a day of at-home festive fun

We returned to Pennsylvania to face a forced two week quarantine annnnnd virtual learning for the kids. It just all happened that way that our governor locked the stuff down and the schools chose virtual until after Thanksgiving... So enter my new motto: who knows what tomorrow shall bring? So, when given a free day, I decided to do as much festive stuff with the kids as I could. We wrote letters to Santa, made reindeer food for our cousins and ourselves, and started a few Christmas cookies. We did the almond ones and of course buckeye balls. All while listening to Christmas music before watching Christmas movies. All the things people, all the things!

a day at animal kingdom

Animal Kingdom was our final full day at Walt Disney World. Such sweet sorrow! This park also has the shortest open hours of them all. So we got there right as it opened, which I have learned is an hour prior to the listed start time... And we were greeted by a rainbow! I really wanted to try and get on Flight of Passage so the kids and I along with my sister and her husband and Lena took off at a speed walk to get there. It. Was. Walk. On. I was shocked. The ride was just so so sooo good! Another bucket list Disney ride crossed off my list to be sure. By the time we exited the ride the line was already well over a half hour long so we moved on to the River Journey. Then it was more Starbs... monkeys, Everest for the first timers which they just so loved, the Kilamanjaro Safari, The Triceratops ride, then DinoSAUR which I was pretty excited to scare David by bringing him on.... Tough to be a Bug (David also hated this). We sat in the Relaxation Station a few times maskless and watched the boat cavalcades go by... Minnie and Mickey, Santa, and Pocahontas. We took this train way out to Rafikis watch or some such place and the kids got to pet goats.... something new and different... It was raining or drizzling off and on all day which was a bummer but I took it as a sign that Disney didn't want us to leave just as much as we didn't want to go. We rode the Safari again before our dinner which was at Yak and Yeti, another first! Just so good. 

We left after dinner and got the kids ice cream and their flattened pennies and then did a final stroll around the Boardwalk before bed. Just so forlorn, leaving Disney. I hate it! I know this whole experience was different than normal, but what is normal these days? The masks were annoying but we got used to them very quickly and half the time the kids didn't even remember to take them off! There was still so much Disney Magic that I would highly recommend going! Short lines, less crowds, still so amazing! And so clean. 

And of course! Thank you so very much to my parents for as always wishing to make amazing memories with us and with our kids. We love you so much and appreciate you! 

back at magic kingdom

Magic Kingdom a second time around and we really just took it so much slower.! We didn't have an agenda other than get our butts on Pirates of the Caribbean. We got coffee upon arrival and then rode Thunder Mountain Railroad, as Pirates was down. We watched the Philharmagic before Pirates finally opened up.  Letty and I got matching Minnie ears... Dom got the Mandalorian ship, David a shoulder buddy Porg? And we bought an Olsen Family The Child. He is pretty much a favorite of us all and Dom thinks he belongs to him but no! Family. Child. All the souvenirs! Then it was just a matter of what rides do we want and just walking right on them... Dumbo, Barnstormer, the Speedway, Space Mountain, Little Mermaid, the Buzz ride, the Magic Carpets and Haunted Mansion, etc. All before our very early dinner which was..... (drum roll please) at Be Our Guest!!! This was a first for us, ever and we were just so excited! I've heard such wonderful things about it and was sooooo not disappointed! The Beast comes out and says hello a few times... the ballroom is just gorgeous... the food was delicious, yes we ate the gray stuff and it was delicious, the wine was made specially just for Be Our Guest and the kids got to paint a white chocolate Chip! I mean.... perfect. All around. Loved. 

