Sunday, November 30, 2008

A crazy drive through Lazy Five Ranch

One of our adventures while Bud and Jane were here was our trip up to Lazy 5 Ranch -- one of our favorite places in this area. The main feature of this ranch is a 3.5 mile drive through a park in which there are over 700 animals of all different types (from 6 different continents!). It's amazing to see them all just roaming around together. And not only do they come right up to your car, but many of them are so aggressive (because they know you probably have food for them) that they will come right IN your car if you let them! So it's quite the safari adventure. Bud and Jane kept comparing it to the real African safari they have been on in Kenya -- and they said this one has better roads and you can get much closer to the zebras here. :)

The kids, of course, loved it once again. This was Colsen's first experience there and, after getting licked by a huge creature who put his head in our window right as we started, he quickly recovered and decided he loved all the animals. He kept leaning out the window (when there wasn't an ostrich right there trying to get in) and yelling, "Hey animals! Whatcha doin' guys? Hey dude!" etc.

Here are some pictures from the adventure:

Afterwards, we went around the walking part of it and saw some of the other animals -- they even have lemurs, camels, and what I think were kangaroos now.
Later that day we went to Mom and Dad's house for some more wild adventures.... including a fantastic dinner featuring Dad's new "signature dish." We all came home that night exhausted, but unanimous in our opinions that it was a very fun day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

lThis year was a special celebration for us because we had all 4 grandparents here for dinner! Bud and Jane flew in on Wednesday for a visit until Sunday, and Mom and Dad came over for the afternoon and evening on Thursday. The kids loved having all the attention to themselves, and I loved the fact that the adult-child ratio was 2:1.

After a little football action and a lot of cooking action, we all took a mid-afternoon walk, on which we collected a bunch of fun fall nature items. Then we came home and concocted a special Thanksgiving hat with all the collected things.

After a very yummy dinner, we passed the hat around so everyone could have a chance to wear it and share what they've been thankful for this year.

Everyone looked stunning, as you can see.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What is a "complete day?"

I've been pondering this question lately.... What things need to fall in place for me to feel like I've had a full, fulfilling day? Some days just feel like everything is in sync, and despite whatever peanut butter ends up on the carpet or how many toddler tantrums must occur, the day still feels "good." Other days, even when I get to do a lot of "fun" things, I still go to bed restless and feeling incomplete. So what are the goals for me? Well, here is what I've come up with so far.

A complete day would include:

  1. a time for reflection, reading, absorbing Truth

  2. purposeful worship

  3. music (listening to, and/or singing)

  4. eating some healthy, homemade food

  5. eating some probably-not-healthy-but-yummy treats (usually will involve chocolate)

  6. exercise of some sort (going up the stairs a few times counts. Nothing strenuous to make me sweat, though, please!)

  7. taking some deep breaths

  8. getting some fresh air outside

  9. doing something creative and/or productive (this can be as simple as creating a notecard for someone, putting some flowers in a vase, or even changing the water filter in my Brita pitcher)

  10. communicating with someone who lives outside this house

And that's about it. I've noticed that cleaning my house is not on this list (although there are some non-negotiables, like at least wiping the kitchen counters in the evening, etc).

Of course my favorite times are when I can combine several of these activities at once, such as doing 7, 8, 6, and 3 at one time. Or, better yet, 5 and 10 at once. Much more efficient that way. :)

So that's my list... It's a good thing I don't have a full-time job, because I don't see room to that fit in anywhere. I can barely fit in a very part-time job (which counts as #9 when it does occur).
I'm curious to hear what other people would put on their lists... If you come up with yours, let me know!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanks, honey

Yesterday I was wearing some warm clothes, since it was freezing, and I decided to put a non-maternity vest over my shirt. I knew I looked a little funny, but was just happy I could get it zipped over my very large belly. Pete smiled when he saw me, and when I started to make some defensive comments about how I couldn't find anything else to wear, and it was warm, even if it didn't look good, etc., he was quick to reassure me.

"No," he said, "you look cute! I like that look."
So I was feeling better about myself...

Until he added,
"It kind of reminds me of that scene from "Tommy Boy" where Chris Farley puts on David Spade's coat."

