Sunday, March 28, 2010


It had been a year & 1/2 since we took a family vacation, so when I found out that Mark would be attending an ACFAS conference in Las Vegas - I suggested that we all go and make a trip out of it! I'll admit that Vegas wouldn't normally top my list of places to vacation, but besides the fact that Mark would already be taking time off to go - we had two other great reasons to brother Chris' family lives there & our good friends the Rhodenizers were going to be making a trip out of it too (Shauna's sister & dad live in Vegas)!

We had a really nice drive down (the boys were great). On Sunday we attended church, and this picture of the cousins (and Mark & Chelsey) was taken afterward...

Noah was sooo excited to get to play with his cousin Audrey. She is such a sweetheart.

And we loved seeing baby Ezra too! He is so stinkin' cute! Here is a shot of Noah loving a chance to hold little Ezra.

It was fun to get to stay with Chris & Chelsey because we got to do lots of fun "everyday" stuff, instead of just meeting up to go do activities. Some examples:
An impromptu picnic in the backyard!...

Playing with trains (Lincoln's lips are pooched out saying choo-choooo)...

Driving ride-on toys in circles incessantly...

And doing some arts & crafts!...

I loved watching how seriously these two took things...
...and how not seriously Linc took it! I'm pretty sure that he got more marker on himself than on the paper - and then he tried to eat his drawing.

Even though we'd already celebrated Noah's birthday (see previous post), we were in Vegas on his actual birthday - and we couldn't let it go uncelebrated! So, keeping true to Noah's theme this year (fire fighters), we ate at Firehouse Subs! They don't have Firehouse Subs where we live, so it was fun to try somewhere new. Noah loved it and their subs were really yummy too!

Noah insisted (again) on posing like a fire fighter holding a hose. That kid cracks me up.

And afterwards (back at the house) Noah opened a few presents. Here he is explaining what each type of rescue vehicle is in this pack of matchbox cars.

The last thing I had to post from our fun at Chris & Chelsey's was this craft idea that Chelsey came up with...colored pudding for finger painting! Genius!

The kids loved painting with it and eating it. And since Lincoln eats anything we craft with anyway, it was nice to know that the medium was completely safe to ingest!

You can just see the wheels in this kid's head turning as he starts slathering his hands with pudding...
...And the next thing we know Noah is greased up like a body builder!
Thanks so much, Chris & Chelsey! We really enjoyed our time with your cute little family! And I really enjoyed having some time too just hang out and chat with you, Chels. We love you guys!

Now...the pictures in this post aren't exactly chronological from our week in Vegas. The second half of this post is from our adventures with our friends the Rhodenizers! They are really close friends of ours from our years during med school in Iowa. We hadn't seen each other since graduation nearly 3 years ago (Noah had just turned 1 and I was pregnant with Linc). So, we've talked a lot over the years about when we'd get to see each other...what our kiddos would be like together, etc. So, here's a snapshot that I took a few minutes after the boys met each other:

Shauna with baby Olivia. Aren't they both so cute?

One day we packed into Shauna's rental van and drove to her sister's house. All SIX of the kids fell asleep in the van (you can't see Olivia in the back left), so I had to snap a photo:

Shauna's sister Theresa was able to get 4 free tickets to Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. In addition to taking their oldest child (Elise), Josh & Shauna invited me to join them! I was so excited - first to go to Phantom & secondly because the only casino that I'd really had any interested in seeing part of was the canal inside the Venetian. Here's a shot of Josh, Shauna & Elise next to the canal...

Shauna & me. (Thanks Josh & Shauna AND Theresa - I had a wonderful night!)

Shauna and I did venture out a few times with the kiddos. While crossing between casinos Noah begged me to take this photo posing like Lady Liberty in the background.

Me with my boys.

Elise, Thomas, Noah & Zac at the lion exhibit in the MGM Grand. The lions were cool, but were sleeping...and I probably wouldn't take kids back to see them either since I wasn't pleased with the things we had to walk past to get there (we just walked swiftly).

Our husbands were able to join up with us one evening after meetings, so here's a picture of both of our families! Funny story we were heading to meet up with Mark that evening we were headed down the elevator and Shauna had to run back to the room. So, Josh and I said we'd meet her downstairs and we headed on our way to meet Mark downstairs. You should have seen some of the looks we got as Josh & I got in the elevator with six kids 6 and under! Ha! I felt like I should clarify, but decided to let people just stare instead.

