Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Vacation #2 - Ohio

This summer we took two vacations (because we are fancy like that). The first one was to Houston. For the second one we went to Ohio to visit Josh's sister, Christy, and her kids. They live in the Cleveland/Akron area. It had been several years since we had been up to visit them, and they recently moved to a new house that we hadn't seen.

It is about a 16 hour drive when you count in all the stops. On our way up there we spent the night in St. Louis. The girls do really well in the car. We pack lots of things to color, sticker books, books, and toys. They are old enough now to play games, so we played some "Road Trip Bingo" where they had to find things like a horse, tractor, blue car, gas station, etc.
Esther and Clara figured out how to nap in the car!
We had a pretty laid back visit. Isabelle and Patrick are teenagers, and Esther and Clara think they are pretty awesome. They liked pestering Patrick, looking through Isabelle's pretty room, and playing with their old toys. And we all had a good time visiting with Christy. We ate most of our meals outside on the porch. It was cooler and no flies and bugs, which was a treat in the middle of the summer. Josh was able to do some home improvement projects for Christy. Josh also spent some time finding beers that they have in Ohio that we don't in Arkansas, he is already making his list for the next time we go back to Ohio! One night the adults went in to downtown Cleveland to eat at Michael Symon's (famous chef?) Lola Bistro . It was nice to eat at a restaurant without kids.

Playing with Patrick.
Josh fixing some broken areas on Christy's chimney.
We were there over the 4th of July so we bought a few fireworks to shoot. Fireworks aren't legal to shoot off in Ohio, and there are only a few stores that sell them. We had to drive a ways to buy them, and they were much more expensive than we are used to.
Cousins doing sparklers.

We visited The Ohio State Reformatory. This is where Shawshank Redemption (and other movies) was filmed. We drove around the town and saw several filming sites for the movie. This old prison was impressive with how big it was and how many prison cells there were. It was fun to see the places from the movie.
In front of the Reformatory.
One wing of cells. This was several stories high.

With "Red"
We were in Ohio for our 14th wedding anniversary. We decided to leave the girls with Christy and take a little overnight trip. We went to Kelleys Island, which is in the middle of Lake Erie and a popular vacation spot for people who live up there. We drove about an hour from Christy's then rode on a ferry over to the island. Kelleys Island is small, with not a lot of vehicles, mostly golf carts and bikes. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that had bikes, so we decided to not take our car. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was probably 15, so it was a bit of an adventure! We got caught in a big thunderstorm and had to take cover a few times, but had a lot of fun riding around the island. There are several shops and restaurants. It was nice seeing the sites of the Lake. We visited the Glacial Grooves Park to see the impressions left by glaciers. The girls had a fun time with Christy and Isabelle while we were gone, they went to the Akron Zoo, had a picnic, and went grocery shopping where they convinced Christy to buy things that I won't buy for them :)
On the shore of Lake Erie
At the Glacial Grooves.

Biking--this was before getting caught in the storm.

On our way out of town we went to Lehman's store. It serves the Amish community and has lots of old-timey farm and home supplies. Josh and I could have spent hours there. Josh got an Amish hat, we got a crock-ware pitcher and mug, and we got some foodstuffs. We already have plans to go back next time we are in Ohio.

We ended up driving back all in one day. It was a long drive, but we were glad to be back home. It was a great visit and we are planning to go back to Ohio for Thanksgiving (to get more Ohio beer).

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Vacation 2016

With Esther in school this year we couldn't do our normal off season beach trip to Navarre Beach. Going during the summer school break made the price double so we decided to do something different. And with the girls getting older we feel like we can do more interesting things that they will enjoy. So, we decided to visit the Houston area and check it out. But first we stopped in Austin and spent a couple of days with our good friends Walt, Annie, Chloe, and Naomi. The four girls (ages 6, 5, 4, and 3) had a great time playing, and the adults had fun just hanging out. We then headed to Houston. We spent an afternoon at the Kemah Boardwalk. We all had fun riding rides even though it was crowded and really hot.
This was before the ride started. Once it started Clara's face wasn't so happy!

On top of the ferris wheel.
 The next day we spent at the Johnson Space Center. Our girls have always been interested in space, astronauts, stars, etc., so we thought they would really like it. It was really neat to see inside the space shuttle replica, see and hear about the history of space travel, and play with the interactive exhibits. We toured the facility where the astronauts train and they have life size models of the various shuttles and other training simulators and we also saw one of the huge rockets. The girls had fun seeing all the astronaut things and climbing through the space craft. They also had a special exhibit of MythBusters experiments to try. Josh and I loved that show, so it was fun to play with those exhibits.
We went all through the shuttle and the plane that carries the shuttle.

In the space shuttle
Posing in front of the huge rocket

We then spent a couple of nights in Galveston. We surprised the girls because they didn't know we were going to a beach. Though the beach isn't as nice or as pretty as where we usually go in Navarre, they still had a great time. Galveston sand is much harder to dig in and is more like mud, but Esther and Clara didn't seem to mind. Our beach time got cut a little short due to rain, but we were able to spend lots of time in the swimming pool too.

