Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

We started Christmas a little early at our house this year. Because we traveled over the actual holiday, we wanted to give the kids our own Christmas before the rush of the relatives started (Nothing negative aimed at hangin' with the relatives! That was enjoyable too, just very busy.). So Santa came to our house on Friday and then we left town to head to Central WI on Saturday. It wasn't quite as smooth as that though - our original plan was to leave Friday, but Amanda was sick so we pushed it back til the next day. Then, as we were loading the car, Skippy peed on the driver's seat. And on the way out of town we had a tire issue. But we made it there and back again and had a great time!

Now here it is with some pictures added in...

The kids made gingerbread houses and cookies so that they could leave decorations out for Santa.

Finn checking out the little tree in the kitchen. Julia gets mad and says,
"I keep finding ornaments hanging off of other ornaments and I just KNOW that Finn did it and he shouldn't!"
I suspect he's getting ready to do such a thing in this picture.

Julia wrote Santa a letter while Finn posed with his house.

The Kauth Family Christmas morning a few days early.

Julia tried out some new stencils amidst the chaos of the living room, post present opening.

Finn ate his gingerbread house for breakfast that morning. And continued munching on it days later.

The kids enjoyed the newly arranged downstairs at Grandma Beth and Grandpa Duane's house.

My Grandma Laverne always has a huge spread of Christmas cookies and sweets. On Christmas Eve, Julia and her Grandpa Dayton sat for quite awhile sampling and re-sampling.

Finn had some assistance from two pups while opening presents on Christmas morning at Grandma Beth and Grandpa Duane's.

The kids posed next to the tree at (Great) Aunt Cheryl's house for the family gathering there, later on Christmas day.

Julia and Aunt Ginny tried out a new game before the kids headed to bed.

Back at home in River Falls, Julia tried out a new crafting experience - making beaded bracelets.

Finn was excited to try out his new drum set. Julia is excited for him to start taking lessons (which is not even being seriously planned (yet)) so that she will have the makings of a band.

A year ago at this time, Julia was in the hospital for her first of four, week-long inpatient chemo extravaganzas. We're glad to be at the point we're at now. Julia had her second three-month scans this morning (so she's now six months out from the end of her treatment). Everything was clear and lookin' good! She had her last followup PT appointment to finish up a study she was a part of too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decorating Ears, House, and Hair

The holidays at relatives' houses make for opportunities for Julia to play guitar in front of an audience.

That experience helped when she participated in her first recital. She played "Jingle Bells." Here she is getting set up to play, with help from her teacher.
I made a video of the recital, but the sound is really quiet. This video that I posted last time shows her playing the same song at home.

We spent last weekend putting up the big Christmas tree in the living room, the little one in the kitchen, and all the other decorations throughout the house.

Finn likes to wrestle. One afternoon we both shoved pillows in our clothes and did some massive belly bounces. Skippy, in the background, was the referee.

Julia got her first hair cut in about a year. Her last one was when she decided to get her hair cut short before it all fell out. She also got a pink hair extension.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Swinging, Dancing, and Plucking

The kids had their dance recital last Monday. I didn't get many pictures, but I got a lot of videos. Before we get those though, I'll share one from a few days prior.

The kids and I went to Glen Park for a hike. The hike was nice but the kids were more drawn to toys in the park. Julia's talked about swinging on the monkey bars but I had never seen her do it. I remember first seeing her try some time ago and she couldn't get far. I'm not sure if she was determined to learn how or felt some positive peer pressure from seeing her friends swinging with ease, but either way, I'm proud of her. Especially after this past year of being physically inactive as much as she was.

Finn is in the background in the green jacket. At the end of swinging, Julia would always want to know how long it took her make it across. So maybe it was the competition amongst friends that drove her.

My favorite part of Finn's first dance is when he shakes the scarves up and down at the end.

The followup of Twinkle, Twinkle.

Finn's tap routine.

Julia danced to Party in the USA. She's in black with pink tights.

For her tapping, she starts in the back row.

There are a few more videos from the recital that can be found here: There are a ton of other videos of the kids there too.

And finally, Julia has been practicing for a guitar recital coming up soon. Here's one of her practice sessions.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From One Month to Another

Finn had two costumes for Halloween this year. When he was indoors, he wore his pirate costume, like for their costume day at preschool.

Julia had just one costume, but that was enough for her. She was a Pop Star! and would announce it just like that at random times. People frequently asked Julia which pop star she was and she soon got sick of the question, because she wasn't any particular one.

Finn's second costume was Julia's old homemade Care Bear costume from several years ago. It was the warmer of the two, so he wore it for trick-or-treating and for handing out the treats.

The kids got to wear their costumes at the River Falls Business Expo. We talked to this woman about possibilities for Julia's hair and it turns out she is also a Wilms tumor survivor from when she was three! It was awesome on so many levels!

The kids had fun carving pumpkins and afterward they helped to make roasted pumpkin seeds.

A trip to the Walker Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis was well received by the kids (and the dog).

A large cardboard box was transformed into a TV and has provided lots of entertainment for all four of us.

We took a Fall hike along the Kinni below Glen Park.

And I'll leave you with some funny faces and a moment of the kids getting along.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Make-A-Wish Trip, Day 6: To the Beach!

We ended our week in Florida by staying away from the theme parks and heading to the ocean. But...we had to start the day with a dose of toon with Scooby Doo at the Give Kids the World village.

It was an hour drive to the Atlantic. Along the way, Julia did homework while I looked for gators on the flat Florida landscape. She got her work done, but I didn't see any reptiles. We passed a cruise ship after driving over one of the causeways leading to Cocoa Beach, our sandy destination. Near the pier at the beach was a good place to spend the afternoon; it had bathrooms, a couple of restaurants, and beach umbrella rentals.

