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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

North Pole Experience

A couple of months ago we bought tickets to the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Arizona.   We decided to make it a surprise and not tell the kids.  I could hardly keep a secret, I was SO excited.  When we picked Mariah up from school, all loaded up and packed, and told the kids where we were headed...TEARS...and not of joy!  Mariah was devastated she was going to miss school (cue eye roll), and Zach was nervous he was going to "freeze his butt", because his friend Tru went to NPX and that's what he said happened and Clay did not want to drive for 2.5 hours.  They weren't excited to play in the snow (luckily the north pole was out of snow this year) and they weren't happy that we surprised them.  Adam and I were feeling like we may have just wasted a lot of money.  Especially because they spare no expense at Santa's workshop so it is a lot of money!

Luckily, once the initial tantrums wore off they started to get excited.  Excited about a hotel and staying up late and a big breakfast AND A TV IN THEIR BEDROOM.  Everyone seemed to be happy by the time we arrived...except for this guy.

And people wonder why parents get sitters and leave their children for vacations and date nights.  Exhausting, I tell ya!

Enough of all that.  NPX was magical and adorable and amazing in every way.  You take a magic bus that takes you to a special portal to transport you to the North Pole where you get to tour Santa's ACTUAL workshop.  Zach was pretty nervous about the portal and how we were going to get over the ocean but it ended up being one of his and Mariah's favorite parts.  You watch a screen and the bus shakes and you use your Christmas cheer and then, poof, you're at the North Pole!  And in case there are any skeptics, they scientifically prove it by showing you the spinning compass as it tries to find true north.

Once in the workshop, you get to go through the toy Hall of Fame.  Suddenly I felt very old since they were toys from MY childhood, not just grandparents or great-grandparents!

And you also see where they made the very first toys ever.

After that, it all becomes very interactive were the kids get to help the elves who are running out of time to finish making all the toys for Christmas.

They dress bears that Santa needs to deliver for all the kids in the toy making factory

And test out the nerf guns to make sure they are ready to go. I know the picture is blurry but Benson's face is adorbs.  This and the electric train over head were his very favorite parts!

Then we headed to the wrapping room where they helped the elves send out the gifts.

The details in everything were amazing.  Pictures don't do it justice.  So many ribbons and packages.  Even steam coming out of a working conveyor belt.

With all their hard work, it was time for a break for cookies and "snowman soup" made by Mrs. Claus herself.  They got to sing and dance with the elves as they ate, unless you are shy Cuppett kids, then you just observe.

Since they helped out the elves so much, they were able to become level 1 elf certified (certificate and all) after a quick course at Elf University.

Next up was the mail room and writing letters to Santa.
The Christmas wish list for 2016: Mariah wants a piano (my expensive child), Zach wants a puzzle (my golden child), Clay wants a blue robot that moves and talks and shoots things (my impossible child) and Benson wants a teddy bear (my easy child who we picked for).

While we waited to see Santa we got to enter the control panel room where we saw Santa's sleigh and heard the reindeer on the roof and saw their shadows outside.  We also saw the buses come through the magic portal on the computers.  Sheer amazement!  All over the workshop there were Elf of the Shelves hidden around.  However, the one in Santa's sleigh popped up and down as he was hiding.  He actually moved!!!  Mariah no longer believes in Santa but watching her reaction to the moving elf left me a little confused.  Either she is a very good actor for her brothers or there is part of her that still believes...or maybe the spinning compass convinced her (wink).  Either way, this moving elf had her baffled!

Then finally, they gave their letters to Santa (who knew their names) and he gave them all their very own bear!  Hey, look at that, Benson's wish list is already fulfilled!  They loved getting bears and it was a really fun surprise for them to get a souvenir of the most magical place they have ever seen.
The ride back to Gilbert somehow made us all wonder if we would survive again!  Boy can Clay-man scream!  Especially when he's up late watching TV in his bed!  I was a little disappointed that there wasn't snow because we went prepared for a snow ball fight but all in all, wow!   NPX is kid (and adult) heaven.  I must admit, worth every penny and I hope my family agrees because after all those pennies, it counts as part of their Christmas!