Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Homecoming

You might remember this picture from this post, and thanks to my in-laws, it appeared in last Tuesday's edition of the Green Valley/Henderson View, our Nevada hometown neighborhood paper.

The picture was titled Happy Homecoming. The caption read, Air Force Capt. Ryan... assigned to... greets his 3-year-old son Clayton after a four-month unit deployment to Southwest Asia. Ryan is a 1997 graduate of Green Valley High School. The caption also gave me credit as the photographer. Ha ha. A photographer I am not. You just couldn't miss when trying to capture this boy's excitement.

PS Clayton still reminds me at least three times a day, "Mom, my Dada's home."

Branson Vacation, Part 2

Day 2: Fish Hatchery and Dixie Stampede

On Day 2 of our vacation to Branson, we got up and went down to the fish hatchery. In all my online research parent after parent raved about how much their kids loved the fish hatchery and feeding the fish. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery produces rainbow and brown trout for Missouri lakes, as well as eggs and "pre-egg stuff" for other hatcheries in the state. After visiting there, the process of fishing for your food seems so much less natural than I previously thought. Almost all the trout caught in Missouri are produced in hatcheries like this one. Boring, I know. Anyway, Clayton really did enjoy feeding all the fish, and although fish production was not one of my lifelong interests, I did learn a lot.

After lunch and naps we took the boys to The Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton's show in Branson. For my Vegas friends, think King Arthur's Tournament, but Civil War, North vs. South. From what I had read, it was the most family friendly show that would keep young children's interest. This may have actually been the highlight of the trip. Clayton was on pins and needles the entire show. His eyes never left the performance. He squealed in delight the entire hour and a half. He ate a little of his dinner, but he ate almost every bite of his apple pastry dessert. This boy was in heaven. Ryan and I enjoyed the show as well. It was super cheesy, but it was funny and completely clean. Watching Clayton enjoy the show was the best part.

Day 3: Fantastic Caverns and Branson Landing
The next morning we headed up to Fantastic Caverns, "America's only ride thru cave." Branson has several cave tours in the area, but this one took you on a tram ride, and that's what we needed with the two little ones. It was very cool, but I think once you've been to Carlsbad Caverns, it's hard for any other caves to compete. However, you have to hike into Carlsbad, so Fantastic Caverns wins my family friendly vote.

That evening was a lazy one. We hung out at Branson Landing, the new outdoor mall and watched the fountain show huddled under our one umbrella in a downpour.

Day 4: Silver Dollar City
Our last day (if you're actually still reading this) was spent at Silver Dollar City, Branson's big amusement park. I had my doubts about taking a three year old and a baby to an amusement park, but we had a great time. The best part was going on a mid-September weekday when almost no one was there. We were able to ride a couple little rides with the kids, and we went to one of the stage shows. Since there were NO lines, Ryan and I took turns riding some rollercoasters. We had planned to leave the park around 3 or 4pm because we were making the five hour trip home that night, but we were having such a good time, and the kids were hanging in there, so we stayed until close at 6:30pm (I told you Branson is not for night owls!).

The drive home was uneventful, except for the miserable rain, which thankfully had held off until after we left the park.

It was a busy but wonderful vacation, and I'm so thankful we had the opportunity to get out of town and spend a few days together as a family. I'm a retired scrapbooker, but I might have to dust off my old paper cutter and document this trip because it was soooo much fun.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Branson Vacation, Part 1

In the spirit of celebrating Ryan's homecoming, we decided to take a little vacation over to Branson, Missouri. This was actually pretty special because we've never taken a real family vacation. Sure, we've travelled to visit a lot of friends and family, but we've never set out with a child or children to a vacation destination with the sole intention of vacationing.

We had an amazing time in Branson, and I'm already noting ideas for our next trip there. Branson is a great town for families, even families with very young children. We certainly kept busy, but when we weren't running around town, we were relaxing in a beautiful condo on Lake Taneycomo, or as Clayton refers to it, "our new house." Yes, Clayton, I wish.

Day 1: Wild Animal Safari and Duck Boats

When I was 12 years old, my family met up with some of our extended family for a few days in Branson, which was my first and only time visiting there. I remember a few things from that trip, but no memory is as vivid as visiting a safari park and almost being eaten alive by a camel. If you were in Gayle's Suburban that day, you remember it too. We can all laugh about it now, but it was definitely an experience never to be forgotten.

When Ryan and I started talking about the possibility of going up to Branson, I felt compelled to see if this safari park still existed. I believe I may have found the park in question, and that's why it was our first stop on our vacation.

Due to my previous experience with safari parks, and the fact that I had my two babies in the front seat with me, we were much less adventurous with rolling down the windows, so a lot of my pictures are through the glass, but nonetheless, a great time was had by all, and we got to see a lot of animals very close up.

Could the guy above in the top right corner be the infamous camel in question? I don't know. Just googled camel lifespan, answers ranged from 40 to 50 years, so maybe he was the one. Either way, camel=windows up!

The safari also had a walk through zoo section with lots of exotic animals and several petting zoo type animals. Clayton loved feeding the pigs and goats.

After lunch at a nice little pizza place, the boys napped on the drive back to Branson, and we headed into town to Ride the Ducks. The Ducks are amphibious vehicles that take you on a little tour of town and then drive you into the water for a tour of the lake. It's definitely the touristy thing to do, but we had a very relaxing ride and learned a little about Branson and the area.

