Photo Friday

Photo Friday – Holiday Puzzle

holiday puzzle.jpg

One of my favorite childhood holiday activities were the holiday puzzles my mom, sister and I would do. Each year the puzzle board and card table would come out around Thanksgiving and we would start work. The boys are now old enough to start that tradition for our family too. It has been fun to sit together and work on it.

Photo Friday

Photo Friday – 2014 Holiday Lights

2014 lights.jpg

Here is the 2014 Holiday lights. We were able to hang them in the dry weather and have even figured out a shorting issue. It is definitely Christmas at our house.

Happy Thanksgiving

Will turkey hat.jpg

Happy Thanksgiving from our little turkey. Will brought home the turkey hat and his thankful turkey from school. Last week on the way to the bus stop Will pointed out that Islay has a waddle like a turkey. In case you need a translation on this written thankful words they are from right to left, family, dog, food, dad and mom.

Will thankful turkey.jpg

Christmas Jammies

2012 Christmas jammies.jpgOne of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood that we have carried on with our kids is Christmas jammies.

On Christmas Eve, Santa brings the boys special jammies. They arrive while we are eating dinner and are signaled with a jingle of bells. The boys go check the stairs and find the matching jammies. They are so excited to get in them and then they are ready for bed. All that is left is to put out the milk and cookies for Santa.

When I was a child we had the same tradition, no matter where we were Santa would find us and bring our jammies. My aunt came up with this idea as an easy way to get all the kids ready for bed without a fight. Brilliant.

Jack will wonder aloud about what kind of jammies Santa will bring each year. It is so sweet to see his happiness and wonder. He is a true believer and there is no skepticism in him. Pure innocence.

My sister and I have been able to find matching jammies for all of the boys for the last few years. It is so cute to see them all dressed the same on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. One year not too long ago Santa brought the adults jammies too (not matching).

I wonder what this year’s jammies will look like.

I am linking up with Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop today.

Family-Themed Costume?

family.jpgAre you one of those families that don a family-themed Halloween costume? You are probably guessing that we are, but we aren’t.

We all dressed up in a themed costume one year, but that was it. I have themed the boys before, but now that they are old enough to have a say that ship has sailed. I do try to have the dog in a theme with at least one of the boys, but it isn’t working this year. Hopefully Islay will tolerate the Halloween costume as well as Mulligan did.

If you are doing the family-themed costume this year, hats off to you. Especially if that means that you got your children to agree on a theme. I would love to see your photos, so please post them in comments.

Happy Halloween and have a safe evening.

Guest Post: Beach Mommy

We are out on our two week camping road trip, enjoying the summer sun in the Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. I have lined up some fun guest posts for you all.

Laura is a dear friend who I have enjoyed getting to know better this year, through Cub Scouts. She is one of the most creative people I know, not only does she paint and make art with drift wood and shells, but she has also written a book. I aspire to be as good of a mom as she is.


boys with mom at beach“Hey Mom, can we go to the pool?”

“Can I ride my bike down the big hill – by myself?”
~Go for it!

“Mom, can we get chips at the market?”
~Of course!

“Can we stay up an extra hour and make s’mores?”
~Great idea – yes!

A few months ago on a weekend escape to our family beach cottage my 8 year turned to me and said, “I love Beach Mommy!”  “Beach mommy”?  As opposed to your everyday At-home mommy?  At-home mommy who frantically keeps track of the schedules, routines and family events?  At-home mommy who says “no” to one more show, “no” to dessert after both lunch and dinner, and “no” to just about anything that doesn’t fit into our scheduled calendar of events?  Beach Mommy…hmm…

I get where my son is coming from.  Beach Mommy is relaxed and at ease.  Beach Mommy leaves behind the homework charts, grocery lists, baseball practices, laundry piles and To-Do lists.  Beach Mommy’s car is not the shuttle that darts between Target, the dry cleaners, karate class and swim lessons.  In fact our car sits for days at the beach.  Beach Mommy’s iron doesn’t make an appearance and Beach Mommy insists on wearing flip flops every day.  Simply put, Beach Mommy has nowhere to be and no one to schedule.  Beach Mommy lives in the moment without anticipation or planning.  Most of all, Beach Mommy says “yes” more than “no”.  I realized that I love Beach Mommy too.

Since that weekend at the beach I have tried to introduce Beach Mommy to At-home Mommy on occasion.  We still move at a faster pace at home between sports, work and school schedules.  But I try to say “yes” as much as possible.  Of course there are times that staying up an hour later or having an extra juice box are reasons for “no”.  But Beach Mommy makes me pause and listen before jumping to “no”.

