch.

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Ethan is a little smarty-pants. He can count to 100 and backwards from 100 without any help. He also knows quite a few sight words – so the little boy who loves numbers is also soaking up the English language as well! He no longer puts ABCs or 123s in backwards order, but actually goes left to right now. He writes with his left hand still, but throws with his right hand. He is a pretty good eater and when he wants to have a meal-time battle, I can usually distract him with putting the food on a toothpick and he’ll decide to eat it! He has tried lots of new foods this way! We are phasing out his afternoon nap, which means he is asleep by 7pm and sleeps until 6 or 7am. He’s in the stage of coming into our room every night, but hopefully he’ll outgrow that soon. Ethan can tell time which has helped with his night-time wakings – he used to ask for milk in the middle of the night but now we can point at the clock and explain that it’s not time yet and he knows it’s not yet 6am. Ethan loves playing with playdoh, writing letters and numbers with colored pencils or crayons, he loves watching number videos and solar system videos on YouTube and he really loves rockets!

Although Ethan has his the “terrible threes” attitude, he is still generally sweet and snuggly. He likes to pout and boss us around but he’s never actually successful at it! He is still not potty trained, but hopefully that will happen sooner than later!

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Here are some funny things about Ethan:

  • Ethan likes to tell us something and then say “did you know that?” like he’s telling us something we’ve never heard before!
  • Ethan got a watch for his birthday and wore it for many days, straight. We were on our way to church one Sunday and we forgot to put his watch on. When he realized his watch was missing he yelled “I forgot my watch!! We have to go back!” Poor kiddo, we didn’t go back home to get it.
  • The same day, we picked Ethan up from Sunday School and I asked if he was ready to go get a haircut (because that was our plan) and his response was “no, I need a hamburger!”
  • Ethan always needs to be holding “stuff”. At any one time, he usually has three or four things in his hands – to go to the store, to go to church, to go to the bath, to go to bed. Some of his treasures currently are: marbles, coins, buttons, golf balls, dice, etc.
  • Ethan loves coins – we have several dollars in change laying around our house at all times. He likes to hold the coins and look at the dates on them, put them in his piggy bank and recently he put all the coins in his pants pocket and ran around the house listening to it jingle!
  • On the YouTube kids app, there is a “parents only” settings button. One day, Zach watched Ethan tap the button and Ethan read “Parents Only” that came up on the window and then Ethan proceeded to type in the “password” which was spelled out in numbers: Two, Five, Eight, One – so Ethan said “2, 5, 8, 1” as he typed it in! Ha, he read the numbers!
  • When Ethan sees a vending machine, he needs to go “type in the password” by pushing several numbers and letters! It’s hilarious!

We love this fun-loving, silly, sweet, precious boy! It will be so fun this year to see what other things interest him and how he progresses in all of his skills!

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Ellie is Five!

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Our beautiful little girl turned 5 years-old in October! I cannot believe we have a 5-year-old! Ellie is doing great in her pre-K class this year. Her teachers say that she is quite the leader and encourager. She loves crafts and coloring. Ellie has an amazing imagination and really likes playing make believe – either by dressing up or making up stories with her Barbies. She watches videos on YouTube of people opening toys and she likes to pretend that she’s taking a video of her doing things, often. She’s still a picky eater, but we’re working on trying new foods a little bit at a time. She still rides her bike with training wheels, loves playing on the playground or doing anything outside. She loves horses and dogs and her favorite color is still pink. She loves swimming and gymnastics!

For Ellie’s birthday, we had a small party at home on Halloween – it’s always going to be a challenge having her share her birthday with Halloween. After gifts and cake, we took the kids trick-or-treating! They were adorable! Ellie was a butterfly-fairy-princess and Ethan was Batman! 🙂

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Then, a week later, we had her friend’s birthday party at the recreation center down the street for a gymnastics birthday party. The kids had so much fun! They did lots of activities in the gym, then did a craft and had cake before opening presents. Ellie had fun opening gifts, but would get really shy when she opened a gift she really liked. One time, she turned to me and whispered “mom! It’s what I’ve always wanted!” It was so cute!

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We definitely have our struggles with our 5-year-old – she is stubborn and hard-headed at times and we are all still trying to figure out how best to discipline and encourage her. Sometimes it is very hard to motivate her – which will get more interesting as homework becomes more difficult! Ellie is very kind to her friends at school and even kids she does not know, but quite the stinker to her little brother. She is definitely no longer shy like she used to be – she will talk to anyone that will talk to her and generally wants to tell them her life story!

It will be fun to see how Ellie blossoms over the next year!

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Hello October- already!

