Saturday, October 31, 2009

Harvest Time at Harlow

As if in answer to our quandary about not being able to be "there" for our kids when they dress up for Trick-or-Treating, our church decided to host their Camp Harlow "Harvest-Fest" on Friday the 30th vs. Saturday the "official" day the 31st. Way to go Camp Harlow - and smart move given how many people would be looking for just such an opportunity given 60,000 people would be sitting at Autzen Stadium on Halloween night vs. traditionally celebrating Halloween.

So, we took our time dressing up our kids - smudging make-up on Brayden's face for "dirt" and really "dolling" up Mikayla to make her look way TOO OLD. But, they looked great, and I'm so glad we got our obligatory pictures taken with them so when they ended up doing their real Trick-or-Treating with the Meyers tonight, it didn't matter what they ended up looking like.

They had a blast at Harlow. It's always been just a little packed for our tastes in the past, and moreover, we've desired to reach out to our neighborhood in trick-or-treating vs. the festivities at Harlow. But, for this year, it was just perfect. The kids even got to re-visit with their favorite counselor - again and again throughout the night.

All just a part of what is turning out be one of my favorite weeks of this year!

Annual Chili Feed

Happy Halloween! ....Which means it's time for our Annual Chili Feed...... good times, good people, and if I say so myself, very good food.

When we started getting closer to the noon o'clock hour, when people were supposed to arrive - I began to enlist everyone to get the "final chores" completed. Travis thought I was mad at him because he got assigned to putting hard brie on soft bread (which needed to be somewhat reversed for optimum spreading....). John got enlisted to add the apples and brown sugar mix on top - thanks guys!

Grandma Leona came early dressed in costume - looking quite classic, and helped make the punch that went over so well last year.

Mom worked on fruit prep......

It turned into a full house in a hurry - just the way we like it!

These three guys hid in the kitchen.....up to no good, I'm sure.

The 4:30 am workout buddies (John and Steph carpool in the mornings to the gym on M,W, and F's - crazy, huh?)

Travis snapped these two - pretty much where you'll find "Steph and Steph" on any given weekend.....

Still yet to be posted, Harvest at Harlow from last night (pics currently being downloaded) and John's adventures at GameDay this morning at Autzen. It's always a sure sign life is going good for the fam when I can't keep up with blog posts.....

In the meantime - GO DUCKS!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bowling with the Big Kids

As I'm trying to type this post, Brayden is working on getting me back to the place that I'd labored hard to get to in "Scooby Doo Unmasked" on PS2. Stupid me overwrote my progress when I tried to save his game.........grrrr! Yes, little known fact about me, I love Scooby Doo PS2 games......

I also enjoy bowling - as do the kids, though I'll admit it was not a stellar showing for any one of the Rileys today. No matter, that's the great thing about bowling, it's fun even when your showing is pathetic.

The bowling idea was discussed earlier this week when I found out Lisa's kids din't have school on Friday either. The idea seemed even better when Amy asked if I'd watch her kids while she went to some appointments. Unfortunately, Adam chose this week to catch the Swine Flu, so poor Lisa got stuck at home caring for him rather than joining in on the fun today. (Fortunately, though, Adam's case seems to be pretty mild - Praise God!).

I'd mentioned the idea to Kaela and Julie - and then Aaron, Scott, and Andrew joined us as well - what an honor it is that these "big kids" would choose on a Friday afternoon to spend time with me and my little kids....

Parent-Teacher Conference: Brayden

For five years, John and I have been entering into our annual parent-teacher conference for Brayden with kind of a reluctant sheepish grin.... We have a pretty good idea what is going to be said, something along these lines....

"I really enjoy your son, he is so sweet and gets along so well with everyone"
"He comes up with great answers, which, forgive me for saying this, kind of surprises me as it really doesn't look like he's been paying attention"
"Yes, organization seems to be a struggle for him - maybe we can put together a weekly check-in sheet to help track things better"

.....and then there's the joint laughter about the pig pen usually surrounding his desk/work area.....

Last year all of these issues seemed to reach an all-time high - as I'd come in to class and watch him - and he seemed to be lost in space 75% of the time, constantly out of his seat, and papers strewn everywhere. It all culminated in this post....

