Sunday, January 11, 2015

Crazy Six Weeks!

Ok, I'll try not to write too much. . . it's been a crazy 2 weeks so I'll try to sum it up in pictures.
The week before Thanksgiving, Brad's mom, Lynn, came into town.  We started off her visit with a 'birthday party' for all of us because since she never gets to spend birthdays with us, we celebrated everyone's birthday, ate cake and opened a ton of presents she brought.  So fun!  Thanks Lynn!
 Then, my parents and sister flew in to share Thanksgiving with us so we had a full house!  We had a great time talking, going for walks, a hike in Napa, and eating way too much.  We had a great visit.

 Here's Jenny swinging on a rope swing we found on our hike in Napa.  What a beautiful day!
 We did our walk to the 'duck head' and here's the grandmas enjoying (?) themselves.  I think it was a bit chilly once the sun started doing down.  oops
 Yeah for Auntie Jenny!
 The boys after lunch at Sailor Jack's to get some yummy clam chowder on the waterfront in Benicia.
 One of the highlights of the visit was all the girls (except Jenny who had to fly home) going to the Teddy Bear Christmas Tea.  We heard Christmas stories, sang carols, ate treats and drank tea and hot chocolate.  So fun!
 Grandma Lynn brought the kids a special surprise which was her LGB train set for the kids to keep.  We set it right up under the tree and the kids LOVED it!  Especially making it go way to fast.
 After Mom and Dad left, we spent a day with Lynn in Chinatown.  We went out to an amazing lunch and enjoyed so many amazing dishes (That I couldn't pronounce if I tried!  I'm talking authentic Chinese!)
We walked around Chinatown in the rain and visited some tea shops. . . 

 We rode a bus (all by ourselves because a nice bus driver on break felt sorry for us that all the cable cars kept passing our stop because they were full and so he drove us to where we were headed). . .
 And we enjoyed hot chocolate, ice cream and coffee at Ghirardelli Square. . .
 And we finally got to ride our cable car.  Actually, the one we rode back to Chinatown was decorated for Christmas and full of high school football players from back east.  What an adventure!

Two weeks after Lynn headed home, we headed to Dallas for Christmas.  I seriously can't even remember what happened in those two weeks. . . it was a blur.

Christmas in Dallas was a bit unexpected because of Brad's dad's leukemia taking a turn for the worse in the weeks right before Christmas.  We planned to be in Houston for Christmas but the whole gang transported Christmas to Dallas to be closer to the Bill since he couldn't leave the hospital.

The kids took no time at all to warm back up to the family (actually none but Bill & Judy had even met William and the girls hadn't seen the rest of the bunch in 2 years).  They had a ball with all the cousins, aunts and uncles and of course, Bill and Judy.
 Here's Bill sharing his love of Lowly Worm with the girls.
 The kids opened their presents from Gramma Juis and SOPA in the hospital so Bill could be there.  What a circus.  I'm sure the cancer wing at MD Anderson hadn't seen that much activity in a long time!
Christmas Even with the fam. . . There was no coaxing a smile out of William.  He was sure he was going to be taken from us again.  He's spent a bit too much time away from Mama since we got to go on a date that lasted most of a day the day before and he'd had it!  What a great time (for us!)!
 What's Christmas in Texas without some personalized Christmas PJ's for the ladies  :) 

 and the littles!

 It wouldn't have been Christmas morning without SOPA so we had him on Facetime. 
Our pictures of Christmas morning don't even begin to capture the chaos of 9 little kids, 5 big kids, and 15 adults opening presents and enjoying eachother. 

Gramma Juis with her oldest and youngest grandsons.  Love!

Thank you Christy and Chris for hosting all the family for Christmas!  Your hospitality was amazing and we had a wonderful time.  The kids want to know what all the Texas bunch is going to come stay at our house.  
On Christmas day we were able to go to Ice at the Gaylord Texan.  It was an amazing display of ice sculptures in the theme of Frosty the Snowman.  Man, was it cold at only 9 degrees!  We were all frozen despite wearing their coats.  It was amazing though!

