Tuesday, September 9

a weekend in KC

one of my favorite things in life is to catch up with old friends or family and see how happy and content they are with their life. its one of those simple things that makes me happy! we made the 5 hour drive up to visit the carpenters over labor day weekend in kansas city. it was so wonderful to see them and see how happy they are! 
steve and kandie live in a beautiful part of Olathe (pronounced o-lay-th-ah), steve is enjoying his job, they've built a gorgeous home, the kids are enjoying life, and they're loving the ward they are a part of. pretty perfect!

we got in late friday night, but that didn't stop us from hanging out, letting the kids run around and get to know each other again, meet the adorable and sweet baby seth, and just catch up! i love kandie. she's one of those people that no matter how long it's been, we just pick up right where we left off like no time has passed. not to mention she is super woman! maybe it was all that time we spent together in our primary presidency or the companionship we had while our hubbies were in school together or maybe its just that i admire everything about her, but she is just an amazing woman and I'm so grateful for her. anyways, an overview of our trip:

somehow this is the only picture we got with everyone, minus chris. bummer! 

on saturday we headed into the city for some bbq. this place was SO delicious. we were going to try going to a different place called oklahoma joes (thanks caro for the tip!), but it was just too far and with the potential of a considerable wait time with 8 kids, we decided to go here instead. we really enjoyed it. the side dishes were killer and and my burnt end sandwich was better than any other bbq sandwich I've had at a restaurant.

after lunch we hit up an awesome (and free!) kids place called Kaleidoscope. they had all sorts of fun crafts for kids.

can you believe how beautiful these kids are?! Sydney, Leah, Bryce, and Katelyn have grown so much. chris and i were super impressed with syd- she's growing into such a beautiful young woman! it's crazy!

one of the crafts at kaleidoscope is painting with melted crayon in a room with black lights, which i think was a definite highlight. charlie really liked it and loved how his hat glowed so well.

check out my toes!

after some serious crafting, we went next door to the hallmark museum. did you know that hallmark headquarters are in KC? neither did we!

chris and i took the little boys out for some ice cream because, lets be honest, there were a lot of little girls singing and dancing!

on saturday evening we went to a KC Royals game and had such a great time! the kids all had a friend to entertain each other and even baby seth (or baby steph as charlie calls him) was a trooper. we made it through all nine innings! they ended up having extra innings and lost, but we didn't bother staying for those. the weather was perfection and we had popcorn, nachos and pizza- we had a grand time at the ballpark!

our little family went to visit liberty jail and the temple on sunday morning before church. chris and i both remember visiting liberty jail when we were kids. it was really special to visit and i hope the kids remember the feelings they had while at liberty jail.

by the time we got to the temple, the kids were cranky and hungry for lunch, which made us crabby too. so there we sat, in the temple parking lot, eating our picnic lunch with crabby kids. it kind of made me sad. but! I'm still glad we went.

sunday evening was probably my favorite part of our trip. not only did we have an amazing roast dinner complete with homemade rolls and jam, roasted AND mashed potatoes, and then ice cream sundaes, we got to spend so much time just chatting. its so fun when steve and chris get together! they joke and make each other laugh the whole time. so glad he has such a great buddy. (is that even what men call their friends... buddy? doesn't sound masculine or tough enough, but it really fits for them!)

jack and charlie both really loved seth. jack held him every single chance he could, even if seth was upset. jack's going to be my number one helper when this baby is born. it'll be like having a nanny... or maybe just an extra set of hands... sort of... :)

on monday, steve and bryce taught chris and jack how to cast with a fly fishing rod in the backyard. now the boys are convinced they need a fishing trip to truly get the feel for it.

ellie, charlie, leah, and bryce spent a good amount of time sliding down the stairs on their tummies and also doing headstands.

of course, chris had to show off his headstand and handstand skills too. he even put on a little show, moving his legs all around, which made us all laugh.

before we made the trip home monday afternoon, we went to the gym and let the kids go wild for an hour. it was the perfect thing to do before a long car ride.

syd and leah showed us all their cool tricks they've been learning in gymnastics. that little leah is fantastic!


and just like that,
our trip came to an end.
hugs were given and tears were shed.

this is charlie's "what?! we're not going back to baby steph's house" face

the only consolation was that we were listening to harry potter and the chamber of secrets on the drive :)

carpenter's, we love you guys!

