Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Miles on the minivan

That dream boat of a car I drive (a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country, be jealous people) has been hitting the roads hard this past week. In seven days' time it journeyed to Okoboji, Ames, Omaha, and Des Moines - all different trips on different days. Basically our children are spoiled and have been soaking up the sun - and fun - like crazy around here lately.

Last week we planned a day to meet up with friends and their kids in Okoboji
They'd never been before, so we decided to plan a little picnic/park/beach action and play tour guides. But a little honesty upfront here: we're probably not the best people for the job because our minivan abruptly stops for all kinds of free shit on the side of the road.

But ain't that a sweet *free* table and chairs set?!

The day was really great because Jared and I have basically non-existent social lives, so chatting all day with people we like was a lot of fun for us. Plus our kids love the Hiler girls. And I think the feeling is mutual since many times throughout the day all five of them could be spotted in a circle hugging. 

It was such a nice day, even all four adults got in the water. And being the ever-prepared hosts that we are, we forgot beach buckets and shovels. So below is our stand-in: a yellow bucket from my parents' garage that probably fed hogs at one point in its existence. 
Side note: it took only about 124 tries to finally get that bad boy to stay together for the beach's largest sand castle. 

We capped off the day with some backyard grilling while the kids ran around getting dirtier and dirtier. Bailey dominated some watermelon, and watching Eden eat an ice cream cone was the highlight of my day.

We eventually bathed the filthy little things and while the adults cleaned up, the kids did what kids on vacation do best: zone out to mindless cartoons.

The next day I got to drive to Ames with my mama for my 6-month endocrinology appointment. The highlight of the appointment: I get up to leave and my doctor says, "And hopefully the next time I see you you'll have lost that last 10 pounds. Take care. Buh-bye." 
Ugh. Men....
And then I went and ate a patty melt and fries at Hickory Park... I win.

The next afternoon I loaded up the kids and made the trip to Omaha for a few days. The kids spent one night at Aunt Fe's house watching a movie and eating popcorn. The following morning we planned a picnic at a park. In 100ยบ heat. Brilliant!
There are no pictures of our outings. 
Believe me when I say that it was so hot out, taking a picture required more energy than I was willing to expend. We hung out at a local pool - which reached capacity quickly - and it was some straight-up crazy, overwhelming toddler crap. I don't know how those lifeguards do it. At the end of the day they have to be hoarse from yelling, "Bud! Bud! Bud, don't climb up the slide!" and "Stop hanging on the rope" over and over and over. Two hours of that was enough to fry my nerves. 

And then this week we made our kids' first trip to Adventureland in Des Moines. I went every single year growing up with Linda and Eddie - listening to Meat Loaf all the way down in their station wagon. So I love it there. Jared got half-price tickets through his job so we loaded the kids (along with our 4th child, Justina) and hit the amusement park for the day.

All our kids loved the rides, but no one more than Bailey.
This girl is a roller coaster queen! She's 5 and was tackling every single ride. 
A roller coaster that goes upside down? Sign her up! 
Ride it twice in a row? Sure, let's do it!

This was her face for basically the entire day. Pure joy.
And can we talk about those tan lines? 
Teenage Vanessa would have killed someone for those.

The only bummer to the day was the line of severe thunderstorms that popped up throughout the afternoon. We spent an hour in a theater that served as the storm shelter, although we did get smart toward the end and find ice cream to eat while we waited it out.

A few hours later the second round of storms came on quickly. It started to sprinkle and within 30 seconds was a complete downpour. We sought shelter under the first available awning. 
And as luck would have it, it was a beer stand. One of only two in the park. 

Justy knows how to pick 'em.

It was a good day despite the rain. And with entertainment this cheap (thanks State of Iowa benefits!), I think it will probably become a yearly tradition.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Daze

Summer days are flying by at this point. And while we've done some little trips and quick getaways, we've had some nice quiet moments at home too. I doubt we're ever going to be that family who takes a week-long annual summer vacation to far-away locales. (And contrary to my dad's beliefs from my own childhood summers, no, Minnesota does not count. Like at all.)

So we've been enjoying small things around here.

From these photos you *might* be able to tell which child was the more willing participant. Picture #2 adequately displays her sister's level of interest while on the field.

As is typical with Avery, after being forced to participate she decided halfway through the last practice that she LOVED playing t-ball. So much so that she was running the bases and informed me that she didn't need me around anymore: "Mom, it's okay. I'm good at t-ball!"

Small Children Selfies
Somehow our kids (aka Avery) discovered how to access and successfully use Snapchat on my phone. So most of my contacts have received a photo that resembles something you might take while slightly drunk. With gibberish and drawn on purple eyebrows.

Since then they've been requesting a photo opp any time any one of us looks nice. (Putting on a headband qualifies as dressing up around here.)

The baby pool.
We went every single day for a week straight. It was so hot that there was nothing else to do that didn't make me curse my existence. 

And while on the topic of the pool... swimming lessons.
Both girls took swimming lessons for the first time ever this year. Both started at the same ability level. Bailey jumped in the pool and loved every minute of it. If they had let her stay and jump off the diving board for as long as she wanted, I would have come back to pick her up at midnight. Girl loves the water.

Avery also loves the water. But Avery also really loves her mom when anyone else might be around. (She's basically alert to stranger danger at any possible moment, even if that "stranger" is a relative she's seen 427 times.) She spent the first 10 minutes of every lesson whining for me until the lifeguards basically threw her in the pool and she became so excited with swimming that she forgot I existed.

