Category Archives: growing up

On hard work and helping others

Dear Rylee,

There are times, as a parent, that you can’t help but stop and realize how proud of your kids you are. As you grow up, I seem to have these little moments with you more and more.

Some of my favorite time spent with you is when it’s just the two of us in the car. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does our conversations are some I hope I never forget.

I don’t think either of us realized that our seemingly casual conversation in early November about would morph into a full-family community service project. But I am so glad it did.

We were talking about our upcoming Advent Activity tradition. You were asking me what kind of activities we would have this year. As we talked about the activities we always have on there – getting the Christmas tree, decorating the house, etc. – we also talked about the service-oriented projects I try to include. Like the S.A.N.T.A. project and the community food bank. You mentioned that you wished you, Reese, and Linc could have more than $10 each to spend for each activity so you could buy more food and better toys.

Somewhere in there, I made a suggestion of figuring out how to turn that $60 into more. And that’s how the wreath-making fundraiser was born. You said, “what if we make some extra wreaths and sell them?

I guess you figured since we make Christmas wreaths the day after Thanksgiving anyway, what was a few more? I made a quick post on Facebook that night and started getting comments.

We spent the entire weekend clipping greens, wrapping wreath rings, making bows. For the first time you got to yield the hot glue gun and you styled and decorated nearly every wreath completely by yourself. Reese helped out here and there – she had fun learning to use the nippers. And your brother was just excited to play outside for hours on end.

You didn’t complain once about being tired or bored or cold. All in all, we made 22 wreaths, 3 candy canes, and 7 swags – earning $500 to be used for buying toys and food for our little town!

Actually, I just lied. You did complain. About my choice Christmas music. :)

Your brother and sister may still be a too young yet to truly grasp the magnitude of what your idea meant for our community, but I know you understood. And I think that’s what drove you to work as hard as you did.

I hope you never forget how excited you were every time a new order came in for a wreath. How excited you were to add up how much money you’d earned. How diligently you added up everything that was placed in the cart to ensure you didn’t spend too much. How you beamed with pride every time you told someone about your project. How kids at your school stopped and stared when we made the deliveries to the school. And most importantly, how hard you worked to fulfill those orders.

So back to those moments that make a parent stop in their tracks? This whole project was one of those moments for me. I am so, so proud of you, Kid.

You have always had heart for helping others and I hope that never changes. I can’t wait to see the positive changes you make in this world, my girl. You are going to move mountains.

xoxo,
Mom

2017 Family Recap

Nothing like including a direct link on your Christmas card to get your butt in gear to freshen up this crusty corner of the internet that you can’t seem to bring yourself to let go of.

If you’re new here, thanks to the back side of our Christmas card, Hi! and Welcome! Don’t expect too much. What was once a thriving (self-sustaining even!) blog about our family life has been pushed further and further to the farthest back burner as more children have been grown inside my belly, birthed, then continued to grow outside of my belly. It’s like with each additional family member, time has exponentially sped up and there’s barely enough hours in the day to make sure all the kids are fed and showered, let alone time for updating this blog. Funny how that happens, hey?

If you’ve been around these parts before, Hi, again! Don’t expect too much. I would love to say that my new year resolution for 2018 will be to start writing again, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Basically, it comes down to this: I truly enjoyed creating last year’s “holiday letter” so I wanted to do it again.

Continuing with the theme of time flying by, what the heck happened to 2017!? When trying to come up with snippets and highlights to share for our recap, I had to scroll through the pictures on my iphone by date just to make sure I had the year right.

Probably the most exciting thing that happened this year was our road trip. This summer, the five of us loaded up in the truck and hit the road for College Station, Texas! We went because my work is based there. For me, it was nice to spend more time than a rushed 4-day trip that happens every few months. For Andy and the kids, it was like any other summer break day at home, just with a swimming pool at our rental! Along the way, we hit the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. We snuck in plenty of fun while we were there too, including spending our last weekend with my boss and his family and some of their friends on one of the family ranches. We did a little of everything “Texas” – hunting, hiking and exploring, fishing in the pond, swimming in the same pond, shooting, relaxing on the front porch. It was the perfect end to our trip. The kids were real troopers with the long days (and nights) in the truck. Overall we were gone for three weeks, and while we all enjoyed our adventure, we were happy to get home.

