Somehow Christmas waves it's little wand and everything becomes magical. It's kind of sad that I will never have an 8, 6, 4, and 2 year old on Christmas morning again. Although, I know our years of magical Christmas' isn't quite over, I see the end. Mariah already isn't a believer but she still loves everything about the pretend. I can't think of better ages than now. I wanted to soak in every minute. Unfortunately, I was busy staging a house! We did however, find time to celebrate. With our second annual Shepard Dinner on the floor, a Lego advent calendar that was a huge hit, Jingle Bell (the Elf) visiting each day, gingerbread houses, tamale dinner, and some fun movies. The favorite movie of the year was Home Alone. They laughed SO HARD at those robbers.
I'm not sure where Benson's arm disappeared to and that shirt looks a lot bigger in this picture than it does in real life but on Christmas Eve we were able to attend church and worship our Savior. Mariah and Zach had a special musical number with a small children's choir, I sang a solo Breath of Heaven, and then Adam and I both participated in the choir. It was a great way to begin our celebration of the birth of baby Jesus. I always love that Christmas brings some close friends to church that we don't see regularly. The Spirit of Christmas can't be denied.
From Santa Mariah requested stuff for her American Girl doll. She got an armoire closet to hold all her accessories. It's darling. Cuter than her own dresser actually. My favorite gift however, was the cooking subscription she got. Each month will be delivered (by me) a box with two recipes and a cooking tool to help her learn to work in the kitchen. Her first box included a new apron for her and her doll as well as a recipe for Grinch Popcorn and Polar Express Hot Chocolate. We had some hot chocolate as part of our breakfast. She's been so excited for it and even cooked Taco Soup for dinner from her January box. Win for me!
Zach requested a surprise. He got this cotton candy maker and later that day said that he thought Santa must have messed up because he didn't really want it but then as we were making the cotton candy he said "this is cool!" Made me laugh. He also got some Ghostbuster Legos to feed his new obsession with Ghostbusters. His biggest, most difficult Lego set to date. THIS gift was love at first sight.
Clayton wanted "Hungry Hippos". We had him pretty concerned before Christmas came that he didn't tell Santa he wanted the GAME Hungry Hungry Hippos. He just said he wanted hungry hippos. What if he got a hippo for Christmas? Hippos are mean! It didn't help Clayton's anxiety when Zach said more people are killed by hippos each year than lions! Clay: "Can Santa's workshop make hippos?!" So we played the song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas". Such mean parents, I know. Needless to say he was relieved when he ran down the stairs to find the game and no real hippo. In fact he got several games and puzzles as gifts. They are by far his favorite thing to do.
Playing games with best friend Emerson
Benson wanted a fire truck. Santa brought the cutest little fire station you've ever seen. It reminds me of a wooden dollhouse with all the furniture accessories but of course, it's for boys. He loves it! He even loves stuffing all of the Tsum Tsums he got in it.
Adam surprised me with a fancy schmancy wheat grinder which was at the top of my wish list and I gave him a bug gun...Adam may have got the funnest toy out of everyone! Nothing beats shooting flies with salt. Somehow my husband becomes a little boy all over again.
And just like that, Christmas is 12 months away again but luckily we can hold our memories forever.
Christmas always looks a little different in Arizona than it did growing up. People put lights on cacti and run around looking at them wearing flip flops. It's perfection! However, you watch movies of snow and sledding and hot chocolate and somehow it feels like the two just don't jive. The beauty of the whole thing, is that somehow, people have figured out how to bring winter to us without the bitter cold.
Our HOA has a Christmas party each year for the community and this year they brought in 20 tons of snow! We didn't have any gloves that fit kids but they didn't seem to care that their fingers were flopping all over the place. They had the time of their lives...and by they, Adam included.
Something tells me they will handle Utah winters just fine. Except for Zach. He wasn't all to happy when his friend got him in the face with that snowball. I was happy that I caught it on camera.
After the snowball fight we were able to go on a ride by a horse drawn carriage.
We then waited in a LONG line with Santa who took too long per child but of course, once it was our turn we were grateful for that since they got such an intimate experience. Walking away from Santa Benson started getting super mad! He wanted his fire truck that he asked for and didn't understand that he didn't get it right then. While I tried to explain he was not buying it because he could see that there were presents under the tree and a candy cane was no consolation! The next day we ran into Santa again while at Walmart and he looked right at him, stuck his finger out and said, "you gunna bring me a firetruck!" Looks like we already have a little entitled brat.