 Our last day of vacation we spent at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There were lots of cool exhibits with taxidermied animals in wilderness scenes, Egyptian mummies, shells, and dinosaur bones. They have a huge exhibit of real and replica dinosaur skeletons which was really neat to see and it walks you through the history of the world through all the dinosaur periods up until man shows up. They also have one of the top planetariums (the astronauts actually train there) so we saw a show there. They have a huge butterfly habitat in a rainforest dome with a waterfall that was lots of fun. The girls liked identifying the butterflies that were flying around. There was also a cool interactive entomology area that the girls enjoyed.

You can't see them, but there are lots of butterflies flying around above them.
We bought some crunchy larvae to eat. The girls were excited to say they have now eaten bugs. 
As always, we tried to eat at good restaurants. We had authentic Chinese dim sum at Arco Seafood in the Chinatown area of Houston. I think we were the only non-Asian people in the restaurant and the wait staff did not speak English very well. We ate seafood at several good restaurants. We had an amazing appetizer, campechana, at Goode Co. Seafood. The highlight of food on our trip was lunch at Ninfa's. If you are in Houston, you have to eat there. It was amazing Mexican food. Josh says it is one of the top 5 or 10 meals he has ever had.

We had a great trip and did lots of fun things. The girls did really great on the long car rides. And we all survived several nights in one hotel room. Trips with them are getting better/easier as they get older. We had a rough drive home--it rained most of the way, we were on roads we didn't know, and then less than an hour from home we had a flat/near blow-out tire. But we finally made it home safely.

Monday, April 04, 2016


We enrolled Esther in soccer this year. She is so shy and introverted in new situations that getting her to participate in new group activities is usually pretty difficult, especially if she feels pressure to "perform." We really want her to learn get comfortable participating in group settings and soccer is a great introduction. We had a few rough moments at the first practice, but she warmed up and actually participated towards the end. The second practice she participated in everything the coach wanted her to do. Her coach is extremely patient with her and very encouraging, which has helped. Her first game was this past Saturday. Once again, it started off kind of rough, we didn't know if she was actually going to go out on the field and play. She started throwing a little fit and told us she did not want to play but we told her she didn't have a choice. She would not even interact with her team, she just stared at the ground. When the coach put her in we thought she might just stand on the field and not move, but she proved us wrong. She took off running as soon as they kicked the ball to start. She doesn't aggressively pursue the ball, but she does kick it (sometimes) when it is near her. She got to do a kick-off, a corner kick, and she actually made a good defensive stop and kept the other team from scoring once. Her coach was awesome with her and got her involved and having fun.  He got down on her level and talked to her before the game when she was struggling and was encouraging her. After the game he pulled her aside and told her how proud he was of her playing and how well she did.  It really means a lot to have a coach who really cares about the kids.

Watching a bunch of 5 year olds play soccer is quite entertaining. They play 3 on 3 with lots of substitutions, and both coaches on the field. They don't keep score (though the parents do) and they don't have too many rules to follow. It is pretty much mass pandemonium. It seems there are one or two players on each team that actually know what they are doing. The rest just run around kicking (sometimes in the wrong goal).

After the game Esther told us that she liked playing a lot better than sitting on the side! She did a good job of playing and we are proud of her.

Corner kick

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring 2016 Esther and Clara Update

It has been a few months since we posted so I thought I'd give an update on the girls and share some recent pictures. 
The girls being silly with some beard hats.
Esther is a very bright and fun little girl and is becoming more of her own person. She is still doing well in kindergarten. Just a couple of months until we will have a kindergarten graduate! She has several good friends and she recently attended her first "real" birthday party of one of her classmates.  She loves to read and is reading on about a 2nd-3rd grade level. She loves the Junie B. Jones book series and has read dozens of them. She still loves to draw, color, and do anything art related. Now that she is pretty good at spelling and writing sentences she writes some impressive (to us) books. Esther has also recently started soccer, so we will see how that goes. She tends to be really shy in new situations with people she does not know. We are hoping she has fun participating in a group sport.
Esther being silly at a birthday party.

Esther caught this baby goat.
Clara is still a mess! She is a very sweet girl who loves to help, and she is crazy and silly. She makes us laugh all the time. She is fearless and is not afraid to try things. She too loves art--especially if it involves glue, tape, and tiny bits of paper. She really likes music and singing. She is always singing a song, sometimes real songs, sometimes made up.
Clara with one of the baby goats.
They both love to play outside and be with all of our animals. They really like the baby goats. Esther is pretty good at catching them, though they are getting too big for them to pick up. Clara loves to help Josh in whatever he is doing. She opens gates, carries and stacks wood, and runs to get things. They both help do chores, both inside and out.

The girls putting compost on our fruit trees.

We are all enjoying the spring weather. We flew a kite for the first time this past weekend.
Building with sticks out in the pasture
They are fun kids and we are enjoying getting to more activities and go more places as they get older. In the past few months we have taken them to their first movie in a theater and their first shows at the Walton Arts center, We have been having some of their friends over fore movie nights which is always fun. We also spent the weekend in Branson with some friends a few weeks ago. Next week is our first spring break with a kid in school so we have some fun activities planned.

