Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another Year To Look Back On

Kara has had a good year. She went to the Smoky Mountains for 4 days with her 5th grade class. It was very hard to let her go. Of course she had a great time, but I was so worried the whole time. She earned the money to pay for the trip herself, and that took lots of chores, birthday money, etc. She loved hiking the most, and staying in the dorms. She turned 11 at the beginning of the year, and has enjoyed being a tween. She decided to grow her hair out this year, and it has gotten pretty long, now I just need to get her to brush it more often. Kara earned her second degree brown belt this year, and is still loving Tae Kwon Do. It is just a great sport for her. She tries her hardest and really cares about doing each move just right. She had a great summer swim season, and liked being in the "11 and up" group. She hates swimming the butterfly, but that is her best stroke, and she won first place on it several times this year. Kara started middle school this fall and has loved 6th grade. She likes having different teachers and taking interesting subjects. She really enjoyed spanish, and hopes to take that next year. Maybe I'll pick my Rosetta Stone back up and learn it with her.  She is taking all challenge courses for the non elective classes, and doing well. It was hard to adjust to the amount of homework. In elementary school she rarely had any homework other than math, and now she has homework in 4-5 of her classes every night. I think we are finally in a good routine now, but I'm sure after winter break, we'll have to get ourselves back into it. Kara is playing on 2 basketball teams right now. Her team through the school district practices on Friday nights and her games are on Saturday. She is bonding with the other girls, and starting to hit her stride. She is also on a Feeder team for Marquette HS that is coached by the Marquette High basketball coaches. She gets a little intimidated by the high standards that are taught and expected, but she is improving fast with that team. Some of the drills I see them do are impressive. She practices with that team on Saturday mornings, and the games are on Sundays. They have played in 2 tournaments and pretty much got creamed by the select teams, but what they've learned from it is huge. She also took 2 basketball clinics this year and learned a lot from those. Kara is becoming a great artist and spends most of her free time drawing. She started a comic book club at her school, and they are working together to create a comic book by the end of the school year. She is also working on a solo comic book and has pages and pages of characters and back story already finished. When she's not doing homework or drawing, she is watching anime and playing video games. We introduced her to a few new anime shows this year, and she has fallen in love with them all. Of course she is still a big fan of Batman, and I don't see that changing any time soon. Ben gave her a batman hoodie, pj pants, socks and bathroom bag that he never used, but had sitting around. We have barely been able to get her out of that hoodie ever since. I make sure it gets washed once a week, and sometimes it takes it's time getting back to her. 
Kara has soared to a new height of 63". Sometimes I think there is an adult approaching me, and I turn and it's her. I'm convinced it's all from those long legs of hers too. I asked if she would be bothered by me sharing her weight, and she couldn't care less. In fact, she is a proud 99.2 lbs, and it must all be muscle because she looks like a stick. Her 2018 goal is to be nicer, which I reminded her is entirely within her control and easy to do. The person she most admires is an anime character named Naruto because of his perseverance. When she grows up she would like to be an animator for Kodansha. 

Kara's favorite things:

Favorite Color- Seafoam Green
Favorite Animal- Maine Coon Cat
Favorite Food- Disney Cruise Line Mac and Cheese
Favorite Song- Epic by Fat Rat
Favorite Game- Bomberman for Nintendo Switch
Favorite Movie- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Favorite TV Show- Inuyasha
Best Friend- Riley
Favorite Play Activity- Video Games
Favorite Toy/Item- Inuyasha plushie
Favorite Non-Play Activity- Drawing
Person in the world she'd most like to see now- Natsu Dragneel (an anime character... )
Favorite Outdoor Activity- Climbing Trees
Favorite Outfit- Batman Hoodie and Jeans
Favorite Activity With Mom-Baking
Favorite Activity With Dad- Playing Video Games
Food she doesn't like- Sauteed Spinach
One thing she doesn't like- Mean Teachers

