Friday, October 9, 2015

October 8th

Jared turned a whopping 31 years old yesterday.

We all know it's downhill after 21, but the kids and I (with some help from Fe) still tried to make the day a little bit more special.

When it comes to any celebration in this family, food is the main event. We all love food.
This year Jared broke what is clearly the most important tradition - having cake for your birthday - and requested peanut butter chocolate dessert. 
I had my doubts. 
But I made it. And it was easy. Like did it in a half an hour and never had to turn on the oven easy.

It's not the most presentable thing you've ever eaten - although those classy as hell candles really take it up a notch - but believe me when I say it is delicious
I bolded and italicized the word "delicious", it is that good. 
Like I said, I had reservations. But it was amazing.
And because I know there are some fellow chocolate/peanut butter combo lovers out there like me (hello, to my Reese's holiday devotees!), I am linking this ridiculously easy recipe.
You're welcome.

We had a meal, complete with fancy platters and bowls that we received for our wedding and hardly ever use. And we ate said meal with mandatory party hats on our heads because that is how crazy we roll around here.

Happy Birthday Jared! 
I hope we made you feel special for the day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Picture it... Miami... 1985."

Thirty years ago today, my favorite TV show of all-time debuted.

Look at those four fabulous ladies decked out in the best the 1980s had to offer middle-aged women.

But really, I love this show. 

When Jared and I first started dating, I knew it was true love when I found out he could quote every episode just like me. 
Be still my heart. 
It was a done deal right then and there.

I own every season on DVD and the Golden Girls are my go-to palette cleanse after a depressing episode of something else. (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones.) I actually own a t-shirt with their faces on it from my college days. I still occasionally throw it on and wear it for old times sake. Jared and I have discussed that from now on we just might name our pets after characters from the show - the older the name the better. Dorothy is the clear front-runner. Because let's be frank, it'd have to be a pretty saucy cat for it to live up to the name Blanche. And when it comes to males, there will be a never ending line-up of names to choose from.

If you can't admit that this show is funny, I just don't get you. It's the barometer by which I detect whether we could be friends. If you can't laugh at a witty barb from a spunky 80 year-old lady, what can you laugh at??

There are way too many quotable lines from this series to pick favorites, but for some reason the phrase "slut puppy" always comes to my mind first.
Fasten your seat belt, slut puppy.
This ain't gonna be no cakewalk.

It's been 30 years and you can still find an episode on television at any time of the day. I'm sure that is because friendship, outspoken elderly folks, and jezebels  50 year-old mattresses  tramps don't go out of style.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The day is finally here: Kindergarten

Our baby started preschool today.

Can you even believe it?
Here she is all smiles and looking thrilled to begin a new school year - complete with school lunches and access to the whole playground at recess - but the morning was a bit rough...

Jared woke her up and immediately she burst into tears. I don't know if it was the fear of the unknown that is the first day of kindergarten or tears because Sister loves her sleep.
She cried while getting dressed and getting her hair done. She cried on the way down the stairs and while her breakfast was prepared. (Homemade chocolate chip pancakes - her favorite.) She continued to sniffle and tear up while eating. All the reminders of the fun she was going to have at school made no difference. So we loaded up her new Disney princesses backpack and took pictures anyway. 

With the help of her siblings, she turned on a smile and some of the fear was forgotten.

Some before school sillies.

While Bailey was away learning and stuff, Avery and I were busy preparing a delicious after-school treat.  
Classic Mint Chocolate Brownies by Mel's Kitchen Cafe. 
(Mel is Jared's online homegirl. We are constantly making food from her website.) 
Bailey has started to get choosy about what desserts she prefers and is offering her opinion on which recipes we should try. She's been requesting this one since she saw a picture of it while Jared was browsing. 

Three o'clock arrived pretty quickly and back in the car I went.
I picked Bailey up in the entryway of the school and she ran to me like an airport scene out of a movie. Makes you feel loved. ;)
Her teacher said she had an excellent day and once I left, she adjusted immediately. No more tears. The unknown is scary - sometimes even for me as an adult - so I don't fault Bailey for being afraid. I'm just glad to know she was able to shake it off and have fun.

Once home Bailey told us about her day while she wolfed down two of those brownies. (Although I should caution Bailey to not get too used to homemade dessert for her snack every day. I'm not that awesome.)

