Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We Have A School Girl!!!

Our school district is starting a modified school year for the first time.   This means that we start school early, while it's still too hot to be outside, but then we get 2 weeks for fall, winter, and spring breaks.  What all that means is that on July 27th Mariah started school!!!  
The week before school I told Mariah she could pick what we were going to do each day for fun.  Her first request was of course to have a party.  This girl looooves to plan parties!  We invited a couple of her friends over to have a "Welcome to Kindergarten" party.  I set up a simple photo booth for their "first day of kindergarten" pictures.  
We also did a fish craft since they are 'o FISH ally' in kindergarten and then we made little pencils out of Rolo's and Hershey kisses for them to take home.  
Another request was to head to the Children's Museum of Phoenix.  I told Mariah that when she finished reading 100 books I would take her someplace fun so we set up a chart and started reading FOREVER AGO.  Turns out one hundred books for a 5 year old is a lot.  However, she was motivated to finish before school and she did it.  I had never been to this museum (Mariah went with a group a year ago) and it is darling.  I only wish it wasn't quite so far so we could get season passes.  My favorite was the castle they got to paint.
I have to post the next few pictures to illustrate why we are going to miss having Mariah around so much.  She takes such good care of her brothers.  Such. Good. Care.
Here she is pulling Clayton through the car wash on the double tricycle.
 Playing with the brothers at the grocery store.
 Escorting Zach through the noodle maze. 
They truly adore her and are going to be lost without their best play buddy for 8 hours a day (there is no option for half day kinder)
With the last weeks 'bucket list' behind us, she was ready for school.  A few days before I had to take her to have an assessment done by her new teacher, Mrs. Arnold.  After the test the comment made was "Wow, she's more than ready".  I've always known the girl was a smarty pants but hearing the teacher validate that made me a little too proud.  I laughed when the teacher asked her to count as high as she could...
Mariah: 1, 2, 3, .... 34, 35, [sigh] I can count to one hundred 
Teacher: I've gotta hear it
Mariah: [sigh again] 36, 37, ... [countinues flawlessly], 97, 98, 99, [long pause], 99 [pause]
Teacher: What comes after 99?
Mariah: I can't remember
Teacher: 100
Mariah: Awwww!  100!  [giggles] I remember now!

When Monday finally came Mariah was awake, dressed, teeth brushed and backpack on before I even got out of bed.  When I asked how long she had been up she said she had watched 3 shows on TV already.  It was only 6:30 so you do the math!  I think she was a bit anxious.  After snapping a few pictures we were on our way. 

When we got to class it was clear Mariah didn't need us.  She didn't need her hand held, she didn't need a hug goodbye, she didn't need me to pick her up after school (after all riding the bus with no booster seat was the most exciting part!)  She was ready to do this all on her own.  I think we were just about the first parents to leave the classroom.  It was clear our job was done.  
And that was that.  Suddenly it was just me and the boys and it seemed like a much bigger deal than I thought it would be.  It seemed so permanent.  So life changing.  So official.  It was a long day.  My ears were the only ones left to listen to Zach who never stopped talking and never left my side.  I was the only one to give Clayton a hug at nap time as he cried for "Riah" not knowing why his routine was distrupted.  I think he disappointingly said "Riah at school" no less than a dozen times.  And grocery shopping with 3 kids wasn't any easier than 4. 
Finally 3:20 came. She had a wonderful first day.  Two kids from the ward are in her class and one who lives down the street.  Her reaction was "I hope it gets harder" because apparently she didn't learn anything new.  But the bus, oh the bus was awesome!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Saying Bye to the Brazillians

