The Birthday Boy (Age 9)


Little Lewie turned nine on August 11th, but so far, it's been a month-long celebration.  Last week, we invited Lewie's friends over for a pool party, and this weekend, we invited family.  (Lack of chairs and tables kept us from being able to host all at once.)

For Lewie's friend party, he asked for his "bestie" Corey to come over.  (This is the first time he announced that he has a "best friend" at school.)  However, he is quick to announce that "everyone" is a best friend.  This includes friends from Cub Scouts and friends he has known since he was a toddler (from Mommy's circle of friends).

Lewie's friends Ryan (left) and Hunter (right)

Lewie's "Tag Buddies" - Corey and Brody
(They play tag all the time during school recess.)
Here are a few more fun pictures captured with friends.  Basically, they spent the day playing in the pool, jumping on the trampoline, and eating yummy s'mores cupcakes.  (They did stop one other time to eat pizza.)

Lewie's family party meant favorite aunts and cousins on both sides, (including Ninny, Grammy, and Uncle Moises), and since my in-laws know how to party, they stayed well into the evening for some night swimming, campfire songs, and s'mores.

Oreo Cookie Ice-cream Cake - This was Lewie's next choice after s'mores cupcakes

Gift time was fun.  Presents ranged from Minecraft Legos and Star Wars StormTroopers to an astronomy book and telescope.  Of course, he also did get some Game Stop gift cards and a few video games--namely, Spatoon, Mario Kart, and The Legend of Zelda.

Now that the rush is over, and I have the chance to reflect on both weekends, all I can say is that I feel truly blessed.  We are sorry that some of our loved ones, namely Papa, Uncle Terry, and Aunty Sarah are no longer with us to celebrate this special day, but we know they were with us in spirit.  At the same time, we feel incredibly lucky to still have Lewie's grandmothers and great aunts to celebrate with us.  And of course, all the little cousins keep us on our toes, too.  We had two beautiful days of weather surrounded by friends and family--I can't imagine asking for anything more.

Lewie-isms (An Interview with my Son after his Ninth Birthday)


My sweet "Little" Lewie turned nine yesterday.  It's hard to believe that nine years ago, he came into this world and for eight years, I've been blogging about his antics on a weekly basis.  I never understood what parenthood or unconditional love felt like until the day I first met him...innocent, wide eyed, and such a little miracle from God.

From that day forward, I vowed to protect him, to teach him, to guide him, to be there for him (both physically and emotionally), and to be the best mom I know how to be.  I chose to be a stay-at-home mom for the first year and then worked only on a part-time basis until he was five. (I wished I could have continued this schedule, but finances forced me to take a different route.)  
His "Harry Potter" costume at Camp 565.
This year, my nine year-old will be going into third grade.  He says he can already tell he's grown taller and gotten stronger in the past day.  He's not too far from the truth.  He did grow--wearing a size 5 1/2 shoe and an XL (12-14) boys for most shirts and pants.  (This is way different from the size 8-10 he was last year.)

He's a smart kid that loves everything technology related.  He loves computers, video games, Google, YouTube, Music Videos, etc.  Over the years, he's asked me how to use PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Blogger.  Like most kids his age, he's constantly changing his interests, but there's no doubt, he will work in some sort of technology field.  Just a few days ago, he said he wanted to teach computers in college.  (This is probably because he knows that both Mommy and Daddy work and teach in higher ed.)  

Of course, there are his days when he's still fixated on trains.  Whenever he hears a train in the distance, he requests for us to stop and find it.  He also won't pass up a chance to go to a train station, train museum, or any other train adventure.  Trains were his first passion and may just stay until the end.

Last year, I asked him the following 14 questions.  In some cases, his answers are the same, and in other cases, they are different, relative to, of course, getting older.   (Sniff.  Sniff.) 

Q:  What is your favorite color?
A:  Orange (Same as last year.)

Q:  What is your favorite book?
A:   The Magic Tree House series. He loves all of them! 

Q:  What is your favorite cartoon?
A:  "The Amazing World of Gumball" and "The Odd Squad"

Q:  What is your favorite movie?
A:  "The Avengers Age of Ultron," he answers, "Vision is my favorite character."

Q:  What is your favorite song?
A:  "When I Met You in the Summer"  ("There's never a favorite because I love lots of songs," he says.) 

Q:  What is your favorite board game?
A:  Chutes and Ladders (Although, we also like Sorry, Pop the Pig, and Slapsies.)

