Monday, April 28, 2008

Whidbey Island and Deception Pass

Day two of our little mini vacation was a trip to Whidbey island via Deception Pass. The highlight of this day would have to be hands down getting to see Eagles up close. After a fantastic breakfast with everything we could ever want to eat at the hotel we headed to Whidbey island to explore. We had time to spare because we had decided to wait and visit the bridge together with our friends the Flakes. They still had tulips to see so we had a morning to drive around and find an adventure.

Adventure found us. We were looking for a deserted beach to let the kids and even more importantly Zeke out for a run. They all had too much pent up energy and a beach would be perfect. We found a spot we thought would work, and as we pulled off the road we saw what we thought was an eagle sitting on top of some driftwood. Sure enough, an eagle he was. Dave drove up as close as he could with the car. I got a picture and then decided to get out of the car to try and get closer. I took pictures as I went. Finally when I was about 30 feet from him he flew away. I was all the way zoomed in and frantically trying to find him in the sky. The sun hadn't come out yet so the lighting isn't the best. The poor light and my shaking hand (while trying to find him) made the picture a little blurry. Dave thinks I expect too much wanting a National Geographic picture. But I really thought that's what I would get. We were so close to him. Here are our best two shots.

After an hour of playing and running we packed back into the car to meet the Flakes at the bridge. Deception Pass is beautiful. Captain Vancouver thought Whidbey was a peninsula and named the channel Deception Pass after finding out it was an island after all.

The bridge is beautiful. So high up and over clean blue water. The Cascades and Mt. Baker in the background only added to the whole experience. There is always so much for the eye to take in here in Washington. We enjoyed a few hikes (one on either side of the bridge). The beach was a hit, especially with the discovery of three very large sea stars! The kids and their friends all loved the endless supply of rocks to throw in the Sound and Dave and I just enjoyed finally being able to enjoy an adventure in good weather. Check out this sea gull I caught trowing an oyster to the rocks trying to break it open. Too cool huh! The birds were totally performing for us!

After enjoying the trails we walked across the bridge to be treated to one final surprise, another eagle. This time he was soaring around searching for fish. What amazing birds. In total we saw 5 eagles that day. The three from the car though palled in comparison to the other two.

Tulip Festival

We finally made it. Like so many of our friends before us we went to the Tulip Festival this weekend. It was good to be the last. We had all the great ideas of our friends before us to help us make our own travel plans. The weather was absolutely beautiful. It was sunny and warm and perfect in every way. We took off Friday afternoon after the kids got home and had lunch. We almost had the tulip fields to ourselves. There were only a handful of other visitors and no traffic (yeah!!). The flowers were excellent posers and the kids were all too happy to play with the bugs buzzing around the flowers and picking all the dandelions in sight.

Dave and I had a great time trying out our new camera lenses and trying to compose nice photos. I think Dave and I might have finally found something we enjoy doing together. I think we work pretty well together being photographers.

The tulips were awesome but one of the coolest parts of our vacation was getting to run into some of our favorite traveling friends at our hotel. We were just checking in when we spied Eric and Landon Flake coming out of the pool. Way too cool. We put the little ones to sleep. Sent the big kids up to our room to play games and watch a movie and stayed downstairs in the Flakes room to play San Juan. I must write that I won hands down. Always a great added bonus to any good vacation!

Board Results

Dave got his board results back this weekend. I was so anxious to know my future fate that I read his results through the envelope. If I hadn't been able to read it I'm sure I would have opened it for him. We have been waiting for four weeks now. Four long weeks for me anyway. It was the last thing standing between me and California.

Well...he passed (of course).

So what does that mean for us. Probably the inevitable move to California. He needs to fly day in May to take a law and ethics exam and then he'll apply for his licence. That should all be done by the beginning of June. We will most likely put our house up on the market then and maybe be gone from my beloved state by the end of August.

If only I was the bread winner and got to decide where we lived. I just want to cry every time I think about it.