After dinner we were once more just so shot and so we just said our slow farewells to the castle and Main Street before heading back to our hotel once more. I hate hate hate goodbyes! Especially at Disney!

a day at hollywood studios

This is another park we can walk to from The Yacht Club (see why we choose to stay there?). This park also we had heard had the highest wait times because of the lack of shows and just general attractions. So we had a plan. That plan being that I had to get me and mine on Rise of Resistance. It was a must. I knew a little of the process but my sister did most of the research for me.... At 7 a.m. on the dot you can join your virtual boarding group from anywhere, not just at the park. So that was huge for me. Also she had read you should shut down all apps, get off Disney wifi, restart your phone, and just keep refreshing the several seconds before the clock hits 7:00 a.m. Don't even read the screens just keep hitting join (I think I did it like three times?). So it was the most stressful 10 or 20 seconds of my life but we got in! Boarding group number 44! I needed a drink after that pressure!

So then we could relax until it was time to walk over to get in line for Mickey's Runaway Railroad, another attraction that we wanted to hit but knew had to be done first thing unless we wanted to wait, which we don't, because we got spoiled this trip. The line was incredibly short and we got on well before the park even opened. So there's that. Then we headed to Toy Story Land only to be told Slinky Dog was down and would be for quite some time. So we did the other two rides there that were working, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger and the Swirling Saucers. By the time we were done with them Slinky was up and running and thankfully my sister had already hopped in that line so we joined her without having to wait long at all. So pretty much, the most successful morning ever. 

Then we ate foods. And then we got to go to Galaxy's Edge. And I just cannot put into words how cool this was for us. If you are a Star Wars fan you just need to get yourself there. It is themed to the very max and it really truly feels like you are on another world. Our boarding group was called around one and we just walked right on in there. My sister stayed out with Harrison and Tenley so we scanned a few of our Magic Bands for her to use as a parent swap thing and off we went! This ride is an 18 minute experience. You board a ship as part of the resistance only to be taken hostage by the First Order... and then they interrogate you.... and then you get rescued by the resistance and then you have to escape the ship. I mean I can't. I am not doing it justice. Just know it was amazing. When we got off my sister told us to just use the bands for a second ride since she doesn't care for Star Wars so I took Dom and Letty again, as they are the biggest Star Wars fans in the house. It was just as amazing the second time through. We didn't get to do Smuggler's Run only because the line was like a half hour and it was very crowded and we were the only ones really in to it... so that was a bummer but we still walked around the Millennium Falcon and so on before heading over to Tower of Terror. On the way we saw a cavalcade with Mickey and Minnie... I love these things! The crowds are basically nonexistent so the characters wave at you individually and even comment on like your sweatshirt or your shirt or just thanking us for coming.... it really is cool. 

Lena and Dom nailed the Tower of Terror, of course. And Pop got them their first timer t-shirts too! Then we went to the Frozen sing-a-long. It was our first show of the trip. They have every other row blocked off and then seats in groups of four with seats blocked off in between. The show itself was the same as normal holiday years except that the performers definitely stayed six feet away and there were quite a few comments about keeping masks on.... from the performers. And the final song is something along the lines of if we're together that's my favorite place to be and so on and it just  made me feel so sad for the coming holidays.... because we sure would love to all be together but sadly, we cannot. Thankfully the corny jokes of the show brushed off any of my sadness.... 

We had a character dining experience set up for this night at Hollywood and Vine! The food was served family style and wow was there a lot of food! We had to split into two groups and this night we were an hour apart which stunk. We got to see Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy quite a few times during the meal!

After dinner I headed to the front of the park to leave to go see my Floridian friend from college, Kerri. I took the bus over to meet her at Coronado Springs to go to the top of the new tower there and have drinks at The Dahlia Lounge with her and her friend. While I did this Matt and the kids wandered back to Galaxy's Edge to see it at night. Any of those photos Letty took for me with Matt's phone. 

