Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The girls are trying something new this summer…..gymnastics!  Riley told me after her first session of dance that she did not want to do it again.  I could tell she loved the tumbling part of their community dance classes so I thought maybe I’d steer her that direction.  And frankly, “dance mom” is not something I ever want to be so I was happy to give her an alternative.

We visited a couple of gyms some friends had recommended and as soon as we walked into Elite Gymnastics in Savage Riley was sold!  She wanted to start that day.  Ellie looked around for a bit longer and watched some of the older girls doing flips and decided she’d try it too. 

I signed them both up for a 10 week summer program.  The 10 o’clock class I wanted was full but they said they would make a 9:30 class for me if that would work.  It did and it turns out my two girls are the only two kids in the class!  They are getting tons of hands on attention!


I couldn’t get a non-blurry picture but this will do.  Riley was just about to somersault down the wedge mat and Ellie was getting help with her cartwheels.  The red and blue platform in the back is a tumbling trampoline that is about twice that length shown.  The girls do a lot of work on the trampoline perfecting various jumps.  They also spend time doing flips over bars, balance beam walking, parallel bars, rings, monkey bars, and back bends.  In addition, she has them doing pull-ups and sit ups!  It is one jam-packed hour of highly physical actions for these girls.  Ellie is wiped out after every class and Riley’s energy is dulled a bit.

So far they are both enjoying it and look forward to going each week.  They like that they are together in class.  I like that they are getting stronger and learning to listen closely to directions.  Their teacher does not accept less than what she asks and will have them re-do something if they don’t follow her directions (ex:  “walk back to the starting point on the carpet, not the mats”)

Aside from their coach calling Ellie “Allie” (she’s from Russia…Ellie corrects her every time and every time she says “Allie”) they have no complaints and neither do I!

Austin sits with me during the hour and every once in awhile he throws out a suggestion that maybe he’d like to do this too.  We’ll see…

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Princess Training

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day and right after the kids and I picked up our usual weekend donuts, we decided to put out our new pool/waterslide.  They were outside playing on that slide by 9:30 in the morning!  They did not come inside until about 2pm!  We had a couple people come and visit us throughout the day and two of these people were Maddie and Jake.

They biked over to our house and my kids were ecstatic to have them there.  After about a half hour of them being there I noticed a mysterious envelope in our door.  It was addressed to Ellie and contained the following note:


As I read the letter to Ellie her jaw dropped open when she heard it was from Cinderella.  Then she screamed “I got a letter from Disney World!”.  To say she was excited is a drastic understatement.

When the kids finally came inside she went right to work figuring out the riddles.


Luckily, Maddie was there to help Ellie with the reading parts but Ellie knew every answer right away.

We have no idea how these letters are getting to our house…


…but Ellie sure is excited!  I think it was the first thing she told anyone she came in contact with the rest of that day!

I have one very lucky “princess in training”.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dinosaur Week

I decided that this summer I was going to try to be more prepared with things to do on a daily basis.  My plan is to have “theme weeks”.  Some, I think, may be easier than others, but I have them all planned out for the 11 weeks of summer and our kickoff was this week!  Dinosaur Week!


It started off when I met this little guy on my way to the garbage cans in the morning.  I almost stepped on him.  But he was so cute that I had to interrupt breakfast to show everyone.  Austin and Riley both wanted to hold him but Ellie wanted no part of this distraction from her pancakes.  We did some research, and as it turns out, frogs were around in the time of the dinosaurs, but were not related to them.  So…onto the dinosaurs.

We spent about an hour digging through Austin’s dinosaur books and reading about the Mesozoic era and the three time periods in that era (Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous).  Then we talked a little about paleontologists.  Then it was on to our first fun activity….pretending we were paleontologists!


I bought a dinosaur digging kit.  Basically, a chunk of plaster with some plastic bones hidden inside.  They had to chisel out the bones and brush them off.