DuPont Diamondbacks

So playing baseball in the freezing cold, sometimes raining, sometimes snowing, never sunny and warm weather is the closest thing yet to making me want to head towards sunny California. Our cousins are running around shirtless and we are watching Chase play baseball in our snow clothes! Poor Chase. He has been a real trooper, never once complaining about the weather. He plays with his coat under his t-shirt and jersey. It is an effort to stay warm, but in order to still be in uniform it has to all be tucked in. I didn't think he would be able to do it but he found a way to tuck in his big winter coat into those baseball pants. He takes hand warmers out onto the field with him and keeps is batting gloves on even under his mitt.

Chase is on a really great team this year. They are real go getters. They have won every game so far! That is Chase's favorite part. Unfortunately he is in the big boy league now and has to wear a sports cup. That is his least favorite thing. You should have seen us trying to figure that out. Where is Dad when you need him?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sara talks in Spanish! -Katie

Ice Rink Nostalgia

Emily's friend Grace had her birthday party this last weekend at an Ice Rink. It was pretty fun to see Emily and her girlfriends enjoying themselves so much. She actually did way better than I thought she would do. I think the majority of her falls were on purpose. As I watched her I couldn't help but feel nostalgic about one of Dave's and my first dates. Katie was happy playing and Sara was asleep on a chair and I leaned over the observation rail not seeing Emily skating around out there but me and Dave, just beginning to fall in love.

The date started out with me making Chicken Parmigiana for Dave. (this was back in the days when girls felt they needed to show off their cooking skills) After dinner out on my parents porch we headed off to the Ice rink. Mostly we goofed around and held hands skating in circles. The night was still young so we walked around the U of A until we found some grass (grass is not very plentiful in Arizona) to sit on and talk. Too soon we were kicked off by sprinklers. But the most memorable part of the night for us both happened once we returned to my house. I invited Dave in. I still don't know why I got this itch to dance with him. I love to dance, but looking back I still think it was weird. I went downstairs to come back up with a Sting CD. I honestly can't remember if we danced to several songs or just the one. The one that became 'Our' song. As we danced to 'When We Dance' I totally felt the world as I knew it slip away. Suddenly there just wasn't anything else. Just Dave and me and his big framer arms holding me close. If I had to pick a moment when we fell in love this would be it.

Shortly after this fateful night I received a letter on my car as I left for school from Dave. Here is a snippet from him:

"I can't believe how I am feeling about you now. You seem to do something every time I'm with you that makes me like you more. Our slow dance convinced me that I'm crazy about you. That song has been running through my head for two days now, and with it comes the all too vivid memory of that dance. I love you Jenny DeWitt."

Isn't love a wonderful thing. A girlfriend of mine just wrote about thinking about the future of her little girl and how it will feel to see her falling in love with a special somebody. My wish for my girls is that they can fall in love with someone like their Dad. I think then and only then will it be easier to see them leave my home to start their own.

Escapee and Hunter

We woke up to find Gobbles the hamster, let me rephrase that, we woke to 'not' find Gobbles the hamster. The night before he was MIA too. After a quick search of Chase's room we found him hiding behind the closet door. One of the little windows in his cage was removed and he had done q pretty impressive pull-up to let himself out. Of course we blamed the girls. Most of the time they get the blame for anything mischievous that happens around the house. They both went to bed emphatic about their innocence. Kate was very vocal about being falsely accused. maybe it was because she could sense we all thought it was her doing. Or maybe the stress of being blamed for Gobbles near death experience was too much. You see, we have let the kids know that in no uncertain terms Gobbles will die if they let him run free. (at the hands, or I should say mouth of Zeke)

So when we woke up to an empty cage again, we knew we had made the girls the scapegoat for one very crafty and acrobatic rodent.

He had been out for who knows how long. Fortunately Zeke goes to bed with us so we weren't too worried Gobbles had met an untimely end yet. Unfortunately there is only so long you can lock up your dog in a bathroom while you wait to find your hamster. After a long morning of searching Dave and I finally came to the conclusion that we would have to let Zeke out and just hope for the best. Not a very hopeful conclusion for our hamster mind you.