Stacey and her family are moving to Brazil for two years on a work assignment.  Before they leave, they decided to make one last trip to Utah to see family and friends.  It was a no brainer that we would coordinate our schedules so that we could be there at the same time.  I wasn't about to miss the party!  I love Arizona.  I'm a sunshine kinda person through and through.  That being said, there is one thing I really, really miss about Utah.  Not only do I have family there but I have A LOT of family there!  My mom coordinated a get together with both her and my dad's sides of the family.  My Grandma Aston was smart enough to gather everyone together for a family photo with my dad's side.  This is Utah.  This is what I miss.  I sure am lucky.
The Aston girl cousins
Seeing family makes the long drive worth it.  Even when that long drive is made much longer with a flat tire on the way up.  That would have been unfortunate enough but of course the flat tire had to come while the spare was buried underneath the most packed car we have had yet to date since we had camping equipment and an extra child this go around.  That would have been unfortunate enough as well but life can only get more exciting with more hiccups, like finding that the spare tire has extremely low tire pressure.  What's a family gotta do but cross their fingers, pray, and drive 40 mph on the tire until we could get air.  Phew, we made it and filled the spare up.  Unfortunate enough?  Nope!  I guess we were a little too packed because the spare popped!  Apparently the first tire was a better option so we put it back on.  Luckily, Adam is very quick at changing tires.  But unfortunately, not fast enough!  He took a little too long leaving plenty of time for crickets to jump in the car and send my children into the freak out of their lives!!!  With original tire back in place and the crickets dead we set on our way again.  This time at 30mph and tire shredding and flying off with quite the ruckus along the way.  I've never been so relieved to see Provo.  I'm still shocked we made it on a bad tire!  I could have done without the 3 HOUR HOLD UP but since we knew we were about due for new tires anyway we decided we might as well chalk this one up as a good story and memorable experience.  Actually, when the spare popped, neither of us could stop laughing at how awful our situation just may turn out to be.  Laughing because otherwise we might cry!
Since we got to Provo so much later than planned we decided to stay the night at Derek's house.  The spontaneous sleepover made it all worth it for the kids.  Especially since Mariah got to stay up until the next day (aka 12:00 am)!  We then were able to attend Brad Prescott's (Adam's old boss while at BYU) Annual Patriotic Celebration for the Fourth of July.  It set a wonderful mood for the holiday and helped us remember our freedoms.
We also met up with our niece, Priscilla, from the Cuppett side for some breakfast and to shower her with gifts as she is expecting a bundle soon.  Mariah is disappointed that there will be another boy baby in the family!
We finished the day with some fireworks.  
Ironically enough, Benson may have enjoyed the show more than anyone.  He was GLUED the entire time.  And just look at those cheeks. Oh my word!
 
One thing on my bucket list was to spend my 32nd birthday (Ahhhh!) at Lagoon since they have a new roller coaster to top all roller coasters.   I wanted to die as it climbed the hill to the 130 degree drop.  Kelsy was so scared she blacked out.  But is was awesome! 
I think Mariah almost died on The Bat as well when she succumbed to peer pressure and decided to give it a try.  She made me hold her hand the whole ride.  Then she went on it again, and again, and again.  
Zach was more of dare devil than expected too.  He loved every ride he tried and went down small water slides by himself.  That may not seem like much of a feat to some people but if you know Zach, it was a huge step in the right direction.
Zach told Kelsy and Stacey, "it's okay, I'll take care of the babies".  He was proud to be the big boy!
Clayton was, well, expressionless.  I'll take it over unhappy though!
Next up was camping.  Again.  If you want to know how that went, read my blog post from July two years ago about camping in Utah.  It was basically the same story, same place, same (but different) newborn, same rain, :)  I'm finding it hard to believe people who say there is a drought. 
Hine was an idol to the little cousins on her ukelele
If you want to know how the trip went after camping, you can read the blog from July one year ago.  Same story...sort of...this time only 5 family members had the squirts and were puking instead of 20.   Luckily the 5 didn't include anyone that I was in charge of cleaning up after.  Ha!
Because of sicknesses, some people left camping early and didn't join us for the water park fun at the rec center.  Gratefully, they agreed to take Clayton with them so that we could relax more.  This place was awesome.  Zach probably went around the lazy river 100 times, no exaggeration, and we couldn't get Mariah off the big slides.  That is until she realized Adam was a floating pile of fun.  I think he loved having 4 kids hang on him and want thrown around.  Wouldn't you?
The there was Boondocks, visiting more cousins, catching bugs, kayaking, chickens, movies at the theater, homemade ice cream, birthday dinners with the great grandparents and "better toys than our house".  No wonder my kids cried when they left. 
Jaron tickling Benson
With so much fun we just may have to make our next stop somewhere in Bazil!  Boa sorte a la familia Sears!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bryce Canyon