Amanda and I weren't sure what the kids would think. Julia has twice visited the Pacific on the Oregon coast, but those shorelines are rocky and picturesque rather than the sunny and sandy one we had just arrived at. Finn had never seen either coastline.

Needless to say, they loved it. They were happy running in and out of the surf, digging holes in the sand watching the tide fill them, and finding seashells.

Since we stayed longer than we had planned, our snacks weren't sufficient to feed us. We took advantage of one of the restaurants on the pier and got some food to go and ate it on our towels on the sand, sitting under our rented umbrella.

Like my daughter, I've been to the Pacific coast a number of times, but haven't really had an opportunity to swim and submerge myself in the salty water. I was thrilled to get that opportunity this time. I'm not a big swimmer and have little interest in most water activities, but there has always been something about the ocean that has drawn me to it. The endlessness and the all-natural cacophony. The unthinkable amount of water, while what we see from the shore has a feeling of sparseness of life, the pieces of shells give hints about the life that's there.

Several times I went out a ways and floated on my back. It was pretty amazing, slowly moving as the waves lifted me up and gently lowered me back down. It was interesting comparing that sort of ease of movement compared to standing upright and feeling those same waves shoving me towards the shore.

Julia had a fun idea and added shells to the outside of one of her sand creations.

Eventually we gathered up the kids, washed off as much sand as we could and headed back to central Florida. That evening at GKTW, there was a princesses and pirates party. There were activities, dancing, and pirates and princesses everywhere. Finn got his picture taken with a very exciting pirate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Make-A-Wish Trip, Day 5: Breakfast with the Princesses

I'm determined to finish with the last few days of our trip. I'm using this as a record so we can look back and have a little bit of verbiage to go with the pictures, but I understand if you've gotten enough of it already.

Thursday morning at Give Kids the World we started off again with some characters. Goofy and pre-princess Belle were hanging out on the streets to greet the kids.

Goofy got a hold of Finn's plastic sword and poked around with it.

Julia was really fond of Mayor Clayton's house that was located near the middle of the village near the koi pond and the garden. It was almost big enough for me to stand up in, which meant it allowed for some fun pictures of Julia.

We headed for our second stop at Epcot for our scheduled breakfast with the princesses. Because of our trip to the park a few days earlier, we had most of the attractions out of the way that we were interested in. That didn't stop us from running into a few characters that the kids hadn't seen. This time it was Daisy and Stitch.

Before we were seated at the table, we got to see the post-princess Belle.

The breakfast consisted of a buffet of appetizers and then a platter filled with heaps of hot food. The kids were a little disturbed by the amount of bacon I ate. Julia waited patiently for things to get going after having eaten her fill.

When the princesses came out, they first did a processional through the dining area. Each princess gathered a line of kids and paraded around while the parents looked on with flashing and recording cameras. Cinderella had Julia follow right behind her and gave Julia her bouquet of flowers to hold.

Afterward, the princesses walked from table to table, chatting, signing things, and posing for pictures. We were impressed when Cinderella clearly remembered Julia from three days earlier (and how many hundreds of kids?) and Julia was pretty thrilled about it too.

Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel followed next.

After that experience was finished, we wandered back around the big pond and stopped to see some interesting looking exhibits at some of the countries. We walked by some drums and I encouraged the kids to run over and start beating them (we had walked past them a few nights earlier and kids were playing them, so I was reasonably sure it was allowed). Soon after, other kids were joining in too.

Amanda wanted to stop in the Germany store to pick up something for herself. We all voted on the hat, but she chose a t-shirt of the mice in lederhosen instead.

We timed our walk to come across Jasmine and Aladdin and then shortly after came across Alice.

We turned down a hardly traveled alley and came upon a hedge maze. The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! It was fun to find things that people who hurried by might have missed.

A building on that same side street had a little shop with Pooh and Tigger in the back.

Instead of driving or taking the monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom (to go through the one section we didn't get to on Monday), we took the ferry.

Adventureland was the portion we needed to walk through yet, so we headed right there. Julia really wanted to see Tink, so we went straight for another character meeting. Besides the famous fairy, one of her friends was there too. Vidia plays a sort of antagonist to the spunky Tinker Bell and it was great seeing how true to the character she was. She was sarcastic and referred to her fairy partner as "Stinker Bell" and "Tinker Smell". She was still friendly, but not overly so and wasn't interested in hugging the kids.

Tinker Bell told Julia that she looked familiar, but we hadn't met her before. After we left, I told Julia it was probably because their hair looked the same and so Tinker Bell was reminded of herself. Julia burst my feel-good bubble by letting me know that Tink's hair really isn't short, it was just up.

The Swiss Family Robinson tree house was closed for some reason, so we were disappointed not to be able to see that. We did see the Enchanted Tiki Room and ride on the the Jungle Cruise and Pirates and the Caribbean. Don't ask Julia about the last one, she kept her head down with her hands over it the entire ride. Finn was brave enough to watch tentatively and just hide when needed. Like I said before, it's hard to get decent pictures on the rides and still enjoy them, so you're stuck with more characters.

Tiana and Naveen are probably the two newest characters at the parks. They verbally played well off of each other.

And definitely not a new one, Peter Pan drew a line of people to meet him.

As we headed for the exit, we veered over toward the castle and watched a play on the stage. Another example of getting pulled in to something unexpected but magical.

Meanwhile, that evening at GKTW...
It was their weekly Christmas party! The place was decorated and Santa was there. Each kid go tot pick out a toy - Julia chose a Rubki's cube and Finn picked a transformer. The kids got to meet Ms. Merry (Mayor Clayton's wife) and the big bunny mayor himself.

We topped off this long day with snow cones and ice cream. Friday we planned on putting the theme parks aside to head for the ocean.