Friday, January 31, 2014

A Half Century of Love

I don't know what it takes to keep a relationship alive for half a century, but seeing a happy couple who have loved each other so long is a beautiful thing. Hats off to my mother-in-law and father-in-law who have done just that. In their honor, Russ and five of his six siblings got together to plan a surprise party for them last weekend. The setting and the weather could not have been more perfect... it was a wonderful occasion as we spent six hours enjoying family in the ever lovely city, San Diego.

The kids enjoyed exploring their aunt and uncle's property.



Enjoying the fabulous Mexican buffet...



Cousins everywhere!









We asked the happy couple to reenact their wedding cake scene.



Then it was picture time! Fourteen of the sixteen grandkids. Brando was being all shy, so Russ had to prop him up in the back behind the tree.



Russ' only sister and her family could not make it, so four are missing. What a great family!



Good times were had by all.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dollies

"Let's get a picture of you girls with your dollies just for fun," I said, not remembering that getting ready for any picture is pretty much not fun. Hurry, hurry, melt the design off the doll's pajamas with the iron because it's important that the doll's clothes be wrinkle free... try to find matching rubber bands for everyone... do the girls' hair and THEN, when you're all frazzled from trying to be to your appointment on time, do the dang dolls' hair. After all that, they didn't even look into the camera for the first picture. It's kinda creepy... the way they look into the distance in the same direction... hmmm. Luckily it's still cute.



My favorite shot was their idea. Sweet little mommies.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Farm Day

My mom and dad invited us over for dinner on Sunday, and somehow... I don't know how, but somehow Paige convinced them to have all the kids over for a sleepover since it would be their last chance before school started again. Short story, Brandon ended up at home, but the girls had a great time. Grandma made them waffles for breakfast, and then Paige convinced them to take everyone (including me and Brandon) to the farm.

Didn't know what we were going to do there, and it was cold and windy, so walking around in the oat fields didn't last too long. Luckily, my mom just got a new gas stove in the back bedroom where we could sit and warm up, and there is always the gas fireplace in the living room. Have you ever seen their farm? So cute, and they had added a lot of new furniture since I was last there.

We played Sorry!


Brandon almost won, even though we were taking all his turns for him by the end, but I managed to squeak in a win when three of us were just one card from home. Poor Kallie still had three pawns in start when the game was over. We're brutal!



After our game, we headed to Tag's Cafe for lunch. Restaurants in Coolidge are not fancy, but the meal hit the spot. When we got back to the farm, Grandpa let the kids play in the wheat silo.



It was like a ball pit in a way... except much filthier. The wheat hadn't been cleaned yet, so there was dust EVERYWHERE!



That didn't bother the kids any... they wanted to stay longer.



Grandpa even closed the silo door so that they were in darkness, but it wasn't until after the threats were issued that they finally came out.



The farm is just too much fun!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Look Back

I thought 13 was supposed to be bad luck, but the year 2013 will go down in our family history as one of the best on record. We've had some trials in years previous, but this past year felt like one of those "Sundays" that come to heal all the pain. We've been happy, healthy, prosperous, and loved... I just hope the Lord doesn't see fit to try us again this year. I'm kind of liking floating on Cloud 9 (or should we call it Cloud '13?).

Just after New Year's, I sat at the computer with the kids and reviewed all my blog posts from last year. It made my heart smile when I heard my kids say, "I remember that! I loved that!" to pretty much each and every post.

Some of the highlights:

A trip to New Mexico to visit old friends
Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, and New Year's Eve parties at our home
Laser tag and mini golf date nights with friends
Flat Iron and Four Peaks hikes
An epic trip to Oregon
A blast at Lake Havasu
Tons of other lake day trips
A couple of camping trips
A romantic weekend in San Diego for our anniversary
Tucson day trip for my birthday
A couple other trips to California
Plaster Blaster
Depeche Mode and Pearl Jam concerts
Polar Express

Holy cow! My life has been so rich... this is why I can't afford to dress my windows or buy a new office desk, but I'll never regret any of it. I am so thankful for our new friends, our old friends, our family, and a loving Heavenly Father who apparently decided we deserved a great year.

On resolutions. At the beginning of last year, we sat down as a family and wrote down goals. We didn't meet those goals, but you know what? Just by writing them down, we made progress. We read the scriptures more, we were on time to sacrament meeting more (kinda slipped near the end of the year, but we were on time for our very first 8:30am meeting!), we did good deeds for perfect strangers, Will actually asked a girl on a date (huge!), the older boys both went to church dances for the first time, Will got a job, we went camping (twice!), I finally hiked Flat Iron and Four Peaks, and we invited the Spirit into our home Sunday mornings by banning all screen time. Some of those goals are going back on the list so we can try again this year. Any progress is progress, though, and I am happy we took the time to set goals. Sunday in church, someone said that there is not possibly enough time in this life to do everything, so we have to focus on the things that matter most and work on those. I know I already knew this, but somehow hearing someone else say it really helped it sink in for me that there are things that just aren't going to get done, no matter how hard I try... and that's okay. I look to 2014 with determination, hope for the future, and a very thankful heart. (Huzzah!)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Finishing Out 2013

The week after Christmas is always so weird to me... it's like this magical limbo where we just kind of float on the leftover highs from Christmas. Life doesn't really turn back to normal until after New Year's Day. For us, Russ' parents arrived Christmas night and had dinner with my family at my mom's house. The next day, Russ and his dad took the older boys disc golfing, we sat around a lot and played with our new stuff, cleaned up a little, and then we went to see Despicable Me 2 at the dollar theater. Friday we had a picnic at Discovery Park with Russ' brother's family.









