It’s been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

Daniel had his first week of tee-ball. Alan didn’t sign up to coach this year, not even to assistant coach, but he went out there today and helped anyway. And you know what happened? Alan came home so refreshed and happy. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Alan says that Daniel will actually be one of the oldest, most experienced players on his team this year. Yayyyyy, Daniel!!!

Meanwhile, you know what annoys me? Pop culture.

Why? Because it has reached my children, at least one of them, and he has started saying “Dang, Daniel!” all the time. Insert me, looking like an annoyed vulture.

Now some of you have no idea WHAT I’m talking about because you don’t know anything about pop culture. Well, allow me to shrink your brain by catching you up. There was this video that went viral in 2016, originally on Snapchat, of these high school kids saying “D***, Daniel,” over and over again.

And go figure, the video-maker’s name is Josh. So of course, someone told him about it. So now he says, “Dang Daniel” all the time. He’s not allowed to say the original version. Of course, Daniel doesn’t get it at all. Only I get it.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the Ellen clip to explain.)

Speaking of my big boys, I thought this was hilarious. We spent last week hanging out at DaddyO and Nonna’s house r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. It was wonderful. Check out the amazing amounts of sleep I accomplished, according to my Fitbit. I was so proud. (By the way, I noticed Amazon has the Fibit Charge II $20 off right now.)

Yep! Proud of myself

I wanted to find a funny movie we could enjoy with the boys. I found Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II!!!!!  I talked up how uproariously we would all laugh at this movie.

Father of the Bride Part II

We watched half of the first movie, and then Joshua proclaimed, “You said this was funny! I don’t think this is funny at all!” And then he disappeared upstairs.

What? Not funny? This stuff is HILARIOUS.  I guess there’s an age range for this humor. Remember this?

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It has been 7 months now since we moved in, and we are starting to feel settled. We’re using our GPS less and less, and the boys are asking to go back to California far less. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It takes a year to fully adjust to a move.

I’d say it takes two years to actually get past surface-level relationships and put down roots. That’s the lonely thing about it. No one knows you well enough to relax, and you are still trying to figure out all the new people you’ve met.

I can learn their names easily, but sometimes it takes time to root out the kindred spirits from the high-maintenance ones.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

I feel like Alan and I did this ONE particular thing right that’s going to be the thing that makes life fun and frequent moving doable. These 4 boys. I can’t really say we gave them each other because God did that. If I had gotten to decide it myself, there would have been a Gracie and a Josie thrown in, and then our whole family dynamic would be different.

But this is better because this is what God gave us. I can’t imagine our lives without a single one of them. We have two sets of best buddies, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The younger ones are learning from the bigger ones things, for better and for worse, ha!, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They fill our hearts with so much joy.

And no matter where we move they all have each other, and Alan and I have each other and these boys.

Best of all, we’ve never grown too comfortable with any one place or house. There’s no confusion about where home is. Home is not a building that can be taken away. Home is right here, wherever we are. Home is us. So we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home. It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

And now here they are, all telling me that Lego Batman movie premiered today, and they are just dying to know when I am going to take them to see it. Yeah…I might have promised them to take them to see that because Lego Batman is a serious obsession around here.

Maybe I can make it happen today……

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…            –Jesus  (John 13:34-35)

 

2016 Christmas Gift Guide for Tween Boys, Ages 8-12

giftguide

Top Pre-Teen Boy Picks: Ages ~8-12

 

#1. Popular Video Games this Christmas:

Our sons don’t have any of these yet, and all three are on my oldest’s list. His nonna has already claimed the basketball one, and I took care of the Skylanders, thanks to this incredible deal that Amazon is running right now on it. (That’s a link that’ll take you to it. So yes, this whole page is chock full of affiliate links.)

 

                               

 

 

         

#2. Cards, cards, and more cards!!!

 

                      

Both of my oldest two boys (ages 9 and 11) are crazy about these. Here’s a link to some card holders too because their collections get massive quickly.

                   

#3. Books my boys have asked for:

The latest Wimpy Kid book is HALF OFF on Amazon this week! I’m sure we’ll be completing our collection…


Epic Big Nate: This one is NOT on sale, and it’s $32. Youch. It’s an overview of Peirce’s career progression with Big Nate. I’m not sure that it has any cartoons in it that haven’t already been read, so we will be holding out on this one, but if you have a die-hard fan, like our son Joshua, it would still be a hit.