Seemingly less exciting than a 4,000-ish round trip adventure, but a just as important milestone in our house happened in March. We got chickens! Real, live, egg-laying chickens. This has been a long time coming. Just ask Andy’s buddy Keith, who helped Andy unload the chicken coop his shop class built what… 4 years ago now? It’s been a back-burner project for a long time, and it was really exciting for us to get it done! We started off with 3 pullets (not chicks, but not full grown hens), assuming at least one of them would die and it’d be an easy way to “work out the kinks.” We now have 7 hens and they’ve all been named, much to my initial dismay – they’re not pets! I insisted. – Yes, I know all their names, but I usually just refer to them as “the ladies.” I’m pretty sure I love them more than the kids do now.

Rylee is now 9 and in the 4th grade. She is still very into American Ninja Warrior. So much so that back in April she was asked if she would want to give a speech at an event all about celebrating what makes them unique. She agreed and in front of an audience of about 100 people she spoke about her dream to be on American Ninja Warrior someday. I recorded the speech and shared it on the ANWNation facebook page and they turned it into a blog post on their website! Rylee was so excited about that. THEN! Her ANW hero Jessie Graff tweeted about Rylee by name and shared the link. Rylee was over the moon. In July Rylee got to meet and train with her ANW hero at the local ninja gym’s grand opening. There’s no safe doorway or wall in our house anymore. Everything has turned into something she can train on. Outside of her ninja training, Ry continues to work hard and do well in school, she’s decided her sports focus will be soccer and basketball, and she’s really into helping make dinner lately. And she’s at the point where it is actually helpful! I’d use this space to say something about wanting time to stop and for her to stop growing up, but I’ll be honest, I kind of love it! The person she is growing into is just plain awesome.

Reese turned 5 in July and this has been a year of big milestones for her! She started kindergarten this fall, she finally gets to ride the bus, she finally got to play soccer, she lost her first (and second!) tooth, and she got her first “real haircut” at a salon. She wanted it cut “all the way to her head” but ended up deciding on just so her hair touches her shoulders. The short, sassy style matches her personality perfectly. At her Pre-K graduation ceremony, Reese was in charge of carrying in the American flag, asking the crowd to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, holding the flag during the pledge, then concluding it with a loud “you may be seated.” She took her job very seriously and when Andy and I asked her about being chosen, Reese informed us that is was because she was “responsible enough and loud enough.” We got a good laugh about that last part because that’s our girl! Outside of all the big things that seemed to happen for Reese this year, she’s also following in her sister’s footsteps and loves American Ninja Warrior! She has figured out how to “spider jump” up the door jam to the pull-up bar and is now working on those pull-ups!

I gotta say, I really love that we have two strong and confident ladies on our hands!

Lincoln is 3 as of October and certainly coming into his own. He still gets along great with his sisters (most of the time), but let’s just say that things can … escalate quickly. I joke that he’s a curmudgeon old man in a three-year-old’s body. He likes things just so and he’s not a big fan of when those things change. Case in point: he graduated from a crib to a big-boy bed over the summer! However, six months later he still talks about his crib and how he wishes he still had it. We are also officially a diaper-free household! BIG KID LAND IS THE BEST! These days he really enjoys playing with his train set and anything that resembles a tractor, dump truck, front loader, or skid steer. He also spends a lot of time with his red little tikes car flipped over in the middle of the living room “fixing it.” He is still very much a mama’s boy (I’m certainly not complaining!), but he loves working out in the garage with Andy and spent many hours out there this summer “building stuff.”