Taking advantage of having Grandma and Grandpa in town, Russ and I went on a well deserved date. December was so busy, we just didn't have time for each other, so it was nice to refocus. I had expired Deal Chicken vouchers for Dave & Buster's, so we went and used the face value to play at the arcade. The ski ball machine on the far left was giving out extra points, so we got a bunch of tickets and almost hit the jackpot. We got flashing candy rings and a candy squirt gun for the kids.

Next came the debate over where to eat. I kinda wanted Golden Gate because we're not in Tempe very often, but since we just had PF Chang's on Christmas Eve, we ended up at Outback. Whenever we don't have the kids, I am always tempted to get a nice steak dinner. I never make it at home because I haven't learned how to cook the perfect steak. That would be a fun skill to learn this year!

After dinner, we hiked Hayden Butte (a.k.a. "A" Mountain). There weren't many people up there, and we had the summit all to ourselves. Such a beautiful view, and we burned off a few calories in the process.





Russ' parents left Saturday morning, and we finally got a chance to catch up on some chores and errands. Monday, my friend Marsa from Utah came down and visited. We had a fun lunch at Paradise Bakery with friends...



And then we whiled away the afternoon at Goodwill since I had a trunk load of stuff to give away. I found the Costco cookbook from 2008!

Wasn't sure what to do New Year's Eve, but my neighbor was hoping I'd have a party so she could let her baby sleep next door and still have some fun. I knew we had to celebrate properly, so I rounded up a group at the last minute for a New Year's celebration! That's when I realized I truly am crazy. That meant cleaning up Christmas and getting the house in decent shape again, even though I was suffering from a major case of laziness... plus making food, getting fireworks and Martinelli's... oh well, last year we had New Year's with just our family and I pretty much did the same thing, so the only real difference was this time we had friends! I pulled it together last minute, so it was a little ghetto... no hats, streamers, or cute plates. We even had a few Halloween plates. We ate LOTS, including the first batch of ice cream from our new ice cream maker, played a few fun rounds of Charades, and then had a big ol' fireworks show while sitting around the fire pit. My dad brought over the most enormous box of fireworks money can buy. Then at midnight, we celebrated with glasses of Martinelli's. It was fun, but I have to admit it was a relief when it was all finished and I could go to bed without anything on my calendar. I slept so hard that night. My friend took a few pics, so if she gives some to me, I'll share!

I hoped to go hiking New Year's Day, but the family just wanted to lay around some more, and I didn't have the willpower to argue. My aunt and uncle were in town, so they brought their family over for a fun visit. Paige loved Charades from the night before, so she made her own version and we played that. Lots of laughs! After they left, we finished off the fireworks. I had bought a pretty big box of fireworks, too, so we had quite a few left over... including way too many of those annoying flashers! We lit off like 16 at once, closed our eyes because it was so bright, and then wondered what the point is of a fireworks show that is too bright to watch. Haha!



Sparklers are always a hit with the kids.







I know, this looks just like the fireworks from last year. Weird!



Each kid just had to take a turn lighting the fireworks. He's only three, but those boots and the leather jacket make him seem tough. (Yes, he got new red boots for Christmas this year!!)



At least there was parental supervision.





Our finale... crazy awesome, right?



Today we cleaned up Christmas, so the holidays are officially over. I love the holidays, but Hallelujah!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's Christmas!

We must've been really good this year. All the stress, all the rushing, all the craziness... it all culminated in a beautiful Christmas. First we spent Christmas Eve night chowing on PF Chang's at my sister's house and letting the kids exchange gifts.











My kids are the best... they like to sleep, even on Christmas, so we didn't get woken up until about 7:30am. I just wanna give them all a big fat hug!



Finally Santa brought them a car they could drive!!



Every time we asked Brandon what he wanted for Christmas or what he was getting for Christmas, the only answer we could get out of him was, "An electrical scooter!" Apparently, his best friend has one, so he had to have one too. Wish granted!



Cutest bike ever!



What a haul.









Yeah, I've been kinda neglecting the housework since we got this Wii U and a new Zelda game. I think I deserve to be at least a little bit lazy!



Last year, my sister gave my kids a gift card for As You Wish, and Kallie made a shark bank. It broke my heart when she accidentally dropped it on her birthday and it shattered into hundreds of pieces. No more tears now, cuz Sharkie is back!!





Furby Boom... this toy is so funny. She named it Dah-Doo, which means Big Splash in Furby language.







He might exceed the weight limit of 44 pounds... maybe.



We found wrappers for days. Russ said, "Do you get the feeling our kids are eating candy without asking?" The chocolate mustaches tell the whole story!



Soon it was time to go out and try all the new wheels. I think that was this year's theme... wheels!











That was Christmas One... Christmas Two always comes when we go over to my mom's house for Christmas dinner. Being the last grandchild, and just one in a long line of girls, baby Gemma has lots of little mommies.



Okay, time to get to the goods.









We are blessed. We all know that the toys and the gifts don't really mean anything, but to make Christmas a magical time for a child brings a smile to my face. It would be awesome, though, if I could just wake up Christmas morning to a room full of loot...