Whether at home or at our cottage this summer I hope to be Beach Mommy as much as possible.  Summer should be about lazy days, exploring with friends, extra ice pops and impromptu sleepovers in the tent.  I hope to balance the scheduled camps and family get-aways with living in the moment a bit more.  I hope to say “yes” as much as possible and enjoy Beach Mommy – just as much as my kids do.

Laura Senenko is a busy At-home Mom who likes to escape to the Washington coast with her family to be Beach Mommy.  She recently published a children’s book – You and Me By the Sea – inspired by the beach community of Seabrook where they vacation as a family.  Check it out on

Happy Birthday William

Will Feb
Will turns four today. He is such a vibrant spunky little boy, you can’t help loving him. A few years ago I put this together using the letters of his name to provide inspiration describing him and the  words are still very relevant.


– will power. Some might call this strong willed, but he is determined and it will prove to be a necessary skill in the future given his vision impairment.



– individual. He has his own unique and distinct personality. Also, he can make the perfect frown face.


l– lovably cute. Most people want to eat him up and ask me how we discipline him when he is so darn cute. Will is a hugger. So when you meet him, he will probably give you a hub and a kiss.


l– lefty. He is left handed without question. He throws, swings a bat or club, eats, writes and even kicks as a true lefty.


i   – imagination. Just like his brother he can take his toys and play for hours by himself, making up stories and scenarios.


a – adventurous. Will just goes. He has no fear and will just walk right into the middle of anything — of a group of kids, a swarm of bees, a pool…


m – male. He is all boy. He loves his cars, Transformers, swords, Legos, trains and balls.


Will born Will - 1


s – style, as in his own. He has a distinctive run that made our friend Allison, who is a PT, say one day that she wanted to video tape Will running so she could show everyone what the range of “normal” is like.


t – taller, much taller than Jack. I feel bad for Jack because someday, not too many years from now his younger brother will be taller than him.


a – animated. He loves to dance and sing, especially in the car.


n – nutty. The other night while I was getting him ready for bed he said “I William! I crazy!” He is a complete ham and loves making all of us laugh.


t – tenacious. He doesn’t take “no” for an answer and is determined to get what he wants. See letter “W.”


o – outgoing. Ever since he could talk he would say “Hi” to people in the grocery store until they would acknowledge him. Today he even called out to multiple groups of people and everyone said “hi” back.


n – noisy. His voice has a way of carrying a long way, except when you need to find him. He also likes to hum or sing when you are on the phone.



balance bike  Will - 3

Mr. Roboto

For Jack’s Birthday party this year I came up with the idea of having the kids build robots. I like the idea of creative or active birthdays with a structured activity as it tends to keep the party moving along and helps prevent boredom.

Jim added to my idea by suggesting they build the robots out of PVC pipe and different connectors. The kids would be able to fit the pieces together easily and we wouldn’t need to glue them (they could later if they wanted them to be a bit more stable). After a research trip to Home Depot we settled on ½” PVC pipe and connectors, including crosses, t’s, angles and straight couplers.

robot party 8

Jim then cut the PVC pipe into three lengths, 3”, 5” and 7” and we put together a sample to see how many pieces would be needed to make a reasonably sized robot. Each boy started out with at least those pieces and then could go get extra pieces as needed.

Once the robots were put together we had a whole table of decorations/embellishments that they could use including colored duct table, pipe cleaners, washers, card-board, sharpies, googly eyes and pompoms.

robot party 2
robot party 4 robot party 3

We had nine boys total, including Jack and Will and three extra helpers (thanks Allison, Dana and Alan). Jim helped attach screws, Alan cut card board and duct tape, Dana made pipe cleaner bracelets, Allison took all the photos and I manned the hot glue gun. Everyone was very excited and so creative with their ideas. They each were so different; it was really fun to watch. Even Will worked on the sample, adding arms and decorating it.

robot party 5 robot party 6
robot party 7 robot party 9

The boys were so into their projects that we had to push them out of the garage to go have robot cake (with raspberry filling that the boys thought looked like blood) and open presents. Allison was able to capture photos of everyone with their creation.

robot party 1  robot party 10

A few of the boys commented how this was their favorite birthday and we received emails from several parents shortly after who were told by their kids that it was the best party they have attended. It made me feel so good that they were having fun and we did it for under $200. Pretty good I would say.

2012 Holiday Letter

In case you didn’t receive our holiday letter (or chose not to read it) here is your chance. Jim writes our letter and does a great job of adding humor to them. Enjoy

2012 card front  2012 card back

There was no shortage of world events that could have served as Holiday letter inspiration this year. But the indelible memory for me is a song that transcended culture, language, age, class and style. Gangnam Style — a song performed in Korean, by a Korean named Psy — is the most requested song by my two boys, their friends, their friends’ parents and the rest of the world. Jack and Will love to sing along even though they don’t speak Korean. So sing along with us as we recap this year’s hits — it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the words. And be thankful you are getting the radio edit and not the extended remix.

