Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sunnyside

Hello!

This post is a tribute to my amazing, sweet, wonderful and now 6-year-old daughter... Olivia! I do realize that as her mom there is some built-in bias about the extent of her incredible-ness, but God's honest truth, this little gal lights up every room she walks in.

Jason said it best when he said that Olivia somehow turned out with the best qualities of both of us. From me she got the power of forgiveness, emotional resilience and hopefulness. She was also blessed with Jason's incredible kindness, sensitivity and the ability to see the best in everything. She has a great singing voice with near perfect pitch and that is not something she got from either of us!

Olivia is a sponge at school these days, really soaking up the learning and advancing quickly with reading her little "book in a bag" to me each night. She's the darling of her Kindergarten teachers. My sister Chandra once said that it's no wonder that Kindergarten is the age when the outside world wants to teach our kids because they are just so darn cute right now. I couldn't agree more.

She's a wonderful big sister -- here she is working with Quinn to read one of her books in a bag!

Olivia is altruistic in nature, often putting the needs of others ahead of her own and planning nice things to do for people. Every few weeks at Olivia's behest, we prepare a treat, special card or work of art to present to the teachers at school. When we went to Disney World a few weeks ago and her Papa gave her a little money to spend, she spent it on gifts for her friends! She didn't buy herself ONE THING with that money. We were all surprised.

Olivia is highly prolific with her art projects. We have stacks of pictures of the family and many scenes of Olivia and Quinn holding hands. Her pictures often include big happy faces and bright colors. I bring them to work, posting them around my office, and they seriously brighten up my day!

She loves singing and making up her own songs too. She loves the "Mister Golden Sun" song. I named this blog "Sunnyside" after another favorite and also because around Olivia things are usually kept on the sunnyside.... isn't that something? She has a genuinely cheery disposition and it lightens up every situation.

As I said, Olivia is optimistic, forgiving, hopeful and resilient. A perfect example of this is when I over-schedule our busy Saturday and we run out of time to go to the park even though promises were made that we would go. Quinn will probably be mad about this, whereas Olivia will move quickly past the disappointment to "It's OK, Mommy... Maybe tomorrow we can go. Ok?"

Here's a cute one of Olivia and Quinn practicing 'flexibility' and the Double Sloth Hang at Papa Mike's house!

Finally a picture of Olivia, Daddy, Papa Craig and Great Grandma Joleen at her 6th birthday celebration dinner at Waldo Pizza last week!

Olivia, your family loves you SOOOOO MUCH! We look forward to sharing your 6th trip around the sun together.

Love Always, Mommy, Daddy and Quinn

PS: this blog is scheduled to post at the exact time of your birth 6 years ago :)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Double Infinity Best Buddy

Hello!
Checking in here with a little Quinn update. Our little guy amazes us daily with his insight and intelligence. I'll just dive right in with some fun Quinn facts:

1. Quinn is an early riser and not one to stay up really late. The kids still sometimes do sleepovers but Quinn likes his 'roost' on the 3rd floor and seems to know when he needs his alone time.


2. Quinn LOVES breakfast. I've been on this low-carb/no sugar diet which works really well for me, and as a result, I've been advocating fewer carbs for breakfast (that rules out cereal). Quinn really loves breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese and sausage. He also loves bacon. When the kids eat this kind of breakfast, I notice far less snacking throughout the day.

3. Quinn is really into Star Wars and Legos (and especially Star Wars Legos!). He also loves dinosaurs. I got him this 3 in 1 Lego set where you can make three different dinosaurs with the same pieces and he knocked them out, posing with each special dinosaur!


4. Quinn keeps his room really nice! He enjoys making his bed and arranging his pillows. One Saturday, we made a plan to get a shelf for his room so he could organize and display his Lego creations, dinosaurs and baseball stuff. Quinn told me exactly what he wanted and where it should go. We went to World Market and bought the perfect shelf for his room that we were able to assemble together. It was really fun to help him spiff up his room and he was super-proud of his ideas!
5. Quinn shares a bond with Daddy regarding baseball. He enjoyed playing t-ball this summer with his friends and we made it out to a few Royals games together. We love collecting the bobble-heads!
6. Quinn likes getting dressed up, wearing button down shirts and ties, even bow ties! We belong to the Carriage Club and one of the bartenders there likes to tease Quinn about his ties!

7. Quinn loves helping Daddy build car washes! Jason is currently finishing up the site at 83rd and Wornall in KCMO and Quinn got in on the action, learning to drive the skid steer!

It's funny how different Quinn is from Olivia. Across the board, she is more fun-loving and social while he is more serious and focused, but I know they are a good influence on one another. 