Here's just one of the sculptures of Frosty.  There were rooms and rooms of these, a nativity scene and a huge ice slide that we all slid down.  Unfortunately while William was acting like a penguin on the way out, he took a nose dive and scraped up his face.  It was really funny until the end.  :(
Here's what some of the decorations inside the Gaylord looked like.  Amazing.

  We even got to visit Uncle Jeff's new Chick-fil-a store in Dallas.  Thanks for the tour Jeff!
After all the mayhem of Christmas, we were able to spend another afternoon with Bill at the hospital.  He seriously needed a nap after the kids left.  :)

So here's the crew, minus Bill & Judy.  What an amazing family we have.  And why are we (the NON-TEXANS!) the only ones in full matching garb?!  Come on you guys!
Thanks Uncle Don for taking a family picture for us!  Merry Christmas from Texas!
 The next day we flew home.  10 minutes after we got home I said, "It is good to be home!" and WHAM!  I heard bone hit wood.  I turned around and William was screaming with blood all over his face.  He had hit his forehead on the corner of the baseboard and had a pretty crazy gash in his head.  Awesome.  We loaded up the car and headed to the ER.  After waiting a long while, I left William and Brad at the ER and took the girls home to put them to bed.  My friend, Audrey, came to stay with them while they slept (immediately because they were so tired from traveling!) and I went back to the ER to arrive just in time for the Dr. to glue William's head back together with super glue.  Modern stitches.  After his grape popsicle he was as good as new.

 Here's our family the next morning getting ready to open presents at home.  As if they needed more. . .
 Yeah for princesses.  We've got it bad around here.
 And here's Williams amazing dump truck.  He's really into construction trucks right now and this one is super fun!
For Christmas Brad got a juicer that can juice greens and so he's started into a juicing reboot.  We're buying enough fruits and veggies to feed a small community and we are enjoying all the varieties of juices you can make with the new juicer.  Fun, and surprisingly filling and nutritious.
 On New Year's Day we loaded up our bikes (on our new bike rack!) and headed to the city to bike the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a beautiful day and super busy on the bridge.  Here's us before the ride.

Here's us halfway through.  We rode from Sausalito to SF, had a picnic, and then back again.
 Here's Brad and the girls on our way back.
As beautiful as the day was, it was stressful watching my babies ride their bikes in such heavy bike traffic with all the loud noise from the cars right next to us.  The were amazing though.  Even when Addy fell, she just pulled her bike out of the way and waited for me to help her since she still hasn't figured out how to start herself without training wheels.  Elsie thought it was great fun to ride on my tail bumping the trailer.  Whatever kept her going.  By the end, William had fallen asleep in the trailer.  I'd say the ride was a success. 

And here's where we'll drop of the planet for a few months until I set aside all I'm supposed to get done to update again.  :)  We're settling into homeschool, Bible study, regular life and another run with a cold.  Is it spring yet?  No, but it probably will be by the time you hear from me again!  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Little Update. . .

I really do seem to start off every post with, "Well, it's been a while. . . "  And it really has!  We've had so many adventures and great things going on that it's been hard to keep up with just the daily stuff of keeping everyone fed and clean.  We've had a great fall so far for so many reasons. . . 

On September 13th we celebrated Addy turning 5 by getting on an airplane (seriously, we left our house at 3am!!!) and flying to Gunnison, Colorado.  We had a great time with Mom & Dad and we loved spending time in the great Colorado outdoors.  We hiked, fished, boated, rode ATV's, and went for a lot of walks outside.  It was so beautiful and the colors were just starting to turn when we arrived.  By the time we left, most of the trees were yellow and red.  It was beautiful.  Addy loves spending her birthdays at Grandma and Ba's. 