The night with Kerri was too short and it's been too long but it was so good to see her face and catch up!

back at epcot

Oh my most favorite of parks! How I love thee! And Christmas decor was added since Monday! The best! We wanted to make sure we got the kids on the Frozen ride so we went there right as it opened, which was later than most parks, only opening up technically at 11. We got in by ten though and got in line for the ride. We passed the little mini Anna and Elsa parade on our way to Soarin. Oh that ride! I just love it so! We then decided that we were there during the Food and Wine Festival so we should really take advantage of all the delicious food and drinks, something we haven't done here before. Shame on us right! So we got all the things!! Letty and Matt and I tried a bunch of fun things, the boys sticking with their normal chicken tenders and fries and pizza, respectively. We rode Test Track twice because it is such a fun ride, and a first again for Lena and Dom...We had dinner at Coral Reef which we haven't done in awhile. Of course we had to ride the Nemo ride again because when they sing "It's a big blue world" I get a bit teary eyed. Each. And. Every. Time. Theeeen it was another Spaceship Earth ride and then some more Soarin before walking back to our hotel for some matching cousin jams and some popcorn.

I really hated saying goodbye to Epcot this night... Normally we just pop in and out of this park several times during the week because of the park hopper and because we are usually within walking distance... so this stung a bit. I think that was the hardest part for me, being here during the pandemic, the lack of park hopper. So I guess if that is the worst then I consider myself extremely lucky!

a day at magic kingdom

I always love me a good Floridian sunrise! I usually see them by myself on my daily run but because masks are required I made the executive decision to take the week off of running. It was a hard pill to swallow but I still walked almost 20,000 steps a day so it wasn't that much of a stretch. We wanted to be at the bus line early because of having such a large party and COVID restrictions we didn't know how that would all work out. They have partitions in the bus between seats of two but they let us just take over the entire back of the bus. So it wasn't an issue getting on any buses the entire trip. They also had the emergency exit on the ceiling open to promote airflow... Which made for a chilly morning ride!

Magic Kingdom was the place to go to today! We had to reserve which park we wanted to go to in advance and there was no park hopper option so we really had to commit! Magic Kingdom had herself all decked out for Christmas and I was here for it! We got there about an hour earlier than their posted opening time because we had a mission: Seven Dwarves Mine Train. As there are no Fastpasses we really wanted to make sure to get on this right away because the wait times were consistently the longest. Like, over an hour. Not the best for those with little legs. And we made it! 

From then on we just popped from ride to ride... wait times were really great, either completely walk-on or ten minutes or so. The lines themselves look ridiculously long because they have markings on the ground to stay six feet apart. So it could look like it'll take forever but basically you're just walking the entire time. They have dividers up in parts of the queue where there are switch backs too. We did Peter Pan, Small World, Dumbo, Barnstormers, Space Mountain (a first for Dom and Lena and they nailed it!), Carousel of Progress, Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, I mean I'm telling you we were just doing all the rides! We found benches heading into Liberty Square for a bit of a break and from there were able to see a few of Magic Kingdom's cavalcades... Santa and his reindeer and Mickey and the list goes on! We did Haunted Mansion, the Magic Carpets and walked through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House before dinner which was at the Jungle Navigation Company. Which is a total favorite of mine now! The food was so good and the jokes were so corny! After dinner we stuck around to see a few of the Christmas projections on the castle. They don't have fireworks during the pandemic but they do this instead! They changed every fifteen minutes so we saw a few before heading home for the day. On our way out we were very pleased to see all the characters hanging out above the exit! And in all their Christmas finery! Main Street is always a fav but Main Street at Christmastime? The very best!

We ended our night with a popcorn and pajama party in our room, as we did every night!

a day at epcot

After taking the Disney Magical Express to our hotel, The Yacht Club, we were able to go straight to our room. No check-in process needed. A lot of things were, in my opinion, changed for the better because of the pandemic. Things were more automated and less interaction with people was more common. So we checked in on our phones, got a text when the room was ready, and our Magic Bands opened the door right on up. We ditched our bags and then our strollers were delivered. We used Orlando Stroller Rental. They deliver right to your hotel and give you a stroller rain cover and a free cooler. I know our kids are too big for strollers but we have a Dominic so we thought better safe than sorry and it is kind of nice to have a "home base" as it were for all our stuff. Water bottles, sweatshirts, ponchos, etc. Then we started the short walk over to Epcot. We all got our temperatures taken (I did check everyone at the hotel each morning just in case, because they will send the entire party away if one of you have a fever) and went through security and scanned our Magic Bands to enter. No more fingerprint scanner, just fyi, another thing I was happy to see go. There are hand sanitizers literally everywhere and I'm pretty sure we used every single one we passed. Never pass a potty or a sanny!

