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Monday, July 28, 2014

Day on the Lake

Last week we had the opportunity to go to a friend's house and spend the afternoon playing on the lake.  We always look forward to the times when we can just simply visit with this dear family, but playing on the water with them is definitely an added bonus.  They had also invited Nate, Dawn & the kids over, so it was really fun for the kids to all play together.  We all brought food to share together and enjoyed a few fun hours together.
I think Nolan was offering to go get me a drink from inside in this picture.  I could be wrong though...
The older group of kids were getting ready to go tubing in this picture.  My kids were anxiously waiting their turn.

Nolan didn't mind the boat ride at all, but he DID mind the life jacket. He's just so little and they don't bend or give too much, so it was really riding up around his neck.

"Hold on!  It's time to go!!"

They really had so much fun going around the lake!   But they definitely had tired arms by the end of the day.

Morgan and Alli had been riding in the boat but they hadn't gotten wet at this point.  I was trying to convince Morgan to just jump overboard, but she wasn't interested in doing that quite yet. 
Me & my little guy just along for the ride.

Morgan is still contemplating the best way to get in and get use to the water.  We tried to lower Nolan down into the water, but it must have been too chilly for him because he pulled his feet back up and was quite content to just stay in the boat.

We couldn't get this girl to get into the boat.  That would require her to get out of the water!!

It has been such a great, adventurous summer for our family.  It's going to be really hard going back to school in two weeks!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

VBS 2014

The girls and I just finished up a great week in SonRise National Park! 
Our church just finished up their week of VBS and the girls had a great time for the four days that they were able to attend.  It takes so much work to put a VBS on, but when you see the joy on all of the kids' faces, it makes it SO worth it for everyone involved.
After organizing the VBS program at our church for five years, I completely took last year off from working with it, simply dropping the girls off and picking them up each night.  It was just what I needed last year.  This year, I felt refreshed and ready to jump back into the mix so I volunteered to teach a class.  I had the 9-12 years old class and we really had a lot of fun.  Who knows, maybe they'll ask me to help out again next year?!
Here are the girls and I roasting marshmellows before a week of the great outdoors!  LOL

A Sweet Girl's 7th Birthday Celebration

Our sweet Melayna Grace turned 7 years old on the 20th.  It fell on a Sunday this year so we woke her up that morning singing "Happy Birthday" and other well wishes before heading off to church.  After church, Noel asked her what she wanted for lunch and she chose "Wendy's".  It seemed like an odd request to me since we have never really eaten there before as a family, but she says they have the best hamburgers and that was what she wanted.  So we all "suffered" and enjoyed a frosty for her birthday!  Then we went home so she could open her presents and eat some of that delicious cake that she had made and frosted herself.
A few days earlier, Morgan and I had been planning to make one of those doll cakes where you bake the cake inside a bowl and then that becomes the bottom of the doll's dress.  We thought she would really like one of those.  Thankfully, before we put the time and energy into that cake, she proudly announced that she wanted to make her own cake this year and it would only be blue.  Nothing fancy.  No extras.  Just. Blue.  So Morgan helped Melayna bake her cake and then the two of them worked to color the frosting to just the right shade of blue.  It was a delicious cake, by the way!
Here is Melayna opening up her gifts from us.  

She was surprised with the poster...but super excited!  This beauty is now hanging on her bedroom wall where she can see it as soon as she wakes up in the morning!

We also found the very last Anna doll in our entire town, which she was quite pleased with. 

"Happy Birthday dear Melayna"....

We had prayer meeting at our church during the evening but after we came home from that, Grandma and Grandpa M stopped over to drop off a present and an ice cream cake from DQ for Laynie.  Yum!  We LOVE DQ cakes!!  It was nice to get to see them on her birthday and she's excited about spending her gift card to buy anything she wants.
Since birthdays just continue on for days in this house at times, we got to celebrate again the next day when Aunt Dawn came over and gave Laynie the "best presents ever".  It was a huge "Frozen" gift bag full of items from the movie.  A ball, a t-shirt, folders, notebooks, pencils.... and then Aunt Dawn (being one of the greatest aunts on the planet) was able to snag up the very last Elsa doll that our town apparently has to offer.  Aunt Dawn, you made Laynie one very happy young girl!!  Thank you!

Happy Birthday, sweet Laynie.  You have brought unbelievable amounts of joy and laughter into our house.  We just wouldn't be the same without you!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

18 Months of Cuteness

I'm a little late in posting this, as it's suppose to be an 18 month update and the little man is one week away from turning 19 months old.  Oh well.  Better late than never, right?
At his 18 month wellness visit, he was growing steadily and just about perfect in every way.  (Okay, so that was my interpretation of the doctor's report.  I guess I might be a little biased!)  But, he is weighing in at 23 pds, 6 ozs and is 32" inches tall.  The doctor says that he is moving up on the growth charts and falls in the 25% for both.  (Considering he was in the low teens at his one year check-up, we think this is great!) 
His mobile skills are right where they should be, if not a little ahead, but his speech is definitely on the slower end.  He is just now starting to experiment with a few words.  He can sign four or five different things and can point and grunt enough to get his point across, but so far he only says:
Mo for "More",
Mamamama for "Mama",
Da for "Dad" and
Uh-oh for "Uh-oh"  (This one seems to be his personal favorite)
He is also learning quite a few of the animal sounds, which he may or may not repeat back for you.  It depends on how cooperative he's feeling at the moment.
For the most part, he's a bundle of curious energy who continues to enjoy the outdoors.  We recently brought home two kittens from my parent's house, and he adores them.  And he has also reached the age where he intently watches his sisters and his cousins and others playing around him and then mimics what he sees them doing. 
So. Much. Fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday

In honor of Melayna Grace who turns seven this Sunday, here are a few pictures of her for today's edition of "Throwback Thursday".

