Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Winter Happenings

It's time to play catch up on the day to day life the last few months.  For Christmas I bought the kids a season pass to the Idea Museum.  There was a screaming deal on groupon and it's nice to have something different to do now and again.  It's certainly geared to young ages but we will mostly go when Mariah's in school anyway. This giant lite brite was a mega hit.  All the kids loved it.
My mom gave the boys tickets to Legoland Discovery Center as part of their Christmas.  Zach has been DYING to go. Once all the kids were back in school and the crowds had died down, I finally let him use his present.  This place was awesome.  Everyone loved it, including Benson.  It's no wonder the admission isn't cheap because it is over the top cool.  They have a couple rides (one like Dumbo and one like the Toy Story laser gun ride), 4-D movies, invention rooms, play places, pinewood derby track and car build, and endless places to play with legos.
Clay's very favorite was the ride
This was their first 4-D movie complete with wind, waterfall, fire, snow and a skunk!
At one place you build cars and race them against others.  Zach is a poor loser!  He was getting so frustrated, especially when his car would break.  Finally, I pointed out that the people with longer cars seemed to be doing better.  He went back to the drawing board and built himself a new car.  He took 1st place the next three races in a row.  He was ecstatic.  Turns out he's also a pretty poor winner :)
I had to post the next pictures just for Clay.  I couldn't get him to act "normal".  Turns out I like the pictures better this way anyway.
Basically, the have a new favorite place and keep asking to go back.  We may be spending the next couple birthdays at Legoland because I said we wont go again unless they want it to be their gift.

The annual Itty-bitty Open was a couple weeks ago.  This time Clayton got to participate and both boys had a friend there too.  Zach was really starting to get the hang of it but Clay was a lost cause.  He hates following directions and hates structure.
Speaking of directions and structure.  Gilbert Youth Sports just broke off of Mesa Youth Sports and this is their first season.  Since they are new they offered a buy one sport get one free deal so I decided to sign Zach up for tee-ball and soccer.  Turns out the teams were 3-5 years so I figured why not sign Clay up too rather than have him sit on the side and watch everyone play.  Especially cause it was such a good deal.  THE KID REFUSES TO PLAY.  He LOVES to hit balls and play soccer in the back yard.  He does not love to play on a team!!!  He only wants to hit off the tee but then refuses to run bases and does not want to stand in the outfield.  He wont even try soccer for a second.  I can't figure it out and it makes me roll my eyes.  He wants you to kick a ball to him during the games...THEN GO OUT AND PLAY!  Whatever, he's three and we are over it.  He can play when he wants.  Zach on the other hand got his first goal in his first game!!!  It was a proud mommy moment for sure and a big boost of confidence for him.

Speaking of accomplishments.  Benson has learned to pull his own pants down.  It's now his favorite game.  Please out grow this stage quickly!
Clay has finally become interested in learning and once he decided to care he picked things up quickly (hopefully this happens with teamwork and sports too?).  He now knows all his letters and almost all their sounds.  Joy school is his favorite part of the week.  After all, who doesn't like writing letters in play dough?

My little girl who hates running joined running club at school. Let's be honest, it was all for social reasons but something we definitely support.  Well today they had a "fun run" fundraiser and the parents could go cheer on the kids.  I was amazed at how much Mariah actually ran.  She gave it her best effort and tired her little heart out.  Maybe running club is helping her catch the bug and build her endurance?

However, of all the accomplishments this winter, I think I get the first place prize.  I survived 8 kids for the weekend!  Hooray!  We took our turn to watch our friends and it was wild!  My house looked like this within 5 minutes of the kids arriving.  It was so hard to turn my back and say "embrace the mess" for the next 48 hours.
And I had to laugh when I was getting toothbrushes ready before bed.  That's just too many little kids mouths to take care of!
Mostly I'm grateful it was perfect weather so we spent hours each day at the park.  Their kids are a lot more hyper and have a lot more energy than mine.  When they came back Saturday night they had brought a surprise for everyone.  They had been snowboarding in Flagstaff and brought  home a cooler full of snow.  A giant snow ball fight commenced.  Zach and Clay were giggling like school girls while the real school girl watched from the window inside.  She was not interested in freezing her little hands off, but the boys had the time of their life--especially since we never got our Christmas snowball fight we promised them since their was no snow when we went up north.
They even build a snowman complete with a baby carrot they pulled straight from our grow boxes.
Yep, gotta love Arizona in the winter.  We've got a garden in full bloom, pristine park weather, outdoor sporting events, AND we still got to play in the snow.  If only it lasted all year long.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Magnolia Market

