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Super Secret Agent Party

Let me just start off by saying it’s hard to be a Pinterest mom.  Really hard.  I am not the creative type, but I can look up ideas and put them into action.  But it is SO. MUCH. WORK.

I know it’s been ages since my last blog post.  I actually kind of gave up on it.  Life gets busy, you know?  But, this party was so much fun and there was so much that went into it, I just couldn’t let it go without documenting it all.

So, here goes…

Cooper, my baby, is turning 8 this month.  EIGHT!  I know, right?  Where does the time go?  Anyway, we were talking months ago about what to do for his party.  We wanted to do something different, not the same old places everybody goes to all of the time.  And, in my mind, I was hoping to be able to save a few bucks by having a party at home.  So, we came up with the idea of a spy party.  It sounded fun.  And boy, was it!  After hours and hours (and more hours) of researching ideas on Pinterest, I came up with a plan.  We were going to have a Secret Agent Training session at our local chapter of the National Spy Academy.

First, we (and by we, I mean I) made up invitations.  I found a great template on another blog and just changed the details to fit our party.  It even came with a DIY mini envelope to look like a mini manila envelope that fits the invitation.  Here’s a picture:

Top Secret Invitation

Then, because we couldn’t hand out invitations at school, we had to get them to the kids’ houses.  For those kids closest to us, we hand-delivered them.  Cooper had a blast with that!

Fast forward a few weeks, and many hours of party planning, and we were ready to train some spies.

We started out with a check-in station on our front porch where the kids had a few things to do before they were allowed to enter the training facility:

  1. Fingerprint scan – we found a fingerprint app that scans your fingerprint to confirm authorized entry for each agent.
    FIngerprint scan at check-in
  2. Once their fingerprint was approved, they were told that every secret agent must have a code name.  This is part of not sharing their true identity.  In order to come up with their code names, they drew a word from each of two bowls.  We combined the words and came up with their code names.  Some that I remember included Angry Pirate and Brave Monkey.
  3. Once the code name was determined, it was printed onto their ID badge, and then they were given their badges to wear.  Each badge had a different profile image, their name, code name & title (kids were “Secret Agent in Training”), the NSA logo , and their clearance level.  – Top Secret Clearance, of course!  —  Here’s what the badges looked like.  We put them on a lanyard and everyone wore them around their neck.

Secret Agent ID Badges

At this point, the new agents were allowed entry into the training facility.  The first thing they had to do was pick out their disguise.  Again, this was to hide their true identities.  We had hats, sunglasses & goofy glasses (with the nose), and of course, mustaches.  Here are some of them showing off their disguises:

Once they were in disguise, they just hung out until everyone had arrived.  That’s when the training began.

Finally, everyone was here and we got to get started!  First, we welcomed them and explained that to become true secret agents, we had to make sure to test their skills and handle some missions.  We handed out spy kits containing  some crucial tools they’d need during their training: a magnifying glass, Top Secret notepad, pencil, explosives (Pop Rocks), and Smarties (because they’re smart!), and their weapon (a Nerf-style dart-gun).

Spy Kit

Before we moved on, we also talked about our villain, Dr. Python.  They’d been warned not to be followed to the party, but we weren’t sure how secretive they’d been in getting here.  You see, Dr. Python makes it his mission in life to ruin birthday parties.  He does whatever he can to make sure kids have a terrible time at parties.  We did NOT want him to find out and ruin our party!

Now, getting onto the fun stuff.  We started off a bit slow with some skills training:

Our first skills training was Memory.  In order to test their memory, we brought out a tray with about 10 items on it, let them look for a minute, then took it away.  Then, as a group they had to name everything that was on the tray.  They did a good job, and struggled with the last two items, but finally got them.  (It was really cute how they raised their hands to get called on, like they were in school.)

Raising hands for the Memory Skills Test

Second skills training was testing their senses.  We split the kids into three groups to work together at each of three different sensory stations.  The first was taste.  There were three bowls with mystery items (sugar, graham crackers & pop rocks) for them to taste, guess what they were, and write into their notebooks.

Sensory Taste Testing

The second station was sight.  By looking only, they had to guess and write down what was in the mystery bowls.  Here, it was smashed goldfish crackers, applesauce, and smashed candy canes.

The third station was touch.  They had to reach into a hole in a box and determine only by touching what was inside.  This one had one Hot Wheel, a slinky, a pencil, and a yo-yo.

After we confirmed that everyone had mastered their senses, we went on to some real missions.

