Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summertime Fun

So, I know I've been a bit lax in the blogging department recently. To be honest, I figured not many people actually read this anyway (Hi, Mom!) but I actually got a nice email from one of my 'readers' (a non-relative!) asking what we've been up to. Yeah, kind of surprised me too, so I thought I'd actually write something to appease all of my other readers (Hi, Dad!).
So, we kicked off Summer with a fun trip to The Wildlife Safari. This place is SO much fun, and the kids had never been (Colin and I were last there on our anniversary...when I was pregnant with Z!), so it was definitely on our Summer to-do list. It's a pretty long drive, by far the longest we've taken the kids, but they did great. We heard a few, “Are we there yets?” from Z, but nothing make-you-want-to-jump-out-of-the-moving-car bad. Well, we had a blast! We saw some really awesome animals pretty close up, and the kids loved seeing animals they had never seen before. It was a great learning experience too (more for Z than A) who had to cross-reference all the animals we encountered with the guide we picked up, then ask us to read him all the facts about it. We are certainly going to go back sometime soon!

Some affectionate zebra!

My little animals enjoying themselves

This guy decided he would be a nice roadblock for us!

Colin and I have also been striving to find fun activities to do with the kiddos, without breaking the bank. One sunny weekend (after much too much Summer rain!) we decided to head over to The Ankeny Wildlife Refuge, which is just about a 10 min drive from our house. I'm not sure how I've managed to not go there during all the time I've lived in this area! We packed a light lunch, sunscreen, binoculars and a borrowed bird book and hit the trail. While we didn't see a lot of wildlife, what we did see was pretty fun. The kiddos enjoyed chasing frogs, watching dragonflies skim the water, quacking back at the woodland ducks and we even spotted an adorable deer (who was clearly wondering what the heck we were doing in his neck of the woods!). They also enjoyed just running, running, running! It was some great old-fashioned, free fun!

The kids checking out tadpoles and dragonflies

And, probably the most recent fun activity we enjoyed was picking strawberries! I've always said I could never move away from Oregon, because of the abundance of amazing berries, fruits and vegetables we have. One of my favorite times of year is strawberry picking time. When I was a kid, I used to actually pick strawberries to earn money for the State Fair. I loved it! I wanted my kids to feel that excitement too, so every year since Z was a baby, we've taken them strawberry picking. Z has gotten better and better over the years, and this year I was able able to let him pick on his own. It was so neat to look over and see him picking right next to me. Avalee, well, she picked too, but none of her berries ended up in the bowls. ;o) She was having the time of her life out there, just picking and eating, eating and picking. I think she would have happily stayed out there forever, if we had let her. And, what did we do with all of our strawberries, you ask? We made strawberry and strawberry/banana jam, smoothies, homemade strawberry shortcake...and of course just enjoyed delicious strawberries with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day!

Last weekend was our family reunion. You may remember from previous posts that my mom and I put our reunion together every year. Mom has been doing it for, well, ever since I can remember, and I have just sort of grown up with it. It is a lot of work, but really a lot of fun too! We rent an area in a local campground (where we have our annual campout too) and are there all day. Mom and I have a little mini-carnival set up for the kids; sucker pull, beanbag toss, facepainting, fishing booth, etc. The kids are all issued (fake) money in little baggies with their names on them, and use it to play the games. At the end, we have prizes (toys, books, etc that we buy) they can buy with the rest of their money. The kids love it! We also have a raffle for everyone (three different 'age groups'; adults, young kids, older kids) with items that people donate. Then we have piƱatas for everyone (again, a pinata for every age group, even adults), which is always a blast. At the end of the day, we do bingo for anyone that's left. This year's reunion turned out great, and the kids had so much fun playing with their cousins, running around and enjoying all the activities. :)

Avalee collected a few goodies playing the games ;o)

And, we are working on a backyard makeover right now, which has been taking up most of our weekends (well, the ones that we actually have free). We are still in the beginning stages, but so far the hubby has got to drive a backhoe and tear up the entire backyard. :o) Our next step, is to put in a retaining wall (a big one), then some grass (either seed or hydroseed) and then some plants and/or trees (I'm thinking blueberry bushes!). It's already been a lot of work (mostly for my poor hubby who has been digging and shoveling for the last month) and will be a lot more, but hopefully will look pretty darn awesome when we're done with it!

Z helping Dad drive the backhoe

Next month will be our annual family campout, and we are all so looking forward to it (though, no one more than Z!) and then the Oregon State Fair. Hopefully, we'll be able to squeeze a few more adventures in too, before Summer ends!
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