 In early October we were able to spend a night with some friends in Shingle Springs and we even got to visit good ol' High Hill Ranch.  It has been about 20 years since I went there last and it was so cool to be there with our kids.  The picture is our kids (minus the youngest Vanderstoep) watching the caramel apples being dipped.  What fun!  We had a great time and our kids had so much fun playing in the country.  ;)  William still talks about feeding the goats apples and the milk he got to drink straight from the cow. 

Fall in the Bay Area is so different from what we're used to!  We've been playing outside constantly and enjoying the beautiful weather.  The kids ride bikes a lot and I'm thinking it's time for a bike rack.  Their bikes are just getting a bit big to stuff in the back of the van.  I'm getting a lot of exercise now when we go bike riding because I have to run to keep up with them!  (without a bike rack my bike with the trailer for William doesn't fit in the van)  They (the girls anyway) are really fast!  William, well, I have no doubt he'll get there.  For now he does a lot of just standing and looking around.  But at least he can reach the ground now.

Parks, parks and more parks!  We have so many great parks in our town and the kids love to play outside.  We've enjoyed picnics, playdates and walking to a few parks near our house.  Can you believe the view from the swings in the picture above?  We are so spoiled!  It is so beautiful here and we so enjoy being outside.  This time change is for the birds though because we are running out of daylight to play outside after naps (and there is no way I'm giving up my 3 hour nap time!!).

We've had another exciting thing happen this year and that is that Addy started Pre-Kindergarten.  We're still homeschooling but we joined Classical Conversations and so we 'go' somewhere for school on Monday mornings. 

CC is a Christian Classical homeschooling group that exists around the world.  It's classical in that it follows the trivium (3 roads) of learning (grammar, dialectic and rhetoric) and it's Christian in that we recognize that all knowledge comes from God and that the purpose of knowledge is to know God and make Him known.  The trivium is cool because we're experiencing the truth in the method already.  The grammar stage recognizes that when we're young we learn grammar (or vocabulary) at an amazing rate.  And mostly, as we learn words, we have a very limited understanding of what they mean.  The dialectic stage begins when kids start to actually have the ability and interest to understand the concepts behind the vocabulary and the rhetoric stage coincides with the developmental stage where logic and reason begin to develop and one can learn to persuade and teach the vocabulary and concepts learned. 

So, at Addy's stage of the game, we are memorizing like crazy.  The thing we love about CC is that everything is to song.  So we go through our days singing constantly.  She (and the rest of us!) are memorizing math facts, geography facts, science facts, history facts, Latin vocabulary, Bible verses, English grammar facts and a history of the world timeline song with ASL hand motions.  We're having so much fun memorizing the songs AND I love the exposure Addy is getting to various topics that we can read about or talk about.  She'll learn them more in depth in later years (the memory work repeats on a 3 year cycle so the next time we go through it she'll be more able to learn the concepts).  It's amazing to hear Addy (and Elsie) skip counting by 7's or whatever.  Granted, she has no understanding of it yet but when she can learn it, it will be helpful that she already has the facts memorized.

On CC day Addy does a presentation in front of her class (which has been such great training for her for talking in front of people!) and we do a science experiment and an art project.  Now she's learning a bit of music theory and learning to play a tin whistle.  There are about 20 other families and the moms are the class tutors and help through the whole program.  The kids in the program are 4-12 years old.  The 20 kids under 4 are in the nursery for the morning and moms rotate watching and playing with them. 

CC day is similar to a school setting in that there are classroom type expectations for the kids but really different because you'll have anywhere between 2-5 moms in a room of 8 kids.  (plus, there are usually a few little ones running around the room parroting the memory work as well!)

One of the funniest things about CC is how much Elsie and William have gotten into the memory work.  They ask to listen to it all the time and they consider it 'theirs.'  They, however, have no interest in knowing anything about the words they are memorizing.  Addy asks great questions about it and she loves to look at the pictures in the book for each of the events in the timeline. 

On top of our CC day and practicing our memory work, Addy and I are working through a math curriculum and she is practicing her writing and learning to read.  It's amazing and so fun to be able to do this with her. 