First up, the agents had to crawl through the laser maze to retrieve the ammo for their dart-guns.  Everyone had fun with this and probably wishes we had more time to do it again.  Some of the kids wanted to be timed to see how fast they went.  It was a lot of fun!


Once everyone had their ammo, we moved on to the next mission. obstacle course & target practice!  We had areas in the house set up with targets for the kids to army crawl & shoot, shoot around a corner, and shoot while diving (on an air mattress).  There is no doubt that this is when things really started to get crazy!  


Once the kids were just running around like maniacs, we decided to move on.  Our next mission was Bomb Squad.  In this mission, the agents were assigned with deactivating all of the bombs that came their way.  We had black balloons being dropped from the balcony upstairs and they to pop them all.  It was fun to watch them figure out how to pop all of these balloons as many of them weren’t giving up easily!  (Side note – at this point, Jeff had left to pick up the pizzas for dinner.  When he got back, I’m pretty sure he thought a real bomb had gone off!  Look at the mess!)


One of the balloons had a hidden message inside about their next mission, so they had to make sure to look for it.  It was a scrap of paper rolled up very small, so it was hard to find.  Here we are trying to open it up and read it.  The message read:


And with that, we moved on to our next mission – the BeanBoozled bravery test!  For anybody who doesn’t know what BeanBoozled is, Jelly Belly came up with a mystery pack of jelly beans where you have to taste to figure out if you got the good or gross flavor.  For example, a white jelly bean could be coconut flavored, or it could be spoiled milk.  Would YOU dare to try it???

Before we got started, I did tell all the kids that nobody was going to be forced to try it.  But surprisingly, they all were on board, even my own skeptical kids.  Some of them went through the line over and over and over.  And many of them, when they got the “gross” flavor, said “Well, it’s the bad one, but it tastes kind of good.”  LOL.  How do you like that?


This ends our missions.  At this point, I had prepared some graduation certificates for the kids that said they’d successfully completed their Secret Agent Training, but we were so busy that I totally forgot.  I don’t think they missed out on much.

We moved on to dinner, which was pizza, veggies & fruit.  At some point, Jeff offered up red pepper flakes, and some of the boys wanted it.  Some of them had to convince me that they like spicy, but we let them have it.  I even asked at the table who had tried red pepper on their pizza that night for the first time ever and had 4 hands go up.  Nobody died (or puked), so I guess that’s good, right?

After pizza we moved on to presents.  Cooper scored quite a bit of loot from his friends.  (Thanks, everybody!)


However, the final “gift” in the pile wasn’t exactly a gift.  There was an envelope with a weird snake logo that was addressed to Agent Cooper.  He opened it up and quickly realized we had a problem.  Dr. Python had somehow found our party and was on a mission to destroy it.  He said that even though we’d completed our Special Agent training, our party would be ruined without a cake!

At Cooper’s request, I read the letter out loud to the group of Secret Agents.  Here’s a copy:

Letter from Dr. Python

When it was finished, everyone ran to the kitchen to find our cake.  It was gone!  But, there was a clue left for Cooper in the envelope with the letter…

Turns out, Dr. Python wanted us to go on a little scavenger hunt to find our missing cake.  And if we couldn’t find it in time, he was going to blow it up!  OMG!  These kids were on a mission!  It was so much fun to watch them solving their mysteries.

Dr. Python left one clue for each agent, typed in a 3pt font, so they had to use their magnifying glasses to read them.  They’d find the next clue, give it to the agent written on the envelope, read it, figure out where to go, then run across the house to find the next clue.  This was by far the BEST part of the party!  I loved hearing some of the kids get so worked up.  “Who is this Dr. Python?  When I find him, I’m going to beat him up!”   And at one point later, some of the boys said to Jeff, “There’s something fishy about you… And who is this Natalie, anyway?”  (about Cooper’s big sister).  So cute & so funny!

For anybody wondering, here’s a list of the clues (and answers):

1.      You might be in luck if you can find the big yellow duck.  --  Kid bathroom rug
2.      Haha, that was just a trick!  Now, go check the garbage can.  Quick!  --  Kitchen garbage
3.      I don’t mean to spoil it, but have you checked the toilet? -- Downstairs bathroom
4.      Are you starting to pout?  Maybe you should go work out!  -  Bonus room
5.      You won’t find it that easy!  Give up now and go watch tv.  -- Downstairs tv
6.      Give up yet?  Your next clue is nothing but net.  --  Cooper’s room, basketball hoop
7.      There must be something wrong with your head.  Try to get some work done instead.  --  Office
8.      Don’t think I’m so bad?  The next clue was planted on Agent Cooper’s DAD!  -  Jeff’s pocket  (This was a fun one!)  
9.      Oh, how much fun this is!  Could you cake be with the dirty dishes?  --  Dishwasher
10.  Keep it moving, peeps.  Your cake could be where Bennett sleeps!  --  Bennett’s bed
11.  I like to break the rules.  Maybe I’ve stolen Agent Natalie’s jewels.  --  Natalie’s room 
12.  You made it this far, now where you should you look?  Maybe a place somebody should cook!  --        Oven
13.  If you solve this final clue, you’ll know what to do.  I hope your cake tastes like Cooper’s stinky shoes!  --  Cooper’s closet! 