A few days later the activity days and scouts did a sock drive for the Light the World campaign. However, before they donated the socks they had a giant snow ball fight and invited families. I feel bad for the leaders who afterwards had to go and match all the socks together again.
The most fun we had was Christmas at the Princess (a hotel in Scottsdale). They have a sledding hill that we went on again and again and again. We went after Christmas so the lines were gone and the kids couldn't get enough of it. Zach didn't want to try so I picked him up and pushed him down screaming and crying. The worker looks at me and says "that's one way to do it". After the first run, he begged to keep going. Mamma knows best!
In addition the the sledding they had several other activities. A favorite was the Polar Express train ride through all sorts of amazing light displays.
As well as the light show that played on the face of the hotel. Super creative and fun.
We roasted marshmallows, rode on the rides and got to meet several Winter Wonderland characters.
I was cracking up at "Graham". Poor Clay was getting stuffed in the face!
Selfie the Elfie
The Snow Princess and several others.
I'm so glad we heard about this before we move because it was so much fun and a great deal since we have 4 kids and they charge by the family. Needless to say, you can have the best of both worlds. We got our time in the "snow" and sunshine all at the same time. Plus, it's just chilly enough in the evenings that you enjoy your blanket and cup of hot chocolate.
All of Adam's dreams have finally come true and he got a job transfer to Lehi, Utah with Intel at their joint venture campus with Micron! My worst nightmare happened when the offer was extended in the dead of winter!!! But have no fear, I've already purchased me an electric blanket for my bed AND one for the couch. I plan to spend the majority of my time until April in one of those two places. Just kidding. We are actually both excited to be going back to Utah and to be able to be closer to family. The kids are also beyond thrilled! Afterall, Lagoon and Boondocks and cousins...they couldn't ask for more. Zach is the only one who isn't excited. He's had a hard time with the thought and broke my heart when he started crying when I said it was official. He said "Mom, it's not easy for me to make new friends". I may have started to cry too at that comment. Not only because my heart hurt for him, but because my heart hurt for me. I suddenly realized that indeed we would have to make all new friends. I can find people to do things with fairly quickly. Acquaintances if you will. But after nearly 7 years in one neighborhood, some of those acquaintances turned into friends who are like family. Friends who I know I could ask for anything. Who will take my kids at the drop of a hat even if it's inconvenient. Friends who listen to me whine and complain. Friends who attend our monthly MA (Mom's Anonymous) meetings after the kids go to bed and we stay up way to late talking and regret it every single time. Friends who get me out of the house and keep me happy chatting at the park and pool for countless hours. Friends who don't care if I've showered or if a bomb went off in my house. Friends who are ALMOST family. And the "almost" is the worst part. Because they aren't family, I know a move basically kills the relationship. We may stay in "social media" touch, and we may see them once every several years for a quick lunch as they come to visit Grandma in Utah but because they aren't really my sisters, I know the chances of us keeping in touch once we move is almost none. That's just how things go. Life is busy and people move on. I'm excited to meet new people and make new friends but overwhelmed with the knowledge of how long those friendships really take to develop. Until then, I'm grateful for family close by to spend more time with and I'm excited to be able to leave my house in the summer in something other than a swimsuit...which I just bought 2 new ones...in time to no longer have a pool. But I'm mostly excited to get released from Scouts :)
Our house officially went on the market last Friday night and when I got the pictures back from the realtor I almost cried again. I realize it's just a house but I couldn't help but think in the pictures it looked nearly perfect. A lot of time and work has gone into this house and it finally looks exactly how I want it to. Especially in the pictures where is was completely clean. Let's be honest, most of the time it looks nothing like I want it to. I wanted to post the pictures for my own keepsake. Can we all have a moment of silence for those bookshelves I have to leave behind.
Today I painted over the Stretch Y in the boys room. I know I can replace it in another house but if anyone wants to do it for me and save me hours, I'd love you!
This is the one part I'm not sad to leave behind. I did like having no yard work with the synthetic grass but I didn't like that it was so small. I'm hopeful for a bigger yard and more space between my pot smoking neighbors.
I will however miss the pools that take no getting use to 6 months of the year. I've become a big baby when it comes to cold water. Not worth the swim if it is going to take my breath away to get in!
