Monday, January 25, 2016

New Year, New You

How is it possibly 2016!?  I'm excited for a new year.  I'm excited to watch my kids grow and learn.  I'm excited to grow and learn myself.  A current update on my family--watch out, I will be doing plenty of bragging.
Mariah got a quarterly award for "Outstanding Excellence".   Only two kids per class received the award.
She is doing so well in school.  Many parents complain about how much homework they have for kindergarten and I'm often asked how long it takes Mariah to complete her assignments.  I'm never quite sure how to answer without being too big headed (on my blog I will be though).  We skip most of her homework because she doesn't need it.  For example, we never do spelling because she has yet to miss a single word on her spelling test...although after trying to read this, you may feel like I need to emphasize it more.

I live on a tropical island for Santa (this comes from a book we read)
You like to play superheros
She is a reading machine these days if you find her the right book aka Disney.  The  other day when Clay was sick she let him choose book after book as she read to him pretty flawlessly on the couch.  Heaven for Clay and definitely heaven for mom.  I tell her all the time she needs to be a nurse.  She loves taking care of others.
She's also the most social in the house and plans over-the-top events on a daily basis.  Seriously, this girl can dream big!  She had been begging for a girls party.  One that would have cost $500 to put on.  We settled on breakfast crepes at our house, then her first ever pedicure and a lunch date at Kneaders.  Still pretty fun in my opinion.  In hers, a mild get together with friends. 
Zach won his first trophy for the "best dressed caddy team" at the Itty Bitty Open.  It also won us 2 free tickets to the US Open which we are excited about.  Zach was beyond thrilled to have a real trophy.  Carried it around all day long.
For my family:does he look like Diego here?
What do you think Grandpa, is he a natural?
He has also started soccer once a week.  The first day it was like pulling teeth trying to get him to go despite that when I signed him up he said he wanted to play.  However, after class he said it was even more fun than Chuck E Cheese and if you know Zach that's sayin' something!!!  He loves it and is all grins all class.  He also thinks he's the best in the class.  He gets that from me :/
He is still my little shadow never leaving my side.  Makes me really enjoy the 4 hours of joy school I get each week.  The other day he said to me "mom, I just don't like to EVER be alone".  Really Zach, I hadn't noticed!  At least he's a good little buddy and content to play quietly by my side during nap time.  One day I'm going to count the number of words he says to me in a day.  I'm not sure I've ever counted that high before :)