We started walking around the World Showcase and stopped quick for some lunch. All quick-service dining that we encountered we could order online and they would alert you when it was ready. They are very strict about masks at Disney so unless you are stationary and actively eating or drinking it has to cover your nose and mouth. So we sat down to eat in America and as we did so we saw the little passing cavalcades! Anna and Elsa and Mickey and Minnie and friends! Within an hour of entering we had seen them already! I think we saw more characters this trip than in any other trip we have taken. No hugging or autographs sure, but still! 

We continued around the World, stopping in Mexico for a margarita after riding the Three Caballeros which is such a favorite of my kids! Then we did Soarin and Finding Nemo, and of course Spaceship Earth. We had dining reservations at the Trattoria at the Boardwalk so we had to leave the park anyway for that. The kids wanted to swim before dinner, which is incidentally, the only time you're able to have your mask off while on Disney property (unless you're in your room). We had a bit of a scheduling issue where dining was concerned. They didn't allow for our party size of twelve to sit together. So between that and COVID restrictions we had staggered reservation times and we were split up. Not ideal, but in no means a deal breaker. We were all so shot after dinner so we just headed back to the room to relax and go to bed early in prep for another big day tomorrow!

we took a trip! during a pandemic.

Which sounds ridiculous, I get it... but it was actually pretty normal! And I mean, it is Disney we are talking about here. They just do things right. We weighed our options over and over again for the past eight months trying to figure out what was the right thing to do.... and we followed along with Disney's reopening journey and decided that we would just do it! Make it happen! Make those memories! See the Disney Magic, etc! And I have zero regrets. The entire experience went amazingly and surprisingly well.

First up, getting there! We typically drive and when this trip was booked over a year ago the plan was to do the same... Us Olsens had debating flying down early at one point but then: COVID happened and everything changed of course. So drive or fly? We decided the less gas stations and take out food and hotels the better, and so we turned to flying. Southwest has a policy where if you aren't with a member of your party the middle seat must be left open, so as a family of five that was a perk to us. No strangers in our row thank you! We left my parent's house at 3 am.... So early! Everyone wore their masks in the van on the way down, throughout check-in and security, etc. I saw no one disobeying. We had a quick breakfast once checked-in and then we boarded our flight. Again, no one took their mask off that I saw. And just like that two hours later we were back on the ground and it was warm and there were palm trees! I mean, isn't that quite the deal? Maybe flying isn't so bad after all....

it's that time of year again.... the holiday home tour!

As I was taking these photos I was like why do I even do this? Not much changes year to year in how I decorate... everyone knows I'm still just as Christmas Crazy as I was the year prior... and yet, here I am. I guess I decorated like mad I might as well share with the internet void. And since I can't have people come and tour the home in person because: COVID, this is actually a good idea. Right?

And so here we are... starting in the foyer.

trick-or-treating, a week late!

Our little tradition of spending trick-or-treat night together has sure changed over the past thirteen years... from just being us adults getting dressed up to hand out candy in front of a fire pit to us all wandering around watching Letty toddle up to get candy to now counting heads all night as we visit house after house... it's a process! And sorry my kids, you will always be with family on this night. And I think they have accepted it. 