Life is full of changes and most of the time when we look back on our life we are very grateful for those changes. We never intended for Arizona to be our forever home and we certainly didn't plan on staying in our current home forever but we did enjoy the journey! I'm excited for new adventures with my kids and I'm excited to not have to drive 12 hours to see my Mom! I'm not excited to pack up every single thing we own or to keep my house clean for showings. I'm also not excited that the time of year I need to keep it clean during happens to be Christmas!!! In other words, pray for a quick sale.
I hosted my first ever Thanksgiving and it was delicious...and mostly store bought! With company in town and a baptism/Havasupaii trip, we decided that Costco does a pretty good job at making pies so why bother. My parents and sister/family were in town and Arizona put on it's best show of perfect weather for our holiday. What better way to say Happy Thanksgiving than time spent in the pool, at the park, mini golfing and enjoying nature?
The kids were so excited to have family here for Thanksgiving and both Clayton and Benson couldn't get enough of Nixon. In fact, when Kelsy left Clay said "Are you going to ever have another baby?" I said no and asked why and he said "But what if he's really cute!?" I think that they enjoyed Nixon even more than Mariah which I thought would never happen. Luckily for them, there will always be babies in our life and luckily for me, there will always be moms to take those babies home at night when it's time to sleep.
On Thanksgiving morning we were able to run the 1 mile Turkey Trot. Zach did awesome and got first place in our family! He ran every step (mostly to stay ahead of all the dogs). When he got tired he said "I may slow down but I am not going to walk!" Love the determination. He ran about an 11 min mile. Mariah came in behind him but did awesome on pushing through as well. Ava and Clay were the crack ups. Ava thought she won the race and Clay was the slowest poke you've ever seen whining the whole way.
No Thanksgiving is complete without a couple of crafts
Grandma even brought all the supplies to make the Oreo turkeys which bring back all sorts of memories of my own childhood.
The day after Thanksgiving the Mesa temple turns on their lights. I'm really going to miss looking at temple lights with a light jacket and flip flops on. We had snow cones then headed off to the temple. Next year it will be hot chocolate, then spend 30 minutes getting bundled to run from building to building as you glance at the temple lights along the way.
The poor oldest kids had to go off to school while the rest of us had all the fun. Clayton and Ava are surprisingly besties when there are no other kids to play with. They loved Urban Jungle and I may have to go back with Mariah and Zach because it is seriously kid heaven...and even a little fun for adults (especially if they would have turned off the dang A/C. It was 67 degrees in there!).
We also tried Organ Stop Pizza for the first time. We did this before Thanksgiving while Adams dad and my Grandma were still in town. Since they are the organ players we thought they would enjoy it. Turns out everyone thought it was worth it and quite fun. They had flashing lights to the music, bubbles fall from the ceiling, and marionettes that danced. Definitely a must see at least once.
Now that everyone has gone home it is time to get this house on the market and sold! We are moving to Utah baby!
Back in February some close friends approached us with an opportunity to backpack Havasupai, Arizona and we jumped at the chance. Adam had done it once before but it has been on my bucket list for a long time however, I've been pregnant or nursing too much to allow us to go. It just so happened that the dates we were able to book (after Audrey called over and over again for 2 days straight and 100 plus dials) was also going to be our 9th wedding anniversary. Nothing says romantic like sleeping in a tent and eating freeze dried food out of a pouch...Adam did at least get freeze dried steak??? Oh and we also got these cupcakes delivered to us by the owner of the small motel we stayed in the night before. She found out it was our anniversary and popped on in. Candles and all--talk about good service.
Speaking of food, if you ever get a chance to go, stick with the Mountain House freeze dried food in a bag that all you have to do is add boiling water. Poor Shad and Audrey tried to get all fancy with their food and well, the pancakes say it all...plus the squirrels got into their snacks and their 1,000 calorie meals were actually super small. Needless to say, they ran out of food.
The Mountain House on the other hand are super tasty and filling! Adam bought this tiny camp stove and it does the trick. Not only to boil water for our food but for my hot chocolate that he surprised me with. That was the most important thing in his pack! With no fires allowed, November temps, and being between canyon walls that never got direct sun, I was FREEZING! Adam was also wise enough to pack me hand warmers. 20 of them. I used them all. Stuck them in my pants, bra, socks, and hands. I froze all day. Luckily, I was warm at night or I would have been miserable! Everyone actually went to bed by 8:00 pm both nights. It had been dark for hours, no fires, no lights, and we were cold without our sleeping bags. Party Animals I tell ya! In bed before my kids at home.