Kiersten has been a busy little bee this year too. She finished up the 3rd grade with a broken arm when she fell off her bike. Luckily, it healed quickly and well, and she was back to normal by the end of summer. She played softball for her final season this year. She still likes to play, but had to narrow down her activities to just the favorites. She began fencing this year, and really took to it. She uses the foil, and just loves her class. She is part of the USA fencing league and continues to improve. She is excited for next summer, as the National Championships are taking place in St. Louis. She enjoyed attending the girl scouts sports expo to demonstrate fencing for the girls. She is also on 2 basketball teams now. Her school district team is coached by Daddy, which she loves. Several of her good friends from school are on the team with her and they have fun. I think they have won 3 of 4 games so far. She is also on the Marquette feeder team, but since they didn't have enough 4th graders sign up, she was placed on the 5th grade team. She gets nervous, but plays well and has learned a lot. She has become much more confident this year. She played soccer this fall with Twin Oaks again. They took first place in their division for the second year in a row, and are looking forward to getting their trophies soon. She played goalie again this year, but branched out a little more into mid field and forward, and learned that she likes being on the field more than she thought. Though she had a broken arm, she was able to participate on the swim team once she got her water cast put on. She didn't get to dive, and was substantially slower than normal, but she tried her best and still did well. When that cast came off she felt like she was swimming so fast and so easily! She got a bunch of personal best times after that. Kiersten is still attending the CCL and just finished a design project this semester. She put together a project plan for a fencing tournament for charity, and had to go through all the different steps and research that she would have to do if she were really hosting a tournament. She learned a lot from that. She also took an origami class there and had tons of fun learning that. I got to help coach on her Girls On the Run team again this year. She really takes every lesson to heart, and likes to see her running improve. She is really fast, and it's fun to see when she goes full speed. Kiersten is a happy and sweet girl, always trying to make everyone happy.  She likes to share and help out when she can. Kiersten got a kitten for Christmas and is a very caring pet owner so far. 
Kiersten is now measuring up to a whopping 56", and worried that Kara's outgrowing her. Last year I was convinced that Kiersten would catch up to her, but now that Kara has shot up so fast, Kiersten is the "little" sister once again. At least until she has a big growth spurt, I'm sure. I just like to have them in different sizes of clothing so no one is confused or fighting. She weighs 71.6 lbs, and also resembles a broom stick lately. Kiersten's goal for 2018 is for her Marquette basketball team to win a game, haha. The person she most admires is Daddy because he is her hero, and she has a t-shirt to prove it. When she grows up she wants to be a punter in the NFL. 

Kiersten's Favorite Things:

Favorite Color- Aqua
Favorite Animal- Panda
Favorite Food- Sushi
Favorite Song- Feel It Still by Portugal The Man
Favorite Game - Bomberman
Favorite Movie- The Little Mermaid (Again!)
Favorite TV Show- Naruto
Best Friend- Karina
Favorite Play Activity- Hopscotch
Favorite Toy/Item- Cat Toys
Favorite Non-Play Activity- Singing
Person in the world she'd most like to see now- Grandma Howard
Favorite Outdoor Activity- Soccer
Favorite Outfit- Pink Lace Dress and Jacket
Favorite Activity With Mom- Karaoke
Favorite Activity With Dad- Going out for Sushi
Food she doesn't like- Corn on the cob
One thing she doesn't like- When it's cold at swim practice and she has to jump in the water 

