Friday, February 10, 2017

Opening Oysters!

Back at the start of January, Grandpa Rhees issued a challenge to all who wanted to participate.  The challenge was to decide on 2 meaningful goals (one that would improve our physical health and one that would improve our spiritual self) and work at those goals each day.  We were given an end date to our goals, set for April with promises of a big surprise for all those who achieve their goals!  It's been fun to work toward these changes in myself and watch my children better themselves in the process as well.
 As an added encouragement along the way, Grandpa recently sent us a package, it was filled with unopened oysters ready to be opened.  After watching a few "pearl parties" on youtube, I was excited for FHE to that night -- so we could have our own little pearl party.
 I was a little nervous about opening them, as it looked kind of intense on youtube.  Thankfully we have a master surgeon at our house!  Dave knew exactly where to crack and pry each oyster.  He started opening them so fast, I had to tell him to slow down so I could enjoy the anticipation of the experience.  Glad we had towels around the table, they got a little messy.
 While we opened the oysters we talked about the importance of inner beauty and how to make our weaknesses strengths (work at our goals and turn them into something beautiful).  We read a famous oyster poem (Thanks Kristen, for the idea) to start out the discussion.  It was a huge hit.  We were able to have this unique visual to accompany the girls thoughts as they brought meaningful insights and comments to the discussion.  It was a Family Home Evening success for sure!  Thanks Dad.
 Alexa attempted to open one of her own oysters.  Dave made it look super easy, in reality it was actually pretty tricky.
 Love the picture below, before I snapped the picture -- Paisley said "selfie" and posed.  Ha ha.  Not sure if she meant to say "photo bomb" or really did think she was taking a selfie.  Either way, I was happy to have her in the picture.  I also love Alexa in the back admiring her new beautiful pearl, as she sits on the table.  Some things never change around here.
 In the end we were each given two.  The picture below are the variation of colors we ended up with.  My favorite were the shades of purple/ silver that Dave and Zoey picked.  I also thought the black ones were pretty cool.
Before bed that night, each of my girls thanked me for making FHE so special the evening!  The said such sweet things like -- they were so happy to be a part of this family (meaning extended family too... because it was Grandpa who sent the pearls) because we always do fun stuff together (Alexa), how meaningful FHE was and how much they appreciate me putting so much time into making it fun and a great learning experience where they can become better and feel the Holy Ghost (again, thanks Dad) -- that was Zoey's, Kinley was sure to give me a big hug and kiss with a "thank you" before bed and telling me how much she enjoyed FHE tonight, and Paisley went to bed talking all about her special pearls and the neat experience we all had.  Just before dozing off to sleep, she hugged me and said "I love you, mama!".  The kids were so grateful.  If only I had a "ready to go" FHE lesson mailed to me every Monday afternoon. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Seal Kisses with Alexa

 If you were to ask each of my kids what they love most about being in our family, I am certain you would hear "date nights" somewhere in the mix of answers.  Dave and I have regular one on one time with each of the kids as often as time permits.  These dates get scheduled into the calendar and are eagerly anticipated by each of the kids.  Alexa and I went on one of our "date nights" a few weeks back.  Our date took place at the aquarium, I called in advance and signed up for "seal kisses" for the two of us.  We were so excited and couldn't wait for the day to arrive.  While we waited for our scheduled appointment that day, we walked around the aquarium.  These otters were so funny.  They were collecting shells, hiding them in their armpits, banging them on the glass, and floating around the water with a handful of shells on their belly.  This one (in the picture above and below) kept hiding behind Alexa every time I tried to get my phone out for a picture.  They were being super playful.  Alexa and I had a good time watching them.
 Our "seal kisses" appointment did not disappoint.  We were taken into a classroom and taught about seals and seal lions.  It was pretty fascinating.  I liked being able to feel the fur of the seals (not sure why I always envisioned it to feel smooth like a dolphin but, it was actual fur -- like a short haired dog).  Next, we were taken behind the gates of the facility to meet the seals and sea lions in training.  One sea lion was begging for our attention the entire time, we were told to ignore him (as he is being trained on proper etiquette with the public).  It was sure hard not to watch him against his cage trying to get our attention and doing tricks in the water, hoping we were watching.
 The little harbor seal we got to interact with was so cute!  Her name was "Swap".  She was a rescue seal from the wild, who is now being domesticated.  Alexa was in heaven!  She dreams of being a dolphin (or any ocean animal for that matter) trainer someday.  She loves the ocean, animals, adventure, and all things in-between.  Alexa's confidence and her willingness to try new things without hesitation are two qualities I adore in her.  She has a passion for life that inspires me!
I also got a kiss from Swap.  Just as she was hoping over to me, she let out a puff of air at my face.  It threw me off.  It was so fun spending this one on one time with Alexa -- watching her in her element, doing something she loves!  Sometimes being a mom is over the top fantastic -- this was one of those times!