Clayton was in heaven the entire ride, especially when the captain allowed him to steer on the lake. The captain was keeping one hand on the wheel while talking to the rest of the passengers. That was until Clayton, in full three year old glory, kindly, yet somewhat forcefully, removed the captain's hand from the wheel. It was pretty funny. Clayton just wanted to do it by himself, which is the theme of his life lately.

After the boating we rested for a little while and then headed out for a late dinner. A warning to all Branson vacationers: this is not Las Vegas. At eight o'clock we had a bit of a difficult time finding an open restaurant. We were finally successful, had a quick dinner, and then headed home to put the kiddos to bed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I would imagine that when many children are born parents have big dreams of all the milestones their children will experience. When will they walk? When will they say, "I love you, Mom." What sports will they play? What opportunities will I try to provide? When will they know God's love? And where will they go to school?

I can honestly say that none of these questions ever crossed our minds when Clayton was born. All we could think about was how long he would live. Sometimes it's still hard to get past that question, with so much unknown hanging in the future, but then I have to remind myself that none of us knows how long we will live, and that's why we focus on today and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.

All this is to say that when Clayton was born my brain would have never allowed me to wrap my mind around the fact that he might one day go to preschool. Yesterday that happened, and I am so excited about it, and Clayton was too.

Clayton is attending preschool at our church, two days a week from 9:30 t0 2:30. After much debate and consultation, we decided to enroll him in the two year old class. We felt this was the better fit for his abilities and for his upcoming Fontan. Thursday night we went to Open House. Clayton's teacher goes to our church, so we have seen her around and met her once or twice before. We checked out the classroom, got all our info, and went to the gym and music room to meet those teachers, both of whom are friends from my Bible study.

Open House

Friday was the big day, and Clayton was pumped. It was absolutely pouring outside, but we made it on time for drop off. I tried so hard to get a good "first day of school" picture, but this boy would have none of it. He knew where he needed to go and didn't have time for pictures. While several other children and parents were crying, Clayton ran into his classroom, and I didn't see him again. Ryan went back down the hall a few minutes later and said Clayton was in the middle of the playroom, playing with toys, while all the other children were standing around him looking shell shocked.

Pick up was actually the hard part of the day for Clayton. His teacher said he had laid quietly on his mat all through naptime, but he didn't fall asleep. This boy was tired and cranky. We could not get him in his bed fast enough when we got home. After an hour of protesting, he finally fell asleep, and it was needed. This morning he is currently sleeping in, as I think he's worn out.

I'm so proud of my big boy, but more importantly, I'm so grateful he's had the opportunity to reach this milestone. He's living life like a regular kid, and that is always the goal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Since Ryan's been home, Clayton cannot leave his side. He has to know exactly where Ryan is at all times. Wherever Ryan goes, Clayton goes. Whatever Ryan does, Clayton does. This has the added benefit of producing amazing results at the dinner table as well. The obsession actually began the night we picked up Ryan, in the parking lot as we were leaving. Ryan had to go back into the squadron to grab something, so I told him I'd pull the car around. I started to pull out of the parking lot, and Clayton panicked, "Wait, wait. We a-got Daddy!"
Clayton's been busy helping Ryan unpack, as well as helping Ryan with some "man jobs" around the house.

Ryan calls these the most useless piece of issued gear. Clayton disagrees and has been wearing them around the house the last several days.

We just had to go to Chick-fil-A on Monday for their team logo day. Clayton finally got to pose with the Chick-fil-A cow, whom he loves. We were definitely the only Aggies in the restaurant. Surprisingly we evaded any harassment, which may or may not have been the result of the Sooner's loss to BYU over the weekend.

We feel blessed to have Ryan around the house for the next couple weeks. We've been soaking up all this family time. Eli is starting to get used to having his Dad around. He doesn't quite have the "deer in the headlights" look on his face whenever Ryan walks into the room anymore.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcome Home Daddy!

Ryan made it home from his deployment last night. We were all so excited to see him. I hadn't told Clayton where we were going, just in case they were delayed. When we pulled up to the squadron I could see a large crowd forming outside. Several people were pointing to the runway, where I could see Ryan's plane had already landed. At that point I figured it was safe to tell Clayton what we were doing there. I asked him if he wanted to go see Daddy tonight. He was a little confused, but I finally got through to him that we were actually going to pick up Daddy right now. He was so excited that he immediately tripped and scraped his knees in the parking lot. After a couple tears and little dusting off, we ran our treats and snacks into the auditorium and made it outside just in time to see Ryan. Clayton was so happy, as was his Mommy. Truthfully, Eli was unphased. I don't think he really remembers Ryan, but I know he'll catch on soon. After waiting around forever to get Ryan's bags we were finally able to pack up and head home.

On pins and needles waiting for Daddy

Clayton jumped into Ryan's arms the moment he saw him. You can't describe in words how excited this little boy was. This is my favorite picture of the night.

Ryan and two of his boys

I know. Where's the whole family shot or at least one with myself and Ryan? I thought about it right before Ryan walked up, but I didn't think about it again until we got home. Oh well. We'll just have to remember it.

We're so excited and thankful to have Ryan home safe and sound. Deployments certainly give you a greater appreciation for your marriage and each other.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Getting Ready for Something Big

Cooking and cleaning. Cooking and cleaning. Laundry. Finally painting my toes. More later.