The Big Book of Who is $12.50, and has enough pictures to be a major hit for kids who love basketball and love memorizing sports stats.

This one is only $9, and it’s an excellent story of a boy overcoming adversity through hard work to become an NBA star. 

#4. Sports Team Apparel

This is the first year that sports team apparel has made both Joshua and Caleb’s lists. Clothes! They actually want clothes! Joshua wants (yet another) ball cap, and Caleb wants a Bryce Harper jersey. And our sports teams are all over the place because we move so much, but that’s okay. Here are the ones my boys want. Of course, the Braves and Georgia Bulldogs are more popular where I live. What team do your neighborhood kids root for?


 

#5. Well, actually, who DOESN’T want a drone this year???

This one is the Star Wars remote control Tie Fighter Drone, per Caleb’s specifications!

#6. A New Bat (or sports equipment in general)

 

 

#7. Lego

Lego sets are still a safe bet for some boys, but not others. Caleb still loves them. They weren’t at the top of the list this year. However, they do get excited about the Legos that you can do robotics with, the kind that have moving parts.


The very affordable Star Wars build able figures are still a hit.

And then there’s these, for the mechanically inclined:

Buyer beware: It’s $200. This is just a pipe dream for most of our kids. Ha!

But they do make these:  lego

These are only $30, and you can add these motors to Lego creations that they already have or make to go with it. 

#8. A Mega Nerf Gun

We refuse to buy any more of them because our boys have way too many, and yet it still turned up on Caleb’s Christmas list, yet again. Caleb has this one, and it is pretty amazing:

 

Toys we’ve graduated from:

–Hotwheels (sad, I know)

–Super Hero Toys

–costumes

This age group is mostly past the above toys. My younger boys love them, though!

I hope at least one of these ideas will be helpful for you. Please always feel free to share with me what types of articles you’d like to see on the blog or the newsletter.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Don’t forget to sign up for my new newsletter! This post was supposed to be the first official newsletter, but since I only have 4 subscribers (Thanks, Mom!!!), I decided to go ahead and share it on my blog too. (Hahaha! So sad, I know, but after all, I did just start it a couple of days ago!) Once we get to 10 subscriptions I’ll send out a real newsletter that does not also appear on the website!!

Subscribe to our new and exciting newsletter! (Even if you are already getting the blog posts; the newsletter will be different.)

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Let the Summer Shenanigans Begin! (With a Sneak Peek at Our New House)

Let the Shenanigans begin

Dan and his best friend, Carter

There’s a word we hear a lot around here: “best friend.”

JD says that Daniel is his best friend. That is mostly because I drill that into all of my children’s heads from the moment they are born.

“Oh, look, he is being so sweet to you. He is your best friend.”

“Your brother will always be your best friend.”

Positive reinforcement style of brain washing is a good thing to do. Trust me.

JD often asks, “Where my best fwiend?”

And now that Daniel has been gone for over a week, poor little JD has started to look elsewhere for a new “best friend.” There aren’t many other small folk around lately. The person he sees most is me, but I’m his mom, so I don’t count. So he has found our neighbor Mr. Tom. After all, Mr. Tom always talks to him and jokes with him. He’s the natural choice.

We were headed out to dinner the other night, and JD asked, “Is Mr. Tom going to be there? He’s my other best fwiend.”

Not to worry. Mr. Tom was there. You know we are too lazy to make friends with people who do not live next door to us. Hanging out with neighbors just makes good sense. Thankfully, our neighbors happen to be awesome people.

moving shenanigans

Remember Emma?

Since Emma’s husband is out of state for military training, I got to go up and stand with Emma and Matthias for the baby dedication. Don’t you think I look a lot like Richard?? Okay, well, maybe not, but I was there for support anyway.

We got to see Emma this past weekend. That’s right. She is back from Malaysia. Her parents are traveling with her now, and they are all doing just swell. It was so fun to visit with them again!

Moving Shenanigans

This is our current Chief of Shenanigans

Sometimes, when I go to bed, I find surprises on my pillow. I don’t know why he doesn’t call me his best friend. Clearly, I am it. But he has informed me that Daddy is my best friend, and that sounds correct.

Moving Shenanigans

Daniel, at his class bike-a-thon

Moving Shenanigans

He likes to make faces for the photos.