Skyfall, Adele (encore: Sandstorm, Darude)

This year’s weather came in the form of snow and then a crippling ice storm that toppled trees and power lines – the perfect time for a visit from Charkiewiczs. While this storm was an inconvenience, it was also another reminder that we are lucky to have such benign weather relative to most of the country.

Drive By, Train

We said goodbye to Poppy, our tent trailer, earlier this year after two fun-filled camping seasons. The adieu was bittersweet as we traded up to a hard-sided travel trailer that will allow us to extend our camping season and take longer trips. We picked up Boomer, an Outback 250rs, in March and headed to the Washington and Oregon coasts over spring break to stress test it. Six trips later, Boomer passed the test. Next stop — a 15 day trek in 2013 to Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and one toe in New Mexico.

Broken-Left-Arm Style (Ow. Ow Ow Ow.), Jack

Over the summer, Jack earned the dubious honor of being the first in our family to break a bone. It’s not entirely clear exactly how he broke his left arm. I think he did it diving to rescue a bald eagle chick falling from its nest. However, Sarah and a few other “witnesses” claim he fell off a stair railing while sliding down. Agree to disagree. Two casts and a lost soccer season later, all is well (the first cast had to be removed and burned after Dennis signed it with the Univ. of Oregon logo).

Glad You Came, The Wanted

In June, Steve Gillis and I held our second annual fundraising event in memory of our beloved friend, David Fanning. Thanks to the generous support from this year’s 96 participants, 17 hole sponsors, countless donors and volunteers, The David J. Fanning Memorial Golf Tournament ( donated over $28,000 to Seattle-based Benaroya Research Institute for diabetes and other autoimmune disease research.

Some Nights, Fun (honorable mentions: I Cry, Flo Rida; and Try, Pink)

The sum of the songs from Pink and Fun — Try + Some Nights — captures the entire season. Our beloved Dawgs came into this season with a proven QB, promising skill players and a new defensive coach who actually knows how to coach. After a schizophrenic 7-5 season, I have no idea what to expect. I hope they figure it out in time for the Las Vegas Bowl. Woof.

We Are (Not So) Young, Fun (Fun appears twice in our letter this year…well, because they are Fun)

Will started preschool this year and loves his teachers and classmates. His class hosted a pre-Thanksgiving dinner that we attended with Sarah’s parents and sister’s family while they were visiting recently. He is also enjoying his sports sampler class this fall, and he appears to be very capable on the soccer field. Jack is in the 2nd grade and has another wonderful teacher. Early signs point to strengths in math and science, just like his mom.

Don’t You Worry Child, Swedish House Mafia

“As nighttime creeps closer to suppertime and red and gold seep into green leaves” we know that it’s once again time to host the Haunted Maze at Jack’s Halloween school fundraiser. This year we moved it outside and add scarier elements and more walls. Our third and final year was a huge success and we are excited to participate next year as mere mortal volunteers and parents.

Stronger, Kelly Clarkson

In support of her business objective to expand her audience and build a reputation as a subject matter expert on GI and vision issues, Sarah is now writing as a contributor for three additional parenting Web sites. She attended the Bloggy Boot Camp conference in Chicago and came home with creative ideas on how to grow revenue and her sphere of influence.

Here’s to another 52 weeks of chart-topping memories. Happy Holidays, Gangnam Style – Ho. Ho Ho Ho.

Jim, Sarah, Jack, Will, Mulligan (WGD)

Oh the Lights

Last week while I was very sick in bed I was thinking about our family holiday traditions. With us heading out of town and me being sick, some things fell off the list like making gingerbread houses. There are other traditions that we would never miss, even if the holidays were only a week. Like our Christmas light tour.

This tradition started for me as a child. My family would go do some shopping at the big mall in the town next to ours, then have dinner at Marie Calendar’s and finally go see the lights. There were a few big houses that did amazing light displays. Even after Steff and I were in college we would still go have dinner and see the lights every year.

Jim and I have continued this tradition with our family and this year Jack started asking last week when we were going to go see the lights. There is a street in our town where each house decorates around a theme — the Polar Express, the Grinch, Peanuts and others. We also have found a house that does the lights synchronized to music (but not Gangnam Style).

Usually we go and have dinner at the same restaurant in town and then go do our light tour. One year we decided to try to find some more neighborhoods that were listed in the Seattle Times neighborhood light tour, but we always go back to our tried and true favorites.

We too invest a lot of time in decorating our house and hope that they are a part of someone’s holiday light tour as well. We know they were for one family who left us a note one year and a local newspaper snapped a photo that ended up on the front page.

2012 Christmas Lights

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