Well Zeke hadn't been free for more than a few minutes before he not only found the hamster but had poor Gobbles cornered under our dryer. We thanked Zeke, gave him hero hunter status (the perks of such a honored position are lots of pats, praise and more importantly treats), put him away and rescued Gobbles .

His little access window is now glued shut. No more unsupervised adventures for him!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Drug Bust

I have finally finished unpacking hooray! My long efforts of unloading and picking up were paid for in full with a fun little surprise in Dave's suitcase. What did I find that gave me a laugh you ask?

A TSA baggage inspection notice placed carefully next to a baggie full of Borax I took with me to make space mud.

I guess they thought they'd made a drug bust.

I pity the person that tasted the borax...yuck!

PS...Dave has requested that I mention that he told me so.


"Mom, why did you make oatmeal cookies? My friends wanted chocolate chip", says Katie yesterday afternoon after preschool at our house.
"Because I didn't have any chocolate chips," I tell her.
"That's OK Mom I forgive you, because I love you," she answers back after a minute of thought.

I was struck by this simple lesson in forgiveness that Katie shared with me yesterday. Not that I needed to be forgiven for not making collocate chip cookies. Maybe for not having chocolate chips. Well who knows... But more that she and all children demonstrate constantly how simple and sincere forgiveness should be.

Really it all does just come down to love. If you love someone you forgive them. Even if you did have to eat oatmeal cookies instead.

Lunch Time

It was time to try Sara out on rice cereal again. We tried at 2 months and she didn't like it very much. Honestly I can't believe babies ever like it. It's colorless, pastey and it stinks. Maybe Chase hates mashed potatoes because it reminds him of baby food. Anyway, sweet little Sara seemed way more interested this time. Ir was killing me though to see her making such a horrible mess all over her handmade bib from my friend Jamie. Why can't she have better mess making manners like my friend Blaire's little boy Preston. Here's to the beginning of long relationship with big messes!

A Mother Daughter Book Club

My sister in law and her daughter have started a mother /daughter book club. I have thought about doing a children's book club for several years and never gotten around to it. I like the sound of a mother / daughter book club even more. I need some good bonding time with Emily.

Maddie and her friends take turns hosting the event. The host picks the book, leads the discussion about it and plans an activity to go along with it.

The girls bring along a piece of fruit with them every time to chop together to create a yummy fruit salad for the snack. How easy is that.

I'm linking you to their blog so that you can see how they do it.

Does anyone want to do this with me. I'm looking for Mom's with daughters in the 7-12 age group. Leave a comment to let me know if you want to be on board!

Animal Concentration

On our last night in town with Willie and Andrea's family we taught their kids how to play a Wilcox staple. I'm still surprised they hadn't ever played it with their family. It seems when I first joined the family we played it at every large gathering!

The game goes like this. We all sit around in a circle. The tail of the circle is always a skunk (the sign is made by pinching your nose). The head of the circle is always an elephant (the sign is made by pinching your nose with one hand while the other hand with pointing finger activated goes through the space between your body and the arm pinching your nose). See Zach for further clarification!

All of the other people in the circle get to chose their own animal and sign to go along with it. Simple is best. We have a few standards of course but some new ones generally make it into the playing field. This time Maddie added a galloping horse, Zach contributed a flapping eagle (which had nothing to do with having just watched Nacho Libre I'm sure) and Emily chose to be a kitty cat (grooming itself instead of the traditional show of whiskers).

After the signs are all chosen we begin the game. The goal is to become the elephant. The skunk starts out by making it's sign and then making the sign of another person in the circle. They must be paying attention! When you see your sign made you repeat it and then make the sign of someone else. It goes on and on like that until someone messes up one of the signs, misses their turn because they weren't paying attention or breaks the rhythm. When someone messes up they become the new skunk. They leave their seat in the circle and take over the skunk seat. Then everyone including the old skunk move up a seat until the vacated seat is filled. The tricky part is that the animal signs don't travel with the people that chose them they stay with the chair. So now everyone that just moved has a new sign.

The brilliance of this game is that it is silent:-)

We want to include even our little ones. So they don't get out and have lots of help! Once they make it to elephant we give them three turns on the throne before demoting them to skunkdom!