Elsie and William are 'doing school' too (And don't even try to tell William that he's not because he'll yell, "MY TURN!" at you.)  Elsie is learning her letters and numbers, reading lots of books with me and having a lot of fun with do-a-dot markers.  William plays with puzzles, pegs and about anything else I can give him so that he can sit in his chair and have 'his turn.'  He loves to read books and play with magnets on the easel. 

The kids also love our daily time of reading and talking about a Bible story, memorizing Scripture and doing an application project about the concept in the story.  It's so neat to be able to take the time to teach them the foundations of the faith and to be able to talk about their questions.  Homeschooling is amazing. . . and I'm starting to see how it totally takes over your family.  It really is hard to do much else during the day. . . hence the blog neglect.  :)

So, besides all that, the girls started sharing a bedroom (and it is going WAY better than we expected!) so that Brad has an office so he can work at home.  Brad has been traveling a lot for work since September, though, as he works to improve his operation.  That's been . . . well, tiring for all of us.  We're ready for him to be home for awhile. 

Addy continues to surprise us with her imagination and generosity.  She's on a drawing kick right now so she draws pictures to give to whomever we're going to see next.  She loves her school work and is a total Daddy's girl.  We're enjoying reading The American Girl books together after her reading lesson each afternoon while Elsie and William are still asleep.  They are a great set of books to read to bring life to her history memory work for CC since this year our history content is US History.  I think I love those books just as much now as I did when I read them as a kid.     

Elsie (3 1/2 years) is our little songbird.  She sings constantly and if she's not buckled into something, she's dancing around to her singing.  Often it's the History of the World timeline for CC (which is funny to hear a 3 year old singing about Egyptians, Assyrians and Aztecs) but other times it is the all time favorite song of our family, Do-Re-Mi.  That kid has constant music playing in her head.  No wonder I can't get her to do what I ask her to do!  She has to tune out the music to hear me!  :)  We're working on that. 

William is a little chatterbox.  He just turned 20 months old and his language exploded right around when he turned 18 months old.  He went from having about 20 words to repeating everything we say and using the words on his own.  He's also REALLY passionate about things and demonstrates that by screaming, jumping, and pumping his fists in the air.  And that's for good things!  When it's a fit, look out.  But usually we can get him to laugh about something to snap him out of his fits.  His favorite things are trucks, the timeline song and his family.  He loves wrestling with Brad, cuddling with me and hugging and kissing his sisters.  He's such a great addition to our family. . . talk about balancing the girl drama! 

Here are the monkeys at Halloween.  William refused to wear the truck I made him and just wanted to push it around. . . it was not quite sturdy enough for that.  So he was a truck driver sans truck.  Elsie was a ballerina while Addy was Ariel (on her wedding day, of course).  The other little one is our friends' daughter who was dressed up as Queen Esther.  They had fun trick-or-treating to 2 neighbor's houses and decorating and eating sugar cookies.  Life with kids is so full. 

A bit about me. . . I'm keeping busy homeschooling and feeding my family but I am enjoying studying the life of Moses in Bible Study Fellowship this year (as are the kids!) and doing my cycle classes at the gym when I can get there.  I love living in our new town and yet I miss our friends and our church in SLC.  I can't believe it has been a year already since we left.  What a strange year.  We have found a church here and it is filled with wonderful people who love God but friendships develop at a frozen snail's pace with little kids (especially when you're homeschooling!).  It still doesn't feel like home here yet. 

Brad has enjoyed fishing for salmon in the straight with a friend, biking and walking around town and meeting all sorts of people on his travels.  He's been to Des Moines, Columbus, Las Vegas, and Eureka just in the last 6 weeks (that does not include his regular driving all over CA) and he's off to Denver next.  Lots of adventures. . . His job is going really well and he's hired several new people to train over the next several months.  He's so good at hiring and training people.

So, that's a bit about the life of the Slease family lately.  I can't believe our kids are so big and how much our life has changed in this past year.  Whew!  Well, blessings to you!  I'm off to do Addy's reading lesson. . .