Last time I posted was near the end of July..now it’s almost October – that’s just too much time to not post! We finished the summer wonderfully – lots of visits to the park, getting ice cream or slurpees, hanging out with friends and lots of travel for me too!

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I traveled for work at the end of July for the first time in almost 5 years! Then a few weeks later, Zach and I went to Las Vegas – leaving the kiddos at home. It was nice to get away together and enjoy a kid-free vacation for the weekend. At the end of October, I spent the weekend in Oklahoma with my college roommates – we hadn’t all been together since we graduated in 2004! It was a wonderful weekend and such a sweet time with my friends! It was weird leaving the kids as much as I did this summer, but they did great – I certainly won’t make that a habit of so many trips so close together but it was so nice to know that they’re old enough now to be ok with me being gone and know that I’ll always come back! 🙂

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Ellie started school in mid-August and she loves her class. She didn’t have to hide her head from her teacher walking into class this year. Last year, it was EVERY TIME we went into class… so this is a huge improvement! She’s enjoying her classmates and is looking forward to her Gymnastics birthday party coming up!

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Ellie attended a birthday party for a little boy from her class that she’s just crazy about! It was a pool party and she really enjoyed the party! So cute!!

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For labor day weekend, we rented a cabin near Leadville and had the best weekend getaway! The kids really enjoyed the cabin and being in the mountains. We spent some time in Vail, playing at the playground there and also went to the hot springs in Buena Vista. It was SO much fun! There were some neighborhood dogs that came and hug out on our deck and Ellie just fell in love with “Murphy”…

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Two other fun things that Zach and I planned out were doing the Wipeout Run and taking a long bike ride last weekend. It’s nice to finally be able to do some outings for just the two of us!

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And lastly, here are some funny things for the kids that I’ve written down the last few months:

Ethan:

  • He got a little Minion with a lego block and he calls it his “wego me-yon” (Lego Minion)
  • He is such a good eater – he really loves sandwiches and burgers these days, which is quite the joy to watch him eat!
  • He is finally into blocks and building things with legos.
  • He likes to draw pictures now instead of just writing numbers and letters.
  • When Ethan wants to race, he says “mommy, say on your market” ha!
  • Ellie was doing a “magic trick” at dinner one night and she said “abra cadabra and close your eyes” because she was hiding something. Ethan copied and said “abra cadabra, close your eyes and take a nap!” haha!
  • When Ethan puts his blocks away, he says “Goodnight R. Goodnight 9. Goodnight plus…” so funny!
  • Ethan was playing an easy game of matching, Frozen style. He flipped over Anna and Hans and said “Anna and Hangry”.

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Ellie:

  • Both kids actually play together pretty well sometimes these days!
  • Ellie likes to wake Ethan up from his nap by reading to him – it’s so sweet!
  • She told me one day “When I’m a parent, I will let my kids do anything they want! I want to have kids so I can give them candy!” Oh honey!
  • We told Ellie we were going to Las Vegas and she was so confused “Why is it called Lost Vegas?”
  • Ellie said “in Frozen, when Elsa runs away, why didn’t she drive a car?” I explained how it was supposed to be before they had cars and she said “oh, like back in the day?” Exactly! A month later, Grammy and I were talking and Grammy asked me “did you know I sold Mary Kay back in the day?” and Ellie was surprised and asked “before there were cars??” hahaha!
  • Ellie told us that Gramps said she had a freckle on her nose. We looked and decided she didn’t. Then she said “Gramps must have a freckle on his glasses!!”

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Ellie got this stick-on mustache from the dentist… she wore that to a bunch of stores and made sure to tell people “it’s not real” if they commented on it! ha!

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Love these kids!!

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Check out some of the latest photos in the following albums:

http://www.zach-lori.com/photos/kids-pictures/kids-2015/july-august-2015/

http://www.zach-lori.com/photos/kids-pictures/kids-2015/september-october-2015/

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Summer Flying By…

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As you can tell by the lack of posts this summer, it is just flying by and I have not had a lot of time to keep up! For the past six weeks, I’ve practically worked full-time and the kids have been awesome. I knew my work schedule would get crazy in June and July and the only way to manage the extra load was to get some extra help watching the kids. We got a college-aged girl from church and two high-school-aged girls (that are the daughters of Ellie’s preschool teacher) to take turns (along with the Grandma’s normal days) to watch the kids. The change in childcare every day kept everyone happy and entertained, the kids loved the time with the girls and I was thankful to not over-load the Grandmas with too many extra days of watching the kids. Zach helped with extra things around the house to keep everything running smooth I got to ENJOY working extra hard at work and didn’t worry one bit about my kiddos at home. It was a pretty fantastic scenario! I’m thankful my crazy schedule is almost over and I get to go back to more time at home with the kids though!