Clayton is my puzzle/brain teaser lover these days.  Obsessed.  He spends literally hours a day working on his pattern blocks, color sorters, lite-brite etc.  Hours.  He doesn't get frustrated when he's stumped and just keeps trying.  The bad side is all these kinds of games come in A LOT of pieces and he's yet to master the art of cleaning up.  Although he did an awesome job of clearing the dishwasher this week.
We also turned his bedroom lock around, moved Zach in with Mariah and finally started locking the little morning person in his room.  We began with leaving him a snack, water bottle, and his lite-brite and it went better than I could have dreamed.  He stayed in until 7:00 with little protest.  Most mornings he would even put himself back to sleep after being awake for who knows how long.  Now we don't leave him with anything (about 3 weeks) and most mornings I don't hear from him until 6:30-7:00 when Mariah and Zach wake up to unleash the caged animal.  Everyone is getting more sleep now that Clay isn't waking up at 5:00 am and trying to find a play buddy and everyone is happier. 
Benson--the baby is changing fast and furious and he is one handsome devil.
The biggest update is that he's on the move!  At 10.5 months he finally learned how to soon as he learned, I quickly realized that I wish he hadn't.  Taking a mild spill down the stairs was the first sign of that.  Baby proofing, ugh!  That being said he's so much happier and independent it may be worth it.  He loved to be held and was always on my hip--my second shadow next to Zach.  Now he doesn't seem to need me for much of anything.  It's a two edged sword.
He also plays peek-a-boo.  This is how he plays.  We love it.  Makes everyone in the house laugh.
I started my new year with a 5K run with some of my Arizona Besties.  It was The Color Run where 90% of all participants walk.  LOL.  It is probably the least "run" race in the country but fun it is, and run I did!
Adam, well he's still working hard for the money while we lounge around in pajamas and play.  It's a tough life and we are glad he's willing to do it.  Sometimes to help brighten his day, we wait for him at the door fully loaded.  Nothing says welcome home like being blasted with nerf gun bullets.  It makes the kids day and Adam pretends that it makes his too :)
That's our 2016 update.  I'm sure we'll be surprised to see what changes one short year will bring. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve we had a wonderful dinner and evening at a friends house.  We were home by 7:00 and had the kids into bed at their normal 8:00 time and began playing Santa.  Adam and I were in bed by 10:00 on Christmas Eve!  It was going to be a Christmas miracle!!!  Even if Clayton was up at 5:30 that left us with almost 8 hours...until something woke us up at 12:30 am.  I walk down the hall to find Mariah and Clatyon (Zach was knocked out) with the lights on, giggling and playing games as they listened for Santa.  Of course, we told them to get back to sleep and shut off the lights!  They were up again at 2:45 and 5:00 dying of excitement.  Finally at 5:45 I gave up on ever sleeping again until the rascals move out of my house and agreed that we could open presents.  They couldn't convince dad however! 
6, 4 and 2 year olds at Christmas have got to be the absolute best!!!  When Zach saw that he had actually gotten his shark boat that he asked for AND saw that it was the exact same one as his friends, words cannot describe.
Clayton got his "robot train" --which in reality is a construction dump truck train because Santa has no clue what a robot train is.  But Clayton thinks its a robot train and calls it his robot train and loves his robot train so that's all that really matters.  "It's good mommy, it's really good!"
And then the Little Miss got a karaoke machine and boy does she LOVE that karaoke machine.  You think Mariah sang a lot before, you have no idea how much she's sang over Christmas break.  Her eyes would pop open in the morning and then you couldn't count to 10 before you could here that microphone. 
I liked the look on her face when she opened Tinkerbell earrings more than the singing machine
Then there's poor Benson.  I spent $15 dollar on him plus a stocking full of food.  He's my third boy and fourth kid.  I was out of ideas!  He still loved me though because he got what he would have asked for too.  Wrapping paper!...and a couple new bath toys.  That's it :/
We loved having no where to go and spent the next several hours playing with all of our toys...  Including 5 nerf guns for a family nerf war, as well as the popular, out of stock, Pie Face game.  The kids however, REFUSED to play with the whipped cream.  We thought it would be such a big hit and get huge laughs...which it does, but only when mom and dad get hit in the face.  The kids will ONLY play with the wet sponge.
Our fun started to end by lunch when the long night began to set in.  When you wait up for Santa you will inevitably find this scene on Christmas day.
But maybe it wasn't entirely that.  After naps, it was discovered that Mariah and Zach didn't feel good.  They didn't even want the yummy cheese fondue dinner we prepared.  Zach took a couple bites of dinner and threw up red jello (sorry for the visual) and Mariah didn't even try it.  Clay, on the other hand, discovered that anything dipped in cheese tastes better.  He didn't stop eating and eating and eating...but a couple hours later his head was over the toilet too but nothing ever came up.
Luckily they got the movie Inside Out so we ended the night with a blanket and new show.  The perfect activity for sick kids and they were very content with it that way.  Our first Christmas in our house wasn't flawless but I think everyone ended up feeling that it was indeed "merry". 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Establishing Traditions

As my young family grows, we've begun to establish our own traditions in order to make Christmas more meaningful as well as fun.  The older the kids get, the more I see how easy it is for them to become greedy, getting caught up in the commercialized side of the season.  This year was our first year ever spending Christmas without extended family.  We were home, just the 6 of us the entire month so I took it as an opportunity to grow together and focus on Christ.
My favorite thing that we did this year was the 'door step nativity'.  Everybody enjoyed it and I hope to continue it other years.   I bought a simple nativity and then we picked a family in our ward who are fairly new converts and struggling to go to church to give it to.  Each night we placed one piece of the nativity, along with a card that had a scripture and short description of the figures importance, on the door step, rang the door and ran.  The kids loved "ding dong ditching" and making sure they didn't get caught.  On the last night we gave the family the baby Jesus as we revealed ourselves and sang a Christmas Carol.  They said it was the highlight of their December.
We gave a similar gift to our friends in the neighborhood but on a smaller scale.  I made chocolate molds of the nativity with the same cards and we delivered them to others.  It was a good way for all of us to share our love as well as keep the true spirit of Christmas on our minds. 
Another activity we did was an advent Christmas book.  I wrapped up 24 books and each day the kids got to unwrap the story and we would read it.  Although most came from the library, I was able to find several Christian books at a discount store so that we can read them each year.  The last book I wrapped was a hymn book and bible where were were able to sing songs and read the Luke 2 story on Christmas Eve.
Rather than decorate gingerbread houses, I found this nativity gingerbread for them to decorate.  It never got displayed though because as it was drying Clayton tip-toed into the kitchen and took a bite out of about 6 different pieces. 