First movie in a theater - "The Good Dinosaur"
They got some snazzy hats in Branson.
We stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park in Branson.
First show at the Walton Arts Center - "The Snowman"
Movie night with friends at our house

We will leave you with a video of the girls band. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Room

One of the things we knew we wanted to do when we bought this house 2.5 years ago is to enclose the garage into living space. It had a one car garage, total space was 20'x20' but the parking area was smaller than that. I appreciate garages as much as anyone but it seems like every house we have had one, we hardly ever use it (mostly because they have been small garages) When we decided to buy this house we knew we wanted to expand the house and we knew we wanted a bigger living room.
When I was in high school, the house I spent most of my time hanging out had a game room that had been converted from a garage. It was the perfect hang out room because it was somewhat separate from the rest of the house and you could have separate hang out areas.  And you could shut the doors for privacy and not disturb the people in the rest of house by being loud.  So, it has always been in my head as a possibility when looking at houses to buy.
Our house had a garage perfect for converting. So in the fall, I started working on a garage conversion. It took a while and was a whole lot of work. The conversion included taking down the garage door and building a wall in it's place. Adding an additional interior door, adding two new windows, doing all new wiring, new insulation, new sheet rock and paint, new carpet, new duct work for heat and air. We also bought new furniture and I built some new furniture.
The main purpose we wanted this room to serve is a media room to watch movies.  I love watching movies and I wanted a room that was set up for doing this. I ran speaker wire for 5.1 sound and structured the new room around this purpose. I put in recessed lights with dimmers which is really nice. I also put in solid core interior doors and insulated the interior walls so you could close off the room and really keep the majority of the sound in that room.  We were able to put a wood stove in the new room to help with heating and because we like having a wood stove. We also wanted a place for a piano for Margo and for the girls in the future. So we now have the new room and we still have our old smaller living room which is now more of a sitting room area.
 I can not tell you how awesome it is to have this room. I have never been so happy and excited about something house related. It is so nice to have a two areas to hang out when friends are over. We can put a movie on for the kids in the room and the adults can hang out in the other living area and play games or talk without getting disturbed. And Margo and I can put on a movie after the girls go to bed, shut the doors, and crank it up, and not disturb them. It is going to be great to have as the girls get older and have friends over. It makes me very very happy.

Outside view before remodel

During remodel.  I had to add concrete where there was a tray in the floor for the garage door.

After: I put in two windows. Unfortunately they don't sell 1980's baby blue siding anymore so I had to buy white siding and get paint color matched to the old siding and paint it. i think it turned out pretty good.
Inside the house before adding new interior door.
New interior door.  We now have two doors from the new room into the house. The original goes into the laundry room and this new one goes into the main part of the house.

After:  I used hardie plank exterior siding and painted it for behind the wood stove.
Margo let me buy a big new 4K TV. I built a new TV console for all our media. One of the main things I wanted it to do besides hold the TV is to hold our records and record player so they were easy to play.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Clara turns 4!

Today is Clara's 4th birthday. I don't know how she can be four, it seems like she was just born. She keeps us entertained and on our toes. She is wild and  funny, you never know what she is going to say or what crazy face she is going to make. We are always laughing when she is around and it makes it very hard to discipline her when she is making you laugh at the same time.

Some updates on Clara:

  • She loves to color, draw, make art projects, and cut lots of tiny pieces of paper.
  • She loves to sing. She knows the words to lots of songs from school and church. She also makes up songs, so she is always singing. We recently got a piano, so she likes for me to play songs and she sings along. 
  • She is a true farm girl. She loves to be outside, playing and exploring. When there is a choice of what to do she almost always chooses to go outside and play. If there is dirt or water, she will find it.
  • She knows all her letters and numbers. She likes to write things, so is constantly asking us how to spell things. She loves school and her teachers love her. She loves to help and is eager to learn.
  • She is still big for her age which has always been the case since she was born.  She is now wearing the same size shoe as Esther and can wear her clothes. It won't be long before she passes Esther in size. 

We celebrated her birthday yesterday with a few friends. It was a nice day, so the kids were able to play outside and see the animals. Clara requested chocolate and vanilla swirl cake, with white icing and Dora decorations.

Today we celebrated by taking the girls to a performance at the Walton Arts Center. The Symphony of Northwest Arkansas had a family performance where they played some Christmas music. Then they played the film The Snowman, and the symphony played the score to the film. They love the book and have seen the film before, and Clara has been learning about instruments at school, so it was a great opportunity to introduce the girls to the theatre/symphony. We all enjoyed it.

Clara has requested homemade "chicklin" (chicken) and dumplings, corn off the cob, and black beans for her birthday supper!  This makes Josh happy because chicken and dumplings has always been his favorite and his request on his birthdays, and it is something his grandmothers always made for him growing up because of how much he loved it.