One day we were able to take the kids to the shark reef aquarium inside Mandalay Bay. I wish Mark could have been there (he had flown to Phoenix for 24 hours to do an interview), but we still had a great time! It was fun to watch the kids explore and ask questions about things, and I like that I always learn something new at these kind of excursions too! Oh, and thanks too Chris & Chelsey for the coupon! Bonus.

Lincoln enjoying himself at the aquarium.

Lincoln, Elise, Noah & Thomas.

Our favorite Canadians. Aren't they a cute family? Josh & Shauna with (left to right) Elise, Thomas, Zachary and Olivia. We miss you guys already, but are so glad we were able to hang out with you in Vegas! Let's not wait so long between visits next time, ok?
Oh...and, Josh - I have to apologize for Mark's bantering during the gold medal Canada/U.S. hockey game, but at least things ended the way they did for you. know Mark.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Noah is 4!

Let's say that this post is so super long because I feel so badly about it being an entire month late...and not because I'm simply too indecisive to narrow the pictures down! Ok, realistically it's a little bit of both. Anyway! Our sweet Noah turned 4 years old one month ago today.

Stats from his 4 year check up were as follows:
  • Height - 38.78 inches (16th percentile)
  • Weight - 37.92 pounds (65th percentile)
During this last year our Noah:
  • Went from diapers to underwear
  • Began sitting in a regular chair at the dinner table
  • Advanced from nursery to primary at church
  • Dramatically improved his speech & articulation, but there are several things that he says which are still cutsie...He still pronounces his l's like w's - so he says his brother's name as "Winken" (Lincoln) or says "I wuv you". Also, if a word starts with an s (followed by another consonant) then he omits the s. As in, "That's too cary" (scary) or "Top!" (Stop!). He also mispronounces one of his favorite things to eat - sandwiches, which he pronounces as "snawiches". We've been working with him on manners too - so having him ask to be excused from the dinner table or saying 'excuse me' to get someone's attention or if he needs to interrupt a conversation...but he pronounces it as "Accuse me!" or "May I be accused?"
I have to mention that Noah and I took a little shopping trip together to find a shirt for his photo session. We shopped and chose things together, and he even tried them on in the dressing room. Noah picked out the jacket that he's wearing in the picture below and loved it - he begged me to buy it. He was so cute that I could not resist getting it for him...and luckily he even had good taste - the jacket was cute!

Last but not least his obsession over the last year has been all things fire fighter related. If he hears the words: fire, smoke, hose, or fireman...he is immediately tuned into the conversation with 100 questions. He absolutely loves the show Fireman Sam and began informing me sometime last year that he really wanted a Fireman Sam birthday party when he turned 4. So! We did do a Fireman Sam party, and we also had his 4 year pictures done at a fire station. Joanna did them (we've used her many times) and she did a great job as always. There were so many cute ones, but I had to be choosy about which ones to buy. I have to mention my 2 favorite parts of the session...First, Noah getting to sit on a really cool antique 1919 fire truck (that people normally aren't allowed to touch), and what Noah said during the time when the picture below was taken. Noah was wearing his fireman costume and sitting up in the firetruck (serious business) with a real firefighter's hat on. He turned to the fire fighters and said with conviction, "Some day when I grow up, I'm going to be a real fire fighter!"...This wasn't new for me to hear, but it was just the way he said it and the context. So sweet.

Now...Noah's Fireman Sam birthday party! Don't feel foolish if you haven't heard of Fireman Sam. It's a series of Welsh claymation episodes (which later turned computer-generated) that I stumbled across on Comcast On Demand...and Noah was smitten by it. And his new obsession began. When I began planning the party I was disappointed with how difficult it was to find licensed Fireman Sam stuff. I finally did score a yellow fire hat on e-bay (that has a button on it that plays catch phrases & music from the show), but I did have to have it shipped from England. Totally worth it though. Noah was really excited. AND...check out Noah's costume (below). My friend Claire told me ahead of time that she wanted to make Noah a Fireman Sam costume for his birthday gift, and it turned out so-o cute! (Check out, among other things, some of the other cute costume's that she's created here). Noah opened it the day of his party and loved it! He went through his checklist of specs for Sam's jacket with silver buttons, black belt with silver buckle, yellow pants...perfect! Thanks, Claire!!!

