Sunday, June 22, 2014

Parading Through Provo

It's crazy to think this year was already our 5th Annual Excell Girly Girl Weekend! What?!?! Can I just tell you how much I love this tradition and how much I love being in a family that instigates fun ideas like Girly Girl Weekend and keeps them going full steam ahead for five years with no sign of slowing down? It is something I've grown to anticipate every year (as long as I'm not the one in charge).

This year was Celeste's turn to plan our events. She took us to Provo where the Parade of Homes was in town. We started the weekend with lunch at Magleby's. I hope to return one day for another stuffed breadstick because every cheesy, buttery, carby calorie I devoured was completely worth it.
Lunch and Laura's stash of Dove Mint Chocolates kept us energized as we made our way through over-the-top million dollar houses speckled throughout Utah County.
Sometimes when you have a million dollars it's important to add a hanging chair to your child's bedroom. That crashes into the wall with every swing. 
The wind kept us cool and added a little extra umph to our hair by mid afternoon when we would have otherwise been overheated and volumeless. The elements were ever in our favor.
I only ended up taking two pictures inside the houses. One of this room that was much prettier in person. It was turquoise and coral and I loved the colors for a girl's room. The other picture I took was of a toilet? Which somehow the toilet was more picture worthy than the train track hanging down from one boy's ceiling, circling all throughout his room. The toilet beat out the 2 million dollar house that had a 3rd floor disguised as a mini children's museum of sorts. And the toilet was also more appealing than the little boy's room that had a tent, a little campfire, and all the ingredients for S'mores strategically placed around his outdoorsy themed room.
The awe inspiring toilet...
By evening, we were done wasting time and would stop for nothing short of the million dollar residences -- where theater rooms are mandatory, where craft rooms are bigger than my entire kitchen, and where wallpaper is making a surprising comeback.
By 8:30, we came back to grips with reality when our hungry bellies struck. We went to The Italian Restaurant? Or something? Is that the one we went to? They had really good Philly sandwiches, and the perfect atmosphere for dissecting all of our favorite details of the houses.
We had many moments of mourning Tana's absence since she wasn't able to make it this year. You were missed, Tana!
Then it was back to the house for crafting, kettle corn and hours of talking about things our husbands would roll their eyes at. Just what GGW is all about!
Would you believe me if I said we stayed up until 2:30?? I don't think I've voluntarily done that since college! We had so much fun. We had a relaxing morning filled with sleeping in until 9, dying hair and eating M&Ms until we left for lunch at a lively little Mexican restaurant.

After some shopping, we made our way back to the house for our goodbyes and a quick photo op courtesy of self timer and a strategically placed high chair.
I stand by the proclamation that I have the best in-laws there ever were. We have so much fun together and I'm grateful for the examples of such great ladies in my life! Until next year, GGW. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Adventures and Anecdotes

Three years into owning a home and we have finally figured out the art of yard work. Things we have learned: 1) It is critical to trim the shrubbery. 2) Morning Glory is a homeowner's worst nightmare. 3) Grubs exist. 4) Your kids will gladly pull weeds with you if you give them the right equipment -- a.k.a pruning shears, a bucket, and a single work glove. At least once a day Carson will request to be dressed in his work glove and then he'll announce he's off to pull weeds. I love my mini me. 
Do other people have a more effective way to wash their kids' hair besides pouring water all over their heads and allowing the screaming to ensue? Eli took matters into his own hands and has matured to washing his own hair via the near dunk.
If you've seen me walking around town with my kids, you know I tend to always accidentally dress us all in the same color, or color coordinated outfits. Maybe my subconscious picture taking self is making sure we're always ready for a family picture in case the opportunity unexpectedly arises.