So, after extensive research, interviews with other parents, and wisdom from our doctor, we took a course of action. I'd rather not go into public debate about it, but feel free to email me if you are really curious. We also "landed" a teacher that seemed to be the perfect ideal for what Brayden would best respond to. And, we've seen a turnaround. Literally, a 180.

And, with tears in my eyes right now, I praise God. I am so thankful that Brayden's true potential is finally being realized. Just as in kindergarten we were able to take steps to correct the incredible weak vision we never knew he struggled with, with corrective eyewear, we have now been able to tackle the issues within his brain that has sent conflicting signals- all sent simultaneously in a jumbled array- to start working the way his brain is supposed to.

We've seen the results at home, in class, and on the football field. But, nothing gives quite as much feedback as the conference does. The first words out of Mrs. Jakious' mouth were, "I know you were worried about Brayden's lack of focus or difficulty staying in his seat or staying on task, but I have seen absolutely none of that" (She'd previously sent us an email on her own initiative saying the same thing).

Then she showed us his self evaluation. And, sure enough, it still reflects the way he was conditioned to see himself. A rating of 3 out of 5 for "How well I take care of my belongings and materials" and the same score for "effort given on assignments, how neat and legible his work is, and how organized he is". Mrs. Jakious was really puzzled by these self-assessments, telling us she thought he was very hard on himself - and we had to tell her that he's never known anything different all these years - and that what she's seeing in Brayden is such a different student than what he was for five years.

And when I say different student, I mean just that. His personality hasn't altered one iota. He's still just as fun, silly, compassionate, and sensitive as always. It's as if now, he's just able to really listen, focus, and stay attentive.

Of course, there are still a few hiccups - but tiny ones now. He's doing just excellent and I feel no need to downplay that because he deserves the applause. Where as last year, the thought of sending off to middle school in the place he was at terrified me, these days I see his results and think, wow, this kid is pretty smart! And, it saddens me that so many things masked that conclusion fo as long as they have.....But, praise God for today - and the future ahead for him now.

(As a P.S. - Brayden and I had a pre-scheduled date last night watching "GI Joe Rise of the Cobra" at the Dollar Theater. We set off for our date right after the conferences, so the moods were extra high and jubilant. I love these times hanging with him - treasuring him. It was really a very good day all around!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Carving and Dutch Babies

What does it say that I'm too tired to make dinner for my husband, but when a college student arrives having not eaten dinner, I merrily make my way to the kitchen to prepare something delicious? Tonight it was breakfast-for-dinner - we thought we'd introduce Aaron to fun of Dutch Babies.

He seemed to indicate that he enjoyed them every bit as much as we do.

On to pumpkin carving- Mikayla and I cranked ours out - we began our project before Aaron arrived when I still had very limited energy. She did her share of "sawing" out the design and it turned out just like we wanted it too.

John and Brayden opted for something much more elaborate. The pumpkin is still in process while I write - but there is spray paint and "suspension techniques" involved.......

We're not sure what Aaron's plan is - but he's pretty intense about getting it done.....

About a half hour ago, Travis and Steph arrived. Mikayla begged Travis to help her carve another. He said, "yes" - and the knife is indeed a prop in this picture. (btw - I tried to correct the red eyes, but they came out looking like snake-slit I opted to stay with the original red - I guess it kind of works for the whole Halloween theme....)
Final Products:
Mikayla and I's pumpkin:

Mikayla and Travis' pumpkin (all her own design...reminds me of the head on "The Headless Horseman"):

Brose's (Aaron) Final Product:

And, the boy's final product....Very fitting for this weekend!!!

I Ought to Write about Something.....

Happy Wednesday everyone!

It's been a few days since I've updated. I've got some fun pics and stories to share from Sunday, but they require images from John's camera - so that post will have to wait.

In the meantime - more odds and ends-

- Yes, ESPN's College Game Day will be here in Eugene. When I saw the schedule, well over a year ago, and realized what an event Halloween against USC would be, I imagined the "potential big-ness", but never really believed it would come to fruition - wow, so exciting.