The highlights of the night were the typical pokes in the eye from messing up the elephant sign and then Katie's totally candid decision to run and get the peanuts to snack on during her reign as elephant. Our nephew Zach shouted out, "the elephant's eating peanuts!" Very astute of him! We all got a really good laugh and Katie loved being the center of attention of course!

Everyone try it out at your next family home evening or game night with friends and let me know how it went!

My Favorite Picture

This is my favorite picture from our trip. Here, here to a telephoto lens! She didn't even know I was taking her picture! Hopefully I will be taking many more really great pictures soon. Not just 1 in 300. I bought some really great photography books on vacation. Hopefully after reading them, going through the tutorial CDROM that Dave bought me for my camera and learning how to make the most out of all my new camera gadgets that I got for my birthday I will have a better percentage of great shots to snap shots!

Cousin Time in Sierra Vista

On the last few days of our Spring Break vacation we added Dave to our party and headed south to Sierra Vista. Willie (Dave's oldest brother) and his family are still holding up the fort there, the last Arizona branch of the family. Our kids have really missed their Arizona Wilcox Cousins! They were very excited to finally get to see them again. Andrea and I were trying to figure it out and we think it has been three years since we saw these guys last. That is awful! The bloggoshpere has made it easier to keep in touch but it doesn't replace that need for a real live visit.

The kids were busy doing one fun thing after another. They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, made birthday cake decorations out of fondant, built and rebuilt electrical cars and raced them through obstacle courses, played with space mud (see my creative blog), made creations out of clay, played air hockey, basketball, dress-up, tea party etc......

The highlight once again was a very cool outdoor adventure. We went up to Coronado national monument. We went on a small hike to the top of a hill to overlook the Coronado National forest (various sage brushes, struggling riparian trees and cactus) and the Arizona / Mexico border (it is the skinny dirt road in the back ground).

I know my kids really enjoyed trying on authentic conquistador chain mail and weaponry. They could barely support the weight. Poor Katie wanted to try some on and literally crumpled from the weight.

We had so much fun. Definitely more frequent visits are in order! When you have cousins this cool you shouldn't see each other once every three years!!!!!!!

Spring Fling With Grandma

On our last day visiting With my parents my Mom mentioned that Spring Fling was in town. Spring Fling is the annual University of Arizona's fundraiser for all of it's sororities and fraternities. It's a carnival run by university students. I have such found memories of it. So when my Mom told me it opening on our last day I felt totally lucky. We left at about 5:00 and didn't get home until 11:00. We had so much fun with Grandma! She was a great sport about riding all the spiny rides with her Grand kids. We even talked her into riding on the "Maliboomer-ish" ride that shoots you straight up into the sky! It wasn't busy at all so we waled onto every ride and played for hours. Even Sara was a great sport.

But who falls asleep on an amusement park ride? I know it was the Ferris Wheel the tamest of them all but come on....we must have really wore her out!

Aspiring to be a Ace!

(Shooting this Spring 2008)
The highlight of any trip we take to Arizona for Chase is always getting to shoot with Grandpa. My Dad has the most amazing JROTC group. He has raised them up from a small unpopular organization to a National ranked, very popular huge program. He buses in kids from other high schools who all want to be part of the Flowing Wells Program. The have an obstacle course, climbing wall, repel tower and a state of the art riffle range. My Dad's team is awesome. almost always they take home a top placement at their meets. It won't be long until they're number one in the Nation.

So when we visit we generally get to have fun with Grandpa's cadets. Sometimes we repel and sometime the kids climb on the rock wall...but always Chase wants to shoot. Maybe next year the gun will be closer to the right size. Chase is really an excellent mark. I wish I had saved his score to post it but he always hits the target.


Well here are Grandma and Grandpa DeWitt with their six grandchildren. Poor Chase is surrounded by a sea of girls but he's holding up OK. From left to right:
Jessie, Chase, Katie, Grandpa DeWitt, Becca, Sara, Grandma DeWitt and Emily. A very good looking bunch I should say.