But when it came to the "test" where the kids simply had to listen to the rules and answer one question - "What color do the lifeguards wear?" - Avery would not answer. They were basically begging her to mutter the word "red." 
Instead she refused and moaned "Mommy" like 97,000 times.
So as they were handing out all the you-passed-swimming-lessons cards to the kids, Avery came up and they were basically like, "uh yeah, better luck next year" as they tore up and burned her passing card. 

Swimming lessons flunkie right here.

Stop, Drop, and Nap
You gotta get those naps where you can get 'em because apparently sun, swimming, and scotcharoos tire a person out.

Getting moving
We participated in a fun run/walk this summer. 
Side note: low on the fun scale for me since I was at one point pushing two kids in a stroller while another rode on Aunt Beaner's shoulders.
I think Justy actually had it easier just running the damn thing!

And also in big news at the Solko house: a certain 5 year-old is riding her bike (well!) without training wheels! Not well enough that I can safely take a decent picture of her riding without fear of being run over, but pretty good.

And then there are small moments like this...
Nothing like coffee filters for hats at G-Con and Papa Lyle's house to make your day fun.

As far as the rest of summer goes, we still have a trip to Omaha on the books for next week, as well as hoping to squeeze in a quick trip to Adventureland in Des Moines for the kids' first theme park experience. 
I really hope my kids grow up to like roller coasters and water parks because their mama happens to lovvvve them!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

celebrating the 4th

The kids and I spent the 4th of July weekend with my parents and sisters at the lake house in Spirit Lake. Jared had to work the holiday, so he joined the party late on Sunday.

My dad had foot surgery to repair a cyst in his bone and two stress fractures, so only a few days post-op, this was his usual position.
But with a wife and four daughters around to wait on him (and keep his grumpiness in check), he managed pretty well.
Please notice the walker and the parked golf cart for all of his transportation needs.  

Saturday was beautiful weather and we grilled out, where I personally ate way too much food. My mom's parents also came up for the day to check out the new place.

We did manage to do a few things other than eating over the weekend.
We went and watched fireworks on the beach for the first time with all three kids. The show didn't start until after 10, so Graham was pretty much over it by about five minutes in, but Bailey and Avery were ooo-ing and ahhh-ing the entire time.

We also did some swimming.
And by "we" I mean the kids swam and Fe attempted.
That's a Dear-God-this-water-is-cold face.

We played some serious
and not-so-serious games of darts.
While checking out local garage sales last month we found a dart machine for $30. It was a bargain and had an immediate home in my parent's basement, which was my bedroom for the weekend.

Another highlight of the weekend - at least for the kids - was the toad they captured and "saved." For a full day they kept an eye on it and even named it: Ribbet.
Makes sense.
The poor thing spent one night in a large container with grass and water until we made them set it free the next morning. I was shocked by how much both girls loved holding it. 

And finally, we did a little Ellis girls throwback - holiday style.
It's a different house now, and Fe isn't wearing a shirt featuring Disney characters, but the rest is basically unchanged.  ;)

Can we talk about that one-piece outfit with belt I am wearing? Bonus points to me for the skirt that isn't really a skirt at all.

Friday, July 3, 2015

living room re-do

Have you ever just lived with something each and every day and never even realized how much you disliked it? 

We moved into this house 3 years ago and since then we've just sort of "gotten by" when it came to our living room. We've played musical couches, getting an old one reupholstered (badly - and thankfully cheaply) through my husband's job and then inheriting one when Jared's grandpa passed away. Nothing wrong with passing down a perfectly good couch, but a beige couch didn't add much to our already beige walls and beige carpeting.

Seriously, it was neutral heaven. If we were selling our house on an episode of House Hunters, I'm sure we'd be an HGTV realtor's dream. No crazy colors to look past here! 

One day I just was walking through and it dawned on me, "Man, I hate our living room."
It's true. I have never liked those curtains. They were a cheap Ebay find and they "got us by." 
Noticing a trend here folks?
For three years. More than enough time to get by and go out and buy something else! 

Because of the slightly weird layout of the room with multiple entries, we have tiny little spaces on the wall. I feel like the room had no personality and didn't give the sense of family that I was wanting. (Besides the scattered kids' toys that practically scream Hey, a family lives here!)

So we finally went and bought a couch that we picked out and wanted. 
And it's leather. 
Because we have a dog that will randomly eat grass and puke wherever he happens to be sitting. And a son that strip down and sit on furniture completely naked. A beige fabric couch is essentially the least compatible fit for those scenarios and small children in general.

So the plain curtains are gone, replaced by a bolder color and pattern. 
Bye bye beige couch, my sincere apologies for all the times Avery peed on you.
This new couch is a napper's paradise; Jared and the new couch have already completely bonded.

Jared built two sets of shelves to custom fit the small available wall spaces in the room.
They're simple and allow for much more decorative touches to be added to our room. I love displaying photos, especially ones of my babies when they were tiny and squishy.
The drawing on the right is the first real drawing Bailey ever did: a rainbow. Truly fitting because our eldest is all about hearts, butterflies, rainbows and sunshine.

We're still finding where things look good, tweaking as we find a new photo or old item, which might be obvious as one frame appears two places. ;)

I love our updated living room. Some people might not see a huge difference, but I actually like sitting in it now. Even with those mountains of toys as far as the eye can see.