Q:  What is your favorite computer game?
A:  "My head is hurting; I like so many games.  I might say Minecraft like last year.  No, my favorite is Portal 2."

Q:  What is your favorite place?
A:  Camp 565

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do at school?
A:  P.E.  (Gym)

Q:  Who is your favorite teacher?
A:  Ms. Drayton (his teacher from second grade)

Q:  What is your favorite sport?
A:  Tag

Q:  What is your favorite food?
A:  French Toast (same as last year) "Who doesn't love French Toast?"

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
A:  To take walks and jump on the trampoline (same as last year)

Q:  What do you want to be when you grow up?
A:  "There is just so much stuff.  I want to be a YouTuber, a college professor, an engineer, a game programmer, and a coder."  Lewie also wants to be a camp counselor after having so much fun with Camp 565 this year. 

Sayings - "Want to play tag?"  (He asks about this in the trampoline, on a hike, in the park, in the pool, etc.  This is, by far, his favorite game.  He also created a new game for us to play on the trampoline called "Battle Tag.")

"Don't judge me."

"Can I just have two more minutes to watch videos?"  (I hear this a lot when it's time to do homework or practice our reading and writing.)

"I have a 'crunch.'"  (He means "a cramp.")

"I feel 'fluttered.'"  (He means "flattered.")

"I put it in the 'hamster.'"  (He means the "hamper.")

"I just love my life."

There are days that I wish Lewie would enjoy school more and understand the importance of his writing, reading, and math homework.  (Getting him to complete homework assignments can be tough.)  Still, by far, Lewie's good qualities outweigh the bad.  He is a sweet boy that speaks kindly about everyone.  He doesn't like to play favorites and finds good qualities in all of his friends.  He's outgoing, friendly, and aims to please.  He shares his things and will even let friends do things (such as playing a favorite video game) before him.  "Mommy, I just love to make people laugh," he said to me after one play date with his friend, Samara.

Thankfully, Lewie is a "young" nine year-old.  He sees the world in terms of good and bad and always wants to do good.  He loves his family and wants nothing to change.  (He gets teary-eyed when he thinks about changing the duckies in his room.)  He'd rather keep things (like his backpack from last year) instead of buying something new and has an aversion to throwing anything away.  I suppose this is something he will need to learn, but for now, the sentimental value he places on people, things, and experiences is endearing.  I am so lucky to be a Mommy to this little love bug.  Happy 9th birthday, Lewie!  You are my sunshine!

The Desert (a.k.a. My Last Post about Arizona)


Our last stop in Arizona was Scottsdale.  We stayed at a resort called The Boulders Resort and Spa and had our own "casita" or townhouse.  It was a beautiful place with lots of gorgeous Arizona desert views (including a golf course), but the place still felt "wild."  On one morning walk, I found myself face-to-face with a Javelina, a hoofed mammal from South America that resembles a wild boar.  On another night, my husband was driven to our casita by golf cart because there were "predator" sightings such as coyotes and mountain lions.  The hotel staff reassured us that's there's never been any "incidents" at the resort, but we still wondered about our safety...  I stopped taking walks alone.

The Javelina that stepped right out in front of me.  He was about 300 feet away.  I zoomed in to get a better picture.

The Spa - I did treat myself one morning, but I didn't spend much time here because children were not allowed to use the restaurant or pool in this area.

Our Casita

For a Father's Day gift, I decided to treat Little Lewie and my husband to a TomCar desert tour.  At first Big Lew was interested in renting an ATV for the day, but with 110 degree heat, it didn't make much sense. Instead, we chose a sunset tour when the temp would be cooler, and he and Little Lewie could learn more about the desert landscape.  Plus, the tour promised scorpion sightings!

When the boys arrived home after a three hour adventure in the desert, they were covered in sweat and sand.  I soon learned that this "fun tour" had some adventure--I "literally" threw my boys out to the wolves, or in this case, mountain lions.  While my two boys were shining LED UV lights on scorpions, they stepped by some bushes and heard a large growl.  Even the tour guide was frightened and commented about how he wish he didn't forget his gun that day.  In the pitch black darkness, the tour guide told my husband and Little Lewie to get behind him.  He then shined a flashlight directly at the bushes while all three of them slowly stepped backward for a semi-long journey back to their TomCars.  Everyone was frightened, but luckily, they arrived home safely in one piece.  They certainly couldn't wait to share their adventure with me when they returned to the hotel.  Now that we've been home for over a month, I've heard this story at least twenty more times!  (My lesson: I'll think twice before sending my boys out to the wild desert again.)