Speaking of building stuff, it seems like that’s all Andy doe these days! He certainly keeps busy around the property with projects – my home office was in the works until a windstorm destroyed our pole barn last April. The set off an entire chain reaction of projects that left Andy very busy outside. He demo-ed the pole barn, salvaged everything he could and cleared out the rest. From what he saved, he’s built us a carport off the side of our house, an awning off the front of the brick house, and even repurposed some of the metal roofing to be the ceiling in my office. He’s also been working on the site prep for the new pole barn to go up. That included having 16 dump trucks of gravel brought in! This September kicked off Andy’s 14th year of teaching. He has been very busy at work helping to build their CTE programs, and even assisting in designing and team-teaching an Ag-intensives class. So far for that class alone, he has taught 2-week long units on concrete work, framing, welding, and basic car maintenance. In addition to that class, he is also teaching middle and high school PE, shop, and a construction math class. He’s having a lot of fun this year. But probably the most exciting thing that happened over the last year for Andy was his back. After living with constant pain over the last 10 years, seeing a specialist and multiple physical therapists to no avail, he blew it out (again) back in February. Despite that being a really terrible, painful, and hard thing, it’s really been amazing. He started with a new physical therapist, and after 5 months of pretty intense therapy, Andy’s back is back to what it was before he ever hurt it 10 years ago. He can run again! He can do more than a few hours of work before being in serious pain! He can sleep again! Did I mention he can run again!? As cliché as it sounds, it’s really changed his (and our) life.

As for me, life consists of working and, well, everything else you’ve already read! I still love what I’m doing and consider to be working my dream job. I try to have some fun here and there. I was able to help Andy quite a bit with the carport project, I’ve helped with the office project, I went to Chicago for a girls’ weekend. Beyond that, I’m just trying to keep practice schedules straight and to remember to have the girls keep those damn reading logs up-to-date and turned in.

Every year seems to get better and better and we can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!

Sending you wishes filled with love and laughter this holiday season!

xoxo,
Katherine, Andy, Rylee, Reese, and Lincoln

That Reese

I witnessed something remarkable the other day.

I took part of the day off of work so that I could chaperone Reese’s first field trip. We went to the pumpkin patch, but the field trip itself has nothing to do with this story.

Once we were back at the school, we had about 20 minutes to kill before the end of the school day. After the kiddos had the classroom cleaned up, and their week’s worth of papers stuffed in their backpacks, their teacher let them have free time.

At that point, she looked at me and said I was welcome to take Reese and get an early start on our weekend, but I had to wait for Rylee either way, so we hung out in the class. I stood off to the side and watched the classroom dynamic.

Somewhat off-topic: I’ve really been curious about the classroom dynamic and how Reese is adjusting to kindergarten. Often times she’s over-tired and very emotional when she gets home, so I can’t help but wonder if that’s how she is throughout the day, or if it’s saved up for when she’s at home. I was really thankful I had some time to just sit back and observe.

Immediately, all of the kids but one headed to the back of the classroom where there are books to look at and tubs of toys to play with. The one kid that didn’t go with the rest of the class? Mine.

Reese walked over to her teacher asking something I couldn’t quite hear, waited for the answer, smiled and quietly went up to the front of the room, where it’s clear they do their circle time, reading/letter practice, etc. She turned on the little karaoke machine, had the microphone in one hand, picked up the “pointer stick” with the other and started playing teacher. At this point she was “teaching” no one, but was reciting what I can only imagine is their typical daily routine.

All by herself, as content as can be.

After a few minutes of playing teacher by herself, one little girl went over at sat on the rug in front of Reese. Her eyes lit up. She was so excited to have a student. She called up her student to the front and together they practiced their sight words. Holding the microphone for her student, and pointing to each word. Within a few more minutes, there were five kids sitting there, letting Reese be their teacher.

A couple of the kids started arguing about who got to stand up and read the words into the microphone next. Teacher Reese diffused the situation quickly and the group continued playing happily until their real teacher said it was time to clean up and head home.

At home, I see the Reese that is often over-tired from school. I see the Reese that does everything in her power to push all of her sister’s buttons then gets mad when her sister retaliates. I see the Reese that hates brushing her teeth and hates going to bed. I see the Reese that doesn’t want to play what her siblings are playing but also doesn’t want to be left out. I see the Reese that’s loud and that likes to push boundaries.

The Reese that I saw that afternoon in her class? She’s independent. And content. And doesn’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. That Reese going to move mountains. Because when she talks? People listen.

I’m happy I got to see that Reese.

2016 Family Recap

It’s that time of year again! Christmas cards have been sent and now I’m sitting here (possibly procrastinating a work project) thinking, man I should have written a Christmas letter! Our little family really isn’t so little anymore. We seem to always be busy and running. 2016 was filled with extreme highs, some lows (like losing power for 5 days over the last week!), as well as adventure for our family of five and looking back, it was most definitely one of our best yet.
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Big picture-wise, a lot happened in 2016. In January we welcomed our first nephew on my side of the family! George stole my heart the minute I first held him. He’s growing and changing so much – I just wish I was able to make it up to Portland to see them more often. Then in May we welcomed twin nieces! Unfortunately they were born scary-early and spent a lot of time in NICU but now they’re home and healthy and growing more every day.