He’s been at camp for a week, and the camp is always posting photos of the kids at camp, and they never ever never never post more than the back of Caleb’s head. Maybe this is why.

moving shenanigans

Daniel and his “favyite giryull in my cwass.”

Moving Shenanigans

Joshua’s team’s last huddle. Caleb occasionally got to play with this older league as well, as sometimes they were short players.

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Joshua and his coach

Okay now this next one truly is shenanigans. There’s really no other word for it. We put the little kids in our pitiful little backyard while the adults stood around and talked outside the fence. When Alan went in to check on the kids. He found this:

Moving Shenanigans

Yes, that’s JD. Those are his shorts on his head.

Moving Shenanigans

Yep.

Moving Shenanigans

Alan took Joshua and Caleb to work with him one day to tour the robotics department.

Moving Shenanigans

Aqua robots

Moving Shenanigans

My boys actually went to a graduate course with Alan and sat and listened to Alan’s classmates make their thesis presentations.

Believe it or not, Alan said they were perfect gentlemen.

Summer Shenanigans

Caleb enjoyed going to class with his dad so much, he asked to go again the next week. Joshua looked a little…..less…interested.

I know. Alan is the man. He also took ALL FOUR boys on a bike ride by the bay:

Summer Shenanigans Summer Shenanigans

 

And another week he took the oldest three to a minor league baseball game, the San Jose Giants.

 

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Then Alan and Daniel headed down South for the funeral.

Summer Shenanigans

I think he was pretty happy to take a trip with Dad.

Summer Shenanigans

Super excited about all the ice cream

Summer Shenanigans

But eventually even Daniel hit his limit.

And now I’ve saved my favorite part for last. Here’s a little preview of the new house I’m so excited about! We are downsizing by around 300 square feet, which also means going from 5 bedrooms to 3, buuuuuuuuuuut that’s okay because everything else about this place is fabulousness! Hard floors! Big backyard! Closer to family! Big living room! Nice kitchen! And the outside is pretty too. Okay. Remember our old backyard looked like this:

Summer Shenanigans

See how tiny?

And this is our new backyard:

Summer Shenanigans

just a little peek into the backyard

Summer Shenanigans

More backyard! Covered patio! Nice slip and slide hill…Just so long as they don’t um…slide right into the house…

And the front!!!

Summer Shenanigans

Ah. So pretty. And notice the front yard crepe myrtle tree by the driveway. Love those.  OH!!  And look. Green grass.

So we have the ball rolling on buying this new house. Meanwhile, we’re cleaning up and packing out of this beloved old house. It’s just been the three of us this week, Alan, JD, and me. The other night we ate out on the wharf, and there was an otter that hung out by our window, eating and diving, and eating and diving. It was heavenly.

Alan has let JD tag along with him on his many, many errands:

Summer Shenanigans

Is that JD playing with some sort of missile??? i have no idea, really.

Summer Shenanigans

Bye-bye, big California trees! (That was a Band-aid on his chin.There was a nasty fall on some concrete steps.)

And Friday, Alan graduated. He now officially has a master’s degree in Systems Engineering. We’re proud of you, honey. Now, let the shenanigans begin. Well, as you can see, they sort of already have.

summer shenanigans

JD said, “I was sad in that picture. I wanted to go eat cake.”

12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

 

 

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“Doesn’t JD make your heart smile?” It’s a quote post!

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Alan, Caleb, and JD were in the kitchen eating cookies. I don’t know what JD said, but Caleb looked up at Alan and said, “Doesn’t JD make your heart smile?”

We all definitely smiled.

Caleb has also recently taken up saying, “ain’t.” He uses it correctly (if there is such a thing), but it took me by surprise. We don’t say ‘ain’t,’ nor does anyone that he knows in California.

My suspicions lie with Granddaddy, but that’s okay. Caleb has that whole classic-8-year-old-boy act down pat, so it kind of fits.

IMG_0643

Joshua and JD are both sick right now, but JD is especially so. I have a little bit of it myself, so the three of us sat in the living room together tonight, eating cough drops, watching Cars, and constantly wiping JD’s little nose.

All day, that poor baby came to me saying, “Nose running,” in the most pitiful voice I have ever heard, asking me to wipe it for him.