I'm amazed at how quickly they are both absorbing information and building their knowledge. We are really happy with the education they're getting at St. Paul's as well. For example, Quinn's class is learning about the solar system, and last night, Quinn was talking with Papa Mike about why Pluto got "demoted" from being a planet to an asteriod. Fun stuff!

Love always, Claire & Family

P.S. In case you were wondering.... Daddy and Quinn are Double Infinity Best Buddies! :)

P.P.S. A similar detailed update on Olivia is coming soon!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ski Bums & Water Babies

Hi!

I'm playing some catch up today with blog updates! We have had lots and lots of family fun this year since the last update.

I'll start with an update from the slopes. We had a wonderful time in early March in Beaver Creek, Colorado with my mom and sister Molly. Though the ski school days are long and grueling (and sometimes they start with tears at drop-off) we also learned that they serve fresh baked chocolate chip cookies at the base of the mountain after the day is done!

The kids both gutted through two full day lessons with the wonderful teachers at Beaver Creek. On the third and last day, we went as a family up and down the bunny hill about 8 times which was excellent practice for the kids, especially Quinn. It definitely worked best to have Jason or I in the front and back of the 'family train' to provide direction down the mountain and play cleanup on the back end when someone took a spill!


After that trip, we turned around and met Jason's family for a few days in Breckenridge. We skied one day in Copper Mountain and one day in Breckenridge. By the last day in Breck, we were ALL having a lot of fun (even Mom!). Quinn found his stride and we had a blast exploring the Kid Zones and adventure trails! All in all, 2017 was a great year for learning to ski and some great family bonding time in the process.

Fast forward a few months to warmer weather, this year was also an incredible year for learning to swim! Olivia joined the 'precompet' swim team at the Carriage Club where we belong. This gave her the opportunity to swim with a group for an hour every day for the month of June. At the end of the season, they held a Precompet Olympics which was lots of fun too!

Olivia was the youngest competitor in the Harrison Rupp Memorial Swim-A-Thon. She raised about $300 and swam 6 laps! I was so proud of her effort and willingness to help raise money for this cause.


Not wanting to be left behind, Quinn was watching and learning too. By the end of the summer, he was swimming without a floatie for assistance, diving for toys and even going off the diving board!


Here's a picture of Olivia trying new foods at the poolside crawfish and shrimp boil! And one of Quinn enjoying the water slide at Great-Grandma Joleen's 80th Birthday Bash!



Signing off for now.

Love always, Claire



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Firetrucks and Penguins

Happy Winter!

We have had a good winter here in KC this season, though we had hoped for more snow!  We celebrated Quinn's 4th Birthday on Saturday January 7th with an "all boys" party at the Fire Station in Mission, Kansas.


The party was really fun and it started with a tour of the station given by the firefighters who live there. They were really nice and also explained several important safety related things to the kids (for example how and why to call 9-1-1).  After the tour, we went to a Mexican restaurant next door for food, cookie cake and presents.


Quinn was really excited about his birthday especially because he got lots of LEGOS.  Quinn really loves LEGOS and he is really good at following the directions step-by-step to assemble really complex things.

Here is Quinn making a really cool firetruck that Papa Craig and Grandma Kim got for him.


Olivia and Quinn have been having a blast each Monday evening 'practicing' with the Little Penguins hockey team at the Carriage Club where we belong. This year's group of Little Penguins is really large which means we will have a great crop of hockey players coming up with our little ones too!


Jason and I both got skates and we've been taking them to the outdoor rink once a week or so this season during open ice time to practice our skating skills.  It's neat to see them improve each and every week.  Of course, the better they get at skating, the more fun they have with it (and so do mom and dad!).

Here's a picture of our Penguins all geared up and ready for action!


Each year at this time, though the weather might be dull and gloomy, I'm reminded why I do like the KC weather - because we generally do have four distinct seasons.  Spring is just a stones through away at this point and with it comes baseball (go Royals!).

Though we don't have season tickets this year, we will be going out to several games.  Here's a snap from last season when the person next to us caught a foul ball then gave it to us.


Signing off for now.  Stay warm and snuggley and we'll try to do the same!

Love, claire

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sun and Fun

Hello!