We had a lot of fun summer adventures that included our first camping trip as a family of 5! The kids had a great time… Andy and I needed a weekend from our weekend haha! It was so nice to get back out in the woods. We hadn’t been camping since Reese was a baby. We hiked 6 or so miles at Silver Falls with some friends. We road-tripped to Cheyenne, Wyoming in August and met up with some friends that live in Michigan – Cheyenne was the midpoint for both of us. It was a quick trip, but the kids did so great and it was so great visiting with our friends. We’ve already started planning our trip for next summer! We ended the summer with a long weekend at the Oregon Coast.

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Rylee turned 8 in May and started the third grade this school year. She continues to be involved with sports adding basketball and now even volleyball to the list. Between those, soccer and softball she’s playing some sport throughout the school year. Rylee works really hard at her school work and it really shows. Her teacher this year is really pushing her in all subjects and it’s so fun to watch her face new challenges head on. Her ability to understand math concepts blows my mind, and honestly intimidates me just a smidge. She will be better than me at math in no time. She also loves to read and devours books. Right now, she is reading 4 different books in preparation to compete in OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books).  Most recently she was invited, as one of seven 3rd graders and only 14 kids in the whole school, to represent her school on a team for a national STEM competition called Destination Imagination. I am still learning what all that entails, but she is very excited about all she has on her plate right now. Outside of sports and academics, Rylee enjoys helping Andy build things/complete projects around the house and property. She is an amazing big sister and has such a big heart.

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View More: http://witnesseverymoment.pass.us/rice_haag_families

Reese turned 4 in July. This girl likes to live out loud. Emphasis on the loud. Ha! She is full of spunk and always has a twinkle in her eye. She’s in the Pre-K class at her daycare/pre school and it’s very fun to see her put together letters and sounds and begin writing. The other night Rylee was teaching her basic addition – go figure. Reese has essentially spent her whole life watching her sister play organized sports and between Tball last spring and soccer in the fall, it’s clear that she cannot wait to get out on the field! She will be playing soccer when she starts kindergarten next fall and she is so excited about that idea. I often joke that if there’s a fight in our house, Reese is in the middle of it. Her and Lincoln get along great 99% of the time. Rylee and her however, well, there’s just something about sisters, I suppose because I remember doing the same things to my sisters. In general, Reese is very independent and strong-willed and will do things in her own time and feel her own feelings and most definitely does not care for her big sister telling her otherwise. She loves to play “home” and cart her baby dolls around the house. She is obsessed with all things baby mainly because of all of her new cousins! She loves to hold them and tells me “I am their best cousin, Mom.” … it doesn’t matter which cousin she is referring to.  She has even named one of her babies Éliane, after one of her cousins.

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View More: http://witnesseverymoment.pass.us/rice_haag_families

Lincoln turned 2 this year. If you’re around him for more than 5 minutes, his shyness will wear off and you’ll hear him talking a lot. It’s fun to hear him stringing sentences together and it’s downright funny hearing him reprimand his sisters… “Calm down, Rylee!” “Reese! Be quiet, Reese!” No idea where he hears those phrases! He is running all over the place – mostly chasing after his sisters. He also loves having sword fights, pretending to vacuum (with those same swords), or building/fixing things “like Daddy” with his toy tools. We offically had our very first trip to urgent care for an injury thanks to him. He jumped off the bottom step at my sister’s house and slipped on the hardwood floors. We thought he bit clear through his bottom lip. Turns out he didn’t and other than a fat lip, he was completely fine. FUN TIMES! He also loves trains and helping Andy build fires in the wood stove. He’s most happy when his sisters are including him with their play and will happily play the pretend husband or “babe” and carry around the baby dolls. Lincoln has a great relationship with both of the girls.