But first of course is the annual pizza delivery and then the rushing of the bulls... I mean costumes. Layer after layer after layer. I had face paint for my two skeletons (David refused) and so Rob did some fun talented drawings on his little ladies. Oh to have that artistic gene! And then it was time to be off! All the candy! All the political signs!

alexandria

I don't leave my kids. It's a rule. Other than the nights I was in the hospital delivering a brother I have not left them. But it was time... Ten years of turning down girl's trips or solo weekends with Matt... My friends Janelle and Toniel informed me I was going away with them. A toe dip, as it were. We chose Alexandria as it was just a little over two hours away and none of us had been there before, but we heard it was really nice. Toniel took off running with making all the plans, and she sure knew what she was doing! Not only all the things, but all the educational things along with it. We left before the sun on Monday... or was it Sunday night? It was early. But the goal was to get there in time to see a sunrise. Which of course as it was gray and rainy we did not see. But we were there. The days were pretty much walk around, see beautiful historic homes, drink, eat, walk around and see more historic homes, eat, drink, and so on. The next day we left right after lunch so we were home in time for the kids to get home from school. Everyone survived! It was so much fun and just so very nice and relaxing to just wander around with my girls and not worry about my kids. Matt even had the house cleaned and the laundry folded so I mean, saint!

And now, a photo dump.

pumpkin carving night!

We will never let this tradition die so help me! The kids will be in college and I'll still make them come home to do this. Hopefully, willingly. 

We of course had to do the whole cousins in their costumes photo since come trick-or-treat night it will be frigid and the layers will be many. This must be done first before any messes are made. My mom had all the pumpkins cleaned and gutted for us which is so very nice when the kids are this young! And then they were off! My kids needing very little to no help which is actually pretty cool and much more enjoyable for Matt and I. Minus the fear that one feels when you witness David wielding a very large knife.... And I think as always they turned out so great!

all the cousins made it to hersheypark!

We went back again to Hersheypark last weekend, and this time we had all the cousins together! It was such a nice day weather-wise so it certainly was more crowded, but we still got to hit up the trick-or-treat trail and quite a few rides. I know it sure is different than normal but there is something so nice about being back to a place that was so much a part of our lives the past few years.... Masks and all!

the ren faire

I have never been here really... at least not to watch all the medieval things that go down there. But we were gifted tickets and had a few free hours in between games a few weekends back so we took the kids. It's apparently quite the deal. Who knew? Plus it was a gorgeous day. Dom loved all the spooky Halloween decorations... the skeletons and pirates especially. He loved the guy on stilts and the glass blowing demonstration. He loved the horses and the jousting. He loved it all and did not want to leave. He cannot wait to go back. David and Letty enjoyed it to be sure but not as much as Dom, which surprises me. They each got to pick out a little tiny souvenir (don't look at me I'm not the fun parent) and that made them even happier. A necklace for Letty, a pirate doubloon and map in a bottle for Dom and a rabbit's foot key chain (ew) for David...

It got super crowded real fast so we didn't stay too long but it was a solid fall Saturday afternoon.

life lately...

Oh the things we have been up to lately! We don't have many free days which is usually my main goal but after months off it is sort of a lot! This month has been flying by though! So! Lately...

We got Dom a Jack Skellington lawn thing.... the kid is obsessed... matching field hockey shirts with my girl at practice...a birthday fishing trip with a friend... all the farro in all the land... when the girls and their coaches all unintentionally match at a hockey game... good sky...niece cuddles whether she likes it or not... Letty got to have a grown up lady dinner with Nonna and Pop.... field hockey games... Nera taking over a box...late night with friends... baseball....I got a job at the kid's school (super part-time but I love it!)... the first last swim... hanging with my main girl at recess.... good sky times two... a new fav, an ew, David shirt from a friend.... quite the fan set up at David's baseball game... field hockey games including a visit from a favorite teacher of Letty's... brothers who "watch" field hockey games...niece cuddles... Matt's birthday...field hockey..... baseball... a post-baseball game lunch with friends...the second last swim...firepits... field hockey girls saw the high school game.... a lunch with lady friends... the third last (and final) swim.... lunch with another friend including yet another burger...good sky... more field hockey.... and the final baseball game of the season...

the fire pit patio

Matt actually finished this final (?) backyard project a few weeks ago I just never got around to sharing. Obviously the final product has Adirondacks and a fire pit on it but then you can't really see the beauty that lies beneath can you? Matt knows all the technical stuff I'm afraid but I loved how it turned out! And thanks to my dad for the lights! Here's to a many nights by the fire pit this fall!

a casual fall drive...