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Vacation Detour

On Monday morning, after a great long weekend with friends, we loaded up in the van to begin the looooong and exciting drive back home.
See, don't we look happy about the miles ahead of us?

Yes Nolan.  Your look actually sums it up better!!

I admit, it's views like this one in the mountains around Chattanooga, TN that make driving worth it.  And this was at the end of a 12 hour day right before we stopped for the night.

The next morning we woke up and got ready to finish the last leg of our trip.  Our trip should only last 7 more hours as we were just south of the Kentucky/Tennessee border.  However, as Noel and I were talking, we decided that we would make a slight "detour" and stop at Mammoth Caves in Cave City, KY.  Noel's grandma lives about 30 minutes from the Caves and we have talked about visiting them on numerous visits to her house, but hadn't made it yet.  So, we made the quick drive to the caves and signed up for a two hour historical tour. 
When you walk down towards the Historical entrance, the ground just looks like any other walk that we might take while camping.

Then you suddenly round the bend and see all of the stairs down through the entrance.  Imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago when explorers came through these dark caverns without the advantage of stairs, hand railings, and lighting!
Stock photo
Since flash photography isn't allowed inside the caves, I had to borrow a few pictures from the internet to show you what we saw inside.  Here is a place in the middle of the tour where we had to climb about 150 stairs to get to the next part of the cave.  Again, can you only imagine being in that cave in the dark and trying to find your way?

Stock Photo
Yeah, you certainly wouldn't have wanted to miss your step into that "small" hole!
Actually, now they have a metal bridge with a lot of support spanning the hole so you can easily walk to the other side.  I'm sure there were a few who weren't so lucky years ago.

Stock Photo
There is a huge area where you start and stop your tours.  It has massive ceilings and echoes as you talk.  At one point, the park ranger turns out his torch and the room goes black.  Then they ask you to stand silently for about five seconds so you can hear the sounds of the cave.  (Except on our tour, Nolan lasted about two seconds before he giggled loudly making everyone else also laugh.  Oops, so much for quiet reflection!)

Noel and I had both gone to the caves on separate occasions when we were younger.  We remembered how awesome they were to us back when we saw them and we really wanted to be with our kids as they witnessed them for the first time.  I'm not sure that they understood the history of the caves, but I think they were impressed by what they saw.
Seeing God's awesomeness here on Earth.
Making memories with my family.
I couldn't have asked for a better end to a great vacation!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Florida in July - One Last Stormy Day

We had originally planned to go to the beach on our last morning in FL so the kids could enjoy the waves one last time.  As I mentioned in the previous post, it was rainy in the morning so we went to the sea turtle sanctuary instead.  After lunch, the radar looked clear, so despite the overcast sky, we loaded up a surfboard and some extra chairs and went out to try it again.  The closer that we got to the beach, the darker the skies got.  Undaunted, we told the girls that if it did rain, it should pass quickly, (there still wasn't anything showing on the radar), and we went ahead and set up.
You can see that by the time I took this picture, the sky was a little more than "overcast"...

It started to sprinkle a little bit, but when you're swimming, it's not like it matters that you are getting wet, right?  Unfortunately, we weren't at the beach more than 10 minutes when it started to downpour and began to have lightening and thunder. 

Immediately the girls came from the water and we all tried to huddle close under two beach umbrellas. It didn't block us from all of the rain, but it did help a little. Trevor looked at his radar several times and each time it looked like the weather should clear up any minute. But then another storm would just pop up right behind the passing storm.  We finally had to admit that we weren't going to be able to swim that afternoon and we made a break for the cars to head back home.
After dinner, it had stopped raining for a while, so we put Nolan down for the night at the house with Trevor and Betsy, and we took the girls back down to the pier to walk along the shore and just listen to the waves. 

We were able to take a few pictures at the end of the pier, and at one point, one of the girls noticed a stingray swimming past right in front of us.  That was pretty exciting for us all to get to see!  We kept looking for sharks but thankfully, we didn't see any.  What we did see however, were more storm clouds collecting off in the distance and heading our way...

After staying as long as we could, we again loaded into the cars and headed back to the house for our final evening.  We would have a long drive ahead of us the next day and needed to get an early start.  All in all, it was a great four days with the Schleuter family. 
We decided to take a "stair step" picture of the six kids.  I think we could have taken all six kids anywhere and passed them all off as all of ours.  What do you think?  They are all just about 18 months apart.  (Except for the youngest two who were a bit closer together...)  It's so fun to see them all standing together like this and posing for the camera!

The Howett and Schleuter Families
July 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Florida in July ~ Part II

After spending Saturday at the beach again, and Morgan and Marissa getting the opportunity to go snorkeling with Noel and Trevor, we decided to be pretty low-key that night and just take the kids to play at a local park.  It had an area for kids that were 3-5 years old and then an older section.  I think Nolan played on the small section for about 45 seconds and then he ran over to play with his sisters.  Except for being really humid, it was a good night to play outside.

On Sunday morning, we woke up with the hopes of going back to the beach for one last swim.  Unfortunately, rain was in the forecast for much of the morning.  It looked like it would clear off by lunchtime, so we decided to spend the morning at a local preserve for rescued sea turtles.  They had a museum and gift shop up front where you could learn about the predators that hunt sea turtles and how the preserve rescues them.  Then you could go outside where they had small pools with actual turtles that they had rescued and who were being treated so they could be released back into the ocean.  The kids seemed to like that part the best.  (And Morgan asked me to take pictures to share with her cousin Amslie, who loves turtles.  So these are for you Miss A).