It was time for another trip to Utah.  In order to break up the drive a bit we decided to stop at Bryce Canyon and camp for a night.  We got to spend the night in a Tipi of all things.  I'm not sure who thought it was cooler, the kids or the parents.  However, if you look closely at Clayton's face you would probably vote for kids...that is until bedtime came... Question: How many people can fit on one air mattress?  Answer: FIVE!  It was a horrific night with cold, scared kids, minus Mariah.  There have only been a couple of times in my life I couldn't wait for morning to come.  Everyone of those times just may have happened while I was camping!  Why do we do this to ourselves???  My excuse is the kids but I secretly love it if I can get some rest. 
As we began the drive into Bryce Canyon, Mariah gasped at how beautiful it was.  Then we got to our first lookout and Zach asked "Is that a painting or is it real?"  He could hardly believe that such a scene existed.  Adam explained that it was God's paintbrush and yes, it is quite spectacular!  I didn't think they would be as impressed with the beauty as they would have fun hiking and camping but if you've ever been to Bryce, you probably wouldn't find it surprising that even young children can be awestruck.  Pictures simply don't to it justice. 
For kids, camping = Disneyland.  They loved finding pine cones, watching squirrels, sitting by the fire, and eating junk :)  They loved it all, minus the sleeping part.  I had to snag a picture of Benson all bundled up because it never happens in Phoenix.
 Clayton was in seventh heaven with those marshmallows
He wasn't in heaven when he couldn't get out of the Tipi and I left him there without helping until I could first grab a quick picture.  Worth it!
Once we were up from our sleep laying in the tent for 8 hours, we set out to do a hike before getting back in the car.  We tried to pick the easiest hike that still had a decent payoff.  We decided on Queen's Garden which made Mariah happy because it involved a queen.  Where did this girl come from?!  Mariah and Zach did great on the 2 mile hike.  They loved finding pictures in the rocks and they loved all the attention they got from other hikers commenting on how impressed they were.  Mostly because the adults were huffing and puffing with the steep incline, but kids are energizer bunnies.  Zach said on the way back that he was getting tired but that he can "do hard things".  Love his good attitude!
Standing in a tunnel but we all just look like dots :)
Mariah wanted to either pose for or take by herself a billion pictures!
Upon leaving Mariah said she just had to have a souvenir to remember this place!  Adam said that was a great idea and to go find a rock or a pine cone.  Mariah replied "you mean something you don't have to buy!"  Yep, exactly!  It was a perfect (and inexpensive) stop and one I hope they will remember for a long time. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Play Time

We had several visitors and with that always comes the opportunity to get out and P-L-A-Y!  As I mentioned, both our parents and my sister came to stay for Benson's blessing.  My dad's birthday was just a few days before they arrived so for his "gift" we treated everybody to a round at Top Golf that was just built.  Top Golf is a 'driving range meets bowling' kind of idea.  There are all sorts of games and challenges where each player gets 10 balls and you aim for different targets throughout the game.  Much more fun than a regular driving range...unless you have a bunch of little kids wanting turns...which we did. 
When Nana and Pappy come to visit it means three things; a trip to Shar's for cooking classes, 'Pappy Popcorn', and a lot of time on the piano. 
Ava wasn't feeling well but she loved feeding popcorn to her new BFF
I love this picture because it's just cute, and because we have one so similar of Mariah
 I love how much they love listening to their Grandpa play and that he includes them.
 A few weeks after the blessing, Adam's sister and family came to visit as they are scoping out the area for a potential move to Phoenix.  Fingers crossed!!!  Heidi visiting = girl time.  The woman is starved for more girls in her life.  It's a good thing her prayers were finally answered and she will get her own daughter in just another month!
We also tried a new restaurant while they were here called San Tan Flats.  It's a country feel with live music, dancing and fire pits for roasting marshmallows at each table.  A super fun ambiance.
Our ward also had a Fathers/Sons camp out a couple weeks ago.  Of course the first words out of Zach's mouth when they arrived were "There are pine cones everywhere!"  He came home with a whole grocery bag full.  He also found him a little "broom" and swept the tent with it for quite awhile (the broom is pictured below)
 
Adam packed individual flashlights for the boys.  They were a mega hit.  I still don't understand why kids don't care that it's shining right in their eyes.  ??? 
When they got home Zach had to tell me about all of the sugar dad let them have.  Pine cones and sugar...Heaven! They had a ball and apparently slept great.  Mariah and I enjoyed girl time with our friends, painting nails, going out to eat, and watching movies.  A pretty good weekend for everyone.