My parents had $200 flight vouchers they weren't going to be able to use so they told me to have at it.  When I found a round trip flight to Dallas for $87 I knew all my dreams were about to come true...Magnolia Market is located 1.45 hours outside of Dallas and I've been dying to go.  Fixer Upper is THE ONLY show that both Adam and I enjoy.  He likes it from a construction standpoint and I love it from the design side plus, the couple on the show has won me over.  Just last year, they opened a shop and boy has it been popular.  We were told that on Saturday's you can't see the floor and everyone is shoulder to shoulder.  The line to get in the place can be a couple hours!  We were there on a Friday and it was still crowded.  Lets just say Chip and Joanna Gaines are making a pretty penny!  Nothing is cheap and everyone is buying.
I'm not a professional photographer and people were always in the way of a perfect shot anyway so just take my word for it when I say that it is over-the-top beautiful!  Every single inch.  

The gardens, the grounds full of swings, lawn games and lounge chairs, the rustic looking silos, and quaint bakery were done to perfection.  The cupcakes were divine and gave Adam a break from shopping :)  At $3.50 a cupcake and the size of the line outside you would have never guesses you could make so much money off of flour and sugar...and your name... because without the fan club things wouldn't be quite so prosperous.
Knowing that everything in the store was priced equal to my first born, and that we were flying home with no luggage to check, I had to contain myself.  I was looking for something to add color to my kitchen counter.  I loved these test tube vases (I'll find fake flowers for them) and cookbook stand.  We also got some letters to complete our "C wall".  The big one we found at Harp Design Co. who is the woodworker on the show.

If you are wondering what else there is to do in Waco, Texas besides Magnolia, the answer is nothing.  It's no wonder that Fixer Upper has done so well in this small town because every.single.home. is a fixer upper.  So old and run down and falling apart.  However, we were content to have a calm day because life with 4 kids isn't calm.  In fact, you know you're a mom of littles when the plane flight seems like part of the vacation.  2 hours to read a good book with no interruptions and no to do list...bonus!  We enjoyed good food, great shopping and a TV free of cartoons!  Oh, and Texas pride runs deep because both hotels we stayed at served these Texan waffles.  
We were able to spend one morning in Dallas before we had to catch a flight back home (it was a quick trip since finding a sitter for more than 2 days wasn't going to happen).  We ended up at these Water Gardens with perfect weather and no crowds.
We loved how the trees of these roots grew.  It's as if they couldn't grow down and so came back up along the tree and side of the reflection pond.
 We are those two little specks at the bottom :)
I feel blesses to have such good friends to take the kids for the weekend (they have 4 seven and under of their own).  Without their help it wouldn't have happened.  However, they get their turn in 2 weeks while we take their kids for them to go on a quick trip.  Wish us luck!  I had to laugh when she sent this photo.  Clayton and Zach are in each others clothes which means Zach's is too small and Clay's too big (although they are only one size apart).  When I told the sitter that, she laughed and responded that half way through the day she noticed Zach must have been in Clayton's pants because they were such high waters.  You would think they could find their own clothes in a suitcase.  Especially since I showed them exactly what I packed!  Oh and Mariah wore her school uniform clothes both days because she didn't like what I packed for her.  Whatever, when we got back everyone was alive and happy.  We will let you know in 2 weeks if it was worth it or if I lose my mind with 8 kids under 1 roof.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Christmas with Nana and Pappy