My fun little Evie is still our ray of sunshine. She is seriously the most happy go lucky person I've ever met. She sees the fun in every situation and keeps us laughing with her witty and surprising comments. She sees the world in numbers, and I'd love to get inside her head to understand the way she thinks. She'll tell me she likes or doesn't like a certain word or phrase, and then explain the way she breaks it into numbers she either likes or not. She just got accepted into CCL and will start attending after winter break. She's very excited. She had been selected before to test, but never got past the practical testing. She just couldn't sit still and pay attention. But this time, she did a great job with the puzzles and got to move onto IQ testing and that went well. I'm a little worried about the free form learning environment for her, but it's just one day a week, so I'm sure she'll adjust. She is still in the girl scouts and loved the week long day camp she attended this summer. She has a new troop leader this year that she just adores. She is happy to be a brownie, and likes to sing the brownie smile song. She played her first season of softball this year, and loved it. I think she will stick with it. She just didn't like being told to pay short stop, as she took "short" as an insult, so we had to work through that. She played her second season of soccer, and her team improved so much. She does pretty well as a forward. She is taking ballet and tap again this year and hoping for a froufrou costume for the recital. She just loves to dance, but has a hard time with the standing still parts when they're learning new things. She graduated from first grade and has started second grade off with a bang. She is happy to have the same teacher that Kara had for second grade. It's the first time any of my girls have had the same teacher, so she thinks it's pretty cool. Evie had a strong swim season this summer. With a July birthday, she was one of the oldest in her age group. She was nearly 7, and competing against the 4-6 year olds. She got a prize at the end of the season for being one of the 3 top point scorers for her age group. She swims better than I do, and I'm glad she can. Evie fears nothing, and has enough confidence to spread to everyone around her. Her personality is huge, and sometimes I'm exhausted from just being around her. I'm just happy to know someone like her that is always happy. 
Evie is 51.5" this year, and finishing out 2017 at 62 lbs. She was disappointed to learn she still doesn't outweigh Kiersten. I told her to give it a few more years and keep packing on those big muscles. Evie's 2018 goal is to win at a video game. That's a tall order with Ben and Kara around, but crazier things have happened. We just need to find the right game. Luckily she's a good sport about losing. The person she most admires is her friend Lydia because she is funny and easy to love. When Evie grows up she would like to be captain of a Disney Cruise ship. Hopefully I can get a family discount. 

Evie's Favorite Things: 

Favorite Color- Aqua
Favorite Animal- Pig
Favorite Food- Ribs
Favorite Song-The Night Begins to Shine from Teen Titans (I don't know who actually sings it)
Favorite Game- Gamer Monopoly
Favorite Movie- Lego Batman
Favorite TV Show- Barbie Life in the Dream House
Best Friend- Lydia
Favorite Play Activity- Playing House
Favorite Toy/Item- Shopkins Supermall
Favorite Non-Play Activity- Napping with the Kitten
Person in the world she'd most like to see now- Colbie and Maddie
Favorite Outdoor Activity- Playing in the Snow
Favorite Outfit- Pink Anchor Dress
Favorite Activity With Mom- Snuggling
Favorite Activity With Dad- Playing Video Games
Food she doesn't like- The Baked Beans Kiersten orders at BBQ restaurants
One thing she doesn't like- Colbie having moved away

Introducing the newest star of our show, Jingles the cat! Jingles is a 3 month old kitten and I'm not sure what she likes besides following me around in a constant attempt to trip me up and chasing Evie's headbands. I'm fairly sure she hates the ice maker in our fridge and the roomba.

And all that is what has filled up our year. It's been a challenging year at times. It's felt like the longest year ever, but also one that flew by. We had a lot of fun, learned a lot of new things, and made the most of our experiences. The kids all grew in so many ways and are one year closer to becoming awesome women. We are having so much fun raising them and learning along with them. We look forward to 2018 and all of the fun, exciting, and even difficult things that lay ahead. It's sure to be a year filled with sports, friends, family, and new adventures.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pretty Little Posers

Of course, our best pictures are the ones taken by the Disney photographers. We hung out with Mickey in the terminal while we were waiting to board. 
When Mickey had to get back to the ship, Minnie came out to keep everyone company. 

Getting on finally! Ben ordered his Chiefs/Mickey shirt special just to wear on the cruise. 
The princess gathering was right after the girls got made up in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. We got so many good poses, so I had a hard time picking my favorites. Kara was such a good sport this time. She hasn't wanted to pose with the princesses in a while. But maybe being all dolled up made her feel more princessy. 

Just two mermaid besties. 
I hopped in the picture with Belle since she's my favorite. 

We also had tickets for the Frozen meet and greet on the same day. It was fun to get the pictures with the girls looking so fancy. 