That was an hour away and took two hours to complete... I know the leaves changing is happening sooner than other years and I just so very  much love to leaf peep as it were. So I had a free evening last week and a husband who just puts up with all my antics and I decided I was going to find some beauty! I took to google and had a plan! And I think it was a great success!

my niece is now six!

How are we already in the year where the "triplets" are turning six?! Lena is already there and Dom will be joining soon but I am just not ready for this! These kids were just born! And now they are kindergarteners. Six year old ones! Time you thief you!

But back to the matter at hand... Mikayla had herself a lovely space themed brunch the other week for family to all come together and just celebrate her sixth time around the sun! Of course Rob and Ash go all out for the theme and I am here for it! We all ate some good breakfast foods and of course the opening of the gifts, all rounded out with some glittery delicious homemade pumpkins!

Oh Kayla Rae! You are so loved! Hope you had the very best of sixth birthdays!

we made our own fall fest. with friends!

The normal fall fests we go to are of course not happening this year... so my friends and I sort of made up our own! My friend Toniel's (the brain behind this entire operation) man friend has himself a farm a little less than an hour away from here... and he was very very (very) brave and let us plan a whole little fall themed afternoon! Even if he didn't understand portions of it... Yes, pumpkins can be painted and not just carved! I think he is still her man friend after dealing with all twelve (!) children for an afternoon. I sure hope so... 

The kids had a day off school on the Friday we had this all... and thankfully Mother Nature decided to be kind and give us just the best weather! And just like that six families (!) drove across the river to Etters, bearing our own special brand of crazy! His farm had a corn maize and a pumpkin stand... he set up a huge trailer complete with hay bales so we could all go on a nice hay ride... and Toniel brought paint so the kids painted the aforementioned pumpkins. Oh and cider and champagne for the adults!  It was the perfect fall afternoon and spending time with friends, I mean what more could we ask for? Thank you so so so much for having us! And... I'm sorry. 

an afternoon in gettysburg

This is one of those things that I have just done for forever and so we must continue doing it, mustn't we? It was a gorgeous rare day where we had no sports and no school and so I said well, this is our Gettysburg day! 

We had lunch at The Mason Dixon Distillery and were able to eat outside, always a perk with kids and COVID. Then we headed into the national park to hit up all our normal spots.... except because of the aforementioned COVID all the observation towers were closed. Which is a bummer for me, not so much Matt because: heights. The park itself was just so mobbed and I really was not a fan of that at all. Not sure what got people in the mood to head to a Civil War battlefield on that fine Sunday but they all had the same idea as I did.

The kids did what they love most, climb rocks at Little Round Top and Devil's Den. Lots of rocks. After which we headed to get ice cream only to see this super long line.... so we headed home. A bit disappointed (me) but tired (them).

hersheypark in the dark

We had decided to get a refund for our 2020 season pass tickets because I wasn't keen on having to wear a mask in the summer heat.... but when we all went to get our 2021 passes we saw that for a little bit more money you could get the rest of this year tacked on too... so that is what we did. The heat is gone (sadly, for my pool's sake) so the mask thing isn't really an issue...

The first Friday that they opened up for their Halloween season we were there for it. My mom, my sister and her family, and me and the kids. Matt and my dad did not get passes this year so they enjoyed a lovely kid-free dinner. Rude.