I'm grateful I get to store these images in my mind because the camera isn't quite the same. This was my first backpacking experience ever and I guess go big or go home! We figured we put in about 25 miles over the 3 days and carried everything but sleeping bag, tent, and mat which we opted to throw on a mule since they are such bulky items. Let's just say that water is heavy. Too bad it's the most important thing you carry. One of the girls decided on the way out that she would just share water with her husband because she struggled with her heavy pack the first day. Both were out of water by mile 5 and the easiest 5 of the trail at that. From then on the rest of us had to ration and so I too was out on the last mile and 1,500 foot ascent to the top. Glad it wasn't June and 100 + degrees.
I was worried my feet would't hold up since I already struggle with foot pain on a normal day. I bought special compression socks and good shoes. Not sure if that did the trick or not but I felt great the entire time! Adam nor I felt much soreness at all. Training goes a long way! It's about 10 miles into camp and I probably sang "Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked" at least 20 times during that trek. Even with beautiful scenery and great company it got kinda boring.
I also was glad I had high ankle boots because I stepped in more mule poop than you can imagine.
After marching 8 miles you finally arrive at this little village of 700 people. Out of no where and suddenly civilization...if you can call it that. In fact the first thing you see is this little building--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It's crazy how some people live even in the USA today. Everything they have in this little village comes in by mule or helicopter. You can only imagine with that kind of work they don't have much. But they did sell popsicles and that made Adam's week!
2 miles after the village you arrive at Havasu Falls. And since it was our anniversary and all, we had to gross out all our friends and do a celebratory pose. NINE!
The water was the clearest and bluest water I have ever seen in my entire life! You could see to the bottom without any problem at all. My favorite part of these falls was the walls. Almost frozen in time, it looked like mudslides had paused mid time and stuck like that.
They even seemed to form stalagmites like you would find in a cave. Indeed small caves had been carved into the walls. Amazing what the elements can do.
I didn't realize before our trip, but there are actually several falls and crazy enough, Havasu wasn't my favorite of them all although it is certainly the easiest to get to...if you call hiking 10 miles into the Grand Canyon easy. Mooney Falls is crazy!!! You crawl through several tunnels, some small enough to give you claustrophobia.
And then you continue to basically climb down a cliff holding onto chains that at times just dangle and aren't even stuck into the rock. It's slippery and wet and cold, the last little bit it the worst ending with chains and ladders not attached to the rock. Getting soaked with mist it was at this point that I decided I could see the whole thing well enough from the top and I didn't care to actually touch the water...I wimped out and went back to the top...Yes I regret it but only because you have to get to the bottom and hike a little farther to see the last of the 5 falls. I decided 4 was enough at the time but now feel like I cut myself short of the full experience. But I am alive and people DO die their each year so there's always that.
These cascading falls may have been my favorite. The water is so smooth and clear and almost metallic.
Way too cold to jump in. Guess the suit and towel I packed just ended up helping me burn more calories :)
And then there was 50 foot falls. The widest of the them all for sure.
The hike out was the toughest part. After walking for hours you face the switch backs that take you all the way out of the canyon. Audrey's mom was with us and she did awesome. She of course was the last to finish and we all stood at the top cheering her on. With only 15 yards to go she paused to catch her breath. Audrey says "Mom! You are basically done! Take a few more steps and finish. Don't rest now!" Then Beth looks up at all of us and says in a not so happy voice, "This is the stupidest thing I have ever done and I will never, EVER, do this again. If I want to stop right here and take a break before I finish then I am going to and I will never come here again unless I am sitting in a helicopter!!!" We died laughing...although she was dead serious. I on the other hand felt great. Now I've got a little bit of the backpacking itch and am ready for even bigger and better. Machu Picchu anyone?
This last image finally does it justice. But it's not my own.
I'm the mother of 4 and I am so glad that I get to stay at home with my kids. I would be even happier though if I could figure out how to get more sleep :)
I am also the wife of one patient man. I guess you'd have to be if you married me but sometimes I think, "Am I really this lucky?"
This is our story.