The Cunningham family spent the last two weeks of 2016 in the Cook Islands! The trip was amazing, relaxing and so very memorable. We had so much bonding time as a family, and as a additional treat, my parents were able to join us for most of the trip so they got a lot of time with their grandkids too :)

During the weeks leading up to the trip, the kids were a bit stir crazy and maybe a bit over-excited in anticipation of the trip, being more fussy and argumentative than usual. But once we departed KC (considering the unexpected travel delays we encountered), they both turned in to model "travel citizens". Perfectly flexible for whatever we encountered and overall just a joy to be around. Jason and I are happy to point out to them how good they were being because it really does enable us to do more things like this without the strain and stress of worrying about the kids.
Excellent Travelers!
The Cook Islands is really a special place for families and people who love the ocean and South Pacific Island culture. It is not overly crowded with tourists. There is only one direct flight from Los Angeles to Rarotonga weekly, so American tourists only make up a fraction of the people who visit. The pace is slow, shopping and dining opportunities are relatively minimal which is fine by us. A significant percentage of travelers who visit come from Australia and New Zealand.

Here are a few stories from the trip;

1. Olivia fell in love with coconut on the trip! She now loves both the water and flesh of the coconut. From our place on the beach at the resort, she would hunt for a good coconut and then take it to the Beach Hut and then sweet talk one of the boys in to husking it for her. She would then drink the water and ask someone to cut the flesh into wedges which she would offer to folks along the beach, of course making new friends the whole time! Daddy also learned how to husk a coconut and apparently it's harder than it looks, especially if you don't have a sharp stick to work with!

2. Santa bought all of our airline tickets to the Cook Islands, but we thought he might bring another little something while we were over there, so Jason and Quinn made a Christmas tree out of the palm plant in our villa!

3. The kids played hard all day and in the evenings we usually let them have a special ice cream treat. Here's Quinn getting ice cream at the Muri Night Market which was a cool event that happens 2-3 times per week when local people prepare and sell home cooked meals to tourists and residents alike, kind of like a food truck festival but with mostly food tents instead.

4. We went to two Island Nights which were really cool. One was an over water show with fire dancers and the other was a cultural show in the mountain region which my Dad enjoyed in particular. Olivia and Mommy got our hair braided for one of the nights. Quinn was generally sacked out before the show ended!


5. The snorkeling was amazing, particularly in Aitutaki. We went there for two nights and spent a full day with a charter boat on the lagoon, snorkeling and exploring the lagoon. That day had to be the highlight of 2016 for me! Jason had his GoPro camera under water and got some cool shots but we don't have them available yet. We did upgrade our snorkel equipment in Rarotonga and I got a mask that is much more comfortable as a little Christmas present to myself. Olivia is an expert snorkeler now. Quinn has yet to try it but he has all of the gear when he's ready for action!

Best day of 2016!


Our villa in Aitutaki

Taken at a deserted island that we kayaked to

That's a BIG fish she's looking at!
6. Villa 100 at the Pacific Resorts in Rarotonga was our home base and the place was lovely. By the end of the trip, we did rename it the "Crab Shack" due to the encounters we had with various types of crabs in and around the Villa. My dad was awakened the first night he was there with a LARGE crab clawing at his shoulder in his bed - quite a wake up call, I'm sure!
View from back door of  the Crab Shack
The kids and Jason hunted for crabs on the beach each night using the little flashlights we got for them. I'm telling you the crabs they caught kept getting bigger and bigger. I would for sure not want to sleep on that beach at night because it is absolutely crawling with crabs and other critters! They made an environment for the crabs to keep in the room and every day or so we would release all of them and they would catch more that night.
This was like the one that woke my dad up!

It rained a few afternoons which was fine by us because we were able to read (I finished two books cover to cover!), do puzzles and other games. My dad taught me and the kids how to play chess, or as Quinn likes to call it, "chest".

After two weeks of sun, fun and the most enjoyable family time imaginable, we returned to Kansas City just minutes before the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day. What a way to bring 2016 to a close and start 2017 on a positive note.
Buggy Tour - we swam in a (cold) waterfall after this pic!

Thank you Cook Islands! We will be back someday!

Love always, Claire

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Today

Hello!
Five years ago today the entire world changed.  Because on Tuesday November 22, 2011, we welcomed Miss Olivia Marie to the family.  Ever since that day, she has blessed us with her own unique brand of sweetness and light.

People say that there's a country song for everything, and I agree because these days there's a Brad Paisley song on the radio that goes...

"Because the memory of a day like today...
Can get you through the rest of your life."

Sometimes when I'm sitting in traffic, I think back to the pivotal and defining moments in my life. Olivia's birth is right up there at the top of the list.

Olivia likes to hear about when she was a baby, so we've been looking at her baby book and telling stories. She loves to hear about how when she was born, and I was still on the operating table, she cried really loud and the nurses called Daddy over to meet her for the first time.  As soon as she heard his voice, she stopped crying immediately.  It was amazing.  His voice was familiar to her and all of the sudden she was at ease.

