Friday, October 25, 2013

One more fall themed update

Afton's friend preschool group visited the Fruit and Berry Patch for a hayride and picking out pumpkins. We got a beautiful day and Afton had a great time. My favorite part was eating apples off the tree.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Corn Maze

Have I mentioned this month has been incredibly busy? Jam packed, this October. The good news is we were able to find a free afternoon to take the kids to our favorite Oakes Farm corn maze for fall fun. The bad news is the younger four kids and I went in the afternoon and only briefly overlapped with Scott and Emma (who came that evening with the rest of the church youth group). We were just glad we didn't have to waste our groupons. I mostly have phone pics of the girls because the boys were off and running on their own till we came together for the big corn maze. Ben took over some of the navigating duties this time and did a good job, we found out who killed Farmer Joe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Break

We joined the Langfords and Sextons in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg for a couple of days of fall break fun. We rented a big cabin together and filled our time with games, treats, football, spike ball, a big pancake breakfast, and wandering around town buying treats and fudge. The kids all had a blast being together and we were glad we could still get outside and play some even though one day was pretty rainy. I didn't bring my good camera, but everyone brought their phone!

Afton requested this shot...

Lisa was determined to get a photo of two of the cousins by these bride and groom crows. Carter was the only cousin who was game, thinking it would be funny, all others heavily resisted the scheme. That tricky aunt Lisa coerced Emma into going over by them with the promise that she would be the photographer not the model, but then Carter restrained her into submission for this happy shot:

Determined not to be the only victim, Emma promptly picked up another one. Ben was willing to assist.

Don't judge our grungy attire...the original plan was hiking, which we had dressed appropriately for,
but a last minute switch to wandering Gatlinburg left us no time to change.

Spikeball. I was awful at it but the kids had fun.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cross Country Season

This has been a good year for cross country. Emma and Ben both ran for West Valley and we were blown away by their improvement over the course of the season. I don't know if I've ever seen them work so hard at something. Emma shattered her times from last year and finished in the top seven (varsity level) for three out of the six races. I was so impressed with her determination. I think it was the second meet of the season when Scott started giving our kids (and a couple other kids on the team--more on that later) goal times before they ran. If they met their goal they got a milkshake, that was the deal. Mind you, most of the time these were hefty goals, maybe thirty seconds faster than they had run before. The first two times they all made it, but the next time fell short of the goal. Scott was quick to figure out a compromise--"How about we just get a cone anyway since you all ran two miles?" Emma was quick to say, "No. That will just make me think 'oh well, I don't have to try very hard I'll get ice cream anyway.' I only want ice cream if I meet my goal." Why does that make me feel so proud of her? Why is she so awesome? I don't even know. Love her.

Ben ran last year in elementary school in their one mile races and he always did just fine. Staying about the middle of the pack, no biggie. Something happened since last fall, because he quickly started to amaze us with how fast he was running the two mile races this year. He also made varsity three of the six meets, and consistently finished in the top 20-30% of all 350ish middle school boys running. And we were all, "Wait, what?" Once he got a taste of being a good runner I think he liked it. A lot. He worked very hard to continuously improve. Love him.

Also, we got to take two kids who are good friends with Emma and Ben to most of the meets with us. I think there are not many things more fun than listening to a van full of young teenagers chatter and laugh on the way to a cross country meet. I could listen in forever. They were fun, funny, encouraging and awesome. Love those kids. Bonus: I would always bring a dinner-on-the-go for the runners to eat on the way to the meet. Our garden has been producing a nonstop bounty of green beans (which our kids love to eat raw) so I would always bring along a bagful of those too. One of our friend passengers was heard to remark (not sarcastically, mind you), "I love riding in the Cruzes' van, there's always these delicious green beans!" Wish I had a photo of that!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Virginia Creeper Trail at last

Somehow we never made it to the Creeper last year. I don't know what happened. We meant to and meant to and then it was winter. We finally got our act together a couple of Fridays ago and made up for all that lost time. It was Lydia's first go on her own bike and Afton's first try on the tag-a-long.

Lydia was confident and proud to be riding on her own. Even a little fall/scraped knee didn't deter her. However, near the end of our ride she was heard complaining about her sore bum quite a bit. Can't blame her there.

Afton went through three distinct and intense phases along the 17 miles. Phase one: fear. She was nothing but nerves starting out with a white knuckle grip on the handle bars. "Dad, be really careful. Dad, don't get too close to that cliff! Dad, slow down please." Phase two: elation. Not just happiness or enjoyment--pure euphoria. For many miles she was non-stop whooping and shouting and laughing while showing off tricks like sticking her legs out to the sides and holding on with one hand. "Wooooo! Look! Look at me now! This is awesome! This is the best day ever!" Phase three: over it. The last bit she was bored and uncomfortable. "How much longer? Can I just walk some? I didn't know it would be like this." Each phase made me smile.

The three big kids (Creeper veterans) were happy anticipating their favorite parts (the playground, the boulder, the field). They raced a little, encouraged Lydia, and put up with stopping for photos whenever I asked (it's tricky trying to click with an iphone while riding a bike).

We love you Creeper.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Hey Cruzes, where you been? Oh, just doing this stuff and instagraming now and then...

Canning banana peppers and jalapenos...because I don't know what the heck else to do with them! I'm all salsa and taco-ed out but they just keep growing.

Practicing our wizardry skills.

Maintaining a rigorous schedule full of kids' activities. We go straight from dance/gymnastics to Lydia's soccer practice. That makes for one cute little ballerina on the playground.

Enjoying some nice windows-down weather.

Attending the Emergency Prep Fair, where the kids got their faces painted by some teenage volunteers.

Getting armfuls of awards at Cub Scout pack meetings, and giving popcorn sales a go.

Recognizing our excellent young women. Love these girls and glad Emma has a great friend base at church.

Receiving a sweet little sweater vest that I wore when I was about this age.

Enjoying our after-lunch screen-time.

Being pleasantly surprised by some late-season raspberries. We have been diligent in picking and eating them before the birds.