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View More: http://witnesseverymoment.pass.us/rice_haag_families

Andy started his 13th year of teaching in September. His schedule this year includes P.E., shop, and construction math. He has worked really hard on building a shop program out there and has made some fantastic industry partners in the community. He is also team teaching a STEM class and has his “head teacher” position helping with transcripts, counseling, and basically running everything behind the scenes. New kid shows up? Mr. Rice can help. Kid can’t get into his locker? Mr. Rice can help. A parent needs a grade report status for another class? Email Mr. Rice, he can help. Anyone know how to set up the PA system in the gym? Mr. Rice can help. Kid needs a bandaid? You guessed it… Mr. Rice can help. He has even been voted by the senior class two years in a row to give the commencement speech at graduation. Because, why not? He truly loves what he does. While his work keeps him plenty busy with long hours, he has managed to help coach Rylee’s T-ball team last spring and it sounds like he will be helping with basketball next month too. Outside of all that, it seems like he’s always scheming, planning, or executing a major project around the property and the latest one is a home office for me. We are converting part of the garage into an office/guest room. No no, we will not be getting rid of Andy’s beloved Cruiser. There will most definitely still be room in the garage for that! One of these days, maybe his priority will shift to something for himelf and he will get those brakes replaced and install a steering conversion kit like he’s wanted to for the last 4-5 years. Maybe.

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In February I left my job at the IT training company to take a position at a tech company based out of Portland. Working from home offered a lot of flexibility with family stuff and traveling to Portland once a week for work meant seeing my sister and nephew on a regular basis and that was amazing. But after not quite 3 months with that company – basically out of the blue and thanks to facebook – I was offered a position as Director of Marketing for a hunting company. The company is based in Texas so I continue to work from home. DREAM JOB STATS: Achievement UNLOCKED I am so, so happy to be back in an industry I love. It’s been fun reconnecting with old colleagues. I have traveled to Texas a few times since I started in June and even had the chance to hunt whitetail in South Texas. 2017 kicks off with quite a bit of travel for me… I will be in Dallas, Vegas, and Harrisburg, PA for shows in the first 6 weeks alone. I am looking forward to sticking with this company for a long, long while with many more adventures. Hopefully a caribou hunt will be on the docket in coming years! Aside from work, I continue to really enjoy cooking and have also taken a liking to running. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a runner, but Julia (my best friend of 32 years) convinced me to run a 5K race with her back in May and we’ve done two others since then! Most recently was a holiday run on her birthday where we both took 3rd place for our age divisions! Next year we’re going to bump it up to a 10k!

Andy and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary in August. Last March marked 10 years living on our property. We have three amazing, healthy kiddos. It’s hard not to look at this life we’ve built and smile. We are looking forward many more adventures in 2017!

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Now looking back at this letter, I realize why I could never write one to include with a Christmas card… I may as well bind and publish this bad boy as a short novel! If you made it all the way to the end, BLESS IT! Gold star for you. xoxo

*Photos by Elizabeth Crow Media

21 Months x3

Every once in a while I crack open my laptop and go through old photos. Last weekend I used my real camera to snap a few pics of the kiddos playing in the sprinkler. When I uploaded them it sent me down a rabbit hole. I did a little math to figure out Lincoln is about 21 months old, then proceeded to search my iphoto for photos of the girls at about that same age. This is what I found…

Rylee – Feb. 2010
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Reese – April 2014IMG_6992

Lincoln – July[ish] 2016DSC_0029

Yes, Reese is sitting on the toilet. Turns out that girl did not smile very much when she was that age. That was the best photo I could find that wasn’t her mean-muggin or with a binkie stuffed in her face hole.

I think Reese & Lincoln look SO much alike. I’ve always thought it, but now seeing them at about the same age, it really shows.

I don’t remember Rylee having such CHEEKS. She is so slender now, it’s hard to remember 6 years ago. Also… SIX years ago!? Holy moly.

I definitely think all the kiddos have the same nose in these photos.

I wish I had a photo in here on Lincoln without a hat on, because it’s so funny to me how I have 3 kiddos that all look so similar but all have very different hair colors… and how it’s been like that since the day they were born. Rylee with the red hair, Reese with the light brown/dirty blond, and Lincoln is a total toe head.

I also wish the photo of Lincoln wasn’t quite so dark. But fixing that would take time and well… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I can’t wait to do this again in the future. I love how much my siblings and I all look alike. In all honesty, it makes me feel more connected to them and I’ve always hoped my kiddos share that too.