Monday, September 8

2nd, 1st, & pre-k

we made it back from florida just in time for the kids to start a new school year on august 18th.


jack is in 2nd grade now and his teacher is super sweet. and bonus, mrs. been LOVES that jack plays the banjo! she is a huge bluegrass fan. his teachers always love him because he's a great helper and very intelligent. after the first week mrs. been told me "you are so lucky to have a son like jack, he is the best!". she's totally right and it always does my mommy heart good to hear that others feel the same.

ellie started 1st grade in mrs. humphrey's class. even though she doesn't love school because "its every single day", she knows she got lucky with mrs. humphrey. ellie is doing really well academically and has the most stellar handwriting we've ever seen a 6 year old have. here are a few of our favorite comments that her teacher has written on her spelling tests and homework assignments the past couple weeks:
"Aren't you something!"
"Excellence is never an accident!"
and "you are super girl!"

 and this kid...
how is he old enough for preschool?!

charlie started going to a 3 year old class on tuesdays and thursday mornings with his buddy brynn. we never sent our others to preschool this early, but charlie cried almost everyday last year when i'd drop of J & E and ask if he could go to school too. that, along with the fact that preschool is very reasonable here, and of course with the baby coming in a couple months, we decided to give this guy a little taste of big kid freedom.
he is in love.
you know charlie is in absolute heaven when he is willing to wear a shirt AND pants AND TENNIS SHOES. his normal everyday attire consists of undies and flip flops, which is adorable on his tall but still little man body.
every morning he asks if i am dropping him off at school and the mornings when i say no, he lets out a very frustrated sigh.

he was so excited his first day. when i asked him if i could hold his hand walking up to the door he said "no thanks, mommy". i was asking more for my sake than his.

love seeing this sight twice a week :)
(even if it's only for a couple hours)

Wednesday, August 27

home sweet home

after 9 ½ months, we made our first trip back to florida. 
man oh man, did it feel good to be home!

not just because we were spoiled rotten by one of the best grandmas and grandpas that we know, although that happened quite a bit.
and not just because we got to see all of our cousins and friends that we've missed terribly, even though we did and it was so hard to leave again.
and not just because we got to eat publix subs, only the best subs on the planet, twice.

going home felt so great because these kids are water babies! it's like their gills and fins grew back and they pretty much lived in the water... all day long, everyday. and had permanent prune fingers and toes. we needed that. we needed that as much as we needed to be with our family. it was probably the best vacation we've ever had except that daddy had to stay in arkansas for work. that was the only downside to the trip. we missed him so much that little jack broke into tears when we got off the plane and saw him for the first time in two weeks. "i didn't know how much i missed you until i saw you!" he said through deep breaths. we all missed our papa.

the kids had private diving lessons while we were there too, courtesy of aunt larissa. she's pretty much the coolest person in the world when we are swimming.
this video isn't ellie's best dive, but i love her smile at the end.


if we weren't swimming in the pool or at the beach with our buds, we were fishing!
thats a pretty mandatory thing if you're a browne.

see that guy in the black shirt?
he wins the award for most patient grandpa in all the land! he helped the kids fish off the dock several times a day and took jack and ellie out on the boat so many times. it's not easy taking them fishing, with jack's constant stream of questions and busy hands touching everything and ellie's non stop singing and squealing, not to mention retying the line over and over because of their snag after snag. but he put up with it time after time and it's something that they will remember forever.

after one of their fishing trips, grandpa chuckled while telling us that at one point on the trip, ellie was sitting in the back singing the hymn "I stand all amazed", while jack was in the front humming "centerfold" by the j. geils band. what are we going to do with these two?!