We did get a video of Cooper reading the final clue.  You can watch it by clicking HERE.  He read it out loud, then ran to his shoes in the kitchen.  Then when he figured out it was his closet, he started running that way.  All the kids joined, but you can see a big part of the group ran towards their own shoes by the front door.  Cooper was the first one to get up the stairs to his room.  When he got in there, he found the cake in his closet.  It had been partially destroyed by a bomb!!!  A huge chunk of the cake was missing, and it had 6 mini bombs on it.  Looks like we found it just in time!  —  There was a note with the cake as well.  It read, “I must give you all some credit, you are smarter than you look!  Have your stinky cake and eat it too!  But this isn’t the end of me.  I’ll be back for you, just wait and see!”  

Well, we managed to save the cake before it completely exploded.  We took it down to the kitchen, lit the bomb candles, and sang happy birthday to Cooper.  He had to blow out the candles quickly though, because they started to spark and we were worried it might explode!


We all enjoyed our delicious dessert (thanks to my Aunt Karen!) and were ready to settle down.  We moved on to the final part of the night – watching Spy Kids.  Honestly, this is now 2.5 hours into the party.  The kids were sugared up, and just pumped on each other’s energy.  So, when they all sat down and quietly watched the movie, it was a small miracle.

Silence as the movie started

However, the quiet only lasted about 10 minutes before they started to get crazy again.

And, wrestling crazies when sitting got too boring

After a while, they were begging for popcorn, so we convinced them they had to sit & watch the movie in order to get popcorn.  That gave us maybe another 10 minutes of peace…

By the time the movie ended, the boys were in an all-out Nerf war.  They’d made teams and were working their hardest to burn off that sugar we’d given them.

We did manage to get a couple group pictures of the kids before they all left. I think it’s pretty clear they were having a good time.

This party was so much fun.  I will admit though, I totally underestimated the volume and energy levels of ten second grade boys and one little brother.

After the final boys had gone home, Jeff and I high-fived each other, glad we survived.  🙂 




Elfcapades 2014: The final days

Day 25 (Tuesday), we went downstairs to find a helpful reminder from Elfis that we needed to bake cookies for Santa.  He had everything ready for us – a bowl, cookie mix (pre-made, the easy kind, just how we like it!), sprinkles and colored frosting.

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Luckily for us, Elfis moved out of the bowl during the day, and we were able to dig right in when the boys came home from school.  We had a lot of fun making those cookies.  And even more fun tasting them!

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Day 26 (Wednesday), was Christmas Eve.  Elfis was a tricky one to find on that last morning.  Cooper finally tracked him down and found him in Cooper’s stocking.  With a note!

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Cooper quickly snatched up the note and asked me to read it.  Here’s what it said:

Today is Christmas Eve!  I had a lot of fun here at your house, but now it’s time fo rme to go back to the North Pole and help Santa deliver the presents.
Do not worry.  Santa knows you have been good mostly.
Guess what?  Santa has lifted my magic for today only.  I would really like a hug and kiss goodbye before I leave.  I will miss you!
Love, Elfis


Of course, Cooper was thrilled!  He asked me three times how Santa could lift his magic, and was it really ok to touch Elfis.  I told him yes, but we had to be very gentle and that we just got to say good bye, not play with him all day.  So, the boys took turns saying their goodbyes.  They both hugged and kissed their little elf buddy, and reluctantly let me put him back in the stocking where we found him.  We had planned to hug & kiss him one more time that night before bed, but we got home too late and forgot all about it.  So, that was the final goodbye.

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Christmas morning we slept in until 7am when Bennett woke us up.  I couldn’t believe we were so lucky to get so much sleep!  But, again, we were up very late Christmas Eve, so these normal bright-eyed little boys were quite a bit sleepy Christmas morning.  I went in to wake up Cooper and it took three minutes of me sprawled on top of him, chanting “Merry Christmas!” over and over before he finally woke up!

We headed downstairs to see if Santa came, and we were not disappointed!