Well. Jeffery is a little bit different. One Sunday after church, he was rummaging through the boys' clothes and he was so excited to discover they could all sport a white polo, grey shorts and flip flops for our traditional Sunday evening stroll. As luck would have it, they all willingly posed for a picture post walk to show off their intentional triplet-ting, which resulted in my favorite shot of my boys.
The boys LOOOOOVE to Skype with Grandma and Grandpa Excell. I freeze up and look like a goon when the camera shifts towards me, but the boys eat it up! Carson loves to check up on his favorite pal Barkley and Eli loves to show off all his latest tricks and toys to Grandma and Grandpa.
The problem with summer is the days are long and the baths are few. Every evening the boys run straight outside to play in the dirt with their tractors after dinner. They are so so so so happy outside right after dinner because they're full, the backyard is shaded, and they're sitting in a big pile of dirt. Why would I interfere with their happiness to pull them away for a bath? This means they go to bed many a night with dusty toes and brown fingernails. And when we finally do get around to a bath, I'm reminded of just how dirty a little boy can get. This shot of bath remnants was from JUST Carson.
We planned a fun little weekend retreat with our Young Women. We had so much fun, and it was nice to get away for some girl time -- especially after staring at all that dirt for the first few weeks of summer.
Sooooooooooooooo I signed Eli up for piano camp. It was four days all in one week for two hours each day. He LOVED it. He came home and told me about how quarter notes have full bellies and half notes are hungry and whole notes are fat and don't forget about the dotted half note, Mom!

He completely thrived in the preschool setting over the last couple of months, so I knew he'd love the chance to get together with a bunch of kids in the same environment for a whole week. Weeeeeellll. What I didn't realize going into it was that there would be a recital at the end of camp. I also didn't realize Eli was on the super young side of the kids who would be going. And owning a piano didn't seem critical to the whole piano camp scene until I was sitting at piano camp on the last day for his recital and realized a little practice at home would have done a lot of good. Particularly after every single one of the other kids played their songs absolutely perfectly, effortlessly and nearly memorized. Eli was the last to perform, and...well...I'll let the video do the talking:

If Carson's not napping during quiet time, he's usually sneaking around upstairs. He'll get really quiet and scurry into the bathroom across the hall. Mostly just to see if he can. And then he'll get braver and prance back to my bedroom where he'll vroom cars around on my bed for a while. My quiet time motto with Carson is I don't bug him until he bugs me, so he has learned he can get away with quite a bit if he's quiet enough.

One afternoon, I put Carson down and I got busy sewing without any screams from the kids, or scurrying of feet, or doors slamming, so I thought I was in the clear. I was sure a miracle had descended upon me and Carson had peacefully fallen asleep. To confirm my suspicions that I was experiencing a miracle, I went upstairs to make sure he was tucked away in bed. His room was empty. I scanned the surrounding areas as I went into my room, but he wasn't there either. Then I swung around to my bathroom and found him with mascara in hand, on cheek, and scribbled all over my door and cabinets. Sigh. Looks like we're saving our miracle for another day.
The Young Women are trying their hardest to keep me hip for as long as possible. They convinced me to throw myself down a slip 'n slide covered in schloppy Jello. It was as sticky as it sounds.
I went to lunch last week with my friends from high school, Kenz and Melissa. After lunch Kenz told us that an old, ratty tie would get us a dozen free doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Um...yes please.
Eli later asked Jeff, "Dad, but why does Kenzie have a doughnut factory at her house?" So Kenz, Eli will now be expecting this every time we go to visit you.
We felt so spoiled to snatch a dozen free donuts! I had every intention of saving them all for Jeff because I was going out of town for the weekend and leaving him with the boys, but we had already eaten half of them before we ever got home. Certain foods leave me with no self control.

Kenz was wearing a necklace that had a little bicycle figurine on it at lunch. When the boys got rowdy, she -- so intuitively -- handed the boys her necklace, knowing the bicycle figurine could double as a toy. That thing kept Carson busy for a good 15 minutes before I noticed he wasn't holding it anymore. I glanced around for it and was surprised I couldn't see it anywhere. When I asked Carson where it was, he pointed to a teeny, tiny slit right between the booth and the wall. There was no getting that necklace back without tearing down the whole corner of the restaurant. So Kenz and Carson have forever left their mark on that unsuspecting Zupas.
On that note, I'd better be off for some quick internet shopping. I just remembered I'm in the market for a bicycle necklace. Happy Summer-ing!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Family (Hike) Night

