Beach Bums

There is something you should know about the Van Clan.  We like to take family trips together.  Whether it’s loading up a car and heading out to a warm spring for a day or road trippin’ to Yellowstone, we’ve always gone places together as a family.  As the kids have all gotten married and had kids, the trips have become more and more infrequent.  We still occasionally have the ski trips or the Sea World visits, but it’s been a while since we went anywhere all together.  We decided it was finally time.

Randi found a ginormous beach house.  Jennie planned meals.  We shopped for massive amounts of food.  Every family loaded their cars with boogie boards, beach towels and sunscreen.  Finally, all 11 adults and 12 kids hit the road to Galveston, Texas.

So, I’m a total dork.  I think the thing I was looking forward to the most was riding the ferry from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula where we were staying.  It was actually pretty cool.  There were dolphins.  And pelicans.  Seriously cool.

Over the next three days we went for walks on the beach.

We played on the beach!

The girls got pretty zebra toes and the guys saw Avengers.

I think my favorite part was the beach fire/smores/sing-a-long/dance party!I love my family, and I’m so grateful that we had a weekend together! 


Sensational Spring

Texas in the Spring is absolutely breathtaking.  It is one of the things that I love most about this great state.  It just makes me happy to drive down the freeway and see miles and miles of Bluebonnets.  And, for those of you not familiar with Texas, the thing to do when there are miles and miles of Bluebonnets is to stop and torture your kids by making them take their pictures in them.  It is not uncommon during the month of March to see random people pulled over on the highway and kids sitting amidst the beautiful flowers.  I always mean to do it, but I never quite find the time.  This year, I realized that I’ve only taken Kelsey’s picture ONCE in the bluebonnets.  One day, we happened to be driving by a decent patch of bluebonnets, so I stopped in the road, put on my hazard lights and dragged her out to take pictures.  She was a good sport about it!

Happy Spring, y’all!

Tooth Trauma

I heard an interesting talk yesterday.  A couple of mom bloggers talked about how we compare ourselves to others by what we see on the internet.  We get on Pinterest and feel like we’re failing because our child’s last birthday party wasn’t a color-coordinated outdoor tea party with hanging lanterns.   We look at Facebook and we’re discouraged because everyone is doing way cooler stuff than us.  We read others’ blogs and wonder why our kids don’t love each other ALL the time.  But, they pointed out, that is not reality.

See, the stuff we post on Facebook and Pinterest and even our blogs is for the most part only the good things that we do or that happen.  We don’t post our failed Lego cake to Pinterest.  We don’t Facebook about how our kids got Cs on their report cards.  And we don’t blog about how one of our kids got angry at another for not being willing to play Barbies.  But, more often than not, those are the reality.

It was kind of shocking to realize that I was guilty of that.  See, this week, my baby lost her first tooth!  Can you believe that??  It makes me feel so old!  I was so excited for her that I posted this picture to Facebook:

Isn’t she the cutest?  She was so excited to put her tooth under her pillow and wait for the tooth fairy to come.

Unfortunately, that picture does not tell the whole story.  This one does a little better job . . .

She bit into a chicken nugget (I know, that’s the most healthy dinner ever!), and her tooth became pretty loose.  It apparently hurt, so while she was crying, Jon decided to “help” the tooth out.  That didn’t actually “help” matters at all.  She was too upset to even be excited she lost a tooth . . . and too scared to finish chewing her chicken nugget.

And, that’s the whole story.  But, you wouldn’t know it by looking at Facebook.  Because I only put the “good” picture there.   In all honesty, I don’t know that we all need to post the absolute, unvarnished truth about everything.  Because, let’s face it, that would probably be depressing.  But, maybe, we all need to be a little less hard on ourselves for those things we think everyone else does better than us.  🙂

Hippity Hoppity

I love Easter.  I love celebrating the resurrection of the Savior.  I love that it is Springtime and the weather is beautiful.  I love dressing my kids up and making them pose for pictures.  (They don’t love that part so much)  I love watching the kids’ excitement as they discover eggs.  And, I love Cadbury Eggs.  I’m not gonna lie – the Cadbury Eggs are really important!  It’s basically the best time of the year after Christmas!

This year was pretty much like all the others.  We did egg hunts . . . lots and lots of egg hunts . . .

And, I dressed the kids up like they were life-size Barbie dolls. 

My favorite though, was trying to take pictures of all the kids on the Gee side.  It was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.  I just laughed and laughed and laughed . . . and took lots of pictures.  Just look at them in order – hilarious!

We eventually had to just give up . . . without ONE good picture!  I just love Easter!

Pinewood Derby

One of the fun things that goes along with Cub Scouts is the annual Pinewood Derby.  Although, perhaps “fun” is a relative term.  Sure, Jon has fun making the car with Adam – until he runs out of time and is up until midnight putting the finishing touches on it.  Sure, Adam has fun picking out a design and working with his Dad – until his car doesn’t win every race.  Sure, I have fun watching my son and husband bond – until I have to comfort my 8-year old when he loses a race.  Still, I don’t know if I would trade the experience and all the “fun.”

This year, for Adam’s first Pinewood Derby, he picked out a skateboard design.  Jon and Adam traced and cut and sanded and weighted.  I was in charge of the beautification of the car – Adam and I painted and applied decals.  It looked pretty spiffy when it was done.  And, we had a lot of fun.

The actual racing wasn’t super “fun”.  Because of the design of the car, all the weight had to go in the back, so it shimmied a lot.  I think Adam’s car even popped a wheelie on the track at one point!  Adam was super disappointed (he’s my sensitive kid), but I was proud of him for working so hard.