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Bennett found Elfis’ signature goodbye note – a portrait of himself, saying he’ll see us next year.  Then we dug in.  First, we tore through our stockings, then went to the tree and ripped open everything we had out there as well.  The kids, as usual, were eager to open, open, open.  Cooper is able to read his name, and quickly grabbed up as many presents as he could.  We had to slow him down a bit.  Everybody was pretty happy with their loot, it seems.

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Merry Christmas from us to you!


Elfcapades 2014: Days 20-24

Every day is a new adventure with Elfis.

Day 20 (Thursday), we found Elfis still by the tree, but this time he was having a dart gun fight with Buzz Lightyear.  Elfis was hanging upside down from the Christmas tree and it looked like he got Buzz pretty good with a few of his darts.

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Day 21 (Friday), we didn’t find Elfis right away, but just before heading out the door, we noticed a trail of toilet paper coming out of the downstairs bathroom door.  The boys went to check it out and they found that Elfis had been up to no good.  And he tried to blame it all on poor little Jack & Colby.  We did find Jack in there at first, up on the counter, but we knew he couldn’t make that mess.  Only Elfis could have done that.  Cooper later had a talk with Elfis about how lying is bad.

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Day 22 (Saturday), Cooper found Elfis right away when we first came downstairs.  He was on our counter making a “snow” angel.  Cooper thought it was pretty silly, but had some questions: “Mom, how did he get that snow?”  I told him it wasn’t snow.  Then he asked, “Well, how did he do that with ice?”  He couldn’t believe it!  But, I told him that it wasn’t ice either, that it was sugar.  I pointed out the almost empty bag of sugar turned on its side on the counter.  He quickly picked up the bag of sugar so it wouldn’t spill any more, then proceeded to taste-test the sugar.  🙂   Bennett woke up about an hour later and was pretty impressed with the snow angel.  (He wasn’t nearly as concerned about the snow/ice/sugar though.)

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Later that same day, a USPS driver delivered a package to our door.  It was addressed to Elfis (uh oh, not again!) but this time came from the North Pole!  What?!?!?  We had no idea what this was.  Inside, there was a note from Santa that read:

I asked you to deliver these to the Martinson children last week!  I’m glad they are better behaved than you!
Ho ho ho,
Santa Claus

What?!?!  Santa sent us an early Christmas present?  AND, Elfis didn’t bring it to us when he was supposed to???  Oh my goodness.  Well, we opened up the box and found four Christmas movies inside.  What an exciting surprise!

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Day 23 (Sunday), Elfis must have felt bad about forgetting to bring us the movies because the next morning he brought us at least a dozen new figures to play the Xbox Infinity game.  He was sitting on a Mega Blok chair surrounded by probably 30 characters for the game.  The kids were thrilled to add Spiderman, Iron Man, and Hiro (from Big Hero 6) among many others to their collection, and spent the entire first half of the day playing video games.

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Day 24 (Monday), Elfis was caught having fun again.  This time, he’d set up a race track on our dining room floor and was racing Cooper’s new Ninja Turtle RC car.  Batman was behind him in Bennett’s car.  Bennett thought it was pretty cool and went to find the remote to race his car, but Cooper knew he couldn’t turn his on without touching Elfis.  And there is no way he would touch Elfis; he does not want him to lose his magic!

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Well, here we are.  Christmas is less than three days away.  Only two more days with our little elf friend and then he will go home with Santa.  I think we’ve all been pretty good and the odds are in our favor for Santa to make a stop at our house!

Fall 2014 – October recap

October is another month with lots of fun stuff to talk about:

First, let’s just start off by saying that we have now started watching Disney’s Frozen almost on a daily basis.  Yes, the boys love it.  Especially Bennett.  When they’re in the right mood, they will even sing along to the songs in the movie, or shout out some favorite quotes.  One afternoon, Cooper asked me, “Mom, do you know Kristoff loves ice?  Ice is his life!”  So, since then, somebody in our house insists “Ice is my life!” a couple times a week.  🙂

Bennett has learned to sing his abc’s.  It’s pretty darn cute.  If you click HERE, you can view a video of it.  Bennett is also starting to enjoy singing more songs, especially at bedtime.  Favorites include Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Old MacDonald, and Barney’s “I love you, you love me…” song.