Scorpions glow in the dark when you shine LED UV lights on them.

From our early days up at the Grand Canyon among the Ponderosa Pines to our final days lounging by Saguaro Cacti in the wild desert, our trip was certainly FULL.  We came home with a new appreciation and awe for such a unique and enchanting place.  It's no wonder that even ten years later, my cousin still chooses to stay.

OdySea, Butterfly Wonderland, and Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, AZ


Gosh, the summer is going by fast, and I can't believe a month later, I'm still posting about our trip to Arizona...Still, it was an amazing trip, and definitely a little more newsworthy than summer camp and our other low-key events at home.

After visiting the Grand Canyon, Page, Flagstaff, and Sedona, AZ, we headed over to Good Year (near Phoenix) to visit my cousin Vincent and his wife Jamie.  It's hard to believe that eight years ago, they took the plunge and moved out West without knowing a soul.  They're both librarians (he works for a state library, and she works as the library director for a high school), and they met while taking online classes together for their masters in library science.  From the moment they started dating, we couldn't believe how much they had in common--both loving books, video games, board games, Star Trek, the Blue Man Group, and evidently, the desert.  They're both enamored with their life in AZ, which means we can always count on visiting them when we're out here, but we won't see them moving back to the East Coast anytime soon!

During our last weekend in Arizona, we met up with them, and they generously offered to be our tour guides.  Phoenix was experiencing record breaking heat, around 110 degrees, but it didn't stop us from visiting Old Town Scottsdale or even going to the zoo.

After having breakfast at the Daily Dose restaurant, (yes, I did try their s'mores pancakes), they showed us around Scottsdale, and then we headed to Butterfly Wonderland.  Lewie knew a little about butterflies, having watched their growth stages in his kindergarten and first grade classes, but we never took him to a butterfly place.  Boy was he in for a surprise! He loved the 3-D movie and then didn't want to leave when it came time to to enter the butterfly pavilion.  Not only did we learn that this butterfly pavilion is the largest in the U.S., but it's also home to 3,000 butterflies from all around the world!  Lewie desperately wanted one to land on him.  A few came close, but at age eight, this boy, I think, is still a little too fidgety.  One landed on me but only for a mere second.  It flew off the minute I showed my excitement, which was right away!

Lewie took to my cousin right away.  Kids love his sense of humor!

My cousin tricking Lewie into thinking a butterfly really landed on his head!

The moment a butterfly almost landed on Lewie.

My favorite blue butterfly from afar.  I could never get to see one close and personal.

After Butterfly Wonderland, I went to the OdySea Aquarium while my two boys decided to go on a desert ATV (TomCar) tour.  (There will be more about this adventure in my next post.)  This was time for me to spend alone with Vincent and Jamie, and while the aquarium was certainly a wonder to see (sea), I have to admit that the real charm was getting to play "catch up" with family.  Highlights of the Aquarium were watching the three-toed sloth and "petting" the stingrays.  I had no idea how much they enjoy the attention!

Classic Vincent!

So creepy!  I don't think I can swim in the ocean again!
The next day we braved the hot Arizona sun, and went to the Wildlife World Zoo near Phoenix.  The parking lot was EMPTY, which means not many people visit the zoo in this kind of heat, but Vincent and Jamie promised us they knew the zoo and ways we could keep out of the sun while still enjoying the animals.  They were right, but we still had to avoid heat exhaustion.  Every 15 minutes, we were buying cold drinks or slushies to keep ourselves normal.  Even the poor outside animals looked at us as if to say, "Man, if you think I'm going to perform or do cartwheels for you in this heat, you're crazy!"  The animals in the air-conditioned inside exhibits, on the other hand, were full of life!  No crowds meant we had the chance to watch them all to ourselves.

I didn't notice the boys were showing off their bellies in this picture...

Lewie loved playing with this monkey.

Feeding the giraffes...

Lewie requested to sit with "Uncle Vincent" on the train, of course.

The safari train...

I couldn't believe the size of these ostrich eggs!

We spent the rest of our time visiting Vincent and Jamie's home; the boys had a chance to play video games, and I played a few unique card games with Jamie.  The visit, as always, was way too short, but at least we had a lot of memories to take home with us.