And he proceeded to sing the "Fat guy in a little coat" song for me.
I'm thinking this was NOT a compliment.

(Here's the link to the scene if you haven't seen it:

WARNING: There is some offensive language in this scene, unfortunately.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Through the eyes of a child

When I couldn't see Colsen this afternoon while we were outside in the yard, I called out, "Cole, where are you??"

His little voice responded, "In the woods!"

Curious to see these "woods," I came to find him..... here:
You can see how it feels like a forest to him I guess.... but here is where he really was -- from my perspective:

(Granted, it is starting to look a bit jungle-ish since we haven't trimmed our bushes in way too long.... )
I chuckled when I was thinking about this because it reminded me of when my brothers used to get so excited to go play in The Forest when we were little. The Forest was an adventurous 2 yards away from our house, and provided lots of coverage for all their secrets and spying -- as well as a passage-way to get to some neighbors' who lived a whopping 4 houses away.
We all laugh about it now, because as it turns out, The Forest is, and has always been, a total of 7 or 8 medium-sized cypress trees all in a line along the back edge of the neighbor's property.
But oh how exciting the perspective is of a pint-sized person!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some recent quotes around here

Colsen: Can't wike (like) this dinner!

Strider: [While listening to our neighbor tell a story in which she kept using phrases like "she felt like she was being pulled by horses in all different directions" and "I felt like I was just treading water trying to keep the meeting going", he started giggling and giggling, and finally laughing so hard he fell off his chair:] She's being so figurative!

Rayna: [Picking out names for characters in a story] Ok, these are girls, so they are Iddy and Diddy. And this is a man, so he's Widdy.

Me: Cole, can I have one of your crackers?Colsen: No fank you.

Pete: [Reading over my shoulder as I'm typing this.] "No fank you" -- that's so funny when he's says that. But I think it's actually spelled with a 'ph', not an 'f'.'

Colsen: [Going up to Rayna who was sitting on the couch] Whatcha doin', sweetheart?

Me: [Trying to instigage Pete to react loudly] Well, I don't know what you're so worried about. If our country becomes more socialist, isn't that actually good for those of us who make less than the average household income?Pete: I can't believe my wife just said that! Amy! Socialism causes a complete distortion of the incentives that properly allocate resources efficiently... (sputter, sputter, smoke coming out of his ears.... My mission accomplished!)

Colsen: [Playing the piano and singing] Twin-kle twin-kle lit-tle star, How I won-der whatcha doin'.

Rayna: [When nothing in particular was going on -- we were just driving in the car] Mom! Don't put this on my blog!

Colsen: [Running up to Pete who was sitting on the floor and giving him a big hug] I love you Pete!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Household Happiness

Relatively speaking, our home has been a pretty happy place the last couple days, and I attribute that largely to 2 main things (aside from God's ever-present grace):

1.) A new behavioral system chart
2.) A teacher work-day today

The behavior around here had been slipping big-time -- to the point where Pete and I were getting quite desperate for some new ideas for how to get the obedience back. So after some brainstorming and consultation with other parents, we created a new behavioral point system (strangely reminiscent of the system we had to use when we were houseparents for court-ordered teen-age boys in Pennsylvania... ) We implemented it yesterday by posting it on the fridge, and the kids have been very receptive. Very receptive. I know this is likely to only last a short time until it too falls along the wayside, but for now I'm enjoying all of the pleasant attitudes and eagerness to help around here, as they try to "move up a space" on the chart. Strider was following me around all day yesterday asking me if I wanted more water or if he could get me some candy. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

And then I decided that we needed to take a "teacher work-day," a.k.a. vacation day from school so I could tend to some of the suffocating clutter around here. The first step was to make it all seem like Strider's idea. So a couple days ago I casually mentioned that Veteran's Day was Tuesday. He asked how people celebrate it and when I mentioned, among other things, that sometimes schools give that day off, he started jumping up and down asking if WE could have that day off. Step 1 accomplished, and I looked like such a giving, compromising mom.
So today we spent the whole morning shoveling out all kinds of toys and junk from our living room, and the kids' bedrooms. And even though "school" was not in session, I personally learned a couple key points: that removing 50+ pounds of toys and games from this house would not cause anyone to miss them, and that the approximately 50 pencils I had bought a couple months ago to start the school year had NOT all magically disappeared as we had been thinking. They were actually just in every single place they did not belong -- almost literally.