Probably the most exciting part of our October was the new addition(s) to our family.  One afternoon, we were home with no plans, and I saw something showing that the local animal shelter was having an open house.  Their website said something like “Come on down and visit with the animals, no requirements to adopt”… or something like that.  So, I thought it would be fun for the boys to go visit some animals.  Well, we went, just the three of us; Jeff refused to go.  And, we fell in love with two kitties – one adult cat named Jersey, and this little black kitten named Hyacat (what the heck kind of name is that, by the way?!?!).  We went home and talked all night and all the next day about how much we needed a new kitty.  Jeff wasn’t going for it, but it seems we finally wore him down.  We were out visiting the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival (another fun event, but no pictures to share), and on the way home, the boys and I convinced Jeff to go look at the kitties.   (Side note – I knew full well that if he took us there to “look”, we were going to bring home a kitty!)  So, we got there, and long story short, we all decided that the cute little black kitten was going to be the newest member of our family.  We quickly gave him a new name – Jack – and brought him home.  The boys were so excited (and so was I!).  Jack has been a great kitten and happily puts up with two crazy little boys, no matter how loud or rough they are with him.  Our older cat though, Pepper, is yet to be impressed.  We’re still hoping she’ll come around.

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A week after we brought Jack home, I knew that he was going to need a playmate.  The shelters recommend that kittens get adopted in pairs because they need a playmate to help burn off all that kitten energy.  We were gone too much with work and daycare (and sleeping at night!), not to mention that Cooper & Bennett kept fighting over who would get to hold Jack this time.  Ugh!  So, I went back every day for a week trying to find such a perfect kitten who would get along with our new adoption, our older kitty, and our kids.  (Truth be told, I went through at least a dozen, because so many of them were shy that I just knew they weren’t going to be a perfect fit.)  We finally ended up bringing home a little white kitten with orange ears and tail.  His shelter name was Ringo (all his littermates had Beatles names), but we quickly re-named him Colby.  So now we are a house with three cats: Pepper, Jack, and Colby.  Otherwise known as the cheese cats.  🙂

The kittens hit it off within 24 hours and have been best buddies since.  They cuddle together all the time – at least when they’re not cuddling with one of us – and get into EVERYTHING together as well.  They’re little rascals, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  They are perfect for us!  Pepper doesn’t agree, but we’re hoping she’ll eventually come around, or at least learn to co-exist peacefully with them.

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In mid-October, we all headed down to The Farm to pick out pumpkins.  It was our first time there, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be our last.  There were so many fun activities for the kids, including hay mazes (even one with flashlights), slides, swings, and a giant inflatable platform to jump on.  After an hour or so of playing, we finally headed over to the pumpkin patch and picked out our pumpkins.

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Also this month, Cooper had a dentist appointment where he once again made this mommy so proud.  He was a model patient, of course.  He even had his first x-rays taken of his teeth and no whining, which was impressive.  But best of all, at the end of his appointment when the hygienist gave him his toothbrush kit, he asked if he could have a new toothbrush for his brother so he wouldn’t be sad for not getting one.  (Note, Bennett wasn’t even at the appointment with us; he just asked his all on his own.)  Such a sweet big brother!


And then there are the funny moments.  Cooper is apparently learning there are physical differences between boys and girls, and as any young child, is not afraid to say what he’s thinking.  So, as we were driving in the car one afternoon, Cooper says to me, “Mom, did you know Miss Erica is a girl?”  (Note – Miss Erica is the chef at school.  And yes, she is a girl.)  My reply was simple: “Yes.”  He then asked in such surprise, “HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?!?!?”… But she doesn’t even have long hair!”  (Note – Miss Erica has a very short butch haircut.)  My next reply: “Well, some girls like to have short hair.”  And he agreed, “Yeah, like a boy.”  But I couldn’t let that conversation drop there.  I wanted to know what prompted this conversation, so I asked, “Who told you she is a girl?”  And he replied, “I just know because she has big hips!”   HAHAHAHA!!!  —  I was trying way to hard not to laugh at his comments that I didn’t even bother to ask about her so-called hips right then.  But later that night, I asked him about it.  I asked him to show me his hips.  At first he was very confused, so I repeated what he told me and asked where his hips are.  He then proceeded to pull his shirt down at his neck and point to his chest.  Needless to say, the laughing could not be helped that time!  Oh my goodness!!!

A week later, we had another similar conversation.  When I dropped him off in the morning, I noticed that his teacher had gotten a haircut over the weekend to a very short (read: boy-ish) haircut.  I knew, as soon as I saw it, that there would be something said.  So, not surprisingly, after school Cooper said to me, “Mom, do you know Miss Breanna is wearing boy hair?”  My response, “Yes, she did get a short haircut.  But she’s still a girl.”  And guess what?  Cooper agreed and said, “Yeah, cuz she still has big hips.”   —  I’m thinking he’s going to be a “hip” man…  🙂

For Natalie’s birthday, she asked for a fall-themed party, which quickly morphed into a Halloween themed party.  There was one requirement – everyone had to wear a costume.  And surprisingly, everyone did!  We had a great turnout:
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The picture of Natalie with the guitar is right after she got her last present, signed by The Band Perry.  She was definitely overwhelmed!