We were all so excited when we learned that Nana and Pappy were going to be at our house for Christmas.  It made it so special for the kids to play with all their new toys with their grandparents.  When I heard they would be here, I immediately knew we would have Christmas Eve Mexican style.  I had them bring homemade tamales made by their Latin friend with them.  That's all I needed to have the perfect holiday :)  Then we spent the evening playing the new board game, Monopoly Junior, the kids opened that night as they wore their Christmas jammies.  This was the best picture I could get in their pajamas.  Eye roll!
Each day of December we opened a Christmas book to read.  We've got quite the collection of some really great kids books now.  Some fun and some that highlight what this is really all about.  Of course for Christmas Eve we read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and of course they wanted Pappy to read it.
Zach was sick, Clay hadn't napped, and Benson had been fighting a cold and was mad he couldn't tear the game apart that we played.  Needless to say, the kids were all in bed at 7:00 on Christmas Eve.  Santa had his job taken care of by 8:30 pm!!!  The kids even slept until 6:30 which is a major improvement from last year.  Never dreamed that would be possible but I also did ALL of the wrapping before Christmas Eve and any prep work I could.  I didn't take a single picture Christmas morning (eye roll again) so I'm grateful Nana was on the ball.
Zach's love language is gift giving (and receiving).  He was so so so excited to give me the present he made at preschool.  Like mentioned it 30 times in 3 days excited.  He couldn't stop talking about how hard he worked and how he tried his best.  It's my new favorite ornament on my tree.  Love that boy and his giant heart.
Clayton's robot was suppose to be the size of him by the time Christmas rolled around.  I was worried he was going to be so disappointed that it wasn't what he had imagined.  I was relieved to be wrong.  He didn't want to open a single other gift.  Leave him and his robot alone to play!  He hasn't grown out of his love for it a week later either.
This piano may be returned!  Can't get the kids off it.  Especially since it's electric and has built in beats and songs.  Luckily it also has a power cord that I can take :)  Mariah learned how to play her first song within minutes.  I hope the passion doesn't die.
Zach bought Mariah hair chalk for Christmas and Nana was kind enough to be a guinea pig.
 And Benson got the cutest monkey that when put in the microwave becomes a heat pack (with rice and essential oils inside) or a cold pack when frozen.
He also got the bouncy donkey thing that may give us a broken bone in 2017 but only after it's been well used and loved.
Zach is our budding magician after his magic set.  He loves preforming the new tricks he's learned and you would love to watch his enthusiasm.

It was the best Christmas.  With 2:00 church we stayed in pajamas and played with the toys for hours!  Had a yummy crepe breakfast and didn't worry about being anywhere.  With the in-laws in town Adam and I were both able to sing in the ward choir while they watched the kids for Christmas Sunday and Adam gave the best talk.  Seriously, that man can preach.  And seriously, we could get use to one hour church.  Afterwards, we had a cheese and chocolate fondue dinner then ended the night walking on Pappy's back and watching a Christmas movie.

I mentioned that Zach loves gifts.  Small, dollar store ones are at the top of his list of favorites.  Because of that, Chuck E Cheese is heaven on earth.  Play games and win dumb prizes.  With company in town and Adam off work we headed out to play arcades.  Zach hit a 200 ticket jackpot.
 Then Pappy hit two 500 jackpots!!!  Luckiest day ever.  We ended up with nearly 2000 tickets which was better than Christmas to one little boy in particular.

We loved having the company and are always grateful when people make the trek out to visit us.  Especially since the kids usually wake them in the morning instead of me.

Speaking of visitors.  The highlight of Christmas break for me was when some of our best friends were in town for the first time in 3+ years.  The Luft's stopped by and Cyrus and Mariah still consider each other best friends.  Despite being 3 years old when they moved, they didn't miss a beat when they saw each other.  You would be hard pressed to find better people than this family and we've given up hope of ever having better neighbors.
With Adam still off work, we went to Bass Pro shop with friends to see the fish and shoot the guns.  Adam may be the only one in the family with aim but his boys certainly couldn't think anything was more fun than trying.
the fish aquarium
On the night of Christmas Zach said "Christmas is actually kind of a sad day because it means it's all over".  I couldn't agree more.  Everything is so perfect.  Time off of work, time with family, focus of Christ, lots of activities, beautiful Christmas lights etc.  I find that we can't wait for Christmas and there is so much anticipation surrounding the day and when it's finally here, you realize that it came too fast.  Until next year.