Band Concert and a few Favorite Elders

 This week marked the end of the semester for my kids, which resulted in a few extra projects, stress, and tests for my middle schooler.  One of the end of semester projects was a band concert.  Our entire family showed up to support Zoey in her performance.  She did a great job.  The older my kids get, the more I enjoy watching their unique personalities shine through.  We all really do come to this earth with our own set of personalities -- strengths and weaknesses.  One of my favorite parts about being a mom is helping each of my kids find and develop their individual strengths and talents.  Band (and music) is one of Zoey's!  Most of her free time is spent at the piano -- She would play the piano all day if we would let her.  The flute, another favorite hobby.  She is really good at it (despite getting braces midway through the semester).  I consider finding (and being able to afford) Zoey's musical passion one of the greatest blessings we have been given as a result of this move to Oregon.  She is already looking forward to trying out a different instrument in next year's band and is excited to know that, if she sticks with band in high school, she will have the same teacher from now until graduation (benefits of a small town :)).
We have the elders over a lot -- and have from the time we moved to Iowa (for Dave's schooling).  It is one of my favorite things about living outside of Utah.  Because we have them over so often, we get to know them pretty well.  I'll be the 1st to admit, I pick favorites.  Every once in a while we have a few blissful months, where the entire group of elders serving in the area are all inspiring, spiritual, and all around exceptional missionaries.  I love when this happens -- for the last 6 weeks, we have been lucky enough to have 4 awesome missionaries here... all at the same time!
My little guy loves these missionaries and gets so excited when they come over (or when he sees them at church).  Earlier this week, we met the elders at the aquarium (p-day) to get them in with our plus 2 pass.  Rex was so excited to see his BFFs.  I loved watching Rex run as fast as he could to his missionary friends.  We are so blessed to have these missionaries in our home often, where my kids can see their example and feel the Spirit they bring into our home.
I love the picture above -- Rex picks favorites too.  The elder he is watching in the picture above is his clear favorite.  He has to sit by him from the second he walks in to the second he leaves (it will be a sad day in our house when transfer day comes for that elder).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Aquarium with Grandpa

We took Grandpa over to the aquarium while he was in town.  Our oldest 3 were busy with their play performance while Paisley, Rex, Dave, and I spent the afternoon with Grandpa at the aquarium.
Because we have been to the aquarium so much, the kids have a few favorite animals they like to search for -- wolf eels (or "grumpy guys") are one of the favorites in our family.  We also look forward to watching the sea otters playing with their shells, decorative crabs in the touching pond, the harbor seals and sea lions doing flips under water, and (of course) the sharks.  Today they happened to be feeding the sharks as we were in their exhibit.  It was fascinating to watch them circle back and snap at the food.  Creepy!  The bright orange octopus was also out and moving around, which hardly ever happens when we visit -- score!
Paisley had to get a picture with grandpa in front of her favorite jelly fish.  They are pretty mesmerizing to watch.  It was so fun to have grandpa in town!  These kids sure do love their grandpa.
Paisley and I thought this Japanese Spider Crab was so funny.  He sat right up next to the window, conveniently in front of his name plate, as if he was posing for a picture.

