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!