Formal night finery. 
That dress fit Kara perfectly a few months ago. I don't understand where these longs legs appeared from. After the cruise I noticed all of her jeans are 3-4 inches too short suddenly! Ben took her to the store and bought her pants in the juniors section. I guess we were gonna get there someday, but I'd rather she were shopping in the kids department a little longer. 
Kara was begging me to find Jack Sparrow, and I made no promises, but then we came across him on our way back to the beach after running the 5K. He had no line, so we stopped to meet him. He was funny and charming, and she said she wants to blow this picture up to hang in her room. 
Just to tease her, I insisted on getting in for a picture too. She was super annoyed. 
Donald also had no line, so we quacked it up for a bit with him too. 
All sweaty after running in the Bahamas. I've never been able to run there when it was less than 90 degrees. So I was happy it was in the lower 70s that morning. I was surprised Kara wanted to run, but not too surprised that she wanted to quit and had to be dragged through the second half of the course. She ended up being motivated by not wanting a little girl to beat her. The girl looked around 8 or 9, and she just cared about not getting passed by her. Whatever works!
Pirate night is always our favorite. We had new costumes this time! I wish I had worn my pirate hat. 
I can't tell you how happy Evie was that her menu turned into a hat. She still gets excited about it when she sees pictures. "Ooh, menu hat!", she says. 
Kiersten got Kara's old costume, and Kara got an adorable new costume that she will undoubtedly be grown out of by our next cruise. It pays to have younger sisters. Evie still fit in her Salty Taffy dress from last year. 
One of my favorite things on the smaller ships is that they have the "good" pirate show. I like to see captain Micky zipline across the ship. Kara prefers the Jack Sparrow show for some reason. 
We waited in line for reindeer Pluto, but he left and Goofy showed up, so we got pictures with him instead. Evie wanted to find out what his last name was, and we had several cast and crew trying to find out for us. We finally were told he doesn't have a last name. It's just Goofy. She also wanted to know how much all the doors on the ship cost, so that had to go pretty far up the chain before we could get an answer several days later. I don't remember what the total was, but am impressed how dedicated they are to trying to get the questions of a 7 year old answered. 
The joy this brought to the girls was maybe worth the cost of the vacation by itself. They love this picture, and loved watching it be taken. Many of the kids waiting in line behind us were laughing about it as well. 

One of my faves. This picture seemed stupid at the time, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it, even with my double chin. 
This was the longest line we waited in all cruise. But Evie just got it in her head that she needed to talk to Chip and Dale. It was probably a 20 minute wait, so I couldn't really complain. I'd rather wait for them on a cruise than in the parks. 

We don't always catch Daisy for a photo, so that's a special treat. 

We sat with another family at dinner. They had a little girl Evie's age and they became fast friends. We found them at the Frozen show, and Evie and Maddie had to sit together. On the last night at dinner, Ben asked Maddie when her birthday was, and imagine our surprise when she said July 13, same as Evie. It really blew their little minds to have been born on the same day, Evie at 2:32 AM, and Maddie at 3AM. We exchanged info so they can keep in touch. 

Midnight Miller Madness

We wanted to get a picture in our pjs by the Christmas tree, but since the atrium is always hopping, we decided to try later in the evening. On Nassau day we let the girls wear their pjs to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, and it was not over til after midnight. That worked out well for getting our picture. The atrium was deserted. We had to get one of the bartenders to come take the picture for us. 
After several days of fun and sugar, things went a little loopy and we ended up having a midnight photo shoot around the ship. 

They all wanted their picture by the Ariel statue. 

And then they all went silly on me. 

Maybe I went a little silly as well. My favorite thing about this picture is that I genuinely had no clue Kara was sneaking up around the tree. Ben kept snapping away, so I kept posing away, not having any idea why he was laughing. 
I'll admit I don't remember what was going on here. 

The gingerbread house really did smell wonderful! Very distracting. 

Parents steal the show.  
We got a few kissing ones just to make them blush. 
And then Evie went starfish. I promise, this seemed hilarious at the time. 
The elevator ride upstairs was uneventful. 
But laughs were had. 
And it was hard to keep them quiet in the hall on the way to our room. Giggles are hard to stifle. 
They thought this was so funny, and I have to say, I did laugh too. 
To end this post randomly, here are pictures Ben and I drew of Ray the firefly in art class! (Mine's better)
Oops! I almost forgot to add, Go CHIEFS!