Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our First Field Trip

Last week Will went on his and I chaperoned my very first school field trip.  When I heard this field trip would be to an oil ranch I was thrilled; my goal is to expose myself and my kids to as much of Texas as possible while we live here, and visiting an oil ranch sounded like a not-to-be-missed, authentically Texas experience.  Turns out an oil ranch is not the same thing as the Oil Ranch, where we'd be spending our day...

At the Oil Ranch (located in Hockley, which is about an hour from College Station and 30 minutes from Houston), the kids had a fantastic time riding ponies, petting and feeding goats and sheep, riding the OIL Express train, and playing on both the indoor haystack and the outdoor playground.  If we'd had more time, the kids would've also enjoyed the hayride, visiting an Indian village, running through the stockyard maze, playing miniature golf, and milking a cow.  And if it hadn't been FREEZING outside (it was chilly to begin with, but the day was also humid and windy and those three conditions combined to create ugly and uncomfortable weather for the first half of the day.  At one point I lost feeling in two of my fingers, they were so cold), the kids could have even gone swimming.
Will pretended to lasso an imaginary animal throughout his entire ride.
Still lassoing.
My group - Elsbeth, Zoe, Ben, and Will - waiting in line for the train.
Will and Ben on a huge tractor wheel. 
Will's turn to "drive" the tractor.
Mrs. Pratt's kindergarten class at the Oil Ranch (Will's sitting in the front
row, third from the right - in true Texas fashion, he's completely bundled up). 
Getting ready to head home, and looking a little windblown.
So while the venue was fun for all - we may even make a trip back as a family for either their Halloween/fall or Christmas/winter festivities - and Will and I enjoyed spending the day together, I didn't learn a darn thing about oil ranches.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hallie's Birthday

Hallie's 4th birthday festivities began the weekend before her birthday, with her first official birthday party.  She chose to hold the party - to which she invited nearly 30 friends - at Brazos Valley Gymnastics, where she takes gymnastics lessons.

Just before her party we gave her a new leotard (you might remember it from this post), which she loved and made her feel "dressed up" on her special day.
Big brother crashes the photo shoot.
Big smile.
Tom and I threw a big party at our house for Will's third birthday.  We decorated the main areas of the house and the backyard, made all of the food (Tom grilled hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill), baked and decorated the cake and cupcakes, planned games, and put together favors.  Will had a good time, but the party was SO MUCH WORK; the week before, the day of, and the day after the party were completely party-focused and I didn't get a chance to really enjoy my friends who were in attendance or watch Will have fun with his friends.  It didn't help that it rained the night before and we ended up having to move a bunch of cold, muddy kids and their parents inside the house for lunch and cake.

We switched gears for the next few years, having simple family parties for Hallie's 1st, Will's 4th, Hallie's 2nd, and Hallie's 3rd birthdays; a two-friend miniature golf party for Will's 5th birthday; and a one-best-friend movie and sleepover party for Will's 6th party.  Hallie's 4th birthday party was her first real party and our first real party in more than three years, and because I wanted to avoid a repeat of Will's 3rd birthday party, I tried to keep things as simple as possible.

Everyone showed up at Brazos Valley Gymnastics and played on the equipment for close to an hour.  Then we sang "Happy Birthday" and enjoyed cake/cupcakes and juice before heading back out onto the floor to play for 10 more minutes.  As her friends left, Hallie gave each of them a "fishing under the sea" net as a party favor.  We didn't do a meal, we didn't do presents, and we didn't do stress.  It was fantastic.
Kennedy and Will on the trampoline.
Logan doing tricks on the rings.
Hallie, Caroline, and Jerra in "the pit".
Levi, Matt, Hallie, Will, and Kara listening to instructions.
Tom and Aaron (below) showing off their rope-climbing skills.
They work out.
And being the dutiful dads they are, they both (along with Chris on the right) helped
Coach Carlos demonstrate one of the games to the kids.  These are their submarine legs.
These are their shark fins.
And this is their rowboat.
Crazy games.
More crazy games.
Lots of submarine legs.
Will and Logan in their rowboat.
I don't know what they're doing, but I'm pretty sure they're doing it wrong.
I think they got it right the next time.
Getting ready to blow out her candles.  Will wanted in on the action.
Listening as her friends sing.
Blowing out her candles.
As always, Hallie was the last one at the table.
Ariel.  Yes, I know she looks ape-ish.  Ugh.
I also made under-the-sea cupcakes.
So easy.  So fun.  So not stressful (except for Ariel).  So worth it.

Later that same afternoon, Tom brought Hallie flowers and we let her open a couple of presents.
The girl LOVES flowers.
The cutest gymnastics/dance outfit I've ever seen.
The night before Hallie's actual birthday, Tom and I filled her bedroom with balloons.  It looked fantastic, but I was really worried about what would happen if she woke up in the middle of the night and started accidentally popping balloons on the way to the bathroom.  Traumatizing...

Tom had to go out of town on Hallie's birthday, so he unfortunately didn't get to join us for any of the festivities on April 10th.  We had to make the day extra special in an attempt to make up for his absence.  First up, donuts for breakfast.

Then I dropped her off at school, where she celebrated with her friends as the classroom "Star of the Week" and with Ariel cookies (from my favorite shop in Utah).
Working on her Star of the Week poster the day before.

After school we opened the rest of her presents.
Watching in awe as her Ariel card sang and danced.
A beautiful bracelet.
Homework books!  She loves homework!
More homework activities!
Frog and princess tic-tac-toe.  
Will wiped the floor with Hallie.  She cried.  I had to take the game away.
Modeling her new outfits.
Spinning in her new fairy dress.
And finally, Hallie blew out the candles on her giant cupcake after enjoying dinner from Chik-Fil-A.  Yum!
Happy 4th birthday, Hallie Claire!