And now that I am pondering this, I think I might add a third reason for why this household has had a recent up-tick in happiness... Today after a work tutoring session I had, I stopped by a couple of stores to do about 45 minutes of browsing. It was the first time I had been in any store besides Super Wal-Mart in a couple months, so it was a delightful treat for me. I was in awe of all the bright shiny things, and thoroughly enjoyed walking the aisles with no one talking to me for a little while. I came home in a very pleasant mood. And as we all know, when Mommy is happy, the rest of the family is happy, too.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ground and Air Sports

This past week has been a good "sports" week for Strider. He played his last 2 baseball games of the season -- and one of them was in the evening under the lights, which made him feel very grown up.

And then he was very excited to meet a real-live NFL player on Saturday.... At Wingate's homecoming game, one of the Pete's former students, David Jones, who now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals came over to talk to them -- and Strider has been rattling off his stats ever since.

Saturday afternoon, Pete took Strider and Rayna to the Warriors and Warbirds Air Show at the little Monroe airport near here -- it turned out to be quite exciting! The pilots/planes re-enacted quite a battle which was apparently quite loud and dramatic -- Pete said they could even feel a big wall of heat when a bunch of the "bombs" went off.

Then Strider and Rayna both took turns "flying" in our friend JD's helicopter.... It was a good start to our Veteran's Day celebration!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Look Who's 2 now!

Our "me, too!" boy is now "me two!" as well (although he is in denial and has been arguing with us all day that he is really 1 still). So our crazy and wild 1-year old is now a 2-year old.... should we be scared?

He apparently wanted to commemorate the big birthday by pulling one of his favorite babyhood tricks...

.... although maybe kids don't really grow out of the joy of this kind of mess (oats all over the floor) for a long time...

Anyway, the big celebration was last night, and since it was Katie's birthday as well, we had a big Wray family party. The highlight for Colsen, of course, (besides the fact that a lot of his all-time favorite people were here -- something he had asked about over and over for DAYS), was.... CAKE!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Pete spent last week

Pete was invited to present a paper at a conference last week, and, sadly for him, it was in Europe. So poor Pete had to spend several days there, which I know he just hated. Yeah, right. He had a great time, both at the conference and sight-seeing in the Netherlands and Germany.

The conference was sponsored by the United Nations University World Institutue for Development Economics Research, and there were apparently people from all different countries there -- in fact, Pete was one of the only 2 Americans present. He was very interested to hear the perspectives of presenters from developing countries, especially in Africa. (If anyone wants to know more about this conference, here's the link to the main page. He got some great feedback on the paper he and his colleague wrote, and I know he's anxious to explore more in this academic (and practical) area.

We're happy to have him home now, and are thankful he had a great time!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Pete spent most of the last week in the Netherlands, which meant I had some time to practice my ol' 3-on-1 skills here around the house. And these skills, despite their recent workouts, have really not improved much. I'm starting to think the 3 kids simply enjoy causing me to spin around like a top so fast that I collapse at the end of the day on the couch, muttering incoherently.