Although I really missed having Zoey, Kinley, and Alexa there with us, it was fun to spend some more intimate time with our two littles.  Paisley loved watching the puffins (especially when one flew right over her head), she could have stayed in with the birds all day.  She also enjoyed watching the spotted eels and giant yellow eel play in the pipes.  She laughed pretty hard when the shrimp started crawling all over the massive yellow eels mouth.  Rex was having fun running from exhibit to exhibit, and really hoping to find a treasure to bring home at the end.  It was a fun afternoon spent with these cuties, Grandpa, and Dave.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Play

Early last October Zoey decided to randomly try out for a lead role in a local play.  We know the director well and felt confident in the atmosphere she would be involved with and their sensitivity to our standards.  By the end of the week, the cast list was out!  Zoey was so excited to see her name at the top (right next to Jemima Potts).  Because Zoey was now in the play, Kinley and Alexa decided to sign up too.  The involvement of these 3 in this play made for a busy couple of months.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang songs were continuously being sung throughout the home and played on the piano.  I loved this experience from start to finish.
Zoey and her "brother" -- Jeremy and Jemima Potts

On the weeks leading up to the play Zoey was involved in creating a local commercial and was able to be a part of a live radio show associated with promoting the preformance.  

Dave and I attended opening night (along with Rex and Paisley).  By the end of the show, I couldn't believe how much scene time Zoey's character required.  She really did have a huge part in the show.  She had a lot of singing required of her... and she nailed every song!  I had 2 favorite songs that I looked forward to each show --  "Toot Sweets" -- I loved all the bright colors on the scene.  It never got old watching Zoey dance to the creative choreography, as she sang, and then being pushed across the stage on a rolling cookie tray holder (as part of the dance)!  My second favorite was "You Two".  This one is preformed by just the three main characters (in the picture below).  Although this baby of mine is almost a teenager, sometimes in my eyes, I still see my sweet toddler up there on the stage.  There was something about this particular song, every time I watched the play -- it reminded me of Zoey from 8 or 9 years ago.

Zoey's favorite song to sing was "Truly Scrumptious"... because it was just her and Jeremy singing it. It was the showcase song for her voice!  If you ask me, that sounds terrifying but, for Zoey, she loved this opportunity.
-- The Potts Family --

Kinley and Alexa were part of the ensemble!  In the picture above and below they are dressed for their orphan scene!  They also got wear some cool dog costumes earlier in the show.  My favorite part of their performance was watching them dance and sing to "team work".  Neither of them were able to choose one particular favorite part.  They had fun dressing in the dogs costume, at the fair, and invading the castle.

They loved the off stage time!  While in the "black box" they played with friends.  One of their friends brought crochet supplies and taught my girls how to crochet (mostly bracelets and hair accessories).  They also got a cute emoji doll from their "black box" mom -- party!  Being fully immersed in all things chitty chitty bang bang the thing for these two!

Because the director is a very involved member of our congregation, there was a large amount of cast members in the play who were also from our church.  I loved this aspect of the play!  I loved knowing our family's standards were not going to be challenged with our involvement in this play.  Rex's nursery teacher was one of the cast members (picture above).  He loves this lady and was so happy to see her up on the stage with his sisters.  She was thrilled to know he was in the audience cheering for her.
Kinley and Alexa with a few other ensemble members.  This year's cast was between 60-70 participants total.
Closing weekend Grandpa (Zarkou) was able to spend the weekend with us, to watch the girl's show! We were so happy to have him come visit!  After closing night the girls, Grandpa, and I stayed after to help take apart the set.  When we finally left (without Grandpa, he stayed even longer to help with the finishing details -- which I am sure they were very appreciative of) each of my girls had huge armfuls of gifts (flowers from us, treats, stuffed animals, and more flowers from community fans) and props from every possible scene you could imagine (yes, even those sticks in the picture above come home with us).