It was messy, hot, and took close to two hours.  The kids drifted in and out of their urge to participate throughout the 2 hours.  Riley, surprisingly, was the most determined.  We finally extracted all our bones.


Everyone had a chance to put a few of the pieces together.


And, our finished product:


It was definitely a fun addition to our week!

Today, we spent a couple hours doing worksheets…but they were dinosaur related!


A friend, Sheri, told me about this fantastic website where the lady just happened to have put together an awesome array of dinosaur worksheets!  They were just right for the girls and pretty easy for Austin, but what kid doesn’t like feeling like the smartest kid on the block?  So, he didn’t complain.  And I won’t complain either because they were busy doing educational things for over an hour!

We had to end dinosaur week a bit early because I am taking the kids camping tomorrow, but it was a great start to our summer of fun!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ellie is 5!!!

She has been for a week!  But, it was a busy week, so I’m just getting down to business now.

Ellie woke up and wanted breakfast in bed!  Actually, breakfast in our bed so she could watch TV while she ate.  She wanted cinnamon and sugar toast and juice.  My side of the bed was looking a little crunchy after she was done.

Everyone woke up early enough for her to open her presents before Rob left for work!  And just in case you were curious, Ellie is:


My sweet little 5 year old was very specific on her present requests.  She wanted a real guitar, harmonica, accordion, and a flute because she wants to be a rock star!  (I guess that makes her a princess fireman rock star)  What rock star doesn’t need an accordion?


Pink guitar….check!

She was pretty excited and pulled it out right away to compose a ballad called “It’s my Birthday”.

After breakfast she requested a trip to Chutes and Ladders (the giant park in Bloomington).  My kids are finally old enough that I can tolerate that place in small doses.  But when bus loads of kids start to arrive from various summer camps, then I’m done.  For lunch we had her favorite corn dog nuggets.  But the real treat was dinner at Chuck E. Cheese! 

Her friend party was this past Saturday.  Ellie decided she wanted a Pinkalicious birthday party.  Pinkalicious is a cute character from a series of books Ellie likes.  But, in the end, we just went with a general pink theme.  When the birthday guests arrived we had them guess the number of pink starbursts in a jar (closest wins the starbursts).  And then I had tables set up with a coloring activity:


While they were coloring and waiting for everyone to arrive, I pulled each girl aside and they got to get dressed up in silly pink items for a picture:


Once everyone had arrived and I had all the pictures taken, I sent Rob (and Austin) to get them developed right away.  Meanwhile, my mom stayed behind to help me with the rest of the party.  Unfortunately, sending Rob with the camera to get pictures developed left me with no camera so pictures are scarce here in the middle of the party.

  We split into two groups and played a game where I put 20 small pink items on a tray.  All the girls crowded around and checked out the tray for 1 minute and then reported back to their assigned adults to see which group could remember the most pink items (as a side note, Ellie has enough pink items to play this game 20 times with a different trayful each time).  The winning group got to pick which craft they wanted to do first.  I tried to stay away from having a prize winner because I didn’t want anyone sad about not winning.  The girls each got to make two crafts 1) a bracelet with pink beads and 2) a pink picture frame with jewels. 

After crafting it was time for snacks!


Pink popcorn, pink cupcakes, and pink lemonade!

Once Rob was back, we headed out back for the piñata.  This piñata was indestructible.


Each girl had at least 4 or 5 tries at cracking it with an aluminum bat (and there are quite a few sluggers in her class!) and there wasn’t even a crack.  So, we let Austin have a few swings at it….maybe a small crack now.  Time was running out so we had Rob swing at it and it even took him two hits.  Good thing because I didn’t want to have to step in and show them all how it was done!

Once everyone had their fill of sugar, we headed back inside to open gifts.


And capped off the day with a little extra outdoor play time!


The girls went home with a fairy mask they colored, bracelet, picture frame (with their silly pink pictures in them!), candy, pink bubblegum and a bagful of various pink trinkets.  I have one happy 5 year old on my hands!

Friday, June 8, 2012

School’s Out!