Finally, to close out the month, we had Halloween!  Cooper had insisted for months and months that he wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle “the blue one”, and he easily got his little brother on board with the idea.  So, as usual, their ever-talented Nana whipped up some ninja turtle costumes and they were as cute as ever.  They started the day wearing their costumes to school for a party day there.  Then, when I picked them up, we headed over for an early trick-or-treating session at Bothell’s Country Village.  They were able to hit up a ton of stores, during the daylight, and see hundreds of other kids in costume, too.

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Later that night, we went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood as well.  The four of us ninja turtles headed out together.  We’d only planned to go to a few houses, but both boys were having so much fun, we ended up doing much more.  Bennett eventually got tired of walking and rode on his dad’s shoulders, but they both scored a ton of loot.  Cooper’s bucket was so full, it kept overflowing and spilling onto the sidewalk.

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Summer recap – September 2014

Still beautiful and sunny, September was another great month filled with fun adventures.

On Labor Day, we all packed up and headed over to the Evergreen State Fair.  It was our first time, and the kids were not disappointed.  One of the biggest highlights for all of us was the petting farm area, which included goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, bunnies, deer, and even a couple wallabies.  We also ran into some cousins and got to watch the cow milking contest.  Wow, that was… different.  🙂

The boys also rode around on mini tractors and the best part – the big rides!


The first week of Labor Day, Cooper started his pre-K program at school.  He was so excited to come home and tell me how fun it was.  They work on letter and number recognition, writing their names and selected site words each week.  His first day, he brought home this picture that he said he made for me, a picture of him & Bennett.  So sweet!
They also do daily exercise, which I didn’t know about at first…  Fun story:
One night, Cooper was in the bathroom for a VERY long time, and it was after he’d flushed, so I knew he wasn’t handling his business anymore.  I finally went up and asked what he was doing.  He opened the door and matter-of-factly told me “I’m doing my lunges.” Apparently he learned them at school during exercise time.  Well, I told him he should wash his hands and that he didn’t need to do them in the bathroom.  Ha!  —  When I learned this, I tried teaching them to do more moves.  Here we are working on our planks:

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The weekend after Labor Day, Bennett was doing a bit better with using his potty, so I sprung on him (totally unplanned!) the cool big-boy underwear he could have.  We talked about how cool it would be to stop wearing diapers and to wear underwear instead.  He was totally excited!


And thus began our spur-of-the-moment potty training spree weekend.  The program we used before with Cooper was a 3 day plan, with no diapers, just underwear.  And I was determined to try it again.  Well, there were lots of accidents, but he caught on pretty quickly.  We went through 3 pairs of wet underwear in two hours, then had our first potty success followed by 3 more successes in that next hour.  He was definitely motivated by Skittles as a reward!  And peeing on cheerios in the toilet was pretty fun for him, too.  He did so well – he even managed to keep his bed dry the first three nights in a row!  Unbelievable!!!

So, our 3-day program got cut down to 2 days.  I was nervous to send him to school that following Monday, but when I picked him up in the afternoon and found out he had ZERO accidents that day, I was so proud of him!  That afternoon (after he chowed down a handful of Skittles!) we packaged up all his old diapers to bring home and throw away  – as he thinks that’s what he did with the other ones from home – he put them in the garbage to say goodbye, but I took them out when he wasn’t looking – but he said he wanted to give the diapers to Baby Ryder instead of throwing them away.  Such a big boy!

Another fun moment this month was when Jeff decided to introduce the boys to his favorite childhood toys: Mask toys.  He has a big box of them that are probably 25+ years old.  He was so excited to show the boys to the boys, and the boys were super excited to check them out.  It was hard to tell who was enjoying it more.