May ended with lots of rain, so we were pretty excited to get out and play quite a bit in June. We went to several parks and set up a little inflatable pool in the backyard. For Father’s Day, the four of us drove to Colorado Springs to go up Pike’s Peak. It was a beautiful day for a drive. We got to the top, enjoyed the sights and then had a picnic half way back down the mountain. Then we went and played at the splash park in down town. The kids loved it!

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Our good friends are back from Finland and are renting a house this summer backed up to a beach, on a lake, in Denver! How fun! We went and spent the afternoon with them – the kids loved the water and sand and we of course loved the company! We’re so glad they’re back!

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We visited a different splash park in Denver recently but still haven’t gotten the chance to get over to our favorite splash park over by Zach’s work. We’ll get there before the summer is over! We’ve gone to open gym several times and Monkey Business also. I’ve tried to have some fun days with the kids on the few days I have been home the last two months!

For 4th of July weekend, Zach had Friday off, so we went up north to an indoor pool/rec-center that has a great kid’s playground and a few big waterslides. The kids had a blast and it wasn’t too busy because the weather was so nice that everyone was doing activities outside!! A park up the street from us does a big “July 3rd” celebration and we decided to go this year. We got there early to find parking, eat some hot dogs, play on the inflatables and ride the little train ride. The kids had a blast and even though we had to wait in line for everything, they did great! Just before the fireworks were set to go off, it started pouring! POURING! We had one blanket we were sitting on and another fleece blanket to cover up with – neither were water proof! So, we covered up the best we could, the fireworks started anyway and we enjoyed the show! The kids thought the fireworks were amazing and even though we were soaking wet, they really enjoyed it! The worst part was carrying one kiddo each back to the car – probably a mile walk – soaking wet!

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The rest of the weekend we just chilled around the house and enjoyed a non-chaotic weekend. Saturday night we did a few little fireworks in the front of the house. The kids really enjoyed it. They went to bed at their normal time, even with lots of fireworks popping all around. That night we saw SO many fireworks all around us – we couldn’t believe it! We guessed because of the rain, more people were willing to do illegal fireworks at their house. It was so pretty – we were bummed we’d already sent the kids to sleep! Ha!

We’ve had some friends over for dinner and have gone to some friends’ houses for dinner. It’s been a laid back enough summer to enjoy good stuff… even with me working a lot, it doesn’t feel like it was too crazy! Just not a lot of time to blog!

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Here are some fun things I’ve written down about the kids for the last few months:

Both kids LOVE listening to music in the car and at home. They both love to dance and do silly things with their hands. They call songs based on one or two words in the song and we’re getting pretty good a deciphering what song it is they are asking for.

Ethan sometimes doesn’t want us to rub his back or touch him at bed time (other times he is very snuggly). When he doesn’t like you touching him, he says “don’t touch my Ethan”.

Ellie asked to listen to loud music on the way to church one morning. I told her I’d prefer some more mellow music that morning about Jesus on our way to church. Her response, “I still think about Jesus…”

When we come home from work and one of the girls has been watching the kids, Ethan yells and points to the door “Go back to work!!!!” At least we know he’s having a good time with them!

Ellie told Ethan one day “Ethan, I love you so much my heart breaks into pieces. I love you more than a butterfly’s heart”. I’m not sure where all that came from, but it sure was sweet!

Ellie one day was babbling about something and then in very clear words: “I was being a klutz because I was raised in a barn!” ha! I don’t know where she heard that!

There is a song Ethan likes on Spotify that has an “S” on the album cover. He calls it the S song. When it comes on, he yells “yay! S song! Woo Hoo!!” and then dances crazy and spins around!

One day I was telling Ethan something and said “Is that cool or what?!” and his response was “What!”

Ethan is still pretty clingy sometimes and if I leave the room, he’ll run after me yelling “wait for me mama!!”

Ellie asked me one day how daddy knows everything. She asked if he was from the future. I told her “no, he just likes to learn everything he can.” “NO, he’s from the future” she said!

Ethan’s sentences are so cute these days – they are real and make sense! It’s adorable. He can tell us what he wants for dinner or lunch “do you want a hot dog or a hamburger” and if he misplaces something, he can remember where he last had it. “I lost my zero. I put it back there!”

Ethan loves clocks and coins these days! He can be found carrying around a handful of pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters. Sometimes even sleeping with them! At this point, I’m not worried about him putting them in his mouth. I do have a bag of “clean” coins – he’s not allowed to play with money unless it’s been washed first! He does love looking at clocks and pretending like he knows what time it is. Sometimes he is accurate, but not all the time!