Our stake does an annual Christmas concert and nativity display that is quickly becoming one of my favorite traditions.  It is beyond beautiful with several hundred (if not 1,000) nativities.  We were able to take an inactive friend to the display as well as a non-member who absolutely loved it.  We also took someone to the temple lights with us knowing that the best gift we could give to Christ at Christmas would be to improve our missionary efforts.  The kids were fearless in inviting their friends to all of the activities going on.  
With my new bookshelves, I had a great place to display my own collection this year too.  Adam also surprised me with a set when I was having a bad day.  I should have bad days more often.
On a more 'fun' scale, we had a blast with our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle Bell.  He arrived on December 1st through a magic, elf sized door that remained all month long!
 And he was caught playing with a few of the kids favorite toys.  Like the army guys.
 And getting frozen by Elsa herself.
He also sent the kids on a very exciting candy cane scavenger hunt and was seen doing all sorts of acrobatic tricks.  Each day they couldn't wait to find him.  I also overheard them tattling on one another to the elf so that he could report the naughty deeds of their siblings to Santa as well as them giving their heartfelt goodbyes on Christmas Eve.  Ya win some, ya lose some. 

We went to Mariah's school concert
Sat on Santa's lap...Clayton wasn't a fan
 And watched Mariah preform in the Nutcracker with 2 of her very best friends, Brie and Tess.
 She did beautifully and is certainly a dancer at heart.
One of my friends who stayed during pictures kept laughing at how Mariah kept striking a pose for the camera.  I wasn't surprised!  This girl knows when to shine!!!

The kids also did extra chores so that they could buy gifts for one another.  Clayton was NOT happy when he had to give away all of his "moneys" for a girl present that he didn't even want, but Zach and Mariah were more than willing to participate in the spirit of giving.  It was a busy and fun month but ultimately, I hope that we all were able to draw closer to our Savior and remember Him.  There's one thing I know for sure, if we were the inn keepers, there would have been room in our inn.  We can always figure out a way to cram in one more.

Polar Express

Adam and I were put in charge of the ward Christmas party this year along with 2 other couples and a friend whose help I enlisted.  As I look back on December, I seem to think "where did all the time go?" and then I remember this party and I remember where all the time went!!!  It was soooo much work.  Especially when one of the ladies on the committee has Pinterest contact her for help (ha ha) and when you bring up the word 'simplify' she responds with "Christmas is NOT the time to simplify!" 

Since it was a ward breakfast we decided to go with the Polar Express theme.  Of course, that means everyone needed to come in pajamas and since we were the party planners we couldn't be party poopers.  I tried hard to convince Adam to wear these women's' matching pajamas.  He claims they didn't fit right. 
Finally we settled on $5 t-shirts from Walmart.  Adam still wasn't thrilled and said he wouldn't wear it.  Mariah whispered to me "Mom, just buy it and then when he's sleeping sneak it on him and when he wakes up and sees that he's wearing it he will just think, oh well, I'm already dressed and not want to change."  Her plan worked...or I just have a great husband because we went as Santa and an elf...with 4 little kiddos who couldn't be more adorable in their Christmas pajamas.
It's a picture of a picture because I don't have a digital copy

Getting the tickets to board the train
Riding to the North Pole
Eating breakfast at the depot station

All aboard!
Reading the Polar Express with Santa's helper.  There were also crafts and letters to write.
The party would have been perfect without one major hiccup that was all MY FAULT. The food!  In the words, of Adam "the key to a good party is the food".  Well, I ruined it all :(  We had breakfast casseroles, I tested the recipe and then delivered everything to different homes for them to cook the casseroles and bring hot the morning of the party.  Well, I forgot that the disposable pans weren't the same size as the pan that I used and NONE OF THEM WERE DONE ON TIME.  It was such a disaster.  Luckily, we had donuts, cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate and oranges to eat as we finished baking and microwaving casseroles in the kitchen.  Seriously, I felt like the worlds biggest idiot!  Most people didn't end up eating any casserole which means at the end we had 15 left over for people to take home!!!  Fifteen!  What a colossal waste of food and money.  Luckily, everyone was so nice to me and nobody seemed to care.  Plus so many stepped up to helping out in the kitchen and saving my behind!  Also, luckily, the failure probably also got us out of ever helping with another ward party again.  And if so, it was totally worth the mistake :)

On a more positive note, we had some friends come to the ward party (and we also made sure they got one of the casseroles that was hot and ready).  They've been to a couple other ward functions and we gave them a Book of Mormon for Christmas.  They're decently receptive and we are hoping to continue to have good missionary experiences with them.  So, when they reciprocated by inviting us to their church Christmas party, of course we went.  The kids had a blast, we were able to gain more understanding of each others beliefs AND we came home with my favorite family picture of the year.  For some reason I'm completely obsessed with this so imperfect picture.  These are my kids and they make me insane but I wouldn't want to celebrate Christmas with anyone else!!!