A few more September highlights:

  • Cooper and Bennett became Seahawks fans.  Cooper specifically likes Russell Wilson, though how he knows anything about him, we have no idea.
  • Cooper met a new neighbor kid, Alex, and quickly they became best buddies for a couple weeks.  Every single day they wanted to play together.  But once school started and the daylight started fading, their play sessions started slowing down.  I’m sure next spring/summer they’ll be tearing up this neighborhood!
  • Jeff and I got away for another short day of hiking.  It was just through some wooded trails at Cougar Mountain.  Nothing near as strenuous or exciting as our previous hike, but it was still nice to get out away from everything (i.e. – Kids!) and do something together.  And, the sunny warm weather made it even better.
  • Bennett joined Cooper for swim lessons in their own private session.  They have a lot of fun together and are both improving their skills.  Bennett loves to jump in, but is working on putting his face in the water; Cooper loves being underwater, and is working on swimming across the pool (side to side, not the long way) with his “big arms” (which is basically sloppy crawl stroke).
  • We spent one sunny afternoon drawing with sidewalk chalk.  We even traced shadows and drew in clothes:
    Chalk2 Chalk1 chalk3
  • We made a couple after school trips to Elevated Sportz to play in the indoor play center.  The boys love it there.  Bennett can’t do the trampolines until he’s three, so they are anxiously awaiting next spring so they can do everything there, not just the giant big toy.
  • And finally, Cooper, the boy who is growing up way too fast, asked me how babies come out of mommy’s tummies.  It was one moment I was so thankful to have had C-sections both times.  It sure feels a lot simpler to explain, “Well, MY babies came out when the doctor cut open my belly and took out the baby and then fixed my cut so it got all better…”  So much easier than the alternative!

Here are a few more pictures we wanted to share:

Watching TV haircuts

Summer recap – August 2014

Still in August, the beautiful weather continued.  If I remember right, I think we had a record streak of days without rain.  (Not that I remember the number of days, just that I’m pretty sure it was a record.)  It was hot, it was sunny, it was great.  We had something fun to do every weekend this month.

The first weekend in August, we had planned to have a day at the beach, somewhere close by.  We chose Juanita Beach Park in Kirkland.  We’d never been there, but figured with a combination of sandy beach, trails, and a big toy/play area, we’d have no problems in the fun department.  Well, despite the intermittent thunder and lightning, we still had fun even though we cut our beach trip short due to the morning weather storm.  We walked some trails, played in the sand a bit, waded in the water shallow water, played on the big toy, and had our picnic lunch on the beach.  But when the lifeguards came on duty and officially closed the water access because of the lightning across the water, we decided we’d had enough beach for that day.  It was only a couple of hours, but it was still a good time.

JuanitaBeach3 JaunitaBeach2 JuanitaBeach1

The next weekend started off with Cooper attending his first-ever birthday party for a friend from school.  A GIRL from school, actually.  To be honest, he’s been so anti-girl, boys-can-only-be-friends-with-boys lately, I was surprised he wanted to go.  But, we did go, and he had a ton of fun.  The party was at Elevated Sportz, a local trampline center with an indoor play area (a GIANT big toy of sorts).  Cooper knew a handful of kids from his class, and even one other boy, too.


That same weekend, we took the kids back to Kirkland, but this time to check out their annual SummerFest.  We discovered it last year and enjoyed our time, so we knew we definitely wanted to go back.  There was so much to do for all of us.  Again, we had a great time.  (Theme of the summer?  I think so!)

We walked around and checked out the vendor booths, but didn’t see anything super exciting until we found the kids play area.  There were a handful of play areas including a huge inflatable obstacle course and a giant inflatable slide.  (There was also a bounce house that was too crowded and a mock surfing game that we didn’t do, but looked like fun.)  We walked around some more and found police cars and fire trucks that the kids could sit in, semi-trucks, garbage trucks, limousines, etc.  So, of course we had to check all of those out!  We found a place to grab a bite for dinner, then headed to the beach.  The kids played on the beach with the water and shovels and buckets provided by the event until it was past their bedtime.  We ended the night with ice cream cones on the grass before heading home.  What a great day!

Summerfest3 Summerfest2 Summerfest5 Summerfest4 Summerfest1 Summerfest6Summerfest7

The month wasn’t halfway over at this point…
The following weekend, we took the boys to Remlinger Farms.  Who knew this place is so big and so fun?!?!  It is like a county fair, but on a much smaller scale, perfect for kids under about 10 or so.  We spent hours there going on plenty of child-friendly carnival rides, including a mini steam train, old-fashioned cars, the flying airplanes and octopus rides, and even the boys’ first-ever roller coaster!  (They loved it all, but I could tell that the roller coaster was a little intimidating for both of them at times.)  They both also had pony rides (Bennett’s first time).  Bennett rode a pony named Bean (and talked about him for weeks), and Cooper rode a pony named Apple.  There was also a hay maze to get lost in, and a big pile of hay to jump into at the end.  This place was so cool.  We will definitely go back!