When they took her to get her vitals, she initiated contact with him by reaching up and grabbing his finger with her hand. That's the first hand she ever held.


Here's another one of her on Daddy's lap on our bed shortly after coming home.  We really took the time to 'nest' with her as a family for the first few weeks.  And it was coming into Winter so it was the perfect time to just snuggle up at home.

After I would nurse her and then put her down, she often had this look that was just divine... completely pure, satisfied, loving sweetness.  One day I snapped a photo of it.

One of these times when she was laying down sweetly just after nursing, instead of love and happiness, I felt something like sadness or yearning from her... she wasn't crying or distressed, but just thoughtful, like she was missing something and it felt like a male energy.  Don't ask me how I felt this because I can't explain it.  A few weeks later, and rather unexpectedly, I found out that I was pregnant and I immediately felt that it was going to be a brother for Olivia.  Right now as I sit here typing, I am hearing them play very nicely and interactively together with the new Holiday Barbie set that Grandma and Papa got for her.

The kids are both doing great. They actually both learned how to ride bikes on the same day! October 24th.  We put the pedals on Quinn's bike because Olivia wanted to try it.  Once she figured it out, Quinn had to take his turn and he did great with it as well.  Fast forward one month and they are both practically pros at riding.  We bought Olivia a new bike helmet and a big girl bike for her birthday this year.  Come Spring when the weather gets better, we are excited to hit the trails and the parks with our bikes!

With Thanksgiving just days away and seeing my beautiful and sweet Olivia curious about reading and writing, healthy and strong, sweet and kind, life's blessings just don't get any better than this.

Love always, Claire

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Brass Monkeys

Hello!
Six short years ago, during a torrential downpour in Costa Rica, Jason and I tied the knot! God blessed me on that day with a husband who, while not perfect, is perfect for me. Since that day, I think we've both learned how to be married to each other, how to work together and we're raising a couple of beautiful and also incredibly silly kids.

What I didn't know when I walked down the aisle was how much fun Jason would be with the family and how downright silly he would be as a Daddy. So this post is mostly about Jason and the kids and all of the fun they have together. One source of fun is the music he plays for them...

I'll start by saying that Jason and I don't share exactly the same choices in music. For some people, choice in music evolves as people age, but not for Jason. If they say that you become more like your spouse as the years go by, I don't believe that his favorite music will ever grow on me. We've seen Jane's Addiction and Billy Corgan live in the past few years, and I can't say for sure but I don't think these shows were exactly comparable to their shows 25 years ago... we also just missed Rob Zombie (darn!).

Jason recently introduced the kids to the Beastie Boys, and everyone has a rocking good time blasting "Brass Monkey" while riding around in Daddy's truck. There are a few other BB songs that I have banned them from hearing due to the awful lyrics. I can only hope that is being enforced when I'm not around!

Before bedtime, Jason sometimes makes this quirky bird with his hand, and the bird likes to do silly things like tickle, hide and poke the kids before bed at night. They find this hilarious. Unfortunately, the jerky movements give him a wrist ache after a short while but I guess that is the price you pay for bringing out the quirky bird!

Jason sometimes tells the kids tall tales. A funny one recently was an attempt (successful!) to get Olivia to stop picking her nose. He pulled up the iPad and searched for a picture of Yoda. He told her that if she eats her buggers, she will turn green just like Yoda. She bought it hook, line and sinker and even passed this wise warning along to Quinn when she caught him picking.

Speaking of hooks and lines, Jason loves taking the kids fishing and he's already teaching them how to tell tall tales about the one that got away or the size of the one that we caught and released.

Both of the kids have very special and unique relationships with their Daddy. Olivia gets really emotional when she thinks about how much she loves him. Quinn and Daddy are "best buddies". It's really sweet to witness the bonds they have.

There are tons of stories about me being silly with the kids. I actually believe that silliness is the glue that bonds us together as much as anything. Those fun times are certainly the things we remember the most when we look back.

* We still miss our beautiful and loving brown dog, Morton.

* On a recent trip to Colorado, Quinn snuggled with his Pack Pack Monkey and snow globe, we all hiked the 224 steps up the Seven falls and we rode on the Royal Gorge train (not pictured).

* We had our last day (sniff sniff!) at Nina's Day Care because Nina retired this Summer.

* We've spent almost 3 out of every 4 days at the pool working on our skills and beating this Summer heat. Olivia has become a strong swimmer, but as you can see she needs some work on the diving!







Love always, Claire and Family