i even got in on the action. 
my first and only cast brought in a beautiful jackfish.
that sucker put up a great fight and now i know why those boy's wrists are going to be broken and decrepit by the time they're 60. it's hard work!

ellie really caught the fisherman's bug! i was quite proud of her. she'd go get bait with the guys and help load them up in the bait well with her hands. she used to only hold the bait with her hands if they were dead, but now she holds them when they are squirmy and wriggling, including the spiky pin fish, and will even bait her own hook!

this kid set his record of catching 11 snook in under two hours. then the next day he broke that record with 14 snook in two hours.


a few other highlights were:

riding bikes while grandma sprayed us with the hose.

going for rides on grandpa's homemade go cart!
he even let jack drive it by himself for the first time.

here are the others, waiting patiently for a turn. 
charlie loves his ashie poo and gave him enough kisses to last him a year or two.

bo and larissa, alli and jacob, and aunt rik came over most days to swim, hang out, and/or eat dinner. that was our favorite part. we really really really missed them.

a playdate with her bestie, sophie

i also had a playdate with all my girlfriends to get frozen custard one night, and another night was able to attend book club to discuss a great book called The Rent Collector. i'm missing those friends already.

we, of course, had a special lunch with grandma at outback, ellie and grandma's favorite.

jack and ellie took turns going on deliveries with grandma and loved it. they enjoyed it so much that usually there was quite an argument deciding who got to go with her. I'm guessing not only did they love the one on one time with grandma, but also loved the treat she'd let them pick out at dairy queen afterwards too.

aunt alli set up a tug-o-war that was epic!

we liked watching this osprey, who brought his lunch to eat while watching the kids swim in the backyard.

totally by chance and definitely not planned, we happened to be in florida over my birthday :)
mom made the best enchiladas in the world, larissa made my favorite texas fudge cake into a LAYER cake (!), i made an exception to my no-soda-new-years-resolution and had a frosty bottle of root beer thanks to rik, saw all my lovely friends at church, and as if that wasn't enough, was showered with gifts and cards. it was pretty much the best ever.

chris went above and beyond, and with the help of larissa and mom, sent rikki and i away on an overnight getaway in miami!!! 
thank you thank you thank you to chris, lari, and my sweet mama. it was immensely enjoyed and very much needed. i know it wasn't easy watching our three little wackos, but i know they had so much fun and for that i am so grateful.
and to my rik, i will always cherish our night in miami and never forget:
 the crazy guy in the lobby that messed up our reservation, or the weird voice on the elevator saying "going down" the entire descent from our room on the 32nd floor, or the way you showed that miami traffic who's boss and made me feel like you were fiona and i was sam ax along for a ride on an episode of Burn Notice, or staying up till 2 am giving each other online quizzes to see which order of the phoenix member we are, or getting room service, or finding those crazy delicious lotions at william sanoma, or the freaky hand trying to grab you through the fridge at the gas station, or driving down south beach, or the weird dance of mine that you video taped behind the glass door to the bathroom, or the yummy food we had at shake shack, or listening to the incredible cd's you made me on the drive, or how standing next to the window of our room made you weak in the knees because your fear of heights, or the time that rich guy thought your car was his at the valet parking and got in, or how we gathered a crowd of people with really bad plastic surgery in anthropologie by telling that crazy lady that ft myers beach is definitely NOT the best beach in florida and how she should visit a few others instead, or how the same crazy lady in anthropolgie asked if i was slovik or ukranian because "we are both so beautiful", or how great those swedish fish tasted at 1 in the morning while laughing so hard during our crazy conversations. 
nope, i won't forget any of it.

florida was perfect!
it was exactly what the kids and i needed. we miss our grandma and grandpa, our cousins and aunts and uncles, and our good friends. the second we stepped into the airport to fly home, ellie broke down. she didn't stop crying during both flights and continued crying at home. the tears came several more times during the following week. she misses grandma so badly. but just like the last time we left, it will just take some time. we are pretty lucky to be able to take such fun trips and are already looking forward to planning a trip next summer.
until next time, florida!