Right before school got out I was talking to my sister and she mentioned someone she knows has a giant neighborhood water balloon fight when the bus dropped off the kids on the last day of school.  I thought that sounded awesome, but only one other kid gets off the bus with Austin so we’d have the forgo the “neighborhood” part and just get him on our own!

This past Wednesday was the last day of school so while he was off having fun (because I know no work gets done on the last few days of school) the girls and I were at home preparing for our battle!


51 water balloons (the package was actually labeled “51”…I didn’t just get a bonus balloon). 

And after the bombardment I thought everyone might enjoy some refreshments:


That’s Rob’s new snow cone maker he got for his birthday.  It’s been used daily.

We invited one other neighborhood family and she had her daughter get off at Austin’s stop.  We were going to pelt them right as they got off the bus, but decided instead to contain it to the backyard so I put out some signs to direct the kiddos:



Just in case they had any valuable end of the year projects that shouldn’t get wet.

And then my partners in crime and I just waited.


And finally…..


I was trying to video tape it all, but unfortunately my partners in crime were kind of lacking in the “aim” department so I had to step in and take matters into my own hands!  Bullseye!

51 water balloons goes fast!  Luckily, we had some other fun planned.


This is our brand new pool/slide for the summer!  It is going to be a blast!


Next year we’re going to get him right off the bus….too bad for any special end of the year projects!

Monday, June 4, 2012

First up–Rob

The birthday season is upon us!  First up was Rob!  He is officially in his mid-30s now!

Having just got back from another Florida trip for work, he took Friday, his birthday, off.  The kids and I let him sleep in (in our house 8am is sleeping in quite a bit!) and then we served him strawberry pancakes, OJ, and fruit in bed.  After breakfast he opened up his gifts before Austin got on the bus for school.  I was the scrooge that wouldn’t call him out of school early to have fun with us.  I figure he only has a few days left and then Rob could take off any old day and we can all hang out together.  Anyway, so after Austin got on the bus the rest of us headed to the zoo.

We mostly just walked the outside trails since it was such a beautiful day.  This year the MN Zoo is having an animatronic dinosaur exhibit.  We knew better than to see that without Austin along, but Rob and the girls did partake in a camel ride!


It’s not every year you get to ride a camel on your birthday!  I figured since it holds three if Austin was really upset then him and I could ride it together later this summer.  As it turns out, he didn’t really care.

We stopped for one more picture on our way out of the zoo.


After the zoo we went to Chipotle for lunch (Rob’s favorite).  When Austin got home from school we went to his favorite clothing store because his parents gift was burning a hole in his pocket.  We followed that up with a trip to the kids favorite park (generous of the birthday boy!) and then headed home for Rob’s favorite pizza and a movie night.

All in all, I think he’d say it was a pretty good birthday!

Next up….Ellie on Thursday!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rob Runchey–Animal Rescuer

Last night the kids and I slept in the tent in the backyard.  Did you  know that birds start waking up around 3:30 in the morning?  Also we have an owl in our neighborhood.  Riley has been telling me she is “scared of the owl” sometimes at night but I had previously just written it off as a ploy to not go to sleep.  Now I’m wondering if she truly is hearing an owl.  There was also an unidentified critter making noises between a bull frog and a very large bird.  Safe to say, little sleep was had by me.

This morning as we were packing up the tent Austin came running in the house announcing that the baby robins hatched and were hanging upside down from their nest.  Rob confirmed he saw it too but thought maybe the parent birds would take care of the situation.  About a half hour later the birds were still hanging there.


I’m not sure you can really tell from the picture, but there are two baby birds there, and their feet are tangled up together in some twine their parents used to build the nest. 

So, while I’ll flapped my arms around like a maniac to dissuade the constant attempts from “Mom and Dad Bird” to take Rob’s head off, Rob donned his winter gloves bird saving gloves and put both of the birdies back in their nest.  I’ve always heard not to touch birds nest because the mom will never come back because they will smell you….but letting them hang to their death didn’t seem like the right thing to do either.