You’d think after an hour or two of this, I would have thrown in the towel on the home schooling and focused on that sweet baby. But no, no. I lack that amount of sense. I kept trying to force school. I am here to tell you that you cannot teach ANYTHING to anyone with a sick baby following you around and crying.

Caleb and Daniel are not sick, but they certainly felt entitled to their share of cough drops.

“If you want one, go ahead, but I’m warning you that they taste terrible.”

“I want some!”

“I want some!”

I washed my hands of the situation and moved onto the kitchen to finish cooking spaghetti.

Then I heard Caleb, “Hey, Mom! You were wrong! These cough drops are DELICIOUS!”

Wow.

But what quote post is complete without a little Daniel sass?

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Alan was herding the cats upstairs for bedtime. He directed them all to clean up the living room, which only has to be done about 5 times per day. He gave them each a task, and he told Dan, “You’re in charge of cleaning up the floor.”

Daniel only focused on part of that sentence. “I’M in charge!!!???”

Alan hesitated, “Yes. Do a good job.”

“Oh boy! I’m in charge. All right, boys, clean up this floor! Get to work!”

A few minutes later, I heard Joshua say, “Daniel’s trying to act like he’s the president of us or something.”

Daniel was so happy, “Yes! I’m the President!”

Joshua said, “Well, that doesn’t mean you have to act so bossy.”

Alan gave them all a pep talk, especially Daniel. “Daniel, if you’re the leader, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. You clean up too.”

“Okay! See! I’m cleaning up! Now come on, boys, clean up! Wait, Joshua! Right there! I’m the President!”

It’s still going on. Wait, no, it has now morphed into a game of tag, and they are arguing over who is ‘It.’

Don’t let this adorableness overload fool you. Parenting these angelic looking children will bring you to your KNEES, I’m telling you. I cry often.

But I love them. Plus, I’m out of here in just 5 minutes. Thursday night is ladies’ Bible study night at my friend Hillary’s house. Whoot! Good luck, Alan. If all else fails, just open the Bible and start reading it out loud and praying for help. That’s what I do.

VBS and Art Camp. Ready or not, we are doing this.

This is the big week, the BIG BIG week.

The boys are going to Vacation Bible School, at our very own church. So yes, that means I am going to help. It’s an embarrassingly minimal amount of helping, really. I basically signed up to help lead around 2nd and 3rd graders and listen to them say Bible verses. I haven’t decorated or contributed in any other way.

So why is this a big deal?

Because we have the only two church kids in the country who live in terror of VBS, apparently. What is wrong with us?

This probably just has more to do with the fact that they are little apples that fell from big apple trees.

It’s true. Alan and I didn’t like VBS either. Not even a little. Not even at all.

Alan didn’t like singing songs with motions and making crafts. I was painfully shy, so I didn’t like having to sit by kids I didn’t know. Plus I had a strong distaste for making crafts, being in a class where the kids were rowdy, or playing games that required any level of athleticism.

Alan and I both agreed that Kool-aid and cookie time was the saving grace of VBS.

Everyone else’s kids seem to love it. Must just be us.

So, yeah, I’m ridiculously nervous about this week. But we’re doing it anyway.

The big boys will do Art Camp in the mornings, which they are also nervous about, and VBS in the evenings.

On the upside, I don’t have to cook dinner this week.

By the end of the week, we’ll be drowning in kid crafts. Oh, wait, that’s right, I have little boys, so really just our trash can will be over-flowing in kid crafts because that’s what they do with those.

Why do we make them go to Vacation Bible School anyway?

Well, I’m glad you asked. (Yes, you did.) I like that they will go and do two hours every evening of things that revolve around Jesus. God loves children. God loves people. Their lives have great value. We love God because He first loved us, and He cares about us and the choices that we make. God will be there for us when it feels like no one else is. All we have to do is ask.

The more that they can be around people saying these things to them, the better. The world has a whole other soul-less message to present to them. Bleh!

And Art Camp? Well, I think it will be good for my little budding artists to build their skills.

I was able to give Joshua a few words of encouragement about VBS, “You know, most of them only go to 5th grade, so you just have to get through one more year of this, and then you can just help with games or something.”

That did seem to help his feelings.

So here we go! VBS this week!  Whoop Whoop!

Oh, and you might be happy to know that Daniel, on the other hand, is super pumped to go to VBS.

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