Sabino Canyon Hike

This visit I really wanted to take the kids out on an adventure. They haven't really ever experienced Arizona. We always visit in the Summer when mere survival dictates staying indoors. Spring offers perfect weather. My Dad picked Sabino Canyon as our destination. It was an easy three miles round trip. If you hike up farther you can visit pools and waterfalls at the right time of the year. But in this case with little children our goal was to get to the river (more like a creak). The trail was blocked off anyway to go any farther due to some serious monsoon demolition! Arizona granted us just what I was hoping for. Crazy critters, treacherous landscape and warm weather to enjoy the water. Chase found and caught a horny toad. Much to the delight of his siblings and cousin who is learning to deal with "boy" issues. (like boys picking up weird scary looking creatures and of course picking on girls, especially their little sisters which happen to be her idol) Once we made it to water the kids got totally soaked and it wasn't long before they had caught frogs to entertain themselves with. My kids came out of the water drenched and my sweet little niece managed to get mostly wet. I am so proud of her! We also explored a tiny cave and spotted a gofer snake!

Even with all the sun screen I managed to get burned...but the kids came out unscathed, and they're the ones that really matter.

Thanks Mom and Dad for an awesome adventure!

Happy Easter

We'll we had a very nice Easter in Arizona. Instead of eggs with running colors we had melted chocolate eggs. I still can't get over the 40% swing in temperature between Arizona and Washington. The kids were spoiled magnificently. I counted over 200 plastic eggs filled with candy that our clever little bunny hid throughout the yard. And that's not counting chocolate rabbits or other larger yummy treats. Just eggs. The kids were filling up their baskets and them coming to Grandpa to empty them all out to start again. It was total candy indulgence.

This year Chase was absolutely committed to recover the golden egg. Dave and I hide a golden egg ever year in a super tricky spot. The lucky finder gets a $5.00 bonus! Emily and Chase looked and looked. Then they took a break. After a quick cool down they were back out there. It was so funny to watch them. Emily has found it every year for the last 5 years. So Chase's new strategy this year was to follow Emily around always an arms length away. I guess he was counting on his arms being an extra 2 inches longer.

(can you see Katie in the background investigating what just fell?)
I hid the egg in the lens of my Mom's telescope. Then kids were right there looking. I was sure they were going to see it any minute. (Really the golden egg is just an exercise to improve their finding abilities. Maybe someday they will have enough skills to find their tie in their draw full of socks or their shoes in their cubbies:-) In the commotion of their searching the big kids kept knocking the telescope which went from tilted up to very quickly tilting down. It spilled it's goods right onto the porch in the hands of one very quick, underdog named Katie. She was so excited. She hasn't stopped talking about what she is going to buy with her golden egg.
Better luck next year big kids.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Are we in Hawaii?" -Katie as we left the Tucson airport in response to seeing palm trees

April Fools

An April Fools dinner has become a fledgling tradition in our family. It all started two years ago when I made the kids chicken nuggets, peas and carrots all made out of candy and then cupcakes made out of meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dessert. The kids loved it. They thought it was the coolest dinner ever. It made me feel so good to get them all laughing over dinner. A real feat in my house. the kids are all so finicky with food and I generally don't stand for it which leads to lots of tears! I think the biggest hit that year though was the jello drink!

Last year I was too sick and depressed to do anything fun. They were all lucky if they even got dinner. I can't remember....

But this year I was back in the saddle with culinary tricks up my sleeve (thanks again to Family Fun Magazine, one of my favorites). We had chocolate pie! The kids were totally on to me of course. But the meatloaf pie did actually have chocolate in it. So I was able to honestly say it was a chocolate pie!!!!

Unfortunately Chase has this crazy, unfounded disgust of mashed potatoes. Both he and Katie went to bed because they wouldn't eat. So not such a happy celebration after all. Next year I need to find something without mashed potatoes. Or I could follow Dave's advice and make on;y mashed potatoes everyday for dinner. Eventually Chase will have to eat them or starve.

April is such a good month. It as nothing to do with other amazing holidays like per say my birthday or the arrival of Spring (I know March claims that date but come on pretentious little March!!!!! we all know Spring isn't really around until April!)