Twenty minutes later we went back out to take the tent down and one of the birds had fallen down to the rocks (but seemed okay) and the other one was hanging upside down again; still tangled.  He put it in one more time while the other baby hopped to safety.  I went back there later in the day to make sure the baby who hopped away wasn’t hiding near Austin’s sand box (since him and a friend were going to be playing there) and it was no where to be seen.  The tangled bird was still in the nest.

As a side note, I hung up those shiny streamers early this spring because I heard it would deter birds from building nests in the area.  I’m a bit of a bird scrooge when it comes to them living under our deck and pooping all over it (and waking up at 3:30).  The streamers obviously do not work.

Como Zoo was a Zoo!

I joined Austin’s first grade class at the Como Zoo on Wednesday.  Well, his class and what felt like the rest of the Minnesota schools trying to squeeze in one last field trip!  I rode down on the bus with the kids (a couple parents had to drive).  Two things:  1)  the drive from Shakopee to St. Paul is very long   2)  things shake on a bus that I guarantee you did not shake when I was in elementary school.  I was considering a face lift by the time we got there.

Right when we got to the zoo we were corralled into a conference room where someone discussed the animals of Africa for an hour.  Once that presentation was over we were split into groups and given 1 hour to see the zoo.  I was assigned Austin, his good friend Ajay, and another classmate, Jesse.  I felt pretty lucky with the kids I was assigned.  I did notice that all the groups of girls walked around the zoo holding hands and stayed on the side walks.  Whereas the boys (my group included) participated in what I call “freestyle walking”.  No sidewalks for these guys.  They got from point A to point B by leaping off boulders and jumping off walls.  I can’t say I saw many animals.  I was mostly doing a constant head count and requesting the boys to not lean over railings meant to keep you out of the lions territory.


Once our hour was up we headed back to the busses where we enjoyed our picnic lunches.  After lunch it was back on the bus.  Only, I talked to a couple of the moms who drove themselves to the zoo and scored a ride back with them rather than subjecting myself to the torture of the bus ride again.

It was a beautiful day to be at the zoo, even if we had to share it with all the surrounding schools.  Only 3 days of school left for Austin!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kindergarten Here We Come (again)!

Last Wednesday was Ellie’s last day of preschool!  She had a fun-filled day in the classroom.  Afterwards, most of her class mates (and moms and a couple dads) all headed to the park and beach nearby to celebrate.  It started out a bit drizzly but ended up being a gorgeous day to be at the beach!

Wednesday night Ellie had her “Moving On” ceremony.  It started at 6:30.  Our family showed up at 5:50 and still ended up in the 4th row of the church!  I kind of expected as much but didn’t think I’d be able to entertain the kids for much more than a half hour.

As it turns out, my kids were highly entertained!


That’s Austin and Riley running across the stage in the background.  They did this for 20 minutes at least!  Having spent the whole day at the beach with Ellie’s classmates, Riley felt right at home with all the kids.

All of the kids moving on to kindergarten put together a nice little show for us.  They sang about 15 songs (each no longer than a minute). 


Ellie was well known in her class for singing her heart out.  In the picture above she is “boogy-ing on down”. 

After the songs, the teachers handed out certificates and announced what each child wanted to be when they grew up.  Ellie threw us for a loop.  A teacher, doctor, and princess have all been vocations she has expressed an interest in….but instead we were heard “And Ellie Runchey would like to be a firefighter when she grows up!”

She told me later that she told them she wanted to be a “firefighter princess”.  That sounded more like our little Ellie Bellie!


The night was capped off with an ice cream social.  I sure am proud of Ellie and her entire year of Preschool!  She is a great student and more importantly a very good friend to everyone.  She was lucky to have such a great group of kids and teachers surrounding her this year!


p.s. – I have no love for my camera since every picture was way too dark.  I also wish I could photoshop some eyes onto Ellie’s face!