With the visitors gone and our house projects done, we had our first family outing with just the 6 of us in a while.  Adam won tickets to the Musical Instrument Museum.  It was Family Day, so they had crafts and story time etc in addition to the regular museum stuff.  It was a lot of fun but without the family day it would have been a huge BORE!  I'm not a fan of museums.  I would have been in and out of that place in 10 minutes if it weren't for the other activities.
The kids loved the headsets you wore as you walked around for an audio tour
One of the activities was face painting.  We opted to do arm painting instead hoping it would be less messy and get smeared less.  We were wrong but they loved it nonetheless.
My favorite may have been the photo booth.  Zach and Clay still don't get it and that's the best part.  I also had to laugh how Adam looks the exact same in each shot.  Um, they take four pictures for a reason!
Now today is Monday and it's going to be a pretty boring day...Off I go, the toilets need a scrubbin'. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bonding Leave

Intel started a new policy that if your wife has a baby you get 8 weeks of "bonding leave" that you can use any time within the first year that the child is born.  Eight weeks!!!  And that's in addition to vacation time!  It was a glorious day when Adam came home and told me.  If only they had it when he first started.  I would be up to a total of 6 months in just 4 years.  Something tells me his bosses may not be very pleased with his baby making choices but man it would have been sweet :)

Adam was able to take his first 4 weeks in the month of May.  Needless to say, I did a lot of sleeping in and running of errands without children.  Ahhhh!  Can you believe I have a 2 month old and feel rested.  Who knew those two things could be said in the same sentence.

As far a bonding goes...well Adam has done a lot of bonding.  Just bonding of tiles to walls, and wood planks to floors.  Basically he's used most of his time to knock off the last of our housing projects.  I think he was really ready to go back to work because a desk job is much more relaxing than 4 kids and hard labor.  That being said, I love the finished projects and now we may actually have a free Saturday for the first time since we moved in.  Hooray for bonding!!!

The first project he completed was our built in bookshelves and plate display.  I'm in love!  With the shelves and the man who made them for me.  I've been dreaming of these for a long time since I've wanted to be able to display my travel plates and memories in a way that they look like decor and not souvenirs.  He's had more compliments on these than you can believe.  The best comment was when our neighbor asked what he was doing in the driveway and Adam replied "building bookshelves".  He looked in the garage and said "Oh, you mean actually building bookshelves, not IKEA building bookshelves". 
He also finished the back yard.  It's basically been done since December but there was one part that was lacking and we weren't too antsy to take care of it since it was functional.  He just needed to blend the seam and so it wasn't high on the priority list.  The reason for the picture is Zach.  With every project, the boy wants to be right by his dad's side with his "tools".  He has a play set with goggles and all and jumps right in to help.  He may have only hammered 1 nail in the time Adam did 40 but he was soooo happy to work along side his dad.  He loves to build and if he can't build you better believe you will find him watching. 
See what I mean. He stood on that stool for a long time and asked 101 questions.  Unless you count all the "why's" as only one question.  In which case there were only 3. 
My back-splash is installed for a grand total hovering right around $100.  Just goes to show that labor is most of your cost.  And after watching Adam work for 2 days straight to install it, I can see why.
Next came the shade and cover for our water barrels.  All the work we go to for food storage better be worth it.  On second thought, I hope I never have to use it.  I'd gladly waste the time and money if that means that we never see scarcity. 
I wouldn't include the next project because I frankly could care less if it was ever done, however, it's Adam's favorite of them all.  It doesn't deserve more explanation than that :)  His tool bench...
 
Then the final project that really sucked our lives and time away.  The floor.  The demolition alone overwhelmed me.  The dust!  Oh, the dust!  It's going to take me a week to get it off of everything!  If only we could have convinced the builders to carpet everything!
Speaking of carpet.  These kids can entertain themselves with anything.  Here they are in their car.  Oodles of fun I tell ya.
And when that gets old, you can actually color and draw on the floor without getting in trouble!
And after that, you can just build a boat and set to sea.
When it came to gluing the boards down, the were kicked to the upstairs.  That still didn't stop them from being entertained by the work going on.  P.S. I was watching a friends kids that day if you are wondering where the strangers came from.

Now for the finished project...faulting an area rug
 But I have found a rug for my now completed entry way

Feels so good to be done.  For me and for Adam.  Oh, and lest you think that no bonding went on, here's proof.  No matter how full your lap is, there is always room for one more. 
Thanks for all your hard work Adam!  Here's the proof it really was hard.  These are his "work shorts" after they went through the wash.  We love you!  Next time we hire it out!!!