Total the girls preformed the show 15 times!  3 shows for 3 weekends straight (1 Friday and 2 Saturday each weekend) and 3 days of preforming for the schools (kindergarten through 8th grade) during the week.  I expected them to be exhausted and burnt out by the end but, that never happened. They absolutely loved it!  As they excitedly ran out to the car closing night, with a huge haul of props and gifts, they begged me to please let them do it again next year.  Alexa said "this was so much better than I expected it to be!".  Next year is Beauty and the Beast.  I haven't decided yet if any of my cuties will be participating in that show.  It's a lot of work but, hard to say "no" to something they are so excited to be a part of!  For now, we will just enjoy the experience we were given this season.  The girls did an awesome job and (like Zoey said when trying to convince me that participating next year would be a good idea) is was very rewarding sitting in the audience watching all their hard work come to life on the stage!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Paisley's 1st tooth (Pokeman cards)

 Last week my little one had a wiggly tooth!  When I took a look in her mouth, there was a new one already popping up behind it.  How in the world did this baby of mine get so big already?!  The loose tooth fell out within a few minutes after taking the picture above.  At 1st Paisley was upset her tooth was out and wanted to keep it forever.  Thankfully, she warmed up to the idea of the tooth fairy and was willing to put it under her pillow for the night.  She climbed into bed early and made sure all the lights were off (because fairies are afraid of light) and quickly fell asleep.  In the morning, in a very unPaisley fashion, she popped right out of bed -- excited to find that the tooth fairy had come while she was sleeping.
She had to bring her stash of surprises out to the breakfast table to show everyone (picture above).  She carried them around for the next few days... showing the money and note to her school teacher, dance teacher, Grandpa (he came to visit for a few days), and anyone else willing to listen!  It was so cute to see her so excited about her experience.  The letter from the tooth fairy (aka best dad ever!) read

What a cute name you have!  It is so great to come visit you for the first time!  I have enjoyed visiting your older sisters many times!  By the looks of this tooth, it appears that lately you have been very good at brushing your teeth every day!
Keep up the good job brushing your teeth and keep them sparking and white!  Well, I am off to Texas as all 3 triplets lost a tooth!
Tootles!  Love your friend, The Tooth Fairy"

Paisley bought some grape and strawberry licorice at the dance studio concession stand with her money while she and I waited for Zoey to finish up her class.  She was pretty excited about using her tooth fairy money in exchange for licorice.
 Kinley's class is pretty into pokeman cards right now... so naturally this cutie has shown an added interest too.  She collects them for the cute factor!  This has worked in her favor, as most the cute ones are "babies", worth less points.  She comes home excited with new cards often.  Her friends know she is collecting the cute ones, so they are eager to give her their cards that have little point value (useful if you are actually playing the pokeman card game).  They like trading with Kinley because, she is quick to give up the ugly (usually higher points -- more valuable in game world) creatures.  Win - Win for everyone!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Snow Day (twice)

It was sad to see Christmas break come to an end.  I felt like it went by in the blink of and eye and I wasn't ready for it to be over.  With just a day into the back to school norm, while the rest of my family slept, I was (as usual) up early, just about to hop onto the treadmill and begin my day.  Just before climbing on, I heard a text coming through my phone.  I had to check it, wondering who in the world would be sending me a text at 5:20 am?  I was ecstatic when I read the text -- "icy conditions, school is cancelled, enjoy the snow!"  Yay!  I finished my workout out and immediately headed out to see the freshly fallen snow.  In the short time we have lived here, there have been a number of storms (rain, wind, and snow storms).  Because of our location on the coast, our little town always seems to miss the storms that are circling all around us.  In this case, the storm left just enough of it's mark to cancel school and leave a sparkly white across the city.
I love the snow!  It was thrilling to look outside and see everything covered with a beautiful frost of white.  What made the day that much sweeter, my kids were home!  Yay!
 A total of two days were cancelled from school while the last of the black ice melted off the roads.  I loved having my babies home a few more days before we were required to head back to the daily routine of school.  Such a great way to end the Christmas break!