- In spite of that, I'm wondering whether or not I will make an actual "live" appearance to see Game Day in person. I had a dream that we got there and I fell asleep - it's weighing on me and I'm wondering, with such a BIG day (hosting an annual chili feed, night game) - if it wouldn't be prudent for me to just watch the event on tv while preparing food and the house for company around noon. Will it really make that big of a difference if I'm not shivering outside at 6am?

- John had a follow-up eye appt. on Monday. Things are healing up well. He'll be off drops on Friday and able to finally get that other contact in. Yeah.....

- Did anyone catch BIGGEST LOSER last night? - SPOILER ALERT -
Um, MAJOR tears.....
Talk about someone choosing to rise above circumstances that would devastate and cripple anyone - and her choice to make a difference in so many other people's lives.....

- Confession time - I've been pulling out random/abstract Christmas CD's. My usual rule-of-thumb is to not listen to Christmas music until after Halloween, but my justification is that these CD's are not ones I would ever listen to when I'm "unleashed" for all of the "good stuff". While some of you may scorn me, the teary-eyed smile I get in the car, with the ripple of seratonin running through my body at this wonderful music......I really can't apologize for jumping the gun.

- Our school has it's conferences Thursday and Friday - so today is the last day of school of the week for my kiddos. I think that calls for "sleeping in" tomorrow morning.....

- Tonight we carve pumpkins - stay tuned for pictures!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's a Good Day

Because of this..... (the first one of the year)

and the Ducks are currently up 43 to 19 against the Huskies in Seattle with less than one minute to go.....I think this might come up as a "W".....(and that "W" stands for WIN not Washington!)

C'mon ESPN's Game Day....we know you've been looking for an excuse to return to Oregon. A match-up between two top-10 teams for the conference title on Halloween night? It doesn't get any more exciting than that.........

More Randomness

It's catch-up time on the ol' blog. Time to crossover into random topics and follow up on things that have been addressed before.

First up, the final product of some of the cookies that we taste-tested last week. This was the remainder of the "Lofthouse" recipe.....they puff up real purty, huh?

Kenady and Mikayla rolled out the "Cream-cheese" dough for some cut-out cookies.....

For the last 6 days, we've had Mackie with us. Mackie is Mom and Dad's wire-haired fox terrier. He is such a people-person - sometimes a little over-the-top in his enthusiasm, but definitely a lover.
He is excited to see his Mom today for sure - I know we are sorry replacements for the outpouring of love Mom and Dad give him on a daily basis. Mom is returning from Maui today - while Dad is staying an additional week to do some work on the house he helped build there several years ago.

From the sounds of it, it was a great vacation for them both. They went zip-lining (way to go Mom and Dad) - and based on this picture.....I think Dad found a way to make himself plenty happy......

And, speaking of's another one to introduce........"Dudley". This is Dennis and Lisa's new additon to their family. He visited our house for the first time yesterday and is a total sweetheart. He's part Jack Russel terrier and part "?".......I'm guessing chihuaua or weiner dog based on his small size and long body.....but what do I know? At any rate, the family is in love with him - the kids so sad to go to bed the first night because they didn't want to leave gotta love that!

Finally, I ought to throw an update in regarding John's eye. It's getting better day by day. On Monday he has his ten-day follow-up appointment. Hopefully, it will be good news.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mikayla's Turn for a Fan Club

Wow, that's a large crowd for a second grade (non-play-off) soccer game! But, just as Brayden has had his share of the limelight from the college student crowd, Mikayla had her turn last night. Walt and Kaela showed up - joining the faithful attendees of Julie, Grandma Leona, and Travis and Stephanie (my parents are in Maui......).

Kaela took all these pictures - however, I know John took a truckload too as he was once again reunited with his camera Monday night. =) This is Mikayla's second to last game - she's had such a blast this season and is very sad it's nearing its end. Fortunately, there is a spring season of soccer too.

Following the game, we took Leona out for birthday dinner at Red Robin. She turned 70 last Thursday - what a woman! We all had a delightful time gobbling down our dinner (we were all very hungry) and chatting it up with the actual "Red Robin". Happy Late Birthday Leona!