The whole entrance has been totally redone and it is just so pretty and big and open! Season pass parking is so much closer! There is sanitizer everywhere and everyone wears masks and it really couldn't have been a better experience I don't think. We hit up a bunch of rides since there was like zero wait for any of them.... my mom or sister watched kids when need be to help me out... and of course the trick-or-treat trail. Candy! The kids actually informed me that they had fun which is something I normally need to drag out of them.... tell me you enjoyed this kids! Please! But they did that all on their own which just shows me how much they missed it!

this year's fall decor

I decorated a little later this year... just getting back into the routine of things took me a minute. But I did it eventually and the house is all things pumpkin and cozy!  

a fall craft with nonna

Nonna is all about the festive things! She got the kids these wreath kits to put together one Sunday... The result was of course a whole lot of noise and giggles and sticky fingers. But seeing all the cousins together making memories is seriously the very best!! This is David's finished product. He went slightly overboard...

so... what are ya'll doin?

How have we all been? Are we recovering from getting back to some normal life-type things? It was hard, wasn't it? Going from nothing to everything within a few weeks was a shock to my system. Who am I kidding, I haven't recovered yet! I feel tired body and soul most nights... and naturally I still have my anxiety waking hours from 2-4 am so that is fun. 

Lately..... we have been wishing we could have more pool days like the beginning of the month... I'm missing getting into the school like we were able to do the first two weeks of school to help with kindergarten lunches... Getting photos of my kids from a friend always made my day! Field hockey and baseball started for the bigger kids and thank the powers that be that they have the same practice schedule! At the same location. Woohoo! One perk of it getting darker earlier is that I get to see some good fall sunsets! I also decorated for fall, inside and out... More on that later as one does. I have finally gone through my list of things I wanted to do once the kids go back to school... All the cleaning. Finding hand written gems in the kid's rooms was definitely a highlight... I'm not able to swim but I'll still hang out by the pool and my chef provides the eats... David's games overlap Letty's but as I am Coach Olsen for hockey I may miss half of them, at least... I had a lovely lunch with some lovely ladies that I'm pretty sure should become a monthly thing.... Saturdays are hockey games and baseball games... thankfully we have friends all around! Annnd in between all that there are niece cuddles and more sunsets and moon views!

a city mini

My sister-in-law, at Wishbone Photography, makes magic happen when she photographs my kids let me tell you! I have been having the worst time lately getting Letty to smile nicely or for David to stop throwing peace signs or for Dom to just look. at. the. camera. But Ash? Oh no. She takes a twenty minute session and I am hard-pressed to figure out which ones I want to print. All of them! Every! Time!

We chose to do a different location for us, the city! Which was so fun! I haven't been down there in oh... seven months so that was a little surreal... but it was good! Here are just a few of my favorites:

a day of days... all for ice cream!

Oh I have missed days like this Sunday a few weeks ago! A day where we just do all the things. In all the land. Which naturally means that we were most likely with my friend Toniel (which we were) who is just as (if not more) crazier than I am with filling up a schedule! We had been planning on visiting our friend's ice cream shop, Twisted Sisters, all summer and could not put it off a single day more! So that was the main point of this day. To support our friend.

But first. Cabelas. The ice cream shop is a little over an hour away so it made sense to just plan other things around it to make more out of the drive. I would make the drive just for their ice cream mind you...  But since Cabelas is right there and it has animals and fish in there we thought we would pop in real quick. Dom has really been missing the zoo let me tell you that kid did not stop talking about all the animals he was seeing. Poor kid! Get that child to a zoo, stat!

harrison is three!

Oh this not-so-baby-anymore boy! My nephew, Harrison, has turned three! He just doesn't love me like I love him... But someday he will come around I am sure of it! I was holding out hope for his sudden jealousy of the loss of my affections when his baby sister was born but sadly, he could care less that my attentions are diverted. But sometimes he lets me tickle him and I'll take it. And on the kid's first day of school he ran right over to me and gave me a hug, because he knew that Aunt Lolo would need it. So he pretty much has my heart. Even if he won't have my hugs.