Remlinger4 Remlinger1 Remlinger7Remlinger2
Remlinger5 Remlinger6 Remlinger3

It was mid-August when one day after a bath, Bennett dried off, and completely on his own, decided to pee in the kiddy potty chair that has been in the bathroom for some time.  We were very impressed and excited!  Could it be time for potty training already???  We tried suggesting potty a few times and he would get excited about it.  But no matter what, he refused to pee sitting on the kiddy potty chair; he would only pee standing up.  Well, the splash-back from standing up and peeing in the kiddy potty chair was disastrous, so I searched online and found a toddler-sized urinal that would hook on to the toilet.  Thanks to, two days later, we had our brand new orange urinal and Bennett was thrilled – he thought it was super cool!  He even used it a few times (both on his own and with prompting).  We were headed in the right direction, but still nowhere near a done deal.  (Let’s just say he peed more on the carpet than in the any of his potties.)


Another weekend in August, we went camping.  Yes.  Camping.  I went along, nearly kicking and screaming.  And even though we drove four hours one way, and spent just one night (in a tent. on the ground.), we all managed to survive.  Before we left, we bought new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sleeping bags for the boys – that was a huge hit and they couldn’t wait to use them!


This was Bennett’s first camping trip, and Cooper’s first tent camping trip (he’d stayed in Nana & Papa’s trailer the previous summer).  The weather was great, maybe even too hot (upwards of 90 degrees with little shade!).  The kids rode bikes in the cul-de-sac by our campsite, colored with chalk on the road, made (& kind-of ate) s’mores, and went on little walks to the river where Cooper tried to learn how to skip rocks and Bennett discovered his love for blackberries (and rock throwing).  Bennett also spent a lot of time cuddling with his favorite “puppy”, Piper.

Camping4 Camping2 Camping3 Camping7 Camping5 Camping6 Camping8 Camping14 Camping9 Camping10 Camping11 Camping12 Camping13 Camping15

By now, you’d think the month was over, but no… August is a 5 week month…  On the last weekend of August, we took the kids to their first Mariner’s game.  We didn’t stay the entire time, but we were there long enough for them to see what it was all about and get a good feel for the baseball game experience.  They did pretty well in their seats.  Luckily, the people behind us thought Bennett was pretty cute (Well, he is!), and they chatted him up a little bit and didn’t mind when he was standing on his chair or my lap, etc.  The boys got a little stir crazy in about the fifth inning, so we walked around and checked out some of the stadium before leaving.

Baseball2 Baseball3

Aren’t we cute?  🙂


And finally, one more picture I can’t resist sharing.  These two brothers love each other so much.  We are so lucky!

Brother Love

Such a great month!!!



Summer recap – July 2014

July brought on great summer weather, which meant we were able to take full advantage of sunny afternoons and weekends.

For seven Friday afternoons, starting in July, Cooper joined a group of kids his age for his first ever soccer team.  He had so much fun!  Practice was at a park nearby, so while he ran around with his new team, Bennett and I hung out and played close by.  After every practice, we headed over to the big toy for a while, too.  (Bonus!)  It was after the first practice when Cooper was climbing on to the big boy, and announced “Soccer player coming through!” when he tried to pass in front of me.  He definitely thought he was hot stuff!  And when I tried to take his picture during a water break, he insisted, “Mom!  I have to go!” because he certainly didn’t have time to waste on pictures.  Haha!

Soccer2 Soccer3

For Bennett, his highlights for July included his first chair ride at the dentist.  He did really well listening to the hygienist (surprisingly!).  He couldn’t wait to have his teeth counted (all there!) and his big brother even got to get dressed up to help out!  AND – also in July, Bennett go to go from a crib to a big-boy (well, toddler) bed.  He was thrilled!  And, at the end of the month, he started taking swim lessons.  Unlike his brother, he started out with NO FEAR of the water.  (No surprise there.  He is the wild one, after all!)

Dentist1 Dentist2 B-Big Boy Bed Bswim1

Late July, we took the kids to their first parade at the Renton River Days festival.  They thought it was so cool.  We saw the Seafair Pirates & Seafair Clowns, a pirate dog, lots of drill teams, and more.  By far though, the best part was surely the fact that many of the groups were handing out treats (candy!).  We didn’t have any bags to stuff the candy in, and Cooper saw another kid holding out his hat to collect the goodies, and he quickly started doing that himself.  Smart kid!  🙂

Parade2 Parade4 parade1

We also spent plenty of time in the backyard playing in the sprinkler and the pool.  One afternoon, things got a little crazy and this happened:

Nakey pool time

This still cracks me up.  But leaves me speechless…
Oh, boys will be boys all right!





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