She filled us in on the important stuff like, you know, what was for lunch.
When asked about her favorite part, she quickly answered: Recess.
She's got this school thing down already!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

12 days left

Here we are quickly closing in on single digits until Bailey goes back to school - kindergarten! - and this last month of summer feels like it has gotten away from me. My brain can't quite believe it's August, let alone mid-August, and the back-to-school vibes still feel so far away. There are still pencils to buy, a new backpack to select, and a tote of last year's clothes to pull out to see what's going to fit Lil' Sis. 

August has gone by so quickly, in part, because it's been filled with things. 

The kids rode in the annual Sweet Corn Daze parade again this year. My grandpa Ronnie always drives Justy as she advertises her massage therapy business. This year Grandpa was under the weather, so cousin Matt stepped in as the driver - official Ford hat and all.

Our job as supportive sisters this year was to hand out popsicles as we walked the route - definitely more of a sweaty workout than you would think.

The kids took in the festivities - free face painting, unlimited bounce house jumping, watermelon, food and more food.

Batman wears a crown and necklace as part of his disguise, right? 
*insert crying laughing emoji here*

And the yearly street dance.
Thanks to Uncle John for some drinks he didn't know he was buying.  ;)

We've spent many days just doing typical everyday things: walks to the park, the library, the pool. Visits to see great-grandparents and to friends' houses.

And braids. Oh, the braiding. 
Bailey loves 'em. The more the merrier.
(She's stuffing herself with sweets - typical - at Great-Grandma Connie's house.)

Meanwhile Jared's Etsy shop has been exploding. He's been researching a bit, changing his pricing, updating listings and it seems to have made a difference. Which is great except, for someone who works full-time and makes things as a hobby, getting 14 orders in 10 days is a bit overwhelming. Summer has typically been his time to stock-up on items that sell at a crazy pace during Christmas season, and he hasn't been able to do that at all this year. 

He did create this beauty for my parents' lake house in Okoboji, adding it to Etsy afterward, and it's been selling well.

The last few weeks have included doctor visits for Avery. I won't go into great detail, but she's experiencing symptoms that are worrying for us and for her doctor(s). So much so that our pediatric urologist recommended we take her to a large ER so she could get an MRI sooner than could be scheduled. So last weekend we hung out in the Omaha Children's Hospital ER for a good 9+ hours. 
Aunt Fe and Aunt Beaner came to keep us company. Thankfully it was a children's hospital so there was a list of movies a mile long and crayons to color with. 

And even better than crayons was the Cadillac Escalade Avery discovered charging in the corner of a blocked hallway. Within no time we were cruising in style. Believe me when I say they don't skimp on even the kid's version of a Cadillac. This thing had a working radio! The ER was basically deserted, so nurses stood at posts scanning open doors for us as we made our circle around over and over.

I can't say enough good things about our experience at Omaha Children's (oh wait, one exception - the lead anesthesiologist). The doctors and nurses were phenomenal. Just phenomenal.

Avery had an MRI done of her spine and it ruled out the one thing they were looking for, but didn't answer why she is still experiencing other symptoms. So off we go to a pediatric neurologist on Monday afternoon. I'm a worrier by nature and my brain always goes first to worst case scenario, so my mental space has been occupied for the last couple of weeks. However, I'm doing my best to Let Go, Let God. That means on some bad days my Christian playlist is working nonstop for a few hours, but it helps. We're doing all we can to get her the best care possible so we can figure out what is going on.

And along with all this other stuff, we're a foster home for the German Shepard Dog Rescue of Iowa and are now fostering a five year-old named Ben. His elderly owner passed away, and he needed a home while an adoptive family is found. 

Some of you might remember when Jared brought home a German Shepard puppy almost 3 years ago and I made him take it back. (Still sorry-not-sorry about that one.) This is a great way to embrace Jared's love of animals without the commitment of an extra dog full-time. Although, please don't think I am naive. I'm sure one of these times we will all fall hard in love and there will be no need to search for an adoptive home.

Ben is a chill dog. Honestly, he still seems a bit depressed and it is taking a bit for him to adjust to all the activity around our house. But he is sweet and well-behaved. And great with our kids. And our dog. And our cat. 
Graham has tripped and fallen on him multiple times and Ben just looked over, licked him, and went back to napping.
Ben will probably be with us for a couple more weeks. That gives us more time to discover his true personality behind some of the sadness and help in the selection of his forever family.

So that's our crazy life update. I'm hoping and praying that this next week goes as planned so we can fit in some school shopping between doctor appointments and a little two-day getaway for Jared and me before school starts. 

Here's to enjoying the last of what summer has to offer!

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.