A few weeks ago my sister had a shark themed dinner party for family to celebrate this bright light of my life's birthday! He got to open his presents and have cake and we all had some yummy eats! 

Oh Harrison. You are at my most favorite age! You are so so so loved! You are smart and funny, sweet and good, you take such good care of your baby sister and you are the most handsomest Harrison Charles there ever was! Happy birthday to you!

my belated post about labor day

Yeah, I'm still here! If you have watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix then you probably understand my sudden urge to just get rid of all social media platforms... Except Instagram. You can't quit me Instagram! I recently went to 'private' on that account because of an inappropriate comment made about one of the kids that just made me skeeve a bit... but then there is this thing that I have worked on for seven (?!) years and I'm just over thinking sometimes you know? What is the right thing to do and is it worth it and hey, maybe I'll just make this private, that's a thing right? So I'm not sure what I'm doing with this place at this current time but until I figure it out I'll do a little catch up...

Sound good? Ok!

Labor Day weekend. Oh back to a time when it was warm enough to swim... It has been feeling like fall for a few days now and even though we all know I love fall I'm just not ready! We have a pool! I want to float in it in silence while the kids are at school and I have yet to do that! 

I barely took any photos on Labor Day because I'm not quite brave enough to test the whole waterproof feature of my iPhone yet... but on the last unofficial day of summer we swam. My family, those that could make it anyways. And we ate all the foods with patriotic napkins and we called it good. Now I'll take some more days like this please!

the moments in between

During the last few moments of summer we...
Got to do an outdoor movie night with friends, Jumanji, because: 2020... Nera terrorized any and all guests... a lunch out with some mom friends... niece cuddles... a candy store visit.... followed immediately by an ice cream run.... a sleepover with a friend.... moon gazing and night swims and fire pits and s'mores... cuddles with a different niece... shopping with my nephew... the older two kid's well visits... farm flowers... nail appointment... celebrated my brother's milestone birthday and more. niece. cuddles. a last minute girl sleepover including dolls.... two very tired boys... oola bowls and the biggest slip and slide.... 
Sensing a theme as these summer moments come to an end? I'll give you a hint. Cuddles.

the first day of school

I have survived five school days... on the sixth! The days are quiet... I had a ringing in my ears the first day or two. I have been trying to keep myself as busy as I can and it is working out okay for me. I’ve been whittling away at the list of stuff I wanted to do around the house item by item.... and before you know it 2:30 rolls around and within four minutes they are all screaming at each other. But I digress. 

The first day of fourth, third, and kindergarten. They were so excited to go to school! The boys in particular. David was practically bouncing with excitement! After such a break my goodness to see their excitement made sending them off into the void so much easier. I know the school day will look a little different for them but it’s not that different. Yes they wear masks and they don’t interact with other classes within their grade.... and lunch is more spread out. But they love it! The masks are a non-issue. They are just happy and excited and that makes me happy and excited. 








Dom’s first day of kindergarten is different than the other kid’s first days. I kept him with me at drop off and returned at an allotted time to meet teacher and do a classroom tour. After that was done I took him out for a final Janelle lunch. He’s been our date for so many years we will miss him! He emphatically informed me that he doesn’t like wearing a shirt all day...transitioning from swimwear to real clothes is going to be rough! Forget the masks! Real pants?! Ew. 





And then before you know it the bigger kids got off the bus and into my arms! And then you know, I had to take them for their traditional Post First Day Rita’s! Keeping whatever traditions alive that I can!


The next day I made sure my sister was in the car behind us to drop her daughter off with my kids so they could all walk in together and it just made me so happy. I couldn't picture Lena walking in solo when she didn't have to! And I also got really lucky and was able to go into the school and  help out a few times! Those kindergarteners need a lot of corralling... Getting in there and seeing their smiling faces (eyes) just makes my day!








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