Fun kids! Fun family!

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May 2015

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I had to title this post just “May 2015” because April came and went and now May has come and is almost gone and I’m only just now posting a blog.

At the end of April, we had family pictures taken by our friend, Jenny Marvin! The pictures turned out great, we’re so happy with them! Check them out in the Family Photos 2015 Photo Album.

View More: http://jm-photoart.pass.us/scholzfamily

April was busy with Swimming lessons for Ellie. We had a trip planned to a waterpark in the middle of May and I really wanted her more comfortable in the water. She did awesome – she can now float on her back and she’s decent at the front and back strokes. She still needs a lot of practice, but she really improved during her lessons.

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We spent a bit of time outside in late-April/early-May before it rained and rained and rained almost non-stop for almost a month. I think maybe that’s why I feel like May was such a blur – we didn’t get outside much and sometimes just staying inside was all about survival each day! They say the days are long but the years are short…. I totally get it! 🙂

We had a garage sale in the middle of May. I don’t really like garage sales and I didn’t really want to do one, but our neighborhood does one every year and I’ve got TONS of baby stuff that we don’t need anymore. I was hoarding all the baby stuff until we decided we weren’t going to have any more kids – and we have decided we are done growing our family. I had several friends come over and take the good stuff before the garage sale, which was nice to have it all out and be able to pass it along. The two days of the garage sale were cold and rainy… so it wasn’t as much of a success as I’d wanted – so we’re going to do it again next weekend!

Last weekend, the four of us piled in the van with my parents and drove out to Kansas. We stopped in Topeka for a little bit to spend some time with my grandparents. We planned the trip so that we could see them (we’ve gone out there every two years since Ellie was 6-months-old) but we also made a vacation out of it. After visiting with Grandma & Grandpa, we left my folks in Topeka and headed into Kansas City.

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We stayed at The Great Wolf Lodge – an awesome cabin-themed hotel, perfect for kiddos, and an indoor waterpark! The waterpark was perfect for our kids’ ages! We swam on Friday morning, took a little break and then swam again Friday afternoon. We went to Joe’s BBQ for dinner and Ellie was so tired that she fell asleep while Zach was holding her in line waiting to order (the line was LONG!) and then took a nap in the booth while the rest of us ate an amazingly wonderful BBQ dinner! In her exhaustion and with her allergies being really bad since arriving in Kansas, she developed croup that night and Zach had to make a run to Walgreens to get some meds so we could survive the night! The next day we skipped out on swimming and instead went to the aquarium in Kansas City. The kids enjoyed it and it wasn’t too crowded. Then we headed back to Topeka to visit with Grandma and Grandpa some more. We got some great pictures and they really enjoyed interacting with the kids and watching them play and color.

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The drive home was long, as Ethan realized we were quite stuck in the car for a long time and he was over it! Luckily I had lots of activities for both kids and of course the wonderful stand-by of videos on the tablet and constant cell phone reception for other videos on youtube and Netflix. The trip was fun and exhausting. Next time we take a trip, the kids will be older and it should be easier. Each trip gets easier each time! 🙂

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Ethan is currently obsessed with Rockets! He likes watching real shuttle and rocket launches on youtube. I found some rocket crafts online and we had some fun this week. Here, the kids are trying out the straw-rockets I made – Ellie really got it, Ethan still has a hard time blowing in the straw!

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Both kids are hilarious these days. They say so many funny things that I’ve stopped writing everything down because it’s all so funny and I feel like I’d be making notes on my phone every minute of the day. This next month I’ll get better at noting some of the funny things because some day all those silly things will be a distant memory and I want to remember this funny time!

Ethan is still super sweet and gentle and snuggly. He also has a stubborn side and definitely has had some bad terrible-two-year-old moments lately. He is easily distracted still and so it hasn’t been too big of a deal. He knows quite a few sight words and still really loves numbers! He notices numbers everywhere we go and is easily excited when he sees them! He loves singing to songs in the car and says random nursery rhymes quite often. He has such a little personality that is so fun to be around.

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Ellie is still loving preschool – this Thursday is her last day. She’s made friends in her class and she’s really caring toward them. She has another birthday party coming up this weekend for a kid in her class (this will be her 4th class-mate birthday party this year). For this boy, she knew exactly what we should get him – I guess because they do show-and-tell at school and she named off a bunch of things that he likes. We were so amazed at how she listed and internalized what he liked and could turn that into a birthday gift! She loves to color and really has an eye for art. She loves singing and dancing and making up songs. She is so energized by people and loves talking!!

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What fun these kids are!! The days are long, but the years are short….

See more pictures from this month in the May – June 2015 photo album.