Over the course of the last several days, here are a few of the tactics the kids put forth -- presumably to just try and keep my balance over my toes in an effort to improve both my posture and fitness level. (They're so thoughtful):
  • Colsen and Rayna played several rounds of their strategic game of "spill the drink." The first step is for Rayna to not finish whatever drink I've poured for her, but instead to stealthily put it in some low-altitude location where I don't see it. Then Colsen comes in for the big finish a little while later, dumping it all over himself, and if it will cause stickiness, as many other objects as he can find.
  • Another one of their sweet strategies is to play what I call the 2-1 split. Two of them distract me by being obedient while the third turns into a terror-tornado in another corner of the house. For example, yesterday I was starting to feel good about the fact that Strider was downstairs vacuuming and Rayna was dutifully picking up her room with me... until I realized Colsen was systematically destroying the bonus room.
  • At one point I went to use the bathroom, but as I walked in I was greeted by a most unpleasant sight (excuse the graphic descriptions here)... involving a lot of liquid NOT in the toilet. Using my great powers of deduction, I called the primary suspect into the room. He denied it at first, and then said, "Oh, this is probably what happened when I tried to go to the bathroom without turning on any lights." All in the name of science experiments, right? So off I go to get the cleaning materials to thoroughly clean this room. As I finished up and was putting the supplies away, I found the other 2 lovely children quietly pulling food out of the fridge and eating it. I finally got THAT taken care of, and thought, "Now what was I going to do? Oh yeah, go to the bathroom." Good thing my bladder is barely larger than a grape these days.
  • Then there are other random efforts that they make to keep me fully engaged, ensuring my attention does not wander (again, so thoughtful of them), such as when Rayna keeps washing her new stuffed sea otter in the sink (I guess because I told her otters like to swim?) and then shaking the wet thing all over the wood floors that aren't supposed to get wet. Or, Colsen helping me dump his lunch tray all over the floor (right after I had just cleaned it thoroughly), spreading gooey yogurt and mushy kiwi everywhere. Or Colsen wanting to "help" me clean the bathroom sink -- by either continually turning and and off the light switch until I feel like I'm at a horrible disco, or squeezing soap all over the place. Or Strider kindly organizing "new sports" for all of them to play whenever I tried to get on the phone with a serious call -- sports that inevitably involve loud shrieking protests from the other players. Or Colsen dragging a stool all over various rooms so he can now get to things I put out of his reach on purpose. And then when I take the stool, he doesn't even cry, sweet child. He just runs and gets a different one, and starts over in another room. Believe me, I could go and on and on (and you thought I already had!).

The arena in which we play this fun game was also breaking down this week. Our house seemed to know Pete was out of town, so several things broke. At one point I even had to go over and get our neighbor Mark to fix our garage door so it didn't have to stay open in its broken state all through Halloween night. And my body, too, was not in top-form... I had some sort of pregnancy-related lower back pain that caused me to waddle like a duck for the whole weekend. This gave those high-energy little people a definite advantage.

In all fairness, there were certainly some sweet moments over the last several days as well.... such as when Strider took over the manly chores of the house in Pete's absence, and when I heard Colsen tell Rayna "I love you Rayna" as they rode together in the bike trailer one day, and when Rayna told me randomly one day, "You're the sweetest girl I've ever met!" I think the kids plan these sweet moments to come at just the right times, so that I will continue to suit up for the game each day. They really don't want it to be a blow-out game, since that would be boring.

All the same, though, I was thinking about how in the not-too-distant future, if Pete goes on another trip, it will become 4-on-1. Scary thought. He's been talking about wanting to go to Colorado with his friends for a week next summer... but I think he will be wise enough to not bring that trip up in discussion with me for at least a few weeks. As we were driving home from picking him up at the airport last night, the van was quite loud, and at one point he yelled, "You 3 are all talking to me at once!!" Welcome home, Peter. It's good to have my teammate back. 2-on-3 isn't quite so bad... even if we never quite win.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So the kids got all dressed up in their costumes last night... and we realized our camera is currently enjoying a trip through Europe (and reportedly having a grand time -- it will be back to check in with us soon I think), so I couldn't take any real pictures. I hauled out the ol' video camera, but since the battery was low, I had to leave it plugged in. So between the cord limitations and the darkness of the evening, this video is not all that great.

For those of you who can't see the videos on this site very well, here's the cliff notes version: Strider is a basketball player (and I cringed everytime I looked at him in his Carolina jersey), Rayna is a basketball cheerleader, and Colsen is.... the basketball.

the basketball gang

We went around to some neighbors' houses last night which was, of course, fun. Rayna, in her annual tradition, treated each house as a destination and wanted to stop and talk to everyone for quite awhile- - I had to keep dragging her on. Colsen was new to the whole phenomenon and at first was giving me very quizzical looks about both his costume and why we were going up to the neighbor's door. But once we got to the 2nd or 3rd house and he realized he was accumulating candy at each spot, he quickly became very enthusiastic about the whole process. I had planned to just keep him in the stroller for a lot of the stops, and let Rayna and Strider run ahead, but Colsen would have NONE OF THAT. So all 3 of them had a blast!