One of these years we’re gonna get it right . . . 🙂

Basketball Rob

Being a parent isn’t always easy.   Every kid in our family is so different, and at times, it’s hard to know what will be best for each of them individually.   We try our best.  Sometimes we figure something out, and for a fleeting minute, feel great joy that our kid has grown or succeeded at something.  Other times, we don’t quite get it right and we have to watch as our kids fail.  But the hardest thing for me is not the decisions I make that could affect my child, but the ones they make themselves.

Rob came to us in the fall and told us he wanted to play basketball during the winter.  I have to be honest.  I was a little leery.  See, I thought that would be one of those “fail” decisions.  Rob is not super fast.  He’s not super aggressive.  He’s never really played basketball.  I was worried that when he started playing with other kids who had been playing for years he would get frustrated or be embarrassed.   But, Rob wanted to play, so we let him.

As he began, he was not the best kid on the team.  When they ran lines, he was always last and seemed to really be struggling.  As they played games, he ran up and down the court, but never really touched the ball.  Yet, he was having the time of his life.  One of Rob’s best qualities is that he finds the joy in everything he does.  He just loved being there and being part of a team.  And, I was okay with that.  If that was all he gained from the season, I was happy.  It was already a “win” in my books.

But, something interesting happened.  See, Rob had these two coaches who actually cared more about the players than they did about winning.  And, they helped Rob and taught him and helped him become better.  By the end of the season, a major transformation had occurred.  Rob was aggressive.  Rob actually dribbled the ball.  Rob ran lines and wasn’t the last kid to finish.  Rob scored points – as many as 8 in one game!  He was so proud of himself.  The funny thing?  Rob’s team won all but one of their games.

I don’t know if I will ever forget Coach Tim putting his arm around Robbie when they got their awards and telling him he was the most improved player on their team.   I thanked them with tears in my eyes for the confidence they had instilled in my son and the patience that had shown.  I don’t know if they will ever know the difference they had made in one young boy’s life.  Rob learned so much more than the game of basketball.  And, I will be forever grateful for that.

Bobcat, Take 2

I have to admit something.  Don’t judge.  When Robbie turned 11 in August, I may have done a little happy dance that we were done with Cub Scouts for a few months.  Not that I don’t love Cub Scouts, because I think it’s an awesome program.  I was just excited to not have the extra meetings to go to.  And, Jon is in charge of Scouts, so I was off the hook.  At least until January . . .

One of the fun things that comes with being eight years old is Cub Scouts.  So, the week after Adam’s birthday, it was time to head off to his very first Pack Meeting as a brand spankin’ new Wolf.  He was SO excited to be going!

Okay, maybe not super excited that first night!  But, after a few weeks, he realized it was actually pretty fun, and he loves it now!  About a month after his first Pack Meeting, he got his very first awards – the Bobcat badge and the Bicycling beltloop.  The awards may have helped him enjoy it more!

So, we’re off on the Cub journey again.  I’m excited to do it with Adam!

The Week of Adam

I have four very different children.  There’s Rob, the laid back one.  There’s Emmy, the overachiever.  There’s Kelsey, the social butterfly.  And, then there’s Adam, my sweet kid.  In January, that sweet kid turned the big 8 years old.

I just don’t know where the time has gone.  It was just yesterday that he was my Squishy.  And, all of the sudden, he’s EIGHT!  We celebrated by having basically a week long party.

It began the Saturday before his birthday with a party at the roller skating rink.  I know what you’re thinking . . . They still have those?!?  Well, they do, and I’m pretty sure they haven’t changed since I was a kid.  We had a great time though!  I even busted out some skates and took a few turns around the floor.  And, other than the time I couldn’t figure out how to stop and I grabbed onto Adam to break my fall, it was pretty successful.  😉

As for Adam’s actual birthday, we had fun.  It was a school day, so he got to do that.  Super exciting, huh?  I went and had lunch with him.  We did the traditional dinner at Chili’s.  I’m pretty sure we had cake.  😉

The following Saturday, we got to the coolest part.  My little squishy was baptized.  Every time one of my kids is baptized, it is the most amazing experience.  The service was beautiful.  Adam’s Uncle BJ and Grandma spoke.  All the little girls in the family sang “When I am Baptized” and Emily accompanied them.  (That was super adorable!)  All our friends and family were there – even the ones who had just been rear ended by a semi-trailer!  We had dinner at my Mom’s house after and laughed and talked and enjoyed being together.  It was an amazing day!  I am so proud of Adam and the good choices he makes.  He is just awesome!

Happy Birthday my amazing kid!  We love you!

Dino Day

Back in January (YES!  We’re making progress!), we made a day trip to one of our favorite places – Dinosaur Valley.  It is an awesome place to hike around, enjoy nature, and just be together as a family.

We did quite a bit of hiking this time.  I think we might have completely worn out Kelsey and Casey!  We had to keep stretching the truth and saying, “We’re almost there.  Just a little bit longer!”  The kids were awesome hikers, though!

We spent a long time playing at the rock bridge where you cross the river.  The kids just loved running back and forth and back and forth . . .

And, of course, even though we say every time that the kids need to be careful and NOT fall in the river . . . someone always does!  You would think we would learn our lesson and bring extra clothes!

And, even though we tell them and tell them not to walk in the water with their flip flops, I still ended up chasing as least 3 down the river!  Kelsey obviously was thought it was hilarious to watch me charge down the river.

What a fantastic day!