Now to show about the decorations and party itself...I bought butcher paper to make flames for the wall, redecorated an old hose decoration from Drew's hose party, and this is what we got (thanks for making it happen, Mark!):

Firetruck suckers that I made (and I made beanbags for the kids to toss into fire hats, which somehow didn't get photographed...but they were made out of the same fabric that's lining the sucker basket):

Fire chief badges for the kiddos...

Garland, balloons, fire hats, photos...

Coloring books, pencils, erasers, stickers, etc. from our local fire station...

We did good ol' pizza for lunch - with Acini de Pepe salad (thanks, Mom) and green salad. And I went just nuts over these cute plates I found...

Emily (Josh's girlfriend) dishing up her plate.

My parents enjoying their lunch.

Mark's parents digging in too.

A shot of the kids' table - how cute are those fire hydrant sippers?

Michael, Noah & Drew.

Ava & Jake.

Claire & Ryan.

After lunch it was time to blindfold the kids and play a little "pin the badge on the dalmatian". Here's Mark guiding Noah...

Anna sticking on her badge...

And then the surprise arrived! I think I was almost as giddy about it as any of the kids since I'd been keeping it a secret...I arranged for our local fire fighters to come and bring a fire truck to the party! Wahoo! They were really nice and fun with the kids. They let them climb on the truck, try on a real fire fighter jacket, and gave them a tour of all the parts of the truck. Here is Michael wearing their jacket...

One of the firefighters teaching the kids about the functions of that part of the truck...

A peek at the hoses...

Cousins - Jake and Noah...

Noah's buddy Isaac.

Noah listening intently to the fire fighter...

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves.

Cute Noah blowing his whistle (yes, Claire, a "rookie mistake" to hand those out before the end of the party). Oh well.

I'm not sure where Ava was during this picture, but here are all 7 of the other kids at the party (plus Kate and Mark) in front of the fire truck.

The birthday boy on the front bumper of the fire truck. Oh, and notice his super cute boots! They were a gift from the Nielsens - thanks, guys! He loves them!

A shot of the birthday boy with Mom & Dad.

And a shot of Noah with Captain Reese.

Isn't this little-bit-shy-smile of Noah's so dang cute?!

The firetruck leaving our house with its lights on...

Then it was back inside for the fire truck pinata (which Mark converted to a pull-string pinata - thanks, babe)!

Scrambling for the candy...

Anna putting candy in her baggie.

I was pleased with the way the cake turned out. Jen from Layers of Love did a good job making the elements I'd requested come together...right down to the multi-colored flames and replicated wheels on Jupiter (that's the name of Sam's fire truck). We supplied the Fireman Sam figurine (also ordered from the U.K. and yes, we paid more for shipping than we did for the figurine). The very, very best thing about the cake though was how much Noah loved it.

I was trying to just get a shot of Noah standing by the cake, but he insisted on posing the same way that the Fireman Sam figure on the cake was posed (holding the hose). Pretty cute, huh?

You can see the hydrant on the side of the cake from this angle...

Close up of the truck and Sam.

And from this side you can see the dalmatian. Noah was really excited that "Radar" (the dalmatian on Fireman Sam) was even on the cake!

Noah doing his litte-bit-shy face while we all sang Happy Birthday to him.

Noah blowing out his candle (the fondant number 4 on top was made to slip the candle right into it, so the flame on top kind of looked like a continuation of the flame-like fondant).

And Noah was thrilled that Sam was not edible, so that he could keep and play with him.

Claire helping to cut up the cake...I think she was muttering something through her smile about that she was going to kill me for taking this picture (appropriate while holding a butcher's knife).

Most of the pictures are of the birthday boy, but our other little guy has followed suit in developing a love for fire fighters too...and (as you can see) he had a great time too!

Isaac and his mommy Allison...

Anna, Kate & Kyle.

Anna playing with her dad while running around in one of the firetrucks that we made for the kids to play in.

Michael and Drew enjoying the firetrucks...

We love you so much, Noah. We love that you are so inquisitive and such a talker. We love that you are spunky, outgoing & shy all wrapped up into one cute little kid.

And...oh, how that sweet little smile can melt our hearts.
Happy Birthday, Noah. Well, happy 4 years and a month anyway!