Sunday, January 13, 2019

Back to Realty!

Our Christmas vacation was nice, but now it's back to reality.

Bella had her first basketball game this past week. I did my best with the photos, but I only had my cell phone with me. She was moving pretty quickly, so she's blurry. She'd been so nervous leading up to this game - just didn't feel prepared. Then she ended up injuring her thumb at practice the night before the first game, which didn't help things. She was able to play throughout the whole game and score a couple of baskets. They ended up winning with a score of 21-18.

She just passed the ball. I missed the photo by a split second.

Feeling pretty relieved to have that first game behind her!

The kids received this 500 piece puzzle from Mimi Jane. We put all of the pieces out on the kitchen table after we got back from WI and finished it in a few days. It's a 3D puzzle, which made it extra tricky.

Unfortunately, it remains incomplete. I think the missing puzzle pieces find their way to wherever all of the missing socks go.

Just as the kids went back to school this week, so did I. I'm taking three classes this semester, which is going to have me pretty busy. Because everything is online, keeping track of everything can be challenging. The best method I have found is going through each syllabi and all of the course workshops to write down in my planner the books and chapters I need to read each week, discussion and response due dates, and all assignments, papers, and presentations. I spent about five hours on this last Saturday - which was made a little difficult since Mabel insisted on being in my lap.

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It felt good to get a good overview of the semester and to have everything organized in my planner.  And then a few days later, Mabel did this!

She doesn't usually chew things up anymore. I'm wondering if a little bit of food may have landed on that page? She chewed all the way through to March; so I had to go back and write in some of the assignments again. I wasn't the happiest with her.

But she does look pretty sorry.

Actually, later that day we noticed that she broke a nail. I have a photo of it, but it's gross so I won't share. The nail literally split in half from top to bottom - which left the quick exposed. I'm sure it hurt her quite a bit. She spent a lot of time licking it.

Graydon is now responsible for doing his own laundry from start to finish: wash, dry, fold, and put away. This new chore came out of a conversation we recently had with him about playing Fortnite. This is a game that he has wanted to play for several months. We told him "no" back then with the addendum that we would discuss it again when he turned ten. Well, he didn't forget! We sat down and had a grown-up meeting where he shared why he would like to play the game and why he thinks we should let him. We shared our concerns about the game with him and said that, if we allow him, it would come with limitations (only one hour/day and only two days a week plus Saturday). In addition, we gave him the new job of laundry. He also cannot play if there are any clothes on the floor - so all of his clothes need to be either put away or in the hamper. So far, it seems to be a pretty good arrangement.


He's become a really good at the KonMari method of folding shirts.

Southern Indiana finally got its first big snowfall! We woke up on Saturday morning to a winter wonderland. Conveniently, we live by the best sledding hill in town. Mabel's interests perked when she heard the squeals of the children and saw the dog that one of the families brought with them.

She was so excited to go outside, so we took her. Here she is meeting her new friend. They just stared at each other for a solid minute - both of them frozen in those positions.

They slowly got closer to each other and just sniffed each other for a while.

This little extrovert was really happy to have made a new friend.

And of course, we did some sledding.

Andy made a little snow ramp.





Even more snow fell that night, so everyone's back out sledding again today!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Graydon's TENTH Birthday!

Here is Graydon at the exact moment that he turned TEN!

Each year, it's the same. He's always asleep. He wanted us to wake him up this year so that he could be awake for the moment. We tried.

After breakfast at Denny's that day, we took the kids to play at Action Territory for the afternoon. They each had bracelets for unlimited bumper cars, laser tag, ball pit, and the vault. Plus, Grandma Debbie bought game cards for all of the arcade games. I wanted a photo of all the kids before they started playing, but didn't want to hold them back from getting started. In hindsight, I should have checked the photo that I took because the birthday boy's eyes were closed!

We didn't get too many photos from the activities, but here is Graydon doing bumper cars.

This was a neat bowling game.

This lucky birthday boy hit the jackpot...TWICE! Look at all of the tickets that he accumulated! One really nice thing about this place is that all of the tickets get loaded on their token card. That meant that we didn't have to keep track of all of those tickets and potentially lose them! They simply gave their card to the prize counter and it was all done digitally.




Later that evening was the official family party. We brought back pizza for everyone.




Presents! This water bottle was from Bella. Graydon received a nice water bottle like this a previous year, but Bella used it and lost it. She made good on paying him back for it.




He also got some money. Between Christmas and his birthday, Graydon came home with a lot of money. He used it to purchase himself a new iPad!