There are certain methods of survival when you have two boys. One of my tried and true rules is we must get out of the house in some form or another at least once a day. Another rule -- go anywhere the boys can run free and explore as often as possible. 
If you'll remember, last summer, we took the boys on a hike on evening after they had been at each other's throats all day. They loved it! We all left the hike feeling like we had found our family's sweet spot. Dirt, exploring, exercise and fresh air? Perfect for two little boys with energy to spare.
One Monday I suggested we go on a hike for Family Night. Jeff jumped at the idea, so we headed over to Birdsong Trail which was a hike I had just done with the Young Women and it seemed like something the boys could handle.
We all fell in love with Birdsong Trail immediately. It only took about two steps on the trail until it felt like we were in a whole different world of greenery and serenity.
The first overlook was only about a half mile up the hill. We stopped there, and were debating turning around, unsure how much the boys could handle, but they roared at the mention of heading home, so we kept wandering up the trail.
We made it all the way to the top, meaning the boys hiked 3 miles completely on their own! We were so impressed with their endurance and their genuine enjoyment of our new hobby.

Eli did have to stop for just about every other dandelion along the way. And if he wasn't dandelion hunting, he was lugging around giant rocks to save so he could throw them into any puddles of water we might happen to find. It was cute to watch him explore.
Since Birdsong Trail was such a hit, and since my friend told me her two-year old navigated his way up Waterfall Canyon, we decided to give that one a go for our next week. I had also done this hike with the Young Women and let's just say there were a few girls we were practically pushing up the mountain by the end. It's really steep and rocky and a fairly vigorous hike. We went in with the expectation that we probably wouldn't make it to the top, but we figured it was worth a shot.

Ten minutes into the hike and the boys were kind of whiney and already had beads of sweat racing down their faces. 
The first part of the hike was a dirt path without many trees around, totally in the sun, and it was pretty hot that day. But as soon as we got into the trees, there was a stream right next to the trail almost the whole way up. So between the stream for entertainment and the trees for shade, the boys snapped out of their crabbiness and got straight into hiking mode.

Picture courtesy of Eli. Ha.
Eli and Carson charged right up the hill. Complete with moments of mild rock climbing. Despite my doubts, we made it all the way to the top!

We did have to carry the boys most of the way down. Not because they were tired, but because it was so slippery on the rocks so we didn't want them to fall down. But other than that, we really enjoyed the hike!
Hike #3 was Wheeler Creek Trail and we were starting to feel like old pros. The boys knew if we yelled, "BIKE!" to hurry over to one of the sides to wait for the biker to pass. Eli knew how to set our hiking pace, and he even knew to pack himself a backpack for our excursion. Nevermind that his backpack was filled with about 20 toy cars worth of dead weight, he would not leave the car without it.
Blame it on my Georgian roots, but I'm a sucker for being surrounded by lush greenery.
Eli is strictly business when he's in hiking mode.
The boys did not have quite the endurance on this hike as they had on our others. For example, they could often be found lying on the trail for water breaks, or removing themselves from the trail for a little rest. But they still seemed to enjoy themselves.

We loved Eli's backpack on this hike. Jeff's Mom had given Eli that backpack, and he has now dubbed it his hiking backpack. He wouldn't let me or Jeff ever hold it for him, and he was constantly putting rocks in and out of it.
The trail was alright and then we turned off the main trail onto a mini trail and it was so serene...well...other than whatever drama Eli was bringing to the place at the time...
We found some water, so the boys were immediately in heaven.

Jeff showed off by skipping rocks, and Carson went crazy chucking rocks into the water, complete with a boisterous "HI-YA" each time a pebble went soaring over his head.

Between the extra oxygen and Jeff's surroundings, his inner Cub Scout emerged, resulting in off-trail wandering, boulder launching and log jumping. It was then that I got a glimpse of how 14-year old Eli will be at Scout Camp and I feared for his leaders.
Eli had this meticulous way of deciding which rocks were qualified to join him on his journey. He would be walking, and stop to inspect a rock, then decide it would be perfect to throw into water, completely ignorant to the fact that there would be millions of rocks right next to whatever water we might happen to find. He discovered his special rocks, and deemed them his throwing rocks, and patiently lugged them around until we got to our next splash point.
Instagrepeat -- "As it turns out, there are certain times in life when a handlebar mustache would come in handy."
Yay! We found water so Eli can finally dump his extra weight!
We've been loving this little summer tradition. I really hope we can keep it up. It's already brought me a lot of fun, sweet memories. I love that my boys are old enough that we can all go out and do a fun family activity together. Let me know your favorite hike! We're going to need some suggestions to last us through the summer!