Light the World

I really wanted to focus on the Light the World campaign and do 25 acts of service for 25 days.  I wanted it to be our main goal and focus of the season.  Then Clayton got the stomach bug, 2 days later Zach was over the toilet, I ran out of sacrament meeting completely nauseous and was puking shortly after, Adam was sick later that night then Mariah missed two days of school ill.  Benson managed to not catch it (and of all the kids to not throw up, I pick him!) but he did have a 3 week cold.  Just when I thought we were all better, Clayton got a fever of 102 and Zach followed shortly thereafter.  Christmas Eve was the last time someone was sick.  We did manage to be healthy on Christmas day (blessing!) but the month of December was quite exhausting for me as a mom.  I changed my focus from serving others to surviving, although not very well.  Maybe next year we can be a better light!  However, we did catch some simple opportunities between sick days and some with sick kids in tow.

December 1, for the Worldwide Day of Service, I volunteered to decorate Mariah's classroom door for her teacher when I heard no one else was willing to do it.  WAY harder than I expected and a service I hope to not repeat.
Then we gathered up friends and headed to the park with garbage sacks to clean things up.  Of course the kids were happy to be serving when they were promised a picnic and park play-date after a full bag.

As the month progressed, we served the best we could.  We picked a newly single mother in our ward and dropped off a piece of nativity for several weeks.  The kids love to "ding-dong ditch" and it's amazing we didn't get caught when it was Clayton's turn.  That kid still doesn't know the definition of hurry.

We went to the stake nativity display once with a non member and once with an inactive friend.  It's one of my favorite activities of December as well as a favorite of my friend who has called me two years in a row inviting herself.  I was so proud of my missionary Mariah, too who took 8 invitations to the event to school for her friends and left my phone number on it as an "RVPS".


We attended Mariah's Christmas dance recital and Clayton snuck out with Adam to buy her flowers.  He was so excited to give them to her after the show.

Mariah is starting to look more and more like a beautiful dancer than a toddler who has no idea what she's doing.  Her confidence is building each time and the stage fright has faded.
 A friend of mine "lit MY world" when she offered to give me a free class of sugar cookie decorating.  After her 3 hour class I decided to try it out with my kids and give out the cookies to friends and neighbors.  I learned a few lessons: 1) Don't invite anyone under the age of 7 if you want the cookies to look good enough to be given away.
2) Piping bags with kids = HUGE mess.  3) I need more red sprinkles.

4)Finding the right consistency for royal icing with out my friends help was a lot harder than I thought and my cookies looked no where near what I wanted them to but tasted awesome!


5) I need a lot more practice and possibly a lot more artistic ability but I'm going to keep trying!

My favorite activity this December to focus on the real meaning of Christmas is going to be a yearly tradition, maybe even with costumes next year :)  We had a Shepherds Supper complete with chicken kabobs, hummus, pita bread, olives, cheese slices, cucmbers and other veges.  We put lights on the ceiling fan and ate "under the stars" (it was raining outside) without silverware.  While we ate we had a program from Luke 2 and other scripture versus and some related songs.  LOVED IT!

Some of our other activities included Christmas lights at the Mesa temple, Phoenix Zoo, and Riparian Preserve.  I had to take a picture of the lighted cacti.  Only in Arizona!
And we needed a picture of the elephant for obvious reasons.
 This year I decided to eliminate the frustration of gingerbread house decorating and focus on the fun part.  I bought a re-usable, plastic house that won't fall over.  Skip the building and get to the candy!  When it was done I wanted a picture.  Zach was SUPER grumpy that I was making him be in it.  Made sense a few hours later why his mood was so sour when he was throwing up :/  Clay has epic bed head at 3:00 pm but like I said, survival.
We also did The 12 Days of Christ, donated a toy, had the missionaries over for dinner, invited those without family to our home, and listened to meaningful Christmas songs.  We didn't follow the schedule worth beans but hope what we did do for others and our own family reflected our love for Jesus Christ and gratitude for His birth.  Hopefully me kids learned to be a little kinder and give a little more.  We love this season for the gratitude we feel in our hearts.