Also. . . I didn't want to forget this. When we were at Action Territory, Graydon was playing a claw-like game. The prize was a $500 prepaid MasterCard. Graydon was really disappointed that he didn't win it. When Curtis saw that he was upset, he whispered to me that he wanted to play the game and try to win it for Graydon. After a few attempts, Curtis was also unsuccessful. We didn't try more than a few times because each attempt cost $1. Since Curtis was unable to win the card, he offered Graydon some of his ticket winnings to choose a prize at the end. Graydon chose an orange emoji ball that cost 400 tickets. When we arrived at my parents' house for his party, Graydon took out the ball and began playing with it. Within that first minute, the ball bounced into the fireplace. Andy retrieved it pretty quickly, but a hole had already formed and the ball deflated. We are keeping this ball though. It's a great little reminder of Curtis's generous heart towards his brother.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Christmas Vacation: Part 2

We left Verona after a lunch at Culver's. This is starting to become a parting tradition.

That evening, we celebrated the Benetti Family Christmas. My sister, Jodi, hosted this year. This was fun because she and her family moved into my parents' old house a couple of years ago; so it was just like old times.

There were munchies out and my mom made lasagna with her special sauce. It was a hit!



Ava looks especially cute with her glasses on.


The kiddos had a blast playing together.

Another beautiful Christmas tree!

It's almost gift opening time!


And go!

Excitement over gift cards to Urban Air. This was followed up with even more excitement about getting actual money!

Some of my gifts from my parents: a planner, sweater, and a Scentsy warmer (not shown).

Lori and Pat were sitting right next to me during the gift opening, so I took many pictures of them.


More presents! They have so many aunts and uncles that they are all lavished with so many gifts each Christmas!


Gift opening with a group this size can get a little chaotic and loud, but it is so much fun!

Time for our parents to open their gift from the kids: cleaning supplies and a gift card to Lowes. They are going to be buying some new kitchen appliances in 2019, so we wanted to contribute to that. When there are seven sibling units to pool money together, we can actually come up with a substantial gift!

Part of Lori's gift. We all got some really great stuff!

Gift opening is done. Laser tag is about to begin.

This is serious. They mean business.


The next day, our large group ventured down to Chicago. We decided to take the train.

Our first event was to attempt an escape room. The room capacity was 10 people, so my parents, Mary, and Andy went to Eately while the rest of us tested our escape abilities. I must admit, I was a little skeptical that a group our size and age would be successful. My memory was fresh from the escape room I completed with Bella and my parents from earlier in the month. The puzzles can be pretty tricky and I just wasn't sure that we would be able to pull it off - especially with a lot of little kids. This room contained SO MANY locks and combinations to solve. Every time we'd open one, I'd think "we must almost be there" only to discover that we still had way more to do to get out. As the clock ticked down to the last couple of minutes, I was almost ready to admit defeat. But, we unlocked a password that we typed into a computer and that was it! We were out! We escaped with only two minutes to spare. We were elated! Such a fun group experience for all of us!

After the escape room, we went next door to eat lunch at the Safe House. The kids got to be spies and roam around the restaurant on a scavenger hunt.

Bella opened a door that she thought was a bathroom only to discover a brick wall!

A photo booth from the scavenger hunt.


Since Graydon's birthday was the next day, we wanted to get him a little birthday surprise. Boy was he!


His excitement made my day!

I don't know if he actually blew the flame out, or if it just eventually died out on its own. But he's never had a candle that big before!

We sort of lost track of time and, when the birthday celebration was over, ended up sprinting to the train station. We had about twenty minutes until our train was about to leave. If we missed it, we'd have to find something else to do for another two hours. In order to get to our train, we needed to first exit the restaurant. Only this restaurant was not a typical restaurant. Our server needed to lead us to the secret exit that took us through a tunnel of lasers and staircases. During our exit, a few from our group were lining up Ubers to drive us to the train station. When we got out, our particular Uber canceled on us, so we needed to get another one! The drive to the train station was probably about 10 minutes. Upon arriving at the train station, we ran through the lobby, up the stairs, across the platform and made it onto the train with literally 90 seconds to spare before the train departed! Talk about adrenaline! I think that everyone was exhausted from all of the excitement as we headed back to Kenosha.

That evening, we had a cousin sleepover at my parents' house.

My mom brought out her treasure box of prizes and the kids played charades. Curtis won these socks.

The kids like to play each other on their tablets in a game called Roblox - so of course there was some of that.


Ava quickly lost interest, so she, my mom, and I played a few games of Uno.

We brought two air mattresses into the living room and the kids all slept in there.

We had a movie night and ended up choosing "The Nutcracker". It was the 1993 version with Macaulay Culkin and the New York City Ballet. About ten minutes into the movie, I think it was Graydon who said, "So, I don't think this movie has any words." I thought there would be some complaint about changing it, but they all watched it!

Throughout the beginning of the movie, I was putting up some decorations. We had a big birthday to celebrate the next day!